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Tips and tricks from culinary school

Obviously I've learnt ridiculous amounts over the 16 weeks, but here are some of my top tips that have really upped my game as a chef.

  1. Sharpen. Your. Knives - you'll save so much time when chopping, that the time sharpening basically is irrelevant. Plus it's safer too!

  2. Use the right knife for the right job. You wouldn't cut a loaf of bread with a pairing knife, just as you shouldn't fillet a fish with a bread knife/

  3. When it comes to most bread doughs, the wetter the better - don't flour your surfaces unless you absolutely have to!

  4. The opposite goes for pasta: unless you're planning on making filled pasta, a drier dough will generally lead to a better product.

  5. Fat is your friend. This tends to be why going out to eat tastes better - the increased amount of oil, particularly butter.

  6. Seasoning is key. I realised that before starting, I was chronically underseasoning my food. Salt shouldn't just be used to make food salty - it's a seasoning that really brings out the other flavours in the dish and stops food tasting bland.

  7. Taste as often as you can - seasoning can take a while to get it just right.

  8. Invest in a dough scraper - they cost under a tenner and help clean your board / area down to make sure as much food as possible ends up in your finished product.

  9. Have a bowl / tub next to where you work for food waste - it'll save lots of trips to the bin.

  10. Don't cook everything with extra virgin olive oil - it has a low smoke point, so will develop off flavours before a lot of foods which need high temperatures are cooked.

  11. Time is your friend. The longer your ingredients have to mingle together, the better flavour you'll get out of them.

  12. When making pastry, time resting in the fridge is very important to stop any butter or fat leaching out.

  13. When plating food, look for balance on the plate. One giant hunk of lamb and two small florets of broccoli will not be balanced to look at, and nor will it make for a pleasing meal.

  14. Garnishes should not just be there for the visuals. Think about what flavours they'll add to the dish and ask yourself if that one small sprig of coriander will really do the trick.

  15. Use good quality wines for your sauces - if you wouldn't drink it, don't cook with it. Your choice of wine can fully make or break a sauce.

  16. Experiment! Sometimes you just don't know what'll work for you. Take steak for example. Who's to say you don't like rare before you've tried it?

And a few ingredients that will make you feel a bit more like a professional

  1. Shallots - We all know them, yet we seem to ignore them in our homes. Get them finely chopped and sweating down in some butter and you'll wonder why you ever used so much onion.

  2. Brown butter - It's not burned, it's a lovely little taste of hazelnut and toastiness in your butter.

  3. Fresh stock - If you're ever buying meat with bones, save them and make a nice stock with them - they take a while, but they're actually remarkably easy to make.

  4. Mirepoix - Traditionally using a mix of carrot, onion and celery, with other vegetables such as leeks used in different circumstances. It will give stocks and sauces another layer of depth to their flavour.

  5. Limes - Lemons' more acidic cousins, often used in Latin American and South East Asian dishes. Whilst not always a suitable substitue, give it a try a bit more often and see what you think.

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