Blogs

How to Buy, Store and Prepare Chicken?
How to Buy, Store and Prepare Chicken?
| 0 Likes

Australians eat more chicken every year than any other meat or protein. It can be a nutritious and tasty choice, but raw chicken often contains nasty salmonella. If not handled properly, the bacteria could make someone really sick! Poultry is a product that deteriorates quickly, so it’s important to know when it is fresh or not. Here are some hints to find the freshest chicken and the best way to store it.

Buying Chicken

  • When purchasing chicken, make sure there’s no ‘off’ smell. Fresh poultry should have very little, or no aroma.
  • If buying a whole bird, ensure the skin, flesh and bones appear undamaged.
  • Chicken breasts should be plump with a very pale pink flesh.
  • Chicken thighs have a darker meat. They should have a dark pink flesh and a little white fat.
  • Make sure to purchase from a reputable supplier who has been approved by local authorities.
  • Check that the chicken is delivered at 5C or below.
  • Confirm that frozen chicken products are completely frozen and inspect the packaging for any signs of thawing.
  • Don’t accept any chicken that is soft, discoloured or sticky. Pay particular attention to the wings and joints.

Storage

To store chicken, leave it in its original packaging or place in a container and cover completely. Store on the bottom shelf (or the coldest part) of your the fridge for up to 2 days. This helps prevent contaminating any foods below. Cook any raw chicken within two days of purchase and freeze whatever you don’t use. Ensure to wrap your chicken in airtight packages. Label, date and keep refrigerated at 5C or below, or frozen at -15C or below.

If freezing fresh portions, do so immediately after purchasing (in its original packaging) for up to 2 months. Alternatively, separate the chicken into serving portions, thoroughly wrap in plastic bags or cling film and freeze for up to 2 months. It is very important to thaw chicken completely before cooking. To defrost, place the chicken in the fridge on a large plate (in its original packaging). This will take between 12-24 hours. Never refreeze chicken that has already been thawed. Cooked chicken can then be frozen for later use.

Commonly Used Cuts

Whole Bird

A whole chook can be used for roasting, poaching, making stock or dishes like Vietnamese pho or Hainanese chicken rice. Alternatively, you can flatten or “butterfly” a chicken. This is a great way to roast or barbecue a whole bird, that promotes quick and even cooking. The secret to a delicious chicken is buying the best quality you can find, such as free-range, locally sourced or organic.

Breast & Tenderloin

Chicken breast is such a versatile cut of poultry. It’s a white meat with very little fat, perfect for throwing into stir-fries, grilling, steaming, pan-frying and oven roasting. They are also great for poaching to be used in salads, soups or sandwiches. Another method brilliant for cooking a chicken breast is crumbing. Not only do the breadcrumbs keep the chicken moist, but they also give a wonderful, crunchy texture (as seen in a chicken parma or katsu). 

Chicken breasts found in the supermarket tend to be quite large with the tenderloin attached. This can make them difficult to cook through perfectly, without drying out. To ensure your chicken cooks evenly and remains juicy, you can slice the breast into even cuts or use a rolling pin to slightly flatten it out. There’s nothing worse than eating a dried-out piece of chicken, so the key is to keep it moist without overcooking. Chicken is cooked through when a temperature probe reads 73C.

Tenderloins, found underneath the breast, are a delicious and speedy cooking option. They are slightly more tender than the whole breast and are great crumbed, fried, baked, or quickly marinated and chargrilled.

Thighs

Thighs can be bought as fillets (with or without skin) or cutlets with the bone attached. Chicken thigh meat is generally darker and has a little more fat than the breast. It’s a working muscle and therefore has more flavour comparatively. Diced chicken thighs are great for BBQ skewers, slow cooking, stir-frying or thrown into soups and curries. Use the whole thigh or cutlet for roasting, bakes, barbecues and stews.

Chicken Maryland is a cut where the thigh and drumstick are attached. Marylands are good for roasting, poaching, braising and baking. They are ideal for cooking slowly over a barbecue or char-grill.

Drumsticks & Wings

Chicken wings and drumsticks are typically cheaper per kilo but are often seen as the most flavourful. They are great baked, fried or simmered in a sticky glaze or marinade and eaten with your hands. The skin to meat ratio is greater in these cuts, so the outside gets nice and crispy, while the inside stays juicy. No matter what you do with this part of the chicken, it’s bound to taste good! It’s also really difficult to overcook wings and drumsticks, making for less stressful cooking.

Mince

Chicken mince can be used in making patties, rissoles, burgers, meatballs, or cooked in Chinese dishes like wontons and san choi bao, or in Thai stir-fry’s and salads. You can substitute chicken mince in almost any recipe where pork or beef mince is used.

Learn more
Making The Best Asian Stocks
Making The Best Asian Stocks
| 0 Likes

Having a good stock or broth is important in producing the best soups, stews, sauces and other dishes. It’s the foundation, or base layer, where you can begin to build flavour and umami. Obviously making your own is time consuming, but a quality homemade stock far surpasses a store bought one.

The Bones

With the exception of vegetable stock, all stocks are made by simmering bones in water with aromatics, vegetables, herbs and/or spices. The key component in bones which gives a stock its viscosity is cartilage, a connective tissue around the joints, where muscles are attached. Cartilage is high in collagen, which breaks down into gelatine when simmered. This is what gives stock its body and turns it jelly-like when cooled.

When making chicken and other poultry stocks, you would typically use a whole carcass. This means you don’t really need to worry about what type of bones to use. Although, chicken wings and tips are particularly high in collagen, which make for a rich, full-bodied stock.

Brown vs White Stocks

Brown stock is generally made from beef or veal bones that are roasted prior to cooking. Pork or chicken bones can be treated in this manner also, however the flavour which they develop is much milder. Extra colour can also be obtained by adding some sort of tomato product (e.g. tomato paste), roasted or darker coloured vegetables (e.g. onion skins or leek tops). After roasting, the darkened bones are transferred to a stockpot, covered with cold water and simmered for hours along with chosen vegetables. 

White stock is made from bones and vegetables which are not roasted. Often, the bones are blanched and washed before simmering to remove any excess scum, which can cause bitter flavours and cloudy appearance to develop.

The goal of simmering (not boiling) is to extract the collagen from any available connective tissue in the bones. This takes longer with beef, lamb and veal than it does with poultry bones, which is why chicken stock is comparatively quicker to make. Chicken and pork stock should only take 2-3 hours to produce a delicious, golden liquid. However, beef, lamb and veal can take anywhere from 6-12 hours of simmering to extract maximum flavour.

Vegetable & Fish Stock

Fish stock, which is made from fish bones, requires the least amount of simmering. Only 20-30 minutes to be exact. Delicate herbs and vegetables can be used such as dill, fennel and chervil to compliment the delicate flavours in the seafood. We recommend avoiding oily fish types such as salmon or mackerel bones, as they are too heavy and fatty for stock making.

Even without meat, the liquid produced from just simmering vegetables and a few aromatics can be extremely flavourful. Vegetable broth is easy and quick to make and is far preferable to water when making soups, stews and sauces. 30 minutes- 1 hour of gentle simmering will make for a great vegetable stock.

Asian Stocks

To categorise all Asian stock varieties and techniques into a few paragraphs is rather a complex feat. However, here are some points to think about when making an Asian style stock, which are generally different to traditional, European methods.

Vegetables, aromatics and spices will differ greatly when making an Asian stock. The use of vegetables such as daikon (Japanese radish), wombok (Chinese cabbage) and spring onions can add a subtle sweetness to a broth. Aromatics such as ginger, garlic, lemongrass and even galangal or kaffir lime can be added to produce intense flavours and aroma. For savoury notes, dried seafood, shiitake mushrooms or seaweed kelp can be used in the process. Japanese dashi stock is a great example of this. Spices are important too. The use of whole spices such as cassia bark, clove, cardamom, star anise and coriander are what give Vietnamese pho it’s iconic taste.

For the bones, they are generally cleaned thoroughly prior to making Asian stocks. This can be done by rinsing and scrubbing with salt, blanching for a few minutes in boiling water (followed by washing), or soaking in water overnight to remove any impurities. The blanching process can be done directly into boiling water, or from a cold-water start. The cold-water start takes a little longer but produces a cleaner broth.

Tips

Start With Cold Water

Some of the proteins in collagen are soluble in cold water and some in hot. For the richest stock, it's important to start the bones in cold water and bring them to a simmer, very slowly. Never let your stock boil as it makes the liquid unpleasant and cloudy. Cooking your stock for its recommended time, ensures the ingredients don’t start to disintegrate or turn bitter either. Suggested cooking times are mentioned earlier in this article.

Don't Stir

It might be tempting to give the pot a stir as it simmers, but you should try to resist the temptation. Agitating the stock will more than likely cause it to turn out opaque and dull. However, do skim off any of the scum that rises to the surface. Foam and bubbles will naturally float to the top throughout the cooking duration, continue to remove them to keep the stock clean. This is especially important in the first hour or so, when the bulk of impurities are being drawn out.

Don't Season

In general, it's not a great idea to season your stock with salt. In most cases, that stock will be used to prepare another recipe, whether it's a sauce, soup or stew. Whatever that dish is, your stock will most likely reduce to some extent, making the salt concentrated. It means you’ll have less control over the seasoning in the final product. 

Convenience

If you do not have the time to make your own, here are some ready-made stock brands available in Australia that get our tick of approval. Basically, you want something that’s not too high in sodium and free from any artificial colours or flavour enhancers. The more ‘natural’ the better!

  • Moredough
  • Maggie Beer
  • The Stock Merchant
  • Simon Johnson
  • Campbells ‘Real Stock’
Learn more
Herbs & Spices In Vietnamese Cooking
Herbs & Spices In Vietnamese Cooking
| 0 Likes

Fresh and dried aromatics, spices and herbs are vital components when cooking authentic Vietnamese food. They are what give the nations cuisine it’s iconic flavour and freshness. Vietnamese dishes use common ingredients such as salt, sugar, pepper, onion and garlic, but use herbs more liberally than any other cuisine. Herbs are used not only as garnishes in Vietnamese cooking, but as the vegetables themselves as bases for soups, stir fries, salads and stews. Here is a list of common aromatics, herbs and spices you might find in Vietnamese recipes.

Fresh Aromatics

  • Galangal 
  • Coriander root
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Green Peppercorns
  • Lemongrass
  • Young Ginger
  • Shallots
  • Spring Onions
  • Chilli
  • Turmeric
  • Kaffir Lime Leaves
  • Lalot (Betel leaf)
  • Lemon Leaf

Fresh Herbs

  • Bitter Herbs
  • Chinese Chives (Garlic Chives)
  • Coriander 
  • Sawtooth Coriander
  • Dill
  • Fish mint
  • Holy Basil
  • Lemon Basil
  • Thai Basil
  • Mint
  • Vietnamese Mint (Hot Mint)
  • Peppermint - Hung Cay
  • Rice Paddy Herb- Ngo Om
  • Sorrel
  • Spearmint - Hung Lui
  • Perilla Leaf - Tia To
  • Vietnamese Balm - Kinh Gioi

Dried Spices

  • Black Cardamom
  • Black Peppercorns
  • White Peppercorns
  • Cinnamon
  • Coriander Seeds
  • Casia Bark
  • Fennel Seeds
  • Cloves
  • Cumin
  • Dried Chillies
  • Star Anise
Learn more
How To Incorporate Teas To Your Daily Meal
How To Incorporate Teas To Your Daily Meal
| 1 Likes

Drinking tea is an ancient tradition when it comes to human civilization. It’s even been estimated that the Chinese have been drinking tea for over 10,000 years. All true teas come from the plant Camellia Sinensis, and there are four basic types of true teas derived from this plant. These teas are green, black, white, and oolong tea. All of these have many health benefits, and the difference between them lies on the degree to which the leaves of the plant are oxidized. 

Although drinking is the most popular way people consume tea, there are other ways that you can incorporate this in your daily meals. Here are six of them:

Learn more
The Food Of Vietnam
The Food Of Vietnam
| 1 Likes

Vietnamese cuisine is one of the most diverse and vibrant in the world. It uses an enchanting mix of food from colonial visitors, native ingredients and traditional cooking techniques. Many aspects of climate, trade, history and immigration has influenced the food of Vietnam we know today.

When we think about Vietnamese food, we imagine a cuisine that’s fresh, healthy and full of flavour! Vietnamese cooks use a mix of fresh and preserved ingredients varying in colour, texture and flavour. Commonly, not a lot of fat is used during cooking and a generous amount of herbs and vegetables accompany most dishes. The careful balance between select spices, herbs, meats and carbohydrates round out the excellent taste of Vietnamese meals.

Influences

So many nations have had a strong influence on Vietnamese food culture. The impact of Chinese and Khmer dynasties, Indian empire, the Japanese occupation and French colonial rulers can be seen all over the country. A perfect example of a Vietnamese dish that mixes historical cultural influences with the native cuisine is the iconic ‘Banh Mi’, a crusty baguette filled with pickled carrots, daikon, cucumbers, herbs, chilli, pate, mayonnaise and various proteins. The incredible flavours and textures of this delicious sandwich (combined with its low cost) make this a popular street food dish. Another classic is the adored ‘Pho’ which is found throughout Vietnam and all over the world. The fragrant, rich rice noodle soup typically made with beef or chicken is served with herbs, citrus, bean sprouts and chilli. Although a famous Vietnamese dish, it has Chinese and French influences in its use of spices and cooking methods.

Regional Cuisines

Vietnam is made up of three distinct areas: The North, the Central Highlands and the South. Each has their own climate, culture and food traditions. Generally speaking, the North is more influenced by neighbouring China and the food tends to embrace its colder climate. The South draws inspiration from tropical influences, its hotter climate means a greater emphasis on salads, seafood, fruit, grilled meats & coconut. Central Vietnam tends to have a blend of the two styles. The use of rice and noodles is prevalent through all regions.

Despite being a small country in Southeast Asia, the food from each region in Vietnam carries unique characteristics that reflect the varied geographical and living conditions. The traditional southern Vietnamese meal is composed of fresh ingredients that only the fertile Mekong Delta can provide. The southern Vietnamese style diet is very 'green', with vegetables, fish and tropical fruits as the main ingredients.

Central Vietnam is the region which food is prepared with the strongest, boldest flavours. This region is continuously under extreme weather conditions throughout the year. It doesn’t have the abundance of fresh produce available like in the north and south. Instead, the coastline around the central Vietnam area is known for its salt and fishing industries. Due to the drastic differences in climate and lifestyles throughout the three regions of Vietnam, the foods vary. Northern Vietnamese cooking is the least bold in flavour compared to the ones from central and southern Vietnam.

Ingredients

Vietnamese cooking has a distinct style all of its own and some key ingredients used are fish sauce, sugar and rice. Although very similar to its closest neighbours (Thailand and Cambodia), Vietnamese cuisine tends to be less spicy, lighter and more fragrant. A typical shared meal might include soup, rice, grilled or steamed meats, a vegetable side, fresh fruit and a salad, all placed on the table together.

Nước mắm (fish sauce) is the most commonly used and iconic condiment in Vietnamese cooking. It is made from fermented raw fish and is used in most Vietnamese dishes during cooking process or added afterwards as seasoning. Other basic pantry staples include:

  • Shrimp paste
  • Soy sauce
  • Rice & rice-based flour/noodles
  • Fresh herbs- mint, Vietnamese mint, coriander, sawtooth coriander, Thai basil, dill
  • Fruit & vegetables
  • Aromatics- ginger, chilli, lemongrass, spring onion, shallots, turmeric
  • Spices- cassia bark, star anis, clove, pepper

Vegetarian Options

Many Vietnamese enjoy a selection of vegetarian and vegan foods too. Often people are working where there is no refrigeration, so it is safer to keep meat free items such as nuts and seeds. It’s also a more cost-effective way of eating as meats can be much more expensive than vegetables.

Restaurants with the signage “chay” (vegetarian), indicate their dishes are generally served with tofu instead of meat. Nearly every soup, sandwich and street food item has a vegetarian correspondent. Sometimes you may see menu items like "phở chay", "bánh mì chay" (vegetarian lunch) or "cơm chay" (vegetarian rice).

Learn more
How Do You Buy Spices Directly From India?
How Do You Buy Spices Directly From India?
| 1 Likes

How to Buy Real Indian Spices Directly From the Source

Fragrant, rich Indian spices awaken the senses, bring health and unlock the secret to creating authentic dishes! It's hard to live a life without authentic Indian cardamom, coriander, cumin, black pepper, turmeric and more once you've experienced these flavors! Some popular Indian spices are added at the final stage of preparation to create a perfect finish. Others are heated to perfection in a pan with ghee before being poured over a simmering dish. Here's a rundown of the best ways to use Indian spices when whipping up authentic dishes:

  • Marinating.
  • Frying spices in hot oil.
  • Stirring Indian spices into sauces.

Of course, some people simply like to use real Indian cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg or cloves to create hot elixirs that are full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. One of the best things about Indian spices is that their quality and potency allow for "a dash" to do! That means that going with quality will allow you to use less product because you'll be getting vibrant, potent flavors in every pinch.

Anyone who has ever been on a quest to get their hands on authentic Indian spices knows that it can be hard to find the real deal. Unfortunately, the spices that you find on the shelves at the grocery store can be quite tasteless and bland. How can you get real Indian spices at home? It turns out that your home can turn into spice central with a little bit of digging for real Indian spices online! Let's explore why getting a true taste of India may be easier than you think! 

How Do You Buy Spices Directly From India? 

The best way to buy Indian spices directly from India is to go straight to the source. You'll want to find genuine sellers located in India to avoid issues with quality or authenticity. It used to be extremely difficult to track down spice merchants in India if you weren't in the industry. However, many spice sellers in India today actually list their products on major selling platforms like Amazon and eBay. You can also typically buy directly from spice sellers without going through a third-party platform by using "bulk spices from India" or a similar search term. 

The key to making sure you're getting authentic Indian spices is to check where your spices will be shipped from once you place an order. Always check to see that sellers are located in India when purchasing on a major site like Amazon. Generally, it pays to place a bulk order of spices to ensure that you'll get a good rate without the need to pay new shipping fees the way you would if you ordered small batches. The fact that most Indian spices are dried means that they have long shelf lives.

 Paying for Spices Shipped Directly From India

 The payment methods that you typically use when making purchases online may not apply when making an international purchase from India. It's possible that the merchant you're purchasing your spices from may prefer that you send a money transfer to India. This request shouldn't intimidate you. It's actually quite easy to simply complete a money transfer to someone in India via a widely used company like Western Union.

Real Indian Spices Don't Have to Be a World Away

Many of the spices for sale at mainstream grocery stores really are a dime a dozen. The truth is that you need to source spices from India if you want the real deal in your kitchen. Start stocking up your pantry with the tastes and fragrances of India today!

Learn more
How To Chose Wok & Pan Guide
How To Chose Wok & Pan Guide
| 1 Likes

Choosing Pots and Pans to Improve Your Cooking? Rather than having a rack filled with pots and pans of all shapes and sizes, owning a few pieces will give you the flexibility to cook whatever you want and the performance you need to cook it better.

Learn more
Popular Indian Spice Blends
Popular Indian Spice Blends
| 1 Likes

One popular spice mix is garam masala, a powdered blend that typically has five or more dried spices. These can include cardamom, black pepper, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. Each culinary region (even household) has a distinctive garam masala blend and individual chefs will also have their own. This spice blend has so many uses.

Chaat Masala is must have in your pantry sprinkled on top of Indian snacks for a real flavour kick!

Learn more
What's The Knives We Use?
What's The Knives We Use?
| 1 Likes

The Knives We Use? Whether you are new to cooking or experienced in your kitchen, mastering knife skills is not only important for keeping you safe but will make your recipes that much better. Ingredients that are cut uniformly cook at the same rate and result in a dish that is cooked properly throughout. Since each piece of food is cut in the same fashion, the finished dish will have a nice presentation. 

Learn more