Friday, 21 January 2011

THE secret kitchen ingredient

Spending the next few months living in Sylhet, Bangladesh I thought it would be a good opportunity to refocus the blog this winter on some bigger ideas of cookery and food. So with each post I will explain a cookery mantra that will help you in the kitchen.

WATER, the one ingredient used in every meal!!!

How would we survive without the hydrating force of water? How do we wash our vegetables, let alone our hands and surfaces we cook on without a bit of soap, bleach, etc and a whole lotta water??? I must confess, that water is the real secret ingredient used in every restaurant kitchens across the planet, even if the most chefs don't know it!!!

How do we thin out an over reduced sauce?

How do we rinse off salt we have put on vegetables for pickling?

How do we wipe off our knives between uses?

What do we steam our vegetables over?

How should we refresh ourselves while we cook?

Often restaurants use stock to flavour soups, sauces or braises. A stock is basically cooking a flavourful ingredient such as veal or fish bones, with aromatic vegetables (usually onions, garlic, fennel, celery, carrots, etc) in a large quantity of, guessed it.... Water!!! Allowing the heating of water to pull out flavours from ingredients over a low and slow cooking process brings out flavour from often discarded ingredients such as bones, vegetable trimmings, and leftover carcasses. (See blog post from 29 july 2009)

When one wants to slow cook meats in the oven until they are mouth wateringly fork tender (braising); what is usually the liquid beyond stock (mostly water) used as the cooking medium? Its water! Allowing the meat to cook in its own juices, along with aromatics, and just enough water to cover the product a braise (see blog post 4 may 2009) is a cheap and tasty way to gain flavour.

Serving a gravy and you realize it’s a bit thick and you wonder, what did you do wrong? Unfortunately you have most likely reduced it too much and the water vapour escaped. This is no problem, just return the missing ingredient by splashing in a small amount of water.

Making flatbreads (10 july 2010 blog post) and the dough is a bit too tough and not very pliable then simply splash a bit of water on your hands or on the dough and get kneading!!!

And of course when you are sautéing some fresh, local, seasonal and healthy vegetables in a pan and you have only used minimal oil to cut down on the fat, there may often be a problem. The vegetables seem to be drying out and possibly burning???? Well besides turning down the heat and making sure you don’t have too many vegetables in the pan for a good sauté (Saute translates literally as, jump!!!), just add a splash of water to finish the cooking. This not only unsticks the product, releases the nice browned bits from the pan, helps to pull all the flavours together, but even makes clean up a bit easier.

Water is the secret ingredient for easy and healthy cooking. So important for the 6 billion people on the planet and yet we still waste it!!! Do you cook and brush your teeth with tap water? Then why not drink It.? Why use bottled water that has absolutely no extra nutritional value? Are you living in a place with no access to clean, reliable water? That is what I thought. Besides being a secret ingredient in your cooking, did you know it takes nine litres of water in the process of producing 1 litre of bottled water for you to purchase? That my friends is a waste of the secret key ingredient in your cooking, and more to the point a waste of a scarily not so secret scarce commodity for the majority of our planetary residents!!!!


  1. I cooked some lovely chickpea pancakes this week in honour of you! gram flour, WATER & olive oil. Easy peazy & yummy! Reetz x

  2. Thats wonderful. Were you eating them solo or with a curryesque meal??? I cannot wait to hear and see pictures of the food in Nicaragua


  3. Thanks for this very informative blog item! I hate buying water. Why???? In the US all people do is pollute with more plastic and drink unnutritional water. What a waste.