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Test kitchen - test kitchen.

Summary: Get the best from your cooking and improve your skills. Our expert tips and reviews will take your kitchen know-how up a notch

PLATING UP

Build a brighter salad

Whether you're having a dinner party or taking snaps for Instagram, salads look best when they're light and natural. Refresh any drooping leaves in ice-cold water for a few minutes before serving, then drain and pat dry on kitchen paper.

Rather than tossing everything together, layer up ingredients so they're distinct. Too much dressing will weigh leaves down, so add the dressing at the last minute and use just a little, serving the rest on the side. Curved shapes look better than cubes on camera, so slice ingredients at an angle, peel into ribbons or shred them. Don't chop herbs to dust -- keep them visible and use whole small leaves to scatter over.

BAKER'S BLUFF

Chiboust cream

Traditionally used to fill millefeuille, chiboust is made by folding stiffly beaten egg whites, Italian meringue or whipped cream into creme patissiere -- a rich egg custard that's been thickened with flour (adding meringue or whipped cream lightens the mixture). Chiboust is often flavoured with vanilla, coffee or chocolate and sometimes includes gelatine. You can find recipes for creme patissiere and Italian meringue at bbcgoodfoodme.com.

Do you really need to...

Toast spices?

Recipes often call for whole spices to be dry-toasted --heating them in a pan for 1-2 mins with no water or oil. While not essential, this helps release oils, making them more fragrant, easier to grind, and less bitter. Frying in oil or infusing in hot liquids will give a similar result.

YOUR WEEKEND CHALLENGE

Making labneh

Labneh is a thick, strained yoghurt that's popular here across the Middle East. It's made by straining yoghurt to remove the whey, leaving behind a creamy, tangy, spreadable version. It can be flavoured with herbs and spices to use as a dip or in salads and sandwiches. For a sweet version, mix with honey or strawberry jam and spread on toast. And don't throw away the strained whey -- use it in bread dough, pancake batter and smoothies.

Line a fine sieve with cheesecloth or muslin and put over a deep bowl. Add 500g full-fat Greek yoghurt, pull up the edges of the muslin and twist them together to cover the yogurt. Leave in the fridge for 24-48 hours until it's the thickness of soft cream cheese. Store the labneh in the fridge in an airtight container for up to three days or roll into balls and keep in a sterilised jar, covered in olive oil, for up to three weeks.

TAKE A COOKERY COURSE

The Chef's Palette by Gaggenau, a cooking studio at Fairmont The Palm is the perfect destination to introduce young children to the art of cooking. Do your kids aspire to be the next great chef at one of Dubai's best family restaurants? Those who can't get enough of stirring, whisking and decorating after school will love slapping on a mini chef's hat and trying a hand at one of these kids' cooking classes. Children from 8-12 years old are invited to an exciting after-school programme which would teach them the basics of cooking explore healthy aspects of nutrition and have messy fun with their culinary buddies. Each week will bring in new dishes and whole new plate of excitement. What's more -- all cooked meals will be enjoyed either at the culinary studio or wrapped to take home to proudly share with parents. The 'Little Cookies' cooking classes are scheduled to take place every Sunday or Tuesday between 3:30pm -- 5:30pm from September through November at Fairmont The Palm and is priced at Dhs1,500 per child for a 10-week course. Call 04-4573457.

Saucing pasta

Want to achieve the silky finish to pasta dishes that you get in Italy? We asked Jordan Frieda, the pasta master, for his secret.

"Spadellare is the crucial process of combining cooked pasta with sauce," he said. "For a silky, unctuous plate of pasta, you need to toss the pasta and sauce together in the pan for at least a minute, adding a touch of the starchy cooking water as you go, so the sauce clings to the pasta. The starch creates an emulsion which transmits the flavours of the sauce better, and makes the dish lighter and easier to digest."

GO-TO-GADGET

For soups, sauces, smoothies and milkshakes, this 1.5 litre Power Blender is an essential piece of kit. With a simple dial operation from low to high speed and pulsing, ice crushing and smoothie functions, add your ingredients as you blend into the removable feed. The Power Blender is available at Lakeland stores across the Middle East for Dhs540.

HOW TO EAT

Globe artichokes

Dissecting a whole steamed or boiled artichoke is a little messy and takes time, but the reward is the heart at its base. See page 48 for our artichoke recipes.

1 Firmly pull out one of the leaves, revealing an edible tip that is lighter in colour and fleshier than the rest of the leaf.

2 Dip the tip into melted butter, then pull it between your teeth to scrape off the tender flesh. Discard, then repeat.

3 Pick out the smaller middle leaves and scrape out the hairy, inedible choke, taking care not to damage the fleshy heart.

4 The heart is the most tender, prized part of the artichoke. Cut it into pieces, dip in the butter and enjoy.

ESSENTIAL KIT

Preserving

'Preserving is easier than you might think, and you don't need any specialised equipment in the beginning', says Kylee Newton, author of The Modern Preserver.

'I started with a stockpot and a large pan. However, these five bits of kit are brilliant if you want to develop your repertoire.'

1 Pick a maslin/ preserving pan with a larger top to base, as this helps with heat release.

2 It's fun to collect vintage glass jars and bottles, but use new lids if you can, or a paraffin wax or baking parchment protective layer to keep the jam for longer. 3 Funnels with a wide- hole spout help to keep things tidier when filling your jars.

4 Use a flat-edged, long- handled wooden spoon to scrape out the pan and protect you from any spitting.

5 You can use a jam thermometer to establish when the mixture has reached the correct temperature for setting, but I prefer the 'wrinkle test' -- in which case, several small saucers in the freezer is a must.

CHEF SWAPS

Black garlic for garlic

With a sweeter flavour than white, and hints of balsamic vinegar notes, black garlic is a type of caramelised garlic. You can use it in place of white garlic in salad dressings, marinades and aioli. To make black garlic, white bulbs need to be gently heated in a humid environment for four to six weeks. The cloves caramelise, become soft in texture and lose their pungency.

You can buy it from desertcart.ae or Asian supermarkets.

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Publication:BBC GoodFood Middle East
Date:Sep 30, 2016
Words:1182
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