Cooking Diaries: Cooking skills in a measuring cup

I’m no expert in cooking but I love good food. Now it’s time to stay longer in the kitchen and see if the magic WOKS with me, one recipe at a time.

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” – Julia Child

Julia Child as herself and Meryl Streep as Julia Child

Yes, I’m unleashing the Julia Child in me. Admittedly I am equally inspired by the movie, Julie & Julia, that yes partly, I’ll start writing about my learning experience in cooking.  Yet perhaps unlike Julie, I won’t turn this way of expressing my passion for food into an obsession or a dragging chore.  I’m an IT professional by day, an avid food lover by night.  But I’m too fixated to enjoying other things, too occupied with getting over the daily hurdles and challenges, and too crazy for anything else.  365 days for 536 recipes as a goal is way too much for me. Whew, thanks but no thanks! It’s just going to be one recipe at a time, s’il vous plait?

On a side note, I won’t be only cooking anything French or something from Julia Child’s colossal cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  It’s going to be any kind of cuisines that pique my interest, may it be European, American, Latin American, African, Arab, Asian or anything in between. But since I am from the Philippines, expect a bit more Asian from me.

So before I begin, let me go through this list of cooking techniques I got from BBC.  I suppose there’s even a much longer, complicated list but I guess I can start from here, right?  If you’ve got a better list, feel free to give me a copy.  Coming from BBC of course, these techniques are much European (or British to be exact).

I have this feeling I am in a beginner’s level but I might also be wrong.  Let’s see how it goes (a pre-assessment of sorts, I’ll be honest so don’t worry).

Note: If you go to the site, there are links on the texts that show you how these techniques are done. There are some recipes, too, in case you want to try out these skills.

Preparing fruit and vegetables (6 out of 14)

 Chopping chilies (X) – Actually, my way is, I just crush the chilies and keep the hottest parts.  Now, that’s better!

 Learning to chop: dicing an onion (X) – This is one of the things I don’t prefer doing.

 Learning to chop: the ‘chiffonade’ or shredding technique ( ) – The leaves will go cowabunga.

 Segmenting citrus fruit ( )

 Toasting and skinning hazelnuts ( ) – This ain’t a usual task in our kitchen because we only have peanuts in the Phils. Well, this technique appears to be pretty easy.

  De-seeding tomatoes  (X) – Of course, I don’t like eating the seeds.

 Learning to chop: finely chopping celery ( )

 Learning to chop: the ‘julienne’ technique ( ) – I remember a friend who’s mocking a misspell of this word at our office cafeteria. He’s an English editor at that time, that explains.  If I’m not mistakened, it was spelled ‘Julianne.’

 Skinning peppers ( )

 Zesting citrus fruit (X)

 Grating lemon zest (X) – Isn’t it the same with the one above?

 Learning to chop: slicing an onion (X) – Onions are quite staple, so chances are, I’ve got no choice but to cry over nothing. As the French saying goes, “Life is an onion and one cries while peeling it.”

 Preparing artichoke hearts ( ) – What artichokes?!? You see, this is sooo European. How about preparing a banana’s heart, a jackfruit, a durian?  Tsk tsk.

 Skinning tomatoes ( ) – We seldom skin tomatoes. We use ready-made tomato sauces (and banana ketchup to boot) for our extra-sweet Pinoy spaghettis. Hehe.

Meat, poultry and eggs (7 out of 13)

 Browning meat (X) – Sometimes, it even goes beyond browning. I’m a bit popular in burning it.

 De-boning and butterfly a leg of lamb ( ) – WTF.

 Preparing and cleaning chicken livers ( ) – Er, which one is the liver? *evil grin*

 Separating eggs (X) – This is a balancing act. Sadly I’m pretty poor at it. Oops, there goes down the yolk.

 Whisking egg whites (X) – I always enjoy whisking. The faster, the happier I get! Aha.

 Carving a cooked chicken into serving portions (X) – I have done this so many times whenever I buy a roasted chicken, but I always get stuck at the mid-breast part. It’s too big, should I cut it even more in halves?

 How to poach an egg (X) – Yay, this is what I am proud of. I perfected this skill, bravo!

 Scoring skin ( ) – Another what?

 Spatchcocking chicken and poultry ( ) – *blank stare*

 Carving pork ( ) – Sadly really, cutting meat is not yet a skill of mine.

 Jointing chicken ( ) – *runs like a headless chicken*

 Searing meat (X) – Again, sometimes, it goes beyond frying it until golden-brown. *snickers*

 Testing whether turkey, chicken and poultry are cooked (X) – Are you cooked now? *talks to the chicken while tapping it*

Fish and shellfish (4 out of 9)

 Butterflying prawns (X) – I did this once during my failed attempt of making beautiful tempuras. I had a hard time spreading them like a butterfly. Well, practice makes perfect they say. Let’s do a repeat then.

 Cleaning and preparing squid (X) – I did this before, with proper supervision, and I enjoyed it, especially pulling out and discarding the quill.

 Peeling prawns (X) – I can effortlessly peel prawns with a fork and a knife (or a spoon, too).

 Choosing cooked lobster ( )

 Filleting and skinning flatfish ( )

 Removing the meat from cooked lobster ( )

 Cleaning and de-bearding mussels (X) – At last, there’s another technique I’m familiar of. I thought I’d just fall silent as we go through this list.

 Filleting round fish ( )

 Scaling, gutting and cleaning a round fish ( ) – Aah, it’s always been a love-hate relationship between the fish and me whenever I do this task.

Pasta (0 out of 2)

 Making pasta dough by hand ( ) – Does cooking pasta count? Hey, I perfected that! *grumpy*

 Rolling pasta using a pasta machine ( ) – That’s it. I’m so outta here!

Desserts, baking and pastry ( 2 out of 35!)

 Breaking chocolate (X) – Another way is to use your teeth and if the chocolate goes straight to your mouth, it ain’t your fault so eat it!

 Covering a pie with a pastry lid ( ) – I have never been into baking ever so expect a silent treatment from me as we go along with this list.

 Decorating a cake with chocolate transfer sheet ( )

 Greasing and lining cake tins ( )

 How to ice a cake with buttercream ( )

 How to marzipan a fruit cake ( )

 Kneading bread with oil ( )

 Lining a tart tin: prepare the pastry case for shrinkage ( )

 Making choux pastry ( )

 Removing cake from tin ( )

 Rubbing in ( )

 Testing to see if a cake is cooked ( )

 Using piping bags ( )

 Wrapping a pudding for steaming ( )

 Caramalising sugar with a blow torch ( )

 Creaming butter by hand ( )

 Folding ( )

 How to assemble a tiered wedding cake ( ) – How long does this suffering gonna take? *sigh*

 How to ice a cake with royal icing ( )

 Icing a cake with chocolate ganache ( )

 Knocking back ( )

 Lining a tart tin: trimming the pastry ( )

 Melting chocolate (X) – Viola!

 Removing vanilla seeds from pod ( )

 Shaping a loaf of bread ( )

 Using a food processor to pulse ingredients ( )

 Whipping cream by hand ( )

 Chaffing scone dough ( )

 Crimping the edge of a pastry ( )

 Glazing with egg wash ( )

 How to cover a cake with fondant icing ( )

 How to ice cupcakes ( )

 Kneading bread ( )

 Lining a tart tine with pastry ( )

 Lining a tart with a cartouche (baking blind) ( )

 Preparing ramekins to cook soufflés ( )

 Rolling out pastry ( )

 Steaming a pudding ( ) – Does steaming a rice cake (puto in Tagalog) count? Anyway, I’ve never made a single puto either.

 Using fresh yeast ( )

 Working with filo pastry ( )

Sauces, pastes and condiments (1 out of  5)

 Deglazing pan gravy ( )

 Thickening a roux to make béchamel sauce ( )

 Making herb butter ( )

 Thickening gravy using beurre manié ( )

 Skimming stock (X) – Shucks, what kind of list is this?!? It just goes to show how much load I need to digest so I can learn how to cook!

  Easy ( 16 out of 54)
 Intermediate ( 4 out of 20)
 Advanced ( 0 out of 4)

Okay, I am truly a novice. I rest my case.

But I tell you, there are a lot of things missing here. The most important one missing is: cooking rice. And there are around 40,000 varieties with millions of rice eaters all over the world.

Where do you want me to begin? Hmmm.