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Handy Hints and useful tips for Cooking

Avoiding Oven Spills
  Some recipes when cooked in the oven can spill over the sides of the baking dish. Sauces in casseroles and gravy oozing out of a pie can make a real mess of the wire rack directly beneath, any others that are below, and particularly the bottom plate of the cabinet. Even if cleaned as soon as the oven is cool enough, removal of spills isn't easy; left until they burn on makes for a major job, often requiring the use of harsh chemicals and abrasive scourers.
  A way of preventing this is to place the dish or casserole on a suitably sized sheet or tray lined with baking paper. The paper takes the spills leaving the oven as clean as it was to start with.

Blind Baking
  This method of baking pastry is often used when the filling of a pie has to be cooked on a lower heat than is best for the pastry base; for example with quiche. The base will need cooking first, normally on a reasonably high heat, but it needs covering so that it stays flat and doesn't rise. Follow the instructions below.
  Grease the pie dish and place the pastry in so that it overlaps the top edge and crimp lightly with the handle of a spoon or knife. If a quiche dish is being used, simply trim off any excess so that the pastry is level with the edge. Tear off some narrow strips of aluminium foil and form these right around the top edge of the pastry to cover it and overlap the dish edge. As the pastry base will, in effect, be cooked three times, the foil covering during the first two sessions will prevent burning. Now, cut a piece of baking paper that will fit comfortably over the base and just comes up the sides past the foil. Spread some uncooked rice over this to weigh the paper down. Dry beans can also be used; but neither of these will be any good for eating afterwards. However, once cooled, they can be stored in a sealed container and used in future many times over. You can use a slice of bread instead of the rice or beans; then you can actually eat it like toast - your reward for all your hard work.
  Pre-heat the oven to about 195°C fan-forced and cook the covered pastry for 10 minutes. Take from the oven and lift out the paper with the rice, being careful not to burn yourself, and set aside to cool; or, if you used bread, have a munch while you do this next bit. Leave the foil in place around the edge and return the dish to the oven for a further 8-10 minutes to dry out the base.
  Finally, remove the foil, then proceed with the recipe, baking on a heat suitable for the filling. The top edge if exposed should now brown nicely without burning.

Marbling in Meat
  Quite often, when buying fresh meat, especially beef, the attraction is to go for a nice good red colour with little fat. The chances are a roast or steak looking like this will turn out as tough as old boots. Marbling is fine lines of white fat snaking through the red and this will ensure the meat cooks evenly from the inside. So, the more marbling there is, the more tender it is likely to be.

Extra-light olive oil - what does that mean?
  If you are expecting this to be a cooking ingredient that is less fattening, you are in for a shock - the name is a bit-of-a misnomer. The description actually refers to taste rather than fat content.
  So, if you don't mind a stronger taste, or you particularly want it, go for extra-virgin olive oil; or if you prefer not to over-power the food you are cooking, extra-light is ideal.
  Either way, both are cholesterol-free (so we are led to believe) and are the healthy option to saturated fat. I'm told canola oil is also okay. Just remember - fats and oils of any kind are counter-reductive if you are on a diet; except in small doses followed by plenty of exercise to burn it off.

Cracking Eggs
  There's nothing worse than a bad egg, especially if you crack it into other ingredients you've already put in the bowl - it ruins the lot!
  Next time you are making a cake or pudding, break the eggs one at a time in a small dish or cup first, before adding them to the bowl. Use the same method for fried eggs, pouring them in carefully from the dish to keep the yolk intact. You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs, but this way you won't have to throw it out because one of them has gone off.

Aerosol Cooking Spray vs Non-Stick Surfaces
  Spray-on cooking oils can damage some non-stick coatings. The culprit isn't the oil itself, but the aerosol propellant. Buy a small trigger-spray bottle, or one of those dispensers made specifically for cooking oil, the ones which can be pressurised by hand-pumping.
  Not only will your pans last longer, but you'll save money in the long run and be helping the environment by reducing your trash.

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