Monday, December 30, 2013



My aim in CHEF TALK is to share some of my cooking experiences with you and to provide insight and ideas as to how and what to do when choosing products you may not be too familiar with and also how to work recipes.
With that in mind I will also explain how to make best use of a vacuum sealer.
Many home cooks often see a recipe that looks fantastic, appetizing, delicious, and has a pretty picture and decide to cook that to surprise the family.
I also try to surprise the family when I cook. Then the most exciting part of cooking is to see happy faces around the dinner table. Besides getting the results you desire of course.
Finding a recipe is easy, finding a good recipe is another story. The same goes for reading recipes which require a decent knowledge of cooking.
Some people only need the idea, which a nice picture often provides, but most of us will still need the ‘how much of this and how much of that’ part.
It can be quite tough however to see or read from a recipe (if you are on the right track, replacing parts of the recipe or omitting ingredients). Stacks of recipes from the internet are not workable, many are good, no denial, but which is which.
What do you do with leftovers if the quantities given are too large?  
Best is to start with an example and work through that recipe.
I love crackling pork. Millions of people love crackling pork, the sound alone makes your mouth water.
Crackling pork is a must have meat dish to have on a regular basis especially for Australian and British meat lovers. 


There are basically two types of crackling pork, one made from bone-in cuts, like pork loins with ribs and whole pork shoulders, the other one made from bone-less cuts of meat, like pork belly or pork loins without ribs.
Choose the cut of meat that suits your family best but make sure that your cut of meat has the skin intact.
In order to get that lovely ‘crackling’ effect, you need to score the skin of the meat, preferably vertically in one direction and about the size of a finger apart from each other.
This type of scoring makes it easy to slice the meat after cooking, because you can follow the score lines and is essential to get the crackling right.
Pork skin is pretty tough and you will need a really sharp knife to achieve good scoring, make sure that only the skin is cut, the scoring should not go all the way through and reach the lean meat.
A Stanley knife works well. Another good tool is your butcher, he will be pleased to help you out. It is a good idea also to tell your butcher how you want your cut of meat.  
Now you have the right cut of meat and you are almost there.
You only need to cook it. Sounds simple and it is, because you started on the right foot.
The recipe for crackling pork is maybe the simplest you have ever seen.
It is comprised of the scored cut of meat and crushed rock salt. That’s all.
Next pressure points to look at are your oven temperature and the cooking time.
Rub crushed rock salt on the skin side of the meat. Make sure the salt penetrates the score lines. 
When you do this, the salt extracts moisture from the fat under the skin and the fat will start bubbling around the whole piece of meat.
You can rub the salt a day before cooking, but that is an option not a necessity.

Your cooking time should be: 35 minutes per pound of bone-in meat.
25 minutes per pound of bone-less meat.


Pre-heat your oven to 400 F or 240-250 Celsius. You need this heat to get the crackling going.
Place the meat on an oven tray and position the tray in the center of your oven, allow roasting for about 30 to 35 minutes.
You should now see that the skin is getting blisters. When that is the case, lower the heat to 325 to 350 F or 180 to 200 Celsius and continue roasting as per the given time.
Likely your piece of meat will be about 1 ½ to 2 kilos, if your meat is boneless you need 1 hour to an hour and a half of total cooking time.
Check with a meat thermometer to be sure that the roast is cooked. The thermometer should point at 170 F or 74 Celsius. 
Remove from the oven and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes.
Slice and serve.
To accompany the roast, choose roast potatoes, garden vegetables and apple sauce.
What you have achieved is a great dish, because you had: 
The right recipe
The right preparation
The right cooking method


From a good butcher you will get the best cut of meat you are looking for but you may not use the meat the same day you purchase it.
If so, vacuum seal the meat and it will stay in perfect condition, up to 4–5 days chilled.  If you need to keep it longer, vacuum seal and freeze  it and it will stay in perfect condition for at least 3-4 months.
I mentioned earlier that your piece of meat will likely be 1 ½ to 2 kilos so it may well be that you have some balance.
If so, let the roasted meat cool through completely, best overnight, slice it (without the skin) as thin as you possibly can.
Portion the slices and vacuum seal in smaller vacuum bags, the roasted meat becomes an extraordinary sandwich filling. You can store the sliced roasted meat chilled and keep up to two weeks.
Use your vacuum sealer for raw/fresh produce but also for cooked produce. 

Ensure that you work clean. Good hygiene lengthens storage time and product freshness significantly.

Enjoy the ‘Crackling Pork’ !! 

Written for PMG
By (Professional Chef) Marinus Hoogendoorn 
Culinary expert in recipe development.


Thursday, December 12, 2013



When you have read part 1 of Christmas is coming soon, I assume that you are convinced that pre-preparation of your Christmas dinner with the vacuum method works. 
There is usually a bit more to a Christmas dinner than a main course, even though your main course is and should be the highlight of the evening.
But you will most likely also have one or two starters and a dessert to complete the menu and to make Christmas dinner a true feast and memorable to look back at.
Let me refer back to some parts of part 1 of my Christmas article.
I mentioned that we all tend to overdo Christmas dinners and make them  lavish. It is perfectly okay to be lavish during Christmas though but if you put in a lot of effort and your efforts result in being futile, there is no gain for anybody. 
I would like to  therefore give you some tips to choose your menu wisely and proportionately.
An average adult consumes between 700 grams and 1 kilo of food during a dinner with a starter, main course and dessert.
This fact is calculated per meal segment. 
Starter 150 grams
Meat (or other protein) 175 grams
Vegetables 200 grams
Potato (or other carbohydrates) 150 grams
Dessert 150 grams
Drink 150 ml
These segments combined total up to 975 grams.
But it is Christmas and we are allowed to indulge our self. Enjoy the occasion and be merry and happy, so keep the above list just in mind when you shop.

If you plan for ten people for example, this list will help you not to break your wallet .
A turkey will give you between 50 and 55% of meat in a raw state, cooking loss will be 
10 to 15 %.
So for ten people you need approximately 2 kilos of meat, which a 5 kilo turkey will give you and you do not need an 8 kilo turkey because you are afraid that you do not have enough.
For hard vegetables like the parsnip, Brussels sprouts, carrots and red cabbage you can calculate a weight loss of 10 to 12 % from the raw weight due to peeling and cleaning. Cooking loss is negligible for these types of vegetables.
Same percentage of weight loss can be used for the potatoes.

Now back to my menu.
Whole Roast Turkey with a Sauce of mixed Berries and Port Wine
Garden Herbs infused Roast Potatoes
Assorted Garden Vegetables
Roasted Chestnuts
Christmas stuffing 
Having done your pre-preparation with the vacuum method as explained in part 1, all you need to do on Christmas day is to place your turkey in the oven and you need about ½ an hour to finish the condiments, roughly 1 hour in the kitchen.
So there is time to complete your dinner with a starter and a dessert.
Let’s fill in some ideas.
When planning a menu one should always keep variety in mind, when your main course is meat choose a starter with vegetables or fish.
Think also about shapes, color and textures of the dishes to serve.

It happens to be that I am in charge of the selection of dishes in this article and I love fish. So I choose a surprising fish based starter.
Quite easy to make and best of all it can be made in advance. I keep in mind that chefs also celebrate Christmas

My starter:  
Soufflé always sounds a bit scary but do not worry about this recipe.
40 Gr Butter
25 Gr All purpose flour
300 Ml Milk
85 Gr Philadelphia cream cheese
2 Tsp Chopped dill
3 Nos Egg
85 Gr Smoked Salmon (chopped)
Zest of ½ Lemon
To Finish:
6 Tbsp Crème Fraiche
6 Small Smoked Salmon slices
Twigs of dill, some color full winter salad leaves

Place the butter, milk and flour in a saucepan and bring to a boil while stirring on medium heat.
When the mixture boils lower the heat and add the cheese bit by bit and the chopped dill, mix well to incorporate.
When the cheese is incorporated turn off the heat and add the eggs one by one.
Add the chopped smoked salmon and lemon zest.
Pre-heat an oven to 180 -200 Celsius or
Grease six ramekin moulds and cover the base with grease paper.
Divide your mixture over the six mould about ¾ full.
Place the moulds in an ovenproof tray and place in the oven, fill the tray half way full with hot water.
Bake for 15 minutes uncovered.
You will see that the mixture rises above the edge of the mould.
Remove from the oven and let cool, the mixture will now sink somewhat, that is ok.
When the soufflés, have cooled down cover them and store with the moulds in the refrigerator.
You can do this up to two days in advance.
To finish the dish before you serve: 
Remove the soufflés from the moulds. If needed move a small knife around the inside of the moulds. The grease paper on the bottom of the moulds will help the removal.
Pre-heat your oven to 180– 200 Celsius or between 350 and 390 F
Place the soufflés on a baking tray, top with a tablespoon of crème fraiche each and bake for ten to fifteen minutes or until the soufflés puff up.
Place some of the color full leaves on a plate, then the soufflé, top with a slice of smoked salmon and a twig of dill
Serve warm.           
Main course:
Best is to follow the cooking instructions given by the turkey supplier, some have a pop-up pin and sometimes there are cooking times given.
I explained how to finish the vegetables, sauce and potatoes after you have pre-prepared and vacuumed them in part 1.
That leaves us with a dessert, personally I prefer to use something easy, something that you just have to place on the table.
Remember that you will be also somewhat poofed after the main course.
Besides, desserts are usually quite tedious and time consuming to make. 
I advise therefore buy a nice Christmas cake or log.
After or with that coffee, some pralines and the whole family, including you, can lean back very satisfied.
You will have a great Christmas dinner this way.
Pre-preparation and vacuuming an important and time consuming part of your dinner has saved you a lot of time on Christmas day. 
Go for it.  

Written for PMG 
By Professional Chef Marinus Hoogendoorn 
Culinary expert in recipe development. 


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Heard of Sous-vide? Tasty, Juicier Food Made Possible by Vacuum Sealing

Heard of Sous-vide? Tasty, Juicier Food Made Possible by Vacuum Sealing

Some of you might be intimidated by the fancy name sous-vide, which is becoming a quite popular method for cooking food. However, cooking by this method is easier than its name. The sous-vide method of cooking food involves enclosing the ingredients of a dish in a vacuum-sealed plastic bag and placing the bag in a water bath, a combi oven, or any other appliance that can maintain a target temperature. 

The sous-vide method of cooking food takes a long time to cook the food thoroughly before it can be eaten; however, it results in juicier and tastier food. The concept is based on the fact that because the ingredients are packed in a vacuum-sealed bag, moisture from the ingredients is not depleted. In addition, as the temperature of the water is kept to be hot enough so that it cooks the food thoroughly while killing any food borne pathogens, there is no drying out of the food. The result is tastier and juicier food that cannot be obtained by other conventional methods of cooking.

The food variety best suited for the sous-vide method of cooking is meat and fish since they are sensitive to high temperatures. Cooking difficult meats like flank steak and turkey breasts can be made tastier if they are cooked using the sous-vide method. The method is best suited for cooking meat because it does not alter the texture, a feature very important when cooking meat. Most of the times when meat is cooked using conventional methods, it is overcooked. But, with the sous-vide method, the temperature remains the same while the meat is tenderly cooked with its juices remaining intact.

Pros of Using the Sous-vide Method

  • Evenly cooked meat and fish is obtained when using the sous-vide method
  • With sous-vide method of cooking, one can avoid the dried out, overdone meat as the final temperature can be controlled
  • The food is safe to consume as the long cooking hours taken by the sous-vide method kill the pathogens that may be present in the food or the plastic bag. 
  • The texture or quality of the dish being prepared remains intact with the sous-vide cooking as a uniform temperature is maintained throughout the process of cooking
  • Vacuum sealing of the food ensures that decay of the food by water is prevented 

The sous-vide method of cooking can be used to get tastier, juicier meat and fish. There are special ovens and cookers that help in cooking by the sous-vide method. The computer controlled heater ensures that the water set at a low temperature is maintained for hours, if required. This method of cooking has an important benefit in the sense that it frees the cook from continually watching the food cook, freeing them to handle other aspects of the meal while the meat or fish is cooking in the sealed bag. With traditional cooking, there is little margin for error as the temperature can be high or fluctuate, leading to overcooked food in case of slight inattention. With sous-vide, you can have evenly cooked, juicy, flavorful food every time.

Written for PMG 
Professional SEO Writer
Sipia Mahajan 

Monday, December 2, 2013


                                    CHRISTMAS IS COMING SOON


Part 1 

By the time this article reaches you, thanksgiving is history for 2013, sure hope you had a great celebration.
So what’s next, Christmas is around the corner, one of the scariest events for many home cooks to look forward to.

Planning a menu, get your supplies, trying not to break the bank, preparing a guest list, all lovely subjects to get your brain cracking.
It is my personal opinion that when you have guests on a once a year occasion like Christmas, do not cook something you have no experience with. Cooking a dinner you are familiar with, will almost certainly result in a dinner table full with happy people.
The reason why I think that way is that we all tend to overdo our Christmas celebrations, we plan to make too many dishes, side dishes, snacks and desserts.
By doing so we end up in the kitchen most of the day and forget that Christmas is actually also for us, the chefs.
Christmas is a family gathering for everybody to enjoy. 
First remember that you are at home and you cook Christmas dinner for family and friends.
So your menu planning should be based on beating the clock, not breaking the clock, getting all worked up and placing oneself out of enjoyment of the family gathering Christmas should be.
Let me help you a little bit and give some tips how to make your Christmas dinner a lot easier.
Traditionally Christmas dinners must have a roast, the choice of which type of roast is all yours, a leg of lamb, goose, turkey, game or whichever roast you are comfortable with.
The highlight of your dinner should be a big platter with a roast for everyone around the table to share.
Now here is your first time saver, instead of making individual plates with vegetables and potatoes, and have the plates scattered all over the kitchen because you are not a restaurant and also likely not equipped to accommodate individual plating for a large group of people, place all your vegetables and potatoes around your roast, it looks great, grand and impressive as a centre piece.  
Let’s say you have chosen to cook,           
Whole Roast Turkey with a Sauce of mixed Berries and Port Wine
Garden Herbs infused Roast Potatoes
Assorted Garden Vegetables
Roasted Chestnuts
Christmas stuffing 
Many of the components in this menu can be made in advance, let’s have a look.

Potatoes, choose Russet or Maris Piper potatoes, leave them whole, wash and boil in water with salt for ten minutes, rinse under cold water, peel the skin off, cut into the size you like, a bit chunky is nice for a dish like this. Drain and cool.
Place the potatoes in a vacuum bag, add some olive oil, a few sprigs of rosemary and parsley. 
Vacuum and store in your refrigerator.
You can do this two or three days in advance, the oil and herbs will give a lovely flavor to the potatoes during the storage time.

Now the vegetables.

Say you choose carrot, parsnip, Brussels sprouts and red cabbage.
After cleaning and cutting to shape, keep the vegetables chunky as well, cook,

Carrots and parsnip Blanch 12 minutes  - cool in ice water
Brussels sprouts Blanch 8 minutes  - cool in ice water
Red cabbage Cook 1 hour with your spices, e.g. vinegar, sugar, cinnamon, bay leaf, red wine, salt and sliced apples. Cool (no ice water)
After the vegetables are cooled, drain and vacuum pack, store in your refrigerator
You can do this also 2 to 3 days in advance. NO FREEZING.
If you are not too comfortable vacuuming the red cabbage, store this item in a container, it will be fine or even better, because the flavors have time to develop, for 3 to 4 days. You can however vacuum the red cabbage, stay in front of your vacuum sealer and when the liquid comes  half way up the seal strip, press seal. It works but be careful. 
Buy pre-cooked chestnuts, like the canned type.  

The sauce. 
You can perfectly use frozen mixed berries for this, add 100 grams sugar and half a cup of port wine to 500 grams of berries, bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Mix with a whisk. If it is too thick, add a bit of water.
Store this also in a jar, you can vacuum many components, but there are some that a not so suitable for vacuuming. Do ensure that your jars are very clean, best is to boil them a few minutes before use.
The sauce will stay fine for a few weeks, similar to marmalade or jam.
Major advantage, besides a relaxed Christmas day for yourself, is that you can make a mistake, if major you have plenty of time to redo the item.   
Well you are almost done and it is not even Christmas eve.
Last but definitely not least, the turkey.

If you buy a frozen turkey, make sure that the turkey is well thawed, depending on the size this may take up to 2 days.
Season the turkey by placing cut oranges, rosemary, salt and pepper in the cavity.
Do this 1 day in advance, cover the turkey with cling wrap or a wet towel and store  in your refrigerator. Remove from your refrigerator on the morning of serving, this allows an even temperature in the bird and with that a better finished result.
I believe that is works better to have the stuffing separately cooked from the bird, unless you have a de-boned turkey.
Everybody has his/her own preference for a stuffing, so choose one you like.
Prepare the stuffing preferably one or two days in advance, so the flavors can develop as well.
If your stuffing is fairly firm in consistency. Vacuum, this works perfect with bread and also meat based stuffings.     

Christmas day:
You wake up without the feeling that you have a tough day ahead, feels good right.

You can still spend a bit of time on some snacks, the not to be missed sausages with bacon and maybe a starter and a dessert.
Based on your cooking time and the roast you have chosen, when you have chosen a turkey like in the sample menu, plan such that the turkey is 45 minutes ready prior to serving time .
Remove the turkey from the oven and cover with aluminum foil.
Remove the potatoes from the vacuum bag, place your potatoes in a baking tray, drizzle with some olive oil and roast in your oven for about 30 minutes at 325 F.
Heat some oil in a frying pan add the carrots and parsnip, season and fry for 5 to 10 minutes.
Fry the Brussels sprouts with the chestnuts similarly in another frying pan.
If you did vacuum the red cabbage, the easiest way is to heat the whole bag in a pot with hot water for 15 minutes or so. No scare that it will burn.
You can heat the berries sauce in the microwave, you need this item warm, not boiling hot.    
Now you are ready to serve.
Place the turkey in the centre of a large serving plate, half of the parsnip, carrot, Brussels sprouts with chestnuts and the roast potatoes on one side and the other half on the other side of the turkey.
The stuffing on the cavity side and the drained (do not forget to drain off excess liquid) red cabbage on neck side.
Place your sauce in a separate bowl.
WOW. Success guaranteed.

Written for PMG 
By Professional Chef Marinus Hoogendoorn