MasterChef Australia star Poh Ling Yeow has dished out the five biggest mistakes home cooks make – and her go-to budget meals for less than $10.
Whether you are an amateur cook or a pro in the kitchen, the celebrity chef said there are simple things people do without even realising – including using the wrong pan to cook steak or fish.
‘If you want high, intense, quick heat, choose a pan with low sides and cast iron or stainless steel finish,’ Poh told Daily Mail Australia.
‘High sides will trap moisture and create a steaming affect. A non-stick surface will not conduct heat as well, so avoid it if sealing meat – it will tend to overcook before any decent caramelisation happens.
‘Do use a non-stick pan for fish as the delicate flesh tends to stick to the pan.’
MasterChef star Poh Ling Yeow has dished out the cooking mistakes home cooks make
Poh said she always starts her morning with a large cup of coffee and a sweet treat from her market stall Jamface (pictured at her baked goods stall at the Adelaide Farmers Market)
Poh’s day on a plate
BREAKFAST: Large cup of coffee with full cream milk and a sweet homemade treat from her market store Jamface
LUNCH: Homemade sourdough with butter and Vegemite
‘I don’t usually have lunch, maybe a slice of homemade sourdough with butter and Vegemite,’ she said.
DINNER: Roasted seasonal vegetables
‘Because I cook for a living, I love simple flavours that require very basic execution,’ she said.
Another mistake home cooks make is not using enough fat in their cooking.
‘Fat is flavour and a heat conductor – when you don’t use enough of it, ingredients steam and leach, instead of seal and caramelise,’ she explained.
Poh said all too often people either under season or over season their dishes.
‘Season just a little during the cook, then always taste and season at the end of the cooking process,’ she said.
‘If you are reducing anything, season carefully during the cook or it will concentrate and be too salty at the end – the trick is taste, taste, taste as you go and at the end.’
Finally, Poh said food wastage is one of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to storing fresh herbs and vegetables in the fridge.
‘Look after your fresh produce when storing. Protect herbs and veg in plastic bags to ensure they have a longer life. Nothing should be uncovered in the fridge,’ she explained.
‘Think of creative ways to use odds and ends in the veg crisper. Slice and salt them, then make a simple pickle. If in doubt, make a stew.’
Being surrounded by delicious sweet and savoury food every day, Poh said there’s ‘no real trick’ when it comes to keeping herself fit and healthy.
‘Apart from not drinking, I eat everything. There’s no real trick. My body seems to know how to nutritionally balance, because if I’ve had something heavy, I’ll crave salad or only vegetables the next day,’ she said.
‘I don’t do any consistent fitness but I’m incredibly active working in an industrial kitchen and being a keen gardener. I go for daily walks with the dogs, and very occasionally skip and do yoga.’
When whipping up quick, easy and delicious meals in a flash, Poh said there are a couple of dishes she enjoys making that cost less than $10 – including fried rice and an omelette
When whipping up quick, easy and delicious meals in a flash, Poh said there are a couple of dishes she enjoys making that cost less than $10.
‘Asian style omelettes to eat with rice are amongst my favourite meals,’ she said.
‘Simply brown garlic in any vegetable based oil, then add either lots of fresh mint, chopped tomatoes or eggplant that’s been roasted over an open flame for maximum smoky goodness.
‘Add two to three eggs whisked with light soy sauce, stir fry until cooked through and you have the most delicious meal to serve with rice.’
Another go-to recipe is a humble bowl of fried rice.
‘Start with a good amount of onion, garlic, chilli, then chilled rice and whatever you have in the fridge. A dash of light soy or oyster sauce and a handful of herbs and you’re good to go,’ Poh added.
Poh’s pineapple & bacon fried rice
Poh’s pineapple & bacon fried rice
1/2 cup diced ham or bacon (for vegetarians or vegans add 1/2 tsp of veg stock powder or dash of mushroom oyster sauce instead)
1 cup diced pineapple (fresh or tinned)
2 tbs olive oil
3/4 chopped spring onions
1 sliced long red chilli
2-3 sprigs curry leaves (optional)
1 diced capsicum
1 cup chilled cooked rice and light soy or fish sauce to taste
1/3 cup roughly chopped coriander
Sriracha sauce (optional)
Combine olive oil with spring onions, red chilli, curry leaves and ham or bacon in a large non-stick frypan over high heat.
When everything is fragrant and a little browned, add the capsicum, pineapple, cooked rice and light soy or fish sauce to taste.
Once rice is heated through, remove from heat and toss through roughly chopped coriander.
Divide the rice into two portions, then, add a touch more oil into the same frypan, cook two eggs. Pop the egg on each serve of rice then finish with a good squeeze of sriracha sauce.
‘The trick to nicely separated, non-stodgy fried rice is cooking with chilled rice. If you don’t have chilled leftover rice in hand, microwave pouches can be tipped directly into your stir fry without heating up first,’ Poh said.
‘The next option is to use freshly cooked brown rice. The bran layer keeps the grains firm and protects them from getting mushy when stirred hot.’