Turmoil in the kitchen!.jpg

Turmoil in the kitchen!

By Sarah Byrne [email protected]

Graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and groomed in Relais & Chateaux  hotels, Sarah Byrne was the Maitre d’ Instructor in California overseeing the 2006 royal visit. She is now enjoying muddy hands from her organic gardens in Moncarapacho.

Did you know that by giving an onion an ice water bath before chopping, prevents tears, or that storing an egg, tapered end down, helps retard spoilage by maximizing distance between the yolk and its natural air pocket? Ever wondered why green vegetables lose their vibrant colour during cooking or why hot tap water is the worst choice for brewing coffee or tea?

All these tricks of the trade I picked up during my years in professional kitchens, but what required most study was how to flavour food. Too many ingredients confuse the taste buds, too little bores the palate. Over cooked, undercooked, should never be cooked!

Speaking for myself, as a chef and food lover, since my move to the Algarve, I have found the restaurant food quite disheartening! Same flavours, same ingredients, rice and chips on the same plate, over-cooked watery vegetables and please Sir, don’t order the steak!

Classically trained, and taught fat is flavour, using lots of creams and butter, I developed another style during my California years. Clean, fresh, abundant flavours, alive and healthy food on the plate with a wow factor, seasonal and sustainable agriculture that puts the pennies back into the pockets of our local farmers.

So here in my new life, I set about my ‘mise en place’ with first things first, a kitchen garden. Herbs, sweet grape tomatoes hanging from the vine, exciting salad greens, Chiogga candy cane beets, Japanese cucumbers, multi-coloured peppers and the bulk staples to be bought from the market, including fresh catch of the day.

So let’s get crazy and do something different! What am I cooking, how much time is required? What flavours am I looking for, do I have those ingredients available? Marinades and simple vinaigrettes made days ahead, vegetables with correct cooking techniques, and, of course, those hard to find spices we can pick up on our next trip home!

Look out for my future articles in which I will explore cooking methods, kitchen trivia, flavour packed recipes and questions and queries on anything from cooking to Maitre d’ service issues.