Not long after we moved into our little farm house earlier in the year, I was beginning to question my ability to cook without burning something.
It started one night when I was making a bolognese sauce…
Somehow I got side tracked and forgot I had the pot on the highest setting. The next thing I know my Irishman (whose nose is much more sensitive than mine) was asking ‘Is something burning?’
It was. Not good.
Then to make matters worse, the next morning I was warming up some cavolo nero (black Tuscan kale) to have with our eggs and the same thing happened. Another burnt disaster.
For someone who has a degree in Food Science and writes cookbooks for a living, this was starting to get embarrassing.
But as I was scrubbing my poor burnt pots that morning, I realized there could be one good thing to come out of my kitchen disasters. I was getting a lot of experience in how to rescue burnt food.
A great blog post topic!
So here we are…
6 steps to rescue a burnt kitchen disaster
1. Remove from the heat source.
No explanation needed.
2. Transfer the unburned food to a clean pot / container. ASAP.
The thing I’ve learned is usually the burnt food stays attached to the bottom of the pot so it’s usually easy to separate off the good remaining food.
Just resist the urge to stir and see ‘how bad it is’. You can always add back the bottom layers later if they’re still edible. But the sooner you cut your losses, the more likely you’ll still have something edible at the end.
3. Add water to the burnt pot.
This stops making things worse and helps with cleaning later.
4. Add water to the rescued food, if needed.
Depending on what was burnt and how bad things are, adding back moisture can help. Although in the case of someting like my cavolo nero it isn’t really an option.
5. Taste and season with strong flavours, if needed.
Sometimes the rescued food will taste fine. But if there’s a bit of a lingering burnt flavour, I like to try and camouflage it.
For example with my bolognese sauce I added some more tomato paste and a little smoked paprkia and some butter to ‘smooth’ everything out. It didn’t completely cover the burnt flavours but at least we were able to eat it.
Other good ingredients to reach for are curry pastes (Thai or Indian), curry powder, other spices, chilli in any form. Coconut milk is another option for ‘smoothing’ the rough flavours if butter isn’t your thing.
6. Let it go.
Sometimes these things happen. And the only option is to throw out your disaster. Try and learn from your mistake but there’s no need to beat yourself up about it. I’ve started setting my timer more often and not leaving the kitchen with a pot on full heat which seems to be helping!
Killer Kale Gratin
For the record, I haven’t burnt this dish yet. It’s just something I made recently that I just loved and wanted to share with you. I used purple kale in the picture but any kale or leafy green will work.
This is my idea of a perfect one pot meal, although if you’re cooking for a particularly hungry carnivore you may need to serve it as a side to a roast chicken or juicy steak.
takes: about 45 minutes
makes: enough for 2-3
1 onion, chopped
6 rashers bacon, chopped
1 bunch kale, sliced
300ml (1 1/4 cups) double cream
2 large handfuls grated cheese
1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F).
2. Heat a little oil in an oven proof pot and add bacon and onion. Cook over a medium heat until the onion is soft, about 10 minutes.
3. Add kale and cook for a few minutes, stirring so it starts to wilt down. Add cream and stir well.
4. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook for 15 minutes with the lid on.
5. Sprinkle over the cheese and cook for another 10-15 minutes or until the kale is tender and the cheese golden.
different greens – most greens will work here. Cavolo nero is great or curly kale, English spinach, silverbeet (chard) or even chinese broccoli or broccoli rabe.
dairy-free / vegan – replace cream with coconut milk and sprinkle with pinenuts or almonds instead of the cheese.
different cheese – I used a comb of emmental, gruyere and parmesan but any melting cheese will work including cheddar.
carb lovers / more substantial – toss in some cooked short pasta before adding the cheese.
can’t find double cream? – just use whipping cream or heavy cream instead.
ps. Do you have any other ‘kitchen disasters’ you would like some help with?
Tell us about them in the comments below… could be just the thing to spark another blog post!