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Cook these 3 hero recipes, master 12 skills

We’ve partnered with ProCook to bring you deep-dive recipes, tips, and insight into some of the most important aspects of food and cooking – all in a bid to help you be a better cook!

Every recipe you’ve ever cooked involved some sort of technique, no matter how basic. These three dishes – eggs florentine, sausage rolls and baked alaska – each feature four culinary skills that, once mastered, you’ll roll out time and time again. The delicious. food team’s Pollyanna Coupland analyses each skill and shares the secrets to its success. Add all 12 to your portfolio and you’ll be a master chef in no time.

These three hero recipes cover the intricacies of egg washing, creating great no-churn ice cream and how to master poached eggs (the secret? A sieve…).

Plus: we provide product recommendations from our friends at ProCook to help you achieve fantastic results.

Cook these 3 hero recipes, master 12 skills

1. Eggs florentine

Don’t leave this beautiful brunch to the professionals – it’s the ultimate weekend indulgence and a great showcase for your culinary talents. Nothing beats proper hollandaise and a freshly cooked muffin!

Your eggs florentine skills

1. Homemade muffins are a game-changer – just like freshly baked bread, they’re a world away from shop-bought. The overnight prove brings a better flavour and less work in the morning for your brunch.

2. Hollandaise is the emulsified sauce mayonnaise wants to be when it grows up. It scares a lot of cooks (and some chefs), but here are my top tips for getting it right:

  • Whisking by hand might seem old-school, but it allows you to keep an eye on what’s going on and work at a steady pace.
  • Try to have everything at the same temperature when whisking things together to avoid splitting. Aim for warm, not hot.
  • Don’t rush. Make sure the egg yolks have thickened properly before adding the vinegar and butter, otherwise the sauce won’t emulsify.
  • If the sauce splits and adding a splash of water doesn’t work, all is not lost – put another egg yolk in a bowl over the simmering water, whisk it for 2 minutes until thick, then slowly drizzle and whisk into the split mixture. It should re-emulsify.
  • Season liberally – there’s a lot of rich butter in the sauce, which needs a heap of salt and pepper to bring it to life.

3. Perfect poached eggs are the holy grail of egg cookery. It’s all about using the freshest eggs, sieving them to get rid of the watery part of the whites (which creates those stringy, ghostly wisps in the water), adding a splash of vinegar (no salt) to the water and creating a whirlpool to coddle the white around the yolk.

4. Chopping herbs might not sound like a thrilling subject, but there’s a reason chefs judge each other’s talents based on how finely they slice chives. Poor technique or a blunt knife blade will crush herbs as much as chop them, releasing liquid and leaving you with something soggy and bruised rather than fresh and crisp.

Create stellar eggs florentine from scratch with this recipe

Eggs florentine


2. Sausage rolls

A sausage roll of any kind is good in our book, but every element in this recipe is made by your own fair hand. The pops of acidity from the pickled shallots cut through the pork, which is denser and far more flavourful than shop-bought sausagemeat, while the rough puff pastry enrobes everything in buttery goodness.

Your sausage roll skills

1. Homemade pickles take time but give you total control over the end result. Like them sharp? Add a touch less water. Like them sweet? Up the sugar. Play around with the type of vinegar and add different spices to make your personalised pickle. The reason we (almost) quarter the shallots is because it speeds up the process.

2. Rough puff pastry is my favourite pastry to work with and a seriously impressive thing to make at home. The key is to keep the butter chilled at all times to stop it melting into the flour, so keep it in the fridge whenever you’re not using it. Don’t be scared by uneven lumps of butter and a variable texture – it’s what makes this a ‘rough’ puff.

3. Sausagemeat varies hugely in quality and, unless you’re going to a good butcher, tends to be over-salted and pretty poor. Making your own is simple and speedy, and lets you control the flavour and texture. I’ve gone with Italian-led flavours and a dense texture that favours meat over fat, but feel free to get creative.

4. Egg washing is more complex than you might think and makes a real difference. A bronzed, shiny sausage roll is far more appealing than a sandy, patchy one. Add a pinch of salt to your beaten egg and leave it for about 10 minutes to help break down the proteins in the egg white, creating a thin wash you can paint evenly over your pastry. Applying in two stages (with a quick chill in between) creates a double layer for extra gloss.

Ready to make Pollyanna’s ultimate sausage rolls? Here’s the full recipe.

Sausage rolls on a cooling rack


3. Baked alaska

Baked alaska is one of those desserts famously reserved for the brave-hearted, but it needn’t be – it just takes a bit of time and patience. Our failsafe recipe combines a spiced chocolate no-churn ice cream with a sturdy sponge base, no-cook freezer jam and silky torched swiss meringue.

Your baked alaska skills

1. No-churn ice cream can often be a little disappointing – ending up a block of rock hard custard full of ice crystals. The secret? Condensed milk. Its higher sugar and lower water content (up to 60% of its water has been removed) means it doesn’t set solid and, when combined with whipped cream, creates a light, airy texture without the need for fancy gadgets.

2. Freezer jam sits somewhere between true jam and a compote. It needs no heat and gives a much fresher fruit flavour as a result. Crushed berries are macerated in jam sugar to create a chunky, juicy concoction that sits in the freezer until you need it. And there’s no need for sterilised jars.

3. A fluffy sponge is a must, and a prerequisite for all sorts of cakes and puddings. Here are my top tips:

  • Make sure butter is properly softened and eggs are at room temperature. Heat the oven before starting – you’ve taken all that time to beat air into the batter, so don’t let it deflate while you wait for the oven to heat up.
  • Thin sponges like this one take a surprisingly short time to bake. Lightly touch the top; if it isn’t liquid and springs back, it’s ready. Leave to cool and wait until the last moment to cut it; it turns stale quickly.

4. Swiss meringue cooks while you whisk it, so it doesn’t need a separate bake (unlike french meringue) and it’s easier than italian meringue (which involves pouring boiling syrup into a running stand mixer). For a strong swiss meringue with the best peaks, make sure you use a spotlessly clean bowl, whisk at a high speed and use it as soon as it’s ready.

Create your own impressive mini baked alaskas with Pollyanna’s master recipe.

Mini baked alaskas on a cake stand


Three tools to make these recipes easier

You can learn all the skills, but if you don’t have the right equipment for the job, you’ll struggle. Here are three ProCook tools we used to create these recipes.

Nihon X50 16cm Nakiri knife

A stainless-steel knife that keeps its edge in a busy kitchen is a must-have for any serious cook. This one stays super sharp, feels comfortable in the hand and is guaranteed for 25 years – cutting herbs without bruising them is a breeze. Buy now for £55 from ProCook.

Enamel baking tray set

Three durable carbon steel trays of assorted sizes with a tough non-stick enamel coating (dishwasher and oven-safe up to 260°C). These will fulfil all your baking needs and are also guaranteed for 25 years. Perfect for cooking sausage rolls and so much more. Buy now for £34 from ProCook.

Hand mixer

With five speed settings, this nifty workhorse will whip the lightest meringues, cream or whatever you need, while letting you stay in close control. It’s light and easy to handle and has a self-stand design to minimise mess and allow for easy storage. Buy now for £39 from ProCook.

Discover more expert guides and skills masterclasses in our Be a Better Cook section.

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