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Thursday, 16 June 2011

Zucchini Frittata

I love individual portions, I find them very elegant
they are awesome in a buffet
I know from all your feedback that you have been enjoying this Breakfast week! I am delighted to know that many of you are going to be having Friday Breakfast with family and friends this weekend :) I look forward to hearing all about how the recipes turned out, and the feedback you all got from your guests. Today's recipe is a little different from those I have been posting all week. With the breakfast week, I wanted you to get a feel of Middle Eastern Cuisine with best loved Arabic cuisine recipes. Today, I remain close by this region, and from the Mediterranean with this Italian Recipe, which am sure you will love.

Frittatas are very much like omelets, except they are cooked to set in the oven or by the steam generated under a lid. Like omelets, they include vegetables, cream or milk, and cheese. The choice of vegetables is totally yours, so you can choose any that you like, and the same applies to all the additions, including the type of cheese, olives, meats...etc. Frittatas and omelets are great for using any leftover vegetables too.

Frittatas can be made and served
in a skillet
I love Frittatas and find that they make for a delicious and impressive breakfast option. I personally like individual portions, I find that they are elegant. All you need to do to create omelets and frittatas in individual portions is a muffin tin, sprayed with a little oil or brushed with a little butter! With that said, rustic is also very eye catching, so you can cook Frittatas whole in a nice looking skillet, and place the whole skillet on the table for a rustic, country style breakfast.

This is my favourite Zucchini Frittata recipe, but feel free to change around with the vegetables and other additions to reach your own favourite recipe.

You Need
8 large eggs
1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
Kalamata Olives
1 tbsp fresh sage, chopped or 1 tsp dried sage (rub between fingers to release aromas)
1/4 cup Parmesan Riggiano cheese, grated
1 cup grated zucchini
1 small onion, chopped
12 Kalamata olives, pitted
3 tbsp light cream
1/2 cup cubed soft bread (your favourite bread)
Salt & Black pepper to taste
Olive oil

In a large bowl, place all ingredients, except olives, onions and bread. Beat all with a fork, until incorporated. Add the bread and push inside the mixture to get soaked.

If going for individual portions, grease the muffin holes and set aside.

In a skillet, sprinkle Olive oil, add the onions and sweat over high heat, till soft, but not browned. Remove from heat, add to the egg mixture and mix to incorporate. If you are cooking the Frittata in the skillet, then pour the egg mixture, and cook on stove top till the almost set, you can then cover with a lid and cook over low heat, till the top has totally set. Sprinkle olives on top and serve hot.

If you are going for the muffin tin, then divide the egg mixture among the holes, and bake in 350F oven for about 15-18 minutes, or till the eggs are set and no juices remain.
 Turn the frittatas and arrange them on serving platter, place an olive on top of each portion, and serve them hot.

Everyone loves these, so make sure to try it out! Let me know how it goes :)

Hope you have enjoyed this post, come back again for more :))
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Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Fool, My Way!

All you need is a squeeze of lemon juice and they are delicious,
add to that some Tahina (sesame paste) and it is a treat!
Fool, is Fava Beans or brown Broad Beans. In this preparation of fool (sometimes known as Fool Midammes, or Fool Bil Tahina) we create a mash out of these beans, mix them with Tahina (sesame paste) lemon juice, or green chili sauce and vegetables. This is a traditional breakfast/Brunch option, that is very popular. There are many ways to prepare Fool. Some like it plain with lemon and Tahina, others like to add green chili sauce, while some like to add spices, vegetables...etc
When it comes to Fool, this is how I like it: My Way!

You Need
2 cans Plain Fava Beans (you can use blanched fresh or dried Fava Beans)
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
Fava Beans, or brown Broad Beans
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp Tahina
1 tsp cumin powder
Salt & Black Pepper to taste
1 recipe Green Chili Sauce
1 large tomato, finely chopped
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
2 spring onions, sliced
2 bunch parsley, finely chopped
Olive oil

In a medium saucepan, place fava beans. If you are using canned beans, then place them with the liquids, if using blanched fresh ones, reserve 1 cup of the blanching water. Bring to a boil, add minced garlic, cumin powder, & salt. Cook for 7 minutes extra. Remove from heat and mash. Set Aside.

In a small bowl, mix Tahina, lemon juice, black pepper together till all are incorporated and form a paste. Add to mashed fava beans, along with 2 tbsp green chili sauce and mix to incorporate. Pour into serving Bowl. Mix in the chopped vegetables and parsley. Top with a drizzle of olive oil, and 1 tbsp green chilli sauce. Serve it warm along with pita bread wedges.

I like to place the vegetables and parsley along the top in lines rather than mix them in. I like the way it looks, and I feel it allows eaters to choose the vegetables they like to have on their plates, or to omit them and go for the mash underneath on its own.


Thank you for dropping by, hope you will give this recipe a try and let its goodness speak for itself :) Come back again soon for more...
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Friday, 10 June 2011

Falafel @ home!

Home-made Falafel are delicious!
Right before everyone heads out of Dubai for summer vacations, why not invite your friends over for a real good Breakfast / Brunch next weekend? I am going to post all-time favourites, breakfast / Brunch platters, throughout this week so you can throw the best get together next weekend!!! You are going to love this :)

I will start with everyone's favourite Falafel

Falafel Sandwich
Contrary to common belief, Falafel -just like Hummus-  in fact belong to and originate from Middle Eastern / Arabic cuisine, which is essentially very influenced by the Turkish cuisine! It is mainly made out of minced chickpeas, broad beans herbs and a special falafel spice mix.
In the Middle East, Falafel is usually served alongside Hummus, Fool (broad beans mash), Fatet Hummus (A preparation of Hummous with a bed of bread underneath), Taratoor (a tahina sauce served with falafel, recipe below), or can be served as a sandwiches: with a tahina salad, pickles, tarator and sometimes hummus together with fresh mint leaves all wrapped in pita bread.
Falafel is essentially a breakfast item, but can also be had any time of the day.

Friday Mornings in Amman
will have you standing in long lines
waiting for your falafel
Growing up in Amman, it is tradition for most families to go buy Falafel, Hummus, Fattet Hummus and fool early on Friday mornings and gather up the family for an early breakfast. When we used to go on sleepovers at my grandparents', my grandpa used to always make sure to go really early to buy these, and would prepare breakfast for us before we woke up! I used to love sleeping over there, and occasionally I would get to go with him, if I woke up early :) Today, the same tradition lives on in Amman, and you would actually have to stand in a long line before it's your turn to pick your order! So if you love Falafel like I do, here is how you can make them....

Brown broad Beans (Fool)
You Need
2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked in water for 24 hours
1 cup dried brown broad beans (fool), soaked in water for 24 hours
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 green chili, finely chopped (optional)
1 medium green capsicum, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp dried coriander powder
2 tsp DK Falafel Spice Mix
1 tsp Baking powder
1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda (optional)
Special tools are used to shape
Falafel rounds

Place all in a food processor and process till fine and smooth. After processing, add cumin and coriander powder and 1 tsp DK Falafel Spice Mix, B.powder and B.soda; mix all to combine. Add 2 tbsp water (just enough to help the mixture bind together. Do not go overboard with the water)

At this point, you can either shape the falafel rounds by hand to the desired size, or you can use a special tool that has a cavity, which you fill with falafel mix and scrape off the excess. The shape is usually round, but you can make it a little flattened or into the shape of small sausages for variation. I personally prefer the classic round shape.

deep fry in hot oil till browned

Mini Falafel Wraps
Picture from BBC Good Food
once shaped deep fry in hot oil till browned on all sides. Drain a little on a sieve, transfer to serving plate and serve hot. you can sprinkle falafel with toasted sesame seeds or Sumac for garnish and added flavour. I find that falafel go especially well with fresh tomato and hummus...

Falafel is an excellent option for cocktail parties too! You can make them small and serve them on sticks with a taratoor sauce as dip. or I love this option from BBC GOOD FOOD, where they are served as mini sandwiches (wrapped in mini pita triangles).

For Taratoor Dip
You Need
1/2 cup Tahina (sesame paste)
1 cup water
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 clove garlic, finely minced
fresh mint Shiffonade for garnish

mix all except mint shiffonade very well till combined and smooth. It should be of ribbon consistency. Serve alongside Falafel.
Taratoor is also traditionally served alongside fried fish platters.

Enjoy :)

Hope you have enjoyed this post, and that you will give this recipe a try. It is a very good recipe and you don't have to have Falafel only from restaurants, you can make it @ home :)
Do let me know what you think of this recipe and if you usually make Falafel @home. So leave me a message before you go, I do love to hear from you...

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Tuesday, 7 June 2011

I love Blueberry Pancakes!!

Blueberries are sensational! Add them to pancakes and what
can be better?
In the streets of Juffeir in Bahrain there is a little diner/pub called Ric's Country Kitchen. When I was living there, I used to wait for Fridays to break off work and kick start the weekend with their to-die-for breakfast. The place would be buzzing with people, and at times you really had to wait in line. But all worth the wait! 

Treat your family to an occasional
Ric's Country Kitchen at home!
The menu is a straight forward diner style breakfast but with all the additions and sides to make your appetite take control. Of course, there was all types of egg preparations, hash browns, sausages, bacons strips, beans, grilled tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms, the best ever French toast and the works. I am telling you, if you live in Bahrain or visiting, this is one place you have got to try! Having left Bahrain, and not yet found another version of Ric's Country Kitchen here in Dubai, I would occasionally invite friends and family over for a Ric's Breakfast at home. I would make the many varieties and devour them over breakfast. Try and do that for your family occasionally, you will all love it.

With that said, my most favourite Ric's offering is their Blueberry Pancakes! They were light, fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth succulent puffy pancakes that are just perfect. Pancakes are delicious as they are, but add a little blueberries and they transform into something extraordinary. They are seriously good!

In my attempt to eat healthy food, I have to come up with healthier ways to prepare food. Just because I want to eat healthy, doesn't mean I want to miss out on the goodness of my favourite foods. So I have worked out a blueberry pancakes recipe that is healthier, without compromising on the flavour or experience, rather enhance the goodness for that matter. Blueberries fall under the category of super foods. They are very good for you. They are antioxidants, packed with vitamins and are fruits that help prevent cancer. How is that for a healthy start? The pancakes in this recipe are relatively light, and if you do not go for maple or any other sugar syrup, they are low on sugar too. That is if you can hold yourself back from the scrumptious maple syrup, which pairs very well with these pancakes (an occasional treat is fine though lol). Another trick to reduce the calories and fat intake, is to have a well seasoned cast iron skillet or griddle, which is virtually a healthy non-stick option, that you can preheat and cook the pancakes on without greasing or adding butter. I find that these cast iron skillets produce wonderfully textured pancakes with excellent even browning. I also find that these non-greasy pancakes are much better than their counterpart greasy ones. So don't hold yourself back, and treat yourself to these wonderful pancakes :)

You Need
a well seasoned cast iron skillet is a
healthy non stick option
1 cup flour
 (you can go for the diabetic flour if you need to reduce the carb content)
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup milk
2 tbsp cooking oil
1 packet fresh blueberries

In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, salt together. make a well in the centre of this mixture and set aside.
In a small bowl, combine beaten egg, oil, and milk. Mix till well incorporated. Add egg mixture to the well in the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Do not over stir, the mixture should be a little lumpy. fold a handful of blueberries, reserving some for garnish. Let mixture stand for 10 minutes.

Cook till bubbles form on top
and bottom is slightly browned
Preheat your skillet, and drop 1 ladel of batter at a time. Cook until bubbles form on top and the bottom is lightly browned about 2 minutes, then flip and cook till the bottom is lightly browned about 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and place on a wire rack to prevent steam from sogging your cakes. Repeat till all batter is finished. (if you are not worried about the fat content, then you can place a small knob of butter on top of each cake for flavour)

Stack on serving plate, and drizzle with a little bit of honey, or sprinkle with a little icing sugar (don't go over board). Again if you are not worried about the sugar content, you can go for the good old maple syrup. By the way, go for syrup made out of pure maple, rather than the pancake syrup that is essentially a sugar syrup with maple essence. It is way more delicious. Add fresh blueberries and some strips of orange zest if desired.


Plain Pancakes

Tip   for plain pancakes, ommit the blueberries, and cook as above. You can serve plain pancakes with fresh berries, and they are just as good.

Chocolate Chip Pancakes

For chocolate chip pancakes, ommit blueberries, and add chocolate chips instead cooking as above. They are just as good. Children love chocolate and they love colours too, go for M&M's instead of chocolate chips for a colourful option...

Hope you liked this post, let me know which is your favourite pancake flavour :))
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Thursday, 2 June 2011

Understanding Cookware: Part 1 - Materials

Understanding Cookware Materials, their Properties and Maintainance Requirements

Photo of a Painting by the artist Darren Baker
Throughout my courses and your correspondences, I have repeatedly been asked about cookware. What makes them different, Which are the best, and how to season and maintain them? With the many offerings in the market, selecting cookware can be a bit stressful.

How do you know which cookware to buy, and for what uses? 
How do you know which shapes, materials, or makes to go for? 
Does it really make a difference? 
Why are some so expensive? Is expensive better? 
Which cookware are healthy and safe to use? 
Which ones are harmful? 
So I made my choice, how do I season it? How do I maintain it?...etc. 

Many questions, come to mind, when it comes to selecting cookware... Rightly these questions are important to ask before you go shopping, and the answers to these questions are essential because cookware is a basic requirement to food production. It affects the outcome of food, the consistency, the flavour, the nutritional content and health factor of your food, as well as your pocket. An educated decision is therefore very important and makes a whole difference to the quality of food you produce, as well as affects your wellbeing!

Picture from Tyler Florence Kitchen
Whether you are starting out in the kitchen, buying new cookware, preparing your professional kitchen, want to achieve perfection in your creations or simply want to understand the differences among the various cookware, you are going to love this post. You will be surprised to find that your cookware is in fact helping you achieve your desired results, or the very reason hindering your progress! Therefore take the time to read this post, it will help you decide on which cookware is best for you. This part is focused on The Material of Pots and Pans. Understanding the material and their properties is crucial. The following list sums up the materials used in making Cookware available in the market today.

Copper Cookware

  • Aluminum Cookware
  • Stainless Steel Cookware - Surgical Stainless Steel Cookware - All Clad Cookware - Waterless Cookware
  • Cast Iron Cookware
  • Copper Cookware
  • Ceramic Cookware - Ceramic Glass - Ceramic Coated Cookware
  • Glass Cookware
  • Non-stick Cookware - Teflon
  • Titanium Cookware
  • Silicon Bakeware

The 2 main things to consider when it comes to selecting the material out of which cookware is made are: Thermal Properties and Reactivity.

Subjecting food to heat, changes its properties. This change of properties is what we refer to as cooking. Cooking is in essence "preparing food for eating by heating". Therefore heat is a very important factor to consider when choosing the material of pots and pans. These materials determine heat conductivity, even distribution of heat, heat retention, heat responsiveness...etc all of which will determine the amount of time required to cook, producing evenly cooked foods, avoiding sticking and burning...etc. Diifferent metals, respond differently to heat, therefore can produce different results.

Stove Top Flame
Some metals are very good heat conductors. They heat up fast, and cool down just as fast, which is a property that is very important when preparing delicate sauces, working with sugar and especially when working with chocolate. There are food preparations that require specific temperatures, without which you can never achieve the desired results. For those heat-specific recipes, using a poor heat conductor can prevent you from getting the results you are after. Either by having hot-spots that end up scorching parts of your food, or by overheating, underheating...etc. Using these poor heat conducting pans will always end up in disappointment. Some cookware are poor heat conductors, yet good with heat retention, such as glass. These will help you retain the heat you have just achieved, without quickly dropping or overheating.
Some material can actually oxidize and tarnish, forming a layer of poisonous material that are hazardous when consumed! Food is supposed to be healthy and nurturing, not a Health Hazard! Solutions and treatments have been devised to get rid of these issues, but you need to be aware of the care required to keep different materials in top shape. An in depth exploration of different materials and their thermal properties is listed below for you to explore, and to help you decide what is best for you.

But let me first explain a little bit about reactivity. Some foods are acidic, which can react with the material of your pots and pans. Tomatoes for instance are high on the acid content. This reactivity can produce chemicals that are toxin, and when not so severe can lead food to taste metallic! For this reason, not all material are good to use with all food types. Some material can withstand the short period of cooking without causing the byproducts of reactivity, but cannot withstand the longer subjection to acidity caused by storage! like storing acidic food in cast iron pots for instance. Here is a rundown of the most common cookware and their properties with my recommendations too:

Glass cookware
Glass Cookware
Also known as Pyrex, Corelle, Corning Cookware, Visions Cookware....

Glass is a wonderful material that has been used for ages in food preparation. We all have used glass cookware at some point, and continue to do so.

  • Glass cookware is the safest cookware to use. It is free of chemicals and therefore there is no risk of chemicals migrating into your food from your glass pots and pans.
  • When glass is tempered, it can withstand high temperatures and can even be flame proof. This makes it so versatile as it can be used for baking, stove top, microwave cooking, storing food and serving. This can also effect your storage requirements, as it means you do not have to purchase kitchenware dedicated only for storing food.
  • Glass is non-porous, which means it does not have pores into which food sticks. This means that it does not absorb flavours and odors of food. Therefore your food will not absorb the odors of foods previously cooked in the same glass pot. 
  • Glass is non-reactive, so you can use it in cooking any type of food, without worrying about acidity or other reactive properties of different foods.
  • Maintenance wise Glass is easy to clean. It is dishwasher safedoes not require pre-seasoning or any special maintenance routine. All you need is warm soapy water and it is back to new.
When using Glass Cookware allow for residual heat
to finish up the cooking process
  • Glass retains heat longer than metal. Therefore it is perfect for waiting time before serving, as food will not get cold fast. Please note that this fact can also be a challenge. Retaining heat means, you will have to cook food for less time, and allow for residual heat to finish up the cooking. Failing to do so can result in over cooked or dry food. you will usually need to cook at a lower temperature and for a few minutes less than the overall cooking time specified by a recipe. But this fact also means that the overall cooking time is shortened as opposed to that with metal cookware. A little bit of practice and getting used to will ensure success.
  • Glass cookware is inexpensive and accessible everywhere. 
  • On the less appealing side: Glass is a poor heat conductor, and has hot-spots which can cause food to stick and at times burn in specific places. Glass is also breakable. Tempered glass is less likely to break though unless bashed or knocked down to the floor.

Ceramic Cookware
Ceramic Cookware - 
Ceramic Glass Cookware & Ceramic Coated Cookware

These are so eye pleasing, and stylish, they come in every colour and shape. They are great for slow cooking and baking. Produce unmatched food flavours and tenderness. The porcelain types offer the best insulation, and can be used for stove top cooking. They come as casserole dishes, gratin dishes, skillets, tagine dishes...etc.  I love them!
  • Porcelain Ceramics are the strongest of their kind. They are fired, which makes them hard and safe to use on stovetops, microwaves. (not all ceramic cookware are stove-top safe. Only the porcelain version are. Stove top flame heats up real quick and such severe temperature changes can cause damage, breakage and at times pot explosions that can harm the cook. make sure to check manufacturers' instructions before purchase)
  • They are dishwasher safe, which makes them easy to clean.
  • Versatile, as they can be used for storage, for serving as well as baking and some for stove tops.
  • Ceramic Cookware is durable and long lasting.
  • Ceramic Cookware is non-porous.
  • Ceramic is a good insulator and retains heat well. These conditions are ideal for slow cooking: a method that produces very tender and flavoursome food.
  • Ceramic Cookware are somewhat heavy, therefore not ideal for stir frying, sauteeing or any cooking that requires lots of movement.
With that said, the ceramic cookware ranges from earthware, porcelain, metal enameled with ceramic... and they are all different in properties. These are the points to consider before purchase.
Earthware- otherwise known as Silsal or Fukhar - is made out of a special type of ceramic or clay, that is then glazed with a special glaze to isolate clay and food. This type of ceramic is less strong than porcelain. It is prone to chipping, scratching and breakage. You need to keep a close eye, and when that happens, they need to be replaced by new ones.
The actual clay used to make earthware can have traces of lead and cadmium, which are unsafe to consume. That is why, it is glazed to prevent contact with food. Some glazes were found to be non-food-safe, and have been graded as not to be used for food production, which means they are not made for cooking or use with food, but rather for decorative purposes. You need to be careful here and make sure that the earthware you buy is labeled "lead-free" and graded as food-safe. Opt for good quality earthware from big manufacturers, preferably made in countries where the regulations are strict, rather than the cheaper products, that were recklessly produced and are health hazardous.
Good quality earthware is stylish and produces a wonderful mesh of delicious flavours and delicate soft meats. These are commonly used in the preparation of Idreh, a succulent Palastinian dish from Hebron that is mainly a rice, meat and chickpea slow bake. It is also used in preparation of Makmoorah, another Palestinian dish that is mainly a slow-cooked cauliflower stew in yoghurt sauce sealed in the clay pot with pastry to enclose flavours and steam. there are no other pots capable of creating these dishes like earthware. But always go the safe way!

Ceramic Enamelled Metal Cookware
Metal Enameled with Ceramic- The ceramic finish can be applied to steel, cast iron, aluminum, stainless steel or even titanium. This coating usually produces a shiny, finish that won't rust, peel, scratch or fade.
If you like the cooking results established by cast iron coockware, though its even heat distribution properties, but dread the required pre-seasoning and re-seasoning process, then ceramic enameled cast iron is the solution for you. This type does not require seasoning, it is smooth and virtually non-stick. It is very stylish and is also dishwasher safe, which is always a plus!
Bear in mind that the same "health concern" pointers of earthware apply here. So go for "lead free" labeled products that are of good quality and originating from countries where the regulations are strict. They are a bit more expensive, but health is more important here. Besides, these are very durable and long lasting, so you can consider this an investment worth making.

With ceramic cookware it is important to know that you should never place an empty dry pot on heat. Before placing it on the heat, it must contain an ingredient, fat or liquid to prevent damage.
Another note worth mentioning, Do not use metal utensils with ceramic wear as it discolours the surface and might scratch it. It is better to use rubber or wooden utensils instead.
Aluminum Cookware
Aluminum Cookware
Aluminum is a very popular metal to be used in cookware. Aluminum is light weight, and an excellent heat conductor. It is rapidly heated and distributes heat evenly. That means that there aren't hot-spots to worry about in Aluminum, and that when cooking in Aluminum Cookware, you are sure to get the food evenly cooked, at steady temperatures. Aluminum is second only to copper in its thermal properties.

One of the major concerns about Aluminum is that it is highly reactive to food, especially to acidic content (acid comes from foods like tomatoes, vinegars, wines, cetrus...). Added to that, the fact that the longer the food is cooked or stored in aluminum the more of the metal is released into that food. This leads to a foul metallic flavour! Add to that, the fact that large amounts of Aluminum in the blood are very unhealthy. It has been said that individuals exposed to much aluminum are more likely to suffer from Alzheimer disease. Exposure to aluminum is impossible to avoid as it is a very abundant element in nature (found in water, cosmetics and food dyes), however it can be substantially reduced. Therefore get rid of any old Aluminum cookware, and if you are looking for its cooking results go for the modern alternative. The hard-anodized  Aluminum. Hard Anodized Aluminum had gone through an oxidization process to create a non-reactive, hard surface which prevents any reaction between aluminum and the food. This option is healthier than non-anodized aluminum, yet retains the same cooking properties of aluminum cookware.

Copper Cookware
Copper Cookware
By far the best cookware! Because it is beautiful and due to its properties, copper cookware is the preffered choice of home-cooks and professional chefs alike. Copper is by far the most superior metal in heat dispersion, ensuring fast and even heat distribution. Since copper is such a good conductor of heat, always cook on medium high instead of high, and always cook with less heat than required. Copper is an expensive metal, and therefore the cookware is expensive. However, copper lasts literally a life time, and can even be passed on through the generations if maintained properly- and has been for years. Therefore, owning copper cookware is always an investment worth making.
Copper reacts with the moisture and oxygen in the air, which causes stains, tarnish and discolouration. It, therefore, requires regular polishing and care. If you are not going to commit to this maintenance requirement, it is then best that you choose another cookware. It would be a petty to purchase copper cookware and not care for it. Besides Tarnish is a poisonous byproduct, and you do not want it to get in contact with food. Added to that, salty foods cause a reaction with copper that gives the food a metallic flavour. For these reasons, the cooking side of copper cookware is usually coated with tin, silver or stainless steel coating. This isolates the food from the copper as unlined copper results in unsafe amounts of copper in the food, and this is warned against by FDA. Don't use copper cookware if the lining is significantly damaged, as it will lead to metal being released into the food. Also bear in mind that tin melts at 450F, and can wear off over time. When that happens you can send your pots and pans to a retinner to get retinned, it will then look and function as new. With that said, there are specific food preparations such as chocolate and candy making that are done on unlined copper to withstand very high heat (but that's limited to specific foods).
Chefs and copper cookware enthusiasts usually make sure to maintain their copper cookware and keeping it in top shape. Maintaining copper became very easy with all the specialty cleaners available in the market.
Copper cookware require frequent
polishing and care

Here are some pointers to follow to ensure proper maintenance of your copper cookware:

  • For new copper cookware, before first use, fill with water and add aromatic herbs or green vegetables and bring to a boil. Remove from heat discard all, and dry the pot/pan throughly.
  • Never place copper cookware over heat while empty or dry. always add liquid or fat beforehand. 
  • Never scrub copper cookware, instead wash with hot soapy water and shortly soak.
  • Copper cookware is not dishwasher safe, never put it in the dishwasher.
  • Harsh detergents and chlorine damage the copper and causes it to pit. use gentle soaps instead.
  • Frequently polish your copper cookware with specialty cleaners.
  • Never leave copper to air-dry, it causes staining that is impossible to remove. Towel dry directly instead.
  • Use wooden and rubber utensils. Never use metal utensils unless lined with stainless steel.
  • Don't use copper cookware to store food, and don't cook acidic foods in unlined copper cookware.
  • Dark blotches absorb more heat than their shiny alternatives. This causes hot spots, which leads to uneven cooking of food. Use proper copper cleaners to shine your copper regularly and get rid of spots and stains. These cleaners act as anti-oxidants and remove spots without the need for harsh scrubbing.
  • Never rinse the sponge used for polishing copper, this interferes with the chemical reaction required to shine and polish your copper. Rather, squeeze out the cleaner, and store in cool dry place.
  • It is always best to use professional cleaners, but when not available or accessible, you can make your own copper cleaning paste: Just mix water, salt & flour into a paste and rub the cookware to keep bright and shiny.
  • For heavy dark marks, it has been mentioned that spreading ketchup and leaving it for a few minutes then rinsing with hot soapy water works. The acid from the ketchup helps to remove the stain.
  • if you prefer to retain the natural patina that appears over time instead of the shiny look of new copper cookware, use lemon and coarse salt to rub cookware revealing the original less shiny copper.
  • If you purchase copper cookware that's been coated with tarnish-proof lacquer, you must remove it before using, by dissolving it with lacquer thinner which you can buy from hardware stores. Failing to do so will result in permanent spotting which affects the look and cooking quality of your copper cookware.

Stainless steel lined copper cookware is best for homecooks as they are easier to care for and are very durable. Metal utensils are OK to use with stainless steel lining. Although not necessary, but it helps you achieve perfect results: Before first use, season stainless steel lining by applying a thin layer of peanut oil with a kitchen towel, heat until just before the oil smokes. Remove from heat and cool completely. Rinse with warm water and towel dry immediately. You won't need to re-season stainless steel lining, unless you use abrasive detergents, which will remove the seasoning. Then you will have to reseason.
Note: Do Not get the oil on the copper side, as it will be very difficult to remove once heated.

Copper bottom cookware

For the cooking properties of copper but without the required extra work, use copper bottomed cookware, which offers excellent conductivity, less work, and is less heavy.

all clad copper core cookware

Another option would be a copper core cookware, that is cookware that has a cn aluminum core with internal layers of copper on the bottom and sides, and all surfaces are lined with stainless steel.

Copper is the best choice for cooking certain foods, especially for those recipes that require controlled temperature. It is perfect for browning sauces, for tempering and working with chocolate.... it is good for sautees, and frying as well. The quick heating and cooling of copper prevent delicate foods from overcooking, and require less energy consumption, which makes it an environmentally friendly option. I know they are my favourite option!

Cast Iron Cookware

Cast Iron Cookware
Cast Iron Pots & Pans
Nothing Browns meats like cast iron. They are perfect for searing, and any browning effect. These pots and pans can literally be passed on from generation to generation and have a life time warranty! Cast Iron Cookware actually have a health advantage! Iron is introduced into the food cooked in cast iron! A good way for the body to take its dietary need; as the content of iron is doubled when food is cooked in cast iron (this quality is lost when the cast iron is enameled with ceramic or any other coating). A well seasoned cast iron cookware offers a perfect surface for even cooking, browning, creating concentrated flavours and is beneficial for your health! What more can pots and pans offer?

Iron heats slower than other metals, but it distributes the heat more evenly and maintains that surface heat more steadily than the other metals. These properties make it perfect for browning, pan broiling, slow stewing, and even baking. If you put cold food on copper or aluminum, it transmits this coldness to the pan, reducing the thermal shock necessary for searing. Iron will hold the heat and will produce a smoking sear and carmelisation like no other metal. This heat retention is also good for low, slow cooking required for producing fabulous stews, which are best cooked in Cast Iron Dutch Oven. Resedual heat will also continue cooking the food, and makes this type good for deep frying too.

Cast Iron Cookware include, stove top and oven cookware, that ranges from griddles, grills, skillets, duck oven, roasters, broilers, fryers, and muffin pans... You can also get a cast iron weight with a handle to facilitate browning on both sides!

For some, Cast Iron cookware can be challenging, as it is heavy, and not dishwasher safe. Cast iron is also reactive to food acidity, and it can increase blood iron levels (which is a good thing and can also be too much for some people with specific conditions). You cannot boil water in cast iron cookware. However, The most challenging part to many people is the fact that Cast Iron cookware has to be seasoned before use. Cast Iron requires different care than other cookware, and for some, the time and patience required to season cast iron is a deal breaker. Cast Iron is second to copper, which is the most work of all. But to cooking enthusiasts and perfectionists, it is a must have cookware.

To avoid seasoning trouble, you can go for enameled cast iron cookware. Just bear in mind that the addition of the non-stick interior and the porcelainised exterior make cast iron easier to care for, but take away the browning ability, which is cast iron's most desirable quality. With that said enameled cast iron is dishwasher safe, and is versatile, as you can use it for food storage, on stove tops and ovens. They are also very stylish with all the bright colours they come in. They allow for low-fat healthy cooking, fat-free cooking since they are non-stick.

On the other hand a well-seasoned cast iron cookware is virtually non-stick too, so you don't need the non-stick coating if you are up to the extra work required.
When selecting cast iron cookware, go for good quality cookware. I personally prefer metal handles, this way it can move from stove top to oven, as plastic handles can't be placed in oven. Just be careful as you need your mittens close by and do not attempt to hold the metal handle without mittens!

Seasoning and Care of Cast Iron Cookware

Picture from chef Jill Houk

When seasoned right, cast iron cookware is a pleasure to use. It becomes non-stick and produces food that is perfectly done. Before the first use you need to pre-season your cast iron cookware.

To Pre-season Cast Iron  Wash with hot soapy water, and dry thoroughly. Start off by spreading the bottoms and sides with a thin layer of heat resistant oil (peanut oil, coconut oil...) wipe with kitchen towels and heating it in a preheated oven (high) upside down to smoking, remove from oven and reapply a layer of the oil and heating it to smoking again. Repeat the process 3 times. Your cast iron cookware, should be properly seasoned this way. the pre-seasoning fills the pours with oil, therefore, sealing them and creating a non-stick surface.

Unless you continuously use your cast iron, you will have to wash it after use, and reseason when ready to use again. For long storage, it is best to be washed properly, completely towel dried, then seasoned, cooled and wrapped with nylon or plastic, then put away.

If you use it regularly and continuously, then you don't need to wash and reseason, you can either wipe it clean, or rinse it with water and thoroughly drying it. This way, it just gets reseasoned with time and with every use. But please note, it is more hygenic and safe to clean your cast iron and reseason, than follow the self seasoning no wash technique, to avoid the oils on it from going bad and becoming hazardous!

Cast Iron should not be subjected to extreme temperature changes. Therefore before starting to cook, preheat it in an oven before placing it on a red hot eye of the stove top. In the same way, never place a hot pan in cold water to cool it off, this will break your pan!
To check if your cast iron pan is preheated and ready to use, drop a couple of drops of water on the hot surface, they should boil quickly and dance or jump on the pan surface. This means your pan is ready for searing. if the water evaporates quickly, that means it is too hot, remove from heat and cool down slightly. If the water lingers at the bottom, that means it is not ready to use and not hot enough.

To care for your cast iron cookware run hot water over stuck food to loosen. bear in mind that scrubbing removes the seasoning layer and you will need to reseason. After hand washing, dry it thoroughly with a towel and never leave to air-dry or it will rust. place on low heat stove to get rid of the excess moisture. Once all the moisture has evaporated, coat it with a thin layer of oil before storing. If stored for a long time, don't forget to wrap with plastic and sealing it, to avoid rusting.

Stainless Steel Cookware
Stainless Steel Cookware
Stainless steel is probably the most popular cookware nowadays. Fairly; it is a low-maintenance easy to use cookware that is both very durable and very safe. It is non-reactive, non porous, and does not tarnish, crack or dent. The shiny silver finish makes it look appealing and professional. Furthermore; the fact that it is stainless steel, means it does not need polishing, or any extra care to keep it in mint condition. This cookware is virtually non-stick. It is, therefore, not necessary to season it. However if you do pre-season it once, you can achieve perfect non-stick results. Unlike cast iron though, you do not have to season and heat 3 times, it is enough to do it once. Stainless steel cookware can have plastic handles and plastic lid parts, or it can be all stainless steel. It is best you go for the all metal option, this way you can move from stove to oven without having to change pots. With that said, if you have bought ones with plastic parts, and since they cannot go in the oven, you can still carry out the seasoning process on stove top.

Stainless steel is dishwasher safe and does not scratch easy, which is very convenient, as this means you can use metal utensils with it, without worrying about scratching. It also means that storage becomes more convenient, especially for those lacking storage space; as you can pack them inside each other without worrying about damage. This is key when considering new cookware.

nickel free stainless steel pots
Since stainless steel is a poor conductor of heat, it is usually bonded with other more conductive metals to produce ideal cooking properties. It is also used as a coating for other metals due to its non-reactive nature, and this way it acts as an insulator. Its non-reactive nature also means that it can be used for storing food as well. Stainless steel contains small amounts nickel and chromium, which are non-hazardous in these significantly small amounts. However some people are allergic to nickel, and they should not consume foods with nickel. Nickel allergic people, should go for "Nickel Free" stainless steel cookware, which is also available in the market. Nickel free stainless is less shiny than its counterpart stainless steel cookware, as nickel is responsible for the signature shine of stainless steel.

To make stainless steel yet more appealing and durable, surgical grade stainless was developed. Surgical grade stainless steel is a combination of metals like iron, chromium, nickel, and can have aluminum, copper or both at the bottoms and sides. The inclusion of those metals ensures even cooking without hot spots, and since Stainless steel is a poor conductor of heat, these metals help in rapid response to heat changes, making this grade of stainless steel the best quality of its kind.

T403 Surgical Grade
Stainless Steel Cookware
When it comes to choosing stainless steel cookware, and as with all other cookware, quality is very important and makes a huge difference to the cooking results. Usually you will find a mark on this cookware "18/10 Stainless Steel cookware". 18 refers to the percentage of chromium, and 10 to the percentage of nickel. Real stainless steel will have at least these percentages. Anything below that is poor quality stainless steel. Don't pick pots that have less than 10% nickel, as that makes it harder and more temperature resistant . T403 is the surgical grade stainless steel and is the best quality out there.

Copper bottom clad
stainless steel cookware
Other Marks on Stainless steel cookware are the "ply", "bottom clad" and "waterless".

  • 2 ply Stainless Steel  means there are other metals on the outside and stainless steel only on the inside (cooking surface).
  • 3 ply Stainless Steel means there is stainless steel on the outside and inside with other metal as core.
  • 5 ply Stainless steel  means there is stainless steel on the outside and inside with 3 layers of aluminum as core.
  • Bottom Clad Stainless Steel  means solid stainless steel with 3 layers of conductive metal applied only at the bottom. There are also ones that have a metal disk attached at the bottom, but these do not perform as well as the former 3 ply stainless.
  • Waterless Stainless Steel cookware is the highest grade stainless steel cookware in the market and the most expensive type too. It is the safest and healthiest cookware there is.
There are up to 9 layers, but 3-5 are the most common.

Caring for stainless steel is very easy and convenient. Wash it with warm soapy water and scrub with a nylon scrubby. It is best not to leave any cookware to air dry. Long term exposure to salty water is the only threat as it can cause pitting. Therefore make sure to wash them thoroughly, this way they will last for a very very long time.
Non Stick cookware and Teflon
Non-Stick Cookware
The choice of most households, and the easiest cookware for the novice cook, yet probably the most debated cookware on the planet! But before going into health concerns and the debates let me start by stating the pros and cons merely from a technical perspective:

picture from
  • Non-stick
  • Allows for low fat cooking
  • Easy to clean
  • Available everywhere and inexpensive
  • A variety of colours available
  • Does not allow for desired browning of food
  • Scratches easiliy (cannot use metal utensils)
  • Less durable
  • Cannot and shouldn't be used with high temperatures (don't allow for temp controlled and high temp food preperations)
  • Not dishwasher safe
  • Not echo friendly
  • Debatable as Health Hazardous, and unsafe

With all that in mind
Healthy cooking and health benefits and hazards are the most heated debates. Secretion of metals, and Teflon into foods and the resulting side effects are always a concern and a source of conflict. I know, I take "healthy" into consideration, and prefer healthier, echo friendlier products over their unsafe, unknown, and environmentally challenging counterparts. I am sure many share my concerns. At the end of the day, who wants to cause family, clients, or themselves any harm? Non-stick cookware had been exhaustively debated over the years, due to the fact that Teflon coating is the most commonly used in non-stick cookware, and non-stick cookware includes many chemicals that are considered dangerous. Not to make this part too technical and not to dwell on all the chemical compositions, in short these hazardous chemicals are released into the food we consume, and when heated to certain degrees produce toxic gases that are fatal to pets especially bird pets and cause flu-like symptoms in humans. However, there are reports that say it is completely safe if used on medium-low heat, and should never be used in high heat as they become dangerous! Problem is, how many people are aware of that when buying their non-stick cookware? How many average cooks know the exact temperatures of their pots and pans while cooking? Therefore, even if it is safe at "specific temperatures" why do you want to risk the leaching chemicals migrating into your food? Please take the time to research why non-stick and Teflon are dangerous, as it is a very big and highly debated subject which is hard for me to cover here without going into the mundane and scientific facts. I strongly recommend you do so at your own convenient time, and educate yourself as this is vital to your family's well being.
If you own non-stick cookware, make sure to use wooden or rubber utensils to avoid scratching which will remove the coating and expose other metals and chemicals. If your non-stick pots and pans are scratched or pitted, stay safe and toss them. They need to be hand washed with warm soapy water without vigorous scrubbing to stay in good condition. It is not advisable to use spray oils with non-stick cookware as it forms a film that is hard to remove. Whatever you do, make sure not use over high heat, and not to use these for deep frying, candy making, sugar works...etc.

The need for non-stick is still covered by ceramic enameled or a properly seasoned cast iron pan, and many other cookware options covered here. Chefs everywhere go for those options rather than the non-stick cookware option. Non-stick is not durable anyway, so although cheap, end up costing you the same as the expensive cookware as you will have to keep buying new ones. Not all your pans and pots need to be non-stick anyway, and for those preparations calling for non-stick other options can cover that need.

Titanium Cookware
Titanium Cookware
Titanium is in! It seems to be the newest kid on the block that is determined to make it big! Titanium is super light in weight, incredibly strong, dishwasher safe, healthy due to absence of PFOA, extremely non stick therefore facilitates healthy cooking without the hazards of non stick coatings, which again allows for the reduction of fat and the added calories required with other cookware. There are in the market titanium cookware designed for those dieting or trying to minimise fat intake, which clearly state no need for oil anymore! Titanium is also the solution for allergic people as it does not include nickel or any other allergy causing materials, and is non reactive which keeps food safe. Titanium is also easy to clean (no need to scrub), it does not dent, scratch, tarnish or anything of that sort. Storing it is super easy, no special conditions required. Topping all that, Titanium cookware facilitates cooking on the go! it is super light in weight, so you can carry it in your bag if you are back packing, camping, for picnics...etc. This is in fact very important for adventurous people who like to cook for fun, travel and cook or are into life on the move! This is why titanium cookware is very famous amongst extreme sportspeople, campers and the wilder ones.

The only issue with Titanium cookware is hot spots. Nothing is perfect! If you keep tossing, turning and stirring your food, this will not allow scorching and therefore reduces the effect of hot spots. Titanium is therefore excellent material for woks and sautee pans, as stir frying and sauteeing involve techniques that keep food moving inside the pan. A little bit of tossing and turning does the trick!

Silicon Bakeware
Silicon Bakeware
Silicon is the newest addition in bakeware. It comes in many vibrant colours, and is very versitile, as it can be used in the freezer, fridge, oven and is dishwasher safe. The best thing about silicon is that it is wonderful with limited storage space as it can be rolled and tucked away requiring minimum space. Silicon facilitates food release, as it is non stick, which comes handy when making cakes and especially when used as chocolate molds. Silicon Mats make a perfect base for baking. Besides being non-stick and therefore requiring no grease, they give the base of your baked goods a professional patterned look.
When using Silicon bakeware and because silicon is moldable, you will have to place it on a sturdier base like a cookie sheet to avoid apillage and for ease of taking in and out of the oven.

On the more challenging side, there are some debates about the health concerns when it comes to silicon, as it is new and not much is known about it. It has not been conclusive yet, whether or not silicon poses a threat to our health. Silicon can sometimes lead to uneven baking as well. It remains to be seen how silicon excels in the world of bakeware.

In Conclusion
You can mix and match and buy pieces from different cookware. Different cookware is good for different uses, so the main question is "What are you going to use it for?". Another thing to consider is care and maintenance, as some cookware will require a bit of work. If you can commit to the work, then perfect! Go for copper as it is unmatched, and the best technically as well as a beautiful option. At least 1 cast iron piece is a must, nothing will match the browning effect. Just make sure you season them well. Ceramics are wonderful, colourful and in my opinion the best for gratin dishes, and stacked pasta dishes such as lasagne. Ceramics are stylish and with proper care are very long lasting. For everyday convenience and ease, go for stainless steel but choose good quality. Whatever your choice, make sure you buy good quality and do take health concerns into consideration.

Stay tuned for Part 2 - Different Shapes for specific Uses :)

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