my way

Expert eggs and champion chips - the experts tell Rosanna Greenstreet how they do it. Illustrations by Joe McGee
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The Independent Culture
How to cook rice Madhur Jaffrey

"For a measure of unsoaked rice, you need a measure and a half of water. For soaked rice, it's a measure and a third. I wouldn't soak ordinary long-grain rice, but I would basmati. So, let's say you are cooking white basmati rice. For four people, I would do 15fl oz of rice. Wash gently in several changes of water, then soak for 30 minutes. Drain and put the rice in a heavy pot with one pint of water. Boil, turn the heat down to as low as you can manage and cover. If you are not sure of the tightness of your lid, put a piece of foil on top of the pan first. If the pot has a little weight to it, the heat will be evenly distributed. You need a good lid because the rice cooks in its own steam. Cook for 25 minutes and that should give you perfect rice."

Maddhur Jaffrey is the leading exponent of Asian cooking

How to make a roux Albert Roux

"There are two sorts of roux - the blond and the brown roux. The blond roux is used for white sauce, bechamel, souffles and what have you. It is two tablespoons of butter, and one of plain flour. Put the butter in the saucepan, melt gently and then add the flour. Do not overcook - it's got to be very, very slightly cooked. The brown roux is basically the same amounts with a little bit more flour, but it is well-cooked in the oven. Back in the old days during my apprenticeship, we used to make sauce espagnole with it, but not many people use it any more. What is important is, if you've got a hot roux, you put cold liquid on it, if you have a cold roux you put hot liquid on it. Hot liquid on a hot roux becomes lumpy and elastic. The fragments of flour, which is the thickening agent of the sauce, react very badly. You don't want them to be traumatised, you want them to explode gently like a kiss! I prefer to work on a cold roux, it's faster. I make my roux, let it cool, then boil my milk or whatever and add it to the roux quickly and whisk vigorously. The sauce comes to the boil within minutes, bang wallop you're done." Albert Roux is the owner of Le Gavroche

How to poach an egg Tom Aikens

"You need a deep pan of water with a dash of white wine vinegar or lemon juice: the acid will react with the protein in the egg and make it hold together better. Crack your egg into a cup: the egg has to be very fresh otherwise the white will start to separate from the yolk and it won't work. The water should be simmering - boiling water will break up the egg. With the cup touching the water, pour the egg gently into the water, so there isn't a big splash of egg white and you get a nice oval shape to your poached egg. After three minutes, the white should be firm and the yolk will be soft to touch, which means it is still runny. Lift the egg out with a slotted spoon. If you are not going to serve it straight away, plonk in ice-cold water and use later. You can reheat the egg by putting it back into simmering water for a maximum of a minute before you serve. The best way to eat poached eggs is on buttered toast with a hollandaise on top - nice and rich."

Tom Aikens is the chef-patron of Pied a Terre and the youngest chef in Britain to win two Michelin stars

How to make great chips Denis Blais

"Frite-making is part of Belgian folklore: they say all new mothers in Belgium have square nipples so they can train their children to eat frites! The secret to Belgian chips is the double-frying technique. First make sure the potato is a quality one and we recommend the Bintje, a Dutch potato, which you should be able to get from a good vegetable stand. The Bintje keeps its flavour and its shape when you fry it. Cut each chip to one centimetre on each side and six centimetres long. If the chip is too small it will be overcooked, too big and it will taste floury. Soak in cold water for 10 to 15 minutes to wash off starch, drain and dry with a cloth. Then you blanch them in oil at a temperature of 150C. Obviously, vegetable oil is probably healthier, but beef dripping is excellent. In the old days they used horse fat. Put a clipping from a vanilla pod or a little piece of nutmeg in the oil - it gives you a sweet baked aroma. Then leave the chips to cool off completely, before cranking up the heat and re-frying them at 180C for three or four, five minutes max. They should be crispy on the outside and flavourful on the inside."

Denies Blais is the founding father of Belgo restaurants

How to fillet a fish Philip Diamond

"I personally feel that small flat fish should be left whole. If you have a reasonably sized Dover Sole and you want to do it in quarter fillets, first skin the fish. Dover Sole is the only flat fish you have to skin because its skin is thick. You make a little knick in the tail and pick up a piece of skin - some people put salt on it for a better grip. Start to lift the skin by pushing the thumb up the spine and out to either side, thereby getting a reasonable amount of skin loose, and then gently pull the skin off going up the fish. Do the same thing to the other side and then pull the skin off, over the head in one bit. Now make a cut around the head, and down the spine in the middle of the fish, to the tail. Using a flexible knife, pare the flesh away either side of the spine, from the middle to the edge, and that will give you two quarter fillets. Then you turn the fish over and do exactly the same again and you have four fillets. A round fish is harder, and any fishmonger worth his salt will do it for free. So to hell with it, get your fishmonger to do it." Philip Diamond is the owner of Covent Garden Fishmongers, London, W4, and author of "Philip Diamond's Covent Garden Fish Book"

How to open an oyster Simon Thomas

"If the shell is open, the oyster inside is dying. Tap the shell and if it doesn't snap shut, then discard it. Fold a tea towel into a strip and sit the deep side of the shell on the tea towel in the palm of your hand. Bring the towel over the shell so that when you apply pressure to the hinge of the oyster, the shell won't move. The hinge of the oyster, where the two shells join, should be nearest your right hand if you are right- handed. Insert the oyster knife, which is a little knife with a strong short blade, into the hinge of the oyster, which is actually quite soft. By wiggling the knife, get the tip of the blade about a centimetre into the hinge, bring the knife down the hinge towards you, and you'll feel the two shells pop apart. Lever the shells apart enough to allow your thumb and forefinger to hold them apart. Then you need to sever the soft muscle that keeps the two shells attached, and that's about two thirds of the way down the oyster from the hinge. Keep the knife as close to the roof of the oyster as possible when you bring it down through the oyster. To cut the muscle that way, you don't tear any of the flesh. The top shell will just lift off, and in the curved bottom shell you have your oyster. It doesn't happen very often, but sometimes an oyster will be contaminated, and it will smell so strong that you've just got to put it in the bin - and take the bin away!" Simon Thomas is the manager of Bibendum Crustacean

How to save a sauce Michel Roux

"There is always a way to save a sauce. But how good it will be is another story: if you overcook something, you can't have it back to rare. If you put too much salt in something, you can't take it back. If you burn something at the bottom of a tray, it's burnt. If you've got a hollandaise sauce which, for example, has split - which means that the ingredients which you've put together suddenly disassociate and the egg goes one side and the butter goes another - then with spots of ice-cold water dropped slowly into the sauce, you can sometimes get it back to life. You take a small part of the sauce in one corner of the pan and you pour the water in and very slowly you whisk it, then you take a bit more of the sauce and a bit more water and whisk it, then suddenly you are whisking the whole lot and you've got your sauce back. If a sauce is a bit dull, you can put a bit of lime or lemon juice in it to give it a kick, or a bit of arrowroot will bring back consistency." Michel Roux is the chef-patron of The Waterside Inn and the author of sauces

How to mix a Bloody Mary Gilbert Preti

"Some people, especially Americans, think the Bloody Mary is minestrone soup; they put all kinds of things in it - celery salt, a stick of celery, horseradish sauce, French mustard! The Bloody Mary has only four ingredients: three- quarters of the juice of a ripe lemon, two tablespoons of Worcester sauce, a double shot of vodka and plain tomato juice. It's important to balance these four so that when you taste the Bloody Mary, you taste them as one - you don't taste too much tomato, lemon juice or vodka, or too little Worcester sauce. You take a high ball glass, put in three cubes of ice, the Worcester, the vodka and then fill up the glass with tomato juice. You stir, don't shake, and you have a fantastic bloody Mary." Gilbert Preti is head barman of Dukes' Hotel, London SW1

How to make roast potatoes Simon Hopkinson

"Get floury potatoes - the ones that collapse when you are doing boiled potatoes are the ones to use.

I buy King Edward's. Peel and cut in half lengthways - you'll only have to turn them once when they are in the oven. Put in cold, well-salted water and parboil. Rather than just boiling for a couple of minutes, take them as far as you dare - you need to get the starch working so the edges get ragged. Drain, or, if they are in danger of collapsing, lift out with a slotted spoon. Cool. The edges should start to go floury, but, if they don't, fluff them up with a fork. Heat the oven to Gas Mark seven or eight. Put fat or oil in a heavy tray. Using oil is foolproof because you can heat it much higher, but you need flavours as well as crispness. Use beef dripping - or duck fat is tasty. You could put potatoes in the tray in which you are roasting the meat. They will be flavoursome but won't crisp up as much because you are probably roasting at a lowish temperature. So take the meat out and leave the rest. Put the heavy tray at the top of the oven and, when the fat or oil is smoking, put your roasties in flat side down. Then turn them over so they are all soaked. Roast for 20 minutes to half an hour. Turn them over and roast for another 20 minutes or so. If they brown too quickly, turn the temperature down. Then tip all the fat off and put them back in to dry out. Turn the temperature down and put the meat back in, so you can finish off meat and potatoes together."

Simon Hopkinson is The Independent's cookery writer and co-owner of Bibendum

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