09 November 2020
Pimp your Food like a pro
Food styling tips & tricks for cooking like a real chef
Have you always wanted to cook like a real chef? You can, with your Big Green Egg! Simply by serving your creations in true style, on beautifully dressed plates. With a few extra kitchen tools and these tips and tricks, it’s easier than you think – your guests are guaranteed to be impressed!
Less is more
If you want to present a dish beautifully on a plate, there are a few basics to take into account. First, make sure you have plenty of colour. You can easily achieve that by using various colours of vegetables. Also keep in mind that less is almost always more. Placing smaller ingredients separately on the plate instead of piled close together already makes for a sophisticated effect. Also make sure your dish has not only various colour contrasts, but also a contrast in textures. Adding a crispy element to a softer texture instantly makes a dish much more dynamic.
The perfect circle
A set of round cutters is an asset in any kitchen, outdoor or otherwise. You can use them to cut soft ingredients that are not too thick into perfect circles for a great decorative effect on the plate. You can also fill the smaller round cutters to make a tiny tower of tartare, ratatouille, rice, couscous or a coarse puree, for example. Fill the cutter entirely and use a muddler or the back of a spoon to softly press down the filling. Grease the inside of the cutter beforehand using a neutral vegetable oil to make the cutter easy to remove. There are special cooking rings for larger amounts.
Playing with sauce
If serving sauce with your dish, you can easily decorate a basic white plate by using a brush to draw a line of sauce on the plate. If you’re serving a dessert with chocolate or if chocolate would make a great addition, melt 1 part chocolate into 1 part whipping cream to draw a nice smooth line on the plate.
Creamy sauces, both savoury and sweet, can also be piped onto the plate as a fluffy dollop with a whipping siphon (whipped cream dispenser). Fill it with one or two chargers to make your sauce nice and fluffy. You can easily make the sauce in advance, then put the full siphon in the fridge until you are ready to serve. For hot sauces, you can place the siphon in a bowl of 70°C water about half an hour before serving.
There are different ways to use a spoon to present a puree of vegetables roasted on the Big Green Egg. For instance, you could scoop a spoonful of puree onto the plate, then place the rounded side of the spoon on the vegetable puree and smooth it out over the plate in a straight line or along the curve of the plate. Or use two spoons to make beautiful oval-shaped quenelles. To do so, scoop the puree onto a spoon, hold it vertically, with the wide side of the spoon pointing down, and scoop the puree onto the second spoon. Repeat a few times to create a nice oval shape. You can also use this technique for things like coarse puree, ice cream, firm mousse or chocolate ganache. Do make sure to dip the spoons in water first. You could also use teaspoons to make smaller quenelles.
There are a few simple decorating tricks to pimp your dessert. Make a chocolate or caramel grid. You can melt chocolate in a double boiler (bain-marie), then carefully pour it into a little cone (piping bag made of parchment paper) and pipe it onto a sheet of parchment paper in the shape of a grid. For caramel, caramelise a bit of caster sugar with some water in a pan, then use a spoon to make thin lines of caramel on parchment paper. Just let it set, et voilà.
Or: grind up an emptied vanilla bean, or sprinkle dried herbs over a dessert to enhance the look and flavour. For a more subtle effect, you can mix the powder with confectioner’s sugar.
Pretty with a piping bag
Puree can also be scooped into a piping bag to pipe a perfect line of puree onto a plate. Or use a piping bag to perfectly fill a cutter or a cooking ring. Creamy preparations in particular are good for filling. To do so, cut a small tip off of the piping bag, with the size of the hole depending on what you want to fill. Pipe the filling in and smoothen it out with a palette knife if necessary.
Add the finishing touch with a garnish. If your dish has spring onions or chilli pepper in it, always set some rings aside for decoration. And a sprig of fresh herbs always brightens up a dish. Perhaps also consider edible flowers. These are now easily available, and otherwise you might pick some from your own garden. If you are featuring chives: the purple blossoms make for great decoration. But violets, marigolds and lavender are also gorgeous on a plate. Or experiment with a zester, or a julienne cutter. Like a grater and a melon baller for shredding peel or making perfect balls, these really are essential kitchen tools.
Tips for the table
And finally, of course place the perfectly dressed plate on a beautifully set table. Table linens, fine china, silverware and glassware form the foundation. But also consider serving soup or a dessert in a beautiful glass – that will easily make it look spectacular.
If you are serving a bouillon with your dish, pour it out of a teapot at the table. People are sure to be impressed! You can also match your table decorations to the ingredients in your menu. If you’re making an apricot salad, apple dessert or cinnamon sticks for example, incorporate some dried apricots, apples or cinnamon sticks in the centrepiece. That’s how to serve your dishes in style!
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