Thereia much to be said for eating some foods raw, because in this way, we get the maximum food value from them. Man, however cannot enjoy eating all his foods raw. In fact the majority of foods we eat have to be cooked to make them acceptable to the palate and easy to digest.
Overthe years man has discovered many methods of cooking, six of which are commonly practised in Nigeria and Africa at large. These are Boiling, Frying, Stewing, Steaming, Pot and Oven roasting, Baking. The first four are very common methods of cooking in Africa. Though, Oven roasting and Baking recently or new in Africa compared to the first four above.
This is cooking in boiling water or stock. The temperature of the water should be 82°C. or a little below. The food is covered and is in direct contact with the boiling liquid.
Boiling is done either to extract nutrients from the food or to preserve it. In the former, the food is put in cold water and is gently heated to the boil. In the latter, the food is put in boiling water;hence meat for beef tea is first put in cold water, and that for meat stew is cooked in boiling water
The heat of the boiling water seals or coagulates the outside protein of meat and keeps the nutrients and the flavour in the meat, whereas in the case of beef tea,as much of the nutrients and flavour as possible is extracted into the water which is drunk as tea. All starchy foods have to be boiled to cook them thoroughly and render them digestible– Simmering that is cooking below boiling point is not satisfactory.
Disadvantages of boiling
•1. Some valuable mineral salts and juice and flavour are lost, especially in the case of vegetables where mineral salts dissolve in the water which is usually thrown away. ( Save the water and use it in cooking)
•2. Vitamin C is destroyed to a certain extent. Foods suitable for boiling are root vegetables, cereals and meat.
Advantages of boiling
•1. Boiling is a quick method of cooking.
•1. It does not need constant attention, and it is cheaper,safer and easier than frying and steaming.
Frying is cooking in hot oil. The oils used for frying in Nigeria are vegetable oils, but oils from the livers of white fish, the flesh of oily fish and the tissues of animals can also be used. Cos and halibut liver oils are examples of fish liver oils and herring and mackerel oils are oils from oily fishes. The surplus fat of beef, pork etc can be rendered down for frying, as follows:
Remove the fat from the meat, cut into small pieces, put in a sauce pan with little water into it. Boil uncovered until the water is evaporated and the fat melts. Butter, though a good fat for food , is about the least satisfactory for frying. It burns quickly, and the best oil for frying, in that, it can be raised to a high temperature without burning. As most vegetable oils can stand up to the temperature required for long frying, they are most suitable for frying than animal fat. Olive oil is an excellent oil for frying, but it is scarce and expensive in the country. Palm oil, coconut oil, groundnut oil and melon seed oil are the common vegetable oils used in Nigeria. Of these, Palm oil is the most widely used and is fortunately the most nutritious. It is extracted from Palm nuts. Pure groundnut oil is a much better oil for frying but is not commonly used as it is very expressive. It is extracted from groundnuts and has less food value than Palm oil. It gives foods fried in it a very attractive pleasing colour, and is the Aristocrat of frying oils in Africa. Coconut oil and melon seed oils are oils extracted from coconut flesh and melon seed respectively using different local methods or by machine extraction.
Types of frying
There are three ways of frying:
•1. Dry frying. Suitable for oily foods like herring and mackerel. Very little fat is used, so little that only the bottom of the frying pan is oiled,to prevent the food from burning. At times the food gives out enough of it’s own oil for frying e.g. fatty pork, bacon etc.
•2. Shallow fat fryimg. The oil covers the bottom of the panin which case the common frying pan is used. This is the most widely used and practised in Nigeria. It is very suitable for frying meat, white fish, plantain and some omelets, chinchin, yam balls, etc.
•3. Deep fat frying. A deep saucepan is used and at least half or often half is filled with fat. Foods that are meant to rise of be round are best fried by this method, e. G. Akara, puff-puff, ojojo.
For easy frying, a deep fat saucepan with a frying basket is useful.
Advantages of frying
1. It is a quick method of cooking because of the high temperature to which frying can be raised without burning.
2. The flavour of fried food is retained, and they look attractive and appetizing.
Disadvantages of frying
- Being a quick method of cooking, it is not suitable for tough cuts of meat.
2. Frying requires continuous and constant attention. It is not as easy as boiling.
3. Fried foods are not easily digested as boiled or steamed foods.
Hints for good results
- Use clean oil and starting each time after use. This helps to preserve the oil from getting spoilt quickly
- The oil should be hot and of the correct degree of heat for the kind of food being cooked, otherwise, the result will be poor. The oil penetrates into the food, instead of frying it quickly, making the food greasy and unattractive.
- Fry only a few pieces at a time;too many pieces cool down the oil.
- Dry the food before frying to avoid mixing cold water with the hot oil. This is practicable in the case of yam, plantain, Irish potato and such food, but of course does not apply to wet mixture like bean cake,puff puff etc.
- Avoid turning the food frequently as this spoils the result. Fry one side until it is cooked and brown before turning to the other side.
- Drain carefully first over the frying pan,then in a crushed paper. When frying in quantity, it is better to use a basket. Leave the food in the basket place on a basin, to catch the oil going out from the fried food.
- Coated food must be carefully coated and the breadcrumbs well pressed on the food, to prevent loose crumbs falling into the oil.
- Reheat the oil, get it back to the correct degree of heat before frying the second quantity.
- Do not cover fried food whilst still hit. The steam will condense on the food and make it soft and soggy. Note- a piece of onion removes the raw smell in oil, especially in groundnut oil. The oil is hot and ready for frying many kinds of food when it gives off smoke. This is often called smoking oil.
Stweing is cooking in very little liquid in a covered pot, with gentle heat over a long period. The temperature should be below boiling point, that’s Simmering temperature which is about 66°C. Only occasional bubbles should appear on stewing. Agood kitchen maxim to remember with stewing is “A stew boiled and band a stew spoiled” so stewing can be shortly define as a method of Simmering not boiling food. It is a suitable method of cooking tough cuts of meat, as the meat becomes tender and digestible with the long gentle cooking, and if vegetables are stewed with the meat, a good satisfying dish is produced. Stew can be thicker than water, so don’t add much water.
Only tough cuts of meat , for example, shoulder streak, shin of beef, stewing steak, scape end of mutton, middle neck and breast and trotters and tail of pig, should be stewed.
The meat should be cut into small pieces and started cooking in cold water, so as to get the flavour and the soluble matters in the meat into the stew. The pot should be covered to avoid quick evaporation.
Advantages of stewing
1. stewing makes tough food tender and therefore digestible.
2. it doesn’t need such constant and frequent attention as frying
3. all the food values and the juices of the food escape into the cooking liquid which is served with the food; stewing is therefore a conservative method of cooking, unlike boiling which compared with stewing I wasteful.
Disadvantages of Stewing
1. it is a slow method of cooking
2. the long cooking destroys some of the valuable contents of the food e.g. vitamin c.
This is cooking food with steam from boiling water. The food must not be in contact with the water, that’s the food must not be in the water as in boiling.
The food may be in direct contact with the steam as in the native way, when it is wrapped and rested on sticks in the pot. It may also be in indirect contact with the steam as in cases where steamers are used. The steam leaves one compartment to cook the food in another compartment.
Different types of steamers
1 Collect and break stick to lenggts that would fit into the pot, put water to touch the sticks,. Wrap up food in whatever style is practised in your district, but it is essential that there should be opening to let in water into the food. Rest the wrapped food neatly on the sticks, water must not cover them. Cover the wrapped food with layers of leaves to keep in steam. Cover the whole pot with a tight fitting lid. The food is cooked, when there is a definite change in the colour of the wrapping leaves.
2 get a light wooden stand which may be triangular or square in shape to support the time of food. Put this stand into the saucepan,and fill to one third, capacity with water. Put the food in greased tins or basin or any suitable container,and put in on the stand. Cover with a tight fitting lid.
3 Half fill a saucepan with water and leave to boil. Put the food on a greased enamel or aluminum plate which fits the saucepan. Cover the food on the plate with greased greaseproof paper, put it on top of the pan and cover with the saucepan lid.
4 If you know what a dinner carrier is, you can imagine what a real steamer is, and recognize it in the shops when you want to buy one. There is the bottom saucepan which holds the water, and two or three compartments which fit one into another and into the bottom pan, just like a dinner or traveling carrier. The top pans are perforated to let in the steam. The wrapped food or food in containers is put in the top perforated pans, and as the water boils and produces steam, the steam travels up to the food in top compartments and cook it. The top most pan is covered with a fitting lid. This is a very useful steamer as three to four different foods can be cooked at the same time, whilst beans can be cooked in the bottom pan, a great Saving of fuel. Foods that require longer cooking should be nearest the bottom pan.
Advantages of steaming
1 Steamed food is light and easy to digest and is therefore suitable for invalid or people with weak digestion.
2 The flavour is retained and there is little loss of goodness or food value. It is therefore called conservative method of cooking.
3 Two or three dishes may be cooked in the same steammer the same time without affecting each other’s flavour.
4 Thorough cooking is ensured, and the food can hardly be overcooked or burnt provided the water in the saucepan is continually replenished.
Disadvantages of Steaming
1 Steaming takes longer time. Half as long as boiling. This is because water has to be boiled before it can change to steam.
2 It wastes fuel,if only one dish is being steamed. This can be avoided by steaming two or more foods together.
Point to remember while Steaming
1 The water must be boiling before the food is put to steam, and it must be kept boiling all the time.
2 The food must be protected from the boiling water and the condensed steam, and the steammer must be covered with a tight lid.
3 Refill the steammer with boiling water, otherwise temperature will be reduced: this slows down the cooking and the food surfers.
4 The leaves and the Steaming tins must be oiled for easy dishing up, except in cases when plenty of oil has been used in the mixture.
5 Open the cover away from you to avoid scalding. Steam is much better than boiling water and serious accidents can result if careless.
This is cooking food in front of an open fire. The modern method of roasting is baking with little oil added to the food e.g. roasted meat etc.
Roasted meat: only tender cuts of meat should be roasted. After preparing the meat, put in a baking tray. The tray should have a little quantity of hot oil, and the meat will be basted during cooking.
The old method of roasting by which corn on the cob and peeled plantain are cooked on an open fire is still popular in many parts of Nigeria.
First method: A coal fire is made in a coal pot and left until free from smoke. The roasting metal grid is put over it, and the food to be roasted is put directly on the grid. It is then turned as one part is cooked to cook the other part.
Second method: Using the kerosene tin type of cooker. The food can be put underneath the fire, and the heat being deflected down to roast the food.
Baking is a method of cooking by dry heat in an enclosed space called oven. What happens is that the enclosed air is heated and it is the hot air that cooks the food. Thus baking is cooking food in hot air.
1 Study your oven well: in many cases,you will find that the hotter part of the oven is the top.
2 Do not waste oven space: plan your work so that you do alot of baking one day so that the oven is filled to capacity.
3 once the food is in the oven, do not open it often, because it reduces the temperature.
4 Bake together dishes that will take about the same length of time in order to avoid frequent opening of the oven.
5 Do not bake meat, biscuit and cake at the same time because their tastes and flavour might change.
6 if the oven is too hot, put a pan of cold water in it to reduce the temperature or open it for a short while.
7 Switch off the electric oven or stove oven or oil oven just before you finish cooking as there is enough heat I them to finish off the cooking.
8 Avoid hanging the door.
E.g of foods that is cooked in the oven are: yam, plantain, cake, potato, bread etc.