TOP TIP: Halogens are great to grill meat or roast meat, allowing the juices and fat to drain away. You don’t want a pool of fat in the bottom of your halogen so place a baking tray or a layer of tin foil on the base. This will catch the fat, making it easier to clean.
TOP TIP: Remember you can prove your bread in your halogen oven, simply set the temperature to the wash setting. The halogen offers a draft free, warm environment for the bread – place on the base or low rack and cover with oiled clingfilm, making sure you tuck this under the dough so it doesn’t blow around the bowl with the force of the fan.
TOP TIP: Remember you can wash your halogen bowl using the wash setting on your halogen controls. Empty the bowl and fill no more than 1/3 up the sides with hot water (check your manufacturers instructions to make sure you don’t overfill your machine with water as this could damage the element). Add a squirt of washing liquid. Turn the setting to wash mode and set the timer for 5-10 minutes (depending on how dirty the bowl is). The liquid in the bowl will start to swish around, cleaning as it goes. I have known people use this setting as a mini dishwasher! Carefully remove the bowl when finished and tip the water away. The bowl is heavy and can be slippery when wet so take extra care. wipe clean with a cloth. If you don’t want to use this setting, you could place the bowl directly into your dishwasher.
Refer to your manufacturers instructions when cleaning the lids.
TOP TIP: Lasagnes work really well in the halogen oven but if you want to speed up the whole process, use fresh lasagne sheets. This will cut the cooking time down by half and avoid a dark top, If you don’t want to go to the expense of fresh pasta sheets (and don’t want to make your own), you can boil the pasta sheets for 5 minutes before placing in your lasagne dish. This gives them a head start and can shorted overall cooking time.
If you fancy garlic bread with your lasagne, you can add this to the halogen 5-10 minutes before the end of the cooking time. If there is room you can place the garlic bread on the shelf with the lasagne dish. If there is limited room, transfer your lasagne to the base of the halogen and place a rack above the lasagne dish. Pop the garlic bread onto this.
TOP TIP: My mum always taught me to make the most of the oven when cooking. The halogen oven is too small to cook several things at once but you can still save time by doubling up the recipe and freezing it uncooked ready to be defrosted and cooked at a later date. Remember to label the food and pop on a date. It is a great feeling to have a freezer full of home-cooked food ready for those days when you are too busy to spend much time in the kitchen.
TOP TIP: If you are watching your weight or want to cut down on high fats, you can swap milk for soya or skimmed milk, change the cheese to low fat mature cheddar and add some seeds to the crumbly topping (as this gives you extra omega 3 and protein). Nutritional yeast flakes are suitable for vegans. Adding this to a sauce gives you a cheesy flavour which means you need less cheese to create a good taste. Add wholegrain mustard to add more flavour.
TOP TIP: To make very crispy, tasty roast potatoes, the key is to use very hot oil – goose-fat is one of the best fats to use. I cut my potatoes at angles – one large potato can normally cut into three roast potatoes. Don’t cut them too small as you want crispy potatoes with a nice fluffy middle. Try to make sure the potatoes are all roughly the same size so they cook evenly. Place the fat in the oven so it starts to get hot. Parboil your potatoes for approximately 10 minutes. The outer edge of the potato should start to soften. Drain and place the potatoes back into the empty saucepan. Add a generous sprinkle of paprika and semolina. Pop on the saucepan lid, holding it down firmly, shake the saucepan to bash the potatoes. Remove the roasting tin from the oven and carefully, using tongs, add the potatoes to the hot fat. It will spit and bubble so be careful not to splash. once the potatoes are in the fat, you can turn them gently as this ensures the fat is adhered to all sides of the potato before cooking. sprinkle with a little more paprika and semolina if needed. Place back in the oven and cook at 200c until they are golden. Halfway through cooking I turn them and drain off any excess oil.
TOP TIP: Macaroni cheese can be quite thick which is not very appetising – it needs to be a light, fluid dish, not something you can slice! To avoid this make sure you sauce is not too thick before adding to the macaroni, especially if you are making this in advance as the longer it is left standing the thicker it can become. You can make this dish with skimmed milk. Soya milk can work well but be aware that it may separate a little.
TOP TIP: I love pineapple upside down cake but why not experiment with other combinations or flavours. Chocolate sponge with pears is amazing – follow the recipe but swap the pineapple for pears. In the sponge add 30g of cocoa powder and 30ml of milk to the sponge mix. Vanilla sponge with rhubarb works well and for extra yumminess you could add some strawberries. Simply add a teaspoon of vanilla extract to the sponge mixture. Place the rhubarb on the base with strawberries. One of my favourites for winter is to add some sultanas and cinnamon to the sponge mixture, pouring this over thick slices of apple. delicious when serves with custard.
If you have your own Top Tips then I’d love to hear about them.