Crack Open The Diary, Reveal Your Deepest Food Secrets

It’s a holiday.

And holidays are a great breakfast day.

Eat in or go out, everybody’s home, and they’re eyeing up the skillet and fridge with the delirious madness of a meth-addicted necrophiliac whose crazy eye spies a fresh corpse stuffed with sweet rock ice.

This morning I’m thinking, okay, maybe an omelette. Or maybe, just maybe, some scrambled eggs. Basic, but if done right? Totally elegant, totally delicious. And so often made imperfectly — hell, my scrambled eggs (aka “baby want scramby-scramby”) for years secretly sucked, and I didn’t even know it. They were too wet or too dry, and often too heavy. Then I saw Gordon Ramsay make ’em:

And, that was that.

Now I get it. Now my eggs are light and fluffy.

Then, on Saturday night, Frequent Dinner Companion Becky said, “You should make your scrambled eggs with cream cheese and baking soda, and if you don’t, I’ll take one of these prawns and stab its sharp antenna bits into your eye.” And then just to prove her dinner table dominance, Becky ate part of a dinner plate, then threw some flambeed sausage into a waitress’ hair. It was an unpleasant moment, one which we shall not repeat again lest Becky catch wind of it and come to hunt us all like the prey animals we are.

Anyway, I was like, “Whuhhh?” *eyes goggle out of my head* Cream cheese? Baking soda?

That’s crazy talk!

I haven’t tried it yet, but I will, just so Becky doesn’t hurt me or my loved ones.

But it does call to mind an interesting question, one I’m framing around breakfast but that could handily apply to any meal of the day: what are your recipe secrets? What special tricks and dirty little secrets do you bring to expected meals to make them… somehow unexpected? Hell, even if they’re not secrets, feel free to crack open your own personal recipe book, throw out Your One True Way of making…

Well, just about anything.

Dang, it could even come down to condiments: “I really like ketchup on my spaghetti. I love Sriracha on donuts. I love hand lotion squirted into a hot bowl of Ramen.” (Becky also said that baking soda is good for tomato sauce, as it cuts acidity without having to mask said acidity with, say, sugar.)

Your recipe tips and tricks.

I demand them.


Don’t make me send Becky to your house. With prawns and flambeed sausage.


  • I love Sriracha on everything.

    Mostly I love Sriracha on my improved Sriracha scallops. Super easy dish – dice some shallots (your could use onions, but the sweetness of the shallots work better with the heat) and give them as much of a saute as you want in a bit of olive oil. Add some diced tomatoes (canned in their juices – not oil. not water. juices). A little tomato paste if you like a super tomato flavor. Squirt in Sriracha and mix. Here you could add peppers or whatever else turns you on. Bring it to a nice simmer. It must be bubbling. Add your mushrooms, scallops, and a cup or so of couscous all at once. Give it a good mix, slap on the lid and walk away for 5-ish minutes. Couscous will be fluffy and full of the lovely “sauce” and scallops should be done (unless you use the teeny pansy ones (which will be overdone) or manage to find the gigantic delicious ones (and why aren’t you wrapping that shit in bacon and giving it a good grilling?)). Fluff it up, add some more Sriracha to taste and enjoy.

    Great for a quick and filling meal.

  • I love Ramsay’s dead quick <a href=" hot & sour soup for when I’m not massively hungry but need flavour, motherfuckers.

    My main tip/trick comes in the form of my bolognese sauce, which is nothing that anyone from within a hundred miles of Italy would recognise as such but that tastes surprisingly fantastic. It’s actually based on a Weight Watchers recipe–so no wine, no butter, and lean beef. Fortunately, being in Scotland it’s a bit easier to find Aberdeen Angus mince.

    Brown 500g of extra-lean mince, add a diced onion, two stalks of sliced celery, and a couple of grated carrots. Cook off for about five minutes. Then add a 400g tin chopped tomatoes, 2tbsp tomato puree, a pack of chestnut mushrooms (chopped), 300ml beef stock, 2tsp dried oregano, 3 torn basil leaves, 1tbs each of soy sauce, nam pla, and balsamic vinegar. Mix, and simmer for twenty minutes covered, then forty minutes uncovered. Consume.

  • My secret to FOOD SUCCESS? Leftover Omelets.

    This is usually the result of seeing that there’s not enough items in my refrigerator to compile an actual meal, but when COMBINED, these things would make a GLORIOUS CREATION.

    I’ll throw in anything from black olives to chicken scraps to pizza sauce (& fixins) to part of those kabobs from last night to just about anything that looks like I can plop it on top of three eggs and fold it in half.

    As for a secret to any meal – there’s this “Redhot” brand (I think?) sweet…pepper..sauce…I cannot remember the name of it, but it’s red, and it’s SWEET, and goes good on absolutely everything.

    Including omelets, as it were.

  • My secret trick is making good al dente pasta easily: heat the water to a boil, put the pasta in, count to thirty (in Polish!), take it off the heat, cover it, then make the rest of the dish (like my famous fauxghetti – scrap meat and luncheon meat, cooked in chopped tomatoes with garlic and some water to prolong the cooking).

    But the biggest trick is the presto perfect pancake mix for 3-4 pancakes (for when you are eating alone): glass of milk, one egg, one and a half glass of flour, half teaspoon salt, whisk. The batter is perfect just because of the proportions, no baking soda or carbonated water trickery needed.

    Yes, this is college student cooking.

  • That looks amazing. Must try…what’s creme fresché? Should I know it by another name?

    I, uhh…I once threw together a six-pack of Taco Bell tacos in twenty-three seconds?

    • @KD: It’s kind of a more… functional sour cream?

      @Paul: Awesome. But what do you do with said powder? (For the record: I got some and love it. Just curious as to your fave application[s]).

      @Chris: I like Ramsay when he’s not on American television.

      @DawnofMinstrel: Damnit, now I need to learn how to count to 30 in Polish.

      @Manda: This morning was a “What The Hell Is In This Fridge?” omelette. The answer this morning? Gruyere cheese and avocado. Bam.

      @Dan: Chorizo is one of the finest things ever. It is not equal to bacon, but in the right mood, it is better.

      @Stew: Hot damn, awesome link, thank you. And also: I’ve heard of the fish sauce in bolognese, but you also have lots of other crazy awesome in there. Exciting.

      @Kate: Ask David Hill about Sriracha. Do it! Ask him!

      — c.

  • Creme fraiche is closer to cream cheese in its thickness, taste and consistency, but is smoother, lighter, and sour-ish like sour cream, as Herr Wendig said. We bought ours from our local farmer’s market, and it’s fucking DIVINE. We were informed that it’s technically classified as a cheese, but you can use it like you would sour cream, cream cheese, or what-have-you. It makes for a lovely thickening and tasty addition to sauces, that’s for sure.

    Speaking of, I made me some poor-man’s risotto and alfredo this past week, thanks to creme fraiche. To some plain white cooked rice (cooked with chicken bouillion & herbs), I added butter & creme fraiche — oh my god, so good. The alfredo used plain spaghetti, a little drizzle of olive oil, a few knobs of butter, creme fraiche, and maybe a quarter of a round of applewood smoked mozzerella. Oh, and a little milk; you have to add bits of this at a time and KEEP STIRRING. Comes out smooth and creamy. Now that I know how tasty it is, I want to add some garlic and some parmesan to make it more robust.

    Oh, and if you make chicken marsala? Don’t skimp on the marsala wine, the onions or the mushrooms. Baby bellas, if you can.

  • I asked a professional cook, “What’s the secret to learning to cook?”
    “That’s easy. Practice!”
    “Damn! Why can’t it be a pill or a burst of gamma radiation or…”
    “Seriously. Cook the things you like, watch food network, see what other people do, try it yourself, and practice.”

    Alton Brown’s stuff is good for learning basics that the rest of the food network people don’t explain. (What the hell is a blanche, anyway? Something acrobats do?)

    Also, there’s videos (He may be French, but he’s good)-

    Finally, the secrets of Hungarian cooking from my very favorite cookbook: Bacon, sweet yellow onions, paprika, and sour cream. Add these in the right places, and everything gets better.

  • Sherry vinegar. Use it to deglaze a pan after cooking chicken, or my personal favorite, use it as the vinegar in the brine when you pickle hot peppers (hard-boiled eggs are tasty with it as well).

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