Friday, June 24, 2011

Cooking with Love


I've noticed on Masterchef and other cooking shows there are a lot of references to cooking with love. There are however, no attempts to describe what is meant by this concept. Now I think i know what they mean but it is a concept to be treated with caution. I think you do need to have a passion for good food, that starts with the ingredients that you use, the best that you can get, that doesn't always mean the most expensive, but often does mean the freshest, ingredients in season, and local ingredients. A lot of love and care can turn the most humble ingredients into a feast. Love cant make up for knowledge though and I think all cooks need to develop a healthy respect for the basics. What goes with what, how certain ingredients behave under certain conditions etc. Popular cooking is full of jargon, Peter, who believes in the erroneous concept of more is more and steadfastly refuses to use any basic cooking cooking principles, can be heard to mutter about caramelisation, he thinks that will transform any dish into a gourmet creation. I haven't told him that caramelisation is almost code for burnt! What you need to know is the difference between burnt and the sort of cooking and attention that slowly brings out all the flavour, in particular sweetness, and turns ingredients a lovely dark golden, caramel colour. If you cook with love, or lots of attention to detail, you take this to the point just before burnt.
(the other thing that has just occurred to me is that our palates are getting really addicted to sweetness as well, think about all the currently popular dishes, mains are very sweet, maybe we need more attention to the bitter, tart, sour flavours too)
Why I was thinking about all this is that yesterday i cooked a casserole, on the fuel stove, in a relatively short space of time,( because I ran out of time), with very simple ingredients and it was Delicious.
 What made the difference? certainly cooking on the old wood stove has a big of magic. I had some lovely chuck steak from the local butcher and the carrots and celery are very sweet at the moment. I also have lovely herbs from my garden.
When i started i knew i had only a bit over two hours to get the casserole cooked and on the table, normally I would like three or even four hours. I knew I needed to pay attention to the details to get some flavour going. What I did was heat some olive oil and butter in a cast iron pot and then brown (caramelise) the meat in small batches.  I set that aside and then added two diced brown onion and one large clove of garlic with about two teaspoons of sea salt, I stirred this until it was soft, transparent and golden. (this was a bit frustrating as it took a bit of time but it is essential I think) two that I added three diced carrots and three sticks of diced celery, including leaves, I stirred this over heat for about five minutes and then added one and a half tablespoons of flour. I cooked this mixture for about three minutes and then added the meat back in with one can of crushed tomatoes and one can full of water, stirred it all together, added two bay leaves, three sprigs of time, a handful of chopped parsley and left it all to cook until dinner time. In this case just under two hours. The meat was tender and the flavour very rich and substantial. Cooked with love!


The other thing that cooking with love means is care and preparation. Tonight we have our monthly Happy Hour Gathering at our place. I always serve some food I have made. Tonight it is going to be some home made Labne Cheese, made by straining my Home Made Yogurt   for a couple of days.
I'm going to roll it into little balls and marinade in Olive oil, lemon juice and parsley and serve with our Olives which are now ready to eat and a home made Foccacia, cooked in the wood oven. I'll post about the Olives and bread another time. right now I had better get back to cooking with love.

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