Thursday, 23 April 2009

Bad Egg

Never, no matter how much of a hurry you're in, crack an egg into a pan of food directly. Always, always crack it into a bowl first in case it's bad. Ho-hum.

My brother wanted a wok for his birthday -- a proper steel one, not a non-stick easy work. So I've bought him one and spent some time this afternoon scrubbing, then seasoning it. To finish up I cooked dinner in it. Noodles, pork, prawns, water chestnuts, garlic, ginger, chilli, five spice, spring onions, rice wine, bad egg, in the bin.

The wok worked beautifully and the cooking of the dish helped settle the surface I'm sure. I just wish we'd been able to eat the results too.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Lebanese Recipe Experiences

Project "follow the recipe" is hitting some bumps in the road.

To recap, project FTR is an attempt to break my habits and teach me new styles of cooking.

Well I've been following some lebanese recipes this week and the results have been a bit disappointing.

Firstly I cooked a fried, spiced fish dish. It was quite good and the technique for cooking the fish was certainly new to me, but what made it a good dish was that I marinated half of fish in coriander, lemon juice and garlic for three hours. That fish was delicious. The other was a bit nothingy.

And that's how it all continues really. The lamb and bulgar burger was bland and the spices were, I think, ill-considered ("1 tsp mixed spice, 1 tsp cinnamon") and it needed salt, or umami of some sort. Tonight's megadarra (rice and lentils and caramelised onion) was also a bit disappointing. Again the spices were the weak point for me, but in this case I felt that they overpowered the lentils and yet they overpowered them in a one-dimensional way, without complexity and subtlety they tasted like a kazoo.

So what conclusions can I try to draw?

Firstly, I've only consulted one recipe book this week. I suspect there's a hint of "leave out the salt it's unhealthy" to it and frankly I'm a bit of a spice fanatic so the fact that something's got coriander and allspice in is hardly new and exciting. So I'll try another lebanese recipe book.

Perhaps my taste buds aren't used to this sort of food or cooking, but I don't think that's really it. I've had lebanese food and loved it and spent hours thinking about the flavours and trying to work out what they are. And take the Cambodian Pork recipe I followed a couple of weeks ago. That was very simple and the spices were not complex. But they were right for the dish.

Or perhaps it's that I'm not good at following recipes and the little instinctive adjustments and interpretations that good recipe followers make are just absent from my cooking. Maybe.

Embarrassingly for the FTR approach, the best thing we've had this week was a salad of bulgar, home made feta, left over lamb burgers, tomatoes and home made tzatziki (I'm sure there's a lebanese name for it), and that was an off-the-hoof thing.

Project FTR will go on. Even this week I've learned some new things. But after a flying start with the Cambodian Pork it's been a bit of a disappointing week. I think I might treat myself to an evening's cooking without recipe sometime soon. I fancy trying that fried fish thing again with a slightly different spice blend...