So, I’ve covered a whole world of stuff since starting my column, from BBQs, salads, and desserts to lobsters and even some healthy stuff. I want to really give you useful tips on how to cook more simply and to cook better.
“…what does simplicity mean when we talk about food? It’s a term thrown around a lot these days and to be honest – does everyone really know?”
Food doesn’t (and shouldn’t) have to be complicated, at work we use many different techniques and have little trade secrets that we pull from everyone’s personal experiences. From water bath temperatures and timings to the little ingredients we put in food to stabilise an espuma perhaps… You get the jist! But how simple is simple and what does simplicity mean when we talk about food? It’s a term thrown around a lot these days and to be honest – does everyone really know? Probably not.
For me, a simple dish is something which can be prepared, cooked and served with ease and quickness… I’ll give you an example –
Example 1: Oxtail ravioli with burnt butter and capers.
Example 2: Roasted line caught sea bass with shaved fennel, orange and citrus salad and a lemon vinaigrette.
An overly complicated dish plays havoc in professional kitchens especially when the pressure is right on top of you.
Any thoughts?… I’ve made the second example sound a lot more complicated than it really is. Although both dishes are relatively simple. The oxtail will take around 4 hours to cook then you have to make the pasta then you have to roll the ravioli then you have to… And so on! The second dish will take 10-12 minutes from shopping bag to plate. So, a simple dish isn’t so simple after all. I always bear in mind when I create a new dish, how can it be prepared, can it be done quickly and easily; how can it be cooked, can it just be baked in the oven or does it need a specific time and to be basted every 30 seconds?; what else do I need to put on the plate to serve it with, does it need garnishing, does it need extra ingredients to support or enhance the flavours. A lot to think about really, but in essence, you just need it to be quick to prepare and easy to serve. An overly complicated dish plays havoc in professional kitchens especially when the pressure is right on top of you. Food for thought.
Just for reading my rants, you can have the recipe for that second dish I mentioned.
- 4 x 160g sea bass fillets
- 1 x fennel
- 1 x orange
- 1 x lemon
- 1 x pink grapefruit
- Lemon vinaigrette (see week 1)
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
We use a mandolin but you can slice the fennel as thin as possible and keep it raw. Squeeze in half the lemon and half the grapefruit and add some chopped tarragon and coriander and season lightly.
Peel and segment the orange.
“…enjoy it outside with a huge big glass of White Rioja and think about a beach and a swimming pool!”
Pan fry the sea bass in the oil, if your using wild, thick bass, allow 10 minutes on the skin and 3 when you turn it over, if your using the thin, farmed sea bass, allow 2 minutes on each side. Chop up the orange segments and toss through the fennel. Arrange the salad onto the plates and place the bass on top, spoon on some of the remaining liquor and enjoy it outside with a huge big glass of White Rioja and think about a beach and a swimming pool!
Until next week Manchester…
All views expressed are those of the author.