I’ve waffled along on a few other people’s blogs recently about a few things food related. Things that I have felt are important, and before I know it my fingers have typed out half an essay. Rather than completely taking over someones comment sections saying what I think I’m going to try to rustle up a few brain cells and see if I can form an opinion here on my own blog.
Here’s a little snippet of what I think…
(Scroll down to the bottom if you want to skip the soap box waffling and go straight to the crumble.)
* I think it makes sense to eat seasonally.
* I think it makes sense to try and get a lot of your foods as locally as you can, (if you can).
* I think it makes wonderful sense to know what you are eating, and where it came from.
* I think it makes a huge amount of sense to know how to cook.
You don’t have to be cooking like a chef, but a little cooking knowledge can go a long way. You need to eat, so maybe you need to cook. Seeing pre-cooked rice, and avocado in a tube in the supermarket makes me sigh. Is this becoming our normal? Cooking rice, surely is no more difficult than learning to tie your own shoelaces, (maybe not at the same age.) It’s tricky to begin with, gauging the right way to do it, but then with a little practice it becomes second nature and you just do it.
Why do people say they can’t cook? This brings up so many questions in my mind. Is it because they have no interest in it or are daunted by being in the kitchen? If kids were brought up watching other adults go about preparing evening meals, I think it becomes second nature and an almost default setting for them. Here, stir this pot while I chop this. Turn it off when you see bubbles. Do this enough times and without even noticing you child has just absorbed some valuable cooking experience. Maybe that experience won’t be drawn upon completely while they are still living at home and busy being an insufferable teenager, but that experience will be invaluable when it’s time to move out. (No need to buy pre-cooked rice and avocado in tubes then.)
It’s never too late to learn to cook. My grandfather in his late 70′s started to cook, and I’m really proud that he has taken that on. Not out of necessity, as my grandmother still produces the majority of the meals, but out of interest. A school fundraising cookbook landed on his lap, and something in the bottom of his belly was ignited. He started to bake. Under the watchful eye of my grandmother, he starting producing snacks and meals and getting an obvious enjoyment from it. I think he also cottoned on to the fact that if he cooked, he could cater things to his own taste buds and not what someone else wanted him to eat. Sweeties!
Simple cooking doesn’t have to be tasteless. I’m sure some of my most stand out meals have been the ones with the least ingredients. Zucchini quickly cooked in some diced local garlic and olive oil, with a little sourdough on the side and I’m a happy woman. For a lot of lucky people there is an amazing amount of choice of foods out there. Simple doesn’t have to mean an un-interesting diet. Olive oil, garlic, asian/middle eastern style spices, and legumes can be cheap and all help in making a meal mind blowing within minutes. Choice is a wonderful thing. I really value the fact that I have food choice and I don’t want to feel indifferent about those choices.
Celebrity and competitive cooking shows aren’t a bad thing. In prime time television in every corner of the globe there is probably a cooking programme going on. A lot of people have embraced the celebrity chef and televised cooking competitions. If this encourages people to cook, to jump off the couch and head towards the kitchen, surely it can’t be a bad thing. A celebrity chef as a pin-up idol seems to be a much nicer alternative to some C grade celebrity famous for being famous. If I had a tween, I would much rather posters of Jamie Oliver on the wall than ….some toad who just got arrested again. There will always be some negative things to watching these programmes, but I really think the postitives far out way. I’ll take watching and learning how to cook a souffle over another dead body in CSI something or other any day.
Knowing where your food comes from, brings a sense of value. I love knowing where my food comes from if I can manage it. When ever a meal is produced from either making it myself or buying the ingredients from a producer I have met or know something of… pickle me in ginger if I don’t feel warm and fuzzy from it. I’ll be more inclined to eat in moderation and be mindful of how it tastes. Mouthfuls aren’t being thrown back willy nilly without a backwards glance to the plate. If I’ve just spent 2 days making that sourdough, I’m damn sure I’m going to appreciate every crumb of it. I’m really proud to be able to produce something tasty to go on the family table. I have a lovely memory of the first time Monkey Boy helped out making dinner. The pride he had, and the joy he got in telling Mr Chocolate, “I made that…isn’t it delicious!”
Knowing how to cook helps with staying on a budget. Knowing how to cook and stretch the ingredients that I have, has taken time and practice, (and still with much more learning to go.) Knowing how to cook gives you cooking options. Cooking to a budget, also makes you resourceful with ingredients. I’m sure that as a family unit we are spending less on food now than when Mr Chocolate and I were Monkey-less. It bugs me serving up the same meal for 3 consecutive nights, I lose interest and so do The Monkeys…But, I do get a kick out of ‘upcycling’ the meal into something else.
Bolognese- to mexican beans- to huevos rancheros
Left over rice- to bread
Dhal- to lentil burgers
Porridge- to sourdough oat bread
I also get a huge kick out of being able to preserve the seasons. Jams, chutneys, marmalades are staples and used daily in our family eating habits. Jams are used to sweeten homemade yogurt, marmalades to jazz up toast and chutneys to take a simple dinner to another level. In time to come, (with more space and more access to produce) I would love to have preserved fruits, tomato sauces, passatas and other goodies all lining my cupboards, but for the moment I’m happy with what I am doing. They aren’t tricky, and it saves us money. Oodles of it, I’m sure.
Having my own vegetable garden would be lovely, but… I can’t grow more than a few token extras where I am. So, by choosing to buy from local farmers markets, or using CSA boxes when ever I can, (and it’s convenient) it helps with buying locally, eating fresher and knowing what’s in season. When I shop at the local fruit and vegetable shop or supermarket, yes, it’s convenient by being all in the one spot, but I wouldn’t have a clue whats in season. Not a tooting clue.
The internet is full of recipes. Lots of them. You can learn how to make just about anything you could possibly imagine at the click of a button, and this I think is rather lovely.
So tell me… what do you think? Everything up for discussion if you have the time and the inclination…
The Humble Crumble
There are so many variations on the humble crumble. It can be a quick an easy dessert stand by, and without it in my life there would be a huge crumbly hole.
The quickest and most basic way I have found is to…. melt 100gms butter. Add 1/2 cup brown sugar, and then add one cup of plain flour. Fork it through so it resembles bread crumbs and then lay it on what ever seasonal fruit you have. Chopped fresh plums, cooked apples, mixed berries….endless possibilities. It can go in single ramekins, a large deep dish, a low flat dish, an oven proof pot. What ever you have that is bakeproof is fine. Fruit in and crumble mixture on top. From those three topping ingredients you can build. Additions of oats, lemon zest, ginger, coriander, vanilla, almond meal, make it cake-like, crispy, cobbler-esque…
So many combinations of deliciousness! Then bake it all at 180C, until golden.