Thursday, 3 November 2011

Chermoula Chicken, Cauliflower Fritters, Roasted Veg Risoni, Lime Yoghurt and a Lemon and Raspberry Teacake

I am definitely learning that I am a cook of big flavours. When it comes to my approach it isn’t simply a matter of say peeling and boiling or roasting a potato; it’s about what I can cover it with, dress it in, add to it. I get an ingredient and I think ‘what would this go with’. I believe there are pros and cons to this approach. The pros I suppose would be that the meals I try to create are somehow in sync on the plate, each element comes to compliment the other creating a balanced dish. Another pro would be that each mouthful is flavoursome and interesting to taste, there is rarely a dull moment so to speak. A con however would be that I rarely let an ingredient just speak for itself; it is not enough to leave a vegetable naked on the plate, I have to dress it up in something. Another con is that cooking becomes rather time consuming, having to constantly chop and blitz and marinade. It is testament to say Italian cuisine that proves it is simply the produce itself that is enough to provide savoury satisfaction and pleasure, granted with the addition of a drizzle of olive oil and perhaps some salt. 
Ironically I am a big supporter of the idea of simple pleasures. Ham off the bone with mayo on some bread? Delicious. Pasta with butter and parmesan? A winner. Yet when it comes to more serious cooking I can’t leave the extras alone. Take this week’s meal, practically every single component had an extensive array of herbs in it. The chicken was covered in coriander, mint and parsley, the fritters had parsley and coriander stalks in the batter, the risoni had mint mixed through it. Plus there was the addition of chilli, spring onion, shallots, a numerous mix of spices, zest. It all culminated in multiple bowls containing multiple chopped goods ready to be combined into multiple items. I suppose that when you purchase something like a curry paste you are buying exactly that – numerous ingredients put together holding high amounts of flavour; all easy and ready to go. And it is definitely the preparation side of cooking that takes longer than the actually cooking side, so these products are certainly convenient. I just seem to be addicted to getting all these elements together myself instead.
I wouldn’t lie and say that I haven’t got the necessary equipment to make all this chopping a little easier, I know that Jamie Oliver is a big encourager of what you can do with a magi mix, and a friend recently introduced me to the wonders of a garlic crusher – who would’ve thought! These technologies in the kitchen certainly make preparation easier. I suppose it’s that I’ve been taught to use the board and knife, and that’s where I feel most comfortable. That and there’s nothing wrong with improving those knife skills a little right?
I did get involved with the barbecue this week however. I don’t know why it has taken me so long to utilise its potential. The boned chicken thighs grilled nicely on the flame for about five minutes, giving that great barbecue taste, before I covered them in the chermoula marinade and finishing them in the oven. The risoni had zucchini and char-grilled peppers in it with some spring onion, mint, toasted seeds and red wine vinegar, and the cauliflower was mixed with a batter of flour, egg, cumin, parsley, coriander, chilli, cinnamon, turmeric and shallots. I made some lime yoghurt as well to accompany which tied everything together. Getting my gist yet?
With my new kitchen aid mixer still waiting to be used I thought a simple cake for dessert would be a nice way to break it in. I found a recipe for a standard lemon teacake and decided to add raspberries that I found in the freezer. Frozen berries are a great addition to have in the freezer, not only do they keep but they taste great and they’re a lot cheaper than the punnets you find these days. I am a fan anyway. The kitchen aid lived up to its reputation creaming the butter and sugar beautifully, then I simply added eggs, lemon zest, lemon juice, ground almonds, a small amount of flour, and the berries. I love cakes for that reason, so simple to make but so good to eat. I cut up some strawberries to accompany and made a glaze just out of lemon juice and icing sugar for on top.
Whether or not lots of flavour comes with lots of work, the outcome seems worth it. There were lots of nice ‘mmm...’ sounds coming from around the table as we ate, and as a learning cook there’s nothing better than that sound.