Sunday, February 26, 2012

Writing about Food

To write about food is to savour it. To imagine its flavour, its texture, its taste; the way it caresses the tongue and the palate.

I am not a cook in a professional sense. I cook for family and friends, and when I am alone, I cook for myself. I generally don’t use processed foods in cellophane and jars. Nor do I like spending hours preparing complicated concoctions. Most of the time it takes me up to half an hour of cutting and sautéing before I can sit down to a glass of wine, while the pots are simmering on the stove.

Fresh foods taste better than packaged ones in my opinion. I have tried them, the supermarket ready-made meals. They taste like the factory in which they were prepared: dull. I may spend a little longer, but the joy of handling a leek, cutting it lengthwise, and washing it under a running tap is part of the joy of anticipation. While I fry it in a little olive oil the perfumes are already beginning to pervade the kitchen. I wave my hand above the cook pot, the way I have seen professional cooks do, and that, too, is part of the fun. Adding crushed garlic, fresh thyme, salt and pepper, and lots of crème fraîche at the end has already turned it into a pasta sauce. All I need to do now is cook the spaghetti, drain it, add it to the sauce and serve it with freshly grated cheese, parmesan or good old Gouda. Remember: freshly grated, not packaged. It really makes a difference.

This is “cooking made easy”. Not “cooking for dummies”! Make no mistake! When you enjoy what you are doing, when you give it your undivided attention, then you cannot be a dummy.

Jamie Oliver, of course, is a great example of this trend. When you see him jumping about with his knives, his wooden boards and his saucepans, you know that what he is creating is not hard, and yet it is going to be delicious. I like his style. His proportions are “handfuls” and “splashes.” He gives you the sense that a little more or a little less does not matter so much; that experiments are allowed; that it all depends on taste. Your taste. Unlike Nigella Lawson, he hardly uses short cuts in the way of a tin. That is why I like her less, in spite of her seductive flair.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Monday, when we went to the market, there were very few stalls. Too cold. We bought our wintry vegetables from the back of a small van. A older couple stood in front of it with a tressle table selling the produce from their garden. We bought green cabbage, onions, leeks, carrots and potatoes. Plus walnuts to replace the ones that the dormice had hauled away and cracked.
These vegetables lasted us all week, and in an amazing variety of dinners: oriental stir fry, carrot salad, stewed cabbage, spaghetti with leek sauce as mentioned earlier, onion tart and a vegetable soup.
The meals fortified us after walks in the snow. We built wood fires in the wood stove and the hearth, and managed to keep the cold at bay.
For cold it was!

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Spaghetti in Leek Sauce

This is an embarisingly simple recipe. But as I was cooking I kept adding ingredients that seemed somehow right.

So: just stew some cleaned and sliced leeks in olive oil. Add pressed garlic and thyme, if you have it. Stir in crème fraîche at the end with some chopped Camembert, and grate nutmeg over it. Freshly shelled walnuts would have been great, but I remembered too late.
Stir in cooked spaghetti and you have a delicious, simple meal!