Six Days Six Meals
One thing I love to compare with Daytum is home-cooked meals, versus eating out. Hong Kong is replete with good places to eat, but I feel much healthier when my diet includes a lot of home-cooked meals. Breakfasts are, for me, always a home affair and lunches always eaten out. So, the evening meal plays […]
One thing I love to compare with Daytum is home-cooked meals, versus eating out. Hong Kong is replete with good places to eat, but I feel much healthier when my diet includes a lot of home-cooked meals. Breakfasts are, for me, always a home affair and lunches always eaten out. So, the evening meal plays a big part in balancing the diet.
Of course, that takes time, because I cook from first principles every time, so dinner always begins with cutting vegetables, trimming meats and washing salads. I’m not a fan of pre-prepared sauces and it takes an effort for me to even walk down the frozen food aisle.
This past week I’ve cooked at home every night and all the meals were prepared from scratch. The challenge for me is that I can’t spare more than an hour a day to prepare these meals, so even if it takes longer for the meal to cook (as with the Tagine below), the preparation and attended time in the kitchen needs to stay within sixty minutes.
Monday night was Swedish Meatballs (beef and veal), from a recipe in Jamie Oliver’s new book, served with Mashed Potato. Turned out quite a bit nicer than the IKEA version, which has to be said, is a favourite with a lot of people I know. All those years, the ingredient I had not been able to pick was the Allspice in the meatballs and in this version, the Cranberry and Blueberry sauce was a real treat.
Tuesday night was Lamb Tagine, adapted from a number of cookbooks. I often compare the way different books approach a similar dish. That can be a good way to find small variations or combinations, which in this case included pomegranate syrup and green olives. For a few years now I’ve preferred Moroccan Barley Cous Cous, which for me has a more fulfilling and nuttier flavour.
Wednesday was a simple pairing of Fishcakes and Roasted Cherry Tomatoes. All too often the tomatoes we get here in Hong Kong are not fully ripe, so the best thing to do is apply some heat, to bring out the flavours. Not having an oven I’ve adapted to grilling them in our small microwave/griller on a lowish heat for 30 minutes. The fishcakes were a traditional recipe, with tinned tuna, mashed potatoes, lots of herbs and a good dollop of mustard in the mix.
Thursday was Scallop and Asparagus risotto. I could only find very thin Asparagus from Thailand, which are not my favourite. So I reserved the tips (they cook very fast) and sliced the stalks finely, frying them along with the onion and celery. The fashion in restaurants is to pan fry the scallops and serve them whole, which does taste good and showcases the shellfish. However, I prefer to dice them, not too finely, and drop them into the ristotto towards the end of the cooking, just before the asparagus tips. If you get the timing right, the scallops will still be moist and tender, but without the fried edge (and you get more scallop flavour in the rice).
Friday was Pork in a Japanese Ginger style, with Pimentos and Sesame Rice. I don’t cook Japanese food all that often, which is surprising, because many of the dishes are simple and relaxing to prepare. This dish was a case in point; if I knew what I was doing I could have made the whole thing in around half an hour. That said, I’m not into cooking in a rush.
Saturday then saw me not cooking, but watching the great Antonio Carluccio cook at the Mandarin Oriental here in Hong Kong. I first remember watching Mr Carluccio on the SBS channel in Australia and still recall being given one of his cookbooks back in the 90s. Actually that book has travelled with me from Sydney, to London, then Delhi and I have it with me here in Hong Kong.
In person Mr Carluccio was affable, funny and honest. His approach to Italian food is simple, but not simplistic and invites you to create meals that are elegant without becoming showy. What I’ve always loved about his food, both in his cookbooks and in his restaurants, is that there’s no flavour confusion. Every dish has a reason for being, has a centre and requires very little explanation.
Sitting in the class today gave me some fresh ideas and reminded me of a lot of things I’ve tried to cook over the years. But, perhaps more importantly, it reminded of the importance of food, not just to one’s health. Food is central to our being; it is a delight that can be connected to so many other pleasures in our existence and also a comfort amidst the sorrows that life can bring us. Therefore, it is only fitting to cherish every meal, to savour every mouthful and to delight in the touch and smell of every ingredient and every dish we encounter.