Me and the occasional moment of self doubt! Impossible.

Do you occasionally cook something that ends up like mud? That awful combination when the food looks wrong (it didn’t look so great on the front page of 4/6 Epicure!) Seems like its a combination of factors, wrong food colours (try cooked tomato and basil = brown mush) and foods that you simply don’t quite get. I do it often, too often.

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The weekend was a great example, chick peas soaked and soaked for 12 hours, then cooked for ages in water and then a sort of Indian Dal mix added. They were tough, I threw in a finely diced tomato, still not right, I had a jar of Pestou and thought the tangy Basil may add the right depth… nope. Vile and made them a strange chocolate brown… for those of you unaware of the colour wheel, red and green do make brown.

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The whole pot of the things is now resting in my refrigerator pre the compost, for absolute sure I wont eat them, it just has to have a bit of time elapse so I can get over my sense of waste and depriving the poor and hungry and then furtively throw them into the new compost which, maybe, will make me feel sort of noble.

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I am absolutely sure that you have tackled a fried rice and it has turned out completely wrong. You used tomato and it went mushy, you thought green peas and sweet corn, essential and you ended up with a wok filled with a mushy mess. I know, I’ve done that too. I heard today from a friend how a close friend of hers, (French) added grated carrot and sweet corn kernels to a perfectly delicious Salad Nicoise with disastrous results.

I blame all those silly celebrity chefs, running all over the world, spending huge amounts of money filming dubious food. We are all such slaves to the now that the next meal we cook MUST be from Irish lamb from some bog laden estuary in Ireland using only butter from the same region, terrior don’t you know! And trying to get us all to eat cabbage with bacon and onion. Wind food if I ever struck one.

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I have produced more bowls of mush than anyone decently aught to produce, from soups, pastas, lentils and pulses and endless others. It got so bad last week I was thinking I might have to call some diet company and have my weeks food supplied all ready for the microwave. I resisted.

Its all so disheartening. Makes you feel disenchanted with the whole kitchen scene and could drive you to evil take always or, heaven forbid, precooked and prepared meals. Resist I urge you, the solution is a return to what you know and love, familiar territory. Just don’t panic.

My true forte with food is in the Med… its those cuisines from all round the Mediterranean that I seem to understand. I have a nostalgic bent for the occasional food of England, or a wave of desire rolls over me for one of my mothers savagely overcooked roast dinners, or the CWA and Bowling clubs afternoon tea spreads. But its only a moment. My earnest and considerate medical advisor keeps tut tutting if I so much as glance at a bit of carb.

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Those who have the daunting task of feeding themselves and/or family on a non stop basis have my undying sympathy. Its hard work. Sadly I am not a forward planner, I am more of a shoot from the hip, what’s in the fridge kind of cook. (I was so tempted to use the word guy… but resisted) I hope NOT experimental. I never ever added sweet corn kernels to anything, that for me is too experimental by far. Thank goodness I was not born in South America, I would not have survived, I suspect I would also find Mexico a challenge. As a child I didn’t even like popcorn.

But I do get bewildered, confused and tragic about food. I need to know that I have not completely lost my hoot spar in the kitchen. At those moments I turn to simple, clean tastes and flavours that I know will satisfy my needs. I would love to say I collapse into the garden plucking divinely ripe this and that’s from well tended beds. I don’t. My usual trick is to head for the nearest market, the sight of all the fresh produce, great slabs of meat, fish in every direction. The deli section with huge selections of cheeses, and if I was lucky enough to be in Barcelona, preserved everything. It’s like a switch, it turn me on.

I remember when I had a restaurant, I was silly enough (I’m told) to cook a new menu every week, my thinking was the old way, what’s fresh, what’s seasonal. It worked for me, I did two things, I went to bed at night with a recipe book and sort of meandered through possibilities (Penguins cooking series were a big favourite) or I took myself off to the Victoria market and just cruised around. I was lucky enough to have suppliers who thought like me, well aware that I was looking for seasonality, the highest possible quality. It seemed to work.

Anyway, I fell into malaise, and this is how I pulled myself out. This and the next night, a dam fine fry up of Mullet fillets (skin on) just like the ones I used to catch off the wharf at Port Fairy.

Chicken Rolls with pork stuffing

5 chicken thigh pieces (skin on bone out)

250 grams of pork mince medium grind

5 green onions

2 large cloves of garlic

1 red shallot

fresh sage leaves

fresh oregano leaves

1 tablespoon of salted capers

1 heaped tablespoon parmesan cheese

salt and pepper

Flatten the thigh pieces and roll them even flatter with a rolling pin, set aside.

Use the blender (magimix) and place the onions, garlic, cheese and herbs in machine and blend a couple of pulses, add the meat with salt and pepper and blend a further few pulses. Don’t over blend. Remove from blender and then add the capers.

Place a roughly same thickness of stuffing on the chicken, just not quite to the edge. Roll up the thighs and use butchers twine to truss them into neat rolls (at least 2 rounds of twine per).

Use an enamelled cast iron casserole and put on heat, add a good slug of EVO, allow to heat, add one quartered onion or several peeled red shallots, place the chicken in skin side down and give it some colour. Turn and do the same on the other side. Preheat the oven 160 Celsius.

Add a good slug of red or white wine and allow to come to a good boil, then add 10 cherry tomatoes  chopped in half… put the lid on and into the oven, let cook until cooked through… 30 – 40 minutes.

Remove the rolls and keep warm, also remove the onion and tomato. Take some of the oil/fat from the top and place back on heat to reduce liquid by 50%.

To serve, place a roll per person and top with the sauce and some of the vegetables.

Optional extras… wrap the rolls in Prosciutto or Bacon. Add a vegetable like Asparagus. Line the rolls with spinach leaves before you top them with the pork. Change the filling to a simple bread stuffing. Make the filling a mushroom duxelle.

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This is how to tie the butchers knott, its handy to know and master… just remember its a slip knott until you tie it off.

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~ by peterwatsonfood on June 6, 2013.

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