mercredi, mars 15, 2006

Grilled Entrecôte, Creamy Tomato Soup with Mozzarella Toasts and Spiced Soup with Tiger Prawns and Rice Vermicelli

My darling hubby has done quite a bit of studies and currently has quite a high-flying career (also flies around alot). Which explains why I can sit around at home and blog. But that is not the point of this evening's entry.

What I wanted to say was that he is very fond of telling whoever would lend a ear that he is a Perfectionist. As in he seeks perfection in whatever he does (though when you see him dump his socks inside-out 1 in the laundry basket and the other out of it, you do wonder...); Like he has married the perfect wife (I said it, he didn't, ha ha) and has made a few perfect children (yeap, like perfect mess, perfect glue...).

So over the years, I have by contagion become quite a perfectionist myself. As in perfectly capable of limiting disasters in the kitchen.

When we 1st met, he cooked alot. Over the years, as he advanced in his career, he got really good at delegating jobs to other people and so I ended up doing most of the cooking - though he keeps some sort of 3rd eye hanging above the stove.

Hubby likes to say that a quickly-prepared meal need not be a badly-prepared one. That everything is a question of organisation and about understanding, respecting and mastering the subject at hand. And when you prepare your dish from scratch, you also learn about it, what makes it taste the way it does, discover what you need to do to make it taste the way you would like it to taste. La cuisson, la qualité des ingrédients, le mariage des matières...

If before I knew him a curry was made with curry powder, I now make my curries with individual spices, fresh wherever possible; If before I knew him I would roast any chicken I could get my hands on at a good price on the day in question, I now only choose a free-range labelled chicken of at least a certain weight in a Butcher's shop; If before I knew him (BIKH) a potato was yellow and either fried or baked, now I know that they come in different races, colours, firmness, and you use them according to whether they are to be julienned, sliced, cubed, puréed, fried, boiled, grilled, or baked; If BIKH an apple is either Fuji or Red Delicious, I have since discovered that they could also be Golden, Breaburn, Belle de Boskoop, Reinette, Granny Smith, to name but a few, and chosen depending on whether you are going to make a Tarte Tatin, compote, salad, soufflé, donuts, juice...

I therefore try to avoid shortcuts in my cooking (unless I think I can get away with it and not be disappointed with the result). Actually it's not just a question of taste. But industrially-prepared food products do tend to contain alot of chemicals, MSG, colourings, preservatives etc. Though I must say Asian Home Gourmet has come up with MSG-free pastes that are quite good and I do occasionally use them as a base in my cooking.

I have learnt that choosing the right cut of meat, for example, is already the cooking half done. A beautifully-cut, nicely-grained and appropriately-thick beef Entrecôte just needs an 8-minute stay on a well-heated and justly-greased iron grill.

And then seasoned with freshly-ground salt, pepper and a sprinkling of Herbes de Provence. It can be then be accompanied by a lightly-tossed salad (a few chosen young mesclun, spinach, rocket and mâche leaves, extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lime juice...), fresh green beans (best from Kenya) cooked just 15 minutes in salted boiling water and then quickly stir-fried with butter, crushed garlic and parsley, or potatoes à la Sarlardaise fried in duck fat, crushed garlic and parsley.

A few evenings ago, we didn't feel like having an elaborate dinner so I just made a Creamy Tomato Soup. First I heated a pot and browned 1 big sliced onion in some olive oil. Then I added a stalk of celery, a clove of garlic, 1 chopped carrot, 1 quartered large potato. Next, I poured in 4-5 cups of water, added 6 ripe and red tomatoes, 1 can of peeled tomatoes (they are actually better than fresh tomatoes as they are usually very ripe) a bunch of fresh Italian basilic and a bay leaf.

In a few minutes, the water was boiling and the skins of the tomatoes started to peel off and I just scooped them out of the water. I then added a chicken stock cube (when I run out of frozen home-made stock), covered the pot and let the soup boil for 20 minutes. Before serving, I removed the bay leaf, mixed the soup with a handheld blender, stirred in 4 Tbsp of double cream, salt and pepper.

To accompany the soup, we've made Mozzarella Toasts using fresh bread, olive oil, some chopped basilic and sliced mozzarella cheese and putting everything under a hot grill for a few minutes. It was simple and delicious.

And last evening, having spent too much time reading other people's blogs, I had only 30 minutes to prepare dinner before the hubby turned up. Of course, I hadn't shopped for food either... Well, I decided on the spot to heat up some oil in a pot, brown 1 sliced onion, 1 cinnamon stick, a few whole cloves, fennel seeds and star anises, 2 cloves of crushed garlic, a few slices of fresh ginger. Then I took out a dozen of frozen Tiger Prawns, stir-fried them in the oil shells-on and removed them the minute they turned pink and set them aside (to give flavour to the oil but not to overcook them), added 4-5 cups of ikan bilis and chicken stock, a Tbsp each of dark and light soya sauce, a few drops of sesame oil and a bay leaf and was on my way to making a Spiced Soup with Prawns and Rice Vermicelli!

When I was ready to serve the soup, I just added some rice vermicelli, the prawns, frozen fishballs, a bunch of Thai basilic, some coriander leaves and some bean sprouts. Fresh red chilli padi is optional but I love to drink my soup with loads of it inside.

The soup was simple, but fragrant and tasty. A cross of some of my favourite soups (Vietnamese Beef Pho, Hokkien Prawn Soup, Teochew Fishball Soup...). Amazing what you can come up with when you are desperate and short of time, n'est-ce pas?

2 commentaires:

last frontier a dit…

Two remarks:
1- just a few days ago you just had 2 posts, and from one day to the other you have almost a "bible" blog ! Amazing how you can write so much and so well in a short period of time!
2- it seems that you cook amazingly well ! Who knows that it could be your hidden talent ?
keep on writing. I'm sure you'll catch people's attention.

Beau Lotus a dit…

1. It's like my weight, the figures multiply at an amazing rate.
2. That's why I put on weight. I always taste what I cook. I don't know about the talent but the fat certainly is not hidden ;-)