Tuesday, 20 March 2007

cooking. Ergh.

On Friday I had yet another recipe that failed miserably. It was the canelloni that had been on Jamie Oliver the night before. Basically, you boil up some cauliflower and broccoli, and then fry it with garlic, thyme, chilli and anchovies, and then stuff the par-cooked canelloni tubes with this mixture. Then you top the tubes with some tomato puree/sauce, and some sour cream mixed with fresh parmesan and mozarella and then bake.

Ok, so it wasn't totally awful. But it wasn't that spectacular either, and I wouldn't bother with it again, even if it hadn't taken me three and a half hours to make.

I'm getting really sick of duly following recipes and then having them turn out pedestrian. Surely qualified chefs should be able to communicate recipes that are actually good. As far as I can see there can be only 3 reasons why this keeps happening:

1. I'm a terrible cook who, despite following instructions closely, somehow manages to stuff it up every time.
2. Chefs put one or two great recipes in their books and then bulk them up with average ones.
3. Chefs can't communicate how a dish should be prepared.

Actually, I don't think it's number 1 (although I guess this probably happens occasionally), so it must be a combination of 2 and 3. How annoying. I guess there's not much I can do about it but keep trying, and remembering the good recipes when they work out. And I'm coming up with a new approach to cooking:

Emily's Cooking Maxim #1:
Trust your instinct over the recipe. If it tastes wrong as you're going, do what seems natural to fix it.

Emily's Coooking Maxim #2:
Each step of cooking should usually taste good. If it tastes bad at the beginning, it will probably still taste at the end unless you fix it before you get there.

I'm sure I'll add to this as I continue to learn. In the meantime, here's a made-up recipe that I made last weekend. It's a pretty obvious combination of lots of things, but my Dad said it was the best thing I'd ever made. Maybe this is a reflection on his taste, but it's kind of depressing that of all the complicated recipes I've spent hours trying, this is so far the most successful.

Bruschetta (according to Molly, pronounced: Brus-ke-tta).

Make a salad of:
chopped tomatoes
chopped capsicum
finely chopped/sliced red/spanish onion
chopped olives
chopped fresh basil
1 or 2 crushed or very finely chopped cloves of garlic.

Basic directions: dress salad with a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil and mix well. Spread this on some nice fat bread (foccacia or lepinja is good), top with some grated tasty cheddar and put under the griller until the cheese melts.

More details: If you're making one big one, it's best to put the filling in between two bits of bread, and put it in the oven (covering it with foil to prevent burning); if you're making individual ones, it's best to toast the bread first and then make them 'open' under the griller. Banana capsicum is best, then green, then red - purely for the colour contrast. I like kalamata olives, but it's up to you. When you make the salad, you want the tomato to be not totally dominating, but still the most prevalent ingredient. You can also put a layer of salami on top of the salad but under the cheese. You could probably add other ingredients if you wanted - maybe artichokes, or chilli, or prosciutto, or oregano instead of basil. This is what I do though, so this is the tried and true version.


Margie said...

Maybe you just trust the chefs too much. Those canneloni don't sound too good to me in the first place. Cauliflower and brocolli don't sound like canneloni filling to me. I thought canneloni filling was meant to be yummy and bad for you.

But also you often seem to gamble with substitution. Even though the recipe didn't say to. Like with the black rice instead of the normal rice.

m∃ said...

Hmm? I don't think that's totally true. If I'm trying a recipe for the first time I usually follow the recipe as closely as possible. The black rice was more an accompaniment than specified in the dish, and it was ok. They were certainly separate enough to be able to assess them individually. But I guess I could give a bit more thought to what dishes go with what what. I do have a habit of making a few random things at the same time that look good, without much thought as to whether they will actually go with each other.

Anonymous said...

Emily, my husband often cooks recipes from TV and they turn out great. He cooked that Broccoli and Cauliflower Cannelloni of Jamie Oliver's and it was delicious. Very filling and yummy. Maybe you did something wrong?

m∃ said...

It's possible I did something wrong. I went from the TV which doesn't tend to be very specific with quantities etc. Perhaps if I'd hunted down the recipe in one of his books I might've fared better.