The foods in the photograph above make me happy! I love the hot red of the chilli peppers, the earthy textured dark of the Haas avocado, my all time favourite, that little peppery creamy French brie plus those tiny tomatoes which baked with rosemary sprigs slowly are a prefect companion to any salad.
I just find food and meals just so wholesomely human really – a simple and genuine full circle of love, caring and shopping with sustainability in mind. I do try and temper my desire to cook and experiment with consience and our small planet is constantly in my thoughts. Growing up in the 60s/70s on a small dairy farm taught me much about the land, farming and the farmers lot. I try to buy my dairy products from sustainably run or organic farms. I like small holdings and kind farmers and large agri-business tend to make me nervous. Cruelty-free food seems to make my meals taste so much more satisfying all round. And having frugal parents who were also avid food-lovers taught me to waste as little as possible and to re-compost that which was unusable.
Preparing food is something most of us do for ourselves and our loved ones every day of our lives. We share meals, buy/trade/grow/ store food, throw away food (alas) and plan our next meal every single human day. As for me – I teach kids & adults about cooking, develop new recipes, write and read about food (and the behaviours/habits which surround it) from morning through to night. And I have spent many a glorious hour exchanging recipes, sharing food memories and just chewing the fat with people all over the world. Time spend teaching and talking food makes me as happy as an organically farmed pig in clover, oh, it does. Food is beautiful, colourful, smell-licious and divine.
Food -motion. Food-ire, Fear of Food…..
However, there is the food-motion side of things. Mention ideas such as healthy eating, home cooking, slow food, meatless Mondays, smaller chocochip cookies, those unneeded sports drinks, more dark brown bread, using lots of spices and fresh herbs and then you start to get into some dark and emotionally-edgy conversations. Sometimes I feel a great chilliness hovering above my food laden table, often I am surprised to find that people feel threatened and challenged. I am rather shocked that people seem so unaware of the epidemic of diabetes and the rates of adult obesity in developed countries given the constant media coverage.
It never ceases to amaze me how Jamie Oliver attracted such bile for suggesting we should do more cooking in our homes and schools both in the UK and the US – thanks Jamie, you got us thinking although I wish more of us would watch your speech on Ted.com (2010 Ted Winner). Really, Jamie was not trying to make anyone feel bad, he just wants us to cook great food and consume it. Food is glorious, a priveledge to eat and have accesss to. So many in our world can’t get a good square meal that it would be a shame not to put our best into what we have and to teach our kids how to as well! It is central to our human lives and we all need to learn more about it.
I believe that learning to cook is a great skill to have, teaching us manual dexterity, organizational and managerial skills, chemistry, intuition, self-efficacy, confidence and above all teaching our knowledge about where food comes from and how it impacts on our planet. On a lighter side, it is just such fun and for that little extra bonus you get to eat the end result. My next cooking course “Eating A Rainbow” – simple, delicious dishes from around the world will be taught at The Hungry Mind Centre, just by the International School of The Hague on March 19 and 26th – come and join me if you fancy – register via http://www.thehungrymind.nl or phone 070 3681804.
Now onto proper stuff, like cooking. Below is a picture of few of my fav nuts and grains straight from the organic market of course. And I have a new cookbook - have just made some quinoa and beetroot burgers from the Vegetarian with a Vengeance Cookbook, lovely stuff ladies – I am impressed.
But today I am feeling very spring rolly. Maybe it’s that hint of watery sunlight or a bunch of Thai basil I found at the Amazing Oriental. You can fill these fresh spring rolls with almost anything as long as it mix up it – it has to have crunchy, spicy, herby with all those textures added to the soft rice noodles. But you will need a good dressing. The Vegetarian with a Vengence book gives you three possibles – a peanut butter, chilli and soy ginger sauce, a hoisin coconut milk garlic sauce and a lemon grass lime – all of which sound great. My quickest and so far my best sauce is a simple mix of shoyu (a quarter of a cup), a good squeeze of ginger juice from a lump of coarsely grated ginger, some lime juice, and 1 tablespoon of palm sugar (or to taste!) Mix it up and add some coridander or holy basil leaves and it is divine. Can add water if it is too much for you!
Soft Spring Rolls
Now, make your soft spring rolls out of rice paper sheets. It is not really cooking as such but more an assembly line so it is best to be prepared and think about flavour combinations. Buy the rice papers at Amazing Oriental where you will see either the large round variety or half rounds. I get the whole rounds. Prepare a variety of tofu, vegetables and noodles, and nuts first.
I like to marinate the tofu in curry paste and then fry on both sides gently until crispy. Cut into thin strips. If you can find some sustainably caught shrim (eko shops or Marqt then fry it with garlic or chilli sauce and set aside. Boil some rice noodles and drain. Add some mild seasame oil and seasame seeds to them and set aside. Finely chop some sweet carrots, spring onions, cabbage or lettuce. Dry roast or add tamari sauce to raw peanuts or cashews and put in a small bowl. Wash your holy basil, coriander and mint and dry. The secret is practise and organization. Jack seems to be much better at rolling the spring rolls than me. But I keep trying to get it right.
Have all your ingredients handy and in small bowls. Work over a clean tea towel and have a bowl of warm water large enough to place the entire sheet of rice paper in it. Dip in your rice paper in the water for a few seconds and drain on another tea towel. Place the soft rice papre on a clean teatowel and put a lettuce strip in the middle – you can overlap the edge or fold it in later. Add in your other ingredients, noodles, some nuts, tofu, shrimp, herbs, bean sprouts, carrot and spring onions. Fold or roll into middle and tuck in edges or leave lettuce outside at top. It is difficult to describe but you will develope you own method. There will be a variety of different shapes and sizes, and the tightness of the roll will vary until you get the hang of it. Persevere, it is worth it. The idea is to make bite sized rolls to dip into sauce and pop into your mouth. Eat within an hour or so or they will start to dry out. If you want them for later cover well in a air-tight container. Enjoy. Can also serve with a watered down version of a thai chilli sauce – or soy sauce. And love, love, love
your food – it’s better when you cook it yourself and cheaper. It really is!