Tiny Morsels & Great Conversation

 

Dates in Duvets
Devilled Chicken Liver & Tarragon Vol Au Vents
Welsh Lamb Meatballs in Tomato & Leek Sauce
Radishes with Anchovy Sauce
Curried Oren Bach with Smoked Haddock (fried rice balls)
Potted Crab with Harissa
Mini Rarebit
Spring Green Salad
Home Baked Oatcakes
Potato Salad with Wild Garlic Mayonnaisse
Lemon Trifle

Spanish cooking has always had a special place in my heart since my first job as a chef, in a Spanish restaurant in Utrecht. I have got good memories of that job. The restaurant had recently opened and the staff formed a good motivated team (complaining about everthing the managers did wrong of course). Waiters greeted me in the morning with cafe con ponche (coffee with a bit of sweet brandy on the side). The dishwasher, a Spanish student from Barcelona, taught me how to make the perfect tortilla, potato omelette. The trick is to cook your sliced potatoes in plenty of olive oil, then drain them and mix the eggs with the warm potatoes.

Spanish-Tortilla-Recipe

There is something about Spanish cooking which suits me very well. Maybe it is because it is a rustic cuisine, heavily influenced by the people of the land, instead of fine dining influenced by palaces & aristocracy. Tapas are Spain’s biggest contribution to global cooking. Somebody had the idea to put food on the little plates which were used to cover glasses, to ward off greedy flies. There is something to be said for a cuisine which regards food as a tasty bit on the side. It is that what endears me most about Spanish cooking. The food has a supporting role to a social occasion. Most important is that people have a good night, and having some nice little snacks on plates are helping to realise that.

012Inspiration for this week’s menu comes mostly from ‘My kind of cooking’ by Mark Sargeant, one of the most inspiring cookbooks I read the last couple of years. It does really contain easy recipes, based in British tradition. I read the book and thought, oh, I’ll put that on the menu, and that, and that… So it is back to the table buffet formula at Oren this week. I realise now why it is always such a succes, because it goes back to the important role food has as a social medium.

(con)fusion and principles

 

 

  • Buttermilk-soaked Chicken with Croutons, Butter Beans & Brazil Nuts
  • Prawn & Mandarin Soup
  • Chilled Cashew & Black Olive Soup
  • Baked Sausages with Tomato, Balsamic & Cumin
  • Grilled Sardines with Beetroot, Grapefruit and Parsley
  • Baked Aubergines Crumbles with Szechuan Pepper
  • White Grape & Bay Leaf Bavarois

I do have principles when it comes to food. ‘Eat as much from your direct environment’ is the first one which comes to my mind. It is branded ‘local & seasonal’ in todays food marketing. Basically you should eat the food which grows around you, suitable to climate you live in. Two weeks ago I picked some wild garlic, and it brought the very fresh cleansing taste to my plate of food, which I had been looking forward to after the stodgy winter. Nothing brings me more pleasure in early summer than the first local strawberries.Looking at the little red darlings in the suppermarkets now, I can easily refrain from buying them, because I know it will be nothing compared to the real thing.

007

But local food in wintery Wales is scarse. I guess if you really wanted to eat local all the time, you have to resolve to traditional conserving methods, with the additon of the freezer. Dry your beans, salt your meat, smoke your fish, jam your fruit and freeze lots of vegetables when there is an abundance of them. That would all be ok, if society hadnt moved from an agricultural village to the ‘global village’.

Sometimes I wonder if part of me is reincarnated Far East Asian. I have an enormous fascination for Chinese, Japanese & Korean food. After seeing Ang Lee’s film ‘Eat Man, Drink Woman’ years ago (starting with the father cooking a meal) I immediately went out the next day and bought bamboo steamers and seasoned a carbon steel wok. Ever since, from time to time, I yearn for some Asian food.

bamboo

So, as an excuse for wanderings into foreign cuisines, maybe my biggest principle is to eat as varied as possible. I dont mean the fake variation suppermarkets are offering, of isles of different kind of chocolate biscuits, breakfast serials and the newest out of space flavour crisps. No, more the one day pasta, next day potato and the following day rice variation.

This week though, I have taken the eat varied theme one step further. All because I read Vicky Bhogal’s cookery book ‘Flavour’. There are a lot if dishes with sometimes far sought combinations of food. Scallops with lychees and bitter lemonade anyone? Well, strangely enough I fancied it.  I realise writing this that it is working for me, because the book shows aprreciation of ingredients. With that, it is grateful for what the earth is giving us. And that is probably my biggest principle of all.