Learning by Coincidence – Cooking with Confidence Theory
Creative Cooking Session
To become a Creative Chef takes a lot of time and effort. Becoming a confident cook isn’t something that happens overnight. Creative Cooking is all about being in the mood for it! If you want to become better it can be good to know some short cuts achieving a higher level of cooking. We can do so by following the personal kitchen mantra I mentioned earlier; touch – taste – learn – explore. With “touch” we mean that we can’t be afraid to cook. Use your fingers! How does this piece of meat feel when it’s medium? Or well done? Mess around. Stick your fingers into sauces. Hot, huh? Then we have “taste”; an obvious part of all cooking. But the main thing here is to taste all the time! What does this ingredient taste like? Does it need more salt or pepper? Should there be more sweetness in the dessert? Should I add more acid to the chutney? Then the third part of the mantra becomes as obvious as the second; “learn”. If we burn a sauce; what did go wrong? Was it the heat? Or was it the ingredient? Why can’t we boil a Bearnaise? Why doesn’t salt interact with passion fruit…or could it be done!? The more things you learn about ingredients and how the act to heat, spices and your hands, the more confident you will become. And it may sound like a cliché but the best way to learn is to do mistakes! Don’t be afraid to make them! Look at your cooking as a great adventure! When having a firm foundation of basic knowledge’s; frying, boiling, making ground sauces and bouillons and likewise, it becomes more and more interesting to take on a higher skill level in your cooking. A recipe is not a script to be followed strictly and with no exceptions! It’s a well of inspiration and not a law. Make changes and you’ll find that your cooking is taken to the next level. You have become a “Food Explorer”! “Explore” is a wonderful word! So many things are already explored so you can learn by them, but when you have made your lesson well, you’ll find that it sparks the fire and urge to explore more! And there are so many things left to explore in a kitchen!
Try this; next time you must go to the local store or supermarket, DON’T make the shopping list in advance! If you have been to the store several times you’ll know where to find things in it. And really; making a shopping list without having the ingredients in front of you so you can touch, look, compare and adjust your ideas, is quiet dumb, isn’t it? The test is to decide on location here. Go to the meat/ poultry/ fish section and take the first ingredient that you feel your taste senses are in the mood for; it can be veal, chicken, pork or salmon…whatever comes to you first and get your taste senses kicking. Then take that ingredient and try to picture how you USE to cook it inside of your head. Then FORGET about it! We are going for creativity here! If you use to for instance grill the veal whole in the oven, cut it and serve potatoes, cream sauce and some overcooked veggies to it, we really wouldn’t call that creative, right? So first; should we do something else with the veal? Depending on what cut it is, you might have a clue here. Why not fill it with gremolata and cook it on low temperature, i.e. 120 degrees Celsius, using a thermometer to get the perfect core temperature at 55 degrees, and serve it with roasted turnips and potatoes with a Dijon cream? Or make Saltimbocca with salt boiled potatoes, capers and freshly boiled beetroots?
Another thing that is extremely useful for us pro chefs is to use our imagination and knowledge about what we do, what kind of abilities certain ingredients have and how we could use and cook them. I refer to this kind of playing with my mind as “Creative Cooking Sessions” and it works real well when trying to create new dishes and twists.
Let’s make a “Creative Cooking Session” as a test. When we eat we intend to eat with our eyes as well. So, now picture some of your favourite ingredients inside your head; make a “mind-table” with ingredients like tomatoes, basil, rosemary and other fresh herbs, garlic, lemon, olives, bread, ham, bell peppers, aubergine, asparagus, Roman lettuce, artichokes for instance if in the mood for an Italian feast. Be inspired by some of the beautiful colours that you “see” on your Italian table; for instance red, yellow and green such as in tomato, lemon and basil. Now add what you know about these ingredients; taste of tomatoes, the beauty and smell of fresh basil, the zing you get from lemon. Then we can start cooking (still playing with our imagination, remember!). Let’s chop some tomato; just use the flesh (the inside adds taste to your tomato sauce that you already have put on the heat simmering for an hour or so in your extremely well equipped kitchen you created with your fantasy!). Chop them in rather big pieces, place in a bowl and infuse it with some lemon juice and add the zest as well, pour some olive oil over the mix just dress it nicely. “Shred” some Roman salad in small pieces with your hands to go in the same bowl. Now roughly chop the basil to taste along with some salt and freshly ground pepper. Add some slices of black olives and freshly shredded Parmagiano Reggiano! Mix it all together; just toss it gently with your hands. Can you feel it and smell the freshness of lemon and basil? Nice, huh? Now take a piece of ordinary white, farm style bread and roast it; in a pan, toaster or preferably directly at the open fire. Then rub it gently with a peeled garlic clove, put some of the tomato mix on the bread and top it with thinly slices of Parma ham. Drizzle some good Balsamico Vinegar and maybe some olive oil on the plate, a nice sprig of basil on top and some more freshly ground pepper for the last edge to the dish. Well done! You have created a version of maybe one of the simplest yet good tasting appetizers in the Italian kitchen, a Bruschetta, and presented it beautifully with colour and fresh tastes!
So this is a way you can create some very beautiful and good tasting dishes just playing with your mind! Next thing you must do is to get the ingredients needed when you shop and keep the picture of the ready dish and how you made it fresh in your memory. Head back for the kitchen, turn on your favourite music and let’s start cooking! Next time I will reveal some of my thoughts about what I call the “Batterie de Cuisine”! See you around; and until then; Peace!
Soul Food Chef