When leaving the last Sunday session of the Mastery of Cooking programme, each participant was handed a bag of ingredients, and instructed by Jean Torné to plan and create a meal based on these elements, in an exercise which recalled the popular TV series ‘Ready, Steady, Cook.’
‘A few peas, some watercress, 2 potatoes, 1 avocado or half a zucchini, one leek, some herbs, an orange, a piece of fennel. Create a dish from these ingredients. Cook it. Serve it to your partner or family or to one another and ask them how they received it.’
The invitation was to take part in this process, to observe one’s own participation, to assess (and be assessed) on the results.
And so, I made a ‘Rock pool’ style clear broth soup, inspired by a soup we cooked during an earlier session. The base was a vegetable stock I’d made earlier, which I infused with the Kombu and fresh herbs. (Thyme, Bay Leaf, Rosemary). I cut the Cauliflower into small florets, cubed the Potatoes, and carefully cut the Leek Whites into strips. I blanched all these ingredients separately. I made a Pesto with Watercress, Basil, Coriander and Pine Nuts (left over from a previous cooking session). I served the soup in a shallow bowl with a few Watercress leaves on top, and some dabs of pesto. I made a pressed fennel salad with Pear and dill, served with an Orange Vinaigrette on a bed of sliced Avocado. This was plated up with some Short Grain Brown Rice, and some Tofu chips marinaded with Sweet white Miso, Rice Vinegar, then pan-fried.
As for the assessment: (I ate the meal alone) I was pleased with the soup. Initially the broth had a strong taste of Rosemary (probably a bit much to use as an infused herb) but the whole dish was balanced out when I added the veg, the pesto, and the watercress leaves. It was a little cold by the time I ate it. I liked the ‘half submerged veg’ presentation but it didn’t make for a particularly large dish – more of a starter. The pesto was a real winner, and helped to balance the flavour of the soup, as well as adding a touch of intrigue to the dish. A suitable ‘Algal’ accompaniment to the Rock Pool.
I was really happy with the pressed Fennel Salad, in combination with the avocado. I added the dill leaves far too early so they became a bit wilted and lost their vibrant colour. In future, I would add these right at the last minute, as a garnish. The marinaded tofu was delicious. Again, this was a small dish, more of a starter. But it worked well in combination with the short grain rice.