The sad part about returning home after a long journey is the absence of decent ‘hired help’. Where’s the menu? Who will make my bed? Reality is slowly setting in as the mess, the half unpacked suitcase, and the washing pile begin to annoy me. The weeds in the garden can wait. It’s 3 degrees celsius outside and the blanketing fog looks like it has set in for the day.
On the other hand, there’s the tempting stash of DVDs from Bali, bundles of TV series to lure me to the couch, as well as a big stack of new books, some purchased, others from the library, winter’s little helpers and further reason to remain in holiday mode by the fire. Some of my friends are still loitering in Ubud, Bali and all I can say is, life is tough!
I am attempting to revitalise my interest in cooking by borrowing some cookbooks from the library. One of these is Neil Perry’s ‘The Food I Love‘ which is featured on Leah’s The Cookbook Guru this month. I was hoping to be coaxed away from my indolence. Instead it has turned out to be another great read, in bed and on the couch. Most of the food is simple and non chefy, Mod Oz Mediterranean, and homely. For example, the breakfast section looks at Bircher Meusli, fruit smoothies and various classic egg dishes. The pasta pages list the usual suspects. The fish chapter along with the”Sauces and More” chapter are both excellent and I wish someone would deliver some nice flathead. Better still, just deliver Neil Perry.
What makes the book a good read is that Perry, a renowned Australian chef, considers quality ingredients as his major inspiration for cooking as well as sound technique. In the opening chapter, Neil mentions his commitment to “sourcing the finest ingredients”, the importance of “mise en place” ( as discussed by Leah earlier) and seasoning.
“By seasoning I mean salting……… When seasoning, think about this: salting heightens the natural flavours of food. If I salt a dish at the beginning of cooking, the food end up tasting of its natural self rather than if I add it at the end, when it tastes like salt on the food”
Neil also has a preference for white peppercorn and discusses the difference in flavour and drying techniques. It is more intense in flavour. Most Asian cuisines use white pepper and I have the same preference since cooking with Banardi in Java last January. When buying spices, Neil advises,
“buy only a small quantity at a time and use it quickly. Spices taste the strongest when they are fresh. Also buy from a spice merchant, you won’t believe the difference in quality”
All very sensible and a reason not to buy that monster bag of turmeric or garam masala on special in the Asian groceries for $2.00.
As we have an abundance of broccoli in the garden, I am listing this simple little recipe to mark my re- entry into the world of cooking. Neil has used Broccolini, although Cima di Rapa would work very well too.
Broccolini ( or Broccoli) with Garlic and Chilli.
- two small, very fresh broccoli heads, cut into narrow trees. ( see pic above)
- sea salt
- EV olive oil
- chilli flakes
- minced garlic
Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, add enough sea salt to make it taste like the sea, and cook the broccoli at a rapid boil for two minutes. Drain and add to a saute pan with the oil, sea salt, chilli flakes and toss about for 1 minute, then add the garlic and toss for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and serve.
This makes a bright and robust contorno or side dish to go with fish. Today I am serving it with my favourite smoked fish cakes for lunch. Leftovers might be tossed about with some orecchiette this evening ( along with added anchovies) or enclosed in a simple omelette.
Now, back to those books by the fire.
20 thoughts on “Kitchen Reality, Broccoli and Neil Perry.”
What with the Salmon Cake and this gorgeous Broccoli, I’m starving … it’ll have to wait for dinner, run out of time! Enjoy your cozy fireside reading 🙂
My big effort for the day. Having severe cultural adjustments.
I’m sure – especially with the Arctic Blast and its aftermath making Melbourne look more like Macquarie Island! 🙂
Takes time to get back into the groove… welcome back!
Looks like you’ve found the perfect antidote to this cold winter, it must be a bit of a shock after being in the tropics! I love Perry’s approach to cooking ( but I have been slack/busy/lazy/sick this month and have neglected the cookbook guru) BTW, Leah is off the air for a few days, she’s not ignoring you…
Oh, I hope she isn’t ill. Lazy/sick/slack go with this weather- busy goes with grandchildren. I will need to pay my dues in the latter department, with interest.
Welcome back! It’s always a challenge to readjust isn’t it! 😀 Interesting about salt at the beginning rather than at the end!
Thankyou- yes seven weeks away and I am having reverse cultural shock.
It seems strange thinking of winter food in the middle of our summer, but that simple broccoli dish (and salmon cakes) looks inviting as do the lure of books by the fire. Happy reading!
I am determined to eat my way through the winter garden, after such a long trip.
Your holiday must have been amazing because your description of what’s on offer at home is very attractive. Interesting about the salt. I salt as I cook, rarely afterwards. And use white pepper mainly, sometimes a medley preferring pink and green peppercorns for variety rather than black. I’m pleased there was still a stock of staples in your garden and pantry to come home to.
The garden in winter is full of treasure- but what will I do with all the turnips?
Turnip chips and fries…
Love it…..wish I was still overseas as well
Its a tough life but home has the advantage of a good kitchen.
Reblogged this on The Cookbook Guru and commented:
A simple and delicious side inspired by Neil Perry from the lovely Francesca at Almost Italian.
Welcome back Francesca! 7 weeks away in the heat is quite the adjustment but it looks as if you have it sorted with your lovely stack of reading. I love the simplicity of the broccoli dish…
Yes, thinking about extending the holiday but at home keeps me sane.