QUALITY COOKING AT HOME
Excerpt from the Official Slow Food Manifesto, as published in “Slow Food: A case for taste” 2001
“FAST LIFE” – how it has affected home cooking
“We are enslaved by speed and have all succumbed to the same insidious virus – Fast Life – which disrupts our habits, pervades the privacy of our home and forces us to eat Fast Foods….A firm defense of quiet material pleasure is the only way to oppose the universal folly of Fast LIfe….May suitable doses of guaranteed sensual pleasure and slow, long-lasting enjoyment preserve us from the contagion of the multitude who mistake frenzy for efficiency. Our defense should begin at the table with Slow Food. Let us rediscover the flavour and savours of regional cooking and banish the degrading effects of Fast Food” – Slow Food manifesto, founded in 1984 by Italian Carlo Petrini.
Back in 1986, Caro Petrini was concerned that a McDonald’s was about to open in Rome and did his best with the founding of the Slow Food Movement to stop it.
Now almost 40 years later, we are faced with a new challenge to our eating habits: Covid and social distancing.
This year has seen the most dramatic changes in our dining most of us have ever experienced in our lifetimes. Due to social distancing, hotel and restaurant closures have been widespread. People have changed the way they eat, many choosing to cook at home or order deliveries.
Innovative restaurant and hotel chefs have come up with some great solutions, as have supermarkets and food delivery service providers.
While restaurant food cooked by experienced chefs can be very good, many would agree that it is hard to beat food cooked at home, with fresh ingredients, using our family recipes.
As the world becomes busier and faster and people work more and more hours, restaurant dining, fast food and instant microwavable snacks have become the norm, with the consequent nutritional and taste compromise being silently accepted.
The increase in world wide obesity – in 2016 the WHO reported 39% of the adults over 18 were overweight – is directly attributed to an increase in energy dense foods high in sugar and fats. Quality cooking at home is the answer to this growing problem.
People simply do not have time to buy all the ingredients and then cook from scratch a full meal at home.
Furthermore, the increase in condo city living – with usually “rudimentary at best” kitchens – the equipment needed to cook at home is often lacking.
As a chef with 40 years of experience cooking around the world, I’d like to offer a few perhaps overlooked solutions to our new Covid created dining challenge.
2. Sous-vide / Vacuum packed meals – quality meals at home with ease
Invented over 40 years ago by Bruno Goussault and George Pralus in France, this wonderful technique continues to be improved and refined to the point where now precise 3 star Michelin quality food can be prepared at home (in fact even in 1990 the famous French Michelin chef Michel Geurard was selling food from his restaurant sous vide in a tiny shop in the village of his restaurant – Eugenie Les Bains. The famous Roux brothers in the U.K. opened several restaurants in London serving solely sous vide food and it has been used on British Airways, Air France and Marks & Spencer food halls have an extensive range.
Three significant and unique points to this cooking method unknown to most –
a) As the bags are sealed, there is nowhere for any flavours and aromas to dissipate to – no other cooking method captures and retains flavours so efficiently
b) Cartilage breakdown – tougher, more “sinewing” (and therefore by definition – CHEAPER) cuts of meat will have all cartilage dissolved by this cooking method, rendering the final product more tender than the same cut of meat cooked by conventional methods
c) Colour and juice retention – the natural food colours and juices do not “leach” out during cooking
The almost surreal beauty of sous vide cooking is that there is no washing up, all that is required is a pot of hot water and a pair of scissors. The bags of food are placed into the hot water for a specified time (usually not longer than 10 minutes), snipped open and placed on the plate. Advanced quality sous vide food has each component of the meal in separate bags with separate “in water” times, permitting aesthetic appetizing presentation possibilities to the budding home chef.
3. Slow cooking – cooking “en cocotte” – one pot cooking for amzing quality
Slow cooking larger pieces of meat in a closed container at low temperatures for an extended period (as many of our Grandmothers did routinely) has many advantages – increased flavour, lower cost (due to cheaper cuts of meat being used) and best of all… “simplicity”! The only equipment required is a pot, preferably heavy based, and with a lid. Place all ingredients in the pot and let them simmer very very slowly for several hours. See below the recipe for one such dish.
4. Fast food (let’s call it that! – but actually home cooked food that takes no time to cook)
Most of us love pasta, but not many have the patience to make a great sauce to go with it and furthermore miss a few of the little “tour de main” / sleights of hand / tricks behind turning a simple pasta and sauce into a lovely meal. First and foremost – buy FRESH (available in the freezer compartment of supermarkets or at https://www.marcopolo-trading.com/ ) pasta – it takes ½ as long to cook and tastes better.
Secondly, when using a bought sauce -usually laden with preservatives, colouring and thickening agents – add some fresh ingredients to it – e.g. fresh – not canned – chopped very ripe tomatoes, fresh basil, fried bacon bits, extra virgin olive oil, freshly ground black pepper, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, sliced chilies, chopped fresh parsley, grated lemon zest, freshly fried garlic etc. Finally, and a method many “chefs” even do not do – finish the cooking of the pasta IN the sauce – i.e. when the pasta has just reached al dente stage, add it to the sauce and cook for a further 3 minutes.
Using any of the three above methods it is possible to have a quality healthy nutritious tasty home cooked meal on the table in under 15 minutes.
There is of course one more solution – you could have us come and cook in your home. We have a team of chefs who regularly prepare in villa / in house caterings / cakes for numbers from 2 to 120. We provide a tailored / customised menu and being a bakery as well, we have some amazing desserts you might like to try!
Happy cooking, and feel free to whatsapp me on 0806091128 for any advice!
Anthony Reynolds, Owner, Passion bakery and restaurant, Kathu, Phuket