Random Act of Cookery

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About a year ago I was minding my own business tapping away at the PC at work when someone dropped an amazon parcel on my desk… 2 colleagues had clubbed together and surprised me with a birthday present the Polpo recipe book…

Which aside from lots of lovely food, has a cute octopus on the front, what’s not to like… especially if cute octopus also means recipes for cooking cute octopus…(yes, in case you are wondering I have eaten both Bambi and Thumper… I am heartless)

I did my usual read through “ohhh that looks nice, must make that etc” and then, comprehensibly failed to make anything… lots of good intentions here, very little action

So… it is birthday time again and the Polpo cookbook has spent 12 months gathering dust… I made a promise to myself that I would make at least 1 recipe from it a week and I would choose the recipe randomly by asking people to suggest numbers for me up to 250 something…

And then depending on what it was I’d either make a scaled down version for my lunch or make it for the family… because as usual what has stopped me cooking has been the thought “oh, they probably won’t eat that”

So first up is a photo of the cute octopus on the cover of the book… and the first random act of cookery which is a less than taxing spinach with garlic and chilli with poached egg and some grilled tomatoes…

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It’s randomness was achieved by my favourite approach to cooking which is “open the fridge – now, what needs using”

I’m allowing myself a free pass for next week, on asking O mighty Tim to suggest a number he said 12… which turned out to be part of the introduction. On changing it to 112 it turned out to be a recipe involving cuttlefish

In view of the fact that my home is about as far from the sea as you can get I shall put that on hold until I find myself in the same place as 500g of cuttlefish

Next weeks recipe may be lacking in randomness except that it will probably be something involving Asparagus… watch this space.

The Spinach ? Oh that was ok, went well with the egg, but both were improved by splashing some balsamic over them… I was aiming for the tomatoes but missed and got the rest of the dish…serendipity

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If it’s September then it must be…Sweetcorn

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I’ve been sitting on this post for most of the last month meaning to sort some photos out…and now I’ve almost run out of the month so here it is anyway…

Memory 1  1994

It’s November and for once I have done my Christmas shopping early. There is a chill in the air and mist over the back garden and I am looking through Real Good Food by Nigel Slater which I have bought for my brother for Christmas.

My interest is caught by the chapter on barbeques and I am captivated and transported from this chilly midlands morning to a summer evening in a garden in London by Nigel’s description of how he uses a flowerpot filled with stones, charcoal and the rack from his grill to barbecue on… then follows a description of his way of soaking the sweetcorn and then placing the cob still covered by the husk on the rack and roasting it slowly over hot coals…eaten blistering hot with chilli flavoured butter…

Memory 2  1990 ?

I am watching a rerun of MASH and Colonel  Sherman Potter (photo from the monster mash wiki)

Sherman potter

is explaining how when he gets home he is going to go outside into one of the fields surrounding his house,  “Well, I like fresh corn. I mean real fresh corn. So I think maybe I’ll just take a hot plate out to the garden, make a pot of boiling water, then I won’t even pick that corn – I’ll bend that stalk till the ear dips into the water, and I’ll eat it right there standing up. Scrumptious! ”    

Doesn’t that just make you want to grow some so you can do it yourself ?

Memory 3 1976 or 1977

Hong Kong. Two travel weary parents take their children out into the streets of Wan Chai  (these days its quite a smart area full of hotels and conference centres, back then it was ah… interesting !) looking for somewhere to eat… although these children have been brought up to eat what is put in front of them, the parents are somewhat nervous, remember Chinese food was not as popular in the UK as it is today, and these 2 children, despite the culinary adventures of the parents still have very  british palettes.

As it turned out the place that the family eventually walked into started the set menu off with a bowl of soup, a bowl of chicken soup on top of which was a yellow sea of sweetcorn…and in this backstreet Hong Kong restaurant started a love affair which has lasted over 37 years.

For many years if asked what my favourite food was I would say without hesitation “chicken and sweetcorn soup”… and fortunately my Mum usually had a batch in  the freezer…and although it was not the soup of my memory it was usually pretty damn good…

Is it good for you ?

Well it’s a vegetable and like a lot of vegetables mainly water with just under 20% of it’s weight being carbohydrate (3% sugar), with about 3g out of 100g accounting for dietary fibre, 3g protein and a further 1g or so counting as fat. From a vitamin point of view it has some vitamin B, some vitamin c

A discussion about what technology has done to it and where it might appear as  a product in other food stuffs is probably one for another day but on balance I would say that on its own it can’t hurt you…and most areas of the world seem to have developed ways of eating it in combination with other things (beans) in order to get a balanced diet…

How you cook it and what you serve it up with is a different matter…I, like a lot of children no doubt,  grew up being served boiled sweetcorn slathered in butter…and given the choice that is usually how I do serve it up if there is no chicken in the house !

What goes with it ?

Most soup recipes (other than chicken) seem to involve sweet potatoes and chili…or they go down the chowder route…there are a large number of recipes involving mixing them with egg and either as a pancake, omlette or fritter or a corn custard. Salads tend to involve adding them to mayonnaise.

More interesting recipes I have seen of late involve adding them to Turkey Meatballs (Ottolenghi) and in Plenty More they get served up with miso, I quite like adding a squeeze of lime juice over my freshly boiled corn if I am trying to avoid the butter

So how did you serve it this time ?

Having fallen in love with Nigel’s prose almost 20 years ago I had planned to grill it over charcoal but because of a busy month my corn wasn’t looking too good as we approached the end of the month so soup it was…one of the many sweet potato/red pepper/chilli combos but Tesco’s failed to provide me with a sweet potato… I did have a fridge full of slightly less than impressive vegetables (carrots, peas, a leek)…and there was left over chicken in the freezer so… yep, chicken and sweetcorn soup it was…