Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Quanto baste- enough is enough

Receitas adaptadam da revista  Blue Cooking No.9 Outubro 2006 /No.25 Março 2008

When I first moved to Portugal and started to familiarise myself with the nation´s cooking I discovered something curious in the ingredients listing of almost every recipe I stumbled upon. The curious abbreviation "q.b." seemed omnipresent in most Portuguese recipes.Sal qb or açucar qb? This was in the days before twats were twittering and I myself was not familiar with shorthand,so what could this ubiquitous acronym mean? - I delved deeper in my research thumbing through pages of the Portuguese /English dictionary and discovered the phrase `Quanto baste´meaning enough,  just the right amount, or as much as is needed. qb is the Portuguese equivalent of the English expression "salt and pepper to taste."So it amounts to what the cook feels is needed, and therefore the buck is being passed by the author to the reader.You should add as much as you feel is necessary.This then started to make perfect sense. The writer is deferring to your judgment, preference, and experience — whether or not you have any. He'll include measurements, but very often uses the term qb (quanto baste). "to your own taste". Who needs to go by the book when you 're cooking from the heart? Who knows better than you how much you need or like.I can hardly think of a dish handed down to me by my mother, or other cooks for that matter, that did not include the phrase 'to taste.' So I started to grab salt in the quantities that the Portuguese call qb. I cannot explain how much it is, this comes with time, and if you are lucky enough to live in a country where rock/sea salt doesn’t cost the earth, use it in this way.Using handfuls as measurement is exactly how my mother would have cooked.Since there’s no way for me to quantify the size of a handful, just put in as much as you want. This sounds so simple. No not simple at all - just exactly how much does this mean? Cooking is about proportion and balance, and seasoning plays an important part. Some recipes indicate a "pinch" of salt. What is a pinch? Two fingers go into my bowl of sea salt beside my cooker and scoop up some grains, but we are not all blessed with the same sized fingers. Seasoning advice in recipes is only a guide. Proper seasoning comes with practice. I never measure seasoning, I add it instinctively .

Understanding proportion and balance in cooking is the key to successful seasoning......
Enough is enough lets get on with the recipe in hand. 

Abreviaturas utilizadas em receitas Portuguesas
(other useful abbreviations used in Portuguese recipe books)
Colher de sopa ( dessert spoon) -cs.
Colher de chá ( tea spoon)- cch.
Colher de café ( coffee spoon) - cc.
Mâo cheia - handful 

Sempre que se referir "sal e pimenta", significa pimenta moida na hora e sal e sal marinho ou flor de sal agosto 
When the recipe calls for "salt and pepper",unless otherwise specified it refers to ground pepper and in the case of salt sea salt or Flor de sal 

2 comments:

  1. I love this! It is a bit like saying "a pinch of" . . . or sometimes I will say "a handful" or "a thumb's length" . . . which works for me, but how do people know that actually I have quite small hands and short thumbs! My pinch could be more or less than someone else's and actually I don't like too much salt in my diet so prefer to use the natural salts in the food itself and add more afterwards. Ah . . . to taste!

    Having said that, I imagine for cooks who are just starting out, it can be a bit daunting to have to rely on your own tastes and senses and a specific instruction can help you get there.

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  2. I love you,a bushel and a peck
    You bet your pretty neck I do

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