Culinary hedonism

There are few things as memorable as the aroma of home cooking.Summer for me says buxom, sweet beef steak tomatoes in a panzanella salad, the original home for leftovers. They leak sweet juices over your lips and into the golden-brown croutons of fried bread and across huge, breathy basil leaves that are so fragrant they’re practically narcotic.
Just a hint of perfume and food can become powerfully alluring. Just a few drops of a fragrant essence can make commonplace dishes memorable and good dishes great.Vanilla, citric flavours,yuzu, saffron, ginger,and and a spray of cucumber mist or tomato water from an atomiser. How about rose-infused steamed bass,or a peach-jasmine sorbet,
Autumn quinces steeping in wine and bay leaves
Aroma permeates every cuisine, from ancient to modern, in every culture and at every level.Aroma, not taste, is our primary experience of food. Without aroma there is no flavour. By focusing on aroma, we intensify all aspects of food, and immeasurably enhance the experience of cooking and eating.
Lavender takes creme fraiche to another level, while white truffle makes for a haunting perfume.I love a cumin vinaigrette or an orange blossom custard.
I am a firm believer that a dish should deliver on the flavour of its featured said ingredient.If I am perusing a menu and the dish I have chosen says Chilli,ginger or lemon,I expect those flavours to come shining through loud and clear.Nobody wants to be on the receiving end of a scantily clad bowl of pasta or a half dressed salad. 
A Caesar salad should have the strongly defining taste of anchovies and parmesan,not just a coating of a drab mayo.
One of the reasons I enjoy cooking so much is because the result often transports me to another happy time in my life. The taste of homemade raspberry ice cream reminds me of hot summer days as a child picking and eating raspberries and coming home with blood-red hands and not a care in the world.There is a certain joy to peeling beetroot, getting purple hands and spilling turmeric on your jeans while currying flavour.And while on the subject of culinary stigmata, even carrots leave their mark.
Travelling in foreign countries brings with it distinctive smells.The smell of a Portuguese market is completely different to that which you would experience in Borough market, London. Pass by an Italian market with a whole lot of gabbing going on, and you not only get an  entertainment reminiscent of a Fellini film, but the air is rich with exotic and alluring culinary aromas,celery in particular.Vai passagare beneath the window of an Italian kitchen in Florence and a flurry of nonna´s soffrito hits you.Brush past a pot of basil on a terrace or crush the fragrant leaves for a waft of the Med.
People cook their kind of foods in their homes so indian homes are permeated with the aroma of spices, such as curry.The Italians literally reek of garlic,its in their bloodstream for life.No vampires there mother.
You can tell where you are in the world by the smell of food.Sardines grilling outdoors in Portugal.The heady aroma as you walk into a store specialising in Jamon in Spain.The smell of spices emanating from a souk, if its Monday it must be Morocco.There is nothing quite like the smell you get as you enter a French fromagerie or the smell of mint or coriander wafting off a market stall.One of the best scent experiences happens when you walk into a home where the kitchen has been in full use — dinner’s almost ready and the aromas of the ingredients are lingering in every corner of the house.
 fresh from the vine with a distinctive aroma
Lets put it to the test,shall we? I found it quite difficult to choose a particular recipe that would deliver on hedonistic aroma and flavour.Onions sautéeing in butter and olive oil came to mind,curry,coconut and tomatoes fresh from the vine.It was not until yesterday when I made a prawn risotto that it came to me.This Thai inspired recipe is for me definitive.It fills the kitchen with a heady aroma while you make the stock.It answers the head to tail philosophy of using all parts of the shell fish,and delivers on strong independent flavours shining through the finished dish. Chilli,lemon,coriander,garlic,shallot and of course prawn,represented both in the stock and the shelled meat. Stirring can be strangely soothing, as you'll find when preparing this summery seafood risotto.

Lemon infused prawn risotto with chilli, 
peas and coriander
Serves 4
400g raw prawns,in their shells, de-frosted if frozen
3 tbsp olive oil
1 red chilli, deseeded, half sliced and half finely chopped

1½ l fish stock, preferably home made
50g butter

2 shallots chopped
2 cloves garlic grated on amicroplane
handful coriander including stalks
300g arborio rice
1 small glass white wine
200g frozen peas
juice 1 lemon, and zest (optional)

Peel the prawns, keeping the heads and shells. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan and fry the prawn shells and heads with the sliced chilli until they have toasted and changed colour. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer.
Bring the stock to the boil and keep on a low simmer. In a separate pan, melt half the butter over a medium heat. Stir in the onions and sweat gently for 8-10 mins until soft but not coloured, stirring occasionally. Stir the rice into the onions until completely coated in the butter, then stir continuously until the rice is shiny and the edges of the grain start to look transparent.
Pour in the wine and simmer until totally evaporated. Add the stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring with each addition until absorbed. Stir through the prawns and peas. Continue adding stock a ladleful at a time and stirring the rice over a low heat for 25-30 mins, until the rice is cooked al dente (with a slightly firm, starchy bite in the middle). The risotto should be creamy and slightly soupy. When you draw a wooden spoon through it, there should be a wake that holds for a few moments but not longer. Cook until the prawns change colour. Stir through the chopped chilli, lemon juice and remaining olive oil. Let the risotto rest for a few mins, then serve, topped with the lemon zest.


Popular Posts