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Archive for January, 2012

A Mid-food Crisis

2012 hasn’t exactly started with a bang, more a damp fizzle. I was overly happy with my efforts for a new year meal. It was okay, some bits very nice but not my best moment as the roast fennel I cooked was tougher than John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn. Then there came a few more kitchen upsets, not really disasters, although there were in my eyes.

It just seems everything I cook at the moment is just not turning out that great, timing issues, taste and flavour issues. I just can’t seem to get anything right. It is quite depressing to someone who “thinks” he’s really good in the kitchen and I probably am my worst critic. I have noted that not one word has been uttered to me by anyone eating my food that would make you think there’s anything wrong with it. I know that it just is not quite there at the moment and, to quote a cliché, I’m just not feeling it.

So nearly 3 weeks into 2012 and I have a little crisis, a kitchen meltdown. Pots go flying, so did chicken (see those birds really can fly)and cupboard doors slammed as I have a little tantrum. I’m not really angry, just annoyed. Annoyed that one of the few things I’m actually good at seems to have deserted me, no note, didn’t even see it pack its case. The worrying thing is I don’t know when or if it will come back.

I went on Twitter after my last little moment saying that’s it, it’s over, my love affair with food is finished. It was a bitter lover’s quarrel. Why has she left me? What did I do wrong. I thought about hanging up the apron, blunting the knives and living the rest of my life on shove in the oven food. My wife though, ever patient and understanding, simply went in the kitchen and proceeded to cook up a curry. I was surprised as when she asked what I wanted her to cook for dinner my response was that of a child “Don’t care, do what you want”.

My little rant on Twitter brought about theories of why this has happened and there are two main themes to this. The first is that I turn 40 this year and I am having a mid-life crisis. Pah! I say to that, in fact double pah! I’m not bothered by that, looking forward to it actually. Blooming good reason for a celebration is how I see that.  So what if I turn up to that party in a leather jacket, open shirt, gold medallion, driving a convertible even if it’s not sunny. That’s just my fashion choice at the moment.

The other main theme is that maybe I’ve set my sights in the kitchen a little too high. I have to say, the steaks are high, I can’t reach them *tumbleweed*. Ignoring the bad joke, this actually seems a little sensible. Over the last few months I have tried to do something new nearly every day, rather than learn and perfect then learn something new. I also attempted to write recipes for a local magazine which in hindsight should have been a one off. This suddenly put pressure on me to produce something of my own and something people would like. What happened to cooking for fun?

Just that little bit of pressure put on myself made cooking serious. I was trying to impress. Who I was trying to impress exactly, I’m not sure. Possibly just myself. So I sat for a while, thinking things through, thinking, I know I’ll change my twitter name, shut down the blog and take a break. Then I took a night off cooking and the next night got hungry. I made a very basic meal, it was okay, but then was never going to be special in the first place. I still forgot to put the carrots on though.

 I looked at the kitchenware I received at Christmas, the four recipe books I also received and have not yet used. Then there’s a sample ingredient someone sent me and a pang of guilt hits me as I know they are hoping for feedback from me.

Having had a couple of days to stew things over, I realise I have not fallen out of love with food. I still get hungry and still want to eat great tasting food. Maybe our love affair has burned a little too brightly of late and we just need a break, I was smothering her. I was definitely trying to do too much and have lost my way a little, unsure why I was cooking, what I was trying to get out of it.

So again I say “pah” to this being a mid-life crisis, it is a simple mid-food crisis as I am now calling it. What is the leather jacket and sports care equivalent? I am unsure on that but do think this gold medallion looks very nice on me. There will be a bit of a break though, taking a back seat and letting other people drive for a while. Simon still loves food, he’s just giving her some room.

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This is my latest submission to local Essex Magazine, Inspired.

Pan Fried Sea Bass with pan cooked Veg

After Christmas this is a lighter yet still wintery dish that I think is just perfect for January.

Ingredients – Serves 4:

4 Sea Bass fillets

4 tbsp vegetable oil Dash of white wine vinegar.

2 lemons

Root veg, sweet potatoes, carrots & parsnips.

3 or 4 of each should do depending on size.

Handful of green beans.

One white onion, sliced.

One fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced.

1 red chilli, chopped (or 2 if you like more heat)

Thyme, salt, pepper & fresh chopped parsley.

Handful of pine nuts. Method:

Take the fish out of the fridge and let it rest so it’s not too chilled, this will stop it curling up when it hits the heat. Slice the fennel and onions as thinly as you can and get them sweating in a pan with a little of the oil, a little salt, the juice of one lemon & a dash of white wine vinegar. Cut the root veg into small pieces and get them in a pan to par boil for about 5 minutes, you don’t want them soft. While these are on, lightly toast the pine nuts. When you start to smell them toasting remove from the heat and leave them on the side.

Add the veg, chopped chilli & thyme to the onions & fennel trying not to stir too often & season. Put the lid on & leave them to cook on a low to medium heat for about five mins, the bottom of the veg should start to caramalise & the steaming will help cook the veg. Stir & leave for another 5 mins. Test some of the veg with a fork & when they feel soft enough add the beans.

In another pan cook the sea bass on a medium heat. Brush oil on the skin of the fish and cook skin side down until crisp. Don’t move the fish too often, let it cook. Once the skin is crispy, turn over and take off the heat, this will finish the cooking process. The fish should only take 5-10 minutes depending how thick they are. Throw the pine nuts and chopped parsley into the veg and stir through. Serve by piling the veg in the middle of the plate and place the fish skin side up on top.

I used the juice from the second lemon & added it to the rest of the oil to make a lemon oil which I drizzled over the finished dish instead of a sauce.

You can see the full magazine here http://tinyurl.com/7xdapa3

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