I saw a post on Instagram a while back. It was a recipe and I can’t remember what it was. What I do remember, is that it had an enormous list of ingredients, which probably explains why I can’t remember the dish. Sometimes I think my food is totally boring and déja vu, but when I see friends and family dig into my meals with gusto, I realize that they enjoy the simplicity of my meals. Or they must be starving.
There is a certain flair to preparing a meal or a dish and it has nothing to do with the amount of ingredients. You really don’t need much to serve a delicious meal. The main ingredient of course is always the love with which you prepare it – a very kitsch and Facebook- favorite ingredient, but it holds true nonetheless.
I have my own flair in the kitchen. First and foremost, is chaos. No matter how well I prepare beforehand, it finally turns into chaos. I start off very well, very organized and I can even keep it up for a while. My working surface stays clean, I keep an eye on the food brewing on my stove, I watch my oven, I rinse used utensils to keep my sink clean and empty, I have hot water at hand to add to hot foods. Suddenly it all goes wrong. Bowls are everywhere, I have no room to put hot oventrays, I have no clean wooden spoons left, the sink is filled to the beams, the fridge door is open, I can’t find the band aid, the stove is rattling with lids bouncing up and down. The tempo in the kitchen is now on full speed. Somehow though, I am still in control. And I am enjoying all this havoc around me. Chaos is not always a bad thing.
Another character of my “personal kitchen flair” is my attention to serving a meal, a dish, or even just a simple sandwich. I believe a dish can’t leave the kitchen without that last personal touch. I always serve a meal with colour. A dull and colorless dish in front of me, robs me of all envie.. desire. There are gazillions of ways to add colour to a dish. The easiest and most available to everybody, is a sprig of herb, usually one that you have used in your dish. What? You don’t use herbs in your food? You should start right away! It is one of the most sensual flairs in food…chopping and chipping herbs, smelling and tasting it.
Having all the ingredients for a dish exhibited on the counter, gives me such a kick and it incites one of my biggest flairs in my cooking. When deciding on a dish, I gather all my ingredients and place them on my working surface. I remember my mother doing it very differently, which is why her kitchen was neat and there was always enough space, even though she had a small kitchen. She fetched every ingredient as she needed it. For a carrot soup, she fetched an onion, cut it and added it to her casserole. While the onion fried, she fetched 6 carrots, cut it and added it to her soup. Step by step, she continued and by the end, the table was set, the kitchen clean and we sat down for a delicious meal of soup and bread. I, on the other hand, fetch my whole potager (vegetable garden), all the herbs I might possibly want to add and everything else in between.I am like an orchestra conductor. I want to see my whole ensemble in front of me and then I lift my hands and the music begins. I love seeing all those fresh produce before me, deciding on the go what I would like to do to my soup, ( I think the Americans call it “cooking from the hip”?), Always keep the tune in mind though and, just like an orchestra, never allow a dish to become cacophonous.
January is a month of diets and soups. Since I am utterly hopeless at diets, I opt for soup. In our home, carrot, apple and cumin soup is a favorite with all ingredients healthy enough to not feel bad about indulging.
Carrot, apple and cumin soup.
- Fry 1 chopped shallot and 1 tsp cumin seeds for few minutes until the shallot is transparent. Don’t burn the mixture.
- Add about 8 big carrots, peeled and cut.
- Add 3 cups of home made chicken stock, or 3 cups of water with one cube of chicken stock.
- Bring to the boil.
- Peel 1 large Granny smith apple and remove the core. Cut into chunks and add to the soup.
- Leave to simmer over medium heat until the carrots are very tender.
- Remove from the heat. Leave to cool a bit.
- Mix the soup to a creamy consistency. Pour the soup through a sieve to get a smooth velvet soup.
- Pour into a clean pot and reheat gently.
- Season with salt and pepper and add créme fraîche to taste. The soup must have the consistency of cream…it is soup, not a puree. If it is too thick, add some full cream milk or cream.
- Serve the soup warm in bowls with a small quenelle (dollop)of créme fraîche and a spoonful of apple salsa. Sprinkle with pepper and drizzle some olive oil.
Apple and cumin salsa:
- Cut 1 granny smith apple in brunoise,(small dice), add lemon juice, 1/2 tsp cumin and 1 chopped spring onion . Season with salt and pepper and mix.
Serves 4 people
PS: You can follow me on Instagram for more regular short posts at ronellesatelier