Legend has it that Kobe cattle from Japan, in their final months before slaughter, are massaged daily by maidens and fed a diet mainly of dark beer. Now I don’t know about you, but there are far worst ways to meet your maker – we’re all going to die sometime but not many can say that their last days were spent in such a state of bliss.
So what is it about this fabled beef that’s so damn impressive and expensive?
I’ve always been wary of chefs who say they don’t read cookbooks. How do you continue to educate yourself without reading; how do you expand your own consciousness and repertoire if not through reading?
I don’t mean that chefs should just thumb through pages and hi-jack ideas – well-written cookbooks can be inspirational, informative, hilarious and bloody helpful at times. You don’t have to follow the recipes religiously nor keep strictly to the ingredients listed – these are merely guidelines. Let your own creative juices run riot!
When I first started working in London, Dan Evans, my head chef at the time, asked me a question that ultimately changed how I viewed my craft. He simply asked, “Who are you reading?”. Upon finding out that I wasn’t “reading” anyone in particular, he issued me a long look of scorn followed by an even longer list of writers and told me that would get me started. Continue reading “Pinch of Salt: Books for Cooks”
Cooking over hot coals is the measure of a man, making and controlling fire is what has helped us rise above the rest of the animal kingdom, and braaing is what sets men apart from other men. It is an unspoken language in which you are sized up by peers and judged to be an equal or found to be wanting.
We have been cooking over open flames since the dawn of time, and recent archeological discoveries have seen cave paintings that prove unequivocally that South Africans were braaing while others were still trying to walk erect.
“Can I have the Caesar Salad without anchovies, please?”
“Sure, while I’m at it why don’t I just remove the nasty smelling lactose-infected Parmesan and those awful gluten-laden croutons and bring you a bowl of f@#%ing lettuce!”
It doesn’t matter how many Stars, Chef’s Hats, Blazons, Grammys, Oscars or Eat Out awards your establishment has garnered; there will always be someone who walks in, sits down and decides they know better. Someone who feels that their years of experience of shopping at Woolworths, watching Food Network and “travelling darling, travelling” give them carte blanche to come in and literally ignore the entire kitchen’s reason for living.
I’m never sure if these people are just picky eaters, attention-seekers or on some egomaniacal power trip, but they always feel they have some God-given right to use the menu as a shopping list rather than a bill of fare: they want a starter portion of the squid with the trout garnish but without the potatoes (they “don’t do” protein and starch), and they also want the sauce from the mussels off the set menu but can it be made without butter and olives instead of capers?
Julia Child, the celebrated American food writer and TV chef, once quipped that “The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook”.
Well, I couldn’t agree more, and now that the winter is finally upon us, it’s time for smouldering coals, smoky red wine and large cuts of steak slowly charring to perfection.
If you’re going to cook steak over the open fire you’ll achieve far better results if you go for larger cuts of meat: cooking a 1kg piece of meat will produce far more consistent and desirable results than five 200g steaks, and you’ll get a better char on the bigger cut without sacrificing those pink, inner juices (as long as you don’t overcook it!). There are few more glorious slabs of marbled and aged flesh on the fire than an enormous T-bone. Continue reading “Pinch of Salt: Steak, Glorious Steak”
Or should I say, “The Emperor’s recently acquired hand-stitched, interlocking, sustainably, hydroponically and organically grown organic attire”?
Menu speak gone mad!
“48-hour cold smoked organically farmed, hand-reared, pole-caught Monrovian yellowfin tuna, compressed cucumber, sous-vide heirloom tomatoes, air-dried fennel, Kalamata espuma, lemon granita, green bean emulsion, confit of new season’s potatoes, and anchovy soil.”
Salad Niçoise by any other name, but not in today’s uber cool menu speak.
Chefs seem to have lost the plot entirely – whatever happened to simplicity? This kind of nonsense has replaced the old 80s style descriptions when ingredients were “nestled on a bed of …” or “floated in a pool of …”, but I don’t think that we are better off.Continue reading “Pinch of Salt: The Emperor’s New Clothes”
I sit on the stoep of my room, miles from civilization, surrounded by dense green bush, the Zambezi River rumbling below me. My only companions are a thousand and one insects and an ice cold beer. Even the generators have gone to bed, so the whirring ceiling fan has spluttered its last breath and total darkness has descended. The humidity clings like a wet blanket and somewhere in the distance I hear the grunt of a hippo. Continue reading “Pinch of Salt: Carry on up the Zambezi”
So I’m going to jump on the bandwagon – but if you think I’m going to predict which are my top restaurants, think again – what follows are my nominations for Best Food Movie. Now there are some provisos as this is a fairly contentious movie category and I welcome debate and dissent (feel free to send in your comments).Continue reading “Pinch of Salt: Food Oscars”
“The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious.” Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume
Growing up you couldn’t get me to eat vegetables for love or money – the best I could muster was iceberg lettuce (provided it was doused in Thousand Island dressing) or potatoes, but even that was restricted to chips and roasted, mash at a push. I could eat tomatoes that were cooked in a sauce but would rather eat my own hand before a raw one passed my lips. I didn’t even try mushrooms until I was sixteen.
Why, you may ask – my answer would be that I have absolutely no idea – I just didn’t like the idea of vegetables. I was a very fussy eater as a kid and I guess my mother just indulged me. I remember one evening she was away, so my dad had taken on the cooking duties. Having no clue as to what we kids did or didn’t eat, he decided that blackmail was the best course of action and told myself and my two sisters (one of whom, to this day, is still a ridiculously fussy eater) that if we ate everything on our plates he would take us to the Drive-In. I realise that this seriously dates me and any millennials reading this will have to Google search Drive-Ins, but in our household in the 70s this was a serious treat, especially on a school night. Continue reading “Pinch of Salt: Vegetables Are The New Black”