Learning to cook.

I would never have known cooking was so much fun, so fascinating and of course the better I get the greater the reward ie gorgeous food for me!

I keep an eye to low cost and increasingly to minimise meat content. What has sort of turned my mind (and my stomach) was opening a can of corned beef  a couple of weeks ago to make ‘bubble n sqeak’ which in my case is based on red onion, fine chopped leek, sweetcorn, broccoli, be sure to season with sea salt, fgbp and a little oregano; the potato content is ‘forked up’ not crushed down, I aim to keep it light and airy and uses previous day boiled potatos to increase flavour, skins always remain on.  The can of corned beef if you look closely is quite horrible, a bit like sausages in that you would be horrified as to the junk that gets included, looks to be everything is pushed through the grinder to maximise output. There was a lot of material ground up that is to my mind  a) is non meat content and  b) if landed onto my kitchen work surface would be instantly binned; try a magnifying glass, you’ll never use corned beef again. Its high fat too, the wrong sorts of fat I would reckon. Hint: heat some up and let go stone cold to see the horrible fat that lies on the surface.

This has pushed me to realise something like Indian cookery is the way to go. Online is certainly useful as in fact can turn into a hobby taking notes and learning about spices and how to use them. A book I bought four years back for a pound in the Saly Army shop is a teasure trove, ‘India with Passion’ by Manju Malhi, pub Mitchell Beazley ISBN 1 84533 166 4.  The enthusiasm and knowledge of the author is a feast both for the senses and the intellect and the photography is as good or better than any trip to India. I’ve a bee in my bonnet about needless travel and airflights, its just not needed, certainly as grazing tourists or resort lovers there is no life threatening need for this travel (nor any planetary threatening need to make the silly journey) ie youtube, a book or an atlas can provide a near zero carbon travel experience. The sight of stag parties to Prague, flying needlessly across Europe is the height of human stupidity.

The latest thrill is buying in spices from my shopkeeper friend a few miles away that opens up a new world of taste and texture, I’ve about fifteen at present; theres so much, vast amounts of incredible dishes that you need never use meat. Heres an example, a beginners toe in the water and utterly infallible in outcome; remember two things, moderate quantities of each, don’t overwhelm and think about the appropriate heat, I’m lucky I cook with gas, the electric hob would send me crazy!

I’m sort of gluten free, low salt, low cholestrol and dairy free so this recipe is very useful to me, used for lunch most days, maybe chicken salad later and home-made soup late afternoon. I can create very good meals at say per serving £1.00 to £1.60 most every day.

Recipe: vegan Indian style burger with caramelised onion chutney. Be sure its a non-stick pan and use only a little oil to start and add only a little more as reqd.

Mustard seed hot pan till it pops open, add fennel seed, both are essential.

Quarter red onion, sliced thin and long.

Leek, slit down, cut as thin half circles.

Slice a cooked potato or two into slices, slice again into mini potato chips, push aside pan contents, fry in a little oil, add sea salt.

Say an inch of skinny green chilli, fine chopped.

Sea salt, fgbp, a little oregano.

Add thin sliced broccoli, mix well. You can add fine chopped garlic but not essential, fresh coriander sprinkled before combining with the besan flour lifts the taste to something even more interesting.

In a bowl mix besan flour (a very useful ingredient) till runny and drop in and mix the contents of the pan. Using a big desert spoon pick up a dollop, place in pan and pat smooth, tidy up the edges till approx round.  Cook till a little bit of dark brown appears on both sides, do not overcook, do not use too much oil.

Result is scrumptious, low cost, nutritious and satisfying. They will keep a few hours quite easily and are good hot or cold, easy to take to work or picnic. They are irresistible;  I developed the idea from thinking about onion bhajis but without deep frying in oil, therefore flatten and near to dry fry and no doubt lots of other people have done the same.

I’ve other tricks too, for instance when I buy a ready cooked chicken whilst still warm I  cut longitudinally and in my little Melissa bench top oven cook on at 220C for another ten minutes, this drains some fat and crisps up the skin which of course you should try to not eat too much of.

I buy fresh, nothing frozen, nothing processed. I think about air miles and helping to avoid pains I avoid tomatos, excessive amounts of potato and certainly bell peppers of any sort, also aubergines as all these can trigger excessive body pain. I abhor the ‘burger culture’ and particularly how it is promoted in the USA, it is ‘white man lazy cooking’ and unthinking excessive consumerism. I also abhor the American fetish to over-serve vast quantities of food say in diners, its very bad on so many levels. I never buy takeaways, I can do so much better myself at a fraction of the cost, its far more fun and of far more benefit nutritionally. In my opinion all kids at school should undergo a few hours of ‘crash course’ of say ten basic meals such as those I cook here, the recipes all combined onto a data sheet they can show parents and hopefully retain for use later.  My inventory of basic food materials means there is very little waste. I never eat out.

If you want a snack eat a carrot! My basic ingredients include fresh fig, red onion, leek, spring onion, these are always to hand and can form a chicken and rice non-fried ‘pseudo-stirfry’,  or a chicken salad with celery and a little bit of tomato and cold potato. My basic ingredients can also morph into an ‘Indian’ with a ready bought sauce and low fat coconut milk (hint add extra garam masala) or move sideways to a Chinese style sweet n sour with bamboo shoots and water chestnuts, cashew nuts, Chinese five spices, Aldi ready made sauce for same; all of these starting with my basic red onion, leek, spring onion base. Occasionally I try cold potato with say three fish selection baked in the oven and this works well, but I am mindful of micro-plastic contamination and must be wary to avoid anything from the Pacific Ocean (Fukushima).

I also do all my laundry by hand, the washer packed up over a year ago and it bugged me how needlessly the thing expended so much time and energy to spin. I’ve a washing line in my garden and a bamboo pole across my kitchen ceiling, radiators too so I cope perfectly well without a washing machine, in fact I enjoy it, we seem to have reached a point in ‘civilisation’ where we are perhaps too far removed from simple honest work, a time when kids appear to be without any practical skill other than the keyboard, they don’t make, they don’t explore, they don’t learn by their own initiative.

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