Monday, 3 August 2009

When you don't know what you want to eat

One of the things that seems to happen at this time of year is that I get bored with food.

No, actually, that's not quite right. I just find it difficult to know what I want to eat. And my appetite seems to go belly up, if you will, so that eating becomes an effort on many occasions – particularly when we hit August and it can traditionally get quite humid in the UK.

Fortunately, a few years ago, a friend and fellow gourmet gave some good pointers and now, even when I feel least like eating, they guide my thoughts back to some good stuff.

George has given me loads of recipes over the years – and taught me things like how to tell if a melon or a Camembert is ripe – but a few years ago, when I was suffering one of those periods of no appetite and little motivation, he introduced me to gazpacho.

This Spanish tomato-based soup, which is served very chilled and needs to be made from the very freshest ingredients, is incredibly refreshing and tasty – and healthy too. Which can’t be a bad combination. He was prepared to share his mother-in-law’s recipe – and it’s easy and very, very good.

And then there is a gem of a herring salad too, using matjes or sweet herring fillets, mixed with some sour cream or crème fraîche, and some thinly sliced apples and/or some diced beetroot. Again, really, really fresh and refreshing.

But I do occasionally find some little gems from elsewhere – and last week was one such occasion.

Some people don’t like Tamasin Day-Lewis, but she was already in my good books for her formula for cooking steak, which makes it a doddle:

if you want it done rare, cook for a minute, turn over and cook for another minute, then rest in a warm place for eight minutes.

If you want it medium rare, cook for two minutes, turn and cook for a further two minutes and then rest in a warm place for six minutes.

If you want it medium, cook for three minutes each side and rest for four.

If you want it well done, cook for four minutes a side and rest for just two.

And if you want it cremated, cook for five minutes a side and serve.

Brilliant – this makes it easy to do several steaks at once to different states.

However, browsing the other week on, I came across a stunning simple summer dish from the lady.

Heat some olive oil in a frying pan until it’s good and hot. Thinly slice some courgettes. Pop them in the pan and cook briefly. You want them to caramelise a bit at least.

Turn them over. Add some slivers of garlic, plus some lemon juice and some pine nuts. Cook for another few minutes. Season with good salt and pepper and serve.

Lovely tastes – the lemon juice just keeps it really fresh.

Because I wanted a bigger lunch (and two portions of my fruit and veg for the day), I added a couple of halved artichoke hearts. And the next time I did it, I toasted the pine nuts and garnished the dish with them at the very end. But it’s a corking idea.

So thanks for that idea, Tamasin. And thanks, as always, to George too.

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