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Old 08-12-2005, 06:15 AM   #1
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The beauty of simplicity

[Disclaimer: I'm not sure if this is the ocrrect forum for this thread, but here goes ]

Up to about a year ago I was constantly trying to create more and more complex dishes, combining all sorts of ingredients ending up with equally complex tastes that more often than not were no more than just "okay" tasting.

After watching Kitchen Chemistry on the Discovery channel last year (I've got an MSc in chemistry, so that show was right up my alley ) I started going the other way though. Combine as few ingredients as possible and try to create those simple dishes that "just work".

I've set myself a task of trying to collect as many recipes as I can with no more than 5 main ingredients (I'm not counting common "building blocks" here like milk, water, eggs and flour). One example of this is the norwegian lamb and cabbage pot I just posted here. Another is the Irish dish Colcannon.

What I'm trying to achieve with this is not just a collection of simple recipes that taste great, more importantly I'm trying to build a "library" or index if you like of sets of maybe two or three ingredients that work great together. This I'd like to use as cornerstone ingredients which can be put together in different ways with different seasoning to create variety but still retain that Just Works taste to it.

I don't know if I'm making much sense here, but if you've got any such simple recipes that tastes great with only a few ingredients, I'd be happy if you'd post them! (steak and fries can be skipped )

Tips on cookbooks with a similar approach to cooking are also much appreciated.

EDIT: I forgot to add that I'm already aware of the following books (I only own the first though):

On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen - Harold McGee
The Science of Cooking - Peter Barham

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Old 08-12-2005, 06:40 AM   #2
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The Irish have colcannon, the Scots counter-claim that our dish called Rumbledethumps is the original.... (but better!)

Rumbledethumps

Ingredients : 1 lb (500 g) potatoes, cooked and mashed; 1 lb (500 g) cabbage, cooked; 2 oz (50 g) butter; 1 medium onion, finely chopped; 2 oz (50 g) grated cheese; some chopped chives

Melt the butter in a large pan and add the onion. Cook for about 5 mins, without browning. Add potatoes, chives and cabbage and mix together. Season well and put into a pie dish. Cover with cheese and brown under the grill or in the oven. Serve hot.

And then there's clapshot
Which is equal parts mashed, creamed potatoes and swede (the large orange turnips that I think may be called rutabaga in America), which is also known as 'chappit tatties and neeps' and is the traditional accompaniment to haggis.
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Old 08-12-2005, 06:43 AM   #3
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I presume you are an admirer of Heston Blumenthal?

I'm going to dinner at the Fat Duck later this month.

http://observer.guardian.co.uk/foodm...145616,00.html
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Old 08-12-2005, 07:35 AM   #4
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I'm a huge fan of Jacques Pepin; look for some of his later cookbooks, for elegant, simple dishes.
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Old 08-12-2005, 07:48 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ishbel
The Irish have colcannon, the Scots counter-claim that our dish called Rumbledethumps is the original.... (but better!)
I should have guessed

Thanks a lot for the recipes! One of these days I might do a comparative study of Colcannon and Rumbledethumps (can anyone say that quickly 10 times in a row after 5 pints? )

Clapshot is indeed a classic (I allways add a healthy dose of freshly ground nutmeg). I often serve this with fried sausages which is lovely. It's also served with one of the traditional christmas dinners here in Norway (various traditions in different parts of the country - I'll get back to that as christmas approaches )

(For the record, 'swede' is called 'kålrot' or 'kålrabi' in norwegian btw )

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ishbel
I presume you are an admirer of Heston Blumenthal?

I'm going to dinner at the Fat Duck later this month.
Ah, that sounds great, I'm sure it'll be a nice experience!

"Admirer" is taking it a bit far, but I really like his approach to cooking, yeah. I come close to admiring Ferran Adria though, who closes his restaurant 'El Bulli' for 6 months each year to focus on researching new ways of preparing food together with two of his colleagues. I higly recommend watching 'Decoding Ferran Adria' (hosted by Anthony Bourdain) if you can catch it on the telly some time. I wouldn't mind getting one of his books one day, but they're wicked expensive...
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Old 08-12-2005, 07:58 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marmalady
I'm a huge fan of Jacques Pepin; look for some of his later cookbooks, for elegant, simple dishes.
Thanks for the tip marmalady! "Fast Food My Way" looks interesting. (this however must be some other Jacques Pepin )
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Old 08-12-2005, 08:43 AM   #7
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Whenever I watch awesome cooks like on Iron Chef their knowledge of flavor strikes me as coming together almost the sameway as color does for talented Artists.

What I'm getting at with that is that Artists have powerfull yet basic tools to aid them like Color Wheels. I mean just glance at this thing. You can tell from it how well Red and Yellow compliment eachother or Blue and Green. Looking at one color and then it's opposite on the other side will tell you what colors clash with eachother to.

So basically I think what would be ideal for cooks is if someone could come up with a Flavor Wheel, an Herb Wheel, or a Spice Wheel.

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Old 08-12-2005, 09:18 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VIDEODROME
Whenever I watch awesome cooks like on Iron Chef their knowledge of flavor strikes me as coming together almost the sameway as color does for talented Artists.

What I'm getting at with that is that Artists have powerfull yet basic tools to aid them like Color Wheels.
Yes, this is more or less what I had in mind. Which flavours work together? Which clash?

Food and food chemistry is infinitely more complex than the visual spectrum though, so I doubt we'll get away with a simple wheel or two to map it all out But it's definitely a start, especially if you start dividing up food categories like you did above.

Maybe we could make an attempt at a Herb Wheel? Basil and oregano is a classic when it comes to what goes well together. Any herbs on the other side of the wheel of these two?
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Old 09-15-2005, 06:18 PM   #9
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A cook exposes 100% of their expertice in an omlette or a roasted chicken and I'm hard pressed to tell you the last time I had either that was worth their salt.And that's basically only 1 ingredient.

Whether you and I agree two ingredients go together harmoniously is irrelavent really
because individual tastes are never the same,therefore it's a judgement call based on our limited,but hopefully expanding palate.

What is important IMO is percision in the execution of every aspect of a dish with
proper technique and doneness. The simple dishes just expose more of who you are.
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Old 09-15-2005, 08:14 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marmalady
I'm a huge fan of Jacques Pepin; look for some of his later cookbooks, for elegant, simple dishes.
I'm with you Marmalady. Jacques is the tops.

BC
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