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FOOD Two simple side dishes to impress



Two simple side dishes to impress

Redmond Cabot

Should food writers really know about food, or should they know about the writing about food?
If I am writing about food and cooking, is it essential that I should know about food and cooking? If one is writing about what they believe to be the truth, should that be the truth to all those who read it? If I told you one week a food was excellent for one thing, would you accept being told contrary ideas the following week? Is there truth in any of these statements? I suppose you could call this a philosophical start to this week’s musing.
Extrapolating further on the ‘What is truth...?’ argument, we had friends over for dinner recently. Being of the ‘cook and make it up as you go along’ clan, I was chatting and enjoying the company while the meal was being made up in front of us.
Earlier, a large head of cauliflower had been picked in the garden and so was obviously meant to adorn our table. It suited being a starter. It was broken into small florets by hand, then cooked and steamed lightly in half an inch of water with a lid on the saucepan. Having yet more free ingredients in the shape of eggs from the hens, I imagined a Hollandaise sauce would contrast well with the fresh, garden cauliflower.
I cooked up the sauce and thought all was in place, so I set the saucepan aside. However, upon serving, I discovered the Gods had construed otherwise!
I went to my saucepan to spoon over the runny, rich, and natural sauce, only to discover the flame had been left low on the hob, and now a version of set scrambled egg was looking up at me. I let myself down by cursing. Feck it, but it really set me back.
My mind raced through annoyance, frustration, ‘why has this happened to me?’… and then decided to settle, unsurprisingly to the Brunette, upon the final and absolute ‘What the Heck’ philosophy.
Out came the delicious, and just off-crunchy florets, served on free - sorry homegrown - lettuce leaves, and I brazenly lumped some of the congealed, former high point of French cuisine, onto our plates. Splendid it was of course, but not if you were a food snob. The point of the story is … oh no, lost it again!
However, I did learn and discover that by adding some of our own elderflower cordial into the steam/boiled cauliflower, it made a delicious flavour match that I considered a success. The sweet, floral elderflower taste complimented perfectly the clean and pristine cauliflower delicate crunch.
Dessert was also a different story … it involved a rising passion fruit and strawberry pavlova that actually sank! Whipped cream that would have worked as mortar on a site, and probably something else that went wrong too. But I think we had a good night. Maybe dinner is about eating food, but the night wasn’t all about the food.
The point of the discussion is that … there is no point! No point to the newest thing, the current fad, the new celebrity chef recommendation. All one has to do is eat simple ingredients around the kitchen table with loved ones, and the rest takes care of itself.

I AM always banging on about how we do not appreciate the small side dishes, on our kitchen tables. Here are two interesting recipe combinations that use seasonal ingredients to enliven meal times.

Caramalised Cauliflower and Cumin Puree
Creamy white cauliflower with a fragrant edge from cumin seed can be a wonderful texture and flavour contrast to your main dish of choice.

What you need
50g butter
Half a teaspoon of cumin seed, freshly ground
truffle oil (optional)

What you do
COOK your cauliflower in salted water as normal over a medium heat, careful not to over-boil. Drain and dry, then place in a pan with butter and simmer over low-to-medium heat.Cook with the lid on until cauliflower is caramelised. Then blitz or blend with the cumin seed. Add truffle oil if desired, and serve in a bowl.

Roasted tomatoes with Balsamic
This has to be the easiest dish to make,  and it looks and tastes delicious.  The key is to use good, ripe tomatoes. Irish tomatoes are now in season, look for them now at your local shop.

What you need
12 cherry, vine or anything-bar-beef tomatoes
Balsamic vinegar
Olive/rape-seed oil

What you do
place your washed tomatoes on a flat oven tray and drizzle oil liberally all over. Turn the tomatoes to coat with oil, then pour two tablespoons of balsamic all over them and season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place in athe oven, pre-heated to 160 degrees, and slow roast then for one hour. You can do them quicker at 200 degrees either – give them about 10 or 12 minutes.

Red Cabot is interested in food, nature and small things. He sells his food at Westport Country Markets in St Anne’s Boxing Club, James’s Street car park, Westport, every Thursday, from 8am to 1pm.