I must confess I’ve always had a passion for food. There have been points in my life where my waistband could attest to the fact. However, I’d never been much of a chef. I’d cook yes, but I suppose I wasn’t what you’d call adventurous. Given I’ve always eaten just about anything, and I’d eaten at some of the best restaurants in the world, I knew what great food looked and tasted like – I just didn’t think I could cook it.
That’s changed in the last year or so. To start with I retired. That ended the fancy corporate lunches and works dinners. My wife, though a great cook, just doesn’t feel it’s worth her time. If I wanted to eat ‘well’ it was time to learn some new skills.
There are so many TV programmes dedicated to cooking these days, you can hardly be short of inspiration. That’s even before you start consulting the cook books and the internet – both of which I began to do with gusto.
I should also mention that my decision to ‘start cooking’ coincided with my decision to ‘start growing’ my own vegetables. I’m still surprised every time a seed starts to grow, and if I’ve nurtured it, it deserves to end up in a decent meal - not boiled until it’s grey!
Starting easy, I mastered a good pasta sauce. No more supermarket brands for me. Armed with my own tomatoes, some basil, an onion, some garlic, sugar and salt and voila, you can’t really go wrong. Then came the experiments and subtle refinements. A little balsamic or sherry vinegar added a gorgeous extra layer of flavour.
As a lover of curries, that’s where I went next. Not with your average chicken tikka masala mind you. Beetroot curry. Yes, you read it right, beetroot curry. It was a recipe I read in a national newspaper and cooked from base spices. Soon the kitchen was alive with the smell of cumin, coriander, fenugreek and amchoor…which is mango powder to those (like me) who didn’t know.
It wasn’t just the smell of the food, the colour of the dish has to be seen to be believed. The most vibrant red imaginable. This dish became a dinner party staple served alongside a more conventional curry and it’s never let me down yet.
The argument that some people can’t cook is nonsense. We can all cook if we can be bothered to learn - as learning is what it’s all about. Working out trusty flavour combinations, learning restraint ingredient wise - less usually is more. I’ve still a lot to learn myself, other than making my own naan breads, baking is something I’ve not really tried. Plus. not having a sweet tooth, I’m not yet a dessert king.
If you’ve never tried cooking, or you leave it to someone else I’d urge you to have a go. Seeing other people enjoy your food is like seeing someone open a Christmas present they love. It’s rewarding all round.