Firstly apologies for having been so slack in the posting department. We’ve been having a strange, worrying, complicated and downright discombobulating family situation Up North and I haven’t cooked much, eaten anything interesting or had a leftover to play with! Back home now so, as I still haven't cooked anything, here’s a little something that might be useful!
I have been experimenting with Quora and am getting quite hooked. If you're not familiar with Quora it is a very interesting and useful site where people ask questions and other people answer them! When I signed up I said I could answer questions on food, cooking, recipes, leftovers, ice cream and the British Virgin Islands. Having done this I can then answer any questions related to these subjects and some of them are pretty weird, I can tell you! My favourites so far have been ..
What if any person's shoes you touched turned to cheese, would you eat those shoes?
Is it unethical to eat vegetables when they are unripe? I mean as in being below the age of vegetable-puberty. What if the vegetable really wants to be eaten?
Some of them, however, have been sensible and one has inspired me to write this post!
What are some tips and tricks for turning a bland meal into something delicious?
Here’s some ideas ...
1. Firstly and most importantly a little salt helps everything, even sweet dishes (salted caramel – yum!) if used abstemiously. Crunchy sea salt such as Maldon or Cornish Sea Salt are extra delicious when you bite on a crystal!
2. Flavoured salts add a new twist, smoked salt, chilli salt, lemon salt etc. are easily available or try making Bacon Salt its great on all sorts of things!
3. A squeeze of lemon juice or other citrus will brighten the flavour of fish, vegetables and in some cases chicken dishes. Or, here’s an attractive idea, serve on a bed of sliced citrus fruit and it will not only look pretty, the flavour will infuse into the food.
4. Add a drizzle of vinaigrette to fresh vegetables eg. mint vinaigrette with peas.
5. A little sugar will help tomato dishes or, even better ...
This is a useful item to make and keep in your storecupboard as it can add flavour to all sorts of things.
225 (leftover!) red wine
~ Slowly heat together the water and sugar till dissolved and then cook without stirring, although you can swirl a bit, till caramelised.
~ Add the red wine (carefully, it will splutter) and then stir over low heat till the caramel, which will have hardened, has melted back into the wine.
~ Simmer over low heat till the mixture has reduced back down to about 60ml.
A little gastrique adds a great boost to tomato soups and sauces and is also great drizzled over blue cheese, added to pan juices, added to fruits especially peaches or strawberries and even topped up with sparkling water as a different sort of spritzer. Here's some drizzled onto a baked pear stuffed with blue cheese.
7. Whisk a little butter (flavoured if you like and as appropriate, eg. garlic butter) into a sauce to improve both flavour and texture. See here for some flavoured butter ideas.
8. Flavoured oils also work well stirred in at the last minute;sesame oil is a good addition to Oriental dishes or make your own infused oils. Holy Lama make a great range of oils specifically designed to add to finished dishes. Here’s my review and some ideas for them.
9. Drizzle dips and soups with one of the above oils or with something else appropriate such as balsamic glaze or a spicy salsa as appropriate.
10. Add grated Parmesan cheese to boost umami (savouriness).
11. Sprinkle dishes with fresh herbs chosen in accordance with the dish - these are Flowers of Scotland on simple potato soup but something less stunning will taste good too!
12. Freshly ground spices will perk things up; black pepper with most things, nutmeg with potatoes or spinach, paprika (smoked or otherwise) with whatever you fancy. A little chilli not only enhances savoury dishes but can be great with sweet dishes too such as fruit salads or chocolate mousse and so can cinnamon.
(The flower thing in the front is for display purposes only! It is the wotsit by which a coconut is attached to the tree.)
13. Sprinkle flavoured sugars such as cinnamon or lemon on sweet dishes, vanilla sugar is great of course or see here for a wonderful thing!!!
14. Make the food look appealing – this gets the old gastric juices flowing and so helps with both digestion and enjoyment of the meal.
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