The first time I read a cooking recipe was after I moved to Canada. It seemed to me to use a recipe, one has to prepare all the ingredients accordingly, and then follow the step by step instruction in cooking. I was amusingly thinking that would takes away all the fun in cooking. However, since I love eating and I wanted to learn the western way in preparing food, I decided to learn to use recipes . Now after reading a lot of cook books and have collected a few recipes, I admit that recipes have taught me a lot about food and their preparation.
I like to go the market and see what is there then choose the items that please me. Then, it would be fun to figuring out what to make with the ingredients at hand. Sometime I do shop based on a recipe to prepare for a specific meal. In that case I like to follow the Japanese example to eat according to seasons.
The first cook book I bought is Elizabeth David’s “Spices, Salt and Aromatic in the English Kitchen”, in which she gives out recipes like telling the most fascinated stories. Here is an example of a recipe in the book for a simple and delicious cold hors/ d’oeuvre, “coriander mushrooms”:
Ingredients for three people are: 6 oz. of firm, white, round and very fresh mushrooms, a teaspoon of coriander seeds, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, lemon juice, salt, freshly milled pepper and one or two bayleaves.
Rinse the mushrooms, wipe them dry with a clean cloth, slice them into quarters, or if they are large into eighths. The stalks should be neatly trimmed. Squeeze over them a little lemon juice.
In a heavy frying pan or sauté pan, warm the olive oil. Into it put the coriander seeds, which should be ready crushed in a mortar. Let them heat for a few seconds. Keep the heat low. Put in the mushrooms and the bayleaves. Add the seasoning. Let the mushrooms cook gently for a minute, cover the pan and levee them, still over very low heat, for another three to five minutes.
Uncover the pan. Decant mushroom - with all their juices - into a shallow serving dish and sprinkle them with fresh olive oil and lemon juice.
Whether the mushrooms are to b served hot or cold do not forget to put the bay leaf which has cooked with them into the serving dish.
The combined scents of coriander and bay go to make up part of the true essence of the dish. In larger quantities the same dish can be made as a hot vegetable to be eaten with veal or chicken.
The Raw and the Cooked, MYTHOLOGIQUES is a new column on the culture of eating and cooking, with contributions by various authors. The column name is borrowed from the title of a book by Claude Levi-Strauss. It is spontaneous, a little amusing but serious at the same time.