Isn't it amazing and wonderful, the variety of styles we now have for preparing food. You can go down to your local bookshop and buy a recipe book which will teach you how to cook food in a Mexican style, French, Italian, Turkish or whatever you fancy. I, personally, do not do recipes. If I am looking for something inspirational, I may open a recipe book but only to look at the pictures. If I see something interesting, I may go so far as to read the ingredients list but I tend to stop there. Most of my cooking is a collections of styles gathered from people I have have lived with. I was fortunate enough during my uni days to have a Korean, a Swede and an Indian living with me and so have collected some tips from them.
But as with everything, I tend to mix things all together to create my own style. The inspiration for last night's dinner came from a book I was reading while my daughter was having her nap. The characters in the book were preparing a curry. I don't remember how Mum used to make curry before our neighbour showed us a different style. I think it was something like a beef stroganoff but with veges and sultanas chucked in. After Mrs B cooked for us one night, curries became more complicated. The meat was done separately in the sauce and side dishes were laid out on the table to be added whilst eating. These included a mix or carrot-apple-and-sultanas, onion-and-tomato and cucumber-and-greek-yoghurt. I didn't have any yoghurt but had I listened to my intuition when I was shopping this week I would have. As I passed it in the aisle a little voice inside my head said, you should get that, but I dismissed the comment as I never use yoghurt in anything and at that point was not considering a curry as a culinary choice.
I'm off track, but if you'll indulge my thoughts again- Have you any idea how hard it is to grow carrots? If you don't appreciate the phenomenal art it takes to grow a big healthy, straight carrot, I suggest you go get some seeds, find a spot in your back yard and plant some. Perhaps after your first harvest, you won't be so picky at the supermarket.
Back to the curry. I needed a third side dish. In the book the characters mentioned banana and coconut. Since I had both, that suited. A previous flatmate showed me a way of making the sauce using coconut milk, and that's my standard method now, so I did that. My Indian flatmate showed me how to make flat bread to go with it, so I did that too. All up, I spent about three hours in the kitchen preparing this food. Not an easy feat with Miss-Almost-One demanding my attention. The whinging got so bad I ended up putting her on a stool next to me while I was rolling the pastry. I'm surprised I didn't have to catch the little wriggle worm toppling off the chair even once. But she was happy with her own rolling pin and flour which only added slightly to the cleaning up required.
So that was dinner. I don't think I'll be making that much effort again for a while. Not when I get better compliments with my bangers and mash. But every now and then, you have to do something to satisfy yourself that you still can.
Do you have any cooking stories? What inspires you in the kitchen? Where do you get your style from? Are you a recipe cook or a go-by-feel person like me? Or is it something else? Leave a comment if you feel inspired.