Cooking Experiments – To give you a few, more concrete examples:
Simple and hassle free: It only takes 3 ingredients to make a good pasta!
- I learned this during an internship in Italy. According to my italian chef all you need are three ingredients besides the pasta.
- One of which would usually be (good quality) olive oil. Now getting great olive oil is easy when you live in Italy, and even more so, when you harvest your own olives, as he did. In Germany I find it a bit more difficult, but I learned a few general indicators that help distinguish good olive oil. Dark glass bottles or containers, for example. They protect the oil from sunlight, which is susceptible to sunlight. The labels cold pressed and Extra Native Virgin Oil are other indicators. I was suprised about the taste when I tried my first freshly pressed olive oil in Italy as it has a strong flavour! The older the oil gets, the less strong will be the taste. I also learned that olives can be proccessed a second time. The oilve oil then has a very weak flavour. So flavour is a good indicator for quality.
- The other ingredients can be vegetables, spices, meat, seafood or eggs. I like to add free-range, organic eggs as protein sources, since I am very active thanks to my work.
Some of my favorites:
- Spaghetti (whole wheat) – Olive oil – Leek – Egg(s) (fried noodles style)
- Fussilli (whole wheat) – Olive Oil – Spinach – Egg(s)
- Penne (whole wheat) – Olive Oil – Fennel – Salt
Grains and Pseudograins:
They also go by the name of Rice, Barley,Millet, Wheat, Spelt etc. Or in the case of pseudograins, also called pseudocereals, Quinoa, Buckwheat, Amaranth, Chia, etc. Wikipedia has a nice overview over these two categoriese which you can view here. To learn more about pseudograins, their benefits and how to store them, I can recommend this article from chatelain.com.
- I usually cook a lot more than I can eat at once and then keep the rest in the fridge. This way I can make several different meals without wasting time cooking grains or pseudograins each time.
- The next step is heating up some oil. I usually use my favorite little sauce pan for this, as bigger pans make it harder to judge the amount needed for one person.
- By the way: The maximum heat any oil can handle is defined by its ‘smoking point’. At this point the oil will start to break down and might form unhealthy transfats! If you want to go into details here is a (lenghty) article about this topic.
- If you have onions, garlic, leak or anything else that needs frying to enhance their taste, these ingredients are next.
- If you plan to add meat, or seafood prepare this next. Make sure that the veggies in the pan don’t get burnt!
- You could also add additional spices here.
- Add the grains or pseudocereals and vegetables, eggs, etc. last.
All this works just as well with precooked pasta.
- Boil water.
- Start with whatever ingredient takes the longest to cook.
- I often start with soup greens like leak, root sellerie, carrots (and I usually throw in parsley too, even if it doesn’t take long to cook). Let it cook on a low flame for half the time it requires the root veggies to get soft. This creates a tasty soup base.
- You can also add salt, though I prefer to use very little and add more onto the ready dish, as I have more control over the amount of salt I eat that way.
- Add spices like Italian Herbs or whatever you like to add.
- Add ingredients that take less time and double check everything is covered with enough water.
- For example: Fast cooking grains or pseudograins.
- Time your alarm for the minimum time (or less) it takes to cook these last ingredients.
- Reduce heat and put a lid on and you’re good to go and do something else.
- If you are new to cooking: Putting a lid on tents to cause the boiling water to overflow, as it can’t evaporate fast enough. This might cause the spelt liquid to burn… so keep an eye on it and if necessary reduce the heat even more. Or you can lift up the lid to allow more steam to escape.
- Check and stirr occationally. When the alarm rings and you find the grains are still not soft enough – no problem!
- If there is a lot of water left: Turn off the heat, put the lid back on. Let it sit for a few more minutes. This gives the grains time to soak up the water
- If there is no water left, you might have to add more hot water, leave it on a low heat and check it regularily.
I hope these simple basic recipies will help! It might sound like a lot to do at first. But believe me, it really isn’t much. You’ll soon be able to judge from your experiences and know what to do 🙂
As a last fun fact, here are some things I tried, that didn’t quite work:
Pasta with peanut butter – The two flavours just don’t complement each other….
Pasta with seasam mus – it’s kind of strange, but if you make a sauce of it, it can work.
Cooking semolina with juice & water – very bland. I tried adding frozen fruit and vanilla, and that works a lot better. But it simply isn’t quite the same as with sugar. If you really don’t like it: prepare it without, but sprinkle some sugar on top afterwards…this way you at least greatly reduce the amount of sugar for the recipe.
If you should feel inspired to start experiementing after reading this, I would love to hear from you how it went! What worked? What didn’t? Any tips? Feel free to share in the comment section below, so that other users can benefit from your experiences!