Food corner

"To eat well in England you should have breakfast three times a day."

Somerset Maugham

Twitter feed
Aleppo pepper Alicante all spice almond anchovy apple apricot Argentina artichokes asparagus aubergine autumn avocado bacon banana Bangkok barbecue basil bay leaf beef beetroot bergamot berry biscuit bistro bloggers blue cheese Bolivia Borough Market bread breadcrumbs British budget budwig diet Buenos Aires buffalo sauce bulgar wheat burrata butter cabbage cafe cake Calais capers caramel caraway cardamom carrot cauliflower champagne chard cheddar cheese chicken chickpeas chicory chilli chocolate chorizo Christmas cinnamon clams cloves cobnut cocoa coconut cooking class Copenhagen Córdoba coriander cornflakes Corsica cottage cheese courgette flowers crayfish cream cream cheese creme fraiche cucumber culinary catastrophe cumin currants daikon Dalmatia dates delivery dessert dill dips dough Dubrovnik Easter easy Edinburgh egg eggplant fennel festive feta fettuccine ffine bean fflour Filipino filo fine dining Finsbury Park fish fish sauce five spice flour food aid food anthropology food tour French game garlic gastropub gherkin ginger gluten free goat's cheese goat's curd golden syrup greengage Guinness halloumi ham Hanoi harissa hazelnut hibiscus Hoi An hominy honey horseradish humanitarian relief Indian Islington Istanbul Italian jam Japanese juniper Kent ketchup kielbasa kinilaw Korean lamb langoustine leek lemon lemongrass lentils lime linseed llime lobster London loquat Madrid market mascarpone Mayfair Mendoza Mexican mid-range milk mint mirin mixed peel mixed spice monk's beard morcilla mozzarella mushroom mussels mustard mustard seed Nahm Natoora Nepalese New Nordic New Year's Day New Zealand noras nose-to-tail NYC oats olive olive oil onion orange Oxfordshire oxtail paprika Paris Parmesan parsley party pastry peanut pear peas pepper Peru Philippines pickle pine nuts pistachio pizza pomegranate pomegranate molasses pop-ups pork Porto Vecchio potato prawn preserved lemon prosciutto Provence providore prunes Puerto Iguazú pulse pumpkin purple sprouting broccoli quail egg quick radish ragu raisins ramen ras el hanout raspberries red pepper paste red wine refugees restaurant rhubarb ribs rice ricotta rocket rosemary runner bean saffron sage San Sebastian sausage scallops seafood shallot short and sweet slow-cooked smoked mackerel smoked salmon sorrel souffle soy spaghetti spinach spring squid ssauces St Basil's Day stilton stock street food sugar sumac summer supper club Sydney syrup Tabasco tagliatelle tahini take away tamarind tarragon tart Thai thyme toffee tom yum paste tomato tomato paste tray bake tuna Turkey veal vegetarian versatile Vietnam Vietnamese vinegar walnut water chestnut white pepper wine wings winter yoghurt
« Dad's best-ever chocolate brownies | Main | Humble beginnings »

Measuring up

Well, now the time has come to write some recipes and I am realising that I don’t measure up. Not in the sense of feeling inadequate, but literally; I rarely measure anything when I’m cooking.

I am currently reading a book by Jenny Linford called Writing About Food and was relieved to discover that this is a challenge faced by many food writers. Linford introduces her section on measurements with the welcome news that “Some food writers feel that there is now too much emphasis on quantifying ingredients in recipe-writing” and that many feel constrained by the need to measure every ingredient, rather than improvising. Good, I am thinking, so a handful of this and a pinch of that will suffice, this is going to work for me.

Bad news. She continues by advising that, nonetheless,  “today’s conventions require that, in general, quantities are given for every ingredient”. Oh dear, this is going to require a complete overhaul of the way I have cooked to date.

Linford cites Dorinda Hafner, who wrote in her introduction to A Taste of Africa:

I have had enormous problems trying to translate my typical African “let’s estimate” style of cooking into easy-to-follow, easy-to-identify Western recipes. My mother and her mother before her have always cooked straight from the heart and this is the way I, too, have learnt.

She could not have expressed my sentiments more clearly. Take, for example, the prawn spaghetti sauce pictured in my first post. This is one of my staples which I make on a fortnightly basis, but it is never the same twice and I like it like that, otherwise I would get bored of it. The outcome is dependent on my mood, what flavour I am craving and what I have in the fridge. Sometimes I add tomatoes, sometimes I don’t; sometimes chilli, sometimes none; usually parsley, sometimes dill. The list goes on... As for measurements, the amount I put in depends on how much I have or how much I fancy.  

Reading on, the blow is softened slightly with the voice of reason from Elizabeth David who, in her book Spices, Salts and Aromatics in the English Kitchen, wrote:

There is surely a happy medium ... By temperament a non-measurer, I have myself, first through the wish to communicate recipes and now by force of habit, become the reverse. I find that the discipline of weighing and measuring does one’s cooking nothing but good providing that one does not waste time messing about with quarter salt spoons and five-eighths of pints

Hurrah, so there is hope for me yet! Encouraged by Elizabeth David's own reformation, I plan to measure where I used to estimate, but in communicating this information, a happy medium is what I'll seek. Where measurements are of the utmost importance, such as in baking, I will ensure that I give them accurately. When they are less so, I'll make it clear that they are approximate and should be taken with a pinch of salt...

or two...

or three.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>