3 ingredients - internet or books?

"Google generally takes you somewhere you were already thinking of going, a book can take you somewhere you did not imagine before you opened it." J.T. Philly - a comment on Chowhound

It's David's special meal day and he has requested something with turmeric - well he has a minor medical problem and he thinks turmeric will help. Which it well might, but I think one would need to be consuming it on a rather more regular basis than the occasional turmeric spiced dish. But it's what he thought of because he is a bit preoccupied with his problem, which I fully understand and why not anyway?


As the whole point - for me - of David's special meal that is, is for me to cook something new from an actual recipe I first had to find one. I decided on chicken because we haven't had chicken for a while and I had a vague memory of a Madhur Jaffrey recipe that featured turmeric, and I also decided that because I didn't have any coriander, the herb of choice - there always should be a herb - will be mint as I have some from the supermarket and also some in the garden. Ironically, the recipe I finally chose needs coriander as well, so I had to go to the supermarket anyway. (I was quick, I wore a mask - and gloves and I went on my own.)


Having chosen my building blocks as it were, I then had to find a recipe with turmeric as the star. First of all I decided to blitz my cookery books, and normally this might work, but with turmeric it's a different matter, because whilst I am absolutely sure that I have tons of recipes that include turmeric to a greater or lesser degree there are not many that would include it in the index. However, vital it may be to the dish's taste it just won't be thought of as necessary to index. I did try with Madhur Jaffrey, but could only find a side dish of cauliflower, I think it was. So then I thought to go to my A-Z cookbooks, but this was actually no better, because they were all focussed on vegetables or fruit. Even Stephanie Alexander's massive tome did not have a section, even a tiny one, on turmeric. Black mark to Stephanie I say, although I do understand the others. Only the specialist spice and herb books had suggestions - kedgeree being the main one (it's an old book and kedgeree is out of fashion). Only River Cottage A-Z had genuine suggestions for what to do with turmeric. Alas none of them were what I was looking for - Stir-fried cabbage with turmeric and garlic; Lemon verbena pilaf (must have a look at that in the summer as I do have some lemon verbena which is dormant at the moment); Curried clams and Velvet crab curry - David doesn't do shellfish Crumbed whiting goujons with curried egg tartare - he doesn't do eggs either; Indian spiced grilled quail - ditto and Fragrant beef curry. I got a bit excited at the beef curry but it was a version of rendang which requires coconut milk - so also out of the question. (Topic for another time - are men pickier eaters than women?)


So over to the internet. Which of course is the place to go for this kind of thing. Just key in your three ingredients and bingo you are confronted with dozens of recipes from curry to pizza. Yes pizza - Turmeric chicken pizza with mint yoghurt sauce, from a website called Halv and Halv who is a Swede who lives in America I think as most of the post seemed to be about Swedish elections.

Now I have tried a quiche with some leftover chicken tandoori and it did work, so maybe I shouldn't deride this idea, but still - not really what I was looking for. It was sort of two different meals in one. Yoghurt dolloped on top of a pizza doesn't look quite right to me.


But it seems that this particular trio of ingredients is a winner - well that's what I told myself in a self congratulatory way. Grilled chicken with turmeric seems to be a standard thing in cuisines from the Middle- East all across the Asian continent to Vietnam and beyond. There are variations of course, in what accompanies it and what other spices might be included but it is very definitely a thing. Then various professional and amateur cooks have tweaked this to suit their own inclinations - which is what we do isn't it? I mean I could have just concocted something with those three ingredients - it would probably have ended up as a curry. But I wanted to be a bit more adventurous this time. Here is a selection - just a selection of what I found. I haven't included the salads - well it's winter and I'm not really much into salads anyway.


Moving from the top and left to right:

Chicken kebab with turmeric, garlic and mint - from The Hungry French Girl - looks yummy but a bit like many I have made before; Karen Martini's Roasted lemongrass and turmeric chicken - interesting, but I had no lemongrass and besides there was no mint in the dish; Turmeric grilled chicken with mint shallot gremolata from Caroline's Kitchen - a different approach - a bit like the peanut topping I was talking about yesterday. I was tempted by this one, but had no shallots - another irony for my final choice requires shallots so I had to go and buy some anyway. And the next one is my choice - Thai turmeric chicken rice (Khao mok gai) from Marion's Kitchen. I see that elsewhere this dish is described as Thai biryani and I suppose that's sort of what it is as the chicken is cooked with the rice, but with Thai flavourings such as fish sauce. The mint is in the form of a sauce to accompany the dish, so I thought that this dish gave all three ingredients a starring role.

But then there was Jamie with Seared turmeric chicken, and to be honest I would have modified it somewhat because he serves it with couscous which is not a David favourite, and it also had jarred peppers ( I didn't have any) and was served with hummus, which is also not a David favourite. Another time perhaps - and to this end I bought a jar of peppers when I eventually went to the supermarket. Skillet chicken with cumin, turmeric, paprika and mint is an adapted recipe from the New York Times and presented on a website called Cooking from Books. It does look gorgeous, but I have to say I didn't warm to the writer of the post, which is a bit stupid, not to say condescending of me. And finally there is Persian chicken with turmeric and lime from Epicurious. A tiny bit ho hum.


There are a whole lot more choices out there, which just goes to show that perhaps we don't need cookery books any more. Everything is available on the internet as David says. But this is just not true, and I actually think I just hit on a bit of a winning combination. Other experiments like this have not been quite as successful and I have sometimes just ended up fabricating something of my own. The quote at the top of the page came from a discussion on this very topic - cookbooks or internet - on the website Chowhound. Prior to his or her contribution to the discussion most people seemed to think the internet was the way to go, but after that thought a few more agreed. Put simply the consensus seemed to be:


"Books for browsing for ideas. Internet for something specific"


Although that's not quite it either. I was not looking for something specific today. Well a bit specific but really I was just looking for ideas that would lead me to a specific recipe. Cookbooks are indeed wonderful for browsing but generally speaking one is browsing on an idle afternoon when dinner has already been decided, so the ideas just get pushed to the back of the brain to be dragged out later - or not.


And it seems that this is all terribly current, for according to a number of accounts people are cooking a lot more at home at the moment and they are using the internet to find recipes.


"people are looking up more recipes now than at any time in the still-not-very-long history of the internet." Daniel Neman - Good Food


Back in April Google issued a report on what recipes we are all looking for and Good Food's Daniel Neman wrote an amusing article on the results. Amongst his comments:


"Unsurprising is the fact that the folks or algorithms at Google Trends include hand sanitizer as one of the recipes that people are looking for, along with all of the various foods. A recipe is a recipe, I suppose. And there it is, hand sanitizer, sitting clean but un-nutritious at No. 3."


The top ten recipe searches were: banana bread, pizza dough, hand sanitiser, french toast, chocolate cake, dalgona coffee, chicken breasts, carrot cake, ground beef, and fried rice, which suggests as he says that:


"What we want to eat in this Pandemic Age are sweets, treats and meals from our childhood."


Definitely not healthy anyway. Dalgona coffee by the way is apparently a Korean coffee drink. He hadn't heard of it either. Another day.


But look - chicken breasts - well it's a freezer staple isn't it and there are thousands of things you can do with them. I have always been a sucker for cooking chicken. I remember once serving chicken at a dinner party back in the 60s and a friend, when he saw that it was chicken, said: "Ah one of Rosemary's thousand and one ways with chicken." I cringed a bit, so much so that I have remembered it to this day and think twice before serving chicken at a dinner party.


So next time you don't know what to cook with today's three ingredients, maybe the internet is the best place to go. Three is a good number to start with by the way. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall produced a whole book around it - Easy it was called.


(Google knows all. Google sees all. Google is all.)" Daniel Neman - Good Food


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