"Change is not indecision" Chris Ofili
Well that's what I'm telling myself now.
I have somehow managed to make myself very confused about what I'm writing about today. In fact I spent a fair amount of time collecting recipes and pictures for one thing, only to realise that this was not what I originally intended as my subject, not even my second thought for a subject, and was I really that interested anyway?
Initially I was going to just write about what I did with the cabbage, mushrooms and cabbage last night, but then decided there was not much to say - so I have currently relegated it to a postscript, (see at the end of the post) although that could change too, the way my mind is leaping around at the moment. Indeed I have just had to go and make myself a cup of coffee to get me back on track.
"Indecision and reveries are the anesthetics of constructive action." Sylvia Plath
The coffee (and the guilty biscuit) are intended to put me back on the path of constructive action. Although I still find myself being distracted by this and that.
Having abandoned my first thought - the cabbage - I thought I would do a lucky dip post. I haven't done one for a while, and the book in question - Beverley Sutherland-Smith's A Taste of Class - has been sitting on my desk for some time. Mostly because I couldn't think of anything much to say about the recipe on the page I randomly selected - Prawns with almond crumbs. Well there was also Scallops in oyster sauce, but I certainly wasn't going there. Anyway I told myself it was time to bite the bullet (curious expression - why would you bite a bullet? - answer - nobody really knows - maybe to avoid pain?) and get on with it. But somewhere between that decision and opening up Wix I obviously thought that the almond crumbs themselves were more interesting and wrote that as my title. Somehow or other however, my mind didn't register what I had done and I started looking for recipes for prawns and almond crumbs, and somewhere along the way that changed to prawns and almonds.
So rather than just ignore all that work - well it's not really work because it's sort of fun - here are the recipes I found - with no further comment. Suffice to say it seems to be both a Latin thing, but influenced by the Arabs, and an Asian thing. In no particular order, although the first two are probably the closest to the one in the book: Almond crusted prawns with creamy guacamole and mango salsa/Murray River Salt; Almond coated prawns/Sanjeev Kapoor; Sicilian sautéed Shrimp with almond crumbs/Our Italian Table; Honey almond prawns/Steemit; Deep-fried prawn balls with almond flakes/Liv/Egg Wan's Food Odyssey; Linguine with prawns and roasted almonds/Allegra McEvedy; Almond crusted prawns with wasabi mayo/Darpan; Tempura almond shrimp - Ciao Winnipeg
The last ones below show me straying from the original concept - Poached fennel with pink prawns and almonds/Rachel Khoo/delicious.; Garlic sizzle prawns with halloumi and almonds/Better Homes and Gardens; King prawns in saffron almond sauce/BBC Good Food
So much for prawns and almonds. Suffice to say that it was interesting to see how the Arab and Asian influences often crept in. Even Beverley Sutherland Smith soaked her prawns in milk and curry powder.
Almond crumbs then - theoretically the subject of this post. I had thought to comment, using the almonds as an example on the current day fetish of putting crunchy things on top of things. Indeed I myself succumbed yesterday with my cabbage and scattered breadcrumbs on top. But is there anything much more to say than that? Yes we love crunchy and crispy - two of the most overworked words you will see on restaurant menus today. In his book Extra Good Things, Ottolenghi - or rather his writer Tara Wigley - says that sound is an element of eating that we often ignore, although it is hugely important, and quotes Alan Hirsch as saying the the sound of food is:
"an accompaniment to the sensory stimulus of eating"
Bacon is much better crispy than not is it not?
We used to scatter chopped parsley over our food to make it look pretty. Now we scatter over crunchy things. Like the cinnamon almonds on Ottolenghi's version of the Moroccan B'stilla or as he calls it Sweet and savoury chicken pie. The parsley (well actually coriander) is still there, but there is also crunch in the almonds, and more colour plus yet another texture in the eggs.
Then there was one final distraction. Just as I was about to launch into this discourse on I'm not sure what, I noticed that Beverley Sutherland Smith accompanies her prawns with a somewhat original, certainly different, Chutney cream. There was no picture and I can find no equivalent recipe online. She was a much more original cook than many give her credit for. Now whether this is worth the effort or not I'm not sure - but herewith I give her recipe. It was interesting, and I'm sure would be good at accompanying things other than prawns in an almond crust.
"1 tablespoon mango chutney; 1 tablespoon cream, lightly whipped, 1 teaspoon curry powder; pinch salt; 1 tablespoon oil, 1 medium-sized apple, peeled and diced small; 1 small ripe tomato, peeled, some seeds removed and cut in tiny pieces.
Chop any little pieces in the mango chutney. Mix with the cream, curry and salt. Leave aside.
Heat the oil in a small saucepan and add the apple and tomato. Fry, stirring for a couple of minutes and then place a lid on the pan. Cook covered until quite tender. Push this through a sieve, pressing down hard to get all the juices out. Cool, then add to the mango cream mixture."
I suppose the first part of this is pretty standard stuff these days, but that second bit with the apples and tomatoes is rather different.
So as you can see this post is all over the place. I had been very indecisive. I looked at quotes on indecision and found that they were mostly very derogatory so I was very pleased to find this one from Bertrand Russell. It made me feel a bit better.
"One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision." Bertrand Russell
Thank you Bertrand.
THE PROMISED POSTSCRIPT
Yesterday when I was checking out cabbage possibilities, somebody commented that cooked cabbage always looked grey - as does mine. Indeed I recognise that the dish in the photograph does not look that great - but it was rather surprisingly tasty. Well David liked it so it must have been.
So what did I do. Well basically cabbage rolls in a mushroom sauce. The stuffing, included grated zucchini and carrot, chopped onion, shredded lettuce that was also a leftover - I had made a salad dressing and dropped the lettuce in it before David decided he didn't want it the day before. So it was soggy and uneatable as salad, but perfectly fine in a stuffing. Oh and garlic - of course there was garlic. There was also some tomato purée and ricotta mixed into the rest which had been sautéed a bit in oil. The sauce was made by frying mushroom slices in butter, adding some flour, then milk and tomato passata and a few slices of cornichon. Blanched cabbage leaves rolled and stuffed, placed on a bed of the sauce and covered with more. Sprinkled with breadcrumbs and cooked in the oven until bubbling. I still have some cabbage left. And mushrooms too but the mushrooms will be going in a quiche tomorrow.
Then there's the fromage fort. I forgot to mention that a couple of good dollops of this went into yesterday's mushroom sauce as well. It is really quite tasty, but what am I going to do with it? We're not into toast and cheese in this house.
I thought I could keep it and use it for Ixta Belfrage's Giant grilled cheese with hot honey butter, which I made once for the family to huge acclaim. However, they are not coming here until next weekend, and all the books and online recipes for fromage fort say it won't keep for more than a few days. Surely not? It's cheese. Maybe if I cover it with melted butter.
What else could I do with it? Well I suppose just substitute every time I would use grated cheese - which I do quite a lot - that tomorrow quiche for a start. Jacques Pépin suggested gratins, pasta and gougère. And I just found that you can freeze it, so that's what I shall now go and do. Some of it anyway.
I recommend the fromage fort or potted cheese concept though. They say it's not worth doing with less than 250g of cheese, but that's probably more to do with the size of your food processor than anything. Just think a bit about what you will do with it.