Food is, as should be evident, one of my chief passions in life. I love exploring different flavors and experimenting with common meals or ingredients to create something totally new. Food is an outlandishly fun medium to work with, as it allows immense freedom and expression, yet time constrains its beauty to such a short period. Thrust into England, a new culinary adventure, I have been exploring two amazing paths, restaurant exploration and home cooking. The first will be addressed at a later point (or search for the Fish and Chips Quest in the sidebar), but doing large amounts of cooking was a new experience for me. At home, usually I am either in my beloved Dining Hall, being spoiled by my parents' or grandparents' cooking, or cooking solely for myself.
Here, however, I am the Head Chef of our flat. (My flatmates and I worked out a mutually-beneficial deal: I cook the meals, they do the dishes that ensue.) Learning to cook for four people (and the occasional guest) each night has been a great deal of fun. Although our tools are limited, we have an amazing selection of ingredients between the various open-air markets and a large Sainsburys (grocery store) fairly nearby.
We take turns doing the shopping, or go in a large group together, but its always an adventure. One thing we noticed quickly was the lack of preservatives, especially in the produce. This means we have to shop close to daily for some produce, but it does mean we are eating amazingly fresh food all the time. I love doing the shopping, seeing all the fresh and varied food all around, and finding new inspiration for dishes. For example, this week, a major promotion dropped the price of Brie and Spanish chorizo a ton, so we picked up some to add to our garlic basil pesto Mac and Cheese. It was a delicious success, as the picture below may show.
I've also found it enjoyable to start writing out weekly menus. It helps us ensure variety and also buy just what we need to avoid wasting food. It also brings back memories of the Dining Hall, and my favorite study break of looking up the week's menu to see what foods I would be able to combine. This is one of our menus from a week ago:
Monday: extra cheesy spinach, pesto, and chicken Mac with sliced oranges, strawberries, and avocado
Tuesday: oven pesto chicken spinach sandwiches with pasta salad(?)
Wednesday: Oven baked Parmesan chicken breast with pilaf and caprese salad (tomato, Mozzerella slices, fresh basil) and fresh bread
Thursday: Pizza! (Sausage with assorted veggies), bruschetta (as appetizer), classy cocktails (vodka sunrise- vodka, orange juice, cranberry juice)
Friday: Fried rice with large fried shrimp
Cooking is simultaneously exhilarating and relaxing for me. Though the sizzle of the oil and the ending rush to make sure everything is ready at the same time raise the excitement level, there is something so rhythmic and soothing about the various routines that surround my cooking; the reassuring thunk of the knife on the cutting board, the gentle murmuring of the boiling water on the stove, and the swirls of the soup as I stir put me in a relaxed state of mind. The routine clears away my day, and the meal nourishes my tired body. I'm not just learning to cook on this adventure, I'm learning about myself, and what simple things, like cooking, hold great significance in my life.
At the Store, Buying Chorizo
Buying Italian Cheese from a Market Vendor
Making Pizzas (P-I-Z-Z-A!)
Making the Mac
The Fabled Garlic Basil Pesto Spinach Mac & Cheese with Spanish Chorizo, Fresh Mozzarella, and French Brie