Saturday, February 5, 2011

quality or quantity?

I tend to think of the unique creation, the singular portion, whether for one or a table. But hardly more than that. It's easy to wing it, figure things out on the fly.

I was on a short-haul kuwait airways flight leaving kuwait at around 11 am and was handed a tray containing a muffin, a chicken sandwich, 100 ml each of water and orange juice. I wondered what the manpower and costing of the tray of generic food was. Especially at the bulk rates for such huge quantities. Consistency was guaranteed - pretty consistently pathetic if you really care about it. It's small details that count. And if the details are well done, at the singular scale then theoretically it should be replicated with a higher quality.

I guess, though, that the food was of three(out of five) star quality. Cafeteria quality, generic. The chicken sandwich was actually the most disappointing. The bread was a kind of baguette. Slightly plasticy-waxy on the outside, somewhat soft on the inside, good to soak up a good sauce. The chicken filling was a rather weak interpretation of a coronation chicken. So what would have been a better filling? Considering the same costing... there are many options out there. simple, interesting and unique spices to cater to the markets.

what should an institution that provides you food, of which you have little option, promote in their food? what opportunities are there? could there be something that improves the image of the institution (airline)? Should there be a character, or is cafeteria/generic what people expect and want?

It is this essence that i believe can be looked at in any system. Reevaluation. Determine the balance between quality and quantity. Or between several different qualities. Apply this to airline food or urban planning or music or anything. At least those are the realms i tend to exist in.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

curry comfort

What is comfort food? Something I want to eat again and again. It doesn't matter if I had it yesterday, I could go for it again today. That to me is comfort food. It should have a taste that I never get tired of, it should put me in a mindset that's relaxed, content, satisfied.

Curry is one of my comfort foods. It's really not that hard to make. Just a couple of times to figure out how to get your blender to work the way you want it. Above are most of the ingredients that go into my interpretation of a thai red curry paste. On the plate in front are garlic, ginger (when I can't find galangal), lemongrass and cut up kafir lime leaves. Fresh green chillies, onion, in the mortar coriander and cumin seeds freshly roasted in a pan. Then I add paprika, soy sauce, some lime juice and some crushed dried chillies. I then put a bit of olive oil just to help it bind in the blender.

The resulting paste is the base of flavour in your curry. You should experiment with quantities and perhaps other ingredients until you get the flavour that works for you. I have an intuitive sense for these things and, more importantly, I taste as i go along... or smell in this case, because the paste is quite pungent.

This paste goes well with everything. Today's selection was a purely vegan affair. Zucchini, carrots, sweet peppers, diced potatoes...

As with any kind of curry you're making, the paste goes in the pan until it dehydrates a bit and the aromas are released. Then the vegetables go in and are mixed with the paste for a few minutes before pouring in coconut milk. As it cooks, taste and adjust. I usually put in a tablespoon or so of brown sugar. It works really well in contributing to the sense of harmony in the dish: salty, hot, spicy, aromatic, slightly sweet... Sometimes you need to add a couple of stalks of lemongrass to add more of that flavour - just break up the stalks without tearing them apart and let them seep in the stock while cooking. When the vegetables - or whatever else you're cooking - are done, then the curry is done. Serve with or over rice and enjoy.

This one's about the flavour!