Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Cooking With Practically Nothing

Are there any of you challenged and excited by the prospect of making something edible out of the last remains of a week's shopping? Somehow I think it's even more thrilling when you're challenged by space, equipment, all the seasonings you're used to having stocked, and especially the lack of familiar ingredients. Cooking while away is always like that. You cant afford herbs and spices, which are sometimes a crutch anyway, and as for equipment, its a pot and a pan, and a knife. Tonight was one such adventure. Not that making noodles is ever so hard, but I had a kind of raw spreadable salami that was pushed on me a few days ago a the market. A little disconcerting, but very tasty. And I thought, what the hell, cook it. With onions, some tomatoes and throw it on the noodles. German noodles no less. But no herbs, or garlic, or wine, I wasn't about to let that go into the pan instead of down my throat. And somehow it turned out marvellous. Shortcuts I would never have taken in my own kitchen, somehow made sense here. And letting the noodles cook in the sauce, something I practically never do, did the trick perfectly. There was so little of the sauce that it kind of lightly covered everything, and you could still taste the noodles. Which I admit rarely happens when I do my full-blown ragu at home. Maybe the change was good for a lesson learned.

So if you have the urge, tell me some stories of your own triumphs in adversity. Cooking in an unfamilar kitchen with no amenities.

Ken

8 comments:

bettyteller said...

Hi Ken -- I'm loving your travel blogs! Sorry it's cold and rainy there. (Hard to believe it rains in the summer, isn't it? After 9 years in Calif. I find I keep forgetting to pack an umbrella when I travel, and am always shocked when it rains.)
My favorite cooking with nothing trick is to throw whatever I can find (onions and tomatoes are a good start, some chopped potatoes, and whatever protein you can scrounge) into a foil packet, and put it in a hot (400+) oven. Especially good for fish, but I bet it would work for meat too. You don't even have a pan to clean at the end.

Tammois said...

Hi Ken - I'm really enjoying your blog whenever I have a chance to read it (like now, when I'm meant to be writing a conference paper...). I get very ancy if I know I'll be cooking in a poorly stocked kitchen, and any time it's somewhere in the state (as in, no flights to get there), I actually travel with my butcher's knife and Chinese cleaver, and sometimes with my cast iron frypan. The knives are the real key though.

Having said that, I have made do with some pretty ordinary setups, such as the extremely ill-lit little kitchen with electric burners, one small frypan, one pot, one dull, serrated (shiver) knife and a plastic chopping board in a cabana in Chile. I needed to cook up a beautiful whole renata fish we'd just bought from the fishermen on the beach, plus a couple of potatoes, onions and tomatoes. Of course we did have some lemons as well, and we impulse bought a little jar of salsa. I fried the fish in mystery oil, and fried the vegies up with a bit of salt and pepper. It was not only delicious (my then four year old daughter said "poor fishy, lucky us!"), it was quick and local produce. Thanks for reminding me that you can, in fact, manage a yummy repast with few resources!

Oh, and I look forward to seeing you in Melbourne sometime to prove that abalone is always good. :D

Glenn said...

Okay, this is an old, old post, but as a recent discoverer of your blog I reserve the right to go back in time and post a comment to it--thus the magic of the Internet, where it's always "now".

My greatest triumph of cooking with nothing was last January. I'm a member of a medieval history group, and at this particular event, there was a contest to see who could do the best redaction of a recipe from Anomino Toscano (A pottage of leeks). In any case, I'd tested my version of the recipe a few times at home, and was pretty confident with things like a modern stove--but the site didn't offer any cooking facilities. In desperation, I used one of those El Cheapo hot-water-pots and a metal bowl that just fit in--sort of an impromptu double boiler.

Somehow, it worked, and I actually won. I'll always treasure the memory of me kneeling in the building to one side of the entrance (only place I could find an electrical outlet), carefully stirring my pottage on the floor, while ignoring chuckles and raised eyebrows...

Nitheesh said...

congrats! keep up the good work/this is a great presentation.


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