28 June 2008

Simple Pleasures

How many times have I said 'Alright, today I shall bake a tart!'. Just in the past week alone, I must have said those 7 magic words at least 50 times. Ever since I became the proud owner of a gorgeous cookbook all about tarts (Eric Kayser's Sweet and Savoury Tart), I keep telling myself I really have to get down to baking the handsome Parma Ham and Pear tart. Or even the Bacon and Mushroom Quiche.

Unfortunately, I STILL haven't gotten down to it.

Instead, I succumbed to preparing far simpler dishes. None of the fiddly-diddly dough-kneading, even though the tarts seriously look finger-licking good. Perhaps tonight, tonight!

Many people overestimate the amount of work that is needed for cooking in general, and especially for food that looks fit for the cover of Donna Hay. Alas, it is not true! The effortlessness of wrapping bacon around a piece of chicken thigh, baking it at 180 degrees celcius for about 20-30 mins or until the middle registers 70 degrees celcius then garnishing it with chopped parsley, cannot be ignored.

The bacon bathes the chicken in its flavourful juices and protects it from the harsh heat in the oven hence keeping it moist. Pair it with a big serving of salad tossed in balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and it'd be a meal fit for... well in this case, me.

On another gloriously bright Saturday morning, the day called for something humbly plain. A pack of pork sausages, onions, hotdog buns, strawberries, lettuce and haloumi cheese later, I put together one of my all-time favourite salads, and made some sweet onion relish to complement a couple of hotdogs. 'Delicious' wouldn't even begin to describe it. Beautiful company with such a pure meal made that Saturday one of my most memorable Saturdays ever.

On the single rare occasion I actually bothered to put in just a little more effort, I had 8 spectacular pieces of lamb cutlets to thank for the blast of inspiration. Spotted in the meat section of Cold Storage one very innocent Sunday morning while grocery shopping, I could not peel my eyes off them and found my hands inexplicably wrapped around them shortly after. Somehow, somewhere, they ended up in the chiller section of my refrigerator, coated in a mixture of cumin, mustard seeds and black pepper all freshly pound in my under-used mortar and pestle.

After spending some tender-loving time in the frying pan with just a spot of olive oil, they were served with couscous (dried mint, lemon juice, salt, pepper and dried cranberries soaked in some hot water) and baby spinach salad (balsamic vinegar, olive oil, sugar, raisins, haloumi cheese).

The lamb cutlets (at about 65 degrees celcius on the meat thermometer) had only the faintest hint of pink and were succulent to the last bite. The combination of spices also fortuitously worked marvellously well with the lamb. It imparted an earthiness that complemented the natural gamey flavour one would find in lamb. The tangy and crunchy salad, together with the fluffy couscous grains were side dishes the lamb cutlets were certainly most proud to be placed next to. Or actually, sandwiched between.

Perhaps all I need is to make more grocery shopping trips, and wait for the inspiration to come. But in the meantime, I don't see much wrong with simple pleasures, or pleasures simply put-together.

Alright, today I shall bake a tart!