Monday, February 01, 2010

Shoestring Gourmet

What makes a shoestring gourmet meal? Shoestring is self-explanatory - it means a quality meal that didn't cost a lot. Well we can say that about a lot of the meals we cook. To a certain extent ALL home-cooked meals can turn out to be good, even if they do cost only pennies..
Gourmet stands for quality of the produce cooked, but also for standard and expertise of cooking and the presentation of the meal itself. Here we may have different ideas on this. May have got it wrong, but think Gourmand means the person who prefers and enjoys eating Gourmet food.

Those of you who watched Delia last week will remember that time when Nouvelle Cuisine hit our plates. Quality food it certainly was, but we needed a magnifying glass to see it. Since then portions have increased, along with the price, but there is nothing the chefs do that we can't do ourselves - if we wish to.
Fortunately Beloved is not a lover of 'jus' drizzled across his plate, and much prefers to have a small jug of gravy to pour over what he wishes. This makes the presentation a lot easier for me, although I certainly respect the produce I cook and try to cook it to perfection - especially when I know the cost (although not THAT much, as I never spend much more than the higher side of cheap) - and always make the serving look as appetising as possible.

As produce - my aim is to always buy free-range eggs, free-range chickens (occasionally), fresh produce from the farmers' markets, and grow as many salads and other veg that our small garden can contain. Tend to sit on the fence when it comes to the 'organics', for this does not mean vegetables are grown without using fertiliser and pesticides. These are still needed, but made from a 'natural' source, rather than chemicals.

In fact, read only the other day that all fruit and vegetables that have thick skin that would normally be removed before eating/cooking, are - internally - the same as those grown organically, for nothing sprayed on the surface will get down to the flesh inside. Citrus fruits, bananas, butternut squash... all come to mind. The thinner the skin, the more need to wash and peel. It is best to grow our own soft fruits then we can be sure these are as 'clean' as possible. Apparently onions and garlic are by their very nature 'pest proof', so no need to pay more for organically grown.

Eating a hearty breakfast of the Full English variety can be quite a good thing, as long as this would be the main meal of the day, and less eaten later. For one thing there would be enough nutrition there to keep us going for hours, and also give us time to work off those extra calories during the day. The old saying is "eat like a king at breakfast, and a pauper at supper" makes a lot of sense.