My nephew is now in his late 20s. Ten years ago, for his 18th birthday, we went to the top restaurant in Cambridge. After the meal we had a tour behind the scenes. Like Heston, there were lots of gadgets and interesting ways to cook: water baths, foam makers…
My nephew went on to work in a top Cambridge college kitchen, then went to university in his mid-twenties and now is a successful estate agent in London.
Like him I have been on a journey – though mine is still a culinary one.
It started out with Keith Floyd. I read an interview with him years ago where he outlined his principles for great cooking: buy the best ingredients you can find, cook them as simply as you can and serve with the nicest wine you can afford. Those rules have served me well for many years.
However, my latest application of those now involves the freezer! This is not the more usual trick of storing small bits of wine or even crumbled cheese – ready to use in dishes. You read about those a lot.
My discovery? Cooking from Frozen. Very little on line. Am I the only one?
This is not about ready meals into the microwave for a minute longer than they would get starting at fridge temperature. Rather, this approach begins with home cooked food straight from the freezer to a medium-hot oven…
This might be with a dish you have already prepared:
1) A fruit crumble (with my gluten free topping of butter in chickpea and rice flour, but that is another story)
2) Lentil bake or nut roast
3) Chilli skins – left over chicken or fish skins in chilli sauce
The beauty of this method is twin pleasures of soft and crunchy; tender and browned (see photo series here).
However, this style of cooking really comes into its own if you are a meat eater.
Whilst in our home Beer Can Chicken is the total favourite (have a search on google if you don’t know what that is…), the frozen to oven approach is great for individual cuts: such as rib of beef and other roasts; duck and chicken breasts; rack of lamb and kebabs. By the time the meat in the middle is cooked the outside is nicely coloured and textured.
It works a treat when cooking up a combination of potatoes, onions and (frozen) sausages stirred regularly to spread the juices around.
And in casseroles (from coq au vin to one involving chicken, raw onions, parmesan, pepper and cream) it is brilliant – never again the trade-off between tough chicken or hard vegetables.
[By the way, alongside this you can cook what I call ‘potatoes done two ways’: half roast/half baked…both at the same time. Cut in half, put a bit of fat and salt on the cut side, place on tray, cook – don’t move the potatoes on the tray until they are ready and you serve them carefully to keep the crisp edge intact.]
Now, if this was a regular food web site I would say do use a thermometer when cooking from frozen, which is probably a good idea. However, on the whole, by sight and touch I can tell if cooked (from a catering trick my nephew taught me…I am happy to share more).
The lesson? Do you enjoy following recipes or applying principles or breaking the rules? In the kitchen, in business, in life?