I learned to cook at a very young age while watching the nanny prepare the family meals. She made an excellent roast chicken and I can still remember to this day how she would slap me on the hand with a dish cloth if I attempted to steal a piece of skin off the chicken as it came out of the oven.
Cynthia never made use of a cookery book; she just cooked in her own simple way. This is what made it so enjoyable to watch as it did not feel like you were in a classroom reading out of a text book. Peeling carrots and potatoes for me was a game, as I would see if I could peel faster than she could, and would feel extremely proud of myself if I could hold back the tears even a second longer then her while chopping onions.
There were no strict instructions on how things should be done, I just watched and tried to repeat what she did, in the process learning the basics of good cooking. These basics, to me, means building flavours with good ingredients that work well together, without worrying about how much of an ingredient should be added. Always taste your dish as you go along.
When I draw up a menu for the restaurant, I first have a look at what is available as well as the quality of the product, and then I create different dishes for the menu. This is also how I was taught while working in a posh country inn in the UK. There was one chap who would catch us wild salmon in the river that ran through town. He would just show up with this beautiful fish and we had to quickly pop down to the market to find some ingredients to partner the pink salmon. It was all very exciting.
I feel the same way now about going into a good butchery as I did when I was a kid going into a toy shop. Browsing around to see what cuts of meat look good or to see if they have anything new in their fridge always gets the creative juices going. The other day I walked into a butchery that I had been into only once before and found some kudu loins and fillets that he had acquired from a friend’s farm…and onto the menu they went.
Now try this at home…