Celebrity and reality cooking shows are ‘an absolute phenomena’ in Australia (that’s if you ask the commercial television networks) – not so sure about elsewhere. The country where cuisine once comprised a meat pie washed down with a cold beer has gone all culinary, cordon bleu, a la carte, epicurean, gourmet, gastronomic and glutinous (no actually that last adjective just means sticky!). Anyway, we’re gluttons for foodie shows (apparently), and by default, for punishment.
The marathon that was Australia’s Masterchef Season 4 finished just in time for the Olympics, surprise, surprise (the eight remaining contestants feigned shock when the finals were ‘sprung’ upon them). Including the grand finale, there were a total of 70 episodes over twelve weeks (see what I mean about punishment – you’d think we were all starving Oliver Twists asking ‘Please Sir, can I have some more’ – food that is). The Olympics only went for 15 days.
I like cooking, sometimes I love cooking (when I can actually have the kitchen to myself with (only a) few interruptions and manage to master something new or tricky and obviously tasty). I ‘m a good cook, but no Masterchef, and my kitchen only rules every now and then.
I understand the importance of balance in cooking – a good meal is a balance of nutrition and taste, of complimentary flavours and of portions presented poised on the plate (apparently). Good nutrition relies on a balanced diet, and in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the importance of balancing foods for good health is very much aligned with the yinyang concept (certain foods are warming, others are cooling etc), although it has always struck me as a little perverse that many Chinese recipes add sugar to balance out the saltiness of all the soy and other sauces that render the dishes so rich in flavour. Still I love good Chinese food, and I’m trying to master at least some recipes – my children come from China after all. I have to boast that I do make some mean yum cha (or yum dim sum).
The trick with many Chinese recipes is that they are ‘simply’ delicious – unlike the celebrity cooking shows, when ingredients have to be ever more exotic and techniques increasingly complicated (think gels, foams, emulsions – we’re talking cooking here, not science experiments). The Chinese, out of necessity and invention, generally use only a few ingredients, mostly vegetable-based, and yet sometimes, indeed often, turn the simple into extraordinary.
It seems that balance, along with satisfaction, comes from getting a few core ingredients right, and then cooking them with love.
So here’s my Chinese, as opposed to Masterchef inspired recipe for balance.
3 cups of gratitude
2 cups of compassion
2 tablespoons of contemplation
1 cup of water
2 tablespoons of action
A portion of purpose
Half a cup of passion
A pinch of excitement
A few drops of joy
Carefully dice purpose into bite-sized chunks. Mix gratitude and compassion together. Add the contemplation to half the water to form a marinade. Marinate the pieces of purpose, along with the gratitude and compassion for 2 hours, or overnight in the fridge.
Heat up the action in a hot wok. Add the marinated chunks of purpose and fry quickly, stirring in the passion. Add the pinch of excitement. Turn the heat down and then add the remaining water along with the marinated gratitude and compassion. Mix through.
Cook slowly and lovingly on low heat for one hour. Add a few drops of joy just before serving. Enjoy.
Love to know what your recipes are for balance, for a contented life?
And please share with your friends if you think this post has been food for thought.