Monday 8 February 2016

Colours in the kitchen

Basil oil in a glass bowl.

My friend Bee bewails brown. Both a prodigious baker of fine product and a very excellent photographer, she likes to combine her skills... to produce a portfolio of delicious cakes, bread, biscuits, buns. BUT tan and taupe all. I understand her woe. One of the challenges of putting together a plate is to ensure a range of colour; not just for aesthetics either. We all know now that colour is the key to a varied nutrition. Eat the rainbow, as they might say. Trouble is, before you eat it, you have to prepare it and applying heat often removes hue: that raw vivid red, purple, green, orange turns to battleship, dishcloth and civil service.

Funny that so much of our go-to foods are shades of beige: pasta, bread, batter, cake, coffee, tea, chocolate, toffee and almost everything deep fried. Maybe it's the link to starch and sugar? Comfort it seems, is not colourful. But it can be found and we all know instinctively what to look for. How else do you explain the (usually gratuitous) green garnish found atop everything from pies to ice cream? The salad fig-leaf that covers your carbohydrate orgy?

So here's my celebration of kitchen colour.

Tomatoes after a slow roasting, about to be pulped for soup (link soon).

Crimson ringed radishes, fine sliced for colour and texture.

Cubes of orange butternut squash, doused with oil before roasting. These were served on my new fennel flatbreads.

Brilliant pink pancetta about to accompany the background beans in our warm winter salad.

Let's call it gold? OK, it's a push but baked cauliflowers do look fantastic.

Flowers are an obvious - if now overused - burst of colour. These are rose petals about to be frosted.

A garnet gradation. Sugar meets red wine vinegar as the base of my sweet and sour red cabbage.

Said cabbage with pink peppercorns and caraway seeds.
Notice how the vinegar changes the cabbage from purple to a vivid pink.

Pea green puree of green peas. To maintain this colour you must blanch your peas, shock in ice water and then blend. When you reheat, don't boil, as this will change the mix from garden bright to a tired dun.

If you must go brown, go glossy too. This is a deep caramel, the sugar taken to a hair breadth off burnt. This is essential to capture the bittersweet complexity of a real caramel.

Peppers look like they are factory made, so perfect and pure is their colour.
Here a spiced red pepper puree is stirred into a curried squash soup

More red and yellow. This time, autumn plums shine in a  poaching pan.

I'm increasingly replacing olive oil with good quality British  rape seed.
The grassy notes replaced with a mellow nutty and sometimes herbaceous flavour. And look at that colour.

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