Sunday, October 08, 2006

Reformatted Food

I have a very bad habit when it comes to food and eating. I need variety, and i definitely cannot bear to eat the same thing day after day, or even alternate day after alternate day now that we're on the topic... Therefore, I'm always happy to have friends over to share food with me, because there are just some things you cannot cook in small quantities. Imagine making chicken curry with one thigh and 2 tablespoons of coconut milk. Even the blender will cross its arms, pout, and refuse to blend the half a garlic clove, 2 shallots, one dried chilli and two fresh green ones into a paste. You couldn't buy it.

Thus another thing that appeals to me, is reformatting cooked meat into a whole different dish. From a student's point of view, you can save money because you buy in economies of scale, and the meat will last some time. From my point of view, i will not have to eat the same meat dish everyday for a week, and from the point of view of this pasta sauce, it lends an incredible sweet tenderness, there can be no other way to make a dish this easy and quick when you decide to invite a couple of friends over for dinner to save yourself the trouble of going out since you promised to meet up with them.

This dish started with the desire to have some braised duck. So i managed to hunt down a whole duck for $10, and after some wrangling with the chopper with the help of a dear friend, the duck became six pieces that could fit into our small pot. Braised with lots of garlic, black peppercorns, sugar, soy sauce, a pinch of five-spice powder and water, it quickly became so tender the meat just fell off the bone. Paired with some firm tofu cooked in the sweet dark sauce, it was an amazing result for a whimsical experiment. Well trained in the fickleness of female tastebuds however, i quickly froze two thirds of the braised duck, intending to defrost and eat them as they were in a week or two.

The impending dinner party had me head-scratching the night before, it had been a busy week, and i didn't have anything in the fridge that would be proper for a farewell dinner for another dear friend. I figured a kenyan might appreciate the homely subtleties of fried ikan tenggiri and white rice but making him come all the way to campus, i figured he'd be a little disappointed with that.

The sauce was extremely simple. I defrosted the duck and shredded the meat. I had about three cups worth. a cup of french beans/ or haricot vert - 2cm pieces, a cup of cooked radish (boiled for soup for lunch, but was too much)- diced 1/2 cm cubes, a package of oyster mushrooms - shredded, 4 medium tomatoes - seeded and diced. a few chopped shallots and minced garlic cloves. Also one cup of tomato paste or more if you like more.. tomatoey flavour..

Heat some EVOO, then add shallots, garlic, mushrooms. 1 minute, then add tomatoes, then the rest of the veggies and the shredded meat. Add some of the braising liquid (there's surely sauce at the bottom of the box you used to freeze the meat) some water (i cannot remember how much... add the tomato paste, then see how liquidy it is? need to be rather thick) Add salt, pepper and more EVOO for taste.

The sauce will bubble, and be rather thick when the meat begins to really disintegrate. This wouldn't take more than 10 mins. You can add sliced red chilli padi directly into the sauce if everyone likes spicy food, or just do like I did and offer a dish of sliced chillies to adjust to individual desired fire levels. Serve warm with pasta. Paired with a simple salad, this dish makes for a great get-together dinner, with just the right touch of sophistication, and enough to ensure a steady flow of easy conversation. Of course some red wine will help tremendously as well. Oh and the pot served 5.

basically any soft, mild flavoured vegetable will do peas, or even frozen corn. Celery might not do so well, unless everyone who is eating will like the taste. Or bell peppers for that matter, but its something that can be tried. If anyone decides to try it, please tell me how it goes. Meanwhile my hands have stopped burning from preparing the chillis for the stuff i made tonight. While i won't say what it is just yet, i'll leave a tantalising picture just to whet some appetites.


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