On fusion food through the medium of frittata

19 10 2009

Now you see fusion food… it’s enough to strike fear into even the most steely-hearted of chefs. Mention the F word, and you can see their brows bead with cold sweat and their eyes dart to scope out the nearest exit. “Lemon grass in your beef rogan josh inspired cottage pie? Well that sounds different, excusemeIvejustseensomeoneIhavetotalktomustbegoingnowbye”. It turns out, with a little rational thought, the fusion food is all around us, it’s just a question of degrees of separation: like the game six degrees of Kevin Bacon, but this is more like six degrees of Sweetcure Bacon. Fish and Chips, that quintessential of British Staples couldn’t have existed prior to 1536 when the humble spud was introduced thanks to the Spanish. In fact, potatoes are relative newcomers to many parts of the world. Chicken Tikka Massala and Baltis – fusion food. Indian spices and techniques adapted to the European palate. Why the wordy introduction? It’s a form of apology for what I’m about to tell you. I mixed Italian and English food tonight. Worse than that, I mixed Asian and European. And it turned out OK! In fact, it turned out to be rather interesting and pretty nice!

It all started because I had leeks to use up. I had bought them in a frenzy at the veg market the Saturday before last and they were prodigious in their stature! Having been left in the vegetable rack for a week and a bit however, it was time to make use of them. Some sort of frittata or tortilla beckoned – most of the recipes I found had potato in them and whilst leek and potato soup is a nonpareille, and potato is clearly a staple in the frittata/tortilla world, it just wasn’t doing it for me. I had my pith helmet on and my adventurer’s backpack and I was going to climb mount Cookery.

I came across this recipe from Rachel Ray. This could be a goer. Most of the ingredients were storecupboard staples, so minimal outlay, and I can have it cold for lunch tomorrow too (and the next day… and the next… til I never want to see another leek again mostly likely). I had Grana Padano in the fridge, but I wanted to break out – push the envelope – stretch the boundaries – make real cooks and chefs break out into a cold sweat. Hands up! I confess! I used Stilton in the polenta crust. And a touch of chopped sage – just a hint mind you as I have been seduced by Old Mother Sage once too often in the past to give in and put too many of the glorious, finely-haired leaves into anything. Sage is at least a possible, being a native of the part of the world that gives us the word Polenta. Stilton not. And it worked. According to my taste, that is… but it worked.

Now, you’ll excuse the crappy photography please – I’m only just dragging myself into the digital age being a Mediaevalist by training, and a Marketer largely by accident and I’ve only got an old cameraphone to take pictures with.

Strengths: Tasty polenta crust – polenta is notoriously tasteless, hence the addition of industrial quantities of black pepper and cheese in most recipes.

Weaknesses: The Stilton has a different consistency to Parmesan that I failed to take into account sufficiently. The polenta ‘crust’ was only just done and could have stood being a little more firm. I think it will be fine for lunch tomorrow having spent the night in the fridge. Adjust the polenta up, or the stock down, for the next run. I wanted to use half stock and half wine, but I didn’t have any in that I was willing to sacrifice to the altar of experimentation. And I think that might have been overkill. If there’s two things I’m guilty of being, it’s an inveterate tinkerer-with-things and over-adder of ingredients. Also the polenta needs to cool a little before trying to shape it into a crust otherwise it just gets sloppy; this meant that some parts of the crust were thicker than others, while not a problem for me, might be a bit unsatisfactory if I was cooking it for people.

Learnings: Ignore the injunction to put little bits of cold butter in with your eggs. I ended up with buttery pools on top of the thing. Cook the leeks in the butter instead of the EVOO (!) and add the juices with them when you pour into the poleta crust. I under-seasoned the leeks too, thinking that the Stilton would be sufficiently salt to carry the leeks. I was trying to make the Stilton work too hard on that score.

Serve with: This was my second fusion moment of the meal I had nashi pears in the fridge, and some chicory. Ignoring the recipe’s suggestion of a tomato and rocket salad, I went for a pear, chicory and walnut salad, dressed with walnut oil and a little white wine vinegar. Pears and chicory is fairly standard, the nashi pear added a crispness and sweetness that worked well with the chicory. Nuts added texture, and the walnut oil gave a nice backnote of walnutty warmth.

Fusion food: not all bad…. pass me the lemongrass anyone?

And if you’re at all inspired to have a go at this travesty – you can find the recipe HERE which also contains a link to the original, courtesy of Ms Rachel Ray

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