Presenting your food the right way
is profitable for pro’s and enjoyable for home cooks
Doesn’t presentation make your mouth water. Every time I watch a cooking show on TV, I have that Oooh AAah.
Don’t you have this “That’sNice” kind of thing when the camera zooms in after the chef arranges the dish on a plate?
Most of the times the host will still make the same Ooh, Aah kind of gesture I already had, but it doesn’t matter anymore, I am sold.
Presentation makes the food taste better and creates the “WOW” factor when a well presented plate is placed in front of people.
Watching close up shots of food on TV brings the ‘I want to eat this’ desire in people, if the food tastes good or not is no issue anymore –well that’s not true- but as matter of speech. It’s the eye that makes your palate tantalize.
Actually it is not the chef who makes that plate, but some food stylist, waiting just outside the reach of the camera angle who re- arranges the plate adds color with some spray-paint and decides that the plate is ready for the final shoot.
That’s how it works on TV, not in your kitchen, that’s where you have to do the job.
The camera can turn the lousiest cooked food into a Gourmet dish, that last twig of cilantro always falls exactly on the right spot, not fair, but it works miraculously well.
Restaurant chefs, well most of them, are aware and use the feature to attract more clientele and to popularize their establishments.
Styles of presentation change fast by the way, for a while we had the ‘smear’. Remember that blotch of sauce on a plate which is then ‘smeared’ out with a spoon, still popular, but it is losing popularity. The smear hype came after the patterns, also known as ‘curling’, two sauces on top of each other are curled together with a tooth pick, creating lovely looking patterns.
Curling is still in swung to decorate cappuccinos, but has left dinner plates.
New is ‘break it all apart’. Individual components are cooked with so many techniques that it all dazzles your brain when you read the menu and your palate when you get to savor the dish.
Most of all, this new style of presentation dazzles your eye.
Main thing is to keep up with the trends and keep people exited and take pictures, another indispensable part of cooking in today’s high tech world.
Millions of diners around the world, who would have taken fork and spoon after the plate was served a couple of years ago, now first reach for their androids, post what they are going to eat on some social media website and then only start eating.
Some call themselves foodies, others are social media enthusiast. If you are an entrepreneur, see it as free advertisement and let them do as they like.
Menus with great pictures sell better than menus with a great description without a picture.
Japanese restaurants even have their dishes replicated in plastic to make their offerings more attractive, not many Japanese in or outside Japan can live without these plastic food displays.
For the home cooks
Presenting food on a plate does not have to be so difficult or be as difficult as it may seem to be.
The key to create an appetizing presentation is to pull your dish apart before putting it on a plate, not literally, but in your mind.
Divide the elements of the dish in your head and think what would be the sequence of importance.
The “Oven Baked Mackerel with Veggie Stir-fry and Crispy Cubed Potatoes” as shown in the picture has three components, staple, vegetables and protein. Main feature is the protein (the fish), second are the vegetables, lastly the potatoes, a structure that represents a healthy meal.
When presenting a dish of this nature, start plating with the lesser important ingredient which are the potatoes, then the second in importance, the vegetables and lastly the protein which catches the eye first.
Cooking at home is fun, present a meal in an appetizing manner and you will enjoy it even more.
Sweet Potatoes are one of the best health foods on the planet
Potatoes are called ‘Legume’, Sweet potatoes are called ‘vegetable’ because the USDA wants it, Yam, sometimes confused with Sweet potato, is also named vegetable because the USDA wants it. Technically potatoes, Sweet potatoes and yams are tubers.
Confused? No need, important to know is that Sweet potatoes grow underground like regular potatoes, beet root, sugar beets, onions and a few more delicious (tuber) ingredients to cook with. Look for sweet potatoes in the potato section of your supermarket and you most likely will find them there in white, orange and purple.
Sweet potatoes have been declared ‘Super Food’ by healthy eaters and regular exercisers in recent years. The regular potatoes had to take a beating from low- carb promoters.
This is not really true though, there are some differences between the two tubers, but both have properties that are delicious, healthy and nutritious. Botanically they are not related, but both tubers found their origin in Central and South America some 5000 years ago, some even say that remnants of sweet potatoes have been found in Peru dating back to 8000 BC. Regular potatoes originate from the South America’s as well and both, regular and sweet potatoes are about of the same age.
The answer why regular potatoes made it to stardom and sweet potatoes played a more supporting role may be found in the way regular potatoes can be prepared.
They make great fries and chips, because of their regular shape, the regular variety holds better together in the deep fryer also.
That is the exact reason why Sweet potatoes are so popular with the health conscious.
It is not so much the potato, but what we do with it is what makes them unhealthy, any form of processing asks for an addition which is more than probably not in the category of healthy food.
If chips and fries are not loaded with a sugar/ salt mix and some other chemicals to keep them crisp, colorful and ‘fresh’, we are the ones that will come to the aid by slathering blotches of unhealthy processed sauce over them. So it is not the tuber we should call the culprit, but the stuff we serve with them.
Sweet potatoes were mostly associated with ‘pie’ and stayed in the shadow of regular potatoes. The health food movement has granted the Sweet potato an up-lifted status, we cook, grill, roast and mash the Sweet potato without adding any unhealthy stuff and many now appreciate the nutritional values of the tuber.
Sweet potatoes are rich in complex carbohydrate fibers and beta –carotene and potassium which ranks them one of the foods with the highest nutritional value.
Beside cooking, mashing, roasting and grilling Sweet potatoes, they also make lovely bread; the recipe below is really worth a try.
North Carolina can be proud of the state vegetable called ‘Sweet Potato’
Sweet Potato Bread
Prep-time: 10 min.(+ 1 hour rising) Cooking time: 50 min. Total time: 60 min.
If this bread doesn’t fill you up what does, one can say. The use of the cooking water from the sweet potatoes adds more vitamins to the whole concoction, vitamins that normally flush down the kitchen sink
The recipe is easy to make with little effort and the bread can be kept in a bread container for up to a week. You can use a ready- made gluten free bread flour mix or follow the recipe mix.
Measurements of the main ingredients are in grams to suit your weigh scale.
Ingredients Serves 4
For the flour mix
- 300 gr sorghum or brown rice flour
- 300 gr tapioca flour
- 100 gr almond flour
- 1 ¼ tsp xantan gum
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 400 gr sweet potatoes (with skin)
- 2 tsp dry yeast
- 1 tbsp male syrup
- Scrub the potatoes under running water and place them in a stock pot, cover with water and boil them for 15 to 20 minutes until soft.
- When the potatoes are cooked, drain them reserving the cooking water.
- Allow the potatoes to cool until they are cold enough to handle
- Peel of the skin and mash them with a fork.
- Combine the flour mix ingredients, add the mashed potatoes, yeast and maple syrup
- Rub the together with your hands.
- Measure 300 gr/ml of the potato cooking water and add slowly to the mix, the quantity water may be a bit too much or too little depending on the quality of flour you use.
- Combine the flour/ potato mix with the water to form a dough.
- Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover and rise in a warm place for 40 minutes.
- When the dough has doubled in size, press the air out and divide into two.
- Shape the two pieces of dough to your liking. If you choose to bake in a bread pan, place the bread in greased bread pans before the second rise. If you decide on a rustic shape place the dough on a baking tray before the second rise, after the second rise you cannot handle the dough anymore.
- Cover and allow rising for another 20 minutes.
- Pre-heat an oven to 375 F
- Bake the loafs in the oven for 35 minutes, when you knock on them and they sound hollow they are cooked.
- Allow to cool down before slicing.
Nutritional values are manually calculated and based on the ingredients specified.
Nutritional value per serving (1 slice): Calories: 77.2 Fat: 1.0 g. Saturated Fat: 0.1 g. Sodium: 6.9 mg. Carbohydrate 16.0 g. Protein: 1.4 g. Dietary fiber: 1.1 g.
This is by the way a great book about sweet potatoes.
Bananas are healthy, delicious and
A Culinary Adventure
What’s with all this banana talk
Bananas, Bananas. Bananas are everywhere. Bananas are cultivated, grow in the wild, come in stacks of varieties and are turned into the most amazing concoctions imaginable, bananas are superb, you can use them for breakfast, lunch, dessert, snacks, bread, smoothies and what not.
What not? Did you know that bananas are turned into chips, smoked over bamboo for 12 hours or so into a dark brown snack. They are also turned into flour for use in cake pre-mix and baby food cereal. How about banana puree which is widely used as flavoring or base for ice cream, cakes, muffins, yoghurt and again baby food.
Then there is banana wine, vinegar, jam, jelly, candy and last but maybe not least there is banana beer, brewed in some African countries.
Even monkeys love bananas; bananas are together with apples the most popular fresh fruits consumed in the US, Americans chew up about 10 pounds of bananas per head every year.
On average there are three medium sized bananas in a pound, that’s thirty bananas on average, not even three per month per head, doesn’t sound a lot, but then again, when 300 million people eat three bananas per month, that’s close to one billion bananas, and that’s a lot of bananas.
Bananas come in all sorts of sizes, not too many shapes, but then again in many varieties, all with a considerable amount of vitamin B, potassium, dietary fibers and vitamin C.
We call the mature banana plant a tree, but strictly spoken, the banana bunch does not grow on a tree. The trunk of the plant is formed from the tightly wrapped stalks of the leaves and is not a stem; it is therefore a ‘pseudo stem’, in case that made you worry.
These tightly wrapped stalks or ‘tree’ develops fruit, which grows like a flower. Before this flower develops into the bananas most of us know, many cultures in Asia use these flowers as a vegetable in curries, and salads. You didn’t know that did you.
If the flowers are not harvested and turned into a curry or salad, fruits are formed from the infertile female flowers, no pollination required.
The male flower buds open later at the bottom of the bunch and are usually removed to hasten the ripening of the female fruits.
The leaves of a banana tree are used as plates in many parts of India, just out of need of something to eat from.
Banana leaves are popularized by Indian restaurants around Asia as a way to serve meals and named the delicacy after the leaf which is widely known as ‘Banana Leaf’.
A meal in a ‘Banana Leaf restaurants consists of three or four condiments, usually potatoes, cooked with turmeric, coriander and cumin, one or two vegetables, rice, curry, a little chutney and the must have cracker for crunch.
When you enter a banana leaf restaurant and are seated, a piece of banana leaf comes out of nowhere. A waiter who carries a small, three compartment tiffing like carrier, drops by and scoops each one of the mentioned delicacies on your banana leaf. He doesn’t talk or asks if you want it, he just follows standard practice.
Another waiter comes with steaming hot rice. Next a curry of your choice (fish or meat) is ladled over the rice, this is the standard setting. In addition one can opt for meat or fish dishes at extra charge all depending on your spending power.
No fork or spoons, banana leaf should be eaten with your hands, well your pre-washed right hand that is.
Banana leaf does taste a lot better when eaten by hand, believe me, but if you feel uncomfortable doing so, ask and they will find you a fork and spoon.
One of the best meals you ever enjoyed awaits you, so if you ever pass- by a banana leaf restaurant do hop-in.
Nothing from a banana plant is wasted only brought to use.
In South America and the Caribbean Plantains, Cavendish, Williams, Pisang Raja, Lady Finger are well known varieties for various uses, in Asia you will find similar varieties plus a few more used in the most unimaginable dishes.
Discovering bananas for different culinary needs is a great adventure into how cultures make use of what grows in their backyard.
Bananas are the perfect convenience food; they even come in their own hygienic, easy-peel yellow or green wrapper.
Discover the many culinary home cooking possibilities of bananas!
About the best soya bean product in the world
Covered with a fuzzy white coat of mold, tempeh may not be everyone’s idea of food. More so when the soya bean cake sits around for too long and develops a sweaty scent like wood rot.
Like fungus infested cheese, stinky tofu and Japanese rotting tempeh, tempeh is a delicacy used as a flavoring ingredient or as a simple side dish to accompany Asian meals.
In Indonesia where tempeh originated it is much loved, particularly on the island of Java, where it is called ‘Javanese Meat’.
Resembling mold covered Camembert with a cotton like texture, tempeh is essentially cooked soya beans with a mold culture added and left out to ferment.
Within a few days a white bloom covers the beans and binds them together in a cottony like embrace.
Tempeh is listed as one of the world’s healthiest foods; the use of whole soya beans gives it a higher content of protein, dietary fiber and nutrients, compared to bean curd and almost matches meat. Tempeh has no cholesterol and unsaturated fat and health food enthusiast prefer tempeh protein over beef for that reason.
Diabetics who cannot consume animal protein also resort to tempeh, in addition tempeh has a high fiber content which helps to regulate blood sugar levels.
Tempeh protein is complete in complexion to provide sufficient amounts of nutritional requirements to cover daily needs.
The fermentation process produces natural anti-biotic agents known to increase resistance to infections and aid digestion. In addition of lending a characteristic flavor to Tempeh the fermentation culture also changes the texture of the soya bean, producing a firmer texture, stronger flavor and makes it easy to handle. The result is a healthy, easily digested, delicious ingredient that should be in everyone’s diet.
To make Tempeh at home is a bit of a challenge, typical Asian ingredients like normal and sweet glutinous rice to make the starter culture, and bamboo leaf to wrap the soya beans during fermentation may not be easily available everywhere.
Best is therefore to buy Tempeh in an Asian store.
Many Western recipes require Tempeh to be braised, in my opinion Tempeh is best eaten crispy fried, seasoned with a bit of salt, pepper, a curry powder or a chili powder turmeric mix.
Fennel, maybe the best veggie you ever worked with
What is Fennel?
Fennel is a flowering plant species that belongs in the Celery family, this highly aromatic herb is widely used in culinary and medicinal applications.
Taste wise fennel is comparable to anise and is one of the primary ingredients of absinthe, high alcohol content liquor (45- 74% ABV / 90 – 148 US proof). Pernod an anise tasting liquor, may sound a bit more familiar.
This little flavor insight will give you an idea about the flavor of this post; instead I’d like to talk about the edible part of the species, the bulb.
The fennel bulb or Florence fennel as it is also known; is the inflated leaf base of the fennel plant, a native of Egypt, India and the Mediterranean the vegetable is extremely popular in France and Italy where it is known as ‘finochio’.
The popularity of fennel is however on the rise and the flavorful vegetable appears with an increasing pace in American and Australian food programs.
Fennel is crunchy like celery with a subtle anise flavor which makes the vegetable a welcome versatile raw salad ingredient. Fennel combines best with chicken or fish for the regular dieters among us, for vegetarian’s fruits and nuts are a good match.
Fennel is rated on the World’s Healthiest Food website with ratings of very good to excellent on many counts, high in Vitamin C, fiber, potassium, manganese and folate contents.
Availability and Storage
Fennel is planted in summer and harvested during fall, but year round available with supplies coming from different sides of the globe.
The bulbs should be whitish to pale green in color, the stalks relatively straight and closely superimposed around the bulb. Fennel should have a fresh aroma of anise and licorice and is usually available from autumn to spring or year around depending on where you live.
Store freshly bought fennel bulbs in the vegetable compartment of your refrigerator. Vacuum pack the bulbs individually to increase storage shelf life.
The bulb, stalks and leaves of fennel can all be used in cooking. The stalks can be applied in stocks, stews and soups, the leaves can be used as herb seasoning and the bulb, well your choice!
Even though fennel is most popular as a salad ingredient (for now), cooking fennel has many other applications to work with.
Braised with olives and tomato sauce or steamed fennel with lemon chicken are a few examples of the versatile use of fennel.
Fennel your new cooking friend
Let’s look at this topic and discover
Many cuisines from different cultures around the world have a particular component that immediately points to recognition , a Baguette tells you French food, pasta means Italian, soya sauce and wasabi is Japanese, read tortillas and you know it’s Mexican. Korean food has Kimchee as Kimchi is also spelled.
What is it that makes these typical components so characteristic to a cuisine? Why is Baguette associated with French food, while Coq au Vin one of the most famous classic French dishes is better known as a chicken stew in red wine sauce.
Dishes or Components?
Perhaps the explanation lies in the fact that these characteristic components, almost always, come with every meal and were therefore easier recognizable when cuisines from different cultures started to travel and reached other parts of the world, compared to the dishes of the cuisines itself. I say almost always, because the probability doesn’t meet the pizza/ pasta recognition for Italian food.
We know that Kimchee is associated with Korean food, Koreans eat Kimchee with everything. For Westerners is eating bread with a meal something that makes sense in a way, but eating fermented cabbage (that’s what Kimchee is) with every meal, sounds somewhat odd when you ask me.
Then what makes Kimchee so mystical, how come we all seem to have heard about Kimchee and only little about Malaysian Tempoyak for example or Indian Kancha Aamer chutney, served with banana leaf rice meals to millions every day.
Marketing is a good guess, but maybe history also provides some answers, references to ancient Kimchee date back as far as 2600 to 3000 years ago and making Kimchee was just a way of preserving vegetables to overcome harsh winters.
Originally Kimchee’s were radishes dipped in brine or fermented soya bean paste, later accompanied by other veggies like eggplant, mushrooms, mustard leaf, bamboo shoots and then the white Chinese cabbage (Nappa cabbage) we know today as Kimchee.
Korea has had quite a few military encounters with the Chinese and Japanese in ancient times, many culinary exchanges have taken place during these years as well and Korean cuisine is then also greatly influenced by these two cuisines.
Korea, a country locked out from the rest of the world, except for China and the Japanese, had little to no access to outside ingredients; the Japanese traded however with the Portuguese and brought foods into Korea from the Americas, potatoes, sweet potatoes and also chili peppers which were never part of making Kimchee, if chili peppers came from the Americas or were introduced by the Chines is still debated, fact is that chili peppers made a significant change to the fermentation method and appearance of Kimchee.
Kimchee as we know this Mystical food component today was first introduced around the 1800’s and only found its way around the world after the Korean War separated North and South Korea in 1953.
The mystery surrounding the popularity of Kimchee may remain unknown, buying Kimchee is easy, but making Kimchee and see if you can duplicate a food product that has been hidden in a country for 2000 years or so and has only entered our lives 70 odd years ago is a must do one day for the lover of making your own food.
Here is a recipe that you can keep for at least a year from the day of produce and serve every time you have Bulgogi.
9 lbs Nappa cabbage (whole) this is about two large cabbages
1 lbs radish (the long white type)
2 cups raw coarse sea salt
2 tbsp rice flour
2 cups water
1 ½ cup red chili flakes
½ cup anchovy fish sauce
½ shrimp fish sauce
5 green onions (cut in 1 inch pieces)
1 medium onion (finely chopped)
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp garlic (minced)
1 tbsp young ginger (minced)
The key to making good Kimchee is the brining or salting of the cabbage, correct brining or salting ensures the cabbage will not rot or mold during the fermentation period.
- Use coarse sea salt, a fine type of salt will decrease the crispiness of the leaves.
- Cut the cabbages length wise in half and make an incision at the bottom of each half.
- Submerge the cabbage halves under water so the leaves are wet in and out.
- Remove from the water and sprinkle the salt, (1 cup per cabbage) in-between the individual leaves.
- Place the cabbage halves in a container and allow to sit for 4 hours at room temperature, flip them over and allow to sit for another 4 hours.
- After 8 hours of salting the volume should have reduced and the leaves have softened.
- Wash the cabbage halves two or three times to remove excess salt, the washing process also determines the saltiness of the final Kimchee. Taste a piece of leaf, it should taste saltier than you like.
- Tear the cabbage halves via the incision in the bottom into quarters, place the quarters in a strainer or on a cooling rack and allow to drain for 2 hours or so.
- In the meantime, combine the rice flour with the water and bring to a soft boil, simmer until a cream soup consistency, allow cooling. Peel and shred the raddish.
- When the flour water mix has cooled down, add all the remaining ingredients and combine.
- Rub this mix in-between each leave of the drained cabbage and on the outside as well.
- The outer leaf of each quarter of cabbage will be soft enough to fold, allowing making small packets.
- Place the ‘packets’ in a container and cover with a piece of cling wrap, best is to place a little weight on top, like a plate and a small container with water.
- If the Kimchee will be eaten soon after preparation, leave to ferment at room temperature for 2 days before refrigerating, if not refrigerate immediately.
- After fermenting for 2 days the Kimchee should have a pleasant sour taste.
- Keep the Kimchee refrigerated and serve when you like by cutting a quarter length wise and then cross wise in small pieces.