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[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;”] O[/dropcap]ne thing I’ve found a little disappointing about being pregnant is that I haven’t had any really weird food craving. This probably sounds a little silly but I was secretly hoping to be stuck with the urgent need for ‘peanut butter and pickles’. Or something even more bizzare.
Early on in the pregnancy I did have a massive thing for fish and chips. Every time I was in Sydney I found an excuse to get takeaway from ‘The Fish Shop’ in Potts Point. But looking back, it was really the chips that were calling me. Yes, about the only thing I’ve been craving has been potatoes. Especially mash. Or champ (that’s mash with green onions). Or colcannon (mash with cabbage).
You’d never guess the ancestry of this baby on both sides is Irish.
More recently I’ve been on a bit of a red meat thing. So there’s been loads of steak and lamb. But this was more a feeling that I was getting tired and needed the extra iron (which worked amazingly well by the way) rather than a ‘craving’.
Anyway, I digress.
Recently I got a great question from a Stonesoup reader around combining flavours. David writes:
Would love to understand what flavours can be used/work with others and what should not be tried together so when I am trying to throw a dish together I can flavour it successfully and not just have a stab in the dark all the time. :)
Which is a great question but it did get me thinking that maybe there’s a mistake with this type of thinking…
So what’s the mistake?
Basically I think it’s a mistake to feel like you’re ‘having a stab in the dark’ when you combine flavours. Even if you’re super new to cooking. And especially if you’re new to the idea of not following recipes and starting to ‘throw a dish together’.
Think about it.
Even if you’re new to cooking, you’re not new to eating. Right?
All those years of having 3 meals per day have taught you some super important lessons. You know mostly which flavours taste good together. It may not be something you think about consciously, but the knowledge is there.
How do you avoid the mistake?
1. Back yourself.
If you were making a sandwich you’d know what flavours would work. Wouldn’t you?
So all you need to do is trust your instincts.
Or as I teach my students at the Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School… you need to follow ‘Clancy’s Law of Cooking’. Which goes something like…
“If you think something will taste delicious then it probably will.”
2. Study the classics.
The next step is to bring your ‘subconscious’ flavour combining knowledge to the front.
The best way to do this is to learn from the classics. There’s no need for you to be ‘reinventing the wheel’ every time you step into the kitchen.
And it just so happens that my ebook the ‘2-Minute Meal Plan‘ comes with a whole bonus ebook called ‘The 2-Minte Meal Plan Flavour Directory’ which is all about Classic Flavour Combinations.
To make sure you don’t miss out, go to:
Green Curry Stir Fry
The idea for using Thai green curry paste as a sauce to season a stir fry came from my favourite food writer, Nigel Slater. To be honest I wasn’t sure it would be very good but as usual when I trust St. Nigel everything turns out much more delicious that expected.
Enough for 2-3
2 heads broccoli, chopped into little trees
450g (1lb) minced (ground) chicken
3-4 tablespoons green curry paste
2-3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 bunch basil, leaves picked & torn if large
1. Heat a little oil in a wok or large frying pan on a super high heat. Stir fry the broccoli until it is bright green and starting to soften but still a little crunchy. About 4-5 minutes.
2. Remove broccoli from the pan. Add a little more oil then stir fry the chicken until no longer pink.
3. Add back the broccoli, curry paste and fish sauce. Stir until everything is hot.
4. Remove from the heat. Taste and season with more fish sauce and curry paste if needed.
5. Serve with basil leaves scattered over.
different veg – any stir fry veg will work here. Try bok choy, chinese broccoli, any chinese greens really, broccolini, cauliflower, red capsicum (bell peppers), zucchini (courgettes), carrots, snow peas (mange tout), green beans or a combo of any of the above.
vegetarian / vegan – replace the chicken with 2-3 large handfuls of cashew nuts. And season with soy sauce or salt instead of the fish sauce. And make sure your green curry paste is vegetarian. Most brands are but good to check.
can’t find green curry paste? – most other curry pastes will be good but you’ll need to adjust the quantity depending on the variety. OR just go for a simpler stir fry and use soy, oyster or hoisin sauce instead of the curry paste.
no fish sauce? – season with salt OR use soy sauce instead.
different meat – replace chicken with minced (ground) beef, pork or turkey. You could also use sliced meat instead of the mince if you prefer.
more substantial – serve with roast cashew nuts and steamed rice on the side.
Video version of the recipe.
Just going with instinct is a pretty good rule of thumb. Most of the time it works. And if you do come up with some unusual combinations, where people say ooooo yuck at the thought of it, just remind them to try before they make a judgement. I personally love the combination of Vegemite and banana – which everyone balks at, but really, if you like both things, what’s the problem! (try Vegemite on banana bread/cake, it’s amazing)
Wow Michelle! Would never have thought of vegemite and banana… Thanks for sharing.
I just bought your books on the annivesary special. This was my first time bying anything on the internet and as a book illustrator I find it amazing that I can be in South Africa and buy books from you in Australia so easily! Thanks. Sam
It’s wonderful that you’re helping people with combining flavors! And you’re right on when telling us to think on the flavors we’ve enjoyed in the past. I’ve done that for decades, but I have to admit that when I cook some new ingredient, I am sooo pleased that a few years back I happened upon a book that I use as a reference: The Flavor Bible: the Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America’s Most Imaginative Chefs, by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, 2008, Little, Brown and Company. ISBN-13:978-0-316-11840-8 or ISBN-10:0-316-11840-0. It’s a great reference book as it lists common, classic, and unusual ingredients that go well with each food item.
Sue & Maryea,
Thx for mentioning the flavour bible… I haven’t come across it. Also worth a look is ‘The Flavour Thesaurus’ by Niki Segent.
My favourite Thai dish is pad per which is a dry curry stir fry, it blows my socks off but it is so good.
Can I ask if there is an easy way to print your recipes off your blog? I keep an A5 binder and I would like to add this one to my folder. Do your classes have printables in them?
Sorry pad ped :)
Yes there’s a ‘print friendly’ button at the bottom of each Stonesoup post. Use that to quickly format and print recipes. I have a similar function fir my classes
Yum, yum, made this last night with a can of tuna instead of chicken. Added the full amount of fish sauce & it was a bit salty for me so cooked up some rice to balance it all out. Also threw in some mixed greens at the end instead of basil. Love how Stone Soup shows me how to “shop my kitchen”!