express yourself…

13 03 2010

I have somehow accrued a ‘collection’ that surprises and delights me… foodie magazines! I don’t recall intending to collect or even beginning to collect them but here they are – piled high on my floor.  Clearly, my desire to teach myself to cook and create culinary delights had been underway before I became aware of it. Some of the magazines date back to the early 2000’s. (Yes, way back then!!!).

I spent some time last weekend going through the older, less familiar issues and actually reading the articles. There is some good stuff between those glossy, romantic, mouthwatering pictures and the ‘impossible to find’ ingredient lists. I found some interesting studies about the use of Metaphor on our collective cultural psyche; all kinds of travel ideas from camping in the snow to a vacation in a tree hammock;  lots of information about BBQ’s and outdoor entertaining; and a little philosophy – for the reader’s personal development.

In one such article, I discovered a quote that has been nudging me for a few days.

“Food is all about creativity and the ability to express your personality” – Paul Mercurio.

He is an Australian chef who apparently participated in a t.v dancing show. Anyway, the part of his quote that resonated was that the food I create and prepare might indeed reflect my personality. I know! It gives one pause…

As I think about the meals I present, I must admit they often seem very eclectic, rather random, thrown together, sometimes quite creative, usually practical and quick, always healthy and fresh.  Now, if I was to mindfully create an expression of my personality through menu choice and presentation, what would I want it to say? Fresh, interesting, tasty, healthy, unexpected, satisfying, textured without being complicated, worthwhile… Is it possible to be that goal oriented in cooking? An interesting question.

I have some staple recipes that I arrange and tinker with to varying degrees. I think they have probably morphed along with me as I learn more techniques and experiment with more ingredients.

One such favourite is: Lentil Shepherd’s Pie. I think the dish began with close ties to one of Rose Elliot’s amazing offerings from The Complete Vegetarian Cuisine, but these days there is no more than a passing nod in the direction of the original.  One of the reasons for this, I suppose, is that I am committed to simplicity in a recipe. Therefore, I easily substitute high quality canned beans for the dried ones which must be soaked overnight and cooked for hours. Except lentils – I don’t like the canned versions so I am prepared to spend a bit of time on those.  I am also a fan of canned tomatoes  instead of fresh in stews, bakes and sauces, for both simplicity and expense.

I make Lentil Shepherd’s Pie with different ingredients, spices, herbs and speed – depending on my mood. It’s a tasty and simple bake that can be presented with fancy side dishes or a good old kitchen sink salad and always gets rave reviews.

I made this last night with a new attention to intention and I have to say it represented me very well.  This was the process.

Step 1: Cook about 1 – 1½ cups of dried lentils (organic brown or green) in water until just soft with a cube of organic vegetarian stock just to flavour the lentils a little. I added a handful of red lentils for the last 10 mins because I felt like it.

Step 2: Sauté an onion with a few cloves of garlic. I used chili rice bran oil for a little extra spice.

Step 3: Add a diced zucchini, ½ sliced red pepper, ½ c broccoli florets and 1 tsp basil (use any veges you have on hand – fresh or frozen)

Step 4: Add the cooked lentils to the vegetables with a can of tomatoes and stir gently – I use a certain strange pulsing technique which I won’t elaborate on at this stage 🙂

Step 5: Add a splash of tamari sauce ( 1 tbsp) and S & P to taste. Let everything simmer gently.


Boil approximately 5 potatoes until soft. Mash with a splash of milk and a little butter and salt.

Step 6: Pour lentil mixture into a greased oven proof dish. Top with mashed potatoes and a sprinkle of grated cheese. Last night I used mashed kumara for half the topping for M as he is not a big potato fan.

Step 7: Bake for about 35 mins at 200°C until topping is golden. Serve with anything that tickles your fancy.

Simple as that!

So, what exactly does this mindful offering say about me?

According to –

Step 1: Impulsive

Step 2: Spicy

Step 3: Adaptable

Step 4: Private

Step 5: Inclusive

Step 6: Thoughtful

Step 7: Creative

Well, what do you know? Perhaps there is something to a “Foodies Personality Profile” after all  🙂




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