Unless you’re Heston Blumenthal (who I know is too busy to read my blog) the inventor of snail porridge and bacon ice cream the recipe you are about to cook and claim as yours isn’t really yours. Us chefs/cooks will tweak, reinvent, amend and play around with every single recipe know to man and like fashion every twenty years we see the same dishes in favour again.
If you asked scientists to tell you the elements of the periodic table I bet 90% of them can tell you the complete table, what the abbreviations are and what the element is used for.
Us chefs aren’t programmed this way. Give us a recipe and we’ll write it down, some will print it out for their collections and some will take a snapshot with their camera (this is fine until it gets broken). Over the years I’ve cooked 100’s if not 1000’s of dishes and forgotten the recipes to most of the dishes to be honest if I could remember more than 10 recipes I’d be surprised (most of the time the things I cook I cook from taste).
Because us chefs have bad memories, chefs have recipe collections. Over the years as I’ve gone from one job to another I have picked up recipes and to be honest I couldn’t remember where half my recipes come from, who gave them to me and who gave them to the person that gave them to me. If the truth be known I’m not really bothered where they came from a good recipe is worth it’s weight in gold and if the recipe is scaled up to 100/200 or even 500 portions it is worth double.
I recently had a number of friends over for a dinner party. I hadn’t completely made my mind up what dishes to cook but I knew I must have this certain vegetable dish as a side to go with whatever I decided to cook. So I went in to my recipe cupboard (yes a cupboard). I knew the recipe wouldn’t be in my alphabetic order set of sweet (desserts) recipes card that are printed out and placed in an old fashion index card holder (the type you used to keep phone number or business cards in before the world had mobile phones). I thought it must have been in the savory recipe box (exactly the same as the sweet version but this only has recipes for starters, mains, sides, sauces and misc items). After trawling thought “plenty” of these recipes I couldn’t find it so I tried the lever arch folder bulging full of recipes. Once I had the recipe in hand I cooked the vegetable dish (Its a great dish, I used at an old job). My friends loved the dish and I took all the credit (who wouldn’t) that came my way.
Fast forward two weeks and I was asked to produce a tasting table to include “plenty” of salads from a very well know chef so I reached to my bookshelf as I have “plenty” of cookbooks to choose from (a hint the book is on my header photo as that is my bookcase). As I went through “plenty” of cookbooks looking for inspiration (us chefs never use recipes from cookbooks, we just use them for inspiration) what did I find? The recipe I had called my own two weeks earlier.
Plagiarism, mistake, stupidity or just inspiration?
Chilli Roasted Aubergine & Cumin Roasted Butternut Squash with Lemongrass Dressing inspired by my cookbooks.
3 Aubergine/Egg plant
3 Butternut squash/Pumpkin – keeping the seeds
5 cloves of garlic
Good pinch of chilli flakes
Good pinch of cumin
10 Mint stalks
25ml Olive oil
Cracked Black Pepper
200ml Crème fraîche
1 Stick of lemongrass
2 limes – zested & juiced
Cracked Black Pepper
Start by roasting your cumin seeds. Place your cumin seeds in a dry pan and roast the seeds until you start to get a good smell of cumin. This will help release the taste from the cumin. Peel your butternut squash (keeping the seeds) and chop. Add enough olive oil to coat, cumin seeds and season well. Place in an oven at 180°c for about 40 minutes.
Whilst the butternut squash is roasting slice the aubergine thinly length ways, If you have a mandolin this would be best. Toss the aubergine in olive oil until coated add the chilli flakes, garlic cloves and season well. Place in a tray and roast for about 10-15 minutes on 180°c until soft. If you have a char-grill this adds an extra taste.
Whilst you are waiting for your aubergine & butternut squash make your dressing. Place the the lemongrass, lime zest, lime juice & crème fraîche in a food processor and blend. If you are not using a food processor finely chop your lemongrass. Season to taste.
Putting it together
Chill down your roasted butternut squash & aubergine. Once cold layer them up in a serving dish making sure you keep all the roasting juices and oil. dollop on the dressing and pick the mint leaves placing them on top of the salad. Unlike me (they got thrown away) toast your pumpkin seeds in a dry pan and then scatter over the salad, this will add another texture.