Do you cook? Cooking can be creative, for sure. As an artist, this creativity drives and infuses my cooking and helps me keep on going with my weight loss journey. There is nothing worse than eating the same boring food over and over and this is where the creativity of different spices and herbs comes in. As they say variety is the spice of life. This is true when you are wanting to make healthy choices and looking for things to eat. We have been given taste buds for a reason – that is to enjoy food (in moderation, but that’s another post). The aroma is equally as important. Changing the spices added to meat, vegetables, dairy or any other food can change the character dramatically.
I see this as an opportunity to be creative in cooking and instead of finding it boring I look forward to it most times. This creativity in cooking is just like how an artist mixes the colours for painting or a child blends pencil crayons: you can mix and blend your flavors for your dishes too. In art you need to know the basics of colour mixing (yellow + blue = green; blue + red = purple; red + yellow = orange etc. – not to be confused with colours in science) and in cooking there are also basic principles that can be applied to creating new recipes or replicating flavors you have experienced in the past.
My father was a ship’s Captain and he brought back flavors from all over the world and I think this is where my fascination for diverse flavors started. If you know you want a Portuguese flavor or Moroccan or Cajun flavor then you need to know the basic spice and herb ingredients. These days it is so easy to look it up on the internet. Then you can try mixing in the amounts or ratios you like. Some people need to measure. I do it by eye and then I taste and decide if I need anything more. In the home I grew up in the sentence starting with “it needs a little bit of…” was equally used in our art making as in our cooking of dishes. When my children were still at home I would get everyone to detect or at least guess all the spices and flavors I had used – a little bit like a wine tasting.
I often choose dishes that I enjoy at restaurants as inspiration for making my own replicas. This last year, with the pandemic, having to social distance, was a good opportunity for me: we missed some of the restaurant food so much that it drove my inspiration for making replicas. At the same time I could make healthy versions that suited my dietary needs but I have yet to be satisfied with my replicas of the Malawian dishes that I ate in Malawi. I am still on the quest for getting my spices right.
It is quite in vogue to have a “chosen word for the year.” Mine would be Explore, but really I think we all explore from childhood on-wards. We might loose the desire to explore new foods but I would encourage you if you don’t know any foreign flavors try some. Start experimenting. It makes loosing weight fun. My latest bit of fun was when I tried mixing three groups of spices e.g. Portuguese, Cajun and curry spices which made a complex tasty blend. I imagine that’s how when a composer wants to write a symphony; they first have the individual pieces in mind, for each instrument, before they assemble it all together. That to me is a mind-blowing feet!
Here are two simple homemade components I have at my fingertips in my kitchen.
The first is SEA SALT SEASONING which I enjoy using. The reason I make my own is that there are no additives or MSG. The ingredients are:
- Himalayan salt (or any other salt you want)
- Ground black pepper
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/5 of the ratio is maize flour/corn flour as a carrier. (you can leave the corn flour out but it will be much more intense)
And of course you could add garlic flakes, thyme and rosemary or any other herbs but I like to keep it simple and add these other components individually to change it up.
The second is FROZEN LEMON ICE CUBES that I make and keep in the freezer. Use in cooking stews, soups, roasting, smoothies, sauces, and salad dressings. It can also be added to hot water, ginger, cayenne pepper and honey to soothe sore throats. Interesting fact: most of the citrus fruit’s vitamins and nutrients are in the skin which is edible. The skin is also good source of fiber. Another reason I also choose to use the real lemon because it has no additives rather than processed lemons juice which has sulfur dioxide.
Simply blend rind and juice of lemon into a pulp. Freeze in ice trays. Once frozen you can store in containers. You can use one lemon or many lemons just depending on how many you have on hand. It is a good way of ensuring that you always have fresh lemons juice.
I hope this inspires you to be creative in experimenting and explore new dimensions of cooking. Do you already blend your own spices and have any tips to share?
Enjoy creative cooking, till next time.