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Quantum Leaps

Quantum Leaps

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Quantum Leaps

184 pagine
2 ore
Dec 27, 2013


A collection of recipes and tips from an amateur home chef that have served me well; an eclectic mix from Sunday lunch through to tapas dishes, puddings and more.

Dec 27, 2013

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Quantum Leaps - Peter Farmer

Quantum Leaps

Peter Farmer

Published by Exonia Consulting Limited at Smashwords

Copyright 2013 Peter Farmer

Chapter 1: About the author

Peter Farmer, was born in South Devon, England in 1980. His father (who shares his first name, as does his father before him, hence the emphasis on the middle initial) was in the armed forces and so he grew up (an only child) predominantly with just his mother, herself a product of a large family and being the only girl. This meant that from an early age, Pete had culinary skills passed down onto him and would often cook with other family members on visits.

He is a graduate of Exeter College, Oxford University where he studied Physiological Sciences (specialising in Neuroscience and Immunology); this background explains the occasions on which this book lapses into being a science textbook (although he hopes you enjoy learning some of the science behind the cooking). Pete later went on to gain an MBA and a third Masters degree in International Finance.

When not cooking, he works full time in the City of London as a telecommunications regulation specialist and currently lives in Esher, Surrey, performing his second job being a personal assistant to his two cats.

Chapter 2: Introduction

This book has been a long time in the making. I guess I could say that I started it some 15 years ago, in the form of a tatty notebook where I collated all my favourite recipes. After that grew (and after several instances of thinking it was lost), I started to bring them together on the computer. It wasn’t long before I added some pretty formatting and before I knew it, I had the foundations of this book.

The title came about because of my own premise for helping others improve their cooking. Somewhere herein, I talk about Delia Smith’s How to Cook series and her premise that the best starting point was eggs; however, I’ve always found myself passing on tips, or teaching others things from a position of them already knowing some basics. Such advice was usually in the form of just a few modifications to transform the dish in question.

With one embarrassing exception I discovered (don’t ask!) everyone knows how to peel and chop an onion or a potato. I would wager most can prepare a Bolognese sauce, even with a helping hand from a jar from a supermarket; be it from growing up and helping out in a hectic family, to making an effort for a friend, to a romantic meal or even just student life, I am pretty sure the vast majority of people have some basic skills.

What I want to do in this book is to take that foundation, and help people move forward in quantum leaps from where they are today – in the same way I have done with friends, which is to say the odd hint or tip or way of doing something that transforms a bland, supermarket pre-packaged dominated kitchen life into something far more adventurous.

Unlike celebrity chefs whose entire life revolves around cooking, I’m not going to evangelise always cooking at home from scratch and only shopping in markets or farm shops; not least because that would be hypocritical. Modern life means that’s never likely to be achievable unless you’re a full time homemaker; but at weekends, maybe I can inspire you to fill your freezer full of cheap and delicious homemade ready meals (the recipes for stew, Bolognese, moussaka, and shepherd’s pie herein all are solid classics for that) or to be a little more adventurous.

Incidentally, the very genesis of this book means some recipes may be familiar; inspired by the web or a book, then edited, revised, modified and annotated. By no means is any plagiarism intended nor do I make out such things to be my own; it is all just very much an evolution of what I have learned over the years.

Either way, I hope you enjoy at least some of it!


P.S I’ve been asked why there isn’t a massive amount of fish featured in this book; well, that’s because whilst I don’t personally dislike fish, I’d often enjoy something else more. Add that to not having a convenient place locally to but good fresh fish, alas we end up with a cookbook light on the fruits of the sea.

Why no photos?

Some of my favourite cookbooks have few or no photos in them. From a reproduction of a Victorian cookbook for the working classes, through to a takeaways at home or even the great Larousse.

This book follows in the same mould. Which isn't to say it's as good as Larousse (far from it), but is to say that I have omitted the photos.

Part of this is apathy and laziness on my part; it's hard work to photograph all the dishes - especially without compromising the dish. I once heard that ice cream adverts are filmed using mashed potato - and I know that food photographers doctor their subjects sometimes. This isn't me. Not in the slightest.

There's also a pressure to make your roast potatoes look just like the picture (which may be impossible unless you have some creosote, an artists' brush and a lot of spare time); that isn't cool. Cooking is meant to be fun. Eating more so. Why would you set yourself up to be stressed against the pressure of replicating a photo of a dish made in a restaurant kitchen by a professional with all the devices to aid presentation? It's meant to be about the taste first and foremost, not just the presentation; stress reduction crops up again in this book, and the lack of photos is the first part of that.

As a result, I’ve also tried to keep the recipes to things I’d expect to be familiar to most people; after all, you should all know what a sesame prawn toast looks like, or a roast. I’d love for you all to be able to take a quantum leap forward in preparing dishes you already know, or to replicate ones you’ve never had the confidence to do. You’ll note that I have a fear of patronising my readers here too, which plays into the lack of photos somewhat as well!

Of course, the look of a dish is all part of the sensory experience of eating and probably helps you pick them out of the cookbook in the first place so there are merits. But it all reminds me of what my Grandma once said; never eat somewhere where they have to show you photos in the menu - it means it won't be that good. It's not a bad rule to live by when going out, and in terms of staying in, you know what? Your imagination is probably more powerful than a photographer anyway.

Which brings me to the final point; you will mess things up. Even Michelin starred chefs make mistakes. Things will go wrong, but you can learn from them, More often than not it’ll often be a recoverable situation, and, as I say several times herein, your guests won’t mind if the wine and conversation are still flowing.

Chapter 3: The Five Mother Sauces of Fine Cuisine

Delia Smith’s much loved How to Cook series, started with eggs. She began with the premise that recipes with eggs were the perfect first step in teaching culinary skills to a beginner; it’s an idea that has a lot of merit.

Even top chefs audition prospective employees (or increasingly TV contestants) with soufflés and omelettes. Both take a lot of skill and practice to perfect – something I personally haven’t achieved 100% reliably yet.

However, I’ve always preferred more instant gratification and results, and I believe that one of the fastest ways of improving your cuisine, even your own existing recipes and preferences, is to learn how to make the so-called five mother sauces of fine cuisine from scratch.

Next time you make a ratatouille, start with the red sauce below (and stir through some lightly fried aubergine, peppers and courgettes before simmering for a while). Next time you make a lasagne, ditch the jar of white sauce and make your own, or make your own macaroni cheese with a béchamel base. Amaze any and all and serve a béarnaise sauce or a mushroom sauce with your next steak and chips, or make an eggs benedict from scratch with homemade hollandaise. Want something lighter than a gravy with your roast chicken? Make a chicken veloute!. Got some duck breast? Make a madeira sauce from the brown sauce base.

All of these sauces will help you take an immediate and gratifying leap forwards in the kitchen and give you the confidence to move on to other, more complicated, things.

Whilst below I advocate the more traditional use of a bouquet garni (being things tied in a cheese cloth), they can just be chucked into the sauce if time, inclination, materials or otherwise don’t allow. In terms of the Béchamel, the milk can be strained before use, in terms of the espagnole/demi glace, the whole sauce is strained anyway, the velouté doesn’t call for one, which just leaves trying to fish out what you can from the classic red sauce.

Béchamel Sauce (White Sauce)

There are so many variants out there; but essentially this sauce is based on the same principle whatever the recipe.

Dating back to the 1600s, allegedly attributed to the Marquis de Béchamel (a financier in the court of Louis XIV), it is itself a variant on the classic velouté – in fact, legend has it that it was based, originally, on a veal velouté.

It is as simple as equal parts melted butter and flour, stirred to form a roux (itself just a name for a thickening agent in French cuisine, based on flour and fat). When you stir flour into your browning meat in a casserole, it is the same principle. The coating of the flour with fat helps the starch molecules in the flour separate from each other, which allows them to absorb liquid independently and not clump together. The thickening agents are the starches which can absorb a considerable amount of liquid to form a gel, or as you’d see it, a sauce.

The roux needs gently cooking (never allowing it to brown, so in other words a blonde roux, as this removes the uncooked flour taste), then milk (at room temperature, or preferably hot which may or may not have had a bouquet garni containing some onion, Italian herbs and garlic added for a while then removed) is stirred into it until you have the desired thickness. Less milk leads to a thicker sauce.

This then forms the base for a cheese sauce (literally, just add cheese), or a parsley sauce for ham and fish (stir through a load of fresh chopped parsley at the end) and various others.

For a really good béchamel sauce to top a lasagne or mousakka, which will wow anyone that eats it, add parmesan (even if it is the unbranded economy grated hard cheese), lots of strong cheddar and a good pinch of mixed Italian herbs, a splash of white wine and a dash of concentrated vegetable stock. Alternatively, if you’re making a chicken and mushroom pie, consider using a loose béchamel sauce flavoured with the juices of stewed mushrooms instead of condensed soup.


A velouté is made using exactly the same principle as a béchamel, but uses a light stock (where the bones used for the stock haven’t been

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