Last bank holiday I announced that I was going to cook through Leith’s Techniques Bible, and then didn’t post anything for three weeks. A cynic would say that I haven’t done it, that the whole thing was a silly spur-of-the-moment idea and nobody cares anyway. They would perhaps be right. However, I have actually cooked a number of things, I just haven’t written anything about them.
First up was braised leeks. I’ve always wondered what braising is, especially when it’s been mentioned on cookery programmes, and it’s never really been clarified. It sounded exciting, exotic. Actually, it’s not. Basically what it is, is making a stew without quite so much of the liquid. Technically:
To cook meat, fish or vegetables slowly, on a bed of vegetables in the case of meat or fish, with a small amount of liquid such as water, stock, wine, beer or cider, in a pot with a close-fitting lid, either on the hob or in the oven.
To braise meat you’re supposed to make something called a mirepoix of vegetables, to add moisture to the pan. As with a casserole, you brown them and then put the meat in, but unlike with a casserole you then discard them – they’re there just for the stock. However, Leith’s doesn’t give a recipe for a mirepoix, so trying to make one was too difficult for a weekday night. So I braised some leeks in chicken stock instead, and very nice they were too. More exciting than regular leeks.
Hardly the most exciting start to this experiment, but never fear. Coming up soon: tandoori lamb steaks on a griddle pan, roast chicken and, GCSE marking permitting, I might even make my own pasta this half-term. Bring it on.