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Companion foods: foods that "like" each other

 
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jeremyll33



Joined: 15 Nov 2007
Posts: 2
Location: Germany

PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2007 10:17 am    Post subject: Companion foods: foods that "like" each other Reply with quote

Hello there from a Brit expat living in Germany. I think this website is very interesting as it goes beyond the "cookbook" approach and helps you learn a bit behind cookery.

About a year ago I started to improve my family diet as the family cook. for example we eat where possible "bio" organic veg, fresh farm eggs and weekly we often eat fish. This year I grew my own veg.

Now whilst making a stir fry from veg in my garden such as zucchini/courgettes i noticed two groupings in the way I cooked. The first group I'd call the "body" of the meal - zucchinis, carrots, mushrooms, and the second, the "flavour" which is cooked first, the garlic, onion and soy sauce. To me these latter flavours worked together.

Can anyone tell me what other ingredients would work with this latter grouping and why?

I also noticed when I cook up a basic sauce comprising butter, milk and flour that I can add certain ingredients such as parsley. The butter mik and flour is what I like to think of as another group.

My feeling is that if I can understand how these flavours work together I might be able to be more creative, even one day able to develop my own recipes.

Does anyone else understand what I mean? How did you like me start out as a beginner and start to develop your own cookery?
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kgb1001001



Joined: 21 Dec 2005
Posts: 107

PostPosted: Fri Nov 16, 2007 2:45 pm    Post subject: Discovering the Mother Sauces Reply with quote

It sounds like what you're describing are the classic "mother sauces" of French cuisine, or their equivalents in other cuisines. For instance, the milk, flour, butter combination you describe is a bechamel sauce -- add cheese to make it a mornay sauce; add shrimp to make it a nantua sauce; add onion to make it a soubise...you get the picture.

Likewise the combination of garlic, soy and chile is the basis for many asian cuisines. If you combine Tomato, onion and chile you get a salsa, which is the base for many latin american dishes.

The question of why these tastes go together so well is a little more complicated. For the bechamel, what you are doing is using the roux to thicken the milk; a bechamel will have the mouth-feel-pleasing fats from the butter, and the milk gives the sauce some body, but there's nothing that overwhelms the palate with flavor; that's why it does so well to support the flavors like cheese or onion that you add to it.

For garlic, onion and soy you're adding the pungency of the sulfur compounds in the garlic and the onion to the glutamates in the soy. Chile works well with this too, as it adds another layer through the action of the capsaicin. Ginger also can provide another helpful layer of flavor and aroma, and the three-way combination of garlic, ginger and onion is the basis for many Indian recipes.

As you've seen, most any vegetables can absorb flavors from this base. Eggplant (Aubergine) is another good suspect to experiment with. The chinese have a long history of adding leafy greens like bok choy to this base, and crunchy vegetables like bamboo shoots or celery can add a nice texture contrast and also pick up the flavors of the base well.

I'd just begin by reading lots of recipes from other cuisines and figuring out what the bases are, then experiment. For instance, some southeast asian cuisines use fish sauce instead of soy sauce in their stir frys, and I find that to be a welcome change sometimes.
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