By Prudence Wade
When meal planning or deciding what to have for dinner, how often do you stop and actually think: what do I want to eat?
For many of us, listening to our body’s cravings is pretty low down the list – after more practical considerations, like what you have in the fridge and what will be healthiest/quickest/easiest to rustle up.
Food writer Ed Smith wants to change this, and it’s at the core of his new cookbook – Crave: Recipes Arranged By Flavour, To Suit Your Mood And Appetite. The book does what it says on the tin with six sections organised into separate flavour profiles: fresh and fragrant, tart and sour, chilli and heat, spiced and curried, rich and savoury, and finally, cheesy and creamy.
Smith wants us to start “cooking to your intuition”, he explains. It’s about putting “desire” back on the menu. “I started thinking, ‘What do I want to eat?’, and I found that what I wanted to eat was sometimes driven by mood, sometimes driven by weather, or sometimes driven by nothing at all. But every time, I could probably focus on one flavour – like today I really want something hot, or I want something savoury – there’s always a reason behind it.”
Smith admits he “doesn’t have the perfect answer” but this is, for him, “the most robust and logical way of thinking about it”.
Parent and Child Rice
For the rice:
200g short-grain sushi rice
300ml cold water
2tsp sushi vinegar
For the topping:
1 x 10g instant dashi sachet
250ml just-boiled water
2tbsp light soy sauce
1½ tbsp golden caster sugar
2tbsp neutral cooking oil
2 boneless chicken thighs, skin on (ideally)
½ small onion, finely sliced
4 medium eggs
To cook the rice, first measure it into a saucepan and cover with cold water. Stir for 20 seconds, drain through a sieve, return the rice to the pan and repeat the process six times so the water is much less cloudy. Add 300ml of cold water and set on a high heat. As soon as the water boils, stir to ensure the rice is not stuck to the bottom of the pan, then reduce to the lowest heat possible, place a lid on top and simmer for seven to eight minutes. Remove from the heat at the point the water has almost all been absorbed, but the rice is still loose. Stir in the sushi vinegar and place a folded dish towel over the top, leaving just a little gap. Leave for 20 minutes for the rice to steam, finish cooking and also dry out a little, stirring three or four times over that period.
As the rice cooks, dissolve the dashi powder for the topping into the just-boiled water. Stir the mirin, soy sauce and sugar into the dashi. Add a little cooking oil to a small, heavy-based saucepan and place over a medium–high heat. Cook the chicken thighs skin-side down for six to eight minutes so the skin is bronzed and about two-thirds of the flesh cooked through. Remove from the pan and chop into bite-size pieces.
When the rice is ready, tip half the dashi into a small omelette or frying pan. Add half of both the chicken and onions and simmer over a medium heat for three to four minutes until the liquid is reduced by a third and the onions are softening.
Ensure both chicken and onions are evenly distributed. Lightly beat two of the eggs and pour into the pan, prodding and shuffling so it moves through and around the chicken and onions. Place a lid on top and steam for one minute so the egg is about two-thirds cooked. Decant half the rice into a bowl and slide the omelette over the top – the dashi will leave the pan first, seasoning the rice as it falls.
Cherry and Apricot Slab Pie
430g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
200g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
100g icing sugar
½tsp flaky sea salt
1tbsp apple cider vinegar
3tbsp cold milk, plus a little extra as a wash
700g apricots, pitted and quartered
250g cherries, pitted
100g golden caster sugar
120g ground almonds
2tbsp demerara sugar
Serve with crème fraîche
Rub together the flour, butter, icing sugar and salt into a breadcrumb-like consistency. Add the vinegar and cold milk, and press into a ball of dough. Divide the pastry into two not-quite-equal pieces, push into rectangles about 3cm thick, then wrap both and refrigerate for at least an hour, ideally longer.
The pastry is very buttery and can be tricky to handle, so roll out between two sheets of baking paper: the smaller one so that it’s the same size as your tin (this will be the lid); the other, big enough to line the base and sides; and both to 2-3mm thick. Refrigerate for at least an hour (again).
Combine the fruit in a bowl with the caster sugar and leave to macerate. After 20 minutes, add half the ground almonds, stir and set to one side. Butter the baking tin, dust with flour, then line the tin with the larger pastry sheet. Use a knife to trim the pastry so it’s flush with the top of the tin. Sprinkle the base with the remaining ground almonds then tip the filling in, ensuring an even distribution. Brush the edge of the pastry base with milk, then place the lid on top, pressing down firmly to seal the pastry together. Trim any overhang. Brush with milk, then add a liberal sprinkling of demerara sugar. Refrigerate one final time for at least 30 minutes (the pastry needs to be cold and the oven fully to temperature).
Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan. Place the baking tin on a larger sheet (to catch any spilled juices) and bake for 45 minutes, until the pastry is hard and golden, with some of the fruit bubbling through. If after 35–40 minutes the pie is looking very bronzed, turn the oven down to 180C/160C fan but do keep it in for the full amount of time. Leave to cool for 10 minutes before serving with big dollops of crème fraîche.
Crave: Recipes Arranged By flavour, To Suit Your Mood And Appetite by Ed Smith is available now