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The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Fennel, Couscous and Fish

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Back when I lived in England, I became a great fan of Jamie Oliver and his cooking show The Naked Chef. It probably was his energy at cooking and the ease with which he does it – along with his tendency to make things simple rather than excruciatingly complicated that made me like the show. I also started buying some of the cooking books.

Those books are generally nice. Perhaps they could do with a bit of extra explanation here and there. That would be helpful but potentially spoil the whole ‘relaxed’ attitude that the books try convey. Many of the recipes, particularly those with an Italian or student cuisine background, look really good and reasonably easy to make. Just the baking and dessert chapters were a bit disappointing in my opinion – perhaps reflecting that Jamie is, after all, British and I’ve yet to see any good baking or desserts done over there that goes beyond an apple pie for the old generation or anything that’s just exceedingly sweet or fatty or chocolatey. (I do have a sweet spot for trifle, though.)

As things go, the number of dishes which I cooked from those books has remained rather low. Sometimes for practical reasons where I found it hard to get hold of some of the ingredients in the metropolis(es? or rather a long i for the plural?) that are Coventry or Göttingen. However, I think I picked up a few techniques and ideas from what I saw there.

Cover of Jamie's Dinners book Another nice thing about these cookbooks is that they initially sell for £20, but there’ll always be bookstores offering them for £10 after a while. So there’s really no excuse not to have them. And as one of the newer books, ‘jamie’s dinners’ (with the non-capital ‘j’ not being my typo here) for sale when I was over in Britain before christmas, I got that for myself as a seasonal treat. It’s been the first new thing I saw from Jamie for a while. While his books and TV shows have been translated to German by now, I only ever watched the show once, because the dubbing is extremely annoying and makes the show sound like a teenage high school TV series.

The first thing that is apparent about the book is that Jamie looks like he gained some weight – an occupational hazard, I guess. Next, it’s once more filled with lots of nice food photos and made of nicely thick paper. That’s nice to look at and touch at least. I’m not sure that’s actually a good idea usability-wise as the thicker paper seems to have a little more tension than the thinner ones which makes it even more difficult to make the book stay open on the right page while lying on a kitchen table. My final formal critique would be to remark that there’s a bit too much Helvetica with rather long lines and insufficient line spacing to be found in the book.

Jamie's photo of 'Omega 3 and Couscous' Content-wise, a book opening with Very rarely does anyone go into a garage, phone shop or shoe shop and ask for ‘the cheapest, most rubbish one’. So why do we walk into supermarkets and support those companies that are producing cheap products? can’t be too bad. And it isn’t. In fact, there are quite a few cool things in the book. For example that it starts outright with his favourite recipes and has a chapter of recipes which Jamie can cook in five minutes.

And to put the book to good use, I decided to just cook an almost randomly-picked recipe from it. I chose the one with the most tacky name. Well, I didn’t actually choose it that way, but the one I chose turned out to be the one with the tackiest name, being called Omega 3 and Couscous. It’s basically slowly cooked fennel and onions with tomatoes and couscous and some fish on top.

Basically this wasn’t too difficult if it hadn’t been for the fish. I bought red mullet as suggested in the recipe. But they came ‘in one piece’. I.e. non-filleted and with all their intestines included. And that sucked because it meant we had to scale and fillet those fishes. I’ve done that once before without instructions and it was horrible. This time I found some instructions in my sushi book, but it still took a long time and sucked. Next time I’ll just buy some other fish which is available pre-filleted.

Once that pain was gone through, the dish turned out to be quite nice. The fennel, couscous and fish go along well together and their taste is slightly ‘exotic’. If I can find adequate pre-filleted fish, I might do it again. Or rather try one of the other recipes? And I need to practice the couscous thing. Mine was a bit sticky which could do with some improvement as far as I can tell. (How?)

Sven's photo of 'Omega 3 and couscous'

Hm, not quite as nice as in the book, but I’ve done much worse…

February 20, 2005, 15:12

Tagged as food, helvetica.


Comment by couscous recipe: User icon

fennel, couscous and fish go along well together. I tend to prefer Rick Stein’s creations.

August 29, 2007, 13:19

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