604 words on Food
This weekend I wanted to cook Tafelspitz. It’s a rather traditional (Austrian) dish which essentially is boiled beef that is eventually sliced up and eaten with horseradish. I cooked it once years ago for my family which went down pretty well. And I recently re-discovered the dish while we were eating out and wanted to cook it myself since.
While eating is brilliant and I even enjoy cutting the vegetables and doing the cooking, there is still some shopping to be done which I reliably fail to enjoy. As I wanted to use proper fresh horseradish rather than the packaged stuff for the dish, I specifically went to the market on Saturday morning.
And while the idea of a market is all nice with all the different people selling their ‘deliciously fresh’ (or whatever appraisal the TV chef of your choice would insert here) stuff, I still think it sucks. To begin with there are many stalls which sell essentially the same. That’s pretty inconvenient. Because it means to get the best balance of quality and price I’d have to fully explore all stalls and their offerings first and then decide what to buy where. Not particularly convenient. And even less so as I had to queue at pretty much every stall there was with many people fighting for a good place in the non-existant queue.
OK, that may have been slightly overstated, there weren’t any real fights and people were generally friendly. I still find all that stressful. As this was the first time I bought fresh horseradish and only had a vague idea of what it looks like (extrapolating from the image on the packaged horse radish packs which don’t give a good idea of the scale), I also thought it was a bit inconvenient that the people running the stalls tend to not label everything – meaning additional stress for the guy who has been sufficiently dumbed down (or rather not smartened up to begin with) for the supermarket, and having to wait at a number of stalls just to learn that they didn’t have any horseradish.
But luckily I finally found my horseradish and at the butcher’s they even had the right kind of meat there… and the cooking could begin. Whoa! Grinding that fresh horseradish drove tears into my eyes. And chopping up the other veg I needed, I had to admit to myself that even for simple items such as carrots it’s probably worth the extra inconvenience and money of getting it at the market. Somehow the non-industrially marketed stuff has much stronger smells and tastes.
With that even handling a carrot can be fun and leave you standing in a rich smell of carrot while peeling and chopping something with a nice texture. (But then again I’m the guy who really likes destroying vegetables.)
Apart from the Tafelspitz the other highlight of the meal was a cool sidedish which my mum learned when she was into some French style low-carb diet: Instead of having potatoes (which are one of the few things I really dislike), you have celeriac puree. To do it for four, you first peel two celeriacs and chop them into rough cubes. Which you then boil in salted water with a quartered lemon for an hour. After that remove the water and the lemons and add half a litre of cream along with salt, pepper and nutmeg to the celeriac (remember that those Atkins style diets mean you can binge on fat while not eating carb…). Cook this on a low heat until the cream has soaked into the celeriac. Finally puree. Very yummy indeed.
I say, well done on this one mate. I totally agree, horseradish (much like tartar sauce, in my opinion) is definitely a matter for the individual. The store bought stuff is really quite blah whereas the homemade stuff is more real, if that makes sense. You’ve got the stronger, more natural taste of the ingredients. Plus, eating whole foods is brilliant in itself.. you never know how much something has been processed when it comes all packaged up in a jar. Kudos.
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