Sunday Mail - Body and Soul

INGREDIENT­S

With a little love, even the most divisive and demonised foods can blossom into something truly delicious, says Matt Preston

- @mattscrava­t @MattsCrava­t

For those who didn’t receive gestures of love and appreciati­on this Valentine’s Day, I see you. Having spent this sainted day unwanted and unloved in the past, I now consider it the ideal time to share the love.

With that in mind, I’m directing my affections towards those demonised and under-appreciate­d ingredient­s we all have at the back of our pantry of memories – the ones that turn us green around the gills or have haunted us since childhood. Here’s how to rediscover their good side and maybe even learn to love them.

CORIANDER

Sure, it can taste soapy but coriander is the green spine underpinni­ng so many pastes, such as Thai green curry, and when combined with lime, it adds a freshness to chilli. The big flavours obscure that sense of biting into a bar of Imperial Leather.

BRUSSELS SPROUTS

Boiled until they’re grey, soggy and smell like Oliver Twist’s Dickensian orphanage, brussels sprouts are rank.What they need is a marketing makeover and a nickname of “mini cabbages” – then parents can sell the idea to their toddlers as they have with broccoli as “mini trees”. They should also be treated like a cabbage: Finely shred them raw for a sprout coleslaw; add to boiling water until they turn brighter green and then serve buttered; or quarter them and fry with bacon and slivered almonds. The only time it’s OK to overcook them is when they’re par-boiled and then roasted in a hot oven until tanned and crispy at the edges to serve with roast chicken or pork.

PAWPAW

Joining the durian as a fruit that to many people smells way too bad to eat, fresh pawpaw’s confrontin­g and slightly vomity aroma can be defused by slathering it with lime juice. Then it becomes truly delicious.

MUSHROOMS

There are people who hate mushrooms with the sort of passion usually reserved for the star forward of the rival footy team. They’re slippery and smell musty – the mushrooms, that is, not the footballer, although... Add a herb such as thyme and a splash of vinegar or mustard to hide that earthiness; or dry-roast them until all of their liquid has been cooked off to make them a toasty and less slimy propositio­n.

TOMATOES

Like mushrooms, fresh tomatoes can ring slimy alarm bells for some people.And they don’t help their case by being duplicitou­s in their very nature: a fruit masqueradi­ng as a veg. Serving them with mayonnaise deflects from their texture,while adding a little flaked salt anchors them firmly in the savoury world, where they belong.

COTTAGE CHEESE

There’s something about this lumpy cheese that brings back memories of taking a big slug from that forgotten carton of sour milk at the back of the share-house fridge. Yes, the two are close relations but try to see this as the fresh, milky-tasting foil to stronger cheeses like feta and shaved parmesan in a Greek salad, or stir it through fresh pasta with finely sliced spring onions.

TINNED PINEAPPLE

The enzyme bromelain in pineapple is what makes it so effective in marinades for tenderisin­g pork. But for many people, it also makes the inside of the mouth feel like it’s being broken down, too (shudder). Yet there are some pineapple marriages made in food heaven.A burger topped with grilled rings of this sunny fruit gives that hit of sweet and sour (you can make an excellent ketchup by cooking down tinned pineapple with vinegar, spices and brown sugar), and a ham and pineapple pizza is always the most reliable choice in even the shoddiest pizza place. Surely the Greek bloke in Canada who’s credited with inventing the Hawaiian pizza should be celebrated more widely?

BLUE FISH

The mild-flavoured freshness of white fish like whiting and flathead, and oiliness of pink fish like ocean trout and salmon, are adored far and wide. But the same can’t be said for the strong flavoured silver-skinned or “blue” fish such as sardines and mackerel (what Japanese sushi chefs call hikarimono). Salt and/or vinegar are the solution. Try the cured mackerel next time you’re at a sushi restaurant – it’s an eye-opener. Or make the Goan mackerel curry by famed Indian chef Sanjeev Kapoor; it sings with cinnamon, cumin and red wine vinegar. You’ll find the recipe on his website.

BITTER GOURD

The name is a warning but bitter gourd can be tamed with salt, especially when it’s served with salty black beans. Delicious. The salt trick is also the secret to handling bitter brassicas like kale and broccoli.

STRAZ

Or devon, polony, fritz, Windsor sausage... Whatever you call it, the contents of this mysterious meat is best not dwelled upon. Just focus on the fact that Straz is quite delicious when dressed with mustard or tomato sauce to deflect your attention. Want a decadent snack to rival the wonder of that Straz sandwich with cheap white bread and tomato sauce? Pop a few slices in the microwave for 30 seconds, and watch them curl into deliciousl­y sizzly little cups, then fill the cups with grated cheese.

LIVER

So scarred was a generation raised on mum’s dinner of boiled and compressed grey liver that you rarely see it on menus these days. But the secret is to just kiss it with heat. Pan-fry calves liver until just pink, then serve with the pan juices mixed with melted redcurrant jelly and orange juice, and a side of creamy mash. Or cook chicken livers in sweet sherry and cream and serve with crusty bread. It could be the start of a liver love affair.

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