What makes a great cook? Is it a tender cut of meat, a short list of ingredients, a long list of ingredients, a gentle hand with an exotic spice, an ability not to over or under cook, patience, confidence, fresh ingredients? The leafy greens one buys at the Farmer's Market practically gleam with radiance and seem almost alive when consumed as opposed to the lack luster, droopy eared variety one finds on the supermarket shelves. My husband picked our first pumpkin from the pumpkin/tomato patch the other day and its orange brilliance was almost dizzying. A day or so later, although still lovely, it's vibrancy was fading. Perhaps it's a cooks technique that makes them special, surely that helps. Is it practice - after all that's supposed to make us perfect. Fine tools - or is it all of the above?
I think it's patience. Patience seems to come in all shapes and sizes, I can stir a risotto for as long as it takes, wait for a cut of meat to cook and brown perfectly but ask me to sift some flour or wait for dough to rise and steam will begin come out of my ears.
What do you think - what makes a great cook? While you're thinking, have a bowl of butternut squash and apple soup. It's very centering.
Butternut Squash and Apple Soup.
1 medium sized butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2 apples, peeled and cored
2 garlic cloves, in their skins
1 onion, cut into quarters
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of cumin
Salt and pepper
Fresh sage, full leaves
Water (if preferred chicken or vegetable stock)
Heat the oven to 425F
Place all the ingredients into a large roasting pan (if the pan is overcrowded use 2 otherwise the veggies will steam instead of roast).
Pour over a tablespoon of olive oil to cover the veggies, garlic and sage.
Roast for approximately 50 minutes to an hour, until all the veggies are soft and slightly brown at the edges.
Remove to cool a little for 10 or so, squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins and then blend all the ingredients in a blender with water, or if you prefer chicken stock or vegetable stock.
Check the seasonings.
Serve with a garnish of sage and a small dollop of creme fraiche, or if you prefer, a swirl of cream.