You know what smells really, really bad? Shrimp paste. Yes, I know, this should come as no surprise to me: it is made from fermented ground shrimps, after all. Also, I really should get over the habit of sniffing curiously at things which I know will be particularly offensive to my nostrils, especially when I’m going to put those things in my food. I used to do this with fish sauce, too: eurgh, fermented anchovies, yek (surprise, surprise, right?), then I’d put some in my dinner, and then I wouldn’t want to eat my dinner because it smelled of fermented anchovies.
I have just about made my peace with the fish sauce – I went on a Thai cookery course a little while ago, and it turns out that the secret to making Thai food that tastes actually properly like Thai food is to put huge quantities of fish sauce in everything. This is distressing at first, but the trick is not to inhale while you pour, and definitely, definitely not to immediately run the measuring spoon under a hot tap right near where your nose is.
I recently introduced a new system into our kitchen. John received this news with the usual whole-hearted enthusiasm that he reserves for my systems, but nonetheless, I think you will agree, it is an excellent system. Here is how to try it out:
Take one set of post-it note page markers, in four colours, and a selection of recipe books. Mark your pages as follows. Colour 1: “Mmm, this looks delicious”. Colour 2: “I was so right, this was delicious”. Colour 3: “Tried it, not brilliant, but edible”, and Colour 4: “That was dreadful. Let’s never sully our palates with this again”.
Clear winner in the most-used recipe book category turned out to be Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey – which ended up with a veritable forest of post-its (until I ran out of the “delicious” colour half-way through, that is, forcing me to abandon the whole idea until more could be procured).
My intention was to cook one of my favourite recipes from the book, – Indonesian stir-fried rice – take some attractive-enough photographs of it, and then tell you how you, too, can share the joy. However, due to the kind of minor roof-related issue that results in an indoor water butt made from a margarine tub, some hosepipe and a bin, none of the light switches downstairs are currently operational. This means that the only photograph I have to show you is the one above, quite a long way off both attractive and appetising. I promise you better things next time, and a quite delicious recipe (despite everything) this time.