Mid-winter three-course dinner for six
In her book on the study of gastronomy, Looking for Flavour, Barbara Santich quotes author Jean-Francois Revel who says there are two sorts of cooking: “Invention, renewal and experimentation are the hallmarks of an ‘erudite’ cuisine, the province of professional chefs with the knowledge, time and resources to create and innovate. In Revel’s terminology, erudite cuisine represents one extreme of the culinary system. At the other is popular cuisine (usually done by domestic cooks), intimately linked to the land and its resources.”
Many people think professional or ‘erudite’ cookery is superior to ‘popular’. I think good cookery of either sphere is equally valid and that they are merely different in style and presentation.
All old cultures show reverence for both. It is also interesting that all good chefs from old cultures use their traditional cooking as the basis of their most erudite creations. I put the same effort into my domestic cooking as I would for anything in the professional arena, I just serve it differently. At home I like big platters of robustly flavoured food that needs little arranging and no garnish.
This dish uses as its basis the fish soup/stews that are found all around the Mediterranean. They lend themselves well to Kiwi ingredients. It is a bit like a Kiwi bouillabaisse of fish and mussels with harissa and slow fried vegetables. It can be prepared beforehand and finished in 10 minutes. Bought harissas are all of different strengths so I have specified the one that I used for this recipe. Otherwise adjust the flavour and spiciness of the soup to your taste. This is a hearty dish and can be used as a main course.
There is nothing worse than a stressed-out cook. The food generally suffers. If I am having guests I go easy on myself and make something like the following recipe, which can be precooked and thoroughly reheated, and only needs a simple dish of green vegetables with it. If you aren’t stressed, you can concentrate on getting the food right and don’t feel you need to be a multi-armed Hindu god to be able to get everything done.
This is basically a bread and butter pudding baked in a cake tin. It also reheats well.