Unprocessed food simple to create

Lately I have been using several basic classic foods to add flavours and textures to simple meals. These are easy to make from scratch.

My mother learned to be a good cook before the advent of frozen and over-processed and mass-produced prepared foods.

She would not have understood the British acceptance of “mushy peas” but would have loved frozen peas and green beans because she firmly believed that a meal without a green vegetable was not a meal at all.

Unfortunately, I had learned nothing of cooking by the age of 10, when my mother died suddenly.

We missed the good food. Gradually and painstakingly I figured out how to make stews, macaronis and shepherd pies that resembled my mother’s.

I’ve always wanted to spare other developing cooks the arduous task of learning the way I did.

Lately I have been using several basic classic foods to add flavours and textures to simple meals. These are easy to make from scratch.

In the south of France, tapenade (ta-peh-nad) is an olive paste which makes a salty, pungent spread which can be eaten with vegetables or drizzled on salads.

All you need are a handful of pitted Greek olives, some good oil, a teaspoon of capers and some anchovy paste.

Grind in the small bowl of your food processor, scoop into a small jar and keep in the fridge.

To make tzatziki, start with good Balkan (Yes, Greece is a Balkan country) yogurt and stir in olive oil, lemon juice, crushed garlic and chopped or dried mint with a pinch of salt.

The result is delectable with almost anything.

Grated cucumber is optional.

There are Indian versions of tzatziki called raitas (ra-ee-tas) which use garam masala and chili powder and incorporate cucumber and other vegetable additions.

Keep them in jars or lidded pots in the fridge.

Basil pesto is a favourite spread for pizza or to stir into pastas.

Buy a few basil plants when it is good and warm, plant them in a sheltered, sunny spot, keep them watered and they will constantly produce aromatic leaves no matter how often you strip them.

To make the pesto, I put two cups of basil leaves in the small bowl of a food processor, pour in several tablespoons of olive oil and process to a smooth paste.

I use ground almonds to add some extra body and nutrition and leave out the grated Parmesan or Romano to be added after unfreezing.

I use the same method for freezing that I use for excess tomato paste.

Slop the pesto or paste into a Ziploc bag, press out the air, seal, then dent into tubes, pieces of which are easily broken off while frozen.

I like to have a tube of anchovy paste on hand. I keep tubes and narrow bottles in little plastic glasses in the fridge door.

Marjorie Stewart is board chairwoman of the Nanaimo Foodshare Society. She can be reached at marjorieandalstewart@shaw.ca.

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