Domini Kemp: Kitchen smells that ring bells

True classics are timeless and can take you back in your memory to when you first ate them

 

J ust as it is with all great books and movies, in the kitchen, too, it can sometimes be worth

re-visiting – and savouring – old favourites. Not just for the sake of it, but to remind yourself just how good they really are.

Great food has something that books and movies don’t though, and that is its extraordinary power to bring you right back in time through their smells and flavours. It’s like having your very own time machine, only you can’t programme it. You’ll be chopping or frying away, and suddenly you’ll just find yourself somewhere else.

The smell of garlic sauteeing always reminds me of a small Italian restaurant we used to go to as kids. Melted chocolate makes me think of work, as does caramelised onions. And the smell of charred anything always reminds me of parties with my in-laws.

True favourites, then, feel timeless, like they have always been around and always will, whatever the prevailing food fashions are.

I’m thinking here of classics such as chicken, fresh, zingy gazpacho, a really comforting, tasty shepherd’s pie or even scrambled eggs on toast. Everyone has their own, and that’s how it should be.

For me, roasted vegetables have to be right up there. I just love them, whether it’s warming winter roots such as parsnip; the joy of a spring harvest of asparagus, laden with butter, or the subject of one of this week’s recipes, Mediterranean veg such as red peppers and aubergines, glistening with oil and with their edges gently caramelised from the roasting process.

When cooked in this way, these vegetables are pretty forgiving, but for it to really work its magic, the chunks must be large, so that when they inevitably lose their moisture while cooking, what’s left is substantial enough and not wizened like a dried-out olive. The Portobello mushrooms add a distinct meatiness, but if more protein is what you’re after, feel free to throw in some grilled halloumi or cubed feta.

The other recipe is a variation on a very old Italian recipe that pairs cherries (rather than tomatoes) with mozzarella to create a fresh take on the Caprese salad.

This version uses those super-shiny, dark red cherries that flood delis in summertime. Their slight sourness is perfect with the creamy, smooth cheese, and the toasted almonds give it a lovely crunch.

These are two dishes that are deeply satisfying.

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