Saturday, 21 April 2012

Pay it forward

Maybe you remember the movie Pay it forward, starring Kevin Spacey, Haley Joel Osment and Helen Hunt. Spacey plays a social studies teacher who gives the pupils in his classa humble little project to change the world. Osment plays a boy who launches a good-will movement, with the idea that you should help three people with something really big without asking anything in return apart from them helping out three other people. The idea is of course, if everyone does a favour for three others, by the laws of exponential growth, soon the movement would affect a huge masses of people. 

So why am I going on about a sappy feel-good movie? Well, first of all, Kevin Spacey is really great in it. But to get to the point, I recently bought three of Jamie Olivers books: Jamie at Home, Jamie's Great Britain and Ministry of Food. I love them all (of course, it's Jamie, who wouldn't love his quirky, fun and unbelievably delicious recipes), but I particularly like the introduction to Ministry of Food. Jamie talks about how we are living in the middle of a horrible epidemic of bad health with the rise of obesity. The problem is that people perceive themselves to be too busy to cook proper, healthy food, and instead live on takeouts and preprocessed food which is lacking in nutrients and full of empty calories. His plan is similar to that in Pay it forward, and he calls it (very cleverly) pass it on. The idea is that you learn a few good recipes, such as those in Ministry of Food and then teach them to at least two people, again creating an exponentially growing tree of people teaching each other good recipes and basic cooking techniques.

I know it sounds idealistic and silly, but the truth seems to be that many people today really don't know how to cook. That is a harsh contrast to others, who are passionate about food, cooking it, planning it, sourcing the freshest and most ethically produced ingredients. And it is important to show those who aren't passionate about cooking at least how easy it can be. Cooking healthy and delicious food doesn't have to be hard or time consuming.

Of course you can now see where I'm going with this. I made something from Ministry of Food for dinner today, and I'm hoping someone else will enjoy the recipe, and they will in turn teach it (or at least pass on the link) to someone else. This recipe only takes a few minutes to cook (12 minutes according to Jamie's recipe) and can be done by anyone who can use a knife to cut an avocado and know how to heat a frying pan.

Jamie's Prawns and avocado with an old-school Marie Rose Sauce (serves 2):
1 or 2 ripe avocados
1 or 2 punnets of cress
plain flour
220 king prawns, peeled and ready to eat (I used raw prawns, that just adds a few minutes to the cooking time)
olive oil (I used coconut oil for frying the prawns as I think it gives such a lovely flavour that goes well with prawns)
2 cloves of garlic
1 heaped teaspoon of paprika
extra virgin olive oil

Marie Rose sauce:
4 tbsp mayonnaise (I made my own, and will post the recipe soon)
1 dessertspoon tomato ketchup
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp whisky
1 lemon
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

The howto:
To make the sauce, mix all the ingredients. Only use the juice from half of the lemon, then taste, season with salt and pepper and add more lemon juice if you think the sauce needs it. Otherwise cut the remaining half of the lemon into wedges for serving.
Halve the avocado, remove the stone and peel off skin. Place on plate together with cress and drizzle sauce over.
Put flour on a plate and toss prawns until they are coated with flour. Heat olive oil (or coconut oil) in a pan, bash and break up your garlic with your hand and add these to the pan (still with their peel on by the way) and immediately toss in the prawns. Season with salt, pepper and a good dash of paprika. Cook for a few minutes until crisp and golden (or until done if using raw prawns), divide onto plates and serve immediately with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.

Using my own mayo, I got a calorie count of about 600 kcal per serving (38g total fat, 15.4g carbs, 22.3g protein). Of course that will vary depending on what mayo you use and how much you drizzle olive oil onto your plate, as usual I suggest you do your own calorie calculations if you count your calories. 

The verdict:
As usual, Jamie has put together a pukka mix of flavours (yes, I know, very subtle, but when it comes to Jamie's food, I'm running out of adjectives...). When I made the sauce, I wasn't sure about it, I thought it had a bit too much Worcestershire sauce and was a bit too sharp, but mixed with the creaminess of the avocado and prawns, and the peppery cress, the flavours just came together perfectly. The whisky gives it a nice smoky and distinct flavour, I would never have thought of adding whisky to a sauce for prawns, but then again I'm no genius like Jamie. And the dish even looks perfect with the green of the avocado and cress against the red of the paprika on the prawns and the pinkish sauce. The only downside is that this is no light meal, with the avocado, olive oil and mayo it ends up having quite a bit of calories. Of course, the fats in the avocado and olive oil are good fats. I made my own mayo from extra virgin rapeseed oil (a longer rant about my love for rapeseed oil when I get around to posting the recipe for mayo) so that should be packed with those good omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids (and yes I know there are plenty of people out there with a negative attitude to rapeseed oil, but there are plenty of alternatives if you happen to be one of them). 

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