For cooks, there are phases of life we experience that get reflected in our approach to food and cooking. Those experiences can range from birth to death, christening to marriage, divorce and separation to poor health or simply tiredness. These days, my cooking is ruled by time, my interest in food, availability of ingredients, and added responsibilities.
I think of my cooking these days as simple, and by simple I am referring to the ingredients I buy repeatedly every week, the manner in which they are prepared and the seasoning – salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cooking these days is easy and what I make seems to be all I have to time to make. But you know what? I do not find the food boring, and with the simple seasoning, I am experiencing the flavour of food and really tasting the ingredients with all of their inherent flavours.
Generally, when cooking ‘fried’ vegetables in the style of Guyanese cuisine, I always start by sautéing onions, garlic, fresh thyme and smashed hot peppers; sometimes celery and diced tomatoes are added to the mix of aromatics. Not so these days. The pan with oil is heated, chopped vegetables tossed in along with a seasoning of salt and black pepper, heat reduced, sometimes the pan is covered, and left to cook. The caraila/bitter melon is more pronounced (without pre-salting and wringing out the juice), however, the simple seasoning of salt and pepper compliments the bitterness and the bits of char from cooking provides a deliciously complex flavour. Ochroes/okras are sweet and actually, you don’t really need to salt them, the little heat and flavour from the black pepper is all that is needed. Salting the okras right at the end also ensures that there is no slime, but as I have said before, you cannot claim to like okra and not the slime. I’m just saying (laugh)…..