I have been thinking recently about why people try a new recipe – is it because they have heard it tastes delicious or is it because it looks mouth wateringly good. I know that the main reason I read cookery books is because they are filled today with beautiful pictures of stunningly presented food. I am sure most of you have heard of the expression “food porn” – the idea of close up images of juicy food that tempts you. In recent years supermarkets have taken the idea of food porn and applied this concept to their television adverts with great success. The Guardian wrote the article “M&S drops ‘food porn’ ads” at the end of one of Marks and Spencer’s incredibly advertisement campaigns. (For those of you who haven’t come across a Marks and Spencer’s advert here is a link to one – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHFKE6PD_6U.) But my question is, has the idea of food porn taken a hold of people to such an extent that they are unwilling to try something new just because it does not look beautiful?
The reason I have been asking myself this question stems from something I cooked yesterday – Asian Chicken Rice. It is a very simple dish that is flavourful, but does not look particularly attractive. I knew when I served the dish it would be met with some reproachful looks. I encouraged my taste-testers to try and overlook the presentation of the dish and just taste it. They duly tried it and they were pleasantly surprised. Some of the comments back included, it tasted really good but perhaps it would help if there were more colour in the dish. This comment puzzled me, why add more ingredients to a dish which already tastes good just to make it more aesthetically pleasing.
Rightly or wrongly, I think today what we eat/choose to cook depends 50% on taste and 50% on looks. I know I certainly fall into this trap. At times I have been known to add things with the sole intention to make them look more presentable. But there have been times were these “finishing touches” have had disastrous consequences on what was originally a nice tasting dish. I made one such error the other day, when I added fresh mint to a fig tart tatin. The mint leeched into the caramel changing the flavour irreversibly, all I can say is that whilst the tart certainly looked nice it tasted horrible and ended up being fed to the geese. I hope to learn from my mistake and throw caution to the wind when thinking about adding ingredients to an already lovely meal.
However at the end of the day I suppose I can always aspire to creating amazing tasting food that not only tastes great but also looks appealing day in and day out. But for now, here is an honest dish without all the frills, Asian Chicken Rice – enjoy!
Asian Chicken Rice
- 3 large chicken legs (with the thighs still attached)
- 2 stock cubes (dissolved in roughly 1 litre of boiling water)
- 1 small dried chilli (chopped)
- 300g basmati rice
- 1 small onion (diced)
- A few sprigs of coriander (chopped)
- A few stalks of chive (chopped)
- Place the chicken, stock and chilli in a large saucepan, cover with a lid and poach for roughly 40 minutes.
- Remove the chicken from the stock and set to one side. Add the rice to the stock and cook the rice on a medium/low heat until it has the consistency similar to that of a risotto.
- Whilst the rice is cooking, strip the meat off the bone and shred.
- Once the rice is almost cooked add the onion, chicken and herbs to the saucepan and allow to heat through for 1-2 minutes before serving.