Panisse and the senses

In this workshop, artist-chef Leo Burtin will share his tips and tricks for cooking new dishes without recipes, using all five of your senses to guide you. You will experiment with coming up with meal ideas which celebrate not just taste but your other senses also. Inspired by Leo’s love of combining food and storytelling, this workshop will combine a cooking demonstration with short creative writing activities inspired by sensory writing from chefs, novelists and poets.

This session will be suitable for vegetarians and vegans, and will pay homage to the flavours, sights, smells and textures of this late summer.

No previous experience is required. You will receive a list of ingredients prior to the workshop should you wish to cook along during Leo’s demonstration.

Ingredients

150 grams – Besan or Gram flour, which is also known as chickpea flour (whatever the name, it is all the same thing)
Although this ingredient may seem unusual to some of you, I don’t think you will have any trouble finding it.

The brand KTC sells it in bright yellow packets in most supermarkets, sometimes in the world foods section, or where they might keep Indian cooking ingredients.

Tesco’s stock the Koh-I-Noor brand as Besan, look out for big red writing.

Posher shops might stock the Doves Farm version with their gluten free ingredients. It looks like their regular flour packets.

You are likely to find the cheapest in any local Indian stores/Asian supermarkets around you. You can usually find it for less than £3/kg.

1 clove garlic
1 small shallot
1 lemon
A bunch of fresh herbs of your choice (whatever you have in/around will be fine. I will likely use chives, mint and curly leaf parsley because they’re all in my garden)
100 gr Greek Yogurt (Or vegan alternative – just make sure it is unsweetened!)
1 egg (Aquafaba: Water from a tin of chickpeas for the vegan alternative)
250 ml min. of oil of your choice (I will be using olive but a neutral alternative would also work – avoid nut oils)
White wine vinegar (if you do not normally use it, do not go out of your way to buy it – any other vinegar, or indeed lemon juice will work too!)
Dijon mustard (another kind of mustard will be fine if that’s what you have in, but Dijon is much nicer in taste for what we will be making)
Optional: A generous pinch of Pul Biber – also known as Aleppo flakes – this is a very mild and oily kind of chili which I recommend you try if you have not already. Alternatively, regular chili flakes or even a pinch of paprika or lots of freshly ground black pepper will produce a similar effect.

If you are planning on cooking along and eating the main food we will be preparing, you are likely to want to accompany it with a salad. I will be making/demonstrating a kind of “cold ratatouille” which contains:

Courgette, basil, aubergine, sun ripened tomatoes, and mixed toasted seeds

Of course, you can use any other ingredients you have handy or make your own favourite salad instead.

Equipment:
A sauce pan, a measuring jug, a mixing bowl, a small roasting tray, a griddle or frying pan (if you’re going to make the salad), a whisk (electric or not) or hand blender if you’re planning on making the vegan alternative. Our main dish can be shallow fried, deep fried or baked – feel free to plan according to your preference.

Eagle, T. 2018, First, Catch. London: Quadrille 

The thing to do is just begin; the question, of course, is where. We think of recipes as more-or-less scientific sets of instructions, little closed systems that start with an onion and finish ‘at once’, when in fact they are more like short stories – about history, about politics and about love, with obscure morals – told in a curious imperative. Every order given, to dice this or simmer that, has within it a memory – I diced this so that we could eat together; I simmered that to keep away the cold. 

Tandoh, R. 2020, Your hands are your greatest kitchen utensil. Heated. Online. 3rd June 2020. [Accessed 11/09/20] Available from: https://heated.medium.com/your-hands-are-your-greatest-kitchen-utensil-3246caaab79c 

When I cook with my hands, my senses stretch back out along the length of my arm and into my fingers as I rub olive oil into kale, pluck parsley leaves from their stems, and smear butter and spices across chicken skin. It’s something like mindfulness — a feeling of being in your body and fully inhabiting your senses — but less precious, maybe, and messier.

Morisson, T. 1970 The Bluest Eye. E-Book, n.p. 

The object of the walk was a wild vineyard where the muscadine grew. Too new, too tight to have much sugar, they were eaten anyway. None of them wanted—not then—the grape’s relinquishing of all its dark juice. The restraint, the holding off, the promise of sweetness that had yet to unfold, excited them more than full ripeness would have done. At last their teeth were on edge, and the boys diverted themselves by pelting the girls with the grapes. Their slim black boy wrists made G clefs in the air as they executed the tosses. The chase took Cholly and Darlene away from the lip of the gully and when they paused for breath, Jake and Suky were nowhere in sight. Darlene’s white cotton dress was stained with juice. Her big blue hair bow had come undone, and the sundown breeze was picking it up and flittering it about her head. They were out of breath and sank down in the green-and-purple grass on the edge of the pine woods. Cholly lay on his back panting. His mouth full of the taste of muscadine, listening to the pine needles rustling loudly in their anticipation of rain.

Proust, M. 1922-1931 (for original English publication)  In Search of Lost Time. E-book. N.p. 

No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. … Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it? … And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it. And all from my cup of tea.

Greenspan, D. 2020 The Particular Texture and Joy of Homemade Ice Cream. New York Times Magazine. Online. 12/08/2020 [Accessed 11/09/2020] Available from: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/12/magazine/the-particular-texture-and-joy-of-homemade-ice-cream.html 

The ice cream I make has a lovely, almost velvety texture, and a softness that is surprising, since I don’t start with an egg custard. […] My new recipe was good for every kind of ice cream, including those with berries. Berries can be ice cream’s nemesis: The juice that makes them delectable in almost any other dessert makes them intractable in ice cream. But the trinity of powdered milk, honey and alcohol, especially the alcohol, changed that. Whether I used fresh or frozen berries, the ice cream’s texture was still luxurious, and for me, so much of ice cream is about texture — about the way it melts. A languorous melt is a perfect one. The slower the melt, the more flavor you get. […]

As confinement continued, and even as D.Q. opened, I kept churning our family’s favorites, most of them involving my latest version of chocolate chips made with that magic shell mixture of dark chocolate melted with a little coconut oil. Just when the ice cream is almost ready, when the rhythm of the churn has slowed and the ice cream starts to fold and ripple as it spins, I drizzle in the melted chocolate, which firms and forms flakes — some small, some slender, some thick. I save the rest of the chocolate to spoon over scoops. Shiny and lavalike at first, the chocolate dulls and hardens, coating and capping the ice cream, so that it shatters with the tap of a spoon. Soft ice cream, snappy shell and the here-and-there crunch and melt of the chocolate flakes. So many good flavors. So many good textures. Everything I’ve always loved about ice cream, minus the itsy bits of ice.

Nosrat, S. 2020. Gardening Made Me Happier. It will work for you too. New York Times Magazine. Online. 15/07/2020 [Accessed 11/09/2020]. Available from: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/15/magazine/gardening-made-me-happier-it-will-work-for-you-too.html 

When shelter-in-place orders were imposed in Oakland, I began planting seeds. As days and dates became increasingly meaningless, I learned to measure the passage of time by counting the number of leaves on a seedling, watching the sunlight hours extend little by little or noticing the growth of rhubarb stalks as they cracked through the winter soil. As observing the garden became both my watch and calendar, I felt my mood improving.

I wasn’t imagining things — gardening was improving my sense of well-being. According to a study by researchers at Princeton University and the University of Minnesota, gardening at home is a source of contentment for people across racial boundaries, with women and lower-income gardeners in particular reporting the highest levels of happiness. Gardening — especially vegetable gardening — makes us happy. Beyond the physical activity and the satisfaction of cooking with and eating the crops that our work yields, gardening gives us access to sensory experiences we don’t typically have in modern urban life. When you brush against a French lavender or lemon verbena plant as you walk by, you instantly experience calming aromatherapy. When you pick a sage leaf, you can feel your nervous system relax as you rub its soft velvet between your thumb and forefinger. Wind rustling through leaves is more meaningful when you planted the seed that bore those leaves.

And of course there are the countless ways a garden offers us flavors we might not otherwise have a chance to taste. Some foods are too delicate to withstand the extended transport that most of the produce in this country undergoes in getting to market: Squash blossoms tear and bruise, elderflowers wilt and lose their precious Muscat aroma, mulberries implode and rot before anyone can taste their sweet-tart perfection. Others, like tiny, impossibly fragrant Alpine strawberries, grow on low-yielding plants that make little economic sense for most farmers to cultivate.

I love planting my garden full of things I can’t readily find at the store or market, and while I geek out on rare varieties as much as the next horticultural nerd, my favorite garden flavor is neither delicate nor esoteric. Green coriander seed — the fresh seed of the cilantro plant — is the most special thing I grow and something many others view as a mistake. “Cilantro can be hard to grow,” says Leslie Wiser, founder of Radical Family Farms in Sebastopol, Calif., “because it bolts easily.” When a plant bolts, or prematurely goes to seed, its flavor changes. Gardeners dread bolting, but when it comes to cilantro, I actively pray for it, because nothing is as welcome in my kitchen as the intensely aromatic, slightly citrusy, mildly cilantro-ish flavor of the plant’s fresh green seeds.