Iain Thomson of Tiverton Pannier Market’s Deli Shack has a new idea for a TV cookery show. And it’s based on great flavours – Simplicity Itself
I think there’s a slot left amongst the myriad of cookery shows that festoon my television on a daily basis for a new show of my own devising called ‘Simplicity Itself’. The whole show would be based on tasting and presenting fabulous flavours that need no more than a little love and clean fingers to create a mouth watering moment.
No celeb chefs demonstrating their greatness or exhausted wannabe’s desperately clinging on to their dreams while being put through the cheese grater of public humiliation. Just think, a whole show dedicated to new ideas and two minute wonders where everyone’s a winner.
Ok, probably not gladiatorial enough for the TV and advertising moguls to ever give it any consideration, but then again who wants them when all you need is a few tasters and someone that knows what they’re talking about to give you a bit of inspiration.
Of course, if you have time and desire you can whisk, reduce and blend away in the comfort of your own kitchen and prepare wondrous fayre. There are lots of very gifted people out there who can produce top quality restaurant food in their own home and I know a few myself.
All well and good then, but how about the simplicity of salted and aubergines lightly fried in olive oil or maybe a chunk of pan fried cod adorned with a slice of crispy Serrano ham. The list of simple flavour bombs is almost limitless. Really all you need is a source of fabulous fresh ingredients and a tiny teaspoon of imagination.
The most memorable meal I’ve ever eaten was in a heat soaked little railway station in southern Italy, the sort of place that you might see in any old Western movie. My friend and I were sitting quietly waiting for the next train, due sometime in the distant future, when we were approached by the station master who in no English at all conveyed that he would like to give us something to eat.
We politely accepted and this magnificent man returned with what looked like an old baby’s rusk. Oh oh says I, er maybe not…. Undaunted the chap ran the rusk under some fresh water from the platform tap, drizzled oil over it and then stuffed it into our hands with tomato from the station garden, a piece of cheese and some basil. Well here goes nothing I thought and bit into this precarious tower of unfamiliar territory.
Because I’m telling the story you can guess that the end result was an incredible feast of flavour and texture, but I can also tell you that to this day and perhaps to the end of all of my days, that I have never tasted anything that good. Nope, not in all of the swanky meals that came after or during the time that II trained as a chef at East Devon College. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed many a great meal, but never one that has stuck in my memory for so long, about 30 years or so. I guess in that moment I can see the origin of the humble pizza was and how far we’ve gone from it when we stare glassy eyed into the freezer section looking for a buy one get one free offer.
In my opinion if you’re looking for great flavours then there’s no better place to start then with small independents whether they be deli’s, farm shops, farmers’ markets or even the local farmer direct. Small producers aren’t a guarantee of the ultimate flavour experience, but it does seem to make sense that small batch production is going to be more lovingly produced and offer more diversity than their mass produced counterparts. One thing though that I am sure of is that you need to buy less of something that has an excellent fresh flavour than its cheaper factory produced cousin, so the economics are broadly the same in terms of cost, so buy less, enjoy it more.
So here we go, coming back to my Italian epiphany I’ve put together some tasty bits to see if I can get near recreating it
100g Montgomery’s Somerset cheddar, fourteen moths matured in cloth
1 English tomato
1 sprig of really fresh Basil
2 Italian black olive grissini
Drizzle of Italian olive oil
There’s enough here to make a nice little snack for two and the total cost is about £2.50
I can’t recreate the ambiance of a dusty little Italian train station for you, but it’s pretty good all the same, even if I do say so myself.