“Recite for me the three tenets of Mis en place”.
Chef does this sometimes. Springs you with questions like they’ll be on some test later. You take a calm breath. You know the answers, don’t you?
“Mis en place, meaning ‘Everything in its place’.
- Set up – keep your knife sharp, put a damp cloth under your board, have enough containers for the job in hand, make a list.
- Work clean – continually tidy up, a messy board is a messy mind, follow your list.
- Economy of movement – Set out your ingredients beforehand, bring the bin over to you. Avoid carting back and forth across the work space, Esculerie you’re getting in everyone’s way, what happened to your list?…”
“Enough, you’re ready”.
Ready for what? Your heart suddenly beats very hard and you worry it’s about to become audible. You look around the kitchen, all eyes are on you and you feel as small and as helpless as when you first walked in.
Grillardin leans over to you.
“You’re going to meet Mother”.
Mother? Who’s Mother? Or whose Mother? You’d read up on kitchens before you arrived, they mentioned nothing of a ‘Mother’. Perhaps she’s some type of matriarchal overlord figure. But then, if she’s that important, surely one of your books would have mentioned her.
A low rumble of voices begin a quiet chant that gets louder as you clear off your board, wipe down your knife and are lead off by Chef. The chanting crescendos with the clattering of utensils against chopping boards and pans.
“Mo-ther, Mo-ther, Mo-ther, Mo-ther, Mo-ther, Mo-ther, Mo-ther, Mo-ther!!
You go to the far end of the kitchen to a door you’ve never seen before. It looks different to the other doors, less functional, less man made. You touch it as you pass through, it feels, alive and hums with a strange energy. Is it breathing?
The room that follows is small and almost claustrophobic, every available wall is covered with shelving stacked with small jars. In the centre stands a spindly figure of a being tending to a giant, steaming cauldron that hisses and gurgles. Sporadic flashes of light reveal a silhouette that appears to be mostly elbows and knees, dancing manically in front of the large pot. The figure cackles as it tosses various objects into the hungry cauldron, a low level humming dominates the thick atmosphere.
You approach the figure cautiously.
In one movement that is simultaneously fluid and frenzy, the figure turns, sees you, screams and leaps into a corner like a startled cat. It holds a wooden spoon out in a threatening manner whilst cowering and hissing in your direction. For the first time you can see the emaciated figure has a long, scraggly grey beard, small round glasses and is wearing nothing but a short sleeved cloak, underwear and clogs.
“Intruder!!” He screams and points at you.
“Calm yourself Gygax, we’re friends” Chef intervenes.
“Friends don’t use sneak attack!” He snaps back. Gygax mutters an incantation under his breath. The only word you can make out is ‘Initiative’. He reaches into a concealed pocket, pulls out some small bones and casts them onto the floor between his feet. He looks at them, peers up at you, back to the bones, back to you.
“Fine, do as you will”.
“That is Gygax, the guardian, he tends to mother, come, gaze into the cauldron”.
You do as asked. Once you peer over the rim you can see the vat is nearly full with a deep crimson sauce, smooth and heavy. The smell suddenly hits you; tomatoes, sweetness, warmth, depth. Like a familial embrace, just one that’s made from tomatoes.
“This is Mother” Says Chef.
“And we must all pay tribute” Chef performs a salute and a bow “Veloute, Mother”.
You follow suite.
Disclaimer. Just so no one gets confused.
(I hate misinformation when it comes to food)
“Veloute” is the name of one of the Mother Sauces.
Not just the tomato one; the word is widely used to describe any smooth sauce as it literally means “Velvety” in French.
Today we’re going to look at two very simple recipes. From these two a plethora of other dishes will be at your fingertips.
Tomato Sauce, one of the five ‘Mother’ sauces from classical French cookery. I’ll do another episode all about them at some point.
Beef mince mix (you can always use a veggie alternative if you are so inclined)
Tomatoes – as red as you can find. Don’t be fooled by the ‘vine tomato’ labels, all tomatoes are vine tomatoes due to the fact they all grow on vines. If the only ones you can get lack colour, leave them out for a few days until they become slightly over ripe.
2x red onion
3x cloves garlic
1x bay leaf
1x carton tomato passata
50g white sugar
Remove the peduncle from the tomatoes. This is the very funny name of the bit where the stalk was attached. Take a small, sharp knife (paring knife if you have one), grip the blade from above leaving just the tip exposed. Insert this next to the peduncle (tee hee) and twist.
+3 XP Knife Skills
Once all have been removed and discarded, cut the tomatoes in two horizontally. Cut the red onion into 6 wedges (quarters is fine if you can’t manage) and roughly chop the garlic.
Pre-heat your oven to 200° or gas mark 6
Put a roasting pan on your hob and turn on to a high heat. Once hot add the oil.
LORE – you can only fry in hot oil, if you add food too early, you are just boiling it in oil. Your ears will tell you the difference. Adding oil to an already hot pan yields the best results.
When the oil is smoking add the tomatoes, onion and garlic. There should be a very satisfying noise when you do this. Keep the pan moving for several minutes, add salt and pepper, then the sugar.
+1 XP Pyromancy
Added sugar gets a very bad rap these days but adding a little here will really help bring out the sweetness of the tomatoes. Rather you add the sugar that trust something that was sweetened in a factory somewhere, no?
Sweat the ingredients until the onion has softened. You don’t want any charring, the idea is to make as red a sauce as possible.
Add a dash more oil then transfer to the middle shelf of your hot oven to roast for 20-30 minutes. Remove and allow to cool.
Place the pieces and any juices in a blender and pulse until smooth. You might need to add a splash of water to get things started.
+1 XP Transmutation
+ 2 XP Paladin
+ 1XP Alchemist
If you want to be a perfectionist or are cooking to impress, use the back of a spoon and push the sauce through a sieve to remove any pips or remaining lumps.
Put the mixture in a sauce pan, add the passata and put over a low heat on the hob. Once up to temperature, taste the sauce and adjust; does it need a dash more sugar? It will almost certainly need salt and pepper.
Keep cooking and reducing over a low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent it catching on the bottom.
You might now be thinking “Can’t I just use a tin of chopped tomatoes?” and the answer is “Yes, but this way is better and gets you more XP”
You can also make this mother sauce in bulk and freeze it in portions for Future You to be delighted with!
So what can we make with our tomato sauce?
- Pomodoro – Add to cooked spaghetti with some fresh basil.
- Tomato Soup – Add some cream, heat, serve with crusty bread.
- Pizza base topping
- Shakshuka – with peppers, eggs, spices and chilli (Will do a full recipe in the future).
Beef, also known as ‘milk horse’, we’ve all eaten it, we’ve all heard it say ‘Moo’, but how do we get it to sing?
Most online guides to cooking beef mince will usually espouse the virtues of using a high quality organic, hand reared, hand massaged, grass fed product and tell you it’s essential to getting good results. Well, I call Shenanigans! Shenanigans I say!
While they are of course correct and, if you’re able, you should definitely source some lovely mince from a butcher. (+2 XP if you do this)
But some folk don’t have time to learn about clod, chuck and brisket (neither do some butchers ironically) also it’s expensive and money’s tight so you’re probably going to get a pack of mince from the super market and that is perfectly fine.
500g Minced Beef 10-15% fat please
1x beef Oxo (or other dry stock cube)
1 tsp Horseradish sauce
1 tsp Mustard (English or wholegrain)
1 tsp Marmite
3x shakes of Worcester sauce
Mix together in a bowl using your hands, yes, get your hands dirty. You cannot truly know a product unless you get your hands in there and manipulate it. Once it’s mixed thoroughly, you’re done and can now make myriad things.
+ 1XP Transmutation
+ 3XP Warrior
- Burgers – Shape and fry or griddle (I will do a whole episode on burgers).
- Meatballs – Same technique then add the tomato sauce. Serve with spaghetti and cheese.
- Brown off the mince in a frying pan and mix with the sauce (serve with pasta).
From here it’s an easy step to make
- Chili con carne – add chillies, cumin and kidney beans when browning the mince. Add the sauce, serve with rice (See Rice recipe in the Tofu & Black bean sauce entry) and sour cream – Great for games night.
- Lasagne – layer with lasagne sheets and béchamel, top with cheese and cook for 30 mins. Serve with side salad.
- Cottage pie – Brown the mince, add sauce just to moisten the mix, maybe not even half of it. Top with mash (See ‘Monstrous Mash’ recipe) and brown under the grill.
Go, conquer the world, you know the Mother Sauce secrets now! Well, some of them…
Paul Flannery – Pirate Moustache and Brains behind The MMORPG Show
Recipes in the Saucebook:
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