I consider myself a good cook, though I think I’m a bit stunted in my knowledge and experience which means I tend to fall back on familiar favourites. In my quest to develop myself body, mind and soul, I decided I should branch out and keep things interesting in the kitchen this year. Thus, I’ve challenged myself to try 31 new recipes as one of my 31 Goals.
I should first mention that I rarely go by recipes anymore thanks to the influence of my husband, who is a fantastic cook. He taught me long ago how to cook without using a recipe and instead using whatever’s on hand, and that’s really given me a sense of confidence in the kitchen. It’s also meant that any recipes I go by, I usually change slightly. That’s not to say the original recipe isn’t any good, or that I think I know better, but I think it’s great to experiment with recipes and make them my own, not only for a sense of accomplishment but also to suit our dietary needs. The best example of the latter is the fact that my husband grew up on food that had very little salt; I did not. This meant that near the beginning of our relationship he had a hard time eating some of the things I’d cook because he simply wasn’t used to that level of seasoning; since then I’ve learned to cook with very little salt and it’s worked well. I’d like to note that while some recipes require salt for the chemical reaction that takes place during baking, I’ve found that even then the salt can often be reduced.
What did I find?
We decided we wanted curry with scallops for dinner this past Sunday, and we also decided to use up the box of what I thought was couscous in the cupboard. Now, I’ve cooked curries before with great success, but the point of the story is to try something new or something I never thought of, so naturally I turned to the almighty Google for recipe inspiration. Lo and behold, I found the perfect recipe right away at a blog called Table for Two: Scallops with Spicy Curry Sauce and Couscous. Not only did the title reflect exactly what I was looking for, but for the first time ever in my experience working with a last-minute-recipe, I had all the ingredients required.
What did I change?
I had everything on hand and it looked delicious (I highly recommend checking out the post even if just for the photos – wow!), but I did make some changes. First, I chose to sauté some shallots in the pan before searing the scallops; I use onion in practically everything so I had to sneak it in there somehow, and shallots are very subtle which I thought would suit the delicate flavour of the scallops.
I also decided to enhance the recipe with chickpeas to make the recipe go further and because I love chickpeas in curry, and red pepper and spinach because I wanted additional veggie-goodness in the dish.
Also, I used half the amount of salt to accommodate my husband’s tastes and only 1 T of sriracha because I’m only intermediate when it comes to handling spicy foods.
I also inadvertently needed to substitute quinoa for the couscous because what I originally thought was couscous in the cupboard was actually quinoa; in my defense the boxes look very similar, and the quinoa texture in this was SO good!
And last but not least, the recipe calls for using the sauce at room temperature but I chose to heat mine in order to heat the chickpeas, cook the red pepper, and wilt the spinach upon serving. All-in-all though, I feel my changes did not affect the overall intended flavours of the original recipe.
What did I learn?
So how did this recipe allow me to broaden my skills? Well I’ve only ever tried a handful of curry sauces, and most have revolved around curry powder or curry paste and that’s it (for seasoning), so I was excited to add extra cumin and coriander, and to try adding sriracha (which is one of my husband’s favourite condiments). I’ve also never seared scallops before; boy am I glad I tried this because searing the scallops first is just like browning any other meat first – it adds so much flavour and texture! Plus scallops = love. And finally, I haven’t done much cooking with quinoa (or couscous for that matter), so I wanted to try another preparation; cooking it in water with sesame oil, and seasoning with salt and parsley was lovely just on its own, and then divine when combined with this sauce.
Thanks again to Julie at Table for Two for the fantastic recipe! I will definitely be returning to your blog for future inspiration!
How are your cooking skills? Are you comfortable with trying new things, or do you find yourself making the same old dishes every week?