Manifesto

Manifesto

By
Brad McDonald
Contains
2 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
ISBN
978 1849497206
Photographer
Andy Sewell

The strength of any cuisine, or any chef for that matter, lies in the core ingredients in their larder. When you look into a culture, particularly one such as the Deep South, that is defined by its food, you shouldn’t need to go any further than the store cupboard to find the heights it is capable of achieving.

The basic building blocks of a particular cuisine are often the most technical. Ask any Italian who has cured a coppa, any Japanese person who has fermented soya beans for shoyu, or any Mexican who has nixtamalised corn for tortillas. And so the story goes… the manipulation of flavour and mastery of technique involved in making what we consider to be standard, off-the-shelf items are phenomenally complicated for any novice and take years to understand and perfect. Yet the reason they have become standard fare in their respective cuisines is that they have unlocked the flavour profiles that unite a culture at the table.

My perfect Southern plate, a manifesto of what drives me to cook, is simplicity itself at first glance: summer sausage, red rind hoop cheese and dill pickles. Beneath the surface of these simple products lies a wealth of experience and nuanced technique that makes them work – and work, more importantly, as part of the foundation of the Southern palate.

Summer sausage, with its densely compact, sour smokiness and notes of coriander and spices, took months for me to perfect in order to reach the flavour profile that matched my memory of eating it as a snack on my front porch, with creamy red rind cheese. The cheese, as straightforward as the mildest of young Cheddars, always sat humbly wrapped on a plate in our cooler for an easy, anytime snack. Crisp dill pickles, set with their crunch by an overnight soak in a calcium hydroxide solution, then naturally fermented in brine to develop their acidic high notes of freshness, have likely never been the star of any plate on their own, but always play the supporting role.

The simplicity of these three ingredients disguises the depth of knowledge required to execute them perfectly. In a way they are misunderstood ingredients. They are reason enough to spend a lifetime working on perfecting, practising over and over and passing on to the next generation. Composing plates of multiple raw and cooked components is child’s play compared to grasping how to execute any one of these three staple products properly. Becoming an artisan in these techniques will open up many more satisfying flavour combinations than just simple fire and water cooking.

My interest lies in understanding deceptively simple products such as these for, at this point, cooking in a pan can seem easy, or at least rather overrated. Manipulating flavour at the ground level is where you’ll find me poking around, eating simply off a few slices of cured meat, cultured cream and salted vegetables.

Recipes in this Chapter

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