Not that kind of sensual. Sensual as in the senses. As in cooking while consciously or unconsciously engaging our physical senses. So much so that it becomes instinctive. For instance …
Do you recognize the smell of almost done cake and know when to start checking? When dry frying the chicken for pilau, do you cook it until the raw chicken smell is gone? Can you tell by the smell of the crisp almost burnt ukoko, that the ugali is ready? Do you recognize by the smell that the brown butter is done?
Do you “measure” ingredients and makes adjustments by sight? Can you tell when the consistency is right? Or when whatever you are making is done? Do you test a little of the sourdough starter in a glass of water to see if it floats?
When boiling eggs, do you listen for when the water comes to a rolling boil? Do you enjoy the sizzling sound when onions make contact with the hot oil in the pan?
Have you gotten the feel for when the bread dough or chapo is just right? When preparing vegetables, do you feel for firmness? How do you slide in chips or mandazis into hot oil? Does the texture of raw mince meat make you squirm? Do you know how thin to roll out mahamris?
Your palate is an important tool in cooking. Do you taste as you go or don’t you? Those who don’t usually have developed their other senses strongly when cooking.
So why recipes?
Say you love the carrot cake from a certain bakery. Every time you indulge in that carrot cake, you know how it will taste. That’s the reason you keep going back. The bakery sticks to the formula and it guarantees consistency every time.
For the home cook however, recipes are usually a general guide—unless you are cooking something completely new. That chicken stew tastes slightly different every time you make it. And there’s a loveliness to that.
Crepes had their origin in France, but are consumed almost universally. From England, to Japan to Argentina. In Kenya, pancakes means crepes. And no one really follows a recipe. You just know. But I will post one anyway. As a general guide.
- It helps if the gluten rests. Just for about 15 minutes or up to 2 days in the fridge. Wash the dishes, set the table, make tea—the 15 minutes will pass by quickly.
- Lump free batter is always a plan. If the batter was mixed by hand, pass it through a sieve. But if mixed in the blender, there is no need.
- It should have a pouring runny consistency, lightly coating the back of a spoon.
- The crepes can be made in advance and then warmed just before serving.
Salty fillings include:
- Cheese and eggs
- Vegetables like mushrooms, spinach, onions etc
- Meats like chicken, bacon etc
Sweet fillings include:
- Nutella, jam or syrup
- Chocolate, fruit, crushed nuts
- Amarula or caramel sauce drizzled on top
- Crepe cake—stacked and layered with custard or cream cheese and jam.
Please share with me other ways you cook with your senses.
- 1 cup flour of your choice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1-3 Tablespoons sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 Tablespoon oil plus more for frying
DirectionsIn a large bowl whisk together the 1 cup flour, 1 teaspoon salt and 2 Tablespoons sugar. Make a well in the centre.
Whisk together in a separate bowl 3 eggs, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup water, and 1 teaspoon vanilla.
Pour the wet ingredients into well of the dry ingredients and thoroughly mix. Or blend it. Finally add the 1 Tablespoon of any oil of your choice. Taste to see if it is as sweet as you want. Add more sugar if you desire.
Leave the batter to rest for at least 15 minutes. (See note above.)
Heat a nonstick pan on medium heat.
Melt a little coconut oil on the hot pan. Pour the batter in the centre of the pan with a ladle or measuring cup (1/4 cup). Immediately swirl it around the pan, and tilt the pan until it completely covers the bottom.
Once the batter looks dry on the top and the edges begin to turn golden brown—about 1-2 minutes—use a butter knife and gently lift one corner of the crepe. (Unless your flipping game is on point.) Then gently but quickly, with your fingers lift and cook the other side.
Cook for 30-40 seconds. Repeat until done.