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Flavours of Europe: making time for good food

Welcome to the first piece in a new series I am writing where we will explore some of the exciting flavours of refined European cooking. From Parisian high cuisine, Sardinian regional delicacies or English home comforts, this continent has plenty to offer the food-loving Oxford student. In this term’s sequence, we will delve into Italian cooking and examine some lesser-known regional treats. Later, we will hear from some of our university’s French community on their memories of authentic home cooking, followed by an exploratory piece on the complex flavours of regional French wines. I intend for this series to be interactive, so if you have any thoughts, enquiries or suggestions feel free to email me. (Note to editor, please leave my name and email at the top/bottom of the piece for readers) But for now, I whet your appetite with some thoughts on making time for good food.

Although there is plenty to engage oneself with here at Oxford University, one thing we find ourselves lacking amongst the throes of a busy university term is time. No one is a stranger to having to consume subpar meals in order to free up time for late night studies or various other activities, but finding time to cook meals one finds a pleasure to eat can be difficult due to our positions as students. I have found the cookbooks my parents handed to me, usually written by TV chefs or healthy eating gurus, trying at times, and demanding far too much of my time only to yield bland and boring results. The question is, how can we as talented but time-poor students produce quick meals which satisfy not only our stomachs, but also our souls? I believe a delve into the past can provide the answer in the form of Edouard de Pomaine’s “French cooking in ten minutes”, and from this short but charming book came the recipe I recently followed for “Rib steak with onions”. De Pomaine, a physician by trade, understands the demands of a hectic lifestyle, which is reflected in his frequent use of the second person and frank and direct remarks. For the Oxford university student, delight is to be found in the fact that his recipes can be made on the hob and without an oven, and enough variation on common themes provides a new eating experience every evening of term. I found it took only twenty minutes to cook the selected recipe to completion, and the results were surprisingly pleasurable. Lightly fried potatoes in olive oil with a pinch of salt perfectly provided a base for the juices from the rare steak and chopped shallots. A handful of premade salad adds to the freshness of the plate with virtually no commitment of time, but still ensuring it does not sit too heavy in the stomach which would dampen the mood of evening activity. A red wine from the Médoc or Graves regions of Bordeaux would complement this dish perfectly, although any lighter-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon would do just as well.

I hope a delve into the works of de Pomaine may provide inspiration for the discerning student and prove that a lack of time does not have to lead to a lack of good food. I will address this piece with some words from the man himself – “Modern life is so hectic that we sometimes feel as if time is going up in smoke. But we don’t want that to happen to our steak or omelette, so let’s hurry. Ten minutes is enough. One minute more and all will be lost.”

Image credit: Lukas via Pexels.

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