Saturday, January 06, 2007

cooking for the not so young or restless

A belated welcome to another year of all things food! I’ve been recovering from a rather difficult trip to my homeland. In the past such festive visits have featured much eating and drinking, with special treats like my mum’s chocolate mousse and rhubarb stewed fresh from the garden. There’d be lemons on the tree (that never really thrived but provided just enough) and plenty of fresh parsley in the herb patch. Though the house and people are still there, nothing is left of the garden. My mother is not well and thoroughly over producing 3 meals a day for my now retired father.

I took on a week or 2 of caring for my parents. Finding a balance of small treats to tempt one ailing appetite and another ferociously hungry from neglect. A small wedge of omelette with a touch of salad on one plate and a large slice on the other with grilled bacon. My father craving meat after too many dinners of frozen fish fingers and peas, while my mother could barely stomach any flesh foods.

As a child I’d read home nursing books, ancient tomes from a bygone era. The pages were musty. They talked of strict routines and ridiculous rules. I remember giggling at their archaic protocols. As silly as it was, we have lost the concept of convalescence and caring for an ‘invalid’. Though the types of foods suggested back then would turn my stomach – blancmange, things in aspic and lots of insipid white food. For now my quest was encouraging someone as they aged to find easy but nutritious choices. While plating food for my mother, the advice of small serves on a pretty plate, came back to me. Ultimately she would eat twice as much if it were divided into half serves, casually asking if she’d like a little more.

In a supermarket I found some delicious vacuum packed varieties of smoked fish in the refrigerator. The kingfish was firm fleshed and I would have preferred to toss it through a salad of mixed lettuce with a tangy citrus dressing. For the older generation I knew it would need to be cooked and certainly if salad was to be made it could only have ‘real’, aka iceberg, lettuce. Abandoning my own desires, I substituted the smoked kingfish for the smoky bacon my mother had used in the past for a delicious home fried rice dish. It went down a treat and they barely noticed I’d slipped in a few more vegetables than they were used to. The next week, I used some smoked blue cod in a classic kedgeree, alarmed when I found the very old container of Madras curry powder for the only seasoning but relieved when despite its age it still packed a delicious punch. Both dishes were a winner, pleasing all ends of the appetite spectrum.

The role reversal was made even more humourous by being the healthy child trying to coax fussy adults to eat more fruit and vegetables. The kedgeree hid finely grated carrot that I’d sautéed with onion and garlic, the colour camouflaged by the turmeric in the curry powder.

Kedgeree Kiwi Style

Other than the carrot (which no one noticed) this looked and tasted like a more traditional version of the dish. For a different version check out this earlier recipe

2 cups cooked basmati rice
1 large onion, finely diced
1-2 carrots, grated
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon Madras curry powder (or similar, quantity to taste)
Smoked cod – 100-200 gm per person, cut into smallish pieces
2-3 boiled eggs, quartered
Vegetable oil
Butter

Remember to cook your rice and boil your eggs before starting on the rest of the dish. I cook rice by the absorption method – bringing the rice to the boil in twice the quantity of water and simmering for about 12 minutes. Then set aside with lid on to continuing steaming while I start the onion.

Sautee the onion in a large, heavy based fry pan with sufficient oil. Add carrot and garlic then curry powder. On a low heat, add the fish and warm through for a couple of minutes. Add a knob of butter and stir through the still warm, but not at all soggy, rice. The butter helps coat the grains with the spicy sauce. The rice should turn golden from the curry powder. Check the seasoning, add salt if necessary – some smoked fish can be very salty so leave this til last to get the right balance.

Optional: A generous quantity of chopped parsley or coriander is great to add, the best I could do was sprinkle some finely sliced green tops from spring onions.

Top with quartered boiled eggs and lemon if you wish.


Notes on cooking for the sick or the elderly

Use smaller plates. From the remains of their wedding crockery were some lovely entrée (in the English rather than American sense of the word) plates sized between a bread and butter and main course plate, which was perfect.

Don’t crowd the plate, use small portions and if cleared, leave a few minutes and offer a little more.

Peel and cut pieces of fruit into bite sizes – a small bowl of quartered strawberries to nibble on after dinner worked well.

Cut vegetables into small pieces to mix through with other ingredients, rather than heap large chunks of veg on the plate.

Go easy on fats, they are hard to digest and dull the appetite.

Alcohol is another appetite suppressant, try to skip pre-dinner drinks, or use bitter aperitifs in a small glass.

Keep them hydrated. Tea, coffee and alcohol deplete body fluids. Spring water in a medium sized crystal glass with a slice of lemon can look more appealing.

Don’t tip toe over too many eggshells – remember humour can be the best medicine.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Cindy said...

You are a caring and creative cook, AOF!

12:44 pm  

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