It’s a funny thing, taste. No, not “taste”, as in flavour – but “taste” as in “preference”.
What got me thinking along these lines was the Three Cheese Tart that I made for dinner last night.
It was fairly unassuming, involving Ricotta, Maasdam and Cheddar cheese, all bound together with eggs and cream and flavoured with leeks and tarragon. It smelled wonderful when it was cooking (well, baking cheese – doesn’t it always?) and looked very promising when baked.
I served it with a mixed salad, involving rocket leaves, celery, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and a finely sliced nectarine, along with some marinated beetroot, for added zing.
It garnered three very different reactions from the family. Hubby didn’t like the texture of the filling and felt that the tarragon was too strong. Our son felt it didn’t have enough flavour and would have preferred some bacon in it, or more leeks. I thought it was fabulous just the way it was!
How curious, that we should all have had such different reactions.
Hubby’s dislike of the texture isn’t altogether surprising as the texture was fairly “foamy” from the use of Ricotta and he's not good with "foamy". However, as the tart was billed as having a “cheesecake” sort of texture, I had thought it would pass muster – as cheesecake is one of hubby’s favourite things.
The tarragon was right up there in the flavour profile and, ordinarily, hubby approves of the aniseed flavour. Not in this tart, however. I was surprised at how strongly the tarragon came over and I will admit that it took a couple of goes before I got used to it and began to like it. You can always reduce the amount you use, if you're nervous about this aspect of the flavour. However, I loved the texture and didn’t, as so often happens, find myself feeling bilious before the end of the piece. It is often the way that the tart fillings that hubby enjoys the most are the ones that leave me feeling bilious.
There are, of course, foods and dishes that the entire family love and result in clean plates all round. But it just goes to show what a lottery this cooking malarkey can be. Even though, as the family’s cook, you take into account everyone’s likes and dislikes when planning a meal, you just can’t legislate for individual taste.
What makes us particular about our food? What makes hubby (for instance) truly dislike the flavour of potatoes, yet our son and myself consider potato to be a staple?
What is it in our son, that makes him dislike cooked tomatoes? He’ll happily devour fresh cherry tomatoes by the handful – but if he finds one in his Spaghetti Bolognese, it gets hooked out and stays on the side of the plate.
Then there’s me – who can and will eat just about everything. At one time, I couldn’t (digestively) cope with onions – right up until I was pregnant. Prior to being pregnant, I hated the smell of fish and rarely ate any that wasn’t in batter. What was it about being pregnant that flicked a switch somewhere inside me and enabled me to eat onions without anything untoward occurring – and made me crave fish?
I do think that there’s a lot of learned responses with regard to food – such as our son’s liking for coffee flavoured chocolate. This follows on from both hubby’s and my own liking for the same thing. However, we both also like cooked tomato – so that’s where the argument for learned responses falls down.
Then there’s a subconscious reaction to a foodstuff – such as our son’s abhorrence towards cooked mushrooms. To him, they both look and feel (on the tongue) like a slug would feel on the tongue (so far as I know, he’s never tried a slug on his tongue). Surely that’s just a self-preservation thing, a subconscious need to not take in anything that might make you ill. Perhaps, as adults, we’ve been able to get over that subconscious impulse and the knowledge of how yummy a mushroom can be, has won the battle.
I blame the brain. There’s so much we don’t understand about how our brains work – and taste is just one of the tips of the very many icebergs involved.
So do you have a peculiar like or dislike with regard to food? Do share!
500g pack of shortcrust pastry (or make your own)
knob of butter
2 large leeks, sliced thinly
250g ricotta cheese
100ml double cream
2 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
100g mature Cheddar cheese, grated
100g Maasdam cheese or similar (Gruyere is the obvious, but more expensive option), grated or chopped finely
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
For the salad :
Salad leaves (iceberg lettuce and rocket were my choices)
half a tub of mustard cress
7cm piece of cucumber, skinned, quartered and sliced thinly
9 cherry tomatoes, halved
6 cocktail sized marinated beetroot, halved (ours were marinated in raspberry vinegar & mint)
a ripe nectarine, stone removed, quartered and sliced thinly.
1. Pre-heat your oven to 180degC/350degF/Gas4.
2. Roll out the pastry and use it to line the bottom of a 23cm tart tin. Line with crumpled greaseproof paper (crumpled fits better, once you've straightened it back out again!) and baking beans.
3. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the baking beans and bake for a further 5 minutes.
4. Reduce the oven temperature to 160degC/325degF/Gas3.
5. While the pastry is baking, melt the butter in a large pan and add the leeks. Gently cook for around 10 minutes, or until softened. Set aside to cool a little.
6. Beat together the ricotta, cream, eggs, tarragon and some seasoning.
7. In a small bowl, combine the two hard cheeses together and toss lightly to mix them well.
8. Stir the leeks and all but a handful of the cheese in to the eggy mixture.
9. Pour the mixture into the tart case and scatter over the remaining cheese.
10. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden and set in the middle.
11. Take a large bowl and add all the salad ingredients, except the beetroot. Toss lightly, with your fingers, to ensure everything is evenly distributed.
12. When ready to serve, add the beetroot to the salad, taking care not to let it cover everything and turn it pink!
13. Once the tart is baked, leave it to settle and firm up for 5-10 minutes, after which it should be easy to cut and remove from the tin.