Peter Russell-Clarke's vision for good cooking

10 May 2018

Steak

He’s famous for his advertising catchcry, “Where’s the cheese?”, but gourmet Peter Russell-Clarke says toasted herbs are the way to complete a meal.

And he has a special message for cooks who are blind or have low vision – their vision issues may make them better cooks.

Russell-Clarke, a commercial artist who became one of Australia’s first TV chefs, spoke to Vision Australia’s All About Food Telelink group recently.

Telelink connects people who are blind or have low who have like interests in a conference call with a volunteer facilitator who manages the discussion.

Russell-Clarke said people who are blind or have low vision may have a natural advantage when cooking.

“With all food the important thing is that you don’t have the heat too high and you don’t have the food on too long,” he said.

“For instance, if you’re cooking a chop, you only need the heat turned on while you cook one side of the chop, then you turn the heat off and turn the chop over because the pan is still bloody hot. You don’t need heat under the pan to cook the second side, do you?”
Group facilitator Tony Broun chimed in.

“Peter, you’re a man after my own heart. That is exactly the sort of thing we talk about (in the group),” he said.

“We don’t have to cook things on really high heat. Because we can’t see, we have to cook slowly and gently, smell the aromas and use that as the trigger to turn things over”.

Russell-Clarke responded: “It’s like making love. You do it gently, and slowly”.

Participant Pauline asked Russell-Clarke how to develop a passion for cooking.

She said she wants to cook to complement her husband’s culinary skill but she does not have a passion for it.

Russell-Clarke said cooking techniques for people who are blind or have low vision lend themselves for home cooks to develop a unique cooking style.

“If you’re cooking a tomato or toasting some herbs, if you treat them badly, if you have the heat too high and you burn the tomato or the herbs, the smell of the burnt masks, disguises, the smell of the product,” he said.

“When you heat a tomato, you release a perfume from the tomato and if you overcook it, the smell of the burning covers that smell.

“If you learn to be gentle and sweet with the food that you are cooking, then you will develop a love for it and you will find that the way that you treat your food will allow you to develop your own style.

“Your blindness or your impaired vision shouldn’t hinder you. It should make you a better cook because you will give more thought to developing your own skill.”
To enhance the aroma of your cooking, Russell-Clarke recommended toasting herbs to sprinkle around the edge of your dish as a garnish.

“The herbs don’t just provide the visual, they provide a perfume,” he says.

“We forget that we use perfume. If you put cumin and cayenne pepper into a pan, you wait until the heat releases the smell, and the smell is intensified by that heat.

“I would get a handful of herbs and just sprinkle them around the outside of the dish so that I am circling the food with perfume. I think you’re better to toast them first because that releases the smell.”

Vision Australia’s Telelink groups are an important social and support outlet for people who are blind or have low vision. Groups cater for a vast range of interests and age groups.

Find more information on the Telelink program here, phone Vision Australia on 1300 847 466 or email info@visionaustralia.org.