Food Writer, Chef
The Sophisticated Gourmet
Kamran Siddiqi recently emerged onto the national cooking stage when he launched his food-centric blog “The Sophisticated Gourmet” back in April. Like many talented chefs before him, Kamran grew up in the kitchen with his mother and grandmother. But unlike other high-visibility chefs, he’s only 17-years-old.
Nevertheless, once we discovered Kamran and the outpouring of public adoration for him, his advanced recipes, passion for cooking, and great food writing and photography, we felt compelled to invite him into our family of grass-fed converts. And as you will see when you read more about his mother’s famous meatballs, which he prepared with USWM’s grass-fed ground beef, he’s well on his way to complete conversion (or so we’d like to think anyway)!
Q: How did you get involved in cooking? Was it something you learned to love early on or did you come to it later?
A: Cooking has been a love of mine for a great deal of my life. I have been cooking and baking since the age of 6, but I’ve been in the kitchen all of my life. I learned how to cook through watching my parents, grandparents, and other close family members in the kitchen. Baking, on the other hand, was something I learned by watching cooking shows with my mom as a young child.
Q: Why is eating grassfed meat different? How does it affect your cooking? Is it just about health? Or is there more to it than that?
A: At first I didn’t think that it was going to make much different in terms of taste, but after trying different types of grass-fed meats and cooking different things, I actually found that it improved the taste of the recipes I made. The quality of grass-fed meat definitely outdoes the “regular” hormone-injected meats that many home cooks frequently purchase at their local supermarkets. The meat is not only good quality and fresh, but it is nutritious as well (something that those hormone-injected meats at supermarkets aren’t).
When cooking grass-fed meat, I had to keep in mind that the meat was much leaner than the meat that most people would find at their local supermarkets. Cooking times were much different as you have to make sure that the meat doesn’t get over-done.
Q: How did you learn about grassfed meat?
A: I learned about grass-fed meat from several different places. I’ve seen it on the television, in magazines, and I’ve seen it mentioned in cooking sites and food blogs that I frequently visit.
Q: Why is it so important to have the right ingredients?
For me, cooking great is about taking simple, quality ingredients and making them into a meal that even a king would enjoy. Ingredients make a dish, so if a couple ingredients were lacking quality, it could easily affect the taste.
I try to avoid substituting good ingredients with lesser quality ones because it could change a good dish for the worse.
Q: What are the most important keys to success for the home chef?
A: Patience. Not many people have it, but when cooking and baking, it is necessary. Otherwise, something as simple as pizza could end up looking and tasting like a piece of burnt cardboard with cheese and sauce on top. Patience can actually be a critical skill -- one that can help even a less talented chef in the kitchen in that it prevents the hurrying of recipes. Take a difficult, classic French dish, for instance -- a bit of patience can be more valuable than skills in its preparation since the hurrying of even one step can ruin the entire dish.
Another critical key to success is ambition. So what if you messed up that Pineapple Upside Down Cake recipe by accidentally forgetting to butter the cake pan? It’s okay, we all make mistakes! If you’re ambitious and dedicated, you simply know that the best thing about mistakes is that you learn from them (hopefully), especially when cooking or baking.
Finally, your willingness to try different things is something that is the key to success for any chef. Too often I see people at expensive restaurants ordering things off of the kid menu because they feel that chicken fingers and fries will do them good. I feel bad for those people because trying different things is what cooking and dining are all about. I like to think that if you’re open to continually trying different things, maybe one day you’ll be the one to perfect a 100-year-old dish that has since been needing an ingredient that no one could figure out. You not only learn a lot from trying different foods, but you experience something so great, that you may even integrate some of those dishes or ingredients into your everyday cooking.
Q: What is the most helpful tip that you, as a professional, have learned that you can pass on to the at-home cook?
A: Be creative, use the freshest ingredients as possible, and don’t compromise quality. Quality ingredients are key to great meals. Sure, they can sometimes cost a bit more than another type of the same ingredient, but if you have quality ingredients, you are not only getting something that is great, it might even be beneficial to your health -- something that you can’t put a price on.
Q: What is your favorite recipe (using grassfed meat)? What would you prepare with it for the perfect meal?
A: My favorite recipes are usually comfort food recipes. Why? Well, even the biggest gourmands love comfort foods. My favorite comfort food is my mother’s spaghetti and meatballs. They are amazing made with grass-fed meat! My mother has two different ways of making the meatballs, either frying them (something which I highly suggest doing, even though it is a bit unhealthy), or just placing the meatballs in some sauce to cook. Using the second method is great, but the taste of the meatballs is a bit compromised compared to using the frying method.
This meatball recipe is my mother’s. I practically had to beg her to give me the recipe so I could try it on my own. She has a few meatball recipes, but this is on the top of the amazing meatballs list.
The recipe calls for vegetable oil, but olive oil can be used. It might give the meatballs a slightly different taste, but it won’t make much of a difference because these meatballs are the best meatballs that you’ll ever have!
Sure, you’ll need to take a trip to the Spanish food section of your grocery store to pick up a couple of ingredients, but the other ingredients can be found just about anywhere.
Q: What advice do you have for families in the kitchen, and for encouraging everyone in the family to eat the same meal?
A: I highly suggest meal planning. It works wonders! Especially if you are a busy mom or dad who is always trying to rush dinner on the table, meal planning is amazing!
In my house, we don’t usually argue about what’s being served for dinner (or any other meals), but in other households around the country and around the world, this issue is common.
One thing you can do is making the food look appealing, especially if you have kids. Sure, it requires a little more effort, but don’t you want your kids to eat what you’ve prepared for them? Assuming the answer is yes, you can make faces on their plates with fruits and vegetables, use cookie cutters to make cool-shaped sandwiches and most of all, be colorful. When things look visually appealing, your kids are more likely to eat them. However, if this technique doesn’t work, don’t force your kids into eating what you’ve prepared. It just encourages them to dislike the food even more.
Another thing I suggest is getting your kids in the kitchen at a young age. Get them involved with picking up different foods at the grocery store and have your kids help you cook different meals. It exposes them to different foods, allows them to learn how to cook (or bake), and more often than note, they’ll enjoy it. And if you’re lucky, they’ll be more likely to eat the dish since they helped you make it.