Fit for a Masterchef challenge

Tuna tartare prepared for a previous dinner. Lighting conditions were impossible for photos of yesterday’s dinner.

The guests are about to arrive in 40 minutes, you are around 30 minutes into your food preparations but given the choice of menu you have to cook everything at the last minute. Your kitchen equipment all runs on electricity. And suddenly there is a power-cut and you don’t know when it will be restored again.

This would be a challenge fit for an episode of Masterchef or the French version Top Chef where the chefs are given countless challenges to try and cook their way out of a tricky situation.

Yesterday evening Malta suffered a nationwide power cut and the challenge to continue with my plans was probably fit for a future episode of Top Chef.

The cause of the power-cut was a fault in a  generating unit in the power station followed by an explosion at a distribution centre resulted in the whole of the island being without electricity for several hours.

The temperature is still high, above 30C, and the small gas lamp is emitting heat making the conditions in the kitchen pretty tough. But amid these adverse conditions there is hope. The first part of the meal does not require any cooking. The choice is now either to fire up the gas barbecue or else a gas hob which is picking up dust in the garage and has not been used for many years.

Given a pasta dish is involved we opt for using the gas hob and not the barbecue to continue. But the oven remains in the garage and we need to quickly create a make shift kitchen. Out comes an old table which will serve as the main base from were to cook once it becomes necessary.

A gas cylinder is now connected to the gas hob and oven but the focaccia we have prepared to serve with the fish starters cannot be placed in this oven because it is too small. We decide to bake it after the dinner instead.

In the meantime, the wine bottles are open and we start with raw fresh prawns and a tuna tartare. This is the prelude to a roller coaster ride of an evening. From now onwards it is running to and fro from the garden just outside the kitchen to the garage on a lower floor. I forget countless ingredients or pots and pans and have to run back to the kitchen every so often.

The grilled calamari and the clams cooked in garlic and wine will cook pretty much at the same time. Once everything is sorted out, the cooking starts and within minutes we are enjoying the second part of the starter.

The water is now boiling ready for me to throw in the linguine. Luckily the main course is not complicated by any stretch of imagination. Still, it required a few runs back to the kitchen to get one thing or another. First I forgot the pan I was going to cook the sauce in, then I needed a solution to drain the pasta while making sure it remained al dente.

The main course would require just 10 minutes to prepare. While the pasta cooked, I prepared the sauce for the linguine with bottarga di muggine (mullet roe). First I fried the garlic in extra virgin olive oil, drizzled some white wine and added cherry tomatoes. As soon as the pasta was cooked (more al dente then usual), I ran to the kitchen with the large pot to drain the water and then back to the makeshift garage kitchen where after adding the bottarga to the sauce, we added in the pasta, stirred a bit before finishing off with some rocket and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Power cuts and water cuts are a very sore point in Malta and subject to great political controversies and discussions both because of their recurrence since the 1980s despite millions in investments to sort out the problem.  Since I no longer live here, it seems like it happens less often though in the news it was reported that the last nationwide power cut occurred in January.

When it happens, however, it allows for countless discussions and arguments but also points of reflection worth pondering about.

There are the lessons one takes:

  1. Be prepared.
  2. In whatever situation you find yourself in, you need to always have a plan B. Its not about being paranoid but about ensuring resilience.
  3. Turn adversity into positivity.
  4. Enjoy the moment.



Risk savvy – how to make good decisions

Risk Savvy

Risk Savvy – how to make good decisions is one of the latest books I have read and is a very interesting read. It is a practical guide to making better decisions. The author, Gerd Gigerenzer takes numerous examples from the field of finance, health and personal lives to show how irrational we can be at times. The author shows how risk-taking is essential for innovation, fun and the courage to face the uncertainties in life. But he adds that amid these uncertainties, the people we trust to lead the way, be they financial advisors or doctors sometimes take decisions which are not necessarily in our best interest. There can be various reasons to this. It could be down to the simple fact that they do not quite know how to assess risk properly or how to read statistics and probabilities. It is worse, however, when they guide us to take certain investments because it actually helps their companies bottom line for example. Filled with numerous examples including how you can get risk savvy by taking matters in your hand and trusting your gut, this is a recommended read in the field of behavioural psychology. Some quotes from the book

We teach our children the mathematics of certainty – geometry and trigonometry – but not the mathematics of uncertainty, statistical thinking. And we teach our children biology and not psychology that shapes their fears and desires.

When modern technology is involved, the illusion of certainty is amplified.

The quest for certainty is the biggest obstacle to becoming risk savvy.

Calculated intelligence may do the job for known risks, but in the face of uncertainty, intuition is indispensable.

Learn by failing, or you fail to learn.

Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Conflicts of interest are the rule rather than the exception. They are build into the system, and customers need to understand them. There is no way around basic financial literacy if you don’t want to be taken in every time.

First listen, then speak. If a person is not honest or trustworthy, the rest doesn’t matter.

Learning to live with a good-enough choice and the possibility that there is something better out there is necessary in an uncertain world. A risk-savvy child can be as effective as a fancy warning system. Don’t teach for tests, teach for life.

Continue reading “Risk savvy – how to make good decisions”

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