Posts tagged ‘Middle East’

October 12, 2010

A calabrese stew from Syria

Syrian stewNo, I am not referring to the broccoli – I am talking about the Italian region, Calabria. The other day I borrowed a beautiful cookbook on Jewish cooking all around the world. The book (this is the UK edition – I have it in German) is laced with beautiful pictures by Peter Cassidy and contains sad and interesting stories. The numerous recipes come literally from all corners of the world. Actually the sweets looked like you could die for them, but I am trying to lose weight, so no cakes, for a while (sad, sad world, I know). So I leafed and leafed drooling over the sweets and trying to ignore them at the same time, until I found a stew that looked a bit unfortunate, because it had no picture. The recipe background sounded interesting. Originally from Syria, the family moved to the UK. The story behind the recipe is a funny one: a mother in law trying to sneak some aubergines into the food prepared for her daughter’s husband, who did not like them. Apparently if you peel the aubergines and cook the stew long enough, you are not able to tell what is in it anymore.

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August 23, 2010

Warning: addictive!

There are so many wonderful blogs out there. I read most of them because I like to have a chance to confront with people whom I share a passion with – food. After a while you get the feeling you know them, even if all the direct contact you have had is maybe an email exchange.

Many blogs are also a constant source of inspiration for cooking, of course: this is why I started reading food blogs in the first place. Maybe the author has a different background than mine, and is familiar with ingredients or techniques I am not. There is so much I have learned this way, new ingredients I have explored, new combinations, new cookbooks. In many cases, the author is also an inspiring chef.

For other blogs, the main reason for reading them is  just the constant aesthetical bliss. They are beautiful. The author is a really talented designer, photographer or writer, and more often than not, all these things together. I tend to fall into Stendhal syndrome mode then, and just gorge on the pictures and read the writing as if it were the latest chapter of my favourite book. I am so totally captivated, I just forget sometimes we are talking about food, in the end. I know, how is it ever possible!? forgetting about food?

However this did happen, with one of my favourite blogs. What did I miss! Luckily, I recently remembered there are recipes on it as well. I am sure you are all already familiar with La Tartine Gourmande by Bea, and I do hope you did not make my mistake.

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May 3, 2010

A few of my favourite things

Bean pattiesThere exist millions of interesting  blogs out there. Billions of wonderful recipes. We can’t reasonably try them all. Of those that we do try,   just a few enter into the ‘all time favourite’ list. Others, you make a couple of time, and then you forget. Then a year goes by, and something reminds you of that great recipe that would just be perfect for the particular occasion.

Sometimes you remember it all: who where and when posted it. Maybe you made a bookmark or a clipping or whatever. Then you go there, and the blog is gone.

However, that is not what usually happens, for me at least. Most of the time what happens is that I simply forget where the recipe came from. Even if I did save the recipe in my ‘ to do ‘ list, well, the list is a bit too long to find it easily.

Sometimes I like the recipe so much, or I tweak it so much, that I like to actually rewrite the recipe here, in my space.

But sometimes the original post is so good and clear that there is really no need for that. So I thought that for me it is going to be useful to post a roundup of my favourite recipes, now and again. I also thought you might like me to share it, just to get a few new (at least double tested) ideas. I’ll start with a few recipes I’ve been collecting in the last months – I hope this becomes a regular habit.

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March 17, 2010

My daily soup

Did I already say how much I love this place? And how much I love this cookbook? I love it so much that I could not contemplate closing it in a box, and it is the only cookbook that made the move with me.

Their cooking can be summarized – their words, not mine – in ‘garlic and lemon’. Love it or hate it. I had a chance to try the cookbook because it was in the library, after reading this recension. I fell in love with the recipes, and obviously, first time I went to London for a trip, I basically choose the hotel because it was just a few meters away from their Notting Hill shop :). It was no disappointment, also on subsequent visits.

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February 20, 2010

A toast to redescovered cookbooks

Cinnamon SyrupMy cookbooks are finally out of their box, and I am rediscovering them. I don’t have that many – for a food obsessed person – but I definitely have too many for a person who moves as often as I do. Sometimes I become totally obsessed with one and just make all the recipes in there, sometimes I really like one, but I can’t cook from it; sometimes I decide to give one recipe a try, and slowly discover that me and the cookbook did just not understand each other, but now that we have found a common ground, there is much to be discovered.

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November 12, 2009

Red magic

I knew it existed, and still I ignored it until a while ago. I urge you not to do the same mistake. It is one of those ingredients that will spice up, quite literally, whatever food you are preparing.

Harissa is a red spicy paste from North africa. It contains chilli, grilled bell peppers, onion, garlic, coriander, cumin and other magical ingredients.  The first harissa I consciously tried (I’m sure I had it in Lebanese restaurants, but this does not count, as its flavour was probably blended with whatever else I was eating), I made it myself using Ottolenghi’s recipe. It was veeeery good even if my starting ingredients were a bit bland (UK supermarket stuff level, if you want to know what I am talking about), but then, all Ottolenghi recipes are. However I decided it was not worth bothering doing it, unless on special occasions. Then I saw it ready-made in my local Middle East store, and I decided to give it a try. Can you picture that endless, diverse variety of sauces and condiments you have in your fridge and cupboard, those you use when you cook Mexican or Japanese or Thai style (or Italian, of course :)), and then ignore them for the rest of the week/month/year, until the due date is well due, or you move, or maybe you cook again xxx-style? I was ready and willing to add yet another ingredient to my almost endless list. I don’t mind them at all; actually I quite like spending half an hour looking for the tamarind paste in the bottom of the fridge whenever I need it – rarely, that is –  and instead discovering in a corner that new miso paste (new a few months ago) I have not tried yet. And harissa was small, cheap and not very smelly, so it demanded little commitment on many sides.

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October 14, 2009

Experimenting

Chickpeas and peppers salad

Chickpeas and peppers salad

aka: Can I burn bell pepper’s skin using electric plates?

I  went back to Italy for a weekend. I brought home a kilo of local grower’s bell peppers, still in season (it is still summery warm, there).

My favourite way to prepare peppers is to burn their skin and peel them. It is time consuming but they are unrivalled that way. I must warn you that it is worth bothering only if they are fleshy enough, otherwise they just turn to nothing. Now apparently you can burn peppers by putting them in the oven, or over a direct flame; I have always used the second method, and I always make extra peppers when I have a barbecue, saving them for a rainy day. Then when all the skin is charred, you put the hot peppers either in a paper bag and then in a plastic one (mummy’s way) or in a container with a very tight fitting lid (my way, since I live in places where they don’t sell bread in paper bags, unfortunately). When they are nearly cold, or cold, you take off the skin, possibly with the help of some kitchen paper, or if the peppers are very strong, also under running water (quicker, but they do lose some flavour). You then cut them and remove seeds, and here they are. Great for freezing too.

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July 26, 2009

Sweet side of celebrity

Semolina cake

Semolina cake

I didn’t really understand the British craze about celebrity chefs until I ran into Nigella. She’s what I’d want to be, if I still believed in fairy tales. She’s beautiful, for one thing, and disturbingly sensual. Her shows are so obviously ‘fake’ that I really adore their kitch edge (come on, who goes out partying with friends, come home with perfect hair and make up, and prepare the batter for tomorrow morning’s something? I admit I did do it, but never with perfect hair, and cursing myself all the time). Her books are surprisingly learned, and her writing is funny and interesting. And on the food side, there is no cheating: her recipes are just spot on, accurate,  and as fuss free as home cooking can get. For instance her italian dishes make enough sense even to an Italian, and this is quite  uncommon. This Middle East inspired cake, from Feast, is a great example. It is assembled in minutes, it tastes divine, and it is dead easy to make.

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