Category Archives: FOOD

*(JAP)BROWNED TOAST IS DEADLY


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Really?  Is there no end to the health warnings? Don’t drink alcohol. Don’t eat fried foods.   Don’t be overweight. Don’t eat tuna – it’s full of poisonous minerals. Don’t eat processed meats . Don’t eat too much salt. Don’t eat sugar. And now TOAST? Is nothing sacred?  But, the BBC – a source I trust – solemnly advises us that we need to carefully toast our morning slice to a pale golden colour – any browner, and we are at risk. Yet again. I give up. It seems that anything and everything is waiting to ambush us, and the results will be fatal. Pass me the boiled lentils and a nice glass of pure spring water. Sigh. Read the article and depress yourself.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-38680622

*(Just a Paragraph:  when I’m short of time and/or inspiration, I keep my blog ticking over with ‘just a paragraph’: random thoughts, reflections, comments, ideas … little snippets)

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*A PASSION FOR PISTACHIOS


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(JAP)  TYPHOID, ANYONE?


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(Just a Paragraph:  when I’m short of time and/or inspiration, I keep my blog ticking over with ‘just a paragraph’: random thoughts, reflections, comments, ideas … little snippets)

You’re probably thinking: Huh? Weird title for a blog post. What’s she on about now? She cleaned out her fridge – join the dots, people, work it out for yourselves. Odd though it may seem, I don’t mind doing housework. It’s not my #1 favourite occupation, but that said, in the spirit of the Zen practitioners, I just do it. I attack tasks in small, bite sized chunks, when the spirit moves me. No timetable. Just as and when either I feel like it, or the task can no longer be ignored. The fridge cleanup fell into the last category. I ruthlessly tossed any item that was past its BB (best before) date. Out went two jars of mayo, and an elderly bottle of chutney. I’m now mayo-less, but hey, its winter. Not salad time. The true horror story was a bottle of green Madagascar peppercorns – 2012 no less, and sporting a spectacular crop of green mould. Pretty colour, though. I recall buying them specially for a new recipe which I tried out. Recipe tried, and the peppercorns languished. I bet you’ve got some fancy ingredients growing whiskers in your fridge too. I double-dare you to ‘fess up!

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I’M COOKING UP A STORM


Veg curry

Others may note the arrival of winter by the onset of coughs and sneezes, cold fingers and toes or the late rising and early setting of the good old sun, but me?  As soon as the temperatures start to drop, I’m in my kitchen cooking away  like there’s no tomorrow.

I’m a keen concocter of soup.  My style of cooking might be described as ‘rustic’ (to coin an Australian Masterchef term) so Minestrone is a favourite, as is Sweet Potato soup (lots of warming chilli floating around in it). And then there’s a crazy recipe involving tinned tuna, tomatoes, rice and curry powder – you’ve no idea how delicious it is. I have to stop myself from buying additional cookery books on the fascinating topic of Soup. I could eat it, quite cheerfully, every day. Perhaps not at the height of our summer when February temps reach a horrible 35 degrees Centigrade, but other than this : lead me to it!

Today was a cook-fest of note: mutton stew, oven baked rice, oven-stewed guavas, diabetic muffins, and an enormous oven baked vegetable curry.  Apart from the fact that the guavas dripped sticky juice all over the floor of my oven, and the kitchen looks like  the barbarian hordes swept through recently,  the house smells fragrant, a mixture of guava and mutton stew, and I’m leaving the mountain of washing up until tomorrow. Enough for one day

One thing I’ve learnt over the years: washing up is very patient, and will wait a loooonnng  time for me to get around to it. Fortunately I own a lot of crockery and utensils. This mad passion for washing up the minute a crumb falls on a plate – not my style. Quite exhausting.

Furthermore, years ago I invested in a dishwasher, (the mechanical variety, not the two-legged male type) one of the best decisions I ever made. And I have vowed that when the current Bosch beast breaks down, which inevitably  it will do, I shall immediately drive to Makro , at top speed, without passing GO to collect my R200, and buy another one – I don’t care what it costs or how broke I am at the time. For me, a dishwasher is a household essential.

Visitors often express astonishment that I own (and use) a dishwasher. But you’re only one person !  they say, in baffled tones. So? I eat three cooked meals a day, plus there are the innumerable cups of tea and coffee during the day, not to mention frequent visitors who are hospitably fed and watered by yours truly. You bet I need a dishwasher!

But I’ve digressed: what’s your favourite winter food? I recently found a recipe for Aloo Gobi (a.k.a. potato and cauliflower curry) made one batch, and am winding up to making another batch – and the good news is that the Bosch capably removed the brilliant yellow turmeric stains from my casserole dish. It doesn’t get better than this.

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(JAP) MY BIG NEW WORD


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I learnt a marvellous new word early this morning: petaflop. Do a Miranda and repeat out aloud several times: petaflop. Petaflop. Isn’t it a satisfying word? I picked it up in a BBC article (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-33506479) on Shaheen II the new Saudi supercomputer – snappily named KAUST – King Abdullah University of Science and Technology   – for short, which crunches data in petaflops i.e.  “A petaflop is equal to about one quadrillion calculations per second. One estimate suggests it would take a human about 32,000,000 years to complete the same task “ . So how about that? Petaflop .

P.S. Miranda – a hilarious BBC sitcom featuring the tall, ungainly Miranda, who is quirkiness personified, and revels in the repetition of odd words.

 

 

 

 

 

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COOKING  CURRY


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I watched a BBC cooking show, a series called Rick Stein’s India which gave us all the colour, dust, crowds, gaudy festivals, temples, gorgeous saris, elephants, and palaces you could ever wish for. An absolute feast for the eye. My favourite street scene shows an elephant slowly ambling along a road bordering a street market, and at each stall the vendor steps forward and offers one item – mostly fruits – from his stall, which the elephant gracefully scoops up with a curled trunk, while the vendor makes a Namaste and a slight head bow.

In amongst this the pink and perspiring Mr Stein, notebook in hand, camera-man at his shoulder, valiantly researched, South Indian cuisine, Rajasthani delights, on and on he went, through humble home kitchens, hole-in-the-wall kitchens in cities,  no bigger than a broom cupboard, tucked down side-streets, manned by sweating cooks turning out their speciality – just the one dish, there literally being no room to produce more than one.. He ate street food (and there were never any references to the dreaded Delhi Belly, he must have a very strong stomach!). He ate in a restaurant run by a Maharajah, who personally cooked ‘Jungly Mas’ for him – a simple dish consisting of goat, water, salty, ghee and chillies; he ate at the Indian school equivalent to Eton. He ate at the Golden Temple, at Amritsar, where thousands are fed daily – food is cooked in vast vats over open wood fires, by bare-chested lunghi-clad old men.

No matter where he ate, the theme seldom varied: curry. Sometimes it was vegetarian curry, sometimes fish, but often it was goat curry, masquerading as lamb, called lamb, and never referred to as goat. I gathered that sheep didn’t do well in India. Imagine those thick woolly fleeces in that terrific heat!

He conducted an earnest enquiry during his travels, as to whether Indians use the ubiquitous word ‘curry’ and if so, what they meant by the term?  Apparently in Britain, the word curry covers practically any hot and spicy main dish, produced by immigrant families in takeaways, in the local High Street; accompanied by naan bread  and lots of lager.

It transpired that most Indians were quite happy to use the word curry, although – strictly speaking – the work means ‘gravy’. But it seems that ‘curry’ has entered the many languages of India, and is widely use, to cover main dishes ranging from the most subtly fragrant to the inflammatory chilli. One Indian gentleman, a famous cook in India, discoursed eloquently and scornfully on the horrors of “Indian Curry Powder”, the boxed variety brought home from colonial service, to dear old Blighty, by the British. His condemnation of commercial curry powder was a joy to listen to! Indian cooks, of course, buy and grind their spices daily, at home, depending on the dish they’re making. I have to agree, that boxed curry powder (Rajah Curry here in South Africa) while quick and easy is always too hot. I don’t like blow-your-sox off fiery curries, I prefer spicy, deep flavoured curries.

So: inspired by Mr Stein, I hauled out my cookery books and made a tasty cauliflower curry for lunch yesterday. It’s quite a fiddly process, what with the chopping up of the veg, the discovery that I do not have fenugreek, or ground clove in my spice drawer, the garlic is finished, and so on – back to the shops yet again. But the results were worth it, and I have a nice stash of curry dinners tucked away in my freezer.

I can’t resist a bargain, especially in the cash-strapped month of January, so I bought vast quantities of tomatoes which suddenly appeared at Food Lovers’ Market at literally give-away prices, and I’ve found a recipe for tomato and hardboiled egg curry.   Hardboiled eggs, oddly enough, go well in a curry sauce. Sounds good to me!

 

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MY FATHER’S DAUGHTER


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I’m turning into my Father. No, I’m not adopting formal three-piece mens’ suits, with correct tie, nor am I turning bald, nor correcting my posture to ramrod stiffness.

But I’ve suddenly realised that I’ve adopted his habit of eating the identical breakfast , day in and day out. My Dad unvaryingly consumed fried egg and bacon, every day. There might occasionally be a slice of fried bread added to this gourmet feast, or  a daring fried tomato, but by and large, it was fried egg and bacon.  Back in the Olden Days that I’m speaking of, we knew (and cared) nothing about the evils of oil, fat, cholesterol, cardiac health and the like. Consequently, Dad’s plate was a happy culinary skating rink of oil/fat, which I suppose was the entire point of a hearty, satisfying breakfast.

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My daily e&b is a very different affair. I have an efficient little bright pink, non-stick, one-egg frying pan. From the day I bought the damn thing I have loathed the colour, but comforted myself that, because it was manufactured in China, it wouldn’t last long. Wrong. Two years later, it’s doing just fine and the Teflon remains  as durable as ever. So my fried eggs wouldn’t know what oil and grease meant, not even if you drew them a diagram. Ditto my carefully trimmed bacon slices, grilled, and carefully blotted with kitchen paper. But at the end of the day, I’m  eating fried egg and bacon for breakfast, at least six days out of seven. Purged of fat and calories, they may be, but they’re still satisfying. Particularly with a smidgeon of that other forbidden substance – tomato sauce.

I sound like a regular food Nazi don’t I? Trust me, when you’re  diagnosed as a  diabetic, you turn into one. And maybe I should add that my Dad was felled by a mighty stroke in his early sixties – just possibly his fat-clogged arteries may have had something to do with it.

I remember my Mother once remarking to me, somewhat sourly : “You’re your Father’s daughter.”  Her tone wasn’t complimentary. Subsequently I’ve puzzled over this remark, but her shrouded meaning went to the grave with her. And when you’re younger you tend not to cross-examine your parents. At least, I didn’t. Now I wish I had!

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Slices of Quince


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Edward_Lear_The_Owl_and_the_Pussy_Cat_1.jpg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I feel very Edward Lear-ish at the moment, because I have been feasting on quince. Stewed quince, baked quince. If you bake quince for hours the fruit slowly turns a gorgeous deep pink. I’ve been racking my brains as to exactly which shade of pink best describes it – the closest I can come is to compare it to pink grapefruit. It’s a clear, delicate pink, but a deep shade.

Quince are a winter fruit in South Africa, and I have a vague memory of seeing them grow on an untidy hedge in a small country town. I’ve never known anybody who grew quinces. It’s only during the last two years they’ve been available in the shops. A clever farmer has cottoned on to the idea of growing the fruit commercially. They’re an old-fashioned fruit, and in bygone years, were turned into jams and quince paste, which I think was eaten with venison dishes.

They are the very devil to prepare, because the  round fruit has a consistency somewhere between a cricket ball and a granite boulder. The peel is citric yellow and quite thin, so I’ve adopted the strategy of scrubbing them vigorously to get rid of the greyish bloom on the skin, wash the fruit, and leave them unpeeled. Then I cut them into quarters and hack out the small apple-type brown seeds in the centre, which are surrounded by a gritty coating. It’s best to get rid of this, because the gritty bits are virtually unchewable.

I bake them in the oven with a handful of sultanas and sticks of cinnamon, with a teeny bit of water, or sometimes I stew them in a cast-iron pot on the stove top. Quince have to be cooked. They are inedible raw. But once cooked, they are worth the preceding toil and pain. They go well with yoghurt, custard, cream. You can put them into tarts, or make a fruit cobbler. I suspect they would also do well in a thick syrup, with booze added – both syrup and booze are on the forbidden list for me, but the rest of you can experiment. Bon appétit!

You may be wondering why I mention Edward Lear.  He wrote the marvellous poem  The Owl & the Pussycat which contains the lines:

They dined upon mince and slices of quince,

Which they ate with a runcible spoon;

And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,

They danced by the light of the moon …

I’ve always wondered what the word runcible meant. My reliable OED declines to offer an explanation and something tells me that – coming from the mildly crazy Edward Lear – he probably invented the word. Runcible… might it have been a twisty spoon? Or engraved with runic emblems? Or specially fashioned so that the pussycat’s claws could hold the spoon? Or was it just deep enough for an owl-shaped beak to pluck the contents from the spoon?  We shall never know.

By the way, The Owl and the Pusscat is Chocolat’s favourite poem, and my  second blog post  titled What my cat is reading appeared way back when on 24 February, 2011.

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RECENT READS # 19: Ready – Steady – COOK!


MEDIUM RAW by Anthony Bourdain  is sub-titled “a Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People who Cook”  – I’m pretty sure if the Publishers felt they might get away with it the sub-title would have read “A F—-ing Valentine  etc”  because the F-word is Bourdain’s favourite word, he uses it in almost  every paragraph, he uses it adverbially, he uses it adjectivally, he uses it as a  verb. He has even invented a collective noun ‘clusterf…’ to describe gatherings of hungry journos and industry peeps.  This is not a book to tuck into your maiden aunt’s Christmas stocking.  But if you love food, cooking and eating then open the book and prepare to be entertained, astonished  and illuminated.

Anthony Bourdain was the Bad Boy of New York chefdom, some years ago, and hit the headlines with his first culinary exposé “Kitchen Confidential”, which was a riveting account of cheffing, boozing, drugging, oh – and cooking. Some twelve years later he’s calmed down quite a bit (he recently married and  now has a baby daughter with whom he is besotted); he wrote more books, got onto TV as a  hit show host (No Reservations – Around the world on an empty Stomach) and he writes foodie columns for top-end magazines & newspapers in the US.

Now he’s laying into the food industry with his customary verve –  he must have as many – if not more – enemies than friends.  There’s a chapter in Medium Raw  titled ‘Heroes & Villains’ in which he names names and plunges in with gusto.  He’s opinionated, outrageous, opinionated, funny, opinionated, philosophical, opinionated and passionate and loves nothing more than a good rant.  You should read his indictment of the beef industry in the US and what goes into a hamburger. You will never eat another hamburger that you have not personally prepared, this I promise you.

For all his fearless bravado, it has to be said that when it comes to food, the man writes like a dream. There’s a chapter appropriately titled ‘Lust’ where he describes dishes he’s eaten all over the world – Borneo, Singapore, Italy – never mind the location; when I’d finished reading that chapter the pagers were covered in drool …. he describes this type of writing as ‘food porn’.  He’s not wrong – I nearly had an orgasm.

I’m a great Bourdain fan, but I’m glad he’s not mine.  He may be long, lean and devilishly good-looking, but Mrs B is welcome to him.  I reckon she’s got her hands full!

ALONE IN THE KITCHEN WITH AN EGGPLANT  edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler; sub-titled Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone.

Somebody had the bright idea of asking the great and the good to write short essays on this theme, so contributors include the late Nora Ephron (who liked nothing better than to prepare herself  mashed potatoes).  Haruki Murakami, the Japanese novelist, who cooked spaghetti for a year in 1971, and equates it with loneliness.  Holly Hughes sets out to makes Eggs Florentine a la Mom,  but lands up making good ol’ scrambled eggs.  Phoebe Nobles binges on asparagus while the season lasts and cooks it every which way for six weeks. Other writers recreate artisanal dishes they first encountered in Europe; somebody else talks about instant noodles. There are a few frantically fiddly recipes, a few dead easy recipes, plus some meditations about cooking, food, travelling, past loves  dining alone, student years, youth, cooking debacles and disasters.

I bought the book intrigued by its stylish deep purple jacket, with a pic of artistically sliced eggplant piled into a tower.  In my childhood the vegetable was always called a Brinjal; later in life I discovered the name Aubergine and now it’s usually referred to by its simple name: eggplant.  Personally, I enjoy Brinjal curry, but not fried Brinjal – way too oily.

I keep the book in the dusty piles on my bedside table, and take an occasional dip into its treasures every time I need a short entertaining read. It could be described as snack reading.  I recommend it to you.

 

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ALPHABET SOUP


Portrait of a Bookworm

 

B  is  for : Bookworm,  Books, Bodice Rippers, Blockbuster,  Best Seller, the (Man) Booker Prize,  Blancmange

 

BOOKS  –  which have, over the centuries, been written or printed on a variety of materials ranging from clay tablets, palm leaves,  papyrus scrolls, pyramid walls, massive heavy copper sheets, vellum, toilet paper, continuous rolls of paper (Jack Kerouac On the Road) and now there’s a completely new suggestion: chameleon paper, for want of a better description.

The Millions (a blog about Books) proposes a marriage between the conventional book and the electronic reading machine, a product which would look like a book, high quality paper, spine etc. but the pages would be blank until activated, whereupon the hidden circuitry would upload whatever book you wanted to read.  What a nifty idea! On completion, you would programme the touchpad (hidden inside one of the covers)  to upload your next reading choice. And as the piece de resistance  as an optional extra one could add the clever application that would  exude the fragrance of old books and libraries …. the best of all possible worlds, maybe?

BODICE RIPPERS  – I just adore this steamy nickname for passionate tales of love denied, love lost, love pursued, virtue protected, virtue stolen …  and finally surrendered amidst the turmoil of heavy breathing, straining thighs, quivering breasts … oh, it’s all too much for my elderly constitution, think I’ll quickly take a cold shower and read a chapter or two of Great Gardens of the World”.  Be still, my beating heart!  (And, P.S. I’ve never met anybody who confesses to reading bodice rippers, although well-worn piles of these novels always turn up on charity book-sales. One of life’s little mysteries, I fear.)

BLOCKBUSTER – What officially qualifies as a blockbuster? Any novel that looks like the Yellow Pages on steroids, and weighs more than 600 grams, I reckon.  They do terrible damage to the bridge of your nose and completely wreck your glasses when they fall on your face when you drift off as you lie reading in bed, late at night. Furthermore, the print seems to be diminishing exponentially with each of my birthdays; another of life’s little mysteries.

BEST SELLER – No doubt there is some magical benchmark figure that qualifies a book as a Best Seller, but the criteria vary widely and wildly depending on hemisphere and culture.  Sadly, in the South African context, any new book that sells over 500 copies is reckoned to be a howling success ..

THE (MAN) BOOKER PRIZEBooks entered for this prestigious prize will definitely never appear in the Bodice Ripper Category, certainly not appear in the Blockbuster category, but might, just might, sneak into the Best Seller Category. A recent winner “Wolf Hall” by Hilary Mantell triumphantly surged into the Best Seller lists (deservedly so) while others like “The Sea” by John Banville did not. Possibly because it was Literature with a capital ‘L’.  I found it obscure, but then my personal taste is not equipped for the elevated heights of Literature, with a capital ‘L’. I can never quite decide whether the Booker is the crème de la crème of popular literature accolades, or the dizzy heights of cultural literary recognition.  Suffice it to say, the nomination lists for the prize have introduced me to authors I might otherwise not have tackled. So: many thanks to the Man Booker Trust.

BLANCMANGE – whatever happened to this treat from my childhood ? It used to arrive in one’s pudding dish quivering delicately – pale pink, sweet, slippery and bland. And – wild excitement – crowned with a spoonful of strawberry jam. I suppose it has been usurped by the much easier (& tastier, let us admit) options of rum ‘n raisin ice-cream, frozen yoghurt in any flavour known to man, and ready- made little pots of chocolate mousse.  A trawl through my recipe books reveals nary a recipe for this childhood treat.  I fear me its R.I.P. Blancmange.

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