My thoughts and experiences on food and wine and other things

Archive for October, 2010|Monthly archive page

An offering to the Gods and the ancestors

In Blablabla, Food on October 31, 2010 at 21:42

Pomona, Goddess of fruits and seeds.

It is while she was honoured during a festival in the Roman times that first traces of the “origin” of Halloween emerged but various and other connections have also been found linking the “day” to other Celtics celebrations and seems to be the roots of its history.

The Celts believed that on the day of Samhain (Halloween) during which they celebrated the end of the summer days and harvest , therefore the beginning of the long and harsh winter , that on the night of the 31st of October , the border for the passage to the “Other Side” was thinner , allowing all spirits good and bad to “travel”, so everyone would disguise himself in order to be mistaken by the spirits and left unharmed.

It is only around 830 AC that the Catholic Church in Rome, under  the demand of Pope Gregory IV, that the All Saints Day is celebrated worldwide.

The name Halloween was first attested  in the 16th Century and has been shortened from the Scottish word All-Hallows-Even (Mass Day of All Saints Day) ever since.

Diverse vegetables were carved and lit with a candle (Lantern) and placed on the front porch of houses and windows to ward off the Evil Spirits and has become nowadays a tradition that seems amusing but was very much taken seriously at the times of origin.

The tradition of pumkin carving in the United States was associated to the great famine during the Irish immigration until becoming around mid 19th Century part of the great tradition and symbol of nowadays Halloween. The “Squash” , beside being in full season is then also used in a number of various recipes such as Pumkin Pie , Soups , Mash…etc

Trick or treat practice (now belonging to children for a good night of fun out) began in the medieval times when the poor would come knocking on doors , offering prayers for the dead in exchange for food which in American history would have caused outrage at some time around 1948 as some of the members of the called Madison Square Boys in New York protested during the Parade with the slogan “American Boys don’t beg”.

Scottish tradition once wanted the young and unmarried lady to peel a fruit (Apple in this instance) in one strip and to throw it over the shoulder. The saying goes by : the strips , on its landing, would take the shape of a letter being the first letter of the man this young lady would get to marry. It was also said that a single young lady staring into the mirror on Halloween’s night would see the face of her future spouse appearing next to hers , but that a skull would show if she was to be destined to die before she wed. Gulp!

2 Players on Halloween night traditional game would get their faces very sticky indeed as a scone attached to a string and dangling down, would be dipped into (Treacle in Uk) or (Mapple syrup in Us and Canada)  and the players would attempt to catch it with their teeth and eat the treat and therefore be declared the winner.

Because of the season (harvest) Candy or Toffee Apples are also to be associated with the evening and used as treat for the childrens on the occasion , so is  a fruit cakes holding a golden coin ,Celtic tradition oblige.

Apples floating on water would be another amusement related or usually seen on Halloween’s night games ,with the objective, for the player, single this time , once more , to catch the fruit with his teeth and by often dunking his/her head into the water.

If anyone comes knocking on your door, be kind or be tricked …

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14 millions in the City of “Fog”, anything to eat?

In Blablabla, Food, Travel on October 29, 2010 at 14:57

London.

Its heartbeat goes like a rumbling tambourine, busy, busy, busy and growing , improving and keeping afloat amongst all other major cities and competing with the big boys alike , Tokyo, New York ,Shanghai and a handful of other major cosmopolitan Mega Cities.

Its market shares, banking systems, high property prices and extraordinary pressures jobs ……all these comes to ordinary people at extraordinary price. Capital of England and the United Kingdom, with over 300 languages spoken, London is prone to and getting where only a few other cities in the world are going. For others it is purely and simply a mad ,bad and crowded place where no heart and sympathies are shared.

But let me introduce you to the London I know, the London that fascinates me ,feeds me with all its jewels of not only cobbled streets, that without shops would probably not get much of our attention , all its restaurants, art galleries , museums and other things that we now take for granted have all been issued from hard labour and travels and mixture of cultures and risk taking and this buzz that keeps London what it is , also makes it what it is!

One does not come without the other, it is a pair, one item. There is sometimes compromises and sometimes clashes, trials, errors. But also some other times , good things come to life , great things are burgeoning as if it was spring and the beginning of a new season was being announced.

It is this London I would like to talk about, the modern city “in disguise” and underneath its thick walls and traditions , pubs and grubs and classical , colonial attitude  , she is still connected and catching up with everyone , trotting not far behind , testing, sampling and mixing all the foods and culture one can imagine and preparing us for something incredible.

Indian ,Chinese and Japanese restaurants were here , in the Michelin guide , before it even stepped foot on Tokyo , Mumbai or Beijing soil…..what does that tells us, frankly?

The greatest of all classics are still very much here, strong , not in hiding but supporting , like heavy artillery or the first step of a solid wooden ladder , having paved the road for a better tomorrow.

I am here talking about the likes of Albert and Michel Roux, Anton Mosimann , Pierre Koffmann , Raymond Blanc , Gary Rhodes, John Williams , Anton Edelman and Institutions and schools such as the Savoy , the Ritz, Le Gavroche, Le Cordon Bleu, …..etc (amongst sooo many others) all have and still are part of the building team that shapes today’s Britain/London restaurant scene , food culture , education …etc

Now, this is Britain ! My Britain ….

“EL MIL DEL POAIG”

In Cutting Edge, Food, Travel on October 19, 2010 at 19:34

Bless you , one might say!
I did not sneeze…..Please all my Spanish friends forgive my humour , my approach so indelicate for using the name of such a grandiose product and making it a mockery!

A mockery ? and is aged way over a 1000 years old ?

That’s right ,  “EL MIL DEL POAIG” is an extra virgin olive oil recolted from millennial olive trees that have been cultivated for centuries on the hill tops alongside the river EBRO in the Northern Spain.

Amongst 24  municipalities , Catalunia, Valencia and Aragon have formed the “Associacio Territori Del Senia” which is aimed to protect and promote the millennial trees and its heritage.

Harrods in London is selling exclusively the Designed by Cul De Sac (a Spanish Designer) 500ml bottle  with a tag price of £120….making it the most expensive Olive Oil at just over £220/Litre.

Don’t we just love homemade vinaigrette?!

“V” for Vadai ?!

In Food, Travel on October 17, 2010 at 21:31

On too many occasions I’ve promised myself this dedicace , reverence or lift of my hat to the nonetheless beautifully tasty and so varied food that Indian cuisine is.

The originality in its products used and its cooking techniques as well as methods have well surprised , astonished and brought so much pleasure and joy to the many taste buds to whom I have introduced some of its secrets after having been subject to its numerous mysteries myself.

I will start with for me what would be the “Ultimate Sampling” I name the “Dosa” , this paper-thin crispy pancake like made of lentils flour cooked on a “Tava Grill”often filled with soft and well seasoned melting onions and  potatoes and always accompanied by at least 4 chutney and Sambars (Spicy vegetable broth, coconut, lentils….etc , all more delicious than the other) and my personal touch would be to have on its side , a homemade thick sweet and tangy Tamarind sauce and being able to sip hardly (as it should not be too runny) on a salty Lassi (Yoghurt seasoned and blended with lemon juice and sprinkled with crushed cumin seeds)

Gosh I am craving for it!

I am all mouth-watering although I am at least a week until my next sitting.

I have discovered or was shown this delightfully blissy of a meal while on a trip in Australia, 7 or 8 years back, yes in Oz that was and I may still to this day taste and feel my very first mouthful as I have become a fervent addict ever since.

Thanks to a very special friend.

This dish amongst many others from India and thus even without stepping one foot on this vast golden triangular country brings me to say that my long and lasting wait to go on a trip around the dreamy fields of the Northern country or rememorizing this wonderful story of the Taj Mahal told so many times and that have left me endeavour to feel and live it while breathing its thin air that I have so far never been able to imagine its taste , are only getting one step closer to realization as my growing desire keeps on feeding me with more and more envy to parcour and discover its many secrets.

Vadai, soft ,light and fluffy. This at least is how this savoury “Doghnut” shaped delicacy made of chickpeas flour should be and will take your mind away by its explosion of pungent flavours. The bite into one of those will not take you to the emergency department of the nearest hospital but instead transport you into this corridor of loveliness and yummy feeling that only the best comfort food might be able to provide you with.

Before coming to Rasmalai, I would like to introduce you to this little crispy cushion full of air. You will crack open its top to place inside a cooked potato cut into small cubes or chickpeas with freshly chopped coriander , then filled with tamarind water seasoned with asafoetida before placing whole into your mouth to crush it all in one go and have the most unbelievable experience food may give you….Pani Puri, remember that name because if we ever come to meet face to face ,there is much chance I will blab about it for hours while yourself, like a child discovering its fingers may be used to scratch the interior of his nose ,will be left amazed in the all splendour of the word.

Rasmalai or “Babies Bottom” kept for last , you will have to try it for yourself to find out why , why one would make such a fuss about a very simple recipe and push aside the chocolate éclairs or millefeuille to spoon into this “Soupy” rather looking estrange entremet.

A flattened ball of soft curdled milk  poached into some more milk, flavoured with saffron pistils and a few whole shelled pistachios….when I feel like it , I do cross the whole of London and head south to the Tooting area just to bring some enough to keep a smile on my face for days. What else is there to say but for a shopping therapy, this does the trick !

“Sometimes Rare and Sometimes Square”

In Blablabla, Food, Travel on October 7, 2010 at 13:08

When I first started writing about food, I had the intention of “publishing” as myself for Editor, all incredible products and facts around food that I may find along the way and here are a few more examples, regrouped in this blog so not to build an encyclopedia of eccentricity but to report those amazing finds.

Fruits, vegetables, rice,coffees and spices, all standing next to currencies sometimes in an extravagant way. This does not come without taste , the taste of the product itself, it may be the rarest coffee depicted previously or the strong and pungent odour of the Durian Fruit ….all have their right of attention, respect and why not the  opportunity to be sampled.

Ignorance is bliss some would say, yes this would certainly help in the case of reducing our carbon footprint but is a little sacrifice , a gesture for mankind, education for our palate not worth a certain effort in perhaps forwarding those issues into something more concrete or into other industries than ours that mainly deal with natural items such as fruits, vegetables and meat on which we happily feed?

(are you still with me?)

We all know a certain great man’s words of wisdom in his speech “I have a dream”, myself also have a dream, amongst many , a dream where items of food would have no cost , no transport issue, no use by date  and certainly no issue in growing food for none of us…..wouldn’t that be just the ideal world?

While these ideas vaguely float over me, I am hereby adding to my list a few of these interesting food stuff  that I find dear to me, dear in the sense of knowledge in the sense that this exercise is not only constructive for myself, my line of work …etc but also gives me the feeling of forwarding, transmitting something and that if one person, one person only were to tell me that he or she has learned through these words put in a not so random way for me ,  would make this all chapter and philosophical “spread” well worth it! (although no great effort was needed in the construction of this page and no animal was injured in the process)

In 2008 , a Japanese type of melon was sold for the modest sum of £3100….Why? The Auctioneer who purchased the black Densuke watermelon which is grown only on Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido wanted to support Japanese agriculture and showed it very well.

Still in Japan and still in the melon business, this time we are going in the Zentsuji region, born out of commodity, this grown into a cubic glass mould melon , have been purposely made square so storage may be easier and avoiding any rolling of the fruit being a must. Clever? I don’t know, different, surely!

 Amabito No Moshio is a salt that has been refined under strict rules, combining old and modern methods. Seaweed is added to the sea water from the Seto Inland Sea which gives it its perfume and unique colour and can obtain prices of £50/kilo for its rarity and long process of fabrication.

China. The Birds Nest made out of the Swiftlet saliva, this rather fast and agile little bird are a delicacy made into soups, believed to be curative and to prolong life they are fetching prices as high as £5000/kilo for the rarest “Red Blood”  version after the white and the black sold for a mere £1000/kilo.

Glacier these days are simply attached (well, ahem!) and dragged to  many places around the globes but specifically to Canada to be processed and bottled up for the retail market as the purest water. Some Glacier are claimed to be between 12 000 and 150 000 years old (yes 150 000) therefore the ice from which they are formed would have absolutely no traces of  any toxins, pollution of the modern days…etc A case of 12 Bottles of 330ml is sold for around £25. Global warming or lucrative new business venture? Once more questions are to be raised. This is an amazing fact as we are more and more in search of the organic products and humanly raised chicken beast…etc Again, contradiction with ourselves , mother nature and the deep end of our pocket!

“Epautre or Ble des Gaulois, even Caviar des cereales”( in French) known as Spelt, is the ancestor of the Wheat germ and is now coming back to our tables , after being used for the making of bread for sometimes wheat allergy sufferer and becoming more of a trend that is not without taste as is delicious wholemeal or “Bise” and has been labelled “IGP”or “Indication Geographique Protegee” since 2009.

“Pick me Up”

In Blablabla, Food, Travel on October 4, 2010 at 21:13

When I need a boost , a friend to help me go through the day and sometimes a kick , I direct myself  , not toward my phone to punch one of my friends number but rather toward my espresso machine or walk into one of these high street coffee place and order myself a single shot of espresso “serre s’il vous plait” for “short” that I will take down in one go, once the bit of brown sugar I stir delicately is properly diluted .

Coffee bean, named the black gold , “we know! so is Caviar and the Perigord Truffle”, but we are here talking about “A” fruit that grows in more than 50 countries  and that is the second largest export in the world after Oil of course.

Usually found within a 1000 miles of the equator and best growing on volcanic soil rich in minerals or soil composed of leafs mould and other organic matters, we may find the two main types of coffee which are the Robusta and the Arabica.(Robusta growing best at low altitude and Arabica better suited for higher altitude growth).

Central and South America produce around two third of the global world supply with Brasil itself being able to obtain 30% of this large chunk.

The coffee tree  produce its first crop when it is around 5 years of age and will so for around another 15 to 20 years.

When in bloom, it is covered with over 25 000 flowers which within 36 hours,  each will develop into fruit….the coffee bean.

However the number of types, origin and quality, I would like to mention the three main that have changed my world since I have had the chance to taste them.

They are the Musketeers, the Three Kings , wearing crown and jewellery but nevertheless not coming unaccompanied. Accompanied indeed as they are all coming round, fully bodied, with character , notes of chocolate, very light in acidity and the three with a very different origin and story to tell.

They are the Kona Hawaii known for being the smartest and tasting of chocolate , Jamaican Blue Mountain for its strength in taste and demand and popularity and of course the rarest Kopi Luwak from Indonesia,  the bean having been digested by the Luwak , Asian Civet living from the fruit.

Once secreted the bean is then “harvested” from the faeces of the animal left behind.

This digestion process breaking the enzyme of the coffee gives it its delicate taste making it rare and “very Special” and is exported in only very small quantities and at very high prices.

A cup of espresso combining Blue Mountain and Kopi Luwak at Peter Jones Store in Chelsea ,London that is ,will take a £50 note  from you , leaving no change for tipping the garcon.

What the heck , we only live once

The Bees and the Honey

In Blablabla on October 3, 2010 at 18:35

In the old days, Canaries were used to be the sentinels in the coal mines , so gas leak could be immediately detected.

Nowadays it is the “Bees” and their “Honey” that scientist at the Dusseldorf Airport are meticulously studying in order to measure the levels of toxins , this way the air polution is monitored on constant basis.

There is around 200 000 bees working around the clock and this years harvest seems to be indicating levels of toxins way below the official limit.

The “Honey” branded Dusseldorf Natural is being given as gifts.

I just wish all natural products such as milk, fruits and vegetables…etc were used in the very same practical way known as “Terrestrial Indicator” and that hopefully less conservative, additive were added to extend shelve life , transport and decrease loss…therefore rising to no end.

This reflects and take me onto my last words of moral that cycle through my mind:

If the bees can do it, so can we ?!

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