My thoughts and experiences on food and wine and other things

Archive for November, 2010|Monthly archive page

Food for thoughts!

In Blablabla on November 14, 2010 at 08:08

Waking up this morning after having dreamed I had just done my weekly shopping…..I exclaimed myself…Yesss, one task out of the way.!

But if this had been true, I would not have been able to enjoy such a fabulous day it has been nor would I have found out about this version of whipping cream that is dairy and allergen free , low calories and readily available.

Rice , Oat and Soy milk are used into the production of these substitutes allowing one self to enjoy his or hers chocolate mousse or light diplomat cream found usually in these delicacies that we all well know to appreciate named “éclairs” (Chocolate, Vanilla and Coffee…) without the intake of any animal fat for any allergic or intolerance or simply on a dietary restriction  (as animal fat being more difficult to eliminate than vegetal ).

It is nowadays easy to accommodate pretty much any diet to all suits and needs and are available at pretty much all your nearest local health stores (or at least in the London area) .

All ingredients are these days appearing and described onto the side of pretty much everything we are purchasing, it has been deconstructed so we may read its calories and glucose content, its nutritional value or its origin and the way it has been produced such as Fair Trade or “Not Tested on Animals” also showing up and all those informations are there for us to choose from and select attentively and specifically to our moral standards beside our “papilles gustative” ones. This is our very own and personal Quality standard, the one in time of crisis that may be reduced and lowered accordingly , tweaked and played with but that always have the tendency of coming back right up as soon as hard times are over.

Yes, one might say, but what about the cost?

I recently discussed an argument as to what was right for yourself and declared that you are (as one) making your own standard , according of course to your budget ,but also your standing and expectation and taste……you may as well want to ‘reward” yourself with a treat such as for some it is a diner on special occasion or so is a picture at the cinema on any given Sunday or for other ,a luxurious holiday in a faraway destination after a long few months of hard labor .

Robert M Pirsig declared in his second ouvrage “Lila, an Inquiry into Morals” that if the ultimate Quality had to be explained into a single sentence , good would be the adjective of all the metaphysics of its meaning.

By this I intend not only to invite anyone to understand that quality is a personal and of ones standing, but also that it is a legacy , an accumulation of what we all have been experiencing and looking at along and during our modest lives , making us and simply more appreciative of the highest standard we have always and ever been looking for to perfection.

Lets not get carried away into what could take us onto the great (not Ocean but ) philosophical road and let’s get back to our primary interest ….food and food related items.

The reason I am mentioning the above “dietary” items is that as described , the reason for willing to consume such product might be well varied but also for the simple fact that our tables are now viewing more and more …..placing an order at a café parlour, might simply take more than just a breath as your “frapuccino” will be available skinny, soy milk, full fat , with marshmallow or even almond syrup….etc

We are trying to find our ways and mark our identity, forgetting the very simple truth, we are already identified (able) , our ancestors have made all the efforts necessary for us to be able to enjoy, they have roasted the very first coffee bean, flopped an apple pie onto the floor declaring it “Tarte Tatin”, they have discovered for us the magic of the cold and warm emulsion , and shaped our potato into all forms and perforated possible way and imaginable.

What else is out there for us to do….Rhetorical  question of course as we may not only follow and pass on the good and trimmed skills that have been inherited from our seniors but also assure and protect the welcoming of new ideas and techniques and technologies that we may see nowadays ….all philosophy is a philosophy, it may be food related in its analogy but it always goes down to the same idea……getting things understood and of course better .

Lets wait and see now what I’ll find out in my basket in the morning?!

From Psychiko without passing by Ladbroke Grove.

In Food, Travel on November 9, 2010 at 22:04

One of the greatest advantages of my work, I mean the learning curve that it might give one in comparison to any other position in the industry , is that having worked in various household and for people of very diverse origins , I have been able to pick up recipes , techniques , knowledge and was “rewarded” sometimes by being given to cook with , specially imported honey from Crete coming in barrels or Mizithra cheese (made by local Monks residing in one of these Monastery , perched high cliff ) and my best try to explaining the sensation of eating it would be “the like , a soft cushion rolling over your tongue” , a feeling that no other cheese has ever been able to provide me with, its lightness and spoilness  , like the only child being given all the present under the Christmas tree, but this one has excelled , surpassed and even caught me off guards with its feathery texture like ,as if making love to me.

Nope, not even a Brie , even “cremeux or truffled”has given me such pleasure

Joke or sensual analogies aside ,I know I have been using identical adjectives for describing the sensational feelings that other items in some of my past “Blogs” have been able to give me , but believe me when I say this is the ‘Thing’, it is the ‘Thing’!

No wonder why it is rarely imported as the Greeks would rather keep it for themselves than sharing it with this world of “ignorant” that we are  (as I have so far never been able to find it in London’s most famous for its few but traditional shops, Moscow road…. yet)

Apart also from the fact that it is an unpasteurized cheese and that no salt nor sugar is added therefore making it rather fragile to transport …

Strong “Kriti Honey” is usually poured over , sprinkled with freshly ground cinnamon. Confit thick bitter Oranges skins or “Gliko” served aside along with freshly peeled almond soaked in milk. All this in the shade of a Cypress tree looking towards the Aegean sea. I would love to say that “Someone once told me, food writing describing sensations and pleasures of the table were way beyond imagination with regards to one’s soul and most desired fanatasies”…..and if anyone out there is able to try (Mizithra and many other bites), and read my mind in the way that not only this is typed here today but also in the sense or direction that our lives are going, straight ahead , over the bumps and cracs , he or she can simply join me on my trip , not without fastening his/her seatbelt as it is going to be a hell of an adventure , I feel growing in me the desire more sudden, day after day , to spread this “love” , just like when in younger age , when making a “Tartine” of Nutella , prepared with all the attention and preciseness  necessary , making sure every border, corner and holes of the slice of freshly toasted Campagne bread is covered so this will taste the same yummy all the way through , making this “Gouter” the most desirable and memorable moment of the day.

What comfort may be found in such a simple pleasure…?!

Mahlepi, is another item used in Greek cooking that is essential. Essential indeed as it is found in the Tsoureki recipe, this brioche type dough that is traditional in Easter time. It is the kernel found inside  the seed of the St Lucie Cherry ,it is cracked then crushed with a mill into thin powder . Its very intense flavor litteraly transform this brioche into something magical as the taste left in your mouth after each bite of this soft concocture is light , fresh and making you wonder what on earth have you just been eating. The sliced toast of the Greek Mythology found nowadays in every of Athens Bakery.

Before forgetting and as I am mentioning Athens, there is a special place , a real jewel of a bakery, you will find it in Kifissia, East of the City, in a pretty pedestrian street where locals are coming by at the weekend to collect Galaktobouriko (a milky and creamy flan like topped with kataifi crispy pastry and soaked of course with the most outrageous yummy syrup) and the Tsoureki…..Its name Varsos , do remember it because if you ever get to try their pastries, you will end up thanking me ….for life that is!

I described previously my experiences and close encounter with Indian food, it is there, in a drawer of my taste buds but nevertheless leaving enough space for the Greek celebration above but as we all well know how extensive the list of fabulous not just products but also recipes this great country has given us and I could simply and thus with the same enthusiasm , go on and on and on by mentioning some more delicacies and saying Voila!  Another one ! Surprises of the day .  As sometimes my mind is acting by itself and playing me tricks and taking back to the surface,  memories, tastes and recipes ,thought to be long forgotten…..Que Neni! This “bougre” is as resistant as an old Bull and here comes his next item (s) again.

Let’s travel, eat , feast , let’s get ourselves enchanted by this serein and exciting growing feeling that comes with it like at the first read of a menu until the first appetizer is placed before you, coming with its little explanation sometimes needed (often I must say) sometimes not a word but silence is necessary, you want to listen , to taste , guess, discover the ingredients, “nouveaux” or old , familiar flavors, the one you would find in comfort food , the new rustic or new classical.

I guess my keyboard might be slightly slippery on this day as I am losing myself to phantasmagorical and lasting debacles on how and what food should taste like or what does it do for me …..

It is a “Blog” and in a non arrogant way, my blog, and I have brought , before you, what I consider an Item (s) of exception and consider my promised work done!

For now …..TBC

Tree of Life. And not by “Bonne Maman” (late edition)

In Blablabla, Food, Travel on November 7, 2010 at 23:42

Adansonia Digitata , Tree of Life , Sacred Tree, Judas Fruit or Upside Down Tree , associated with the great adventure of “Le Petit Prince” from Saint Exupery’s tale that demonstrate by figure of speech that small things also need to be “taken care of” before it is too late … also commonly known as Baobab.

Today , its “Pulp” or “Flesh” is found in jars as Baobab Jam. interesting isn’t it?! I feel obliged to add this exclusive item to my pantry, playing with its name by adding it to a recipe such as Baobab Marshmallow or Macaron following a recipe in my library and using it as substitute  to “Dulce de Leche” or Milk Jam that it normally requires. It is tangy, a little creamy and unctuous without being too sweet.

I like it, it is in no way leaving any after taste , although ,not as flavoursome as a Strawberry or as a Juicy Starking Apple would be , but hey, I am here to report, “blab” about things and other bits, and I find interesting that the longest living tree on earth has a culinary purpose and so many various uses , in an almost religious way…

The tree has indeed many anecdotes surrounding it, such as ….by being so large and sometimes hollow, it has been used as a jail cell or bus stop or even a bar…..amusing ins’t it. Although sometimes , human absurdity has brought along the idea of carving its inside to give place to such things and therefore making these amusing facts not as natural as one might want it to be. (i know I may be a bit of a kill joy…sometimes, but good cause is my only motivation, it is my way of reminding that behind what we might find beautiful, gorgeous and cute , sweet ,and in this case amusing , there is a story , a reason where man has once more forced mother nature with the help of one of his sharp and ready made tools).

Little fact on the Baobab: When adult, It flowers in average every two years and is pollinated by fruits bats.

Its bark is used for the making of ropes , harness, fishing lines, nets and baskets, roof tiles when flattened , hats  …and is eaten  not only by animals but also in salads, raw or toasted….by using various techniques it is a substitute  for coffee by roasting or for the making of lemonade when mixed with water rich in vitamin C, thus ending with a smoothie like texture drink .

Items fascinates me, when it comes to being of an original or Un-Orthodox (as we would say with no religious affiliation) fashion, always here in its original state but presented to me (us) in a very dramatic way, by its history, origin and originality.

Rarity is also a factor that would make my mind go all fuzzy, my heart rate increase and my mouth drying to the point of excitement that I would no longer allow myself taking any time, off my course or for a simple sip of water and would become and keep myself all focused on what I would name “my mission”……but it seems as described in previous episodes of my “debacles” that everything comes in pairs , that the increase of their size of large (very large) supermarkets , naming themselves now Hypermarkets and changing the all dynamics of how our life are being affected, how our shopping culture is taking form and our eating habits are constantly evolving , changing …in a way , progressing! (?) but coming out of this all complex analogie of mine is a realisation that alongside, there is good there are people ‘fighting and believing’ by giving all they have within , creating and coming up with new ideas, this is (beside Jamie’s) another kind of revolution, it is evolution.

Out of this we are seeing products on our shelves like the Wild Hibiscus Flower in syrup, practical I do not know but most definitely beautiful and elegant in a champagne cocktail or set into the perfect jelly, in a double walled glass , topped with twists and sparkles.

I feel now that my computer has finally given me the opportunity to end this exercise ,that I have let you down by not mentioning any of the Indian sweets or curries that have made us all drool with envy and for the one and only I have received praise and comments. (thank you all for that) however, I may bring to life tonight by mentioning and deliberating about the one and only …The Mango

There are 9 varieties of Mango in India (Alphonso , Ratnagiri , Devgadh , Kesar , Batli , Langdo , Payri , Rajapuri , Tota), all more delicious than the other  , not all are found in the Uk but the two main ones are the Alphonso and of course the Kesar…..The other attendant to the “Throne” has to be coming from Pakistan (banned in the United States due to “restrictions on agricultural imports”), thinner and ‘oblong’ shape , it’s very intense flavour would make anyone fall for it, sooo sweet and juicy , I never bought a box of it and found myself disappointed, however in the summer in Brittain, buying a ripe peach or a perfect nectarine feels more like a witch hunt in comparison. That is how much they are loved, nothing is left aside, each fruit is individually wrapped and carefully placed in boxes over hay , not too against one another so not so much for bruising.

Lassi, sambals, salsas, salads, dressings , juices,Kulfi (ice cream) all is done with this divine sunshine lookalike yellow/orangey fruit.

When taken out of its box, the ripe almond shape “kernel” , so sweet , let come out what seems to be the sap (la seve en Francais) a sign rarely seen but on the tronc of bleeding or bursting pine trees in the “Pinede” behind my Grand Mothers house in the Var region. For me this has simply become a criteria in my selection for one of my favourite way of ending a simple meal, by blending it with natural yoghurt or simply spooning its soft and delicate flesh out of its leathery skin before finding myself taking this blissful voyage and making sure that I let all the time in the world go by so I may savour every mouthful.

This is also London , my other London

It is a celebration of good over evil, light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance

In Blablabla, Food on November 4, 2010 at 00:42

As Diwali or Divali , the Festival of light comes to us on the 5th November and thus to last the following 5 days, I would like to bring to “light” a few of my other favourite Indian dishes that I might have forgotten, or left aside , my mind having been submerged at the time of my last typing and therefore could not cope with the fusion of dishes and recipes and tastes that this food is bringing to me every time I even mention the smallest delicacy or cooking technique employed for the various , I mean …so diversified cuisine.

A little coriander or coconut chutney, would be simply made by blending together fresh leafs or freshly grated coconut with a few roasted cashews nuts, a little chilly and a few drops of water , keeping the whole matter free from any oil and any other unwanted and often unnecessary ingredients. These , used to accompany a Masala Dosa described recently or a light Curry dish, which sauce also would be thickened with grounded almond or coconut and let to simmer until the right consistency…. how simple does that sound to you (?) to be honest just fine by me.

Parata is a type of bread resembling in texture and flavour to puff pastry that has been rolled and cut like as we know “The Palmito”, but bake it or do not apply the pressure while cooking it in you pan,  and the result will be absolutely horrendous and you will be left with this cardboard type of brown buttery smelling piece into your side dish. By pressing over hardly  with the help of a spatula , this will create a draft effect , making the pastry to rise and therefore creating a steam cooking from the inside out and resulting in a more crispy and light thin “galette”

Dahl and lentils are dishes on their own, they do come in different strenght and thickeness and textures of course…etc and may well be finished with a drollop of fresh and light yoghurt  or coconut milk, a sprig of fresh corriander leafs or chopped chillies and a drop of tamarind sauce ….my lips are now becoming dry although my diner tonight at the Dorchester was amazing (But I’ll leave this for another time) is it the food I am mentioning that would be playing with my mind or simply my love for its various and ‘ennivrant’ taste ?!

Chai and masala spiced teas, flavoured with cardamon , cinnamon and black pepper, with a dash of rich milk to give it a little “thickness, smoothness, silk or velvet texture”and a light spoon of brown sugar will give at your evening the impression to ingurgite the most exotic and succulent dessert, but without the calories. What do you make of this in terms of innovation. Innovation? In India, its people have been drinking this beverage since “la Nuit des Temps”. We ? we call it  nouvelle cuisine 🙂

Many sweets of all sorts made with coconut, pistachio, milk , almonds and many other flavors such as  saffron and rose water…..are being prepared for the festive season . Rasmalai and Gulabjamun , are amongst my favorite which I urge you to try (We all have our preference as how we like to eat them , cold or warm , syrupy or dry )

The Festival has various meaning in various parts of India , Nepal , Gujarat and Bengal

– In the northern territories it celebrates the return from exile and the coronation of King Rama (1450BC) after 14years spent in Ayodhya and the defeat of Ravana

-In Gujarat, the festival honours Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth

-In Nepal Diwali commemorates the victory of Lord Krishna over the demon king Narakaasura

– In Bengal, it is associated with the goddess Kali, goddess associated with eternal energy.

Diwali translates into a “row of lamps” and clay lamp filled with oil are lit and spread around houses on the occasion. Love and sweets are shared during the time , so is wealth and even the Financial year , for some companies , is starting on Diwali , wishing for the year to come to be prosperous.

Its spiritual signification is”the awareness of the inner light”. Central to Hindu philosophy is the assertion that there is something beyond the physical body and mind which is pure, infinite, and eternal, called the Atman. With the realization of the Atman comes universal compassion, love, and the awareness of the oneness of all things (higher knowledge). This brings Ananda (joy or peace)

A very happy Diwali to anyone out there who cares to share , try and appreciate our neighbours, their culture and their food, but what food !

From Argentoratum to Strasbourg

In Blablabla, Food, Travel on November 3, 2010 at 17:47

The Celt Trébéta , son of Sémiramis , father of the Trévires of Trève and Triboques of lower Alsace are the first signs of its origin and date back over 700 000 BC

Contrary to what the Romans might have expected when taking reigns of the area, Argentorate and Alsace region soils had been cultivated  for over 5000 years and metal was being forged and worked for at least 2000 years prior..

The Romans looked at the area as a perfect spot amongst many others along the Rhine River to protect and shape a defense line against all enemy attack and invasion.

The City known as nowadays Strasbourg has seen garnisons and cohorts of Romans centurions from 12BC right up until the early hours of the 5th century when Allemani armies crossed the frozen Rhine and changed its history and its name once more.

Argentorate ,large Celtic village or Argentoratum under Roman Empire, became then Stratisburgum.

Having survived many wars, many invasion , many plagues and numerous strange things such as the “Dancing Plague”  in 1518 where people took to dancing for days without rest, and, over the period of about one month, most of the people died from heart attack, stroke and exhaustion.

Today , Strasbourg is the siege for various and very important modern institutions like the European Parliament , the European Court of Human Right , European Ombudsman , Eurocorps , University of Strasbourg (being the largest in France)……etc and its historic and entire city center ‘Grand Ile’ was in 1988 classified as World Heritage site by UNESCO , please note that no other city has ever received such honor before.

But why am I telling you this one might think, where is this leading, where is the food and rare items and delicacies he offered us earlier on?! Why Strasbourg and why now? Why would that be important to him , to us?

Well, what brings me here, spreading my thoughts onto the screen of my computer however clever this exercise might be is to talk about a city/area I love and where I grew up. A place full of goodness , like a corn of abundance , glorious and graceful , generous and rich , and for those who have never stepped foot on its pine needles soil , sugar beet fields and honey bees filled spring “campagne” air have not lived.

Honey , Berries , Apples and Pears , Plums , Geese and Ducks , Girolles and Ceps , River Trout and Pike , Rare Cereals, its gorgeous traditions around all festivals are a favorite for all foodies as “Bredeles” or biscuits of all sorts are being made in almost every homes in and around Christmas, all with local Hazelnuts and Walnut, the Ginger bread mans hanging on the Christmas Market (Christkindelsmarik since 1570) wooden stalls amongst the smell of the spicy warm wine and cinnamon mixture …or a Flan for Easter and Brioches in the shape of a lamb……..

This is why my thought are being placed onto the WWW today, because my region of origin is simply not a name on “the carte de France” but has an origin, a history , many histories and “comptes” and traditions that still today many are choosing to live by . This prose would be my “message in a bottle”, my missing part that I look upon from time to time  to remind me of who I am , I simply felt the urge to share with you.

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