Acts of Kitchen: Shalini on food and family and the CWA

AoK_logo_v2In which I experiment with not-meatballs and Shalini talks about growing up Fiji Indian, curries, baking, experimenting, and being a founding member of a new, city-based CWA (Country Women’s Association).

The not-meatballs I made.

I set up a Patreon page!

In a pickle

… is a terrible heading, and I am sorry.

Anyway: I made pickles! I pickled pears, and I pickled eggplant.

The pears were courtesy of a friend who managed to salvage 2kg of them from a tree before the rosellas ate them all. I had had pickled pears at Kate’s house, with cheese and then in a chicken salad, and NOM. These were different from the ones she had: I used white vinegar and cinnamon and cloves; I used a recipe that was meant to be for pickled peaches (whichL whoa. If ever I get cheap peaches…). Kate used cider vinegar and rosemary and pepper corns; that will be my next trick, if I get more pears.IMG_1408.JPG

The eggplant were from my garden, because BY GOLLY I’m getting a lot. Trying to figure out when the darned things are ripe has been a hassle, since the first info I looked at was all about what the fruit look like on the INSIDE… which is less than useful. Finally I found someone who said eh, if the skins are shiny they’re probably fine. Which meant I got to go and harvest a lot. So I made pickles! They don’t look very appetising, hence no photo, but they have turmeric and cumin and lots of ginger (side note: I discovered that peeling ginger with a spoon is EXACTLY as awesome as all those people have ever said).

I am now about to make moussaka with more of the eggplant, so hopefully that goes well…

 

Tart!

IMG_2557.JPGPart of my new year’s eve was finally having a pastry lesson from Andrew, he of the amazing tarts. We made three.

I was initially inspired to make a lemon meringue one. Andrew had been challenged to make a strawberry and rhubarb one. And just because we could, we also made a cherry and almond one.

So we started with me making the pastry… and as requested, here’s the recipe! From Nancy Silverton to Starving Dan (don’t ask… it’s been his nickname for as long as I’ve known him, which is at least 15 years), to Andrew to me:img_1357-copy

Actually very easy, it turns out, although you wouldn’t want to be making it on a hot day. Bonus: freezes well so you might as well make the whole batch and put some away!

IMG_2558.JPGOnce you’ve got the pastry you can do whatever… the lemon (and passionfruit) filling was one Andrew has memorised from a Stephanie Alexander. Clever suggestion from Andrew: put the lemon filling into a jug, then pour it into the tart case while the tart is still in the oven. This removes one level of complexity (you don’t have to move a full, liquidy, tart). The rhubarb and strawberry one had some stewed rhubarb as a puree base then rhubarb (baked for a while to soften) and strawberry on top. The cherry was a Classic Andrew, with (frozen) cherries placed on a nut slurry: 100g crushed nuts (you still want some larger bits) + 100g white sugar + 100g melted butter, mixed; add an egg and some salt, mix and put in the baked tart case with the fruit.

The meringue is egg whites and sugar whipped furiously for however long. I was just going to dollop and randomly shape, but my darling decided he would pipe. The lemon one doesn’t look as good as it could because I put a round nozzle in, which he wasn’t expecting; for the strawberry and rhubarb he made the bold decision to change nozzles basically mid-piping for a star-shaped one (it’s fair to say meringue went everywhere), but as you can see it had very good results. I had intended to use my kitchen flame thrower but then the nozzle broke so that didn’t happen (I did manage to set fire to a couple of meringues before that happened).  IMG_1356.JPG

So that’s three tarts between four people. It’s fair to say there’s a fair bit left over. Happily, the non-meringue tart will freeze… and the strawberry one will freeze if we remove the meringue… which means I might have to eat the meringue, OH NO.

Cooked, by Michael Pollan

images.jpegThis book was recommended to me by the sourdough baker whose course I took. It turned out that I had already one of Pollan’s books – The Botany of Desire, which was awesome and looked at various plants in light of the general idea of desire. (My biggest take away message: the Agricultural Revolution was the grasses using humanity to destroy the trees. Also that all edible apples are clones.)

This book is Pollan’s attempt to learn more about cooking, having looked at the gardening and the eating side for a long time. He divides the book into four sections: Fire, Water, Air, Earth. Or, basically: barbecue, braise, bread, and fermenting. Continue reading “Cooked, by Michael Pollan”

Pomme Larmoyer

unknownI got to ask Pomme some questions via email, after getting Istanbul Cult Recipes to review…

What draws you to Turkish food, and in particular the food of Istanbul?

Actually Istanbul drove me to Turkish food. First the city is one of my favourite for its beauty and dynamism, and second it gathers all the variety of Turkey (very different people from all over the country, areas, cultures, habits, traditions and modernity, oriental style and trendy places…). I thought such a place was perfect to talk about Turkey, not only a huge country – very rich of particularities from north to south/east/west – but also the former Ottoman empire through which lots of people and cultures have moved during centuries, from Asia to Europe and the Middle East… The whole world used to live in Istanbul ! and still is. Talking about food means talking about all this.

At the end of the book, in About the Author, you say that you can learn everything you need to know about a country from its kitchens. How would you sum up Istanbul as a city from its kitchens?

A place of variety, a crossroads full of tastes, mystery, beauty, stories and fun.

A really intriguing part of the book is that you include a list of restaurants and cafes to visit in Istanbul, to try out different dishes. What inspired you to add this aspect to the book?

I see this collection “Cult Recipes” as a way to travel – through a cookbook. When you walk in Istanbul you (or at least I) want to talk about the places you’ve been and share the smells, tastes, colors, sounds you feel, and you feel a lot of things there. I guess I wanted to talk about concrete places I’ve been to and liked to help the readers to feel a bit of my Istanbul.

If you were going to put together an Istanbul feast, what would you cook and why?

I would start with some meze : kozde patlican, cacik (you definitily have to include yogurt and eggplant in the menu), parsley salad (not really a classic but one of my favorite), lakerda (but not easy to cook), kisir, midye tava… with some raki of course. And then I’ll try to impress my guests with some manti (this you have to try) and as a sweet final touch baklavas or kurabiye with a good turkish coffee. This is not at all a typical turkish menu but dishes I looove.

What do you think a really good cookbook needs to include?

Stories and people (related to food : but who isn’t ?). Cooking is about that : people, places and stories.

If you could do a cookbook for any other cuisine or region, what would it be?

Paris! I would love to talk about my city through its kitchens. I have my ideas on the subject.

Taste

Two recipes from Taste

Banana, date and apricot oat bars:

Yeh nah. I liked the theory – and hey, healthy! But… they’re just a bit bland. I even added a bit of extra cinnamon, and replaced some oats with coconut as one of the commenters suggested. I’ll eat the ones I made, but I won’t be making this again.

Ricotta fritters:

Oh yes. These were excellent and I will be making these again – and I’ll be making variations too. This one calls for sun-dried tomatoes and chives, and calls to be served with bacon. This was excellent. However, these would also be excellent as sweet fritters – cinnamon and dehydrated apple maybe? Chocolate chips would be amazing…. And next time, I would be more sensible in the cooking: I made them way too thick this first time, trying to use my crumpet rings. The width was good, the depth too great, so they got a little browner than was best

 

Vegetable garden

IMG_0973.JPGFirst, we bought wood, and scoped out the area where we might sacrifice some lawn to the Greater Needs of Vegetabling. That wood is 2.4m in length. It was Quite The Adventure getting it home. Let’s just say that I had to be careful where I moved my head while in the car. IMG_0974.JPG

 

 

Then came Building the Boxes. These are their final resting places but before being stuck together – we put down weed mat, of course, to prevent Evil Grass from infesting Beautiful Vegetables. Yes there’s shadow, but it should get enough sun, we think, for most of the year.

The next step was filling the boxes with dirt – a vegetable mix we got delivered. And then spent a few hours shovelling. On my beloved’s birthday. Great present, huh??

IMG_3805.JPGAnd here we have the vegetable boxes with actual plants and a watering system. The planting out involved some… false starts… well, one: I bought broad beans from Ceres, and beetroot and broccoli as well, but kind of forgot that brand new 1.5sq m of soil is likely to be quite dry. So I didn’t water them in enough. Which meant that the broad beans got totally  deaded, and I got sad. So while I was out sourdoughing, my beloved and a friend went back to Ceres… and went a little mad. Buying broad beans (good), as well as snow peas and broccoli and beetroot. Forgetting or not realising that those already exist in the garden – snow peas are sprouting in toilet roll containers As We Speak. They also didn’t think about the fact that maybe I had planted some stuff that was, like, not yet above ground? Like garlic? And that maybe I had a plan for where other things would go? The upshot is we’re going to be (hopefully) eating a rather large amount of broccoli in the coming months, and beetroot too.

Seeds I have planted in the beds: rocket and spring onions and fennel and leeks (and, in a pot, cauliflower which has maybe sprouted? Turns out I’ve forgotten which pot I put those in). None of these have sprouted yet and I’m worried that the lack of water was a problem. But now! we have an automated Very Fancy water system, c/ the beloved (as so much of this is). And, because we can, we also have hothouses. So maybe this will encourage Growth.