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.

Vermiculture

 

IMG_0977.JPGA friend of ours who’s really into permaculture came over a few weeks ago and gave us a bit of a rundown about what we could change around the place. We’ve since created a vegetable patch – more on that later – and we’ve also invested in a worm farm.

We looked at the tiered system like you can get at Bunnings; we looked at the converted wheelie bins at Ceres; in the end my darling’s research powers led us to HungryBin. It sits very neatly in a corner with the wheelie bins; it’s not especially convenient to the kitchen but it’s not like we live on a massive property so that walking out is a problem.

The neat thing about this is that the ‘worm tea’ drips onto the tray at the very bottom, while the worm castings accumulate in an easily removable tray at the bottom of the bin. Apparently. We’re not there yet. Where we are is many litres of compost, about 2000 worms (apparently; it was a kilo), and beginning to add scraps. IMG_0976.JPG

This is what it looked like when I first put stuff in. I ended up taking out the mint from on top, and I’ve realised I needed to cut things up more before putting them in.

The worms seem happy in what is now being called the Earth BnB. I’m making this assumption based on the fact that they are frequently on top of the soil when I check (which isn’t every day… promise… or at least not more than once a day. Now that I’ve had it for a little while) and that the amount of food scraps is definitely decreasing.

Amusing fact: pumpkin seeds will sprout in worm farms as well as in compost.

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Camp cooking

Those are welding gloves, because that cast iron pot gets placed directly into the campfire. And then it has to be taken out again.

We quite like camping, of all varieties. We have more tents than would seem entirely sensible. We also have a Landcruiser troop carrier that we’ve recently kitted out with a frig, and a rather nice cooking set up. Because we also quite like cooking. The solution to either eating just Latina pasta or steak all the time, for my beloved, was this cast iron pot. Throw a mini roast in with some potatoes, a carrot, maybe a couple of shallots and as much of a tin of tomatoes and some water as will fit… put it onto the coals of the firepit you’ve had conveniently and cheerily smoking for an hour, and another hour or so later you’ve got dinner.

Things we didn’t realise: that the lid has one direction in which it sits flush. The other way around, it doesn’t. The theory is that this is for those occasions when you do want steam to escape, which I guess could be useful, but… it was frustrating when we didn’t realise.

We also didn’t realise how to care for cast iron, because it arrived sans any instructions about seasoning or care. So we found that out the hard way. Fortunately it’s not the sort of thing that can be easily destroyed, which I guess is the whole point with cast iron, right?

Anyway. The results have been… acceptable. We’ve only used it twice. Once while actually camping when we were quite pleased with how it turned out, even though frustrated by the lid. The second time was to check out how well we’d seasoned it, and that was somewhat less awesome. Partly it was because we used a larger piece of meat so it was squishier and therefore more bits of carrot ended up burnt on the side. Partly it was because cooking a la camping (we still used the firepit, in the backyard) just isn’t the same when you’re not, like, camping.

I think this is going to be a good addition to our camping experience. I think I have to find my recipe for damper as the next experiment.

Candied walnuts

IMG_0838When I moved house a year ago, the amazing Kate of Just Add Moonshine (JAM) sent a jar of candied walnuts. And oh my goodness, they really are like adult candy.

Take your walnuts and add a fair bit of sugar, sage that’s been fried in some butter, and salt and roast… and make sure that the other people in your house don’t know where they are. These will just go, because they are just so easy to eat by the handful.

I’m giving them away as Christmas presents.