One Delicious Summer Recipe

I haven’t written much as we are in the midst of a heatwave which is highly unusual in Eire. A great change from incessant rain but it does have its downside: it’s hard to concentrate and sit in front of a screen when all one wants to do is to dip into the ocean and catch some waves, the cool ones. And of course I have a wine bar to run, with live music and demanding customers.

I posted a friend’s photograph of a summer dish yesterday and requests for the recipe came in fast and furious. Here’s the pic:

I called her to find out what was inside and she said that she got the idea from me years ago and was surprised I had forgotten. “Goat cheese”, she said, and she added one thing to it: capers (my original recipe had goat cheese mashed with basil, finely sliced bell peppers and a generous amount of pitted Kalamata olives. Continue reading

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The Mighty Turmeric, the King of Curry Spices, with a Fish Curry Recipe!

A few years ago while doing research on the benefits of curries (there are aplenty, believe me) I came across an article written by an Indian doctor about a miracle cure for lung and esophagus cancers. The prime suspect turned out to be turmeric! Not being an expert on cancer I shelved the article (though being somewhat fatalistic I have included turmeric in most of the things I eat, including pizza dough!) Since then quite a bit of research bring more light to this and the American Cancer Society has an ongoing study not only on turmeric but also on curry, curcumin and cumin (curcumin is the principal chemical in turmeric). Ever wondered why people eating curries are less prone to lung cancer? Well that would be because turmeric is an essential spice needed to make up a curry paste. The American Cancer Society has a post about Turmeric’s known properties, with a sizable database at the bottom of the article.

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The Cruciferous Files

As I wrote earlier cruciferous vegetables (also known as brassica vegetables) have it all: vitamins, fiber, and disease-fighting phytochemicals. Not only they are rich in nutrients, including several carotenoids (beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin); vitamins C, E, and K,  folate and many minerals but recent lab studies show that one of the phytochemicals found in cruciferous vegetables – sulforaphane – can stimulate enzymes in the body that detoxify carcinogens before they damage cells. Additionally, cruciferous vegetables contain a group of substances known as glucosinolates, which are sulfur-containing chemicals. These chemicals are responsible for the pungent aroma and bitter flavor of those vegetables. The astonishing concentration of vitamin A carotenoids and their unusually high content of vitamin C and manganese are clearly key components in their growing reputation as an antioxidant vegetable group. Adding the following vegetables to your daily diet is like taking an anticancer pill: arugula, beet greens, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi (harder to source but packs a punch), mustard greens, radishes, red cabbage, turnip greens, wasabi and my all time favorite, watercress.

As an aside it is worth noting that the origin of the word cruciferous comes from Cruciferae, an older name meaning “cross-bearing”, because the four petals of the cruciferous flowers are reminiscent of a cross.

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Meditations on Martian Cuisine

Recently I watched a video in which Stephen Hawking talked about our intergalactic future, a documentary about colonizing Mars (it’s possibly available on YouTube). The great man says: “perfectly foreseeable technology will make it possible to transform Mars into a habitable planet for humans.” He goes on to predict that bio-domes will be created within which whole cities will be housed, and that roughly within 500 years or so a human population will emerge with its own language, currency and cuisine.

Martian cuisine! The mere thought sent me into a cosmic whirl of conjectures and got me wondering as to what sort of concoctions the colonists (or Martians, if you will) would have on their table, that is if they still eat off tables. Who knows, they might have some sort of nutrients injected into them at certain hours (though I hope nutritional suppositories don’t make it to Mars!)  or they may be able to subsist on a diet of printed food (see pic below), or perhaps all that will be needed is the press of a button on the translucent screen of a wall machine to select their meal (a la Jetson’s). Continue reading

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On a Bright Sunny Day, December 17th 1970…

On a bright sunny day in December 1970, exactly a year to the day after my arrival in Australia, I opened up the immodestly named Juillet Restaurant in Macleay Street, Potts Point, Sydney. That particular road to proprietorship was indeed paved with many obstacles and larded with plain lunacy. I did not anticipate running a kitchen and becoming a chef. I had spent the preceding two and a half years in swinging London, worked the last as an assistant stage manager on “Hair”, and thought that maybe, just maybe, I could continue life in the theatre in Sydney. Well, fate has a way of handing out a loaded dice, sometimes to one’s advantage and sometimes not. I had to lower my vision of sugar plums and instead saw myself as a jovial bartender, cracking bad jokes and sipping cocktails, sacramentally, with an adoring clientele. One day.

So much happened that first year: I got married to Chrissie, an Australian girl who I had met at Biba’s in London, explored Sydney and its cache of hidden treasures, survived the dreaded ”pie-floater” at Harry Café-de-Wheels (which is the subject of a piece further down this book), and bought my first car, a green automatic Ford Falcon station wagon, for the royal sum of $250, which I promptly painted blue the next day, by hand. My only two (and last) jobs lasted two days for the first one and two weeks for the latter. The first one was in a swanky restaurant where I was asked to chop up parsley finely. The chef in charge did not like the way I used a tea towel to envelop the chopped product in order to draw out its moisture, a standard procedure in all the kitchens. I was told, bluntly, that wet parsley was the rage as a garnish. I moved on to de-boning a squadron of quails. That task was not to his liking either. Needless to say that I disliked this pompous ass on the spot, and left the next day. A friend of Chrissie had landed me the job as a grill chef at a popular garden restaurant, run by a skinny man whose adipose wife kept hovering around my station, giving me the eye and fluttering about. I lasted almost two weeks, the last straw being repeatedly told by the demented wife how beautiful she really was. I decided to work for myself. The same night, at the local pub, I met an Irishman who offered me a job as a house painter. I accepted, knowing that I had never been near a pot of paint, but this was Australia in 1970 where anyone could become a professional in a matter of minutes. Continue reading

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Crazy Food Pictorial

If you have time on your hands, then it’s best to have fun and create something crazy, like crazy foods! I found these pics all over the (cyber) space, it’s only fair to share!

As long as it’s edible it’s all good!

Green oats! Patrick’s Day is next week. Must. Go. Green!

This is made out of jelly beans.

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A Mediterranean Diet Can Cut Heart Attacks by 30%

My good friend Mnem Osyne sent me this article a couple of days ago (which you must read). A fellow foodie, she reminds all health aficionados who have known this from time immemorial: a generous splash of a good extra virgin olive oil in a salad or stir-fry adds immeasurable goodness to our well being. And it benefits the heart.

There are numerous studies on olive oil that have come out in recent years, all of which have lauded the “green gold” as a stroke fighter.The following is an extract of a piece I wrote some years ago (Sun Jul 06, 2008)  about the fabled Mediterranean diet:

It’s official! The Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of cancer by almost a quarter, according to a major study of people’s eating habits. We Mediterranean folks have been on to this since the invention of Greek tragedies, so to speak. Continue reading

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Tales from the Larder: Pleasant Persian Surprises

Many food writers seem to neglect Persian food (well, except this guy here, written some time ago under my not so clever handle, Asinus Asinum Fricat, originally a piece for Daily Kos) and I would surmise that because it is modern Iran, it is not so sexy and in people’s minds it may possibly be devoid of great recipes. Though Iranian eateries are on the whole pedestrian, serving endless kebab & pilaff rice dishes (there are exceptions of course) but the traditional Persian cuisine is varied and gutsy: it uses fresh herbs, fragrant scents and combines ingredients in interesting ways….and the desserts are supremely imaginative in their simplicity.

From a cultural point of view, Persian food has always been considered to be an art providing enjoyment to both body and mind. Iranians have looked at food at 3 different ways for many centuries; medicinal, philosophical & cultural. Iranian physicians and philosophers considered food and beverages as the main factor to revive body.

In Persian lore, consuming food is a way of weakening or strengthening human character. “Consuming a lot of red meat and fats was thought to create evil thoughts and make us selfish”, which is a telling point now that we know a whole lot more about red meat and its abuses (as well as being a factor in climate change via methane emissions from cattle.) The interesting line below I read in one of the official Persian history site:

However, consuming a healthy diet including fruits, vegetables, fish, fowl, mixed petals & blossoms of roses create unusual powers & make us gentle & noble creatures.

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Meanderings on Supermarket Duping, Reading Labels and Eating Simply

By now you will all have heard about the “horse meat” scandal still unfurling all over Europe. Though there is nothing wrong with horse meat (in fact it’s leaner, sweeter, tender, low in fat and higher in protein than beef) the labeling system has clearly failed the consumer. Additionally the discovery of pig DNA in beef products is of particular concern to the practicing Jews and Muslims, whose dietary laws forbid the consumption of porcine products. Horse meat is also forbidden by Jewish dietary laws because horses do not have cloven hooves and they are not ruminants. Having said that, the main issue here is how much do we know or don’t about what ends up in our food, and why, since we have had DNA testing for some time, do we not have a safe system in place. As for the farce that is food labeling I have for some time believed that most food processors don’t toe the line and are always looking to cut corners at the expense of the consumer. The pic below proves my point: in this packaged lasagne, the consumer is told that it is beef but in fact it is a 100% horse meat.

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Cannelloni Exposed

When my youngest daughter recently asked me to make my smoked duck cannelloni for her 12th birthday dinner I knew I was on a winner! Cannelloni had been, alongside gnocchi, my favorite food as a young buck (with interplanetary ambitions, no less) and still is in my top five of all time great dishes in my private Pantheon. In my heady days as a Sydney chef I had made a slew of cannelloni concoctions for the daily menu, with various meat and game fillings, and even one with a mixture of lobster and perch, which somewhat failed to appear a second time as I then discovered that seafood mixtures were best encased in choux pastry for optimum taste and presentation (the pasta made it look kind of messy.)

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