The birth of my Japanese salad, in so many words: I have to say that I did stumble on this concept a while ago during some experiments on fermented vegetables. I was trying to make a simple gingered red cabbage side dish for a hot Thai curry. Originally, I macerated the chopped cabbage with just a few slivers of fresh ginger in a little sesame oil and fresh lime juice, then added shredded coconut and a few sprigs of coriander (cilantro) to match the fabled Thai flavors. It wasn’t bad but it bothered me somewhat. I tasted bitter, not fully realized, a bit like your average politician. It needed an intense flavor, something that would linger on one’s tongue, and could accompany a fiery curry. Or stand on its own.
Posted in Food, Fun, Health, Recipes
Tagged baby spinach, balsamic reduction, celeriac, fennel, Ginger, Japanese salad, lime juice, radicchio, raspberry vinegar, red cabbage, rice vinegar, rocket, rucola, sesame oil
With the new year now firmly with us one can not avoid reading about resolutions ad nauseum in magazines, television programs or online, particularly on the social networks. The number one resolution has not changed for donkey years: losing weight and how, still the perennial holy grail of the well surrounded. How to stop a tobacco addiction comes in at a distant second. Regaining a youthful waistline offers a number of diets, some wackier than others and none too sensible, tagged alongside a plethora of exercises.
Much of the research on health recommendations still comes from the American College of Sports Medicine, which has been studying levels of public fitness since the 1950s. So you may ask, what sort of exercise should I be taking part in, having read that the World Health Organization says physical inactivity is the fourth largest contributor to global deaths, and increases risk of some cancers, diabetes and heart disease? According to quite a few health sites, to benefit your cardiovascular system, a minimum of 20 minutes of walking every day, and no more than 20 minutes of sitting at my computer or in front of the telly without getting up and moving around. Ha! At last, a very good idea! I like it better than the fruitcake who devised a three minute-a-week intensity program, supposedly to get you ultra fit! This is obviously invented by some feverish bloke who thought, in a momentary softness of the brain, that a whole three minutes would suffice to turn one into a super-god or goddess!
I have walked in a few rainforests in my lifetime, mostly in Australia and Indonesia. I would never forget the time I spent trekking through the majestic Kakadu National Park trails and being entranced by the amazingly luscious layers of its tropical rainforest, teeming with life and fragile ecosystems. I have witnessed the long-tailed Balinese Macaques playing with one another and trying to steal my lunch in the Ubud santuary, a short visit to Sumatra took me to the Harapan rainforest which is home, among other species, to an astounding array of charismatic butterflies….however I have never been to the Yasuni National Park in the north-east of Ecuador.
Having received an urgent email from an Australian eco-friend outlining exactly what’s at stake, I have done some researching and came across this telling document (linked below). Recently, scientists have identified what they call the most “biodiverse region on our planet” (details of which can be found here, warning: this is long and meticulously catalogued, a real treat for those who like to read about “the lungs of our globe”) and this rich torrent of life is to be found, you guessed it, at the Yasuni rainforest. Why is this attracting international attention, you may ask?
The Yasuní is one of the most bio-diverse places on the planet. It spans nearly a million hectares and is home to the greatest genetic variety of plants and animals on earth. It is thought to be a zone that did not freeze during the last ice-age, which began 2 million years ago and lasted up to 10,000 years ago. As a result, it became an island of vegetation where flora and fauna took refuge, survived and eventually re-populated the Amazon.
In Provence our Christmas season begins on 4th December, the day of St. Barbe (yes, we do have a Saint named Barbe, nothing to do with a beard though), with the ritual sowing of wheat and lentils on shallowdishes to provide some fresh green shoots which will decorate the Christmas table as well as the elaborate crèche nesting near or under the Christmas tree (see story below). Our Christmas festivities last for three whole days (and nights), from 24th to 26th December so we get to eat & drink ourselves silly. Pic below is of 13 desserts: tradition demands that we must sacrifice ourselves to the altar of sugar (mind you, for adults, digestion is helped with quick shots of Marc or Cognac).
For the people of Provence, Christmas is a series of traditional customs beginning with the “gros souper,” the large supper served on Christmas Eve before Midnight Mass. The table around which the family gathers is decorated according to custom with sprigs of myrtle, wheat and lentil sprouts (as mentioned above, which are symbols of prosperity). Continue reading
Having lived on three continents and visited the other two, during my travels I have come across some strange chow upon my plate. This is not going to have recipes but rather a recollection of some of what is now known as “extreme food” I’ve eaten, some knowingly and some not, like the time one of my uncles – a none too bright human specimen – as he came back from China, called for a family reunion around his pool garden and served us barbecued sausages. I can’t resist sausages particularly when barbecued over citrus wood. I must have eaten a dozen of the little buggers when the oaf casually announced to all and sundry that we ate dog sausages! I remember my stepfather, a surly but well meaning man, pushing my stupid uncle into the pool in anger. Not one to lose an opportunity to create a diversion I pretended to trip over the wheeled barbecue cart and down tumbled the whole damn thing, gas tank and all, duly following the daft uncle into the drink.
Posted in Food, Fun, Memoirs
I love Italian food. Perhaps it’s because my great-great grandfather came from the Piedmont area, perhaps I just love to eat. It’s hard to select particular dishes from the Italian repertoire as their cooking is incredibly regionalized so don’t be surprised if you don’t find one of your favorite dishes in this piece. It would take a book to do it proper justice.
A quick history: European cooking originated in Italy during the Renaissance, then somewhat transported itself to France with Catherine de Medici in 1553 when she married the future king of France (and brought with her the fork, and some say, the ice-cream, and several tons of sophistication). While France built upon the Italian know-how, developing a highly codified cuisine, the Italians continued on in the court and family fashion, allowing improvisation and regional variations to abound. I shouldn’t say this too loud, my French relatives might disown me for this. But, there it is: even though Italy has experienced many political upheavals throughout its history, Italian cuisine reigned supreme from the end of the Middle Ages to the 17th century and slowly metamorphosed into a new kind of modern, healthy cooking, light, pure, but not austere in the least, and rather intense. Or let me put it this way: if given a choice of retiring in either the south of France or the north of Italy, I’d go to Rapallo in a flash, on coast of Liguria and live happily ever after. If you are going to cook Italian make sure you have a good bottle of olive oil on hand. The good stuff. Continue reading
At its simplest, a gratin is merely thickly sliced potatoes, whole milk (or cream, even double, if you wish) and a few dollops of butter nicely spread on top, then oven! Add herbs or spices or both, and a handful of aged, grated cheese, stick it under the grill for a nice finish and you’re in heaven.
A few words on gratins first: the origin of the word gratin comes from the French verb gratter (to grate, I suppose before the potato was around, chefs would grate hard cheese to top up baked vegetable dishes such as Swiss chard, even artichokes). To qualify as a gratin, a dish has only to be finished under a grill (preferably) or in the oven, so that its top is browned (at the heart of the concept is simply food with something crusty on top, really). Well, there’s really more than that of course. A good potato gratin should be half crisp half chewey and redolent of caramelized flavors which have been enriched with a good stock (in my case, infused with fresh thyme) and a well chosen piece of cheese. I have done gratins with ordinary cheddar, Gruyere, Emmental, Fontina and even dabbled with the famous Spanish cheese, Manchego. I tried goat cheese once and the whole thing ended up as a mess…so don’t go there, unless you have to.
Noun 1. foraging – the act of searching for food and provisions.
The prices of staple foods such as rice & wheat could stay high for the next three years, hindering the battle against poverty, a top World Bank official said recently. I personally think this may be the understatement of the year. With austerity measures to stay around for at least another two to three years, I doubt very much staple food will come down as the price to fill a gas tank could, more or less, double within the next five years. Foodstuffs need reasonably priced transportation and it looks as though it’s going to get worse before it gets better. On the one hand this is good news as we all should eat locally, as much as possible, and on the other, staples like coffee, chocolate & spices, among others, are hard to find in your nearest forest let alone in the local grocery store if transportation is limited.
I like the types of foods that would boost moods in these recessionary (and uncertain) times. Recent research has confirmed the existence of a link between eating certain types of foods and the act of feeling better, relaxed and even happy. Further research from the University of Cambridge in England found regularly skipping, or skimping on meals can mean you’re not getting enough serotonin, a brain chemical that helps keep anger in check. Serotonin needs the amino acid tryptophan (also known as the turkey drug, more on that below) to work, and it only comes from food.
Eating for a better mood boils down to this simple exercise: control your blood sugars by eating every 4 to 5 hours throughout the day, eat a diet rich in soluble fiber, and incorporate foods rich in omega 3 fats, folic acid, B12 and Vitamin D – four nutrients that all researchers have found to be mood lifting. Comfort food pic below!
Ever since the discovery that journalists on the News of the World had been hacking cell phone messages, Rupert Murdoch, now entering his ninth decade, is still firmly in control of his media empire while facing the biggest crisis of his career, his very own Watergate, so to speak. Murdoch and his company, News Corporation, got away with decades of bullying, cajoling and intimidating politicians from Australia, the United States and England. For instance it is widely documented that no party had won a British general election without Murdoch’s implicit endorsement. The same applies to Australia – Murdoch controls 70% of print media – where he is known to have established the first “Murdochracy” ie: selecting a string of Prime Ministers to further his grip on the country, and in the United States his Fox News incessantly parrots the Republican talking points, having given his personal blessings to the invasion of Iraq (each one of News Corp.’s 175 newspapers worldwide also editorialized in favor of the Iraq war.)