Category Archives: Food

Good Eatin’ – Maroilles from Champagne + Fromage

One of the many benefits of a new job (aside from enjoying the new job and my new colleagues immensely) is new surroundings. Being London, this means a new batch of shops and restaurants that I now have easy access to.

Thanks to Champagne + Fromage, a cheese shop near Covent Garden, I have been able to procure the penultimate French cheese from the food list…. now I just need to find some Brocciu to complete the set.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 731/751Food item: Maroilles

Here’s the thing with Maroilles, it has a strong smell. This isn’t exactly news, but it did make things interesting in the office. Since Champagne + Fromage also do amazing filled baguettes I thought it would be a good idea to buy the Maroilles at the same time as my lunch. Little did I realise that, as the afternoon progressed, the smell would begin to spread around the pod… and so quickly too.

The smell persisted on the train home and stunk out the fridge before I had a chance to eat it. And yet despite the lingering smell it wasn’t that strong a cheese. Sure it had a strong taste, but this also came with a springy and creamy texture… which isn’t what you tend to find with stronger cheeses. Also, this didn’t have the bitter aftertaste that you tend to get from aged cheeses.

If I had to liken it to a past cheese from the list it would be either taleggio or reblochon. Considering the taste and the decent price, maroilles is a cheese that I could see myself buying for future use. I’ll just need to bring some sort of tuppaware in order to counteract the far reaching odour.

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World Cooking – New Zealand

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: New Zealand
Progress: 4/193

Despite boasting the smallest number of countries, the continent that I think will give me the most trouble is Oceania. Where Africa has the most countries with a lot of unique ingredients, the continent’s diaspora means that I am able to make a number of their dishes by using specialist shops and websites. For the island nations of Oceania… this isn’t always the case.

As I wanted to cross off one Oceanian nation within the first five, I thought I would go for one of the larger nations – which is how I ended up opting for New Zealand. It’s interesting to see how a nation’s menu changes over the centuries. I mean, for New Zealand they have got a traditional Polynesian cuisine that has been fused and/or usurped with the food brought by Europeans. In the years since it has come difficult to differentiate what makes for New Zealand or Australian cuisine, which is a long way of saying that I hedged my bets this week and made three things.

Main: Kiwiburger

Ah yes the Kiwiburger. When I first came across one of these it was as a menu item in Gourmet Burger Kitchen where some of the profits of selling the burger went towards kiwi bird conservation efforts. Little did I know that this was the invention of a McDonalds franchise owner from who wanted to create a proper New Zealand burger that would both sell and be representative of what was being eaten before fast food chains really took hold.

Since then this burger, topped with beetroot and a fried egg, seems to have been properly embraced with many different recipes and variations now being available online. Of all the versions out there, I went for Chelsea Winter’s Ultimate Kiwiburger as the one I chose to make.

As you can see from the picture, this kiwiburger is absolutely massive. The patty itself was a delicious mix of flavours and was one of the moistest burgers I have ever made. I wasn’t  a big fan of having beetroot on the burger (since I don’t particularly like pickled beetroot), but it was worth using it for the sake of accuracy. Eating this burger filled me to the point that I had to defer dessert until the next meal, which is a pity as this is the best dessert so far.

Dessert: Anzac Biscuits and Hokey Pokey Ice Cream

Anzac biscuits are, rightfully, claimed by both Australia and New Zealand as they are mainly associated with the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps during World War One. The biscuit, whose recipe contains minimal perishable items, are mainly flavoured by oats, coconut and golden syrup. It’s a particularly dry mix (which always catches me out) but these are one of those biscuits that have always come out well for me. I really could not resist the urge to revisit this recipe, especially as (when I get around to Australia) I am thinking of making something similarly shared between the two countries.

For the second dessert I made something that appears to be quintessentially New Zealand: hokey pokey ice cream. As a concept this is very simple, a vanilla ice cream that contains folded in pieces of honeycomb. However, I am not one to do things by half… also I am not entirely sure where I would be able to buy a slab of honeycomb,

No. In making hokey pokey ice cream I actually learned how to make my own honeycomb – which was so quick and easy that it honestly felt like I was doing a magic trick in the kitchen. For the vanilla ice cream I got out my ice cream machine (which I hadn’t used for well over a year and so had forgotten about the need to freeze the bowl in advance) and followed this recipe from The Kiwi Cook.

Honestly, this tasted better than a lot of ice creams I have bought from the supermarket – and it was really fun to make to (and cheaper!). It’s a shame that for my next country, which is going to be either The Gambia or São Tomé and Príncipe, there will just be a main. Still, it is high time that I did an African country and I look forward to seeing which of these ends up being crossed off first.

Good Eatin’ – Lamb’s Brain at Barrafina

I love my new job. I am two weeks in and I am loving the challenge, the people and the fact that (due to London real estate weirdness) I am now in the same building as the hub. Due to this, and the shift in his working hours, we’re now able to do the London thing and take better advantage of the many restaurants the city has to offer.

Today we are finally visiting Barrafina on Adelaide Street, the only place in London where I’ve been able to find lamb’s brains on the menu.

Of course this is no flying visit to try lamb’s brain. It feels weird enough to order and eat lamb’s brain in public. After all, Barrafina is one of those restaurants that always has a massive line – it’s just that we can go there mere minutes after it opens and have our choice of seats. So we picked one in front of someone that we deduced to be the head chef and just enjoyed watching food being made as we waited for our order – which included a huge stuffed courgette flower and pan con tomate.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 730/751Food item: Lamb’s Brain

The lamb’s brain arrived after we’d finished everything else, not that you could tell that was brains… until you cut it open. It sounds a bit pathetic to be both excited and squeamish at the same time – but eating brains feels like crossing some sort of gastronomic line, similar to the first time you cook live shellfish or cooking a bird that still has its feathered head attached.

In terms of taste there really is not that much to brains. It has a very vague protein taste, much like the white albumin you get after cooking a fish fillet, that is incredibly mild. As such it makes sense that Barrafina decided to serve it topped with tapenade on top. Together the brains, tapenade and the tomato-celery sauce made for a good plate of tapas.

One thing that did live up to expectations was the texture. As a science student I remember stroking an embalmed sheep’s brain like a Bond villain, but then being told how a brain’s texture is more like porridge. This lamb’s brain fritter really did have the texture of cold porridge, but with the creaminess of quark.

Good Eatin’ – Rau Ram and Sapodilla

Time for some more things from the Asian food box that I got the culantro from. There is still plenty more to come, but they’re all longer lasting things that I can properly research for later. Unlike today’s herb and fruit, which are both perishable.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 728/751Food item: Rau ram

Much like the culantro, rau ram is noted for being similar to coriander. It’s one of those weird things that I have found whilst following this food list – when it comes to trying these new and different foods there is nearly always a known food to relate it to. The only thing that comes to mind where I had real trouble linking it back to something concrete was the feijoa I had four years ago. However, even then I made a vague attempt. I guess it just speaks to the diverse selection of food available instead of there being a limited combination of chemicals.

Anyway, since rau ram is also known as Vietnamese coriander it makes sense to make use of this herb in the same way you would regular coriander. After a bit of searching around I found this recipe for a fish stew that used rau ram.

Compared to the culantro I found the rau ram really disappointing. It did say in the recipe that the end result could be soapy… and it was soapy. The reason for the soapiness was the rau ram and that’s something I could taste in the raw leaves. There was a hint of the coriander aroma there, but it was weak compared to the championship knockout of the culantro.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 729/751Food item: Sapodilla

I was going to write up the sapodilla a week ago but, as you may be able to see from the picture, it wasn’t completely ripe yet. You know what happens when you try to eat an unripe sapodilla? Well, it’s like one of those scenes from Looney Tunes cartoon where they eat so much alum powder that their mouth seizes up. It just takes all the moisture from your mouth to the point that you can feel individual taste buds screaming for water.

So, I wrapped the cut sapodillas in clingfilm and waited until they ripened. Four days later and we had nice squishy fruit that didn’t want to kill us. Instead the flesh was so so sweet and I could easily scoop it out with a spoon. For me the taste was like if you saturated a pear with honey and then added some condensed milk – worlds apart from the taste of the unripened fruit.

World Cooking – South Korea

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: South Korea
Progress: 3/193

In recent years, Korean food has become one of my absolute favourites. It’s where I went for my recent leaving meal at work, it’s what I ate for New Year’s when I was up in London and it is something I eat for lunch with some degree of regularity. Thanks to it’s rich history there is a huge amount of dishes to pick from, but for this post I decided to cook things that would be considered recent additions to the cuisine.

With both North and South Korea to cook for I was presented with an opportunity to do the same cuisine twice. So, rather than just make japchae or kimbap for both countries I thought I would look at pre-Korean war dishes for the North and post-Korean dishes for the south. This doesn’t help round down things too much, but at least both countries will be distinctive (which is more than I can say for my fruitless attempts to find recipes for Swaziland).

Main: Budae Jjigae

Budae-jjgae (or Army Stew) is an interesting example of Korean fusion cuisine that has become widely adopted within South Korea. It came about just after the Korean war where, due to local food supplies being scarce because of war, supplies from the American army bases were used alongside regular Korean food.

In this version from the MyKoreanKitchen website (made using a brand now shallow pot) contains Spam, frankfurters and cheese slices alongside Korean rice cakes, instant noodles, kimchi, tofu and three types of East Asian mushrooms. Other versions can also include baked beans, however this felt like a bit of overkill considering that there was an entire tin of Spam in the pot.

This dish feels and looks a bit like a weird mish-mash, probably because it is, but it feels like the ultimate warming one pot dish for the autumn or winter months. I halved the chilli flakes in my version (as I could only get local ones), which I am relieved to have done as this could otherwise have been a bit too spicy. For me, the stars of this dish were the shiitake mushrooms, the frankfurters and the broth – although we were fighting over the slices of spam.

Considering the caloric content of this dish, it really isn’t something to be made too often. However, it is definitely something to make when I have company round… or at least some variation of it as I have 900g of frozen Korean rice cakes to use up.

Dessert: Matdongsan 

I really wanted to make something from the Maangchi website and her recipe for Matdongsan caught my eye. This is more like a homemade version of a popular sweet snack than a proper dessert, but they looked so crunchy and inviting that I just had to make them. Also, their name means something along the lines of ‘small mountain taste’, which sounds like a powerful boast for a cookie that resembles a honey-glazed cocktail sausage.

Despite this weeks misadventure whilst making them (whereby the front of the cutlery drawer fell off) these were a delicious cookie. In the recipe you both fry and bake them, which results in a pleasingly crunchy texture with an audible snap as you take that first bite. You also have the crunch from the peanuts and some sweet stickiness from the rice syrup coating; both of which made these incredibly moreish.

Although we were full to the brim with budae-jjgae that did not stop us from polishing all the cookies that I hadn’t previously eaten in the name of ‘taste testing’. I have it on my husband’s authority that they were good with coffee, although I didn’t need a beverage to enjoy fist after fist of them. Neither of these dishes are particularly diet friendly… but I think there are plenty of opportunities for that in the next 190 countries.

I have yet to decide on my next country, but I want to make sure I cover all five continents in the first five posts – so it’ll have to be either African or Oceanian. At the moment I haven’t thought far enough ahead as to the identity of the next country so, until I make my decision, masitkke deuseyo!

Good Eatin’ – Roasting a Woodcock

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 727/751Food item: Woodcock

Right so I have been dancing around cooking this woodcock for nearly 4 months now. I guess I just didn’t want to deal with decapitating and eviscerating a small bird, especially one where I couldn’t help but feel just how soft the feathers on it’s head were. Still, this is all part of cooking and getting to know where your food comes from – both things that were not in my head when I started stroking the head feathers and feeling the urge to apologise.

Once I took the biggest knife I could find, lopped off the head and stuck that in the compost bin – everything was fine. I snipped out the spine with some scissors and removed the entrails with my fingers. This may be the second time where I have seen real life intestines; the first time outside of a science classroom.

Following the advice from Game-to-Eat, I fried the sides of the woodcock before roasting and resting the bird. The whole time I was cooking this, I really understood why so many websites talk about having 1-2 woodcocks per serving. This really is a little bird with not too much meat on it so, much like with the teal, I went Henry VIII on the carcass.

All the meat on this bird is dark meat, however the gaminess isn’t too overpowering. Like a number of these other game birds, the taste has a livery quality to it and the meat is actually quite dense on the bone. If I was to make this in the future, I would definitely make some sort of sauce for it. Since I only had one of these birds I didn’t see the point of doing something other than roasting it.

It might be a while before I get my hands on more game meat seeing how, as I write this, I am six months away from the beginning of the next season. Hopefully I’ll be able to find snipe next time around; I’d hope for ptarmigan and golden plover, but I don’t want to be too greedy.

Good Eatin’ – Culantro Pesto

Another week, another box from a food website. I’m not going to make too much of a habit of these because it would get a bit too expensive, but it means that I’ve been able to get some authentic ingredients together for my next world cooking country (which will be going up in a few days).

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 726/751Food item: Culantro

Culantro is probably one of the more annoying herbs to search for online because phone auto-correct always changes it to cilantro (or coriander leaf to the rest of us in the UK). This similarity in name is no accident. Not only do culantro and cilantro belong to the same family of plants (Apiaceae – also known as the parsley family), but they also taste remarkably similar.

The key difference between the taste of culantro and cilantro is potency. When eaten raw, the culantro has a very strong cilantro taste. However, I’m not going to just eat a plate of chopped culantro leaves – so let’s get to cooking.

Another key difference between culantro and cilantro is how well culanto can last through the cooking process. I didn’t actually cook with the culantro, but ended up making a culantro pesto with some pecorino and a fair bit of garlic.

Having eaten this pesto I really wish that culantro was more widely available –  I didn’t exactly have enough for this recipe as it is, so I had to really cut down on the spaghetti. It feels like this really is one of those herbs that could catch on in the UK if a celebrity chef really got behind it – then again there are so many things on this food list that would be worthy of wider renown.

Good Eatin’ – Bael Fruit Tea

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 725/751Food item: Bael

After a unsuccessful Little India fruit search I was wondering how I’d be able get my hands on a fruit like bael without having to fly to the other side of the world. Leave it to Amazon Marketplace to surprise you with random products from (I’m assuming) a Thai food company.

There are many ways to eat bael, which is fruit from a tree sacred to Hinduism. Since I couldn’t get my hands on fresh bael (which is fine with me as I don’t have a machete to peel it with) this pack chock full of dried slices really was the perfect compromise.

I followed a guide I found online that said to use 2 cups of water for every slice of dried bael fruit, then boil for 5 minutes before serving. Personally I think I could have done with some more fruit in the pan to get a proper idea of the taste… but that’s something for the future. Also, I read on the same page about how bael leaves can be used to induce an abortion, so I figured I might as well play it safe on my first tasting.

The tea itself was a bit weak, but I could get a real idea of the taste of the bael fruit. There is a refreshing sourness to the bael tea that was really quite pleasant. Apparently it’s used as a herbal treatment for colds due to the high levels of vitamin C, so it’ll be worth keeping this around for the winter.

World Cooking – Mexico

List Item:  Cook something from every countryCountry: Mexico
Progress:
2/193

Ah yes, Mexican cuisine. Much like Chinese and Indian food, the food of Mexico has been adapted very heavily by the rest of the world. Much like the rest of this list, my aim is to try and make something actually reminiscent of a dish made in Mexico. Not Tex-Mex (like in the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend song ‘Group Hang’).

With a population of 127.5 million and about 7 recognised regional cuisines, there really is plenty of dishes to choose from when trying to cook something Mexican. The least I could do was try to find a dishes from two different regions – so I chose an Oaxacan main and a dessert with from Guadalajara.

For the main, I decided to make the first food that came to mind: mole. But which type of mole? There are so many different types of mole out there (mole poblano, mole negro, mole amarillo etc.) that it was hard to make a choice – so I just went for one where I would be able to source the proper chiles for the job (thank you Wholefoods).

Main: Mole Coloradito

There are so many mole recipes out there for mole coloradito, all of them with conflicting ingredients. Some have plantains, some use pork instead of chicken, some have different proportions of ancho chiles to guajillo chilles. I just opted for a recipe that seemed like a happy medium (which was this one from Genius Kitchen) and adapted it from there.

The main changes I made was to condense some of the frying steps and to boil a whole chicken for 100 minutes. Even with that, I was cooking for over three hours (where my weird blender didn’t help things) and needed a good sit down at the end of it. It also meant that I did not wait the full 15 minutes of cooling and just started eating it right away.

Never did I think just how important that cooling would be to the flavour. Before cooling it was nice enough, but a bit bitter. After the cooling process the flavours became more complex, the richness of the chocolate came through and most of the bitterness disappeared. It went from nice to incredibly morish – so I cannot wait to see what it’s like when I have the leftovers for dinner tomorrow.

Would I make this again? Yes, I know it took a while but since I better know what I am doing this should be easier next time. Also, I would like to try and make some of the other mole sauces to have with some flour tortillas.

Dessert: Bionico

Considering how long it takes to make mole sauce, I figured it would be a good idea to have a simpler dessert that would compliment the heat from the chiles. So when I found a recipe for Bionico on Mexico in My Kitchen it felt like the perfect match – especially since this is a dish that started life as Mexican street food whose name literally means ‘bionic’.

Being from the UK, I am very much used to the idea of fruit and cream as a dessert (I mean, what else are you meant to do when you watch the tennis at Wimbledon), but I was not quite prepared for the creme mixture here and how it would work with 4 different types of fruit and all those toppings.

Honestly I think the creme (a mixture of condensed milk, sour cream, natural yogurt and vanilla) really made this dish. I could probably just drink that until I got sick. I also like how this recipe can be so easily adapted depending on what fruit is available; today I used the four from the recipe, but I can see how banana, mango or peach would also work.

So that’s it from Mexico, I have decided that to start this list off I want to do one country per continent before just roaming around cuisines. Next time I will be cooking from an Asian country, not sure which yet but probably an East Asian one.

Until then, ¡Buen apetito!

World Cooking – Russia

Here we are christening this new list and, despite being a Brit, I thought it would be cool to start off with Russia. There are two Russian things in the 1001 foods list that I have wanted to make for a while and I thought that this would provide me with the perfect opportunity.

List Item:  Cook something from every countryCountry: Russia
Progress:
1/193

Russian cuisine, like the country, is vast. If it was not for the 1001 foods list providing me some focus I would have had a lot of trouble narrowing it down to one or two dishes. I might have made some of things in GentleWhispering’s ASMR video on traditional Russian cuisine, although there is no way I could have made as pretty a block of gingerbread as Maria did.

This huge variation in dishes does bleed into a lot of the surrounding countries, which means I have somewhere to start from when I plan my meals for the likes of Azerbaijan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. For example, I know I am going to make plov at some point – it’s just that I need to assign a country.

So… what did I make?

Main Dish: Kulebiaka

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 723/751Food item: Kulebiaka

Kulebiaka (or coulibiac) is one of those things that I have wanted to make ever since I first saw the recipe for it in my copy of the Samarkand cookbook. On the surface of it, kulebiaka looks like it would be a difficult thing to make. However, once you decide to get premade puff pastry instead of making your own, it is deceptively easy to make.

What we essentially have here is two layers of a rice mix (containing mushrooms, rice, onion and various herbs and spices), one layer of sliced hard-boiled eggs and a layer of flaked salmon. All this is wrapped in puff pastry and then baked in the oven after giving it a good eggwash.

I cannot begin to describe how proud I am of this and it tasted so good. I did wonder about the inclusion of three hard-boiled eggs, but they really took on the flavours (and colours) of the turmeric, cardamom and cumin – so I shouldn’t have worried. The smell as we cut this open was something else as well.

This will not be the only thing I end up making from the Samarkand cookbook and it probably won’t be the last time I make a Kulebiaka. Now that I have the confidence to make it, I think I might start experimenting with flavours to see how I can pull it in different cultural directions.

Dessert: Pashka

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 724/751Food item: Pashka

As we were eating this for lunch on Easter Sunday (yup, I’m more than 6 months ahead now) I thought that this would be the perfect time to try and make pashka. This is a creation traditionally made for Easter to be served with kulich (a pannetone-style Russian loaf) and is made from curd cheese, dried fruit and cream.

Technically, this dessert is meant to be turned out of the dish and decorated with dried fruit, but I didn’t trust this enough to not completely collapse over the table. So, I took this picture and just went to town on it with a spoon and spread it on chunks of kulich that I had bought from a Russian bakery in Borough Market.

I got the recipe for this from Great British Chefs and, aside from my blender breaking halfway through, this was really simple to make and taste delicious. It’s incredibly rich and, the version I made, really reminded me of the filling of a rum-raisin cheesecake. Again, this is something that I would want to make again and, maybe, have the nerve to turn it out and decorate it in the traditional style before eating it.

Extras

Being the first country (and as we did this for Easter), we thought it would be cool to also have a Russian style appetiser and what’s more Russian than caviar and blini. This is my first time eating something labelled as caviar (please note that this is lumpfish caviar because I am not made of money) and I really liked it. Especially with the blini and creme fraiche.

List Item: Try caviar
Progress: Completed

The next country will probably not be as extravagant as this, but I had to start this list off with a bang. At the moment I have no plans for what the next country will be, so I guess I need to see where the recipe searches take me.

So, until next time, prijatnogo appetita!