Thursday, May 8, 2014

Rialto Markets@Venice: Erberia + Pescheria

ialto food markets in Venice, Erberia and Pescheria: the quality of produce is amazing, with prices to match.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Vietnamese beef and lemon grass soup: Canh Thịt Bò Xáo Sả

ietnamese cuisine is pure poetry in the pot. Their soups alone are celebrations of agriculture, flavours and wholesomeness. Don't believe me? Try this recipe: beef and lemon grass soup (Canh Thịt Bò Xáo Sả).

  1. Finely slice some lean organic outdoor-bred beef and marinate in fish sauce, brown cane sugar and black pepper.
  2. Sweat some chopped shallots in vegetable oil.
  3. Add some pressed garlic, one crushed and chopped stalk of lemon grass and the meat. Gently sautee until the meat is cooked.
  4. Add water and bring to a simmer.
  5. Add some bean sprouts (and some noodle, if so desired). Simmer until ready to eat.
  6. Serve with a sprinkle of chopped green coriander.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Kimia dates - best dates in the world

here are dates, nice dates and then there are great dates. At the lower side of the spectrum are those dry, unexciting dates from your local grocer or supermarket. Then there are dates with someone cute, kind and funny, who makes your heart skip a beat. And then there are Kimia dates: fragrant like wine, lusciously sweet, soft like set honey. As a lot of great food (and good people), they hail from a country from the US Axis of Evil, Iran. And truely so, Iranian gastronomy does sound like something favoured by very wicked folks: rose petal tea, chicken stewed in pomegranate molasses, saffron rice and black caviar. Yes, and Kimia dates for the dessert.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Clams, spinach and butternut squash soup recipe

  nspired by Korean jogae-tang clam soup, I made a few adjustments with some fantabulous results. 
  1. Slow-fry some crushed garlic in some groundnut oil until golden.
  2. Add clams, diced butternut squash, sprinkle with some fish sauce and fry a little.
  3. Add water and bring to a simmer.
  4. When all clams have opened, add roughly chopped spinach and simmer a little more.
  5. Season with black pepper and fish sauce.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Khubz - Arabic bread (خبز‎)

one of the biggest joys of travelling in the Middle East is bread. I can easily track down the nearest bakery, usually a small shack with a clay oven, by the tantalising aroma of khubz wafting through the air. 

I prefer to pronounce خبز‎ the Damascene way, khybyz, that's how I learnt the word in the first place. It invariably invites approving smiles: the accent of Damascus is widely considered the "coolest"in the Arab world.

As far as I understood, the dough for khubz is as plain and simple as it is for Mozambican paõ: just flour, water and salt kneaded to perfection. "All the taste is in the hands."

It only costs one dirham a piece in the UAE so it can make a few side dishes - hommous, some stew and a handful of veggies - go a long way on the cheap.

It is best enjoyed piping hot, while the taste is as good as the smell and it's good enough to eat plain like good French baguette. Once cold, however, the magic goes like Cinderella's ball outfit and reheating only makes it dry and brittle.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Eating seafood in Abu Dhabi's Al Mina market

fter a hands-on and rather nerve-wrecking initiation in Mozambique, I felt ready to try my hand at having a seafood dinner cooked for me in Abu Dhabi's Al Mina market. The procedure is simple: you buy whatever you fancy in the market and have it cooked in the adjacent kitchen. Things are, however, complicated by the complete absence of price tags in the market. Looking distinctly foreign too does not exactly inspire the sellers to make you good offers. 

After a brief wander among the stalls, I opted to go the easy way: go to a restaurant nearby, right on the pier. The formica interior and fluorescent lighting of Al Sayyad did not put me off in the least. I know that designer ambience does not necessarily guarantee a marvelous culinary experience. This time, it did turn out just that: two freshly caught hammour and half a kilo prawn lightly brushed with olive oil and a bit of chili paste and grilled on charcoals. Generous portions of biryani rice and sumac-sprinkled raw veggies to go with. Not exactly dirt-cheap at 155 dirhams for two, but well worth the money spent.

The next day the courage summoned to brave the uncertainty of buying from the market was rewarded.  Unlike Maputo's deafening madness, in Abu Dhabi's seafood kitchen you know beforehand exactly how much you are paying for cooking. No one jumps on your back trying to lure you to their stall.

Well, the ballpark anyway, as the price list is Arabic only. The shop is enjoying a very brisk trade with an ever-present  swarm of customers hovering in anticipation of their fare char-grilled and packed in styrofoam boxes ready to take away. Despite the evident lack of that time-honoured British institution of orderly queuing, it all somehow works out in a seemingly chaotic, yet rather efficient manner. You never know when your turn is going to come up, but the wait is not really that long. A five-minute drive to the hotel later, a couple of nicely chilled near-beers and the backdrop of Abu Dhabi's night lights help our takeaway into a swish seafood dinner. Yes, and we bought the sides, tabbouleh and patata harra, in our favourite Lulu's.

Camel yoghurt

Just when you thought you've seen it all, there you go: rose-flavoured camel yoghurt.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Lietuva salad - the latest in culinary nationalism

henever I try to cook Russian, my uncertain memories of what it should taste like tend to mix with the mishmash layers of culinary influences I have accumulated through the decades of living away from my erstwhile mothership. I don’t even know if any Russian actually eats it but for me this particular salad contains all the edible staples of Russianness so many are busy resurrecting these days: turnips, carrots, linen seed.

Ironically, it goes by the name of Lietuva salad because it also happens to be of the same colours as the Lithuanian flag. In fact, I am planning on suggesting the Lithuanian embassy here to adopt it as their national dish, kind of like Colombians did with their bandeja paisa.
Since I started my 5:2 regimen half year ago I find myself making it every now and then. First of all, it is super easy to make. Then it does contain both a modest quantity of easily digestible calories as well as a lot of crude fibre to help stave off hunger on my fast days. And, last but not least, it does taste mighty good, especially considering the bare minimum of the effort and cost it requires.

So here how it goes:
  1. Grate some turnip and a couple of carrots.
  2. Chop some parsley
  3. Add some linen seed, a sprinkle of fleur de sel and a dash of pumpkin seed oil.
  4. Mix vigorously by hand squeezing the juices.
  5. Serve with a piece of rye bread.