Culinary Anthropologist


  1. Indian spices

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    Some nerdy facts about some of the spices used in Indian cooking, such as in this delicious tarka dal… Nigella seeds, otherwise known as ‘black cumin’ despite being nothing to do with cumin, are from a flower closely related to love-in-the-mist.  The Egyptians were some of the first to cultivate it, and must have valued […]

  2. Pasta


    Some notes on that store-cupboard staple we take for granted… There are over 800 different named pasta shapes.  Some of these are just regional names for pretty much the same thing though.  Some of their names translate as ‘small bulls’, ‘little muffs’, ‘scruffy hats’, ‘pot bellied’, ‘little worms’, ‘bridegrooms’ or ‘little moustaches’. That Marco Polo […]

  3. Argan oil

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    Argan oil is only produced in Morocco, the only country in which the ancient argan tree grows.  The region from Essaouira to Agadir and inland, particularly the Souss Valley, is full of scrawny, wild, drought resistant argan trees.  Families have collected, cracked and ground argan nuts for their own homemade oil for centuries.

  4. Jerusalem artichokes

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    Jerusalem artichokes are neither artichokes nor from Jerusalem.  It seems their name is a corruption of ‘girasole’, Italian for sunflower, as the plant is indeed a relative, complete with bright yellow flowers and head-turning properties.  They originated in North America and first arrived in the UK in 1617, via France.  Their flavour is distinctly artichokey, […]

  5. I can’t believe it’s butter

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    Today Barnaby went up into the High Atlas mountains – way up into the hills, past the Todra Gorge and everything.  He found his way to the village of Aït Hani, where he met some very knowledgeable women, Rabha and Hadda, who taught him all sorts of interesting things about vegetables and couscous and lots […]

  6. Duck across the border

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    When I think of southwest France I think of duck.  Unctuous legs of confit de canard, perhaps nestled in some cassoulet.  Yum.  Having only spent one night in southern France on our way down to Spain, and sampled just one very third rate cassoulet, we thought we’d missed our chance to gorge ourselves on confit […]

  7. Slow food

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    Catalunyans seem to be good at slow food.  There are lots of rich savoury stews, traditionally cooked in wide, shallow earthenware ‘cazuelas’ over a low flame, slowly.  And people know how to take their time over a good meal together.

  8. Fish forever

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    With our tummies full of ducks and snails, we moved on to Barcelona, where Pedro and Arantxa took us to what must be one of the city’s best neighbourhood restaurants – Cal Boter, in Gràcia – luckily unknown to the hordes of tourists down by the seafront.  Here we sampled more Catalunyan specialities, including one […]

  9. It’s tops in Galicia

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    It really is.  We loved Galicia so much we nearly bought an abandoned farmhouse set in the most stunning location amid steep vineyard-covered valleys, looking down over a bright blue gorge and out to a mountainscape not dissimilar to Scotland (with more sun).  Here, in the tiny little stone villages clinging to the mountains people […]

  10. Octopus on board

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    Rivalling caldo gallego for our favourite Galician dish was pulpo gallego, another local classic, this time found mainly in the towns and villages round the miles and miles of wrinkly coastline.  What makes this dish Galician is the way the octopus is cooked and served…

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