April 2007 Archives


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Rhubarb originates from Mongolia.  The word was coined in medieval Latin and derives from 'Rha' (old name for the Volga river) and 'barbarum' (foreign) - ie a vegetable from the foreign lands east of the Volga.

Rhubarb was pronounced a 'fruit' in 1947 by confused US customs officials who opted to classify by its use in desserts rather than its botanical status.

But rhubarb as pudding, even as food, is a relatively recent concept.  For centuries it was used in China and elsewhere purely for medicinal purposes.  Rhubarb is a great laxative, if you eat enough.

Goat's cheese and rhubarb chutney crostini

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Thank you so much for all the votes.  The rhubarb was the clear winner, with the broad bean tagliatelle and chive butter chops in joint second place, so you might get them another day.  These canapes look much too pretty and taste much too good to only take half an hour to make.  I hope you like them too.
Smcheeseandrhubarbchutney0008.JPGThe recipe is adapted from one I learnt while assisting a class at the Tante Marie Cooking School.  It’s originally from Bon Appétit magazine.  I’ve tried it with all sorts of dried and fresh fruits, and each way works well.  If you want it to taste predominantly of rhubarb, just make sure there is much more of this than any other fruit.  Using a combination of cherries or cranberries (dried or fresh) and rhubarb produces a bright red chutney which looks great on the white cheese.  You can also try different liqueurs and spirits, eg brandy.  I think it works well with a creamy cheese with enough flavour not to be totally dominated by the intensely flavoured chutney.  A stinking, oozing washed rind cheese makes a fantastic pairing, but I realise that’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

So... my news this week goes roughly like this:

1) I have just resigned from my job as UK programme director for LCD (an international education development agency), where I worked for 10 years, which feels very odd but is a fantastic opportunity to drink lots of champagne.

2) I shall now be pursuing a rather dramatic career change, in the direction of food, cooking, education and the like, which feels a bit odd, but is a great opportunity to drink lots of champagne.

I will miss working with my old colleagues immensely, but insist that they all come round for dinner once I'm back in London.  They can rest assured nobody will have to take minutes.


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Apologies - last week's recipe will come this week, due to various distractions from nephews (Oliver and Wilf, unrivalled bacon, chocolate and soup monsters), trial day shelling fava beans at Chez Panisse (successful) and dinin', dancin' and boozin' with Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas (as you do).   If you haven't voted for a recipe yet, please do...

Vote for:
A) Cheesy puffs (aka gougères)
B) Broad bean and rocket tagliatelle (aka fava bean and arugula)
C) Goat's cheese and rhubarb chutney crostini
D) Lamb chops with chive butter

Hungarian goulash

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It has been brought to my attention that Spring has not yet arrived in the UK, so any fancy ideas I have for using the Bay Area's new array of fruits and vegetables will largely fall on deaf ears over there for the next few weeks.  So, a hearty stew.  I keep making this in enormous batches and reheating some whenever it's chilly in the flat, which is most nights.  My very knowledgeable friend Victoria recommends drinking a Chilean carmenere with goulash, as it smells a little like red peppers and paprika.  Let me know if you try it out...

Smgoulash0014.JPGThis recipe is an adaptation of one by Bruce Aidells, a formidable Bay Area sausage-maker and cookbook writer who knows more than a thing or two about meat.  He came into school to demonstrate cutting up a pig, which we then cooked in various ways, trotters and all.

One of the changes I made to his recipe is the use of a whole bottle of wine rather than a combination of a little beer or wine and stock.  This was purely for practical reasons - I’m more likely to have wine in the house than stock - and works beautifully.  Hungarians are very proud of their wine-making tradition, so it also seems appropriate.  I also added the fennel and lemon.  Like all good stews, this one tastes even better the next day, and freezes well.

Many goulash recipes out there call for beef instead of pork, which I simply can’t understand - the porkiness seems essential to me.  However, as we were to discover when travelling in Hungary, beef IS more traditional, and this recipe is perhaps more of a pörkölt or paprikás than a true gulyás - Hungarian stew classification is rather complicated to the outsider.


Culinary Anthropologist