Culinary Anthropologist

Archive

  1. Two pulse tarka dal

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    A good dal has to be one of my all-time favourite foods.  I’ve experimented with various pulses, spices and aromatics and so far this is my favourite recipe.  It is very loosely based on one by Madhur Jaffrey.  It’s quite spicy, so for a milder version cut down a little on all the spices, especially the cayenne, and use less fresh chilli, garlic, ginger and shallot.

    You can also make this with other lentils.  A combination of small red lentils and big green-brown ones, or yellow split peas, works well, as the larger ones keep their shape and the little ones disintegrate into sauce. 

    Smtarkadal0010ab.jpg‘Tarka’ refers to the method of cooking by which piping hot ghee is scented with spices and then thrown into the dish at the end of cooking.  If you don’t have ghee and can’t be bothered to clarify butter, use a mix of unsalted butter and sunflower oil.  If you don’t have asafoetida or curry leaves, just leave them out. 

    This dal is delicious served with rice or flatbreads. If it’s made quite hot and spicy, I like to serve it with a dollop of full-fat plain yoghurt.  You can make the dal in advance then gently reheat it while you make the tarka.  Or go ahead and complete the entire dish including the tarka and keep it chilled until needed.  Reheat gently and simmer for a few minutes, then serve with fresh coriander leaves.

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  2. Artichoke gratin

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    Artichokes are a bit of a faff to prepare, but once you’ve tasted the results you’ll realise it was worth it!  Once you’ve braised the artichokes, instead of putting them in a gratin you could add them to a salad instead, or marinate them in herbs and olive oil and serve them cold as antipasti.  How much of the artichoke you cut away and how much you save to eat totally depends on the artichoke’s size and maturity.  Cut off anything that you imagine will still be tough after cooking.

    artichokesbraising.JPG

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  3. Grilled radicchio

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    Radicchio is one of my favourite vegetables.  Its bitterness works really well in a creamy red wine risotto or pasta sauce, matched against sweet fruit in a winter salad, or grilled and anointed with a sweet dressing as in this recipe. 

    smgrilledradicchio0002.JPGGrilled radicchio pairs well with Parma or Serrano ham for a starter, or can be served as a side dish to something sweet, such as roast pork or baked sweet potatoes. You could substitute balsamic vinegar for the sherry vinegar, and/or add a dash of pomegranate molasses.

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  4. Green bean zeytinyağlı

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    I learnt this dish while staying with Zeliha İrez, an amazing cook who runs a guesthouse in Turkey.  Zeliha uses a pressure cooker to speed things up.  If you don’t have one, try to leave the beans gently cooking for five or more hours. 

    Zeytinyağlı foods are a family of vegetable dishes which are cooked in olive oil.  They are common in western Turkey, where olive trees grow.  The beauty of the dish is that everything goes in the pot together and then requires little attention.

    smbeanzeytinyagli0002.JPG

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  5. Green bean zeytinyağlı

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    I learnt this dish while staying with Zeliha İrez, an amazing cook who runs a guesthouse in Turkey.  Zeliha uses a pressure cooker to speed things up.  If you don’t have one, try to leave the beans gently cooking for five or more hours. 

    Zeytinyağlı foods are a family of vegetable dishes which are cooked in olive oil.  They are common in western Turkey, where olive trees grow.  The beauty of the dish is that everything goes in the pot together and then requires little attention.

    smbeanzeytinyagli0002.JPG

    (more…)

  6. Gratin dauphinois

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    Creamy or crusty?  That is the question.  The answer is, both, of course, but in what proportions?  Everyone seems to have their own way for making this, perhaps the most classic of potato dishes.  And they’re almost always delicious; it just depends which kind you prefer.  My extensive research and testing (you can’t eat too much gratin dauphinois) has followed the two main schools of thought, both of which I love, but for different reasons…

    Smgratindauphinois20001.JPGFirst up is the ‘thin ‘n’ crispy’ version, as perfected by American food writer Jeffrey Steingarten, who points out that ‘gratin’ comes from ‘gratter’, to scrape, which hints at the true form and in fact whole point of the dish – it should be really sticky and crispy, requiring much scraping so as not to leave behind a scrap of that wonderful brown goo encrusted on the potatoes and the dish itself.  His version is only one layer deep, resulting in much stickiness both above and below.  The flavours end up quite concentrated, with salt, pepper, nutmeg, garlic and reduced cream combining into an intense savouriness, not dissimilar to parmesan cheese, despite the absence of cheese in the recipe.  In fact, Jeffrey considers the addition of cheese “a gross and pitiful imposture, an admission of failure.”  I would agree entirely.

    Equally delicious, just in a different way, is what I call the ‘deep ‘n’ creamy’ version, which chef Eric Fraudeau in Paris (with whom I took a class at the start of our culinary travels in 2008) assures me is the correct method.  The question of how to correctly and authentically cook a gratin dauphinois was apparently so aggressively contested that Charles de Gaulle held a competition to determine the definitive recipe.  Eric is adamant that the potatoes should first be cooked on the stove in milk, which is then discarded, and then baked in cream.  Also, the potatoes are cut lengthways, slightly thicker, and arranged in more than one layer.  The result is creamier, with the notes of nutmeg et al appearing only as hints.  You still get the wonderful crispy crust on top of course, essential to any and every version of the dish.

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  7. Gratin dauphinois

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    Creamy or crusty?  That is the question.  The answer is, both, of course, but in what proportions?  Everyone seems to have their own way for making this, perhaps the most classic of potato dishes.  And they’re almost always delicious; it just depends which kind you prefer.  My extensive research and testing (you can’t eat too much gratin dauphinois) has followed the two main schools of thought, both of which I love, but for different reasons…

    Smgratindauphinois20001.JPGFirst up is the ‘thin ‘n’ crispy’ version, as perfected by American food writer Jeffrey Steingarten, who points out that ‘gratin’ comes from ‘gratter’, to scrape, which hints at the true form and in fact whole point of the dish – it should be really sticky and crispy, requiring much scraping so as not to leave behind a scrap of that wonderful brown goo encrusted on the potatoes and the dish itself.  His version is only one layer deep, resulting in much stickiness both above and below.  The flavours end up quite concentrated, with salt, pepper, nutmeg, garlic and reduced cream combining into an intense savouriness, not dissimilar to parmesan cheese, despite the absence of cheese in the recipe.  In fact, Jeffrey considers the addition of cheese “a gross and pitiful imposture, an admission of failure.”  I would agree entirely.

    Equally delicious, just in a different way, is what I call the ‘deep ‘n’ creamy’ version, which chef Eric Fraudeau in Paris (with whom I took a class at the start of our culinary travels in 2008) assures me is the correct method.  The question of how to correctly and authentically cook a gratin dauphinois was apparently so aggressively contested that Charles de Gaulle held a competition to determine the definitive recipe.  Eric is adamant that the potatoes should first be cooked on the stove in milk, which is then discarded, and then baked in cream.  Also, the potatoes are cut lengthways, slightly thicker, and arranged in more than one layer.  The result is creamier, with the notes of nutmeg et al appearing only as hints.  You still get the wonderful crispy crust on top of course, essential to any and every version of the dish.

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  8. Aubergine cooked with olive oil

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    The aubergine (patlıcan) must be the Turks’ favourite vegetable.  It is prepared 100 different ways and features in appetizers, mains and even desserts.  The zeytinyağlı method of cooking is common in western Turkey, along the Aegean coast where olive oil is plentiful.  

    Copy (1) of Smzelispazaraubergines0001.JPGPatlıcan zeytinyağlı could be served as an appetizer, lunch dish or accompaniment to meat.  In Turkey it would be a meze, with which you would drink rakı turned cloudy with water.  The recipe comes from the wonderful Zeliha Irez, who runs a superb guesthouse in the hills east of Istanbul.

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  9. Huminta

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    When visiting Libby, Tim, Ollie and Abi in Seattle a few months ago we had this in a Bolivian restaurant and found ourselves ordering more and more.  I recreated the recipe, and the home-made huminta was a hit with all of the original dining party, especially the littlest members. 

    SmAbihuminta0001.jpg‘Huminta’ may mean something different to most South Americans,
    but here is the Copacabana Restaurant version.  For a hot, savoury,
    sweet, buttery side dish, you can’t go too wrong with this.

    This recipe’s for Abi (aged 1 year and 10 months), who was an enthusiastic guinea-pig
    during recipe testing.  Her dad calls them ‘fairy cakes on acid’. You’ll
    have to try them to see if you agree.

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  10. Roasted figs

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    When weekending in the Russian River area recently with friends (picture higgledy hills, back-to-back vineyards of Zinfandel, Merlot and Cabernet, pasty San Franciscans soaking up the rays by day and in the hot tub by night…), we were delighted to find a fig tree in the garden. Roasted on their leaves, the figs went a treat with the grilled lamb we had for dinner.

    Smfigs0009.JPGI reckon they’d also go well with other grilled and roasted meats, or with cheese, or even with ice cream as a dessert (in which case add some sugar and go easy on the salt and pepper).

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