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"Significantly, the charge (if it is a charge) has been levelled at the gastronomic essay and the 'learned' cookery book that they have an affinity with pornography. Certainly, both gastronomy and pornography dwell on pleasures of the flesh, and in gastronomic literature as in pornography there is vicarious enjoyment to be had." 

Stephen Mennell

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Entries in chilli (14)

Sunday
Jun232013

Dr Shakshuka

Shakshuka is my new favourite weekend brunch. I was introduced to it via Ottolenghi’s Mediterranean Feast on Channel 4. In the last episode, Ottolenghi visits Israel where he grew up. Everything looks so delicious that it made me want to book a holiday right there and then. Since I’m a poor student and can’t afford that any time soon, I’ve made do with cooking this at home. Frequently.

Shakshuka “was brought to Israel by Tunisian Jews. It is a rustic concoction of eggs poached in a fiery tomato sauce, a bit like a sort of spicy fry up” says Ottolenghi. “It’s great for brunch and a fantastic hangover cure.”

There are lots of other versions out there, for example, the Italians do uova in purgatorio (eggs in purgatory) and the Morrocans do it in a tagine with lamb. I think the traditional Israeli version is my favourite though, not in small part because it includes my favourite sausages, merguez. 

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Friday
Dec282012

Diana Henry's Thai sweet chilli sauce

My sister will be surprised when she sees this. I have always berated her love of the shop-bought stuff. But when I read Diana Henry’s introduction I was intrigued:

“So much better than anything you can buy. It doesn’t have that cloying flavour of commercial bottles, but barks at you with biting, fresh taste.”

This led me to the list of ingredients, which looked very promising. And she is right, it is so much better than the shop bought version. Indeed, it might as well be another sauce.

The recipe is from Salt, Sugar, Smoke: How to Preserve Fruit, Vegetables, Meat and Fish, a lovely book full of recipes, tips and techniques for the home preserver. “I am a home cook” writes Henry, “I don’t have masses of special equipment and I don’t do things on a grand scale.” Her style is approachable and encouraging, showing that preserving isn’t just for “elderly ladies in floral pinnies or country-based downsizers with a vehicle big enough to transport several dead animals.”

I made this first to use up some chillies which my flatmate, Jen, had grown on our kitchen windowsill.  I liked it so much I decided to make it for Christmas presents in place of my usual jams or chutneys.

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Monday
Nov052012

Claudia Roden's potaje de garbanzos y espinacas

(Chickpea and spinach stew)

For my birthday my Mum gave me Claudia Roden’s fabulous cookbook, The Food of Spain. The reason I like this book so much is because the recipes are real and unadulterated Spanish food. The other Spanish cookbooks I have are full of fantastic but extravagant recipes that I could never hope to source the ingredients for in London or which are too fiddly to make for anything other than a special occasion. Roden’s book is full of the kind of recipes Spanish people actually cook and eat regularly, rather than the sort of thing you find in fancy restaurants.

I have tried to replicate this Spanish staple several times and it has never tasted quite like it does in Spain. This time it did. I am usually quite good at guessing how to make something and I got close in terms of the spicing, but there are a couple of things I never would have picked up on. For example, I wouldn’t have guessed it was thickened with stale bread fried with garlic and blended to a cream with hard-boiled egg yolks and stock. This, Roden suggests, is the key:

This is a Castillian version of a thick soup that is eaten in many parts of Spain during Lent, when it is known as garbanzos de virgilia (meaning ‘chickpeas of abstinence’) … It is surprisingly delicious and satisfying, with a rich texture and an intriguing flavour that comes from the mashed paste of fried bread, garlic and spices that is stirred in at the end.

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Wednesday
Mar092011

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Sticky apple balsamic spare ribs... sort of

I say ‘sort of’ because when one reads the name of a dish in the title of a post, one probably expects to find the named ingredients to be central to the dish. I am sure Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall thinks they are, but I do not have apple balsamic to hand in my cupboard. Indeed I have never in my life come across it. I imagine most people are in the same position.

Actually a quick search on the internet suggests that I have been living a somewhat sheltered existence. The fact that I have never seen apple balsamic in any supermarket does not mean it is not widely spread and abundant. Those two words produced no fewer than 1,200,000 results on Google. In fact, I could quite easily have purchased it online a few days earlier had I done this simple search then not now, post-making, cooking, eating.

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Thursday
Feb242011

Sex and satay (yes, really)

I have often heard people say that bad sex is worse than no sex at all. I think the same applies to satay.

Hear me out.

It may not apply to blokes but, generally speaking, a girl’s libido diminishes the longer it has been, over time we tend to stop thinking about it so much. But as soon as we are reminded of how good it is, or how good it could be, we find ourselves craving it again.

Well, call me what you will, but I have the same problem with food.

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