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"I'd sit around dreaming that the boys I saw at shows or at work - the boys with silver earrings and big boots - would tell me I was beautiful, take me home and feed me Thai food or omelets and undress me and make love to me all night with the palm trees whispering windsongs about a tortured gleaming city and the moonlight like flame melting our candle bodies."

Francesca Lia Block

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Entries in cucumber (5)


Bahn mi, Sydney style

I was so excited when I first saw bahn mi in London. They were one of my favourite lunches when I was a growing up in Sydney. There was a Vietnamese bakery next to my school where most kids used to load up on doughnuts and cream cakes. I preferred to spend my pocket money on 'Vietnamese pork rolls'.

For $2.50 you could get a Vietnamese baguette slathered with pate and mayo, crammed full of cold pork cuts, salad and pickles and finished with soy sauce, a few sprigs of coriander and a sprinkling of chilli. 

I have found few places in London that make them like this, perhaps because the French and Asian flavours sound like such a bizarre combination. Actually, I think that’s what makes it unique and interesting. It speaks to Vietnam’s colonial heritage and is a great example of fusion cuisine that really works.

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Middle Eastern mezze no.7: Fattoush

For those of you who haven’t heard of this delicious salad, Wikipedia offers a detailed explanation:

Fattoush is a Levantine bread salad made from toasted or fried pieces of pita bread (khubz 'arabi) combined with mixed greens and other vegetables ... To make fattoush, cooks use seasonal produce, mixing different vegetables and herbs according to taste, while making use of pitas that have gone stale ... Sumac is usually used to give fattoush its sour taste.

As you can gather this is not an easy dish to write a recipe for since the only constant ingredient is bread, and even with that there is a choice, albeit an obvious one. Toasted stale bread versus crispy, crunchy, shards of golden goodness; you know which gets my vote. 

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Middle Eastern mezze no.5: Tzatziki

Yes, I know, tzatziki is Greek, and Greece is not technically Middle Eastern, but the Turkish word cacik (apart from looking like it reads ‘cat sick’) would be likely to return blank stares from most of my English speaking readership.

Tzatziki and cacik share the same core ingredients – yoghurt, cucumber, garlic, olive oil and salt. However, strictly speaking, they are not quite the same. Tzatziki is always of a thick consistency, while cacik is sometimes diluted with water and served as a soup. Tzatziki is usually flavoured with lemon juice, while cacik would use lime. Both can be flavoured with dill or mint, but only tzatziki occasionally contains parsley, while sumac or ground paprika are sometimes used to season cacik.

Here I give a recipe for a basic tzatziki. I tend to go with the less is more approach because I usually serve it with a selection of mezze dishes – tabbouli, hummous, spicy lamb mince, falafel – where the other herbs and spices make separate appearances. Nonetheless, I encourage you to play around with some of the above ingredients to make it your own, particularly if you are serving it as a standalone dip.

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Guest post: Chef Has (my Dad) shares his recipe for raita

As some of you may know, I owe most of my cookery skills, understanding of and passion for food to my Dad. I have asked him to share some of his infinite culinary knowledge with you by doing some guest posts every now and then.

This first post comes about largely by chance. Having seen my post on Kolhapuri lamb, which included a haphazard attempt at a recipe for raita, he sent me an email yesterday with the recipe he uses; I now know why his raita always tastes so much better than mine! I asked him to turn it into a post and also to explain one of the canapés from Christmas Eve, pictured above. The beauty of this canapé is that it look really impressive and tastes great, but is really easy. I hope this will be the first of many posts from Dad, or as he will henceforth be known, Hash Brown.

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Claudia's pomegranate and feta salad with mint and coriander

If you looked at the post I did yesterday showing the many delicious things I ate over Christmas, you may be surprised that the first recipe I am choosing to share is a humble salad. In reality it was far from humble; elegant, vibrant and sophisticated, for me it was the star of the show.

The salad is a wonderful balance flavours and textures. The casing of the pomegranate seeds, firm and crisp, give way to a plump, juicy centre, slightly tart in flavour. Cucumber adds extra crunch, contrasting with the soft, crumbly feta. The salty cheese also brings in the necessary savoury element, supported by the red onion, sumac and red wine vinaigrette. Coriander and mint are the final touches in this unrestrainedly refreshing summer salad.

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