Duck Liver in Brandy Cream Sauce with Pomegranate Seeds

Since we defected to the suburbs, started going to bed at 9.30 and became generally boring and matronly, one aspect of the luxury of space afforded by our new location that we have enjoyed particularly is having two fridge-freezers. The second appliance has not only allowed us to give free-reign to our kleptomaniacal tendencies — with leftovers and other scraps of barely edible, semi-discarded flotsam now littering our principal fridge like turds on a cat hoarder’s parlor floor — it has also meant that our collection of frozen comestibles keeps growing and growing. Continue Reading »

Vietnamese Market Cookbook: Spicy Sour Sweet by Tran and Vu

If the path from high finance executive to cookbook author isn’t a well-beaten one, then the path from stock-broker to market stall-holder is even more poorly trod. But, for Oxford-educated former bankers turned Banh Mi vendors-cum-restaurateurs, Van Tran and Anh Vu, that was their peregrination. They certainly don’t say so in the book, but it’s the kind of riches to rags to riches (kind of) story that I’m sure fills the day-dreams of many of us who feel trapped in the limits of our corporate lives, straining at the virtual leash as we break rocks for the man. Continue Reading »

Classic Peruvian Potato dish - Papas a la Huancaina

Of all the miracles of modern science that we have witnessed over recent years, few have received as little attention as the 2009 announcement by the International Potato Center in Lima, Peru, that it had successfully sequenced the potato genome. It is a sad reflection on the state of our priorities as a species that this seminal discovery was overshadowed by other, flashier technological breakthroughs that year – including Apple’s launch of Siri, the utterly humorless, and mostly useless, personal assistant on the iPhone 3GS – because after rice, potatoes are the most important foodstuff on planet Earth. Continue Reading »

Argentine-style Faína with Chorizo

“There are more pizzerias in Buenos Aires than in Naples and Rome combined.”
Ernesto Sabato, Heroés y Tumbas

In his book “I’m a Stranger Here Myself” travel-writer Bill Bryson, in an attempt to defeat insomnia, describes making a lonely evening among the anodyne IKEA fittings of a Stockholm hotel even more excruciating by tallying the variety of surnames in the local telephone directory. In an exercise that was clearly not soporific enough, he counted more than 2,000 each of Eriksson, Svensson, Nilsson and Larsson — Swedish inventiveness evidently lying in self-assembly homewares rather than last names. I was reminded of this episode when in conversation with our hotelier in Buenos Aires a few years ago. Continue Reading »

Yellow gazpacho with head-on shrimp al ajillo

The longer we live, the more we understand that our lives, especially now that we have two children, are about compromises. These are often in the form of compromising what we want to do, more or less completely, because our children are either unwilling or unable to do it. Recently though, a new kind of compromise hoved into view after 10 days of excessive eating and drinking while we hosted family from the west coast: namely, that we needed to compromise our caloric intake in order to fit into our clothes. Continue Reading »

Duck Foie Gras with Bacon and Juniper Cabbage and Blackberry-Mustard Seed gastrique
The cuisines, if you call them that, of Northern Europe have been maligned, and fairly, in many cases, for years. The food having been considered by some commentators to be so bad that it was posited as a contributing factor to the higher rates of suicide in those areas. Indeed, anyone who grew up on the same sad, grey school lunches as I might be forgiven for contemplating throwing in the towel rather than facing another plate of limp, farty cabbage and gristly stewed mutton. That we were also forced to wear shorts year-round except when there was snow on the ground, a memory that brings a shiver out of me even now, helped make life feel grimmer than it might otherwise have. This dress-code paired with the inevitable childhood tumbles from kicking a ball around the crumbling asphalt schoolyard and the scarcely-believable application of witch hazel to open wounds and grazes left me, literally, scarred for life. Continue Reading »

Oaxacan-style enfrijoladas

“Waiter! What is this?”
“Um, it’s bean soup, sir.”
“I don’t care what it’s been. What is it now?”

– bad English joke

Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, has the highest proportion of native peoples in the country, and traditional culture is alive to such an extent that an estimated 50% of indigenous people are unable to speak Spanish. The state’s unique geography and multiple climatic zones have allowed pre-Columbian practices to persist largely undisturbed into the modern day making it a veritable living ark both for biodiversity and for those wanting to understand Mexico prior to the arrival of the Spanish. Continue Reading »

Aneletti alla Palermitana

“To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is to not have seen Italy at all,
for Sicily is the clue to everything.”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Sicily sits apart from mainland Italy, like a rock ready to receive a swift kick from the instep of the Italian boot. Indeed, many Italians would tell you that this is precisely what the unruly, volcanic island needs. Throughout its diverse and textured history, Sicily has always been set apart somehow, having been in turn either at the very center of things or at their very periphery. Perhaps this wild oscillation of stature has had as much of an influence on the outlook and behavior of the Sicilians, their dialects and cuisine, as the people and cultures that have passed through the island over the past two and half millennia. Continue Reading »

Grilled Lamb Sweetbreads with warm dandelion, parsley and mint salad
Talk to someone about thymus glands and they will either tell you about their brutal exercise regimen designed to tackle the effects of an under-active one*, or if you’re mentioning them in a culinary context, they’ll usually make an appalled face, purse their lips, fan their hands and look away, indicating you’ve just gone one step too far towards the frightful foods classed under “I couldn’t possibly eat that, it’s gross!” Even the marketing man’s brave attempt to rebrand the humble thymus as sweetbreads hasn’t exactly seen them leaping off supermarket shelves. In part, this is because it is a recherché supermarket indeed that stocks them, but it’s also because of the incipient confusion between sweetbreads and sweetmeats that makes consumers fearful they may be about to munch on a lamb’s or calf’s balls. If you witnessed pained faces previously, you’re likely to elicit both inadvertent wincing and cupping of hands over groins at this point. Continue Reading »

zaatar-spiced horse meat kebabs
Last year there was unprecedented outrage when the news broke that the meatballs being sold by more than one European grocery chain were “contaminated” with horse meat. This was big news this side of the Atlantic for two main reasons: a) the horses in question are likely to have been American horses, and b) because eating horses is disgusting and unfathomably cruel. Animal loving organizations, like the one I used to work for, were up in arms, seething at the abject slaughter of our mighty chargers by those filthy, snaggle-toothed Europeans. After all, what truly civilized country would consider carving up their noble steeds when there are so many dumber, slower and less attractive creatures on the farm who don’t let you ride on their backs to stick a knife into? Continue Reading »

Butifarra Negra / Black or Blood Sausage with Garbanzos
Barcelona’s La Boqueria is perhaps the most famous food market in the world, and the most famous of its bar/restaurants is undoubtedly Pinotxo (pee-not-cho), run by the equally famous Juanito Bayen. His immaculate sense of dress and reputation for treating his guests like family have made him and his 14-stool establishment legendary. Indeed, such is his generous spirit that many are the tales of him spontaneously breaking open magnums of pink cava at 11am and passing glasses around. Everyone in the know food-wise, it seems, has made a bee-line for his place when passing through Barcelona on their way to other notable establishments like El Celler de Can Roca and Albert Adria’s Bodega 1900. Everyone, that is, except us. In fact, during our visit to Barcelona, we didn’t even make it to La Boqueria, in spite of staying about three hundred yards away down Las Ramblas, and we must have walked past it more than a few times as we explored the city. Continue Reading »

U-Pick Citrus, Collier County, south Florida

I have never known an aroma quite like it before: an intense, aromatic perfume. We could smell it from miles away – even before we had passed the last of the strip centers and construction sites. On one side, the low khaki scrub of the sandmine, on the other the hot, itchy pine forests, then suddenly, line after line of dark green citrus trees, all jolly with bright orbs, flicked past as we advanced into what locals refer to as “old Florida”. Continue Reading »

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