I’m on leave at the moment, and also engaged in a terrifying cookbook cull, which is causing me to madly read as many cookbooks as possible in order to feel less guilty about my terrible cookbook habit (it has, at least, reduced from the 3-book-a-week habit I had in the late 90s, but it’s still pretty severe, not least because I’ve graduated from little tiny Women’s Weekly cookbooks to more expensive and exotic tomes.
One of these is The Arab Table, by May Bsisu. It’s a book that fascinates me and also fills me with fear – every single recipe seems to go for pages and is *unspeakably* complicated. The idea of cooking a full meal from this book is terrifying. (The recipes are all very traditional, and, to be fair, their length is largely due to Bsisu’s conscientious descriptions of exactly how to do things.)
Posted in baking, egg-free, Ingredients, Middle-Eastern, pastry, Recipes, vegetarian
Tagged biscuits pastries and slices, butter, egg-free, Ingredients, kadaifi, kataifi, kunafa, orange flower water, rosewater, sweet cheese, vegetarian
I had the day off today, which meant it was a day to go exploring interesting food shops! After I went to that cheesemaking workshop, my father mentioned that his grandfathers both used to make cheese (and that, in fact, Nonna used to make ricotta) and that one of his grandfathers was the village cheesemaker. He mentioned a kind of special mozzarella which has a knob of fresh butter in the middle, which sounded fascinating enough that I asked my cheesemaking tutor about it… and she said “Oh yes, that’s called ‘Burrino’, and there’s a shop in Carlton called La Latteria which makes it…”
I saw a punnet of dried cherries at the Middle Eastern grocery store near me the other day. Never having had dried cherries before, I thought I’d give them a try, especially as the owner of the store waxed positively enthusiastic about them as soon as I looked in their direction. Enthusiasm isn’t one of that particular store owner’s great skills (he was rather dour the first few times I went there, and it took him about two years to decide that I was harmlessly eccentric, rather than alarmingly odd, but he now actually smiles when he sees me coming, possibly because he knows he is about to be entertained by the spectacle of me dancing around the shop admiring the wares and babbling very rapidly about fruitcake, or maybe just acting like one), so I figured they must be pretty good. I bought them, brought them home and forgot about them.
I really shouldn’t have. I was in the mood for random cake a few days ago, and decided that what my chocolate and orange loaf cake really needed was some random dried cherries in it. I opened the punnet and ate one – oh my. They are amazing – like all the best things you ever loved about cherries rolled into little, sweet bundles. Lovely in a chocolate cake, but also wonderful plain. They sing of black forest cake (they must be black cherries – nothing else could have that depth of flavour) and choc-chip and cherry cookies and chicken stuffed with rice and fruit and nuts, and sour cherry sauce for lamb, and almond nougat, and goodness knows what else. I need to find the perfect showcase for them, because they deserve it. They’d be lovely in those gluten free chocolate and raspberry brownies – swap out the raspberry jam for cherry jam and the raspberries for these, and wow. But wonderfully as they go with chocolate, I want to find something where they get to be the star of the show. They deserve it.
I’ll be going back to that shop tomorrow to buy another couple of punnets, because I think I’m addicted. A lunchbox adorned with roasted almonds and dried cherries as a mid-afternoon snack could be no less than glorious. But I need to find them the perfect vehicle…
I have cooked my first truffle! Or rather, I have prepared my first truffle – I didn’t actually cook it. I shaved thin slices off it for my meal and put the rest of it in a container full of arborio rice to infuse. In a day or two, I’ll put it into some eggs. I still have evil plans for chocolate mousse, because having tasted truffle in mousse, I now find its flavour a bit chocolatey (though mostly I would describe the flavour as pongy). I don’t know what I’ll infuse after that.
I think I have mentioned elsewhere that I live in the Moreland region, an area which has always had a pretty big immigrant population – mostly Italian, Greek and Turkish, but with a fair scattering of people from India, North Africa and the Middle East. But before this post goes off on a tangent about how much I love my little corner of Melbourne and the fact that it’s so friendly and vibrant and you can hear half a dozen languages spoken on any street corner and how this makes me happy in so many ways, I’ll attempt to get back to my point, which is that this is a fantastic area in which to shop for any ingredients used in the Mediterranean, Middle-East or North Africa. It is not, however, a particularly good place to shop for ingredients for Latin-American cuisine, which is why, after reading yet another American cookbook which calls for ingredients I’ve yet to see in Australia (their supermarkets are clearly very different from ours), I asked my lovely Mexican friend at work if she had any idea where I could find chipotle peppers in adobo.
My friend immediately directed me to Casa Iberica, a family-run business in the Latin Quarter of Fitzroy, which specialises in foods from all over Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula. It really has everything – sausages and cheeses and tapas, breads and portuguese tarts and tortillas, biscuits, cakes and fruit pastes (imported from around the world or made in Australia to traditional recipes), pickles, sauces, dried and tinned beans and fish, olive oils, vinegars, jams, sauces, spice mixes, and countless varieties of dried chillis, as well as the powdered kind. And cookbooks. And paella pans and other essential bits of kitchenware.
Oh yes, and they also have chipotle in adobo. Seriously, if you live in Melbourne and haven’t been to this shop, you should go and have a look at their website right now – I’ll wait.