If you’re not Mexican or from the U.S. I suppose you could be forgiven for not knowing anything about the tomatillo. To be fair until I’d lived over there I’d lived a long and happy life not knowing anything of their existence. But times they are a changin’ and tomatillos are becoming far more wide spread and although you possibly won’t be able to pick them up on the shelves of your local supermarket once you know what you’re looking for you’ll be amazed at how much more often you’ll see them cropping up.
So I’m afraid I’m not done with those Sicilian flavours yet. If I’m being honest with I’m not sure I ever will be I just love the way that the flavours of everything you see growing there pervade everything you eat. If you’ve never sampled the food think almonds, raisins, oranges, lemons, garlic, olives and capers and you’ll get the idea. There isn’t much that wouldn’t be improved upon given this treatment with the possible exception of chocolate.
I do love barbecue season. Bear in mind I live in the UK so the novelty doesn’t really wear off; sadly it can be perilously short. This, coupled with the fact that my husband takes a very hands on approach to cooking when faced with an outside grill or fire (move the grill into the kitchen and you wouldn’t see him for dust) means that I like to enjoy a good barbecue as much as possible. And I know I’m not alone, although perhaps others not for the same reasons as me (do all the prep, let someone else finish off whilst I relax with a Pimms) judging by what I see on the supermarket shelves in the run up to the weekend.
Scotland might not be renowned across the globe for its lovely hot summers but it is inextricably linked (in many British minds) to a fruit that seems to epitomise summer; the raspberry. Nothing says British summer to me more than a bowl full of raspberries and strawberries and this week they’re back. So despite whatever else is going on outside at least we know for sure. Summer’s here.
I’ve had a tough time recently it has to be said. Scarcely back from five days in Sicily and I was off off again for the weekend. I’m so tired I need another holiday or at least a mini break to recover from all this gallivanting and as that’s not on the horizon for at least another week I’ll just have to suffer on in silence. But on the plus side (although maybe not- we are in the middle of the dreaded bikini season) all this gallivanting has left me with quite an appetite. Especially for some more of those spectacular Sicilian flavours.
It’s not often that you find yourself in a position to compare daikon, or the Japanese radish, to buses but that’s where I find myself this week. You know, when you wait for one for hours then three come along at once? I had decided (after a chat with my sister about how delicious and nutritious it is) to make some of my own kimchi; my first foray into the world of homemade fermented foods. Being married to a German, you’d think I’d start off with the somewhat simpler two ingredient sauerkraut but that felt like too much of an autumnal activity to be indulging in June so I went with kimchi (quite possibly an autumnal activity too if you’re Korean but for me I’ll always associate Asian food with lighter fare -I am British after all- and therefore summer). As usual though I got quite hung up on the idea of being truly authentic; I wanted it to be exactly like the kimchi from the Korean restaurant we like to eat in. Of course fussing about getting the exact vegetable ratio is losing the point a bit; it’s just another method of preserving veg after all and recipes vary all over. It’s the fermenting that gives it all those amazing gut health benefits and the garlic/ginger/chilli paste that gives it its distinctive moorish taste. But I’m getting away from the point. I had never eaten kimchi without daikon in it, so I thought I better make mine with some in there too. Easier said than done. I appeared to be caught up in a (Suffolk wide at least) daikon shortage. The local shops couldn’t help and the Asian supermarket were all out. I finally found some tucked away in a Caribbean store, where it’s known as mooli. I got it home to start the quite lengthy process of making my kimchi and all of a sudden the stuff is in my veg box, the market, everywhere. Or to put it another way; time to start messing around with mooli.
Many legends spring forth from medieval Europe especially from around the time of the Black Death. One of the best, but not well known concerns four (or sometimes 7) ne’er-do-wells of indiscriminate origins. The story varies from country to country but essentially concerns the discovery of an elixir either in Marseilles or London that conferred immunity from the dreaded plague. This marauding band either burgled the houses of those who had fled the plague or robbed graves depending on your sources. When the locals noticed their inexplicable health they traded in their secret for either their freedom or a less painful death, again depending on who you talk to. Luckily for us, Europe shook off the plague but their (albeit very approximate) recipe survives and as we all know there’s one thing I love more than a good legend. A good recipe.
The poor potato has had a bad wrap in recent years with a lot of people wrongly equating it to spreading waist lines and other health related hyperbole. It doesn’t help that growers and supermarkets have eschewed traditional tasty breeds (along with their shorter harvesting season) in favour of an easier to harvest alternative their flavour has dramatically diminished (in my opinion anyway) leaving a lot of us reaching for cooking methods that more than make up for any lack of taste but do nothing for their unhealthy reputation. And to be fair, who doesn’t love a creamy, buttery mash? But luckily summer is upon us now bringing gorgeous new potatoes with it and no need for all that butter to make them shine.
This is a manic time of year, right? Exams to get them through, then school sports days, holidays to plan and on top of all that the garden explodes. Literally explodes. I swear, I went out of the house one morning and my garden was all neat and tidy and I came back to a jungle. I have noticed that I usually develop a more tolerant approach to weeds about this time of year and advise you do too; changing my definition from a plant growing in the incorrect place to anything goes as long as it’s not a stinging nettle. Evil things that they are.
The other week I went on a ‘relaxing’ walking weekend with my sister and mum. Short walks were planned. Well, maybe planned is a bit of an exaggeration. Arguably, had it been a bit more planned we may have finished the short walks we set out on, instead of the marathon length ones we ended up completing. We saw a lot of the countryside; let’s leave it at that. After one such epic journey I sat down to a meal that will stay with me for a long time; a tamarind fish curry. At the time, tired and exceptionally hungry it tasted unbelievably good. I couldn’t wait to get home and try to replicate it. (Obviously after a long soak in a hot bath first.) Mostly to ascertain whether it was the hunger talking or whether it really was as delicious as I remembered. After a bit of research, I played around a bit then served up my version, braced for crushing disappointment. It never came. The resulting curry was just as deliciously fresh tasting as the first. Which was just as well. I really don’t have the time to be roaming the hills for hours working up my already rather healthy appetite.