Travel – Zester Daily http://zesterdaily.com Zester Daily Fri, 05 Jan 2018 10:00:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.12 No-Fuss Indian Food You’ll Want To Cook Every Day /world/no-fuss-indian-food-youll-want-to-cook-every-day/ /world/no-fuss-indian-food-youll-want-to-cook-every-day/#respond Sat, 25 Nov 2017 10:00:35 +0000 /?p=72798 Bengali Yogurt Fish Curry (Doi Maach). Credit: Copyright 2016 Rinku Bhattacharya

Indian cooking gets a bad reputation for being daunting and almost too difficult to fit into your everyday repertoire. This misconception may be gradually changing, but not quite fast enough. But on the contrary, everyday Indian cooking is flavorful, practical and filled with all the health benefits from spices that we all want to incorporate into our lives.

A core component of the essential taste of Indian food is ensuring the flavors are fresh and bright and not bogged down by unnecessary reheating and refreshing, something often the trademark of the average restaurant fare. In addition to emphasizing the simplicity of preparation, I also am a big proponent of cooking with practical and readily found ingredients, minimizing the need for multiple visits to grocery store.

The key to Indian food is in the spices

If you are intimidated by Indian spices, a fair number of the typical seasonings are available in a well-stocked grocery store, and the rest can be kept stocked by an annual or every-six-months trip to an Indian specialty store. Shortcuts and practical cooking are not uncommon in the Indian home kitchen; after all, the Indian home cook is as time-strapped as anyone else.

Stocking a basic spice pantry can go a long way toward cooking your favorite Indian meals on short notice. The basics for me would be the essential Indian spice kit from my “Spices & Seasons: Simple, Sustainable Indian Flavors” cookbook: turmeric (sold in powdered form), red cayenne pepper, whole cumin seeds, whole coriander seeds, fresh cilantro, ginger and garlic.

To add to the basics, you can include dried fenugreek leaves, green cardamoms, cinnamon, cloves, whole black peppercorns, whole mustard seeds and fresh curry leaves. It’s nothing terribly daunting if you give the list a fighting chance and open your horizons to a world of Indian flavors.

A note of advice and caution: While we can simplify the list of ingredients, it is important to use fresh spices.They are the soul of a flavor-based cuisine and cannot be substituted using a jar of ready-made curry, something that really is a misfit in most Indian kitchens.

The next step beyond stocking the spices is learning to use them. I personally use spices to create the foods of my childhood: simple, nourishing flavors that have sustained me every day. However, through teaching people how to cook Indian food, I have learned most people rush to the kitchen to replicate the flavors that have tantalized their taste buds in the last festive meal they savored. This is sometimes their first blush with the cuisine and often what captivates their imagination and what they want to re-create in their own kitchen.

Keeping this in mind, I offer you practical versions of three classic Indian dishes and suggestions for a few others. In these dishes, I have simplified the cooking techniques and used everyday ingredients to conjure up practical variations of dishes that will take you to three diverse parts of India.

Creamy, Well-Seasoned Black Beans

Creamy Well-seasoned Black Beans. Credit: Copyright 2016 Rinku Bhattacharya

Creamy, Well-Seasoned Black Beans. Credit: Copyright 2017 Rinku Bhattacharya

This recipe for black beans is inspired by the classic Indian black lentil recipe, found in restaurants called Dal Makhani. Other than using everyday black beans, I have lightened the recipe significantly and developed it for a slow cooker, where it happily cooks into perfection. If you do not have a slow cooker, you can do this on the stove top in a heavy-bottomed pot with a tight-fitting lid.

Prep time: 2 to 3 hours (to soak the beans)

Cook time: 4 hours in a slow cooker

Total time: About 7 hours, mostly unattended.

Yield: Makes 8servings

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups dried black beans

2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 4 cloves)

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

2 red onions, finely diced

1 tablespoon freshly ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground coriander

1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste

1 teaspoon red cayenne powder, or to taste

4 tomatoes, diced, or 1 cup canned chopped tomatoes

1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves (optional)

3 tablespoons sour cream

2 to 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Diced or sliced red onions for serving

Directions

1. Place the black beans in plenty of water and soak for 2 to 3 hours or overnight. Drain and set aside.

2. If your slow cooker has a saute function, turn it on and add the olive oil. Otherwise, you can do this in a skillet on the stove.

3. Add in the onions and cook for about 5 minutes, add in the ginger and the garlic and saute until the onions are soft and golden.

4. Add in the cumin, coriander, salt and red cayenne pepper and cook for a minute.

5. Add in the tomatoes and cook for 2 more minutes. If using a skillet, move the mixture to the slow cooker. Once the tomatoes are soft and pulpy, add this mixture to the slow cooker, add in the black beans with 3 cups of water and cook on low for 4 hours.

6. Remove the cover and stir in the fenugreek leaves, sour cream and cilantro before serving.

Note: You do want a fairly thick gravy for this dish. If your sauce is too thin, remove to the stove top and thicken for about a half hour before adding in the sour cream.

Bengali Yogurt Fish Curry (Doi Maach)

This signature fish curry is often a wedding dish, a beautiful meal reminiscent of a korma. The traditional version uses fish steaks deep-fried and immersed in a delicate yogurt sauce that is slow-cooked to perfection. My version uses salmon fillet, which offers a rich, dense flesh without the need for deep-frying. I use Greek yogurt to ensure a thick gravy without the precision and care of low and slow simmering in a heavy-bottomed copper pot, which is traditional for cooking Bengali food.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Total time: 35 minutes

Yield: Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds salmon fillet (or any other firm-fleshed fish)

1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided

1 teaspoon red cayenne pepper

3 green cardamoms

1-inch piece of cinnamon

6 to 8 cloves of garlic

3 tablespoons canola oil

1 large red onion, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon sugar

3/4 cup Greek yogurt, beaten

1 tablespoon raisins

Whole red chilies and slivered almonds for garnish

Directions

1. Cut the salmon into 2-inch pieces and set aside.

2. Combine 1 teaspoon of the salt and the red cayenne pepper and sprinkle over the fish.

3. Combine the cardamoms, cinnamon and garlic cloves in a bowl and break a few times using a mortar.

4. Heat the oil and add in the broken spices and the onion. Cook the seasoned onion low and slow until wilted, soft and crispy. This should take about 10 minutes.

5. Add in the grated ginger, cumin and coriander and mix well. Stir in the remaining salt and sugar and mix in the yogurt with 1/2 cup of water.

6. Cook until the yogurt is well mixed and gets a pale ivory color.

7. Add in the fish pieces in a single layer and mix in the raisins.

8. Cook the mixture until the fish is cooked through (about 15 to 20 minutes).

9. Garnish with the chilies and slivered almonds and serve.

Kerala Chicken Stew

Kerala Chicken Stew. Credit: Copyright 2016 Rinku Bhattacharya

Kerala Chicken Stew. Credit: Copyright 2017 Rinku Bhattacharya

This delicate and subtly spiced stew is a signature dish on Sunday mornings, usually served with lacy and flavorful appams. The stew is usually cooked with layers of freshly made coconut milk and develops its flavor from local produce such as green plantains and taro root. In this recipe, I have used practical stewing vegetables such as fresh carrots, baby potatoes and corn to create a dish that is just as good for your cool Sunday table.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes

Total time: 1 hour

Yield: Makes 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

2 to 3 tablespoons oil (You can use coconut oil)

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

10 to 15 curry leaves

1 red onion, diced

2 to 3 cloves of garlic

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 large cinnamon stick

2 to 3 pods green cardamom

2 pounds of chicken, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 teaspoon salt

2 medium-sized tomatoes, diced

3 to 4 carrots, peeled and cut into small pieces

2 to 3 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and quartered

1 cup coconut milk

1/2 cup frozen green peas

1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro

Directions

1. Heat the oil and add in the mustard seeds, then wait until the seeds begin to crackle. Add in the curry leaves and red onion and cook for about 6 to 7 minutes, until the onions are soft and beginning to turn pale golden.

2. Add in the garlic and ginger and stir well, cooking for about 1 minute.

3. Stir in the black pepper, cumin, coriander, cinnamon stick and cardamom and mix in the chicken with the salt. Stir and cook the chicken for about 10 minutes, until the liquid has evaporated and the chicken is well seared.

4. Add in the tomatoes and mix well.

5. Stir in the carrots and potatoes and the coconut milk and simmer the mixture for 25 minutes, until the chicken and vegetables are tender.

6. Add in the green peas and simmer for 2 minutes.

7. Garnish with cilantro before serving.

Main image: Bengali Yogurt Fish Curry (Doi Maach). Credit: Copyright 2017 Rinku Bhattacharya

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Kunming: China’s Hidden Food City, In 7 Savory Dishes /world/kunming-chinas-hidden-food-city-in-7-savory-dishes/ /world/kunming-chinas-hidden-food-city-in-7-savory-dishes/#respond Thu, 09 Nov 2017 10:00:03 +0000 /?p=73194 Main photo: If you are looking for a quick snack, try ji doug liang fen, or chickpea "cold noodles." Credit: Copyright 2016 Josh Wand

Yunnan may not be on most Western foodies’ radars, but for those in the know, it’s one of the most exciting food spots in the world.

The province, which sits in a mountainous area that borders Tibet, Burma, Laos, Vietnam and the Chinese provinces of Guangxi, Guizhou and Sichuan, is the most biodiverse region in all of Asia. It’s also the most culturally diverse part of China.

For a quick tour of the region’s specialties, all you have to do is get to Kunming. The city is a lovely stop on any trip to China — it’s famous for its mild weather, its flowering trees and its laid-back way of life. A few meals in the city will give you a taste of all the best that Yunnan has to offer.

Here are seven particularly fascinating (and delicious) dishes to try when you get there:

Shaguo mixian

Look for rice noodles at small hole-in-the-wall stands. Credit: Copyright 2016 Georgia Freedman

Look for rice noodles at small hole-in-the-wall stands. Credit: Copyright 2017 Josh Wand

Rice noodles are one of Kunming’s most popular foods — but you won’t find them in fancy restaurants. They are served at little hole-in-the-walls and streetside stands. The most popular are shaguo mixian, or “sandpot rice noodles.” These noodles are put into individually sized glazed clay bowls with stumpy handles, topped with broth, ground pork, pickled mustard greens and dried ground chile, and cooked on a high stove. The dish is often eaten right from the pot. Try them at the unnamed noodle spot on Jieshao Alley, just off Qingnian Road.

Mushroom hotpot

Yunnan is well-known for its mushrooms. Try them at one of the city's mushroom hotpot restaurants. Credit: Copyright 2016 Georgia Freedman

Yunnan is well-known for its mushrooms. Try them at one of the city’s mushroom hotpot restaurants. Credit: Copyright 2017 Josh Wand

Yunnan produces 400 tons of mushrooms every year, and foragers crisscross the mountains looking for matsutakes, porcinis and summer truffles to sell to exporters. The most prized specimens end up in restaurants and stores in Japan, Korea and the United States, but much of the bounty is eaten right in Yunnan. Every restaurant in Kunming offers a few mushroom dishes, but the best way to try the local fungi is to head to one of the city’s mushroom hotpot restaurants. On Guanxing Lu, near Baohai Park, there are three to choose from in just two blocks: Laozihao Wild Mushroom Restaurant, Junshuyuan Wild Mushroom Restaurant, and Wild Mushroom Emperor.

Grilled rubing

Grilled rubing, a type of firm cheese, is grilled with thin slices of local ham, or served with bowls of salt and sugar to dip it into. Credit: Copyright 2016 Georgia Freedman

Grilled rubing is a type of firm cheese grilled with thin slices of local ham or served with bowls of salt and sugar to dip it into. Credit: Copyright 2017 Josh Wand

China is not known as a good place to eat cheese. But cheese has a long history in Yunnan. Different minority groups around the province have long eaten grilled, stir-fried, and toasted cheeses. The most delicious version is grilled rubing, a type of firm cow’s milk cheese. You can find it at Lao Fangzi, where it is grilled with thin slices of local ham, and at 1910 La Gare du Sud, where it is served with bowls of salt and sugar to dip it into.

Chrysanthemum greens

A tasty salad is made with feathery chrysanthemum greens dressed simply with a bit of soy sauce and sesame oil and some thinly sliced chiles. Credit: Copyright 2016 Georgia Freedman

A tasty salad is made with chrysanthemum greens, a bit of soy sauce and sesame oil and thinly sliced chiles. Credit: Copyright 2017 Josh Wand

Han Chinese also shunned raw foods, but many raw dishes can be found in Yunnan. One of the most surprising and delicious dishes in Kunming is a simple salad of feathery chrysanthemum greens dressed simply with bit of soy sauce and sesame oil and some thinly sliced chiles. It can be found at any restaurant specializing in Yunnan specialties (including Lao Fangzi and 1910 La Gare du Sud).

Ghost chicken

Ghost chicken is a combination of black-foot chicken, chiles, cilantro, sawtooth herb and lime. Credit: Copyright 2016 Georgia Freedman

Ghost chicken is a combination of black-foot chicken, chiles, cilantro, sawtooth herb and lime. Credit: Copyright 2017 Josh Wand

Yunnan’s most famous minority cuisine comes from the Dai people who live along the province’s borders with Laos and Burma. The Dai are part of the same ethnic group that populated Laos and Thailand, and their food is reminiscent of those cuisines, with lots of fresh chiles, herbs and chile-based spice pastes. Perhaps the most representative Dai dish  is “ghost chicken,” a bright combination of silky black-foot chicken, fresh chiles, cilantro, sawtooth herb and lime. To try it — and other Dai specialties like pineapple sticky rice and vegetables grilled in banana leaves — head to Yinjiang Dai Restaurant, which has three branches in central Kunming.

Liang fen

Liang fen is made with slick, cool jello that is cut into cubes or sliced into thick "noodles." Credit: Copyright 2016 Georgia Freedman

Liang fen is a slick, cool jello-like food that is cut into cubes or sliced into thick “noodles.” Credit: Copyright 2017 Josh Wand

If you’re looking for quick snack — or just an entirely new and delightful eating experience — try ji doug liang fen, or chickpea “cold noodles.” These “noodles” are actually a jello-like dish that is made like tofu but uses ground chickpeas instead of soybeans. The slick, cool jello is cut into cubes or sliced into thick “noodles,” and dressed with vinegar, soy sauce, ground dried chiles and fresh herbs. Sometimes it’s even topped with chopped nuts and a slice of freshly made tofu. The dish can be found all over the city, including at food stalls in Cui Hu Park.

Yiliang roast duck

Try the delicious roast duck in Yiliang, based on Beijing's famous method for roasting ducks. Credit: Copyright 2016 Georgia Freedman

Try the delicious roast duck in Yiliang, based on Beijing’s famous method for roasting ducks. Credit: Copyright 2017 Josh Wand

Since the Qing Dynasty, the small town of Yiliang, just 90 minutes outside of Kunming, has been producing remarkably delicious roast duck. The recipe is based on Beijing’s famous method for roasting ducks until their skin is crisp and their meat is moist. But this version uses a local breed of ducks and roasts them over longs twists of pine needles, which gives the meat an exceptional flavor. If you’re heading out to the Stone Forest, a famous tourist spot, make sure to take the time to stop at Xue Cheng Restaurant.

Main photo: If you are looking for a quick snack, try ji doug liang fen, or chickpea “cold noodles.” Credit: Copyright 2017 Josh Wand

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Olive Oil: South Africa’s Liquid Gold /world/travel/olive-oil-south-africas-liquid-gold/ /world/travel/olive-oil-south-africas-liquid-gold/#respond Mon, 06 Nov 2017 10:00:00 +0000 /?p=76000 South Africa’s extra virgin olive oils are beginning to turn global heads. Credit: Credit: Courtesy of Lettas Kraal

When Americans think olive oil, South Africa probably doesn’t leap to mind, but like South African wine, the country’s extra virgin olive oil is beginning to turn global heads. The industry was started by an Italian immigrant in the 1950s, but it’s the new flush of small- to medium-size producers that are pressing the premium oils, and winning awards.

About 90 percent of the country’s olive oil comes from the Western Cape, either from picturesque valleys where olive groves neighbor vineyards, or from the Karoo, a semi-desert farther north. “In the past eight years, South Africa’s olive oil production has doubled, to 2.4 million liters (about 634,000 gallons) annually,” says Nick Wilkinson, chairman of industry regulatory body SA Olive. Wilkinson and his wife, Brenda, are also producers; their Scherpenheuwel Valley farm, Rio Largo, is an hour and half drive from Cape Town.

Small industry, high quality

Olive Branch Deli in Cape Town showcases about 40 olive oil producers on its shelves. Credit: Copyright 2016 Ilana Sharlin Stone

Olive Branch Deli in Cape Town showcases about 40 olive oil producers on its shelves. Credit: Copyright 2017 Ilana Sharlin Stone

With about 160 producers, the industry is still relatively small, but quality is generally high. Take Rio Largo, which in 2016 won gold in the Japan and Los Angeles Olive Oil Competitions, and Best of Class in the New York International Olive Oil Competition.

For starters, nearly all South African olive oils are extra virgin. “There isn’t enough volume to justify secondary production, which in itself is a savior of quality,” Wilkinson says. Olives are handpicked apart from one or two large producers, and because volume tends to be low, are likely pressed soon after harvest.

An Italian connection

At Lettas Kraal, long dry summers and cold humid winters bring out the flavors. Credit: Credit: Courtesy of Lettas Kraal

At Lettas Kraal, long dry summers and cold humid winters bring out the flavors. Credit: Credit: Courtesy of Lettas Kraal

A nurseryman from Genoa, Ferdinando Costa, recognizing similarities in climate, first brought olive trees to South Africa in the early 1900s. “Years after grafting imported cultivars onto Olea Africana, the indigenous wild olive, Costa decided it wasn’t a fantastic bond, and started growing from root cuttings, which eventually became the norm,” says granddaughter Linda Costa, an olive consultant. Costa persuaded a few local farmers to grow this unknown tree, and by the 1950s, the olive oil industry was born. To this day, South Africa’s olive oils are produced almost exclusively from Italian cultivars.

In South Africa, European olive oils are often cheaper due to farm subsidies, but consumers are beginning to favor local over imported, particularly after reports emerged of fraudulent and chemically manipulated imported oils.

Looking to export

Rio Largo uses a customized Italian-made extractor to press its olive oils. Credit: Courtesy of Rio Largo

Rio Largo uses a customized Italian-made extractor to press its olive oils. Credit: Courtesy of Rio Largo

At Rio Largo, a medium-sized producer, Wilkinson blends his oil from Frantoio, Leccino, Coratina and Favolosa olives, using a customized Italian-made extractor with a computerized management system and cameras linked to his adviser in Italy. “It gives me the information I need to be a quality artisanal producer.”

Many producers are looking toward export: They can offer high quality at very competitive prices to countries with stronger currencies. “We also have the advantage of being able to market to the Northern hemisphere in August through November, during the heat of their summer and when their stocks are less fresh than ours,” Wilkinson says. Rio Largo currently exports 35 percent of its oil, but Wilkinson hopes to build on that.

Young producers in the groves

Hestie Roodt puts olives into an extractor. Once a fashion designer, she now helps run her family's olive oil business, Lettas Kraal. Credit: Courtesy of Lettas Kraal

Hestie Roodt puts olives into an extractor. Once a fashion designer, she now helps run her family’s olive oil business, Lettas Kraal. Credit: Courtesy of Lettas Kraal

The industry is attracting a new crop of young producers, such as Hestie Roodt, a fashion designer who runs Lettas Kraal, her family’s olive oil business in the Karoo. After an eight-year stint abroad in fashion, she returned to South Africa, and was enlisted by her father to take on marketing and distribution of the oil produced on their farm. Her passion ignited, she soon took over, and now does everything from farm management to extraction and blending, to labeling and sales.

When the family bought the farm, it had been overgrazed by sheep and goats. “There was nothing there, just rocks for miles and miles. But there’s a beautiful Italian saying that goes something like this: ‘You need stones and silence for olive trees to thrive’ … we have all of that.” Her father planted Tuscan varieties: FS 17, Frantoio, Leccino, Coratina and a little Mission, which she blends. “It’s the high polyphenol count of the Coratina, which gives it its characteristic robustness and bitterness.”  Most South Africans are still used to softer imported European oils, so education is an industry-wide task.

“Our oil is much like oil from Puglia,” she said. “We have similar long dry summers and cold humid winters. This extremity influences the olives and brings out flavors.” Roodt is particularly proud of her harvest-to-press turnaround: from tree to mill within four to five hours. “I’m pedantic about it; I’d rather stay and finish even if it’s the middle of the night. That’s how we derive our quality.” Lettas Kraal has won many awards in South Africa, and Roodt hopes to be exporting soon.

If you’re visiting Cape Town, Olive Branch Deli is a good place to see the diversity of oils on offer, with about 40 producers represented on shelf. Sibling owners Omeros and Hélène Demetriou know the ins and outs of South African olive oil and are bullish about its future.

Main photo: South Africa’s extra virgin olive oils are beginning to turn global heads. Credit: Courtesy of Lettas Kraal

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Crispy Aussie Anzac Biscuits Bring Down Under Home /baking-wrecipe/crispy-aussie-anzac-biscuits-bring-down-under-home/ /baking-wrecipe/crispy-aussie-anzac-biscuits-bring-down-under-home/#comments Sat, 04 Nov 2017 09:00:57 +0000 /?p=75824 Anzac biscuits. Credit: Copyright 2016 Kathy Hunt

People say travel broadens the mind. In my experience it also expands the palate and occasionally the waistline. Such was the case when visiting Australia and New Zealand and consuming a plethora of sweet, hearty Anzac biscuits.

A favorite of Australians and New Zealanders, Anzac biscuits are about as prevalent and popular as chocolate chip cookies are in the U.S. Geography, though, stops me from calling these oatmeal treats “cookies.” In the United Kingdom and UK territories past and present, small, thin, crisp, flour-based, hand-held baked goods are referred to as “biscuits.”

Taken from the Latin term panis biscotus, which means “bread twice cooked,” biscuits are consumed as snacks. They differ from cookies in that they can be either sweet or savory. However, with Anzac biscuits it’s all about a light, honeyed sweetness and toasty flavor that bring to mind the autumn season.

Anzac biscuits get their name from the World War I troops they nourished.

During the first world war, Australia and New Zealand brought together their countries’ soldiers to form the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, or ANZAC.

Sent to Egypt for training, the soldiers took along tins of sturdy and wholesome oatmeal biscuits. Loved ones likewise baked and shipped oaty confections thousands of miles to Turkey, where the men were fighting.

Created without eggs, the sweets traveled well and possessed a long shelf life.

These traits came in quite handy, because the baked goods spent two months on a ship without refrigeration before they reached the ANZAC soldiers.

Anzac biscuits at center of celebrations

Anzac biscuits for sale at a bakery in Australia. Credit: Copyright 2016 Kathy Hunt

Anzac biscuits for sale at a bakery in Australia. Credit: Copyright 2017 Kathy Hunt

Had it not been for the ANZAC troops’ fearless efforts and sacrifices at Gallipoli, Turkey, their eponymous treats might have drifted into obscurity. However, as a result of the corps’ bravery during the eight-month campaign starting in 1920, Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, Samoa and the Cook Islands all celebrate ANZAC Day.

Held on April 25, the first day of the Gallipoli campaign, this day of remembrance includes the baking and consuming of Anzac biscuits. Placed in decorative tins, the sweets are also sold to raise funds for military veterans and, during wartime, war efforts.

According to New Zealand’s National Army Museum, a reference to Anzac biscuits first appeared in print there in 1921. The traditional recipe consisted of rolled oats, flour, sugar, butter and golden syrup. The last ingredient, golden syrup, may not sound familiar to American ears, but it’s a common ingredient in British and some Oceanic dishes. Made by refining cane sugar or beet sugar juice, golden syrup — or light treacle as it’s also known — possesses a rich, slightly caramel flavor and smooth, viscous texture similar to honey or corn syrup.

If you can’t track down golden syrup, you can substitute light corn syrup. Because Anzac biscuits require so little golden syrup, I use honey instead of the corn syrup alternative. In this recipe, the difference is negligible.

Another option is to include shredded coconut. Some bakers add it to this simple batter. Others don’t. I find that sweetened shredded coconut brings complexity and a richer flavor to the biscuit. If you’re not a coconut fan, feel free to omit it.

What you shouldn’t change is the low temperature and longer baking time demanded by these sweets. By keeping the oven thermometer at 325 F and baking the Anzacs for roughly twice as long as you would oatmeal or chocolate chip cookies, 20 minutes vs. 8 to 12 minutes, you end up with the crispness and hardiness for which the biscuits are famed.

When stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place, Anzac biscuits will keep for a minimum of three weeks. Some bakers claim their biscuits remain palatable for up to three months. Although that may seem excessively long, I do know that, when bundled in plastic wrap, sealed in airtight, plastic bags and frozen, they will last for at least three months.

Should you find yourself traveling through Australia or New Zealand, look for Anzac biscuits in supermarkets, restaurants, cafes, bakeries and biscuit shops. They’re a beloved specialty and one not to be missed. Generally, they are served alongside tea or dark coffee. Dunking the cookies into either hot drink is encouraged but not required.

Anzac Biscuits

Anzac biscuits ready for the oven. Credit: Copyright 2016 Kathy Hunt

Anzac biscuits ready for the oven. Credit: Copyright 2017 Kathy Hunt

Prep time: 5 minutes

Bake time: 20 minutes

Total time: 25 minutes

Yield: 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups rolled oats

3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

3/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut

Pinch salt

10 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 tablespoons honey

3/4 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 tablespoons boiling water

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add the oats, brown sugar, coconut and salt and toss to combine.

3. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the honey and vanilla and remove the pan from the heat.

4. Combine the boiling water and baking soda in a small bowl and stir together. Pour the water mixture into the butter mixture and stir together. Note that combining the two liquids will cause them to foam up.

5. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the liquids into this. Stir the wet and dry ingredients together until a well-combined, crumbly batter forms.

6. Using a tablespoon, measure out equal amounts of batter and place each tablespoonful onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Leave roughly 1 inch between each cookie.

7. Bake for 20 minutes, until the biscuits have browned. Remove them from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before placing them on wire racks to cool completely. Store in airtight containers.

Main image: Anzac biscuits. Credit: Copyright 2017 Kathy Hunt

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Wine And White Truffles: A Fall Trip To Bountiful Barolo /drinking/wine-and-white-truffles-a-fall-trip-to-bountiful-barolo/ /drinking/wine-and-white-truffles-a-fall-trip-to-bountiful-barolo/#respond Fri, 03 Nov 2017 09:00:12 +0000 /?p=76100

The tour buses have disappeared from the Langhe’s narrow, twisting roads, replaced by trucks bringing home the last loads of purple Nebbiolo grapes. Our Panda, Italy’s ubiquitous Fiat putt-putt rental car, strains up the hills to finally drop us down in the tiny medieval village of Barolo. Surrounded by steep vineyards aflame with red and yellow leaves in the heart of Northwest Italy’s famed Piedmont region, Barolo welcomes us with a stash of late-fall treasures.

White truffles are in season, fresh hazelnuts are everywhere, and the town’s 750 souls are happy. The 2016 vintage is shaping up to be one for the ages. The wine flows freely for a United Nations of wine lovers here to drink Barolo.

The harvest season

Crush continues into the night in the village of Barolo. Copyright 2016 Zester Media

Crush continues into the night in the village of Barolo. Copyright 2016 Zester Media

Stacked high with hand crates of grapes, a tractor driver threads his trailer down Via Roma, Barolo’s narrow main street. While Marchesi di Barolo is a large winery by local standards, easy to spot from the main road leading into town, a dozen smaller operations, such as the family-owned Bric Cenciurio, are tucked along its steep, cobblestone streets. With little more than 2 feet of clearance, the driver opens unmarked wooden garage doors and unloads his haul. The funky smell of fermenting grapes singes the afternoon air.

A bold grape

A Nebbiolo cluster ready for crush. Copyright 2016 Zester Media

A Nebbiolo cluster ready for crush. Copyright 2017 Zester Media

This is the last of the Nebbiolo harvest. The slowest-maturing grape in the world, it is the first to flower and the last to ripen. Finicky and prone to mold, the thick-skinned grape rarely flourishes outside its native Langhe, which extends north from Barolo to Barbaresco.

But here, Nebbiolo reigns supreme. The Langhe’s roughly 1,000 feet of altitude and soils with varying layers of limestone, clay and sandstone produce vibrantly aromatic wines with bold tannic structure that age slowly. Tar and rose petals are Barolo’s signatures. At 10 years of age, these wines are often just opening up.

A wine-driven scene

Setting up a tasting at the Damilano “enoteca.” Copyright 2016 Zester Media

Setting up a tasting at the Damilano “enoteca.” Copyright 2016 Zester Media

The village of Barolo is all about wine, with winery-owned “enotecas,” or wine shops, dominating the first-floor storefronts of the ancient two- and three-story buildings. Gracious, smart staffers pour samples of new and old vintages throughout the day and into the evening. Everyone is relaxed; conversation flows easily.

At the Damilano tasting room, we sipped the 2008 Barolo DOCG Cannubi, the winery’s flagship wine from Barolo’s most celebrated vineyard, or “cru.” It was part of a flight that included Barberas and Dolcettos, the region’s other red wines, from both the Asti and the Alba regions, along with other Barolo crus. While a 10-euro tasting fee is the norm, toward the end of the day, fees are often waived for already opened bottles.

A lively food-and-drink scene

A tractor hauling a load of grapes through Barolo’s narrow main street, Via Roma. Copyright 2016 Zester Media

A tractor hauling a load of grapes through Barolo’s narrow main street, Via Roma. Copyright 2016 Zester Media

Within the shadow of Barolo’s imposing 1,000-year-old Castello Falletti, four charming restaurants and the same number of informal cafes sit among the enotecas. At all of them, top Barolos and Barbarescos are served by the glass at irresistible prices.

Without a reservation, we found a room at the idyllic La Giolitta, one of a handful of boutique hotels and B&Bs in the village. Staying in the village made it easy to drift from meal to wine tasting and then out into the vineyards, where a hike to the crest offered views of the snow-covered Alps. A short walk home at night after dinner instead of driving the shoulder-less roads allows you to savor a last glass of wine at the end of your meal.

Barolo pairs well with meat, which explains the local cuisine. The Piedmontese love beef, often raw, and from their local Fassone breed of cattle. They call it carne cruda antipasti, and we had it served with a dollop of eggy béchamel sauce. Fassone veal is served poached with a salty tuna, anchovies, capers and a mayonnaise sauce they call vitello tonnato. To control a growing feral pig population, braised wild boar with a Barolo sauce was on several menus.

A bumper crop for white truffles

Shaved white truffles on top of tajarin pasta at the Winebar Barolo Friends. Copyright 2016 Zester Media

Shaved white truffles on top of tajarin pasta at the Winebar Barolo Friends. Copyright 2016 Zester Media

The local pasta is tajarin — a thin, long, flat noodle narrower than tagliatelle with a rich egg flavor and color. In the fall, it is served with a bountiful pillow of fresh shaved white truffles, a dish so aromatic it is reason enough, all on its own, to make this trip. The taste of just-harvested truffles from nearby Alba, considered the region’s best — well, there are no words. And this year’s rains produced a bumper crop, reducing prices an average of 30 percent. Our bowl of pasta with white truffles was $38 per, which is a $100 dish at our neighborhood trattoria in Los Angeles. You can buy them on the streets of Alba from local truffle hunters who will ship them home to you.

Back in our toy Panda to drive the two hours north to Milan with a handful of grissini, the region’s skinny breadsticks, and a bag of the famous local candied chestnuts for the flight home. Next trip, we’ll stay longer so we can take more adventurous hikes, but always in the fall, when white truffles are in season.

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Trinidad’s ‘Good Lime’ Lifts Syrian-Lebanese Home Cooking /world-wrecipe/75747/ /world-wrecipe/75747/#respond Wed, 01 Nov 2017 09:00:36 +0000 /?p=75747 Adam’s Morning Bagel With Labneh, Buljol & Scotch Bonnet Pepper. Credit: Copyright 2016 JP Vellotti

It’s 5 p.m. on the Caribbean island of Trinidad. Dusk is near, and tourists at the famed Maracas Beach are packing it in for the day. A few miles away, in the community of Maraval, Antoinette George meets friends for mezes of tabbouleh, hummus, olives and shankleesh at Adam’s Bagels, the Syrian-Lebanese eatery owned by her son-in-law Adam Abboud. The women — an extended network of grandmothers, aunts, cousins and in-laws — move from small plates to Arabic coffee and pastry, stopping to greet visitors to the shop for Middle Eastern groceries.

They are the matriarchs of the Trinidad’s Syrian-Lebanese community, descendants of generations of refugees from what was once known as Greater Syria, comprising comprising people of Iraqi, Syrian, Palestinian and Lebanese descent. Their forebears arrived in Trinidad more than 100 years ago, and their cuisine — revised to the ways of their adopted home — has been their bridge to Trinidadian society.

“In the days when our parents and grandparents came, there weren’t the things we needed for our cuisine,” George said. “So they adapted.” Some of those adaptations included substituting local Mexican culantro (recao) for cilantro and instead of spinach using locally popular patchoi (bok choy), brought by Chinese indentured laborers to the island nearly 200 years ago. The popular fresh sheep’s milk cheese called shankleesh is made in Trinidad using cow’s milk.

The first Arab immigrants came to Trinidad from Beirut in 1898, believing they had boarded ships bound for the U.S. The door-to-door peddlers, hauling suitcases filled with sundries, eventually prospered, earning enough to bring wives and families to the island.

The tide of Syrian-Lebanese immigration to Trinidad continued following the regional conflict after World War II and again in the 1980s and now from the war in Syria.

Influencing the cuisine in Trinidad

A gyro stand serving late-night hoppers in the Trinidadian city of St. Augustine. Credit: Copyright 2016 JP Vellotti

A gyro stand serving late-night hoppers in the Trinidadian city of St. Augustine. Credit: Copyright 2016 JP Vellotti

In Trinidad, like America, immigrants have made their home both by force and by choice, and Syrian-Lebanese immigrants made their home among descendants of Spanish, French and English conquerors; enslaved Africans; indentured Chinese and East Indians of Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim faiths; and Venezuelan cocoa laborers. Of these groups, the Syrian-Lebanese community has remained the most insular, holding fast to tradition and doing business with and marrying each other almost exclusively. Their impact on island cuisine is keenly felt, however.

The most recent example: the gyro stands run by the newest Syrian immigrants that have cropped up along major boulevards the island over.

“People line up for gyros every night,” said Zuher Dukhen who, along with his brothers, arrived in Trinidad in the past few years.

Like their countrymen, the Dukhens remain extremely close-knit but have proved themselves eager new Trinidadians. Nothing exemplifies this more than their love of a full table a “good lime” — the local term for easy companionship featuring food, laughter and chatter.

Bridging the cultural gap

Adam Abboud owns and operates Adam’s Bagels. Credit: Copyright 2016 JP Vellotti

Adam Abboud owns and operates Adam’s Bagels. Credit: Copyright 2016 JP Vellotti

Adam Abboud exemplifies a man who easily straddles these two worlds. Proud of his Syrian-Lebanese roots, he is also “Trini to the bone” — as locals describe someone whose Trinidadian nature is more than skin deep.

Abboud is a master limer, happy to sip coffee and chat for hours. Like any good Trinidadian, his catchphrase is “relax,” but he watches his establishment with an expert eye toward service and works the dining room like the local food celebrity he is. Between shaking hands with male patrons and dispensing kisses and compliments to the ladies, Abboud gestures to his staff to demand extras for customers — a taste of the newly made shankleesh salad, a nibble of a mamoul date pastry, a bottle of pepper sauce. At Adam’s, the Arabic tradition of lavish hospitality is in full effect.

Attention to detail

Mamoul date cookies are made with a traditional aleb mold. Credit: Copyright 2016 JP Vellotti

Mamoul date cookies are made with a traditional aleb mold. Credit: Copyright 2016 JP Vellotti

The delicacies here are all made in house, and the bagels give Lower East Side New York bagel shops a run for their money. Other Arabic pastries baked onsite include pita bread, sesame bread, baklava and various cookies using aleb molds from the Middle East. They are prepared by a United Nations of workers — pita made by a recent Venezuelan immigrant and puff pastry and dough for Arabic cookies made by Haitian pastry chefs all under the watchful eye of the native Trinidadian master baker.

During Sunday lunch, a Trinidadian staple, Abboud gathers with family at his in-laws, the Georges, to munch on goodies baked at Adam’s as well as full table of meze prepared by Antoinette George. Another table of Trinidadian staples — stewed chicken, beans and rice — round out the meal and all-day “lime.”

Extras like olives, stuffed grape leaves, Arabic coffee, dates, olive oil, sumac, mahlab and other items are imported after initially coming through the United States. Years ago Syrian and Lebanese Trinidadians depended on visiting relatives or those making trips home to bring foods for which there are no suitable local substitutes.

The newfound availability of Middle Eastern goods is a boon to Abboud — both in terms of business and personal happiness.

“I love my heritage, but I love my Trinidadian things too,” he said, taking a bite of his favorite breakfast, a Trinidadian-Syrian bagel of his own devising: smeared with labneh and topped with Trinidadian buljol, a cold salted codfish salad.

Adam’s Morning Bagel With Labneh, Buljol & Scotch Bonnet Pepper

Prep time: About 30 minutes

Yield: 4 bagels

Adam Abboud fully embodies his Syrian-Lebanese heritage and multi-generational Trinidadian nationality.  This is his favorite morning meal, and it is truly a multicultural experience on a plate. Bagels made in the New York style are topped with labneh (yogurt cheese) and buljol, a cold salad made from salted cod that is a common and beloved local breakfast food. Abboud indulges his Trinidadian nature by topping the salad with thin slices of Scotch bonnet pepper — a fiery final touch that is not for the faint of heart.

Ingredients

3/4 pound salted cod

1 small onion, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 pimento pepper (aji dulce) stemmed, seeded and minced

1 medium tomato, diced

1 tablespoon minced shado beni (Mexican cilantro) or 2 tablespoons minced cilantro

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 bagels, any style

1 cup labneh

1 small Scotch bonnet pepper, stemmed, seeded and sliced very thinly (optional; see note)

Directions

1. Place the cod in a large pot with enough cold water to cover it. Bring it to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes. Drain the water and repeat two more times to soften the fish and remove most of the salt.

2. Drain the fish and place it in a large bowl. Using a fork, pull the fish into shreds.

3. Add the onion, garlic, pimento pepper and tomato and mix very well.

4. Mix in the shado beni and ground pepper and mix well. Set aside in the refrigerator until chilled, about 1 hour.

5. Slice the bagels in half and smear each side with equal portions of labneh. Top each with 2 tablespoons to 3 tablespoons of the chilled buljol salad. Top with thin slices of Scotch bonnet pepper, if desired. Serve open faced.

Note: Wear gloves when handling Scotch bonnet peppers, which are extremely hot. If you get the pepper on your hands, wash them immediately with vinegar and cold water. Wash down your cutting board and any other surface with vinegar and cold water as well — this will remove the volatile oils that cause the extreme burn.

Main photo: Adam’s Morning Bagel With Labneh, Buljol & Scotch Bonnet Pepper. Credit: Copyright 2016 JP Vellotti

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Ancient Wine Making Brings New Flavors To Italian Wine /agriculture/viticulture/old-techniques-new-flavors-italian-winery/ /agriculture/viticulture/old-techniques-new-flavors-italian-winery/#respond Sat, 21 Oct 2017 09:00:41 +0000 /?p=75923 In northeastern Italy, on the border with Slovenia, winemaker Joško Gravner has taken old techniques to give the defining white grape variety of the region a completely new interpretation. Credit: Photo courtesy of Gravner winery.

The defining white grape variety of Collio in northeastern Italy, on the border with Slovenia, is Ribolla Gialla, and Joško Gravner has given it a completely new interpretation. Every now and then you encounter a wine grower who has really made a difference, challenging accepted practices. Gravner is undoubtedly one of them.

Usually a lightly perfumed variety, in the hands of Gravner, Ribolla Gialla becomes intensely rich, and the reason is his use of amphorae. These days there is a sense that amphorae are becoming rather fashionable in some circles, especially with the growing interest in the wines of Georgia, which had been overlooked for so long and which suffered from a Soviet regime that demanded quantity rather than quality.

A pioneer in the region

Joško Gravner is seen as a pioneer in Europe for his use of amphorae in wine making. Credit: Photo courtesy of Gravner winery.

Joško Gravner is seen as a pioneer in Europe for his use of amphorae in wine making. Credit: Photo courtesy of Gravner winery.

However, in Europe, Gravner is seen as a pioneer. His daughter, Jana, explained that his eureka moment came on a visit to California in the mid-1980s. There was much talk and tasting focused on selected cultured yeast, and he thought: If this is the future, I do not want to be part of it. He looked at the old methods and discovered that the amphora is the oldest wine container. Indeed, if you visit the Georgian National Museum in Tbilisi, you will see an amphora that was used for wine making in 6000 BC. The presence of tartaric acid indicates a fermentation, rather than merely the storage of the grapes.

It took a few more years before Joško brought amphorae from Georgia. Jana remembered how they arrived, from the Caucuses in a Georgian lorry, in December 1996. They had bought 90 amphorae, but only 45 survived the long journey by road completely intact, despite being protected by large rubber tires. There is something about the clay of Kakheti, the region of eastern Georgia, that is particularly suitable for the production of amphorae, and in addition Georgian clay is free of heavy metal, whereas European clay tends to contain lead.

The underground cellar

The qvevri, or cellar of amphorae, at Gravner. After fermentation, the grapes are moved to barrels. Credit: Photo courtesy of Gravner winery.

The qvevri, or cellar of amphorae, at Gravner. After fermentation, the grapes are moved to barrels. Credit: Photo courtesy of Gravner winery.

A cellar of amphorae, or qvevri, as they are called in Georgia, is a wonderful place, with an atmosphere all of its own. In fact, there is very little actually to see, as the qvevri are buried in the ground. To build a qvevri cellar, you begin by digging a large hole, as though you were building a swimming pool. The qvevri, which are no bigger than about 2,000 liters, are then put in place, and the soil replaced around them.

Working with qvevri demands minimum equipment. The interior surfaces are treated with beeswax in Georgia, and then again when they arrive in Collio, as the beeswax provides a neutral protective coating. The soil provides a natural temperature control for the fermentation, so no refrigeration is necessary. The grapes are de-stemmed — they may use some of the stalks, as that helps break up the cap of skins — and the wine is left to ferment, and then once the malolactic fermentation is finished, the amphorae are sealed and the young wine is simply left to its own devices. It will fall clear naturally. The 2015 vintage was pressed in March and was then returned to the amphorae, where it will stay until the end of September. And then it will be kept in a barrel for a further six years before bottling. Joško and his daughter attach great importance to the seven-year cycle, and their riserva wines are aged for 14 years.

A constantly changing wine

Gravner’s Ribolla Gialla has a touch of honey, as well as streaks of minerality and tannin. Credit: Photo courtesy of Gravner winery.

Gravner’s Ribolla Gialla has a touch of honey, as well as streaks of minerality and tannin. Credit: Photo courtesy of Gravner winery.

And what does the wine taste like? We tasted the 2007 Ribolla, which I would suggest is one of the most original wines I have ever tried. The color is amber and the wine is not a DOC Collio as the color does not conform to the DOC regulations. Ribolla Gialla, when it is ripe, has light golden brown skins, which may even be brown when the grapes are very ripe. The nose is very intriguing. There is a touch of dry honey, and yet it is firm and dry and stony. There is a streak of minerality, which Jana said came from the amphorae, and there is a streak of tannin, which originates from the length of time on the skins. In some ways, the wine is quite austere with a firm linear character. But it is a wine that changes in the glass, constantly leaving you guessing — and returning for more.

Main photo: In northeastern Italy, on the border with Slovenia, winemaker Joško Gravner has taken old techniques to give the defining white grape variety of the region a completely new interpretation. Credit: Photo courtesy of Gravner winery.

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Malaysia’s Night Market: The Meet And Eat Place /world/75674/ /world/75674/#respond Sat, 14 Oct 2017 09:00:14 +0000 /?p=75674 A boy has trouble deciding at the desserts stall. Credit: Copyright 2016 Jo Turner

Just south of the Thai border, on the northeast coast of Malaysia, lies Kota Bharu, a city of sweet, scrumptious Malay fare different from the rest of the country.

Kota Bharu is the capital of Kelantan, an intensely religious state ruled by the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, and where Friday, the Islamic day of rest, is a holiday for nearly everyone. The shops are shuttered and the offices are closed, but the streets are packed with crowds gathered for sermons and prayer.

The night market

Malaysians enjoy a meal at the pasar malam. Credit: Copyright 2016 Jo Turner

Malaysians enjoy a meal at the pasar malam. Credit: Copyright 2017 Jo Turner

And at night, the people head by the dozens to the pasar malam — the night market — to hang out with friends or to enjoy some of Kelantan’s delicious and unique food.

“I come here to enjoy myself and look around,” says Muhamad Hakim, a young man hanging out with about a dozen other young men, drinking iced tea and juices at the long tables.

One of his friends blurts out something in Malay, and they all explode with laughter — probably something off-color. For a people forbidden to drink in bars, the night market is where young guys go to cruise, though in this conservative society, Hakim will certainly be driving the 15 miles back to his home village alone.

A unique rice dish

Kelantan's favorite dish is nasi kerabu -- nasi meaning rice, kerabu meaning the variety of chicken, fish, seafood, eggs, and vegetables cooked up to go with it. Credit: Copyright 2016 Jo Turner

Kelantan’s favorite dish is nasi kerabu — nasi meaning rice, kerabu meaning the variety of chicken, fish, seafood, eggs, and vegetables cooked up to go with it. Credit: Copyright 2017 Jo Turner

But above providing a place for young people to eye each other, Kota Bharu’s night market is the best place to sample Kelantan’s unique food. The state’s beloved favorite is a concoction called nasi kerabunasi meaning rice, kerabu meaning the variety of chicken, fish, seafood, eggs, and vegetables cooked up to go with it.

A young woman and her mother stand behind an enormous nasi kerabu stand, where you can choose between three kinds of rice — white, blue and yellow — which is rolled up into a paper cone. Then you choose your toppings from the dozen or so arrayed before you. The most popular are chicken in coconut sauce, prawn and squid in tomato sauce and fish eggs in oil.

The toppings are added, and then the whole concoction is folded up into a neat parcel and secured with elastic bands, so you can take it home or to the tables by the juice stands, where televisions play a steady stream of Malay soap operas and Premier League soccer.

A hint of sweetness

Banana murtabak, a crepe-like food, is prepared at a stall. Credit: Copyright 2016 Jo Turner

Banana murtabak, a crepe-like food, is prepared at a stall. Credit: Copyright 2017 Jo Turner

The prevalence of both coconut and sugar means that Kelantan food is sweeter than the rest of Malaysia’s. Sauces are made usually with either tomato or coconut, and can be quite spicy — but not always. They do, however, almost always have a bit of sweet to them.

Also popular at the night market is murtabak, a crepe fried with chicken, beef or banana, that is made into something like a fried sandwich.

To make the banana variety, the chef pours the batter onto a sizzling oiled pan and then adds a mixture of chopped bananas, whole raisins, butter, sugar, eggs and condensed milk. Once it’s finished frying, it’s all wrapped up into a tidy square and served wrapped in paper. The outside crepe is very crispy, the inside sweet and flavorful, but lava-hot.

Murtabak is a huge hit with tourists. Eke Overbeek, a young visitor from the Netherlands, describes the concoction as “lovely,” but curses because she keeps eating it too fast without letting it cool.

A trip to the dessert stand

The desserts stall includes coconut jellies and choux pastry stuffed with jam. Credit: Copyright 2016 Jo Turner

The desserts stall includes coconut jellies and choux pastry stuffed with jam. Credit: Copyright 2017 Jo Turner

For a place so famous for its sugar, the final trip is, of course, to the dessert stand, where there is a booming variety of colorful treats — coconut jellies, caramel pudding, coconut milk cake, rice cake with peanuts, and pastries stuffed with jam. Most of the offerings are crumbly and a bit dry, but the choux pastry in particular is magnificent.

Syamin Yusoff, a local technician, comes every weekend to the market. Tonight he’s drinking iced tea and eating Maggi noodles, even though he argues nasi kerabu is the best meal in Malaysia. He can’t speak much English, but he can get across that it’s both the “friendliness” and the “sweet” of the food that makes Kelantan and Kota Bharu different from the rest of Malaysia.

Main photo: A boy has trouble deciding at the desserts stall. Credit: Copyright 2017 Jo Turner

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Anatomy Of A Perfect Lobster Roll, Maine Style /fish-wrecipe/anatomy-perfect-lobster-roll-maine-style/ /fish-wrecipe/anatomy-perfect-lobster-roll-maine-style/#comments Sat, 07 Oct 2017 09:00:22 +0000 /?p=75613 Perfect lobster roll. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brenda Athanus

Years before the current popularity of lobster rolls my friend, Joel, a food-obsessed antique dealer, proposed we make a personal study of lobster rolls along the coast of Maine. It was a challenge I instantly accepted because, up to that point, I had never had a real lobster “roll.”

Lobster sandwiches are what I grew up eating in our inland town, on untoasted white bread with a thick slathering of lobster salad and the crust cut off, leftovers from Friday night’s lobster dinner. Central Maine families, like mine, traveled to the coast once a summer and we always ate lobsters-in-the rough, clams, corn, drawn butter and wild Maine blueberry pie. That’s how it was.

After eating a lobster roll at a different place for 20 straight days, we had rolled our eyes 20 separate times. These lobster rolls on cold buns contained tiny pieces of lobster meat with too much mayonnaise added. Limp French fries overwhelmed the plate with not a pickle in sight.

We dreamed of finding a classic lobster roll with no frills. It would be so overfilled with lobster salad we couldn’t wait another minute to take a bite. We wanted it served in an old-fashioned, cardboard sleeve holding it upright, keeping it safe from tumbling over. The roll would be grilled to a golden brown with melted butter captured in every morsel The lobster chunks would be large enough to show reverence and appreciation, the salad bound with the smallest amount of mayonnaise, just to hold it together. The lobster roll would be served with homemade bread and butter pickles.

When we made it to 50 lobster rolls with our dreams unfulfilled, I suggested,”Maybe we should create our own.” So, into my kitchen we went with a bag of lively lobsters, a pound of homemade butter, a package of very fresh top-split hot dog rolls, a jar of my own pickles and an unopened jar of Hellman’s mayonnaise, the only brand my mother bought. Have I mentioned my mother’s lobster sandwich was perfect?

Lobster roll bun. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brenda Athanus

Lobster roll bun. Credit: Copyright 2017 Brenda Athanus

In a large pot, steam a 1½-pound lobster for each lobster roll, being careful not to overcook them. The lobster should be steamed for 14 to 15 minutes for a hard shell, which I prefer over a new shell lobster because I like the firmer texture. Chill the whole lobsters and when cool enough, shell out the claws, knuckles and tails into a colander over a bowl.

With a pair of scissors in one hand, squeeze out the juices from each piece of lobster with the other hand. Cut all the meat into one-inch chunks and place in a clean, dry bowl. Add enough mayonnaise to only hold the meat together, no excess. Start by adding a tablespoon and mix, add more as you go, because you can’t take it out, go slowly. I always add finely chopped chives to the mixture for appearance, a delicate secondary flavor that brings balance and harmony. Chill the salad for a minimum of half an hour.

In a skillet, melt really good butter — allow a tablespoon and a half for each roll. Dip the sides of each roll into the melted butter. Slowly toast one side and then the other. A little tip: The more often you flip the rolls from one side to the other the more deeply the butter will soak in. Keep the skillet on medium heat and do not take your eyes off the pan. When both sides of the roll are golden brown, like a perfect piece of toast, turn off the heat and remove the pan from the burner. Turn the rolls onto their underside and in less then a minute the split will open and literally smile at you.

All that is left is to fill the buns with the chilled lobster salad. With well-cleaned hands, grab a good handful and place it in one end and repeat this on the opposite side. Lastly, fill in the middle. If there are spots that need more, fill them in. We want a copiously filled lobster roll. After all, how often do you eat them? Indulge yourself and your guests.

Lobster salad filling. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brenda Athanus

Lobster salad filling. Credit: Copyright 2017 Brenda Athanus

In general, paprika is sprinkled over the top, but I prefer smoked paprika because it enhances the sweetness of the lobster and elevates it to lobster roll perfection. There is no better accompaniment then a simple side of homemade bread and butter pickles for balance and a palate cleanser.

If, when you take the first bite, two or three pieces of lobster salad haven’t fallen in your lap, then you haven’t filled them enough.

Main photo: Classic lobster roll. Credit: Copyright 2017 Brenda Athanus

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How A Basque Chef Smokes Out Food’s Subtle Natural Flavors /people/75460/ /people/75460/#respond Fri, 06 Oct 2017 09:00:29 +0000 /?p=75460 Chef Bittor Arginzoniz slicing beef. Credit: Copyright 2016 courtesy of Etxebarri

When my friend Andoni Luis Aduriz invited me to dinner in Spain’s Basque countryside, I knew the food would be wonderful. Aduriz is the chef at San Sebastián’s Mugaritz, one of the world’s most famous restaurants, so he knows cooking. But I’ll admit I had my doubts when he described the tasting menu we’d be having at Etxebarri, in the town of Atxondo. “Every dish has at least one grilled or smoked component,” he informed me.

Fast-forward to a grilled egg yolk, the bright golden orb quivering over a bed of zizas (chanterelles). Marbled slices of housemade chorizo, ibérico pork streaked fire-engine red with smoked paprika. Grilled baby octopi the size of large grapes, their flesh tinged with the slightest char. The nacreous iridescence of grilled bacalao. By the time we got to dessert — grilled puff pastry, topped with smoked-milk ice cream — I couldn’t help but laugh. At myself.

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