My favorite fact about chutney: the word derives from the Sanskrit word caṭnī, meaning to lick. Chutneys are, loosely, a mixture of vegetables or fruit (or both) and spices. Indian chutneys can be cooked or raw, blended or pounded, pickled or fresh. In the West, chutneys are usually a combination of fruit, savory spices, sugar, and vinegar.
My palate for Western chutneys developed late. For a long time, I thought they were yucky. Salty spicy vinegary fruity pickle? Blech. Perhaps my aversion was a consequence of having to politely eat haroseth (a mixture of apples, wine, chopped nuts, and spices traditionally served at Passover seders) at an early age. But. Eat enough tagines in which apricots and quince have been slowly simmered with meats, salty cheese and French fig jam, cantaloupe and prosciutto, and eventually one starts to enjoy, albeit reluctantly, the contrasting tastes of sugar and salt, fruit and vinegar and spice in Western chutneys. Another fun fact: Western cuisines tend to pair ingredients that share flavour compounds, whereas many Asian, and particularly East Asian, cuisines tend to pair contrasting ingredients. Continue reading →
Flatbreads are a lovely appetizer at a dinner party. The trick is planning ahead: if you make your dough and prep your toppings well ahead of time, assembly and baking takes only a few minutes. Easy peasy, right? This recipe is made with a yeast dough, with a slow, cold fermentation, somewhat similar to some pizza doughs. (The cold fermentation helps develop flavour.) Also like a pizza, the flatbreads are baked at a high temperature, which yields a crisp crust and nice caramelisation on top. Figs, blue cheese and rosemary are a natural combination for the topping; the leeks add sweetness, moisture, and depth. But really, you can top your flatbreads with anything you like. Continue reading →
About a week and a half ago, my mother asked me to “cook dinner for the fogies.” “The fogies?” you ask. Yes: my parents had invited four of their same-age friends round for dinner. Now I’m not saying that people in their seventies don’t get their food on. Still, I thought I’d eschew my romance with chili peppers and go for rustic, warming comfort food. Hence this dish. It’s seasonal, it’s pretty, it’s easy, and it goes well with wine and fogies. Continue reading →
Although London basically had no summer this summer, I am reaping the fruits, literally, of summer in other places. The markets in Paris are full of the most glorious black figs. I sampled one at the Marché d’Aligre in the 12th Arrondissement and had to buy a kilo of them. (They only cost about three euros, by the way.) My dad, who’s got slightly antiquated notions about food, did not believe me when I told him that figs and balsamic are one of the most glorious pairings known to man. I set out to prove him wrong, and succeeded. The addition of crème fraiche made this easy dessert HEAVENLY. Continue reading →