Just came back from seeing a most excellent Pixar film about how good cooking can come from the most unusual places… “Ratatouille: Rat-a-too-ee” is a film that is a must see for foodies and animation junkies alike (the graphics are amazing) and the watching the food being prepared just made me salivate. Its about a rat chef and is set in the militarized, maniacal environment of one of the finest restaurants in Paris. Made me nostalgic for the good old days when Pratap used to come home after a hard day, slaving away in a Michelin restaurant like a mad inspired pastry genius, bringing home incredible savory delights that he’d invented in the kitchen for his house mates to gormandize. Anyway here he is, our very own Prata-touille :
To be sung in the tune of ‘Soldier of love’ by Pearl Jam:
‘Where o’ where can the summer be?
Global warming took it away from me!
Now I’ve got to get away from all this rain
So I can be alive and not drown…in floods.’
Monsoon madness…aptly named for it drives people nuts – especially when England gets its first taste of monsoon-style rains. For us in the food industry, it’s a blessing and a curse – it helps crops to grow, albeit, marginally. The damage from the excessive rain is far more crippling, having painfully thrashed into near non-existence the presence of cauliflower and broccoli, and my own pumpkin and courgette plants are drowning in my back garden.
Ok, ok…enough moaning. Doesn’t help though everytime you go to the supermarket to but food, 90% of the items on your list come from half way across the world! It’s impossible to get home-grown produce anymore. Although in the restaurant world, global farms are, ironically, life-savers and earth-killers (death by food miles).
Well, here we are, again after an extended leave, not much has happened in the London restaurant scene, with this time of year being the quietest anywhere as everyone is traipsing around the world with their families. Nevertheless, here’s something you might like to whip up for your afternoon snack or tea…
Chocolate Macaroons with a chocolate & black cardamom dipping sauce:
2 – Egg whites
40 g – sugar
80 g – Almond powder (just put some in a blender till they’re finely ground up if you
cant get any)
100 – Icing sugar
1 level tbsp – cocoa powder
Method: Whisk the egg whites and sugar till they for a firm meringue (you should be able to hold it above your head without it decorating you with a white hat!)
Sieve the dry ingredients and slowly fold them in with a spatula.
Preheat your oven to 180c, or medium heat.
Line a tray with non-stick paper and place a few spoonfuls of the mix onto the tray – don’t flatten it out too much. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the top is smooth and crispy. Let them cool down while you make the sauce.
Black cardamom sauce:
200 ml – Milk
200 ml – Cream
2 tbsp – black cardamom, crushed
30 g – sugar
50 g – dark chocolate
Method: Boil the milk, cream and cardamom and leave to infuse for 10 minutes. Bring back to the boil, whisk in the sugar and strain onto the chocolate. Mix till the chocolate has dissolved – taste for sugar. Sometimes, a pinch of salt give it a slight edge.
Alternatively, you can use two macaroons and sandwich them with some shrikhand and cherries!
Going back on the topic of food-miles, the philosophy is ironic in itself. Whether the food has come from half way across the world, or the half-way across the city even, I bet the miles notched up wont be very different. It’s us consumers who notch up those miles by driving to the marked – think millions of people driving any distance to buy food – surely those notch up to something. In a more positive light though, there is satisfaction eating something grown in the country you live in. India for example, is a champion of this as it grows almost all of its fruit and vegetables – also helping people to follow and be guided by the season. The anticipation of summer and the first mango, the thrill of winter and its apples and guava – these simple pleasures are numbed by the global availability all year round. But, and I’m fighting both sides of the case here, in a global kitchen, a city where the world is represented, people want food from all over – Indian vegetable will have to come from India, Caribbean yams and calaloo (similar to spinach) will have to come from a thousand miles away as we want to eat what our cultures have engrained in us.
For the better part, some of us are striving to do our bit by buying produce that is as near to the UK as possible, until, of course, the vicarious desire for Asian cuisine ropes us in.
I’d love to hear your opinions on this matter, as it is a vicious circle and we are hypocrites sometimes as there is no choice but to buy from far away – old habits die hard and we don’t want to change the way we eat, just the way we buy what we eat.