Archive | March, 2011

The Sunday Dinners. A short but concise story.

29 Mar

The Sunday dinners.

The smell of saffron filled my nostrils. My mouth was watering. I could not wait any longer. So hungry.

Told myself to be patient; I knew it was worth waiting for.

Ah, a bite. I closed my eyes.

Mmm, so good. The tangy flavor of the orange and lemon, softness of coconut, mastication of shrimp, fish and vegetables; all together the unmistakable taste of an Indian Curry. I opened my eyes and looked around me. There were the people I loved.

I smiled. How lovely that it was Sunday again.

The word that describes my background best is diversity. Coming from four different countries (Kenya, Cuba, India and Norway) has not always been easy. There were always cultural differences and traditions to adapt to; the table manor in Norway was surely not the same as in India; nor did my Kenyan aunt have the same picture of the world as my Cuban grandfather. Despite these differences, there was one thing that united them, a tradition they all had in common; the way they gathered around the dinner table every Sunday. It was through this tradition I got to know these countries. Every Sunday my family would gather friends at our place in Stockholm to share a dinner. We would cook together, talking about life.  Mom would cook the Sunday curries of Kenya and India, Dad; Cuban Frioles and Norwegian fishballs.

When visiting my family in their respective countries, this tradition was something I always recognized. I remember sitting by my grandfathers table in his sketchy house in Habana, my aunts table in London and with my uncles at the family farm in Norway.

2010. Looking out through the window; Manhattan’s rising skyline.

Looking beside me; right, left. New friends sitting by my table.

We are laughing and are just about to eat.

Everything so different, but still the same.

How lovely it is Sunday again.

Those Sunday dinners will stick with me forever.

Yesterday’s workshop in New York City – How to cook a big meal in a small kitchen

27 Mar

Yesterday, I held a workshop for four people in New York City. The theme of the workshop was “Asian dream-dinner with friends” and the purpose was to show how easy and cheap it can be to actually prepare a full three-course meal for you friends – even though you live in New York with a super small kitchen. The menu featured classic youngNYChefs recipes and was as usual very Asian inspired.

As a starter, we made a salmon carpaccio(sushi grade salmon of course!) over baby arugula with a fruity but spicy ginger-apple-orange-mint- dressing. As a garnish, we used roasted pistachio nuts. This came out absolutely stunning; the softness of the salmon, the acidity of the dressing, the crisp arugula and the crunchy salty roasted pistachio came together and created an amazing, almost mesmerizing starter.

This starter was followed by a wonderful Malaysia/Spain inspired monkfish/salmon vegetable coconut curry featuring saffron, orange and mint.

As a dessert – the legendary mango/passion fruit infused exotic fruit salad with anise and mint served with the on-the-minute raspberry ice cream. Fresh, simple, delicious, pleasing.

To drink there was the “Norwegian mountain breeze” water – a water infused with lime, mint, ginger, apple and, surprisingly, some cinnamon.

Yesterdays workshop in New York!

27 Mar

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

How to treat your TOFU. Simple, fast, delicious recipe.

25 Mar

 

Have you always wondered what to do with TOFU? How to make it a bit more exciting than it looks like? Here is a simple recipe that takes maximum 12 minutes to make. I made it for lunch yesterday.

You need some fresh string beans. Heat up some water in which you can blanch them. Then, cut some squash, red pepper, garlic, jalapeno, mushroom and chive. Also, crush some almonds and cut a lime in half. Then slice the tofu into pieces that look like the ones on the picture below. For the tofu you need two spoonfuls of cilantro leaves, grated apple and one spoonful of grated ginger.

 

When the water is hot and almost boiling, add the string beans and keep them in the water. Feel them once in a while. When they are soft, but not overcooked, remove them and pour them into a strainer. When you have done this, add new water to the pot and place it on the stove. Once the water is boiling, add noodles. When the noodles are done, repeat the process of the string beans.

Heat up some olive oil in a pan. High heat. When the oil is hot, add three table spoons of sesame seeds in the pan. Let them roast for about four minutes. The olive oil will get the characteristic taste of the roasted sesame seeds.

Once the Tofu is brown on one side(Approx after 4 minutes), turn them. When they have gotten color on both sides, pour leek, ginger, apple, 4 table spoons tamari and 2 table spoons balsamic vinegar into the pan.

What will happen is that the tamari and the balsamic vinegar will almost instantly vaporize under the high heat and leave a beautiful, caramelized surface on the tofu. In this process of vaporizing, the liquid in the pan sucks up all the flavor of the grated apple, ginger, cilantro and leek.

It is beautiful and I promise, it tastes even better than it looks.

Now… Take a piece of tissue paper and clean the pan from whatever of liquid is in there. Heat up some olive oil on really high heat. Add all the vegetables (including the string beans) and garlic, jalapeno and ginger and stir fry for 4-5 minutes. Prepare a glass of water and add 2 tea spoons of salt to it. When the vegetables look ready, add the water to the super hot pan. Also add some shrimp chili paste (if you have) and the juice of one half a lime. Let it simmer on super high heat for one minute. Turn it off and serve.

Serving suggestion. Mix the noodles with the stir fry, put on a plate, and add the tofu on top!

 

Cuban Homecooking. A small photo story.

24 Mar

I went to the local farmer’s market in Vedado, Havana.
There were eggplants bigger than I had seen ever before. Although it is said to be 100% organic – the taste did not lie – you start to wonder what makes them so big. As far as I know, there has not been any big nuclear power plant disaster in Cuba…

Maybe this is what REAL organic stuff looks like. I guess there must be something wrong with the vegetables back home.

…So were the carrots…

… There were tomatoes of varying colors and cabbage bigger than heads…

…When I was done at the market, I headed home to cook…

Together with this woman I cooked a lovely Cuban meal. We shared knowledge about cooking and culture, ideas and ideals.

While eating the vegetable/shrimp casserole served with the rice and beans that are so typical for Cuba, I started to think. Although we live in totally different parts of the world – I live in New York and she lives in Havana – there was one thing we certainly had in common; our passion for cooking and the notion of that food is always best at home.

Wow. Cooking. What an amazing way of getting to know other cultures.
Everybody speaks the language of food.

News

24 Mar
What we’ve been up to lately?
Educating the next generation in cooking!
Everywhere from Woodstock to New York city and Miami
More pics will be uploaded soon, the workshop from Miami includes a video!

…Picture from workshop in Woodstock in January…Cooking grandma’s pancakes… A classical recipe

Everything out of nothing – a conversation with a local chef in Havana.

23 Mar

In the kitchen of one of Havana’s finest restaurants – believe it or not judging by the kitchen- I meet Louis. I start to speak to him about the current situation for chefs in Havana, and about food in general.

“It is better than before, but it is still hard”. he says. Louis, who completed a five year culinary education at the Institute for Culinary arts in Havana 1995, continues: “As a chef it is hard to be really creative when there are such limitations on ingredients. Okey, before, especially under the “special period”(a five year economic crisis in Cuba after the fall of Soviet), you could not get anything except rice and beans, maybe pork and chicken if you were lucky. Today, the farmers’ are aloud to sell their produce at the markets, but the range of ingredients is still limited. You get the eggplant, Malanga(Sweet potato), onion, cabbage and all that. But the only oil we use is the local Soya bean oil and the availability of seafood and fish is restricted, although it is possible to find. When you do, it is very expensive and often somehow illegal”

Weird that you can not get seafood on a big island like Cuba, that, above anything else, has almost unlimited resources of fish in the surrounding waters.

As I my journey continues I become aware of this fact. For example, when going to the local “pescaderia” – the fish shop. Before entering, my expectations are limitless. I Imagine fresh langustas, snapper, kingfish, grouper, shrimps and swordfish – but when I stand inside the shop, all I see is a fan, a frozen chicken and an apathetic cashier. I start talking to him. They have pork and chicken. After a while, it comes clear that they today also have Camarones – shrimps.

The cashier shows me some tiny fresh water shrimps farmed in Cuba. Even though they are ridiculously expensive, I can not resist. I have been craving seafood ever since I arrived.

Back in the restaurant kitchen, I tell Louis about my experience. He laughs. “Haha, that is Cuba today. Fish shops without fish. But still, it is better than before. At least the shops are there and they sell pork and chicken. Before, the shops would not even exist. But seafood and fish is not for us regular Cubans, the price is ridiculous.”

I agree. 8 dollars fora pound of shrimps in a country where the maximum monthly salary is around 30 dollars is expensive. I ask him if it is not possible to buy fish directly from the street.
“No, No no. Whatever you do, vayu do not buy fish directly from the fishermen. I have a friend who just bought one but gave it to her dog. The dog died instantly.”
Just like a typical Cuban, he loves to talk. He goes on;
“It is the cruise ships. Of course, the tourism helps the country economically, but ecologically it is devastating. Our water is more polluted than ever before. Outside Havana you can not see the bottom of the sea like you could ten years ago.

I ask Louis to focus on the food and take care of his orders. He prepares to cook the meal for us. The burner is on and the pot is hot. He pours the soya oil into the pan and eventually adds the rest of the ingredients. A wonderful smell fills my nostrils. Right before he is done, he shows a bottle to me. On the label, it says “Salsa China”. It is soy sauce. “This is good, very new here in Cuba. Due to the embargo, most of what we use here is locally produced – cola, chocolate for example, but the Chinese have brought lots of good things. I am very happy for that”

He adds the scarce amount of soy sauce that is left in the bottle. Five minutes later I sit by the table. In my mouth; one of the best dishes I have eaten in a while. Although it is simple and pretty strange- only consisting of a mixture of shrimps, garlic, eggplant, cabbage, sweet potato, lemon pepper and onion – it is amazing.
I close my eyes.
This is everything out of nothing. This is creativity. This is a mix of weird things that in the end seduces your sences.

This is Cuba.

by Vayu Maini Rekdal

Magic. Enough said. Hats’ off, Jamie.

23 Mar

If you have not checked this video out before, you should do it now.

Ginger.

21 Mar

Ginger is absolutely one of my favorite ingredients. I love ginger. Here is the story of this magical plant.

Ginger, in Latin called Zingiber officinale, is the rhizome, not the root(!) of a tropical plant belonging to the family of “Spice lilys”. It is native to southeast Asia and was one of the first oriental spices that reached Europe. The Romans were the first ones to import it, then it came from Hong Kong, it was pickled and packed in small clay pots. Thousand years later, the medical faculty at the University of Salerno in Italy, made a statement about its medical properties. “Eat ginger, and you will make love and be loved as a youth!” Not surprisingly, this statement was very influential and the main reason to why the Portuguese started to cultivate ginger in crops in West Africa, with the purpose to make the slaves produce more children = more labour- and therefore make the business more effective.

Ginger arrived to my home country of Sweden in the beginning of the 15th century as a medicine that was said to help your digestion. Judging by the tasteless Swedish cuisine today, the ginger did not make a big footprint in the culinary world.

Two centuries later, ginger generally started to become unpopular as a spice in Europe, except from in the U.S and in England where they had started to dry it and pulverize it. It is not a coincidence that “Ginger Ale” is an Anglo Saxon all-time favorite in the soft drink industry. Soon the Europeans brought ginger to Indonesia and other tropical countries and the plant seemed to fit like the fish in the water. Ginger almost became a weed.

Today Jamaica is one of the biggest producers of ginger. Other producers are Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Taiwan and Haiti.

%d bloggers like this: