Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Launching a new writing/cooking project: Interviews with women chefs!

Did you ever wonder where are the women chefs? Don't tell me they are in the kitchen too busy cooking for writing about their world! As a very new entry in the world of cooking and restaurants, I've read a lot of books and articles about the wonderful art of chefs and their lovely supporting wives or girl friends. How they were inspired by a mother, a grandmother or an aunt, how they were able to find their way in a relatively difficult and competitive world of recipes!

Till now, the women memoirs I've read are focused on their experiences learning how to cook in order to offer their families the best meals. Or eventually, writing a book or an article about that. What about, being themselves good and famous chefs in famous restaurants? I have no idea how I missed such information and yesterday, while on the road reading another book about chefs and their adventures, I decided that I want to explore more the issue of women in the big kitchen. 

In other words: Where are the women chefs hiding? What is their life about? What are their management and leadership tips? How do they relate to the men's world? Or, it is something like a gender difference when it comes to cooking?

In the next months, I plan to dedicate a big amount of space on my blog to those wonderful women and their cooking journeys. At this stage of the project, I am looking for suggestions and ideas about who I might interview as well as books and articles on this subject! The project is not limited to the English speaking realm! 

I am looking for ideas and suggestions, here on the blog or at the e-mail address: boiledwords (at) gmail (dot) com

Keep in touch!

Monday, September 23, 2013

A short introduction in the diverse world of potatoes

A while ago, if asked how many sorts of potatoes do I know, I will candidly answer mentioning the 'usual' big brownish ones and those with a delicate peel that I love to taste roasted in the spring. In time, I added to my short and only list the sweet ones, with a different kind of peel - more thick -, that need more time for boiling and with...of course, a sweet taste. It says enough about my ignorance, isn't it?
However, after years of living in Germany, the country where the potatoes were largely and first experimented in Europe in the 18th-19th century, I started to discover how far I am at least from a historical knowledge of the long list of potato types. As for the tasting part, I am almost nowhere, but promise to try at least one new sort of potato the month and to share my experiences on my blog.

Let's take a couple of examples of those potatoes that insist to come in so many different sizes, forms and, of course, tastes:

It is impossible to talk about the German potatoes without mentioning Kaiser Wilhelm. They are ready to be harvested relatively early in the year, at the end of July, compared with the most part of the potatoes that are fresh for the kitchen deposits in September. They are round, with a yellowish flesh and a brownish skin. They can be cooked in different ways, including as the main gnocchi ingredients, or as mashed, salty wedges or French fries. 

Linda Potatoes is not only the name of a German band, but also a local bio type with a problematic patent history. Due to its strong core, it is rather considered a good ingredients for salads, following a longer boiling time.

Vitelotte is the beautiful purple dark blue or even black potato, that I tasted before only as chips. Due to name, they are also called 'Violetta'. This is rather a French type, where they were planted for a long time. They need to be cooked for a long time than the average type.  

A violet shape has Piroschka too, a potato originally from Austria, cultivated from 1981-1988: an oval shape with a red purple skin, recommended for salty wedges.

I don't remember if I ever saw La Ratte, but their description make me thing that they can be very tasty: a buttery texture, nutty flavour. Recommended both for roasting and boiling. 

Meanwhile, I am sure I saw and even eaten Laura potatoes. They were first recognized in 1998 in Austria. 'Laura' is red skinned, with an oval shape and a yellowish flesh. 

The Annabelle variety is very common in the Western supermarkets: a waxy yellow flesh and an oval shape. It is recommended for salads and can be prepared especially steamed or boiled. 

Another French type is Roseval. Created in 1950, they are ready for harvest mid-August/September. Their skin is red, and their flesh yellow, with an oval shape. 

Desirée is highly appreciated not only for its red or pink skin, but also for the multiple recipe combinations that it can enter. You can boil, roast or steam those potatoes, serve them as mash or wedges, eventually with some spices or only with a plain tomatoes salad.

A non-expert like me can easily confound them with Mozart, a relatively new type, that looks almost similar and can be easily introduced in various combinations and recipes. 

The last two types of potatoes are preferred in the UK, so let's back to our German diversity. Here you can find the old Bamberg potato, cultivated from centuries in the Franconia region. It is not sophisticated at all either in appearance or taste, with a nutty aroma and the classical yellow flesh.

During the DDR times, several types of potatoes were created, and Ora was among them. They have a light yellow skin and a sweet taste. The recipes at the time of the Cold War used them for various soups, ratatouille, mashed or the traditional knoedel. 

Among the German types, the historians may mention as well: Aquila (on the market between 1942 and 1967), sweet and with a mild consistency; the more recent Ditta, cultivated since 1991, that has the advantage of lasting quite long.

Last but not least, I will be curious to see and taste Punane, a typical Estonian potato. It is described as round, with a yellow flesh and dark red skin, with a smooth mild taste. They are recommended for French fries, salads, roasting or wedges. 

Most documentation was provided by resources available at Domane Dahlem

Tasty pumpkin purée

Orange is the colour we need at the beginning of autumn in order to forget that the winter season is getting dangerously close. Or, at least, I need as much warm as possible to survive the long dark time of snow and cold. But at least I have a serious reason to be happy at the arrival of autumn: the pumpkin season. 
Even though nowadays it is possible to buy pumpkin regardless of the time of the year, I always prefer to add them on my menu in autumn. If I have a pumpkin tooth, I know what to do without too much suffering.
My first pumpkin of the year was relatively easy to prepare:
I boiled it for around 45 minutes at a temperature of 150C. I added a pinch of salt in the boiling water for taste.
In the mixer, I added: 1 tablespoon of olive oil, some garlic on taste, one teaspoon of turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, one tablespoon of za'atar. The overall mixing process may take maximum 5 minutes. 
To be served fresh and hot, with some leaves of cilantro for a more complex taste and green decorations.

Bon Appetit!

Spicy carrots

Carrots are not my favorite vegetables and the repeated warnings of my mother - z''l-  that if I don't eat too many of them I will wear glasses - that turned into reality at a certain moment - did not change my mind. I cannot stand the taste of them, especially when consumed raw. Instead, I prefer the neutral taste of the boiled ones in soups or sautés, or some unusual sour-sweet combinations of some Moroccan salads.
With some vegetarian guests invited for Rosh Hashana I did not have too many choices but to try to do something new that may include the detested carrots. Out of my mind, I set up the following recipe, that looks very good in picture and is moderately tasty when fresh from the frying pan.
I peeled and sliced the carrots.
In the pan, I added 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil with 1 tea spoon of za'atar spice - a post dedicated to spices soon, and let them fry for 7 minutes. I added the carrots and turned them from one side to the other every 5 minutes. At a temperature of 150C, the carrots were ready in around 20 minutes, a little bit fried and with enough spices to eliminate any trace of original taste. I would like to add the next time some garlic too. If you are a real gourmet, be so creative and add a drop of honey. 

Bon Appetit!

Special challes for Sukkot

This is that time of the year, when things are different, full of joy and the cooking ideas are more than welcomed! If it's autumn, it is the time of renewal, regrets and optimism of the new beginnings. It is about time to say 'I am sorry' to those that you bothered during the year and invite them in your sukkah for a joyous celebration of life, family and friendship.
Each time during the Jewish holidays season, that it is about to end this week, I need to create new recipes and to challenge my cooking clumsy skills with something new. Besides the commitment for more kosher in the kitchen and more learning, I also want to do something new, like a new shape of challes. For the round Rosh Hashana challes, I added at the recommendation of a very skilful friend some cinnamon to the dough besides the honey. The result was aromatic, very pleasant and in line with the seasonal fragrances. 
For Sukkos, I wanted to create something close to the arba minim but to be honest, except the esrog - not exactly the Chazon Ish type - I was not extremely impressed by the results. But the taste is good and the quality of the dough significantly improved over the last months and thus, I am sure that the next year I will do much much better!
Bon Appetit and moadim l'simcha!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

My shoes are made for walking

My shoes are always made for walking, especially because walking is for the moment the only sport I practice constantly for years and most likely will continue to practice the next years too. When I travel, I always wear skirts and I try to be modestly fashionable, but the choice of shoes that can be both practical and good looking is not an easy task.
Most part of the time, I have a very practical, brown looking pair of sport shoes that even though they do not look as the perfect accessory for a lady, never betrayed me and made me always feel like flying, regardless of how much hiking I added on my speed board.  For my England and Wales trip, I decided that I need some good looking outfits and thus left my ugly brown sport shoes at home. I was expecting some nice hills and hiking temptations, especially in Llandrindod Wells, but was not sure that I will have to follow the wild call for jumping around trees on unbeaten paths.
However, I was pleasantly surprised to be announced that a little bit of hiking is part of the daily schedule. Only one single problem was left: my delicate shoes were not ready for such a challenge. Without too many generous choices for shopping in Llandrindod, after a couple of searches - not too many - and 3 visits at the same shop in less than 2 hours, I decided to buy the black pair of Clarks shoes. The knowledgeable Brit heartily recommended it twice: 'Clarks is always good quality' and convinced also by a substantial sale that day, I bought them. Their prices are generally middle to high, but as usually, wearing branded products has an additional cost. 
First of all, they look much better than any pair of walking shoes I had in the last 3 years. They go quite well with my long skirts and can match all the possible colour combinations. The small backpack I usually carry with me when on the road has some shades of grey, they go very well together. At the first sight, the sole looks very sophisticated and it suits adequately long walks on roads with cobblestones and stones of different sizes. 
The leather is quite hard and at least for the first walks expect some resistance and some corns. Especially if you want to wear them with wool socks: if you bought exactly your number, you will have a lot of problems so better chose at least half and one number more. 
One week ago, I wandered in Bad Saarow for a couple of hours, including through some fields freshly wet by the morning rain. The unpleasant surprise was to discover that the water insinuated through the small holes from the upper front. I had to cope with the wet socks for another couple of hours, a situation that my previous ugly shoes protected me from. In other words, my Clarks are a good choice for the sunny and not-rainy long days, but when the weather forecast announces intensive rains, my old brown friends will go back on the road. It is always good to have two available pairs of walking shoes, especially if you are a travel addict.

New British food discoveries

Travel is always an opportunity to get closer to new recipes and food habits. During my last trip to England and Wales, I discovered a few new traditional recipes and fruits. 

I am always excited to taste new fruits and flavours that I cannot find easily in Germany. There it is also an exquisite selection of quality fruits. Such as, the seedless Egyptian grapes. Grapes are in Egypt the second fruit crops after citrus. Due to the religious restrictions, there are no world known brands of Egyptian wines. There are several table grapes available, but the one I tried were a ruby seedless type, very delicious, with a balanced taste: not too sweet but not too sour either. A delicious choice for ending up in a healthy way a summer meal. It also confers a very good hydration.

I have a lot to learn about food and types of food and thus, no wonder that I was not familiar with fish and chips. Berlin has currywurst and the States the hamburger, and the Brits do like the fish and chips. As in all cases, this fast food meal was the result of the rapid industrialization being aimed to offer to the developing middle classes a fast meal between shifts. In entered the British world in the 19th century and remains a popular food whose preparation can go beyond the simple and fast recipes. Compared with similar 'fast foods', it require a bit of style, especially the battered fish. A little bit of vinegar, added to the water and flour mix of the batter brings more savoury to the fish. Creating the delicate slices of potatoes also requires a lot of patience and exercise. A delicious healthy tomato salad is a fresh add to a rich meal. 

If asked one month ago what the name ''Pukka' suggests, I would immediately mention a very boring computer game I used once to play for the sake of filling my time while thinking at something else. I was completely ignorant about what Pukka pies mean and how much they are part of the British eating vocabulary. The company created in 1963 produced nowadays around 60 millions pies pro year. The company has its onsite beef butchery, and the pies are free of hydrogenated fats, preservatives or artificial flavourings. The most frequent recipes include: steak and kidneys, beef and onion, potato cheese and onion, chicken and mushroom. A successful business and branding story.