Monday, November 29

The Perfect Roast

I mentioned in my last post that Cinnamon had inspired me to try my hand at some Thanksgiving dinner classics. Having never so much as roasted a chicken before, and since there are only two of us at home, I wasn’t about to go the whole hog (or, to be precise, the whole turkey).

And so, thanks to a suggestion from Cinnamon, we made a small roast chicken on Sunday night. I also made gravy and stuffing to go with it, these being my favourite parts of a roast meal. To this we added some French pommes rissolées (courtesy of my husband) and steamed mange tout. The pumpkin pie I’d dreamed about didn’t make the cut in the end, because I figured that three new things I’d never cooked before were enough. An English treacle tart was purchased as a substitute.

Your eyes do not deceive you – I did admit above that I’d never roasted a simple chicken before. Roast anything had always sounded so complicated to me, having grown up with a cuisine that doesn’t use ovens. And I thought that my humble kitchen was way too small to attempt anything as ambitious as a festive dinner – all of that would be for when I had my dream kitchen.

But one of England’s heroes, Jamie Oliver, has made it so easy for restaurant-dependents like me. (Yes, Jamie’s stock is down in the market, but I still think he seems a great guy - he’s so positive and real.) Again on Cinnamon’s suggestion, I looked up his perfect roast chicken recipe and, putting aside all my excuses and fears of never-seen-it-done-before and kitchen-too-small, followed it. I was amazed at the result: the chicken was moist and flavoured perfectly with the bundle of herbs (sage, rosemary, bay and thyme) it had been stuffed with, and the gravy was bursting with the essence of the carrots, celery, onions and garlic from the roasting tin. With relatively few ingredients that you can pick up in any supermarket, I really did get a great roast chicken.

There’s a streak in me that often wants to have everything lined up before I can embark on something – I feel like x, y and z have to be in place before I can do a, b or c. But when is it ever enough? I couldn’t get a photo of the roast chicken to share with you, but here’s a photo of the humble kitchen with its 2 1/2 feet of prep space.

Maybe everything doesn’t have to be perfect before you can create something beautiful. That's what I learned from making a simple roast chicken.

Just in case you feel like attempting this before Christmas, you can find Jamie Oliver’s perfect roast chicken recipe (that's really what he calls it) here and the gravy recipe here. Here is the cranberry and chestnut stuffing recipe (although I’d recommend going easy on the cranberries; and pork and bramley sausages worked as a great substitute for the turkey sausage).

And experienced chicken roasters, please share with us your one best tip (like how to get the skin nice and crispy!).



Tuesday, November 23

Tortillas in Flats

Today we have a very special guest: fellow foodie and blogger, Mañana Mama. After reading about my Spanish tortilla recipe, she very kindly offered to share her family's secret recipe for Mexican tortilla. Not only did Mañana Mama give me the recipe, she actually spent hours one weekend cooking said tortilla, a green chilli sauce, stuffed Anaheim chillies (which she and her husband grew in their garden), an enchilada and beans, and invited us to her home to show me how it's done. The result (pictured above, before cheese was added and the whole thing was grilled) was incredible and one of the best things I've tasted. So, you've been hearing from Cinnamon in America and me in London, now it's time to hear from an American in London...

Culturally speaking, Britain is about the farthest point in the galaxy from Mexico. This is why I react like a vampire in direct sunlight whenever I spot a Mexican restaurant in London. In fairness, I am a pretty picky eater when it comes to my favourite cuisine, so I tend to make my own.

Truffle recently converted me to the cause of the Spanish tortilla. In compensation or as revenge (depending on your view of my cooking), I am trying to addict her to a distant, long-lost Mexican primo: the humble, home-made flour tortilla.

Flour tortillas are pretty easy to come by these days, even in Britain. Bland, paper-thin, long-life tortillas can be found at just about any shop, right alongside Marmite, marmalade, mushy peas and many other very-non-Mexican staples.

A shop tortilla is essentially bendable, digestible cardboard. A real deal flour tortilla is soft, springy, yielding and comforting—like a 12-tog goose-down duvet for your mouth. It is best consumed straight off the griddle or shortly thereafter and preferably made by your favourite auntie or someone who calls you 'mi hijita'.

Put your hand over a plate of fresh, home-made tortillas and you will feel a sense of warmth radiate right through your fingertips and spread down to your toes. I reckon a nice plate of tortillas in the right mouth at the right time might bring about world peace in one floury fell swoop (I admit, a discussion for another day with a gazillion more sources).

But regarding economic problems, tortillas are possibly the cheapest foodstuff known to man. The ratio of deliciousness to pence is incredibly high, making tortillas an ideal recession food. For instance, if you are so broke that you had to sell the cutlery (or buy it off eBay like Cherie... - Ed.), you can just use a tortilla instead—it will be the tastiest spork you ever used.

Louise, aka the Tortilla Queen, is a very wise family friend who once showed me how to make the perfect tortilla:

Stir together 5 cups of flour (white, wholewheat, or whatever), 1 tablespoon of baking powder, 4 teaspoons of salt. Add about 2 cups of water and 5 tablespoons of oil (any kind you have to hand). Mix, then knead lightly on a floured surface. Heat an ungreased frying pan over medium-high heat. Divide the dough into 6 to 8 rounds. The dough is very elastic and will contract, so roll the rounds flat one at a time, just before placing them on the heated griddle. Fry each tortilla for a minute or two per side, until it retains elasticity but loses sponginess in the centre. Stack tortillas on a plate and cover with a thick towel to keep them warm. Man cannot live by tortillas alone (I have tried), so consume with green chile stew or red chile posole, or whatever dip-able thing you have to hand. Share and enjoy.

As a New Mexican in London, I am frequently mistaken for a freckly albino from Chiapas with a suspiciously gringa accent. This confusion is understandable—most American states don't have another country's name thrown in for kicks—no New Sudan for instance. And of course had it not been for the Treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo of 1848, in which Mexico ceded New Mexico to America at the end of the Mexican-American War, I would indeed be a freckly Mexican gringa (national lines come and go, freckles sadly remain).

But food has a way of transcending national boundaries. Tortillas, corn and flour alike, are the great Mexico/New Mexico culinary connector. However, beware 'corn' tortillas on British shelves—these are essentially long-life flour tortillas with a little corn thrown in for colour, and they lack all the charm and personality of real corn tortillas.

Chillies span the border, but New Mexicans culinarily differ from Mexicans in their pathological obsession with hotter-than-average local Anaheim chile cultivars, known simply 'green' or 'red'. Red chile pods are hung up in ristras to dry, and then turned into sauce all year round. Green is flame-roasted, then deep fried in rellenos, draped on pizzas or burgers or whatever, or chopped and turned into a sauce for smothering or dipping. Mexican food varies a lot by region, but tends to involve an assortment of chillies such as serranos, poblanos, jalapenos and habaneros.

Red chile ristras

Green chiles roasting

If any of this sounds appetizing but you live here in London, a galaxy removed from the land of chilli enchantment, don't despair. Likewise don't go looking for it at a restaurant, because it's pretty easy and far more tasty to make it yourself. The ingredients for tortillas couldn't be simpler. And for dipping, you can now buy Anaheims at England's summer chilli festivals, including the Benington Lordship festival in Hertfordshire and the West Dean Gardens Chile Fiesta in Sussex. Or you can pick your own chillies at Edible Ornamentals in Bedfordshire. If you don't fancy trekking out to Herts or Beds or Sussex, Truffle tells me that tortillas are delicious when piled high with Indian vegetables. Or for the sweet-toothed, they are divine when smeared generously with butter and honey.

Finished tortilla

After giving me the treasured tortilla recipe, the Tortilla Queen and I made a batch. Unsurprisingly, hers were like pure down-duvet heaven, and mine were more like bog standard fleece. I asked her what I was doing wrong. She looked me up and down and said with apologetic earnestness that I might be a bit too gringa to ever really excel at tortilla-making. As someone who has gone by such nicknames as 'hey blondie' and 'huera' (a New Mexicanism for 'hey blondie'), I must concede that she has a point. But in my spare time and on my less huera days, I'm still trying for the perfect tortilla.

Thank you so much, Mañana Mama, for sharing your recipe and educating us on New Mexican cuisine! We're going to want that green chilli stew recipe next...

Update: Here is Mañana Mama's green chilli stew recipe!

Regarding stew, ask and you shall receive! It's pretty easy, more of a pinch of this and that than a proper recipe:

Brown about a pound of cubed beef, pork or chicken in butter or oil in a large pot. Add a chopped onion and some minced garlic, then fill the pot with beef, pork or chicken stock (depending on which meat you originally used). Toss in several potatoes (cubed roughly) and carrots (optional). Bring to a simmer. Season to taste with salt, pepper, a dash of cumin, and a dash of oregano. Add healthy helping of chopped green chilli, or red chilli powder (or sauce), depending on your colour preference and what you have available. Keep adding chilli until you reach your desired heat level. Simmer for about an hour, until the potatoes are cooked through and the stock has reduced and thickened. Eat with tortillas.

Chilli stew is a reliable cure for the common cold, and for uncommonly cold weather alike. And while it simmers, it will fill your house with a wonderful, warm aroma.


Monday, November 22

Traveling through Space and Time

Wow, what can I say. I stepped off the plane hours ago this morning, but part of me is still in Davidson, part of me is in an ascending plane above the night lights of Charlotte, part of me is sleeping with twisted neck in a dark cabin lulled by the sound of twin jet engines, and part of me is on the way home in the morning sunlight as Londoners wait on station platforms for their trains to work (pun accidental). Travel refreshes and the jet lag disorients. And so, even after a four-hour nap (during which I dreamt of Cinnamon’s daughter, Chocolate, calling for her uncle), I still feel like I’m in a dream.

I have so much material from the trip that I really don’t know where to start. I’d like to talk about the awesome evening of desserts with our awesome supporters in Davidson, the Southern barbeque lunch with Swiss Chocolate and Roshogolla, the great foodie stuff Cinnamon and I got up to, Cinnamon’s and Prince Charming’s excellent steak and salad dinner cooked for us at home, French toast and pancake breakfasts on the weekend, my American food discoveries… the list goes on.

As I said, I don’t know where to start. But I feel like I should pick whatever feeling most overwhelms me right now. And that’s easy. What I feel most is gratitude for the amazing sister I have, with whom I had such a wonderful time. She’s talented, beautiful, kind and generous. And she somehow manages to combine having a brilliant and innovative organisational brain with a fun feeling for life and a great sense of humour. I was so happy to see her in her environment, with her loving family and her supportive friends. I am truly grateful for the friends she has. I loved meeting you, our Davidson and Charlotte C&T supporters! You guys and Cinnamon have a great positive energy (positive energy is really important to me), and I found it inspirational. Cinnamon herself has inspired me with many ideas – from charity work to discussion groups to trying to cook a Thanksgiving dinner (or at least the parts I like – stuffing and pumpkin pie!). So I have a lot to work with in the upcoming new year. As I said to Autumn Leaf (who still has, I understand, a foodie name pending), I left the law to do something that would resonate with me. And with my amazing sister’s support, I think I’m finding my way.



Friday, November 19

The Very First Cinnamon and Truffle Event!

Truffle is with me in Davidson, NC and we are having a marvelous time! The dessert lesson at the club on Thursday night was a smash hit. There was a small group of seven that congregated at the back of the hot and busy kitchen at the country club and the Chef taught us four dishes: Creme Brulee, Goats Cheese Creme Brulee, Chocolate Souffle, and Bread Pudding.

Here's the recipe for the Creme Brulee.

1 quart heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped (vanilla beans are stored in bags of sugar...)
1 cup vanilla sugar (sugar from bags in which beans are stored...)
1 tbsp vanilla essence
6 egg yolks
2 quarts hot water
Turbinado (aka raw) sugar for browning

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Mix cream, vanilla bean & essence in medium saucepan or aluminum bowl over heat and heat. Remove, cover and allow to sit for 15 mins.

In another bowl, whisk sugar and yolks until blended. Add cream a little at a time, stirring continuously. Pour into 6 (7-8 oz) ramekins. Place ramekins into large cake pan and place in oven. Pour enough hot water onto pan to come halfway up sides of ramekins. Bake 40-45 mins - until brulee is set, but still "trembling." When you shake it, it wobbles like a loose belly that has feasted on lots of creme brulee...

Remove ramekins (careful of hot water on pan!!!) and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.

Remove from fridge 30 mins before browning sugar on top. Spread turbinado sugar evenly on top and torch away with blow torch (purchase from Lowes Home Improvement). Sit for 5 mins before serving.

Extra tip: Burn off bubbles with torch when poured into ramekins to prevent skin from forming.

Enjoy the dessert with dinner party friends and tell them about

Dear friends who attended this first C&T event, I would love to get your perspective of that night! Other readers, please comment with your versions and let's get a compilation of tips on making great creme brulee!


Wednesday, November 17

Plane Food

Before I report on the wonders organised by Cinnamon for my visit, could I just take a moment to talk about airplane food? Seriously, here I am setting off on an exciting adventure – Carolinian barbeque, French crème bruléed by Le Chef and what not else – but before I can get to all of that, I have to be put through a trial. Panicky taxi driver to Victoria station, being asked for extra ID in the check-in queue (“purely routine”, she assured me twice – that’s what made it so suspicious…), and a Cantonese wayang diva at the check-in desk. When the meal service started, having laughed and cried at this comic strip that describes all too well the dining options on Transatlantic flights, I expected “beef or pasta” to look not very different from each other. However, I was surprised.

The last time I flew this airline, the pasta was overcooked and limp, drowned in a watery tomato sauce, and served alongside sugar-high inducing processed carbohydrates. This time, though, the pasta looked attractively liked it had been cooked in an oven, and the beef was juicy (and also free of fat and those weird tendony things that you normally bite into). Both dishes even came with – gasp – a salad! So, things looked like they’d improved. Until I took a bite into the carrot. I should’ve known when my husband said he was putting the salad aside for it to defrost…

So, the veggies didn’t pass my standards. But if you’ve read about my vegetable addiction before, you might suspect that I’d have come prepared. Last night, instead of going to bed early to recover from my cold, I spent a fair bit of time sautéing carrots, courgettes, asparagus and peppers, all in a little bit of olive oil. Together with some brown bread and a fillet of soy sauce salmon from Dr Oz’s book, I’m pretty much covered for this flight. Yes, I’m a bit sleep deprived from all the prep last night, but eating this way has its advantages. First, I’m not feeling overwhelmed by salt in an environment that’s pretty dehydrating as it is - I read recently that airlines add a lot of salt to the food, because taste buds don’t function so well at high altitudes, and they want passengers to think the food tastes good (although you wouldn’t have thought that was an objective airlines had in mind...). Secondly, I don’t have to wait the hours it usually takes the meal service to start. And finally, I feel like, with the prelude of all these veggies, I can enjoy that delicious Southern barbeque and crème brulee with that little bit less guilt!

Can’t wait, Cinnamon!



Monday, November 15

Creme Brulee

Great news! Truffle is coming to visit me in Davidson, NC! She arrives in a couple of days and will be here through the weekend. I have been excitedly planning fun foodie things for us to do together. In addition to trying out various Southern dishes and traipsing through the country side to take photos of barns and water tanks, on the itinearary is a cooking lesson at our country club. I have invited my blog-reading friends to join us for the evening of "Learn to Make Desserts with Cinnamon & Truffle." But, neither Cinnamon nor Truffle will be teaching, it will be The Chef at the club.

One dessert that I have requested The Chef to teach us is my all time favorite - Creme Brulee. I first discovered my love for Creme Brulee at the staff canteen at Flemings. I started my career at Flemings in London, then one of Britain's blue blooded investment banks, well known in Asia for its joint venture with Jardine Matheson, Jardine Fleming. I was a bright faced, smiling young girl who loved working in the City in my tailored suits and my string of pearls. I don't think I quite realized how fortunate I was to have landed the job.

It was a special place to work at. In honor of its Scottish roots, the day always started at 7:30 am with bag pipe music floating up through the seven-story atrium of metal and glass where each floor was lined with Scottish art. Building security was manned by retired Scottish guards and there were a couple who could play the bag pipes, and it was their duty to help instill and remind us of the pomp and splendor of glories past. Lunch time was always looked forward to by its employees. The young graduates would plan to meet at the canteen most days. Lunch was a choice of three main dishes (one always vegetarian), a large salad bar, side vegetables, and a dessert bar. It was at that bar that I discovered my love. Did I mention that lunch was a benefit to all employees at no charge? Yes, and the senior folks had their own canteen, called The Director's Table. You were served at your table in that room. Too busy for lunch? No worries, you could order sandwiches that would be delivered to your floor in a paper bag with an apple or banana to boot.

So, since those early days, I have earnestly looked for creme brulee of the same standard. Sometimes I find it, and most often I don't. Room temperature custard, almost warm, creamy, with a sweet, crusty top the color of brown glass. Tap, tap, and you crunch through it into its depth. The problem with creme brulee in the U.S. is that it is often too cold in the middle. I was discussing this with The Chef the other day and he reckoned it was because they use ramekins that are too deep. "It has to be shallow enough that the custard gets warmed up when you use the blow torch to create the crust." Let's see if he can do it this Thursday evening at the club.

Dear Truffle, I look forward to your visit! Don't forget to bring your camera!


The art work is by Peploe, from the collection of art from the Fleming Art Collection that was originally housed in the building that I worked in many years ago....

Tuesday, November 9

Kaju Katli yields an Indian Rice Pudding

I’m ashamed to say I didn’t celebrate Deepavali this year. It’s an odd series of events that leads to this result almost every year. It starts off with not knowing when Deepavali actually is. This is because it doesn’t fall on the same day each year, and different people will give you different dates if you ask. So, I usually wait to hear the ‘official’ date from my mother. This year, she too was out of touch with the dates, having spent the last few months in Europe. At some point, I figured I ought to find the date, went onto a few websites, failed to find one consistent date, gave up, and forgot. And so it came to be that only my younger sister Rice Krispie celebrated it, by going to a 20-something London house party in Shad Thames with booming bhangra music on a Saturday night.

But seriously, it’s not that bad! The significance of Deepavali/Diwali varies across the Subcontinent. In some parts, it’s the biggest festival of the year and it marks the New Year. In parts of the South though, while it’s still one of the key festivals, the biggest one of the year is Pongal, a harvest festival in January (and there’s a separate New Year in April). Kind of makes sense – in tropical dry climates, light and warmth are important, whereas in tropical wet climates where rice grows, harvest is really important. And Deepavali/Diwali has probably acquired its international stature by virtue of being the highest common factor among the Indian diaspora.

I admit that, reading Cinnamon’s post, the point at which I started feeling sad about having missed Deepavali was when I got to the kaju katli. It reminded me of going to Drummond Street last year, to source some Indian sweets for a Deepavali gathering I was having at home. The sweet shop was full of jelabees, jhangiri, halwa, cashew burfi, milk burfi, samosas and pakoras. There was something really warm and satisfying about buying sweets for family and friends coming home. It feels even better when you make something too. And here is a recipe for the sweet pongal I made last year, if anyone’s up for trying an Indian rice pudding!

1. Cook 1 cup of uncooked white rice with 3 cups of water. (I used brown rice for the health kick, but then you’ll need more water.)

2. Cook ½ cup of uncooked yellow dhal with 1 cup of water.

3. Once rice and dhall are cooked, mix the two together over a medium flame and add a few tablespoons of palm sugar to taste. (I found palm sugar crystals in the supermarket, but palm sugar syrup from an Asian supermarket might be a more fragrant choice.)

4. Add ½ a cup of milk to the mixture and stir. If the mixture looks too thick, add more milk. (Use full fat milk, not skimmed milk like I did…) Keep stirring so that the milk doesn’t burn. Add a pinch of salt.

5. Meanwhile, in a separate pan, fry the following in some ghee or butter: a handful of cashew nuts, sultanas, 2 or 3 cardamom pods (crushed) and a few strands of saffron. Add this to the rice/dhall mixture.

6. Keep stirring the mixture, adding milk as needed. After about 30 minutes it should thicken (and resemble a rice pudding).

7. Enjoy!



Sunday, November 7

Celebrating Deepavali

Deepavali, aka Diwali, is Hindu Christmas. So, a pretty big deal, if you think about it. Ethnically Indian, married to an American of Indian heritage for 10 years with two beautiful children, we had not celebrated Deepavali as a family ever... until this year, thanks to Rhoshogolla. Rhoshogolla is a lovely young girl from Bengal who works as a outsourced programmer who has been "insourced" or implanted within the company in Charlotte. A pretty girl with large dark eyes, she has taken upon herself to bring India closer to me or at least to remind me of my heritage. Thanks to her, I have now seen two Hindi films this year, tried out a few Indian restaurants in Charlotte, and celebrated Deepavali after 20 years.

A couple of weeks ago, Rhosh suggested that we gather a small group and head out to Maharani for Deepavali lunch on Friday, the 5th of November. I happily obliged and sent out an Outlook invitation to the group. A few days before Deepavali, Rhosh checked in again to find out what I had planned for Deepavali. "Err, nothing really" was my honest answer. "Why don't you get those clay diyas and get the kids to paint them before you light them? I used to enjoy that as a child myself." Excellent suggestion! I dutifully trotted off to the Indian grocery store on Wednesday night. In addition to the diyas, I also bought a big box of jelabees (deep fried rings of orange dough dipped in sticky syrup) and my son's favorite, kaju katli (cashew based milk squares). The kaju katli made it to Deepavali but the jelabees didn't. They were pretty good! Crispy, light, sticky sweet and reminiscent of grand parties in Chennai.

This seemingly small suggestion started snowballing into a detailed and delegated event. Prince Charming was given the job of getting everyone new clothes and our nanny was given the task of getting the painting project going. I managed to also pick up a beautiful cinnamon roll embedded with walnuts from the Great Harvest Bread Company in Charlotte the day of, and the evening was a success though slightly chaotic. I made it back after 6 PM, and ran around the house clearing up the pantry which houses our prayer room and polishing the silver oil lamps. Made a platter of cinnamon roll, kaju katli and some grapes, played some Indian prayer music on Youtube and ceremoniously handed out the new clothes. After quick showers and a change into our new clothes, we were all piled back in the pantry room. A little prayer was said and it was time to light the painted diyas. We all took turns and even five-year old chocolate lit one with her father holding her hand. We sat down around the platter of lamps and read a couple of Deepavali stories. A tradition was born in Davidson, North Carolina, thanks to Rhoshogolla.


Tuesday, November 2

The Power of DNA

Our cousin from the Land of Oz visited us with his girlfriend last week. The last time we'd met was three years ago at my wedding. In the intervening period, while I remembered that my cousin and I shared an interest in music and guitars, I had kinda forgotten that we shared a passion for food as well! My cousin, Musical Chef (an engineer in real life), and his brother are fantastic cooks, and it turns out that his girlfriend, Foodie Doctor, is too. By a stroke of luck before their arrival, I had planned (as our first sight-seeing outing) a trip to Borough Market, one of London's famous food and produce markets. I myself hadn't been to Borough Market in more than two years, so it was great to see some of my old favourites again.

It's amazing how much looking at London with visitors can open your own eyes to it. Suddenly, I wasn’t feeling so blasé about being 20 minutes away from a sprawling market nestled under criss-crossing bridges near the Thames. We strolled amongst large iron pans with rabbit casseroles cooking over flames, steel drums of mulled wine, shelves of bottled beers and ales from around the world, elaborate displays of fresh seafood (including an octopus clinging to a rock, below a crayfish whose claws swayed from side to side), mountains of fragrant chocolate brownies and loaves of bread, wheels of cheese boasting various months of ageing, bright berries tumbling out of their punnets, extensive displays of vegetables and enormous mushrooms, frying chorizo and grilling bratwurst… all while Foodie Doctor snapped pictures of the food, the crowds and of us.

It was a heady morning. We tasted various samples on offer, and we slowly collected a feast for breakfast the next day. And thus it was that, on Saturday morning, after enjoying a few cups of tea from our wedding china, we settled down to the breakfast you see in the photo. (In our defense, I will say that we had gone to bed at 3 a.m. the night before, after a memorable jamming session with Musical Chef on acoustic guitar, me on electric guitar and my sister Rice Krispie on keyboards. So, we were hungry!) We had assembled: a 22-month aged Comté and a melting Époisses from France; slices of Parma, a large ball of Mozzarella and an Ubriaco matured in red wine from Italy; good old British sausages (curiously named ‘Boston sausages’) and a pork pie; sweet German mustard to accompany the sausages; a variety of mushrooms (which Foodie Doctor sautéed with butter, garlic and sage); and a dulce de leche from Argentina. To all of these treasures from Borough Market, we added Gentlemen’s Relish (an anchovy paste I’d picked up last week from a nearby deli), Pain de Campagne from my local French bakery, Irish breakfast tea (purchased in Dublin in the summer), and orange juice from Florida.

The Époisses is one of my favourite cheeses. It’s an unpasteurised cow’s milk cheese from Burgundy, which is washed in the local brandy (marc de Bourgogne) as it matures. This leaves it with an alluring, sharp nose, and a flavour that’s part brandy and part sweet garlic. Take it out of the fridge about half an hour before eating and spread it over toasted crusty bread. I’m also a fan of Comté, another unpasteurised cow’s milk cheese. This hard cheese is good with almost any bread, but you might go for something white, so that you can appreciate the grainy texture of the Comté. Imho, the best Comté has a firmness closer to parmesan than to edam or cheddar.

While the weekend was wonderful for all the experiences we shared, it also made me slightly sad that so much of my family lives so far away. Cases in point being Musical Chef living all the way away in Sydney and Cinnamon being in North Carolina. Just imagine the weekly cooking and jamming sessions we could all have if we lived in the same city! I was also amazed that, despite Musical Chef and my sisters and I not having met each other all that often (a few times as children and a grand total of three times as grown-ups), all of us just connect. Not least on the planes of food and music. There you have it, I thought, the power of DNA.




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