Saturday, 6 November 2010

Let’s spice it up!

I am coming from a family of good cooks (modesty, uh?), yet each individual has her own style. 

Grandma is THE ultimate Palace cook, her house is where you go to BURST OUT eating, where you go for any traditional extremely delicious dish. When we used to go there, her house, the kitchen, is simply plundered- oooooo glorious army of my family! When they used to come visit us and my aunt's family, she is usually the subject of discussion regarding her accommodation. Of course, every smart human being would fight to have her in her house. I just cannot understand how she managed to manage us when we begged her not to cook her best dishes in the “rival” home. Good old days, always remembered fondly…

Then comes my mum: Her style is  “smart-casual”. She is creative and can make wonders in limited time as usually she is the last one to be informed when someone from the family has a visitor for dinner. This is a talent. This is a talent. Anything she cooks is always delicious, always “a su punto” (ready to enjoy perfectly), always tastes like mum and always satisfying- I cannot describe it, I can just feel it.

Then comes my sister: She is a new comer in the kitchen, starting with the easy-to-cook meals. Speciality: Pasta sauces and bakery (well, I have not tried the bakery part but I have been told a lot). She is very talented at presentation: Setting the table, with the tiniest details.

Then credits to my aunt: Coming from the same ecole of Grandma, but more like a older-sister style. Delicious again, especially the sweet sponge cake.

And finally: It is me. One adapts to life changes, right? I knew how to cook, what to cook and I used to cook only for myself; which was pretty ordinary and same dish, yet I was happy. While living alone, why bother with the complex dish? I could have it outside, so leave the simple one to my solitude. I would not get bored if I keep eating the same dish 3 days in a row (one detail: the dish must be a vegetable dish cooked with olive oil) And I was more of a tapas type… (Madrid tapas tips available upon request) Then I got married and the cooking sessions started. I believe I am improving each day. I want to cook, I love cooking and I love it even more when my husband likes the menu. I have some books, which I consult for some recipes, not to mention a handful of phone calls each day with mum: “Mum, how long do I need to soak the lentils?” or “Mum, why does this rice look so stiff and messy?” or “Mum, I have some meat, leeks and bread crumbles: what would you cook with these three? Oh, just asking out of curiosity…”

Anyway, recently I have decided to add some variation to my style: More spices, exotic ones. I cannot deny the contribution of spice to the dish. Now I am into the exotic ones: the ones I have not used, seen, tasted. One of the latest discoveries: Pomegranate powder- might not be new for you but it is for me. I add it to almost everything, in the end I am experimenting (and learning): Yesterday it was in the soup, today I used it with the potatoes (no worries, the result was good. Yet, I think I should used it less sparingly next time, to see the real effect). Just to give you an idea, pomegranate powder is like sumac, a bit more tingy that sumac, red and does not taste like pomegranate at all!

And where did I discover this spice, among mulled wine spice, green cardamom, coffee cinnamon, something cumin, spices for tagine, whose names I cannot remember and now I am too lazy to go to kitchen to find out? In Borough Market.

Another place I love going on Saturdays. It is an open air bazaar where vendors sell regional British, European, Middle Eastern and Latin American products, ranging from fresh fish, Mexican spices, organic wine or saucissons. Some of them you can even eat there, for example, breakfast with raclette or lunch with paella, or you just buy and enjoy at home.  I am happy there! Not that I am such a food person, but I can find some items that I used to have in Madrid there or even some Latin American treasures, like alfajores or dulche de leche. So my latest discovery is this spice stall, which took me 1,5 hours to check the spices, ask their uses, taste them and talk to the ladies selling them about their uses.
Yes, my kitchen is now full of these tiny boxes!

The result: Many new dishes to be tried for my nouvelle "daring" cuisine!

Thanks to the kind vendor lady for letting me take the pics

Unarguably one of the most universal things: Music

In my previous post, I talked about my love for the music. Summary: I love music and I have a particular interest for getting to know music of different cultures.

Now I want to share something special for me, related to music:
There is a place in Covent Garden, downstairs in the main hall. There is a restaurant and a couple of shops, cafes around it. There is a sitting area with a couple of tables, which belongs to the restaurant. It is usually hard to find a free table to sit, so you need to wait. The restaurant has delicious food but, I think, why that restaurant is so popular is because …. It is where some classical music artists, sopranos or tenors have their mini-performances! The music they perform is familiar:  Four Seasons, The Barber of Seville, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, West Side Story…. And as soon as they start, people gather around: Watching them from upstairs, downstairs, on the tables, on sideways. It is a genuine real time show! And it is an interactive show- they come to your table, make jokes with you, look you directly in the eye and mimic your facial expressions. You eat good food, have your wine and enjoy the wonderful music by being part of it with other people coming from different countries, speaking different languages (owing to the fact that Covent Garden is a very touristic place) but you unite in music, or better, in the universality of the music. You might not speak Japanese but you share the joy of listening to Hungarian Dances with your Japanese neighbour standing next to you. So it is music, that unites, that lifts the boundaries.

All in itself, music is a special thing, but also the performer has a great share in the success of it. When watching them sing, act, smile, their eyes, changing pitch of their voice…. you simply understand and get carried away into a different world.

There is a couple among these performers. They come with their baby and a young lady looking after the baby. (it is a BABY- so “baby” that you cannot see her/him under the blanket). Anyway, mum and dad start performing, people watch them dazzled. It is obvious that they enjoy what they do so much that the joy that you have out of this performance increases, just by seeing them- having their electricity giving you goosebumps.

That's Amore from Dino 

Singing Maria from The West Side Story 
Find me in the picture?!
This couple is now familiar to my family: My parents were visiting us when we went there, then came my sister and we were there again… Maybe we are also familiar to them?
Next group- Singing, playing and dancing at the same time, so excuse the blurry picture as I was also singing, dancing and ummmmm, clapping!
So this activity is one of my favourites here. I am a new Londoner, I am still trying to get used to here and I must confess, I feel Madrid is still Number 1 for me, or let’s say, I do not have such strong attachments for London YET, but we are getting used to each other ( this is another story).
Did I mention the food? Oh yes, I had my share!
All British cheese 
Now I have a list in my head: A couple of my friends that I am going to take to see this. Of course, everyone is welcome but there is ONE- who knows herself- when she comes here, I imagine our days will be exhaustive!

Tirinam tirinam

Muzigi cok severim; kim sevmez ki? Ben buyudukce, zevklerim daha “rafine” olmaya basladikca daha da sevdim muzigi. Once “ daha dun annemizin kollari”yla “bir kucuk aslancik” girdi hayatima, sonra tingir mingir, “pop” geldi; Sezen Aksu, Nilufer, Askin Nur Yengi, Tarkan ve daha bircogu…. ardindan klasik muzik ile tanistim babam sayesinde. Ilkokula ilk basladigim sene, mesleki bir egitim icin Amerika’ya gitmisti uzunca bir sure, geldiginde ise bana 20 kadar (!) Barbie- cennetttttt!!!!!- ve bir suru baska ivir zivirin yaninda, CD player ve onlarca klasik muzik CDsi getirmisti. “Yeni Dunya” evimizdeydi artik!!!! O zamanlarin pazar kahvaltilari hala gozumun onunde, yediklerimin tadi damagimda… (Insan zihni nasil da ilginc calisiyor: Yesil zeytin ile Bach’in sonatlarini baglayabiliyor, yoksa o benim zihnim mi?! )

Zaman gecti anadolu lisesi, Inglizce ogreniyoruz- muzik zevkimiz de uluslararasi (aslinda sadece Amerika ve Ingiltere ile sinirliymis, sonradan anladim) oldu artik ve hayatima Queen girdi. Surekli Queen dinliyorum sari Sony walkman’imde (evet, o da Amerika’dan), kardesim, ben ve Walkman’im bayram resmi cektiriyoruz…

Daha da buyudum, lise, universite- elbette U2 girdi hayatima, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Placebo… derken Ispanyolca sayfasi, aslinda fasikulu, basladi ve ben Latin alemine de acildim.  Hem dil ogreniyorum, hem tirinam tirinam muzikler… Daha sonra hayatimin Ispanya’si basladi ve ondan sonra aldi gitti basini…

Is hayati ile dunyanin bircok yerine seyahatler ve kesfedilen yeni muzikler: Ne dediklerini anliyor muyum? Hayir. Ama merakli miyim? Elbette ki evet! Cin’den Gana’ya, Portekiz’den Israil’e kadar bircok ulkeden alinmis bir suru CD’yi saniyorum “malvarligim”in bir parcasi olarak nitelendirebilirim.
Elbette ki, duydugunuz sarkinin sozlerini anlamak sizi muzigin icine daha fazla aliyor ama sozlerini anlamadiginiz sarki da hayal gucunuze yardim etmiyor mu? Ben hep dusunurum sozlerini anlayamadigim bir sarki dinledigimde “Acaba ne diyor? Sevgilisine mi kiziyor? Yoksa kopegini ozledigini mi anlatiyor?” Sansliysam, yanimda o sarkiyi anlayan biri varsa hemen sorarim “Nedir?” ve bazen dusunduklerim ile yakindan uzaktan ilgisi olmayan konuda oldugunu ogrenirim. Mesela “Ayy.. cok icten soyluyor, herhalde sevgilisini ozlemis….” diye dusunurken, megerse san’atci sabah yedigi misirli lapanin sekerinin fazla oldugundan sikayet ediyormus! Evet, hayat surprizlerle doludur!

Yazi uzadi, asil anlatmak istedigim: Muzik guzeldir! Muzik candir! Insana baska dunyalari kesfettirir, hayal gucunu gelistrir. Benim muziksiz bir gunum, hatta saatim gecmez! Ipod sag olsun, sonra evimize yeni kurdugumuz muzik sistemi (TV, radyo, bilgisayar playlisti, Ipod ve Iphone muziklerini kapsayan bir system- eveeettt, teknoloji cok gelisMIS) ve de babamin bana verdigi en guzel hediyelerden biri olan 178.000 sarkilik (Dunyada 178.000 sarki var miymis?!) muzik ansiklopedisi sag olsun!

178.000 aslinda biraz zorluyor! Her gun “hiimmm.. bugun nasil hissediyorum? Ne dinlemek isterim acaba? Dur bi’ bakayim suna” deyip, icinde kayboluyorum. E ne de olsa acim kesfetmeye! Istek parcaniz?