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

No comments: