Saturday, July 24, 2010

Arctic Cuisine on I Cook the World

In the mood for a some muskox?  Check out my blog entry on Arctic Cuisine at I Cook the World.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Historical Cooking Classes

Part 1 (in an ongoing series)

I love studying food anthropology, the history of food and its societal and political meaning and influence.  It really is one of the most enjoyable ways to learn about a culture.  Check out my blog I Cook the World as I make dishes from every country on Earth in a very tasty education.

I've begun researching cooking classes designed to teach us a little history.  The first classes I found in the search are held in historic venues, using centuries-old recipes, historically correct ingredients, cooking tools, and methods.  Exactly what I'm looking for in this type of class.  This is Part 1 of an ongoing series on Truffles, Chestnuts, Cherries.  If you've taken an historical cooking class, I'd love to hear about your experience.

Southwestern Pennsylvania's Woodville Plantation was the home of one of Pittsburgh's wealthiest families, The Nevilles, from 1780 to 1814.  Seasonal cooking classes are held in the original kitchen at Woodville using recipes from the The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse.  This cookbook was first published in England in 1747. Glasse's story is a poignant tale of a woman's struggle to earn a living in 18th Century England.  Glasse fell on hard financial times after the death of her husband, which forced her to sell the copyright to her book.  She even spent several months in debtor's prison.  Though she wrote two other books after The Art of Cookery, neither achieved the wild popularity of her first work.   Flip through some of the pages of this cookbook at Amazon.   It is very possible that recipes, recipts or receipts as they were called at the time, from The Art of Cookery were used in the Woodville household.

Woodville Plantation Kitchen
At one point, John Neville had 21 slaves registered to the Woodville Plantation so there is little doubt it was the slaves who were doing the cooking in the kitchen. Makes me so sad to even write the word slave. In fact, it makes me physically ill.  I hope the people who organize the cooking series find a way to incorporate the culinary input of the slaves into future classes.  As we know, this input was significant throughout the United States.

Here is an excerpt from Hannah's book on how to make an inexpensive gravy:

If you go to Market the Ingredients will not come to above Half a Crown; or, for Eighteen-pence you may make as much good Gravy as will serve twenty People. Take twelve Pennyworth of coarse lean Beef, which will be six or seven Pounds, cut it into a little Pot or large deep Stew-pan, and put in your Beef: Keep stirring it, and when it begins to look a little Brown pour in a Pint of boiling Water; stir it together, put in a large Onion, a Bundle of Sweet Herbs, two or three Blades of Mace, five or six Cloves, a Spoonful of Whole Pepper, a Crust of Bread toasted, and a Piece of Carrot; then pour in four or five Quarts of Water, stir all together, cover close, and let it stew till it is as rich as you would have it; when enough, strain it off, mix with it two or three Spoonfuls of Catchup, and Half a Pint of White Wine, then put all the Ingredients together again, and put in two Quarts of boiling Water, cover it close and let it boil till there is about a Pint; strain it off well, add it to the first, and give it a boil all together. This will make a great deal of rich good Gravy.
The BBC 4 did a documentary on Hannah Glasse in 2007 hosted by Clarrisa Dickson Wright of Two Fat Ladies fame.

Upcoming classes at Woodville include carrot puffs in autumn and Cheshire Pork Pie in winter.  If Cheshire Pork Pie wasn't served at Woodville, I bet something quite similar was served up using a Neville family recipe.  Would love to know if any of the historic recipes from the Woodville kitchen are available, either from the Nevilles or the subsequent owners the Cowan family.  Cowan descendants lived at Woodville from 1816 to 1975.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Chef Omar Allibhoy Checks in with Us!

How wonderful to wake up to an e.mail from Chef Omar Allibhoy today, as the Tapas Revolution continues to roll through England.  It is going to be so much fun following them on this journey.  Very imaginative use of crisps in Manchester!

From Chef Omar:

Well, we have endured some heavy conditions and had to drive our silly bikes through floods in Liverpool.  Finally we reach Manchester, a beautiful vibrant place.  This is home to students in England so we came here to find them and teach them how easy Spanish cooking is even for the lazy!!  So, I invited any students down to a local park where I teach them my special lazy boy tortilla.  Just use crisps (I think you call chips in America) instead of having to chop up potatoes finely or in a mandolin.  Just ordinary crisps but they have to be ready salted!! and hey presto beautiful tortilla in minutes and no fuss.  I will post full recipe in blog later today.

On Saturday we will take over a local fish n chip shop in Grimsby and show them spanish style battered fish. Maybe some lovely calamari fritta with some aioli And patatas bravas.

Check out the blog Eat Like A Girl for a great piece on Omar and the Tapas Revolution.  The writer Niamh has some wonderful images up on her blog.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Revolution will be Motorized!

I am energized by anyone's enthusiasm for teaching others about food. This summer nobody beats the excitement I feel for Spanish Chef Omar Allibhoy's great Tapas Revolution!

Chef Allibhoy and his friend Dani Sancho, are blazing through England on motorbikes bringing tapas to the people. Allibhoy drew the letter T across a map of England and this is the path they are following. With pans, a burner, tent and sleeping bag strapped to their bikes, they are on a journey to teach people about the beauty of Spanish food through tapas. They'll cook for you if you give them a call or send an e.mail. They use local ingredients and ask people to bring plates, utensils and something to drink. I would love to see an organic farm along this tapas trail invite the guys to cook using ingredients just pulled from the earth.

Seriously, you just have to call! How can anyone not love the pure joy of this adventure?

Allibhoy has quite a cooking pedigree. He was trained by Spanish master Ferran Adria of El Bulli and worked under Jason Atherton at Ramsay's Maze restaurant. Allibhoy is now Head Chef at El Pirata de Tapas in Westbourne Grove.

I wouldn't expect this trip to run smoothly most of the time. Will make for some very entertaining reading on the website. Here's an excerpt:

We arrive in Liverpool. We buy ingredients. We go to Anfield! We make pinchos. A drunk man with black teeth says I look like a Franciss Rossi in Status Quo??? Two “chavs” say I stink. An old lady with union jack bag doesn’t like foreign food. Builders at the stadium stop working and eat with us. It rains. It rains harder. We call a newspaper and offer to cook. We find a campsite and I cook for the campers....

I'm sent an e.mail to Chef Allibhoy, wanting some word from the road on the reception he's receiving and what he's prepared to date. Check out his site for contact information and a map of his travels. If you are lucky enough to set up a cooking class with Chef Allibhoy, let me know and send pics!

Image at the top is of Dani and Omar from left to right.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Cooking in Normandy with Susan Herrmann Loomis

photo by Michael Loomis
For most people a vacation means an escape from the kitchen. Not me. I can think of no better way to spend my vacation than in a cooking class. Cooking classes are one of the very best ways to learn about any region you are visiting. You learn about and use local ingredients in recipes taught by people who usually know the region well. Extended classes often offer the chance to meet local food and wine makers and learn about what goes into their craft. Many are committed to preserving traditional methods of production.

Susan Herrmann Loomis
I’ve never met Susan Herrmann Loomis but like so many who began following her career after reading On Rue Tatin, I feel I know her. We share a love of writing and a love of cooking with local ingredients. We both respect and work to preserve the best of our collective past and embrace all good things that support and enhance what and whom we love. Having an opportunity to cook side-by-side with Susan would make me very, very happy.

Lucky for you and me, Susan holds cooking classes in France. Most are at held in her own home, whose restoration is the core of her book On Rue Tatin. A chance to cook in an exquisitely restored 15th Century home! I read the 5-day course description on her Web site and immediately imagined myself in Normandy, where she lives in the town of Louviers. I make great use of spirits in my cooking and love using calvados, the apple brandy produced in the Lower Normandy region. What a treat it would be to take Susan's 5-day course and tour the Normandy region.

The 5-day course includes cooking classes, meetings with local men and women who create some of the best food and drink in the region, a trip to a farmers market as well as a day in the town of Rouen. Rouen is your place if you like to shop for antiques or the pottery for which this town is quite famous.

People in America, have a few chances to cook with Susan as she travels the country on a tour for her latest book Nuts in the Kitchen in 2010. Frankly, anyone who has ever been under pressure in the kitchen should get a laugh from the possible double meaning of the book's title! The book really is about cooking with all types of nuts, with recipes Susan collected from all over the world. You can check out her American class schedule on her Web site, as well. Susan also offers classes in Paris throughout the year.

Here is a sample class menu from her Web site:

Beet Soup with Cream Clouds
Wood-fire Grilled Marinated Pork Chops
Braised Coco Blanc with Garlic
Salad with an Almond Oil Vinaigrette
Locally and Artisanally made Goat Cheeses
Caramelized Oranges with Candied Zest Biscotti

Susn Herrmann Loomis' recipe for Pear and Honey Clafoutis

Serves 6 -8

This clafoutis is unique — with the honey and the egg whites, it makes a richly flavored, elegant dessert. Comice pears are ideal, though any perfectly ripe, fragrant pear makes a delicious clafoutis.

3 large pears (1- ½ pounds;750g total) pears, peeled, cored, and cut in sixths
1/3 cup (5 tablespoons;75ml) mild but perfumed liquid honey, such as lavender
4 large eggs
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons (115g) flour
¼ cup (50g) sugar
Pinch fine sea salt
1 cup (250ml) milk
4 tablespoons (60g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the caramel
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons water
Preheat the oven 400°F (200°C). Butter and flour an 11-inch (27-½ cm) round baking dish.
Arrange the pears in an attractive pattern in the baking dish. Drizzle them evenly with the honey.

Separate three of the eggs. In a large bowl mix the flour, all but 1 tablespoon of the sugar, and the salt. Make a well in the center and add the three egg yolks and the one whole egg. Reserve the egg whites. Whisk together the egg yolks and the whole egg, add the milk, then gradually whisk in the dry ingredients to make a smooth batter. Quickly but thoroughly whisk in the melted butter.

Whisk the egg whites with a small pinch of salt until they are foamy. Add the remaining tablespoon of sugar and continue whisking until soft peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the batter, then pour the batter over the pears. Bake in the center of the oven until the clafoutis is puffed and golden, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool.
To make the caramel, heat the tablespoon of sugar with the water in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally to evenly distribute the sugar, until the mixture turns a deep golden brown, which will take 3 to 5 minutes. Don’t stir the sugar, which might encourage it to crystallize, just rotate the pan so the sugar and water caramelize evenly. When the sugar has caramelized, drizzle it over the top of the clafoutis. Wait about 5 minutes so the caramel hardens, then serve.