Cooking Outside My Culture?
Is it possible to cook outside one’s culture?
The eating is easy. We love the exotic food of others – new flavours and combinations, new associations of history and memory. For example, I love cooking the food of India. I love to recognise the Persian influence in northern Indian cuisine, I love to cross-over ingredients, I love to prepare (what I call) Indian food. And of course it is my right to do so but I do wonder whether Amrik say, of the Jasmin restaurant here in Adelaide, would recognise this food as his cultural heritage! (No need to wonder what he would say, of course, as Amrik is the epitome of grace and politeness.)
My mother is French from Algeria and couscous was a ritual celebration and treat. It took her a day to make the "grain" before it could be bought in packets at the supermarket (with “value added” flavourings, if one chose). It is soooo delicious. I do have a wee chuckle when I see what can be done badly with couscous – soggy and tasteless. (A post on preparing couscous coming up.)
So I’ve been playing with Japanese dishes. The Chawan-mushi wins me everytime. At home, it can use up some of the eggs from our three hens. For the dashi (stock made of bonito flakes & wakame seaweed) see Google or substitute chicken or vegetable stock. Instant dashi, like instant coffee crystals, is available, but I leave this up to you.
Chawan-mushi (for 4 people)
250 ml dashi, 3 eggs
1 tsp mirin, 1 tsp soy sauce
2 shiitake mushrooms, 8 medium, peeled green prawns
1 spring onion
Beat all ingredients together without causing too much foam. Strain it through a fine sieve to ensure silkiness. Slice the mushrooms, discarding the stem. Halve the prawns. Slice spring onion diagonally.
Divide prawns & mushrooms between 4 cups that will fit your steamer situation. Pour over the egg mixture and arrange a few spring onion slices on top.
Steam gently, covered, for about 15 minutes. When firm but still tender, remove from the steamer, rest for a couple of minutes then serve hot (with a teaspoon).
Steaming is a gentle heat so I safely cook the Chawan-mushi in (c.1910) Wedgwood teacups.
5/10/2017 06:19:14 pm
It is easy to obtain the ingredients for the Bonito and seaweed stocks.
5/10/2017 09:38:18 pm
Please. A post on preparation of couscous as soon as possible. I am quite a good home cook, but this most simple of grains reduces me to tears whenever I attempt to cook it: most recently, last Saturday.
9/10/2017 03:33:41 pm
Thanks for that. I'll get onto couscous very soon.
6/10/2017 07:33:57 am
Thanks, Max, for this helpful direction. Little Tokyo in the Central Market is also a good source (and nice people who'll read the packets for you).
8/10/2017 03:00:44 pm
Merci for your blog Catherine. If only I could write such short pieces, ideal for the medium I tend to go on and on.
9/10/2017 03:32:23 pm
I write short pieces John, because I'm not a professional writer like you. I also write short pieces because I fear we're all losing our power of concentration. After the Chawan-mushi, try making Okonomiyake. A great way with cabbage!
11/10/2017 06:35:41 pm
I also have three hens! I started off with six eight years ago and sadly, one by one they have made the one way trip to the vet. There is a sympathy card sent by the practice sitting on my mantelpiece, which was a nice gesture, as this particular hen was much loved and very gentle. I always have speckled hens as I love their beautiful plumage and enjoy eating the brown eggs they produce. The eldest hen is still laying every day, which is pretty good considering her age. I recently bought two youngsters so that she wouldn't be lonely but it's been WW3 as she doesn't play nicely! I found your blog today and I'm enjoying it immensely. Do you own a rectangular Japanese omelette pan? I'm trying to track one down in the UK. The antique china looks wonderful, but sadly one can't put it in the dishwasher, so being a lazy slut, I end up displaying it and use the white modern stuff. Adding manufacturers' names and date the china and glassware was produced makes your photo's so much more interesting. I don't think any other cookery writer does that. I have bought all Jamie Oliver's books and watch his programmes. The latest one is about using only five ingredients. Unfortunately he has the same annoying habit as Donald Trump, of putting his forefinger and thumb together, which makes me want to smack him in the face. Keep up the good work. Finding your blog today has enriched my life. (Yes, I know I should really get out more) Best wishes.
14/10/2017 03:05:01 pm
Lovely to hear from you. Yes, I've had a Japanese rectangular copper pan for years but up until now, I hadn't mastered the pushing and folding action. I'm trying to prefect it. (Try to get one on line.)
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