So much for my good intentions, once again, with managing to put up regular In My Kitchen posts – still, I’m here now. This monthly sharing is hosted by my friend Celia over at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial so do head over there to check out every one else’s kitchen.
Subscribe to Lambs' Ears and Honey
I’m not going to beat about the bush with this review of “Backyard Bees – A Guide for the Beginner Beekeeper” by Doug Purdie (Murdoch Books, 2014) – I absolutely love this gorgeous, comprehensive and timely book about backyard beekeeping.
Subscribe to Lambs' Ears and Honey
The late Carl Sagan, renowned American astronomer, astrophysicist and cosmologist once said that “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” Well that’s a little too fundamental for a lazy cook like me, but with Stéphane Reynaud’s new book, “Pies and Tarts” (Murdoch Books), I have at last stepped away from the freezer and produced my own pâte feuilletée. Or puff pastry, as I like to call it.
Subscribe to Lambs' Ears and Honey
Again with the kitchen posts? Who’d have thought it? I’m going to try for the trifecta this year – but don’t hold your breath! But seriously, for a wonderful peek in kitchens all over Australia head over to Celia’s place at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial where much more reliable bloggers than yours truly manage this kind of thing regularly!
Subscribe to Lambs' Ears and Honey
I’ve been a fan of Serge Dansereau’s ever since I ate at his iconic Sydney restaurant, The Bather’s Pavillion, about ten years ago and was struck by the freshness and vibrancy of his food. A Canadian by birth and now an Australian citizen who has been a leader on our culinary scene for over 30 years, Serge has been called ‘the father of the fresh food movement’. His long-held conviction that great food needs quality ingredients led him to be one of our first chefs to seek out and encourage the production of new and emerging varieties of fresh produce, blazing the trail for all those who value the diverse, high-quality, seasonal produce that is found so much more easily today.
Serge’s “Seasonal Kitchen” is his most recent book and is another lovely hard-backed edition from ABC Books and Harper Collins Australia. It features beautiful images from William Meppem (who has worked on several of Dansereau’s previous books) and focuses on the seasonal Australian produce which inspires him, with recipes grounded in his classical cooking techniques, but which embrace the wider world. Under the influence of the cuisines of China, India, Europe, the Middle East and South-East Asia Serge shows us how to take a modern-day dish and turn it from a good recipe to a great one, no matter the season. Following a tried-and-true format, Serge takes us through each of the seasons in turn, highlighting the best produce of each and using his skills to help us make the most of them. He does this course by course, including a selection of the necessary basics and his chef’s notes at the end of the book.
The techniques he uses are well within the reach of even a basic cook, and with seasonal stunners such as artichoke & steamed lettuce with thyme and anchovy butter sauce for spring, apricot and ricotta lemon slice for summer, mushroom soup with ricotta and sorrel dumplings for autumn and roast pork shoulder with fennel and cumquat and ginger sauce for winter, there’s no reason why any of us can’t be wowing everyone who sits down at our table all year round. I think what I love best about this book is that Serge takes a few simple, fresh ingredients which we can all find relatively easily and, with a little imagination and skill, turns them into a sophisticated dish that anyone can be proud of.
The recipe I’ve chosen to share with you is a prime example of just that principle – fresh, quality ingredients, simply, but thoughtfully prepared to show them off to their best advantage. We had this roast salmon with green beans, pancetta and saba for our family dinner last night, but I’d be just as happy to offer this to dinner guests. Don’t be put off if you can’t get hold of saba – just substitute vincotto or a very good balsamic reduction. As you can see from my photo, I added some fresh asparagus I bought from the farmers market, so don’t be afraid to play with this a bit.
- 1 bunch shallots (spring onions)
- 4 x 180 gm (6 oz.) salmon fillets, skin off
- 8 slices pancetta
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 400gms (14 oz.) green beans, blanched
- ¼ cup saba
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Trim the spring onions, removing roots & green leaves, leaving about 8 cm of white part.
- Preheat oven to 180C (350F).
- Pat fish dry with paper towel. Lay 2 strips pancetta side by side & place salmon on pancetta. Fold one end of the strips of pancetta over the fish, then roll the fish over to complete the portion. The pancetta folds should be on the underside of the fish.
- Heat half the olive oil over a medium heat in large frying pan. Place the fish, service side down, in the pan, pressing to ensure complete contact with the pan. Cook for 4 minutes, before turning carefully and cooking for another 2 minutes.
- Remove the fish from the pan, place on an oven tray and put into the oven for 4-5 minutes.
- Fry the spring onions in the remaining oil until golden, add beans and saute for 1-2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Divide the beans and place onto 4 plates, top with the salmon and drizzle with the saba.
Subscribe to Lambs' Ears and Honey
An Interview With a Legend – Moroccan Food Maven Paula Wolfert – and win a copy of The Food of Morocco
Moroccan food is widely considered to be one of the world’s finest cuisines. It’s combination of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and African ingredients and spices blend in dishes handed down from wealthy royal kitchens and humble Berber homes resulting in a culinary tradition which is extraordinarily sophisticated and refined. This rich food heritage has been brought together definitively for western cooks in “The Food of Morocco” by Paula Wolfert, an American cook and cookbook writer whose name is synonymous with the food of the region.
Paula produced her first book on Moroccan food, the groundbreaking “Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco”, in 1973 after having lived there for some time. Her passion for the people and food of Morocco has been a constant in her life and her reputation as an expert on this and Mediterranean food in general – with nine cookbooks under her belt – easily qualifies her for legendary status. She has been repeatedly recognised for her work, winning some of the most prestigious cookbook awards in the world including The James Beard Foundation Award, The Julia Child Award, the M.F.K. Fisher Award and the Tastemaker Award. The previously mentioned “Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco” was inducted into the James Beard Foundation Cookbook Hall of Fame in 2008 and “The Food of Morocco” was a winner in the 2012 James Beard Foundation awards. Whew.
My absolute favourite cuisines are Moroccan, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean, so in light of that and all the above, it will come as no surprise to learn that she is one of my heroes. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of her new book and now keep it, not on a book shelf, but in the family room where I can (and do) refer to it often. Paula may well be the official queen of Moroccan cooking but she is most certainly not aloof and I was grateful to find her enthusiastically generous about sharing her time and knowledge when I asked her about the possibility of an interview. She tells me she’s not so young any more, but her passion and energy seem in no way diminished by the passing of time and I am thrilled to bits to be able to share just a little of that in this interview.
I understand that you had almost no cooking skills as a young woman. How did you get from there to being described as “one of the leading lights in contemporary gastronomy”?
I grew up in Brooklyn with no particular idea of what I wanted to be. I left college after two years, which prompted my worried family to send me off for a three-day vocational test to evaluate my skills and suggest a reasonable course for my future.
‘They said at the end that I should be a sculptress because my brain-eye-hand connection was extraordinary. So I went out, bought clay, did a self-nude, and sent it to my mother.
That was the beginning and end of my career in sculpture. I found my path, though, shortly after I married Michael Wolfert in 1957. I took some cooking courses at the New York branch of the Cordon Bleu in New York with Dione Lucas. I still cite her as one of the major influences on her culinary life. Following that I spent some time working with James Beard and then I began a 15 year culinary odyssey when I moved with my husband to Morocco , then to France, and back to Morocco.
You first went to Morocco in your early 20’s and published “Couscous and other good food from Morocco” in 1973 – what made you decide to revisit Moroccan cuisine for this book?
It’s forty years later and I’ve learned so much more in that time. I have traveled so much more and have developed a much deeper understanding of the regional cuisines and the varied influences upon them. I have also come to a much deeper understanding of the history, geography and complexity of the foods – the way the flavours balance. American poet and academic Wendell Berry said that “eating is an agricultural act” meaning that how we eat is informed by so much more than just the end product. I wanted to share my much broader understanding of how the lives of regional Moroccans has impacted on the cuisine as a whole.
There is a great emphasis on authenticity in your work and almost no modern Moroccan recipes in “The Food of Morocco”. Could you share your reasons for this?
Authenticity is always my guide, but I try not to let it become my straightjacket. I can select a particular version of a dish to make in an American (or Australian) kitchen, but it will still be authentic. Like everywhere else in the world, Moroccan food is changing and becoming lighter – a lot of the dishes in this book are lighter than they might have been many years ago.
Is there a particular regional Moroccan cuisine or dish that you prefer over the others?
During the time I lived in Morocco I lived in the north, but visited every part of the country – when I first lived there, when I visited later and when I spent time there most recently. The royal cuisine that came out of the four great cities of Marrakech, Fez, Rabat and Meknes was the kind of food I addressed in the first book, but the Berber food is the original cuisine and the food I felt I really had to share. Of course, I can cook Moroccan food for myself any time, but my personal favourite and the food I really miss is the street food. The experience of sipping snail soup in the streets of Marrakech or a roadside snack of the fresh fried sardine sandwiches of Tangier is something I cannot replicate in my kitchen at home. I love all Moroccan food, but obviously cannot recreate the authentic street food experience.
For the novice Moroccan food fan in Australia, what would you suggest are the most necessary spices and implements.
There’s no secret, just good ingredients and the ingredients used in Moroccan cuisine are fairly simple – preserved lemons, good olives and the ten most frequently used spices – cinnamon, cumin, saffron, turmeric, ginger, black and white pepper, cayenne, sweet paprika, aniseed and sesame seeds. It’s important to shop carefully and buy good quality ingredients – preferably from farmers markets where possible. The methods – slow cooking, steaming, browning last – not first – all make the food what it is.
And a tagine – the earthenware of a proper tagine imparts a flavour to Moroccan food that is just not possible with a metallic pan. Sadly, the pace of modern living in Morocco now means that many women are using pressure cookers and simply using their tagines to serve the food!
I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed my chat with Paula – she is full of life and joy and I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to meet her. For those of you who are Moroccan food addicts, I suggest you check out her fabulous Facebook group, Moroccan Cooking, the perfect place to learn all you can about this wonderful cuisine.
“The Food of Morocco” is published in Australia by Bloomsbury Publishing, who have kindly offered my readers the chance to win their own copy of this beautiful and important work on one of the world’s great cuisines. I have ONE copy of this book, valued at $65 to give away, but unfortunately the competition is limited to my Australian readers. For your chance to win this, simply tell us all what your favourite Moroccan dish is and head over to Bloomsbury’s Facebook page here and “Like” them. You can earn extra chances to win by “Liking” Lambs Ears and Honey on Facebook and Tweeting about this post. I will draw this competition on Monday 8 April and all the terms and conditions are below, as is the entry link – good luck my lovelies!
TERMS AND CONDITIONS
1. This competition is open to Australian residents only and will be drawn on Monday 8 April.
2. Log in to enter, using the entry form below, and click on each task to view the instructions.
3. The first two tasks are mandatory and must be completed to enter the competition. Subsequent tasks are optional, but will gain you more entries, thus more opportunity to be a winner.
4. Make sure you record your entry to be counted.
5. I have ONE copy of The Food of Morocco to give away.
6. The lucky winner will be drawn at random.
7. The winner will be notified by email and their name will be posted here. They must reply within 48 hours or the competition will be redrawn.