Posted in Daily, Food, Stories Around the World

Of Green, Blue and Irish

“May your heart be light and happy, may your smile be big and wide, and may your pockets always have a coin or two inside!”- Irish Proverb

Although the Lá Fhéile Pádraig, “the Day of the Festival of Patrick”, or more commonly known as St. Patrick’s Day, an Irish cultural and religious celebration was observed worldwide on 17 March, (the traditional death date of Saint Patrick (c. AD 385–461)), celebrations are still afoot at most restaurants. One of the official Christian feast day, the day commemorates Saint Patrick, the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, celebrating the heritage and culture of the Irish in general. While going “green” coloured marks St. Patrick’s Day (although the Order of St. Patrick, an Anglo-Irish chivalric order (1783) adopted blue as its colour), indulging in Irish cuisine would be an added bonus, besides savouring the difference in flavours and style.

“Only Irish Coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, sugar, caffeine and fat.” Alex Levine

As a part of the celebrations, representative traditional Irish dishes like Irish stew, bacon and cabbage (with potatoes), boxty (potato pancake), coddle (sausage, bacon, and potato), colcannon, drisheen (a type of black pudding) or goody (A dessert dish made by boiling bread in milk with sugar and spices.) and gur cake have been on the menu in select restaurants and cafes. Yet the best of all, Irish Coffee, Irish Whiskey and Irish beer have been one of the favourite for many. For a weekend or weekday break from the routine cuisine, “going Irish” would be a welcome change.

“Bless us with good food, the gift of gab and hearty laughter. May the love and joy we share, be with us ever after!” Irish Kitchen Prayer

The Irish has evolved over the ancient times, largely based on the cereals and dairy products with meat cooked fresh, stewed (at times flavoured with honey) or used “purple berries” to colour the meal. Largely the cuisine has been modified by the English conquest in early 17th century followed by the migration of the Irish to the Americas. With the development of technology and media, Irish recipes gained its’ own level of global popularity. For the cuisine experimenter, trying out the barmbrack (leavened bread with sultanas and raisins) with colcannon (mashed potatoes with kale or cabbage) or the traditional Irish stew (of lamb or mutton with potatoes, carrots, parsnips, onions and seasoning) with gur cake (a confectionery made of a dark brown paste, containing a mixture of cake or bread crumbs, dried fruits (sultana raisins etc.) with a sweetener, put as a thick filling between two layers of thin pastry. Not to forget, the Irish Coffee or beer as a go along.

However basic and simple the Irish cuisine may sound, they never fail to please the taste buds with the different flavours. As the Irish often say, “Bíonn blas ar an mbeagán” (Bee-on bloss err on myah-gon) translated as “Though a small amount, it’s tasty.”

Sláinte (Pronounced Slawn-che, Health! (Cheers)) !!!

Posted in Daily, Food

Basics, Creativity and Flour

“Your bread assumes the shape of the pan you use to bake your flour. Therefore stand still and know that you can’t use a rounded pan and ever get squared bread. Change the pan and change the shape of the bread!” Israelmore Ayivor

One of the items landing a place on the “weekly shopping list” is flour and the like. Whether the principal cereal we take be cassava or wheat, rice, corn or chickpea; flour is the necessity of any home cooking or kitchen experimentation.

While the earliest archaeological evidence for wheat seeds crushed between simple millstones to make flour dates to 6000 BC; other types of flour have been in use in various countries. With the Industrial Revolution, mills as well preservation techniques of flour were drastically modified and improved. As flour began to be enriched and trade and transport options increased; flour trading became prosperous. Throw in the green revolution and flour of all types began to be available in any places.

“I love using rice as a flour; I’ll grind roasted rice and dip fish in that. It gives a beautiful, crunchy texture.” Marcus Samuelsson

Being in the National Flour month (as per most foodimentarians), for those of us with gluten problems can resort to rice flour, chickpea flour as well as banana flour. There are many replacements for wheat in the recipes. More fascinating aspects is that non cereal flours like soybean, arrowroot, quinoa are other options to look into. And flour doesn’t restrict itself to being in the meal or as desserts but can also be a part of the gravy as well. With all varieties being available in most supermarkets and groceries; trying new recipes ( all time favourite of rice flour vadais or besan laddoos) can be fun for family, friends as well as a break from the busy world of work, entertainment and schedules.

Gravy is the simplest, tastiest, most memory-laden dish I know how to make: a little flour, salt and pepper, crispy bits of whatever meat anchored the meal, a couple of cups of water or milk and slow stirring to break up lumps.” Dorothy Allison

Posted in Daily, Food

Beyond the “C”

What connects Camellia sinensis, Coffea seeds, Kola nuts as well as the yaupon holly leaves, Amazonian holly guayusa leaves. The common factor is a simple but bitter, white crystalline purine, a methylxanthine alkaloid compound popularly consumed globally as “Caffeine”. The growing role of “caffeine” related beverages is evidenced by the celebration of March as the National Caffeine Awareness Month” by foodimentarians globally.

Like the two sides of a coin, caffeine has its’ own merits and demerits. Primarily playing its’ role as a central nervous stimulant as well as inhibitor of two major enzymes, phophodiesterase and adenosine; caffeine of coffee, tea as well as the medically available pure form has its’ indicated uses and merits.

From treating to preventing major diseases in neonates (like bronchopulmonary dysplasia, apnea of prematurity) as well aiding asthmatics in reducing their exacerbation; caffeine aids in reducing fatigue, drowsiness and improving coordination and reaction time. Imagine the endless night shifts, cramming before exams, pulling all nighters before the term exams in university and aiding to stay awake during classes after late night events; caffeine was always a life saver. In moderation, caffeine aids in reducing depressive symptoms as well as suicide idealizations.

“It was a pleasant cafe, warm and clean and friendly, and I hung up my old water-proof on the coat rack to dry and put my worn and weathered felt hat on the rack above the bench and ordered a cafe au lait. The waiter brought it and I took out a notebook from the pocket of the coat and a pencil and started to write.” Ernest Hemingway

Not just students or night shift workers, for the gym goers, caffeine helps in improving their endurance, aids weight loss as well as increase the training or exercise volume. Moderate consumption of caffeine reduces dementia and Alzheimer’s risk, neuroprotective for Parkinson’s patients, reduces liver fibrosis and cirrhosis as well decreases risk of throat, mouth, colon and skin cancer.

On the other hand, more than 400 milligrams of caffeine intake has been associated with health risks ( Health Canada limitations) while toxic doses are in the range of ten grams or more of caffeine (50 -100 coffee cups with 80-175 mgs of caffeine per cup). Adverse effects of caffeine have a physical as well as psychological manifestation. In the former group would include raised blood pressure, headaches, increase gastrointestinal motility, increase bone loss in postmenopausal women, stained teeth, increased eye pressure in glaucoma patients, loss of essential minerals like iron and calcium as well as decreasing collagen synthesis i.e. more wrinkles.

“As long as there was coffee in the world, how bad could things be?” Cassandra Clare, City of Ashes

From a psychological viewpoint, increase caffeine can lead to addiction, mood swings, dependency, anxiety disorders, tremors as well as irritability and sleep less nights. For the pregnant women, balancing the daily intake to two or less cups of coffee ( less than 200mg ) helps to reduce the caffeine induced pregnancy complications.

Caffeine consumption, highly depends on the way and reason we take it. From a simple homemade coffee to the “calorie laden coke” (laced with additional compounds) or the simple morning and evening ritual of tea, caffeine intake can be regulated. The more carefully we regulate the caffeine intake, the longer we can enjoy the merits than be affected by their demerits.

“Adventure in life is good; consistency in coffee even better.” Justina Chen, North of Beautiful

Posted in Daily, Food

Trend of “Break-the-Fast”

“Breakfast is everything. The beginning, the first thing. It is the mouthful that is the commitment to a new day, a continuing life.” A. A. Gill

After the regular morning tea or cup of joe; the bustle of the day starts off with “breakfast” what was previously known as “morgenmete” (Old English) i.e. “morning meal”.On the wintry or cold February mornings, there is nothing more delightful than being warmed by breakfast; which is maybe why the month of February has been dedicated to warm breakfast.

The ancient man, from the Neolithic age believed in the concept of baking cereals and consuming them in the morning, especially among peasants as light repast to start the day’s labour. While the Ancient Greek (ariston or akratisma) and Rome (jentaculum or ientaculum) carried on this tradition, the morning meal bacme more lighter, giving way to a more rich midday meal.

Towards the Middle Age, breakfast was frowned on by the nobility believing it to be a meal for the lower or working class. Yet towards the 15th and 16th century, with the introduction of meat and caffeine as well as tea; the morning repast became a necessary indulgence for the nobility as well. From then on breakfast time encourages one to indulge in a heavy or light glucose intake for the day depending on the mood.

From the continental breakfast to English breakfast or simply pancakes, waffles, dosa or muffins; the variety of food served at breakfast can never be termed boring. And for those of us who dread cooking in the mornings, there’s always a warm bowl of cereal or cupcakes to kick-start the day.

“All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast.” John Gun

Posted in Daily, Food

Being Chocolaty, Peanuts

“‘Peanuts’ is a life-long influence, going back to before I could even read.” Adrian Tomine

1 package semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chopped
Salted peanuts, no skin
Both ingredients in equal measure.

Taxonomic classified as Arachis hypogaea, popularly known as groundnuts, goober, monkey nuts or peanuts (not the comic strip); they are a favored snack among all ages. With the above ingredients, there’s nothing more befitting than experimenting in a little mix of the all time favourites; i.e. chocolate and peanuts.

“Chocolate is one of the world’s most beloved discoveries, and when we need a quick boost of energy and endorphins, chocolate is the go-to treat.” Marcus Samuelsson

Commercially chocolate coated peanuts ere earliest sold and marketed under the brand ‘Goobers” in 1925. Later other companies like M & M’s too made them. Interestingly, the name “Goober” is probably derived from the Gullah language (African Americans who live in the Low-country region of the U.S. states of Georgia and South Carolina), word guber (meaning “peanut”), which is in turn derived from the KiKongo (or Kongo) word n’guba. Keeping with the rising vegan trend, “Vegan chocolate-coated peanuts” are made of non-refined sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter and vanillin.

Being all time snack and culinary favourite; peanuts can be artfully and tastefully served as “ants on a log”, the traditional roasted “chikki”, deep fried or coated and roasted, or the all time sauce thickener to bring a change to the regular stew and curry ( Kare-kare, mirchi ka salan, peanut chutney). With winter drawing to a close and the peanut season coming to an end, there’s nothing better to celebrate the end of the season than with “peanuts”.

“Ants on a log : a snack made by spreading peanut butter, cream cheese, ricotta cheese or any number of spreads on celery and placing raisins on top”

Posted in Daily, Food

Café au Lait Mornings

“I thought ‘café au lait’ was Spanish.” “No, it’s French for coffee and milk. ‘Lait’ is milk.” . “Really? I thought it was “Café–olé! Like, ‘Coffee–all right!'”- Lorelai Gilmore

For the viewers of the American comedy-drama television series, Gilmore Girls; the above dialogue may seem familiar. Yet for ardent coffee lovers, there is no confusion in the mind.

Café au lait (French for “coffee with milk”) is simply coffee with hot milk added. Call it by any name, similar varieties are seen mainly across Europe, from the Spanish café con leche in Spain, Polish kawa biala and German Milchkaffee (“milk coffee”) to list a few. The reverse version holds true in the certain areas of Switzerland, where the popular variation is made by adding espresso to the milk base, known as the café renversé (“reverse coffee”).

Traditionally the brew is primarily of French origin, prepared at home from dark coffee (preferable French beans) and heated milk; while in the cafes, the espresso machine takes over.

Yet the ‘ café au lait’ isn’t the dame as “Café latte”. Originated in Italy, the latter is typically made using one or two shots of espresso, topped-up with steamed milk, and finished with a small layer of foam on top. On the contrary, café au lait has no foam added to it.

One popular variation of the café au lait served at coffee shops in New Orleans, is making it by using chicory which gives the beverage a distinctive, strong, and bitter flavor. Known as American café au lait, scalded milk is used rather than steamed milk and served usually with sweet powdered sugary beignets to offset the bitter flavour. The roots go back to the American Civil War days when coffee was in short supply and demand strong. Hence the trend of using chicory to pad out the available coffee had started and stayed on.

Either way, to start off the milky sweet mornings, ‘café au lait’ is there for all the coffee lovers, old or young.

Posted in Daily, Food, Uncategorized

With regards,From Italy

“L’uomo è ciò che mangia” (a man is what he eats)- Ludwig Feuerbach

For those of us who know Italian or in love with Italian food, these words would sound familiar and seen sometimes across the menu cards. One of the most popular global cuisines apart from the American snack industry, French cuisine or Indian “curries” would be the Italian cuisine, which is actually in popular demand, ranging from the “pizza” to pasta, panini, lasagne, risottos, tortelinni. Although most would be familair with a selct few, Italian cusine offers a whole range and variety of meals which is quite simple to cook, especially for those of us who want a change from the regular.

“Italian food is all about ingredients and it’s not fussy and it’s not fancy.” Wolfgang Puck

Like with most European cuisines, the Italian cuisine developed over centuries with its’ roots primarily spreading and growing with the fall of the Roman Empire. With traces from Athens as well, the Sicilian cuisine was initially well liked and many believe it to be the first real Italian cuisine; especially in the Middle Ages. A lot of the cuisine varies from region to region primarily because of the Mediterranean and Arab influences in South compared to the Germanic and Roman roots of the north. In fact each area has its’ own specialty like cuisines from Basilicata, Lomabarde, Saridinia or Tuscany to list a few.

“In the 20th century, the French managed to get a death on the myth that they produce the world’s best food. The hype has been carefully orchestrated, and despite the fact that the most popular food in the last quarter has undoubtedly been Italian, the French have managed to maintain that mental grip.” Clarissa Dickson Wright, English Chef and Author

The versatility of Italian cooking lies in the explicit use of vegetables, cheese as well as meat along with the ease and simplicity in its’ making. For novice Italian cooking, the pasta and risotto are quite easy to make. With many recipes available online, its’ not that hard to bring a change to the menu once in a while and gives a healthy break from fast food and restaurant dinners.

Anche l’occhio vuole la sua parte (The eyes want their part – in the sense that something has to be pleasing to the eyes – apart from having other qualities)…An Italian Saying