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The Meatrix I'm not a vegetarian but I dislike factory farming and I support small, family farms.

 

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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Adding more to the 50 things 
If you scroll down a little you will come to the entry about the 50 things every real foodie should do at least once in their life. The original list was a bit pretentious and required a lot of money, so I decided to solicit the food blog communities help in making an even better list that was also very much attainable by everyone. We reached 43 and stuck. I can add more myself by I was shooting for wide participation. However, in the interests of re-kickstarting the discussion, here are a few suggestions:

Cook over an open fire - that means a wood fire with no pots and no gas.
Invent a mixed drink
Make dinner for more people than you are reasonably comfortable with - for a professional chef that might be several hundred. For me I went over the top the day I cooked for thirty.
Learn to sharpen a knife properly so it stays sharp longer and cuts anything cleanly.
Teach a non-cooking friend a basic foundation dish they can cook forever.


OK, come on all of you, let's have some more...
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Paper Chef #8 - the Holiday Version - ten days not three 
[[UPDATE]]Since I am on vacation during the week of July 4th, the Paper Chef is going to a very different schedule. In particular since the first Friday of the month is in fact July 1st and since I will not be able to blog at all (I suspect) for the following week, I am going to make this an extended, leisurely Paper Chef. Ingredient nominations are now open and final ingredients will be picked and posted on Friday, so you can start then, but you will have until Monday July 11th at noon to post an entry. Ten days, not three. As a result, if the ingredients happen to be a bit wild or a bit bizarre, we will go with them anyway.

The current ingredient list is:
Red wine, cream, cheddar cheese, quinoa, butter, asparagus, cured, aged ham (country not city), lemongrass, spinach, vinegar, sweet potatoes, marshmallows, dried chillies, sausage, dried fruit, olives, berries, regular potatoes, eggplant, summer squash, edible flowers and star anise.

You cannot nominate eggs, buttermilk, honey or dates. Anything else goes - nominate away! We have a couple of days left.
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Friday, June 24, 2005

Holiday Version of The Paper Chef 
Since I am on vacation during the week of July 4th, the Paper Chef is going to a very different schedule. In particular since the first Friday of the month is in fact July 1st and since I will not be able to blog at all (I suspect) for the following week, I am going to make this an extended, leisurely Paper Chef. Ingredient nominations are now open and final ingredients will be picked on Friday but you will have until Monday July 11th at noon to post an entry. Ten days, not three. As a result, if the ingredients happen to be a bit wild or a bit bizarre, we will go with them anyway.

The current ingredient list is:
Red wine, cream, cheddar cheese, quinoa, butter, asparagus and cured, aged ham (country not city), lemongrass, spinach, vinegar, sweet potatoes and marshmallows.

You cannot nominate eggs, buttermilk, honey or dates. Anything else goes - nominate away!
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Terra Firma Farms CSA Organic Box Or How To Make You All Jealous 
You should very seriously all look into getting a CSA Organic Box delivered - not the commercial 'The Box' type of delivery but one from a local farm or small group of farms that gives you produce that matches the seasons where you live. We get ours from Terra Firma Farms and have done for ten years. We get the large box - $116 per month. This week our box included:

8 ears of sweet white corn, more than a pound of blue lake green beans, three pounds of delicious small peaches, over a pint of unbelievably good strawberries, four pounds of yellow zucchini, three pounds of baby new potatoes, three pounds of apricots, four plums, a pound of roasted pistachios, a pound of valencia oranges, two to three pounds of onions, five bulbs of garlic, two pounds of cucumbers, about half a pound of mixed salad greens, a big bunch of stunning fresh basil. All that for $29.

Let's look at Safeway online. Strawberries - $1, Apricots - $4, Plums - $1.25, Peaches - $6, Orange(s) - not available but we'll say $1. Corn - $2.50, beans - $1, Yellow zucchini - not available - substitute green - $2, onions - $4, garlic - $2, cucumber - $4, lettuce - $3, basil - $2, pistachios - $5

Total for non-organic, less good food at Safeway: $37.75 compared to fresh, local, farm-picked, organic from Terra Firma for $29! And that is WITHOUT tax.

Now I happily concede that that is more than normal, and better than normal. But I still can't helping thinking, 'why wouldn't you do this?' I'd say that normally Safeway non-organic will be a few dollars cheaper than the farm-delivered box. But I can also completely honestly say that I have never ever bought strawberries, oranges, tomatoes, corn, beans, etc. as good from a store. That's any store, ever.

Terra Firma has three box sizes. Small is good for one to two people but doesn't have as much variety. Medium is good for two to four people if their needs are modest. Large gets you a greater share of fruit and is spot on for a family of four that does most of its cooking itself.
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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Update on the 50 things... 
[[FIFTH UPDATE - IF YOU HAVEN'T ADDED TO THIS LIST, THEN PLEASE SEE THE COMMENTS]]
Many of you have probably read about the latest Nigel Slater article in the Observer (UK Sunday Newspaper) by now where he lists 50 things that every foodie should do at sometime in their life. A couple of bloggers (you'll have to scroll down a little on that second one)I know (not surprisingly, both are in the book) have commented on which of the 50 they have done. However, as they both point out, many of the 50 are impossible for normal people, even if you substitute a local equivalent.

I will say that I have done 16 (of the original Observer list) if I make a few local allowances.

However, that list really is not possible for normal people - not even remotely - so I'd like to enlist all of your help in compiling a REAL list that any food blogger in the world could achieve - and that is at least as good if not better than the Observer list. Remember that we are going for the top 50 food experiences of a lifetime. Please add your suggestions/additions in comments and I will update from time to time.

I am going to kick the list off with all the things on the Observer list that I think ARE possible for anyone.

1) Make toast
Not just any old piece of toast, but that which has been cut thick from a fresh, old-fashioned white loaf.

2) Dismember a chicken
Nigella Lawson says that everyone should do this at least once in their lives. It is actually quite easy when you get the hang of it, and your supper will taste much better for your having had a hand in it, so to speak.

3) Boil a new-laid egg

4) Pick your own
I'm going to transform this from mushroom gathering (a risky business but one that I have actually done) to gathering any kind of wild crop and cooking it. One of my top food memories of all time is walking back from a place the kids had gone horse-riding on a trip to Cork in Ireland. It was a five mile walk and I gathered about four pounds of ripe, rich blackberries on the way. We had pie that night.

5) Learn how to make a REAL dry martini
I'll leave this in even though cocktails aren't my thing, I know they are for many

6) Shuck an oyster
No excuse on this one - it is easy and eating a fresh, raw oyster really is something you have to do at least once

7) Eat the first asparagus - but despite what they say in the Observer, it doesn't have to be a British asparagus - it has to be a LOCAL asparagus - one picked at most a few hours before

8) Be cooked for by a legend - rather than go with Marco Pierre White since it seems unlikely that it will actually happen, this can be ANYONE you think of as a legend - and that means ANYONE.

9) Pod fresh peas - I can go with this one too - peas are very satisfying and truly fresh taste very different from anything else

10) Queue for fish and chips - I'm keeping this one too, although it does stretch the definition here a little - it may not be possible for everyone.

11) Get up early and go to market - this should really be number one - there is absolutely NO excuse for not doing this at least once in your life - you should really do it every week...

12) Catch your own dinner - I'll extend this to any fishing/hunting/trapping form. It really makes you think about the food chain and where you sit and the difference between a living creature and a shrink-wrapped package in a refrigerated case

13) Grill a steak - even if you are a vegetarian. There's something buried in our evolutionary psyche that reacts to cooking meat over a fire.

14) Bake a loaf of bread - another to put at the top of the list - there is no excuse possible

15) Milk a cow - I'm lucky enough to have done this and to have drunk the unpasteurized result back when I was four on a farm in Devon

and now I am going to add my own one to the list....

16) Hand make fresh pasta - there is little to beat the joy and satisfaction of working with your hands on something so simple and yet sublime.


OK - your turn....

17) Making stock from scratch - Kitchen Queen Tai suggested this one.

18) Preserve something (jam or pickles etc.) - Culinary Fool suggested this.

19) Grow your own - this would have been my second if I had allowed myself one. Ellen from Cheap Cooking suggested this and added, "fresh herbs, a tomato plant in a pot, or a full-blown vegetable garden," and that she loves going out to see what's for dinner.

20) "In the middle of the night, share fresh, cool water with someone close to you, via a kiss" - suggested by Sam (aka Sixy Beast for obvious reasons!)

21) Cook FOR a legend - Mike at The Radio Kitchen suggested this and I like it - it would be fun! (we are going to let him have three suggestions unfairly because his three are so good and so eminently achievable)

22) Taste wine straight from the barrel - should be possible for most people - harder in the tropics and the very cold climates but still within possibility and it sounds so nice.

23) Volunteer in a soup kitchen - a totally worthy goal for at least once in your life... (these last two were also from Mike)

24) Brew beer, ale or mead (I'd add ferment wine to the list too) - from Barabara of Tigers and Strawberries.

25) Make chocolate yourself from cocoa beans - this one is pretty tough - I'm not sure how easy it would be in a normal kitchen - but a very worthy goal - from chronicler at Food Chronicles.

26) Make and/or eat breakfast in bed - NO, no frying pans and primus stoves under the sheets! You know what we mean. Although this is an easy goal, it is a worthy one. From Rachael of Fresh Approach Cooking.

27) Make a souffle - ("Presenting the flavor of eggs in its best possible light. And offering a presentation that is pure delight to gaze upon") from Kevin at Seriously Good.

28) Roast a suckling pig in a backyard pit - I've helped do this one but maybe I should do it all for real...this is also one that is more of a challenge for the urban and suburban among us. Well, my Dad did it back in 1976 in the back garden of a semi-detached in a London suburb - right in the middle of the lawn - so you can do it too! Suggested by Sylvie of Food - Got To Love It.

29) Learn how to make your own cheese - this is another one I would have added if I had more than one choice so I am very glad that Claire of eat stuff suggested it.

30) Go back to the country or region of your heritage and learn to cook something like your ancestors. (OK - this is clearly an American suggestion what with the 'give me your tired, your hungry...' and all but if you take it in a generous spirit and look for nomadic roots in the mists of time or just step back a few hundred years and look at what you might cook...and I really like the suggestion anyway - from Sarah of The Delicious Life.

31) Make your own truffles (the chocolate kind). Fatemeh of Gastronomie had this as her second suggestion, her first being to deep fry a turkey, but I am not prepared to cede that that is an experience of a lifetime.

32) Make tortillas by hand, corn or flour - Renee of no known abode suggested this and I think it is a good one. In my experience, outside of the Americas, all Mexican food is execrable, and one of the reason is the tortillas. (There's a whole side conversation here about just how bad cuisines are outside of their native land. In my admittedly limited experience, cuisines are like real ales in this regard - they don't travel all that well and the further they go the worse they are. That's alleviated somewhat by how much of the culture itself has been exported, so Indian food in England is better than anywhere else outside of India, but I still suspect it is true on the whole).

33) Teach or encourage a child to cook - another great suggestion - and since it came from my Mom (Adele) it is more than appropriate.

34) Breed your own animal to eat (suggested chicken or rabbit) - BMan suggested this and then rescinded it. But I overrode and am putting it in since it is quite possible for most people and really forces you up against some of those modern food production issues...


35) Make a pizza from scratch - everything - dough, tomato sauce and even, for an extra challenge, the mozzarella cheese(scroll to the bottom)...selected from FarmGirl's two because the other one was a bit too much like several we have already.

36) Make your own couverture by tempering chocolate (one of the key techniques for making really nice desserts and chocoalte candies) - suggested by Stephanie from the Grub Report who just got her writing compared to that of Elmore Leonard or James Ellroy!

37) Make vinegar yourself - suggested by Kevin of Seriously Good and inspired by his mother's five-year-old sherry vinegar.

38) Create a cake recipe - not from a recipe, not by making a little change to a recipe. Make up your own cake recipe. Tweak it a little. Play with it. Make it YOURS. Suggested by BJ of Early One Morning.

OK - let's have some more suggestions...we still need 50 to rival the Observer.

39) Work in a restaurant - this one's a little tougher but you can volunteer to do it once or twice - A JoAnna at ChefBlog says, "Whether a fine restaurant, a family-dining place, or a fast food place, the experience will alter your perceptions of how food is made. A good place will show you how things should be done. A bad place will show you how things ususally ARE done."

40) 'Point at the menu' - another entry from Chef JoAnna. She wants you to order something at a restaurant that you can't pronounce and don't know what it is - roll the dice and accept what comes.

41) Take a teenager/child out to lunch and teach them how to dine out - how to sit, what to do with the napkin, how to be polite and enjoy the experience, how to tip, how to offer to share the check graciously (rather than cheeseparing), how to summon a waiter, how to ask for the check, and so on. Another from JoAnna at ChefBlog.

42) Grill pizza (or bread) - once you've mastered making bread (see #14 above) now try making it over/with an open flame. It gives you yet another dimension and will get every kid or teenager at a barbeque begging to help. Suggested by Sweetnicks at Sweetnicks.

43) Make your own sausage - stefoodie suggested this and pointed out very accurately that this way you know everything that goes into it! I remember doing this as a kid with my family and we really enjoyed it - it really WAS fun (unlike making headcheese which was interesting but NOT fun).
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Monday, June 20, 2005

Cookbooks and Memes 
I have to confess that I've always been a little gunshy of the term meme and the meme-fests that periodically infest the blogging world. I'm not sure why this is and some might say I'm being hypocritical because of the paper Chef, but I would argue that the Paper Chef is NOT a meme - it is an event. It has periodicity and it doesn't spread around like an idea-virus.

Anyway - i finally got 'tagged' (aka infected by the idea-virus) for the cookbook meme that is floating around and I will do my part to spread the infection albeit reluctantly.

Culinary Fool who is no fool but very culinary, passed this on to me and so here goes...

Number of cookbooks I have owned - absolutely no idea - I periodically purge ALL my books by running the ones I don't intend to keep to two different second-hand bookstores and then donating what's left to the library. I'd say I currently own about 80 and have owned about 200.

Last cookbook I bought - easy one - Not your mother's slow cooker. Best crockpot cookbook out there.

Last Food book I read - also easy - Digital Dish: Five Seasons of the Freshest Recipes and Writing from Food Blogs Around the World - you ALL should go buy this right NOW!

Five cookbooks that mean a lot to me.

1) Digital Dish: Five Seasons of the Freshest Recipes and Writing from Food Blogs Around the World. Far and away number one. Why? I published it and am one of the authors and it represents 8 months of my life - plus a lot of energy from 23 other food bloggers.

2) Future Food by Colin Tudge - this was one of the books that changed the way I think about food - it isn't easy to find any more and the recipes seem a bit dated but the philosophy of eating for a small and whole planet shines through.

3) Savory Way by Deborah Madison - down-to-earth thinking about vegetarian cooking that is really honest and straightforward and lovely to read

4) New Classics by Gary Rhodes - I grew up in England just as it was changing from the end of Empire to the Common Market. I remember the rag-and-bone man with his horse and I remember the nine linked hands around the fifty P piece when the Common Market started up. I also remember going to six different small shops to buy groceries with my Mum and seeing pheasants hanging in the window and the smell of the baker at five in the morning and old wheels of stilton laid on marble slabs and locally grown carrots and potatoes in bunches and piles with the moist dirt still clinging to them. Then came the seventies and eighties and Thatcherism and ice cream made from pig fat and other such horrors. Gary Rhodes takes us forward into the future and back before those days of horror to update classic British food - food that is good and that matters.

5) Silver Palate - the cookbook that Jan and I share that best represents the two of us.

Who else should fill this out?

I don't know. If you read this and feel the urge, identify yourself in the comments and consider yourself infected...
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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

A Nice Review 
Well, Digital Dish, got reviewed today! A really nice review by a columnist for the Trentonian (the Trenton, NJ newspaper). It was also interesting to see that they understood the point of the book - that the writing is different than other food or cook books. Here's a quick excerpt:

"I love food writing. Good food writing can take you to places you never imagined, and ideally, you can apply what you’ve read at home and net delicious results. Even if your favorite food is chicken fingers, let the excellent use of language enrich you, even if the recipes do not. Jeffrey Steingarten from Vogue is a favorite, and yes, I overlook the irony that a high-fashion mag has a food column. The lengths to which Steingarten will go to uncover the delicious secrets of his favorite foods, be it buffalo mozzarella, licorice, or fried chicken, awes me.

I am as equally awed with this collection, which is arranged by days of the year. Today's recipe an Afrikaner offering from Kitsch'n'Zinc: Monkey gland sauce. No monkeys were harmed in the preparation of this sauce."

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Monday, June 13, 2005

50 Things Every Food Blogger (or normal person who likes food a lot) should do at least once in their life 
[[FOURTH UPDATE - IF YOU HAVEN'T ADDED TO THIS LIST, THEN PLEASE SEE THE COMMENTS]]
Many of you have probably read about the latest Nigel Slater article in the Observer (UK Sunday Newspaper) by now where he lists 50 things that every foodie should do at sometime in their life. A couple of bloggers (you'll have to scroll down a little on that second one)I know (not surprisingly, both are in the book) have commented on which of the 50 they have done. However, as they both point out, many of the 50 are impossible for normal people, even if you substitute a local equivalent.

I will say that I have done 16 (of the original Observer list) if I make a few local allowances.

However, that list really is not possible for normal people - not even remotely - so I'd like to enlist all of your help in compiling a REAL list that any food blogger in the world could achieve - and that is at least as good if not better than the Observer list. Remember that we are going for the top 50 food experiences of a lifetime. Please add your suggestions/additions in comments and I will update from time to time.

I am going to kick the list off with all the things on the Observer list that I think ARE possible for anyone.

1) Make toast
Not just any old piece of toast, but that which has been cut thick from a fresh, old-fashioned white loaf.

2) Dismember a chicken
Nigella Lawson says that everyone should do this at least once in their lives. It is actually quite easy when you get the hang of it, and your supper will taste much better for your having had a hand in it, so to speak.

3) Boil a new-laid egg

4) Pick your own
I'm going to transform this from mushroom gathering (a risky business but one that I have actually done) to gathering any kind of wild crop and cooking it. One of my top food memories of all time is walking back from a place the kids had gone horse-riding on a trip to Cork in Ireland. It was a five mile walk and I gathered about four pounds of ripe, rich blackberries on the way. We had pie that night.

5) Learn how to make a REAL dry martini
I'll leave this in even though cocktails aren't my thing, I know they are for many

6) Shuck an oyster
No excuse on this one - it is easy and eating a fresh, raw oyster really is something you have to do at least once

7) Eat the first asparagus - but despite what they say in the Observer, it doesn't have to be a British asparagus - it has to be a LOCAL asparagus - one picked at most a few hours before

8) Be cooked for by a legend - rather than go with Marco Pierre White since it seems unlikely that it will actually happen, this can be ANYONE you think of as a legend - and that means ANYONE.

9) Pod fresh peas - I can go with this one too - peas are very satisfying and truly fresh taste very different from anything else

10) Queue for fish and chips - I'm keeping this one too, although it does stretch the definition here a little - it may not be possible for everyone.

11) Get up early and go to market - this should really be number one - there is absolutely NO excuse for not doing this at least once in your life - you should really do it every week...

12) Catch your own dinner - I'll extend this to any fishing/hunting/trapping form. It really makes you think about the food chain and where you sit and the difference between a living creature and a shrink-wrapped package in a refrigerated case

13) Grill a steak - even if you are a vegetarian. There's something buried in our evolutionary psyche that reacts to cooking meat over a fire.

14) Bake a loaf of bread - another to put at the top of the list - there is no excuse possible

15) Milk a cow - I'm lucky enough to have done this and to have drunk the unpasteurized result back when I was four on a farm in Devon

and now I am going to add my own one to the list....

16) Hand make fresh pasta - there is little to beat the joy and satisfaction of working with your hands on something so simple and yet sublime.


OK - your turn....

17) Making stock from scratch - Kitchen Queen Tai suggested this one.

18) Preserve something (jam or pickles etc.) - Culinary Fool suggested this.

19) Grow your own - this would have been my second if I had allowed myself one. Ellen from Cheap Cooking suggested this and added, "fresh herbs, a tomato plant in a pot, or a full-blown vegetable garden," and that she loves going out to see what's for dinner.

20) "In the middle of the night, share fresh, cool water with someone close to you, via a kiss" - suggested by Sam (aka Sixy Beast for obvious reasons!)

21) Cook FOR a legend - Mike at The Radio Kitchen suggested this and I like it - it would be fun! (we are going to let him have three suggestions unfairly because his three are so good and so eminently achievable)

22) Taste wine straight from the barrel - should be possible for most people - harder in the tropics and the very cold climates but still within possibility and it sounds so nice.

23) Volunteer in a soup kitchen - a totally worthy goal for at least once in your life... (these last two were also from Mike)

24) Brew beer, ale or mead (I'd add ferment wine to the list too) - from Barabara of Tigers and Strawberries.

25) Make chocolate yourself from cocoa beans - this one is pretty tough - I'm not sure how easy it would be in a normal kitchen - but a very worthy goal - from chronicler at Food Chronicles.

26) Make and/or eat breakfast in bed - NO, no frying pans and primus stoves under the sheets! You know what we mean. Although this is an easy goal, it is a worthy one. From Rachael of Fresh Approach Cooking.

27) Make a souffle - ("Presenting the flavor of eggs in its best possible light. And offering a presentation that is pure delight to gaze upon") from Kevin at Seriously Good.

28) Roast a suckling pig in a backyard pit - I've helped do this one but maybe I should do it all for real...this is also one that is more of a challenge for the urban and suburban among us. Well, my Dad did it back in 1976 in the back garden of a semi-detached in a London suburb - right in the middle of the lawn - so you can do it too! Suggested by Sylvie of Food - Got To Love It.

29) Learn how to make your own cheese - this is another one I would have added if I had more than one choice so I am very glad that Claire of eat stuff suggested it.

30) Go back to the country or region of your heritage and learn to cook something like your ancestors. (OK - this is clearly an American suggestion what with the 'give me your tired, your hungry...' and all but if you take it in a generous spirit and look for nomadic roots in the mists of time or just step back a few hundred years and look at what you might cook...and I really like the suggestion anyway - from Sarah of The Delicious Life.

31) Make your own truffles (the chocolate kind). Fatemeh of Gastronomie had this as her second suggestion, her first being to deep fry a turkey, but I am not prepared to cede that that is an experience of a lifetime.

32) Make tortillas by hand, corn or flour - Renee of no known abode suggested this and I think it is a good one. In my experience, outside of the Americas, all Mexican food is execrable, and one of the reason is the tortillas. (There's a whole side conversation here about just how bad cuisines are outside of their native land. In my admittedly limited experience, cuisines are like real ales in this regard - they don't travel all that well and the further they go the worse they are. That's alleviated somewhat by how much of the culture itself has been exported, so Indian food in England is better than anywhere else outside of India, but I still suspect it is true on the whole).

33) Teach or encourage a child to cook - another great suggestion - and since it came from my Mom (Adele) it is more than appropriate.

34) Breed your own animal to eat (suggested chicken or rabbit) - BMan suggested this and then rescinded it. But I overrode and am putting it in since it is quite possible for most people and really forces you up against some of those modern food production issues...


35) Make a pizza from scratch - everything - dough, tomato sauce and even, for an extra challenge, the mozzarella cheese(scroll to the bottom)...selected from FarmGirl's two because the other one was a bit too much like several we have already.

36) Make your own couverture by tempering chocolate (one of the key techniques for making really nice desserts and chocoalte candies) - suggested by Stephanie from the Grub Report who just got her writing compared to that of Elmore Leonard or James Ellroy!

37) Make vinegar yourself - suggested by Kevin of Seriously Good and inspired by his mother's five-year-old sherry vinegar.

OK - let's have some more suggestions...we still need 50 to rival the Observer.
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Meeting other bloggers at KRON (plus a good use for leftover homemade cookie dough) 
Over the weekend I went off to the KRON first 'blogger meetup' to promote Digital Dish and hopefully meet other food bloggers. I knew Dr Biggles would be there, but I also got to meet Amy and very briefly Shuna. It was pleasant and all the KRON people expressed polite interest in the book and then probably forgot all about it...

They did make a few food jokes - all about how bloggers didn't need for them to have put on the sandwich and snack spread that they did. I disagreed privately but kept my rude mouth shut.

I also got to meet Biz Stone and thank him for the nice write-up Blogger Buzz did about the book and gave him a copy, too.

Next day, in a panic for something to bring along to an impromptu al fresco supper, I remembered something I had seen/read somewhere about making a simple fruit cobbler using cookie dough. Well, I had a pile of frozen berries (blackberries, raspberries, cherries and blueberries. I had left over chocolate and orange freezer cookie dough (the kind you make into rolls and freeze and then slice off disks from the frozen roll whenever you want cookies and bake for 15 minutes - made with scharffenberger cocoa and orange zest).

Chocolate-Orange Cookie Berry Cobbler



You'll need enough cookie dough to approximately cover the bottom and top of your baking dish. Pre heat the oven to 400. Slice off about eight cookies worth of dough and carefully line the bottom of your baking dish (I used a white ceramic oval about six by 12 inches). Put the dish in the oven to bake the bottom cookie layer for ten minutes. In the meantime, put about five cups of frozen berries in a saucepan to heat on the stove and stire from time to time. After ten minutes, take out the dish and pour the berry mixture on top. Now layer another eight cookies worth of dough on top and bake for another fifteen minutes until the cookie layer on top is cooked. We had it with vanilla ice-cream. It is very rich and the dish served 12 adults.
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Friday, June 10, 2005

REALLY, really late entry for Paper Chef 
We had a really, really, really late entry for Paper Chef - but it was the first post again from a brand new weblog and who can resist the compliment that that is paying us??

So stop by and take a look at "An Electronic Restaurant" by Masterchef "Noodle Cook" and his/her honey poached date and apple oat-bran porridge with skim milk, an egg and a cup of tea with skim milk followed later in the day by Slow cooked rolled rib beef with wilted greens, house-made parsley garlic buttermilk spatzle (German egg noodle), semi-dried tomato, honey glazed baked apples, poached red dates, apple salsa, soya sauce, balsamic and red wine vinegar reduction.
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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

50 things every food blogger (or real person foodie) should do sometime in their life... 
[[SECOND UPDATE - IF YOU HAVEN'T ADDED TO THIS LIST, THEN PLEASE SEE THE COMMENTS]]
Many of you have probably read about the latest Nigel Slater article in the Observer (UK Sunday Newspaper) by now where he lists 50 things that every foodie should do at sometime in their life. A couple of bloggers (you'll have to scroll down a little on that second one)I know (not surprisingly, both are in the book) have commented on which of the 50 they have done. However, as they both point out, many of the 50 are impossible for normal people, even if you substitute a local equivalent.

I will say that I have done 16 (of the original list) if I make a few local allowances.

However, this list really is not possible for normal people - not even remotely - so I'd like to enlist all of your help in compiling a REAL list that any food blogger in the world could achieve - and that is at least as good if not better than the Observer list. Remember that we are going for the top 50 food experiences of a lifetime. Please add your suggestions/additions in comments and I will update from time to time.

I am going to kick the list off with all the things on the Observer list that I think ARE possible for anyone.

1) Make toast
Not just any old piece of toast, but that which has been cut thick from a fresh, old-fashioned white loaf.

2) Dismember a chicken
Nigella Lawson says that everyone should do this at least once in their lives. It is actually quite easy when you get the hang of it, and your supper will taste much better for your having had a hand in it, so to speak.

3) Boil a new-laid egg

4) Pick your own
I'm going to transform this from mushroom gathering (a risky business but one that I have actually done) to gathering any kind of wild crop and cooking it. One of my top food memories of all time is walking back from a place the kids had gone horse-riding on a trip to Cork in Ireland. It was a five mile walk and I gathered about four pounds of ripe, rich blackberries on the way. We had pie that night.

5) Learn how to make a REAL dry martini
I'll leave this in even though cocktails aren't my thing, I know they are for many

6) Shuck an oyster
No excuse on this one - it is easy and eating a fresh, raw oyster really is something you have to do at least once

7) Eat the first asparagus - but despite what they say in the Observer, it doesn't have to be a British asparagus - it has to be a LOCAL asparagus - one picked at most a few hours before

8) Be cooked for by a legend - rather than go with Marco Pierre White since it seems unlikely that it will actually happen, this can be ANYONE you think of as a legend - and that means ANYONE.

9) Pod fresh peas - I can go with this one too - peas are very satisfying and truly fresh taste very different from anything else

10) Queue for fish and chips - I'm keeping this one too, although it does stretch the definition here a little - it may not be possible for everyone.

11) Get up early and go to market - this should really be number one - there is absolutely NO excuse for not doing this at least once in your life - you should really do it every week...

12) Catch your own dinner - I'll extend this to any fishing/hunting/trapping form. It really makes you think about the food chain and where you sit and the difference between a living creature and a shrink-wrapped package in a refrigerated case

13) Grill a steak - even if you are a vegetarian. There's something buried in our evolutionary psyche that reacts to cooking meat over a fire.

14) Bake a loaf of bread - another to put at the top of the list - there is no excuse possible

15) Milk a cow - I'm lucky enough to have done this and to have drunk the unpasteurized result back when I was four on a farm in Devon

and now I am going to add my own one to the list....

16) Hand make fresh pasta - there is little to beat the joy and satisfaction of working with your hands on something so simple and yet sublime.


OK - your turn....

17) Making stock from scratch - Kitchen Queen Tai suggested this one.

18) Preserve something (jam or pickles etc.) - Culinary Fool suggested this.

19) Grow your own - this would have been my second if I had allowed myself one. Ellen from Cheap Cooking suggested this and added, "fresh herbs, a tomato plant in a pot, or a full-blown vegetable garden," and that she loves going out to see what's for dinner.

20) "In the middle of the night, share fresh, cool water with someone close to you, via a kiss" - suggested by Sam (aka Sixy Beast for obvious reasons!)

21) Cook FOR a legend - Mike at The Radio Kitchen suggested this and I like it - it would be fun! (we are going to let him have three suggestions unfairly because his three are so good and so eminently achievable)

22) Taste wine straight from the barrel - should be possible for most people - harder in the tropics and the very cold climates but still within possibility and it sounds so nice.

23) Volunteer in a soup kitchen - a totally worthy goal for at least once in your life... (these last two were also from Mike)

24) Brew beer, ale or mead (I'd add ferment wine to the list too) - from Barabara of Tigers and Strawberries.

25) Make chocolate yourself from cocoa beans - this one is pretty tough - I'm not sure how easy it would be in a normal kitchen - but a very worthy goal - from chronicler at Food Chronicles.

26) Make and/or eat breakfast in bed - NO, no frying pans and primus stoves under the sheets! You know what we mean. Although this is an easy goal, it is a worthy one. From Rachael of Fresh Approach Cooking.

27) Make a souffle - ("Presenting the flavor of eggs in its best possible light. And offering a presentation that is pure delight to gaze upon") from Kevin at Seriously Good.

28) Roast a suckling pig in a backyard pit - I've helped do this one but maybe I should do it all for real...this is also one that is more of a challenge for the urban and suburban among us. Well, my Dad did it back in 1976 in the back garden of a semi-detached in a London suburb - right in the middle of the lawn - so you can do it too! Suggested by Sylvie of Food - Got To Love It.

29) Learn how to make your own cheese - this is another one I would have added if I had more than one choice so I am very glad that Claire of eat stuff suggested it.

30) Go back to the country or region of your heritage and learn to cook something like your ancestors. (OK - this is clearly an American suggestion what with the 'give me your tired, your hungry...' and all but if you take it in a generous spirit and look for nomadic roots in the mists of time or just step back a few hundred years and look at what you might cook...and I really like the suggestion anyway - from Sarah of The Delicious Life.

31) Make your own truffles (the chocolate kind). Fatemeh of Gastronomie had this as her second suggestion, her first being to deep fry a turkey, but I am not prepared to cede that that is an experience of a lifetime.

32) Make tortillas by hand, corn or flour - Renee of no known abode suggested this and I think it is a good one. In my experience, outside of the Americas, all Mexican food is execrable, and one of the reason is the tortillas. (There's a whole side conversation here about just how bad cuisines are outside of their native land. In my admittedly limited experience, cuisines are like real ales in this regard - they don't travel all that well and the further they go the worse they are. That's alleviated somewhat by how much of the culture itself has been exported, so Indian food in England is better than anywhere else outside of India, but I still suspect it is true on the whole).

33) Teach or encourage a child to cook - another great suggestion - and since it came from my Mom (Adele) it is more than appropriate.

OK - let's have some more suggestions...we need 50 to rival the Observer.
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Paper Chef Results! 
Wow! Julie at A Finger In Every Pie not only had more entries than ever to evaluate but she did it in record time! Her posting with the winner and a lot of lovely prose about the whole event is here.

Thank you for being such a great judge Julie and thank you all for taking part. What's that? I'm not going to tell you who won... you have to go look!
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Monday, June 06, 2005

All the entries for the Egg, Buttermilk, Honey and Date Paper Chef (#7) 
We got a slight preponderance of sweet entries this time around, but a fair few savory ones and some real surprises are mixed right in there. We also had our fastest ever entry - Friday night the entry was made, eaten and posted. Once again (this is almost a Paper Chef tradition) we had the inaugral entry in someone's blog be an entry. We also got an entry from an imprisoned cat with revenge on its mind and a very late entry thrown into confusion by the unexpected arrival of an ex-lover (and a lot of suggestive side comments). I don't envy Julie of A Finger in Every Pie, our judge this time, one little bit. She's got her work cut out for her...

Not too surprisingly, given the mejdool date requirement, many of the entries had a middle eastern flair to them. And it is no longer any surprise that all of these entries are overflowing with culinary creativity.

To recap, this month's randomly chosen ingredients were: buttermilk, mejdool dates and honey and the topical/seasonal ingredient was egg - with the usual disclaimers about not being able to use the correct ingredients and substituting all applying.



We start with our quick out of the gate entry. Jennifer of Taste Everything Once had waffles on the brain and brought us delicious-looking Buttermilk Waffles with Honey-Date Butter.

Next up is an entry directly inspired by the previous one but that bears almost no relationship to it whatsoever: McAuliflower of Brownie Points brings us Mango Lassi Layered with Honey Date Ice Cream. But the best part by far is that the recipe also involves poison oak (somewhat indirectly). You'll have to go read it to find out what that's all about!

We jump from poisonous plants to poisonous thoughts (about creamy delights). A previously unsuspected resident of Belly Timber, the Cat, described in detail a devious torture inflicted upon it by its jailers: a Date and Salmon berry Parfait.

Sylvie, of Soul Fusion Kitchen, concocted a scrumptious and rich-looking Date Nut Pudding With Honeyed Whipped Cream based on a recipe from the Silver Palate Cookbook - a cookbook that has won itself a coveted place on the staple cookbooks shelf in my house.

Cats reappeared at our next stop. Kimberly of Music and Cats made Honey bran muffins with dates and pecans for breakfast since she is avoiding desserts. I suspect her cats got to share...

At this point I would like to take a moment to pause and commiserate with Daffy who has finals and couldn't make it this time around. Good luck, Daffy!

After that brief interlude (we need to prepare ourselves) we turn to Sarah of the delicious life who managed to bring up being tied up (something about an ex-lover) but then also admitted that it was her first time (I guess she meant taking part in Paper Chef) and that it wasn't all that orgasmic. The Feta Souffle with Walnuts, Dates and Feisty Greens certainly sounds like a bit of alright to me...

The Kitchen Queens over at Something's cooking created a dish that balanced on the cusp. Is it savory...is it sweet...is it...well, they said it was savory. Buttermilk scones with dates, honey and Danish blue.

Lady X at Experiment in Writing did us the honor of devoting her inaugral post to her Paper Chef entry. I think this is now the third time that has happened and I am really grateful that the Paper Chef has provided that little extra push to get started. And, in common with other first-timers, she has gone straight into the deep end with her Honey Pecan-Topped Date Fool with Buttermilk Donuts.

Rachael at Fresh Approach Cooking was another first time entrant (not her first blog posting though). At first I thought her Chicken Sausages with Dates and Honey were chicken sausages somehow cooked along with some date and honey. But I got with the program - these are forcemeat sausages made with chicken, dates, honey and a host of other yummy ingredients. I couldn't figure out how to get picture and post in one entry, so here is the picture.

Carolyn, whose 18th C Cuisine site is one of the most fascinating sites out there, was, of course, let down by the 21st century technology needed to record her creation... Buttermilk & Honey Sorbet with Date Crunch Topping.

Lynette, of Lex Culinaria, another Paper Chef favorite, went all out with her Morroccan buttermilk chicken with date and toasted almond stuffing. Even though she, too, had issues with her digital camera, her one picture shows just what a delicious main course she made.

Melissa of Traveler's Lunchbox brought in our main educational moment. I'd never heard of a socca before, but she made us a Seafood Socca with Date-Orange Salad, Spiced Honey Sauce and Crème Fraiche.

One more aside here - you will have noticed that my writeups are getting shorter and less interesting (and you thought that was impossible!) I've been at it for a couple of hours now and it's late, but I'm near the end and it is a lot of fun to go look at all these wonderful dishes.

Brenda at Culinary Fool specializes in interesting twists to the basic idea and so she made us one and three quarters dishes - A Moroccan Spiced Chicken Cobbler and A Berry Cobbler.

Lyle at Crocodile Caucus passed along (and posted) a recipe from a co-worker. What a nice guy! Shame the co-worker is unnamed...but her recipe is: Date Muffins with Honey Butter.

Robyn, of Food Chronicles, is another first-time entrant. And she really came up with a great idea. Tempura Fried Dates. The moment you hear it you know they are good.

Viv, over at Seattle Bon Vivant, has started to get into a bad habit. She turns her entries in at what she thinks is the last minute. Hah! I'm almost always up after midnight...Anyway, her Buttermilk Banana Bread looks scrumptious.

I think that's 16 entries. If I've missed you, email me on owenl1998 at yahoo dot com and I'll add you in right away.


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Culinary Vacations 
There has been a lot of buzz lately about culinary vacations - particularly culinary school vacations. Newspapers, magazines - they have all taken to writing about them - the cynic in me suggests that they just want to GO on them! Anyway in all the kerfuffle, the big name publications all missed what looks like a totally brilliant culinary vacation run by one of our very own. Ronald, who runs Is My Blog Burning? the food blog information site, also runs Love Sicily, a travel site with classes in food, art and more. His blog, Via Ritiro N. 7, has a week long chronicle of the first class and it looks stunning. If I ever get rich, I know where I'm going for a holiday!
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Friday, June 03, 2005

Paper Chef #7: official start.... 
OK, here we go... For June, 2005, the final ingredients are:

1)Buttermilk (I guess you can substitute a mixture of plain yoghurt and milk if buttermilk is not available). For the lactose intolerant substitute any milky analog you like.
2)Medjdool dates - again, if you can't get the specific medjdool, any other date will do
3)Honey - any kind - and if honey is not possible for some reason (allergies?) then any sweet substitute will do (splenda etc for diabetics)

4)And the topical/seasonal ingredient? Not terribly topical or seasonal but I made a decision about using the first ingredient I ran across in a news story today - and it is eggs...again, if eggs are a dietary no-no then substitute whatever non-egg substitute you normally use.

I like this one because it can go either way - not necessarily a sweet one.

By the way, I select the ingredients by using the sequence generator from Random.org. This time around there were 20 ingredients including the last minute beet nomination.

Our judge this time around is Julie at A Finger in Every Pie (winner last month) BUT she isn't 100% confirmed yet...

Start as soon as you read this - and email a link to your entry about what you cooked before Monday Noon PST. Spectacular whining, preferably with stupendously creative excuses left in the comments area, may get you an extended deadline.

Winner gets to put up the prestigious Paper Chef Winner icon (which will be supplied) and also gets to judge next month (if they want).
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Thursday, June 02, 2005

Last ingredient update for Paper Chef #7 
It's Paper Chef time again! Scroll down for all the rules etc. The current ingredient list from which three will be selected randomly is:

Star anise, chestnut paste, egg, brown sugar, red wine, cream, cheddar cheese, buttermilk, quinoa, mejdool dates, honey, butter, asparagus and cured, aged ham (country not city), lemongrass, spinach, vinegar, sweet potatoes and marshmallows.

That's a long list and I can see it going many different ways...

The final four ingredient list will be posted tomorrow before Noon PST and then you can get cracking...
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Wednesday, June 01, 2005

100 Today! (and don't forget the Paper Chef) 
I just counted up and realised that the Masala Chai recipe I posted was my 100th recipe on the blog! So that calls for a mild celebration of some kind. Whoo-hoo!

In addition, don't forget to nominate an ingredient for the Paper Chef (see below) and get ready to find out the ingredients on Friday and cook over the weekend!
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Homemade Chai Masala 
There was a lovely article a few weeks ago in the SF Chronicla about a tea shop in Half Moon Bay that makes its own REAL chai masala. That would mean that it is made from tea and spices not from a syrup dispensed from a box on the counter at Starbucks.

Simple Chai Masala


I was inspired to make my own since I have a nice hand burr grinder that I reserve for spices - mostly Indian spices. So I ground up an inch piece of cinammon stick, a teaspoon of decorticated cardamom seed, six cloves, a black peppercorn and a quarter teaspoon of fennel seeds. Brewed a nice cup of tea along with about half a teaspoon of the spice mixture and a teaspoon of honey and let it steep for five minutes and then added a little milk - absolutely lovely! For a really top-notch experience I'd do it the way my old friend Shaheen would do it, boiling loose leaf tea and spices in milk for a few minutes.
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Digital Dish 'review' 
Not quite a review. But Laslie Katz of the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in the Bay Area clearly stopped by our Berkeley Farmer's Market Launch and enjoyed what she heard and tasted.

"Recent special events included an organic strawberry tasting and a reading from the new book "Digital Dish: Five Seasons of the Freshest Recipes and Writing from Food Blogs Around the World (Press for Change Publishing, $19.95)." Excerpts from the book sounded fun and tasty — almost as tasty as the free sample of Strawberry, Chipotle Pepper, Sorrel and Mint Salsa with Greek yogurt on a cracker that accompanied the presentation."


You too can get in on the action by not only buying a copy of the book, but also making the delicious salsa recipe.
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Paper Chef Ingredient Update - for THIS Friday! 
The ingredients are now: Star anise, chestnut paste, egg, brown sugar, red wine, cream, cheddar cheese, buttermilk, quinoa, mejdool dates, honey, butter, asparagus and cured, aged ham (country not city). You only get to nominate one per month and you can nominate in the comments right here or in the forums at Is My Blog Burning?

Cannot nominate: ricotta, strawberries, almond paste or chocolate
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