First of all, HAPPY NEW YEAR! I had been intending to post this before it became 2019, but hey ho you’ll forgive me. I’ve been passionate about food for a long time, but since starting my blog a few years ago I feel I’ve been learning so much. Over the past year I’ve been able to try some really interesting foods and ingredients, and discover some delicious things that I want to share with you. Some of these are pretty obscure and tricky – if not impossible – to find in the UK, but others have quickly become cupboard staples.
Victoria Street Market was very high on my list of places to go in Durban, and it lived up to all expectations. The smell of spices immediately hits as you walk in and all possible mixes and combinations are there to try. I found this beautiful lemon herb mix at R.A.Moodley and knew I had to bring some home. It’s perfect on fish, chicken, stirred into yoghurt or mayo, sprinkled onto potatoes. I am still trying to perfect a recipe that I hope to share with you when it’s close enough to the real thing!
A friend of mine returned from his Christmas holidays in Sicily with his family last year and presented me with a little jar of pistachio pesto. I was in two minds because I love pistachios, and my friend was so sure I would love this pesto, but I was questioning where the flavour hit was going to come from that you get with basil pesto. However this pesto isn’t about that kick of herbiness, but a soothing, comforting flavour that wraps itself around you like a big hug. I’m sure you could get jars of pistachio pesto in Italian delis in the UK, but I’ve also developed my own recipe which you can find here.
Giant Puffball mushroom
Whilst out on a late Summer walk around the village where Mark’s Mum lives in Berkshire, we noticed what looked like a slightly deflated football at the side of the road under the hedge. We remembered seeing these giant puffball mushrooms on an episode of River Cottage and went for a closer look. After rigorous inspection and a fair bit of verification, we were convinced (they’re probably the easiest and safest mushrooms to identify when you know how, mainly due to their size) and decided to take one home. I couldn’t believe how delicious and silky these mushrooms were when cooked!
Read more about giant puffball mushrooms here.
These teeny aubergines are used a lot in Thai and Lao cooking, so we used them in both our cooking classes with Galangal Cooking Studio in Chiang Mai and Bamboo Tree in Luang Prabang. They are about the size of a hazelnut and pack quite a punchy, bitter flavour. I wonder if they might be available to grow from seed in the UK…
Read more about our Thai cooking class in Chiang Mai here.
Sakhan (Chilli wood)
Sakhan, or chilli wood, is related to the black pepper plant, but the wood is used instead of the peppercorns. It is used in Northern Lao cooking especially to make Or Lam which is a yummy, hearty stew with a warm heat from the sakhan. The wood is chopped into small, inch-size pieces and cooked in the broth to flavour it. I am almost certain that I won’t find this ingredient even in London, but apparently you can substitute Szechuan pepper for a similar effect.
Read more about our Lao cooking class in Luang Prabang here.
Sugar cane juice
When Mark and I visited Phnom Penh Night Market I was intrigued by the stalls rolling long fibrous sticks through a mangle. I had read about sugar cane juice so I figured that’s what it was and we gave it a try. I expected it to be super sweet like drinking a dilute syrup with little actual flavour, but actually it was surprisingly fresh and vibrant and a perfect drink for a hot Cambodia evening.
There’s still so much out there that I’ve yet to discover and try. I wonder what will be on my list at the end of 2019?