Sunday, 24 January 2010

Mexican street markets - Guest post 1

Following the brilliant (if not entirely original) idea of a fellow pig trotter lover and blogger Ryan at Nose to Tail Eating at Home, I'm opening up my blog to guests. Have you been to a lovely little market? Have a story to tell about some curious food stuff? Would like to share your Madeleine memory? Or have a thing about all things Russians? Get in touch and I'd love to share your story with the rest of the world.

The first post comes from the wonderful fellow anthropologist-to-be Sofia Larrinua-Craxton and her
website about 'all things food'. Sofia is Mexican - evidently - and teaches Mexican cuisine at Books for cooks in London, so she knows her chilli and her tortilla...

Mexian street markets...

Or 'el tianguis' as it is commonly known is the Nahuatl word for the various colourful markets which populate the streets of Mexico, here you can find all the things you need, thought you needed and things you would not even imagined existed but are sold, from wedding dresses to plants and baskets, these markets sell all kinds of stuff and it is lovely to see people buying all kinds of things.

A particularly nice thing to do is to buy fresh fruits and vegetables; courgette flowers, tomatillos, cactus leaves, ripe guavas, mamey fruit and avocados, sweet mangoes and juicy pineapples, all sit happily waiting to be tested, tasted and bought. For those who fancy a snack, just stop at any of the many street stalls, where you can taste a hand made quesadilla with fresh hot salsa or a 'tlacoyo' which is a tortilla filled with beans, usually made with blue corn and topped with a delicious salad of cactus leaves, tomatoes, coriander and crumbled cheese.

If in Mexico look for the classic green or pink canopies characteristic of these markets and delight in watching people offering their wares, haggling and buying. Try the various exotic fruits and vegetables and stop for some food. Don't forget to take a hand made bag or basket or better still buy it there. If you like Mexican cooking implements look for them at the stalls, you can get tortilla presses, lime squeezers and gorgeous enamel pots and pans at very good prices. Of course if you feel eccentric, you can always bargain for some silver jewellery, a banana plant, fake designer shoes or even a wedding dress, the choice is yours. Whatever your taste choices a 'tianguis' is really fun!

Sunday, 17 January 2010

This is how to win his heart - and the world's bellies

He said I was a goddess.

I perform all the tricks that domestic goddesses are supposed to be able to do: move well, raise one eyebrow suggestively and engage in pseudo-intellectual conversations. But, as we all know, to really touch the heart of a man - of either divine and earthly nature, you have to appeal to his belly. The seemingly unexpected and effortless appearance of these gooey, sticky, the colour of mud things had swayed the celestial balance.

Chocolate brownies.

These are days, and particularly nights, of depressing, matter-of-factely mid-winter, when despite all the calls to austerity, one yearns for something ridiculously rich, extravagant, and in big quantities. What the goddess does is she smiles gently, strokes a feverish forehead and lightly strikes her magic wand...

It is surprising to realise that the Brownie, so un-Russian in its origin, so both exotic, because of all the chocolate and dark sugars, and teen-American, because of its current association, has in fact become the most treasured dessert in this household. Come to think of it, perhaps it is precisely because of the Brownie's Americanist, straight-forward appeal, its capitalist ability to adapt to all tastes and cultures and its strumpet skill to appeal to both most basic and most sublime, that it has earned its place. A kind of Cold War victory on the ground, in the sexy James Bond and Natasha with a choker on her throat type of way.

Chocolate and chestnut brownies

100g butter
200g dark chocolate
150g cooked chestnuts, chopped
200g sugar, a mixture of caster and dark brown
100g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
3-4 large eggs, lightly whisked

1. preheat the over to 180C and line a baking tray, about 20-30 cm

2. melt chocolate with butter over a pan of simmering water; let it cool down for a couple of minutes

3. transfer the chocolate/butter mixture into a bigger bowl if necessary, add chestnuts, sugar, sifted flour, powder and eggs

4. enjoy the unhurried mixing of the heavy load

5. pour into the baking tray, make sure the surface is roughly even and bake for about 20 minutes

6. the Brownie mixture should be taken out of the oven when still looks a bit uncooked, it will give it that gooey centre

7. let the mixture cool a bit, cut into squares and enjoy the almost delirious combination of bitter chocolate, earthy chestnuts and American superpower:) . Great with unsweetened Turkish coffee, black Russian tea or, indeed, a strawberry milkshake.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

What is the name of me, my sweet mirror?

My dear, faithful readers,

It has finally come to me needing - asking, begging - your help, your ideas, your brains.

I-need-your-help with choosing a name for my blog.

you all know I've been writing the blog for awhile, and it's gone into different direction from what I originally thought it would be, however there are certain themes...

so I would LOVE if YOU came back to me with your vote number one.

from the list below that me and J has brainstormed, which one you think reflects the best my blog, my character, or just attracts you the most?

  • Bazaar and Vodka
  • Bolshy Bazaar
  • Russian Glutton
  • Comrade Foodie
  • Belly Revolution
  • She swallows
  • That Madeleine moment
  • Around the world in 80 markets?

Any crazy, obsecure, silly ideas are welcome here - no censoring, honest;)

Thank you, Spasiba, Merci

Monday, 4 January 2010

Russo-Ireland - unitied by a humble spud

Remember my royal potato salad Olivier making its appearance just before the New Year's eve? Well, I got potato inspired and suggested to the lovely Daily Spud - a fellow blogger who shares my passion for a good old potato - to do a joint spud post.

Voila! She didn't just spread the word, but made her own, a wondrous version of Olivier - with haddock and pickled cucumbers. Read on...

Potato salad with haddock (image by the Daily Spud)

I really like this unusual version of the good old Olivier - a hint of Irish blood perhaps?

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Hot, dark, tempting

The realisation that the hedonistic winter celebrations of gluttony and cheap champagne is over feels bleak and calls for strong measures. Coffee. Black, scorchingly hot and giddily strong, Turkish Coffee, with its swooning body and enveloping aroma, can pull you out of the most wondrous melancholy. What differentiates it from its European cousin, Espresso, is the long, measured process of making it. To achieve a sufficiently languid result one ought to rely on a tremble of one's hand and a sharpness of one's eye, more than on a beautifully gleaming machinery. Cezve (pronounced [jezva], a Turkish coffee pot, is the key to the creation that is syropy, full-bodied, electrifying.

'Cezve'-Turkish coffee pot

Cezve is a curved, high-necked pot, normally no taller than the size of your palm; it is often made out of copper. They call it a briki in many English-speaking countries, but the original word for cezve comes from Arabic, meaning coal - presumably from the method of making coffee on burning coal. An only slightly modified word dzezva is known to most Russians too, as making coffee on a stove using this pot was fairly common - at least for the bohemian Soviet hippies (there were a number of those behind the Iron Curtain), as my parents were.

Breakfast of naked coffee and cigarettes

For years my mother's morning ritual was to have nothing else but a cup of very strong Turkish coffee - with a sugar lump, but no milk - and a cigarette, or two. My Madeleine memory is perhaps this curious combination of warm dark roasted coffee and a slightly tart, but strangely comforting smell of burning tobacco. Of course mother would always try to shoo me away from the kitchen with its translucent clouds of cigarette smoke, but it often didn't work, and so I would stay, perching on a stool, always hungry in the morning, waiting for breakfast, which would inevitably for a Russ include buterbrody - open sandwiches - with ham, cheese and whatnot - and, from a fairly early age, also be a cup of coffee, perhaps a little lighter than mother's and always with a thick layer of cream. I still remember the chocolate-cake like appearance of my coffee top, a toffee coloured mixture of coffee grains (grains would always settle down after a moment) mixed in with warm, fatty milk. These days Russians and Ukrainians call any basic recipe of coffee topped with boiling water in a cup Turkish coffee, but this uncooked method is an unsatisfying and grainy drink. Cezve is what makes all the difference...

Turkish coffee in Turkey

Many years after my childhood coffee-tobacco memories, I learnt how to make Turkish coffee proper whilst travelling through central and south-eastern Turkey. During my journey, which coincided with Bayram - the end of Ramadan - I was fortunate enough to spend three days with a Turkish family, in a prosperous and modern (and hence rarely visited by Westerns) city of Kaiseri. We visited many houses, kissed many cheeks, ate a lot of honey-dripping baklava with endless cups of tea - and coffee, of course.

Celebration of the end of Ramadan with sweets and tea

The mother of Adnan, our host, beckoned me to a small but spotlessly clean kitchen, to show me the process of making kahva, Turkish coffee, and here I am sharing with you the recipe learnt there, in the city floating between Asia and Europe, a lullaby of modern and the old...

Master and its servants: cezve and the ingredients

Turkish coffee

You will need:
1 tbsp very finely grounded coffee (I find the zingy Columbian Grupo Asociativo Quebradon from Monmouth a fitting match here)
1 tsp soft brown sugar
a small cup of water (mineral is best)
1 cezve

Pour cold water into your pot, add coffee and sugar and stir gently. The liquid will feel heavy, like a lava.

Put on a stove, on a lowest heat possible and wait...

After some 5 to 15 minutes, depending on the caress of the heat, the volcano will very slowly start building up, the foam shaping up, moving up, speeding up. Do not move away at this stage - you'll be transfixed by the champagne of caramel-coloured bubbles expanding, desperate to burst.

At the point when the vessel cannot longer contain the liquid, take it off the heat, pour the foam - and only the form, which is about 1/3 of the whole content - into a cup, and put the cezva back on the stove.

Let the coffee have another go, going all the way to the bream of the pot......when almost over the edge, take it off and pour the remainder into the cup, patiently waiting.

Drink slowly but edgily, there and then.

A puff of blue smoke will make the taste all the more intense... or, for those less sinfully inclined, a bite of honey-drenched baklava.

Remember, Turks predict future by what's left behind. Once the coffee grains are poured out of a cup, let the thin layer of mud dry up a bit - what does my say?..