There are a lot of broadly Middle Eastern cookery books around at the moment.
In the last few months, I’ve cooked from Ottolenghi’s peerless Jerusalem, and Levant by Anissa Helou, and now Joudie Kalla’s excellent Palestine on a Plate.
All of these books share a common sense of identity, of place, and of history. The Middle East is a region with problems, to understate enormously, but it’s also a region with a rich and heartfelt culture stretching back thousands of years, and the food of the area acts like a seam running through the years, connecting generations.
No matter what happens, no matter how unexpected the twists, the turns, no matter what direction events may take, there will always be these recipes, these ingredients, handed down and cooked over centuries.
Kalla’s book carries the sub-title ‘memories from my mother’s kitchen‘, which highlights the importance of tradition in the Middle East in general, and in Palestine in particular, of family tradition and continuity.
There was a time, not many years ago, when it looked like Bradford would be keeping the massive hole left there after the frenzied demolition of the bottom part of town. The plan was to build a new shopping centre, but the financial crash put paid to that. The space was left as rubble for years, and then part of it became a rather forlorn and depressing temporary park.
It was a bleak time, the vast wasteland symbolising an existential emptiness that many felt the city held at its core.
But the shiny new shopping centre was built, and it brought with it a lot of associated development, a lot of new names and faces, and things started to look … possible.
Bradford has a long way to go – the opposite end of town is suffering enormously from the gravitational pull of The Broadway, but the impact that this new space has had on the city has been enormous.
So, here we are, right across from the spot that the old Wimpy bar used to be back in the day, sat in a posh burger bar, an outpost of Americana in a windy northern high street, shadowed by the gothic majesty of Lockwood & Mawson’s Victorian Wool Exchange, flanked by a sleek new shopping centre, and backing onto yet another demolition site that will ultimately become a cinema. It all feels right, and fits together well.
And what a burger bar.
We wandered around town for a bit last Sunday, at a loose end, floating from record shop to record shop with nothing much to do. Eventually, we got hungry, and stood outside Jumbo Records, uncertain what to do.
Leeds is blessed with a superb restaurant scene. There are dozens and dozens of first-rate places to go, but sometimes choosing one feels like those times you’re sat in front of the TV, trying to choose a film to watch from the thousands available, paralysed by the choice.
I made a snap decision, to break the deadlock, because asking a teenage boy to make a decision is never really going to end well, is it?
Fuji Hiro. Just around the corner, (shockingly) never been there, noodles, done.
Hipster hamster food?
Not exactly. Maybe. OK, yes.
No. That’s not fair. This is a book about the Holy Trinity of preserving, namely fermenting, pickling and drying. Three related but very, very different processes.
Kool kids love kimchi?
Kool kids do indeed love kimchi. And rightly so.
Yes, it’s fashionable right now to ferment anything that doesn’t move fast enough, but there’s good reason for that, because a lot of fermented or otherwise preserved food is both delicious and versatile, so maybe the Kool Kids are onto something here. More …
In my quest to crack the ongoing puzzle of eating well at lunchtime when lunchtime slips to about twenty minutes at most, I’ve started to experiment.
This all began when this article popped up on Facebook. It reminded me of something Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall had done a few years ago, that thing I’d made a note to have a go at and then promptly forgot about.
The idea here is that the base ingredients for an excellent noodle soup are packed into a jar, the top screwed tightly on, transported spill-free to work, and finished with water from the kettle.
Imagine the humble Pot Noodle, but made with fresh ingredients, and better tasting.
To begin with, you need a jar, something fairly wide-mouthed that you can get your ingredients into easily, and more importantly, that you can eat from. I found a couple of glass mason jars for about £2.50 each, and figured that a fiver invested would be recouped if I avoided buying just one sandwich at lunchtime. These are really preserving jars, and they come with a tight-fitting screw top lid, so no leakage expected.