Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Five Things to Eat Before I Die

Rosa tagged me to write "Five Things to Eat Before I Die" back in September. The meme started at Traveler's Lunchbox. I guess I have to exclude wine. These are not necessarily great dishes but they are ones that made a great impression on me at the time. Not quite Marcel Proust and his Madeleine but this is my list:

Peking Duck
Vegetable Samosa
Chicken Satay
Crème Brulée

Peking Duck
[1975/76] Immediately after leaving college in '75 before I started my first job the following spring, staying with Lorna and Carmichael as their lodger. I was used to Chinese food from an early age; for my 10th birthday the family went to a Chinese restaurant in Coventry. The restauranteur gave me a couple of pairs of plastic chopsticks which were a treasured item for many years (well I was only 10!).

When I started college a Chinese takeaway was suggested and a fellow student astounded me by saying that he had never eaten Chinese food. At the time the typical Chinese takeaway provided sweet and sour pork balls in day-glow orange wall-paper paste, spring rolls that oozed grease and chips that were thick and burning hot on the outside, raw and uncooked on the inside.

Then for Carmike's birthday he treated us to a Peking meal at Botley on the outskirts of Oxford. My first ever encounter with Peking duck was a revelation. It was delicious, cooked with textures and flavours unknown to the local takeaway. I loved contrasting textures and flavours plus the audience participation involved in "rolling your own".

At the time the only place you could buy hoi-sin sauce was the Chinese supermarkets in Soho which meant a special expedition to London. How times change, now it is on the shelves of every supermarket.

Vegetable Samosa
[1979] It was a similar story with curry, discovering that there is something other than ghee based gloop with mystery meat. I was a latecomer to curries only starting in 1974 in the company of Sheridan, Tony, Amanda and Tom Thacker. The latter was in charge of IT at the Nuclear Physics Lab and used to check the machine room smoke detectors were not *too* sensitive by puffing his well-chewed pipe underneath them.

Then I moved to London and discovered that there were not just Chinese and Indian. There were Cantonese, Peking, Schezchuan, Malaysian, Korean; there were Bangladeshi, Goan, Bengali, Afghani, and South Indian Vegetarian.

It was at restaurants like the Sree Krishna in Tooting, the Mandeer in Hanway Place (off Tottenham Court Road and the ) and Diwana Bhel Poori House in Drummond Street that I discovered the vegetable samosa. With a crisp filo-like pastry these were a huge improvement over the chewy, meat filled versions I had previously encountered. Then there were all the other vegan delights and the sweets, don't forget the sweets: kulfi, galub jaman, barfi, jelabi, ras malai (see List of Indian sweets and desserts for more). Maybe that is why I have so many crowns :-(

Chicken Satay.
[1980] Working with a Malaysian colleague I was introduced to another set of international cuisine. I met the Singapore Laska, Indonesian Gado Gado and Malaysian Satay. The latter reminding me of my first Greek souvlaki proper (kalamaki) but with the added benefits of spice and a peanut sauce. My favourite restaurant was The Satay Stick in Dering Street.

Lymeswold and Cambozola
[198?] Lymeswold may be a marketing-led, designer cheese but for a while it was a favourite of mine. I never really like the classic French cheeses Brie and Camembert - heresy! I favoured traditional English cheeses like Lancashire, Red Leicester, Double Gloucester and Wensleydale (but not Cheddar - double heresy). Like many others at the time I shifted my allegiance to Cambozola a similar but superior cheese. These cheeses shifted my palette towards softer, creamier cheeses and paved the way for goats' cheeses and a number of other delights.

Crème Brulée
[1989] I have always had a sweet tooth and usually opt for the role of "pastry chef" when Mary and I host a dinner party. Her Sainburys' Desserts and Pudding recipe book included a recipe for Crème Brulée which rapidly became one of my signature dishes and often repeated by popular demand, served with a fine Sauternes, of course. It was only after a couple of years that I realised that I had been mis-reading the recipe and only using half the quantity of double cream. Or to put it another way I had been using twice the quantity of egg yolks. This would explain the extremely rich texture. So, am I using the correct recipe now? Nope .

So duty done, Rosa.



Rosa said...

Bravo! I'm joining you for your "last supper!" Gotta love the foods of the world! My brother is here and I am enjoying his culinary perfection!

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hello from Sicily. On the whole, I think you're more entertaining than Proust and his bloody madeleine! I'm with you on Peking Duck and veg samosas! Going now, as I'm hungry!