Culinary Causerie with Sarla Langdon
Examining Culinary Connections
In this column last month, I mentioned Professor Sandra M. Gilbert’s new book ‘The Culinary Imagination—From Myth to Modernity’ (published by W.W.Norton £17.00) and have since been prevailed upon to review this gastro-nomic offering. Sandra Gilbert is a distinguised academic whose habit of scholarly examination extends to her study of the contemporary culinary imagination. Her book, focussing heavily on the culinary scene in the US, is a compendium of fact and anecdote examining links between food and food writing and broadcasting that reflect every aspect of our lives.
Gilbert looks at food and philosophy, food and history, food trends from the fads and fallacies of the most modern of TV food programmes to ancient Roman times when the first known recipe book in the Western world ‘ Of Culinary Matters’ by Marcus Gavius Apicius was published in the first century A.D.
The Culinary Imagination is an erudite compilation of culinary lore, full of familiar foodie stars, gossipy stories and cultural references. It is a revealing study of the ways in which scholars from a wide range of disciplines have represented food. Food and drugs. Food and painting. Food in literature. Food in relationships. Food in the home. Food as memory. Food in social behaviour……The Culinary Imagination is a parade of carefully researched perspectives, an assemblage of comments by a myriad of experts on every food-related topic under the sun.
Much of this miscellany of information is already known to us. The social value of this book is that this storehouse of gustatory fact has been put between two covers, pulling together and reinterpreting gastronomic knowledge through an enormous variety of cultural references.
This is not a cook-book. Nor is it a recipe book. It is a festival of food facts which will keep you amused and entertained. And very well informed…
Culinary Causerie with Lesley Williams
A chance conversation with a local businesswoman directed me to the Turkish restaurant, Istanbul in St Helen’s Road. It was, she said, the best place for food in Swansea in her opinion. With a recommendation like that, and the fact that it rated number 5 in Swansea on internet review site Trip Advisor meant I had no choice but to go and check it out for myself.
It’s not just the smell of barbequed meat that greets you the moment you cross the threshold. Hari, the manager rushed to welcomed us in from the cold evening and quickly seated us. After a quick look at the wine list, it wasn’t long before we were warming ourselves with a glass of Rioja and an authentic Efes Turkish beer.
I love the informality of sharing a huge platter of food with friends. There is something special about sitting around a table with everyone eating from a communal plate – something that happens as a matter of course in India, Africa and the Middle East. At Istanbul the Turkish cuisine embodies food from three continents; Europe, Africa and Asia all cooked over a flaming hot grill and provides plenty of opportunity for sharing.
The menu consists of starters – hot or cold meze, which include Mediterranean favourites such as calamari, taramasalata and hummus. Along with the recognisable dishes there are authentic Turkish specialities like patlican ezme – an aubergine dish with peppers, tomatoes and parsley. We went down the sharing route with a meat platter for two. This included a plate of cold meze with hummus, cacik – a creamy yoghurt and cucumber dip, Russian salad and patlican ezme accompanied by a basket of freshly made bread.
The star of the show was the meat platter – it is recommended for two, but even pure bred carnivores like us had to wimp out and ask for a doggy bag. The meats were delicately spicy, with the characteristically crispy chargrilled edges that only come with cooking over a flaming grill. Lamb cutlets with their ends daintily dressed with aluminium foil tips were perfect for picking up and nibbling. The lamb and chicken kofte were savoury while the chicken and lamb sis kebabs had a little chilli kick. All this came with a huge, colourful mixed salad with the addition of crunchy red cabbage and a bowl of chips.
Istanbul is open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner. A special 3 course lunch menu is available for just £7.95. Shimmering Sunday takes place on the 1st Sunday of the month when you can sit back and enjoy a 3 course meal with belly dancing entertainment. I would imagine that booking is essential!
Istanbul, 22 St Helen’s Road, Swansea SA1 4AP Tel: 01792 654966
Usually, when a delivery van stops outside BAY HQ it is bringing boring office stationary, print supplies or other mundane items. So it was with great excitement that I took delivery of a parcel that said very mysteriously “URGENT Perishable goods”.
Once I’d got past the packaging I found three samples of the goodies sent by Patchwork Traditional Food Company in Ruthin, North Wales.
Patchwork was established in 1982 by Margaret Carter, a talented cook who, with start-up savings of just £9, began selling her homemade pates to local pubs in Llangollen. What started as a cottage industry run from her kitchen is now an international speciality food business with customers in the U.S., Hong Kong and Japan with a multi-million pound turnover. It is now run from a 10,000 sq ft kitchen but still retains its original recipes, hand-made in small batches without artificial colourings, additives or preservatives.
Chicken Liver Pate with Mushroom and Ale is part of Patchwork’s British Classic range. This is a smooth, creamy pate with an earthy depth of flavour from the mushrooms and ale. It’s the perfect pate to have in the freezer to whip out when you need a super-fast snack or starter. Transfer it to a pretty pot and you could easily pass it off as home-made.
Snowdonian Cheddar, Chive and Welsh Ale pate has the good tangy ‘bite’ but with a rich creaminess. I spread it onto hot buttered toast – but reserved some for topping a baked potato. It certainly beats my usual grating of mousetrap cheese.
Welsh Dragon Pate took first prize for me. Made with venison liver and chilli, this pate is rich and spicy and needed nothing more than some fresh, warm, crusty bread and a little salad to make for a super tasty lunch.
Patchwork Pates are available direct from their website at www.patchwork-pate.co.uk or from Chaplins in Killay Precinct.
Beautiful Butter – spread the love
Last month butter made front page news when it was revealed, that Government advice given out in the 80s about eating dairy fats, was flawed.
Scientists at Cambridge University have dis-covered that it was wrong to label saturated fats as ‘bad’ and that they could find no direct link between eating them and heart disease.
In fact the recommendation to increase carbohydrates was probably responsible for the increase in obesity, diabetes and other weight related issues.
The Cambridge research also found no evidence that polyunsaturated fats or so called ‘good’ fatty acids such as salmon, walnuts and healthy oils lowered the risk of heart disease.
This news prompted me to post on Twitter to @WelshButter, the account name used by Evan Rees (Butter) Ltd, that it was a good day for the dairy indust-ry. Evan Rees is a local family run business that produces butter for export all over the world. Green Meadow has been the only butter to be found in the Williams kitchen for almost 40 years.
If you like salted butter, then Green Meadow is going to tickle your taste buds. It has a glorious golden colour and even comes packed in a gold foil packet – luxury indeed.
The only downside for Green Meadow lovers is its scarcity. I have only been able to find it in Swansea.
I used to regularly buy several kilos and carried it in a cold box to my home in the South East, as there were no stockists locally. And it’s a family trait – my mother- in-law would pack it into plastic boxes and take it on caravan holidays to Italy, as continental butter was always of the unsalted variety and bland by comparison.
If you want to try Green Meadow it is usually in stock in George Chaplins in Killay, Pennard Stores and some produce stalls in Swansea Market.
www.evanrees.com Twitter @WelshButter