What a great idea - Jill Dupleix in this week's Epicure shared her 'food biography' - the top ten dishes from her past to her current obsessions, and suggested we all do it. Many of mine relate to my childhood in South Africa:
1.Gem Squash: A lovely hard shelled, round squash about the size of a tennis ball not widely available in Australia. My mum and gran would cut them in half, scoop out the seeds, boil them and serve them with lashings of butter in the hollow. Then we'd mash the contents up. Tastes a little like a spaghetti squash. I remember having them at lunch-time at my child-care centre served with savoury mince in the hollow. Yumm.
2. Dark Treacl-y gingerbread with white icing. I've written about this an earlier blog - food has such a capacity to revive memories.
3. Koeksisters: A South African dessert/pastry. Pastry strips are plaited, fried in oil and then boiled in a thick sugar syrup. Absolutely insanely bad for you, but out-of-this world good tasting.
4. Boerewors: A thick, coarse textured sausage heavily flavoured with allspice. It is the absolute South African standard at barbecues (braais) and can be bought from butchers in Australia, particularly a few South African specialists, although I was once told that food laws here make it difficult to get the right balance of meat and fat.
5. Biltong: Dried meat - another South African staple, essentially dried meat which is first marinated in vinegar, brown sugar and coriander (the spices vary). Doesn't sound like much, but the marinade and drying processes make this a far superior product (and I'd argue much tastier) than beef jerky.
6. My Mum's oxtail stew: My Mum is a great offal cook. Unfortunately I am not a great offal eater. When my brother is out here from South Africa, Mum makes a point of preparing offal for him and my sister - I am not invited!! The exception to my offal aversion is Mum's oxtail stew, simply prepared by flouring, frying and then a long simmer in tomatoes and onions.
7. Mum's Pickled Tongue: OK sorry there are two exceptions to my offal aversion - Mum makes the best pickled and pressed tongue, sliced thinly, in a sandwich with picallili. Heaven. I have never attempted to cook it and doubt that my vegetarian and semi-vegetarians would even allow it in the house. Perhaps I should campaign for an invite to the next offal dinner!
8. Goat Ragu: Skipping into the present, this is hands-down my favourite thing to cook in the past few years. The Aga makes doing slow braises such a snap. Served with polenta or good quality gnocchi.
9. Elizabeth David's Flourless Chocolate Cake: The best chocolate cake ever, rich and dense, this is a ecipe I will be making forever - it never goes out of fashion.
10. Twice-Cooked Pork Belly: I've avoided mentioning the MC word, but yes I was a big fan of Master Chef, and I have made quite a few recipes from the show. This is my new favourite, in which the pork belly is cooked in a complex master stock (which had me running around the outer suburbs trying to find things like'cooking caramel' and rice wine. Not so easy when the nearest Asian grocer is 20 kms away), deep fried and then served in a reduction of the stock to which heaps of brown sugar is added. The beauty of this recipe is I discovered it works equally well with tofu!! All you have to do is split the original recipe in two, and replace chicken stock with vegetable stock and thne follow the same process.
That's my food biography, I could have gone to 20 - to include all the things I love to bake. Try it yourself, it's a lot of fun.