Letter to Lina

English garden

Dear Lina,

Hello, my name is A. and I live in your house. Your former house, which is now our house, that is. We bought it off your family after you – well, there is no easy way to say this – passed away. I hope you don’t mind me disturbing your rest.

The neighbours have told me about you. How you liked to cook and entertain well into your 80s. That’s impressive. I want to have the same energy and spirit when I’m that age. And if I’m very lucky, that sort of friends, too, that would come to share the food and the laughter with me. I hope there will always be plenty of both.

(more…)

2013 in my Kitchen: Bread & Turkey

My bread

Two things have left the strongest mark on my cooking in 2013: bread and Turkey.

Bread took me by surprise. I didn’t think it was my kind of thing. Too laborious, I thought, and like many, I was wrong. I found in it a rhythm of life that I didn’t even know existed, let alone that I fitted into it. It only goes to show that you never know what you’re going to find and love, even when you think you know yourself pretty well. I look forward to whatever lies ahead.

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Two scenes – rose-scented

Scene 1

20 March, 2010

Airport in Tehran. A black-haired man clutching a big white bag with a writing in Arabic that he doesn’t understand. Will they stop him?

He is nervous, for he doesn’t want to have to give away what’s in the bag – precious boxes of rose and cardamom-scented Iranian pastries and confections. Delicious gifts for family and friends.

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Scene 2

23 March, 2010

My dining room, at dusk, in England. Sipping warm masala chai and enjoying the sweets that A. brought me from Iran.

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Almond and rosewater baklava, with little pastry and lots of almond. Melts in my mouth.

Round, light brown confection, decorated with green pistachios. Flour halva, perhaps? Smooth, not to sweet, and with a certain roasted flavour that I’m beginning to get seduced by.

Coconut, flour and rose water biscuits – like Persian macaroons?

White coconut & rose water & cardamom fudge-like creation. Divine! (Must learn to make it!)

Tiny melt in the mouth round droplets of biscuit –  with cardamom, flour, and icing sugar perhaps? They’re delicious!

Another round biscuit, with almonds. Like almond macaroons?

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Garden glistening with rain. Thourgh the dining room door, leading into the rain.

Yellow of the daffodils on the dining room table.

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Thank you, A.

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A few months ago:

IranianFeast06.09 042

  Persian baklava – Photo by Samantha Twigg Johnson

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Tahini and Blood Oranges Brownies on International Women’s Day

Firstly, I would like to wish you a happy International Women’s Day! I must admit I felt a sense of joy this morning, as I was exchanging text message greetings with my friends in Croatia. A feeling of sisterhood, if you like! 🙂

This day used to be widely celebrated in Croatia, in the days of communism, so yes, probably all over the former Yugoslavia. The 8 of March. Everybody knew the date, everybody knew what it was. I remember there being shows put on for mums in my primary school, and I remember shopping for presents for my mum and gifting her. One year when I was 7, I had to dress as a peacock and perform in my primary school, in front of all the mums, teachers and other kids. The costume painstakingly sown together by my mum, of course.

The fact that the day was widely celebrated doesn’t, unfortunately, mean there is no discrimination of women in my home country. Croatia is still in large parts a patriarchal society, it pains me to say. Now that we’re a Catholic country, we no longer celebrate the 8th of March. There’s Mother’s Day (in May?), but Women’s Day is not celebrated in the same way.

I remember a particular scene from Ugo Betti’s poignant play ‘Il delitto all’isola delle capre’ (‘The Crime on the Goats’ Island’) where a daughter tells her mother how perfect she thought she was, how strong, standing there proud and tall, with the sun rays in her hair. (It sounds much better in Italian, I promise, though I can’t remember the exact quote now.) And the mother responds by asking whether she ever wondered how she really felt, what she really thought, standing there, proud and tall, with the sun rays in her hair. Mothers are women, too, no? People. Humans. Not defined by this one thing only.

So happy Women’s Day! And if you’re a woman, don’t let anyone anywhere ever tell you that you are inferior to a man because you’re a woman.

Tahini brownies

As soon as I saw tahini brownies over at Joumana’s, I just had to make them! And I did, within minutes of seeing the recipe. This is probably the fastest I’ve ever made a recipe after seeing it! Seen, made, eaten, photographed. A personal record. 😀

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While photographing these brownies, I discovered that my under cupboard lights are perfect for food photography, soft and warm. It was like having a mini-studio! These were also the first food photos I shot in the fully manual mode, so a little milestone for me! Previously, I used aperture priority control, but this is much better! That’s my red splash back that you can see in the background in the photo below.

brownies 2

And what were they like? Perfect! Fudgy and crumbly, with a haunting nutty sesame flavour. The recipe calls for orange juice, and I used the juice of blood oranges, which have an ever-so slightly bitter, berry like flavour, less acidic than regular oranges. It worked a treat, and the end result had a fairly complex, bewitching flavour and gorgeously soft and fudgy texture. And did you know they are vegan?!

 

Tahini & Blood Orange Brownies

 

SOURCE: Maryline via Joumana

PREPARATION TIME: about 10 – 15 min

COOKING TIME: 20 min

CUISINE: Unknown

SERVES: 6 – 8

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 100 g of good quality dark chocolate, preferably 70% cocoa
  • 150 g of tahini (don’t forget to stir the jar before pouring)
  • 150 g of plain flour
  • 1 heaped tsp of baking powder
  • 120 – 150 g of icing sugar (150 makes it fairly sweet, it’s up to you!)
  • 150 g of freshly squeezed juice of blood oranges, around 3 medium but juicy oranges. (Joumana says you can also use a combination of rum and orange juice)
  • Pinch of salt (optional, but I like adding it to cakes)
  • Baking parchment for lining the tin (Joumana recommends it, and I agree. The brownies are very sticky!)

 

METHOD:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 C, cut the baking parchment to fit your tin. I used a round, 25 cm tin.
  2. Break the chocolate into small, even pieces and put it in a large pyrex bow. Melt the chocolate in the microwave, or over a bowl  of hot water. Either way, use low heat.
  3. Mix in the tahini and orange juice, add the icing sugar, and combine thoroughly.
  4. Sift in the flour and baking powder over the mixture and fold thoroughly.
  5. Line your baking tin with parchment, and pour the batter, spreading it as evenly as possible with a spatula. Bake the brownies for 20 min. Serve warm or cold, and enjoy!

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NOTES: They are gorgeous! Possibly even better than my previous Spedilicious Brownies!

Next time, I’ll use less sugar, as 150 g was a bit too sweet for me. Also, I’ll try using different nut butters. Almond springs to mind! Hey, we can even try using white chocolate instead! How about white chocolate, almond butter and lemon juice (diluted with water), with pistachios? The creative possibilities are endless!

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I know there’s not much difference between the these two photos, but I just couldn’t decide which one I prefer. What you think?

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H2Ope for Haiti – Please help

Jeanne from Cooksister is organising an online raffle together with BloggerAid – Changing the Face of Famine (BA-CFF) to raise funds for Concern Worldwide’s relief effort in Haiti. Please help if you can. All the details are on Jeanne’s blog.

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