Sunday, 19 June 2011

Here and there

I’ve recently become a member of the local public library. I did so mostly to support the reading demands presented by my four hour a day commute. (The recent haul has included some Philip Roth, Paul Auster and lots of mystery novels.) But it turns out that the cookbook section is surprisingly extensive. This week we’ve been perusing Thomasina Miers’ Mexican Food Made Simple and Madhur Jaffrey’s Curry Easy. As well as both having the now-requisite artfully simple photos, they share a common goal of demystifying what are perceived as complicated cuisines (and in the case of Miers’, introducing it to a UK audience). While there are a few compromises made on ingredients (tomatillos, for example, don’t figure prominently as they’re very difficult to find in the UK) and processes are simplified, the food, on early evidence, doesn’t taste dumbed-down at all.

Our household doesn’t get through a lot of beer. But we’ve tried a few English ales lately which have generated the kind of enthusiasm usually reserved for stinky red wines from the south of France. The most memorable was a golden ale from a microbrewery near the Mendip hills in Somerset. It was fruity, bright and the perfect complement to a far better-than-average ploughman’s lunch: bread from our favourite local supplier, Westcombe Cheddar from Neal’s Yard and pumpkin chutney. Cheddar Ales aren’t really sold outside the local area, but we liked this enough that we’re considering using some our wine storage space to house a few dozen bottles. (Closer to hand, the St. Austell’s Cornish IPA sold by Marks & Spencer has also proved very enjoyable.)

It hasn’t been growing as out of control as I might like, but there’s still been enough to put into scrambled eggs and herby potato salads and to mix with chopped mint and soft cheese for a tasty pre-dinner spread, perfect on thin slices of toast.

In anticipation of July’s trip to Malaysia and Indonesia, I’ve been searching for good information on where and what I should be eating. Eating Asia has been a great discovery. Authored by a professional food writer who’s spent the last 20+ years living in Southeast Asia, it features ingredients, street food and markets from the China to Sulawesi and everywhere in between, shot beautifully and explained with a knowledgeable but light touch. This will be my guide to the best fried chicken in Yogyakarta, central Java, and to what can’t be missed in one of the region’s best eating cities, Penang (Georgetown).

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