Migration, food and culture – a tale of two countries

The connection between a country’s culture, economy and its food is widely accepted, with the arrival of immigrants introducing new cuisines to their adopted homelands and changing global economic realities leading to new habits and realities.

So I was interested to read two very different takes on the issues this prompts by journalists writing from very different backgrounds and locations for this month’s Contributoria* issue and I thought them worth sharing with you here too.

In South Africa, Kim Harrisberg looked at the experiences of a Palestinian family arriving in the country and starting a business with a taste of home while Aurora Percannella takes a look at how the economic crisis in Europe is leading jobless youngsters to re-invent the food on offer.

I think they both detail experiences which in many ways relate to what we see happening here in the UK. The snippets below include links to read the articles in full.

In King Arabic Sandwiches: a taste of Palestine in Johannesburg Kim presents a touching portral of life in a new land where food briedges cutural difference.

Inside, maroon tiles cover the floor, jars filled with an assortment of Middle Eastern delicacies cover the shelves, Palestinian flags hang from the walls and pastries of different sizes greet you at the counter. The smell is rich and spicy, with the sounds of sizzling falafel being fried in the kitchen, and little girls whispering behind a curtain that leads to the back of the restaurant.

I am here to interview Mohammad Sultan and his wife Hanan Ahmed, refugees who fled Gaza just over a year ago to build a new life. I have so many questions involving politics, food, family and chance, and many of them involve my identity in relation to theirs. The questions swirl around my head like mosquitoes, but before I can ask them, Mohammad and Hanan place a glass of purple hibiscus juice in front of me and a warm, pickle-filled, hummus-infused falafel, wrapped and ready to be devoured. “First,” says Mohammad, smiling, “you eat. Then, we talk.”

In Food entrepreneurialism in Italy: mixing tradition and innovation to tackle the crisis Aurora finds a willingness to move away from the much revered Italian traditions to face up to the changing realities of life there.

“We live in an era where the typical restaurant where you pay 20 or 30 € for a meal struggles to survive,” explains Fabrizio, the 30-something entrepreneur who, in 2013, started his own successful food business in one of the cosy, often-crowded squares of Torino city centre. “People can’t afford to spend that much anymore, so we’ve focused on giving our customers a great quality meal for about 10-12 €.”

And in order to do that, these food entrepreneurs simplified the concept of eating out by going back to what their land had to offer, and simultaneously drawing inspiration from what their travels abroad had taught them.

Take Fabrizio’s business, for example. His restaurant – though it isn’t really a restaurant, just a simple place to sit down and eat – serves burgers and chips. Now, this wouldn’t probably sound too phenomenal to anyone coming from the rest of the planet. In Torino, however, it proved difficult to find a good quality burger until very recently. In fact, it was hard to even find a mediocre quality burger, limiting the options to McDonald’s or…McDonald’s.

* Disclosure – I’m editor and co-founder of the independent jorunalism network Contributoria.com where these articles were first published.

Would a mere sniff of chocolate suffice?

This might sound fairly off the wall, but you can now experience some of your favourite foods via sniff alone.

Writing at the Contributoria platform for independent writers, Rich McEachran explains:

Harvard professor and biomedical engineer, David Edwards — famed for his edible packaging technology — has invented a mobile messaging system that doubles as an olfactory food inhaler. The oPhone encourages users to take pictures of food, tag the images with scents (oNotes – there are over 300,000 combinations to choose from) and then send them to friends who can receive scented whiffs via a Bluetooth-connected device.

The first transatlantic smell message of chocolate and champagne was transmitted in June, and over the summer the team successfully raised nearly $50,000 to help crowdfund the beta launch of the device. From this month, the oPhone will be on display at the Cafe ArtScience which is opening up next to MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Customers will be able to try some oNotes that will immerse them in coffee aromas.

You can read the full article here.

Disclosure – I’m co-founder and editor at Contributoria.com.

Welcoming Dietician Without Borders

dwbThe latest addition to my Northern Food Bloggers map is a food blog with a difference – it concentrates on diet but from an informed position, not those faddy magazine types.

Dietitian without Borders looks at food through the eyes of dietician Gemma Critchley who is based in Liverpool where she settled after travelling from Australia via Africa.

She explains:

I’m passionate about practising what I preach, helping others to live healthier lives and helping clear up some of the confusion out there about nutrition by putting it into context and making sense of research and evidence.

Not your average Australian, I lived in Zambia for 6 years witnessing extreme hunger and malnutrition which sparked my interest in health and nutrition from an international perspective.

Having worked and travelled the globe the phrase Dietitian without Borders suits me perfectly! I’m passionate about eating well, keeping active and living a healthy happy life and want to share what I know, do and love with people around the world.

You can also follow her on Twitter @dietnoborders.

* If you belong on the map – drop me a line in the comments or by email to foodiesarahATme.com and tell me a little about your blog. A link back to the map would be appreciated as well.

Baked courgettes to start with #multifrychallenge

courgette
Courgettes with tuna

For the first meal as part of the seven day challenge for the De’Longhi Multifry Challenge, I’ve done something very NOT fried.

In fact there was no oil involved at all. It seems the name given to this piece of kit is somewhat misleading – it can be used as a workspace top cooker as much as a fryer.

Essentially it’s a cooking dish with a high powered element above and below.

imagesI choose this recipe from the app mainly because it was so simple – the courgettes are basically stuffed with a food processed mix of courgette flesh, tinned tuna, pine nuts and Grana Padano cheese. Baked for 25 mins and that’s it, a low cal simple meal.

I served them with a mixed salad and some seasonal Jersey Royals with parsley butter.

A few things to note on its first run out:

  • On the plus side, it’s really easy to clean with no messy attachments to worry about.
  • On the downside, it’s noisey. So are fan cookers but it was surprisingly loud for its small size.
  • I like the way the app recipes all come with a calorie guide – this dish just 127 cals per serving.

So first attempt was a success – I’ll try something a bit more complicated tomorrow.

Mapped: What the food inspectors found in Richmondshire

Dirty chopping boards, cheese on sale past its best before date and warm fridges – just some of the things food inspectors unearthed when they did their latest routine checks on restaurants, pubs, shops and other food premises in Richmondshire.

Those on the map below scored at the lower end of the food inspection scale and were ranked two or less by inspectors. The information was revealed after a Freedom of Information request from a Mr Perry using the public transparency website What Do They Know.

* This map is crossposted from the Richmond Noticeboard which has more detailed information on the information. Read it in full here.

Honours, fish and chips and investigations – hello 2014

A very Happy New Year to all!

Getting 2014 started here at the food blog with heartfelt congratulations to Manchester’s amazing Tse sisters, Lisa and Helen.

The twins, who operate the Sweet Mandarin restaurant, were each awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours list.

While they are probably best known to many for the Dragon’s Den appearance below, I shall personally remain in Lisa’s debt for teaching me some wok moves all those years ago when the pair of us tweeting our cookery lesson became a first for a UK restaurant. Wow, how times have moved on.

Cheers to you both for your well-deserved recognition.

A haddock fillet with light and non-soggy batter, mahogany edges protruding from the soft embrace of a scantly buttered bap. Fried in dripping, not sunflower oil. Always with scraps, those delectable leftover fragments, the pain perdu of the fryer.

This, what I can only call an ‘ode to fish and chips’ was published earlier this week on my latest project, Contributria.com – a community-funded writing platform. It was written by Kate Feld, the writer behind the enduring Manchizzle blog and is a delicious piece of food writing. If you fancy doing something similar for a future issue, the site is now open to writers to propose submissions for commission and membership is currently free. Further details on that here.

Finally, I happened to catch, briefly, some trashy TV programme over the break about how the food and health industries make us unhealthy. Before I switched over, a startling claim was made – that industrially produced bread is padded out with chicken feathers. Now whether this is true or not I haven’t had time to properly investigate – I’m guessing there’ll be many a complaint from the food lobby to Ofcom if it’s not – but it struck me that many edible products now seem to contain what can only be described as byproducts from other parts of the food industry.

I’m hoping to look at this more at some point this year and would very much like to hear from anyone who has first-hand knowledge about any such activity. Please feel free to contact me in confidence foodiesarahATme.com.

Product trial: Grey’s Christmas Hamper

Last week I caught a television programme about the upmarket store Liberty of London. It charted the establishment’s history as an emporium which brought items of wonder from the east to us in the west.

That tradition of seeking out items of wonder from far-off lands is something that’s much more difficult in these global times but our desire to be delighted is unlikely to ever be diminished.

It struck me that the same challenge can be seen when it comes to our forever roaming tastes in the culinary world. With supermarkets offering international food items sourced around the globe and online specialist sites offering just about anything your imagination could seek to find.

So when it comes to specialist food offerings, suppliers have to work hard to find that certain something that will whet our purchasing appetites. Enter Grey’s Fine Foods from North Yorkshire, they’re offering the best in Spanish food and sent me a selection in one of their Christmas hampers to try. Here’s what I found:

greys
Minimalist

Packaging
The hamper is actually a wooden crate – stylish in that designer, minimalist way. Inside all the goods are wrapped and nestling inside paper filling so there’s some excitement to digging in to find out what’s inside – a bit like a lucky dip! I liked the style of it all and, when it comes to hampers, those first impressions count for a lot.

Contents
The company promises that the contents inside will ‘surprise anyone during the festivities’. There’s certainly a good range – from their trademark charcuterie from Iberian breed pigs to luxury storecupboard items. This is a hamper for people who like to cook as well as eat, so alongside the award-winning ham there’s also a beautifully presented essentials like the Senorio de Vizcantar extra virgin olive oil which blends three olive varieties and some proper hot smoked paprika.

For the sweet-toothed there’s the traditional Christmas after dinner sweet of Turron de Jijona and an exquisite chocolate that’s blended with olive oil and sea alt. This unusual mixture comes from the Basque chocolatier Alma de Cacao and I haven’t tasted anything quite like it – rich yet light with a melting texture, it really is a remarkable dark chocolate experience. Spanish foods

Verdict
I loved it. At £50 the Grey’s Christmas Hamper would seem to be pretty good value given the quality of the contents if you’re looking for an unusual and stylish gift for the foodie in your life. Definitely something that will tickle the interest of even the most jaded tastebuds.

The Grey’s Christmas Hamper costs £50 is one of a range starting from £35. Delivery is usually 3-7 days but they offer a one-day service too if you plan to order for Christmas.

* The hamper was provided free of charge for review purposes. Please note, if you wish to provide goods for review, they are accepted on the understanding that good, bad or indifferent, this blog’s product trials section strives to say it as we find it.

Zomato’s Manchester ambitions continue apace

zomatoI recently caught up with the team behind the food discovery website and app Zomato to see how their Manchester launch was going.

Regular readers of this blog might remember we revealed how the Indian operation had started work in the city back in July.

Since then, there’s been a lot happening behind the scenes which I’ve reported on for the Prolific North website here.

Here’s hoping Newcastle Eats gets its mojo back

newcastleeatsIt looks like I’m welcoming the Newcastle Eats blog to the northern food bloggers map precisely at a time when its authors might be suffering that regular affliction among us bloggers – loss of mojo.

The latest blog post which starts ‘I’ve been a bad blogger’ includes criticism of those journalists with no passion for food who get paid to write reviews and wonders where what they call the whole ‘armchair journalism’ practice is going.

“It’s a bit of disillusion all round really. Maybe it’s working in digital marketing and using it every day, but I’ve grown tired of Twitter, and lost the inspiration to do much blogging recently. Twitter has lost it’s charm for me, with, oh so much arse-kissing, @reply-please-RTing and general marketing spiel, though yes, this is governed by the people you follow. And see recent posts/rants here and here, that summarise my feelings on recent local blogging pretty well. ”Please invite me to your press launch so I can get some free bait”…”I need 7 more followers to hit 1200!”…”My blog had 42 hits today.”

Yes, yes, yes! I seriously hope the bloggers, Jeff and Kate, can find their way back to the dinner table. The reviews are thoughtful and put the experience into context well, the pictures are clear and informative and I particularly liked their use of map links to venues and the inclusion of food hygiene ratings in the reviews.

Please, can we have some more?

* If you belong on the map – drop me a line in the comments or by email to foodiesarahATme.com and tell me a little about your blog. A link back to the map would be appreciated as well.

Recipe: Paprika and pesto chicken and squash lasagne

chickenlasagneFor my latest recipe over at Farmer’s Choice, I’ve been experimenting with aromatics, this time of year seems to lend itself to them some how as we speed towards Christmas.

The lasagne turned out to be a full-on flavour from using both paprika and pesto and helps use up some of those seasonal squash that’s so abundant just now.

Get the recipe here – I hope you enjoy it and I’d love to hear how you get on.