One of my work colleagues, Tom, and I were having a conversation about spit roast pig and Jerusalem. A terrifically inappropriate conversation I know!
It started with him talking about his fathers 60th birthday party and the spit roast pig, mountains of salads, accompaniments, roasted vegetables and the like, the feast that he was responsible for creating. The table was literally groaning with food in celebration of his Dad.
We use food to celebrate occasions with family, friends, festivals, national days, new years and football matches. You name it - there's a food to celebrate it with!
So I started thinking about how it all came about and Tom mentioned the cookbook, Jerusalem. The fact that it is written by two chefs living in London that are both from Jerusalem is not the interesting part. What was delightful to me is the fact that one grew up with Islam and one with Judaism.
So I got to pondering - Is it the culture or the location that determines our food choices?
Jerusalem, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamim is a glorious collection of stories and recipes celebrating their food culture. The blend of spices and ingredients makes the best use of what is grown and bred in their shared Jerusalem.
The culture was brought with them to London. The same goes for other cultures that moved around the world, they took their cultures, and recipes with them.
Australia, following both the world wars, became a haven for European and Middle Eastern refugees. And they all brought their Lebanese, Greek, Italian, Israeli, Iranian, Turkish recipes, spices and love for the culture of food. The country already had a strong Asian influence from the Chinese who came in search of gold in the 1800's and the 'Lucky Country' then became a magnet for Indian, Malaysian, Philippine and Thai people wanting to build new lives.
I grew up in a tropical part of Eastern Australia where avocado, mango and macadamia trees flourished. My mother was usually very traditional - meat and three vege. She loved to cook and would explore with Chinese and Indian food sometimes.
Here's a favourite I whipped up yesterday that celebrates that anyone can have their own food culture and choose what suits their body to bring harmony to every single day.
Sarah's Coconut Dahl
Either blitz in food processor or finely chop one large brown onion and two fresh garlic cloves.
In a saucepan melt two tablespoons of coconut oil and add the onion and garlic.
Fry gently and slowly. The aim is to have it lightly browned and clear. Gently, gently.
Add to that:
2 teaspoons of garam masala
1 teaspoon of turmeric
A pinch of dried chilli flakes
A teaspoon of ground black pepper
50g of creamed coconut - hard, 100% coconut that has been creamed
10 or so curry leaves
Gently fry everything so the Onion and garlic brown lightly, coconut melts and the spices explode with flavour.
Now at this point I had a small dilemma - I realised that I didn't have any red lentils, which is my usual dahl pulse of choice. I had some green split peas! Usually, with red lentils, I give them a rinse and put them straight into the pan with the onion mixture and top up with stock, lid on and the jobs done!
The green split peas required overnight soaking, so I left the onion mixture in the saucepan overnight.
Next morning, I re-heated the onions and the smell was amazing. In went about 1 and 1/2 cups of green split peas and 2 cups of my home made stock.
Bring to the boil and then turn down to low and simmer, with the lid on, for about 40-60 minutes depending on how you prefer your dahl. I'm a fan of slightly al dente dahl, so I'm done in 40 minutes. Remember to stir a few times so it doesn't stick on the bottom of the pan.
Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice and chopped coriander and I have to say it's truly the most delicious dahl I've ever made - full stop.
You can use any lentils or pulses you like or have in the cupboard. I bought some split mung beans today so I'm going to try them next time.
Serve it with crispy papadams on the side. Try it as a side dish with other curries. Just try it!
It's so simple and you can cook the coconut/onion paste and have it in the fridge to spread on lamb chops, chicken fillet or salmon as it's cooking. Oh, that feels great, I might try that this week ...
Celebrate you, every day!