Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A better foodie by far

I'd been meaning to try out one of the very popular Divertimenti cooking courses for ages but whenever I remember to check the schedule, the sessions I'm most interested in have been snapped up and I kick myself for not acting sooner. But this time I was quicker off the mark and managed to secure two rather interesting foodie experiences, the first was tonight entitled 'The serious foodie's store cupboard' hosted by Marcia Barrington doing the cooking and Sudi Piggott author of the fabulous little chocolate and raspberry coloured book 'how to be a better foodie - a bulging little book for the truly epicurious' that I've raved about here before. I do consider myself a foodie though I'm certainly not in Sudi's league! Though I have had my foodie credentials called into question recently because of my extensive 'food black list' and of course especially my singular effort to eradicate the world of tomatoes. Okay maybe that's harsh, I just want a permanent tomato exclusion ring of steel around me. Other non-believers can indulge in their wicked tomato pleasures but leave me out of it. And for those of you who always say 'go on try it, it doesn't really taste of tomatoes' I have two answers: a) I can detect the merest whiff of the evil red stuff and b) if you can't apparently taste it, what's the point of including it at all? Anyway aside from the food dislikes foibles, I am strictly lower division in the serious foodie stakes. Sudi even says that you should choose where you live based on the proximity of quality foodie haunts. I do get her point but I'd be loathed to move because of a fantastic organic ruddy-cheeked butcher on your doorstep to find that they've decided to retire after 40 years of butchery the moment you sign on the dotted line. An old girlfriend of mine ummed and aahed over buying a flat in a fairly dubious area of London, I won't say where. But the deciding factor was that there was a Marks & Spencer on the high street and there was a whiff of 'up and coming' about the place. However, almost the moment they started to unpack their worldly goods, M&S closed down and the place started to decline. Very unfortunate!

I'm am pleased to say however that Sudi singled out a chocolate shop where I live, so a few foodie points there then. Part of the whole idea seems to be to never miss a foodie opportunity to snaffle up some exotic ingredient be it home or abroad, make time to slip out to that fabulous cheese shop, hidden gem deli or farmer's market. And if all else fails, there's always the Internet.

Tonight's event was all about "Prada for your larder", ensuring that a few choice ingredients are always squirreled away in your store cupboard and fridge so that exotic titbits can be conjured up at a moment notice. Sudi gave us oodles of insightful snippets whilst Marcia rustled up firstly Muhamara - a dip made from pimientos del piquillo finely chopped, pomegranate molasses (a particular obsession of both Sudi and Marcia), roasted garlic cloves and walnuts. Whenever I attend these foodie events, I always endeavour to try everything, even if I'm fairly sure I'm not going to like it, and yes that unfortunately occasionally includes the dreaded tomato! I've never been partial to a pepper, I find the skins rather impenetrable and they can add a strange sweetness to a dish. No, not a fan! So when proffered the red pepper dip I only scooped up a little corner onto my pita bread crisp and was pleasantly surprised to see what a transformation a whizz in a food processor with walnuts and the ubiquitous pomegranate molasses could bring about. I definitely think that would be one to add to the repertoire. I have since checked out pimientos del piquillo on the www, and found the following interesting piece “I'd never recommend a canned product over a fresh one, but in this instance I will. This has to do with both the fact that the pimientos del piquillo are quite different in flavour and texture from regular bell peppers, and also the fact that preserving can create something new, and not just poorly imitate the "real thing". In the case of piquillos, the essential flavour may actually be enhanced by the preservation, and the texture is definitely improved. So maybe I still don’t like peppers, but I’m willing to give pimientos del piquillo another go.

Next it was the turn of another food I'm not crazy about - noodles! These were oriental herb chilli soba noodles and were served with seared scallops with ginger, lemongrass and yuzu lime. Noodles are normally slippery and smell oddly of a sickly sweet soy sauce, or are those just the ones flamed-haired H eats next to me at work! The soba noodles are made of buckwheat and could be substituted with linguini. I enjoyed the scallops, the Yuzu was a very interesting flavour and the soba noodles were okay. I guess my choice would be to match the scallops with linguini; I still haven’t really managed to develop an Asian palate yet.

Next Marcia served up pan-fried duck breast with garbanzos, saffron and pomegranate. The duck breasts were painted with a rose petal jam, which was really nice. The garbanzos was a mixture of warmed chickpeas, saffron infusion and pomegranate molasses. Hmm, you’ve guessed it – I am not a fan of chickpeas either. I ate them but I think they were the most unsuccessful part of the meal; I just don’t get them at all. Never mind, the duck was fabulous!

Next it was a very refreshing Medjool date and orange remojón with rosewater and fresh mint. A remojón is a Andalucían orange based salad. This can be served as we had it as a plate cleanser but also dusted with a little icing sugar would make a fine dessert.

The final dessert was a very succulent Oven roasted plums with verjus, which was served on a slice of chocolate panettone.

I really enjoyed the evening, Sudi Pigott is very entertaining, knowledgable and a serious foodie of the highest order; I am not worthy! I must have another look at her book, and if you haven't checked it out yet, I urge you to. Really the only foodie to be is a better foodie!

I also took enormous pleasure being at the Divertimenti lock-in. You get the opportunity to do a little discounted shopping after the event and I wondered around in an indulgent haze. There’s so little I haven’t got already but I did manage to get the rather wonderful yellow lemon squeezer than I’d just seen Marcia use to very good effect. It is rather an elegant beast isn't it?

I have another event planned for next week, I am so glad I finally managed to finally get to these Divertimenti foodie evenings it was worth the wait. Now, where's that schedule for next year?

No comments: