Food: freestyle experiences

A Blog about Food you truly want to read!

This Article Can Cause Death! March 6, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — thalounette @ 6:26 pm

 

Every year, hundreds of thousands of Japanese people literally put their lives on a plate, in a gastronomic form of Russian roulette. They pay a fortune to sit down and taste a Fugu meal. Most of them live to talk about the experience the next day, but each year, about fifty of them do not. They die still thinking clearly but unable to speak or move and, finally, breathe. Nevertheless, Fugu is now more popular than ever! But what exactly is Fugu?

Fugu has been consumed in Japan for centuries and is an expensive delicacy. Indeed, it is the Japanese word for pufferfish and is also a Japanese dish prepared from the meat of pufferfish. This dish is notorious because pufferfish is lethally poisonous if not correctly prepared.

Thus, as it is well known (we even see it in one episode of the Simpsons, in which Homer actually eats Fugu! 😀 ), the neural toxin (called tetrodotoxin) that is contained in the internal organs of the Fugu fish can cause muscle paralysis and lead to respiratory standstill. More importantly, and this is scary, there is no antidote… Two years ago, a cook who had served a poorly prepared fish leading the guests to the hospital was lucky: he was only arrested by the police while according to the tradition he should have eaten the rest of the dish after having poisoned the guests.

According to the Japanese laws, cooks are obliged not only to pass an exam on the right fanning out of puffer, but also to attend ‘skill improvement’ courses regularly. And since 1958, only specially licensed chefs can prepare and sell Fugu to the public. The Fugu apprentice needs to learn during approximately three years before being allowed to take an official test which consists of a written test, a fish-identification test, and a practical test of preparing Fugu and then eating it. Only a few pass the test… I see this as a real art and I think people have to be experimented to cook it! Hopefully, they are not kidding when dealing with people’s life 😀 Fugu fish is forbidden in Europe and only a few restaurants cook this fish in the United States. By the way, venomousness of Fugu depends on what it eats and Japanese farmers have learnt a long time ago how to breed absolutely safe fish but the safe variety is not popular.

The most popular dish is fugu sashimi (really thin slices of raw fish) but you can find Fugu in salad, fried, stewed or pickled.

Besides Fugu, there are a significant number of other poisonous types of fish in the cuisines of various countries, which even if they are ideally cooked can be poisonous. However, not only fish but also some fruit and vegetables served in some countries contain a distinctive amount of poison, which can cause death. And many of these products are considered to be local delicacies!

 

Yuck or Yum?

Filed under: Uncategorized — thalounette @ 6:16 pm

In France, we rarely eat soya. We put bean sprouts in salads during summer, or we can perceive some of them floating in our miso soup when we go to a Japanese restaurant. But in Japan, soya is consumed a lot: soya beans, bean sprouts, fresh tofu, grilled soya, boiled soya, etc… or nattō. Hmmm, how can I describe nattō?!

First, look at those precise pictures closely: 

 

As you can see, the aspect is quite weird… Now, dear reader, try to imagine a slimy, sticky and smelly substance… Even an old and runny French Camembert does not measure up!

In fact, nattō is made from soya beans. It is a traditional Japanese food made from soya beans fermented with Bacillus Subtilis more precisely. It is most commonly eaten at breakfast to accompany rice, possibly with some other ingredients, soya sauce, chopped onions or mustard for example. It is fresh and has to be eaten as soon as it is opened.

Japanese people love it! This recipe is at least 1000 years old and eventually became a favourite of people living in Edo, the capital city of Japan at that time.

Slimy and stinky is nothing new for French people obviously, with our snails, frogs and runny cheeses! I mean, with that background, I guess I could like nattō if I tried it, since I liked to eat snails and frogs 😀 I only know a few French people who actually like nattō! I guess it is a really special dish that is not a success for foreigners, and it would be silly not to try it because you have seen my pictures and explanations 🙂 You will love it if you taste it perhaps, and will become a real nattō addict!

I have forgotten to mention what most Japanese invariably say about nattō: it is good for you 😀 I do not really know the exact effects, but you are supposed to feel fortified after nattō…

Itadakimasu!!

 

Nori… March 2, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — caroschm @ 11:33 pm

You surely know about Nori…  don’t you?

It is not a new phonetic consonnant…

It is neither the name of a Hindi pop music group.

Try to guess what it could be.

Look this picture below :

You are right: nori is the purplish-black seaweed wrapped around the fish and the rice in sushi.

Sea lettuce, dried porphyra, dulse, carraggeenan,… are not the disgusting seaweeds you can see on more on more atlantics beaches. Not at all : they are the new exotic, trendy ingredients you can find or use in new French cuisine.

Seaweeds have health benefits. They are used as food additives or emulsifiers like Agar agar. They are also rich in calcium and magnesium, they are very nutritious, full of proteins, B12 vitamines,….

I find them in organic shops. I love to do the traditional Japanese miso soup with dried wakame, this thin and deep green seaweed.

But today I would to share a delicious seaweed recipe with you : I promise you will completely forget you are prejudiced against seaweed food:


Simply Seaweed Salad

Ingredients:

2 cups arame or hijiki (seaweed cut into thin strips)

1 L water

1 cup cucumber, quartered and chopped

1/2 cup green chopped onion

1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley,

2 tablespoon of toasted sesame or extra virgin olive oil

julienned or shredded carrots,

lemon juice

tamari

Rinse the seaweed well.

Place seaweed and water in a small pot and bring to a boil for

5 minutes then  turn off the heat and let the mixture soak for 2-3 hours.

Drain and place in large mixing bowl.

Add all ingredients to the seaweed and toss well. This salad last days

in the fridge!!!

 

Original Popcorn February 28, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — thalounette @ 3:47 pm

 

Dear reader,

I have had a cold since Thursday and I realize this weekend was only about watching shows (always in Original Version, don’t worry!) and cooking. I made nice biscuits yesterday, and you can find out how to realize them and how they taste by reading my last article. Anyway, I am not really in great shape and cooking was the only way to relax… When I have something left in my fridge and want to make a dish with this ingredient, I realize a recipe I already know, or I search the Internet to find new recipes, to discover what I could make with the things I have in my cupboards! And that is how I will make ‘Praline and Maltesers Cupcakes’ this week 😀 So, I was surfing on the Internet just before lunch to find out what I could do with the potatoes that are beginning to germinate in the cupboard – I think I should have cooked them two weeks ago, but they still look fine to me 😀 And I found a great idea to make an original recipe actually; you can have it with a drink before eating for example.

Popcorn is usually served salted or sweetened. For instance, in the United States, it is traditionally served salted, although caramel corn can also be found. In Great Britain, popcorn is available either salted or simply sweetened with sugar. But did you know that you could use other ingredients to prepare Popcorn?

Paprika and Cantal Popcorn

80g Corn to pop

80g Cantal

1 Tablespoon Paprika

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Salt

Pour olive oil in a fryer with corn. Heat up and as soon as you hear the first pop, cover and let the others pop, until you hear no more sound… Add paprika, salt and cantal. Mix and this is ready to eat!

Moreover, you can adapt and change this recipe, by choosing the ingredients you like and what you have in your fridge! Do not hesitate to use different spices and cheeses, people! And as this recipe can be done in ten minutes, you have no excuse not to try and make popcorn yourself! I like the fact that you can use the spices you like (tandoori masala, curry, mustard grains, and so on…) and cheese you enjoy (Comté, Gruyere, Reblochon…). Cheese can be optional for those who do not like it by the way!

 

Smiley Faces, Happy Belly! February 27, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — thalounette @ 5:41 pm

Last Monday was the day I had to go to the supermarket near my place… Indeed, as it was the holidays and I left Lille to go to Haute-Savoie (skiing rocks by the way!), my fridge was totally empty. Except for what was supposed to be Comté before I left the apartment and some mayonnaise and mustard, there was nothing edible in it!

Water, milk, pastas, yoghurts, we had to fill in our beautiful fridge – we are trying to reconstitute France with magnets we find in the Père Dodu chicken nuggets boxes 😀 . When I was walking through the sections, I found something really new for me! There was a funny box on display, this one:

My boyfriend is slowly beginning to cook, and as I love when we are cooking together, I thought that it was a nice wink! Thus, I bought this box in a flash, even if at first, I thought it was only meant for cooking with kids… But what the hell, everybody always say I behave like a four-year old 😀

I brought back home my precious discovery and this afternoon we made those shortbread biscuits together.

This is what is inside that box and what you need to have in your fridge before making those smiling faces:

 

When the biscuits are cooked, you have the opportunity to let them plain (even if they have a vanilla taste), or add melted chocolate and/or little sugar balls. What I loved the most was to put the multicoloured sugar balls on the biscuits… I have always found funny to decorate biscuits, cakes, etc…, and I like using those things; they have no real flavour of course, but it is edible decoration! 

Those were tasted and devoured at tea time one hour ago 😀 The box says that you can make twenty biscuits, and we made nineteen! There is only ten biscuits left already 😀 I even made one biscuit with only one eye, but he was the first one to disappear

All those little smiling faces, covered in chocolate are little bits of pleasure!

 

The Lemon Festival

Filed under: Uncategorized — thalounette @ 3:28 pm

Dear reader,

Thanks to Romain – a dear colleague who works with me at Arthur Rimbaud secondary school and who is a fan (the only one?) of this blog -, I would like to tell you about the Menton Carnival! Indeed, this Carnival is one of the most famous winter festivals in Europe. This celebration takes place every year in a town named Menton (it is the French word for ‘chin’), in France. I don’t know about you, but when Romain told me about this town called ‘Menton’, I first thought he was making up a town’s name and messing around 😀 And then, when I checked I discovered that this town really existed! Did you know that this place existed?

Moreover, to enlighten people like me who were totally unaware of its existence, Menton is located in the South-East of France on the French Riviera, and is known for its marvellous lemons; hence the fact that Menton is called the City of Lemons!

Anyway, my point is that people who live there are organizing a special Carnival… We all know what Carnival means… It is a festive season occuring immediately before Lent, and it typically involves a public celebration or parade combining masks and public street party: people are dressed up and everything! Nevertheless, this famous Carnival is nothing like the others we could have gone to… But, it is the Lemon Festival that interests me particularlly!

Indeed, this Lemon Festival lasts a few days, with different bands passing through Menton’s streets on foot or on truck trailers. It follows a given theme each year and during those past years, the themes included Disney, Neverland and India. But, what is interesting is that the floats and sculptures we can see there are all especially made from lemons and oranges! The Casino Gardens in the centre of town are also completely decorated in the theme of the festival. Thus, they use lemons to cover the exhibits, and huge statues are built and covered with citrus fruits.

I have never seen this Festival, and I did not know about its existence four days ago but Romain told me many things about it and I have seen great pictures! I think it is really original and impressing! Don’t forget that the Lemon Festival takes place every year in February! It ends with spectacular fireworks on Garavan bay… And even Queen Victoria assisted to this Carnival in 1882!

 

So cheesy! February 25, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — thalounette @ 5:11 pm

Recently, I noticed that Deborah hated cheese, but David seems to love it! When I was a little girl, I could not see or smell cheese, all sorts of cheese… Nevertheless, when I grew up, I became more and more attracted by it, and I can say I definitely love it – except for Roquefort – and I believe I have eaten thousands of different cheeses.

However, does someone know about Casu Marzu? The cheese? The famous and traditional Sardinian sheep milk cheese, notable for being riddled with live insect larvae? 😀

You did not? Me neither! 😀 Let’s have a look…

Casu Marzu, also colloquially known as Maggot Cheese… Yes, you have read what I have written right: Maggot Cheese. This ‘delicacy’ is a runny white cheese made by injecting Pecorino Sardo cheese with cheese-eating larvae. It is mainly found in Sardinia, Italy, and it literally means ‘rotten cheese’ in Sardinian. Casu Marzu is not your average cheese lover’s cheese. Then, if that is not to scare you away, how about a few thousand wriggling maggots?

Casu Marzu begins as Pecorino Sardo, a cheese that is typically soaked in brine, smoked, and left to ripen in the cheese cellars of central Sardinia. But to produce Casu Marzu, cheese makers set the Pecorino Sardo outside in the open, uncovered, and allow cheese flies (scientifically named Piophila casei – the cheese fly) to lay eggs inside of it.

As the eggs hatch into white transparent maggots, they feed on the cheese. By doing so, they produce enzymes that promote fermentation and cause fats within the Casu Marzu to decompose. Sometimes, cuts are even made into the rind of Pecorino Sardo and already-hatched maggots are introduced into the cheese. This way, it speeds the whole cheese making process. Thus, Casu Marzu is created by the gastric juices of the thousands of maggots that infest it…

Some people say Casu Marzu tastes like an extremely ripe Gorgonzola, without the blue veins and with a whole lot of larvae of course! 😀 One piece of Casu Marzu may be populated by thousands of living, breathing maggots.

Italian people really love this cheese and champion its cause when this delicacy is criticized. Anyway, we should not forget that the cheese can pose various health hazards, such as an intestinal larval infection for instance.

It is best for you not to think about that while you are chomping through your Gouda or Cheddar, dear reader 😀

If you want to know more about this particular cheese or even just to know where you could find some because it has stimulated your appetite, I refer you to Wikipedia or this really interesting video, starring a great chef, Gordon Ramsay!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZ_-JzM-YQg