My happy jar of homemade Ras-Al-Hanout
Based on the Butterfly Effect Meme, and the ProBlogger Writing Project, I thought that it would be an interesting idea to share those Food Items/Events that changed my Foodie Life in 2006! Feel free to add to the discussion by sharing your own ‘foodie epiphanies’ 😀
1. An ingredient
Without a doubt, my transformative ingredient of 2006 has been ras-al-hanout. I learnt about it from Homemade, and intrigued finally got around to making it this year. Colour me hooked.
So what is Ras-Al-Hanout? According to Wikipedia
Ras el hanout, also called Moroccan seasoning, is a popular blend of herbs and spices that originated in Morocco and used in other parts of North Africa. The name means in Arabic “top of the shop”, and refers to a mixture of the best spices a seller has to offer.
Because it’s a blend of so many different flavours you can’t quite pinpoint what it is in a dish. You just know that there is something really different going on behind the scenes. As there is also cinnamon I also use it from time to time in sweet dishes. Again I find it gives desserts a certain ‘adult’ kick, where your tastebuds kinda still and go wait… wait… something’s different here… but in a good way 🙂
My other favorite thing about ras-al-hanout is that I can top it up as I go along based on my moods and whims. Cardamom yes! Cumin? Sure! Coriander? Why not 🙂 It really appeals to my spice wanderlust 🙂 And as it combines all the flavours already used in Trinidadian cooking it never seems out of place. From curries to chillies to omelettes. My ‘special’ glass jar is ALWAYS in use when I’m in the kitchen 🙂
So…. Ras-al-hanout. My culinary discovery of 2006 (you can look forward to a longer post on it in 2007!) 🙂
2. A dish, a recipe
This year I picked up my pots and spoons for the first time after a long hiatus (approximately 18 months). I was very worried that I had forgotten how to cook something and that everything would burn! That didn’t happen thankfully and my confidence was gradually restored.
So what was that dish that brought me back to culinary life? It was my Festive Chicken Fried Rice!
3. A meal (in a restaurant, a home, or elsewhere)
Due to health and economic reasons I rarely ate out in 2006 (whether restaurant or someone else’s home). One of my fondest memories of this year though is a lunch that I had in February at Le Jardin des Tuileries with a friend and Larry Luxner. Larry was in the country for a few days doing research for an article and it was fun introducing him to some members of the local Jewish community. Le Jardin has amazing appetizer courses and their desserts (their specialty) were out of this world. The service was also quick and very pleasant (def. noteworthy in this country). Le Jardin des Tuileries is located on the ground floor of West Mall.
4. A cookbook or other written work
In September my mother went back to Jamaica for several weeks, leaving me in charge of the daily dinner preparations and a miniscule budget. When I saw the bills in the envelope I wondered how I would survive, and yet when she returned I actually had money LEFT OVER! How did I do it? Through Andrew Scholss’ “Cooking with Three Ingredients: Flavorful Food, Easy as 1, 2, 3“. This is a cookbook that I have returned to time and time again. For a quick entr?ɬ�e, side dish or dessert I think it can not be beat. It is a great way to stretch a dollar, the dishes are delicious. And if you splurge on one dish and supplement your dinner with dishes from this book, no one is the wiser that you actually were cooking on a budget 😀
5. A food ?��Ǩ?�personality?��Ǩ�� (chef, writer, etc.)
I admit it. I love Rachael Ray. Feel free to hate and stone me if you wish. However I will not retract this! She has definitely had the most effect and inspiration on me of any ‘foodologist’ this year. Before this year I had only heard of her, and seen her a few times on the Oprah Show. However once she had her own morning show I eagerly tuned in to see what all the fuss (and division) was about. If there’s one thing that I can say she has done for me cooking-wise it is that she has encouraged me to view ingredients and leftovers in new ways. I have always been one to take leftovers literally. Now I am reinterpreting them and using them to create new things. This has made cooking more fun, and almost a scavenger hunt of skill and ingenuity.
A very close runner up in this category is the entire Food Network. I had not seen the Food Network since leaving the USA in 1999. The Food Network is what had sparked my love of all things culinary in the first place. So when a local channel started showing episodes of it earlier this year I was excited to finally see the faces and personalities behind names I had only read about. It has been very thrilling and inspiring to say the least, except for Sandra Lee!
6. Another person in your life
Without a doubt that honour goes to my college best friend Lynn of RedSheepCrafts.com …. she has inspired me to become more food-literate and adventurous ever since she enrolled in culinary school in San Francisco several years ago and then worked at a restaurant. Earlier this year when the computer I started TriniGourmet.com on sputtered and choked she surprised me with the MacBook that I am currently writing to you on, and even more recently she created a video tutorial on Knife Sharpening for this site with more to come in the New Year. Thanks a ton Lynn. TriniGourmet Love = RedSheep Love!
So, what were your foodie discoveries for 2006? Leave a comment and add to this discussion 😀