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Stirring Slowly: my food journey

Stirring Slowly: my food journey


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Following the release of her stunning debut cookbook, Stirring Slowly, food stylist, writer and member of Jamie’s food team Georgina Hayden discusses her personal relationship with food, the importance of a well-stocked larder and shares her delicious spiced turmeric barbecue chicken recipe.

I don’t think I ever really questioned the focus of food in my family, and the importance it plays in our lives; it’s all I’ve ever known. Growing up above my grandparents’ restaurant meant that food, cooking and eating was of huge importance. We regularly sat around the dinner table together, my yiayia (grandmother) would have us doing jobs and chores from a young age, and whatever the occasion, there was a meal to match. Time was spent lovingly making cakes and slow-cooked dishes. Nothing was too much bother, it was how we showed we cared.

THE PROCESS OF COOKING

It’s no shock then, that I ended up working in food. I have always wanted to write cookbooks, and writing Stirring Slowly came at a time when many fantastic cookbooks were, and are, focusing on health, diet and nutrition. All topics that are incredibly important, but something that occurred to me after a particularly difficult time in my life was not how ‘healthy’ my meals were (although I do try and eat as balanced a diet as possible), but how important the actual process of cooking is.

COOKING FOR THE SOUL

Cooking became a way of unwinding, a way of gaining some control and understanding in my life. We’ve become so aware of what we put in our bodies, but really if you strip it back, it’s not just about calories and nutrition, it’s about starting from scratch, understanding where your food comes from and the love and time that goes into creating a meal.

The restorative nature of spending time in the kitchen fascinated me and I knew I couldn’t be the only one who felt this way. And so, Stirring Slowly was created. I lived it; for a year, I spent time in my kitchen and have tried to create recipes that in some form or another are reviving, calming and filled with love. Meals that are nourishing and good for the soul.


I feel incredibly lucky that for the last 10 years I’ve worked for Jamie as a food stylist. Needless to say, he has had a huge impact on my career, my way of writing and the way I develop recipes – recipes that are hopefully accessible and achievable yet inspiring. Meals that aren’t too faddy, or fiddly, because the reality is, I don’t have the time after work to create a dish that has three or four components, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. He is, and continues to be, a fantastic mentor, and along with my family, a huge source of inspiration.

A WELL-STOCKED LARDER

One thing I learnt early on is the importance of a well-stocked larder, or dry store. Even with a relatively bare fridge you can create exciting and interesting dishes with the addition of some choice spices and pastes.


Look in my larder and you’ll find jars and bags of lentils, one of my real store-cupboard essentials, cans of light coconut milk (one of the only reduced fat items I buy), tubs of miso and a stash of garam masala. I love the complex flavours in harissa, which even without the addition of anything else can completely transform a dish.

SUMMER BARBECUE CHICKEN


With the store cupboard in mind, I’ve written what you will hopefully find is a delicious summer barbecue recipe (that can easily be achieved on the hob with a griddle pan if you don’t have a barbecue). Marinate the chicken for as long as you can, so that the flavour really permeates, and be assured that it is in no way spicy, just gently and beautifully flavoured. You can leave the chilli out at the end if feeding kids, or up it for a crowd who love a kick. I’ve also made this for just my husband and I, with any leftovers shredded and refrigerated – they’re perfect in a sarnie the next day.

Check out Georgina’s delicious recipe here.

[avatar user=”georginahayden” size=”thumbnail” align=”left” link=”http://georginahayden.com/” target=”_blank” /]


Make Caramelized Onions in the Oven, Save Yourself From Stirring and Sweating

I don't love babysitting (to those I've babysat: It's not you, it's me!), which is why I rarely make caramelized onions on the stovetop. The process, while rewarding and worthwhile, takes vigilance, patience, and optimism—three virtues I cannot claim on any given weeknight (or, um, any day of the year).

What I can do with much greater success is caramelize onions in the oven. While this method produces onions with a bit more variance—some pieces will be browner than others—it doesn't require as watchful an eye. It also frees up my hands (and my stove) for other tasks, like simmering pasta or rice, which makes multitasking possible.

Hands, as usual, are the best tool for even tossing.

To caramelize onions in the oven, heat the oven to 400° and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss a big pile of thinly sliced onions with olive oil and a splash of water (which will help them to steam and soften), season with salt, then roast until golden-brown and shrunken, stirring every 10 minutes or so, for 40–50 minutes.

For Andy Baraghani's Slow-Roasted Onion Dip, he simultaneously roasts sliced onions (a mix of red, sweet, and yellow) and unpeeled garlic cloves (their skins protect them from scorching or drying!), then chops it all up and mixes the two with yogurt and lemon juice. And in Sohla El-Waylly's Squash with Yogurt Sauce and Frizzled Onions, she roasts thinly sliced red onions on the oven's lowest rack (near the heating element) to the point where they have crunchy edges, then uses half of them to offer textural contrast to tender winter squash and creamy yogurt dressing (the other half go in the dressing, lending it a deep savory flavor).

Will your oven-caramelized onions ever be quite as homogenous in color and texture as your stovetop onions? Probably not. But you know what I always say about caramelized onions? Don't let perfection be the enemy of the good. Come to think of it, that's also what I say about babysitting—which might explain why I'm not always invited back?


Scalloped Potatoes

The first time I tasted scalloped potatoes was a recipe my Aunt Mary had given to my mother. It isn’t a food I grew up with. Mother made it for some special occasion, likely because it would be acceptable to the crowd and was an easy recipe and very amenable to taking to a potluck. I thought it would be a great dish to make in advance for dinner.

I tried making it a few times, but never enjoyed it as much as I did when mom had made Aunt Mary’s scalloped potatoes. When I tried to make it after I had moved to England, I couldn’t find one of the ingredients, so I decided to experiment. I began to come to terms with the idea I was going to have to make some things up to make a scalloped potato dish that I liked and the family liked and that I could replicate.

My first attempt at creating this on my own was fairly successful. The kids liked it and it was easy. If I remember correctly, I sliced the potatoes, seasoned it and added milk or cream and baked it. In my memory it was a flavorful creamy dish. The next time… well… I taught the kids about “but it tastes OK, right?”

I’m sure I tried to replicate that first success at least once more before I scrapped it and started over. Remember – cookbooks, no internet in those days, and mom was a long distance land line call across five time zones.

My goal was a creamy, saucy potato casserole that I could prepare in advance and bake while the after school chaos ensued. The time I had gotten away with just adding cream or milk to the potatoes could have been the variety of potato, I guess. Brits know more about potatoes than I knew could be known (maybe we’ll go there another day). I couldn’t get it to turn out right again, so I decided I should try making the sauce to go onto the potatoes like my mother taught me to make gravy. Equal parts fat (butter, oil, roast dripping) and flour, plus a liquid such as milk or broth and simmer to the consistency you want. Twenty years later, I learned this has a name in the food world: roux.

I’d love to tell you I had found the key. My mother wasn’t there to teach me the nuances of making roux. It’s not as simple as mixing the 3 ingredients, although I had seen her do it dozens of times so I had an idea how it should go.

It took some experimentation but I was onto something. I was able to make a creamy, tasty, easy potato casserole, prepare it in advance, even a day before, put it in the oven for an hour with little attention, and almost dinner! It still didn’t win over the family. Then I thought of cheese. At first, I sprinkled it on top. Then – thenI thought of melting cheese into the roux to make a cheese sauce. (Mother would not have been on board for this part.) It turns out that a roux is the building block of many sauces and styles of sauces and there are tricks to getting the flavor and texture right.

This was the winner and the food I still serve when the kids come home at the end of a hard week just to unwind. It’s the recipe they most often phone home for when they can’t get home but need some comfort food.

I’ve found some fun ways to flavor boost for adult comfort food depending what I have in the pantry. When the kids aren’t home I like to layer white or yellow onion slices or sweet potatoes with the white potatoes, put whole fresh tomatoes in the corners of the baking dish, and add herbs and spices to the sauce. I love red onions, but the color leeches into the sauce and gives the dish an unappetizing grey tinge. I’ve also found some new twists on this favorite which I can share another time. In the meantime, experiment with it and find what you love best. Make it personal.

White potatoes are very nutritious, but the quantities consumed in the US and possibly the UK lead to a lot of illnesses that are new to my generation and Gens X Y and Z. This is especially true when we consider how we like potatoes best deep fried in saturated fat. This recipe serves 8 (in my house occasionally just 4 or less). Remember – this is one ounce of cheese per serving and there is nothing wrong with that. Cheese is nutritious, but it is also high in saturated fats – LDL – the bad ones.

Read the labels on your cheeses. Some of the commercial brands aren’t actually food. Cheddar cheese is a hard cheese and should not be soft or gooey at room temperature. The ingredients in real cheddar cheese include milk, cheese culture, salt and sometimes a natural coloring agent (annatto). I specify buying a block of cheese instead of shredded for a reason. Pre-shredded cheese is packaged with an anti-caking agent (not food – it’s made from wood pulp) and natamycin, an anti-molding agent used to extend shelf life. Synthetic additive surprise! Not my kind of surprise. Natamycin is also found in some commercial block cheese. Read those labels. Real cheese tastes better and has better texture.

I am not a huge fan of extra sharp cheddar cheese on its own, but I love the bold flavor it gives these potatoes. If you use sharp cheddar instead, the finished flavor will be milder but still very enjoyable.

I use a little bit of yellow mustard in the recipe to give it a tiny little tang. I know how some people feel about yellow mustard – I’m looking at you Child 3 (in order of age, not preference) – but you can’t taste it. Leave it out if you want. Try a different mustard if you want. I always peel the potatoes and have never tried this dish with the skins on – but give it a try if you want!

Last word before the actual recipe – thank you to Lucy, Child 1, who finally forced me to distill my “about this much”, or “it looks like this” into “use 1 cup of” language. We stole an hour out of her day while Grandchild 1 (again in chronological order) snoozed not too far away. If this recipe works for you today, thank Lucy.

Ingredients

  • 4 T butter (not margarine)
  • 4 T all purpose flour
  • 2 C milk
  • pinch to 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 8 ounce block of extra sharp cheddar cheese sliced thin or shredded
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard
  • 6 large white potatoes (about 4.5 pounds)

I like to make the sauce first, then slice and assemble. If you’re a beginner cook, this is probably wise. If you aren’t, then I’m not talking to you and you know what to do.

Assemble the sauce ingredients before you begin. Melt the butter on medium low in a saucepan large enough to hold 2 -3 cups of sauce. When the butter is melted stir in the flour.

Stir this mixture for a minute on low so that the flour cooks. It shouldn’t brown too much – golden is fine, brown won’t hurt anything but it changes the color of the result. If you skip this step, the result has a distinct taste of flour. Taste a little bit of it as you go if you want.

Add the milk very gradually. When you first pour in some milk, it’s going to sizzle and steam – keep the temp below medium to minimize this. Pour in a little milk (less than 1/4 cup) and use a whisk to combine with the flour and butter mixture and work out any lumps before the next addition of milk. You should notice it turns into kind of a paste in the beginning. Add a little more milk and stir with a whisk, letting the mixture come back up to temperature. Continue until all the milk is incorporated. You should wind up with a rather thin white gravy. What happens if you do this step wrong? Lumps. The dish is still completely edible and tasty and the only way past it is through it.

Once all the milk is incorporated, gently bring the sauce to a slow simmer. You want it hot enough for some bubbles to come up – this thickens the sauce, but not hot enough to boil. Cheese and milk burn easily, so stir often. Add the red pepper flakes and mustard, if using.

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Begin to add the cheese in small amounts. Stir until melted and add more cheese. Repeat until all the cheese is melted into the sauce. You should have a thick cheesy sauce now. If not, let it simmer gently for a minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and then add a little more. Because we aren’t seasoning the potatoes directly, the sauce needs to have the extra salt. Or, don’t add a little more, and season at the table.

Remove the sauce from the heat and try really hard not to eat the sauce before it gets to the potatoes.

Peel and thinly slice the potatoes into a 9 x 13 baking dish. How thin is not as important as how consistent. I like to pour some sauce over the potatoes when I’ve sliced about half of them. This prevents the raw potatoes turning brown in the air waiting for you to slice them all. From time to time you can use your fingers to sort of level out the potatoes, or you can gently shake the baking dish. Layer the rest of the potato slices in the dish, and pour over the remaining sauce. Use a spoon to smooth the sauce over the top of all the potatoes. The sauce might not completely cover the potatoes, and this is ok, but there should be at least a coating of sauce over the top. You could top with additional shredded cheese if you want.

Bake at 400 F for an hour, depending on the oven, the potato thickness, etc. The result should be a lightly browned beautiful cheesy side to dinner. If you’re concerned whether it’s done, a toothpick inserted in the middle should not detect any uncooked potato. I like to let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes before serving so that the cheese solidifies a little.

Another dish that is always better the next day, I will sometimes freeze single serving portions to pull together a quick meal. I hope you enjoy it!


  • You can use any cut of meat, though we recommend shoulder. Ask your butcher to cut it up for you
  • Don’t add any more liquid than what’s specified in the recipe. Many slow cooker recipes will turn out watery with way too much gravy that dilutes the flavor. You really don’t need a lot of liquid here. The meat leaves some liquid as it cooks, and because the slow cooker doesn’t let a lot of steam escape, the food cooks in its own liquid.
  • This lamb curry takes 6-8 hours on high in the slow cooker. But depending on the quality of meat you have, you can add or subtract an hour. Take 6 hours as the base and then check from there. Since its lamb, even if you leave it for a little longer, it’ll stay just as tender!

I really love serving this with some plain steamed rice because the curry already has so much flavor. Sliced onions help cut through the rich fatty curry and a squirt of lime really takes it to the next level!


Community Reviews

The author suffered a brain aneurysm in the gym and this brought her to the brink of death and a slow recovery with many operations. All this is mildly interesting, not terribly because she doesn&apost know any details, she just has the operations and describes the side effects and how she feels. Then we get a recipe.

At some point in the story Jessica marries her boyfriend Eli who likes to cook. She starts a food blog Sweet Amandine and since she can&apost work or study cooks a lot. All the recipes sou The author suffered a brain aneurysm in the gym and this brought her to the brink of death and a slow recovery with many operations. All this is mildly interesting, not terribly because she doesn't know any details, she just has the operations and describes the side effects and how she feels. Then we get a recipe.

At some point in the story Jessica marries her boyfriend Eli who likes to cook. She starts a food blog Sweet Amandine and since she can't work or study cooks a lot. All the recipes sound pretty nice but I skimmed over most. I was interested in the "Broken Brain" part of the book which was so-so, really the best part of it was the author has a lovely personality, just the sort of person everyone would like for a friend. I can't see the point of reading recipes if there isn't a picture of the finished dish especially in a non-cook book.

Three stars. Meaning it was ok, it wasn't a bad read, but not a book I'm enthusing over. . more

(4.5) For me this is right up there with Molly Wizenberg and Ruth Reichl in terms of how the author manages to merge food writing with a frank recounting of personal experience with crisis and heartache. At age 28 Fechtor, then a graduate student in history and Yiddish, collapsed on a treadmill with a brain bleed. A subsequent surgery to clip the aneurysm left her blind in one eye and with a caved-in section at her temple, which she later had corrected by a plastic surgeon. During her long recov (4.5) For me this is right up there with Molly Wizenberg and Ruth Reichl in terms of how the author manages to merge food writing with a frank recounting of personal experience with crisis and heartache. At age 28 Fechtor, then a graduate student in history and Yiddish, collapsed on a treadmill with a brain bleed. A subsequent surgery to clip the aneurysm left her blind in one eye and with a caved-in section at her temple, which she later had corrected by a plastic surgeon. During her long recovery process she started a food blog, Sweet Amandine.

At the end of each chapter she shares recipes that alternate between simple, favorite dishes and more involved ones. It’s that unpretentiousness that really endears her to me. She doesn’t think she was particularly brave in getting through an unwanted illness nor does she think the perfect almond macaroon or cherry clafoutis is beyond anyone’s capability. Instead, she gives a glimpse into an ordinary life turned upside down and the foods that helped her regain a zest for life by reconnecting her with her family and her Jewish heritage.

“Near-death forces us to remember. It pushes us into a state of aggressive gratitude that throws what’s big and what’s small into the sharpest relief.” . more

* Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Group Avery for an ARC.

I found Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals That Brought Me Home to be an enjoyable read since it combines several interests of mine - I normally gravitate toward books about medical/health issues, and I also like food-related memoirs in general.

The book focuses on the author&aposs journey recovering from a brain aneurysm that occurred when she was in her 20s in grad school. She experienced multiple complications along the way, and eventually * Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Group Avery for an ARC.

I found Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals That Brought Me Home to be an enjoyable read since it combines several interests of mine - I normally gravitate toward books about medical/health issues, and I also like food-related memoirs in general.

The book focuses on the author's journey recovering from a brain aneurysm that occurred when she was in her 20s in grad school. She experienced multiple complications along the way, and eventually found that her love of food and cooking was a good way to improve both her physical as well as cognitive function. Due to the aneurysm, she was physically weak, but even worse, found it very difficult to concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes at a time. A friend of hers initially recommended that she start a food blog, and from there she began gradually getting back into the kitchen and posting recipes to the blog (not revealing the reasons behind the blog).

As an occupational therapist, I always hope to be able to help patients recover from various illnesses, injuries, etc. while integrating things they most enjoy into their treatment sessions. As cooking was something Fechtor previously enjoyed, and OTs often work on kitchen/cooking skills with patients, it would seem to be the perfect opportunity for therapy. Unfortunately, the one example the author provided of contact with an occupational therapist was not the most positive, so not sure if she decided to relate only that specific interaction, or if all of the occupational therapy she had during her stay in a rehab hospital was negative.

I would definitely recommend Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals That Brought Me Home to all those who love food and books about food (includes many recipes as well). Would not recommend reading when hungry however! . more

"Runner who suffers a burst brain aneurysm and recovers" hooked me (plus, I have to say: that&aposs an awesome cover), so I signed up for a galley copy.

I enjoyed it. It&aposs intelligently written - part indulgent food writing, part memoir (and a good one), part cookbook. There&aposs a sweet love story tucked away in there that I really enjoyed.

On the foodie writing: I enjoyed it. It gets a touch overly romantic and flowery now and again for my own personal preference, but I admit I haven&apost thought too de
"Runner who suffers a burst brain aneurysm and recovers" hooked me (plus, I have to say: that's an awesome cover), so I signed up for a galley copy.

I enjoyed it. It's intelligently written - part indulgent food writing, part memoir (and a good one), part cookbook. There's a sweet love story tucked away in there that I really enjoyed.

On the foodie writing: I enjoyed it. It gets a touch overly romantic and flowery now and again for my own personal preference, but I admit I haven't thought too deeply about my own relationship to cooking, and food prep is something I only enjoy when listening to a book or music or chatting.

That said, I can understand a couple things: first, why she is romantic about this (for good reason!), and second, when you're writing food writing you've got to emulate a sensory and tactile experience to really engage readers. If it doesn't make the other person crave it, you're missing the mark. M.F.K. Fisher's essay on canned tomato soup in a cup had me immediately wanting to curl up with a tomato soup and a sprinkle of cinnamon, even though the idea sounded strange and almost appalling (but turned out quite tasty, because I HAD to make it). John Thorne's manly love letter to cheese, onion, bread and beer had me wanting to find a medieval pub and sit down with a tankard of ale, a hunk of bread and some hard cheese.

A good food writer is going to inspire you to go DO and go EAT. This made me want to make Challah and Cholent and devour it. It made me hungry.

The recipes: all are "doable" and not overly complex. She keeps things largely pretty simple and friendly to a spare kitchen without all the latest gadgets. I loved her list of what she had for her kitchen when she started. That said, there are a couple recipes that are more labor intensive than I will ever devote myself to. I bookmarked several from the book to try, and went straight to her blog to see what else she had.

Her story: she makes herself easy to relate to and she has some great insight. Plenty of text was highlighted on the kindle. I particularly loved her (mental) rebuttal to people telling her that "these things happen for a reason." Things happen, period. And to me, that's comforting.

When someone says "things happen for a reason," it assigns a moral value to whatever did or didn't happen. It implies there's something you "needed" to learn to be a better person and the universe or God or whatever is sending it your way to make a point. This strikes me as superstition, not faith. You don't slap a child's hand down on a lit burner and then tell him "Hot!" after the fact. Why would a deity do this to you?

Bad things happen because we're mortal and vulnerable. We learn lessons from those things because of the kind of people we are - or choose to be. If your beliefs help you in this, that is faith, and it's working for you.

Overall I enjoyed it. Looking forward to trying some of her recipes.
. more

God, I always feel like a jerk when I rate a memoir less than four stars. I feel like a double jerk when I rate it three stars not because it was a substandard book, but mainly because it wasn&apost what I was expecting (and that has to do more with the marketing department than with the author herself). Here&aposs the thing: Stir is being marketed for fans of Oliver Sacks (as well as tons of other people). And Oliver Sacks&apos books tend to stray towards more scientific (which makes sense considering he&aposs God, I always feel like a jerk when I rate a memoir less than four stars. I feel like a double jerk when I rate it three stars not because it was a substandard book, but mainly because it wasn't what I was expecting (and that has to do more with the marketing department than with the author herself). Here's the thing: Stir is being marketed for fans of Oliver Sacks (as well as tons of other people). And Oliver Sacks' books tend to stray towards more scientific (which makes sense considering he's a neurologist). So, I had assumed that Stir would be somewhat scientific, but it wasn't. Again, that's not a bad thing. But for someone who had assumed that it would be, not getting it led to some disappointment on my part.

My main issue with Stir was that I was less intrigued with the author's personal life than I should have been while reading a memoir. Don't get me wrong, I, of course, sympathized with all that she was going through. I just found myself wandering and not really engaged while the author was going on about her childhood and her relationship with her husband.

The food aspect of Stir was well-done. I kept looking at the recipes and thinking "I could totally make that", which of course is a lie since I can't cook worth a damn. It did make me want to head out to my local bakery, though, and pick up some sweets.

Overall, I thought that Stir was just okay. If you're looking for a more in-depth look into what caused the author's aneurysm or anything super detailed, then you shan't find it here. If you're looking for a memoir about recovery and food, then I recommend Stir. . more

I’m all in when it comes to a good memoir and this one delivers. At 28 Jessica Fechtor has a brain aneurysm that takes her on a wild ride of a journey. She strikes a good balance of just the right amount of detail. Too much and it gets laborious and too little and you have questions. Her tone is amazingly positive yet she still describes the feelings at times of wondering if she will truly be healthy again.

There is no “victim” mentality or sense of entitlement over her circumstances. She is con I’m all in when it comes to a good memoir and this one delivers. At 28 Jessica Fechtor has a brain aneurysm that takes her on a wild ride of a journey. She strikes a good balance of just the right amount of detail. Too much and it gets laborious and too little and you have questions. Her tone is amazingly positive yet she still describes the feelings at times of wondering if she will truly be healthy again.

There is no “victim” mentality or sense of entitlement over her circumstances. She is constantly grateful for the good care she received from the doctors and hospital staff and her family and friends.

Fechtor weaves in how food plays a key role in her recovery and includes a few recipes along the way. I like having a recipe or two from a memoir because when I make it it takes me back to the experience of reading the book, and that is a treat especially if I really enjoyed it.

She has a good sense of humor and I would find myself chuckling out loud over her descriptions of how things affected her.

I learned about this book from “A Year of Reading.” . more

Some culinary-centric memoirs are all about the food and recipes.

Some are about the lives of the authors, all of their heartache, trials, tribulations and triumphs.

From the first episode of Fechtor&aposs debilitating brain aneurysm to the subsequent health related setbacks, I found myself rooting for her. So, so many things happen during her recovery I don&apost know how she survived with such a positive outlook.

Even as she was having her final surgery, I kept waiting for the othe Some culinary-centric memoirs are all about the food and recipes.

Some are about the lives of the authors, all of their heartache, trials, tribulations and triumphs.

From the first episode of Fechtor's debilitating brain aneurysm to the subsequent health related setbacks, I found myself rooting for her. So, so many things happen during her recovery I don't know how she survived with such a positive outlook.

Even as she was having her final surgery, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. Obviously, all is well now with Fechtor's publication of this book. Fechtor also writes on her blog, Sweet Amandine.

Look forward to a more detailed review of this book on Eliot's Eats as this book is the December/January selection for Cook the Books. . more

This is an extraordinary book.

The writing is exceptional.

You are transported into Jess&aposs world - you can smell the aromas she describes, imagine the texture of the berries she ate while in the hospital, you can feel the frustration she expresses.
Very descriptive writing.

For anyone who hasn&apost read the synopsis or jacket, here is what it&aposs about. A young woman has an aneurysm as she is running on a treadmill. This is a healthy woman who is in graduate school at Harvard. She nearly died a

This is an extraordinary book.

The writing is exceptional.

You are transported into Jess's world - you can smell the aromas she describes, imagine the texture of the berries she ate while in the hospital, you can feel the frustration she expresses.
Very descriptive writing.

For anyone who hasn't read the synopsis or jacket, here is what it's about. A young woman has an aneurysm as she is running on a treadmill. This is a healthy woman who is in graduate school at Harvard. She nearly died and went through multiple surgeries. Her skull was cut apart and deformed, she lost vision in one eye and yet with all the odds stacked against her - she persevered. She survived and while she was recovering, she thought about the foods that made a difference in her life and above all - she remained positive.

There are 33 chapters with 26 of those followed by a recipe. I have prepared several already and can endorse those as keepers.

In the chapter titled The All Clear, Jessica writes about her blog Sweet Amandine.

"People were reading my blog. They were leaving comments, sending emails, asking questions about my recipes and sharing their own. We talked about soup and scones crisp roasted chickpeas sesame noodles made with oil, soy sauce, and rice vinegar, and no peanut butter, thank you very much. We did not talk about my brain. they didn't ask me about my blind eye, insist that I sit down, or place a hand on my shoulder and tear up."

I can't imagine how wonderful that was for Jess to share and talk about something besides her brain and how she was doing. A space on the Internet where she was just a regular person, doing regular things and the common interest was cooking. No one treated her differently.

The constant love and support from her family will blow you away. Her husband, her parents and friends - complete and total support. I loved the stories about them as well as reading Jess' thoughts.

It's an inspirational book, it's a love story, it's a foodie book with a slice of life.

I selected this book for two events. Cook the Books has this featured as the December/January selection.

The other event is a new reading challenge I joined this year. It's the 2017 Monthly Motif Challenge hosted at Girlxoxo. The monthly motif for January is Diversify your Reading: Kick the reading year off right and shake things up. Read a book with a character (or written by an author) of a race, religion, or sexual orientation other than your own.

I'm not Christian or Jewish so typically, I don't read books that are religious in nature. This isn't a religious book but the author is Jewish and her religion and culture figure in to the story. I very much enjoyed the sense of community and how the family and friends came together with complete love and support. The description of kosher foods and the process of cooking is addressed. Eating out the kosher way can be an issue but that was addressed too. It was interesting and, more importantly, I learned something reading this book.

There are still a few recipes I want to make but I will share the Pan-Roasted Salmon and the Brown Soda Bread.

The salmon was easy enough but I had a time cleaning my cast iron frying pan! Delicious meal and I would make this again.

The Brown Soda Bread challenged me because this was one of the few times I managed to use our digital kitchen scale and - thanks to my husband's assistance - it was measured properly. This came out well and I will most certainly be making this again.

For the soda bread recipe head over to http://tinaculbertson.blogspot.com/20. . The salmon was a breeze. It's on page 58 in the book.

1 tablespoon flaked sea salt

2 pieces of salmon fillet with skin on, about a 1/3 pound each

Freshly ground black pepper and lemon wedges

Method: Scatter the salt over a 10 inch dry, well-seasoned cast iron pan. Place pan over medium heat for 3 minutes. While the pan heats dry the fillets with a paper towel and lay them on a plate. Brush with olive oil on both sides.

Place fish in hot pan, skin side down. Turn heat down if the crackle sounds too sputtery. Cover with a lid. Cook without moving fillets for 3 to 5 minutes. Flip them and cook for another 2 to 4 minutes, depending on their thickness.

Serve with pepper and lemon. Brilliant!

Don't forget that soda bread!
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​I&aposll admit I wasn&apost sure about a memoir that alternated between recipes and recovery from an aneurysm​, but Stir must have won me over because I not only felt the unique disappointment that only happens when finishing a good book, I also can&apost stop talking about it. Jessica Fechtor&aposs recovery from a brain aneurysm while running on a treadmill is memoir-worthy without the wonderful observations, recipes, and memories. That&aposs why Stir is a multi-layer cake of a memoir, a cake so fluffy with life ​I'll admit I wasn't sure about a memoir that alternated between recipes and recovery from an aneurysm​, but Stir must have won me over because I not only felt the unique disappointment that only happens when finishing a good book, I also can't stop talking about it. Jessica Fechtor's recovery from a brain aneurysm while running on a treadmill is memoir-worthy without the wonderful observations, recipes, and memories. That's why Stir is a multi-layer cake of a memoir, a cake so fluffy with life and beauty, not even an aneurysm can sour it.

Each chapter is comprised of both an intimate essay portraying Jessica's life before, during, and after her aneurysm and a recipe correlating with that part of her life. Prior to her aneurysm, Jessica was ambitious - teaching, cooking, working towards her doctorate in Jewish Literature, and running every day. Stir is a little bit of that old life, mixed with both a long recovery and her new life, which is equal parts grasping for her old life while giving cooking more attention than she had prior to her illness. The recipes range from cholent with kugel to a simple tomato soup, and celebrate her family and roots while revitalizing classics with intriguing modifications. Jessica utilizes leftovers in a lot of her recipes, which really jives with my own style. I cannot wait to have leftover greens and rice so I can try her crispy rice and eggs recipe. Another recipe, a kale and pomegranate salad, calls for pomegranate molasses, which is something I have never heard of. As a huge molasses fan, I immediately set out to find a bottle of it before I even finished Stir.

Though I love the recipes and applaud Jessica's bravery during her long recovery, I enjoyed her observations the most. The last bit of mustard in a grey poupon jar helps "emulsify the oil and vinegar into a uniform dressing," and gives "a jar at the end of its life . . . one more job to do." And ". . . when you put freshly baked bread and a lump of softened butter on the table, you are taking good care of your people, no matter the rest of the meal." Jessica struggles through a handful of surgeries that cause a variety of issues. One surgery leaves her with a chunk of skull missing and Doctor's orders to wear a helmet until the chunk can be replaced. She also loses sight in one of her eyes and has a temporary loss of smell. Her ability to embrace each of these hurdles while simultaneously searching for ways overcome them is a lesson in both mind over matter and resilience. At one point Jessica realizes that, prior to her aneurysm, she thought she was being considerate by helping out while visiting friends for dinner. By doing so, however, she prevented others the pleasure of hosting. During her recovery she "allows herself to be hosted." She also questions that if silence describes the opposite of noise, what is the opposite of scent? Observations like these make Stir a page-turner.

I enjoyed Jessica's outlook on life, her plentiful and unique descriptions, and applaud her determination through her long recovery. With each new setback Jessica patiently and determinedly familiarizes herself with the new changes in her body and mind. She not only adjusts to the changes, she refuses to let them get in her way for very long, especially not in the kitchen. . more

I&aposm much later than I like to be posting a review for which I received an advanced copy - one can scarcely consider it an advanced copy if I can&apost manage to offer an opinion until almost a month after the publication date.

But it is because of my attraction to this memoir that my offering is so delayed. I went for several months without taking on any advanced review copies due to several factors. But then around the date it was released I was became attracted to this book and starting hearing so I'm much later than I like to be posting a review for which I received an advanced copy - one can scarcely consider it an advanced copy if I can't manage to offer an opinion until almost a month after the publication date.

But it is because of my attraction to this memoir that my offering is so delayed. I went for several months without taking on any advanced review copies due to several factors. But then around the date it was released I was became attracted to this book and starting hearing some incredible things about it. I finally broke my fast and asked Penguin Random House to allow me the opportunity.

And my hedging was richly rewarded. Stir is just the loveliest of memoirs. Fechtor was 28 years old and training for a marathon when she collapsed on a hotel treadmill while at a conference. Taken to the hospital, she's happily ready to check out when she feels better within hours. But MRIs showed an aneurysm and she was in the unknowing time between the rupture and the subsequent attempt by the brain to heal. by reabsorbing the spilled blood, an incredibly painful process. Thus began her incredibly long, frustrating, frightening road to healing.

I can't even begin to adequately describe the horrors of the original insults and subsequent setbacks Fetchor went through and I would actually advise you against reading too much about this memoir or, especially, watching the book trailer video associated with it if you're interested in reading - just dive in. This is because much of my enjoyment of the memoir stemmed from those revelations and discoveries.

In addition to a fascinating experience and a recipe at the end of every chapter, Fechtor is also a fantastic writer. In her acknowledgements, she does mention a writing partner (Katrina Goldsaito) - a person not mentioned on the cover, so I wonder just how heavily involved she was or perhaps she was more of guide/editor. In any case, it was a combination of these factors including the writing that carried my through, happy and fascinated:

"Everything happens for a reason? I don't see it that way at all. To me, only the first part is clear: Everything happens. Then other things happen, and other things, still. Out of each of these moments, we make something. Any number of somethings, in fact. What becomes of our own actions becomes the 'reason.' It is no predestined thing. We may arrive where we are by way of a specific path - we can take just one at a time - but it's never the only one that could have lead to our destination. Nor does a single event, even a string of them, point decisively to a single landing spot. There are infinite possible versions of our lives. Meaning is not what happens, but what we do with what happens when it does."

Check out this and many other reviews on my blog https://throwmeabook.wordpress.com/20.

At 28, Jessica Fechtor was enjoying life. Enrolled in graduate school and newly married with plans to start a family, she was living life happily until, while running on the tread mill, she collapsed from a brain aneurism. Suffering a number of complications and numerous brain surgeries, Jessica survived but the trauma and months of hospitalisation left her both physically and mentally weak.

Recuperating at Check out this and many other reviews on my blog https://throwmeabook.wordpress.com/20.

At 28, Jessica Fechtor was enjoying life. Enrolled in graduate school and newly married with plans to start a family, she was living life happily until, while running on the tread mill, she collapsed from a brain aneurism. Suffering a number of complications and numerous brain surgeries, Jessica survived but the trauma and months of hospitalisation left her both physically and mentally weak.

Recuperating at home, surrounded by her wonderfully supportive family and friends, she reflected on memories of joyous and loving moments spent cooking and baking. Her love of food had always been there, so when a friend suggested starting a food blog, Jessica readily accepted and so started her path back to reclaiming her life.

Jessica Fechtor writes in such a way that creates an instant connection with the reader as if the two of us had just sat down for a coffee and chat. I immediately understood this food-soul connection and I think at some point in our lives we’ve all experienced it smells and tastes that take us back to special moments. For me a simple bowl of pasta with freshly grated cheese or a piece of chocolate on freshly baked bread will bring back many of my most cherished childhood memories of summers spent with cousins sitting around the dinner table or camp fire, lying on the beach or in my grandmother’s kitchen and in all of them there is always food, a lot of giggling, happiness and an ever present feeling of contentment.

What makes Stir even more appealing is that Jessica Fechtor doesn’t sensationalise her story, make it fantastical or overly tragic. Her approach is simple, straightforward and honest. She’s not afraid to show her fear and vulnerability, and wears her humanity and emotions on her sleeve. As a wonderfully personal touch, interspersed between the chapters are Jessica’s own delicious recipes. So much like Stir, the recipes are straightforward and very ‘doable’, using simple, wholesome ingredients found readily in any pantry. Even if you have just a passing enjoyment of cooking or baking, these recipes will make you want to get into the kitchen and try them.

Stir is an intelligent, insightful, intimate and honest memoir. I fell in love with this book after just reading the prologue and first chapter and really can’t say enough good things about it except go out and get yourself a copy!

Thank you to NetGalley and The Penguin Group (Avery) for providing me an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.
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This book really spoke to me. Unlike Jessica Fechtor, I&aposve never had to experience a life-threatening illness or injury, but like her, I adore food in all of its incarnations. I love eating it, I love preparing it, I love sharing it. For me, food is love, and it&aposs the best way I show that I care about a person. It&aposs very important to me that I make something for a person that I love that is of his/her favorite flavors, and that s/he will remember for quite some time.

The writing in this book is i This book really spoke to me. Unlike Jessica Fechtor, I've never had to experience a life-threatening illness or injury, but like her, I adore food in all of its incarnations. I love eating it, I love preparing it, I love sharing it. For me, food is love, and it's the best way I show that I care about a person. It's very important to me that I make something for a person that I love that is of his/her favorite flavors, and that s/he will remember for quite some time.

The writing in this book is incredible. Fechtor has an amazing way of drawing in the reader and making her feel as though she's a fly on the wall, seeing everything that Fechtor sees, hearing everything that Fechtor hears, experiencing everything that Fechtor experiences. There were times that I was interrupted while reading the book, and I was a little disoriented to find that I was in my reading room in Rhode Island, not with Fechtor in her hospital room in Vermont, or being a guest with her in her own home in Cambridge.

Fechtor is also incredibly honest about how she felt about everything that happened to her, especially how much the last vestige of her injury bothered her when she felt she should just be grateful to be alive. It's this honesty, this instance of being so very human, that draws you to her even more. She's not perfect, she's not an angel, she's just like you and me. But at the same time, her poise and her strength and her ability to come through such a debilitating and sudden injury without resorting to a "woe is me" attitude makes the reader cheer for her full recovery even more. She's an incredibly strong and amazing woman, with a few frailties.

The addition of so many of Fechtor's favorite recipes is (pardon the pun) icing on the cake. I can't wait to try them out for my best beloved people.

Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys memoirs, survival stories, cooking, or just an exceptionally written book. . more

This heartwarming memoir by Jessica Fechtor describes her unexpected brain aneurysm at the age of twenty-eight, and how she redefined her life afterward with the help of her husband Eli, her family, her friends, and her love of cooking.

I didn’t expect to be as taken with this story as I was, but Fechtor not only has a delightful sense of humor, but seems like a warm, genuine person you wish you knew.

Her story keeps coming back to food, and she shares twenty-seven recipes that were part of her he This heartwarming memoir by Jessica Fechtor describes her unexpected brain aneurysm at the age of twenty-eight, and how she redefined her life afterward with the help of her husband Eli, her family, her friends, and her love of cooking.

I didn’t expect to be as taken with this story as I was, but Fechtor not only has a delightful sense of humor, but seems like a warm, genuine person you wish you knew.

Her story keeps coming back to food, and she shares twenty-seven recipes that were part of her healing. She writes that kneading, salting, sifting, and stirring have both curative and protective powers, “because you can’t be dead and do these things.” Cooking made her feel alive again.

Food has other powers too, she explains: “Food is more than what we put into our bodies when we are wherever we are. It’s the feel of a place, something language can’t get at, the memory of a place as it forms.” And later she adds, “Food is the keeper of our memories, connecting us with our pasts and with our people.”

She believes that home is a verb, that you set it in motion, and part of how you do this is by sharing meals with friends. I have already made two of her recipes - the buttermilk biscuits and whole wheat chocolate chip cookies - and the only hard part was the “sharing” because they were so good!

If you just want to see the recipes, you could find them on her blog, Sweet Amandine, along with many other recipes. The fact is, however, her story is just as wonderful.

Evaluation: This is a lovely inspirational story, with great recipes included. (She is very into butter.) You will be very glad you made Jessica’s “acquaintance” from reading this book, and you will be rooting for her all the way. Highly recommended!
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First of all, while the recipes are an added bonus in addition to this great story, I wanted to make nearly all of them! I already have made a few. They were that enticing and still accessible!

So this book about one woman&aposs recovery from a brain aneurysm and how preparing, eating and sharing food helped her recover and find her post-surgery self might seem like an odd combination, but it really is and unexpected and delightful mix.

This book has fabulous ingredients for an enjoyable read: 1 C. o First of all, while the recipes are an added bonus in addition to this great story, I wanted to make nearly all of them! I already have made a few. They were that enticing and still accessible!

So this book about one woman's recovery from a brain aneurysm and how preparing, eating and sharing food helped her recover and find her post-surgery self might seem like an odd combination, but it really is and unexpected and delightful mix.

This book has fabulous ingredients for an enjoyable read: 1 C. overcoming adversity, 1 C. love story, 3 heaping tablespoons of humor, plenty of honesty, a dash of soul searching and a healthy helping of charm.

Also, I want to stress even though the core of this is food writing, that I found the author to be an excellent writer overall who really captures some of our most human and contradictory sentiments. As an example, I present the quote below. For example, how you can long for something that isn't even over yet. like how I felt reading the dwindling pages of this charming book.

'Here I was, a few weeks out from my final surgery, the one that would close the door on the illness and injury of the past year. I was almost done at last---and wanting a little bit not to be. It was the strangest thing, this tug of longing for the days that I as still squarely in. The very days that I'd been counting down. "

In the spirit of Ruth Reichl. Please don't put down your pen Ms. Fechtor, write on. Also, if you ever need a recipe taster or an extra person for a dinner party, drop me a line. . more

When I first started reading this book, I couldn&apost quite place why I had selected it for my reading list. Even my husband commented that I read such depressing stories as I was telling him about it when I was a quarter of the way through. Then it became very clear why I had selected this book. And it became clear why I needed to read this book.

This is the story of a young woman who: survives an aneurysm while running loses the sight in one of her eyes survives serious infections and ends up h When I first started reading this book, I couldn't quite place why I had selected it for my reading list. Even my husband commented that I read such depressing stories as I was telling him about it when I was a quarter of the way through. Then it became very clear why I had selected this book. And it became clear why I needed to read this book.

This is the story of a young woman who: survives an aneurysm while running loses the sight in one of her eyes survives serious infections and ends up having to have part of her skull removed and replaced. She feels as though her body is broken and is struggling to get back into the kitchen where she feels her most comfortable.

The book I realized came out in 2015, which is when I added it to my "To Read" list. I had gone through my own experience of feeling that my body failed me and that my family was forced into roles that they were not prepared for. Although it took me 2 years to finally read this book, I'm so glad that I did. I was very inspired by her story and her outlook through it all. I loved the way food was her comfort and how every chapter ends with a recipe for a dish that is very meaningful to her. I borrowed it from the library, but I ended up purchasing the book not only for the recipes, but also to be able to pick it up and read it again when I need a little reassurance.

This was an incredible book. First, Ms Fechtor is a tremendous writer. That&apos&aposs the objective view of this book. Fechtor takes you through her story, from getting ready for the gym, through her aneurysm, following treatment and rehabilitation. This is a story of bravery, not for withstanding the medical care over several years, and the despair that she might not ever heal completely and have the family she and her husband long for, but for her courage to do SOMETHING that matters to her, and thos This was an incredible book. First, Ms Fechtor is a tremendous writer. That''s the objective view of this book. Fechtor takes you through her story, from getting ready for the gym, through her aneurysm, following treatment and rehabilitation. This is a story of bravery, not for withstanding the medical care over several years, and the despair that she might not ever heal completely and have the family she and her husband long for, but for her courage to do SOMETHING that matters to her, and those in her life, despite the medical issues.

Anyone who has ever struggled with a medical or emotional well-being issue knows that even getting your thoughts in that direction, let alone planning and acting on those plans is incredibly difficult. Fechtor gives us insight into her progress, as if inviting us to share in it.

Finally, I have a real fondness for books that tells a person's story through their food lives (think Ruth Reichl, Mimi Sheraton, the book "Miriam's Kitchen".). Fechtor joins these authors handily. I thank her for the gift she gave me of sustenance, by sharing her favorite recipes and methods, and by sharing her adaptation and growth after a horrible "betrayal" by her body. . more


Recipes That Survived the Long Journey From Ethiopia

Tastes of Home: Barhany prepares a traditional Ethiopian Shabbat feast.

‘You want the onions, garlic and ginger to melt into one another,” Beejy Barhany told me while stirring a pot that would soon hold kik wot, a creamy yellow split pea stew from Ethiopia. On another burner, doro wat, a chicken stew studded with hardboiled eggs, bubbled under the lid. I stood close by, at a small table that doubles as extra counter space, chopping more onions and letting the heady scent filling Barhany’s Harlem kitchen bring me back to the handful of meals I have shared with friends at Ethiopian restaurants.

Sitting around a shared plate of injera (the spongy, fermented teff flour bread typical in Ethiopian dining), dotted like an artist’s palate with multicolored stews, those meals had always felt like unusual treats. In Barhany’s kitchen, the dishes felt familiar — in part because I was learning how to prepare them. But more significantly, while they were different from the chicken soup and kasha varnishkes in my own Ashkenazi repertoire, we were ultimately cooking Jewish food.

Barhany, 37, is one of 600 Ethiopian Jews (also called Beta Israel, or “house of Israel”) residing in New York City and one of 1,000 living across America. The community is minuscule compared with the one in Israel, which numbers 120,000. Yet, the network is growing. In 2003, Barhany founded the organization Beta Israel North America to assist Ethiopian Jews in moving to the United States and to introduce Ethiopian Jewish culture — particularly film, music, art and food — to this country. In doing so, she hopes to move beyond the narrative of “suffering, pity and marginalization” that has hindered the community’s development since its dramatic relocation to Israel from Ethiopia in the 1980s and ’90s, and highlight its unique cultural contributions instead.

Barhany’s own story mirrors that of many Ethiopian Jews. She left home in 1980, at age 4, walking unimaginable miles to Sudan with her family and fellow villagers. Three years later, they relocated again, this time to Israel, eventually setting in Ashkelon. And after traveling as a young adult, she moved to New York.

For some, the move to Israel was motivated by famine, harsh living conditions and a desire to escape a country wracked by civil war. But for Barhany’s family and others, it was also part of an ancient longing to reside in their spiritual homeland. “My family had land and lived a relatively comfortable life in Ethiopia,” Barhany said. “But my parents deeply believed that Jews should be in Israel.”

The foods that Ethiopia’s Jews brought with them to Israel include many of the classic elements of Ethiopian cooking — the legume and meat stews, the injera, which serves as both plate and utensil, and a reverential coffee culture that dates back centuries. Like their non-Jewish neighbors, Jews in Ethiopia seasoned their food with overlapping layers of spice — a tribute to the ancient Indian and Arabic trade routes that crisscrossed the country.

Many wots (Amharic for “stews”), like the ones Barhany and I made together, begin with garlic, onions and ginger. While Barhany prefers olive oil, typically these dishes are sautéed in butter that has been clarified and infused with cardamom, clove and cumin, among other spices. While simmering, dishes are also sprinkled with berbere, a fiery blend of toasted ground bird’s eye chiles, fenugreek, turmeric and several other ingredients. (Dishes prepared without berbere are known as alicha, which means “mild” in Amharic.) The use of berbere is universal, but each blend is distinctly personal — a balance of heat and flavor that a cook hones over a lifetime. Barhany uses her mother’s homemade version, keeping a hefty jar of it in the pantry and rationing it out until she can visit her parents in Israel and restock.

Like the foods of many Jewish communities, the primary differences between Jewish Ethiopian food and the larger cuisine relate to holidays and to how and when certain foods are eaten. Doro wat, for example, is traditionally served for Sabbath dinner. “Throughout the week, we ate almost no meat or chicken, which was expensive,” Barhany said. “But on Shabbat, doro wat was standard.” Like the cholent eaten by Ashkenazi Jews, or Sephardic hamim, doro wat was prepared before sundown on Friday. “In Ethiopia, people would bury their pots to keep them warm, or eat food at room temperature,” Barhany told me.

The Sabbath also signals a departure from the everyday starch, injera. Instead, families break bread with dabo, a tender, yeast-risen wheat loaf that gets baked in a round pan. According to the “Encyclopedia of Jewish Food,” “before eating, Yitbarek, a special Amharic benediction complete with a traditional melody, is recited over the Sabbath bread,” much like Hamotzi. Likewise, instead of grape wine, Ethiopian Jews traditionally drink honey mead called tej. (While cooking, Barhany poured us glasses of Sheba Te’j, a locally-made honey wine.)

In Israel, Barhany said, lingering xenophobia toward Ethiopian Jews has largely stopped Israeli society from exploring their cuisine. There are still only a handful of Ethiopian restaurants scattered across the country, and a single stall in the Jerusalem market selling Ethiopian foods. “I remember residents of some buildings refusing to live on the same apartment floor as an Ethiopian family, saying the smell of their food was offensive,” she said. Meanwhile, some of Beta Israel’s customs — like baking their own unleavened bread for Passover — have faded over the past two decades.

But there are some signs of change. The Ethiopian Jewish holiday Sigd (which commemorates the annual renewal of the connection among Jews, God and the Torah) was instated as a national Israeli holiday in 2008. And younger generations of Israelis are increasingly open to embracing other cultures and cuisines, including those of Ethiopia. But for now, Barhany focuses her energies stateside. She hopes to open a cafe in New York that serves Ethiopian food, along with dishes from other Israeli subcultures. And this March, BINA will co-host a second annual retreat celebrating Ethiopian Jewish culture at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, in Connecticut.

In her kitchen, Barhany scooped up some kik wat on injera and fed it directly to me. “This is the customary way we serve guests the first bite,” she explained. Taken aback and then touched by the gesture (and the deliciousness of the food), I headed home full, warmed and plotting my next Sabbath dinner.


20 Lost Recipes From The Pioneers

Side Pork and Mormon Gravy

Mormon gravy, common fare among the early settlers and apparently a creation of necessity expressly for the times, is still hearty and nourishing for many of this generation who like to make it with ground beef or frizzled ham or bacon and serve it over baked potatoes.

8 thick slices side pork (or thick-cut bacon strips)

4 tablespoons meat drippings

Cook meat on both sides in heavy frying pan until crisp. Remove from pan and keep warm. Measure fat and return desired amount to skillet. Add flour and brown slightly. Remove from heat and add milk, stirring well to blend. Return to heat and cook and stir until mixture is thick and smooth. Season to taste. Serve with side pork on potatoes, biscuits, cornbread, or even pancakes.

Mud apples

You will need

4 large apples
A bucket of mud

Coat the apples with about an inch of mud on all sides, being sure that the mud is of a nice thick consistency. When the fire has burned long enough to make some coals, have your adult help you to scoop some of the coals to the side. Bury the apples in the coals, and leave them there for about 45 minutes. Scrape away the cooled coals. Knock the dry cooked mud off of the apples and discard the skins. Spoon up the sweet steamy pulp for a surprising treat.

Some groups of Native American people used a mud coating on their food as a sort of oven. The steam from the mud would keep fresh-caught fish moist, and as it dried and became clay-like, it protected the food from burning. When the mud was peeled off, it took a lot of the fish scales with it. A delicious instant meal.

Chuckwagon beans

This is a cattle trail recipe from the Midwest. Although this was originally done on the campfire, it might be best if you bow to modern convenience and do the cooking on a stove top.

You will need

A 16-ounce package of dry pinto beans
9 cups of water
Two large onions, peeled and chopped up
2 teaspoons of salt
½ teaspoon of oregano
½ teaspoon of garlic powder, or two cloves of sliced garlic
¼ teaspoon of pepper
1 tablespoon of brown sugar or molasses (add this last, and put in a little more if you like.)

Wash the beans and heat them along with 6 cups of water ’til they boil for five minutes, then turn the stove off. Let them sit for an hour. Add three more cups of water and boil it all again. Now add everything else, stir it up, and cook it for about an hour.

Cowpokes on the drive west had to settle for foods which were portable. That meant a basic menu of beans and lots of meat. For a treat, there was cornbread, biscuits, or a sweetened rice dish. Pinto beans (which are small and spotted when raw, like a pinto pony) seemed to be the favorite. When cooked, these beans swell up and turn a sort of pinkish white. They were first given to the settlers by the natives on the Mexican border.

When you eat beans with rice or corn, the two foods mix up inside your body to create an important type of protein which is like the protein in meat. (Your body is made largely of protein, and so you need to eat a lot of it.) That’s why the native Southwestern people were so healthy with a diet of mostly beans and corn and not much meat.

Baked pocket yams

These were “handy” during the winter months, and not particular to any one area of the country.

Take several sweet potatoes, individually wrap them in foil, and surround them on all sides with mounded hot coals. Occasionally turn the potatoes. Cook till the sweet steam pipes out of the foil (about 45 minutes). Poke into the potato with a clean sharpened twig to check for doneness (the center will be soft).

When the potatoes are done, DON’T EAT THEM YET. Let them cool a bit, then slip one into each pocket to be used as hand warmers. These will keep you comfortable while you chat around the campfire. Pioneer mothers used to send their children off with these in the winter months to keep their hands toasty on the long walk to school. Then the kids would eat them for lunch. When you eat yours, you might want to use a dish and slather them up with butter.

Spotted Pup

Take whatever amount needed
for hungry cowboys of fluffy, cooked rice.

Put in Dutch oven and cover with milk and well-beaten eggs.
Add a dash of salt.
Sweeten well with sugar.

Add raisins and a little nutmeg and vanilla.

Bake in slow oven until egg mixture is done and raisins are soft.

Jerky Gravy

Jerky, ground or chopped fine
Little Fat or Grease
Flour
Salt & pepper
Milk

Fry the jerky until done.
Remove meat from grease, and add flour.
Add milk, and salt & pepper. Cook gravy. Add meat to gravy.
The amount of each ingredient depends on how much gravy you want.

One cup of hot water
One tablespoonful of corn-starch
One cup of white sugar
One tablespoonful of butter
Juice and grated rind of one lemon

Cook for a few minutes add one egg bake with a top and bottom crust.
This makes one pie.

Cooked Cabbage Salad

1 Pint or more of chopped cooked cabbage

Add: 1 Egg well beaten
¼ Cup vinegar
1 Tsp butter
Dash of salt and pepper

Sweeten to suit taste. Simmer a few minutes and add ½ cup of thick fresh cream. Serve immediately.

Winter Red Flannel Hash

A great way to use left over corned beef is to add a few new ingredients and create Red Flannel Hash. Who knows who came up with the beets, but it really is colorful, and sticks to the ribs.

1 ½ Cups chopped corned beef
1 ½ Cups chopped cooked beets
1 Medium onion, chopped
4 Cups chopped cooked potatoes

Chop ingredients separately, then mix together.
Heat all ingredients in a well- greased skillet,
slowly, loosen around the edges, and shake to prevent scorching.
After a nice crust forms on bottom, turn out on a warmed plate and serve.
If it seems a little dry add a little beef broth.
Try with a couple poached eggs, for a hearty meal.

Spiced Corn Beef

To 10 pounds of beef…
take 2 cups salt
2 cups molasses
2 tablespoonfuls saltpeter
1 tablespoonful ground pepper
1 tablespoonful cloves

Rub well into the beef.
Turn every day, and rub the mixture in.
Will be ready for use in 10 days.

1876 Cottage Cheese

Allow milk to form clabber.
Skim off cream once clabbered.
Set clabbered milk on very low heat and cut in 1 inch squares.
Place colander into clabber.
Dip off whey that rises into the colander.
When clabber becomes firm, rinse with cold water.

Squeeze liquid out and press into ball.
Crumble into bowl.
Mix curds with thick cream.

Mormon Johnnycake

Here is a form of cornbread used not only by the Mormon immigrants,
as the name indicates, but quite often by most of the immigrants traveling west.
Because of the inclusion of buttermilk, a source of fresh milk was a necessity.

2-cups of yellow cornmeal
½-cup of flour
1-teaspoon baking soda
1-teaspoon salt

Combine ingredients and mix in
2-cups of buttermilk and 2-tablespoons molasses.

Pour into a greased 9” pan and bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.
To get a lighter johnnycake include two beaten eggs
and 2 tablespoons melted butter.

Soda Biscuits

Take 1lb flour, and mix it with enough milk to make a stiff dough
dissolve 1tsp carbonate of soda in a little milk
add to dough with a teaspoon of salt.

Work it well together and roll out thin
cut into round biscuits, and bake them in a moderate oven.
The yolk of an egg is sometimes added.

Vinegar Lemonade

Mix 1 to 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar into a 12 ounce glass of water.
Stir in 2 tablespoons of sugar to taste.

Note: The pioneers used vinegar for numerous reasons.
One reason was to add vitamin C to their diet.

Fried Apples

Fry 4 slices of bacon in a Dutch oven. Remove bacon.

Peel and slice 6 to 8 Granny Smith apples.

Put apples in Dutch oven with bacon grease,
cover and cook down the apples, but not to mush.

Serve topped with butter or cream and crumbled bacon.

They’re great for breakfast or desert!

Dutch Oven Trout

As soon as possible after catching your trout,
clean them and wipe the inside and outside of the trout
with a cloth wet with vinegar water.

Don’t put the trout in the water.
Roll the trout in a mixture of flour,
dry powdered milk,
cornmeal,
salt and pepper.

Heat deep fat in a Dutch oven and fry until crisp and golden brown.

Black Pudding

Here’s an old ranch recipe courtesy of Winkie Crigler, founder and curator of The Little House Museum in Greer, Arizona.

6 Eggs
1 Cup Sweet Milk
2 Cups Flour
1 Tsp Soda
1 Cup Sugar
1 Tsp Cinnamon
1 Cup Molasses

Mix well. Pour into 1-pound can and steam for 2 to 3 hours by placing in kettle of boiling water. Keep covered.

This is to be served with a vinegar sauce:
1 Cup Sugar
1 Tbsp Butter
1 Tbsp Flour
2 Tbsp Vinegar
½ Tsp Nutmeg

Put in enough boiling water for amount of sauce wanted.
Add two slightly beaten eggs and cook stirring constantly to the desired consistency.

How To Fry Quick Doughnuts

The following recipe for doughnuts came from the March 17, 1885 Daily Missoulian. Obviously, anyone making these doughnuts will want to find a substitute for fat as a cooking oil.

Put a frying kettle half full of fat over the fire to heat. Shift together one pound of flour, one teaspoonful each of salt and bicarbonate of soda, and half a saltspoon full of grated nutmeg.

Beat half a pound of butter to a cream and add them to the flour. Beat the yokes of two eggs to a cream, add them to the first-named ingredients, beat the whites to a stiff froth and reserve them.

Mix into the flour and sugar enough sour milk to make a soft dough and then quickly add the whites of the eggs. Roll out the paste at once, shape and fry.

If the kid (goat) is too fat to roast, cut it into pieces and make pies. Make a sauce of cut up perejil (parsley) and put in the pies with a little sweet oil and place it in the oven.

A little before you take it out of the oven beat some eggs with vinegar or orange juice and put into the pie through the holes made in the crust for the steam to escape.

Then return pies to oven for enough time to repeat The Lord’s Prayer three times, then take the pies out and put them before the master of the house, cut it and give it to him.

Brown Gravy

The following is a farm recipe for gravy from the late 1880’s.

This gravy may be made in larger quantities, then kept in a stone jar and used as wanted.

Take 2 pounds of beef, and two small slices of lean bacon. Cut the meat into small pieces. Put into a stew-pan a piece of butter the size of an egg, and set over the fire.

Cut two large onions in thin slices. Put them in the butter and fry a light brown, then add the meat. Season with whole peppers.

Salt to taste. Add three cloves, and pour over one cupful of water.

Let it boil fifteen or twenty minutes, stirring it occasionally.

Then add two quarts of water, and simmer very gently for two hours.

Now strain, and when cold, remove all the fat.

To thicken this gravy, put in a stew pan a lump of butter a little larger than an egg, add two teaspoonfuls of flour, and stir until a light brown.

When cold, add it to the strained gravy, and boil up quickly. Serve very hot with the meats.

What Kind Of Supplies Did The Pioneers Take With Them?

The question is answered by the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center this way…

A variety of guidebooks, newspaper articles, and helpful tips in letters from friends or family who had already made the trip provided different lists about what and how much was essential to survive the five-month journey. The critical advice was to keep things as light as possible, and to take easily preserved staple foods. Supplies in each wagon generally had to be kept below 2,000 pounds total weight, and as the journey progressed and draft animals grew tired, many pioneers had to discard excess food and baggage. Items taken by nearly all wagon parties included flour, hard tack or crackers, bacon, sugar, coffee and tea, beans, rice, dried fruit, salt, pepper and saleratus (used for baking soda). Some also took whiskey or brandy, and medicines. Minimal cooking utensils included a cast iron skillet or spider, Dutch oven, reflector oven, coffee pot or tea kettle, and tin plates, cups, and knives, forks, spoons, matches, and crocks, canteens, buckets or water bags for liquids. A rifle, pistols, powder, lead, and shot were recommended for hunting game along the way, and for self-defense. Candles were used for lighting, as they were far less expensive and lighter than transporting oil, and several pounds of soap was included. Only two or three sets of practical, sturdy, and warm clothing of wool and linen had to last the wear and tear of the journey, and a small sewing kit for repairs was important. Basic tools such as a shovel, ax or hatchet, and tools to repair wagon equipment were essential. Bedding and tents completed the list of necessities. For most families, 1,600-1,800 pounds of their supplies would be food, leaving little space for other items. Although some people tried to include furniture, books, and treasured belongings, these were soon discarded. According to many accounts, the trail was littered with cast off trunks, bureaus, beds, clothing, excess food, and even cast iron stoves. Though prices and availability of goods varied from year to year, for most emigrants it cost a minimum of $600 to $800 to assemble a basic outfit of wagon, oxen, and supplies.

An article from the St. Joseph, Missouri Gazette dated March 19, 1847


BBQ Chicken, Pocket Radishes and Fourth of July Roundup

Our weather here in Vermont has been amazing for the past month. Gorgeous, 80 degree days with very little humidity (knocking on wood). It’s time to put our grill to full use and not dirty any pots or pans in the house. Thankfully our garden has been producing a ton of radishes and I knew I had to figure out a way to be able to utilize them on the BBQ Grill. Before our low-carb days, we used to make pocket potatoes all the time. I figured I’d give it a shot with some fresh radishes and see how they would turn out. Ahhhhmazzzing! Seriously, I love the versatility of radishes and how you can use them in so many recipes to replace other ingredients. When you cook them, they change their flavor so much. If you haven’t tried them yet, I highly recommend giving this recipe a try.

Since radishes are usually very small, utilizing aluminum foil help keep them from falling through the cracks of the grill.

Wash your radishes, trim the roots and greens and then slice them. Layer them onto a piece of aluminum foil. Sprinkle with whatever seasoning you’d like. I used garlic powder, seasoned sea salt and pepper.

Then take the ends of the foil and wrap up your radishes, sealing the ends so the steam doesn’t escape the packets.

Now, it’s grill time. Put them on a pre-heated medium heat grill and cook for about 15 minutes. The radishes will turn semi-translucent and will soften up like a cooked potato.

We enjoyed some BBQ Chicken along side the radishes. I used the same blend of spices to rub on the chicken. They cook for the same amount of time, flipping the chicken after 7-8 minutes.

With Fourth of July just around the corner, check out these amazing recipes from my Foodelicious Friends.


5 Meal Prep Recipes To Lose Weight

When it comes to food, I have a few meal prep recipes I’d recommend when starting a weight loss journey. Of course, you can eat just about any food if it fits within your daily calorie range.

But, if you’re looking for some clean and healthy recipe recommendations that will make the biggest impact when trying to lose weight, then these are the meal prep weight loss recipes I typically turn to!

1. Green Smoothies

Without sounding overly dramatic, green smoothies have completely changed my life.

I will admit I didn’t st art drinking green smoothies until I was about 2 years into my weight loss journey, so I did lose weight without them. But, prior to discovering smoothies, I was tired, unfocused, and bloated. I also struggled with getting fruits and vegetables into my meal plan every day.

As much as I would like to think I’m the type of person who can munch on raw veggies all day, I’m not. I’ll admit it!

Once I started drinking a daily green smoothie, I noticed a huge difference right away in the way I felt.

  1. First of all, I was totally focused. The brain fog that I had grown accustomed to disappeared – this alone makes smoothies worth it.
  2. Second, I had energy because I was hydrated. I’ve said this before, but it’s worth mentioning again, I didn’t even know I was dehydrated until I became hydrated. The difference in the way I felt was night and day.
  3. Last, my belly bloat went away. Drinking green smoothies gives me more than a daily dose of fruits and vegetables which provides lots of fiber. We all know what this means? Yep, the pipes get cleaned out on a regular basis. Sorry if that’s TMI, but it’s true!

Anyways, I advise anyone starting a weight loss journey to add green smoothies right away, especially if you struggle with any of the symptoms I mentioned earlier.

This is one of my favorite meal prep recipes for breakfast (or any time of the day)!

How To Prep A Green Smoothie

You might be wondering how to prep ahead a green smoothie. I do this two different ways.

My favorite way is to create a green smoothie freezer kit! You can see my full instructions HERE but basically, all you need to do is throw all the green smoothie ingredients in a bag and freeze. Yes, you can even freeze kale and other greens.

When you’re ready to enjoy a green smoothie, then just throw the ingredients into a blender with some water or milk and blend everything together.

Another way I like to prep my green smoothies is to blend 1-2 smoothies ahead of time and keep them in the refrigerator. I store the smoothies in a 32-ounce mason jar container and use these plastic lids. The consistency does change a little bit but it doesn’t bother me because I enjoy the convenience of having green smoothies made ahead of time.

The Best Blender To Make Smoothies

If you’re going to take my advice and enjoy green smoothies on the regular, then I strongly recommend investing in a high-quality blender.

I personally have a Vitamix. Yes, it’s expensive but it’s an investment and worth it in my opinion.

When I first started drinking smoothies, I purchased cheaper blenders and each one broke within a couple of months. Not to mention, they didn’t have the power to blend kale and fruit into a smooth smoothie.

If you don’t want to invest in a Vitamix, check out this post I put together full of best blender for smoothies recommendations

Green Smoothie Meal Prep Recipes

Here are some of my go-to green smoothie recipes:

2. Mason Jar Salads

Mason jar salads have been a part of my weight loss journey since the very beginning. They come in as my second favorite meal prep weight loss recipe – although a very close second.

There’s so much about these I absolutely love.

  1. First, mason jar salads are filled with tons of vegetables and lean proteins so I’m satisfied and full without any bloat. When I enjoy a smoothie for breakfast and a mason jar salad for lunch, I feel like I can take over the world. Seriously, I get more energy in a day than I used to get in an entire month.
  2. Second, mason jar salads are portion-controlled and portable. Each salad is measured out to keep calories and fat under control. Also, you can easily grab a salad and stick it in your bag as you’re running out the door.
  3. Third, you can make 5 mason jar salads on Sunday to enjoy for lunches all week. Personally, I feel like mason jars salads are the ultimate meal prep recipe!

How To Prep Mason Jar Salads

When it comes to making mason jar salads, I always recommend keeping it simple at first. I started out just adding in my favorite veggies along with whatever I had in the fridge. Once I got the hang of it, I branched out and started trying different salad recipes.

Either way, start with the wetter ingredients at the bottom and build it up from there. Take a look at this tutorial I put together on how to make the best mason jar salad recipe!

Mason Jar Salad Meal Prep Recipes

Here are some of my favorite mason jar salad recipes:

3. Low Carb Meal Prep Bowls

When I first started on my weight loss journey, I simply reduced the number of calories I ate to lose weight. I didn’t worry about carbs at all!

As I got older, I realized living a low carb lifestyle made me feel better so, today I keep carbs to a minimum.

Note: When I’m talking about carbs, I’m referring to refined white carbs like white pasta, rice, and bread. I will eat whole grains in moderation and I don’t limit fruits and vegetables. However, white carbs, I try my best to keep off-limits.

Anyway, I prepared low carb meal prep bowls earlier in the year as an alternative to mason jar salads and also to enjoy as a dinner meal. I absolutely loved them and will be working on new recipes in the future.

How To Prep Low Carb Bowls

Meal prep bowls are so easy to prepare ahead of time and last all week. I use these pyrex glass containers and find they keep food fresh longer compared to plastic.

Meal Prep Recipes For Low Carb Bowls

Here are my favorite low-carb meal prep bowl recipes:

4. Low-Carb Protein Snack Packs And Boxes

I eat 5 times a day – 3 meals and 2 snacks. To carry me through to the next meal, I need snacks to be high protein and packed with fiber. If I eat chips or something sugary, all that does is make me hungrier.

This year, I started putting together low-carb protein snack recipes and I wish I would’ve made them sooner! I love having these snack packs and boxes in my refrigerator ready to eat. I don’t need to take the time during the week to make anything and more importantly, I know what to eat ahead of time.

No guessing means no mindless eating. WIN!

How To Prep Low Carb Snack Packs

I usually like to prep a ton of healthy snacks so I have enough to last me all week. Grab my snack pack instructions for you to try! If you don’t want to just make snacks, take a look at this post I put together with some of my favorite store-bought low carb snacks.

Meal Prep Recipes For High Protein Snack Boxes

Here are some great low-carb protein snack packs for you to make at home:

5. Homemade Lean Cuisines

Nothing makes me happier than to go into my freezer and grab a portion-controlled meal I simply need to warm up. Prior to starting my weight loss journey, I used to purchase lean cuisines all the time. Today, I make it a priority to cook meals at home.

However, I love the convenience of frozen meals so a few years ago I started making homemade lean cuisines.

How To Prep Homemade Lean Cuisines

All I do is make a recipe, portion it out, and then freeze it. It’s also helpful to write the nutritional information of the container to make tracking easier.

I recommend preparing 3-4 month recipes a month this way, which will make around 15 – 20 individual freezer meals. These are great to have for lunches but I find it most beneficial to have these meals ready for dinners.

Homemade Lean Cuisines Meal Prep Recipes

Here are some of my favorite homemade lean cuisine recipes.

If you’re starting a weight loss journey or getting back on track, I hope you find these recipes helpful! By preparing recipes ahead of time, you can track calories (and other nutritional information) in advance. This keeps you intentional with food and mindless eating under control.

As you work to change your eating, meal prep will become an essential habit to help you eat healthier.

Do you have any “go-to” meal prep weight loss recipes you’d recommend to someone starting a weight loss journey?

If you want to learn all the ins and outs of meal prep and using meal prep to lose weight, then I highly recommend subscribing to my free 7-day meal prep email series. Everything you need to get started is here!


Recipes That Survived the Journey From Ethiopia

In this week’s edition of the Forward, Ingredients columnist Leah Koenig writes about the Shabbat traditions of the Ethiopian Jewish community. Savor the recipes below.

The use of spice is very subjective in Ethiopian cuisine, so add or subtract to your liking. You can find berbere at specialty food shops, and order a kosher-certified blend online at teenytinyspice.com.

6 eggs 1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil
2 medium red onions, finely chopped
6–7 garlic cloves, grated
1 piece (2-inch) fresh ginger, peeled and grated
3 ½ pounds chicken legs or thighs (or a combination), skin removed
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon berbere
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1) Place eggs in a medium saucepan and add enough cold water to cover by 1 inch. Bring water to a boil over high heat turn off heat cover and let stand 20 minutes. Rinse eggs under cold water, peel them and set aside.

2) Meanwhile, add the oil, onions, garlic and ginger to a Dutch oven or large pot set over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of water, cover pot with lid and let cook until very soft, 5–6 minutes.

3) Add the chicken and about 2 cups of water raise heat to medium. Stir in the tomato paste and spices, and season generously with salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a simmer cover and cook until sauce thickens, about 35 minutes. If mixture begins to look dry, add more water as needed.

4) Add peeled eggs to pot, and continue to cook until chicken is fully cooked through, an additional 10–15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings arrange chicken on a piece of injera, or divide onto plates, and spoon sauce over top.

Kik Wot
Yellow Split Pea Stew

Like the doro wat above (see note), adjust the seasonings and spices in this dish to your taste.

2 cups yellow split peas, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 medium onions (yellow, red or one of each), finely chopped
6–7 cloves garlic, grated
1 piece (2-inch) fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon berbere
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1) Place the split peas in a medium saucepan, and cover with water, 2–3 inches. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat lower heat slightly and cook, skimming off foam as it accumulates, until peas are soft but not mushy, about 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.

2) Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil in a separate saucepan set over medium-low heat. Add the onions, garlic and ginger, and cook until just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of water, cover and let cook until very soft, 5–6 minutes.

3) Add cooked split peas and just enough water to cover them. Stir in the spices season generously with salt and pepper. Raise heat slightly, partially cover the pot with the lid and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens and liquid mostly evaporates, about 30 minutes. If mixture begins to look dry, add a little more water. Taste and adjust seasonings before serving with injera or rice.

Recipes That Survived the Journey From Ethiopia

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Delicious Dairy-Free Mashed Potatoes

Yesterday I started a yoga class in Kentish Town, the teacher is wonderful and when I saw him I wanted to run up and fling my arms around him. I used to go to his class when it was based in Islington, and I lived just down the road. I then moved, then they moved and so I tried to find an alternative yoga class….to no avail…nothing matched up to Robin’s unique classes which are relaxing, energizing and just totally revitalising. I decided to venture out to Kentish Town because after everything that’s happened I haven’t been able to shake the feeling that going back to his class would have a positive affect on me. And how right I was. After the class I was totally exhausted but in that lovely wholesome way, I felt like I was walking on air and had an overwhelming feeling of wellness….it was wonderful! The class is based in The Kentish Town Medical Centre, which is a brand new state of the art NHS health facility and it’s exactly 3 miles from work. I decided to walk there because I’ve got to the point where I feel like I need to do a bit of exercise, this was an adventure in itself! Over the last few months I’ve been cabbing everywhere….even to work…I’m embarrassed to admit this, but honesty is the best policy (?!). The furthest I’ve walked is from my house to John Lewis, which is about 5 minutes! And to be fair I haven’t felt well enough to go any further, shopping wasn’t even an attractive idea…that shows the seriousness of the situation. So, walking 3 miles through London was probably a little ambitious. Don’t get me wrong, I did it and I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t without its challenges.

My first challenge was about 10 minutes after leaving the office. I entered an area that I’ve never been to before and it could probably be described as one of London’s less salubrious areas. I began to feel irrational fear creeping through me, I quickened my pace along the deserted road but couldn’t shake the feeling, it was broad daylight and only about 5.30pm, was I always this scared? If the truth be told, then probably, I’ve never exactly been brave, but even by my standards this was a bit OTT! I’d survived 10 minutes but I decided to alter my route taking me back to a road I vaguely knew and would still take me to Regent’s Park. Through the gates of the park and I thought I’d entered heaven the sun was shining and there were gorgeous flowers all around me and the most magnificent Magnolia tree with dark pink flowers was just blooming. If you think this sounds like an exaggeration, then hopefully you’ll be convinced of the beauty when I tell you there were a group of tourists taking photos of the tree, how lovely?! I remembered why I’d decided to walk to yoga and slowed my pace to savor the park.

My second and third challenges were in the park itself. My google map showed my route through the park as a big white line through the centre of the park, but this didn’t really help me so I set off in a direction which I thought was about right. Unfortunately is was more wrong that right, so I ended up walking back on myself. This was no hardship though, I was seriously enjoying the sun and the grass and the flowers. However, then I encountered dogs-off-leads. This is something I’ve always been scared of especially when the dogs in question are gigantic St Bernard’s! They’re so big and there were 2 of them and they were heading in my direction, I quickened my pace to escape the big, scary dogs and began to feel like a big scaredy-cat but I was still determined to get to yoga without caving in and flagging a back cab.

10 minutes out of the park and I saw the Foxton’s office that I recognised from visiting flats with Sid in Camden. I was delighted, a sense of relief flooded me as I realised I kind of knew where I was and was free from any unleashed dogs. Then came my fourth challenge, although this was more of a shock than a challenge. As I was walking over the canal I looked to my left to see all the people sat in the sun on the lock, how lovely. Then there was an almighty crash on my left, I swung round in time to see a poor man somersaulting through the air, landing on the opposite side of the road in a heap. His moped had crashed, into the mini in front he obviously hadn’t realised the traffic had stopped. Luckily he was ok, just very shaken up and was as pale as I’ve ever seen anyone. The guy he drove into was looking after him well and he’d attracted quite a crowd. By this point I couldn’t wait to get to the safety of the Health Centre, who could know there were so many dangers between Paddington and Kentish Town. Eventually after an hours walking I made it to the centre, phew! Then there was a fire alarm so we had to evacuate the building, I did at this point begin to wonder if I would actually have a yoga class. But I did and it was great and I’m delighted. Next week my aim is to be less scared and hopefully not see any accidents on the way!

Today’s recipe has no relevance to my adventures of yesterday but I did enjoy eating this mash as much as I enjoyed yoga last night. The recipe is an adaptation of one I read about at the weekend. The recipe I was reading is in Nigel Slater’s Tender Vol 1, a brilliant book! On the way home from St Pancras station this evening I picked up a lovely looking fillet of lemon sole and decided to have a go at this mashed potato recipe. I love mashed potatoes, in fact they have always been one of my favourite things. My dad and I would base restaurant choices on the quality and potential of the mashed potato. For example, L’atelier’s truffle mash has never left my taste memory and I rememeber a lunch we had a sheekey’s about 4 years ago like it was yesterday because we relive the mashed potato moment on a regular basis. However, both of these contain copious amounts of dairy, and so this is the basis of a good mash, surely? I’m delighted to have made this recipe tonight to discover I can still enjoy fluffy mashed potato without butter, or cream. Even more delighted as I’ve had an unfortunate reminder tonight of just how sensitive my stomach is after sampling some food yesterday and today that contains dairy – I didn’t even swallow it!

Smoked Garlic & Bay Leaf Infused Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes

4 good sized Maris Piper Potatoes

4 Tbsp Extra virgin Olive Oil

2 Smoked Garlic Cloves, thickly sliced (you can use normal garlic, I just love smoked garlic)

3 Fresh Bay Leaves (Nigel’s recipe uses Thyme, but I happened to have some bay leaves in my fridge and love their delicate flavour)

Chop your potatoes and boil until tender and ready to mash. Meanwhile heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a small pan and heat. Add the thickly sliced garlic, then the garlic just begins to brown slightly remove from the heat and add in the rest of the olive oil and the bay leaves. Leave to infuse while the potatoes finish cooking.

Once the potatoes are ready to mash, remove the garlic and bay leaves from the oil. Use the oil to mash the potatoes and season well with black pepper and sea salt.

That’s it, very simple but extremely delicious. I’d even go so far as to say they were some of the best mashed potatoes I’ve ever had, who needs dairy ).