Pugliese Ciabatta with olives, tomatoes and onions

Pugliese Ciabatta with tomatoes, olives and onions

So much for New Year’s resolutions. Last year I promised I’d post more frequently. Alas, it didn’t happen. On the other hand, cooking-wise the past year has been busier than ever. Not only did I spend more time in the kitchen-even when away from home!-but also ventured into, for me, new territory: Spanish cuisine. While I’d been exposed to fairly good Spanish food in New York my trips to Spain last year were a revelation, and undoubtedly the culinary high point of the year. But while I’ll be writing more about my adventures with bacalao in the coming months I’d like to start the new year by visiting a different Mediterranean country: Italy. Today’s recipe, from Food & Wine Magazine, is a savory take on Ciabatta from Puglia in southeastern Italy. It is stuffed with tomatoes and olives and is easily one of the yummiest breads I’ve eaten, let alone baked!

Aloo paratha: Indian flatbreads with potato filling

Aloo paratha

Flatbreads (parathas) are common in India, and stuffed ones a speciality of the north. They are commonly eaten for breakfast or as a light snack. Fillings range from paneer to lentils, and cabbage to radish (mooli). In addition, parathas with sweetened dal are served on special occasions. Tarla Dalal, the doyen of Indian cookery who recently sadly passed away, lists over 60 kinds of stuffed parathas on her website. I would wager, though, that the most popular parathas are those filled with potatoes, or aloo as potato is known in north India.

Panellets: Catalan sweets with almonds and pine nuts

Panellets

One way to get to know the local cuisine when visiting a new place is to sample the restaurants and markets. Even better though, as I said some months ago, is to taking a cooking class. But perhaps best of all is to get invited over to some locals’ house to cook together, as I was lucky enough to be on a recent trip to Barcelona. The local in question, Rosendo, kindly made fideua, a classic Catalan noodle and seafood dish, followed by a dessert also characteristic of that region: panellets. The former I’d heard of. The latter was completely new to me and not the sort of thing you’d discover as a mere tourist.

Roasted baby potatoes with pimenton-laced garlicky aioli

Roasted potatoes with smoky and garlicky aioli

From the recipes I write about here you might get the impression that all my cooking involves at least a dozen ingredients and twice as many steps. Indeed, unlike many other blogs I don’t promise you ’5 minute meals’, healthy or otherwise. What can I say? Good food takes time. It helps that I enjoy cooking and don’t think of it as an unpleasant chore. And, yes, I do like a challenge. But most meals in the Oishii Rasoi house are fairly simple and straightforward affairs. So for those of you thinking ‘this guy has far too much time on his hands!’, here’s a typical example: roasted potatoes with a smoky and garlicky aioli.

Steak and guinness pie

Steak and guinness pie

If asked for an example of typical British food I imagine most people would answer “fish and chips”. A year ago I would likely have said the same (“chicken tikka masala” would also have crossed my mind). But it only took me a few weeks after arriving in the UK to realize that the correct answer is “pies”. By which I mean a flaky pastry encasing some sort of meat or fish. Sure, other countries do these as well: think empanadas and American pot pies. But the British seem singularly obsessed by them. Walk along any shopping street or supermarket aisle and you’ll be spoilt for choice by the sheer variety of pies on offer.