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.

Dhokla: Gujarati steamed, fermented rice and lentil cakes

Dhokla

The New York Times ran an entertaining piece the other day on what kids around the world eat for breakfast. While a rather small sample, it gives a good sense of the remarkable variety of foods–from natto (fermented soy beans) to cold cereal–eaten in the morning. There are some commonalities though. In Asia it seems breakfast tends to be savory rather than sweet, and served warm instead of cold, the exact opposite of what one finds in the “west”. Certainly, that is the case in India where a hot breakfast is the norm. It is also highly regional: in the north bread, e.g., as stuffed parathas, is favored, while in the south rice and lentils, in the form of idli for example, rule the roost.

Bingsu: Korean dessert with homemade rice cakes and soft-serve ice cream

Bingsu

The calendar might indicate Autumn but here in southern England we’re having a glorious run of dry and warm weather that is almost evocative of summer. A British summer at any rate, where a few days of 25°C temperatures count as a record heat wave. Still, while not quite on par with the steamy summer I’ve just experienced in Seoul (100% humidity, daytime temperatures in the upper 30s and nighttime ones not much cooler), it has been warm enough for me to start craving a dish that I first had there this summer: bingsu (빙수), which is often translated as “shaved ice” (the Chinese characters literally mean “ice water”).