What’s Cooking, world? is a space that was created to compile stories, recipes, ideas, and delicious pictures from unique and extraordinary people from all over the blog-o-sphere and the world. It is an honor for me to introduce a blogger who fits those characteristics perfectly. Rosa of Rosa Yummy Yums is a blogger, photographer and all-around interesting and unique (in an amazing way) girl of Anglo-Swiss heritage who never fails to capture my attention with her recipes, pictures and take on life. Her passion and Rock ‘n Roll attitude is reflected on her writing and pictures. If you haven’t visited her blog, you’re missing out.
In life, I look for miscellanous things that capture my attention, satisfy my curiosity, satiate my hunger for novelty, inspire me and are exceptional. I am not fond of what is mainstream, déjà-vu, bland, characterless, not intellectually stimulating or challenging, so when it comes to the blogs I follow and the people behind them, I apply exactly the same rule.
And speaking about uniqueness and captivatigness, What’s Cooking Mexico? is hard to beat. This marvelously exotic site is one of a kind and stands out from the crowd. It is like a paradisiac and welcoming island in the middle of the ocean where it feels good to go as you never fail to spend some relaxing as well as quality moments there.
Having been a big fan of Ben’s extraordinary work and buoyant personality since 2008, it is with much pleasure that I have accepted to share my thoughts with his readers and write a guest post for him today. How could I possibly refuse such an opportunity?!
Muchas gracias querido amigo!!!
Tastes are made, not born.
– Mark Twain
Taste cannot be controlled by law.
– Thomas Jefferson
It is interesting to see how our culinary inclinations can change when we grow up and reach our prime, and how certain foods we used to dislike as a child can suddenly appeal to us. Although our soul doesn’t vary during the whole course of our terrestrial existence, we never cease to evolve physically and mentally. Some things are meant to stay the same while others are intended to undergo slight or drastic alterations…
I like to think that, similarly to rare wine, individuals get refined and more subtle/complex with time. The base will everlastingly remain, but it will considerably improve and ripen during the interval between birth and death. As with long-term cellering alcohols, the maturation and quality of the finished product depend on a few important factors such as environmental conditions, its pedigree and the care with which this process has been taken out.
A man’s palate can, in time, become accustomed to anything.
– Bonaparte, Napoleon
Not only do our brains go through various transmutations, but also our taste buds and gastronomical repertoire. Our bodies alter constantly, so it is quite understandable that our gustatory cells also get modified and go through major evolutions, thus affecting our feeding habits and transforming us into moody eaters.
Because I was raised in a non-snobby gourmet family who taught me to be thankful for what goes into my stomach, educated my palate by offering me a varied diet, encouraged me to be a daring epicurean and hated routine at the table, the toddler that I was, was fairly uncomplicated and adventurous. I complied to their eclectic nourishing practices without making a fuss or yammering. Everything my parents put on my plate was gulibly swallowed.
Not entirely finishing the contents of my platter was not acceptable and my mom constantly reminded me that if I regularly left one little grain of rice in my bowl, after a few months one could sustain a couple of starving children. Out of respect for them I obeyed dutifully. Out of respect for Mother Earth, the producers/farmers and the famished human beings around the world, throwing away leftovers is still considered a crime by me and I rarely do it unless I absolutely have to.
As opposed to the vast majority of my contemporaries, rare were the aliments that made me gag or which grossed me. Nonetheless, there were a few of them I was not keen on seeing on the menu. For instance, canned pilchards made my cringe as my mother never removed the skin and cartilage from the fishes – she professed that it was a good source of calcium (true!). I remember what an unpleasant experience it was to bite into the gritty bone bits and to chew on that repulsively wobbly epidermis. As a matter of fact, it was so irksome that it sent shivers of disgust down my spine. Nowadays, even if I don’t get such a reaction, this is a way of feasting on tiddlers which I’d still prefer to avoid.
In addition to the dreaded tinned sardines, in my early years, seafood (molluscs and echinoderms in particular) in general tended to make me nauseous. The reason for this aversion is that invertebrates resembling worms or blobs and animals without distinctive features (head, arms and legs) just terrified me, especially if I had to ingest them. Moreover their sweet and mineral aroma just turned me off. These days, I very much love shrimps and scallops and I am trying to overcome my fears by slowly moving on to the next level.
Those were my main apprehensions as a foodie in the becoming. I was pretty much open-minded and willing to explore new horizons, yet another item comes to mind: dried fruits. I could not understand the attraction. For me, they just tasted boringly dusty and excessively sweet. They were my nemesis and naturally, so were fruitcakes (though I did like “Raisins Scones” and “Welsh Cakes”). No matter the amount of British blood running through my veins, those confections never appeared on my favorites list.
Anyway, despite not being a big fan of the odd fig, I have since long revised my perception of them and I now consume those little healthy treasures on a daily basis. As accompaniment to nuts or in pastries, mueslis/granolas and breads, they are simply marvelously toothsome and extremely versatile.
A sharp bolt of hunger hit Luther hard. His knees almost buckled, his poker face almost grimaced. For two weeks now his sense of smell had been much keener, no doubt a side effect of a strict diet. Maybe he got a whiff of Mabel’s finest, he wasn’t sure, but a craving came over him. Suddenly, he had to have something to eat. Suddenly, he wanted to snatch the bag from Kendall, rip open a package, and start gnawing on a fruitcake.
– John Grisham
With the arrival of adulthood, I discovered new pleasures and my gustative inclinations have developed drastically. Hence, I am quite a recent convert to those typically English loaves confectioned with raisins, currants and mixed peels. The thirty-something girl that I have metamorphosed into is totally enamored with them.
England is dear to my heart. I miss this place terribly since my grandma and grandpa have passed away (they were my only relatives there) and unfortunately visiting the UK is not an option at the moment since I am penniless. As it is the country of my ancestors (together with Switzerland), I do my best to cultivate my English roots and honor my late grandparents by cooking lots of traditional specialties from this North Sea island and learning as much as I can about the history, geography and culture of this hauntingly beautiful and ancient land…
This situation makes me incurably sad and tears my heart out, but “c’est la vie” and I must keep my head up, so I cure my painful nostalgia with soothingly sweet treats that transport me back to the past when Nan and Pop were alive and I could freely roam through the wild Derbyshire Dales and imbibe the uniquely mysterious atmosphere of the Peak District.
Unquestionably, food has the power to heal our wounds, put a smile on our face and make us dream or travel through time. Not only does it comfort us, but it also brings back a flood of memories and feelings that have been buried deep within ourselves. In those brief periods of desperation and hopeless longing, baking is a real salvation as it helps me relax and elevates my mood. The perfect medicine to alleviate homesickness, affliction and sorrow!
So, a few weeks ago, in order to take care of my emotional and psychological health, I acquired “The National Trust Farmhouse Cookbook” by Laura Mason. This splendid and soul-uplifting publication provides a celebration of the regional fares of Britain and contains an impressive collection of the best regional recipes. A true treasure trove for foodies who are mad about hearty and homely dishes hailing from Great Britain and definitely a book that should be shown to anyone who still doubts our gastronomical heritage. This wonderful compendium is a great addition to any bookshelf and I am glad that I have discovered it.
So far, I have only been able to test one recipe, but it was such a success that I have decided to present it here on the occasion of my collaboration with Ben. This fantastically moist, exhilaratingly spicy and delightfully rich tea “Fruit Loaf” is too remarkable not to be put under the spotlight. Until today, apart from my gran’s “Simnel Cake”and “Christmas Cake”, I have not come across a raisin cake that was as moreish and irresistible as this Lake District delicacy. Truly delicious!
Peggy Ellwood’s yeast- and fat-free bread can be served for brunch, lunch and afternoon tea. It travels well and is highly energetic/nutritious, thus it is great for taking on hikes as the dried fruit helps revive flagging sugar and energy levels.
A great breakfast and snack item which I hope you’ll enjoy as much as I did…
English Fruit Loaf
Recipe adpated from “The National Trust Farmhouse Cookbook” by Laura Mason.
Makes 1x 900g loaf or 2x 450g loaves.
- 300ml Strong tea, hot
- 450g Dried raisins, currants and sultanas, mixed
- 350g Plain white flour
- 2 1/2 Tsp Baking Powder
- 1 1/2 Tsp Mixed spice (see remarks)
- 1/2 Tsp Fine sea salt
- 175g Soft light brown sugar
- 2 Large (63g) Eggs, beaten
- 3 Tbs Milk
- 1/2 Tsp Pure vanilla extract
1. The night before, pour the hot tea over the dried fruits and leave to soak.
2. The next day, preheat the oven to 170° C (325° F).
3. Grease and line the bottom of your rectangular cake tin(s).
4. In the bowl of your stand mixer, put the flour, baking powder, mixed spice, salt and sugar. Mix together.
5. Add the soaked fruits (with the tea), eggs, milk and vanilla. Mix thouroughly for about 20 seconds until the mixture resembles a cake batter.
6. Pour the batter into the cake tin(s) and bake on the middle shelf for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours (if you decide to make 2 loaves, then bake them for about 1h10), or until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean.
7. Let cool in the tin.
To make your mixed spice blend, mix together 1 Tbs ground cinnamon, 1 Tsp ground coriander, 1 Tsp ground nutmeg, 1/2 Tsp ground ginger, 1/4 Tsp ground allspice and 1/4 Tsp ground cloves.
The cake tastes better 1 or 2 days later (wrap well with cling film) and it freezes well too (up to three months).
Slice not too thinly and butter generously.
Serve for breakfast, teatime or even dessert and accompany by a good cup of tea.