Cookbook Club: Flatbreads & Flavors

Not pancakes! Rye-sourdough crumpets with homemade bitter orange marmalade and soft salted butter!

It’s been far too long since we’ve offered a Cookbook Club post here at FQF. And since I’m trying to select a “cookbook of the week” from my (extensive) collection to avoid the ever-present malady of dinner fatigue, now seems like a good time to dust off some classics. May I present Flatbreads & Flavors, by the inimitable team of Duguid & Alford? (They’ve split now – but they did produce some stellar cookbooks together. I’d also highly recommend Seductions of Rice and Hot Sour Salty Sweet.)

Naan dough resting after being rolled out into rounds.

I adore their cookbooks because they’re not simply recipes but travelogues, too. As with many of you, I read cookbooks like novels, and in this extended no-travel period we find ourselves stuck in, these books are a transcendent escape. Duguid & Alford visited some very off-the-beaten-track locales – long before selfie sticks, Instagram, and exploitative overtourism were issues – and they have the stories and adventures and recipes to prove it. Their passion was never high-end restaurants catering to well-heeled tourists, but the tiny, unremarkable street stand tucked away in a nondescript alleyway serving the best Afghan snowshoe naan or Sichuan pepper bread in the world. Their palpable love for both food and the people who make it, day in and day out, as they’ve done for centuries, shines through in all their books.

Continue reading

Cooking Class: Chiang Mai, Thailand

We’re excited to be headed out on the road again, and in that spirit we wanted to revisit some of our favorite moments from our adventures earlier this year. Some weeks back, we shared a cooking class we had taken in Udaipur, India. And as we’re in nostalgia mode, and I’ve got Thailand on my mind since I just spent time talking to a friend about his trip, let’s return to Chiang Mai and a fabulous cooking class we experienced there. Like our Indian class, this day out was one of the highlights of our trip to southeast Asia.

Thai dessert bowl

Looks like Thai green curry, but it’s actually dessert: sweet rice pudding with bananas and coconut milk.

Thai rice market

Dozens of varieties of rice are for sale at the market.

Thai ingredients market

Fish sauce, a key ingredient in southeast Asian cooking.

We started our cooking class at one of the many local markets, where we sampled various ingredients and drank cold, sweet Thai iced coffee. While the cooking school has an extensive garden and grows many of their own herbs and spices, they still need to shop for a few things. Many Thai homes don’t have refrigeration, so shopping each day for fresh ingredients is both a pleasure and a necessity.

Thai cooking tables

We’ll grind our curry pastes and chop our ingredients here.

We left the market and traveled by minibus to the school, where we were offered iced jasmine tea and given a tour of the property. The cooking school is perfectly set up to accommodate guests, with spaces for prep, cooking and eating together.

Thai garden chilies

Tiny, fiery Thai bird chiles. Typically, the smaller the chile, the bigger the punch.

Thai ingredients basket

Fresh herbs and aromatics, just harvested.

The cooking school has acres of gardens, where they grow lemongrass, basil, coriander, mint, galangal, ginger, kaffir lime, chiles and many other ingredients for their classes.

Thai cooking kitchen

Our indoor-outdoor kitchen, with cooking stations set up for each student.

Thai ingredients board

Thai ingredients bowls 01

Thai ingredients bowls 02

All of the components for the recipes we would make in class were neatly laid out for us. I emphasize this classical French technique a lot in my own cooking classes: it’s called mise-en-place, and it literally means “to put everything in its place.” When you’re cooking, assemble all of your ingredients like this in advance; it may seem tedious and time-consuming, but it actually makes preparing your dish much, much easier. Trust me.

Thai cutting board spoon

Fresh herbs and tamarind paste, like fish sauce, are key to classic Thai cooking.

Thai pestle mortar table

Although you can of course make curry paste in a blender, traditionally it’s prepared in a stone mortar and pestle.

Thai pestle mortar

Grinding aromatics for red curry paste.

Thai wok stir-fry veg

A wok allows for quick, high heat, so vegetables and proteins remain crisp and fresh.

Thai wok stir-fry tofu

Pad thai, a favorite Thai dish. In Thailand it’s not quite as sweet as it often is in America.

Thai red curry

Vegetarian red curry soup. Good Thai food is most often a delicate balance of hot, sour, salty and sweet.

Craving some Thai food after reading this? Me too. Try here, here or here. And if you have the chance, definitely book a cooking class on your next adventure. It’s well worth the time and money to cook and eat like a local, if only for a few hours.

Cooking Class: Udaipur, India

It’s been two months since we returned and N and I are missing our travels more than we expected. We thought we might revisit a few of our most memorable experiences here.

We went on lots of market tours during our travels and took a couple of incredible cooking classes, too. Udaipur, in the western Indian state of Rajasthan, was one of our favorite cities in India. It’s friendly and accessible, easy to walk and to navigate and filled with compelling sights and smells. While we were here, we went to an in-home cooking class led by a quiet, lovely Indian woman named Gita. She didn’t speak much English, but this was definitely one of those times when not many words were needed; the idea of food as a universal language is such an accurate cliché.

NJB_6253

Traditional masala boxes contain cooking spices. Women are often given these as a wedding gift to bring to their new husband’s home.

NJB_6313

Combining fresh tomatoes, coriander and garlic for tomato chutney.

NJB_6273

Toasting whole spices brings out their aromatic oils.

NJB_6286

Making aloo gobi masala, cauliflower and potatoes with peas.

NJB_6287

This will be the filling for our samosas.

NJB_6294

Rolling fresh dough for samosas.

NJB_6297

The dough, speckled with cumin seeds, is cut into quarters.

NJB_6298

Years of practice make this look easy.

NJB_6301

Filling the samosas

NJB_6307

…and into the fryer they go.

NJB_6326.1

You don’t need fancy kitchen gear to produce amazing food.

NJB_6377

Many homes in rural India still don’t have refrigerators or freezers, so you buy what you need and cook fresh food every day.

NJB_6394

Indian cuisine includes an array of incredible breads.

NJB_6386

Poori puffs up when it’s cooked over an open flame.

NJB_6404.1

The best part of any cooking class is sitting down together to eat delicious food!

NJB_6413

Our kind, generous host, Gita – a truly incredible cook.

We miss you, India!