Today’s Blogger in the Spotlight are our buddies from Grantourismo, the dynamic blogging duo, Lara Dunston and Terrence Carter and they write on 5 of their favourite Food Experiences from their recent world tour.
When we took on the task of dipping into the local culture of each destination we visited for our twelve-month HomeAwayUK sponsored Grantourismo project – for which we traded hotel rooms for holiday rentals – I knew that food would play a big part in the project. Given that each placed we stayed had a kitchen, I knew I’d not only be sampling the local cuisine, but get a great opportunity to cook it as well. Here are some of my favourite food moments from the trip.
1. Marrakech: Making Tajine
Moroccan tagine is essentially a stew and with stews there are no canonical recipes. But in Marrakech, Jamila, the cook/housekeeper at our Marrakech riad made an amazing lamb tagine that I took a lot of hints from. She filled that riad with aromas that were irresistible as the lamb simmered slowly for a couple of hours. I eventually made our final tagine at our Essaouira riad, having shopped that morning in the vibrant Essaouira markets with a local guide. While Essaouira is known for its seafood, it was winter, it was raining, we had the fireplace going, and a good bottle of local red wine to complement the lamb, so lamb tajine it was. Bliss.
2. Barcelona: Deconstructing the Dish
When we met Jordi Artal, Michelin-starred Catalan-Canadian chef of Cinc Sentits (Five Senses), Barcelona, we had just finished our first meal at his fantastic restaurant. He didn’t know we were travel writers but still spent a good half an hour giving us tips on where else to eat in the city – all wonderful recommendations we followed up. When we returned to Barcelona for Grantourismo I knew I had to interview Jordi for my series ‘The Dish’. But Jordi – being the chef he is – had a better idea, ‘reconstructing’ a dish that his grandmother used to make him after school – bread, chocolate, olive oil, and salt – pa, xocolata, oli i sal in Catalan. Simple. Brilliant. Self-taught, Jordi is the kind of chef I’d want to be if I started a restaurant.
3. Paris: Côte de Bœuf
Paris, of course, comes with a lot of culinary baggage. What single quintessentially Parisian dish would I learn to cook there for The Dish when there is a gastronomic history so rich? Who better to ask than one of Paris’s best chefs, culinary superstar Pierre Gagnaire? When I put the question to him after a wonderful lunch at his restaurant, the chef thought long and hard, and finally shouted “Couscous!” Couscous?! After making plenty of couscous and lamb tajine a month earlier in Morocco, I couldn’t possibly settle on couscous, regardless of how multicultural Paris is these days. The chef understood and without hesitation declared “Côte de bœuf!” Excellent. Having decided to cook this delicious chunk of beef I received plenty of advice over the next two weeks on how to cook the perfect côte de bœuf! There was “only serve it with pommes frites”, “cook it bleu (rare)”, but the most common response was just “ohh, côte de bœuf!” Indeed. It was wonderful.
4. Alberobello, Italy: Making fresh pasta and pizza
When Maria, the caretaker of our property in Alberobello, came to our trullo (a traditional-style conical home that’s typical of Puglia) to teach me a little home-style Puglian cooking, she not only taught me how to make fresh handmade orrecchietti, she also gave me a lesson in how to make classic southern Italian pizza in a forno a legna or wood-fired oven – our own! This oven wasn’t in the house. It was part of the house, built into the external wall of the building. No, really. When it was on it warmed up the kitchen! How hot was the oven? Pizzas were coming out at a prodigious rate. And we were eating them just as fast. That’s real fast food.
5. San Miguel de Allende: So that’s mole
I’m a big fan of real Mexican cooking (not Tex-Mex), as you might gather from this post on tacos al pastor. But I’ve never really understood the appeal of mole (the famous Mexican sauce) until I tasted this one. At a serious Mexican cooking class I did in San Miguel de Allende, cooking instructor Marilau had a batch of her secret recipe mole that we used to accompany the dish sarapitos, which contains an ingredient I don’t usually enjoy – plantains (a banana that begs to be cooked because it tastes horrible to most palates). Marilau’s mole sauce blew my mind. Rich, intriguing, and complex. It was nothing like any other mole sauce I sampled anywhere else. Now that’s what I love about travelling and cooking.This week’s guest writer is Terence Carter who is a travel and editorial photographer, who also writes about restaurants, cuisine and cooking. Some of the research he did on this yearlong odyssey is informing a non-fiction book he’s currently working on about how food travels globally. Or it could be just an excuse to sneak into cooking schools and chef’s kitchens to steal their recipes! Words & pictures by Terence Carter of Grantourismo. Follow them on twitter.