Posts Tagged ‘food writing’

Honest Food Writing

7308395186_2a1b2b9caf_oI recently purchased the Dutch translation of the book Deliciously Ella Every Day, written by popular food blogger Ella Mills. It caught my eye at my local supermarket, and I put it into my basket with good hope after reading some very positive reviews.
While the book is a pleasure to leaf through and has good tips for those new to a vegan lifestyle, I am losing faith after a few major recipe fails — especially the one that took place yesterday when I decided to ‘treat’ my family to her carrot cake muffins for breakfast. I should have stopped and not even attempted them after first reading through the recipe. How could they possibly work with mostly wet ingredients? Well, they didn’t. The result was moist, overly sweet little blobs that ended up in the bin. After almost an hour in the oven (the 35 minutes stated in the recipe would have resulted in liquid ‘muffins’), I ended up making eggs on toast instead.
Until recently, I wouldn’t have even tried a recipe such as this one. Or, I would have adapted it to make sure it would work. But I am trying to give cookbooks an honest shot these days, so I follow the recipes exactly as they are written. And nine times out of ten, I end up kicking myself for doing that, because if there is one thing that really irritates me, it’s a poorly written recipe. One that was probably never tested. As a food writer, I find it particularly disrespectful to your audience. You see, there are actually people out there who are not just interested in pretty pictures, but in GOOD, solid recipe writing. And who hate to waste money on disappointing kitchen failures.
I often wonder how some of these books sell like hotcakes. Clever marketing? Adoring fans who are too intimidated to report on their flops? Or maybe they don’t even attempt to actually cook from the books?
It is high time for food writing to be left to the hands of those who can truly create recipes and do so with passion, veracity and respect.
PS: By the same token, I should write about how food blogging is becoming one big marketing joke. Honesty is a rare thing when large sums of money are involved.

En Route, and Caramel au Beurre Salé!

15289141_1064386790354560_9017150637222260033_oThe latest issue of France magazine En Route has recently hit the newsstands across the Netherlands! Once again, this issue is packed with stories that will delight Francophiles — including my column on the history of caramel au beurre salé on page 77! Just when you thought you knew everything about this trendy French delicacy, I set the record straight by telling you about its real origins. Great reading for the holidays, so make sure to grab a copy! NOTE: the magazine is published in Dutch.


Fragrant Chicken Pilaf

pilaf3A while ago I worked on a culinary feature for Dutch women’s weekly Vriendin. The subject was cooking with different types of rice, and I also had to develop six international rice recipes. Though I grew up with Colombian parents who served rice at every meal, I hardly eat rice anymore. It just doesn’t appeal to me. I find it a rather uninspiring food. Perhaps I had too much of it in my youth. Anyhow, it was an interesting production to work on, despite the fact that by the end of the week, I never wanted to see another grain of rice again!
That must have been two years ago.
The record was broken yesterday when I was suddenly in the mood to make a pilaf. Just out of the blue, which is pretty much the way culinary inspiration hits me. Randomly. (Side note: A few nights ago I had a dream I was eating lobster at a very fancy restaurant. Wonder what will come of that.)
I scribbled the following recipe, and hoped for the best. Well, it was delicious. Though next time I think I’ll serve it with a spicy relish — like the one the paella lady serves in Duras. More on that later.
Here’s the recipe:

Fragrant Chicken Pilaf
Serves 4

  • 1 tbsp Harissa sauce
  • 1 tbsp full-fat yogurt
  • 350g chicken thigh fillets, cut into small pieces
  • 300 g basmati rice
  • knob of butter
  • 1 tbsp mild olive oil
  • 3 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 6 cardamom pods, bruised
  • 1 1/2 tsp curry masala powder
  • 50g dried cranberries
  • 560ml hot chicken stock
  • 50g pistachios
  • chopped flat leaf parsley or coriander, to serve

Mix the Harissa with the yogurt and stir in the chicken pieces. Put the rice in a fine mesh sieve and wash it under the tap until the water runs clear. Heat the oil and butter in a shallow, heavy-bottomed pan and gently sauté the shallots, garlic, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and curry masala powder for approximately 8 minutes. The spices will release their aroma and give the dish a lot of flavor. Remove the cardamom pods (this will be a bit of a search!), increase the heat and add the chicken. Cook the chicken, while stirring, for 10 minutes. Stir in the rice and cranberries. Add the stock, stir everything well and bring to a boil. Lower the heat immediately, place a lid on the pan, and allow the dish to simmer for 20 minutes. In the meantime, toast your pistachios in an ungreased frying pan, leave them to cool and chop them up. Remove the pan of pilaf from the heat, and let it stand (do not stir!) for 5 minutes. Add in the pistachios and mix through the pilaf with a fork. Using any other implement will make the rice stick. Sprinkle with the chopped herbs and serve. Note: when serving the dish, however, you will want to scrape up all the bits at the bottom!

Chicken Thighs in Cream Sauce

le-poulet-de-bresse-reconnu-1448131380Writing a regular food column for France magazine En Route is more than work — it’s a real learning experience. For each column I choose a typical French food item, explore its (cultural) history and then write a summary of what I learned. The whole process takes at least a week and is not the easiest of tasks, however enjoyable. Not only because there is usually a sea of information (in France, almost every food item is a BIG deal, often protected by expert organizations and boasting a long and strong history), but also because I’m not writing an article but a column, which means less words and a very different tone.

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