The Mortar and Pestle: A Culinary Innovation

A mortar and pestle are a duo of tools, when used together, can crush and mash things down. The mortar is the bowl part and the pestle is the club like tool used to crush items inside the mortar.

mortarpestle.jpg
Mortar and Pestle filled with dried chili. Photo taken from Wikipedia

The usage of the mortar and pestle originally was use. It was used in Egypt thousands of years ago as a medical tool. Eventually, it started to be used as a tool for cooking as well. Bronze was the material of choice for creating the mortar and pestle around the middle ages and Renaissance period. Eventually porcelain was used by the late 1700’s. By the 18th and 19th centuries, a variation called a stone and muller was created to blend and mix paints. In India, another mortar and pestle variation was created and is called a sil batta. While having many different uses and variations, the mortar and pestle is mostly used today to grind spices. Another common use for it is to make a pesto sauce directly in the mortar and combine all the needed ingredients inside with the pestle. This tool has had so many contributions throughout history, culinary history included. While a very basic tool, a lot of people prefer it to more modern tools like food processors or grinders because it is believed this helps release aromatics better from spices and herbs. Whether true or not, many people still prefer a rustic tool as opposed to something that requires lots of disassembling of parts and washing. Whether you want to use a ceramic version to make pesto or guacamole, a marble one to crush spices, or a glass mortar and pestle to mix liquids, there is a variation for any culinary task at hand.

DSC_0329.jpg
A sil batta. Photo taken from tredyfoods.com

I believe the mortar and pestle is a significant culinary innovation due to how widely it was used all over the world for thousands of years before food processors were a common household tool. It is very traditional to be used to process spices and herbs in certain cultures as opposed to more modern tools too so that in itself shows how it is valued over things like mixers and food processors.

I believe the mortar and pestle accomplished being a culinary innovation from thousands of years of reliability. It is common for older tools and products to be overtaken by a more modern and convenient version. This is not the case for the mortar and pestle.

The mortar and pestle is important because it allows certain cultures to upkeep traditional practices for how they were taught on how to grind herbs and spices. It still allows people who would rather use it and not a food processor the ability to get a “feel” of how their ingredients are coming along as they get grounded.

The mortar and pestle is something that I have always found fascinating. I have used it to make simple things like guacamole and pesto sauce. I think it provides more control when crushing ingredients and it is just a nice alternative to more modern tools in general. I would compare it to the choice of use a gas or charcoal BBQ. Both are great and provide their own unique benefits but either could be argued as better or worse than the other. Having options in the kitchen is always a great thing.

 

References

Gritzer, D. (2019, March 05). The Best Mortars and Pestles To Buy. Retrieved from https://www.seriouseats.com/2018/08/best-mortars-and-pestles.html

Spices Inc. (2019, July 31). Retrieved from https://www.spicesinc.com/p-8344-the-history-of-the-mortar-and-pestle.aspx

Diets and Dietary Restrictions

Diets are one of the many ways for people to adhere to certain health conditions, beliefs, or values. A dietary concept that I was interested in is the Ketogenic diet. With this diet, I will try to consume basically as little carbohydrates as possible while prioritizing fat consumption and moderate protein. A good rule of thumb is to be no higher than 20g of carbs a day according to various keto forums online. Following the keto diet, I will also choose soy as a pretend allergen.

A typical daily menu for a ketogenic diet could look something like this:

  • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs and bacon
  • Lunch: Grilled salmon and zucchini noodles
  • Dinner: Ground beef tacos with cheese, salsa, avocado, sour cream in a lettuce wrap

Here’s an easy recipe for someone who wants to pack a keto lunch to work or school:

Oven Roasted Chicken Thighs with Brocolli and Zucchini

  • 8 chicken thighs
  • 1 head of broccoli, florets
  • 2 zucchinis, sliced thin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 400f
  2. Combine all spices and reserve
  3. Coat chicken thighs in olive oil and then rub spices evenly and place onto baking tray
  4. Place chicken in oven for 25 minutes
  5. Remove baking tray and add broccoli florets and zucchini slices
  6. Cook for another 15 minutes until chicken reaches 160f internally
burst20180723200231069_cover
Oven Roasted Chicken Thighs with Brocolli and Zucchini

Example 7 day Keto Log

  • Day 1
    • Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs and Bacon
    • Lunch: Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad
    • Dinner: Steak with Hollandaise and Garlic Broccoli
  • Day 2
    • Breakfast: Sausage and Avocado
    • Lunch: Tuna Egg Salad
    • Dinner: Chicken tinola
  • Day 3
    • Breakfast: Spinach and Cheese Frittata
    • Lunch: Chicken soup (no noodles)
    • Dinner: Roasted Pork Belly and Cabbage slaw
  • Day 4
    • Breakfast: Mixed berries and full fat yogurt
    • Lunch: Lettuce wrap tacos
    • Dinner: Grilled Salmon and Zucchini Noodles
  • Day 5
    • Breakfast: Ham, cheese, onion omelet
    • Lunch: Bacon wrapped asparagus
    • Dinner: Roast Beef and Cauliflower mash
  • Day 6
    • Breakfast: Strawberry avocado smoothie with almond milk
    • Lunch: Stir fry beef and veggies
    • Dinner: Dry rub pork baby back ribs with green beans and grilled corn on the cob
  • Day 7
    • Breakfast: Bacon cauliflower hash
    • Lunch: Oven roasted chicken thighs with broccoli and zucchini
    • Dinner: Pork chops with caramelized onions

Reflection

This was a tough diet to follow. I was able to follow it for some of the meals during the week, but not all. Breakfast was the easiest while lunch and dinner were more difficult to adhere to the diet. My biggest trouble was not including rice since it is a staple in my diet. One noticeable effect I had was reduced bloating. Due to not be able to eat heavy carb junk foods, I felt much lighter. Here are some pictures I took of the food I ate.

Maintaining this diet as a chef will be challenging, but I think can be done. Keto has become very popular recently and I think many modern chef’s like to have a culinary challenge. Carbs are usually found in sides like mash potatoes which can be changed to cauliflower mash or tortillas/taco shells which can be replaced by lettuce wrap. I believe all that a chef needs to have in order to tackle this challenge is creativity. Although I did enjoy attempting this diet, I do not think I would continue with it. I do think I will try and do a less extreme version with a paleo diet.

Contrasting Carbohydrates and Added Sugars

Carbohydrates are one of the 3 macro nutrients that everyone needs to consume in large amounts daily. Sugars, fibres and starches all fall under the carbohydrate category. Although they are all in the same family, not all of them are alike in terms of nutritional value. The difference between foods that are high in carbohydrates and foods with added sugar are that high carb foods can be naturally occurring carbohydrates while the other have sugar added to provide sweetness.

Foods that are high in added sugars are usually not very healthy. Foods with added sugars can include protein bars, crackers, chocolate, yogurt and even fruit cups. These are all very delicious and sweet, but that’s due to the high amounts of sugar that’s been added. Foods that are high in added sugars can lead to a lot of health problems. Two of the many health problems are type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Rippe & Angelopoulos (2016) believe “Diabetes has emerged as a major and rapidly growing worldwide health concern in the twenty-first century. The prevalence of diabetes is predicted by the International Diabetes Federation to double by 2035. This dramatic increase in diabetes has paralleled the worldwide increase in obesity and has prompted further investigation of potential nutritional links to diabetes. One of the factors that has been suggested as a unique link to diabetes is the consumption of fructose-containing sugars”.

A healthy form of high carbohydrate foods are whole grains. Whole grains are grains that are completely intact. This means the germ and bran are not removed.

These foods are typically high in fibre which prevents constipation and promotes healthier bowel movements. Consuming fibre also helps protect against heart disease, decreases risk of diabetes, and reduces likeliness of becoming overweight. Whole grains also contain more nutrients which include Vitamin B, iron, potassium, and even one of the major macronutrients in protein.

Below are pictures I took of whole grain foods and food with added sugars. The Ritz crackers have added sugars and the wild rice and quinoa are the whole grains. The wild rice was taken at a local grocery store while the other 2 were from home.

Here is a simple and delicious Lemon Herb Quinoa that you can make to get a healthy dose of whole grains.

Quinoa:
2 3/4 cups chicken stock

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 1/2 cups quinoa

Dressing
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

3/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves from garden

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary from garden

2 teaspoons lemon zest

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Steps

  1. Bring quinoa to boil with chicken stock and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Turn down to simmer and cover until all liquid is absorbed.
  2. For dressing, whisk together olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, fresh basil, fresh rosemary, lemon zest, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Toss cooked quinoa with dressing and adjust seasoning to taste.

This quinoa dish would be great as a side to any salmon dish.

img_20190711_222710-e1562899359801.jpg
Finished quinoa!

References

Rippe, J. M., & Angelopoulos, T. J. (2016). Added sugars and risk factors for obesity, diabetes and heart disease. International Journal of Obesity, (S1), 22. https://doi-org.gbcprx01.georgebrown.ca/10.1038/ijo.2016.10

The whole truth about whole grains. (2017, July 18). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/whole-grains/art-20047826

Hug a Farmer

On June 8th, 2019, I made my way to Sandy Farms located at 10069 Weston Rd in Vaughan. This was my first time ever visiting this farm and I spent a considerable amount of time here looking around.

At the farm, I met a man named George who was busy tending to some crops but took a couple minutes to speak to me. George is originally from Thunder Bay where he grew up and lived on farms his whole life. He moved to the GTA and started his own small farm where he wanted to provide many fresh locally grown herbs, plants, and produce to the public. He said that his main reasoning to come here was to be able to bring the knowledge and expertise he had with farming to a bigger city, thus hitting a wider population. He also said that living in such a big city, most people resort to grocery store chains to buy their produce so he wanted to provide something local and fresh. George said he grows strictly organic because he believes that the produce should not be full of chemicals and should just be natural. I did ask George for a picture but he wanted to keep his privacy.

Here are all of the pictures I took at Sandy Farms. I spent my time looking at herbs and plants that I could bring home.

I was looking to grown my own herbs at home so I ended up purchasing many plants to bring home and grow in the backyard. I bought basil, parsley, rosemary, jalapeno, and tomato plants. Here’s what it looks like in the backyard.

I know that this farm follows the seasons and grows what is appropriate for that season from what one of the staff told me. The prices I thought were pretty fair and will bring much value in the long run. My purchase came to around $20 and i bought about 12 plants. Buying 1 little carton of basil for example at a grocery store would cost about $2.99 plus tax so I think the plants have much more value.

In accordance to the Pillars of sustainability, these products affect it very positively. Growing crops allows people to learn how to tend to plants and how/where their food comes from. Socially, farming can build communities that are all like-minded in supporting local, fresh producers. The economy will grow because without fresh produce, food producers of all kinds will not be able to sell high quality, fresh food to their customers. They supply the demand. And as for the environment, growing organically allows the environment to produce 100% natural, chemical free produce. This makes it easier on the soil, and for the health of the consumers.

I had a lot of fun visiting this farm and talking to a farmer. I ended up buying a lot of herbs that I usually have trouble buying at any grocery store I visit. I enjoyed doing this so much I ended up going to another local farmers market near Downsview. Here are some pictures!

I learned a lot from this experience. When I was younger, I never really had much interest in fresh produce. Now being in culinary school, I think about it more than ever. When I look for herbs, vegetables, fruits, I’m always smelling and feeling everything to make sure I get the best product. It is so important to get the best ingredients because it will greatly affect the quality of the end product.

Nutrition Blog #1

Nutrition is a very broad term that encompasses many different topics. One topic in nutrition that interests me are low carb diets. The reason that it interests me is because for me personally, carbohydrate heavy foods are easy to overeat. Overeating carbs tends to lead to bloating and feeling heavy. Foods like rice, pasta, french fries, bread are all great foods to eat in moderation. The problem comes with eating an excessive amount of them, which I feel can be difficult. I’d like to be able to limit my carbohydrate intake without cutting it out of my diet completely.

DD_lowcarb_desktop_blue2
Foods popular in low carb diets. Photo taken from https://www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb

A topic that I would like to learn more about are Omega-3 Fatty Acids. I often hear a lot about how Omega-3 Fatty Acids are great for so many reasons. I would like to learn exactly how they benefit our health and why they are so good for us. I know they are often found in fish like salmon, or even nuts and seeds like chia seeds. I hope that as I progress through this course, I will learn a lot more about the benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids.

As a culinary student, I must make sure that all food that I serve tastes and looks great. Another thing that I must focus on as well is the nutritional value that it provides as well. I believe that nutrition plays a very important role currently and in the future of the culinary industry. I think people are much more health conscious nowadays so they value menus that do have a healthier side to them. Not only does it contribute to health, but it also affects the palate. Various fruits, vegetables, nuts, or seeds can add different textures and flavours to a dish that other ingredients cannot.

One thing that is important when it comes to research focusing on nutrition is credibility. There are many different sources of information in regards to health and nutrition, so it is important to rely on websites or people who are qualified to do just that. A credible nutrition website would be the Harvard School of Public Health. They are a credible source because according to their mission statement, “To pursue this mission, the School produces knowledge through research, reproduces knowledge through higher education, and translates knowledge into evidence that can be communicated to the public, policymakers, and practitioners to advance the health of populations.” They also reference academic research so I believe they are very trustworthy.

An example of a website that isn’t as credible is BuzzFeed. BuzzFeed is a website that uses “click-bait” articles to generate views. They often reference other articles published on their own site to backup their statements. For example, in the article I referenced below, they mention how polyunsaturated fats can be good for you by linking the reader to another BuzzFeed article written by the same author. I don’t think that the information is all false on their website, but having articles full of unrelated GIFs, and “click-bait” titles do not give me the feeling of credibility.

Thank you for reading my first Nutrition blog. I hope to see you on the next one!

 

References

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution. (2018, June 04). Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/types-of-fat/omega-3-fats/

Tamarkin, S. (2017, March 09). Here Are The Foods You Should Eat (And Avoid) To Live Longer. Retrieved from https://www.buzzfeed.com/sallytamarkin/foodies-never-say-die

Tamarkin, S. (2016, June 08). Here’s How To Eat Lots Of Fat And Actually Still Be Healthy. Retrieved from https://www.buzzfeed.com/sallytamarkin/avocados-for-president

 

Purchasing Meat and Game: Oxtail

img_20190517_112705
Fresh oxtail at my local Asian market. Almost $20/kg!

My chosen cut of meat is oxtail which comes from beef. I have chosen this cut of meat because I think it is not very common in comparison to typical cuts of meat. Also because it is the main meat component of one of my favourite Filipino dishes, Kare Kare.

Christopher Columbus brought cattle to the Americas in 1493. Cattle were mostly used for meat, milk, and labour in the past, but they are mostly used now to provide for meat and by-products like leather, gelatin, china, etc. Over 98% of cattle is used when it is processed to maximize the amount of yield obtained. About 45% of that initial percentage is used for meat while the rest is for by-products. Beef from cattle contains various essential nutrients which include zinc and vitamin B12, while also providing lots of protein. Various of the common beef cuts include Rib Eye, Filet Mignon, Skirt, T-bone, New York Strip, and many more. Oxtail is one of the cuts from cattle that allows the tails from the animal to not go to waste. From the name itself, one might think oxtail comes directly from oxen. Nowadays, oxtail primarily comes from either a Steer (Male cattle that has been castrated and cannot breed) or a Heifer (Young female cattle that has not produced a calf). The tails typically weigh between 7 to 8 pounds and is mostly made up of bone, cartilage, and little meat. Cutting an oxtail provides for gradually smaller pieces due to how a tail naturally tapers. In the centre of the oxtail is bone marrow, which is a delicacy itself. Oxtail is a very gelatinous cut of meat due to the amounts of collagen in it.

kare kare prep.jpg
Typical ingredients used in Kare Kare. Photo taken from https://amcarmenskitchen.com/2014/12/04/oxtail-kare-kare/

The preferred method of cooking this cut of meat is to slowly braise for at least 6-8 hours due to how tough and gelatinous it is. Without cooking it in this method, the oxtail will remain tough and not release the natural gelatin. Braising it slowly will allot the meat to become very tender and almost melt away. I think a suitable cooking method would be to initially brown the oxtail meat to get some colour and flavour, then to add liquid to slowly braise. Other cooking methods would be to use it in soups and stews since those are usually cooked slowly as well.

kare kare.jpg
A plate of fresh Kare Kare. Picture taken from https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1019215-oxtail-stew-in-peanut-sauce-kare-kare

I have included a recipe of how I would prepare Kare Kare. Please try it yourself if you would like to try something new!

Kare Kare Recipe.jpg

References

Cattle 101: History, Breeds, Fun Facts, Terms. (2019, April 10). Retrieved from http://beef2live.com/story-cattle-101-hist-breeds-fun-facts-terms-85-104671
Filippone, P. T. (2019, May 06). How to Cook Fork Tender Oxtail. Retrieved from https://www.thespruceeats.com/oxtail-cooking-tips-1805846
Frodnesor. (2016, July 15). Oxtail and tongue kare kare. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/foodforthoughtmiami/28218956172
Ghose, T. (2013, March 25). Longhorn Legacy: Surprising Origins of Columbus’ Cattle Found. Retrieved from https://www.livescience.com/28154-new-world-cattle-origins.html
B. (2017). Ox Tail and Peanut Stew (Filipino Kare Kare) | Easy Delicious Recipes. Retrieved from https://rasamalaysia.com/filipino-kare-kare-ox-tail-and-peanut-stew/
Patterson, H. (2016, March 15). Common Cuts of Beef. Retrieved from https://www.farmflavor.com/nebraska/nebraska-ag-products/common-cuts-of-beef/

Kahn, L., & Cottle, D. J. (2014). Beef Cattle Production and Trade. Collingwood, Vic: CSIRO PUBLISHING. Retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.gbcprx01.georgebrown.ca/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=760291&site=eds-live&scope=site

 

 

Fruit Hunting At St. Lawrence Market

img_20190405_124151.jpg
Basket of physalis. Photo taken on April 5th, 2019.

On Friday, April 5th, 2019, I ventured to the St. Lawrence Market to hunt for a fruit that I do not have much exposure to. I chose to do this at the St. Lawrence Market for various reasons. The first reason being how it is widely regarded as one of the best food markets in the world and second is how close it is to school.

Searching through all the many produce stalls, the fruit I have decided to purchase was physalis, also known as ground cherries, cape gooseberries or golden berries. I chose this fruit because it was one of the only fruits I was able to find at the market that I have not tasted before. I also noticed that some stalls sold the berries without the husk, so I chose to get some that still included the paper-like shell.

The physalis I bought comes from Colombia. According to Julia F. Morton (1987) the physalis is called ” uvillauchuva, vejigón or guchavo in Colombia”. The fruit typically grows in tropical and subtropical areas including Peru, Chile, or even the Philippines. The physalis comes from the Solanaceae family of flowering plants. Other members of this family include tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, bell peppers, chili peppers, and even tobacco.

I bought a small 100g of physalis for about 4 dollars. Most of the other produce stalls also sold it at about the same price, regardless if the husk was still on or not.

In Colombia, the fruit can grow every month of the year due to the preferred climate needed for the physalis. The fruit would not be able to grow in a location like Canada so it will always be an export.

img_20190407_155356
Fruit cut in half, revealing the many seeds. Picture taken April 7th, 2019.

Sensory Evaluation

  • Taste – Bitter-sweet and tropical tasting, almost like a mango
  • Smell – While whole, smells almost like a tomato. Cut in half, there was a mixed aroma of citrus, kiwi, and even some mango.
  • Sight – Yellow-orange in looks. Resembles a cherry tomato in size and shape. Looks very unique when husk still attached.
  • Hearing – The husk of the fruit felt very paper-like and when crumpled, sounded similar
  • Touch – Feels almost like an unripe cherry tomato. Biting into it also felt like eating an unripe cherry tomato as well. Felt slightly slimy on the outside of the skin. Husk felt like paper or like dried leaves.

If I were to cook this fruit, I would make a jam. Since the berry has a sweetness and a tartness to it, I think it could work well in a jam. I found a recipe by Taruna Deepak from her blog “Easy Food Smith”. I think this recipe would compliment the natural acidity from the fruit by incorporating orange and lime juice. The addition of both sugar and honey to add more sweetness to help with the bitterness.

Recipe

1 kg grams (6 cups) Cape Gooseberries
1½ cup Sugar
½ cup Honey
½ quill Cinnamon, optional (add one quill for stronger cinnamon notes)
2 tbsp orange juice
2 tbsp lime juice

Going on this Fruit hunt was a great experience. I was able to see so many fresh fruits and produce. Several that I do not see very often. The St. Lawrence Market is a place that I would like to go more often. There are so many different kinds of vendors ranging from produce, meats, seafood, cheeses, and even freshly prepared food.

Below you can view a small video I created documenting my experience hunting for fruit. It also includes other things that I discovered and tasted for the first time.

 References

Deepak, T. (2014, March 28). Cape Gooseberry Jam. Retrieved from http://www.easyfoodsmith.com/rasbhari-ka-jam-cape-gooseberry-jam/
Morton, J. (2019, April 7). Cape Gooseberry. Retrieved from https://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/cape_gooseberry.html

Preservation: Strawberry Jam

I have chosen to preserve fresh strawberries into strawberry jam for this blog. I have never made strawberry jam or even preserved anything before so this will be a great learning experience for me.

Back in the 1st century AD, the first recipe for jam appeared in the cookbook “De Re Coquinaria (The Art of Cooking)”. It was basically soft fruit that was heated with honey, cooled, then stored. Since then, jam has had many applications from helping aid sailors and pirates from scurvy, feeding the hungry in WWII and even finishing every meal for Louis XIV. Nowadays, it is a staple for kids and adults alike who wish to enjoy a nice PB&J.

The strawberry contains pectin which will act as a thickener in the jam by creating a sort of gel. Sugar not only adds sweetness to the jam, but allows the pectin to form the gel. Lemon juice (acid) is added because it also aids the pectin to bond to itself and create a nice gel. Since strawberries have a low acid content, lemon juice is used to help the gelling process. Being such an effective way of preservation, jam could last for a very long time and is still being made today for that very reason.

Strawberry Jam Recipe

Processing the Strawberries

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Finished Strawberry Jam

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Senses

  • Taste – Very sweet with a mild tartness.
  • Smell – Strong aroma of sugar and strawberries. Both during cooking and when jarred.
  • Sight – Depending on lighting, a dark-red, almost purple colour. Visibly looked very gel-like in consistency.
  • Hearing – Running a spoon through the jam, I could hear an almost slush-like sound.
  • Touch – Thick and jelly feeling. Spreads really nicely on toast as it is smooth and doesn’t have huge chunks.

Conclusion

In general, I think making my jam was a success. Especially for my first time making it. It tasted just as good as store bought jams without any added chemicals. The texture, flavour and even the smell were above my expectations.

As for the shortcomings, I think I could have done more research about the inclusion of bubbles in my jar. I wasn’t aware that air bubbles could be a sign of a poor seal. I had very minimal air bubbles in a couple of my jars and my seals felt very strong. I could hold the jars from the lid and it wouldn’t break off. In my case, I think it will be okay, but I will continue to do more research.

In the future, I will try making jam again with other various fruits and even a mixture of them. I never realized how simple it was to make a great jam and I will definitely make some more in the future.

References

Hudson, V. (2016, October 21). Jam: A beautifully preserved history. Retrieved from https://life.spectator.co.uk/2016/10/jam-beautifully-preserved-history/
Ozimek, S. (2015, September 28). Preserving Fruit: Jam Basics • Curious Cuisiniere. Retrieved from https://www.curiouscuisiniere.com/preserving-fruit-jam-basics/

 

Sensory Evaluation: Peppa Shrimp

I had the opportunity to attend the Supper Club volunteering event at GBC last week. The Supper club was held in celebration of Black History Month to promote community. Chef Suzanne Barr led the event and invoked a fun, easy-going atmosphere. We all worked together with fellow culinary students and non-culinary students in creating delicious Jamaican dishes. After everything was cooked, we all had the opportunity to eat together as well. The standout recipe to me was the Peppa Shrimp.

img_20190213_192528
Chef Suzanne Barr directing the preparation of the Peppa Shrimp. Photo taken on Wednesday, February 13th, 2019

When I first heard we were going to prepare Peppa Shrimp, my mind instantly assumed it would be shrimp with some sort of spicy pepper seasoning. I was right, but I did not think it would be at the spice level that it was. The peppers that we used were scotch bonnet peppers. I’ve never tasted a pepper that hot before.

 

5 Basic Tastes

  • Salty – The shrimp were seasoned well but not too salty. Probably the least of the tastes achieved.
  • Sweet – The scotch bonnet’s, although spicy, did have a slight sweetness to it. The peppers were also sitting in a pickle liquid containg maple syrup. Served with a side of grilled pineapple, the shrimp had a fair amount of sweetness to it.
  • Sour – Peppers were submerged in a pickling liquid containing lots of vinegar. The liquid itself and the peppers were used to create the sauce which created a very distinct sourness.
  • Bitter – The juice of lemons and oranges and the zest of limes were used as a marinate for the pineapples that were served on the side. It added a nice balance to the natural sweetness of the pineapple by incorporating some bitterness.
  • Umami – The shrimp itself has a very umami flavour like most shellfish do. The shrimp were poached in a court bouillon broth which further developed the umami flavours.

Senses

  • Taste – The main thing I could taste was the spiciness. I think for the average person, this would be too spicy for them. I enjoy spicy, even if it means I end up with nose sniffles.
  • Smell – Very strong aroma of the scotch bonnet and vinegar based sauce. It really cut through towards the sinuses.
  • Sight – Bright red/orange colour achieved by the scotch bonnet pepper sauce. Visually it was easy to tell that this dish would be spicy just by looking at it.
  • Hearing – The shrimp were cooked with shell, tail, and the head kept on. The sound of snapping the head and peeling the shell were very prevalent while everyone ate.
  • Touch – After peeling, the shrimp were very plump and juicy to the touch. The spicy sauce had a very lasting, tingling feeling on my hands as I ate.

In terms of relating this dish to something I’ve had before, I don’t think I’ve ever tasted anything like this in the past. The shrimp itself was a very familiar flavour but the spice from the pepper was a new experience for me. This dish was unique because it really displayed the love of spice and seafood in Jamaica by combining the two.

Something that I learned about my palate is that I am able to handle a lot more spice that I thought. I also learned that I enjoyed the pairing of sweet and spicy flavours together, it feels almost refreshing to my taste buds. I thoroughly enjoyed this food, especially because it’s encouraged to get dirty and eat with our hands. I would definitely eat this again because it was a new take on shrimp for me. I’m used to having shrimp with milder flavours, but this one packed on the heat.

My tolerance for spicy flavours has grown the older I have gotten. I have a greater appreciation for all things spicy, so as long as it doesn’t take away from the dish by overpowering all the other flavours. I also do not have much of a sweet tooth, but I can recognize when there is a subtle yet distinct sweetness added to help balance a dish.

This experience allowed me to critically analyze all the different senses being used when eating. It helped me understand the flavours that I am more fond of, and create a further acknowledgement for the ones that I am still not so sure of. This was a very enjoyable event and I hope to use this same evaluation for future dishes that are new to me.

Sinigang na Baboy: The Hearty and Sour Soup of the Philippines

Sinigang recipe
My recipe for Sinigang na Baboy.

Growing up, I was not the biggest fan of soup. But as a kid, my definition of soup was a broth and nothing else inside it. I’ve actually been enjoying so much soup as a kid and I didn’t even know it. Sinigang na Baboy is easily my favourite soup. Any time I could smell it simmering throughout the house around dinner time, I knew I was in for a treat that night.

Sweet tamarind with chopping block.
Fresh tamarind.  Photo taken from https://indigenousbartender.com/2018/08/10/brits-the-tamarind-heads/

Sinigang na Baboy is a sour and savoury soup that consists of whatever cuts of pork you want and a tamarind based broth. I used pork belly and pork short ribs. The soup usually contains tomatoes and onions as the flavouring agents. Below you can see the meat and veggies that I prepared for my soup.

img_20190204_191323
Veggies
img_20190204_192729
Pork belly and short ribs
img_20190204_193013
Bok choy
img_20190204_194158
Diced onion and tomato
img_20190204_195845
Daikon radish and taro root

While eating this soup, many various senses are achieved. Looking at the soup, it’s clear to see that the soup has a distinct orange-ish colour due to the tomatoes. The chunks of pork help visualize savouriness as well. As for aromas, a combination of pork and tomato smells fill up the kitchen. Tastewise, the soup tastes sour because of the tamarind and savoury due to the pork. For the mouthfeel, the soup is not too thin but also not too thick. There are no thickening agents added but the fat content of the pork does assist in making the soup have a little more body.

img_20190204_194632
Simmering!

I asked my older brother to taste my soup after it was prepared. He was born and raised in the Philippines so he is very accustomed to this soup. He looked at it to see if it looked “complete” with all the usual veggies and a good amount of pork to which he was pleased. He described the aroma as “strong pork and tomato”. He had hoped for some chillis because he enjoys it a bit more spicy. Overall, he thought it was seasoned well, had a good amount of sour tamarind flavour, and had a good balance of meat to veggies.

While cooking my soup, there were some minor challenges involved. One challenge that I had was deciding on my ingredients. Veggies can range anymore from bok choy, green beans, or kale. Meat could also be commonly substituted with salmon. In that case it would be called Sinigang na Salmon. I chose to use pork because, in my opinion, it is much more visually appealing and suits the sour flavour better.

img_20190204_210458-1.jpg
Finished product

I think in general, making my soup was a success because it fed my whole family for dinner that night and they were all satisfied. One thing that I would do differently is to add more bok choy. I would also add a few chilis and a little bit of fish sauce. Serving with fish sauce and calamansi on the side works well too.

My experience in cooking and documenting my soup for this blog was very fun. Cooking for the family at home is always satisfying, but having to take pictures and describing one of my favourite foods for you all to experience made it even more enjoyable. One thing I learned is how important having a safe and extensive workspace is. My prep area is extremely small and it’s hard to fit anything more than a cutting board and a couple of bowls. Ingredients were still organized but scattered all over the kitchen.

One thing that I will strive to continue applying to my future culinary endeavours is keeping my ingredients organized. Preparing a Mise en Place feels very rewarding and makes cooking so much easier and coordinated. For my future culinary experiences, I hope to always keep myself organized. No matter how busy I will be, getting all the prep work done and being organized will make my efforts much more efficient.