I didn’t cook much when I lived in Paris, preferring to go out to restaurants or friends but I loved going to the market. Like in Beirut where I grew up, most of the produce was seasonal and it all looked gorgeous. Sadly, there are few places in London where I love to shop in the same way: La Fromagerie, Pimlico Road farmers’ market and Leila’s Shop which fortunately is closer to home and where I bought this gorgeous radicchio the other day for my lunch. I am not sure why I don’t go back to my old habits of shopping daily, walking over there every morning to buy my lunch. I think I will make it my new resolution for this spring if it ever arrives. Shame I don’t also have a butcher and fishmonger nearby. Or just a farmers market!
Rice (or berenj in Iranian) is all important in Iran. There are specialist shops where you buy nothing but rice. Sometimes, they will also sell rock salt which is what any self-respecting Iranian cook would use when cooking rice. In one shop in Bandar-e Anzali, the capital of caviar, they had a huge pile of rock salt right next to the bags of rice while in another shop outside Rasht, in Gilan Province where most of the Iranian rice is grown, they also had bags of peanuts. I think it was in that shop that I overheard a woman ask about the age of the rice she was buying. I had never before heard anyone discuss ageing rice. Well, people in Iran do and according to them, rice is supposed to be stored for a year before it can be used. Something about it cooking better when it is older as this study explains.
Yesterday, I cooked two things I had never cooked before: a whole baby lamb and stuffed tripe (post coming up). If I’d wanted whole lambs in the past, I relied on Mohamed at Al Waha to provide them. And if I’d wanted stuffed tripe, there was my wonderful mother who never minded spending the time cleaning and stuffing both stomach and intestines whenever I visited. But my mother is far away and I wanted to roast my own lamb and stuff tripe, so, I took the plunge and prepared my own.
It is not very often that I find foodstuffs that are completely new to me but two days ago, as I was walking through the market in Shanghai, I saw black chickens for sale. This wouldn’t have come as such a surprise if I had paid attention to my friend Elaine’s article which she wrote in 2007!