I have been neglecting the blog recently. Too many things happening and too many deadlines but today I decided to prepare for you one of my favourite dips, the Iranian answer to baba ghannuge where grilled aubergines are mixed with caramelised onions and garlic and instead of tahini, kashk or dried buttermilk that provides both creaminess and tartness. A very interesting ingredients which you can buy in Persian shops either dried or already reconstituted in jars. I used the latter. And instead of drizzling the dip with olive oil, Persians use the much more luxurious saffron water as garnish together with a little of the caramelised onions and chopped walnuts which you can toast lightly to enhance their flavour.
I will always regret it. The year must have been 2002, perhaps even earlier. I had rented a flat in Barcelona to test recipes for my offal book and was there for 3 weeks. During that time, I could have easily gone to El Bulli whenever I wanted. I had a well-connected friend who would have organised it for me — in fact he had organised an amazing offal dinner at Can Fabes and an exquisite lunch at Ca L’Isidre where the owner gave me their recipe for tripe. But El Bulli was far and I was not so taken by molecular cuisine after a disappointing meal at the Fat Duck. So, I didn’t even try to get a booking. Then it became incredibly difficult to get in and now it is closed. Since then, I decided never to miss eating at a restaurant I was interested in even if it means travelling. Last year I went to Noma and I am just back from Faviken where I had the most amazing dinner followed by a terrific breakfast in the most serene if slightly ascetic atmosphere.
My first impression as I flew to Stockholm was both good and bad. Good because despite the plane being packed with children, it was a surprisingly restful flight with hardly any noise and lovely service — I should have added beautiful manners to the title of this post; every Swede I met on this trip was delightful except, that is, for the gruff sandwich tart lady (you will find her later in the post). They are really the most charming people in Europe! The bad impression which thankfully was fleeting was due to my vision of all Swedes as tall, blond and beautiful and there weren’t many on the plane. But this changed as soon as I landed. Wherever I went, I had to stop myself staring at gorgeous men and women. Fortunately, I was able to stare at the beautiful young man in the picture above taken at Saluplats Husman in the fabulous Hötorgshallen as he served us the most delicious meatballs and a wallenbarger (a very soft large meatball made with veal, eggs and cream).
The modern part of the caves d’affinage (where they age the cheese) in Fort des Rousses. The old part is vaulted and it is where I filmed the short clip below that of Jean-Charles telling us about comté.
Earlier this summer, I was invited to comté country in the Jura Mountains to see how the cheese is made and to meet various experts including the supremely knowledgeable and charming Jean-Charles Arnaut who at any one time has 164,000 wheels of comté in his caves in a wonderful and vast Napoleonic fort, Fort des Rousses. Each wheel weighs about 40 kilograms and when I calculated the worth of his cheese hoard, it came up to over 60 million euros. I immediately proposed but he said he was happily married — some people marry for love, others for money; I never did either but you can guess which way I would have gone if I had chosen that path!