Immediate Venture Bitcore Surge

10
Oct

sheep's tripe-before cleaning copy

The last time I bought sheep’s tripe in London was fifteen years ago when I was testing recipes for The Fifth Quarter. It looked black and rather off-putting but I desperately needed some, so, I bought it. My mother, who was in London helping me, took one look at it and announced she couldn’t use it. It was just too dirty and would need too much scrubbing to clean up. So, we threw it away. And here I am today, giving tripe another try. I got the two stomachs in the picture from a wonderful Greek butcher up in Green Lanes. They are cleaner than those I bought so long ago but they are still pretty smelly and I have just spent half an hour cleaning them and stripping lining and fat off them — something we don’t need to do when we buy them from our butcher in Beirut. Tomorrow, I will finish cleaning them and will stuff them. I will post the recipe and pictures once I am done. So, stay tuned!


16
Jan

[vimeo]http://www.vimeo.com/16977936[/vimeo]

Great news. Absolute Press are bringing out an expanded edition of my Fifth Quarter next year. To celebrate this, I thought I’d post a couple of videos I did recently of one of my food obsessions: lamb testicles. The last place I expected to see them was in the kitchens of Pistache d’Alep (the best baklava maker in Aleppo) where they have recently installed a separate butcher’s kiosk to prepare the meat for the kibbeh balls and lahm bil-ajine (meat ‘pizza’), which they also make there. Their butcher is a charming and very jolly man, who took great pleasure in showing us how to prepare the testicles for cooking. It is possible that this butcher ‘kiosk’ was a temporary installation because of the Eid. i forgot to ask. In any case, I am only sorry he wasn’t there when Andrew Zimmern filmed in the kitchens for his upcoming Syrian episode of Bizarre Foods. He would have loved the spectacle. And Andrew, if you are reading this post, I am totally flattered to be your new food-crush! I also loved spending that day with you.

[vimeo]http://www.vimeo.com/16952000[/vimeo]


2
Jan

lone-testicle-copy

Long ago, when I was doing the Sotheby’s works of arts course, I wanted to be a photographer, really more than an art expert. So, I got myself a beautiful Nikon, a couple of lenses, a tripod, a remote control shutter clicker or whatever that thing is called, a beautiful canvas bag to carry my gear and I started taking photographs. Lots of them.

My role model was Edward Weston. I loved  his strange close-ups of vegetables that didn’t look like vegetables, although I was not interested in photographing food in those days. I loved eating but not cooking. I didn’t want to be domesticated and I wouldn’t cook for my poor lover of the time who had to eat cheese and toast most evenings — he didn’t seem to mind.

In any case, we had this lovely property in the south of France, near a river where there were beautiful rock formations; and every day, I would go out with my camera to take close-ups of rocks, earth, tree trunks, whatever looked beautiful and likely to end up looking not like it was in close-up. But I quickly realised that I was no Edward Weston and even when I took photographs that were good, I would find a photographer had done them before. So, I put away my camera, using it only for my course work and concentrated on learning about art.

Recently, I got a new camera. A friend set it for me with a special close-up setting and I started taking close-ups again, this time of food. One day, as I walked down the souk in Aleppo, I saw this lone testicle sitting on a butcher’s block. The butcher was very amused with my photographing it again and again. He didn’t know that I was once quoted as saying: “I love brains and testicles” (in the context of talking about offal of course) with some journalist picking up the quote, saying I was a girl after his heart. Anyway, I was skyping with a friend tonight, and as we were discussing sex and middle aged lesbians, she reminded me of the quote, and I remembered my picture of the lone testicle.

So, I thought I would do a blog and post my photograph and one of Weston’s of a pepper. I like my picture, especially that little fleck of parsley and the slit on the skin but sadly, I am still not likely to produce any shots like Weston’s! Nor will I ever. Still, I am having fun with my new camera and its new close-up setting.

weston_pepper_number30

©Edward Weston — Pepper, 1930

How to cook testicles:

The testicle in my picture belongs to a lamb and it hasn’t been peeled yet. Normally the butcher would do that and the nick you see at the top is where he must have started making the incision before he got distracted. It would have run along the length of the testicle for him to peel off the skin easily to reveal creamy flesh with no trace of blood. He will then cut it into slices along the length or into wedges. I prefer slices because the thickness is more or less the same all over and I can control the  cooking. You don’t need to do much to testicles. Some people recommend blanching them like sweetbreads or brains before frying them, but no one does that in Lebanon. I just dredge the pieces in seasoned flour, shake the excess off and then fry them in butter for one minute on each side. Be careful not to overcook them or they will go rubbery. I always squeeze a little lemon at the very end. Et voilà, just as good as brains or sweetbreads. Perhaps even better.