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it’s good to talk

24 Dec

… and eat.  Yeah, the eating bit’s best.

I recently stumbled upon a retweet by Jose Pizarro regarding an upcoming event at the Jewish Museum in London.  It had sold out but they kindly suggested I emailed in case of any returns.  Lo and behold, I managed to get my grubby mitts on a pair of tickets, hoorah!

Camden was dark, cold and wet but the thought of an hour or two in the welcoming arms of Pizarro and culinary legend Claudia Roden was good enough for me.

¿Dónde está el padron?

¿Dónde está el padron?

We were ushered into the warm and took our seats along with around 60 women of a certain age (plus a few men).  Claudia came prepared with sheets of paper which she basically read from while Jose discussed his culinary ideology and, more importantly, cooked some food on stage.  Little, tasty morsels were handed out and Q’s were A’d.  The starter of salmorejo (from Roden’s book) was gorgeous and when asked to explain the dish, he replied “this is Claudia’s recipe, I make it slightly differently.  It’s made with tomatoes, garlic, bread, topped with hard boiled egg.  And Serrano ham”  Cue gasps.  “Ah!  Do not worry, there is no ham tonight!”  Cue laughter.  Yep, the pork jokes kept coming with talk of Iberico pigs and chorizo.  Next up was a demonstration of Mrs Pizarro’s potato omelette.  Of course, everyone’s mum makes the best [insert regional dish here] but we got a taster along with some sea bass which was jam tasty.  A keen fish eater, my first taste of sea bass was delightful and our chef explained that you cook the fish skin side first.  Frying it this way gives the skin a crispiness of course but it also keeps the flesh moist – if you cook the meaty side first, the juices will come out and the flesh become dry.  The skin protects that from happening.  He gave an example with the sea bass he was cooking: three minutes skin side and about a minute on the other.  Perfect.

Meanwhile, Claudia was giving us a brief history lesson on the Jewish history of Spain as featured in her massive book (it’s at least two inches thick).  Being, potentially, the only non-Jewish guests that evening, this was really interesting and with my passion for all things Spanish I’ll certainly investigate further.  Pudding was served, a traditional almond cake made by one of the members of staff.  Sadly there was not enough to go round and we missed out.  Still, it was nice of the lady behind us to point that out to one and all as she began to ask a question!  As we gathered our belongings and resisted the urge to buy yet another Spanish cookbook, I took some little cans of olives that were left on each seat.  I won’t be eating the disgusting contents but friends will certainly be happy of a tin or two.  The following weekend we visited friends for dinner and cracked open the garlic stuffed olives.  I’ll give one a go, be rude not to.  Oh, that’s quite nice.  Maybe one more …  DAMNYOUPIZARRO!

The following week, another cookery based talk, another rainy night.  This time in Marylebone at Daunt Books where the lovely Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi did some chatting and some signing.  They were discussing their new book, Jerusalem and it was nice to see the two of them chat together.  It was less formal than other events with scripted questions and they told stories about growing up just a few miles apart (they met for the first time in London 15 years ago when Yotam asked him for a job), where the best falafel is from and whose grandmother made the best hummus.  As we perched up on the balcony, careful not to spill our glasses of wine on the books or the punters below, we heard tales of the politics of food, which recipes were left out and Yotam’s ham sandwiches (his mother advised; “if anyone at school asks what’s in your sandwich, tell them it’s turkey!”).  As the chefs were so rude and did not cook me any dinner, I was strangely hungry!  Off we went to Le Comptoir for some yummy Lebanese food.  The need for hummus was too great.

Yotam and Sami

In conclusion, a great week was had by all.  Mainly me.

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