After my little exploration into model making, here is a last look at food from Israel.
I wonder if anyone has ever done an experiment to discover whether colour in food really does affect the taste? Dried figs are dull and sandy looking. Perhaps that’s why I think they are a disappointment. These purple-tinged fresh ones are bursting with juice, and look so much more appetising.
The dried fruits in the middle picture are obviously very sweet: pineapple, mango and apricots. The drying process seems to intensify the sugar content but the combination of chewiness and the bright colours does make them very moreish.
The final picture in this little set is tomatoes. I guess that they all taste much the same (like red or yellow peppers) but it’s fashionable to present what are called ‘heritage’ tomatoes in startling colours.
These nine little cakes look good enough to eat. There are several types of chocolate, coffee, marron (chestnut) and one with white frosting.
They are models, designed with a slit at the back to hold a small place card. Few of us go in for the kind of formal dining where name cards used to be essential. But these are fun and a great conversation-starter. Just make sure that no-one takes a bite!
How much would you pay for a designer bag? Me? I don’t appreciate the arm candy that people pay thousands for. But I do like to look at them and while I was playing with the food models I came up with the idea of creating bags with newspapers.
The papers are copies of real ones (reduced in size in a photocopy machine) and the bags are made of polymer clay with gold lettering painted on top. The texture is achieved by pressing a fabric (like a handkerchief) on top of the Fimo - as in the one on the top left and the one in the middle. The brown clutch (lower left) has a real leather look. I think I did this by pressing a rough towel over the top of the clay before it was baked.
This box of chocolates is not what you might expect. They look real enough (the bigger wrapped ones are real) but the others are models.
They are made from Fimo - polymer clay. It took a morning to create these look-alike sweets. There’s no painting involved; just a careful layering of colours.They look so appetising, but you would need to take care that they don’t get eaten by mistake!
Coming up next: two more ideas for those of you who are inventive.
This is a sausage - the spicy kind that doesn’t need cooking.
Below it is some more food, which has been ‘cooked’. But these are models, made from polymer clay (called Fimo in UK). They are not painted; the different life-like colours come from blending and layering shades of the clay. The steaks in the front are marbled to look almost like the real thing; the fat on the joint of beef on the right is gently placed on the top and then tied with cotton to look like string. When the models are done, they are ‘cooked’ in a very low oven to harden, then glossed with clear varnish.
“I believe that reading and writing are the most nourishing forms of meditation anyone has so far found. By reading the writings of the most interesting minds in history, we meditate with our own minds and theirs as well. This to me is a miracle.”
This soup has warmth and depth - perfect for a cold winter’s evening. It’s easy to make, using either the soaked and cooked beans above, or even quicker, using tinned, drained butter beans.
First fry some chopped onions and carrots and add the cooked, drained beans and some chicken, beef or vegetable stock. Simmer over medium heat for about 15 minutes. If you like a chunky soup you can leave it as it is, but to make a smooth puree, just put everything in a blender and buzz it up till it is thick and velvety.
If you prefer a bit of a kick, add some slivers of dried chillies, but remember that even a small amount can add considerable heat and spice.
If you like the feel of food - quite the opposite of those who don’t want to touch anything unfamiliar - you will like this. It’s a pile of skins from dried butter beans. To cook the beans you need to soak them overnight, and then cook them at a fast boil for 10 minutes, and then a further 25 minutes on lower heat.
When the beans have been soaking in water, after some hours the skins separate and rise to the top. If you want the beans whole, you can just skim off any that have separated, but if you are aiming at a pureed soup, it’s best to remove as many as you can. It is quite fun rubbing the soaked beans through your hands so all the skins slip off easily.
This week is the Jewish festival of Chanucah - well known in America, less known in the UK. As well as lighting candles every evening for eight nights, the custom is to eat foods fried in oil. This is an excuse to indulge in potato latkes (crispy pancakes made from seasoned grated potatoes) and doughnuts.
Originally these were simple: plain or jam filled. Now, specially in Israel, there is a vast array of toppings, with fillings ranging from cream, custard, dolce de lece, and raspberry jam. These are from a store called Roladin where they produce many thousands of doughnuts during the week of Chanucah. The little tube on the top contains more yumminess which is squirted straight into the centre, making it even more delicious.
A month ago I put up a picture of sticky veal ribs marinaded in an oversweet sauce. Here are the ribs again, tasting far better.
(Apologies for the shine on the photo. I possess just one black plate that I use for photography. Last week it got broken and I went and bought another one, but this one has a high gloss which doesn’t come out well.) But the ribs still look good. They taste even better. To find out how to make them please click on the picture and go to Today’s Recipe (Want to Cook, on the top left).
While the stalls in the alleyways are stuffed with cheap toys and jewellery, there is nothing second rate about the food on offer in the Carmel Market in Tel-Aviv. Before you go shopping stop to buy a refreshing juice, where they squeeze whole fruits in front of you; combinations of pomegranate and orange, passion fruit and mango.
Walking up and down the narrow streets, you’ll find warm, sweet loaves, syrupy pastries, spices and nuts. At the bottom is a photo of peanuts and wasabi peas.
The long sticks are cinnamon. By coincidence, as I was writing this, I received a list of claims that eating cinnamon with honey does wonders for your health. Apparently it stops indigestion, pimples, flu, skin infections, fatigue, hearing loss and bad breath. Oh, and it’s supposed to cure arthritis and heart disease. Did I mention that this information, reported in the Canadian magazine Weekly World News, goes back to 1995 and is supposedly based on ‘research by Western scientists’? It also claims to have cured advanced cancer of the stomach and the bones.
I’ll just keep using cinnamon for flavouring and forget about the life enhancing benefits.
I listen to radio while I cook. Here are some thoughts from Sir Ken Robinson, a recent interviewee on Desert Island Discs. In between choosing the 8 pieces of music he would like to be marooned on an island with, he said this:
“Being alive is a process of improvisation.”
Then, during the course of the programme he dropped in two more quotes:
“You should never regret growing old, it’s a privilege denied to many.”
“The English don’t understand music but they love the sound it makes” (Sir Thomas Beecham)
If you have a spare 20 minutes and want to listen to something good, click on the picture. It will take you to a talk by Sir Ken about how we have got education all wrong.
Some women are lawyers or PhD graduates, others are artists. Daughter-in-law no. 3 likes to paint, but she has also mastered the task of cooking for a huge number of guests. It’s not unusual for her to make dinner for 20 people, turning out platters of braised brisket and chicken portions in a sweet sauce. Then there’s rice, roast potatoes or crispy topped potato kugel and crunchy Israeli salad.
She even bakes her own challah bread (the ones in the picture are with poppy or sesame seeds). When I arrived she was taking six loaves out of the oven.
On the day before I left I took one of the older granddaughters to Tel Aviv for the day. We spent the morning in the art museum where there was a brilliant show called The Logical, the Ironic and the Absurd; a contemporary installation by artist Ron Gilad. Then we took a bus to Souk haCarmel, a bustling market where you can buy cheap and fun fakes: handbags, CDs, clothes etc.
Coming up on Monday - of course - the food in Carmel Market in Tel Aviv.
Yesterday there were icy hail stones falling from the sky in London. It was a chilly November day with wintry weather that is far from the sunshine I have just come back from.
I was visiting son No. 3 who lives in Raanana, a town about half an hour away from Tel Aviv. The garden is full of fruit trees. In summer there are lychees, mangoes and kumquats, but at this time of year, they can pick pomelo, clementines, lemons and star fruit. The persimmons - called sharon fruit in UK - are the sweetest of all, with a pleasing texture and fragrant flesh.
We ate outside, drinking coffee on a terrace overlooking the trees and the blue sky.