CHENNAI: Dear friends, how do you like this culinary journey that we have embarked upon? I am sure that you feel ravenously hungry just reading about some of the food items while some items must be making you curious to learn more and add more knowledge to your culinary dictionary. Let us proceed and see what today’s letters have in store for us.
M for Macaroon: This makes your mouth water, doesn’t it? A macaroon is a small circular cake, usually made from ground almonds or coconuts with sugar and egg whites. The word macaroon comes from the Italian word maccarone or maccherone, meaning ground paste. The popular sweet’s history, culinary historians say, can be traced to an Italian monastery of the ninth century. The coconut macaroon is famous in America, Australia, Uruguay, Mauritius and Germany whereas Scots prefer theirs with a thick velvety centre covered in chocolate and topped with roasted coconut.
N for Naan: No Punjabi meal is complete without its share of naans to go with yummy dishes like paneer makhani or butter chicken. Naan is an oven-baked flat bread that is relished not just in the northern parts of India but by people in west and central Asia too. The Persians are perhaps the inventors of this oven -baked bread. Naan is used as a generic term for various oven cooked breads. It is served hot, brushed with liberal amounts of ghee or butter. Some variants are stuffed richly with dried fruit. Kulcha is a close associate of the naan family. A typical naan is made using flour, salt, yeast and curd.
O for Olive Oil: Olive oil is fat obtained by pressing olives.It has become the toast of the concept of healthy eating. It is harvested largely from a tree crop in the Mediterranean region and is used throughout the world in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and extensively used for cooking.
P for Piri Piri: A small member of the Capsicum
genus, piri piri is known as one of the fiercest chillies in the whole wide world. Piri piri in Swahili is ‘pepper pepper’. A fiery sauce called piri piri sauce is a Portugese invention that is used as seasoning and marinade made with crushed chillies, citrus peel, onion, garlic, pepper, salt, bay leaves, paprika, basil, oregano and tarragon. The small chilli grows extensively in Uganda, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique and in the tropical forests of South Sudan and in the highlands of Ethiopia. The Portuguese brought it to the shores of Goa.
Q for Quinoa: A grain crop that is valued primarily for its edible seeds, it is lauded for its high protein content and for being gluten free. It is thought that quinoa was an important part of the diet of pre-Columbian Andean civilisation. The grain is considered to be a good source of dietary fibre, phosphorous, iron and magnesium.
R for Ratatouille: A traditional French stew, ratatouille — the name was made popular by an animated film of the same name — the dish contains stewed vegetables and is usually served as a side dish. When served on its own, it is often accompanied by pasta, rice or bread. Tomatoes are a basic ingredient of the dish and garlic, onions, bell peppers, basil, thyme, bay leaf, aubergine are other common ingredients.