Category Archives: Indian

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast’s Michael Zee and Idli Recipe

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli RecipeWhen I asked Michael Zee, author of the incredibly beautiful cookbook and popular Instagram, SymmetryBreakfast, what inspired him each morning, to create such lovely meals? Well, I bet you won’t be surprised by his answer: “I love to cook a lovely meal for Mark to make breakfast a special moment for both of us.”

SymmetryBreakfast incorporates world cuisines, contemporary design and a story of love over the meal of breakfast. Featured in the Guardian, Washington Post, Telegraph, Bravo, and endorsed by Jamie Oliver, it is also a favourite account of Kevin Systrom, Instagram CEO and co-founder.

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
Dutch Puff

Michael studied photography at the Arts Institute at Bournemouth in 2003 and later went on to teach Art and Design in secondary schools in London’s East End. He then completed his masters in Museums and Galleries in Education and went to work in public programming at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

He now works on SymmetryBreakfast full time.

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
Tapioca Pancakes

Michael’s passion for cooking comes from his parents. His mixed English, Scottish and Chinese heritage. Weekends and school holidays would be spent working in his father’s Chinese and English chippies in Liverpool and teaching himself to bake for his mother’s sweet tooth.

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
Churros y jamon con cajeta–hurros with ham and caramel dipping sauce © Michael Zee / SymmetryBreakfast

Michael created SymmetryBreakfast for his partner Mark in their Hackney flat in 2013. Mark’s hectic job as a menswear fashion designer means late nights and weekends in the office. Early on in their relationship, breakfast became a sacred moment in the day and Michael started on his mission to make each meal as celebratory as possible. Over 1,000 breakfasts later, Michael still wakes up early to make breakfast for Mark, looking carefully around the world and at home for inspiration, taking a simple idea and making it beautiful.

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli RecipeHis new cookbook, SymmetryBreakfast, contains over 100 recipes from around the world. The book takes an anthropological view of how food shapes culture and vice versa and how in the many different ways we break the fast.

The book has been published by Transworld (part of Penguin Random House) in the UK and Commonwealth, by PowerHouse in North America and by Shanghai Insight in mainland China.

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
Kaiserschmarrn with redcurrants © Michael Zee / SymmetryBreakfast

How long have you been cooking?
Since I was about 5 years old in our family restaurant in Liverpool. It was a Chinese food and English fish and chip takeaway (very popular in Liverpool and probably nowhere else!)

What is your favorite food to cook?
Fresh pasta. It becomes such an event and is so much fun to do with friends, whilst having a glass or bottle of wine, one person turns the handle and the other feeds it through. You get in a huff when it goes wrong, but it’s pure joy when it comes out perfect.

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
Pastel de nata-Egg custard tarts © Michael Zee / SymmetryBreakfast

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Butter. If there isn’t any then something is wrong

What do you cook at home?
Absolutely everything from every country and cuisine possible.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Being British, I only have one Pyrex thing in my kitchen and it’s a measuring jug.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
All three in that order.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Ernest Matthew Mickler of White Trash Cooking . One of my favourite books ever, too, food with soul and humour.

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
Magic grits © Michael Zee / SymmetryBreakfast

Your favorite kitchen tool?
My santoku chef knife from Blenheim Forge

Your favorite ingredient?
Tea – its not just a drink! An Earl Grey infused gin or a tea smoked salmon are delicious and add excitement in so many ways. I have over 50 teas from The Rare Tea Company and I love that they can be paired in so many ways

Your least favorite ingredient?
Olives, can’t stand them.

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
Indian Slapjacks

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Doing the dishes. It’s a luxury to have a dishwasher in London. I’m very happy Mark loves doing the washing up.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
I love cooking Middle Eastern food. There are some fantastic shops and markets in East London that you can get fresh pistachios or pomegranate molasses easier than getting white sliced bread.

I also have a soft spot for French country cooking, things like Soupe à L’oignon or Pot-au-feu. I also have a deep love for Comte cheese and particularly love a Tartine au jambon et Comte

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
A Japanese Breakfast Gohan Shoku Salmon With Green Beans And Tofu

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
I’d prefer to say a pig rather than pork. I love crispy belly pork or char sui pork, but lets not forget jamon and a glass of wine.

Favorite vegetable?
Aubergine, or as you might call it, eggplant. Roasted whole on a fire and mashed with some olive oil.

Chef you most admire?
Jamie Oliver – he’s changed the way the majority of people eat in the UK for the better.

Food you like the most to eat?
Cheese, in every form

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
Cassava Porridge

Food you dislike the most?
Dark chocolate, I also hate it when people pretend to like it because it’s somehow cool. Give me the cheapest milkiest chocolate any day.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
None!

Recipe: Idli – South Indian fermented rice pancakes with masala chai spiced tea

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
Idli-South Indian fermented rice pancakes with masala chai spiced tea © Michael Zee / SymmetryBreakfast

Makes about 20 idli

3 cups rice (long–grain is fine)
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1⁄2 cup water
1 cup black gram lentils (urad dal)
3 tsp salt
Oil for greasing the pans

Start in the morning of the day before you’d like to eat – as I said, some forward planning is required. In a bowl, mix the rice with the fenugreek seeds and cover with the water. In another bowl, put the urad dal and cover with water. Leave both bowls for a minimum of 5 hours.

The evening of the day before eating, drain the water from the rice but don’t discard it. Put the wet rice in a blender and add 1⁄2 cup of the water. Blend until you have a smooth batter, adding extra water, a little at a time, until it flows easily. Decant this into a large bowl and repeat with the dal (start with 1⁄4 cup of water this second time, as you should have some residual liquid in the blender).

Add the liquid dal to the rice with the salt and mix together using your hands. The bacteria on your skin will help kickstart the fermentation. Leave this covered overnight to ferment in a warm oven; I leave the oven light on. Depending on the time of year, this process will give different results, but you should have a huge, bubbling white mass.

The day of eating, give the batter a good stir. The consistency should be that of thick cream.

Prepare your idli pan by lightly oiling each of the sections with either a brush or a paper towel. Fill the bottom of the pan with water, making sure it doesn’t touch the idli holder. Ladle in enough batter to reach just beneath the edge; you’ll get some rise but not lots.

Steam the idli for 20 minutes with the lid firmly clamped on.

Remove the idli with a wet spoon, running it round the edge of each pancake. Repeat with the remaining batter. Serve with sambar and coconut chutney.

Leftovers can be transformed into idli fry, a delicious snack of deep fried idli served with a dip, chutney, or sauce of your choosing and a cup of tea.

– The End. Go Eat  –

All photos courtesy and copyright Michael Zee/SymmetryBreakfast

i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi & Recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds

i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard SeedsThe best way to describe food writer Simran Sethi is to say she is more telegenically inclined and far more accessible as a writer than Michael Pollan, Marion Nestle, and Michael Ruhlman. Of course, it’s a subjective opinion; Pollan is probably the most famous, but Simran Sethi’s book Bread, Wine, Chocolate: A Slow Loss of Foods We Love might push her over the top. Part memoir, travelogue, and science, published last year – and due for a paperback edition in October, she has become the food expert who teaches us how to be food experts along with her.

i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds

Complete with flavor wheels which detail profiles of beer, chocolate, wine, and bread, her book is a discussion about how we only eat about 30 types of foods, which are harvested around the world. This is leading to “mono-crops” and loss of other edibles that we should be eating. Did you know the banana that we eat from our local grocery store, the Cavendish, is only one variety? According to Ms. Sethi and the World Banana Forum, there are more than 1000 varieties of the fruit. And of that number, we consume nearly 48 millions tons.

i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds
Simran Sethi interviewing wheat farmer Gyanni Singh outside of Amritsar, India.

Sethi’s is no stranger to journalism or the world of food. Her broadcast career began as senior correspondent for MTV News India in Bombay. At one time, she was the environmental correspondent for NBC News with contributions to The Today Show, CNBC, and MSNBC. She has written and hosted shows for The Sundance Channel, PBS, and Treehugger.com on sustainable environments and ethical markets. Her research knowledge is vast; she is an expert at telling a compelling story.

i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds
The Golden Temple during Karah Prasad preparation, Amritsar, India.
i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds
Farmer grappling with dropping water tables in Punjab, India.
i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds
Halwais preparing Karah Prasad at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India.
i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds
Donated wheat for Karah Prasad in the Golden Temple kitchen in Amritsar, India.

 

i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds

However, she decided to write a book on food, one of her favorite topics. She says, “We celebrate through food. We mourn through food. There is nothing that affects us more than our food. In writing this book, it was incredibly humbling to travel to some of these places and see its origins. I wanted to go deeper and teach the world through the lens of food.”

i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds
Wild coffee flowers held by farmer Tebeje Neguse.
i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds
Coffee seedling held by Simran Sethi in the Kafa Biosphere Reserve.
i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds
Coffee blossoms from the afromontane rainforest in Kafa, Ethiopia.
i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds
Farmer Vicente Norero on his cacao plantation in Balao, Ecuador.
i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds
Fermenting and drying cacao, Esmeraldas, Ecuador.
i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds
Close-up of harvested cacao, Esmeraldas, Ecuador.

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
Since age 14.

What is your favorite food to cook?
My favorite foods are the ones cooked for me.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Whole milk for coffee, seasonal fruit, local eggs.

What do you cook at home?
I assemble. Pasta and greens, bread and cheese, egg on anything.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Cider.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Zora O’Neill and Tamara Reynolds wrote a cookbook that played off their Queens, NY supper club called Forking Fantastic!: Put the Party Back in Dinner Party. I have never wanted to cook as much as when I am reading (and re-reading) that book.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
This gigantic pan I got when I appeared on the Martha Stewart Show. It was the audience gift but I begged.

Your favorite ingredient?
Salt

Your least favorite ingredient?
Turmeric

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Cook

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Italian.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Well-raised pork.

Favorite vegetable?
Mushrooms

Chef you most admire?
Most? Tough. Floyd Cardoz, Alice Waters, Dan Barber, Heather Carlucci.

Food you like the most to eat?
Avocado on home-baked bread with a little Penzey’s Turkish seasoning sprinkled on top.

Food you dislike the most?
Fast food.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
None and none.

Recipe: Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds (Sookhi Aloo)

i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds
Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds (Sookhi Aloo)

3 medium sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 small red chili, thinly sliced (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake sweet potatoes until they are just slightly undercooked, 30 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel and cut into ½-inch pieces. Set aside.

2. Add oil and mustard seeds to a medium skillet over high heat. Fry seeds, periodically shaking pan, until seeds start to pop. Reduce heat to medium.

3. Mix in potatoes, turmeric, cayenne pepper and salt to taste. Cook, stirring infrequently, until a crust forms, 10 minutes more.

4. To serve, garnish with cilantro and chilies, if using.

 

PHOTO: STACEY VAN BERKEL FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL 

Simran Sethi profile photos: Cem Ersavci for Dumbo Feather

India, Ethiopia, & Ecuador photos: Simran Sethi

 

 

 

– The End. Go Eat. –

 

Disclosure: Sethi is a PR Client of co-editor Brian Garrido.

Farmers Market Haul, Eating With Friends, & His Creamy Threesome Dip (for lack of a better name)

Farmers Market Haul

The Farmers Market was a light vegetable haul today. Partially, because I haven’t had time to really put my menu together for the week ahead. As noted in a previous post, I burned two dinners. However, I did purchase a lot of lettuces at the market. I love the summer for lettuces. It’s an easy dinner fix to make a simple salad with some form of protein and to turn it into a meal. Keep it simple so I don’t become overwhelmed. I also bought some peppermint to try instead of just regular mint to see what I do with it; other purchases included crispy romaine, peppery arugula, radicchio for the grill, basil (my plant isn’t doing so well this year) and a broccoli crown. Let’s see what the week brings.

Raita

Last night, my friend Mark, an amazing homecook with specialities in Indian and Moroccan, had another dinner. I posted about one a couple of weeks ago. He made the delicious Mulligatawny Stew, Pan Roasted Potatoes and Cauliflower, Cucumber Mint Raita (pictured above) and Dal, the staple of Indian cuisine. Of course, there was basmati rice, naan and poori. Simply yummy and delicious.

He also made an incredible tangy and tasty dip for crudites. His personal creation was delicious with just the right amount of flavors for the raw veggies. With the light tang that only Greek yogurt has, mixed with the cream cheese and Mexican Crema, it was an international trio of dairy creating a beautiful compliment to the crispness of the zucchini, the heat to the radishes and sweetness of the snaps. It was a yummy audition to his Indian meal.

On another note, joining me at Mark’s, where several other friends, Mark and Denise, Lisa, Sue and her girlfriend, Chloe, whom I never met but was sweet and beautiful. It was one of the type of “dining with friends evening” that are becoming incredibly special to me. Since coming back to Los Angeles from Northern California, it hasn’t been all peaches and cream like any major life decision. (Two of my other favorite nights, were with Shelley and Bonnie making pizza and playing Scrabble. Then at David’s, helping him with his housewarming making fresh hummus.) I’ve said it before, and I will probably say it again, eating at a friend’s house, helping to prep, passing the dishes, assisting in the clean-up, laughing, telling stories, petting the animals, voicing aspirations, feeling heartaches, boyfriends, girlfriends, work, …just life…was fun beyond belief. No one was asking us if we needed something else. We weren’t screaming over the din of the music. We found the bathroom without asking a frazzled waitperson. There was a casualness, a meeting of minds, gratefulness that we could be together in the true spirit of friendship. It’s what makes these food occassions special for me. Not necessarily the eating but the process of eating: the cooking, the chopping, playing sous chef and passing food family style. It’s Thanksgiving without any of the family drama. No one was drinking too much or getting too boisterous. It was camaraderie at its best, with cool Southern California evening breezes, carrying the laughter out onto the street.

Now, go make Mark’s dip, with some friends. It’s really good.

Mark's Greek Yogurt Dip

You Will Need:
2 oz. Cream Cheese (softened)
4 oz. Plain Greek Yogurt
3 oz. Crema Mexicana
1 Large or 2 small Shallots
1 Med. Garlic Clove
Chipotle LIme Seasoning (to taste) (I used Chef Tim Love’s sold at Sur la Table)

Let’s Make This Puppy:
1. Let the dairy items sit out at room temperature for about 30 minutes.Then, with a fork, combine them in a bowl, trying to get as many of the lumps out of the cream cheese as possible.
2. Mince the shallots and garlic.
3. In a small saucepan over med-high heat, saute 2/3 of the shallots in vegetable oil* for a couple of minutes, until they start becoming soft – at which point add the garlic and continue to cook for another 2 minutes or so, until everything is pretty soft. Let that cool.
4. Add the room temperature shallot/garlic mixture to the blended dairy mixture, and add the remaining (raw) shallots, mix well. Add about a teaspoon of the Chipotle Lime seasoning and stir well, taste. Keep adding Chipotle Lime until you are happy with the taste. (I tasted it on the raw vegetables that I was serving with the dip, as the flavor will be less intense than it is on the tasting spoon – and you may want to add more seasoning). Chill for at least an hour, then serve!

*Mark used Sunflower Oil.