Tag Archives: global cuisine

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?

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 Salt Lake City’s Global Foodie Stormy Sweitzer & recipes for Out of the Box Mayan Brownies and Key Lime Coconut Bars

I8tonite with Salt Lake City's Global Foodie Stormy Sweitzer & recipes for Out of the Box Mayan Brownies and Key Lime Coconut Bars
Haul from Rancho Market, the pan-Latino market we visit on the tour

After Stormy Sweitzer developed a plethora of food sensitivites several years ago, she turned to her travel experience for recipe inspiration. Many international cuisines do not typically use the wheat and dairy products she needed to cut out of her diet, so she started shopping at the ethnic food markets in town.

There is a tremendous international community in Salt Lake City. (In part, due to the fact that SLC is a designated refugee-receiving area, has a large research university, and many foreign-born members of the LDS community immigrate to Utah, as families or new spouses.) As a result, there are a lot of interesting stores, restaurants, and artisan food products from around the globe to explore. And she wanted to introduce interested locals to them. Stormy has offered the tours for about four years now, just a few times each year, through the University of Utah’s Lifelong Learning Program, as well as through private tours.

She sees the class as a gateway to exploration. Her goals are to pique people’s curiosity, encourage them to play with incorporating foreign flavors into everyday cooking (as opposed to becoming expert at international cuisine), and learn how to navigate the shops and ingredients available in their community with confidence.

I8tonite with Salt Lake City's Global Foodie Stormy Sweitzer & recipes for Out of the Box Mayan Brownies and Key Lime Coconut Bars
Teaching before the tour

On the tour, Stormy notes, “We eat our way around town, snacking on Indian Samosas and Chinese BBQ pork buns, having lunch at the restaurant inside of the pan-Latino market, and ending with cardamom spiced tea and chocolate-covered date-covered almonds or samples of fresh dates if they are season. The owners of the shops love that each time I hold a tour, I am introducing new customers to their stores and their home cuisines.”

“Most of the people that join my tours are recently-retired folks who are bored with their cooking and want to shake things up a bit now that they have time to play in the kitchen, friends who want to spend the day exploring together, and young foodies who love to cook and want a guide for their culinary adventures. Many have driven by the shops we visit a million times, but did not feel comfortable going in because they didn’t know what to expect or what to do even if they saw something interesting. “

Stormy notes that she gets a lot of participants by word-of-mouth. They eat something amazing at a dinner party thrown by a past participant and then want to know where their host learned to make ginger and black sesame crusted tuna or cactus fruit syrup over ice cream or where they found the ingredients to pull off a green curry with fresh spring rolls and grilled bok choy. One past participant even wrote to tell her that after the tour, and her subsequent kitchen play, she was planning a trip to Mexico to take a week long cooking workshop.

Best of all, Stormy says, “I do not teach people how to cook. I just invite them to taste, smell, touch, and explore the foods we encounter and to eat together. It is a very sensory, community experience. And, I talk about everyday uses for (e.g., add curry powder to their tuna salad, or a little Thai basil and lime juice to fresh watermelon), storage of, and resources to guide the preparation of the ingredients they decide to try.”

Stormy is a professional problem-solver, everyday explorer, and co-author, with her husband/collaborator Will Swanepoel, of the YA environmental spy thriller The Drowning Shark (which I love!). You can learn about the book at SierraRouge.com and more about Stormy’s work and recipes at StormySweitzer.com.

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):
What is your favorite food to cook at home?
My husband makes a killer biryani. I am happy to play a supporting role.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
A lebanese garlic, olive oil and lemon juice condiment called toum made by Salt Lake City producer Laziz. We cook with it like nothing else.

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Curiosity. About anything. It makes for interesting conversation and enjoyment of the meal.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Cell phone use.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
I love a good cocktail, but what I drink really depends on the season.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Karen A. Page and Andrew Dornenburg, co-authors of my favorite cooking resource: The Flavor Bible.

I8tonite with Salt Lake City's Global Foodie Stormy Sweitzer & recipes for Out of the Box Mayan Brownies and Key Lime Coconut Bars
Coconut knife found at SouthEast Asian Market used for pitting a cherry (one of Stormy’s favorite kitchen tools)

Your favorite kitchen tool?
My lemon squeezer and a coconut knife I found at a local Asian market; I use it to pit cherries in the summer.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Indian and Mexican.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Pork, although I’ve been eating way less animal protein lately than I normally do.

Favorite vegetable?
Kabocha squash. I eat it a few times a week in different ways: smoothie, roasted, soup, etc.

Chef you most admire?
Honestly, I’m a hole-in-the-wall-restaurant kind of eater.

Food you like the most to eat?
My mom’s homemade refried beans and rice. It’s what I grew up eating.

Food you dislike the most?
Gluten wreaks havoc on my system, but I would rather face the consequences of eating wheat bread occasionally or avoid bread altogether than eat a gluten-free substitute.

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Read. Voraciously.

Where is your favorite place to eat?
I travel a lot, so any place recommended by locals that leaves me thankful for having tried it is great in my book.

What is your favorite restaurant?
La Cai Noodle House, our favorite Vietnamese spot.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
Yes. None.

I8tonite with Salt Lake City's Global Foodie Stormy Sweitzer & recipes for Out of the Box Mayan Brownies and Key Lime Coconut Bars
Belize-inspired key lime bars and easy Mayan Brownies

Recipe: Out of the Box Mayan Brownies

This recipe makes the most of traditional Mayan flavors…cocoa, citrus, cinnamon, chile, and vanilla… with the ease of your favorite store-bought fudge brownie mix. If you would like to use your own homemade brownie recipe in place of a mix, simply follow your own recipe’s instructions for eggs and oil/butter, and then add the extra cocoa, cinnamon, habañero, vanilla, walnuts and orange zest in the amounts listed below.

1 package fudge brownie mix
1/8 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
2 eggs
8 Tbsp melted butter or 8 Tbsp walnut oil (adds richness)
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp finely minced habañero chile pepper
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 tsp orange zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 8″x8″ pan.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together brownie mix, cocoa, and cinnamon. Add eggs, butter/oil, and vanilla and mix well. Fold in habañero, walnuts, and zest.
Pour batter into pan. Bake according to package instructions, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Be careful not to overcook or edges will harden.

Recipe: Key Lime Coconut Bars

These Belize-inspired treats are packed full of flavor and will transport you to the tropics. You can make them gluten-free by using rice flour instead of all-purpose baking flour made from wheat. For a bit of a kick, add the optional habañero to the filling. Makes ~15 bars.

For crust
• 1 cup shredded non-sweetened coconut
• 1 ½ cups flour (all-purpose or rice)
• ½ cup powdered sugar + more for dusting
• 10 Tbsp butter, cut into small pieces (for dairy-free option, use vegan butter alternative)
For filling
• ¼ cup cups flour (all-purpose or rice)
• 2 Tbsp cornstarch
• ½ tsp baking powder
• 5 large eggs
• 2 cups sugar
• 2/3 cup key lime juice (~15 medium key limes)
• 2 teaspoons grated key lime zest
• ¼ tsp finely minced habañero chile pepper

• Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
• Heat sauté pan to medium heat. Pour in 1 cup unsweetened coconut shreds and pan toast it, stirring continuously to prevent it from burning.
• Prepare crust in a large mixing bowl, by first combining the flour, ½ cup of sugar and ½ cup of the toasted coconut. Cut the butter into the flour-coconut mixture until it resembles coarse meal.
• Pour flour-coconut mixture into a lightly-greased 9-by-13-inch pan, and press it into the bottom of the pan (not the sides). Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven.
• While the crust is cooling, prepare the filling in a separate mixing bowl. Beating the eggs together well. Then, add in lime juice, lime zest, flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and optional habañero. Mix well. Quick tips: wear gloves when handling the habañero; your eyes will thank you later. ¼ tsp habañero is just enough to add a tiny, occasional bite; add more or less to taste. If you squeeze your own lime juice, strain it before adding it to the mix – it will help remove unwanted pulp and seeds.
• Pour filling into cooled crust and sprinkle the remaining toasted coconut on top. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden.
• Cool completely and chill until ready to serve. Cut into 2-inch squares. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired, before serving.


The End. Go Eat.