Pork in banana leaf is one of the most common foods to be found in Yucatan. Slow cooked, falling-apart tender meat, with a tang of bitter orange, the earthiness of annatto, and an aroma of allspice. It’s like a Caribbean version of northern Mexican barbacoa, or Texan barbecue. The brilliant red of the sauce looks alarmingly spicy, but in fact cochinita pibil is not hot at all. In itself. The spice comes with the blazingly hot habanero salsa you may or may not want to add. This makes great tacos, or salbutes, served simply with pickled onion and salsa. But cochinita pibil is even better as a torta (sandwich).
— Brad and Eliseo Continue Reading
This is pure comfort food. The caramelised onions add a sweetness that works well with the earthy lentils, and the cinammon and cloves. Mujaddara is a childhood favourite across the Middle East — a colleague once raved about how this lentil rice tasted like it was made by a Kuwaiti housewife. I guess I’ll just take that as a compliment.
Mujaddara’s a hearty, fragrant, and satisfying dish on its own, or as a side in a bigger meal. It’s good on the day it’s made, but it always tastes better the next day.
— Brad Continue Reading
It’s pretty rare that you’ll want to throw raw onion (or garlic) directly into liquid to cook. In fact… pretty much, just don’t do that. Alliums (the onion and garlic family) taste far better when you cook them before adding them to soups or sauces — the rich, sweet taste of slow cooked, browned onions adds depth and fragrance. In some foods, like french onion soup, friggione, or mujadarra, the onions play a starring role. In others, like many north Indian curries, or some classic sauces, they provide a base for stronger flavours. The process takes a little bit of patience and care — but it’s simple. And definitely worth it.
Wendy is a housemate emeritus. She is one of the earliest residents, and cooks, of Normandie — as well as a legume geneticist, and amateur photographer. Born in Hong Kong, to a mother boating across the world from Hanoi, Vietnam; raised in the multi-ethnic ferment of pre-tech San Francisco; Wendy approaches food, and life, with a hip-hop sensibility and energy. Minus the metaphorical baggy pants and drank. You know, high-concept, remixes, and philosophical musings about death, and social justice. With a nod to Tupac. That kind of hip-hop.
Okay, I’ve totally gotten lost in this metaphor by now. Never mind. Continue Reading
Matilde is a legume ecological geneticist, from Cascais, near Lisboa, Portugal. Her agronomy training has been useful to everyone in the house, because it incorporated a lot of wine tasting. She pretty much specialises in wine from Europe and California, and most anywhere else — and has an encyclopedic knowledge of Port wines, amarguinha, and firewater. When she returns from trips to Portugal, her bags tend to be filled to bursting with bottles of Portuguese liqueur, sausage, and cheese.
Matilde tends to cook anything you might want to call Andalusian, from all over Spain and Portugal. Sausage, soups, rices, stews, and desserts. Her favourite of all, however, is seafood, and she’ll wax rhapsodic about the pleasures of cuttlefish ink, shrimp heads, barnacles, and salt cod for hours on end. Continue Reading
Eliseo is the owner of the Normandie House, and along with Brad, the longest resident. He’s also the most accomplished cook in the house: he enrolled in the Cordon Bleu after arriving in the States from Mexico because he didn’t know how to boil water and wanted to cook for himself. He graduated and went to cook, and then work as executive chef in fine dining restaurants, from Colorado to Alaska to Arizona.
Eliseo is the master of classical techniques — sauces and stocks and desserts and delicate cuts of meat. He’s also the most creative garnisher in the house. Anything you see pictures of, with elaborate heaps of flowers or drizzles of candy are his. Continue Reading
Brad has been at the Normandie house from about the very beginning. His cooking adventures here began on a single-element electric cooker, before there was any furniture. This is where the elaborate collaborative cooking began, sitting on the floor, making gyouza with Wendy and Mazin, and frying them on that damn cooker.
In the house, Brad is least likely to follow a recipe. And most of his recipes will be highly spiced. The running joke is that he’ll try to put saffron, cardamom and rosewater in absolutely everything. And it’s only partially a joke. Continue Reading
This is one of my trifecta of dips for a Middle Eastern spread, along with lemon-cumin carrot salad, and beet-yogurt salad. It also works well with Indian food (though it’s chunkier and thicker than a traditional raita); or even Balkan and Russian food—I usually serve broth-boiled cabbage rolls or borek with this sauce, for instance. It was a staple of summer in Australia for me, on recovery day after a night of partying, with a light Lebanese-style selection of nibblies.
The basic recipe for preserved lemons is dead simple. Just salt and lemon. You can spice it up, if you like. This is one time when I’d say not to bother. The plain lemons are so good, and you’ll probably be using them in recipes that already have their own seasoning. You can use them in almost any savory recipe that calls for lemons, like Greek lemon garlic chicken, tagine, or just as a marinade with olives.
This is one of our go-to comfort foods. The meat is rich and buttery, and is complemented by the sweetness of the shallots and the tanginess of the lemon-caper butter sauce. You’d normally serve it with buttered noodles (yes, this amounts to a lot of butter — deal with it). It’s the kind of home-cooking meets fine-dining Eliseo specialises in.