Normandie Kitchen

Shared food in a share house

Category: Basics

Chimichurri

This is a bright, herbal, pungent sauce that works well with any kind of grilled meat. Or bread, or cheese. Or potatoes. Or on cold pasta, or on warm pasta. It would probably be great with fish, too. It’s originally an Argentian sauce, and we always make it when we prepare grilled skirt steak; but we inevitably end up dumping it on everything, and even simply eating it with a spoon.

chimichirri and hangar steak

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Coriander shiro pickles

These pickles were a regular feature in a French restaurant in Yonago (Japan). The restaurant served sophisticated Japanese-inflected French cuisine, and it was a revelation to me — coming fresh from rural Nova Scotia. These marinated vegetables in particular stuck with me. They are a combination of typically Japanese vegetables — primarily lotus root and gobo. But the marinade is a European-style combination of white wine vinegar, and olive oil, with floral and citrus flavours from the abundant coriander seed.

shiro_zuke

Brad
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Chili oil (hong you)

Chinese red oil (红油, or the equivalent, Japanese raiyu らい油) is a critical ingredient in any number of Sichuanese dishes, including sesame noodles, or husband-wife boiled beef slices. It’s great with black vinegar, as a dumpling sauce. And it’s versatile enough to use with other kinds of cuisine as a spicy condiment. It’s a beautiful ruby red color, and has a fantastic toasty aroma. You can buy it, if you like, but it’s ridiculously simple to make. It might look intimidatingly fiery, but the flavour is a mellow, slow heat (even if you use spicy chili flakes).
chili_oil
Brad, Ulli
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Tempering spices

Tempering in oil is a traditional method of releasing flavour from whole spices, common in Indian cooking, whether to start a dish, or to finish it (as in a tadka). It’s easier than toasting and grinding, but it takes a little bit of nerve the first time or two, to heat the oil to sizzling, and cope with the spluttering an popping. The final product is worth it, though — throughly fragrant, intensely flavourful oil for cooking or serving.
tempering_curry_leaves
Mythili
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Garam (and other) masalas

You can buy masala in the store, but there is absolutely no comparison between store-bought and the freshness of a masala you make yourself. The term “masala” just means “mixture”, and so a masala is one of any number of spice blends. Garam masala is the most well-known blend, but there are chai masalas, chaat masalas, egg roast masalas, and garam (or warm) masala–so called because it is made with “warm” spices. There is regional variation in garam masala–the more traditional Persian (or mughal) influenced garam masala has no cumin or coriander seed, which is prominent in the better known Punjabi, or northern, garam masala. The process is very similar among all the blends, and is simply dry roasting, and grinding. The spices stay reasonably fresh in a sealed container, for a couple of months.spice_mix

Brad

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Mayonnaise and aioli

Mayonnaise is a simple sauce, made by combining egg yolks and oil. It is used widely — from salad dressings, to spreads, to dips. It’s very quick, easy, and safe to make — and the homemade version is a far, far better sauce to make than you can ever buy. There’s really no excuse for bottled mayo. Aioli is just a spiffed-up version of mayonnaise, with garlic, lemon, and sometimes herbs. You can play around with almost any combination of oils, and seasonings, and make spectacularly good aioli, in about 5 minutes.

aioli
Lime and cilantro aioli

When Maggie lived at the Normandie house, she made aioli regularly (we ended up calling it Maggie sauce). At some point, we had to tell her she was forbidden to make it again, because we were eating it by the spoonful, right out of the bowl.
–Maggie, Eliseo

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Ajwain

Everyone should have ajwain in their kitchen, and they should be using it all the time. It has a pleasant thyme aroma: clean, herbal, and with a bite like the best zaatar or spicy oregano. It’s absolutely ideal for any kind of spice rub on meat, north Indian curry, French soup, Mexican sauces, Ethiopian spiced butter, or Mediterranean stew. It’s not a familiar spice, but it’s common in Persian, Afghan, and northern Indian cooking.ajwain

This is a member of the carrot family, Apiaceae, along with a number of other common kitchen spices. It looks like cumin or caraway, but the seeds are smaller and fatter.

If you don’t have it and need a substitute, the closest taste is dried oregano. It’s available at a lot of Persian and Indian markets, though — or cheaply on Amazon. It’s meant to be antiflatulant … make of that what you will.

Roasting bones for stock

Flavourful brown stock, usually made with beef, veal, lamb, or turkey bones is one of the fundamentals of home cooking. It takes a little time, but not much effort. And roasted bone stock adds an immense amount of flavour — as an ingredient, or on its own, as a soup. Stock keeps well in the fridge, for about a week; or you can freeze little aliquots of it, and add it as needed.

Homemade brown stock is much better than almost anything you can buy in the store (some of which is offensively bland). And making your own is a great way to use every scrap of food. Never throw bones away! Keep them (freeze them) and make stock.

browned_bones

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Harissa

Harissa is  a dark red, hot, and highly spiced sauce common across North Africa, from Morocco to Tunisia. It can be made with a variety of spices, usually inlcuding caraway, cumin and coriander seed. It’s wonderful as a marinade for meat. It’s a great seasoning for olives, lupinos, and feta cheese (perhaps together with preserved lemons). It works well as a side for stews and vegetables; or a sauce for kebab. It’s also perfect for a making a quick, flavourful pasta sauce.

Because the spices are typical of many cuisines, from around the Mediterranean, into Iran and India, harissa is an ideal all-purpose condiment when you’re serving people who have variable spice tolerances. It saved my life in Japan, when spicy food was hard to come by, and my SO found even black pepper painfully hot.
bottled_harissa

Brad

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