By Kim Cody
To me, there is family and food. All else comes after.
As I sit here at lunch time, munching on a box of torn chicken and Asian salad (Staple Foods, Dublin 2) and tapping away at my thoughts, looking like another millennial in a coffee shop with a laptop, I wanted to put together a list of things that I love. Food I love to eat, to cook, to learn about. I want to take my next few articles through Bean Magazine as an exploration of what I love to eat. And what we all love to eat.
This list is not exhaustive. Not even approaching that. This is what’s on my mind at the moment, and I hope you will follow along as I explore the reasons why.
Whole, delightful, compact parcels of savoury joy; if I could choose only one type of food to eat for the rest of the year, I would 90% go with dumplings. They are bite-sized, flavoursome, and satisfying in ways I always hope food will be. Even average tasting dumplings are delicious.
Dumplings are so closely associated with Asian cooking, but most countries have their own variation. Dumplings are a staple of Chinese Dim Sum, a style of eating with lots of small plates and variety of dishes. In Japan, gyoza are their counterpart, usually half-moon shaped, and often fried. In Korea, they are mandu, and can be stuffed with that most Korean of foods, kimchi. Polish dumplings, pierogi, can be bought ubiquitously in Ireland now. They tend to be thicker in their dough casing than their Asian counterparts, and similar to the Italian tortelloni. Che delicioso; for what is a filled piece of Italian pasta, but a dumpling by any other name? And just as sweet…
Meat, vegetable, prawn; no matter the filling or the style of dumplinh, I’ll take it. My personal favourites include Japanese pork gyoza, and Chinese siu mai, a pork and prawn mix. For recommendations in Dublin, I suggest Old Town on Capel Street, M&L Chinese, Izakaya on George’s Street, and I intend to make the pilgrimage to the Lucky Tortoise Dumpling Company in Ranelagh shortly. Will report back after the impending food coma!
Omelettes. Can. Go. So. Wrong. They can be overcooked, rubbery, too pale, too brown, tasteless, over salted, filled with wet filling, filled with cold, weird, filling… But they can be so damn right, also.
Omelettes, according to my Mother, are the world’s greatest fast food. The saviour of college students, and a staple of simple French cuisine; they are versatile, cheap, and nutritious.
Fantastic variants on our traditionally perceived French-style omelette include the Spanish tortilla and the Italian frittata, which are cooked with vegetable or meat filling dispersed through the egg so it comes out looking like a shallow, delicious, pie.
My top tips for a French-style omelette? A very hot pan. Don’t put any fat on the pan until you are ready to cook the egg. After a brief whisk, add to the pan, and it should bubble and hiss immediately. Move the edges towards the centre and re-disperse the raw egg by wiggling the pan. Season with salt and pepper only at this point. You can then add any (cooked!) toppings, like cheese, ham, mushrooms, etc.
Chicken Broth (Ok, bone broth…)
Despite the recent trend to sup bone broth for your gym-bod’s health, chicken broth is as ancient as…chickens, I suppose.
There is something so unappealing about the sound of “boiled chicken carcass”, but when it comes to stormy nights indoors, with your hygge socks, and your massive collection of woollen throw blankets (*cough*), broth is the right word at the right time.
Broth contains a plethora of minerals that your body is just eeking for when it’s fighting off a cold. It has a high level of proteins, such as collagen, which are excellent for building and repairing cells, and muscles. It is a natural anti-inflammatory, and fondly referred to as “Jewish penicillin”.
Hats off to this wonder-food, just take care where and how you get it. Making it at home from a free-range, organic chicken is obviously best, but I would recommend a free-range bird at the very least, free from hormones and antibiotics.
For a really deep flavour, and warm colour, you can roast a chicken, eat most of the meat that dinner time, and throw the carcass in the slow cooker with some apple cider vinegar and water. You wake up in the morning to a nutritious and warming soup, and the remaining meat can be picked from the bone and left in the soup. There are so many variants on the flavours you can work with. I love Thai-flavoured chicken broths, and the Greek classic, Avgolemono, which is a lemony, creamy chicken broth, blended with eggs to thicken it.
Bone broth is stock. It is. But the devil’s in the preparation.
Kimchi, Kombucha, Kefir, Milk Kefir, Saurkraut, sour dough… sour anything. At all. If you ferment it, I will eat it. Well, with a few, fishy, Scandinavian exceptions, perhaps. More on that later.
In a health stampede akin to the bone broth craze of c. 2015, the rise in popularity of fermented foods cannot be denied. You may see your local SuperValu stocking the likes of it in its Irish specialist supplier section. I think of it as the ‘fancy foods’ section.
I get a taste of anything sour and stinking, and I have a bodily reaction to it. In a positive way, mind. I think I would eat a pound of Kimchi on my own in one sitting, if let to it.
Fermentation is essentially a process by which microorganisms like bacteria and yeast convert sugar into energy, and the by-products are different gases, or alcohol. It’s the reason a sourdough bread has that distinctive smell. And beer. But I’m thinking about more nutritional products. Kimchi is Korean-style fermented cabbage with additions like chili, garlic, ginger, and salt. Saurkraut is the more European version of thinly sliced pickled or fermented cabbage. Their juices are rich in bacteria which are purportedly good for our guts and digestive system.
I’m a great believer that our bodies will tell us when something is good for us. I think my body knows when it comes to semi-rotten, edible foods. I’ve brewed my own Kombucha, a fermented tea, and even tried my hand at starting a starter culture for sourdough bread. One worked. The other? Well, my former housemates made me discard the wholegrain sourdough starter once it started to turn shades of orange. It’s like a pet; it needs feeding and love, and a moist apartment in Dublin 7 was probably not its preferred environment. What can I say?
Epoisses is a cheese. It is a French cheese. It is a washed rind cheese. The rind is washed with Marc de Bourgogne, a spirit.
This cheese is getting its own section with its own beloved place in my heart. This is not simply “I love cheese, this, point no. 5 is about cheese”. No. It is about Epoisses.
I remember the day my coolest cousin, Margaret, came to visit me and my Mum. I was a teenager, and she lived in London, booking gigs for music artists. She arrived at our house with crusty bread, wine, and this incredible cheese. I had never tasted anything like it before.
A few years later, I was working in my first consistent job while at college. I had a little spare cash and I rediscovered the cheese, which was for sale in Fallon and Byrne on Exchequer Street. I remembered it as Margaret’s cheese, and my love affair with it blossomed.
It needs nothing but a good crust of bread and a glass of wine to be enjoyed. Much like Kimchi, I could easily eat a small round of this delicacy by myself in one go. How to even describe it? It has a beautiful, bright, orange shell with a cross-hatched ripple on the upper surface. The colour can vary from batch and supplier, but I prefer the darkest orange, the riper ones, which give gently under a press from a finger. And Berthaut is best.
It is pungent, no doubt. At room temperature, it will ooze out a startlingly hypnotic, creamy, buttery looking inside. It has a smooth and creamy taste with that undertone of alcohol in it. It can taste almost sweet sometimes, but the whole flavour takes over everything else, a tang that evolves. I love it more than I can say.
It is my favourite cheese. That is no mean praise.
So. What do you love?
And so, my friends, I beg the question. What food do you love? What food makes you return to it time and again? What could you eat forever and never get bored? Is it a simple ham sandwich, or poncey slow-roasted pork in a brioche bun? Is it a burger from Bunsen, or a double cheeseburger from the Eurosaver Menu?
Tell me now. I will take my top 3 favourite suggestions and attempt to make, eat, or ferment them. My word on it.
For more foodie posts, check out Colette’s guide to Dublin cocktail bars and Emma’s ode to cooking shows!