Malto Mario


The Lady & Sons

1,000 Italian Recipes

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Round Table Review :: Where Flavor was Born

A little while back I was asked by one of my most favorite people in all the world, Sara, if I'd like to review a cookbook. "Hell yes I'd like to.. I love cookbooks!" Shortly after, I received one of the most gorgeous cookbooks I'd ever seen.


Where Flavor was Born: Recipes and Culinary Travels Along the Indian Ocean Spice Route by Andreas Viestad.

I loved the layout of this book.. I liked how Andreas categorized recipes by their prominent spice usage and by country they relate to. I also love how there are sweet and savory recipes for most of the spices.

The deal was.. we were all to pick a few recipes that we wanted to try, hand 'em in to Sara and she'd pick 6 recipes from the bunch that we'd all make. She chose "Fresh Yogurt-Cucumber Soup with Coriander and Cumin", "Entrecote (steak) with Onion, Ginger and Tamarind", "Grilled Green Fish with Red Rice", "Stuffed Onions with Ginger and Lamb", "Bananas with Coconut and Cardamom", and finally, "Coconut Curry Cake".

Well right off the bat, I knew I'd first be trying the steak, the bananas and the coconut cake. Followed by the stuffed onions, fish and finally the soup. The first was the steak.. the recipe called for Tamarind. I'd never heard of Tamarind before so I had to go in search of it.. three grocery stores later, I could not find it.. so my Entrecote with Onion, Ginger and Tamarind was missing the Tamarind. After reading about everyone's trials and tribulations with this recipe, I can confidently say it's a winner by all. The trick, it seemed, was to cut back on the tamarind a bit. I can't really say for sure.. I mean, my steak with the onions and ginger was heavenly, but I don't know how I'd like it with the Tamarind since I couldn't find it. Unfortunately, I slipped into a mild loss of mind, as we actually ate these steaks without photos being taken. I know!!! What the hell?

Second on my list was the bananas.. ohh Lordie I do loves me my bananas.. AND I love coconut. This recipe is super easy, with only 5 ingredients and it all comes together in one pan.. how could this go wrong?

Let us not forget who writes this blog, shant we?

I have never cooked with coconut milk before. But I obviously had planned on trying it as I had 3 cans of it in my pantry. One was "light" coconut milk, so I quickly decided not to use it. The other two weren't light but they were made by different companies. I decided to go with the company I was more familiar with. Again.. I've never used coconut milk before.

I get my ingredients out on my counter, smoosh my cardamom pods like the recipe says and then I open up my can of coconut "milk". Uhhh.. milk she was not. I believe they should have labeled the can coconut "lard". This stuff was solid. And creamy-like. Like Crisco! But it smelled better. Well having never used the stuff before, I just figured that's the way it came. So I scooped out what was needed and flopped it into my pan along with the cardamom pods. Immediately it started to melt, so I figured this is where the "milk" comes into play.. now it actually looked like milk!

Coconut Milk Gone Very Wrong.

I let my lil green cardamom pods steep in the "milk" for a bit then I added my nanners and some brown sugar. Everything was going swimmingly! The mixture started bubbling around the nanners and it was smelling pretty nice..

Bananas with Coconut & Cardamom

I poured the whole thing into a bowl and let it cool for a bit before I took my first bite. Remember how I said I loved me my nanners and coconut? So it shouldn't be surprising that my first bite was a big one.. oh yeah baby, I filled these lips with warm banana and... ass juice?? *spit* *cough* *sputter* *wipe tongue off with dish towel* *spit* *make awkward face* *wonder just what the hell I did to deserve that kind of punishment??*

Needless to say that horrible dish of Satan, was promptly poured into the bin.

I couldn't understand it.. I didn't think it could have been the recipe.. the recipe also called for cloves, but they give me the hives, so I left them out - but dear sweet baby jebus, they certainly couldn't have helped what was created on my stovetop! I re-read the recipe and knew I had followed it's easy instructions to the T.. so what the freeg?

I wrote to Sara next.. "Uhhh.. is coconut "milk" suppose to be solid and more like coconut "lard"?? "Does coconut "milk" smell really good but tastes like ass?" To which she replied, "Well no, it's not suppose to be entirely solid.. the cream rises to the top like regular milk, but below should be liquid." 'kay well I checked the remaining contents of that can and it was solid through and through. I had myself some bad coconut milk!!!

Unforch, the experience was a lil too traumatic for me to retry the recipe with the other can of coconut milk I had. But today, today we went to our favorite Asian market and I purchased coconut milk that, when shaken, sounded liquidy! AND I bought coconut cream.. and it sounded liquidy too.. so this recipe will be tried again and I have a feeling that I'll love it.

Coconut Curry Cake

Finally, no.. sadly, my last recipe that I tried was the Coconut Curry Cake. (I say sadly because that fish and red rice truly called out to me. I wish I could have made it in time for this review.) The first thing I noticed about the cake was that it was mild. Chock full of cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, nutmeg and ginger you'd think that it'd pack more of a spicy punch. I used a coarsely grated coconut so I could really taste it, where the others could not. Also, my cake came out almost underdone, so it was quite moist. I did top this cake with a quick cream cheese frosting, but only because W won't let cake touch his lips unless there is frosting on it. *sigh* I'd make this cake again, for sure, but I'd double those spice amounts and I'd add even a lil more coconut. I think this cake has lots of possibilities as well.. canned pineapple chunks would be great it in.. smooshed bananas would be heavenly.. a good sprinkle of powdered sugar on top would suffice if you needed a lil more oomph on your cake - but the cream cheese frosting was also a nice compliment.

Coconut Curry Cake
Sorry for such badly lit photos.. night time comes way too soon this time of year. :(

I can sincerely say, Where Flavor was Born, is one of my new favorite books. The recipes that I tried, and have bookmarked to try in the future, are written cleanly with easy to follow instructions. The photos, by Mette Randem, were simply breath taking and the "extras" such as the section labeled: "The Spices of the Indian Ocean at a Glance" was very helpful and I learned quite a bit from reading though them.

And even though I only made 3 recipes, 1 of which was missing a main ingredient and the other a tangent into the depths of hell because I had coconut milk gone way wrong, I can still say, genuinely, that this is a great cookbook for the novice to expert cook. For me, what I got from this book more than anything else, is a little more confidence in trying recipes with spices that I'm not use to, and learning about the foods of cultures that I really don't know much about. It's made me think. :)

Thank you Sara! Thanks for thinking of me for this project! Thanks very much to Andreas and Mette for a gorgeous book! Thanks to Sia and The Lisa Ekus Group for sending the book (with such a nice note attached, thank you!) to me! And finally, thanks to Mike, Deborah and Mary for keeping me quite entertained this last week or so of constant banter through email. :)

If you'd like to try a few of the recipes that we tried, head on over to Sara's i like to cook where she will post them a little later today. :D



Comments on "Round Table Review :: Where Flavor was Born"


Blogger Peabody said ... (1/27/2008 2:46 AM) : 

I am trying to cut down on my cookbooks(HA, HA, HA). I will have to check this out.


Blogger slush said ... (1/27/2008 8:46 AM) : 

I luuuuv coconut. However, I have always avoided coconut milk. The cake looks fab, you cant go wrong with cream cheese frosting!


Blogger Tracy said ... (1/27/2008 9:00 AM) : 

As usual your post made me laugh out loud. I've never used coconut milk either and I would have done the same thing you did. So this morning I laughed and learned something new by reading your post. Thanks!


Blogger Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said ... (1/27/2008 9:34 AM) : 

I'm fascinated by the migration of spices and other foods along the Spice Route -- and I don't have this cookbook yet. Hmmmm...guess I'll be doing a bit of online shopping later today.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (1/27/2008 9:35 AM) : 

Tamarind is generally available in asian or indian groceries. Actually, mexican places, too. It has a number of different forms, but I usually get the Thai puree in a jar, not the heavier frozen pulp or the whole fruit.


Blogger jasmine said ... (1/27/2008 11:12 AM) : 

I really liked A.V's Kitchen of Light and am really happy to read that this tome is a promising one. Will add it to my wishlist.



Blogger Laura Rebecca said ... (1/27/2008 1:21 PM) : 

Nice review! The cookbook and recipes sound interesting but I'm sorry you had trouble with the coconut milk.


Blogger Helene said ... (1/27/2008 1:45 PM) : 

"Shake it, shake it, shake it like a Polaroid picture..." That's my coconut milk song! I use it almost all the time in cakes calling for milk, gives it a little extra smooth feel. Loved your review and B. is already allover that boo...I get extra point when I make Indain food :)


Blogger Brilynn said ... (1/27/2008 1:49 PM) : 

I love trying out new books, I'm feeling like I need to buy myself a present soon...


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (1/27/2008 3:25 PM) : 

Great post, fellow cookbook-ite! You really were ripped-off on the banana's - I like them a lot! I got my tamarind concentrate at Whole Paycheck, but remember to dilute it!


Blogger Sara said ... (1/27/2008 4:42 PM) : 

Oh, you are so funny! Well I think you did a fantastic job with what you had, and I think your ideas for the cake are excellent! I'll have to try it with your modifications soon. Thanks for taking part!


Blogger breadchick said ... (1/27/2008 5:06 PM) : 

ROTFL!!!! The hotel room was already spinning because of good Italian red wine and now I'm laughing so hard, I just fell out of the chair and the fell off the chair trying to get back on. As usual sweets, you crack me up. I'm bringing you tamarind the next trip to Cleveland...

It was great fun cooking with you



Blogger Faery said ... (1/27/2008 7:23 PM) : 

Hi Lis tamaring is a very tangy fruit it is light brown in color you can buy it at asian supermarkets, the tamarind tree is beautiful in my oppoinion and just across the street in my neighbor's house there is a huge tamarind tree, if you cannot find there just tell me


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (1/27/2008 11:36 PM) : 

What a great cookbook review. I'm tempted :)


Blogger Aparna Balasubramanian said ... (1/28/2008 12:00 AM) : 

Saw this post and had to leave a comment. Being Indian, tamaring and coconut milk are regular features in my kitchen!
First the tamarind. This is a bean like fruit. The pulp from inside it is what is used in cooking. It is extremely sour and we use it in small quantities for the tang in many of our "curries". This is should be available in Indian stores in a pouch/ bottle as a puree. You can probably use a puree of slightly sour tomatoes as a substitute - not the same taste but should do.
The coconut milk now. In Southern Indian cooking, we use two versions of coconut milk - thin and thick. Where the cocnut milk is to be cooked, we use the thin milk (this is just watered down coconut milk) as thick coconut milk curdles when cooked. Then the thick coconut milk is added tot the dish at the end, taken off the heat and stirred well.
I hope this info is useful and you will continue to try out cooking with these ingredients.


Blogger creampuff said ... (1/28/2008 11:01 AM) : 

That's a great review. I had to laugh at your coconut milk experience because I've had the same thing happen. But it still sounds lovely cause you know I love coconut anything!


Blogger WendyinKK said ... (2/14/2008 11:07 PM) : 

About the canned coconut's yucky I'd say. I use fresh coconut milk 95% of the time. Here, we rarely use canned coconut milk because it taste totally different from the fresh ones. The taste of fresh coconut milk is light and sweet(somewhat like fresh milk, but with a fruity aroma), whereas the canned ones are strong and nutty. I might use the canned ones for making savoury dishes, but making desserts.. never! Cos they'll spoil the taste and the aroma. Cooking bananas with coconut milk is also a very popular Malay dish called 'Pengat Pisang" but without the spices, just with an added pandanus leaf and sweetened with palm sugar.

Give coconut milk another chance, try fresh coconut milk and not canned ones.

BTW, ben, What u drank is not coconut milk, but coconut water/juice. Coconut milk is extracted from the white coconut flesh, and coconut water is the clear liquid from the cavity of the fruit.


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