Project Cookbook complete: Meet THE KITCHEN PASSPORT!

Well this is mighty exciting to be able to finally post… Say hi to the little book I put together:

THE KITCHEN PASSPORT:
Getting Around The World & Bringing It Back To Your Table

The little passion project I started two years ago got a little out of control and ended up as a kind of cookbook / travel guide / journal hybrid, almost 170 pages long, with 63 recipes, full colour photos and notes from around the world, and I’m pretty excited to say is finally finished and ready to fly out into the world!

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Let me tell you a bit more about it and why I decided that I wanted to share it…

This book is a collection of recipes inspired by meals I’ve enjoyed on my travels, as well as some of the stories behind them, the places I first ate them, the markets I visited, and the people I met on the way. My hope is that anyone who does find themselves with a copy can use it as part cookbook, part travel guide, part voyeuristic look into my diary.

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Food plays such a huge role in cultural identity and is one of, if not the best ways to get to know a new city. It has the power to bring together strangers, to communicate entire histories, and to create amazing memories which will still be with you as you eat that same dish 10 years later. My greatest travel memories can be recalled so easily through the senses of taste and smell; through food. I want to give others an easy way to either recreate food from their travels, too, and others still (and maybe more importantly) a way to taste a bit of the world they haven’t visited yet.

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I’m neither a professional chef nor writer. I have no training in photography or visual design. I’m just another girl who wants to leave behind some of that which I’ve been fortunate enough to experience. I hope this little book inspires some to travel and brings back fond memories for others. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed taking the adventures that are behind it.

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If you’d like a bit more of a preview of the book, or to actually purchase a copy, follow the link and head on over to Blurb Books, where it’s being sold in hardcover, softcover (unfortunately printing “real” books these days isn’t a cheap venture, I’ve done my best to keep the costs down!), eBook and PDF formats, with pricing (ex GST & shipping) below:

Hardcover: AUD$55.15
Softcover: AUD$38.79
PDF: AUD$9.99

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And if you do end up with a copy, I really, truly do hope you enjoy the escape from reality and return of fond memories while reading and cooking from it 🙂

Shop here: Idlewild Books, New York City

Idlewild Books
12 W 19th St, New York
http://www.idlewildbooks.com

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I fell utterly and completely head over heels for this place… to think I almost didn’t get around to it! I’d had a few bookstores I wanted to check out in New York, and with only a few days left, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get to Idlewild. As it turned out, we were in the right neighbourhood anyway and I had the address saved on my phone – we arrived just on opening time that particular morning.

Idlewild is the bookstore wanderlusters dream about. Up a few stairs and onto a creaky wooden floor, and you’re surrounded by book after book covering every corner of the world. The best thing I found about this place was the way the books were organised; every book pertaining to a particular country in the one place. That meant that under Italy, for example, you could find guide books, languor guides, travel writing and novels set in Italy. It made things soooo much easier to navigate than having all the guide books in one area, then all the travel writing in another, etc. Absolutely loved that concept! It also got me thinking more about the notion of letting travel books and novels themselves act as a guide more so than the traditional guide book; how fantastic to read a novel set in New York City while travelling through the city itself! The prices of the books were very reasonable too – sometimes specialty bookstores like this feel justified in marking their prices up exponentially, but I found them to be more or less the same as I’d find online, which made it easier to justify buying another book to add to the pile I’d already purchased on my travels!

Idlewild is also incredibly popular for the language classes they offer, everything from Arabic to French, which is a really great idea to attach to a travel bookstore. While we weren’t there long enough to partake, it certainly gives you something to think about for when you get back home.

If you’re travelling to New York, or even if you live there and didn’t know about this place, and you have the travel bug like me, I can’t recommend highly enough taking a visit! And if that’s not reason enough, you can get a donut from Dough next door while you’re out that direction 😉

Read this: On The Road by Jack Kerouac 

On The Road
by Jack Kerouac

One of my favourite books of all time, Jack Kerouac’s semi-autobiographical piece is based on the travels he and his friends took across America which defined a generation, and continues to capture those of us with gypsy hearts even now, almost 50 years after it was published. Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty define the term “free-spirited,” and their adventures in hitch-hiking, drugs, music, poetry and going where ever the road happened to take them is strangely beautiful. It’s also one of the most well-known and written about travel books out there, so I’m not going to write a whole lot more about what it’s all about; if you want to know more about the turbulent brilliance that was Jack Kerouac and the culture changing Beat Generation, just Google it. Instead, let me quickly tell you why I love this book so much, and why I’ll keep reading it over and over again.

“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.”

That line right there cried out to me. It jumped off the page, and wormed into my soul. How could it not? What I wouldn’t give to feel that kind of freedom… I find the past, what’s behind me, a curious thing. I’d like to think that I have no real regrets in life thus far, being a firm believer in the school of thought that I wouldn’t be who or where I am today without having taken the path I’ve taken, “mistakes” and all. As for having everything ahead of me – what a beautiful idea. Reading that one little line paints such a vivid image in my head. I can see myself, clearly, standing literally in the middle of a dusty, away from the city type road, a quiet road with very little traffic, like the ones you see the truckers driving down to get from city to city in the movies. I see myself standing there in my favourite torn blue jeans and my hooded black and red checkered shirt and my black Chuck Taylors. I see a worn, brown leather overnight bag by my feet, my sunglasses perched up high amongst my messy auburn hair, and a stupid, scared, excited smile on my face. Leaving everything so far behind me and looking ahead. It excites me. It’s something I want.

I’m bogged down in a life of reality and obligation and paying the bills and being a responsible wife and daughter and friend and colleague. What I want, more than anything on earth, more than a fancy house or nice car or brilliant career, is to pack it all in and hit the road. And I think that’s why I love this book so much; for those few hours when I’m reading it, in my mind, I’m free. I may not be into the sex and drugs and rock n roll, but the freedom is intoxicating. And if I ever can work up the courage to just get up and leave and live life unplanned and unexpectedly, I feel like this would be very true as well…

“I was surprised, as always, be how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.”

 

If you, too, are a wandering soul in need of escape, pick up a copy here – hopefully it’ll fill that need for the time being until you can get out on the road  : )

 

Shop here: Argosy Books, New York City

Argosy Books
116 E 59th St, New York
http://www.argosybooks.com/shop/argosy/index.html

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Ohh my goodness, how much I adored this place!! Argosy Book Store was founded way back in 1925, making it the city’s oldest independent bookstore. As they say on their website, they have so many books they literally fill a 6-storey building, which is no mean feat in New York City! They specialise in books of the antiquarian and out-of-print varieties, and their store is like walking into the most perfect, old, well loved library where you can actually take the books home to keep! I picked up a few books, a gorgeous old copy of My Fair Lady for my sister and A Treasury of Great Mysteries for myself, and would have purchased quite a few more if my poor suitcase could have managed! The prices were fantastic, the range better than you could possibly imagine – it’s somewhere every bibliophile should visit in New York!

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Cook this: Roy Choi’s ketchup fried rice

L.A. Son
by Roy Choi

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Roy Choi. You know who he is. He’s the dude who started the food truck revolution with his Korean BBQ taco truck, Kogi. He’s the guy who helped bring the movie “Chef” to life. He’s brilliant, and he’s just put his memoir out, and it’s something you need to be reading.

I picked up a copy at Kitchen Arts & Letters in New York, about half way through our recent trip, and dug straight in. If you’re expecting to read about Choi’s meteoric rise to the top of the food truck game, you’re out of luck; this book is about what happened way before that. It’s about Choi’s sometimes unconventional childhood and early years, his battle between being the good Asian kid he was expected to be and the kid who got up to no good. It’s a brutally honest account of years of alcohol and drug abuse, of gambling problems, of running in different gangs, of being lost, of soul searching, and finally finding his calling and his way. Maybe we haven’t all walked that same scary, dangerous path, but it’s a story I’m sure most of us can relate to, that being lost and doing all the wrong things to try to find your way. I’ll be the first to put my hand up and be the first to say I could sure as hell relate, particularly with the cultural expectation (Italian, not Asian – similar in a lot of ways, though).

Each chapter of the book was another chapter of his life, each chapter ending with a bunch of recipes pertinent to that part of life, recipes from the family collection like his mother’s kimchi, to “student food” like melted cheese instant ramen, to some of the stuff he’s a bit better known for today, like his tacos.

One of the recipes that caught my attention, and I can’t tell you why, was the ketchup fried rice. It just sounded so damn good and unpretentious and a bit of fun! As usual, I can’t follow a recipe to the letter, because I’m a stubborn Italian who hates measuring ingredients and like to add my own twist and don’t always plan ahead so I rarely have all the ingredients called for (like kimchi), so I took the rice I had left over from red beans & rice night, the recipe’s basics and screwed around with it a bit, added some extra veggies because then it’s healthy so I can justify eating more of it, and mince pork because this is carnivores kinda house, that sort of thing. Here’s what I came up with…

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Makes 6 serves (aka dinner and left overs for a few days)
– vegetable oil
– 600g pork mince
– 3 spring onions, finely diced
– 1 clove garlic, minced
– 2 carrots, finely diced
– 3 sticks celery, finely diced
– 2 red capsicums, finely diced
– 1 zucchini, finely diced
– 2-3 cups rice, preferably day old left over rice
– 2 tbsp soy sauce (I like the dark stuff)
– 6 tbsp ketchup (I really love this stuff)

1. Heat a large wok over high heat, add a little vegetable oil and cook up the pork mince. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

2. Add a little more oil to the wok, around 2 tbsp, and add the spring onion, garlic and all the veggies. If you want to use kimchi/have it in the house, here’s where you’d throw in a tablespoon or so. Once the veggies start to get a little colour, throw them into that same bowl as the pork mince and set aside again.

3. Once again, add a bit more oil to the wok and throw in the rice and stir fry until it starts to get a little crispy. Then you can add the veggies and pork back into the wok (there’ll be a bit of liquid at the bottom of that bowl from the resting pork mince, so it’s best to spoon it into the rice so you can get rid of the water and not accidentally throw that in, too).

4. Add the soy and ketchup and stir it up until it’s all combined and the colour is even, then serve it up into shallow bowls.

5. Fry up and egg to throw on top (the egg yolk and ketchup to magical things together as any self-respecting Aussie should know from extensive breaky sandwich experience), and if you should so wish, top it all with some thinly sliced spring onion tops and toasted sesame seeds.

I’ve never been that big a fan of fried rice – like, it’s cool if it’s there, but I wouldn’t go out of my way for it. No shit, this is one of the best rice dishes I’ve ever had. He may tout it as trashy-ass, f@$%#d up shit, but it is damn tasty. It’s easy, cheap, simple enough for a weeknight dinner, it’s not all “confit this” and “reduction that”. It’s just good food. Make it. You’re gonna love it.