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ECP coach John has lived in a few countries. Here is a description of some of the wonderful dishes he has enjoyed and learned to cook on his travels
Vocabulary. Read and check you understand this before you read and listen to the article:
curry: generic name for spicy Indian food. Now the UK’s most popular dish
aubergine: a large egg-shaped vegetable with black purplish skin and a whitish inside
avocado: pear-shaped, leathery, green-skinned vegetable with smooth oily green flesh
crash course: short intense course
the jury is out: When a final decision is delayed
flaky pastry: thin covering for dishes made from flour & water
stuffed vine leaves: A fruit or vegetable, especially a grape leaf or cabbage leaf, cooked with a filling of ground meat, herbs, or rice
Cooking is a big part of my life. I cook lunch and dinner every day and actually enjoy the challenge of inventing dishes and doing something different and exciting to keep the family interested in what they eat.
I started cooking when I was quite young. My mother and father both had to work in factories and were not able to get home for lunch. I was in charge of getting my sister’s lunch. Looking back, I am not sure curries were appropriate for a seven year old girl but she seemed to enjoy them!
I left home at eighteen and had to fend for myself in the kitchen. I continued with my improvised curries but I really did not know how to cook. My first real education in the culinary arts came when I moved to London at 23. London: the cosmopolitan melting pot of many cultures and strange flavours. I first saw melons, aubergines and avocados in Green Street in the East End of London where I lived and they looked wonderful. Problem was, I had no idea what to do with them!
I lived with a strict vegetarian and unfortunately she was a terrible cook, so I took responsibility in the kitchen. I bought the latest vegetarian cookbooks and did a crash course in meatless cookery. From those days, I remember with fondness many a ratatouille, roasted aubergines, stuffed peppers and my nut pasta was a particular favourite.
I came to the Basque Country in the early 1990s and discovered many new dishes in a whole new culinary culture. In my early classes, I used to ask students about food. The question “where is the best food in the world?” was invariably answered with one word: “here”. Students usually meant if not Alava, then actually in their mother’s house!
In my opinion, the greatest innovation of Basque cooking is the pintxo. Usually delicious but always surprising and inventive. While there are other wonderful dishes in the Basque Country and Spain, such as potatoes, beans and chorizo, hake in parsley sauce with clams and the simple but classic Spanish omelette, the jury is still out on whether it is “the best food in the world”.
On my travels, I next ended up in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia where I really appreciated the cuisine of different peoples thrown together through great historical events. Bosnian food is influenced by a mixture of Slavic, Turkish and Austrian cultures. There is not enough space to list all the wonderful Bosnian dishes but my favourites are ćevapi, a sort of Bosnian kebab, and pita, which is a flaky pastry covering meat, potatoes, cheese and spinach.
In Saudi Arabia, I discovered what was probably the forerunner of paella. A simple rice dish with chicken or goat, cooked in a big pan over a fire in the desert. Arab cuisine also has wonderfully intricate salads. My mouth still waters when I remember the stuffed vine leaves.
Time to get in the kitchen to get cooking, I think!
“Let’s chat about that!”
Write your answers and send them by email to your ECP coach. Why not record your voice too? Listen to yourself speak and identify what you have to improve on 🙂
- Can you cook? How well? If not, why not?
- Do you cook every day?
- What are your speciality dishes?
- What are your favourite Basque and Spanish dishes? And ‘foreign’ dishes?
- Who is the best cook you know?
- What are some of the advantages of cooking your meals at home? How about the disadvantages?
- If you had your own personal chef, what meal would you ask for most?