We live in a world where cookery books seem like travel books - glamorous images of fresh vegetables and captivating words about the magical ingredients in the sauces are everywhere. As someone who has self-published books on creative subjects I know all too well the amount of effort that goes behind the production of a single book. And when that book has lots of beautiful, colourful photos the publishing process takes even longer and the time and effort involved producing it is truly incredible especially if you are doing it yourself. Small armies of people work behind the scenes in publishing companies in order to launch these books. But I am not going to talk to you about the production of books. Not now! What I want to say is that .. today's cookery books are beautifully created and they deserve the eminence of coffee table books.
Sadly, the large numbers of incredibly eye pleasing cookery books does not mean that people cook more on a daily basis. People seem happy to buy colourful cookery books, seem happy to watch fancy cookery programs, while munching on crisps and pop corn............. We live in a more and more voyeuristic world! It feels increasingly like we are going to the cinema to watch people ... cook!
Years ago, while growing up in Romania, I remember we had two cookery books in our small flat...two books filled with black and white.....text ... no images ... none whatsoever. In spite of that or maybe because of that ... who knows ... there was always activity in our kitchen, my mother chopping vegetables, chopping meat, boiling, frying, cooking all sorts of lovely dishes without using loads of ingredients, with few spices. Yet, every day, day in, day out, after she returned from work, she always seemed able to produce tasty and healthy meals, every day ... I will always remember the yummy smells reaching me in my bedroom across the hall.
Believe it or not, cooking or preparing most of what you eat is not just about cooking it is also about relaxing and slowing down ...it is about sharing stories of the day around the kitchen table, about listening and about communicating in a warm and healing space, about being mindful ... there we are ... the word so many people worship nowadays.
The other day, on a very, very hot summer day I just felt the need to cook a traditional Russian beetroot soup. It is the type of a dish I remember enjoying when I visited my Russian family in Saint Petersburg and Orel. It is easy to make, delicious and healthy.
Here is what you need to do:
Prepare the ingredients:
2 medium size beetroots peeled and grated
1 carrot peeled and grated
1 onion peeled and chopped
1 tomato diced
4 small potatoes peeled and chopped
2 litres of boiling water
1 Knorr cube
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 grated cabbage
1 squeeze of lemon juice or more depending on your taste
2 bay leaves
3 garlic cloves crushed
1 table spoon olive or sunflower oil
Now for the preparation:
There's not much to do really. Just heat the olive or sunflower oil in a cooking pot, add the onion, sautee the onion for a few minutes, add the carrots, beetroots, potatoes. Sautee the lot for a further 10 minutes, add the bay leaves and the garlic.....then add the boiling water and then the cabbage and the tomatoes. Next ... nothing ... simply let it simmer on a low heat for about 1 hour and it's done. Enjoy it with a dollop or two of sour cream. Sour cream is a very popular addition to many dishes in Russia and I love it.
I was never very good at cooking deserts, the type that my mother used to prepare, so any time I come across something sweet that I feel I can prepare, something that does not require the oven ... I am ready to have a go at it.
The other day I came across something called Three Ingredients Energy Bar .....and of course I had to have a go. The result is not only pleasing .. it is really delicious and goes very, very well with a cup of Turkish coffee or tea.
So, here is the recipe;
THREE INGREDIENTS ENERGY BAR:
1 cup of almonds
1 cup of dates
1 cup of dried cherries
Put all of the ingredients together in a mixer, pulse until they are all mixed and chopped finely. Next, place the mixture on a plastic sheet or a non stick sheet of cooking paper, spread it evenly (use a roller), cover with another sheet of non stick paper and place it in the fridge for 30 minutes. Take it out, cut it in squares and store the pieces in an air tight container, in the fridge. They will last for a few good weeks (less the one's consumed ....so two days!!). You can of course make them in the shape of small balls if you want.
They look very nice if you add some cocoa powder on top. The truth is that you can be very creative with this type of recipe and start making your own combinations using sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, dried apricots, raisins, raw cocoa and of course much more.