What They Don’t Teach in Foodwriting 101 (and Finally, a Fruitcake to Love)

A Fruitcake to Love 

It sounds like a dream job, doesn’t it? Jetting off to exotic places, being plied with endless food and drink on someone else’s dime, being able to say to yourself you know, I really shouldn’t have that third helping of _____ (insert name of some fat- or sugar-laden local specialty), but what the heck, it’s my job! Sure you have to put some words down on paper about the whole thing when it’s over, but that’s a small price to pay for a job that never actually feels like work while you’re doing it, right?

Um, well, sometimes. Maybe most of the time. But as I discovered last week, there are also times when all that flies out the window and the job you’re stuck with resembles a paid vacation less than it does some milder forms of torture.

I’ll explain. As you know I do occasional writing for the fine British magazine Food and Travel, and last week I accepted an assignment that took me down to southern Spain, poking around the lovely, garden-fringed city of Murcia and criss-crossing some of the region’s fertile backroads. All was going swimmingly – the food was copious and fantastic, the landscape beautiful, the producers friendly and brimming with printable quotes. It was quite exhausting, as it always is – there is, after all, so much ground to cover and so much to eat and only a few days in which to do it – but it was certainly nothing I couldn’t handle.

But then the worst thing that could happen, did. I got sick.

I know, I know, there are actually many things much worse than that, among them plane crashes, bombs exploding, kidnappings, etc., but understand that those all would have the advantage of bringing the assignment to an end. Getting sick, however, did not. It just made the whole thing infinitely harder.

It happened at the end of my second day there. We had spent the afternoon eating tapas – from about a dozen different places – before diving back in and finishing off the night with a ten-course meal at one of Murcia’s best restaurants. I went home stuffed to the gills but otherwise feeling fine, and promptly went to bed. About four o’clock in the morning, though, I woke up in a haze, dazed and disoriented but knowing something was terribly wrong; I barely made it to the bathroom before my body began its eviction process of something it didn’t want in there. From there I spent the rest of the night huddled next to the toilet in agony – alternating between cold sweats, hot sweats, dizziness and nausea, and cursing my foodhardiness at ever agreeing to sacrifice the sanctity of my stomach for something as inconsequential as professional gain.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had food poisoning – I certainly hadn’t before last week – but after your body finally manages to get rid of whatever little beastie thought your digestive tract looked like a fine new place of residence, there is one thing, and one thing only, that you feel you will never be able do again. That of course is eat.

But that wasn’t an option. We had another three whole days of non-stop eating on the itinerary, and missing even part of it would seriously compromise the article. I had no choice – I simply had to soldier on. At our first engagement the next morning – a cheese factory – I quickly came to regret that decision, when, after showing us their facilities they passed around a plate of samples for us to try. Not wanting to be rude, I took a tiny nibble; moments later, in mid-conversation with the firm’s director on the benefits of small-batch production, I had to excuse myself in a hurry to find a place to regurgitate it. Believe me, I have never been so embarrassed in my life.

I did get progressively better over the next few days – my fever and nausea subsided and I was able to actually ingest things without fearing they would find their way up again a few minutes later, but my stomach was still not operating at anywhere near full capacity. It remained so sensitive, in fact, that I was only able to force down a few tentative bites at most of our remaining meals, something that distressed me as much as it did the generous restaurateurs who laid on course after course of their very best dishes for me to try, only to see them sent back to the kitchen uneaten. The irony, of course, wasn’t lost on me – here I was, being served exactly the kind of food I lie awake at night dreaming about, as much as I wanted and all of it free – and I was physically incapable of eating it. Life, you are sometimes very cruel.

But it all worked out in the end – I got enough for the article, and I even snagged a few fantastic new recipes in the bargain. I can’t say I left a very convincing impression as a food journalist (“Journalist? You mean that girl who puked all over our factory?”) but at least I can now sound convincing when I tell people that professional food writing is not all champagne and roses (or champagne and caviar, as the case may be).  As for the question I know you’re dying to ask – which restaurant was it? – I’m afraid I simply can’t say. No really, I can’t; we ate at so many that day that even attempting to point a finger would be pure speculation, something none of them deserve. I can recommend a visit to Murcia without reservation, however, which is a beautiful city, though I would advise a slightly less hectic schedule than I had. And if you’re looking for some tips on where to eat there, I think the February issue of Food and Travel should have just what you need. 🙂


But oh, what is up with that fruitcake? Here I’ve enticed you with that photo and haven’t said a word about it. Ah, well you see I just couldn’t abandon you before Christmas without a recipe, or more precisely without this recipe. I’ve been dumping a lot of unfair abuse on fruitcake lately (even going so far as to compare it to subdividing bacteria, and isn’t that a funny analogy now in light of the story I’ve just told!), but now I’m standing here with foot planted firmly in mouth because I have found the fruitcake that all other fruitcakes aspire to be. No really, this is THE ONE, the fruitcake of my dreams. The secret, I’ll have you know, is something I’ll bet you’ve probably never seen in a fruitcake before. You see those little jet-black bits poking out here and there among the pistachios and apricots and other usual suspects? Those are olives, my friends, olives, and they are what take this cake from good to sublime.

I mean, olives in sweet things are nothing new around here, but still I never would have thought of adding them to fruitcake. Thankfully, though, there are people around like Elizabeth Falkner (of Citizen Cake fame) who have a bit more imagination than me, as apparently this was exactly what fruitcake was missing all along. Of course, when you look at the list of ingredients it makes perfect sense; after all, dates, figs, oranges, pistachios and walnuts are a near-perfect assembly of Mediterranean flavors, and even without the olives this cake would be pretty darn good. With the olives, however, it’s in another class entirely – all I can say is, if you think you’re a fruitcake hater, give it a shot. You may, like me, suddenly find yourself wondering how on earth you managed to have any merry Christmases without it.

And speaking of Christmas, since you probably won’t see me again around here until it’s long gone (as we’re leaving for snow-covered Germany tomorrow where – gasp! – we won’t have any internet access for two whole weeks), let me take this opportunity to extend a heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you, dear readers. Thank you for sticking it out with me for yet another year, for always leaving such witty, insightful and heart-warming comments, and most of all, for giving me a reason to hit ‘publish’ every week. I honestly couldn’t do this without you. May you have the most joyous and peaceful of holidays, surrounded by good food, good cheer, and plenty of people you love. And I’ll see you right back here in 2008!

A Fruitcake to Love

This cake was very good as written, but I just wouldn’t be me if I didn’t find a few things to improve. Most importantly, I doubled the olives, because let’s face it, three tablespoons divided between two cakes is a leetle skimpy, don’t you think? I also added a few chopped dried apricots for tartness (though dried sour cherries would be nice too), I increased the liquid to make it slightly moister and I added an additional egg for stability. Oh, and even with the increased moisture and extra egg you’ll need to wait until the cake is completely cool – preferably chilled – before even attempting to slice it, as otherwise you’ll end up with beautiful mosaic-patterened chunks instead of the slices I’m sure you’d much rather be serving. Oh, and Elizabeth suggests pairing this with cheese, which I think is a fine idea, though rest assured it’s perfectly edible on its own too.
Yield: two 8-inch loaf cakes
Source: adapted from Elizabeth Falkner, Bon Appetit, December 2007 

1 1/4 cups (250g) chopped pitted Medjool dates
3/4 cup (125g) chopped candied orange peel
1/3 cup (50g) chopped dried Mission figs
1/2 cup (75g) chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup (125ml) brandy (alternatively, you can use half Nocello (walnut liqueur) or Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur) and half water)
20 oil-cured black olives, pitted, chopped (about 6 tablespoons)

1 3/4 cups (250g) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (125ml) plain whole-milk yogurt
2 tablespoons (30ml) olive oil
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks/175g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (150g) sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups (200g) coarsely chopped walnuts
3/4 cup (100g) shelled unsalted natural pistachios

Position a rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F/175°C. Butter two 8 1/2×4 1/2-inch (21×11-cm) metal loaf pans and dust with flour. Mix the first five ingredients in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring after each, until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the fruit (alternatively, heat mixture in a small saucepan just until simmering, then cover and steep until absorbed). Stir in the olives and set aside to cool completely. Sift flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon into another medium bowl.

Whisk yogurt and oil in a small bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in large bowl until blended. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with yogurt mixture in 2 additions, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in walnuts, pistachios, and dried-fruit mixture. Divide batter between prepared pans. Smooth tops.

Bake cakes until tester inserted into centers comes out clean and cakes begin to pull away from sides of pans, about 50 minutes. Cool them in the pans at least 30 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto racks, and cool completely before slicing. These keep in the fridge at least a week.


Pure Dessert: Q&A with Alice Medrich

Caramel-Glazed Cardamom Palmiers

She’s known in many circles as the "First Lady of Chocolate", and if you have even a passing interest in the stuff you probably know the name well. Alice Medrich is, of course, the founder of the legendary Berkeley, California patisserie Cocolat (which I’ve previously written about here), and the best-selling author of cookbooks such as Cocolat, Chocolate and the Art of Lowfat Desserts, and Bittersweet. It’s her most recent release, however, that seems to be taking the world by storm. Pure Dessert, published last September by Artisan, is Medrich’s first book not centered on the theme of chocolate, and it features none of the dramatic, complex creations that made her famous. Instead, it’s about dessert in its most basic, fundamental form, and specifically, how we can use ingredients like different flours, sugars, dairy products and aromatics to create things that are as elegant as they are simple. I was so intrigued by the concept – and in love with the results – that I asked Alice if she would mind chatting a bit about the book and how her approach to dessert has changed over the years. Happily, she agreed.

Pure Dessert represents a somewhat new direction for you, as it’s not about chocolate. Where did the inspiration come from to write it, and what did you learn in the process?

Working with chocolate in the last 10 years lead me here. I began to notice that better chocolate seemed to demand simpler recipes. To honor superb chocolate, you don’t want complicated recipes or any dish that is overburdened with too many other flavors, or too much sugar or fat either for that matter.  I took that idea and applied it to other ingredients… It wasn’t big shift anyway. I’ve always gravitated towards simplicity and clarity. I’ve always tried to create recipes that bring out the best characteristics of my ingredients.  This book allowed to to experiment. I learned that whole grains could be used in tender buttery indulgent cookies and cakes without making them taste or feel like health food, how to get the most dramatic results with raw sugars, how to use herbs and spices in unusual ways, how best to showcase fresh cheeses in dessert, what to do with fabulous vodka (other than sipping it) and a zillions other things, all shared in the book.  

I know this is a terrible question to ask a cookbook author, but which of all the recipes in Pure Dessert would you be happiest to see on your own dessert plate tonight?

No it’s not a fair question, so I’ll give you an unfair answer! This would depend on my mood…. If I felt like indulging in sophisticated chocolate, I’d choose the Italian Chocolate Almond Torte with lots of whipped cream or Citron Vodka Chocolates. If I just needed comfort food I’d go to My Chocolate Pudding or Ginger Snaps or Nutella Bread Pudding. If something sexy was needed, I’d pick Saffron and Cardamom or Jasmine Panna Cotta. With a cosy cup of tea I’d pick Sesame Cake or Sherry and Olive Oil Poundcake… I could go on, but you get the picture. 

Your recipes have always been much-loved for being virtually foolproof, down to the last detail. Tell me about your development and testing process. How many incarnations does a typical recipe of yours go through?

Sometimes I get lucky and my idea translates itself into a good recipe in two or three tries. Sometimes I go a little crazy. I occasionally make two dozen tries before I am satisfied with a recipe. This is not because the 8th or 12th try isn’t good, but because I get hooked on how each small change affects the outcome. I rationalize this "waste of time" by calling it an investment in education that will serve me in the future. Sometimes my out-takes get developed into new recipes weeks or even years later…

Your earlier books have a lot of complex, showstopping creations, while the recipes in Pure Dessert are all about simplicity and letting the flavor of the ingredients shine through. Does this shift in recipe style reflect a change in the way you cook and bake generally?

When as a pastry chef in my own shop, it was easy to create new show stopping multi component desserts. I could stroll around the kitchen and find all the elements: different kinds of cake bases, butter creams, caramelized nuts, whipped cream, a variety of liqueur syrups, lemon curd…everything was there for me.  It was easy to concoct a new dessert.  The harder part (and I was good at this!) was breaking down the recipes steps so that the home cook could make those elaborate desserts successfully. I built my original reputation as a cookbook author by empowering the ambitious home cook to succeed with really complex recipes. But when I stopped working as a professional pastry chef, I began to relate more to the home cook (after all I too was baking at home myself!). I started focusing on recipes that were superb but simple, and perfect for busy cooks who had family responsibilities and/or jobs outside the home. I felt I was writing for people who knew good food and wanted to serve it at home, but didn’t have endless hours to prepare a multi part dessert.

There is a lovely symmetry in all this: I started my career with the simplest French chocolate desserts and chocolate truffles. Now, I can’t literally say I am coming full circle, because I am in a different place than when I started. I am working with different ingredients and different influences. You could say, that after 30-plus years, I am still learning and growing. I could say that I am re-inventing my own idea of simplicity.  

When you opened Cocolat in 1976, you were quite a culinary pioneer. Even in Berkeley there wasn’t anything comparable to the sophisticated European desserts you were producing, but thanks to Alice Waters and Chez Panisse, the city was already gaining notoriety as a gourmet hotspot. Do you think being in Berkeley contributed to Cocolat’s success? How did your customers’ tastes evolve over the years you ran Cocolat?

There was so much excitement around the corner of Shattuck and Vine. We (Alice Waters, Jeremiah Towers, Alfred Peet, the Cheeseboard collective, Lenny the Butcher, etc.) were showing people what food, coffee, cheese, chocolate, and desserts could taste like. We weren’t conducting focus groups to provide what people thought they wanted so much as teaching people what was possible, what they COULD want! Sounds arrogant, but it’s really true. One of the things that made it work was Berkeley. Everyone in Berkeley was hungry, curious, and enthusiastic about new tastes and experiences.
One thing that astonished me when I read it was that when you started Cocolat, you had no experience baking professionally (or running a business!). Tell me about what prompted you to start the business, and some of the challenges your inexperience posed. Did you ever in your wildest dreams suspect the business would be as successful as it was, and make your name as well-known as it did?

I suppose
, like many of the Shattuck and Vine innovators of the time, ignorance was bliss and passion was our fuel. I wanted to do it. I knew my desserts were better than anything sold, and I didn’t have any ideas how difficult it might be. But then, there were others on the street that were similarly idealistic and they seemed to be doing it. And, purely from a business perspective, the cost of getting started was far less then than now, even in relative terms. I was able to start out with a fairly simple store front decorated with vintage posters and outfitted with used showcases and equipment. It wasn’t necessary to seduce the public with a glamorous store that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in borrowed capital to build. The desserts and chocolate themselves wooed the clientele. It was all about delicious and beautiful hand-made desserts made with excellent ingredients….always excellent ingredients. The idea of Pure Dessert actually started there and then for me.

I think everybody had their favorite Cocolat creation, but for me (like many, I’m sure!), Cocolat’s highlight was unquestionably the truffles. I loved the funny story you put in your book Bittersweet about how they were born of ignorance and ineptitude, far bigger than they should have been and requiring constant refrigeration because the chocolate wasn’t tempered. Despite that, I can honestly say I’ve never eaten better truffles anywhere, and I think a lot of people would say the same. How did you hit upon that completely untraditional but sensational method?

Actually I learned to make those very untraditional truffles dipped in untempered chocolate from a little old lady in Paris. (This was a different little old lady from my French land lady. From her I learned to make truffles with eggs and butter instead of cream—my personal favorites–the recipe for which is also in Bittersweet).  At the time, I knew so little about the technical aspects of chocolate that I didn’t quite realize the down side of not tempering (having to keep the product refrigerated). But neither did I understand the enormous benefit of not tempering, which was the quick and exciting melt in your mouth sensation on the palate. The truffle technique she taught me should never have been applied to a commercial product; it should have remained at home. But luckily I didn’t know any better. Later when I realized that what I was doing was "not very professional", I also knew that people were over the moon about the truffles precisely because of my "not very professional" technique. And also because the truffles were very chocolaty compared to the very sweet chocolate candies of the day. The truffles were an entirely new experience and they blew people away. Many people remember them as you do. I am not sure that they really are better than the best on the market today, but I love hearing that they are!

What’s the one piece of advice you wish someone had given you before you opened Cocolat? What advice can you give to others looking to enter the baking and pastry professions?

Passion is very important. And the ability to work harder than you ever thought you could will help as well. But planning and financial expertise is essential too, more than ever. If you don’t have it, find it.

Can you reveal what’s next on the horizon for you?

I love to create cookbooks because I learn so much doing it. I may never stop that activity. But I still love to create new products, even if it is for other people…. We’ll see.



Caramel-Glazed Cardamom Palmiers

If you like the classic puff-pastry palmiers, you will love these kissing cousins with their haunting fragrance and sweet-salty crunch. I made a batch of these last week, planning to give most of them away, but made the mistake of not packaging them up immediately. Within twenty-four hours they were gone. I would like to believe that little fairies came during the night and helped themselves to the vast majority, but that would be unfair to the cookies. Yes, they are that good, and yes, you have been warned.

Source: Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich
Yield: 48 cookies

2 1/2 cups (11.25 oz/320g) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
8 ounces (225g/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
8 ounces (225g) cold cream cheese

For the cardamom sugar:
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cardamom (freshly ground if possible – it really does make a difference)
2 large pinches fine salt

Combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse briefly to distribute the ingredients. Cut each stick of butter into eight pieces and add them to the bowl. Pulse until the butter resembles coarse bread crumbs. Cut the cream cheese into pieces and add them to the bowl. Pulse again until the dough begins to clump together, about 30 seconds. Divide the dough in half and shape into 2 square patties. Wrap and chill until firm, about 4 hours.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it rest on the counter to soften slightly, 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile make the cardamom sugar. Mix the sugar with the cardamom. Transfer 2 tablespoons of the sugar mixture to a small cup and mix in the salt. Set aside.

Set aside half of the unsalted cardamom sugar for the second piece of dough. Sprinkle the work surface liberally with some of the remaining cardamom sugar. Set the dough on the sugared surface and sprinkle it with more of the sugar. Turn the dough frequently and resugar it and the work surface liberally as you roll the dough into a rectangle 24×8 inches (60x20cm) and less than 1/8-inch (1/3-cm) thick. Use the sugar generously to prevent sticking and to ensure that the cookies will caramelize properly in the oven. Trim the edges of the rectangle evenly.

Mark the center of the dough with a small indentation. Starting at one short edge, fold about 2.5 inches (6.5cm) of the dough almost one-third of the distance to the center mark. Without stretching or pulling, loosely fold the dough toward the center three times, leaving a scant 1/4” (.5cm) space at the center mark. Likewise, fold the other end of the dough toward the center three times, leaving a tiny space at the center. The dough should now resemble a long, narrow open book. Fold one side of the dough over the other side, as if closing the book. You should have an eight-layer strip of dough about 2 ½ inches wide and 8 inches long.

Sprinkle the remaining cardamom sugar under and on top of the dough. Roll gently from one end of the dough to the other to compress the layers and lengthen the strip to about 9 inches (23cm). Wrap the dough loosely in waxed paper (not plastic wrap, which causes moisture to form on the outside of the dough); set aside. Roll out, fold and wrap the second piece of dough with the remaining cardamom sugar. Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes.

Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 375F/190C. Remove one piece of dough from the refrigerator, unwrap it, and use a sharp knife to trim the ends evenly. Cut into 1/3-inch (.75cm) slices and arrange them 1.5 (3.75cm) inches apart on two ungreased cookie sheets. Bake until the undersides are golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes, rotating the pans from top to
bottom and front to back about halfway through baking.

Remove the pans from the oven and turn the cookies over. Sprinkle each one with a pinch or two of the reserved salted sugar mixture. Return the sheets to the oven until the cookies are deep golden brown, another 3 to 5 minutes. Rotate the pans and watch the cookies carefully at this stage to prevent burning. If the cookies brown at different rates, remove the dark ones and let the lighter ones continue to bake. Transfer the cookies to rack and let cool completely.

Remove the second piece of dough from the refrigerator, cut and bake. Let cool. The cookies can be kept in an airtight container for at least a week.


Menu for Hope IV

Yes, the rumors are true – here in food blog-land it’s time once again for the annual Menu For Hope!

For those of you who have recently joined us, the Menu for Hope is an annual event founded by Pim and collectively run by food bloggers around the globe in order to raise money for those desperately in need. Last year was an incredible success, with over $60,000 raised for the UN’s World Food Program, an organization dedicated to providing emergency food aid and carrying out rehabilitation and development programs for populations around the world. This year we are funding the WFP again, but they have allowed us to earmark our funds for a specific program, a school-lunch program in the kingdom of Lesotho, South Africa.

The food situation in Lesotho is dire. After five years of drought, it is estimated that disease and malnutrition claim the lives of one in 12 children before they reach the age of five. The kingdom is also confronting the triple threat of increasing chronic poverty, rising HIV/AIDS rates and weakened government capacity. This threat takes a heavy toll on the households of the rural poor in Lesotho; 56% of the population live on less then $2 per day, and for children born today, life expectancy is only 36 years. Currently, the WFP’s school feeding programme provides a daily nutritious meal to nearly 150,000 children. Even more importantly, they have been pushing for local procurement for much of this food: instead of buying surplus food in the US and shipping it to Africa to feed the kids, they are now buying maize and other produce from the local farmers, thereby putting funds back into the local economy. If you’re interested, here are the full details of the program, which stands as a model for sustainable development assistance in Africa.

And you can help support it! All it takes is a small donation, even $10, and not only will you be helping to fund the WFP’s activities, you’ll also be entering yourself in a raffle to win one of dozens and dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of absolutely incredible prizes from food bloggers around the world. Sounds pretty much like a win-win situation for everyone, doesn’t it?


(prize code UK20)


This year I am offering one lucky winner the full trilogy of Moro cookbooks. Moro, of course, is the groundbreaking and critically-acclaimed restaurant in London run by husband-and-wife team Samuel and Samantha Clark. Their rustic, highly imaginative cuisine fuses Iberian and Middle Eastern influences in a way that manages to be both exotic and familiar, and although I’ve only had the pleasure of eating in the restaurant twice, both meals rank without a doubt among my top-ten restaurant meals ever. The books themselves are chock-full of exactly the same kind of food, but unlike many restaurant cookbooks, these contain recipes that are perfectly suited to the home kitchen. Just to whet your appetite, here are some sample recipes from all three books:

Moro, the Cookbook:
Ajo blanco; Mushroom and almond soup with fino sherry; Chestnut and chorizo soup; Grilled quail with rose petals; Hummus with ground lamb and pinenuts; Feta salad with spinach, crispbread, sumac and pinenuts; Aubergine and red pepper salad with caramelized butter and yogurt; Pumpkin-feta fatayer; Paella with pork, chorizo and spinach; Slow-cooked lamb with artichokes and mint; Pork cooked in milk with bay and cinnamon; Pheasant with cloves, cinnamon and chestnuts; Cauliflower with saffron, pinenuts and raisins; Quince and almond tart; Chocolate, coffee and cardamom truffle cake; Rosewater and cardamom ice cream; Yogurt cake with pistachios

Casa Moro:
Fried aubergines with honey; Saffron, tahini and yogurt soup; Carrot puree with caraway and feta; Salt cod, orange and potato salad; Turkish pizza with tomato, lamb and allspice; Rabbit with rosemary rice; Hot chorizo salad with fino sherry; Roast chicken stuffed with sage and labneh; Spiced beef salad with fenugreek and hummus; Pork in almond sauce; Chicken and cardamom dumplings; Warm pumpkin and chickpea salad with tahini; Blood orange and rosewater sorbet; Dates with coffee and cardamom; Pistachio, orange and almond tart; Chocolate, chestnut and almond cake

Moro East*:
Tomato soup with cumin and figs; Iranian omelette with saffron; Bitter leaves with tahini and crispy caramelized onions; Salmorejo with prawns, avocado and tomato; Labneh with anchovies, red chili and cucumber; Duck liver terrine with grapes; Grilled aubergine salad with tomatoes and pomegranates; Beetroot salad with pistachio sauce; Artichokes and potatoes with oloroso sherry; Braised celery with tomato, olives and coriander; Jewelled pumpkin rice; Chicken and prawn romesco; Rhubarb and rosewater fool; Almond meringues with anise and raspberries; Saffron ice cream with pistachio biscuits
*check out Heidi’s great review of this brand-new release

I will be happy to ship these books anywhere in the world, provided amazon.co.uk normally ships there. Please note, however, that these are the UK versions of these cookbooks, with British terminology and metric measurements. I really don’t think this should be a problem for anyone (and by this I mean you, Americans!), but nevertheless, if the winner happens to live in a metrically-challenged area, I’ll be happy to offer my recipe-consulting services to help you interpret and adapt the Moro recipes to your own kitchen.



1. Choose a prize or prizes of your choice from the prize list at http://www.chezpim.com/blogs/2007/12/menu-for-hope-4.html. You must make sure to check the terms and conditions for the individual prizes BEFORE you bid, as some will come with restrictions regarding where they ship to or how long the prize is valid for.

2. Go to the donation site at http://www.firstgiving.com/menuforhope4 and make a donation.

3. Please specify which prize you’d like in the ‘Personal Message’ section in the donation form when confirming your donation. You must write in how many tickets per prize, and please use the prize code. The code for my prize is UK20.

Each $10 you donate will give you one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for UK01 and 3 tickets for EU02. Please write 2xUK01, 3xEU02

4. If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so we can claim the corporate match.

5. Please check the box to allow us to see your email address so that we could contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.

Check back on Chez Pim on Wednesday, January 9 for the results of the raffle. I will also post an announcement here with the the winner of my prize.

Thank you so much for your support and for helping to make this event even more successful than last year!!