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What a wonderful world

The availability of so many deliciously exotic ingredients from around the world makes life so much more interesting, writes MiNDFOOD food editor Dixie Elliott.

What a wonderful world

Some years ago I bought a book called Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons by Diana Henry. At first I was intrigued by the title but then fell in love with the book after reading it. 

In Henry’s corner of North London she began her adventure with Middle Eastern food as it was an area with many amazing little stores and restaurants selling ingredients from Iran, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey etc.

These were the places immigrants were able to buy familiar cooking ingredients but also somewhere they could socialise.

Today, in our multicultural societies we can have the same kind of experiences.

We can sample Thai, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Indonesian, Indian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Greek and many more cuisines without leaving our shores.

On a recent visit to my local Thai supermarket I was amazed at the huge variety of fresh ingredients.

There were beautiful pandam leaves, Thai basil, galangal, turmeric, Vietnamese mint, little white eggplant, betel leaves and cans of many different products. I couldn’t wait to buy the ingredients to make a curry.

If you have a store like this close to you, go and have a wander through. Talk to the shop assistant and ask about the unfamiliar produce as, in my experience, this can be very helpful. They can offer tips on cooking with the different ingredients and, if you’re lucky, family recipes.

I have always loved doing cooking classes to learn about different cuisines. From them I have gained a wealth of knowledge, friendship and enjoyment.

Some time ago I went to an Indian cooking class. The man taking the classes had a special interest in the history of Indian food, which made his classes fascinating.

For example, dried fruit was introduced into Indian food through the Parsis who fled Iran. Curries began to appear in Malaysian and Indonesian food following the migration of Indian workers. All this makes food more interesting as you begin to appreciate its impact on societies.

I’d love to hear about some of the interesting adventures you’ve had with food. What are some of your favourite dishes from another country? What type of cuisine do you love to cook and why?

Until next time…

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