Finally, she kept her promise of reciprocation. Dolores the chef came to my soiree and shared her passion and experiences with me. It was such a delightful session that I’d been waiting to meet her again ever since. The life in Istanbul is unimaginable for most of the people who have never set foot in this world. It’s big; it’s chaotic; it’s frustrating; it’s addictive. Compared to the size of the city, I feel the city is the smallest when I long for exciting food experiences. It’ll be even worse when the bans on alcohol and social activities become more serious. I feel bad talking about food when people are going about, angry after the disappointing election results. But let’s forget about the politics for a second.
Foodies living in Istanbul have a dilemma. Where should we go to eat? Hmm….after some searching and thinking, ok, they come to this: let’s cook at home. Yes, we foodies cook better than any restaurants in Istanbul, believe or not, and even better, it costs far less for the more superior quality. So having a gastronomic session every now and then is crucial for survival in Istanbul. I don’t want to bore you with why the situation is like that so I stop. With everything going on here in the political and economic sense, I understand that cooking is their least interest, however, I wish to differ!
Anyway, the story goes on. Dolores the chef invited the same attendees to her new apartment and treated us with Spanish specialties. Having authentic Spanish delicacies like salt cod croquettes (Croquetas de Bacalao) and Iberico-like jambon was such a delightful, sensational and even sensual affair for the palate. Sniffing Spanish jambon gives me a similar pleasure to sniffing French cheese. Gosh, I wish I could convey the sensation with words but I can’t. She brought all the ingredients from Spain, which made it extra special.
Everything was made from scratch, even the bread. We chefs never resort to an easy option and it’s a joyful tragedy as my mum puts it. My mun, when not cooking, was boiling stocks or preparing ingredients or hunting for fresh produce for her restaurant. Watching her tending to the stocks, I often wondered why she didn’t just use premade sauces or bouillon like others. Her suffering didn’t end there; now she has to suffer watching me cooking and feeding people all the time. Guess what? She’s still creating new recipes every time I visit her!
Food is all about freshness and authenticity, and not to forget, HEART. The food has to be cooked with heart, otherwise it’s nothing.
The main was Risotto with Confit de Canard! I detected the whiff of the duck fat aroma upon entering the house and I just melted hopelessly with the first mouthful as did the confit.
It was succulently creamy and delicious, and went down perfectly with the wine, which was a Priorat wine, Embruix de Vall Llach 2009, made with a mixture of 5 grape varieties including Carignan and Grenache, which gives that sweet fennel flavour. It was very fruity and aromatic with the taste resembling plum tart and creme brulee. But I was very surprised by the alcohol level of 15.5%. Wow…but it didn’t taste strong at all because it was very soft and balanced. Another surprise is yet to come. Coulant au Chocolat served with home-made strawberry coulis….what a treat!
No wonder she isn’t satisfied with most of the food served in restaurants here. When we expats get together, we share our hearts about difficulties, which helps us go on living. We chefs like cooking and tasting fresh food, whether it’s cheap or expensive. Cheap food is sometimes more natura, simply and fresh than the food served in many high-end restaurants, which is a bitter reality to swallow, living in this consumerism and advertisement driven world. People go to such and such places so that they can show off on their Facebook status and they don’t care about what they eat and how they taste as long as they have high ratings on food magazine sites. My advice is this: Don’t waste money. If you have extra money to spend, please give it to charity and come eat with me or us. Not only will your tummy be fed but your soul will be nourished, too. If you serve me mayonnaise, I’ll surely tell whether it’s home-made or not. I eat nothing but freshly prepared food. Canned or process food will never have even the tiniest room in my pantry! If people know how good home-made food is, they can never go back to processed food again. This can be achieved not by the theory but by the people. As Dolores the Chef said, everything starts from one person or by one person. She got introduced to the world of cooking by one person and I was inspired and enlightened by food through one person as well. We should spend more time, eating, drinking and inspiring one another. The most heart-warming image is people sharing food and sipping wine by the fireplace, watching the flames and listening to the crackling sound of burning wood.
Oh, now you have it. This aroma candle called “Sauvignon Fireplace” truly mimics a buring fireplace. Cracking! Now what we all need is a siesta….
I sincerely thank the chef for such a delightful lunch and enchanting company. I am already looking forward to the next gastronomic session but by whom?