Cookstrip

By Elisabeth Luard

Around the World in Eighty Dishes

Art | Food & drink
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Fun, friendly and practical – this is a cartoon cookbook for everyone who loves to cook or can't cook but wants to know the basics or just likes the idea of cooking but doesn't know where to begin.

It's been a long time brewing. The idea first came to me some thirty years ago, while travelling all over Europe presenting a thirteen-part TV series based on my first cookbook, European Peasant Cookery. Filming in unfamiliar languages in tiny kitchens in out-of-the-way places, often without a shared language, proved a challenge to everyone – cooks, presenter, crew. All, however, became clear when I took to story-boarding each episode while we were filming. My cartoons were livelier and more technicolour than the usual frame-by-frame stick-figures and I was enjoying myself – so, it seemed, was everyone else.

Later, when travelling the world as a journalist writing on food and culture, I filled hundreds of sketchbooks with the visual notes that come to me easily from an earlier career as a botanical and bird artist. A watercolour-box small enough to sit on my fist and a sketchbook the size of a postcard allows me to communicate in kitchens and marketplaces with people who really know their stuff. Many of the dishes I've included will be familiar, others less so, and some are the simple little preparations – omelettes, mayonnaise – that make such a difference to home-cooking. Each storyboard – which is really what these cartoons are – is dictated by my own memories of people and places and each of the introductory images that set the scene for the recipes were first recorded in my sketchbooks. It's been a long time simmering and I'm delighted to have a chance to finally bring this to the table!

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  • Elisabeth Luard avatar

    Elisabeth Luard

    Elisabeth Luard is an award-winning food writer who often illustrates her own work. Her latest book is a food-and-travel memoir, Squirrel Pie and Other Stories, a companion volume to Family Life, Still Life and My Life as a Wife (all in print with Bloomsbury). Previous publications include European Peasant Cookery, European Seasonal Dishes, Tapas and Flavours of Andalucia (Grub Street).  Other work includes The Food of Spain and Portugal, The Latin American Kitchen, Sacred Food and Truffles, plus a couple of best-selling doorstopper novels, Emerald and Marguerite. She has lived and worked in Latin America, Spain, Italy and France, brought up her own young family in a remote valley in Andalucia and has just moved from the wilds of Wales to London. She continues to travel widely and contributes to The Oldie, Daily Mail and Country Living, among others. Her 13-part tv series, The Rich Tradition of European Peasant Cookery, made in 1992 for SBS Australia and BBC2, is on re-release at TalkingofFood.com. She is Chair of The Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery and was awarded The Guild of Foodwriters Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016.  Her website is http://elisabethluard.com/home and you’ll find her on Twitter and Facebook.

  • Lamb with Barley:
    Serves 4

    1 small shoulder of lamb
    150g spelt or barley
    1 whole garlic head
    2 cans plum tomatoes
    100g unsalted butter
    Salt and ground white pepper (plenty)

    Madame Annie Pacault, restaurateur of the village of Savoillans in the vallé du Toulourenc in Upper Provence, prepares this dish of slow-cooked lamb with garlic, grains and tomatoes in autumn and early winter, when the year's crop of lambs are well-grown and have put on their winter covering of fat. The grains absorb the fat as it melts, keeping the meat deliciously rich and soft. Annie prepares her dish with a shoulder of a well-grown mountain lamb that would elsewhere be classed as hogget – yearling mutton. The grain she prefers is épautre, a primitive hard-husked wheat that thrives in harsh conditions such as those of the uplands of the Luberon, though barley, preferably unpolished, is an acceptable alternative.  The region provides summer pastures for transhumancing herds of sheep brought into the mountains from their winter quarters in the Alpilles, the hills north of Marseilles. The flocks are known for the excellence of little cheeses made with sheep's milk, tomes. Since the agneau a l’epautre is prepared to order, customers are provided with an hors d'oeuvre of sourdough bread from the baker next door, radishes with unsalted butter, a bowl of home-made tapenade (capers, anchovies, black olives, thyme) and bowl of lettuce-leaves dressed with olive oil, salt and a dash of wine-vinegar topped with the appropriate number of rounds of goat's cheese on toasted slices of baguette blistered under the grill. The local wine is rough and red and taken in equal volume of water from the well.

    Gujerati Vegetable Curry:
    Serves 4-6

    500g potatoes
    500g aubergines
    500g tomatoes
    1 small cauliflower
    2 medium onions
    2-3 tablespoons ghee (or vegetable oil)
    1 level tablespoon cumin seeds
    1 short stick cassia or cinnamon
    1 tablespoon ground turmeric
    4-6 whole cloves
    1 thick slice fresh ginger-root
    1-2 green chillies, de-seeded
    Salt and pepper
    To serve
    250g mung dhal
    8-12 flatbreads - roti or chapatis
    2-3 tablespoons toasted cashews
    about 100g fresh white cheese

    A one-pot vegetable stew eaten from the hand with a freshly-baked scooping bread (chapatti) is the standard midday meal in rural regions throughout India. Spicings vary, though cumin-seed, ginger-root and home-grown chilli is usual. Vegetables are seasonal and either home-grown or bought fresh daily in the market. Hindu vegetarian rules require abstinence from alcohol, a category that includes yeast-raised breads such as pitta and storable cheese. While chicken and fish are increasingly tolerated in many regions, the vegetarian tradition practised for religious reasons remains strong in Gujerat, Gandhi's home-territory, well-spring of the Mahatma's campaign of passive resistance to colonial rule. Rules of culinary engagement include the replacement of onion and garlic with asafoetida, a flavouring painstakingly derived from the root of the giant fennel, though this particular religious demand is not much followed in the villages of the Great Rann of Kutch, home to wolves and the last of Asia's desert lions as well as a resourceful population of cattle-herdermen, self-sufficient farming communities among whom where I gathered the recipe. Vegetable proportions are inexact, size of cooking-pot dictates numbers of participants (never take more than you should). The most important element, the scooping-breads, are prepared with pounded millet, an adaptable grain that thrives under desert conditions, patted out by hand and toasted on a bake-stone over a stick-fire.

    Norwegian Gravlax:
    Serves 4-6

    Ik salmon fillet (skin on)
    4 tablespoons sea-salt
    1 tablespoon crushed white peppercorns
    2 tablespoons sugar
    Generous handful dill-fronds
    Small glass aquavit or vodka

    Mustard sauce
    200ml sunflower or seed oil
    1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
    1 tablespoon mild mustard
    1 tablespoon caster sugar
    1 teaspoon sea salt
    1 tablespoon finely-chopped dill

    The simplest and most ancient method of conserving summer’s plenty against the deprivations of winter in a region where both land and water freeze solid through half the year. The secret is in the name: ‘lax’ is salmon and ‘grav’ means buried, as in ‘grave’. Scandinavian hunters far from home on the icy shores of the Arctic were accustomed to digging a pit in the sandy shore and burying the catch at the end of summer for retrieval later. The Arctic shoreline freezes solid in winter, the original covering was pine needles rather than dill, and there was enough salt in the sand to keep the flesh pickled rather than rotted into inedibility. That said, there's certainly a taste for well-fermented fish in many non-Arctic cultures as well as throughout Scandinavia. It was wise, however, to remember where you'd buried your grave-salmon before the summer thaw set in. To carve, slice the flesh vertically in slender wedges rather than horizontal slivers as for smoked salmon (smoke is an addition to the original method in a damp climate, such as Scotland's). Don't let the skin go to waste: snip it into ribbons and crisp in its own fat on a hot dry pan – the flavour is exquisitely concentrated and the texture pleasantly chewy. Mustard sauce with dill is a relatively new Franco-German addition to the Scandinavian original – no matter, it's delicious. Serve all together with paper-thin Scandinavian crispbreads and Janssen's Temptation – matchsticked potatoes baked with cream and a layer of salt-cured Baltic anchovies (or not, as you please). The appropriate refreshment is a fistful of beer with an aquavit chaser.

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  • Elisabeth Luard has written 1 private update. You can pledge to get access to them all.

    30th June 2019 classic French petits pois, just in time for the arrival of fresh peas in the market

    30th June 2019 classic French petits pois, just in time for the arrival of fresh peas in the market

    2nd June 2019 Basque piperrada is basically a ratatouille scrambled with eggs. Let the eggs set without scrambling and flip it over to turn it into a tortilla.

    1st March 2019 This recipe for Florida crabcakes was gathered at a beach-side crab-shack overlooking the Everglades where alligators, egrets and roseate spoonbills come with the territory.s

    21st January 2019 Hungarian gulyas - recipe collected from a gang of horsemen on the pushta circa 1992 while filming The Rich Tradition, 13-part series made from my first book, European Peasant Cookery (check the Hungarian episode at TalkingofFood.com)

    23rd December 2018 Potatoes with cheese, cream and chilli from the Peruvian highlands. Post-Christmas comfort food.

    4th December 2018 Moroccan tajine with couscous as prepared in Tangier, my port-of-call when I lived in Andalucia and needed to get the family passports stamped. Eat with your fingers, right hand only. Moroccans can make a little ball of coucscous one-handed

    30th October 2018 We're in Ahmedhabad, capital of the west Indian state of Gujerat, Mahatma Gandhi's homeland, where the tradition is vegetarian.

    14th September 2018 A slow-cooked daube from the Camargue - recipe and opening image gathered during my previous career as a natural history artist.

    14th August 2018 summertime and the living is easy....

    images and recipe gathered on St. Barts circa - ooo, sometime in the early noughties.

     

    8th August 2018 Gratin dauphinois: just potatoes, butter, milk and cream - no cheese!

    12th July 2018 Tuscan minestrone

    project's coming along slowly but surely...make your summer minestrone with fresh borlotti beans (in the shops now) instead of potato.

     

    22nd June 2018 Portuguese caldo verde - easy and delicious. You can use any variety of dark-leaved cabbage but make sure it's shredded as fine as angels' hair (in a manner of speaking. Portuguese cooks use a special instrument for the job.

    29th May 2018 Swedish meatballs

    Simple, easy and delicious with new potatoes and a spoonful of cranberries collapsed in a splash of water and little sugar.  Recipe from the wife of a retired forester in the Swedish lake district - hence long-boat with oarsmen in the background.

    24th April 2018 Valencian paella

    To qualify as a proper paella, the dish must be cooked in the open air by a man (or men) in a double-handled raw iron pan set over the embers of a campfire. Essential ingreditients are round-grain rice, saffron, olive oil, water and salt, plus whatever foraged ingredients come to hand: in the rice paddies of Valencia, rabbit, frog-legs and snails are usual. Vegetarians can stick with fresh of pre…

    3rd April 2018 Boston clam chowder as served at Legal Seafood on the Boston seafront with Julia Child circa 1986....



     

    22nd March 2018 Here's a single strip recipe for vanilla custard with its related recipes - no 52, well, these things take time!

    20th February 2018 no. 54 out of 80 (progress, eh?) Ethiopian chicken w'ett is a special party-dish. Unusual features: skin the chicken (normal instruction in a hot climate) and cook the onion in water rather than fry.

    31st January 2018 hot off the press...actually, a bit slow as it's for January 6th and we're nearly into February. Hope you like the camels.

    22nd January 2018 Parmigiana

    Italian Parmigiana

     





     

    8th January 2018 A Proper Mexican Guacamole

    Just finished a new cartoon – a proper Mexican guacamole – as I'm sure you know, it's a flavoured mash (a bit like scrunched potatoes) not a puree!







    17th October 2017 Many thanks to supporters so far!

    ...and please pass on the news to anyone you think might be interested. It's a steep learning curve, crowd-funding. But I like the anarchy of self-publishing - Dickens did it after all, and he was no slouch, sales-wise.  Meanwhile I'll be posting images from my sketchbooks regularly on Instagram (the handle is elisabeth.luard).  The contents of my sketchbooks - I have hundreds from over the years…

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