Sunday, December 6, 2009

food & cooking in cambridge

One of my favourite challenges of moving to a new country is trying to cook without the things we take for granted in North America. We shop at Sainsbury’s Central, which is a supermarket in downtown Cambridge. It has a good selection of meat, a fair selection of [mostly] seasonal produce, and so forth. Cheaper than the butcher’s & the Co-op, more expensive than Asda (Walmart). You get the picture.

Anyway, because it is a supermarket, instead of a mega-market, it doesn’t carry certain things like cornmeal, clingwrap, tortilla chips, etc. Things I take for granted as “able to find in any store”. These are things not impossible to get—the clingwrap is probably hiding in the store, but we can get it from the Co-op anyway. Tortilla chips, in the form of flavoured Doritos, can also be bought from the Co-op or I just purchase a package of Old Elpaso Nachos and find a creative use for the nacho sauce (like adding it to my chilli con queso because I couldn’t find the green mild chillis I wanted as Sainsbury’s).

Today I’m trying to make buffalo wings. They sell chicken wings—raw, whole, unseasoned. So they’re actually really inexpensive, and I got a bit of a workout at home separating them. I found Tabasco sauce, in a little box...but no Louisiana hot sauce. I was really hoping for some Frank’s Red Hot, but alas! So I bought a bottle of Peri-Peri marinade instead, which is a South African pepper sauce. I’m really interested to see the result.

Moving here is really forcing me to think when I cook, instead of just blindly following a recipe or freaking out/omitting if I can’t find an ingredient in the store. Last week I tried braising steaks in a brisket marinade and it called for liquid smoke. So I subbed sesame oil instead, because it has a good smokey flavour, and it turned out delicious. In fact I’d say that since moving here we’ve had more good meals than we had in Canada!

Things I do miss, tho: rootbeer (seriously, this country has none. WTF!), granny smith apples, bacon (the bacon here is different. Not as smokey or fatty), cornmeal (ok, I can actually get this from Asda, but it’s sold fine-ground as polenta and although inexpensive, having to go to another store makes it a luxury instead of the staple it was for us), and the taste of certain things (cola, certain chocolate bars, etc) that taste slightly different here. And also potato chips. They have a bunch of different kinds over here, but they seem to excel for the weird and wonderful. At least they sell Kettle Chips!

We’re learning how to use our gas stove and I’m falling more and more in love with it. Today David made sausages in the grill part of the stove, and they were fucking amazing. I love cooking chicken in the oven, because it gets a beautiful golden brown and I don’t have to fuss over it. And most food over here tastes better, fresher, than back home. Cheese is a whole new experience, and I’m not even talking fancy stuff from the deli.
As for the wings, they came out ok but nothing like my favourites from Alzu’s in Victoria. I think this is because I baked the wings instead of deep frying, and because the Peri-Peri sauce had clearly been made less spicy for these wussy English. David liked ‘em, but I thought they were tasty but not mind-blowing. And for me to keep a less than mind-blowing recipe for my files it must be something that David won’t stop raving about, or something super easy to make with lots of leftovers. And this is neither. Ah well!
See how beautiful this chicken gets?

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