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Claudia Roden

Rice Bran Oil

About a year and a half ago I ordered a book called Ideas in Food: Great Recipes and Why They Work that has become one of my staple cooking references. Their recipe for cold-smoked fried chicken sent me on a bit of a wild-goose chase for rice bran oil because at that time it wasn’t carried very widely in Toronto grocery stores. The Hansells Group and their Alfa One brand of rice bran oil is now working to change that.

From the preview event they held a couple weeks ago at the Sub Zero & Wolf Showroom in Toronto I took home a sample of the product. They were demo’ing examples of the oil used for sauteeing, baking, in a salad dressing and as part of the sauce for Thai curry mussels and everything tasted but I wanted to test the oil out at home.

Eggplant fritter frying in rice bran oil.

Eggplant fritter frying in rice bran oil.

On our trip to Spain last April we managed to develop a low-level addiction to fried eggplant fritters with honey. Since we’ve been back we’ve made them at least once a month. Most recipes like the berenjenas con miel in Claudia Roden’s The Food Of Spain call for soaking eggplant slices in milk, dusting them with flour and then frying in sunflower oil. Because the coating is so light and the other flavours are so neutral this seems like an ideal situation for a side-by-side test. (more…)

Potato Tortilla

Potatoes, onions, and olive oil flavour this national egg dish of Spain.

You might be surprised that “un espresso, por favor” and “una Estrella, por favor” sound quite similar when passed through the imperfect filter that is my flawed Spanish. I can tell you that having thought I said the former I was surprised to turn around and find a bottle of one of Spain’s most popular beers waiting for me. At 8:30 AM.

“What the hell?” I thought, “it’s Spain and judging by the age of my fellow breakfast-imbibers one beer won’t be lethal.”

Beer wasn’t a common feature of my breakfasts in Spain last month but tortilla patatasĀ definitely was. Even more than paella or gazpacho this frittata-like egg preparation is the ubiquitous, national dish of Spain. It anchors the simple breakfast of pastries, small sandwiches, and coffee that many neighbourhood taverns use to extend their revenue-making hours into the pre-siesta half of the day. (more…)