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By the way

"By the way - used to introduce a new subject to be considered or to give further information" Cambridge English Dictionary

Yes it's one of those bits and pieces posts, but here is a piece that was not on my agenda - found when I was searching for something to illustrate the post. It's a restaurant in Madrid - By the way restaurant and more - the more being music. So if you are planning a trip to Madrid, check it out because the food looks stunning as does the location. When the sun is shining and you are on holiday anyway.

I guess it's very appropriate to find something like this - it's probably worthy of a whole post on its own, but since it's in Madrid and neither I nor you are likely to be there anytime soon I'll just leave it at a bit of serendipity. You'd have to wonder why the English name though. They don't say why on the website.

But on with the other 'by the way' trivia I have found recently - mostly courtesy of Coles and The Guardian I have to say.


'Tis the season for corn and Coles is promoting it. I actually bought a couple of cobs last week as they were only 50c each - on a special. This week they are still on a special but at $1.00 each. Define 'special'. Anyway on the page on which it was being promoted - complete with this very high class photograph - they gave a couple of interesting little facts/tips. One - did you know that the average corn cob has about 800 kernels? That's quite a lot. Can you imagine somebody sitting down and counting the kernels on at least a dozen cobs of corn in some lab somewhere. Why did they think to do that I wonder? Does it matter, or is it just interesting? It would be a good task to give primary school kids for a science lesson wouldn't it?

Two - you can cook it in the microwave. Keep it intact inside the husks with silk as well, which apparently is easier to remove when cooked this way. Cook on high for 2 minutes, turn with tongs - they will be hot - and cook for another 2 minutes. Cool slightly before removing the husks and silks. Might try that some time. Oh - and smother with butter and pepper. They didn't say that but you should.

Another resolution? - At the foot of that page they suggest that each day in January - that's 31 days - you "add a new healthy habit into your eating routine." I don't think many people will take that one up - that's an awful lot of new habits no matter how small. They've got suggestions on their website. Good marketing I guess - "look we're only concerned for your health" - but too hard I reckon. I can't think of 31 new healthy habits. Of course I could pat myself on the back and say I've got all the bases covered already - which of course I haven't. And whilst we are talking websites - Coles is now on TikTok. Canny marketing again. Apparently you can view "some hilarious behind-the-scenes videos including how some of your favourite Coles brand products are created," as well as tips and other stuff about how wonderful Coles is and what you should be buying.

Also a worrying statistic, that Coles, of course, thinks is great - Between 2017 and 2022 purchases of ready-to-eat meals rose by an average of 2.9% per year.

This appeared in The Guardian as an alternative Christmas dinner from Yotam Ottolenghi - hence the Christmassy decorations in the picture. An aside - I wonder how many people depart from their own particular tradition on Christmas Day? The dish includes parsnips in the mix and in the same article there are some braised turmeric carrots.

However, the reason for my posting this - apart from it looking quite tempting and different is that here we have yet another spice mix. It sometimes seems to me that every week somebody comes up with a new one, and that possibly clever food influencers are working away in their kitchens devising yet more. It's interesting isn't it? When I was young all we had was mixed spices - and you know I have no idea what was in that. So of course I looked it up and it had everything you would expect - cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, mace, ginger and cloves - and coriander too, though I do wonder about that last one. We had never heard of coriander back then, fresh or seeds, stem or root. We also had mixed herbs - and what was that? We are talking dried herbs here of course, and it's probably similar to herbes de Provence - but seems to be basil, marjoram, thyme, oregano, rosemary and sage - the normal herbs you would find in an English garden.

But back to yaji - or suya as it is known in its native Nigeria where it is most often rubbed on to beef which is skewered. But even the Nigerians use it for other things. Actually Ottolenghi who is adept at throwing weird things into his recipes admits that peanut cake (or powder) and selim pepper are hard to come by and substitutes roast peanuts and green peppercorns. I did find a few 'authentic' recipes online from actual Nigerians of which the one from My Diaspora Kitchen was the first one I came across. So why not pick that one? It's a little bit different from Ottolenghi's and a little bit different from the next one I saw, so it's obviously a personal thing. Like all spice mixes. Maybe we should all just have a go at making our own personal spice mixes. The absolute must in this particular mix though is the roast and ground peanuts. Worth a try anyway.

The last straw - If you're into apples then this might be the cocktail for you because it consists of all things appley - cider, apple juice and calvados with elderflower cordial for good measure. But I am really featuring this for two reasons - one to promote Difford's Guide an Australian website for all things to do with cocktails - it's very comprehensive and informative. But also just for the interesting fact that back on January 3rd 1888 (this was a blog post on Difford's Guide for the 3rd January), the drinking straw was patented by Marvin Stone. Paper of course back then, and I do remember paper straws - if you were unlucky they went soggy and inefficient by the time you got to the bottom of your drink whatever it might have been. And, oh dear, back when it was invented the paper was rolled (by hand) and then covered in paraffin. Now surely that couldn't be good? The process was mechanised in 1906 and eventually we got plastic and all those bendy straws. But like many things the pendulum is swinging back to the beginning with the banning of plastic straws, because - well they're plastic - but more importantly they are killing sea life. So now we have straws from bamboo and various metals - even cardboard - back to the beginning. Except that's not the beginning. The ancient Sumerians had straws - there's one in the British Museum which:

"consists of 35 alternating gold foil and lapis lazuli cylindrical beads set in bitumen on a hollow copper tube made by rolling a piece of metal spiral, with a silver end originally set at right angles to the tube." British Museum catalogue description

I imagine there were less elaborate ones as well. They believe the Sumerians used them to "avoid the solid by-products of fermentation at the bottom of their beer" (Difford's Guide)

Who knew. You learn something every day. Well I hope to anyway.

Prune and armagnac fool with chocolate rosemary bark - this one is from Thomasina Miers who is a cook whose recipes I am finding increasingly tempting. Must look out for a cookbook. I think she has a Mexican focussed restaurant in London and she has a column in The Guardian. Now I love prunes and don't use them nearly enough so I think I'm going to use this recipe sometime soon. Maybe next week when we have friends coming for lunch. I have some Armagnac in the cupboard - well I hope I have. It's one of the liqueurs - like Calvados and Grand Marnier - that I use every now and then. Unlike all the others hidden away in the dark recesses of the glassware cupboard.

Street pantries - A last one from Coles, who, in each of their magazines feature a 'local hero' who does something charitable with food. This one is a bit of a novel idea - from a lady called Rachael Smith in Sydney. I guess it's based on street libraries for books, but here the idea is to leave food for the needy in a pantry. It's called Pantry 4 The People and is in the suburb of Botany near the airport. I'm assuming this is a poor area, because you certainly wouldn't be putting up one in an area like Eltham. Indeed you would need to choose your location carefully - just enough poor to be useful but not so many that fights would develop. We have no need for this kind of charity in this area. Although It might be an idea to have something similar in which to put your surplus from your veggie patch. Much more difficult to keep fresh than a packet of spaghetti though. And we can deposit things for the needy in boxes in the supermarkets - well Coles and Woolworths anyway. Not Aldi.

Ms. Smith has created all sorts of relationship with organisations, schools and other charities, including Kelloggs who have a factory in the area and who replaced the original makeshift pantry with a well-built one, and have committed to stocking it with boxes of cereal. Good publicity for them I guess. Well done Rachael. Good publicity for Coles too.


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