Travels on my plate

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These challenging and unprecedented times have fostered resourcefulness and resilience amongst us all. Stuck at home, we have been forced to think of creative ways to recreate our holiday experiences, letting our imagination wander instead of our feet: for us, the best (and perhaps only!) way of travelling right now is to take a culinary journey through cooking!

Emma: “Last term, my housemate and I attempted to cook an authentic paella that would do justice to Spanish cuisine, something we’d been dreaming about enjoying in sunny Barcelona. Realising that re-creating that experience through cooking it ourselves was likely to be the closest we’d get to actually visiting Spain this year, we were determined to make our Spanish night a success. Armed with king prawns, paella rice, peppers and a range of spices, it was with surprising ease that we were able to concoct the very tastes of the Med that we’d been craving. After chopping, sauteing and mixing, the finished result was a magnificent dish of saffron-coloured rice jewelled with tender prawns and red bell peppers.

To accompany the dish, we made our own rosé Sangria, using a simple combination of rosé wine, orange juice, frozen berries and ice! To my surprise, it turns out that all you need is a little imagination and a good recipe to be completely transported abroad!”

It turns out that all you need is a little imagination and a good recipe to be completely transported abroad!

Gracie: “Ramen, a Japanese noodle soup, unusually transports me back to a cold evening in Sligo, Ireland. In a small unassuming restaurant where my dad and I were the only customers, we slurped away at a thick warm broth was unlike anything I’d ever had before Although several local Japanese restaurants have ramen on their menu, most of them are not vegan-friendly, so over lockdown I decided to take on the challenge of making my own soul-warming soup. Ramen broth can be made many different ways, but I opted for a vegetable broth infused with ginger, onion, garlic and shiitake mushrooms. To add more depth and ‘umami’ flavour, I added soy sauce and miso paste. While the broth was simmering, I prepared my toppings: crispy tofu, mushrooms, and pak choi. Spring onions also provided a colourful, crunchy finish, while a drizzle of chilli oil at the end added heat. The first sip not only reminded me of the quaint diner in Ireland, but my tastebuds were transported to the busy streets of Tokyo; the only thing that was missing was a generous cup of sake to wash it all down with.”

Constance: “As someone whose current love interest is carbohydrates, I am no stranger to the allure of pasta. Pre Covid-19, I dreamt of swimming in the azure waters of the Amalfi coast, eating my weight in pasta, pizza, and gelato, and re-enacting most of Roman Holiday after graduation, together with my closest friends. The pandemic might have put my travel plans to a halt, but it won’t stop me from eating pasta. To travel vicariously through my kitchen, I decided to make my own tomato sauce and tagliatelle from scratch — a significant upgrade from my lunches at uni. I opted to use a recipe by Giulia Ardizzone. I’m still in shock at how simple the ingredients are: fresh tomatoes, onion, basil, olive oil, and your seasonings of choice. Though I spilt sauce on my pajamas, the final result was worth it. As the fragrant sauce was simmering, my lofty plans to make my own pasta fell apart due to my impatience. However, I have no complaints – this might be the best thing I have cooked this year.”

Meghna: “As someone who hasn’t returned to Durham this term, there is only one thing I’m missing as much as actually travelling to the country of this cuisine and indulging in the authentic tacos, churros and empanadas: Zaps. Having only travelled to Mexico once, the delicious flavours and spices have left an immense impact on my tastebuds, and although the Western imprint of Zaps is more than slightly different, my versions from home aren’t quite the same. In Mexico, tacos are typically softly wrapped with fresh tortillas, rather than hard-shelled like we often find closer to home. The flavours and sauces ooze into the wrap, rather than being dolloped on top of the crunchy lettuce and plastic-like cheese of the tacos I’ve tried to recreate.”

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