Book of the Week – 'The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals' by Michael Pollan

 Have you ever wondered what it is you're eating? Where your food comes from? Have you ever wondered why the tomato sauce you bought has about 30 ingredients - most of which you can't even pronounce? Have you ever guessed exactly how much corn is in, for instance, your hamburger? Or oil made from corn? Artificial flavours made from corn? Meat from cows fed on corn? The list goes on and on…The Omnivore’s Dilemma explores exactly these questions, encouraging us to think more consciously about what we eat. Michael Pollan urges us to engage with where our ingredients come from and retrace their journey from their origins – be it massive cornfields in the US or the sterile surroundings of a chemical laboratory.Through this thought-provoking review, Pollan became active himself. He retraced and produced his own meals. He had a look into the shocking and appalling machinery of industrial production, thereafter purchasing his own cattle and monitoring their way from birth on a farm to their last months in the horrifying conditions of the feeding lots. He engages with the question and problems of local and organic production - helping out on a grass farm - and goes deep into the forest, hunting and preparing his dinner from scratch.The discoveries that Pollan reveals in his book are not always a nice read – yet they not only open our eyes to the appalling facts and repercussions of industrial production, but they also lead us to engage with more subtle questions: what are the implications of us wanting cheap prawns and fresh fruit throughout the year? And is organic always better? Even if the food has been shipped or flown in from far away?In the wake of recent revelations, such as The Guardian uncovering the truth about slave labour producing the prawns we buy at Tesco for instance, we need to be more conscious about our food. It does not suffice to go through supermarkets and only buy what is cheap or what looks tasty. There is so much more implied - for ourselves, for our fellows and for our planet - that we cannot close our eyes to the implications of our consumption. The Omnivore’s Dilemma is a haunting book that can definitely can nudge us to engage with and think about our food, instead of grabbing the first thing that catches our eye. We as students, especially, can make an impact and change the way our food is produced, preventing it from becoming something even more inaccessible, industrialised and incomprehensible…  Charlotte Wirth 

Istanbul: 2 Days, 2 Dinners

IstanbulSammy Evans takes us on a culinary tour of Turkey's famous city...

During the spring break, I found myself falling in love with Istanbul. The chaos connected with my soul, and the coffee cult and continuous backgammon in the cafes struck a chord with me. I was pretty sure that I was never going to come back to St. Andrews. My friend Olivia and I lost ourselves in the hustle and bustle of the streets, the call to prayer five times a day, the tiny cups of tea, the rich history and architecture, and the fresh Turkish cuisine.

Istanbul is often used as a layover on the way to Africa, and thus, here are two dinners not to miss.

Dinner #1

Ficcin, located in Beyoglu just off Istiklal CD, is a local Turkish restaurant. It has five restaurants, all located on the same small side street. All of them are filled with both tourists and locals. We saw four Turkish men taking a photo at their table, and if Turkish men think Ficcin is great, then it must be great. The menu was printed on a plain A4 piece of paper in English and Turkish, and consisted of traditional Turkish dishes. We had grape leaves (we’re obsessed), Circassian meat ravioli in a yogurt sauce, and meatballs on a zucchini mash, a specialty. Everything was fantastic. The grape leaves were delicious, albeit a little narrow. They were filled with rice and had a nice cinnamon and mint flavor to them. The meat ravioli in a yogurt sauce came with three bowls of spices to be mixed into the sauce.

I enjoyed testing out the spices until the flavor was just right (not that I know anything about Turkish spices). The ravioli was cooked perfectly and the yogurt sauce created a very Turkish feel to a traditional Italian dish. And if you are vegetarian, they also had a potato ravioli which we heard was incredible. The meatballs with zucchini mash were a pleasant surprise, as we had never had zucchini mash. It was both buttery and flavorful, and we both decided that we had underestimated the zucchini. We were so taken by the food that we even ordered dessert. I had a quince, topped with milk pudding, which was fruity and sweet. Everything was fresh and local, and on top of that, the price was very reasonable.

Dinner #2

Another unmissable restaurant is Dalti Maya. A small, three-floor Turkish restaurant in Cihangir with a creative vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free friendly menu, Dalti Maya is a beautiful hole-in-the-wall with personality. The restaurant’s front is very small, just a large window, a cash register, and an oven with a selection of baked goods. We ordered from the menu, written in Turkish on the chalkboard and in small printed menus in English, and headed up the stairs (there was no seating on the ground floor).

We passed through the kitchen on the second floor — the chefs smiled at us on our way to the seating area. The seating area had lovely windows looking out over a square, filled with large pale wood tables with golden lighting and bookshelves. It had a home-y, hippie vibe, which was characterised by the tea bar. On the wall, there were shelves filled with loose leaf tea and reusable tea strainers with a handwritten note: ‘Make your own loose-leaf tea, just ask us for a larger mug.' Just next to this beauty was a self-service Turkish tea station, with free refills. We sat there in absolute paradise, discussing our perfect dinner party. The food arrived, and it was very fresh and interesting. We had ordered an Armenian specialty; a garbanzo bean paste with very interesting flavors and spicy kebabs which felt alive on our tongues. Although they forgot to bring our salad, we forgave them for the quality of what they did bring.

The way to someone's heart is through their stomach. If Istanbul hadn't won over our hearts with its fantastic culture and knockout scenery, it did so by winning over our stomachs.

Sammy Evans

Image Credits: Sammy Evans

Caterina's Sea Salt and Paprika Spinach Crisps

spinach crisps 1Caterina Giammarresi shares a guilt-free snack perfect for pushing through those final pre-spring break deadlines. It’s March! The worst of the Scottish winter is behind us and something resembling Spring is beginning to appear. The sun isn’t setting at half three anymore, and we’re actually getting patches of proper sunlight these days. I looked at my calendar a few days ago and couldn’t believe how quickly this semester has flown by; Spring Break is in a matter of days!  However, all of my modules seemed to have planned coursework deadlines this week, and so it somehow seems just that bit further away. Looking out at the rare and precious sunshine while I am stuck inside going mad with essay writing can be quite depressing. I’m motivating myself to get through all these deadlines this week with my favourite thing ever: food. Chocolate is my preferred essay writing snack, but as I have three deadlines within the same week, so as not to cause a health scare, I’m trying to limit myself. Therefore, I’ve been trying a few healthier options. These spinach crisps have been one of my favourites so far. Spinach is in season and has a variety of health benefits! It is high in vitamins A, K, D, E and is a good source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids!

spinach crisps 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 large handful of fresh spinach
  • 1.5 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Paprika, to taste
  • Sea Salt, to taste

Instructions:1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius2. In a bowl, coat spinach in olive oil until all of the spinach is completely covered (I did this with my hands). Feel free to be more generous with the amount of olive oil you use.3. Spread spinach leaves in one layer on a baking sheet (try not to overlap)4. Sprinkle with salt and paprika to taste5. Bake for about 10-12 minutes, but be careful to keep an eye on them or they will burn6. Enjoy a completely delicious, vegan, gluten-free, and guilt-free snack! Caterina Giammarresi  Photo credits: Caterina Giammarresi More of Caterina’s delicious creations (and gorgeous food photography) can be found on her new blog, Amore e Sapore.  

Caterina's Trio of Kale

   

kale 1

Caterina Giammarresi shares her newest obsession, kale, and three easy recipes that will let you incorporate this healthy, inexpensive, and delicious green into you daily diet. If you pay any attention to foodie trends, you’ll probably have noticed the recent resurgence of the green “super food”, kale. Many stores are stocking their shelves with kale chips and the “green juice” cleansers featuring kale have grown in popularity. Kale has even made a recent reappearance in Tesco St Andrews. Its popularity has been going strong for quite some time now, but I only just recently made it a regular part of my diet. And now I am obsessed.  Not only is kale incredibly good for your body, it’s available locally for most of the year in Scotland and is in season at the moment. If the benefits to your health, economy, and environment are not enough, here are three completely vegan and gluten-free recipes to change your mind about kale: 

Sauteed Kale, Butternut Squash, and Kidney Beans

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Ingredients: 

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • ½ of a butternut squash
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 90 grams Kale (I purchased it from the grocer on South Street)
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste
  • (Optional) Chili Powder and Nutritional Yeast

 Instructions:1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan2. Dice onion and chop butternut squash, then add to the olive oil3. Sautee for a few minutes before adding the minced/chopped garlic4. Stir in the roughly chopped Kale, stir for a few minutes5. Incorporate the kidney beans (without the liquid)6. Season to taste7. Enjoy!

Citrus Kale Salad

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Ingredients: 

  • 80g Kale (this particularly picture shows baby Kale)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 lemons/limes (depending on taste)
  • 1 apple/pear
  • 1 handful of dried cranberries
  • 1 handful of slivered almonds

 Instructions: 1. Finely chop the kale and place it into a storage/serving container.2. Add juice of lemon or limes and olive oil, mix well.3. (OPTIONAL) Let the kale soak overnight in the fridge. This is to help soften the kale leaves, but is not necessary, and is even less necessary with baby kale.4. Add the finely chopped apple or pear, cranberries, and almonds.5. Enjoy! 

Kale and Pistachio Pesto

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Ingredients: 

  • 7 large Kale leaves
  • ½ cup pistachios
  • 1 handful of basil
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

 Instructions: 1. Wash kale, remove stems, and roughly chop2. Add kale, pistachios, basil, garlic, salt, and pepper to a food processor and pulse a few times3. Add olive oil and continue to pulse until you’ve reached the desired consistency4. Serve with pasta, on a sandwich, as a spread, or any way you’d like.5. Enjoy!  Caterina Giammarresi  Photo credits: Caterina Giammarresi 

More of Caterina’s delicious creations (and gorgeous food photography) can be found on her new blog, Amore e Sapore.

Caterina's Butternut Squash Pasta

Caterina Giammarresi shares a simple yet indulgent butternut squash pasta recipe, perfect (and in season!) for Scottish winter.  

squash

 A couple months ago my doctor recommended that I "lay off of gluten" and "avoid things like pasta and pizza." After this one doctors visit, my entire world as a Sicilian woman fell apart. This sounds dramatic, but, believe me, it’s a very accurate statement. At home, I probably eat pasta six out of seven days a week, and on the one day I don’t have pasta there is a 99% chance I eat pizza. A lot of people think this is "unhealthy" but really it’s just Italian. Anyway, when I was first given these instructions I largely ignored them and tried to pretend the whole thing never happened. I mean, doctors aren’t perfect, so surely this could be a huge misunderstanding. However, after about the third doctor visit, I decided that perhaps my self-undiagnosis was incorrect and that following his advice might be a good idea. He is the one with the medical degree, after all.It has been a rather slow and difficult process (one that had to be completely put on hold while I was back at home), however, the process has in fact begun. I was completely vegan and gluten-free for three whole weeks before going home for the winter holidays. Since coming back, however, it has been a bit difficult to get back on track, so I’ve decided to motivate myself by allowing two cheat days a week during which I can have one gluten-filled meal. I know it’s not perfect, but it’s better than nothing. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with gluten-free food. I’ve had some absolutely delicious gluten-free baked goods, but there is just nothing like real pasta.This week, in order to congratulate myself for five full days of no gluten, I made this butternut squash pasta. I chose butternut squash because it’s still in season in Scotland during February and it was on offer at the store. It was the first time I ever made this sauce and I just made it up as I went along, so it’s very simple, but my flatmate and I enjoyed it! Ingredients:-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil-2 tbsp vegan butter (you can find this in Holland and Barrett)-1/2 of a butternut squash-2 cloves of garlic-1 cup soymilk-Salt & pepper to taste-Pasta of your choice (I used 160 grams of fusilli for two people) Instructions:1. Peel the butternut squash and chop it into very small pieces2. In a saucepan, heat the olive oil and add the butternut squash. Use the lid to steam the squash, but remember to stir constantly so as not to let it burn3. After a few minutes, incorporate butter and minced/chopped garlic4. Gradually stir in soymilk5. When the butternut squash is completely tender, remove from heat and mash together with a fork to get a creamy consistency6. Add salt and pepper to taste7. Add cooked pasta, mix and serve!  Caterina GiammarresiPhoto credits: Caterina Giammarresi    

Caterina's Cinnamon Banana Bread Muffins

bananaCaterina Giammarresi makes the best of student life and brown bananas to make cinnamon banana bread muffins. In one of my many attempts to save money while at St Andrews I told myself that I would do all my major grocery shopping at Morrisons or Aldi this year. So a few days after arriving in St Andrews, I made my first trek of the year out to the ends of the badlands. I walked into Morrisons with a concise and edited list in hand, and as always, walked out with twice as many things as anticipated. I mean, who knew when I would make it back this far from town centre? I had to take advantage of the situation.However, I soon realized that I underestimated how long some of my fresh purchases would last. My bananas, which were lime green when I bought them, turned brown in a matter of days. If there’s one thing that I don’t like it’s wasting food.  So I started imagining how I could possibly eat all of these overripe bananas in the next day. That's when a brilliant idea came to me: banana bread. I’d never actually made banana bread before though and my oven only really half works so I was scared that the bread wouldn’t bake all the way through. Despite these worries I did my research and, after taking a look at and borrowing ideas from about 50 different banana bread recipes on foodgawker, I decided to make cinnamon banana bread muffins. Ingredients:- 3-4 overripe bananas- 1 egg OR ¼ cup vegetable oil (if you want it vegan)- 1 tbsp cinnamon (for batter)- 1/3 cup melted unsalted butter OR applesauce (if you want it vegan)- ¾ cup cane sugar (for batter)- OPTIONAL ¼ cup chopped walnuts- 1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda- A pinch of salt- ½ cups flour- 1 tbsp cinnamon (for topping)- ¾ cup sugar (for topping) Instructions:1. Preheat oven to 175C2. Put 12 paper liners in muffin tray3. Mash up bananas, then mix them into a bowl with egg (or oil), cinnamon, melted butter (or applesauce), sugar, and nuts.4. Once thoroughly mixed, sprinkle the bicarbonate of soda and pinch of salt into the mixture.5. Slowly fold flour into the mixture with a mixer; be careful not to over-mix.6. Pour an equal amount of the batter into each of the 12 paper liners in the tray.7. In a separate bowl, mix together the sugar and cinnamon for the topping. With a spoon, sprinkle an equal amount of this mixture on top of each unbaked muffin.8. Bake muffins for 20-25 minutes. If you aren’t sure if they are ready, put a toothpick in one, if it comes out clean (without batter), then your muffins are ready. Let them cool, and enjoy! Caterina Giammarresi Photo credit: Caterina Giammarresi