Against the grain
Dear diet. Things aren’t going to work out. It’s not us, it’s you. You’re tasteless, bloody boring and we just can’t stop cheating on you. If you have to know, it all started when we got our hands on Caron Melamed’s cookbook, A Pinch Of.
You only have to page through it once to know that it’s the greatest thing since … well, sliced bread. We put it down to her unintimidating, wholesome and downright delicious recipes that squeeze every last flavoursome drop out of the ingredients and will have you coming back for seconds … and thirds, heck, who’s counting?
By the time most of us are staggering out of bed and putting on our first pot of coffee, Caron, when we meet, has already whipped up a chocolate babka … the way to our heart is most definitely through our stomachs. We’ll vouch that it’s the best babka we’ve ever had. And we don’t say this lightly. From that moment on Caron pretty much had us eating out of the palm of her hand.
Here’s a little secret … you don’t need to be a trained, seasoned chef to cook like a champ, the proof is in Caron’s puddings … and her starters and mains for that matter.
A born and bred Jozi girl, Caron has been heating things up in the kitchen from before she could reach the stove. ‘It’s my favourite room in the house. I always say I only need a kitchen and a bedroom. When I was a kid, if my mom was making meatballs, I’d ask her to put aside some mince so I could cook it myself. I’ve always loved experimenting. My favourite ingredients are olive oil, fresh lemon, chilli and garlic … the basics of every good recipe, if you ask me.’
Don’t know about you, but if we ever have to entertain for more than the family it’s panic stations all round. There have been times when we’ve seriously considered hiding a nonna in the pantry. Caron on the other hand is as cool as a cucumber, even though she makes absolutely everything, down to the salad dressing, from scratch. ‘I entertain a fortune … my best is to host Shabbat dinners at my house (it’s not unusual for Caron to have more than 20 people over at a time) and bring my loved ones together round a groaning table. My family and friends were always asking me for my recipes but the thing is, I never wrote any of them down.’
Caron will be the first to admit that she isn’t one for doing things by the book. Yes, she has a few fave cookbooks (Nigella Lawson is her best) but mostly because she likes to look at the pictures. Her aversion to ‘rules’ is probably the reason she isn’t the biggest fan of baking. Her cooking method has always been more along the lines of a splash of this, a pinch of that, a dollop here and there … yeah right, we can totally do that. Not.
‘I decided to start doing cooking lessons from my home, so I began writing down my recipes … gosh it took forever! I’ve always wanted to write a cookbook … a collection of my favourite dishes, dishes that have been passed on to me by my mom and a few of my successful experiments. Trust me … many, many, flopped. I also wanted to leave a legacy for my children. I think that the recipes in A Pinch Of are better than eating out, seriously! And the best part is that I’ve broken them down for you into simple steps.’
Caron didn’t have the foggiest idea where to start when it came to publishing a cookbook so she did the obvious … consulted good ol’ Google and bought a ‘how to’ book online. Fast forward and A Pinch Of is flying off the shelves faster than you can fry an egg. OK, it wasn’t quite as effortless as we make it sound.
‘The recipes are kosher, although you don’t necessarily have to use these cuts. People think that kosher meat is hard, tasteless and even disgusting but if you treat it properly, as I’ve shown in the book, it can be absolutely delicious.’
Over the years Caron has learnt a few tricks along the way and she isn’t keeping them all hush-hush. ‘My theory is that when you cook something savoury, it needs a pinch of sugar, and when you cook something sweet, it needs a pinch of salt. My number one tip in the kitchen? Taste, taste, taste.’ OK … we’re pretty sure we can get this part right! A Pinch Of, R490 from Exclusive Books.
Try out Caron’s recipe for granadilla and strawberry lollies here…
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