Wednesday, 9 February 2011

ABC Wednesday: D for Deli

I can't afford to travel so in its stead I like to experience the exotic in my imagination and my kitchen. I read cookery books, dream a little, and then try and recreate the dishes of all number of cultures right here in Scotland. This isn't always easy: Scotland isn't known for its culinary sophistication for good reason. I suppose it's just too small to be able to support much diversity.

So, I dream of delis. I can, and do, get all sorts of ingredients on the internet, but there's nothing quite like spending time in a deli having one's nostrils aromatically teased, one's memory stirred. And one of the best things about a good deli is stumbling upon previously unheard of ingredients and bringing them home to experiment. When, years ago, I visited New York the best part of the trip, for me, was Dean and Deluca (I didn't make it to Zabar's, sadly). I came back laden with maple sugar and spice mixtures with names I couldn't pronounce. I had such fun in the following months encrusting chicken and warming casseroles with new flavours, and creating elegant, pale manilla-hued meringues, that we could have suffered the worst storms in living memory and I wouldn't have noticed. The other good thing about delis is finally finding something you keep hearing, or reading about.

For some time ras el hanout has been whispering to me. It's featured in a few of Nigella Lawson's recipes over the last few years, and now I'm reading Claudia Roden's The Book of Jewish Food there it is again. Ras el hanout, ras el hanout, I didn't know what it was but I began to crave it. So I was gearing myself up to order it from Seasoned Pioneers, when up a Glasgow backstreet last Saturday I found Deli Zique. The second I entered I felt at home:

Proper bread. I took home one of the round sourdough loaves and it had as crisp a crust and as springy a crumb as the best I've tasted.

There's a waiting list for these tins, which hopefully means the deli is popular, thus likely to still be there when next I get to Glasgow.

It wasn't easy, but I resisted.

On my kitchen counter: if you ever want to sell me anything wrap it in wax paper.

So, I now have a little envelope of the coveted spice mix.

Apparently, as well as rose petals, lavender and other spices it may contain the golden beetle. I don't know what the golden beetle is, but am sure it's delicious, my only problem now is deciding which recipe to try first.


Mollie said...

I cannot wait to see what you come up with for that spice combo. Whew!

angryparsnip said...

There is nothing like a NY deli they smell so good.
I love Dean and Deluca and I was crazy for Zabar's they had to drag me out of there.
I can't wait to see what you make with the spice. Lucky you on finding that Deli in Glasgow.
I notice we are reading the same book The Hare With Amber eyes. I was intrigued by the story but I know Edmund De Waal because of his ceramics.

I am loving your new Wednesday post.

cheers, parsnip

Lauren RZ said...

I just ate dinner, but the flecks of rose in that spice blend have my mouth watering! Can't wait to see what you do with it.

~Lauren <3

chubskulit said...

Lovely, now I am hungry!

Want to find out my D, come and see!

Roger Owen Green said...

you're a very creative sort
ROG, ABC Wednesday team

Jedediah said...

The meringues make me drool just by looking at the photo.
I love shopping at the British Store (the only place to get decent orange chocolate) and at the Turkish shops that you can find at almost every corner here. There are African shops as well, but I must admit that so far I haven't had the courage to go in (don't laugh, but going into small shops I haven't been to before makes me incredibly nervous)

Eryl said...

Mollie ~ me neither! I'm currently thinking lamb, though husband had a spectacular Moroccan spiced beef salad in Edinburgh last week and I'd love to try and recreate that.

Parsnip ~ I got the book after reading Elizabeth Wix's review on her blog World Examining Works, but I also know de Waal from his ceramics. Twenty years ago I walked into my favourite gallery in Cambridge and there were the most beautiful smooth, mat white pots. I couldn't afford any of them but could have run to a tiny espresso cup, at a push. I talked myself out of it and went home, but couldn't stop thinking about it so went back the next week and it was sold! They were by Edmund de Waal and the next time I saw his work it had become utterly out of my price range. I still weep over that little cup.

Lauren ~ watch this space!

Chubskulit ~ coming right over!

ROG ~ is that a euphemism for greedy?!

Jedediah ~ unfamiliar small, or come to think of it large, shops used to make me nervous too. There are lots of things I'd have missed out on if my husband hadn't been the sort who boldly crosses thresholds and talks to anyone. Also, I think you have to have some kind of idea of what you're looking for, and what you might find, when you go into strange places or else you just float around numbly.

Cezar and Léia said...

I agree with you but in France it's impossible to travel and not "go for some cool adventure" I mean about French meals and so on!
Giant Meringues are delicious, believe me! :)
Hugs from Luxembourg

Mona said...

i love the huge meringue :) have time to see my D entry.

Titus said...

Fabby post!

Three things:
1. Hool is here! We love him!
2. Got a very good courgette recipe for Ras el Hanout.
3. Street name for the Glasgow deli please.

And one more you may not want to hear. I get my Ras el Hanout in a very nice tin from... Tescos.

Pat said...

Well you've got me going!

The Weaver of Grass said...

Oh that bread!!!!

Carole said...

You had me until golden beetle. I am not sure I want anything with ground up bugs in it. On the other hand golden beetle could be something else entirely but I would be suspicious.

nick said...

Apparently ras el hanout contains 27 different ingredients. How can they all blend together successfully? But clearly they do if it's so widely recommended. Do tell us what it tastes like!

Eryl said...

Léia ~ giant meringues are delicious indeed!

Mona ~ coming over!

Titus ~ glad you love Hool, did he eat his biscuit?

Recipe, please! Tesco, bugger, I bet it's cheaper there too, do they sell Z'atar? The deli is a spit from the university on Hyndland Street. They also have a very nice cafe next door in which I had a scrumptious lunch.

Pat ~ don't go too far.

Weaver ~ the bread was really very good indeed.

Carole ~ I don't know if there are beetles in it really, but I read that Jews used to make their own to ensure it was free of the un-kosher beetle.

Nick ~ according to Momo it can contain up to 100 ingredients depending on the whims of the shopkeeper!

Jane Moxey said...

One has to wonder what the Kosher Code would be for killing beetles! Somehow your spice's name sounds more Arab than Jewish...Rose petals! How exotic!

May I recommend a very cool artisan bread making site to you: www.breadtopia.com Amazing and simple recipes for the home baking of artisan bread with minimum hassle and excellent results. A nice gentle man does his own little videos on the site which makes even more enjoyable. Imagine! Your own boulangerie right there in Scotland! And the smell of the bread baking? Words fail!

Joy said...

Its wonderful when you come across something unexpectedly. I would probably do a lot of excited squeaking going in a place like that. The more you wrote about Ras el hanout, and the comments, makes it sounds very mysterious.

Eryl said...

Jane ~ you're right, it's Moroccan where, at one time, Sephardic Jews and Arabs lived happily side by side (according to Claudia Roden, at least).

Off to check out breadtopia right now, thank you.

Joy ~ I did squeak pretty much for the whole time I was in there!

Mary Witzl said...

Sigh...I miss sourdough bread something fierce! You can make your own if you just keep a sourdough starter going, but I've stopped making my own bread except for the occasional challah, which is fun because you get to braid it with four strands. (Next time I do one, I'm definitely having you over to sample it.)

I love waxed paper too. I spent my whole childhood unwrapping sandwiches from waxed paper and now it is gone forever from my life.

angryparsnip said...


You got to see some of his work and the possibility of buying a piece ! ! ! my heart is thumping away at the thought....
I was visiting son at Cambridge we could have been there at the same time.... how fabulous ! isn't life grand,

cheers, parsnip

alphawoman said...

As always a wonderful and extremely entertaining post.

Tess Kincaid said...

I could easily devour a huge slab of that proper bread right now. (Made your lemon cake. Will blog it soon.)

Alesa Warcan said...

Decidedly delightful D-post!

Ras El Hanout is one of those spice mixes that every brand/person makes differently... Looking forward to hearing what you'll be doing with ours! : j

Eryl said...

Mary ~ I kept a sourdough starter for years and made bread weekly, but it seems too much effort now for some reason.

Why has waxed paper disappeared from your life? If I go on trips I always wrap a sandwich in it and tie it up with string. Not that I've been on a trip for a while.

Parsnip ~ I did! It was probably not long after he graduated, his work was remarkable and showed a certain level of thought and awareness of his materials, I felt. I still feel slightly sick that I didn't buy a piece.

What year were you in Cambridge? We lived in Bedford for a while, which is about 25 miles away, so visited regularly between about 1990 to 1996 (when we came back to Scotland, sniff).

Alpha ~ thank you.

Tess ~ can't wait to read all about it.

Alesa ~ it gets more mysterious the more I read about it. I like this indefinable quality; in a Moroccan cook book yesterday I read that ras el hanout means "cream of the shop"!

Alesa Warcan said...

Cream of the shop? LoL! That's an interesting translation... Though I suspect a more idiomatic translation would be "top-of-the-line" or perhaps "cream of the crop", the way it was explained to me was that raz el hanout meant best-in-stock, AKA the best the shop had to offer. Though cream of the shop does make for a much more colorful name. ; j

Grace and Bradley said...

We were introduced to Dean and Deluca when we visited our daughter in Washington, DC. Believe it or not we now also have the store in Taipei!! Have a nice weekend and enjoy your bread and deli.

63mago said...

"Golden beetle" is an interesting formulation. I was remembered on the "Gold-Bug".

Eryl said...

Alesa ~ ah, the problems of translation!

Grace and Bradley ~ lucky you! And thank you. Good weekend to you too.

Mago ~ the 'Gold-Bug"? I will have to google.

Kathy said...

Hi!! I love your blog. There is much creativity and love what you do.