Why are some foods cheap and other foods expensive?
Hint: It’s (mostly) not subsidies. Although they’ve certainly played a role in shaping our food supply such that we have huge quantities of just a few crops – a recipe for low prices – the discrepancy that seems to be at issue is the one between commodity crops such as corn and soy, and the fruits and vegetables that everyone’s trying to get us to eat more of. There’s a factor there that plays a much larger role than subsidies, and it doesn’t get much airtime.
In general, if you can use machines instead of people, you can produce a crop for less. But let’s not talk in general. Let’s talk about tomatoes.
The beautiful, ripe, in-season tomato will set you back up to $5 a pound, but you can buy a 28-ounce can of perfectly tasty tomatoes for as little as a dollar? The latest data from the US Department of Agriculture have beefsteak tomatoes at $3.16 per pound and canned tomatoes at 92 cents per pound.
A big part of that difference is machines.
The fresh tomatoes we buy are harvested by hand, which is still the only way to guarantee the blemish- and bruise-free specimens that picky American consumers demand. The canned tomatoes we buy are harvested by machine, because a few blemishes and bruises don’t much matter when the tomatoes are going to be processed.
This wasn’t always the case. Until about 50 years ago, all tomatoes were harvested by hand because there was no such thing as a tomato harvester. (The price difference between canned and fresh wasn’t quite as stark then, either: In 1955, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, fresh tomatoes were 27.4 cents a pound, compared to 15.1 cents for canned.) But an agronomist and an engineer at the University of California at Davis set out to change that. The engineer, Coby Lorenzen, designed a machine to automate the harvest, while the agronomist, Jack Hanna, developed a less-delicate variety of tomato that ripened uniformly and could be easily plucked from the plant, qualities that made machine harvesting feasible.
The first few iterations of the harvester, introduced in the 1960s and refined in the decades following, reduced the labour required by 92 per cent, to about 24 minutes per ton. (Tomatoes for processing also don’t require the labor and materials needed to be boxed, a step that eats up over a third of the price that farmers get for tomatoes, according to a study done at UC-Davis.)
Other things happened, too. In the first decade of machine harvest, yields increased from 20 tons to 33 tons per acre. Fewer workers had jobs, of course, but the ones who did earned more money (by 22 percent) than field workers, because operating a harvester was considered more skilled labour.
A modern tomato harvester costs nearly $500,000 and can harvest 70 tons per hour. It’s one reason your canned tomatoes cost less than a third of your fresh tomatoes.
That’s just one crop, of course. What, more generally, have machines done for food prices? Sun Ling Wang, agricultural economist with the USDA, laid out the most basic principle: “On the supply side, technology can help produce more products. If farmers produce more products, other things being equal, prices will decrease.” But she – and several other economists I spoke with – emphasised the difficulty of teasing out the impact of mechanisation from the large pool of factors that affect price.
Case in point is the machine that has probably had the biggest impact on American agriculture: the combine.
A combine is for row crops (grains and legumes), and it does, as its name implies, a combination of things: harvesting (removing the plant from the ground), threshing (removing the grain from the plant and cleaning (removing the schmutz from the grain). What isn’t grain – the stalks and leaves – the combine can either chop up and leave on the field to provide cover and organic material, or bale for animal feed.
It does it all at once. At speed. Even when it’s 32 rows at a time. It’s an astonishing thing to watch. I got to drive a combine once, on an Illinois soy field, and I consider it a highlight of my agricultural journalism career. (To see a variety of big-farm machinery in action, try the YouTube channel of Brian Scott, a fourth-generation Indiana farmer whose family farms 2,200 acres of corn, soy, wheat and popcorn. He has a drone, and he’s not afraid to use it.)
Since tractors replaced horses, and then combines replaced tractors – in a period of about a century – the price of row crops has dropped fairly steadily. Although replacing horses was important because farmers no longer had to grow the grain to feed them, the biggest factor in the price drop, according to Prabhu Pingali, professor of applied economics and management at Cornell, was better-yielding crop varieties.
The combine had other effects, though: It led to larger farms and standardisation of growing practices. “Combines give you scale economies to expand farms,” says Pingali, but he notes that these effects aren’t universal. In India, for example, mechanisation hasn’t increased farm size, partly because farmers rent the equipment, which goes from farm to farm. But in the United States – and particularly in the Midwest, where the flat, uniform geography lends itself to large swaths of cropland – machines have been a major part of the dynamic that has more than doubled the size of the average farm and reduced the number of them by about two-thirds.
And then there’s jobs. While machines have clearly eliminated jobs in some areas, the dynamic is often the other way around: Lack of labour forces farmers to turn to machines. In the period after World War II, says Wang, workers left the fields for higher-paying manufacturing jobs. And now, in California, a labor shortage is driving wages up, and farmers are looking to machines that were prohibitively expensive when labor was cheap (like lettuce bots).
Among people who care about our food system, there’s often hostility toward the suite of changes to American agriculture that can reasonably be called “industrialisation.” Machines are part of that, but so is specialisation (a focus on just a few crops), dependence on pesticides and chemical fertiliser, large size, and the uniformity that enables just a few people – with the help of John Deere – to farm thousands of acres.
I understand the hostility, as the most serious problems we face (my list: fertilizer runoff, soil degradation, lack of crop variety) are wrapped up in industrialisation. But industrialisation brings with it some very significant benefits. The ability for fewer people to grow more food is one of them, and machines are a part of that. While people’s livelihoods still depend on farm jobs, it’s important that we safeguard those livelihoods, but field work is grueling drudgery. Post-Industrial Revolution modernisation has brought its share of problems, but freeing humans from grueling drudgery is a big win. I do just enough farm labor to be reminded regularly that the world’s a better place if farm labor is done by tractors and harvesters and combines, rather than people.
The Holy Month of Ramadan is the perfect time for housewives to give free rein to experiment with their culinary skills and come up with exciting and mouth-watering recipes that will be the pride and joy of the iftar meal. Indeed the Holy Month of Fasting is a joyful time and the ladies of the household go all out to come up with new savouries and sweets so that the breaking of the fast at the evening meal is a memorable one, one worth waiting for after a full day of fasting.
The Oman Tribune spoke to some ladies to find out what’s cooking in their kitchen this Ramadan.
MOONG DAAL VADI KE KEBAB
Jaleez Fatima, a housewife from Bangladesh living along with her husband and two kids in Wadi Kabir, says that she is tired of making the same pakoras, samosas, dahi vadas, club sandwiches and jalebis day after day. Of course these items are the most commonly favoured because they are quick to make without too much fuss or hassle. But sometime you must take a break and try something new.
That is why I sometimes make this particular recipe because it is quite simple to make and absolutely delicious:
Makes 15 pieces
250 gm moong dal vadi
½ to ¾ cup dry bread crumbs, 2 tbsp lemon juice
6-8 tbsp cream, enough to bind
¾ cup grated paneer (150 gm)
¾ tbsp ginger-garlic paste
½ onion – finely chopped
¼ cup chopped coriander
3-4 green chillies – finely chopped
½ tomato – finely chopped
½ of a green capsicum
1 tsp salt or to taste
Boil vadi for 3-4 minutes in water. Pat dry on a kitchen towel. Deep fry on medium flame for 3-4 minutes. Cool. Break into pieces.
Grind vadi with all the other ingredients -paneer, ginger garlic, onion, coriander, chillies, tomato and capsicum. Add salt to taste.
Remove from grinder and add bread crumbs, lemon juice and cream.
Make balls and flatten to make kebabs. Cook on a hot pan greased with just 1 tbsp oil till well browned on both sides. Serve hot.
10-MINUTE CHEESE GARLIC BREAD RECIPE
Shamim Siddiqi from New Delhi, India, is employed with a private firm. Her two daughters are studying in India and her husband has been working in Oman for the last seven years as a business consultant. She offered to share this recipe which she says anybody can make in just 10 minutes:
Shamim Siddiqi offered to share this particular recipe which she says anybody can make in just 10 minutes:
Prep time: 4 mins
Cook time: 6 mins
Total time: 10 mins
10-Min Cheese Garlic Bread Recipe, an easy appetiser recipe with bread, butter, cheese, and chilli flakes.
1 baguette (mine was about 1 feet long)
4 tbsp of butter, softened to room temperature
½ tsp of salt (if using unsalted butter)
2.5 cups of grated mozzarella + cheddar
3 tbsp of chilli flakes
6-8 cloves of garlic, minced (I finally put my garlic press to good use)
1.Pre-heat your oven to 300F / 180C.
2.Slice the baguette into ¾” thick pieces. You can go thicker or thinner as you like, I like it neither here nor there.
3.Mix the minced garlic and butter along with salt if you are using unsalted butter. On that note, I used Amul salted butter and it was delicious. Slather a good layer of butter on one side of the bread pieces evenly.
4.Add the grated cheese on top and garnish with chilli flakes. You can be as generous as you want but don’t even think about being skimpy. Skimpy and cheese don’t go well together. Since I was serving pizza next, I went a bit easy on the cheese for the garlic bread, but note how I didn’t just make plain garlic bread, I had to add some cheese!
5.Bake in the pre-heated oven (Pre-heat your oven to 300F / 180C) for about 5-6 mins until the edges of the bread slices turn crisp and the cheese melts. Don’t let it sit in there too much even though you are tempted because if you over-bake them, they turn out like rusk when slightly cool.
6.You can use a baking tray but I didn’t have any spares since I was using them for the pizza so I directly put them on the (clean!) oven racks.
Shahnaz Jehan, from Pune, India, and living in Mabelah with her husband and one son since 2004, says she was in a mood to bake something different, something savoury. “And I did not want to go by any established recipe. It had to be something original; it was my own ‘invention test’. I looked around the kitchen and the fridge and collected a few ingredients to start with flour, eggs, boneless chicken, onions buttermilk et al. As I got on the job, the list went longer.
“When I put the dish in the oven to bake, I was wondering if I wasted my one hour. But then, with so many good ingredients, a good amount of effort and above all a good intention going into it, the result could not be bad, could it?”
Flour: 1 cup
Butter milk: 1/2 cup
Brown sugar (ground to dust): 2 tea spoons
Olive oil/butter: 1 cup
Boneless chicken: 250 g
Ginger: 1 inch, chopped
Garlic: 3-4 cloves
Green chillies: 1-2, chopped
Dried oregano: 1 teaspoon
Chilli flakes: 1 teaspoon
Baking powder: 2 teaspoons
Sant and pepper: To taste
Processed cheese: 2 cubes
Olives: 4-5 (optional)
Cut the chicken into small pieces. Heat oil in a pan and fry the onions till golden brown. Add the chillies, ginger, garlic and the chicken and cook it dry with salt, pepper, oregano and chilli flakes. Once the chicken is cooked, grind it and set aside. Sift the flour with baking powder, and mix in the brown sugar and salt and beat it smooth with the oil. Now whisk in the egg, butter milk and add the ground chicken mix and continue beating. If the mixture is still too thick, add another egg or soda water. Mix in the cheese cubes cut into small pieces. Once the batter is ready (it should fall from a spoon in dollops), pour it in a greased cake tin and put it in the oven preheated at 180 degrees C. Bake for around 30-40 minutes, or till the upper crust is golden. Keep checking by inserting a toothpick.
Broccoli toast with labneh, pumpkin seed and seasonal citrus served at Kismet, a veggie focused restaurant inspired by Persian, Turkish and Israeli flavours.
The most talked-about dish at PYT, a forward-thinking restaurant from Los Angeles chef Josef Centeno, takes 15 minutes for the kitchen to execute and is introduced with the kind of ceremony typically reserved for Dover sole or chateaubriand.
Centeno, or one of his staff, ferries the signature on a ceramic plate to the table, where the chef chips away an armor of kosher salt and egg white and frees the main event from the anise-scented, heart-shaped hoja santa leaf in which it’s baked. Next, he quarters the centerpiece and embellishes it with a nettle chimichurri. Crumbled feta cheese follows, as do a sugar snap pea pesto, house-made pomegranate molasses and shaved walnuts.
The recipient of all the attention? A turnip. Laugh if you will, but the vegetable, plucked from a nearby organic school garden supported by PYT, is a serious pleasure, caramelly and slightly peppery going down. Not for nothing did Los Angeles magazine proclaim the baked turnip “dish of the year” last December.
Beet tartare. Cauliflower “steak.” Bolognese pumped up not with ground meat but with minced vegetables. If you’ve been out to eat lately, chances are you’re seeing what I am: vegetables on the center of the plate and chefs according them VIP treatment.
A prime splurge at the FrenchAmerican Convivial in Washington is Cedric Maupillier’s bouquet of vegetables arranged on hazelnut soubise, garnished with sliced black truffles and cooked in parchment paper. Sliced open as diners watch, the packet releases a cloud made fragrant with smoked celeriac, butternut squash and more. At the three-month-old Esker Grove in the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, chef Doug Flicker makes an entree of brined sauteed parsnips, which he cuts into slices and wedges, drapes with caramelised goat’s milk and sauteed escarole and finishes with a bold coffee-onion crumble. Forget nose-to-tail dining: Vegetables, declares Flicker, are “the new innards.”
No less a trailblazer than Jean-Georges Vongerichten, whose culinary empire embraces 34 restaurants around the world, just launched ABCV in the ABC Carpet & Home store in New York. The chef’s first all-vegetarian restaurant (the “V” in the title represents vegetable, vibration and Vongerichten) features plant-based food from around the world and a chef de cuisine, Neal Harden, who has been a vegetarian “since he was 6 years old,” says his boss. A new vegetable- oriented restaurant in Chicago takes the carrot cake for best name: Bad Hunter.
Yet in no other American city are you as likely to find more (and more varied) ways to skip meat and fill up on vegetables than Los Angeles, a rainbow coalition of 4 million people and a dazzling restaurant scene that embraces a global buffet, with Chinese, Mexican and Southeast Asian especially well-represented.
On a recent 48-hour graze-a-thon, I took in the pleasures of Destroyer, a neighbourhood cafe in Culver City with a Nordic sensibility from chef Jordan Kahn; Trejo’s Tacos, a stylish vegan- welcoming taqueria created by Mexican American actor Danny Trejo; and Kismet, a fledgling Middle Eastern cafe whose draws include roasted spiced mushrooms sharing a bowl with braised chickpeas, a hit of green chile and almond broth. The designer labels at Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills extend to chef Matthew Kenney, the wellness and raw-food guru whose eponymous dining room on the third floor of the store serves the ladies who lunch rethought taco salads and Reuben sandwiches. The former shape up with hearts of palm and sunflower “chorizo”; the latter finds pastrami-flavoured roasted cauliflower between slices of rye bread. On the chalkboard menu at soul food purveyor My Two Cents: “chickenless” and dumplings.
‘The natural choice’
“No question, L.A. is the epicenter of a plant-based lifestyle,” says Colleen Holland, publisher and co-founder of the San Francisco-based VegNews. In the magazine’s forthcoming May issue, the City of Angels is ranked the No. 1 vegan city in the United States, followed by New York; Philadelphia; Portland, Ore.; Oakland, Calif.; Miami; Chicago; Dallas; Las Vegas and Detroit.
The shift to more and better vegetable dishes away from home is a reaction to changing tastes among diners and chefs who have spent careers around foie gras and other rich ingredients and are looking for relief. According to Experian/Mi
Chefs and owners, Sarah Hymanson and Sara Kramer, got their start in Los Angeles with their first project, a falafel spot called Madcapra. Now, they’ve opened Kismet.
ntel, the percentage of US consumers who identify as vegetarians increased by 3 percentage points (to 9.8 per cent) between 2012 and 2015. Market researcher Mintel also reported that 38 per cent of consumers agreed there should be more meat alternatives in restaurants.
Blessed with fabulous produce and the assumpt
ion of quality, Los Angeles is a natural source of inspiration for cooks. “My neighbourhood grocery store is the Santa Monica Farmers Market,” humble-brags Jeremy Fox, chef of the esteemed Rustic Canyon eight blocks away. Warm weather encourages meatless eating, too. “
You can get a damn good salad in Minneapolis,” says Patric Kuh, restaurant critic for Los Angeles magazine. “But we have conditions that make vegetable eating the natural choice.” In Minneapolis, he says, “there’s no moment when there’s three feet of snow outside and anyone says, ‘I’ll have a salad.’ “
Where yams rival clams
Fox, the visionary behind one of the best vegetarian restaurants in the country, the late Ubuntu in Napa, Calif., cooks with meat and seafood these days. Indeed, one of the most popular dishes on the menu at Rustic Canyon is pozole verde with clams. But a rival for
Chef Josef Centeno is prolific in Los Angeles as chef and owner of Ledlow, Bar Ama, Orsa + Winston, PYT and Baco Shop.
diners’ affection is a dish of yams staged with green garlic butter, pickled onions, aioli and hazelnut dukkah (an Egyptian spice blend), instructions for which are included in Fox’s just-released “On Vegetables” (Phaidon), a collection of 150 recipes with the home cook in mind.
The success of the produce-driven yam dish drives home a modern point: “No deprivation, no compromise,” says Holland of VegNews. In Los Angeles in particular, chefs aren’t using vegan products trying to be meat. Rather, chefs are turning plants into “superstars.”
She’s right. One bite of the shredded cabbage pancake with braised eggplant and chili hoisin at Erven, the fresh vegan eatery from chef Nick Erven in Santa Monica, leads to another, and just about everything at PYT, the scene of my favorite meat-free meal last month, deserves a shout-out.
“The way I cook now is the way I want to feel afterward,” says Centeno. His menu features a bountiful chef’s salad that tastes like the Garden of Eden was anointed with walnut marigold dressing, along with a hand-milled rye-and-oat porridge he perks up with pickled beet greens, pecorino and “Chicharron at 9 o’clock at night isn’t the easiest thing to recover from the next day. Eating vegetables, I feel better.”
This recipe treats tender chicken thighs to two of my all-time favourite flavour sensations: a mouthwatering Asian-style marinade that hits every single taste bud, and the alluring char that happens when food gets near fire.
The marinade strikes a bold sweet-salty-savory-spicy balance without the heaps of refined sugar found in many like it. Here, most of the sweetness comes from the mango itself, which, of course, also lends a tropical flair. That sweetness is offset by the tang of fresh lime juice, a generous helping of savory garlic and a salty umami punch from Thai fish sauce. If you don’t have the latter, you could substitute soy sauce, but I think it is worth picking up a bottle of fish sauce, as it has become a “new essential” ingredient – along with the Sriracha here, which gives the marinade a kick. I used a gentle amount in the accompanying recipe, but feel free to add a couple more shakes if you like things hotter.
The ingredients come together easily in the blender, and then time does the work as the chicken marinates. For full impact, four hours is the minimum, but it could go for up to 12 hours, making this recipe easy to pull off on busy weekdays. I typically blend the marinade the night before I am planning to cook, then combine it with the chicken in the morning so that it is ready to cook when I get home from work.
Then all it takes is less than 20 minutes in the broiler, or on the grill, for succulent chicken with crisped edges that complement a realm of big flavor within.
Krieger is a registered dietitian, nutritionist and author who hosts public television’s “Ellie’s Real Good Food.” She blogs and offers a weekly newsletter at www.elliekrieger.com.
MANGO- LIME MARINATED CHICKEN THIGHS
4 to 6 servings
Here, tender chicken is treated to a bold mango-lime mixture then char-broiled for mouthwatering flavor. The marinade has a tantalizing sweet-salty-savory-spicy balance without the heaps of refined sugar found in many similar store-bought marinades, thanks to the sweetness inherent in the tropical fruit.
MAKE AHEAD: The chicken needs to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
From nutritionist and cookbook author Ellie Krieger.
1 cup mango chunks (defrosted if from frozen)
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 2 limes)
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
2 tablespoons canola oil, or other neutral-tasting oil
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 teaspoons Sriracha
3 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Fresh cilantro leaves, for serving
Lime wedges, for serving
Combine the mango, lime juice, fish sauce, oil, sugar, Sriracha, garlic and salt in a blender; puree to form a smooth marinade. Transfer to a quart-size zip-top bag. Add the chicken and seal; refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
Position an oven rack 4 to 6 inches from the broiler element; preheat the broiler.
Place the chicken on a broiler pan, allowing some marinade to cling to it. Broil for about 8 minutes, then use tongs to turn the chicken over and spoon a bit more marinade on the second side. (Discard any remaining marinade, at this point.) Broil for about 9 minutes, until lightly charred around the edges and the chicken is cooked through.
Serve warm, with cilantro and lime wedges.
This salad, best described as a “small plate” using the current culinary lingo, offers a refreshing bright spot this time of year when we have had our fill of roasted roots and stews and are ready to move on to something sunnier. Sure, the dish is anchored by the deep earthiness of roasted beets, but they are given a different outlook, layered with sunny rounds of citrus on a nest of watercress over a smear of creamy yogurt, then topped with a lemon-honey drizzle and punctuated with a sprinkle of seeds.
If you can find them, blood oranges (which I personally look forward to all year) are ideal here. They are just the right size (on the small side); they have a refreshing tartness; and their brilliant sunset hue nods to the crimson beets. But any small orange will work well. And if you haven’t yet tried Skyr, the Icelandic dairy product similar to Greek yogurt but even thicker, this recipe is a good excuse to pick some up. I have been enjoying experimenting with it, and it is nice in this recipe, but feel free to use Greek yogurt instead.
In modern small-plate style, this salad can be served as a starter, as part of a mezze spread, as an accompaniment to a soup or sandwich or with a hunk of bread as a light meal or snack on its own. I think of it as a versatile, culinary bridge toward spring.
Krieger is a registered dietitian, nutritionist and author who hosts public television’s “Ellie’s Real Good Food.” She blogs and offers a weekly newsletter at www.elliekrieger.com
BEET AND ORANGE SALAD
Here, sliced roasted beets are layered with orange slices on a nest of watercress over a smear of yogurt, then topped with a lemon-honey drizzle and punctuated with a sprinkle of seeds. It’s a beautiful and versatile small plate that can be served as a starter, part of a mezze spread or as a light meal or snack.
MAKE AHEAD: The roasted, peeled beets can be refrigerated in a stain-proof, airtight container for up to 4 days.
From nutritionist and cookbook author Ellie Krieger.
3 medium beets (1 3/4 pounds total)
2 tablespoons plus 3/4 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 small oranges, preferably blood oranges
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
1 cup plain Skyr (Icelandic yogurt) or plain Greek-style yogurt, low-fat or full fat
1 cup watercress leaves and small sprigs
1 teaspoon seeds, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Trim the stems and roots off the beets, then rub each with 1/4 teaspoon of the oil. Wrap each beet in aluminum foil, place on a baking sheet and roast until easily pierced with a fork, about 1 hour. Allow to cool and then remove the peel with a paring knife and/or by rubbing the peel away with your fingers. Cut the beets into 1/2-inch thick slices and toss with 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper.
Use a Microplane grater to zest one of the oranges; you need 1/4 teaspoon’s worth. Then cut the peel and white pith off all of the oranges and cut them into 1/2 inch rounds.
Whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, the lemon juice, honey, the orange zest and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper in a medium bowl, to form an emulsified dressing.
To serve, smear 1/4 cup of the Skyr or yogurt on each salad-size plate. Place 1/4 cup of the watercress on top, then arrange the beet and orange slices on the greens. Drizzle each portion with some of the dressing, then sprinkle with seeds.
Nutrition | Per serving (using low-fat yogurt): 160 calories, 7 g protein, 14 g carbohydrates, 9 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 220 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 11 g sugar
Even when you try your best to eat well, it’s difficult to know everything about nutrition. I often talk with clients who believe they are making good choices and don’t realise that little oversights stand in their way of optimal health. Here’s a top 10 list of common but easy-to-repair nutrition mistakes.
• You add whole flaxseeds to your breakfast
Flaxseeds are filled with omega-3 fats, fibre and lignans (antioxidants), which all benefit heart health. But whole flaxseeds may pass through the intestines undigested, which means you’ll miss out on the health benefits inside the seed. Buy ground flax seeds instead, or put them in a coffee or spice grinder.
• You blend a nutritious smoothie, but it’s a calorie bomb
It’s easy to toss a combination of superfoods into a blender. Blueberries, cashew butter, chia, kale, bananas and coconut milk sound like a dreamy breakfast elixir, but these concoctions can quickly become calorie bombs. Keep smoothies in the 300-calorie range by serving smaller portions (about 8-12 ounces), using more vegetables than fruit, and by going easy on the high-calorie nuts and seeds.
• You take your supplements with coffee
Caffeine from coffee can hinder your body’s ability to absorb some of the vitamins and minerals in your supplements, including calcium, iron, B-vitamins and vitamin D. And it’s not just coffee – beverages such as tea and cola contain caffeine, too. Enjoy your coffee about an hour before taking your supplements, and swallow pills with water instead.
• You use regular canned beans for your meatless meals
Beans are an amazing source of fibre and protein, but canned varieties may have close to 1,000 mg of sodium per cup – that’s two-thirds of what you need in an entire day! Look for cans that say “no-salt-added” or “low-sodium.” If you can’t find them, drain and rinse your canned beans, which will eliminate about 40 per cent of the sodium.
• To cut back on sugar, you cut out fruit
The top source of sugar in modern-day diet is sweetened beverages, not fruit. Sugary soft drinks have no beneficial nutrients, while fruit has fiber, vitamins and protective antioxidants. Plus, we don’t tend to overeat fruit, but do tend to drink too much soda. Consider how much easier it is to down a 20-ounce soda, as opposed to eating six bananas at one time. Both pack 16 teaspoons of sugar. Choose fruit and skip the soda.
• You trust claims like ‘low-fat’ and ‘sugar-free’
For many years, we’ve relied on label claims that tell us what our food doesn’t contain – fat, sugar, gluten. It’s more important to look at what the food does contain. Ultra-processed foods may be fat-free or sugar-free, but also loaded with preservatives or refined ingredients. Read ingredient lists and choose foods that are as close to nature as possible.
• You drink almond milk for calcium but don’t shake the carton first
Milk alternatives made from soy, almonds, cashews, rice, etc. are often fortified with calcium and vitamin D. But the added nutrients don’t stay in the liquid very well, and tend to sink to the bottom of the container. If you drink without shaking first, you can’t reap the benefits of the added vitamins and minerals. Shake well before serving.
• You skip the dressing on salad
Vegetables contain fat-soluble vitamins A, E and K, and a host of antioxidants that require fat to be absorbed. If you skip the oil and vinegar, you miss out on key nutrients from the salad. Serve your greens with oil-based dressing, nuts, seeds or avocado to dramatically boost your body’s ability to soak up the veggies’ beneficial nutrients.
• You miss out on probiotics by buying the wrong type of yogurt
Yogurt is fermented milk, and fermented foods contain probiotics. So, logic would dictate that all yogurts are probiotic-rich, but unfortunately that’s not the case. If yogurt has been heated or pasteurised, probiotics are destroyed and may not be added back in. Look for the words “live active cultures,” or check ingredient lists for names of specific probiotics (lactobacillus acidophilus, L bulgaricus, etc.) to ensure you’re getting these beneficial bacteria, which aid digestion and support the immune system.
• You refuel with sports drinks
Sports drinks are meant to replace fluid and electrolytes that are lost when you sweat excessively, and are suitable after endurance sports like a soccer game or marathon. But the extra sugar and salt in sports drinks are not needed for casual exercise with minimal perspiration. After a stroll, hydrating with water is the best choice.
Korean influences go into what otherwise looks like a traditional tray of barbecue at Heirloom Market BBQ in Atlanta.
Jiyeon Lee, a South Korean expat, doesn’t serve Korean barbecue at her Heirloom Market BBQ in Atlanta. She and her husband, the Texas-born Cody Taylor, serve American barbecue with Korean touches. Example: pungent gochujang-marinated meat, smoked over oak and hickory wood and served as a sandwich crowned with kimchi coleslaw.
In Austin, Miguel Vidal has mated the ingredients of his Mexican ancestry with those of his Texas upbringing at his celebrated Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ. Think house-made corn tortillas with smoked brisket, guacamole and tomato serrano salsa.
Ready or not, change has come to Barbecue Country. Often viewed in black and white, the world of slow-smoked Southern barbecue is being transformed by the immigrants of contemporary America.
“A lot of the cultures coming here have something they call barbecue,” says Thomas W. Hanchett, retired staff historian of the Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte. “They are now becoming part of the South and using this language of barbecue. What had been foreign, international traditions are becoming American traditions.”
Of course, from its earliest days, Southern barbecue has been a polyglot cuisine. Its origin combined Caribbean and Native American techniques of indirect smoking with European meats (meat and beef, mainly) and African-American flavourings. More than a century ago, Mexicans in California and Texas contributed a style known as barbacoa in which cow heads are roasted in a pit in the ground. Germans are generally believed to have created the mustard sauce of South Carolina.
The German influence, along with Polish and Czech, is also big in Texas, where in the 1880s and 1890s those immigrants’ meat markets were the ones selling barbecue, says Texas Monthly barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn.
Apparently, such culinary influences were not always appreciated. Vaughn emailed me a link to an archived copy of an 1875 front page of the Dallas Daily Herald that showed a strain of anti-immigration that persists through American life to this day. “A German sausage factory has been established in Austin,” one item in a column entitled “The Herald’s Compress” reads. “It may not be amiss to remind our city authorities that this is a splendid opportunity to dispose of our surplus dog crop.”
Objections aside, those immigrant groups affected barbecue culture all over the state. But in central Texas it became a signature barbecue style, characterised by slow-smoked beef and coarse-ground, spicy sausage.
Greeks have influenced American barbecue as well, with the most famous example being Charlie Vergos, a son of immigrants. He founded the famous Memphis barbecue restaurant Charlie Vergos Rendezvous where, in the late 1950s, he concocted a spice rub for meat ribs that combined Greek herbs, such as oregano, with traditional barbecue spices. Dabbed with vinegar while cooking, the creation became known as the Memphis “dry” ribs style, so called because they’re not sauced (or “wet”).
In its multicultural history, stretching back before the formation of the country, barbecue might be the one true indigenous American cuisine. Curiously, barbecue is viewed as unchanging. But, from the foods we smoke to the way we smoke them, barbecue is constantly evolving.
“What we think of as barbecue today would have been unrecognisable to eaters a century ago,” Robert Moss, author of “Barbecue: The History of an American Institution,” told First We Feast. “We don’t need to redefine barbecue in America; it’s already busy redefining itself, and the new flavors of immigrant communities are an important part of that evolution.”
Cultures around the world enjoy some kind of fire-cooking tradition. But for the most part, they’re different from what we’ve come to expect when we walk into a Southern barbecue restaurant. Korean barbecue is thin-sliced meats grilled quickly over a direct (typically, gas) fire, while the Indian tandoor uses a clay oven, and Sichuan duck is smoked over tea leaves, then frequently fried. Southern barbecue is big meats such as beef brisket, meat shoulder and ribs slow-smoked using an indirect fire of hardwoods.
Heirloom BBQ Market, opened in 2010, represents a melting-pot approach to barbecue. The brisket, for example, is injected with a Korean version of miso before bathing low and slow in smoke inside an all-wood cooker imported from Texas. Drawing on the Korean little-plates tradition of fermented and pickled vegetables, Lee, who was a pop star in South Korea, saw an opportunity. “It’s a really good pairing with the heavy meat dishes, with all the pickles and vegetables,” she says. “At first, it was, ‘Is this a barbecue restaurant?’ But people in Atlanta, it’s a melting pot and very diverse, and people are open-minded about trying something new.” Taylor said Heirloom experienced some initial resistance from barbecue purists but overcame it with glowing press attention. He says the idea behind what appears exotic is actually simple. “We decided to just go with what we brought from our house, ingredient-wise and feeling-wise,” Taylor says. “Just be yourself. That’s what barbecue is all about.”
While the fusion trend inhabits a small corner of the barbecue firmament, similar cultural mash-ups are occurring nationwide. At Kimchi Smoke in northern New Jersey, owner Robert Cho, a Korean-American, smokes the kimchi that tops the smoked meat, which he piles onto a flour tortilla. He calls the creation a Korean Redneck Taco. In Charlotte, the husband-and-wife team of Tim Chun and Lisa Kamura at the Seoul Food Meat Co. turn out meats marinated in Korean flavourings and served with pickled radish and sides of Sriracha cracklins, ramen mac-and-cheese and soy-pickled deviled eggs.
At the food truck Honky Tonk Kid BBQ in Waco, Texas, David Gorham serves a rotating menu of “global fusion,” which combines traditionally smoked Texas meats with an international flair. Its recently concluded Italian menu featured a smoked meatball sub with a fire-roasted marinara sauce, plus side dishes such as citrus and fennel coleslaw.
“I just want to introduce people to different flavours and different cultures,” Gorham says. “I just want people to know there are other flavors out there, and we can all get together, and that’s what barbecue should be.”
In New York, Hometown Barbecue offers a lamb belly banh mi alongside traditional pulled meat sandwiches, Izzy’s Smokehouse and Main House BBQ serve kosher barbecue (beef, chicken), and pastrami is on barbecue menus all over town.
“We have so many great barbecue restaurants that they have to distinguish themselves,” says Eater critic Robert Sietsema. “We have a universal constituency that loves sweet and sour flavors. The flavour palette is being preserved with a smokiness that people long for.”
In Texas, smoked meats such as brisket are finding their way into tacos instead of the more traditional white bread. “Whether serving (barbecue) as tacos rather than sandwiches or with beans and rice and stuff like pico de gallo as a garnish instead of pickles and onions, we’re seeing the Mexican influence a lot more,” Vaughn says.
In Southern California, pastrami tacos have long been a thing. But recently, restaurants have emerged that specialise in a form of lamb barbacoa popular around Mexico City.
In Mexico, a wood fire burns hot and long in a hole in the ground, and the retained heat cooks marinated lamb. At his two Aqui Es Texcoco restaurants – one outside San Diego, the other in Los Angeles – Francisco “Paco” Perez simulates the process using a gas oven and, to provide a semblance of smoke and a hint of bitterness, maguey leaves, which smolder. He seasons the meat traditionally, with chile de arbol, guajillo, onions and garlic.
“People want to know traditional dishes,” says Perez, who is originally from Guadalajara and began cooking the dish at a restaurant in Tijuana owned by his mother. “I think my food represents my culture, and so I want to introduce Americans to that.”
Barbecue has functioned the other way as well – as a cuisine that immigrants and their descendants use as an entry point to claim America. Chinese-American Robin Wong and his brother Terry, who grew up in a diverse Houston suburb called Alief, operate barbecue pop-ups in Houston with a Vietnamese childhood friend named Quy Hoang. Although they sometimes experiment with Asian flavours, to Wong, barbecue is a unifying food in a diverse world. “Our normal menu is straight Texas barbecue,” he says.
Tyson Ho, a Chinese-American, smokes classic Carolina whole hog in his Brooklyn restaurant, Arrogant Swine. “This is my tiny part of preserving American history and creating my spot in the American story,” Ho says. “When you grow up neither white nor black in the US, it is hard to find a piece of America that is yours. It is hard to find something that you’re heir to. So, cooking barbecue is my way of grabbing hold and saying, ‘This is mine.’”
Indian cuisine ranks as the world’s most ancient and diverse cuisines, globally recognised and relished for its sophisticated and subtle use of spices. One of the most extraordinary aspect of Indian cuisine is the almost endless and tantalising variety of vegetarian foods that have been pampering the palates and taste buds of kings, noblemen, commoners and visitors from outside alike down the centuries.
HE Indra Mani Pandey, India’s Ambassador to the Sultanate, a staunch vegetarian says India is known for the widespread prevalence of vegetarianism, particularly amongst many Hindu, Buddhist and Jain communities.
He added that “People who follow a strict vegetarian diet make up 20–42 per cent of the population in India”.
Speaking on the sidelines of a press conference to announce the launch of a five-day Indian Food Festival at the Grand Hyatt Hotel from March 15 – 19, a joint initiative by the Indian embassy in Muscat and the hotel. The inaugural function of the food festival forms is in effect also the finale of the first-ever Festival of India in Oman that began in November 2016
The Ambassador explained: “The ancient Indian concept of ‘ahimsa’ led some segments of the population to embrace vegetarianism. This belief gained more currency following the spread of Buddhism.
But having said that the Ambassador says that over and above that, India’s diverse climate and availability of arable land made it possible for people to cultivate a variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains throughout the year, allowing people to permanently follow a vegetarian lifestyle.
While religious traditions and social customs have largely influenced the evolution of food habits and styles and its diversity, but having said that, Indian cuisine is also famous for its regional diversity. Each region includes a wide variety of dishes, different cooking styles and techniques and the use of specific spices and condiments, reflecting the geographical, ethnic and cultural diversity of India.
India’s diverse climate, ranging from deep tropical to alpine, has made for a broad range of food ingredients – grains, pulses, vegetables, fruits and spices- all contributing to an almost endless array of delectable dishes.
History has it on record that India’s unique blend of diverse cuisines has evolved through large-scale cultural interactions with neighbouring Persia, ancient Greece, Central Asia and West Asia.
Side by side, the Influence of Arab and Portuguese traders resulted in a diversified sub-continental cuisine. New World vegetables and fruits such as chili peppers, tomatoes, potatoes and squash, introduced by Arab and Portuguese traders during the 16th century, and European cooking styles have to the exotic flavours of Indian cuisine.
Experts says that many recipes first emerged during the initial Vedic period, when India was still heavily forested and agriculture was complemented by game hunting and products from the forest.
During the medieval period the intermingling of indigenous cuisines of India with culinary traditions of invaders and settlers from Central Asia, Arabia and Persia had a permanent and synthesising effect on the food .
These people introduced fruits such as apricots, melons, peaches and plums, and rich gravies, pilafs and non-vegetarian fare such as kebabs. This in turn led to ,emergence Mughlai cuisine (Mughal in origin).
Mughlai cuisine is popular throughout India and has influenced regional cuisines. For example, a blending of Mughlai and Telengana (Hyderabadi) cuisines took place in the kitchens of Nizams, historic rulers of Hyderabad State, resulting in creation of Hyderabadi cuisine.
The staple of Indian cuisine is rice, whole wheat flour and a variety of pulses, used as whole, de-husked, or split (Dal). Some of the pulses are also processed into flour. Most Indian curries are fried in vegetable oil. The most important and most frequently used spices in Indian cuisine are chili pepper, black mustard seed, cumin, turmeric, fenugreek, asafoetida, ginger, and garlic. Some leaves like cassia leaf, coriander leaf, fenugreek leaf and mint leaf are also commonly used in Indian curries.
The use of curry leaves is typical of all South Indian cuisine. In sweet dishes, cardamom, nutmeg, saffron and rose petal essence are used.
North Indian cuisine is distinguished by a relatively high use of dairy products; milk, paneer (cottage cheese), ghee (clarified butter), and yoghurt are common ingredients. Gravies are typically dairy product-based. Other common ingredients include chilies, saffron, and nuts.Tandoori chicken is a popular dish in Punjabi cuisine. Kebabs are an important part of Uttar Pradesh’s Awadhi cuisine. Samosa is a popular North Indian snack, and now commonly found in other parts of India, Central Asia, North America, Africa and the Middle East. The staple food of most of North India is a variety of lentils, vegetables, rice and roti (wheat based bread).
East Indian cuisine is famous for its desserts, especially sweets. Many of the sweet dishes now popular in Northern India initially originated in Bengal and Orissa regions. Apart from sweets, East Indian cuisine offers delights made of poppy seeds. Traditional Bengali cuisine is not too spicy and not too faint. General ingredients used in Bengali curries are mustard seeds, cumin seeds, black cumin, green chilies and cumin paste. Mustard paste, curd, nuts, poppy seed paste and cashew paste are preferably cooked in mustard oil.
Fish is commonly consumed in eastern part of India, especially in Bengal. Rice is the staple grain in Eastern India, just as it is in South India. A regular meal also includes many side dishes made of vegetables. The popular vegetable dishes of Orissa are Dalma and Santula. The most popular vegetable dish of Bengal is Sukto. Deep-fried, shallow-fried and mashed vegetables are also very popular.
South Indian cuisine is distinguished by a greater emphasis on rice as the staple grain, the ubiquity of sambar (a vegetable stew based on a broth made with tamarind and toovar dal), rasam (a soup prepared with tamarind juice or tomato, pepper and other spices), a variety of pickles, and liberal use of coconut and particularly coconut oil and curry leaves. Andhra, Chettinad, Tamil, Hyderabadi, Mangalorean, and Kerala cuisines each have distinct styles and methods of cooking.
Each of the five South Indian States – Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamilnadu and Telangana – has a different way of preparing dishes. Tamil cuisine generally classifies food into six tastes: sweet; sour; salty; bitter; pungent and astringent. Traditional Tamil cuisine recommends that all the six tastes be included in each main meal to provide complete nutrition, minimise cravings and balance the appetite and digestion.
The three major culinary traditions of wesatern India are Gujarati, Maharashtrian and Goan. There are two main types of Maharashtrian cuisine, defined by geographical circumstances. The coastal regions, geographically similar to Goa, consume more rice, coconut and fish. In hilly regions of Western Ghats and Deccan plateau, groundnut is used in place of coconut and the staple grains sorghum and millet. Gujarati cuisine is predominantly vegetarian. Many Gujarati dishes have a hint of sweetness due to use of sugar or brown sugar. The cuisine of Goa is a confluence of indigenous and Portuguese traditions and techniques.
The staple food of Goans is rice and fish and the cuisine is mostly seafood-based. Goan Hindu cuisine is less spicy, uses little or no onion or garlic, and incorporates a variety of vegetables.
Several customs are associated with the manner in which food is prepared and consumed in India. Traditionally, meals are eaten while seated either on the floor or on very low stools or cushions. Food is most often eaten without cutlery, using instead fingers of the right hand. Eating with the hands is considered important in Indian etiquette. Things into consideration, it would be well worth considering a visit to the Indian Food Festival at the Grand Hyatt’s Mokha Café. Except for the opening day when the timing for the Food Festival is 7pm, on all all days the timing for the visitors to go and enjoy the food will be from 6.30 to 11pm. Two well known chefs from India Vikram Shokeen and Mohammed Imran will be working in partnership with the chefs of the Grand Hyatt to serve the most amazing array of Indian foods from the Indian states of West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Goa. To recreate the authenticity of the flavours and tastes, the Indian chefs will be bringing along with them many of the spices and ingredients from India.
Do you have days at work when you feel energetic, inspired and productive, while on other days you feel tired, busy and stressed, with almost nothing to show for your efforts at the end of the day? When you spend several hours a day at work, it pays to make those hours healthy ones for both body and mind. Making some simple, smart choices throughout your workday can help boost your creativity and productivity while reducing fatigue and minimising stress.
• Fuel right. Vegetables, fruit, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats will provide you with a steady source of energy throughout the day while offering the nutrition you need for long-term health. Many fast-food or takeout lunches contain sugar, salt, white flour and low-quality fats and proteins, which can leave you feeling bloated and sluggish now while gradually eroding your health and expanding your waistline.
•Don’t ignore hunger. When you’re busy, it’s easy to push rumblings of hunger to the back burner, if you even notice them at all. When you finally come up for air midafternoon – or worse, on your way home – you realise that you’re ravenous and ready to eat whatever’s handy and filling, regardless of taste or nutrition. Over time, ignoring hunger cues can dim them, making it harder to figure out if you’re actually hungry even during more relaxed times.
•Take your lunch break. Consciously disconnecting from work in the middle of your day can give you an energy boost and make your afternoon go more smoothly. If possible, eat lunch somewhere other than your desk – preferably outside, weather permitting, where you can get a dose of sunlight and fresh air.
•Eat mindfully. If you must lunch at your desk, try to refrain from checking your email, doing work or talking about work. Take a few deep breaths, then eat slowly and savor your delicious, healthful meal. While the volume and composition of your meal help you feel satisfied, so do the sensory aspects of eating – taste, aroma, texture, color and temperature. If you quickly inhale your lunch without noticing it, you deny yourself the full eating experience, which can leave you feeling like you need to nibble.
•Manage the work food environment. If you work outside the home, you spend a huge chunk of your day in the workplace, which makes that your second most important food environment (after your home). It’s also an environment that can be unpredictable in what temptations it sends your way – especially treacherous if your job is stressful, and stress makes you want to eat. Packing your own nutritious and appealing lunch and snacks can help inoculate you against less-nutritious offerings from the vending machine or co-workers. If you buy your lunch, placing your order in advance instead of waiting until you are already hungry can make it easier to make a healthful choice.
•Stay hydrated. Even minor dehydration can cause headaches and make you feel tired and unable to concentrate, which isn’t good for your productivity or your well-being. As there are no hard-and-fast rules about how much to drink, it’s best to let thirst be your guide. In the habit of ignoring thirst? Aim to drink at least six to eight eight-ounce glasses of water a day, more on days you exercise. One way to tell: If your urine is clear or very light, you’re probably doing just fine.
•Move often. Our bodies are meant to move frequently, and that includes more than just planned exercise. If you sit at a desk all day, make a point to move at least every hour. Get up to fill your water glass, go talk to co-workers instead of emailing them, do a few stretches right at your desk, or step outside to take a short rejuvenating walk.
•Breathe. Deep breathing is your body’s built-in energizer and stress reliever. Simply taking a few deep breaths can help you feel calmer, but if you have more time, sit and focus on your breathing for a few minutes. Try this at least a few times during the day to relax and recharge, more often if you notice you’re feeling stressed or tense.
•Don’t multitask. You may think you’re being super productive, but you’re not. Studies show that multitasking wastes more time than it saves. Even worse, it reduces our brain function over time. When you allow yourself to focus on a task or project without distractions (email, social media, open browser windows), you’ll complete it better and faster – and then have the satisfaction of checking it off your to-do list.
•Honour personal boundaries. Establishing at least some degree of balance in your universe is important to help you function at your best at work and home. Allowing work to bleed into your off-the-clock hours on a regular basis will ultimately make your performance suffer in both spheres.
Mike Burgess, owner of Pure Pasty Co.
They are competitive. And then they are fly-across-the-ocean, return-to-your-home-country and prove-yourself competitive.
Mike Burgess and Nicola Willis-Jones fall into the second category.
The owner and chef, respectively, of Pure Pasty Co. in Vienna, Virginia, are hunkering down in Cornwall, England, this week, preparing for Saturday’s World Pasty Championships. The event, supported by the Cornish Pasty Association, will draw more than 150 competitors to the Eden Project, an environmentally focused education charity that also welcomes visitors to its gardens and biomes.
“It’s a long way to go,” Burgess admitted. Scrounging up the resources to fund the trip has been a bit of a challenge for the small business, but Willis-Jones has wanted to compete in the contest for years.
“I want to show off,” said Willis-Jones, who has been with Pure Pasty since the shop opened, “and we’ve got quite a skill at it.”
“It” is the art of the pasty – pronounced “PASS-ty,” not to be confused with the accessories favored by strippers. (“I can’t change that,” Burgess said of the linguistic overlap.)
Pasties are “like an empanada, but bigger and better,” Willis-Jones said – basically a hand pie encasing a filling. Now widespread across England, pasties are native to Cornwall, the scenic region in the southwest corner of the country that may be most familiar to Americans as the setting of “Poldark,” the sweeping drama that has so far aired two seasons of its current remake on PBS.
As “Poldark” fans will know, Cornwall was a strong mining community, with peak production in the 18th and 19th centuries. Pasties were the perfect solution for a portable lunch. Those specimens, however, were more likely to have a tough shell that would survive being jostled. Willis-Jones favours a buttery pastry (known as “rough puff” to “Great British Baking Show” fans) that is tender and flaky but still sturdy enough to support the 10-ounce pasties.
She does honour tradition in several other noticeable ways. One is the thick, crimped edge – inspired by the edges of the miners’ pastries that they would supposedly use as handles to avoid contaminating their food with arsenic, which is a byproduct of tin mining. The crusts would then be tossed to the mine spirits – or, rather, the rodents who would actually eat them.
The other classic flourish is the symbols the bakery uses to denote the different flavours (square for veggie, triangle for chicken masala, club for the chef’s special, etc.). These honour the way miners’ wives would use shapes or initials to indicate which pasties belonged to which men in towns where the pies would be cooked in a community oven.
Right now, Pure Pasty is the only American company that has applied to be in the World Pasty Championships, and Burgess and Willis-Jones hope their cultural mash-ups will help them stand out.
7 servings handpies
The pastry’s flaky and the filling smells and tastes like the deli sandwich it’s named after. It was their first “mash-up” pasty, and customers loved it.
MAKE AHEAD: The chilled shortening and/or butter needs to be grated on the large-holed sides of a box grater and then refrigerated or frozen until firm. The dough needs to be refrigerated three times – first, for 30 minutes; then rolled and turned twice (like a laminated dough for puff pastry) and rested for 25 minutes, and then for 1 hour. The filling can be assembled and refrigerated a day in advance.
From Nicola Willis-Jones of the Pure Pasty Co. in Vienna.
For the pastry
1 pound bread flour, plus more as needed
2 teaspoons kosher salt
6 ounces chilled Spectrum brand organic vegetable shortening, or the shortening of your choice, grated (may substitute chilled unsalted butter; see headnote)
4 ounces chilled unsalted butter, grated (see headnote)
7 to 8 ounces cold water
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (may substitute distilled white vinegar)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon water
Caraway seed, for garnish
For the filling
10 ounces sliced, lean corned beef, cut into 1-inch pieces
2/3 cup drained sauerkraut
2/3 cup cooked white potato, cut into small dice (from 1 medium russet potato)
About 22/5 ounces Swiss cheese, shredded or grated (2/3 cup)
1/3 cup Thousand Island dressing
2 teaspoons caraway seed
For the pastry: Sift together the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the chilled, grated shortening and butter; use a pastry cutter or your clean, cool hands to work it into the dry ingredients.
Combine the cold water and lemon juice; add just enough of that mixture and stir with a fork to form a crumbly mixture that is not wet or sticky, adding a little extra flour, as needed. Gather it together and wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Lightly flour a work surface. Unwrap and roll out the pastry mixture into a 6-by-12-inch rectangle. Fold in one of the short sides a third of the way toward the center, then fold the remaining dough over the first fold. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 25 minutes.
Re-flour the surface as needed. Unwrap the folded dough and roll it out to the same size rectangle as before. Repeat the folding steps. You should end up with a rectangle of folded dough that’s about 4-by-9 inches. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
For the filling: Combine the corned beef, sauerkraut, potato, cheese, dressing and caraway seed in a mixing bowl, mixing with your clean hands until well incorporated. The yield is about 3 1/2 cups. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use (up to 1 day).
When you’re ready to assemble the pasties, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner.
Divide the filling into 7 equal mounds. Whisk together the egg and 1 tablespoon of water to form an egg wash.
Lightly flour a work surface. Unwrap and roll out the dough there to a rectangle that measures about 14 by 19 inches, with a thickness of no more than 1/4 inch. Cut a total of seven 6-inch rounds, using a plate or bowl as a template; you should be able to cut 6 rounds, then re-roll the scraps to create the 7th round. You may have some scraps of dough left over. Keep the rounds covered and refrigerated as you form the pasties.
Working with one round at a time, roll each one out to a slightly oval shape so the length is perpendicular to the edge of the counter. Place one mound of filling on the lower half of the dough oval, shaping it with your hands so the filling has a 1/2- to 3/4-inch margin around it. Brush that margin with a light coat of the egg wash. Fold over the dough to create a half-moon shape, then crimp the edges with a fork or your fingers so the pasty is sealed tight. Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle the top with caraway seed, then place on the baking sheet. Once they’re all done, use a sharp knife to cut a small vent in the top of each one. Discard any unused egg wash.
Bake (middle rack) for 25 to 35 minutes, rotating the sheet from front to back halfway through. The pasties should be golden brown. Let sit for a few minutes before serving.
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