In the quest for the most extravagant and spectacularly looking dishes, we often overlook the basics. What a shame!
So here’s one of them: bollit (in Valencian) or hervido (in Spanish). Which literally means… boiled!
This dish is extremely simple, consisting of boiling vegetables in salted water, and then having them with a bit of fat of your choosing. I know—it sounds “unappetising”, and it looks “ugly”, but it can be oh so comforting, especially when the weather is cold or if you’re feeling not so great and all you need is some simple food that doesn’t require extremely sophisticated skills to prepare.
On this day, we took a cute two-car train to Narai.
Narai is a former post town: a place where travellers would stop for a break in their journey along one of the routes connecting Kyoto with Tokyo.
It is also exceptionally well preserved, with the appearance that a Westerner expects from “old Japan”: a quiet high street, low wooden houses, panels, and archetypal Japanese implements and ornaments everywhere you look at.
This is a sweet cake that is produced around Easter time in the Valencian region, and it’s also one of my favourites!
In fact, I like it so much that I learned to make it, because it’s impossible to source it in London, and I was missing it lots each time I spent Easter in the UK.
One of the defining features of this bun is that it uses eggs both in the dough and in the decoration, which has many variations: you can brush the top with beaten egg, or whisk the egg white with sugar until it stiffens and use it to decorate the top the bun, or you can even place an egg on the bun before baking, which makes it look like an egg nesting on the bun (this is most typical of the smaller, individual pieces). Often, the eggshells are dyed with food colouring, so this makes for very colourful pieces that you’re sorry to eat.
Tradition has it that you should take a mona with you on a country side walk on Easter Monday, to celebrate the arrival of Spring. Then, when you find a nice and calm spot, you sit down and eat your mona outdoors, while enjoying the early warm weather and the sight and scent of flowers (hopefully without too many insects!).
And if your mona includes eggs, it’s quite traditional to ‘crack’ them on the forehead of your family members or friends… preferably by surprise! 🤪
We cook dals and curries quite often, but after we had spent the beginning of the year in Spain, we wondered whether we could cook a curry but in a Spanish style. I was certain this was possible—after all, chickpeas with spinach is a typical dish in southern Spain—and yet it was amusing to do it deliberately: to set out to cook a curry but using Spanish seasoning only.