My Travelling Cookbook.

By Chrisantha Chetty

Recipe Book

Last week a new tradition was started at The Coloured Cube where I prepared breyani for all the employees. Our managing director, Mariapaola, made it extra special by adding deserts and drinks as well as helping me set up a beautiful table for all of us to eat together. This occasion reinforced my beliefs of how important food is, beyond sustenance for our bodies.

Food is one of my great loves. I am passionate about it as a subject, medium and consumable. Food is like art, as both are expressions that go beyond any particular language. It is a powerful tool for bringing people together as well as being an interesting subject that can reveal so many histories.

Food is something that anyone can relate to despite their social or economic backgrounds. All humans eat to survive and have particular practices around the preparation and consumption of food. For this same reason food also has the ability to divide and unite people due to differences in tastes and culinary practices, as well as other cultural practices that are related to food.

In 2015 I was fortunate to get accepted with a full scholarship to Ecole Cantonale d’Art du Valais, in Switzerland, to complete a Master’s in Art in the Public Spheres. During the two year degree I lived in a residency house, which we called the Auberge, with fourteen international students. I also managed to visit eleven countries and many more cities. This is when I started my travelling cookbook which comprises of the recipes I collected whilst living with many people from different parts of the world as well as travelling to many parts of Europe, especially the western region.

I learnt how to make labaneh the Palestinian way, pebre, a Chilean salsa, white sauce from my Greek friend and arepas, a Venezuelan flat bread. I also learnt how to make the Egyptian fast food dish called kushari from a Swiss guy in Basel and salsa verde from a U.S citizen brought up in Mexico who now lives in Switzerland for many years. I thought, as my travelling cookbook continues to expand, that I would share some of these recipes accompanied by a short anecdote.

Arepas Recipe
I woke up to the beautiful smell of this yummy flat bread most mornings. I lived with two Venezuelan women, named Lora and Veronica, who’s staple breakfasts consisted of these delicious breads made out of a type of maize flour. Lora taught me how to make it and we even tried with South African maize meal, which didn’t give the desired texture. The outside should be nice and crispy with a soft pap-like textured filling. Great to enjoy with any tasty filling you could think of. I quite enjoyed bacon and eggs, tuna salad or cheese and pesto.

Labaneh Recipe
This easy cheese recipe was shared by Noor, another one of my many house mates at the time. She would make the cheese balls as beautiful as the recipe she has drawn in the book. Noor would often roll the balls on some sort of spice, nut or veg to add more flavour and make it more exciting. By the end of my first year we had bottles of labaneh all over the place with many people in the Auberge making their own versions.

Pizza-base Recipe
This recipe was found online and adapted by a friend, Ziad, from Egypt. We had many fun pizza meals at the Auberge where everyone would bring and share toppings and we would compile the pizzas together. The interesting thing about this recipe is that another friend, Phumulani, from South Africa later used the same recipe to make the most delicious ujeqe (Zulu steamed bread). He had tried finding recipes online but failed quite badly until he tried the pizza dough recipe. He followed the recipe the same and just steam cooked it as a rounded loaf rather than baked as flat pizza. The results were perfect producing a sweet and fluffy bread.

Town ma's roti Recipe
I will include this recipe that I wrote because it was one of the recipes that became very popular in the Auberge for being super easy, cheap and tasty. I searched long and hard for a good roti recipe and my attempts were futile continuously producing crispy breads. The problem with asking my aunties and grannies for their recipes was that they didn’t know the exact measurements. Years of experience meant they made their rotis by sight and feel. However one of my aunts eventually sat and watched her mother making the roti and worked out the measurements. The result was the above recipe and although so simple it creates the softest and tastiest rotis.

During these two years I met many wonderful people who were so kind to share their recipes and most often, when possible, a meal with me. I would like to thank all these people who were so generous, especially: Lora Franco, Noor Abuarafeh, Ziad Hassan, Phumulani Ntuli, David Romero and Amurtham Pillay whose recipes are included in this blog. Many who I am likely to never see again. Thank you for these amazing recipes that I will forever cherish and treasure.

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