What's the history of the meal I'm eating? Part 2... – Nutrition Kitchen HK

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At Nutrition Kitchen, we love our food to be varied and healthy. No one nation has a monopoly on food flavour - for that reason, we take our cooking inspiration from around the world. Here are a few you may be interested to know more about…

 

 

Beef Chili Con Carne – Tuesday 4th May

For those of you with an eye for Spanish, you’ll know ‘Carne’ means ‘meat’, ‘con’ means ‘with’ and ‘Chili’ means, you guessed it, ‘Chili’. The earliest written description of this dish is perceived to have come from J.C Clopper in 1828. It is likely, however, that given its simplicity as a stew - with peppers, onions, tomatoes and meat thrown in - it is something that has instead been around for many centuries in the north Mexican/Texan area. J.C Clopper, on a visit to San Antonio, Texas, described how the poor would cut the meat they had ‘into a kind of hash with nearly as many peppers as there are pieces of meat’. 

After Chili con Carne appeared at the Chicago World Fair in 1893, its fame spread quickly across the US and soon, there were ‘chili parlour’s’ all over the American mid-West. Given its relative cheapness and ease of production, these parlours became especially key to poor families during the years of the Great Depression.

Breadless Chicken Parmesan – Wednesday 5th May 

Originating in Campania as Eggplant Parmigiana, the recipe used deep fried eggplant smothered in cheese and tomato sauce, then baked for a warm, creamy outcome. Perhaps surprisingly, you won’t often find a chicken based parmesan dish in Italy – this variation instead occurs in Italian American cooking.

Grown in local gardens and combined with ingredients that even the poorest families would have, Eggplant Parmigiana was known as la cucina povera or cooking of the poor. Like the best of dishes, it was simple yet filling, and when the first wave of Italian immigrants settled in America in the late 19th century, they substituted in the more readily available chicken. 

 

 

Moroccan Chicken Tagine – Thursday 6th May

The history of our Moroccan Tagine dish is well debated. Some suggest it was first introduced by the Phoenicians in the 12th Century whilst others suggest it goes even further back to the fifth Abbasid Caliph in the 800s AD. Ultimately, it most likely came from North Africa and the Berber people who settled across large swathes of it.

A convivial dish, Tagine is usually consumed during festivals and special occasions to bring family members together. The actual meal is named after the utensil in which it is made - a deep plate in which the food is placed, then simmered over low heat and covered by a conical lid. The meat, spices, vegetables and nuts combine to give the stew a wonderfully savoury texture. As the cone-shaped lid traps steam and returns the condensed liquid to the pot, only a minimal amount of water is needed to cook the meal – particularly useful in areas where water supplies are limited.

Chicken Puttanesca – Tuesday 11th May

In researching these, one learns a great deal about language, history and local culture. Those of you who have a gift for Spanish and figured out what Chili con Carne means may also have a gift for Italian. With that in mind, there are two potential ways to understand the origin of Puttanesca sauce.

The first, well, there’s no delicate way to put this but puttana means lady of the night and this was a dish easy and, most importantly, fast to make in between working hours during and after WWII. 

The second and (one hopes) more likely explanation is that puttana also counts as an all-purpose profanity. As a result, this dish can mean ‘throwing whatever crap is left in the cupboard into a pan and hoping for the best’. In Italy, this meant ingredients such as garlic, capers, olives, anchovies and crushed red pepper. Not too shabby for leftovers. Ours, however, is of course made with only the freshest of ingredients!

 

 

Greek Chicken Souvlaki Skewers – Thursday 13th May

In all fairness, it is tough to suggest meat and vegetables on skewers can be claimed by one country and one country alone (even Cavemen have a legitimate claim to its origins!). It is, however, one of the most popular and typical dishes in Greece, where it has been referenced as far back as Homer’s Iliad. According to Homer, Achilles offered King Priamo a meal of truce (the least he could do after killing his son Hector) during which they ate small pieces of lamb passed through spits and cooked to remove the fat.

Since then, many variations have been thought up including the use of chicken, haloumi, sausage, tomato, onions, potatoes, lettuce, cabbage etc…, and it has even been combined with pita bread to make a kind of Greek kebab. Usually a fast food, ours is naturally more health minded, so we use chicken instead of the more fatty pieces of lamb otherwise preferred. 

Korean Marinated Beef – Friday 14th May 

Sometimes described as Korea’s most delicious export, Korean marinated beef or, Bulgogi, is a dish of thinly sliced sirloin that is a staple of most household’s there. Marinaded in a combination of soy sauce, sugar, garlic, green onion, sesame oil and pear, the meat becomes tender with a touch of sweetness. 

Bulgogi is believed to have originated during the Goguryeo Era which began in around 37 BCE. Over time, the preparation of the beef has changed from seoryamyeok – a brothy dish of marinated beef soaked in cold water – to neobiani – a luxurious dish favoured by Korean nobility. From the 1920s onwards, as beef became cheaper and easier to buy, its variations changed again and by the 1990s it has taken the form most known and loved today.

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