I’m always so grateful for the generosity of Toronto chefs and food enthusiasts who come to work with the Petits Chefs and this week we can add “award winning author” to our lineup this term. We were excited to welcome Naomi Duguid to work with the boys. Naomi’s a food writer and photographer based in Toronto and has coauthored six cookbooks as well as “Burma, Rivers of Flavor“. She won Cookbook of the Year from the James Beard Foundation in 1996 and 2001 and Cuisine Canada Cookbook Awards in 1999 and 2004. Last time she came to work with the boys, she was just back from a trip to Iran and was headed to the Taste Canada 2013 awards (where “Burma” won in the “Regional Cultural” category).
This week, Naomi was just back from a whirlwind book tour for her latest book, “Taste of Persia: A Cook’s Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran and Kurdistan” which came out in September. I’ve had a review copy of this book for a couple of months now and I have to say that it’s so much more than *just* a cookbook. I mean, of course the recipes are an amazing journey into a part of the world most of us have not ventured but even before you’re reading the recipes, the photography draws you in and then you get caught up in the stories, learning about the people we meet along the way, told in Naomi’s evocative voice. It’s a book that is at home on the bedside table, the coffee table and the kitchen counter.
When Naomi agreed to work with the boys I set about choosing a recipe that we would be able to make from start to finish in an hour. The recipes are divided into chapters such as Flavors and Condiments, Salads and Vegetables, Soup, Stuffed Vegetables and Dumplings, Fish, Meat and Poultry (for the grill and stovetop), Rice and Grains, Flatbreads, Sweets and Fruits and I will admit to marking a LOT of the recipes, then getting lost in the stories behind them! Whilst Persian cuisine might sound exotic and “out of reach” for many people (the very NAME “Persia” sounds like it’s from a faraway, exotic, fictional land!), the recipes in this book are actually pretty accessible. As Naomi says:
Flavors, textures and ingredients will be familiar to anyone from a European or North American tradition. And that shouldn’t be surprising, for Persian ingredients and culinary wisdom have influenced cuisines from India to Morocco to northern Europe.
My main issue in choosing a recipe (apart from trying to tear myself away from the beautiful images and stories) was one of time, but as soon as I turned the page to see Cheese Filled Quick Breads (a version of Georgian khachapuri), I knew this was what I wanted to make with the boys.
I’m all about them learning “staples” and showing them that they are easy so a quick flatbread fit the bill. The dough comes together very easily – it’s a mix of flours and and yoghurt with a pinch of salt and some baking powder. An easy dough for kids to work with.
We made smaller versions of the flatbreads so that they could bake in time (even the boys are used to the whole “time crunch” thing in cooking club!) and they came out beautifully. Brushed with butter, they were such a treat on a chilly afternoon!
While the flatbreads baked and after the lab had been cleaned, Naomi told tales of tandoor ovens and of her travels in Georgia, where these breads originate, and beyond – because most cultures have a version of a flatbread. Such a wonderful session – all too brief (I could listen to Naomi talk for hours!) but a fabulous peek into a culture and cuisine I am sure most of the boys are not familiar with. This is what I love about food – so much to learn, so many life lessons in the actual cooking but also lessons about our world. In this day and age, I can’t think of a more important topic for my students.
Naomi, we’re so grateful that you took the time to come and work with us this week. Thank you for you patience, your knowledge and generosity. This program certainly wouldn’t be the same without people like you!
Check out the boys in action below:
Canadian readers – win a copy of Naomi Duguid’s Taste of Persia! Details here.
Please note: This post contains product links from Amazon and The Book Depository which are affiliate links, meaning if you click over and purchase something, I will receive a very small percentage of the purchase price (at no extra cost to you) which goes towards maintaining eat. live. travel. write. Thank you in advance!
Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher. I was not asked to write about it and am not being compensated for writing this post.