There’s a wonderful Afrikaans poem called Sproeireën by DJ Opperman that starts:
My nooi is in ‘n nartjie,
my ouma in kaneel,
daar’s iemand …. iemand in anys,
daar’s ‘n vrou in elke geur!
Roughly translated, this reads: “My sweetheart is in a clementine; my grandma is in cinnamon; there’s somebody… somebody in anise; there’s a woman in every scent”. I’ve always loved the idea that a memory of somebody you love is inextricably linked to a spicy scent. Research has shown that scent is the sense that evoked the strongest memories and it is easy to imagine the poet absentmindedly peeling a nartjie and being suddenly reminded of his beloved. For me, the cinnamon spice smells of hot cross buns toasting always brings back vividly our Easter family holidays in Plettenberg Bay. I’d come back from my early morning beach walk to a house filled with laughter, family, friends and the smell of hot cross buns toasting for breakfast. Even nearly twenty years later on a rainy London Sunday the smell can bring back this memory so vividly as to bring tears to my eyes.
Although I did not realise it when I was growing up, my mom clearly had a thing for 1960s and 1970s Scandi design. There was the Arabia Ruska crockery that we ate off every night; the Holmegaard wine glasses, and mounted on the wall above the stove was the thing that me friends found the most fascinating: a Danish Digsmed spice wheel. This iconic design consisted of a central teak wheel with glass spice bottles arranged around the perimeter, their lids permanently attached to the central wheel. To access a spice, all you had to do was spin it around to the 6 o’clock position and unscrew the bottle – and it made for a fabulous piece of functional kitchen art. As kids, my brother and I were intrigued by this wheel and we would spend hours unscrewing each bottle in turn and sniffing the contents curiously, allowing ourselves to be transported off to foreign lands by the exotic smells within.
I think our wheel had come pre-loaded with spices because the first time I smelled cumin was from one of those glass bottles attached to the spice wheel, and yet I have no recollection of my mom ever cooking with it. Cumin is the seed of a small annual herb called Cuminum cyminum which is native to the areas of Northern Africa and Eastern and Central Asia. This probably explains its prevalence in the cuisines of these regions rather than in Westermn European or Southern African cuisine. A quick investigation into the origins of the name “cumin” reveals this spice’s ancient use: the English word “cumin” derives from the Old English cymen; which comes from the Latin cuminum; which is the Latinised version of the Greek kuminon (related to the Hebrew kammon and Arabic kammun); and the ultimate source is said to be the Sumerian word gamun. Cumin is is a member of the plant family which includes both the parsley and the carrot – which might explain its affinity for carrots.
This deceptively simple carrot and cumin soup is a wonderful combination of sweet, salty and tangy flavours that both Nick and I have fallen in love with. The cumin lends a warm spice; the citrus juices provide a zesty spike, and the carrots themselves provide a sweet earthiness. The recipe comes from my new favourite cookbook, namels 66 Square Feet, written by the fabulous Marie Viljoen (and which I previously reviewed here). Marie describes herself as having been born in Bloemfontein, come of age in Cape Town, and grown up in New York. She and her French husband Vincent and their “beeg blag Dominican cad” Estorbo live, cook, photograph, picnic, garden and forage in New York City. Her book name derives from her blog name 66 Square Feet, which comes from the footprint of their tiny but very productive apartment terrace in Brooklyn.
The book is divided into 12 chapters (one for each month) and charts a year of eating, drinking and living in New York City. Each chapter opens with a glorious double page photo of New York City and an evocative piece on what it is like to live in the city in that particular month; followed by a description of what the terrace is like at that time together with a couple of recipes inspired by the markets or the terrace. Following that, each month’s chapter contains five seasonal recipes that you can cook separately or put together as a relaxed dinner party menu. The photos (by Marie and Vincent) are stunning, and recipes achievable and satisfying. Terrace-sourced recipes like squash and Bibb lettuce salad; or gazpacho soup rub shoulders with classics Terence Hill’s beans, baby back ribs, and Concord grape granita. You will find yourself reading the book chapter by chapter, rationing yourself to one a day to stretch the pleasure out. It’s that kind of book. Even for those with only a passing interest in cooking, it provides a wonderfully intimate peek into life in one of the world’s most iconic cities and is a beautiful book to treasure.
And the good news is that this week I am giving away a copy of Marie’s book 66 Square Feet to one lucky reader of Cooksister.com! Please scroll to the bottom of this page for competition terms and conditions and a link to the Rafflecopter widget where you can enter for your chance to win!
- 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 extra large carrots, peeled and sliced (about 650g or 4-5 cups of chopped carrots)
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 2 tsp ground cumin plus extra for dusting
- 1 tsp ground coriander seed
- 250 ml (1 cup) orange juice
- 1.25 litres (5 cups) chicken or vegetable stock
- 100ml sour cream plus extra for serving
- Salt & freshly ground black pepper
- squeeze of fresh lemon juice
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat the olive oil, Sauté the carrots, onions and garlic until the onions are translucent and pale gold - should take about 10-12 minutes.
- Add the cumin and coriander, stir to coat the vegetables and allow a minute or two to cook. Add the orange juice and stock and bring to a simmer. Simmer until a knife can easily pierce the carrots - about 15 -20 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly, then use an immersion blender (or transfer the soup to a blender) and blend until it is smooth (or chunky!) enough for your taste. Return the soup to the heat.
- In a small bowl, whisk the sour cream to loosen it a little, then add a ladeful of hot soup to the cream and mix well - this will stop the sour cream curdling when you add it to the hot soup. Stir the cream mixture back into the soup and mix well.
- Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper as necessary. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and bring the soup bring back to a simmer before serving, taking care not to boil it as the cream can separate.
- Ladle the hot soup into bowls and serve topped with a swirl of sour cream and a dusting of cumin.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
66 SQUARE FEET BOOK GIVEAWAY RULES:
1. This giveaway is only open to residents of South Africa, the UK, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and Northern Ireland aged 18 years or older.
2. There will be a single prize in the form of a one hardback copy of 66 Sqyare Feet by Marie Viljoen.
3. The prize may not be exchanged for cash.
4. Entry will take place only through Rafflecopter, via the link above. Once you have completed your first entry and left me a comment confirming this in the comments section of this post, you will also have the option of submitting further entries via Twitter and Facebook, increasing your chances of winning.
5. All entries will be verified – if you have not commented or followed as required, I will check and you WILL be disqualified.
6. The deadline for entries is midnight UK time on Monday 10 February 2014.
7. The winner will be drawn at random from all verified entries, using randomising software.
8. The winner will be announced on my blog and notified by e-mail within 48 hours of the end of the giveaway. If the winner has not replied after one week from receiving the organiser’s e-mail notifying them of their win, a new winner will be randomly drawn.
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