Secrets of taste
A stroll through the history of the most beloved ingredients
Any visitor to Russia will soon encounter a stalwart of the country’s culinary scene: beetroot. It comes in many different guises from drinks to salads, and no guide to the humble root vegetable in Russia’s past and present is complete without mentioning the country’s worldfamous beetroot soup: borscht.
Ask anyone to name a luxury food and caviar will be top of the list. It’s difficult to think of a delicacy more widely famed for its price, rarity and the affluence of its consumers. But it wasn’t always so. The eating of salt-cured fish roe, or caviar, stretches back as far as the fourth century BC, when Greek philosopher Aristotle mentioned sturgeon roe being served during banquets. The Romans also believed caviar to have medicinal properties and imported it from what is now Ukraine.
Early settlers to South Africa brought ingredients and culinary traditions that have taken root and come to form the diverse cuisine of the Rainbow Nation.
Beyond the winelands of Franschhoek, which were planted by French Huguenot refugees in the late 1600s, there is the Cape Malay community, originally from Indonesia and drafted in by the Dutch to work.
They brought Muslim culture with them, as well as herbs and spices that now pepper South African cuisine. One of the most piquant ingredients in this rich mix of flavours comes from chilli peppers.
Few fruits have the cultural resonance or play such a central role in literature and religious iconography as the pomegranate.
From the bible to the Qur’an, Arabian Nights to the Greek myth of Persephone, the pomegranate, with its unusual structure and fleshy, blood-red seeds and juice have captured the imagination over centuries and become an integral ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisine.