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Monday, 21 September 2015

Regional Influences - Misinformation & The Role of Media (Mnazalet Beitinjan- Layered eggplants)

Artisanal Authentic Italian Produce
from Sardegna 

Shallow information does not an expert make. 
Those aspiring to become experts and be viewed as such, should first acquire the information, then spread the information. 
This year the Italian Cuisine World Summit is all about being informed with the right knowledge. The 2015 version of the summit talks, authenticity, regionality, innovation and evolution that remains true to the authentic cuisine and the food's history.

One of the things I have been discovering lately is the amount of ages old influences that Arabic cuisine has had over parts of Italian cuisine. This could have first started in the south region of Italy, traces of which have eventually traveled to the upper North with time. Take the Sicilian kitchen for instance, there is no denying that a lot of commonalities exist over there and surprisingly the Italians know this more than the Arabs do!

Having tied up with the Italian Cuisine World Summit over the past two years, I am realising that what I had initially thought is a commonality due to the fact that some of the Arabic regions are on the Mediterranean, turned out to be much more than a coincidence of geographically shared ingredients, but rather a straight influence and adoption of ingredient combinations and cooking techniques. Now as ever with food, it evolves, and people come up with a million versions of the same recipe some of which become so popular that the evolved recipe becomes known as the original with the passage of time. Also, in the curious case of food, once an adopted recipe had survived decades of being cooked in a foreign kitchen, it becomes an integrated part of that foreign cuisine and hence becoming local and a part of the authentic repertoire. To someone who is really into food history this information is priceless!

I know that nowadays more and more people are into food not just as eaters but someway or the other many have become professionally involved with food (be it as chefs, writers, TV personalities, or even food journalists and restaurant reviewers) and while the early years of internet journalism had allowed for misinformation to travel all across the globe, then be picked up by the misinformed, and circulated... and so a lot of ignorance had been spread over the sphere of food information (be it food history, cuisine specifications to even recipes! Yes, how many times do you carry out a recipe that does not really work?!) - all of which lead to a lot of confusion and misleading knowledge.

As you can see from the video above, the Italian Cuisine in The World Forum, itchefs, and the Italian Cuisine World Summit are all about re-informing the world about authentic Italian Cuisine. They believe that there are many non-authentic foods being wrongfully tied to Italian Cuisine and to them that causes a problem. Because they believe that what makes Italian cuisine a favourite cuisine around the world is the cuisine's authentic philosophy, which highly relies on outstanding quality of ingredients, simplicity of concepts, regional variations and the very dedicated local artisanal producers whose dedication produced supreme products that became known and in demand the world over (think Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano, Ricotta... And I need a full, dedicated post to delve into Italian Olive Oil).

The problem is: spreading just any tomato puree over any dough (mostly very greasy dough) and sprinkling processed cheese-like products on top then calling it Italian cuisine is not only misinformed, but in a way an undermining of the authentic cuisine and the hard work that the artisanal producers put into their products. Producing pecorino cheese that does not follow any of the guidelines of what makes a cheese a pecorino and calling it one, is not just misinformation it's more a hoax!

Sardegna cheese
at the CAO cheese factory in Sardegna
Perhaps, all this does not mean much to the average home cook. But for those in the industry be it in the restaurant, media or even as aspiring professionals, the right information is vital to the quality of the service/product, the credibility of service/product and eventually the popularity of this service/product. 

Therefore, this year the Italian Cuisine World Summit is committed to helping you acquire the information and the tools to be top-notch in your field. Thus (besides the Michelin dinners that you will be able to enjoy right here in our beloved city - Dubai) there will be 2 main training courses on offer. 

  • One is dedicated to Media Professionals, because there is nothing more important than a Media profesional's knowledge and credibility and because the Media help in the spreading of the right information. In this training course, participants will be trained in authentic traditional cuisine, authentic contemporary cuisine, innovation without compromising authenticity, recipe development, economical planning all of which will be covered in theory and some demonstrations and presentations. 
  • The second training course will be dedicated to professional and aspiring Bakers. A "Breads" course that covers Italian Breads as well as a few other international breads. The course is both in theory and practical training and touches on topics such as Mother Yeast, Festive Italian Baking, Arabic Influences Over Italian Pastry and Baking all of which will cover, history, trends, innovation and focus on authenticity and technique.

All the details will be announced in time, this is just to let you know that during the time of the Italian Cuisine World Summit 2015 in Dubai (27 Oct. - 5 Nov.) There will be a lot of excitement, Italian entertainment, Top Tier Italian Michelin Dinners in your favourite Italian restaurants in Dubai, Many activities and local as well as international (Pizza, Risotto, Espresso) Competitions at the Speciality Food Festival, you might even win a trip to Italy!! and most importantly there is the training courses for those who wish to be separate from the rest by means of knowledge and quality of their work. It really does not get any better!

Speaking of Authenticity and quality of work there is no better example on this whole discussion than the newly launched contemporary Italian restaurant in Canary Wharf, London - Bella Cosa (just freshly launched this Sptember 16th). This is an Italian restaurant whose chef is originally Japanese, however been trained in Italy and is an Ambassador for Italian Olive Oil. Despite his Japanese origin and the completely different palate the Asian continent has, Chef Kentaro Torii was always adamant on authentic cuisine. After a successful journey that started in Italy (Tuscany then Sardegna) moving to the Asian metropolis Singapore, he now settled in the UK with his restaurant Bella Cosa. See the video on this link and meet the chef and check out Bella Cosa's concept.

That's it for now.
I will leave you with the Mnazalet Beitinjan Recipe, a delicious Arabic cuisine recipe of layered eggplants and minced lamb baked in tomato sauce, garnished with parsley and pine nuts (rings a bell?). Absolutely delicious and an Arabic cuisine popular recipe especially in homecooking. It can be served with bread, rice or couscous on the side. Usually served with a yogurt and cucumber salad or just minted yogurt and definitely some pickles ;)
Just click on the image below to enlarge and feel free to share it on your social media :))