All Posts By Simon Majumdar

Simon Majumdar is an acclaimed food writer who travels the globe in search of the very best meals the world has to offer. He can be seen regularly on Food Network in shows such as Iron Chef America, The Next Iron Chef, The Best Thing I Ever Ate and Extreme Chef, and has also contributed numerous articles to FN Dish. Simon has published two best-selling food memoirs: Eat My Globe and Eating For Britain, and is currently touring the United States researching for his new book, Fed, White & Blue, which will catalog his journey to American citizenship.

Battle Coconut — Road to Redemption Web Series Recap

by in Shows, October 21st, 2012

battle coconut road to redemptionNext up to compete for that final spot in Season 5 are Chef Duskie Estes and Chef Roberto Treviño, both of who know all too well the pressures of competing to become The Next Iron Chef.

Although I was already very familiar with Chef Estes and her well-voiced determination to use local ingredients, this would be my first opportunity to witness the talents of Chef Treviño. I had, however, heard terrific things about his cooking, so knew we were in for a great battle.

The look on the faces of both chefs when Alton Brown revealed that the secret ingredient was coconut was worth the entrance money on its own. They both soon recovered and set about cooking two very different styles of dish. To be exact, Chef Treviño started cooking, while Chef Estes stared at her coconut for a few minutes like it was an alien and then hacked at it with a cleaver.

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Battle Peanut — Road to Redemption Web Series Recap

by in Shows, October 14th, 2012

road to redemption battle peanuts

This season of The Next Iron Chef is all about redemption.

Nine of the coveted places in the competition had been filled. The Chairman, however, had decided to leave one spot open, to be filled by the winner of a series of sudden-death cook-offs. It was a deliciously fiendish idea.

I was pleased when I received a call asking me to help judge this Web series. I was even more pleased when I heard that my co-judges would be Iron Chef Jose Garces and Alton Brown. I was also genuinely thrilled that the first two challengers were the immensely talented Madison Cowan and Lee Anne Wong, who had impressed the Chairman with victories in Kitchen Stadium previously.

When Alton announced that the mystery ingredient was peanuts, both chefs went straight to their happy places: in Chef Wong’s case, to her skills with Asian cuisine and in Chef Cowan’s case, exuberant Caribbean cookery.

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10 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Pasta

by in Shows, September 17th, 2012

iron chef america battle pasta
Everybody has their favorite memory of a perfect pasta dish. My own came during a visit to a small restaurant in Rome where I was presented with a plate of Bucatini All’Amatricana, made with the tubular pasta and a spicy sauce containing guanciale (cured pig jowls). As I travel the globe eating the weird and the wonderful, it is often this comforting bowl of pasta that I recall and crave the most.

Pasta is such a familiar ingredient in the United States that it is often all too easy to take it for granted. There are few people who don’t have at least one type of pasta in their store cupboard and if you were to walk down the aisles of any supermarket, you would have to take off your shoes and socks to help you count the fresh and dried varieties now offered.

Despite its ubiquity, however, there is something about a beautifully prepared pasta dish that is very hard to beat and I hope you were as excited as I was by the way that the Iron Chef and their challenger brought a new spin to such a classic ingredient last night.

Given that pasta is, I suspect, so familiar to everyone who will read this, I thought I would stray from the normal format for these features and instead give you 10 interesting things you may not know about pasta.

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Cream Cheese — Iron Chef America Ingredients 101

by in Shows, September 3rd, 2012

iron chef america battle cream cheese
It would be hard to disagree with anyone who argued that the spiritual home for a dollop of cream cheese is on a toasted bagel, in my case accompanied by an equally large spoonful of crunchy peanut butter.

As I hope the Iron Chef and his challenger proved during their exciting battle, however, this fresh, tangy cheese is far more versatile than some people might imagine and is definitely worth keeping on hand as a refrigerator basic.

What is cream cheese?
Cream cheese is a soft, fresh unripened cheese that is made from a combination of milk and heavy cream and by definition must contain at least 33 percent milk fats and less than 55 percent moisture.

It is one of the most popular cheeses in the United States and the most recent research I could find from 2008 reports that the average American consumes a little over 2.5 pounds of cream cheese every year.

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Bread — Iron Chef America Ingredients 101

by in Shows, August 27th, 2012

iron chef america battle bread
In these carb-conscious times, when bread is often painted as the villain of the modern-day diet, we often need reminding just how important this staple is and has been to the development of human culture.

As far as I am aware, there is no cuisine in the world that does not include bread or dough of some kind among its roster of dishes, and this has been the case since long before man began to keep written records.

Bread, in all its many forms, has had a huge impact on our development. Revolutions have started over the lack of it and indeed, without the ability to grow and harvest grain, humanity would never have begun to form its earliest communities.

So as you marvel over the dishes the Iron Chef and their challenger create for the Chairman, remember that while man may not live on bread alone, our diet would be a lot less interesting without it.

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Plantains — Iron Chef America Ingredients 101

by in Shows, August 13th, 2012

iron chef america battle plantains
On a recent visit to Jamaica, just about every meal my wife and I sampled came with a side order of beautiful golden plantain strips, shallow-fried and served with a sprinkling of salt and nutmeg. They were the perfect accompaniment to grilled local fish or large plates of tear-inducing jerk chicken, and were so delicious a memory that they have now become a regular staple in the Majumdar pantry.

Watching the Iron Chef and his challenger has definitely given me some new ideas for how to use plantains in my own kitchen, and I hope to persuade those of you who have not yet tried them to give the banana’s less well-known cousin a try yourself.

What are plantains?
Plantains, or “cooking banana” as they are sometimes known, are part of the same family as the banana and are often mistaken for them. However, plantains and bananas differ in a number of important areas, both in how they look and in how they are prepared.

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The Top 5 Trends in Cocktails Right Now

by in Drinks, August 8th, 2012

raspberry lime punch
A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to spend some time in New Orleans. It has long been one of my favorite cities in the United States, both for its food and its people, and I always leap at any opportunity I get to visit.

I was even more excited on this occasion, however, as the particular reason for this visit was to attend the Tales of the Cocktail convention, which was celebrating its 10th anniversary. From an event which began in 2002 with just a handful of attendees, this celebration of the mixed drink now attracts well over 20,000 people, including representatives of all the major spirit brands as well as the best bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts from around the globe.

I will admit that it is, at its heart, an excuse for the cocktail community to have a really good time. There are also plenty of fascinating seminars, presentations by brands large and small, as well as enough tasting sessions to give you a good snapshot of what the latest developments are in the drinks business.

Here are the top five trends I saw emerging from 2012 Tales of the Cocktail:

1. Shrubs and Cobblers

If you thought that “shrubs” and “cobblers” had more to do with gardening and baking than with booze, think again. They are now appearing on cocktail menus all over the country.

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Hearts of Palm — Iron Chef America Ingredients 101

by in Shows, August 6th, 2012

iron chef america battle tropical
In this week’s Kitchen Stadium battle, the Chairman provided not one but a whole cornucopia of ingredients. He challenged the Iron Chef and his challenger to create an inspired tropical meal.

Some of the ingredients on the altar, such as coconuts, pineapples, mangos and green papaya are reasonably well known to regular viewers of Food Network. So, with your permission, I am going to put those to one side and concentrate on one ingredient with which people might not be quite so familiar: hearts of palm.

What are hearts of palm?

Hearts of palm are a crunchy and slightly sweet vegetable similar in taste to an artichoke heart. They are the bud or inner core taken from a range of palm trees including coconut, acai, jucara and pejibayes. They are also known by a number of other names including palmitos and palm hearts. In Florida, they were once known as swamp cabbage and are harvested from the Sabal or “cabbage” palmetto tree, which is the official tree of the Sunshine State.

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Octopus — Iron Chef America Ingredients 101

by in Shows, July 30th, 2012

battle octopus
One of the greatest food memories of my travels around the globe has to be an early-morning visit to the legendary Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. While dodging the porters and fishermen, I saw hundreds of varieties of fish and seafood being auctioned off for sale all over Japan.

Amongst all the amazing noises, sights and smells of the market, my eyes were drawn to a number of huge glass tanks containing live octopi, many of whom were attempting to escape by climbing over the sides using the suckers on their tentacles. Unfortunately for them they were soon recaptured and dispatched off to feed hungry locals and tourists including myself.

Watching the Iron Chef and his challenger battle with this eight-legged beast this week really reminded me of my experiences in Japan and I hope it inspires you to try preparing octopus in your own kitchen.

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Strip Steak — Iron Chef America Ingredients 101

by in Shows, July 9th, 2012

battle strip steak
If I am ever asked to name my favorite cut of beef, my first answer will not be strip steak. I will probably offer up a beautifully marbled bone-in rib-eye as my cow part of preference.

I know that for many people in the United States, however, the strip steak, under its many different names, is the beef cut of choice, particularly when it comes to finding a perfect steak to place on the grill during the summer months.

Having seen the Iron Chef and his competitor turn their attention to strip steak, I am definitely willing to be convinced that I should give this popular cut another try.

What is strip steak?

A strip steak is a cut of beef taken from the short loin of the cow. This is at the top and the middle of the animal, before the rump. The short loin itself comprises two muscles: the tenderloin (from where you get filet mignon) and the top loin, which gives us the strip steak.

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