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.

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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Haddock — Iron Chef America Ingredients

by in Shows, June 4th, 2012

iron chef america battle haddock
If you were to enter any fish and chip shop in North England and request anything but haddock for your deep-fried delight, the servers would look at you as if you were an alien from outer space.

I would have to agree that this beautifully firm and flaky white-fish makes the absolute best fish and chips you will ever eat. But, haddock is so much more versatile than just being deep-fried and, as I hope you discovered from watching the Iron Chef and his challenger on “Battle Haddock,” it makes a delicious and sustainable alternative to cod.

What is haddock?

Haddock is a firm-fleshed white-fish that can be found in both the European and North American waters of the North Atlantic. The adult fish can grow to around 3.6 feet in length and migrates each year from shallow waters in the summer to colder, deeper waters in the winter.

Overfishing meant that haddock stocks became severely depleted in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Fortunately, this fish reproduces very rapidly, with the female of the species laying an astonishing 3 million eggs a year. This fact, added to strict fishing quotas and more sustainable forms of fishing, means that haddock is now off the danger list and ready for your table.

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Mangalitsa Pork — Iron Chef America Ingredients

by in Shows, May 28th, 2012

morimoto with mangalitsa pig
On a recent visit to Budapest, the capital of Hungary, I was lucky enough to enjoy a terrific meal at a restaurant called Bock Bisztro, which served many dishes made from Mangalitsa pork. Although I had eaten the meat of this particular breed of pig before and knew just how delicious and fully flavored it could be, this was the first time I noticed how incredibly versatile it is. The meal easily rates as one of my best in recent years.

I hope that watching the Iron Chef’s work with this magnificent beast in Kitchen Stadium will inspire you to go in search of this alternative to traditional pork breeds, either in the restaurants of some of the nation’s top chefs or in your own kitchens.

You won’t regret it.

What is a Mangalitsa pig?
Mangalitsa pigs, or as they are known in their native Hungary, Mangalica pigs, are a breed of hog that is renowned for their deeply flavored meat and for their high fat content. The name Mangalica literally means “hog with a lot of lard.” They are sometimes also known as “wooly pigs” because of the curly haired fleece that covers their body.

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Peaches — Iron Chef America Ingredients

by in Shows, May 7th, 2012

iron chef america battle peaches
The average American consumes nearly five pounds of peaches every year, and I can’t blame them as peaches are very possibly my favorite fruit of all. If you visited my home in Los Angeles, you would be very likely to find a large fruit bowl in my kitchen laden with quite a few different varieties along with a few samples of their smooth cousins, the nectarine.

As well as eating them raw as a healthy snack, I love to use peaches in a wide variety of both sweet and savory dishes and am always on the lookout for inspiring recipes.

If, until now, you have always thought of the peach as little more than a canned filling for pie, I hope that this week’s efforts in Kitchen Stadium will persuade you that there is far more to this humble fruit than you ever imagined. You might even be inspired to head out in search of some interesting varieties at your local farmers’ market.

What are peaches?

The fruit of the peach tree is a “drupe,” which means it has a three-layered structure of skin, flesh and a hard stone or “pit” at the center. This puts it in the same family as other fruits including plums, cherries and apricots, and also relates it to walnuts and almonds.

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Parmigiano-Reggiano — Iron Chef America Ingredients

by in Shows, March 5th, 2012

parmigiano reggiano iron chef america
I am positive that just about everyone reading this post will have bought packs labeled “Parmesan” from their local supermarket. I am also sure that just about everyone will have used said Parmesan in their cooking, whether it was as the basis for a sauce or simply grated over a bowl of steaming pasta.

Unfortunately, much of what is on sale in the U.S. is mass-produced, a pale imitation of true Parmigiano-Reggiano from Northern Italy, and lacks the texture and deliciously nutty flavor of the genuine article. The good stuff may be pricey, but it is worth every penny and I really hope that Battle Parmigiano will inspire everyone to go out in search of the real deal.

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