Beyond Recipes

Umami Journal explores the culture, history and ancient methods of food

The history of food is rich and fascinating; it betroths a shifting timeline that sees seasons, cultures and discoveries affect the very ingredients that enter the fridge, pot and mouth. In a time before now, the meals that were consumed were much determined by the weather and geography, meaning that palettes were in some cases limited and dependable on supply. But equally, they were in synchronicity with the environment. Now – with advanced technology, globalisation and travel – we have ingredients and cuisines at our finger tips. The immediacy and expectation of what arrives on a plate has overshadowed its roots, diminishing the thought and consideration that comes with its origin and meaning. How often do you spend a moment to observe and appreciate what you eat, and more importantly, learn where it comes from?

Umami Journal takes its readers beyond the recipe as it delves into the culture of food, looking at its history as it celebrates ancient methods of eating – as well as the new. Sustainability is therefore intertwined with Umami’s ethos, where vegetarian or vegan sourced ingredients make up the entirety of its menu. Not to mention its delectable illustrations created by London-based multi-disciplinary artist Diogo Rodrigues which further exemplify its attention to craft. Here, founder and editor in chief Poppy Mist discusses the relationship between food and culture, the importance of sustainable cooking practices, and her favourite dishes published on Umami Journal to date.

Who makes up the team, and what led you to set up Umami Journal?

I’m the founder and editor in chief. Growing up with a mother who was a chef, I have always been passionate about food and cooking. I have a background in anthropology, specialising in migration studies, and have a particular interest in how the movement of people shapes food culture. I launched Umami Journal during the pandemic as an attempt to bring these passions together.

Diogo Rodrigues is the illustrator. Originally from Northern Portugal, Diogo’s background in sculpture is the foundation of his later works, with current expressions focusing on illustration and tattoo art – particularly influenced by Japanese and tribal imagery.

What does Umami Journal stand for, what’s your goal?

Umami Journal is an online platform that takes people beyond recipes, investigating their cultural nuances and history. Every recipe has a story, whether that’s related to the style of cuisine, a particular ingredient, or the dish itself. We also feature other types of articles that celebrate ancient methods of eating whilst simultaneously recognising new, innovative techniques and ideas, and have recently begun curating events as well.

What is sustainable eating, how does this translate through the ingredients and methods you use to cook?

Consuming less animal-based products, and eating more local produce are both vital to tackling climate change. All of our recipes are vegan and/or vegetarian and aim to utilise seasonal produce as much as possible. My aim is to produce delicious vegetarian recipes where people won’t miss the meat.

Can you pick out a couple of favourite recipes and tell me how they’re sustainable, how they’re made and their history?

One of my favourite recipes at the moment is Koshari, Egypt’s national dish. Its origins emblematise the country’s cultural history. It consists of a marriage of Arab, Indian and Mediterranean flavours, a hearty blend of rice, lentils, chickpeas and macaroni, topped with a rich tomato sauce and finished with crispy fried onions. 

Imam Bayildi, otherwise known as ‘the priest fainted’, is a classic Turkish dish that comprises whole stuffed aubergines, tomatoes, peppers, Urfa chilli flakes and spices. I have such fond memories of my grandmother making it for me when I was a child. Although its exact origins are unknown, it dates back to the days of the Ottoman Empire, and the name ‘İmam bayıldı’ translates as fainting priest, referring to a Turkish legend in which an elderly Imam fainted after eating the dish, apparently due to its abundance of olive oil.

Besides cooking delicious meals following your recipes, how do you hope your audience will respond to this project – do you hope they’ll switch to more sustainable food habits, for example?

I definitely think people should eat less meat, but I’m not one to impose my beliefs on others as I think this is incredibly polarising. No doubt, not all dishes have been historically plant-based, and I’ve had to adapt them. But I think this is part of food evolving! 

Ultimately, I want to get people thinking more about the historical and cultural context of food. It’s constantly evolving and this is really exciting. This is largely influenced by migration which should be celebrated.

What’s next in the pipeline?

We recently collaborated with HOME by Ronan Mckenzie to host an event titled Walls Have Ears. This featured a multi-sensory journey into the ancient art of the tea ceremony presented by tea sommelier and R&D chef, Genevieve Lenette, and musician Cassidy Hansen. Blending ancient tradition with modernity, this improvisatory event utilised a synthesis of abstract sound and traditional movement as a medium, in order to investigate how an age-old ritual manifests within an unconventional setting. I’m hoping to do more events and supper clubs, and write more features on exciting and innovative producers and cooks.

All imagery courtesy of Umami Journal

The Leaked Recipes Cookbook

Demetria Glace compiles over 50 recipes from history’s largest email leak scandal

The Leaked Recipes Cookbook, by Demetria Glace, JBE Books, Paris 2020. Photographs by Emilie Baltz

In the early 2000s, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission released emails from Enron Corporation – one of America’s largest companies – into the public domain as evidence of its crimes. The first of its kind, this led artists Tega Brain and Sam Lavigne to create The Good Life, a resource that lets its users sign up and receive thousands of leaked emails from this scandal; the emails that were confiscated from Enron and sent between 156 members of the senior management team.

Demetria Glace, a UK-born and Germany-based researcher focusing on human rights and technology, first heard about this artwork in the year of 2017. “The idea behind the project was to deliver Enron emails directly into your personal inbox each day, so that after a few years you could read all of the 600,000+ emails released by the US government in 2001 as part of their investigation into the company,” she says. “I think I had it set that I would receive 100 emails a day so that in several years time, I would have read all the emails.” Somewhat of a live-feed into her inbox – mixed in with her own personal correspondence – it meant that if someone from the scandal took a day to reply, she’d also have to wait 24 hours to receive that email. 

The Leaked Recipes Cookbook, by Demetria Glace, JBE Books, Paris 2020. Photographs by Emilie Baltz

Five years on from signing up to The Good Life project and Demetria received something slightly off kilter to the typical conversation. It was an email between two colleagues detailing a recipe for a desert called Banana’s Foster. “They were emailing back and forth having a polite discussion as to the best way to make it for a party they were going to,” she adds, recalling how she’d felt spellbound by this discovery, “waiting to hear back on which version they decided to go for.” Catapulting her into further inquisition, Demetria was curious to find out whether there were any other emails like this. Thus, Demetria delved through the archive of 20 years and resultantly found numerous recipes shared between colleagues, family members and friends. “I hosted interactive dinners, lunches and brunches, where I invited people to come and eat the foot from these leaks and used it as a jumping off point to talk about privacy, ethics and, of course, food.”

Around two years after this discovery and during one of her interactive dinners, Demetria had met Emilie Baltz – a food technologist, photographer and artist who shared the same space at the IDFA DocLab Festival, an event that showcases new interactive documentary art. Half filled with a large dining table replete with people eating food crafted from the leaked emails, the other side saw Emilie and her collaborator Klasien van de Zandschulp invite people to come and interact with an AI bot-chef. The two had met serendipitously, along with her publisher JBE Books, and later decided to form an apt partnership of tech, research and food. That which later became the premise for The Leaked Recipes Cookbook – a publication that’s miles away from your typical cookbook.

The Leaked Recipes Cookbook, by Demetria Glace, JBE Books, Paris 2020, crédit JBE Books, Joanna Starck and Emilie Baltz for the photographs

Of how the project came together, Demetria states how it was a lengthy and manual process involving a list of around 40-50 relevant keywords. Pasta, chocolate, garlic, boil and recipe were felicitously used to navigate through the database, mining through emails sent from Enron Corporation, plus companies such as HBGay Federal and Sony Pictures. Not to mention public figures including Emmanuel Macron, Hillary Clinton and John Podesta. “I tried to search through as many leaks as possible but I found that some workplaces were more ‘foodie’ than others,” notes Demetria. “For instance, Enron was such a food workplace they talked about creating a company cookbook. Whereas email leaks such as the Climate Research Unit and the Italian security company Hacking Team had zero recipes.”

Reaching completion, she’d amassed 52 of the “best” recipes to include in the book. The best, in her definition, are those that tell a story in light of her own personal connection to the recipe, as well as those that she knew would be crowd-pleasers. “I’ve cooked these recipes many times, along with some family members,” she says, also collaborating with chef Matthias Van Der Nagel during the IDFA DocLab festival and events. This helped to gain better understanding about the food at hand, and to decipher as much as possible about the person through their chosen recipes. 

The Leaked Recipes Cookbook, by Demetria Glace, JBE Books, Paris 2020. Photographs by Emilie Baltz

It’s a fascinating project but one that also raises grave concern about the world’s relationship with data and privacy. So much so that a “more accurate” title for the publication would have been Leaked, Breached, Hacked and Released Recipes, yet The Leaked Recipes Cookbook was chosen for its sharp and catchy manner. And let’s not ignore the fact that a leaked recipe is probably the last of anyone’s worries, as within these emails were phone numbers, home addresses, detailed instructions on how to enter homes and invitations to dinner parties. This was also during a time in the early 2000’s where the impact of released data had yet to come into the fore. 

The Leaked Recipes Cookbook, by Demetria Glace, JBE Books, Paris 2020, crédit JBE Books, Joanna Starck and Emilie Baltz for the photographs

Many strange occurrences and coincidences arose out of the workings of this project, including one of the recipe writers actually eating the leaked recipe while simultaneously finding out her company had been hacked. Demetria made sure to email all of her chosen recipe writers to confirm permission for using their leak in the publication, which undoubtedly would have been a strange email to receive. While some were hesitant or off-put, other times profound conversations opened up on the topic. And, for it then to be turned into a bizarre yet classically styled cookbook, was only going to add to the person’s intrigue. 

“My publishers and I really wanted the book to be used in the same way that a more traditional cookbook might be used. We imagined it would be kept in the kitchen, to be pulled out when someone was looking for inspiration and the book would be soon covered in smears, drops and crumbs. Through cooking and eating these recipes, this might lead people to want to investigate where the recipes come from, the leaks and releases they were a part of and imagining what this experience might be like for the person who wrote the recipe.”

“For those who say they have nothing to hide, these leaks show that it’s not only your information that is now public, but the emails between family and friends, your social security number, all your human resources files and also your favourite recipe,” Demetria concludes, rather hauntingly. “These recipes are not top secret, but show that everyone has private information, no matter how banal you might imagine it to be.”

The Leaked Recipes Cookbook, by Demetria Glace, JBE Books, Paris 2020, crédit JBE Books, Joanna Starck and Emilie Baltz for the photographs
The Leaked Recipes Cookbook, by Demetria Glace, JBE Books, Paris 2020, crédit JBE Books, Joanna Starck and Emilie Baltz for the photographs
The Leaked Recipes Cookbook, by Demetria Glace, JBE Books, Paris 2020. Photographs by Emilie Baltz
The Leaked Recipes Cookbook, by Demetria Glace, JBE Books, Paris 2020. Photographs by Emilie Baltz

Mark Greenaway’s Burns Night Supper

Edinburgh-based chef Mark Greenaway shares his culinary ode to Scottish poet Robert BurnsMark Greenaway Burns Supper

Every year on January 25th, Scots around the world celebrate Burns Night – an evening dedicated to 18th century poet Robert Burns, who is remembered as Scotland’s most important cultural icon.

Burns’ frank and conversational verse is thought to have directly influenced some of England’s greatest Romantic poets, including Wordsworth, Coleridge and Shelley, and led to his countrymen affectionately calling him ‘Scotland’s favourite son’.

While the chalkboards of British pubs would have you believe Burns Night is largely about raising a few drams of Scotch, there’s a culinary side to the event that shouldn’t be overlooked. With this in mind, we travelled north to meet Edinburgh-based chef Mark Greenaway in his newly-opened private dining room, which was created in collaboration with Scotch whisky distillery The Balvenie. There, Greenaway told us more about the traditions behind Burns Night and shared his modern interpretation of a Burns Night supper.

“Burns Night would normally involve a lot of dancing, a lot of whisky, and haggis as a main course,” Greenaway explained. “Traditionally, the haggis would be piped into the dining room by a bagpiper and carried by the chef. The piper would then say the famous Robert Burns poem Selkirk Grace, which is an address to the haggis. The chef then stabs the haggis – as that’s how the poem ends – before sharing the meat around the room. That’s the Burns Night I know.”

Greenaway’s fondness for creating eight-course degustations from Scottish-sourced ingredients has earned his restaurant three AA Rosettes for Outstanding Cuisine, as well as a number of other industry awards. “All our ingredients are locally sourced. It’s something that we’re really passionate about,” Greenaway enthused. “The general public now demands more of restaurants. They say ‘we want local and we want sustainable… we want to know where the food has come from’. It’s no longer good enough to serve food that could be from anywhere.”

For his own version of Burns Night supper, Greenaway has reimagined Cullen Skink – a thick traditional Scottish soup, which originates from a village on Scotland’s north-east coast. “When it comes to Scottish cooking, it doesn’t get more traditional than Cullen Skink,” he explained. “This soup is stuffed full of comforting ingredients like smoked fish, milk and potatoes. It’s the perfect Burns Night dish as it can warm you up even on the darkest of January days.”

In order to update this Burns Night staple, Greenaway rethought the main elements of the recipe and added a caviar garnish. “The simple ingredients mean that all elements can be rearranged and cooked in different ways to put a modern twist on this classic,” he said. “In my modern version, I cook all of the ingredients separately. I also make a wee traditional soup that guests can pour over the dish. It brings together the best of old and new.”

Some hae meat an
canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae let the Lord be thankit”

– The Selkirk Grace by Robert Burns

Mark Greenaway Burns Supper
Mark Greenaway’s Cullen Skink
Modern Cullen Skink Recipe

Ingredients (serves four)
2 litres of full-fat milk
4 fillets of smoked haddock (de-boned)
2 leeks
20 pearl onions, peeled
2 large Maris piper potatoes (peeled)
Dill to garnish
Chives to garnish
2 dessert spoons of caviar (optional)[/one_half]Method
1. Cut four large diamond shapes from the haddock fillets and set aside, chop remaining haddock into small pieces
2. Cut four large rectangle shapes from the potatoes (big enough to sit the diamond of haddock on)
3. Cut the rest of the potatoes into a small dice
4. Slice the white of the leek into 20 rounds and set aside, dice the remainder of the leek and set aside
5. Blanch the peeled pearl onions in a little salted water until just cooked, keep warm
6. Blanch the large rectangles of potato in boiling salted water until just cooked, keep warm
7. Put the milk, diced leeks, chopped haddock and small diced potatoes in a heavy based pan and simmer for about 10 minutes. Once tender and cooked, blend until smooth and keep warm
8. Meanwhile place a teaspoon of olive oil in a non-stick pan and cook haddock diamonds on nicest looking side first until cooked halfway through. Add leek rounds to pan and cook until the fish is completely cooked and leeks have nicely coloured
9. Check the milk mixture for seasoning and season to taste
10. Assemble and garnish on deep plates, as per photo. Serve the soup mixture separately and let your guests pour it themselves

Serve with a small quenelle of caviar on top of the haddock

Preparation time: 20 minutes / Cooking time: 40 minutes

Words Ray Murphy