Susie Jacobs - Shetland Food Fair 2015
by Elizabeth Atia -
Retired chef Susie Jacobs has called Shetland home for the last seven years. Originally from California she spent twenty years living on the Greek island of Hydra, where, after asking locals what their mothers and grandmothers used to cook, she wrote a popular cookery book Recipes from a Greek Island (1991).
The flavours of the Mediterranean still influence Susie's cooking.
This year at the Shetland Food Fair to be held in the Clickimin Leisure Centre, Lerwick from the 30th of October to the 1st of November, Susie will be demonstrating two recipes. On the Saturday she will be preparing Shah Jahani Pullao - a special Indian rice and lamb recipe. To celebrate the Shetland Food Fair and Shetland produce she's developed a recipe for braised Shetland boiling beef ribs served with polenta, which she will be demonstrating on the Sunday (times to be confirmed).
Q. How long have you been cooking?
A. As a child I baked. Cookies at Christmas, birthday cakes etc. My brother and I learned how to make eggs & breakfast things at a pretty young age. We loved helping with Sunday family breakfast & getting up before everyone else & making our own breakfast. Like many children, we helped in the kitchen which was probably fun for us and a bit of an annoyance for the adults.
The kitchen was always a place of warmth, comfort & fun – the place one is drawn to. So even if I was not working, I was watching. My parents had many parties & help from aunties and/or caterers.
I can remember whenever Mom would ask one of the amazing great aunties for a recipe, they would appear in cloud of flour, rolling pins under arms, ready to get stuck in. I don't think she ever actually got the recipe for blueberry pie.
I never really did anything other than watch and help until I went to university where I lived in dormitories with apartments in them. All the flat mates had different jobs on different days. On my day to cook, I would try to remember how mom, granny, auntie made something, or call them & ask. It turned out I was quite a good cook & loved it, so I traded my more onerous cleaning jobs for cooking & never looked back. That was a bit more than 50 years ago.
Q. What are you cooking inspirations?
A. Certainly, my family. I come from a long line of talented cooks. Some of my great aunties were amazing bakers. My mother was not a fussy cook but could roast anything to perfection, never overcooked a vegetable & made inspired salads every day.
I lived in Greece for over 20 years & have to say that living in the Mediterranean, with all the bounty of the sun and sea has imprinted everything I do in the kitchen.
Shetland is the first place I have ever lived where I can't step outside the door and pick a lemon. That doesn't mean I have stopped using them; I always have a bowl full in the kitchen. I can't live without olive oil, fresh herbs & mountains of vegetables.
Q. What is your favorite Shetland produced ingredient?
A. I don't think you can get better lamb or beef anywhere in the world than that of Ronnie Eunson, which is available at Scoop. I would say the same for Handmade Fish's Davey Parham's smoked haddock & salmon. Before I moved over here, I had him sending me smoked salmon all the way to California for special dinner parities when I was working as a private chef. People went wild for it.
Q. Do you have anything else you would like to share about your passion for food?
A. Cooking is a creative act. It is an act of love. From comraderie in the kitchen to sharing at the table, it is a great joy whether it be a bowl of soup or a feast. What I don't think it should be is a burden. I think people should make things they are comfortable making & enjoy making.
Q. What recipe will you be demonstrating at the Shetland Food Fair? Do you have any stories to share about the recipe?
A. Shah Jahani Pullao – I have a friend I refer to as my 'Indian Sister,' Neela. We have been friends for nearly 50 years. We met one week after she arrived in California to study. She married in America & our families have been tied together by the bonds of affection all these years.
When we first met we would compare life as we knew it – including the food in our families & how it was served. She came from such a large, extended family that there was more than one seating for dinner in her grandfather's house. She and I have been teaching each other to cook & sharing recipes for decades.
The recipe for Shah Jahani Pullao was taught to us by her mother, Kiki, to whom it was given by the Maharaja of Pattiala who was a family friend. She stood over us explaining everything.
The odd thing was that Kiki couldn't cook. If you put her in the kitchen, she would have burnt everything. She had a cook all her life, but she could make-up recipes in her head & they would be perfect. She knew all the theory, but was disaster at the practice. All these years later, Neela is an award winning chef in America, has had three restaurants & written two books. I have written one book & worked as a chef in restaurants & as a private chef to the most elite in America.
Who would have known all those years ago?
Braised Short Ribs with Polenta
Servings: 4 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
- Shetland short ribs - 4 (about 1.5 kilos)
- dried cepe mushrooms - 8-10 grams
- olive oil - 2 tbsp
- red onions - 2 medium (halved and thinly sliced)
- sweet red pepper - 1 (deseeded and finely chopped)
- chestnut mushrooms - 250 grams (finely sliced)
- tomato concentrate - 1 tbsp
- dried thyme - 1/2 tsp (or oregano)
- bay leaf - 1
- salt - 1/2 tsp
- freshly ground black pepper -
- water -
- parchment paper -
- polenta - 1 cup
- boiling water - 3 cups
- salt - 1/2 tsp
- butter - 2 tbsp
- Parmesan cheese - 1/2 cup (grated)
- Put the dried cepes in a small saucepan, cover with about a cup of water and bring to the boil. Cover and remove from the heat. Put aside to soak.
- In a large skillet or saucepan with a well fitted top, saute the onions until lightly golden.
- Add the chopped peppers and continue to saute for a few more minutes.
- Remove these from the skillet & add the short ribs for browning. There should be enough oil left in the pan, but add a little if not.
- Brown the short ribs until well caramelized. Add back the onion mixture & stir.
- In the meantime, remove the soaking cepes from their liquid with a slitted spoon & rinse off any dirt. Add to pan.
- Strain the soaking liquid through a fine sieve into the pan.
- Add the tomato concentrate, herbs, salt and pepper. Add enough boiling water just to cover & bring to the simmer.
- Fit a piece of parchment paper over the ingredients in the pan. Cover bake at 130 C. for 2 ½ - 3 hours.
- At 2 hours, check for water and add the sliced mushrooms. Continue braising until tender.
- Serve with polenta and vegetables of your choice. Broccoli or kale would be nice.
- To prepare the polenta, boil the water and salt in the saucepan. Slowly stir in the polenta & continue to stir until smooth. Add the butter and stir until the consistency of thick porridge. Add the grated Parmesan.