Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Food Column – Carol Taylor – A – Z of Food – ‘F’ for Figs, Finger limes, Flambe, Fenugreek, Fruit Pectin,Fugu

Welcome to the series from Carol Taylor, the wonderful A – Z of Food and I am looking forward to expanding my knowledge of wonderful ingredients across the food groups, spices and herbs over the year.

Welcome once again to Carols Cooking Column and today in my culinary trawl we have the Letter F. I am loving this series as I am discovering foods and cooking terms I didn’t know or didn’t think I knew so I hope you are too.

‘F’ for me was not as easy as some and not so many terms beginning with F although as I was writing I did think of some more it takes me a while sometimes…getting old…lol
Let’s kick off with this Culinary journey…


A deep-fried ball, doughnut or patty made from ground chickpeas, fava beans or a combination of both. Falafel is a traditional Middle Eastern food that most likely originated in Egypt. Usually served in a pitta bread, which acts as a pocket, or wrapped in a flatbread known as taboon; Falafel balls may also be eaten alone, as a snack or served as part of an assortment of appetizers.

Fenugreek …

I use this spice in my Indian cooking so that was easy. But for centuries, fenugreek has been used by many for its health benefits as fenugreek is not only nutritious but can provide us with numerous health benefits.

Five-spice powder is also another spice familiar to me and one which I use in my kitchen.

Five-spice powder is a spice mixture of five or more spices which is used predominantly in Chinese and Taiwanese cuisine and to a lesser degree in Asian and Arabic cookery. If you can’t buy 5 spice powder then it easy to make.


• 3 tbsp. cinnamon powder
• 6-star anise
• 1 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
• 1 1/2 tsp. Szechuan peppercorns or black peppercorns
• 3/4 tsp. ground cloves.

Let’s Cook!

Dry roast all the ingredients ( optional) I do as it intensifies the flavour. Then blitz to a fine powder in a coffee grinder or small blender. It will store in an airtight container for 2 months.

Focaccia is one of my favourite loaves of bread. Focaccia is a flat, oven-baked Italian bread similar in style and texture to pizza dough. Popular throughout Italy it is usually just seasoned with olive oil and salt although tomatoes or olives can be used.


Is a cut of meat from a domestic pig. It consists of the layer of subcutaneous fat under the skin of the pigs back. Fatback is hard fat and may be rendered to make high-quality lard and is one source of salt pork.

Finely diced or coarsely ground fatback is an important ingredient in sausage making.

Fatback is also an important element of traditional charcuterie and in some European cultures is used to make speciality bacon.

At one time fatback was Italy’s basic cooking fat, especially in regions where olive trees are sparse or absent, but health concerns have reduced its popularity. However, it provides a rich, authentic flavour for the classic battuto – sautéed vegetables, herbs, and flavourings – that forms the basis of many traditional dishes. Today, pancetta is often used instead.

Finger Limes…

Are native to Australian and often referred to as Caviar fruit. have a slightly sour, slightly sweet flavour that makes for an extremely versatile citrus. Often referred to as vegan caviar or finger limes, each lime is filled with citrus pearls similar in appearance and texture to fish roe. There’s nothing fishy about the flavour. These pearls have a unique lime taste distinct in its sweetness that adds a pop of fun.


Fennel is a hardy, perennial herb which somehow just seems to be a natural fit with its surroundings. Fennel has a pale bulb and long green stalks. It can be grown almost anywhere. All parts of the fennel plant, including the bulb, stalk, leaves, and seeds, are edible.

They add flavour to other foods and go especially well with fish.

A relative of the humble carrot it belongs to the Umbelliferae family. A lovely white or very pale green bulb which is crunchy, slightly sweet with an aniseedy/Liquorice flavour it is often associated with Italian cuisine.

I myself use fennel seeds a lot in my cooking but I do underuse the bulb and use it infrequently and not as often as I should.

Fish Sauce

I think it is a bit like marmite you either love it or hate it… I love it and use it in many of my dishes it has that sweet, salty, fishy, funky flavour made from fermented fish. small fish like anchovies are used to make fish sauce they are coated in salt and packed in barrels fermented for a couple of months to a few years… It is used all over Asia in many dishes and gives them that unique umani flavour.


Is a Japanese delicacy expensive and highly poisonous? Only licensed Fugo chefs are allowed to prepare this fish. they undergo 2/3 years of training as this fish is amongst the top 10 most dangerous foods and is 1,200 times deadlier than cyanide… Why would you?


Is a cooking procedure where alcohol is added to a hot pan and causes a flame it always looks spectacular on cooking shows and in restaurants where something is cooked at your table.

Fruit Pectin: Found naturally in fruits with some fruits having higher levels than others. It can also be purchased in powder or liquid form. It makes jellies gel and jams to set and also gives them their spreading consistency.

Strawberry Jam.

• 1 kilo hulled strawberries
• 750g jam sugar
• juice 1 lemon
• small knob of butter (optional)

Let’s Cook!

  • Prepare the strawberries by wiping them with a piece of damp kitchen paper. (Wiping the strawberries rather than washing them ensures the fruit doesn’t absorb lots of water – too much water and the jam won’t set easily.)
  • To hull, the fruit, use a knife to cut a cone shape into the strawberry and remove the stem. Cut any large berries in half. Put the strawberries in a bowl and gently toss through the sugar.
  • Leave uncovered at room temperature for 12 hrs or overnight.
  • This process helps the sugar to dissolve, ensures the fruit doesn’t disintegrate too much and helps to keep its vibrant colour.
  • Before starting the jam, put 2 saucers in the freezer.
  • Tip the strawberry mixture into a preserving pan with the lemon juice.
  • Set over a low heat and cook very gently. If any sugar remains on the sides of the pan, dip a pastry brush in hot water and brush the sugar away.
  • When you can no longer feel any grains of sugar remaining, turn up the heat to start bubbling the jam and bringing it to the boil. (The sugar must be completely dissolved before increasing the heat, otherwise, it will be difficult for the jam to set, and it may contain crystallized lumps of sugar.)
  • Boil hard for 5-10 mins until the jam has reached 105C on a preserving or digital thermometer, then turn off the heat.
  • If you don’t have a thermometer, spoon a little jam onto one of the cold saucers. Leave for 30 secs, then push with your finger; if the jam wrinkles and doesn’t flood to fill the gap, it is ready
  •  If not, turn the heat back on and boil for 2 mins more, then turn off the heat and do the wrinkle test again. Repeat until ready.
  • Use a spoon to skim any scum that has risen to the surface and discard this. Do this only once at the end, rather than constantly during the boiling stage, to reduce wastage. Add a knob of butter, if you like, to the finished jam, and stir in to melt.
  • This will help to dissolve any remaining scum that you haven’t managed to spoon off the top.
  • Leave the jam to settle for 15 mins – this will ensure that the fruit stays suspended in the mixture and doesn’t all float to the top of the jam jar.
  • Meanwhile, sterilize your jars.
  • Ladle into warm jars, filling to just below the rim.
  • Place a wax disc on top of the jam (this prevents mildew forming), then cover with a lid or a cellophane circle and elastic band. Pop on a label (include the date), plus a pretty fabric top, if you like. The jam can be stored for up to 1 year in a cool, dry place. Refrigerate after opening.


There is nothing quite like the taste of a fresh fig…dried they are totally different, sweet with a chewy flesh and crunchy edible seeds. The fig tree has no blossom on its branches the blossoms are inside the fig. Many tiny flowers produce the crunchy edible seeds which give figs their unique texture.

They are sweet with a chewy flesh, smooth skin, and those crunchy seeds.

Did you know? Fig puree can replace the fat in baked goods? Well neither did I until quite recently.

Thank you for reading I hope you have enjoyed this little trip through the Culinary alphabet…Until next time when it will be the letter G.

About Carol Taylor

Enjoying life in The Land Of Smiles I am having so much fun researching, finding new, authentic recipes both Thai and International to share with you. New recipes gleaned from those who I have met on my travels or are just passing through and stopped for a while. I hope you enjoy them.

I love shopping at the local markets, finding fresh, natural ingredients, new strange fruits and vegetables ones I have never seen or cooked with. I am generally the only European person and attract much attention and I love to try what I am offered and when I smile and say Aroy or Saab as it is here in the north I am met with much smiling.

Some of my recipes may not be in line with traditional ingredients and methods of cooking but are recipes I know and have become to love and maybe if you dare to try you will too. You will always get more than just a recipe from me as I love to research and find out what other properties the ingredients I use have to improve our health and wellbeing.

Exciting for me hence the title of my blog, Retired No One Told Me! I am having a wonderful ride and don’t want to get off, so if you wish to follow me on my adventures, then welcome! I hope you enjoy the ride also and if it encourages you to take a step into the unknown or untried, you know you want to…….Then, I will be happy!

Carol is a contributor to the Phuket Island Writers Anthology:  Amazon US

Connect to Carol

Blog: Carol Cooks 2
Twitter: @CarolCooksTwo
Facebook: Carol Taylor

My thanks to Carol for sharing this series with us as she also works on her cookbook and novel this year…As always we are delighted to receive your feedback and if you could share that would be great.. thanks Sally.

The Medicine Woman’s Treasure Chest – Herbal Remedies – Thyme


This versatile herb can be used to flavour many wonderful dishes . As with most of our herbs, thyme has a long and revered history medicinally and if you had been a prominent Egyptian the herb would have been used to embalm you. Since the herb has antibacterial and antifungal properties it would have helped preserve the bodies beautifully.

The Greeks and Romans used thyme as a purifier ,burning it as incense in rooms and in their baths. It was also added to food such as cheese and alcohol – again probably because of its antibacterial properties and it may well be one of the first natural preservatives used in food manufacture.

It became better known in Britain in the 17th century and healers used the herb to relieve the symptoms of whooping cough, breathing difficulties, gout and mild stomach complaints. The oils has been used externally to help heal abscesses and during the First World War it was used to treat infections and relieve pain, as there were no antibiotics at that time.

Today the herb is cultivated all around the world and apart from cooking and medicine it is used in the manufacture of cosmetics and perfume.

How does thyme help the lungs?

As humans we have a sophisticated defence system to try and get rid of harmful substances before they can damage us. The cough reflex is an automatic response to mucus and infection in the lungs. Thyme helps the body with that job and acts as an expectorant loosening the congestion and generally supporting the respiratory system. It also helps soothe coughs allowing a more effective use of the response, allowing the airways to get rid of more mucous. It is particularly beneficial for emphysema and chronic bronchitis sufferers. It can also be use in conjunction with other herbs such as cowslip to aid the absorption of thyme but also as an expectorant.

The list of thyme’s medicinal properties is quite lengthy but apart from its antibacterial uses it also is anti-fungal, antiseptic, antiparasitic, antispasmodic, astringent, diuretic, expectorant, immune boosting, sedating or stimulating according to dosage and is a tonic.

As well as upper respiratory infections and lung conditions it has also been used medicinally to treat colic, depression, arthritis, eating disorders, ear infections, gastritis, hay-fever, headaches, heartburn, parasites, shingles , tooth decay and tetanus. There is traditional use for bed-wetting in children but as it is also a mild diuretic I would want to see evidence of that. It does however, disinfect the urine which can be helpful for those who suffer frequent bouts of cystitis.

Taken an hour before meals, it may stimulate the appetite, useful for someone who is elderly or recovering from illness.

An oddball treatment is one for alopecia – so if you are going a little thin on top you might want to try a little of the oil in your shampoo and conditioner.

It certainly is very versatile but you do need to take care when using medicinally and consult a herbalist for the correct dosage.

The plant contains some helpful nutrients, the primary being Vitamin K which is why this herb does need to be used with caution. Because it is so important to be aware of the ingredients of any herb that you take, here is a brief description of Vitamin K and its actions on the body.


There are two forms of the vitamin that the body can utilise. One is K1 (phylloquinone), which is from plant sources and the other is K2 (menaquinone) which is produced by bacteria in our own intestines. This is where many of us get into trouble because we are not eating sufficient raw and unprocessed foods for health and additionally many of us suffer from bacterial imbalances in the gut so do not produce sufficient from that source either.

The vitamin is fat-soluble and is stored in the liver. Studies indicate that approximately 50% of the stores come from our diet and the balance from bacteria in the intestines. We need healthy bile production for efficient absorption of Vitamin K and our lymphatic system circulates it throughout the body.

Apart from helping reduce excessive bleeding during menstruation it is also used therapeutically for the prevention of internal bleeding and haemorrhages including emergency treatment for overdoses of blood thinners such as Warfarin.

Blood clotting is a critical function in the body that solidifies blood to prevent us from bleeding to death from external or internal injuries. Vitamin K is essential for the production of a protein called prothrombin and other factors involved in the blood-clotting function and is therefore necessary to prevent haemorrhages. Also interestingly Vitamin K also activates other enzymes that decrease the clotting ability so it assumes the role of regulator within the blood stream. An example of this might be if a clot forms within a blood vessel that could block the flow and needs to be dispersed.

The vitamin has also been the subject of a great deal of research in recent years as scientists discovered that it played a significant role in liver function, energy production in the nervous system and in preventing bone loss as we age by assisting the absorption of calcium.

Vitamin K is needed to activate osteocalcin, the protein that anchors calcium into the bone, building and repairing the structure. A deficiency in the vitamin can therefore lead to brittle bones and osteoporosis.

As the vitamin works within the body it changes from function to function according to the various interactions with enzymes and at one stage it acts as an antioxidant preventing oxidative damage to cells. There may also be a role for the vitamin in cancer prevention as it is believed it may stimulate rogue cells to self destruct.

WARNING – When you should not take Thyme.

Because of the high Vitamin K content that slows blood clotting you need to stop taking at least three weeks before having surgery. If you are also on medication that has this effect then you should not take the herb. For example, many people from middle age onwards are now being prescribed low dose aspirin to thin the blood so you should not take Thyme in a herbal form. Warfarin is a high dose anticoagulant and it would be dangerous to combine the two.

If in any doubt consult your doctor and always before taking any herbal remedy or check with a qualified advisor. If you feel that the person you have asked, in a health food shop for example does not appear to be informed, then there should be a herbal reference guide in all dispensaries that gives the action and precautions of every remedy they sell. If they do not have a guide for you to read then buy somewhere else.

I have worked with A. Vogel herbal remedies for over 20 years. is one you might try.

You can buy thyme in capsule form and it often comes with another herb called fenugreek which is another expectorant and herb used in the treatment of lung disorders. The oil is used externally and is very warming when rubbed on the chest during bronchitis or pneumonia.

Read the instructions for dosage on the bottle which is dependent on age and health.

Thyme as part of your diet.

The nutrients in Thyme that make it a useful component in your diet are; iron, manganese, calcium, and tryptophan.

Adding Thyme to your food in cooking is not dangerous unless you put tablespoons into the recipe.Thyme is a versatile herb and it is wonderful with meat dishes. It is quite pungent so take care when using fresh thyme and only use a little at time.

You can added to your baking and here is a great site with some recipes including one for cornbread.


If you have a cold I suggest making a tea with a small amount of leaves, seep for five minutes and then add fresh lemon juice and a teaspoon of honey. You will find it not only refreshing but it may also help prevent your infection reaching the next level.

You will find the posts on Dandelion and Peppermint here.

Thanks for stopping by and hope you have found interesting.   Sally