Jockey Fined for Tweeting About Racetrack Food



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The jockey posted a photo complaining about the food

Wikimedia/Barry Skeates

Jockey Cathy Gannon was fined nearly $500 for posting a photo of the food served to jockeys at Newbury Racecourse.

British jockey Cathy Gannon got into a lot of trouble this weekend when she posted about the food at Newbury Racecourse and was punished with a sizable fine.

According to The Telegraph, Gannon took a photo of the lunch served to the jockeys at Newbury Racecourse on Friday evening, after she had finished racing for the day, and later posted a picture of the unappetizing spread to Twitter.

This is the quality of food at @NewburyRacing this is are fuel #athletes pic.twitter.com/ZxuMI5RaQP

— cathy gannon (@cathygannon353) May 15, 2015

Gannon’s photo showed a vat of chickpeas in red sauce and another of pieces of chicken which had already been mostly cleaned of meat. The photos did not look very appealing, and Gannon was clearly complaining about the quality of the food that was meant to sustain the course’s athletes.

Unfortunately for Gannon, there is a rule against the use of phones in the jockeys’ changing room, and Gannon’s photo broke that. As a result, she was fined £290, or $456.

Gannon accepted her punishment, announcing to her Twitter followers that she did break the rule and would have to accept the fine. The other jockeys at Newbury, however, pitched in to help her cover the fee.


Former horse racing Hall of Fame jockey speaks about 146th Preakness Stakes

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — The sport of kings, horse racing, is center stage Saturday. The 146th Preakness Stakes is run in Baltimore. It's the second jewel in the triple crown.

Bobby Ussery, 85, currently resides at the Presidential Place senior living facility in Hollywood. Ussery knows exactly what it takes to bring home one of the sport's biggest wins.

"You don't have much time to think when you're riding and you have a split second to make a decision, because you got this horse going 40 miles an hour," Ussery said.

Ussery's legendary career was defined by a split-second decision. It's a skill he rode into the horse racing Hall of Fame.

"You got other animals around you," he said. "It's just a split-second decision that you make, and sometimes you're right, sometimes you're wrong."

He is originally from Oklahoma and got his start in racing with a team from Texas. But it was a competition in New Orleans where an opportunity came knocking.

"He said, 'Well, let's put Bobby on it.' And I had never ridden on a major racetrack before. I mean, I rode in Bushley tracks and stuff like that," Ussery said. "The horse had 104 pounds. The horse won and then the rest is history."

Ussery became one of the top jockeys in the country, from winning the Preakness Stakes in 1960 to meeting Queen Elizabeth II after winning the prestigious Queen's Plate race in Canada.

He garnered more than 3,000 wins, including the Kentucky Derby, before retiring in 1974. His Hall of Fame induction came just six years later.

"We got the Proud Clarion and he won in 1967 running in the Derby. That was like, 'Wow,'" Ussery said. "Because as a jockey, in my era, the Derby was, you know, you always wanted to win the Derby, because that's the most prestigious race in America."

Like so many, his eyes will be on the 146th Preakness Stakes Race come Saturday. Ussery isn't sure who'll win.

"To me, it's still a wide-open race," he said. "Any one of those horses could win there that are in there. There's no standout."

But he said he'll still enjoy watching it.

"I was glad to be affiliated with horse racing," Ussery said. "It made me what I am."

Ussery encourages everyone to experience a horse race in person at least once in their lifetime.


Drug Use

Experts agree that the widespread use of non-therapeutic drugs—both legal and illegal—is one of the leading causes of injuries and fatal breakdowns on racetracks. Performance-enhancing drugs often mask pain, allowing horses to race and train with injuries that would otherwise be too painful to run on.

In 2013, PETA investigated the stables of leading trainer Steve Asmussen and discovered that nearly every horse was given an array of drugs and “treatments,” including the following:

  • Thyroxine—a prescription drug that is used to treat hypothyroidism and conveniently speeds up metabolism—was administered to most, if not all, of the horses, apparently without any evidence of a thyroid condition.
  • Lasix—a diuretic intended only to prevent pulmonary bleeding during extreme exercise in some horses that also masks the presence of other drugs and enhances performance by causing rapid weight loss—was seemingly given to every horse in the stable. Lasix is banned on race day in most countries, but more than 90 percent of Thoroughbreds in the U.S. are given the drug within hours of racing.
  • Horses’ legs were burned with liquid nitrogen (a process called freeze-firing) and other irritating “blistering” chemicals—which causes them excruciating pain—purportedly to stimulate blood flow to their sore legs.
  • Horses were givenmuscle relaxants, sedatives, and other potent pharmaceuticals to treat ailments such as ulcers, lameness, and inflammation, even when the animals had no apparent symptoms.

Following PETA’s investigation, the New York State Gaming Commission slapped Asmussen with a $10,000 fine for violations of drug use and proposed sweeping new regulations aimed at preventing trainers and veterinarians from giving horses performance-enhancing drugs.

Although Asmussen was fined, countless other prominent trainers have equally marred records. It was revealed that Bob Baffert, trainer of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, gave all of his horses thyroxine after seven horses suddenly died in his stables. The leading trainer in the country, Todd Pletcher, has served multiple suspensions for drug violations. Doug O’Neill, trainer of the 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner I’ll Have Another, has more than a dozen violations under his belt. D. Wayne Lukas, trainer of the 2013 Preakness winner, Oxbow, was caught with cocaine and administered drugs to a filly who later broke her leg. Darrel Delahoussaye has used snake venom on horses. And in 2007, Patrick Biancone was suspended for one year for numerous drug violations, including possession of cobra venom.

An estimated one out of every two Thoroughbreds bred for racing will be sent to slaughter—meaning that the carcasses of thousands of horses who were treated with drugs not intended for human consumption are entering the human food chain.

Following PETA’s investigation, the Stronach Group, which owns several prominent race tracks, announced sweeping medication reforms, and the New York State Gaming Commission passed a number of amendments that included strict regulations on anti-inflammatory drugs and a complete ban on an anabolic steroid. However, countless other racetracks and states continue to lag behind in drug regulations.

Had enough? Please take a moment of your time to support urgently needed legislation that would regulate medication use and enforce drug testing in racing.


Horse Racing

Behind the romanticized façade of Thoroughbred horse racing is a world of injuries, drug abuse, gruesome breakdowns, and slaughter. While spectators show off their fancy outfits and sip mint juleps, horses are running for their lives.

Forced to Race

Horses used for racing are forced to sprint—often under the threat of whips and even illegal electric-shocking devices—at speeds so fast that they frequently sustain injuries and even hemorrhage from the lungs.

Whip use is standard practice in the U.S., with little more than lip service handed out to extreme violators in most states. At a 2008 race, the horse named Appeal to the City hemorrhaged around her eye when jockey Jeremy Rose “engaged in extreme misuse of the whip.” During his Kentucky Derby win, American Pharoah was struck with a whip at least 32 times by jockey Victor Espinoza.

In 2013, PETA documented that top trainers and jockeys admitted to having used illegal electro-shock devices on horses. Months later, jockey Roman Chapa—who was previously suspended for using a nail on a horse—was charged with a felony for race-fixing after using a shocking device during a race.

Pushed beyond their limits, most horses are subjected to cocktails of legal and illegal drugs intended to mask injuries and artificially enhance performance. Many horses—fittingly called “bleeders” by the racing industry—will bleed from their lungs, a condition known as exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. In an attempt to decrease the bleeding, many horses are given a drug called Lasix or Salix, a diuretic with performance-enhancing qualities.

Not surprisingly, every week, an average of 24 horses experience fatal breakdownsat racetracks across the country, and this number doesn’t even take into account the horses who are discarded by the racing industry when they’re no longer considered profitable. In 2015, in New York alone, more than 250 Thoroughbreds endured injuries or fatal breakdowns during races.

Treated Like Commodities

As most owners and trainers have little more than a short-term financial interest in horses, there is little continuity and accountability over Thoroughbreds’ lifetimes, leaving them to suffer terribly.

Ownership turnover is rampant, and most Thoroughbreds are bought or “claimed” multiple times during their careers. Some races, called claiming races, allow for horses to be purchased and taken away by a new owner immediately after the race, giving previous owners little control over where horses end up. In a two-month period in 2011, over 2,000 horses were callously sold through claiming races. A horse named Who’s Bluffing was claimed 12 times in his career—including three times by the same owner.

Because no one individual is committed to a horse throughout his or her lifetime, each day brings new uncertainty for these animals. An estimated 10,000 “unprofitable” or simply unwanted Thoroughbreds from the U.S. are trucked to Canada and Mexico and slaughtered each year. And despite these staggering numbers, the racing industry continues to churn out nearly 20,000 Thoroughbred foals annually.

PETA is working hard to tackle horse-racing cruelty. When celebrated filly Eight Belles was euthanized on the track after breaking both front ankles during the 2008 Kentucky Derby, PETA called for Congressional hearings into abuse in the horse-racing industry.

After PETA supporters called on the Jockey Club to implement our Thoroughbred 360 Lifecycle Fund to help fund retirement programs and prevent the slaughter of Thoroughbreds, the club launched the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance to raise funds for retirement.

In 2009, following persistent pressure from PETA, several prominent tracks replaced hard leather whips with softer air-cushioned whips. And in 2015, the California Horse Racing Board implemented the strictest regulation in the country governing the use of whips.

PETA exposed the use of illegal shocking devices by top trainers and jockeys, prompting Churchill Downs to increase measures to detect the devices.

After a PETA investigation exposed that leading Thoroughbred horse trainer Steve Asmussen drugged sore, injured horses in order to mask pain and make them run faster, the New York State Gaming Commission fined Asmussen $10,000 and proposed sweeping new regulations to protect horses. Also as a result of our investigation, the Jockey Club, which keeps the Thoroughbred registry, joined with members of Congress to introduce new legislation mandating stricter medication oversight.

Growing awareness of the dark side of racing has fueled these improvements and promises to continue putting pressure on the industry. In a 2011 report commissioned by the Jockey Club, researchers revealed, “Racing is experiencing a shrinking share of wallet from a shrinking fan base,” and admitted that the industry was rapidly losing fans, revenue, race days, and entries.

Want to learn more? Read about industry cruelty, including overbreeding and slaughter, injuries and breakdowns, and drug use.

And check out PETA’s groundbreaking investigations into abusive training practices for young horses, drug use, the transport of horses to slaughter, and the fate of countless American horses in foreign slaughterhouses.


RECIPES: Black barbecue gets a long-overdue spotlight in two new books

Lemon and Herb Chicken (For The Washington Post/Scott Suchman)

As you page through "Black Smoke," a trailblazing new volume that catalogs the contributions of Black men and women to American barbecue, you can't help but notice how author Adrian Miller refrains from calling these historical figures "pitmasters." More often than not, Miller identifies them as "barbecuers," avoiding the trendy term first coined in the 20th century, which is often associated with modern cooks, usually white, who created a new class of smoked meats known as craft barbecue.

Miller's avoidance of the term is a sign of his rigorous scholarship: He doesn't apply the descriptor retroactively to a group of Black Americans who would have never been called pitmasters in their own time. But Miller, a lawyer-turned-food historian, seems to be making a larger point with his language, as if he were carving out a class exclusively for people whose skills were simultaneously hailed and ignored. It's as if Miller is creating a lexicon to ensure that these Black contributions to American culture can't be written out of history.

In recent years, "barbecue has been reinterpreted, so I was trying to figure out what's the through line to honor African Americans without buying into all of the expansions and reinterpretations," Miller says. "The current reinterpretations are moving away from the way that Black people cook. Or I should say the traditional ways that Black people have barbecued."

"I was just trying to honor the ways that these people had done it over time, even in the shifting context of barbecue," he adds.

"Black Smoke" was released in late April, just weeks after another highly anticipated book on smoked meats, "Rodney Scott's World of BBQ." Both feature recipes that help tell the history of Black barbecue, whether the whole hog tradition of South Carolina's Pee Dee region or just "Daddy" Bruce Randolph Sr.'s vinegar-heavy barbecue sauce, which can trace its lineage back to his grandmother, a freed slave.

What's more, each book can lay claim to a James Beard Award winner. Miller won a medal in 2014 for his history, "Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time," while Scott won a regional chef award in 2018 for his cooking at Rodney Scott's BBQ in Charleston, S.C. (Scott's cookbook, incidentally, is co-written by Lolis Eric Elie, an accomplished writer and filmmaker who had published "Smokestack Lightning: Adventures in the Heart of Barbecue Country," with photographer Frank Stewart.)

Yet both volumes are also reminders of the publishing world's historic neglect of Black barbecue and the people who produce it. By Miller's accounting in "Black Smoke," major publishing houses have released only a handful of barbecue cookbooks by Black authors, and two of those authors (weatherman Al Roker and former Black Panther Bobby Seale) aren't even professional cooks.

"Chef Bobby Flay has written three barbecue cookbooks, and Steven Raichlen has written 11 barbecue cookbooks in the span of two decades," Miller writes. "These are fine books, but why aren't more of these cookbooks, or books about barbecue history, written by African American authors who are barbecue experts?"

"Black Smoke" and "Rodney Scott's World of BBQ" are almost companion titles: The former delves into the history of American barbecue, meticulously explaining (sometimes theorizing when the historical record isn't clear) the evolution of smoked meats in this country, noting the rise and fall of Black Americans as the acknowledged specialists in the field. Scott's book, part biography and part cookbook, practically serves as a first-person validation of many of Miller's points.

Based on his research, Miller lays out two arguments that either defy conventional wisdom or push back on other theories on the history of North American barbecue. Miller argues, for instance, that barbecue techniques did not migrate from the Caribbean as European colonists moved north. He suggests that America's barbecue is more homegrown, borrowed from American Indians who used rotating spits, raised platforms, shallow pits and vertical holes to cook their wild game. As British colonists in Virginia began relying on enslaved West Africans for labor, those captives would soon become students of American Indian barbecue techniques, Miller theorizes.

"Since we lack documentation of this process, we surmise by looking at the end result," Miller writes. "Did they barbecue side by side? Were there barbecue apprenticeships? No accounts of either exist at this time, but we know that by the late 1700s, African Americans emerged as barbecue's 'go-to' cooks."

At the same time, Miller finds little evidence to support the theory that American barbecue can trace its roots to West Africa, though he remains open to the idea. Miller suggests that the whole animal cooking found in West Africa may be influenced by techniques introduced by Arab traders who arrived in the region during the Middle Ages. It's a theory that fellow food writer and historian Michael W. Twitty can't endorse.

Twitty, who won a Beard award for "The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South," praises "Black Smoke" for celebrating the "unsung heroes" of Black barbecue. But Twitty's own research — a combination of what he describes as scholarship, contemporary ethnography and "informed imagination" — has led him to conclude that West Africa's barbecue techniques long predate the Arabs.

"All these traditions are very old," Twitty says. "You have to respect the fact that people have been doing things for quite some time on the continent without outsiders needing to validate it or verify it. . There were customs and there were artifacts and anthropological sites that non-Africans didn't set eyes on until the 20th century."

Twitty's comment underscores one of the problems in chronicling the origins of American barbecue: There's little documented evidence in cultures that historically relied on oral traditions, and what documentation exists has been largely recorded by white people, who may have had an agenda, or may not have cared enough to observe the details carefully.

Miller invests a fair number of pages in "Black Smoke" explaining the importance of barbecue storytellers. They have the power to focus public attention, generate income for the subjects they write about and generally control the narrative of who is at the forefront of the field. For much of American barbecue's history, the storytellers, even the white ones, extolled the barbecue expertise of Black Americans.

"Before the 1990s," Miller writes, "food media regularly and overwhelmingly acknowledged Black barbecuers — so much so that, to this day, many people believe that African Americans invented barbecue."

But that changed in the late 20th century with the rise of craft barbecue (versus the older, folk-art style that Miller attributes to Black barbecue). Food writers, food networks and food bloggers increasingly turned their attention to a group of pitmasters that Miller describes as the White Guys Who Barbecue. These stories had the effect of marginalizing the work of Black Americans, Miller notes.

Which is one reason Daniel Vaughn, the barbecue editor at Texas Monthly and the country's most influential writer on the subject, strives to cover the breadth of the scene, even if his readers tend to focus most of their attention on the magazine's top 50 barbecue joints in Texas, which publishes every four years. As Texas Monthly gears up for its next list, due out in November, Vaughn has been directing his tasting team to seek a diversity of smokehouses in a state whose population is 13% Black.

"You want diversity in geography. We want diversity in the style of barbecue being served, and we want diversity in the ownership and racial diversity. Hispanic, white and Black," Vaughn says. "We're certainly understand the importance of racial diversity, but we don't have any hard and fast rules about the percentage on the final list."

Scott's career is something of a testament to the power of storytellers. He grew up in rural South Carolina, working at his parents' business, Scott's Variety Store and Bar-B-Q in Hemingway, and dreaming of something bigger. "When you grow up in a small town in this country, and you don't have the best education, and don't have a lot of money, and you don't have a lot of exposure, people think you've made it if you stay out of trouble and hold down a job," Scott writes in his book.

The traditional narrative about Scott is that his career took off shortly after writer and historian John T. Edge profiled the pitmaster in The New York Times in 2009. Scott soon became the darling of the nation's food media, leading to a partnership with restaurateur Nick Pihakis, a James Beard Award and a growing chain of barbecue joints.

But Scott doesn't fully subscribe to that narrative. Sure, those stories and people played a significant role in his rise, but the narrative makes Scott sound too passive, as if he didn't have a role in his own success. It discounts his own hustle.

Success, Scott says, also "comes with the person that's being persistent about putting their brand out there. You know, my strategy wasn't the norm . I went to get people's attention. I took my product out there for people to taste. I kept going to different places. If somebody says, 'What does that taste like?' I remember driving as far as Myrtle Beach to take pork just for people to taste, hoping they would come back and buy."

"Daddy" Bruce Randolph Sr. remains a legend in Denver more than 25 years after his death in 1994, not just for his barbecue but for his humanitarian work. The secret to his 'cue was his sauce, a recipe that Randolph credited to his beloved grandmother, a freed slave who raised him. Described as a cross between an "eastern North Carolina sauce and a Deep South barbecue sauce," this thin, vinegar-heavy condiment reflects Randolph's roots in the South. The sauce's tangy qualities could divide Denverites who were not raised on a tradition of vinegary barbecue. But as Randolph once told a journalist, it's the sauce that makes the difference, not the wood smoke.

"Daddy" Bruce's Barbecue Sauce

  • 2 cups apple cider or white vinegar
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup light or dark brown sugar
  • ¾ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice (from 3 to 4 lemons)
  • ½ cup Louisiana-style hot sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely grated or minced
  • 1 tablespoon fine sea salt or table salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons finely ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together the vinegar, ketchup, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, hot sauce, garlic, salt and pepper until combined. Increase the heat to medium high and cook, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes. Do not allow it to boil. Remove from the heat and transfer to a lidded jar.

Use right away or refrigerate until needed. Shake well before serving.

Nutrition information: Each ¼-cup serving contains approximately 60 calories, no protein, no fat, 15 g carbohydrate (14 g sugar), no cholesterol, 829 mg sodium and no fiber.

Adapted from "Black Smoke: African Americans and the United States of Barbecue" by Adrian Miller (The University of North Carolina Press, 2021)

Pitmaster Rodney Scott recommends smoking chicken at a temperature between 225 and 250 degrees, the classic low-and-slow range for barbecue. But it can take a long time to get your charcoal to drop to the proper temperature. The wait can begin to feel like a waste, not only of your time but of valuable heat. We decided to put the chicken on a grill heated to between 350 and 400 degrees, but to cook it several inches away from the smoldering coals. The technique produced a bird with beautifully bronzed and charred skin while cutting down on the cooking time.

Scott advises home cooks to ask their butcher to remove the backbones and spatchcock their chicken if you do that, save the backbone to make chicken stock.

The finished chicken can be pulled from the bone, wrapped and refrigerated for up to 3 days. The bones can be saved for making stock.

Lemon and Herb Chicken

  • 1 (3- to 4-pound) whole chicken, spatchcocked or cut in half
  • ¾ cup fresh lemon juice (from 4 to 5 large lemons)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 ½ tablespoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 2 sprigs fresh oregano
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 small sprig fresh rosemary

Place the chicken in a large bowl or baking dish stack the halves if necessary.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and mustard until thoroughly combined. Continue to whisk as you slowly drizzle in the olive oil to form an emulsified marinade (it should be thick and creamy). Season with salt and pepper and whisk to combine.

Pour the marinade over the chicken. Using a mortar and pestle or the back of your chef's knife, press on the herbs (still on their stems) to bruise them, releasing some of their aromas and oils. Add the herbs to the chicken and toss everything together, making sure all parts are covered. Cover with a large plate or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 90 minutes. If you stacked the chicken halves, or if the spatchcocked bird wasn't fully submerged in liquid, rearrange the pieces halfway through the marinating process, moving the top part to the bottom and vice versa, or just flip the chicken over.

Use a chimney starter to prepare your charcoal. Once the charcoal is red hot, dump it on the lower grate of your grill, leaving enough room for the chicken to sit on the upper grate without being directly over the smoldering coals. (If your grill does not have different grate levels, add the charcoal in a ring around the edge of the drum and place the chicken in the middle of the grate so that it is not directly over the charcoal.) Heat the grill to between 350 and 400 degrees.

If using a gas grill: Set the temperature to 350 degrees. With three burner zones, heat the left and right zones and leave the center off. With two burner zones, turn on one and leave the other one off. You will then place the chicken over the unheated zone.

Remove the chicken from the marinade and brush off any herbs still clinging to the meat so they don't burn on the grill. Transfer the meat to the grill, skin side up. Close the grill and cook for about 1 hour, rotating the bird every 10 to 15 minutes to maintain an even color.

Flip the chicken over and close the grill again. If the temperature drops below 250 degrees, prepare a little more charcoal in the chimney and add to the grill. Cook until the thickest part of the meat registers 165 degrees, about 1 hour. Transfer the chicken to a platter and let rest for 15 minutes before carving and serving.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 278 calories, 34 g protein, 14 g fat, 3 g carbohydrate (1 g sugar), 111 mg cholesterol, 993 mg sodium and no fiber.

Adapted from "Rodney Scott's World of BBQ: Every Day Is a Good Day" by Rodney Scott and Lolis Eric Elie (Clarkson Potter, 2021)


Jockey Fined for Tweeting About Racetrack Food - Recipes

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5. If we didn’t use horses for our own benefit, what purpose would they have?

At this point, “equine sports activists” are pretty fed up with everything I’ve said. Look here, horses were MADE for man to ride them, to use them however we see fit. We own horses, we are entitled to their lives because we bred and raise them!

Suddenly the facade of being a friend to horses fade, and out steps the real spirit of horse racing: cruel individuals who see horses not as sentient animals but as inanimate moving objects that belong to the human race. Yet neither horses, nor sheep, nor cows, nor any other animal – whether they have hooves or paws or fins – are slaves of the human species. We were not given a deed to the lives of every other animal on the planet, we were given the possibility to co-exist with other animals peacefully. Yet we have rejected that opportunity.

Horses do not exist for our sake, they exist for their own. No living being needs to be given the purpose of an exploited object. In the same way that you and I might justify our existence without being exploited by another, so too can horses live happy and comfortable lives without being raced or ridden. Check out (and consider donating or volunteering with) Redwings Horse Sanctuary to see how easy it is for horses to exist without having one of us so-called “evolved” apes strapped to its back.

For more Animal, Earth, Life, Vegan Food, Health, and Recipe content published daily, subscribe to the One Green Planet Newsletter ! Lastly, being publicly-funded gives us a greater chance to continue providing you with high-quality content. Please consider supporting us by donating!


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Preparing the Egyptian version, kahk, proved more of a challenge for my mother, as she experimented with different recipes handwritten in her notebook. In addition to the plain and nut fillings, Egyptians have a version stuffed with agameya (a honey-walnut concoction) and loukoumi (Turkish delight).

Achieving the right balance between the ingredients to get a cookie with a soft filling that melts in your mouth, yet holds its shape without crumbling is key to a great kahk. This was a topic of debate at the round table, when my father would sample the kahk my mother had made, as well as the ones sent fresh from Egypt or made at local sweets shops.

It seemed that each Eid my father – who left his home city, Cairo, at a young age – was in search for the perfect kahk, probably his Proustian madeleine.

Visiting friends and family was an important ritual during the Eid, whether we went out to meet them or hosted gatherings in our home, often in open-house style, with people coming and going throughout the day – all the more reason to make sure we had plenty of sweets to go around, served with coffee or tea.

Any house we went to during Eid always had ma’moul, kahk or klaiche – the Eid cookie. Each family had a slightly different way of making the Eid cookie, so it was always fun to compare the variations and call out our favourites in the car on the way home.

This Eid, the first without my mother, I honour her memory by sharing a collection of recipes for Eid sweets from my friends, as she once did with her friends, carefully recording them in notebooks I will treasure forever.

Ma'amoul cookies with walnuts, pistachios and dates. Photo: Victor Besa / The National

Recipe contributor Nihaya Mansour says: “No Eid celebration is complete without ma'amoul. Following a month of fasting and in the few days leading up to Eid Al Fitr, most homes are busy preparing ma’amoul. These buttery semolina cookies are filled with either dates, walnuts or pistachio. The aromas wafting through the house are irresitable and always bring back childhood memories of my mum baking them with our neighbours.”

Nihaya Mansour. Photo: Victor Besa / The National

Ingredients for the dough

250g unsalted butter, melted and kept at room temperature

1/3 cup orange blossom water

Ingredients for the date filling

Ingredients for the pistachio filling

200g pistachio, coarsely ground

2 tbsp orange blossom water

Ingredients for the walnut filling

250g ground walnuts, coarsely ground

Place the semolina in a large bowl and add the melted butter. Rub the butter into the semolina using your fingertips, until the semolina completely absorbs the butter. The texture should resemble moist sand.

Cover the bowl with cling film and set aside overnight to soak. The mixture can be prepared up to 48 hours ahead of time and longer if placed in the fridge.

When ready to assemble the ma’amoul, add the milk powder, sugar, mastic, mahlab and kaak spices to the semolina mixture, mixing gently as you go.

Drizzle the orange blossom and rose water, and mix by rubbing between your fingertips. The dough should be soft and not crack when squeezed in the palm of your hand. If cracking occurs, splash the mixture with a small amount of water and mix. Do not overwork the dough.

Method for the date filling

Add all the ingredients together and knead with your hands until soft and workable enough to roll into small balls. Wet the palm of your hands with a bit of olive oil to avoid the dates from sticking. Form into 2 centimetre balls.

Method for the pistachio filling

Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix. Adjust the sweetness by adding more sugar syrup, to taste. Similarly adjust the flavours by adding the orange blossom water and cinnamon.

Method for the walnut filling

Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix. Adjust the sweetness by adding more sugar syrup, to taste. Similarly adjust the flavours by adding the orange blossom water and cinnamon.

For the pistachio and walnut fillings, press down into the ball-shaped dough with your thumb to form a cup shape. Victor Besa / The National

Pinch a walnut-size piece of dough and roll into a ball.

For the date filling, flatten the dough ball, place a date ball inside and seal the dough around the paste making sure the filling is completely enclosed by the dough. Shape into a ball.

Place the dough in your chosen mould, press down firmly, but do not overdo it, so it does not stick. Turn the mould over and on to a clean kitchen towel, tap the mould and tip the shaped ma’amoul dough out.

For the pistachio and walnut fillings, press down into the ball-shaped dough with your thumb to form a cup shape. Add enough nut filling to be able to cover it with the same piece of dough, rolling and smoothing it out. Use a different shape mould to the date ma’amoul mould (best to have one for each filling). Use the same method as above to create the final shape.

Bake in the middle rack of an oven preheated to 180°C until the edges of the ma’amoul are golden brown (about 10 minutes).

Allow to cool and dust the nut-filled ma’amoul only with icing sugar. The date ma’moul is sweet enough.

Kleicha tamur (Iraqi date cookies)

Photo courtesy Table Tales

Recipe contributor Reem Orfali says: “Kleicha is considered the national cookie of Iraq. These can be filled with dates or walnuts, mixed with cheese or left plain. Plain kleicha are called khufaifiya and are usually made with leftover cookie dough. The most popular are the ones filled with dates – kleicha tamur – from the rich palm groves of Iraq.

“Every Iraqi family makes their kleicha in different shapes and sizes. Following my mother’s example, I prepare mine in a ‘micro’ version, which requires patience. My daughter, with her delicate touch, completes the cookies by dotting them with habbat baraka (nigella seeds), meaning seeds of blessings. Traditionally we make this kleicha for Eid, and refer to it as kleichat al Eid, but I also make them year round to share with family and friends.”

Ingredients for the filling

Ingredients for the dough

450g all-purpose flour or combination with whole wheat

225g butter or vegetable ghee

18 0ml low-fat milk, or more as needed

Sesame or nigella seeds, to garnish

Place the pitted dates and butter in a skillet and sprinkle with the cardamom and cinnamon. Stir the mixture over medium heat until it comes together like a paste. Set it aside to cool.

Flatten a handful of date paste and roll it to make a long cord-like shape that is about half centimetre thick and about 20cm long. Continue for all the date paste. The date cords do not need to be perfectly smooth, as the dough will be rolled around them.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and nigella seeds in a large bowl or food processor. Cut or pulse the butter or ghee into the flour until it resembles coarse crumbs. Gradually add the milk and knead until the dough is smooth and well combined. Cover and let it rest for 30 minutes.

Working on a floured surface, roll a third of the dough into a half cm thick rectangle. Place a date cord along the long edge of the dough. Using a non-serrated knife, lift the dough over the date cord. Roll the dough around the cord one and a half times. Cut along the side of the dough-date roll to detach it from the rest of the dough. Using both hands, roll the dough-date roll on the work surface to firmly attach the filling to the dough. (For a smaller cookie, continue to roll the dough-date roll by hand to double its length and make it thinner.)

Cut into one cm pieces and transfer to a greased and floured baking tray. Repeat for the remaining dough and date paste.

Brush the tops of the cookies with the egg. Sprinkle with nigella or sesame seeds. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden, ensuring not to over-bake, as the cookies will harden. Transfer them to a baking tray and let the cookies cool. They can be stored in an airtight container for up to 10 days or frozen in plastic bags.


At Home: 6 easy Eid recipes you can make for the family

1. Prepare and light the barbecue, or preheat the grill to high. Soak 6 long wooden skewers in cold water for at least 30 minutes. Warm the oil in a frying pan over a high heat. Add the shallots and fry for 5 minutes or until golden. Remove from the heat and add the cumin and cinnamon. Stir well to combine then set aside to cool completely.

2. Place the mince in a large bowl. Add the cooled onion mixture, harissa, rose water and salt. Using your hands, knead the mixture for about 3 minutes or until well combined and smooth.

3. Divide the mixture into 6 even pieces. With dampened hands, shape each portion of mince around the prepared skewers until the mixture forms a sausage shape about 17cm long.

4. Barbecue or grill the koftas for 8-10 minutes, turning them with tongs 2-3 times during cooking until fully cooked through with no pink meat. Serve immediately with salad and a spoonful of Greek yogurt dusted with cinnamon.


Some common drugs

Anabolic Steroids
Have been used in horse racing in the same way as they have been used by athletes. Steroids enhance muscle development but as they are now easily detected have fallen out of favour to other drugs.

Etorphine
(Elephant juice). A tranquiliser for large animals such as elephants, it can be a most powerful stimulant if applied correctly to horses.

Narcotic Analgesics
Used for pain relief, however in small doses are a powerful stimulant.

Caffeine
A noted stimulant popular for many years but now very easily detected.

Beta Blockers
Are used to slow the heart rate in horses thereby manipulating the horses performance.

Butazolidin

Has pain-killing and anti-inflammatory properties, which means a horse with congenital defects or soreness due to injury will perform better.

Bicarb
In large doses can “mop up” the lactic acid that comes with muscle activity. Commonly known as a milkshake, it allows the horse to sustain a run for longer. It is a very common practice with as much as 600 grams being administered in a single dose. Trainers often would administer a spoonful to a horse each day to help with their recovery after hard work. More recently, tubing has become the norm as it ensures every bit of the solution reaches the horse’s stomach. A bicarb (TCO2) stomach drench is popular with many trainers as it has been found that bicarb helps buffer lactic acid. As bicarb is naturally produced, it cannot be banned entirely. Instead, there is a threshold level of 36 millimoles a litre plasma total carbon dioxide. Any reading over that constitutes an offence.

Blue Magic
Also known as propantheline bromide. It is used to help relax muscles, which leads to increased blood flow. No traces of the drug have been found in thoroughbred racing but several leading harness racing figures have been charged with its use.



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