Macchi Tandoori & Raita from The Lion City

COUNTRY 48 – SINGAPORE

Lion City, Garden City, and the Red Dot are all other names given to this island country. A mix of  Malay, Chinese, Indian and Western culture, this country is one of tradition and new technology. Asia’s most influential city and the world’s 7th greenest city,                           selamat datang ke Singapore or Welcome to Singapore!

 Climate Controlled Botanical Gardens by the Bay in Singapore


Climate Controlled Botanical Gardens by the Bay in Singapore

This is where I usually talk about the country’s capital city but Singapore doesn’t have a capital as the whole country is basically one big island and 60 other small islands. So I am going to talk about the Downtown Core of Singapore as this is the CBD and where the main population resides and where several cultural landmarks are. The area surrounds the mouth of the Singapore River and is a 266 hectares in size. In 1822 under orders from Sir Stamford Raffles the Jackson Plan for the Town of Singapore was created, this urban plan was to organise to city, into segregated sections each minority having its own areas. The ideas for segregation were later taken away but the layout and streets are still very similar. Raffles Place (commercial area) and the European Town now make up the Downtown Core.

Singapore's Skyline. Marina Bay Sands over to the left (the world's most expensive casino) and the Climate Controlled gardens below that.

Singapore’s Skyline. Marina Bay Sands over to the left (a resort and the world’s most expensive casino) and the durian shaped Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay (performing arts centre) below that.

Singaporean Cuisine

Singapore a country with an extremely multicultural and diverse population is the same in its food. A melting pot, heavy with big flavours, spices and condiments. It’s roughly 74% Chinese, 13%  Malay, 9% Indian, and 3% Eurasian which together create a cuisine of rice and noodles, of seafood and meat, of curries and stir-fry’s and soups. Many traditional Singaporean meals have been created by mixing and borrowing the flavours of the various different cuisines present. Some dishes like this include: Hokkien mee, Wonton mee, Singaporean-style Biryani.

Most people to eat head out to Hawker Centres to get their meals, these are open-air enclosed “food courts” with dozens of stalls preparing a few signature dishes, hawker centres get extremely packed at prime meal times with a sometimes half hour wait to get served. The other style of food court is Cze Chas (Eating Houses) which are also open-air and enclosed but have fewer stalls and each stall has longer menus, they are considerably less busy and their is table service. Kopitiams (a mix of the Malay word for coffee and the Chinese word for shop) are coffee shops but also places for a small bite or quick meal and long chats with large groups of people.

The most popular dishes from influences such as China, India and Malaysia are: Hokkein mee from the Fuijan Province, China, Hainanese chicken rice from Southern China, Carrot Cake (not just your average carrot cake) from Fujianese region China, Roti from Indian influence, Laska a mix of Chinese and Malaysian flavours, Popiah from Southern China, Rojak from Malay influence and Chilli Crab one of the most iconic Singaporean dishes.

Spicy Singapore Laksa

Spicy Singapore Laksa

WHAT I MADE

I decided to look through our various Asian and Singaporean cookbooks we have at home. Lucky me I found a recipe in one of the books so I didn’t need to research for ages! I wanted to make something interesting something I hadn’t had or made before I chose a baked fish dish. Macchi Tandoori & Raita : Marinated Baked Fish & Cucumber in Yoghurt, this recipe was sourced from a cookbook we have at home called the Food 0f Singapore – Authentic Recipes from the Lion City by Djoko Wibisono. The same author has a new cookbook out this year called The Food of Singapore: Simple Street Food Recipes from the Lion City.

RECIPE

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 750g white fish fillets
  • 1 lime or lemon, cut in wedges

Tandoori paste

  • 2.5cm fresh turmeric, or 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 6 shallots
  • 4cm ginger
  • 3 large cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tbl Tandoori paste or powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp white pepper (not essential you can just use black pepper)
  • ¾ cup plain yoghurt
  • 1 tbl lemon juice

Raita

  • 2 cucumber peeled
  • 1 tbl salt
  • ¾ cup of plain yoghurt
  • bunch of mint, roughly chopped

Method

  1. Make Tandoori paste by pounding or blending the turmeric, shallots, ginger and garlic together until fine (add a little yoghurt if hard to mix). Mix this with the remaining ingredients.
  2. Rub both sides of each fish fillet with this mixture and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least an hour.
  3. Place fish in a baking dish and cook in at 200°C for 30 minutes or until firm.
  4. Halve cucumbers lengthwise and remove seeds with a small spoon (I used a teaspoon). Cut in thin slices and put in a bowl, sprinkle with salt. Leave to marinate for about 10 minutes, then squeeze out the water. Rinse and drain.
  5. Mix the cucumber slices with the yoghurt and mint. Season with salt and pepper, can be sprinkled with ground chilli or cumin if desired.
  6. Serve fish hot with wedges of lime, boiled rice and accompanied with Raita.

This recipe was full of big flavours that really packed a punch! It was only the second time I think I’ve ever filleted fish, so that was a new experience and I’d also never worked with fresh turmeric, let me say it stains your hands like crazy! I’d advise using some plastic gloves when handling. Also the techniques for preparing the cucumbers for Raita was different to how I usually make it but has taught me a new technique I will now know and use. My score for this recipe is 7/10.

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Spectacular Indian feast

WEEK 18 – India

From the towering snow-capped peaks of the northern mountains to the red-hot beaches of the southern coast and with a invigorating mix of people, religion, traditions and landscapes, its a melting pot of culture, India.

Arambol Beach, Goa

Arambol Beach, Goa

Situated in South Asia, India is the seventh-largest country by area in the world along with being the second-most populated country over 1.2 billion people. It’s capital city, New Delhi is located in northern India, even though it lies on the floodplains of the Yamuna River, it is essentially a landlocked city. At the heart of the city is the grand Rashtrapati Bhavan (formerly known as Viceroy’s House) which sits atop Raisina Hill. Its the official home of the President of India and is the largest residence of any head of state in the world.

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The 340 room main building that is the President’s home, the plot of land is 130 hectare (320 acre) big and is referred to as the President Estate. It includes huge gardens (Mughal Gardens), large open spaces, housing for both bodyguards and staff, stables and other offices and utilities within its walls.

Throughout India’s history, religion has played a significant role in the country’s culture. It is the birthplace of four of the world’s major religions; Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. Rituals, worship, and other religious activities are very prominent in daily life.

Muslims praying in a mosque in Srinagar

Muslims praying in a mosque in Srinagar

INDIAN CUISINE

Indian food is majorly influenced by religious and cultural reasons and traditions. Indian cuisine combines various regional cuisines within the Indian subcontinent. These cuisines differ greatly from each other as each use spices, herbs, vegetables and fruits available locally. Staple food items in Indian cuisine are legumes such as; lentils, mung beans and black grams and also some pulses such as; chickpeas, kidney beans and black-eyed peas, the pulses are eaten commonly in the northern regions.

Traditional Indian feast

Traditional Indian feast

Others staples include; rice, pearl millet and wholemeal flour. The most widely used spices in Indian cuisine include; whole or powdered chilli pepper (introduced by the Portuguese in the 16th century), black mustard seed, cardamom, cumin, turmeric, asafoetida, ginger, coriander, and garlic. One of the most famous Indian spice blends is Garam Masala which contains 5 or 6 spices, although each region has its own blend.

Many Indian desserts, or mithai, are fried and are made with sugar, milk or condensed milk, in India’s eastern regions almost all desserts are made with milk products. Some desserts include; Kulfi  (Indian icecream), Kheer (sweet rice pudding) and Gulab jamun (fried milk balls soaked in a sweet syrup, such as rose syrup or honey).

Traditionally meals in India are eaten while seated either on the floor or on very low stools or cushions. In the right hand food is eaten as cutlery is not used much. While the left hand is used to serve yourself when their not already served for you.

WHAT I MADE

I decided to really showcase Indian cuisine this week so I made up my mind to make an Indian feast! I sourced my three recipes from: the spiced potato croquettes & the onion bhaji both from the BBC food site their links are here →spiced indian potato croquettes & onion bhaji . For the other recipe “Saffron & Almond Chicken” I used one from a cookbook we own called Favourite Indian Food by Diana Seed and illustrated by Robert Budwig. Now this cookbook is hand illustrated which to a modern day cook like my self is immediately a turn off, its so old it doesn’t even have photographs! But I must say the recipes make up for its interesting pictures.

RECIPES

Spiced Potato Croquettes

Preparation Time: Less than 30 mins

 Cooking Time: 10 to 30 minutes

Serves 4

Ingredients

For the croquettes

vegetable oil, for deep-frying, plus 1 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

½ tsp mustard seeds

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

5cm/2in piece ginger, peeled and finely grated

1 long green chilli, finely chopped

500g/1lb 2oz cold mashed potato

3 tbsp fresh coriander, leaves picked and roughly chopped

salt and freshly ground black pepper

75g/3oz plain flour

3 free-range eggs, lightly beaten

1 tbsp sesame seeds

1 tbsp black onion seeds

110g/4oz dried breadcrumbs

For the Mint sauce

5 tbsp fresh coriander leaves

5 tbsp mint leaves

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tbsp vegetable oil

200g/7oz natural yoghurt

1 lime, juice only

Method

  1. For the croquettes, heat a deep fat fryer to 180C/350F (CAUTION: Do not leave hot oil unattended).
  2. Heat a frying pan until hot, add the cumin and mustard seeds and cook for 20 seconds until they start to pop (take care to avoid the seeds popping into your eyes and face).
  3. Add the onion, one tablespoon of vegetable oil, the garlic, ginger and chilli and cook for a couple of minutes until just softened.
  4. Tip the cooked onion mixture into a bowl with the mashed potato and mix well.
  5. Add the coriander leaves and season with salt and black pepper, then mix once more.
  6. Taking spoonfuls of the mix, form little cylinders about 6cm/2½in long, and 2.5cm/1in wide.
  7. Prepare a tray of the flour and a bowl of the egg. Dust the croquettes with flour and then dip in the egg, coating on each side.
  8. Mix the sesame and black onion seeds with the breadcrumbs on a plate, then coat the potato in the crumbs, ensuring all sides are covered.
  9. Place in the fat fryer and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until hot through, and crispy and golden-brown outside. Drain on a plate lined with kitchen paper.
  10. For the sauce, put the coriander, mint and garlic into a blender with the vegetable oil and blend to a fine purée. Add the yoghurt and blend once more until the herbs are very fine.
  11. Season with the lime, salt and a little black pepper.

  12. Serve croquettes along side mint sauce

 

Onion Bhaji

Preparation time: Less than 30 mins

Cooking time: Less than 10 mins

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

2 free-range eggs

3 onions, sliced

120g/4oz plain flour

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp cumin seeds

3 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra if required

Method

  1. Beat the eggs in a bowl.
  2. Add the onion rings and mix well.
  3. Add the flour, ground coriander and cumin seeds and stir well to combine.
  4. Heat the oil in a deep-sided frying pan over a medium heat. When hot add a large spoonful of the bhaji mixture and fry for 30-45 seconds, until golden-brown.
  5. Turn the bhaji over and fry for a further 30 seconds, until crisp and golden-brown all over. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.
  6. Repeat with the remaining bhaji mixture, replenishing the oil in the pan if it runs low and allowing it to heat up again after a new addition.

Saffron & Almond Chicken

Ingredients

6 chicken breast fillets (skinless,boneless chicken breast halves)

toasted slivered almonds, to garnish

For Marinade

3 cloves garlic

2cm/ ¾ inch piece fresh root ginger

1 tsp garam marsala

1 tsp salt

½ tsp paprika

3 tsp vegetable oil

For Filling

2 fresh hot green chilli

½ brown onion

4cm/ 1 ½ inch piece fresh root ginger

2 tbsp fresh coriander leaves

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp salt

100g/ ½ cup ricotta or cottage cheese

For Sauce

50g/ 1/3 cup cashew nuts

1 tbsp desiccated coconut

2 cloves garlic

2cm/ ¾ inch piece fresh root ginger

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 small brown onion

200ml plain yoghurt

1 tsp salt

1 tsp garam marsala

1 tsp saffron threads

Method

  1. Use ginger grater to grate ginger or very finely slice and mince garlic and mix with other marinade ingredients.
  2. Rub chicken breasts with mixture and place in a bowl covered in plastic wrap in the refrigerator for an hour or as long as possible.
  3. De-seed chillies and put into food processor with the other filling ingredients, work to a paste
  4. For the sauce, in the food processor mix cashews and coconut with 50ml water to make a paste.
  5. Heat oil in a medium saucepan, while finely chopping onion, add onion and cook until soft, while cooking grate ginger and mince garlic.
  6. Add garlic and ginger and when, it is dry add cashew paste.
  7. Simmer for 5 minutes, the add the yoghurt, salt, garam marsala and saffron dissolved in a little warm milk. Set aside and keep warm.
  8. Cut the chicken breasts in half but not all the way, making a pouch, carefully stuff the filling inside.
  9. Place the fillets onto a greased baking tray and covered in foil.
  10. Place in a preheated oven at 180°C/350°C/ gas 4 for 30 minutes or until fully cooked.
  11. Transfer to serving dish and spoon over sauce, garnish with toasted slivered almonds and extra plain yoghurt is desired
My Saffron & Almond Chicken

My Saffron & Almond Chicken

My Onion Buji's & Spiced Potato Croqeuttes

My Onion Bhaji’s & Spiced Potato Croquettes

Everybody loved this meal! I was so so happy! I had been cooking all afternoon and it most definitely payed off, all the food was delicious and really brought me to India. The chicken dish was very interesting as there was ricotta in it, not quite sure they’d use that over there, but it was so good the chicken was unbelievably tender and the sauce was to die for! Creamy, coconutty and full of flavour & cashews nuts yum! The croquettes were so soft and pillowy it was hard to stop eating them and the sauce accompanied them perfectly. and as for the bhaji’s want more could you want crunchy, crispy, and  delicately spiced they were delicious and also were great with the sauce for the croquettes! We also served the meal with some fresh salad and mango chutney, my favourite! Another 10/10 for me.

Leek and Coriander Dumplings with Beef and Minted Garlic Yogurt

Ashak – Afghan Leek and Coriander Dumplings with Beef & Lentil Sauce and Garlic & Mint Yogurt

Week 19 – Afghanistan

ABOUT AFGHANISTAN

A landlocked country, mountainous, hot, cold, dry and earthquake prone, Afghanistan is situated on the old Silk Road at a crossroads between Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Settled for at least 50,000 years it’s an archaeological gold mine rivalling Egypt. Many empires and kingdoms have flourished here, its people are renowned for their hospitality and fighting prowess. Famed also for the striking beauty of the woman, Alexander the Great himself married into one of the royal families from ancient Bactria, now part of Afghanistan.

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SIGHTS TO SEE

The capital Kabul, dramatically located in a high valley at the foot of jagged mountains, Herat, an ancient city with its awesome citadel fortress mostly still intact, the exquisite Friday Mosque and the Minaret of Jam located in a narrow valley at the junction of two rivers, and the beautiful shrine of Hazrat Ali, a fabulous masterpiece to rival the Taj Mahal. Sweeping landscapes of wild mountains, arid upland steppes and the Band-e Amir, a series of brilliantly blue lakes.

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THE FOOD

From all the multi-ethnic influences the food of Afghanistan is a rich, varied and sophisticated fusion of Middle Eastern and South Asian cuisines. Boasting a huge range of dishes drawing on a wide variety breads, fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains. Famed for skewered and grilled meats (kebobs) , kormas (saucy stews)   dumplings (mantu), pickles, soups (shorma) and a vast array of complex rice dishes (pulao).

A national dish is Kabuli Pulao rice with raisins, carrots, orange and pistachios often baked with lamb or Alou Balou Pulao featuring chicken and fresh cherries, or Shebet pulao with fresh dill. Big  meat eaters, chicken, lamb, mutton and goat are most favoured. Cooking methods include a tandoor style oven for baking, grilling, pan frying and steaming, often in a sealed pot as in the ‘Dum” style of India. This method is used to produce their particularly fluffy rice (chawal).

Afghani cuisine is characterised by the surprising absence of spices and the inclusion of fresh and dried fruits and nuts in many dishes. Desserts are mainly sweetmeats, rice pudding or very sweet baklava style pastries. Popular drinks are tea (chai) and a cold yogurt drink flavoured with rose water and salt (dugh)

Afghani’s were famous for their hospitality, and visitors were honoured guests given pride of place and  served the very best on offer. The traditional Afghani feast (Dastarkhan) consists of a cloth spread over the floor ( usual dining place) and covered with as many dishes as possible. Eating is by hand with breads like naan used to scoop up food.

This recipe comes the wonderful SBS food site – http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/afghan-dumplings-beef-sauce-and-garlic-yoghurt-ashak

ASHAK

Dough

  • 500gm plain flour, plus extra for kneading
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 250 ml (1 cup) water, approximately

Sauce

  • 100 ml  vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 500gm beef mince
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ½ red capsicum, chopped
  • 400 g can diced tomatoes
  • 1 long red chilli, chopped
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 250ml (½ cup) boiling water
  • ½ cup chana dal (dried split chick peas) soaked, rinsed and cooked until tender

Filling

  • 2-3  leeks washed and finely chopped
  • 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp  butter
  • ½ bunch coriander, washed and chopped

Garlic yoghurt

  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup plain natural thick (Greek style) yoghurt
  • small handful fresh mint, chopped

Method

  1. To make the dough  place the flour, salt and oil in a large bowl and gradually add the water until a firm dough forms. (You may not need all of the water.) Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 8–10 minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. To make the sauce heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium–high heat. Cook the onion for 6–8 minutes, or until golden. Add the mince and cook for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned and liquid is evaporated. Add all remaining ingredients, except the boiling water and chana dal. Mix well and cook for 2 minutes. Add the boiling water. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer, topping up with extra water if necessary, for 15 minutes. Add the chana dal and stir through. Reheat just before serving.
  3. To make the filling  saute the leeks in butter until soft and tender, combine all rest of ingredients and refrigerate until needed.
  4.  Divide the dough into eight pieces and roll each into a ball on a lightly floured work surface. Working with one ball at a time, and keeping the others covered with a cloth to prevent drying out, roll balls into 20 cm circles, then cut in half. Using a pasta machine on the widest setting, roll out dough, lightly dusting with flour when necessary to prevent sticking. Reduce setting on machine and pass through dough again, repeating until dough is about 2 mm thick. Cut into 3 cm squares. Place 1 tsp of the filling mixture in centre of a square. Moisten edges with a little water and press edges together to seal, and fold over like making tortellini or wontons. Place on a tray lined with a tea towel. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
  5. To make the garlic yoghurt crush the garlic and salt to form a smooth paste. Process quickly together with the yoghurt and mint. Set aside.
  6. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Cook the ashak, in batches, for 3–4 minutes, or until they float to the surface and start to flip over. Drain well.
  7. Spread the garlic yoghurt onto a serving platter. Place ashak on top, then spoon over the meat sauce. Scatter generously with mint or coriander.

It pays to look at the video!  I was in a hurry making these and didn’t check it out, so I made them like large ravioli, forgetting pasta swells up when cooking – so mine ended up enormous! and fell apart a bit. And I served the yogurt on top instead of underneath! But they tasted good, I particularly liked the addition of the lentils, an unusual touch.

The rest of the family were a bit iffy about this dish which overall scored 7/10. It was quite a bit of work this dish, with lots of different processes involved in making them, I understand now why they are usually made with large family groups in a production line! Do try them for a filling and robust dish with a twist.

Afghan Biscuits

When I was growing up in NZ, one of my favourite (home made of course) biscuits were Afghans – a delicious chocolate flavoured biscuit with cornflakes in them and topped with chocolate icing and half a walnut. Our Edmonds cookbook was always stained on that page! Why they were named Afghans I don’t know unless it was a nod to the use of walnuts to decorate the icing.

My recipe comes from a very tattered, prized copy of the Edmonds cookbook, dating from the time when there still was the famous Art Deco ‘Sure to Rise’ factory with it’s sun rays, standing proudly in it’s beautiful gardens on Ferry Rd, Christchurch.  I, and I’m sure every New Zealander grew up  learning to bake from that little recipe book,  a trusty classic of home baking. In 1990 that beloved iconic building was demolished amid much controversy – in the interests of progress and cost efficiency, and what a sad loss it still is.

Afghan Biscuits

A Maldivian hot drink for a cold night

WEEK 15 – Maldives

Hi everyone Roma here, so last week I picked Maldives out of the box.Ready to discover the flavours of Maldives I got straight to researching!

ABOUT MALDIVES

The smallest Asian country in both population and land area, the Maldives is an island nation in the Indian Ocean and consists of 1,192 coral islands grouped in a double chain of 26 atolls. The atolls are spread over roughly 90,000 square kilometres. The Maldives is the planet’s lowest country at only 1.5 metres above sea level. Also the country has the lowest natural highest point in the world at 2.4 metres.

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 Tourism is the country’s main source of income. The first tourist resorts were opened in 1972 with Bandos island resort and Kurumba Village. The number of resorts has dramatically increased from 2 to 92 between 1972 and 2007.

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 The capital and largest city Malé is home to some beautiful places like the Old Friday Mosque, it is the oldest mosque in the country, dating from 1656. It’s a beautiful structure made from coral stone into which intricate decoration and Quranic script have been chiselled. The Muliaa’ge which is the Presidential Palace of Malé, Maldives is also very cute.

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The country’s capital city Malé

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Muliaa’ge the Presidential Palace of Malé

MALDIVIAN CUISINE

Maldivian cuisine is based on fish, coconut and rice.Capsicum, chilli, onions, curry leaves and lemon juice are used in many dishes. With tuna being the main fish served. Skipjack tuna to be exact. Trade with Sri Lanka and South India allow for flavours are often very spicy and hot.

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Screen shot 2015-04-05 at 3.45.57 PM Maldive fish (which is a processed tuna product), is made in the Maldives and is a staple of Maldivian cuisine. It is also exported, mainly to Sri Lanka.Coconuts are used in most Maldivian recipes. They are grated, squeezed for the coconut milk or pressed for coconut oil.Fruits that are often on hand in Maldives include pandanus, bananas, mangoes and papaya.

WHAT I MADE

I decide on a drink this week. The local population does not drink alcoholic beverages so tea is one of the favourite drinks. They also enjoy tender coconut water and Raa, which is toddy tapped from palm trees. I got this recipe from this very helpful website all about Maldivian cuisine  click here → maldivian-food-drink-recipes

Masala Chai

4 cups water
3 teaspoons loose tea
1 inch ginger
3 inch cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves
3 cardamom pods opened
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
¼ cup sugar

Start with boiling four cups of water. Add three teaspoons of loose tea, one inch ginger, one half cup sugar, three opened cardamom pods, two whole cloves and a three inch cinnamon stick. Let this simmer for five minutes. Add two cups milk and three tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk and let it heat, but not boil, for about three minutes. Strain it and serve.

The Chai was really lovely had a nice spicy and sweet flavour and was throughly enjoyed by all! Even Mimsey liked it and she always says she doesn’t like sweet tea! Score 9/10.

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How to make a Thai curry as good as a restaurant?

Thai Green Curry Paste

 

Answer – make the curry paste yourself! It’s so easy to do, don’t think you need to get all purist and make it in a mortar and pestle, ‘cos even the great David Thompson says a grinder or food processor is fine. This recipe make a paste that outshines anything you can buy, even the most expensive brand, and why?

Because it’s made with fresh herbs and freshly roasted spices and that can’t be duplicated in a jar. Traditionally in Thailand and in the very best restaurants, curry pastes are made to order, that’s why they taste so good. Now you can get that fabulous flavour too – with little more than a bit of chopping, some toasting and some whizzing!

This curry paste is best straight away, but will keep in the fridge, covered with a layer of oil, for two weeks. Best though is to freeze any remaining paste. It keeps really well frozen and is so lovely to have on hand. The extra oil covering will cook out when you use it, with this paste you can make pork, beef, chicken, vegetable/tofu or fish curries – my favourite is Salmon, that will be bursting with authentic Thai flavour!

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Nam Prik Gaeng Khiaw           Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients

  • 10 medium green chillies, de-seeded
  • 4 small hot thai chillies (optional – for those who like it really hot!) de-seeded – careful with hands!
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 6 red asian shallots/ 1 red spanish onion
  • 2 kaffir limes, zested
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, peeled
  • 2 tb greater galangal (Kha in Thai) peeled & chopped
  • small handful chilli leaves, if you have a chilli plant (optional)
  • 6 coriander/cilantro plant roots + 3cm of stalk (if you can’t get roots, use stalks from a handful of coriander, about 5cm/3″long
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tb white peppercorns
  • 2 tsp cumin seed
  • 1 tsp mace blades (substitute fresh grated nutmeg if unavailable)
  • 2 tsp shrimp paste ( known as kapi/trassi/blanchan)
  • 2 tsp salt

Method

  1.  Wash herbs & chillies, wash coriander roots and stalks very well, as they are often very sandy. Peel/scrap off skin.
  2. Cut up and put into a blender.
  3. Dry roast the spices in a small frypan until fragrant, lightly golden.Cool and grind finely in a grinder.
  4. Wrap the shrimp paste/kapi in foil and dry roast 2 minutes on each side (will be smelly!)
  5. Add everything to the blender and add enough water to make a paste. Keep blending until paste is utterly smooth and no trace of fibres can be seen. If necessary add a little bit more water.
  6. Store in fridge in screw top jar, covered with a thin layer of oil or freeze excess.
  7. To use, (1) fry paste in a little oil until fragrant and oil separates before adding coconut milk and rest of your curry ingredients –  OR
  8. (2) Boil coconut milk to reduce by half, add paste and simmer until oil separates out of coconut milk and paste is fragrant. Add rest of curry as per recipe.

It’s up to you to use it in whatever Green Curry recipe you want – but my favourite is with fresh salmon – takes curry to a whole other level that is so luxurious and tastes so delicious. Enjoy!

PS If you want my Green Thai Curry recipe – just ask and I’ll add it on!

 

Bhutan – some like it hot hot hot!

BHUTAN: Kingdom of the Clouds

Bhutan The Last Shangri-la

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Hapai Hantue – Bok Choy & Poppy Seed Buckwheat Dumplings

Week 12

I’ve always dreamed of going to Bhutan, one of the most unspoilt and picturesque countries in the world -alas the cost is so prohibitively high, only the well heeled can afford it. Sadly I know I’ll never make it there. But I have been to Myanmar, which (in 1990) was also one of the most difficult countries to travel to. And that was very special, but still not as entrancing as Bhutan……..

Bhutan  Fact File

The Kingdom of Bhutan has been known as Southland  of the Herbs, the Sandalwood Country and the Land of Happiness. A high altitude land-locked country sandwiched between Tibet to the North and Northern Indian states to the West And South. It’s a land of towering high peaks, fast flowing rivers and deep valleys. Sub-tropical jungle in the south, it becomes Polar and snow-bound in the north, this allows it’s outstanding range of biodiversity. There are five seasons, spring,summer,autumn, winter and monsoon.

Bhutan

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tradition

Tradition is very strong in a country which was almost completely isolated from the modern world until the 1960’s and only allowed TV and the Internet in 1999! So it’s rich and unique culture has remained intact, the government decried that all citizens must wear traditional clothing when in public!  Thanks to the hefty mandatory charge of US$250+ per day per tourist, tourism will be limited and it will probably remain so unspoilt.

Sights to see

Palace at Thimpu

 

 

 

Religion is intrinsic to Bhutanese life, predominantly Buddhist with Hinduism practiced in the south. Some of the most spectacular sights are the precariously situated Dzongs (fortress) such as Punakha and Trongsa and the Taktshang Goemba (monastery)  and other historic buildings in the capital Thimpu. Check out fantastic wildlife, go on cycling tours, mountain treks, snow treks, fly fishing or admire spectacular alpine scenery.

The Food

Bhutanese Food

Heavily influenced by the proximity of Chinese culinary traditions and Indian cuisines, Bhutan has come to love the chilli as no other – so much so that they eat it as a vegetable not just a condiment! The national; and ubiquitous dish is a chilli and cheese  dip served with everything, rather like a sambal or pickle, called Ema Datsi.

Dairy mostly cheese and butter is a very important source of protein, from cows, yaks goats and buffalo. Buckwheat and red rice are the main grains along with barley and millet, all cool climate crops, and used to make breads, noodles, dumplings and biriyani style dishes.

Remembering many Bhutanese are vegetarian, beef and pork are commonly eaten and trout from their pristine rivers. Much is made of wild gathered food such as ferns, canes orchids, wild greens like radish and turnip tops, wild berries and especially adored are mushrooms such as Chanterelles. Many fresh herbs like coriander, dill and fennel are used  along with ginger,garlic and shallots. Of course lots of ‘Indian’ spices are used with Szechwan pepper, Perilla and poppy seeds particularly popular.

The food of Bhutan is often blisteringly hot, but as richly varied as this jewel of a country is itself.

Buckwheat Dumplings

Buckwheat Dumplings with Bok Choy & Poppy Seed Filling          Serves 4-6

 This recipe was taken from http://www.asian-recipe.com/bhutan/bh-vegetarian-recipes.html with some slight changes on my part – namely I made a mistake with reading the recipe, and I love Szechwan pepper! I think the combination of buckwheat with poppy seeds and boy choy is so interesting.

Ingredients

  • Filling
    • 1 bunch bok choy, washed, chopped
    • 3 tablespoons poppy seeds
    • 1/2 teaspoon Chinese Szechuan peppercorns
    • 2 medium garlic cloves
    • 3 cm cube fresh ginger
    • 1 small red onion
    • 1/2 cup crumbled farmer cheese or Danish Feta
    • 1 teaspoon chili powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 60 gm butter, melted to golden brown

    Dough

    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup buckwheat flour
    • 1 cup water
    • All-purpose flour, for dusting

 Method

  1. To make the filling, cook the bok choy in a saucepan of boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and squeeze dry.
  2. Grind the poppy seeds and peppercorns with a spice grinder, or in a mortar.
  3. Process the onion, garlic and ginger until finely chopped. Add half the melted butter and the rest of ingredients and pulse briefly until just combined. Leave to cool.
  4. To make the dough, combine the flours in a food processor. With the motor running pour the water and the rest of the melted butter through the feed tube and process until the dough forms a ball. Dust the ball with flour.
  5. Cut the dough into 8 pieces, dust with flour, and cover with plastic wrap to prevent drying out. Roll out the remaining piece with a pasta machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions, down to the second lowest setting, dusting with flour occasionally to prevent sticking. Or rollout thinly with a rolling pin. Place the dough sheet between sheets of plastic wrap. Roll out the remaining dough in the same manner.
  6. Cut the sheets, 1 at a time, into 4 by 2 inch [10 by 5cm] rectangles. Place 1 teaspoon of the filling in the center of each rectangle. Brush the edges lightly with water and fold the rectangles over to make squares, pressing the edges to seal them well.
  7. Cook the dumplings in batches in a saucepan of simmering salted water until they float to the top and are tender. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
  8. Serve with Ema Datsi or if you’re pressed for time as I was – Chiu Chow Chilli Oil and garnish with fresh chilli and chopped coriander.

Chilli Chicken & Noodles

Chilli Chicken with Buckwheat Noodles          Serves 4-5

I made this dish with chicken mince not the more traditional pieces, as that was all I had on the night. The flavourings are very Chinese but with a twist, for the buckwheat noodles I used Japanese Soba noodles which are probably more refined than the more homey Bhutanese version.

I kind of combined two recipes, one for noodles from  http://www.peisch.com/photos/bhutan/Recipes and the other for the chilli chicken came from  http://www.chicken.ca/recipes/bhutanese-chili-chicken-with-red-rice

Ingredients

  • 500gm  chicken thigh fillets /breast or mince 
  • 1/4 cup cornflour 
  • 2 tbsp  sesame oil + 1 tsp extra
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • red onion,  sliced 
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 green chillies, sliced
  • 1/2 red capsicum, sliced
  • 1/2 bunch spring onions, cut into 5cm lengths
  • 1 tbsp ginger, grated
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tomatoes, cut into wedge
  • salt and fresh black pepper
  • 270gm packet of soba noodles
  • coriander,  chopped to garnish

Method

  1. Rinse 2/3 packet of noodles under cold running water, bring large pan of water to the boil.
  2. Add noodles and boil for 2 minutes, drain.
  3. Cut the chicken into cubes, season with 1/2 tsp salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper and toss with cornflour making sure all pieces are totally coated. If using mince, sprinkle flour over.
  4. Heat oils over medium heat in a non-stick wok or skillet. Cook chicken until pieces are browned on both sides and slightly crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  5. Heat other 1 tsp of sesame oil, add sliced onion, minced garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add capsicum, chillies and shallots, cook another 2 minutes. Return chicken to pan, add sliced tomato wedges, season with soy sauce and heat through another minute.
  6. Add the noodles to the pan and toss everything together. Serve garnished with chopped coriander.

My family enjoyed this meal, although making the dumplings was a lot of work, especially on a hot night – better suited for a cold winter night. Hubby isn’t fussed on buckwheat noodles and was fairly unimpressed, but Bunny and I loved these unusually spiced dumplings – I could have eaten a lot more of them for sure! Our Bhutan meal got a combined score of 27/40, the dumplings getting thumbs up from all but hubby.

 

Laos – The Land of Sticky Rice

WEEK 10 – Laos

A bit about Laos – The Land of Sticky Rice

When I picked Laos out of the box I was utterly thrilled, Mum always raves about Lao food and tells me all about traveling in Laos with Dad in the 90’s.

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Located in Southeast Asia it has many bordering  countries and is also landlocked. In the 14th  century Laos was known as the kingdom of Lan Xang, after four centuries it then split into three kingdoms. In  1893, when Laos came under  French rule with the three kingdoms (Luang Phrabang,  Vientiane  and Champasak) it finally came together to form  what is now modern-day Laos.

Sadly Laos ranks as the 25th hungriest nation in the world this  being because a third of the Lao population  live below the international poverty line which is living on less than US $1.25 per day.

Screen shot 2014-12-15 at 5.43.11 PMCuisine:

The most commonly eaten food in Laos is sticky rice, the Lao even like to  call themselves the “luk khao niaow”, which in English means “children or  descendants of sticky rice” Let’s just say they love their sticky rice.The two  most famous dishes from Laos are Larb which is a spicy meat mixed salad and green papaya salad, Tum Mak Hoong, or Som Tam Lao.

So I looked at some different recipes and I decided on a Luke Nguyen recipe off the SBS website: Pork and Buffalo patties with sticky rice though I thought I’d opt for beef instead of buffalo, here’s the page www.sbs.com.au. Also I chose to serve the patties with a dipping sauce, for which I used this recipe, roasted-tomato-dipping-sauce and I also made a salad to accompany it all – lao-mixed-salad .

 

Recipes: Lao Pork and Beef Patties                Serves  6  

Ingredients   

  • 5 red Asian shallots, roughly chopped
  • 5 lemongrass stems, white part only
  • 500 g minced (ground) buffalo or beef
  • 500 g minced (ground) pork
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp caster (superfine) sugar
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 60 ml ( ¼ cup) fish sauce
  • 6 spring onions (scallions), sliced
  • 1 handful chopped dill

Instructions

  1. Pound the shallot and lemongrass to a paste in a large mortar. Transfer the paste to a mixing bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Mix together well, then shape into 12 patties, about 6 cm (2 inches) across and 2 cm (1 inch) thick. Chill.
  2. Heat a barbecue chargrill or chargrill pan with 1 TB oil, to medium-high. Cook the patties for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until browned and cooked through.
  3. Serve the patties hot, with sticky rice, and salad, delicious dipping sauce, or Thai sweet chilli sauce.
Bunny's Lao Meal

My Lao Meal

 

This salad is adapted from a recipe by Sebastien Rubis in Luang Prabang and came from  foodandwine.com/recipes/lao-mixed-salad-with-peanuts-and-fried-shallots

Lao Mixed Salad with Fried Peanuts and Garlic                  Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 large hard-cooked egg, peeled and halved
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons vegetable oil, plus more for frying
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced and separated into rings
  • 2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cups mixed leaf salad
  • ½ bunch watercress sprigs only
  • 2 tablespoons chopped salted peanuts

Instructions

  1. Separate the yolk and white. Thinly slice the white. Put the yolk in a small bowl, add the vinegar and honey and whisk or use electric beater and beat until smooth. While beating, slowly pour in the 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons of oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. In a medium frypan, heat ¼ inch of oil. Add the shallot rings and fry over moderate heat, stirring a few times, until golden brown and crisp, about 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the shallot rings to paper towels to drain. Add the garlic to the hot oil and fry, stirring a few times, until golden, about 1 minute. Transfer the garlic to the paper towels.
  3. In a large bowl, drizzle the tomato and cucumber slices with 1 tablespoon of the dressing and toss gently. Arrange the slices around a platter. Add the mixed salad, watercress and sliced egg white to the bowl, top with the remaining dressing and toss well. Mound the salad on the platter, garnish with the peanuts and the fried shallot and garlic and serve.

Jeow Marg Len – Lao Roasted Tomato Dipping Sauce                                Serves 4

Roasted Tomato Dipping Sauce

In the recipe it calls for a grill, but ours is broken at the moment, so we opted for charring our vegetables in a smoking hot pan with a little olive oil. Also in the recipe it says to use 12 garlic cloves which I didn’t do – Mimsey said “No way!” So I only used 4 cloves, as my family didn’t want garlic breath for the next week.

And we wanted to enjoy the dipping sauce without blowing our head off with it being so hot, so I used 2 long red chillies instead of the recommended 8 Thai chillies, which are extremely hot! Traditionally we should have used a mortar and pestle to combine ingredients, but we used the food processor because we were in a hurry – it was getting late and the family was getting grumpy! Mimsey over-processed it a little bit, but it was still chunky and tasted awesome! Recipe came from www.chefseng.com/jeow-marg-len-roasted-tomato-dipping-sauce/

 

Ingredients

  • 15 cherry tomatoes or small tomatoes cut into large pieces
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 red onion or two shallots
  • 2 long red chillies
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • ½ bunch of coriander (cilantro) chopped
  • Bamboo skewers / or to fry 1 dsp peanut oil

Method

  •  If using a grill  – Soak skewers in water for at least 30 minutes to prevent burning.
  • Cut onions and chillies into 2-inch pieces (leave cherry tomatoes whole if using) push skewers through all the vegetables.
  • Grill for about 15 minutes, until nicely charred but not burnt.
  • If using a pan – Heat a small frypan pan on medium-high heat, when hot add  the oil and fry the vegetables till softened and charred. about 5-10 minutes.
  • If using a mortar and pestle – Using mortar and pestle, pound charred chilies, garlic and onions until all are well mixed and mashed. Add cooked tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients, lightly mix.  Stir in coriander.

If using a food processor  – Place all ingredients except coriander in the food processor and whizz briefly till rough and still chunky, about 10 seconds. Stir in coriander.

What we thought

Served all together, this meal was delicious and one we won’t forget for a while. Mimsey helped me make this meal as there was so many elements and things to do, so thank you Mims. As usual it all took heaps longer to do than I thought, but it really was worth the effort! Score was 10/10 for everyone!

Bangladesh – curried away

Week 10 – Bangladesh 

BANGLADESH – Gosht Kalia 

My Bangladesh experience – what’s the difference between a bus and an airplane?

 

In Bangladesh – not much! Technically I haven’t been to Bangladesh – although we spent half a day there – inside Shahjalal International Airport in Dacca. Years ago, my husband and I were flying from Thailand to India and Biman Airlines was the cheapest flight. You know how in Asia, all the busses and trains are loaded up with passengers, and any conceivable thing that may need transporting, live pigs, dried fish, fresh durian! huge bags of sponges, firewood or whatever………well when we boarded at Dacca, all the locals carried all that stuff on board the plane!

Huge bags of stuff littered the aisles, there was a live pig in there too I think, or was it chickens? To our total amazement, the cabin crew  just let them bring it on board. But at take-off time, the Captain came out and walked down the aisles, kicking stuff out of the way and declaring loudly ‘that he would NOT take-off’ unless all this stuff was moved or stowed away!’

Like that was going to happen – there was so much luggage and it was so big, no way any of it would fit in the overhead lockers. After a few more kicks and stern warnings, a few things were wedged under seats and we were cleared for takeoff! As we banked steeply, all the large heavy items at the front of the plane slid down the aisle, crashing into seats – Holy Moly! It was unbelievable.

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Don’t be afraid of curry

I’ve read a lot of posts about curry – and I’m amazed at how little people seem to know about it! I read a sad little post on an Indian food blog, asking “where did the curry flavour come from”, since there was no ‘curry powder’ in the recipe? And another post by a chef  advised his readers NOT to try making curry powder/pastes themselves as it was too hard and just to use  bought ones!! OMG This is so NOT  TRUE! To set the record straight – Curry is not hard,  not all curries are hot, all curries aren’t spicy, not all curries have loads of ingredients, you can even have dry curries.

What is curry?

Nothing more than a spiced sauce. The English word curry probably comes from the Tamil word kari meaning a sauce or relish for rice. Honestly don’t be afraid – it’s really easy to make delicious authentic curries from scratch and it doesn’t take much longer than it would, if you opened a jar of the bought stuff. Believe me, no bought curry paste no matter how expensive, will ever taste as good as what you make yourself with fresh ingredients.

Ideally use whole spices and grind them yourself (I use a coffee grinder or a mortar & pestle) but excellent results can be obtained from using bought ground spices and just toasting them a little (in a dry pan) to bring out the flavours and volatile oils. A blender makes short work of grinding slightly larger quantities of whole spices and add wet ingredients such as lemongrass, galangal, chillies, garlic and ginger to form curry pastes or masalas. Add water to make it all whizz together to a smooth paste and you won’t believe the fantastic aroma or flavour! Note: the water won’t affect the finished dish as it will evaporate during cooking process.

If you have always bought curry powder or ready-made pastes, please make your own next time – you won’t believe how easy it is!

Bangladesh

 

 

 

 

 

A bit of background about Bangladesh – where is it?

Ah Bangladesh, literally Land of Bengal, also aptly known as the Land of Rivers. Once it was Bengal and part of India, then it was East Pakistan for a while, then became independent Bangladesh in 1971. Sitting on the world’s largest delta, with over 700 rivers including the three major ones that form the Ganges Delta flowing through it, the country is lush, green, very flat and very watery. It’s incredibly densely populated, Bangladesh has the 8th biggest population in the world. Regularly plagued with floods, famine and other natural disasters.

What to see

Relatively undeveloped means fewer tourists (it’s the least visited country in South Asia) but fewer tourist facilities. For the intrepid traveller, there are great things to see such as The Sundarbans, the world’s largest Mangrove forest and home to the magnificent Royal Bengal Tiger, The Pink Palace in the Dhaka, and a boat ride on the muddy Buriganga River from Sadarghat, a colourful chaotic seething mass of humanity afloat.

Also two UNESCO World Heritage sites of Bagerhat, including the fantastic medieval mosque, Shait Gumbad, and the buddhist remains of Somapuri Mahavihara.

Tour tea plantations in the cooler hilly Srimangal region and relax, enjoying a first rate cuppa while in the Chittagong Hill Tracts you can visit Tribal Markets and for the adventurous go on guided Hill Treks through thick jungle to visit some of the minority hill tribes.

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Sadarghat Boat Terminal Dhaka

 

 

Somapuri Mahavihara

More important: What to eat – leave room for sweets!

What not to eat! Bengalis are famous for their warmth and hospitality and love of food! Their sophisticated cuisine is based on rice, dhal (lentils for those who don’t know) , vegetables and curry of infinite variety. From a plethora of recipes for me, stand out dishes are Bengali Matar Kachori – crisp deep fried breads stuffed with spiced lentils, Korma– a mild creamy nutty curry, Shahi Chicken Biryani – the supreme rice dish, Dim Bhuna – Bengali Egg Curry and Balti fish curry.

There is a huge array of breads, Luchi being a favourite, lentil and fish dishes and a particular fondness for pickles (Achar) and unusually for smoked foods like fish but vegetables too.  Many different cooking methods are used including Dum, steaming under pressure and Bhunnuna which is pan or oven roasting.

There is a version of Chinese 5 spice called Panch Phoran – panch is five in Bengali and phoran means spice. This is a mixture of 5 whole spices, in equal proportions of: Cumin, Fennel, Fenugreek, Black Mustard and Nigella or Kalonji Seeds. (Note: NOT to be confused with Black Cumin or Onion seeds).

Bangladesh (then Bengal) is the home of Indian sweet making and sweetmeats, many of them based on a rich creamy milk reduction called Khoya. Hugely popular, every region has it’s favourite speciality. If you have never had Indian sweets before, you really should hunt out a place that makes them, and give yourself a taste sensation. Rich, very sweet, decadently flavoured with almonds, pistachios, saffron and cardamon and often decorated with real edible gold or silver leaf called Vark, lots are fudge like. Or soft and custardy or fried fritters in syrups.

Many are difficult and time-consuming to make, and best left to the professionals. But definitely worth making at home is Payesh/Kheer,  a delicious creamy, spiced rice ‘pudding’ flavoured with saffron, cardamon and topped with nuts and toasted coconut. Totally delicious, I sometimes make it in winter on the weekend as a treat for breakfast.

Bengali Lamb Curry Meal

Mimsey’s Bangladesh Meal

 

Gosht Kalia Bengali Lamb and Potato Curry       Serves 4-5                       Ingredients

  • 2½ tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 tsp vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 inch cube ginger, finely grated
  • 1-2 tsp g chilli powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 4 large lamb fore quarter/shoulder chops, about 700gm, cut off the bone, into small cubes
  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled, cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 3 tb oil, suitable for frying, eg. rice bran, grapeseed, canola
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 4 cardamon pods
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 1 tb tomato paste

Method

  1. Dry roast cumin seeds in a small fry-pan until fragrant. then grind to fine powder
  2. Mix 2 tsp of the cumin, yogurt, vinegar, ginger, salt, 1/2 tsp turmeric and chilli in a bowl. Mix in lamb. Marinate 2 hours or overnight.
  3. Parboil potato cubes until just tender. Cool, sprinkle with 1/2 tsp turmeric. Panfry with 1 tb oil until golden.
  4. Heat remaining 2 tb oil in frypan, fry rest of cumin, till they pop, Add rest of spices, and onion, fry till golden.
  5. Add garlic and sugar, stir then add meat and brown. Add tomato paste and 1 cup of water, cover and simmer until tender, about 45min. – 1 hour.
  6. Reduce sauce if necessary. Toss in potato cubes and serve with rice.

I took this recipe from a cookbook of mine I use a lot – the food of india published by Murdoch Books. This recipe is very similar to a recipe for Bengali Mutton Curry  found at http://www.khanapakana.com  Unfortunately the night I wanted to make this recipe, we had a massive storm and I had to unplug the internet in case my computer got fried. So I used my own recipe.

With it I served a raita of cucumber, tomato, red onion, mint & chilli, plain steamed rice, lime pickle and mango chutney. We thought this curry was a pleasant every day sort of dish,  a curry you could often make and always enjoy.. Score 7/10

 

Vietnam – Luke Nguyen a culinary salute.

Week 9 – Vietnam

Vietnamese Grilled Pork Skewers with Sesame Salt

 

Vietnamese Pork skewers

      

 

Last week I was delighted to have Vietnam to cook and Bunny was off into central Asia again with Kyrgyzstan. Vietnamese food is hugely popular here in Australia, partially due to Luke Nguyen and his terrific TV shows, and cookbooks – we love you Luke! He has brought Vietnamese food off the streets, out of the food courts and into our homes, making it look and sound so enticing.

From now on Bunny will be posting about the countries she has researched and cooked. I have been struggling to catch up from when we first began this blog, as we cooked for several weeks before we actually started to write it up. I had to wait for my daughter (bunny, for those of you who didn’t know) to tell me our blog name, where to go and how to make a post. As a typical teenager, she is often busy and out, so it seemed to take a long while to pin her down and get this show on the road.

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A little bit of history

In case your geography is a little hazy, Vietnam is that long skinny country running along the coast East of Cambodia and Thailand, part of South-East Asia. A fascinating country, with a colourful past, Vietnam was part of the chinese empire for over a thousand years. Various buddhist Vietnamese royal dynasties flourished. Vietnam has had many different names such as Van Lang, An Nam and Dai Viet. Later fierce rivalry divided the North under the Trjnh lords and the South under Nguyen rule. Briefly united as one, they were taken over by the French in 1862 and renamed Cochinchina,

The French colonised most of the area they called Indochina –  literally the countries between India & China, comprising Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar (Burma)  and the Malaysian Peninsula. After WWII and Japanese occupation, fighting the French was followed by the Vietnamese war, and the chaos of civil war. Not until the 1980’s the now unified country started on more moderate political and economic reforms, massive economic growth has made modern Vietnam one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Tourism is now booming too. Still much remains rural and undeveloped, or you could say unspoilt.

Fab things to see 

Old towns – fantastic old cities with amazing architecture, palaces and temples – Hanoi, Hoi An, a Champa trading and fishing port, My Son also a Cham city, and Hue, the former Nguyen Imperial capital, all UNESCO world heritage sites.

Sapa – lush rice terraces and colourful hill tribes.

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Phong Nha-Ke Bang

 

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Kimboi Hot Springs

 

Natural Wonders – Ha Long Bay & 100’s of limestone islands and caves like the world’s biggest Son Doong & Phong Nha Caves in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. Great beaches and Kimboi hot springs.

Fab things to eat 

Traditionally heavily influenced by chinese cuisine, Vietnamese cuisine places great emphasis on balancing the 5 elements of spicy, sour, bitter, salty and sweet along with a foods heating or cooling properties. All the senses are considered, touch, sound and sight are important, not just how a dish tastes or smells. Vietnamese like to include 5 colours of ingredients in dishes too.

Dominated by rice and noodles, lots of soups and broths – especially the famous Pho,  tons of fresh vegetables and masses of fresh herbs, using little oil, Vietnamese food is very healthy, light and packed with flavour. (Think Vietnamese rice paper rolls.) Condiments are big, the iconic dipping sauce Nuoc Cham on every table. French legacy has left a passion for delicious french breads especially baguettes, but sweets are mostly asian in style.

I made a recipe by Luke Nguyen, from his SBS TV show, except he used wild Hmong black pig! But we found his recipe had too much fish sauce for us. We are used to fish sauce but we all agreed, especially hubby that it was way too strong. Have adapted the recipe to suit us, I hope you like it too. My son of course added heaps of Chiu Chow Chilli oil to it – he’s mad on that stuff! If you like hot – it’s the yummy roasted chilli paste common as a condiment with chinese food and takeaway.

http://www.sbs.com.au/food/program/luke-nguyens-vietnam

Grilled Vietnamese Pork Skewers with Sesame Salt                             (Serves 4) 

Ingredients

2 tbsp sesame seeds,    2tsp salt
500 g pork neck, or pork leg steaks finely sliced
4 spring onions, sliced finely
4 tbsp minced/sliced finely lemongrass/ 2 stalks peeled, use tender part only
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp oyster sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp honey
½ tsp fresh gr. black pepper
3 tbsp vegetable oil
12 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes

Instructions

Marinating time 1 hour – overnight

  1. Mix sesame with salt.
  2. Place pork strips, spring onion, lemongrass, fish sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, honey, pepper and oil in a mixing bowl and marinate as long as possible, preferably overnight.
  3. Thread the pork onto bamboo skewers and chargrill or pan fry (with a little extra oil) each side for 3 minutes.
  4. Serve with the sesame salt to dip.
  5. Serve with plain steamed rice, and stir-fried green vegetables or a Vietnamese style salad.

We were a bit divided on this dish, but overall gave it a 6/10 – because of the fish sauce.

Sorry no photo from me – used the one above from Luke Nguyens’ recipe on the SBS website  http://www.sbs.com.au/food/program/luke-nguyens-vietnam

What to make when it’s too hot to cook?

I think I was too hot and flustered that night to bother. We have had a few scorching days here in the Blue Mountains outside Sydney, Australia – that day I think it had been 42° C that’s 107.6 Fahrenheit! and was still in the high 30’s by 7pm. Really was too hot to cook, but I needed to get my cultural meal done for the week – see what I do for you out there!

What we often have when it’s very hot is another tasty Vietnamese speciality – rice paper rolls.  They are a great family dish as little or no cooking is involved, and everyone can help themselves and make their own rolls with whatever they like. It’s a fun and no fuss meal everyone enjoys – especially me the cook!

If you haven’t tried them, it’s so easy. Just lay out all the fillings, salad ingredients, noodles and condiments, have the rice sheets ready to soak on the spot, and let everyone do their thing. The only thing that is cooked is the prawns (and you can use cooked ones) and the rice vermicelli noodles which are just soaked briefly in boiling water. Apart from Bunny, we love prawns and so I like to make quick Chilli Garlic prawns to put in our rolls.

Quick Chilli Garlic Prawns  Serves 4

  • Mix 2 – 2½ dozen green (uncooked prawns, peeleed & de-headed) in 1 tb soy sauce, 1 tb peanut oil, 2 cloves garlic, crushed, 1 inch cube fresh ginger grated (optional) 1 tsp sesame oil, 6 sprigs fresh coriander, finely chopped, 1 dsp Sambal Oelek, (Indonesain chilli paste, could substitute with 1 tsp hot chilli flakes) , 1 dsp soft brown sugar
  • Marinate 15-30 minutes. Grill or panfry. Soooooooo good! hot or cold.

Local Mountains News Flash

For the best rice paper rolls in the Blue Mountains, and probably the best I’ve ever had anywhere, go to The Laughing Elephant, Station St in Wentworth Falls. This is a treasure trove of exotic asian ingredients, spices, curry pastes, condiments, rice, dried noodles, and hard to find fresh herbs, spices and vegetables like fresh turmeric, thai eggplants, fresh curry leaves  and galangal plus fresh rice and egg noodles too.

If you can’t find what you want, the very helpful staff will order it in for you. Best of all they make the most fantastic Vietnamese rice paper rolls fresh on the spot from the very best local ingredients – free-range chicken, free-range chinese BBQ pork, tofu and Australian prawns salad, fresh herbs and a yummy nutty dipping sauce!

Their other speciality is Banh Mi Thit, or Vietnamese filled rolls. Again these are delicious, made with a freshly baked mini baguette (from the German bakery next door) with that free-range chicken or BBQ pork, topped off with fresh mint, coriander and chilli, loads of salad, and spread with mayonnaise, BBQ paste and fish sauce. Wow – these are the best Banh Mi ever! If you are in the neighbourhood, do try them.

Notes for cooks

I use Australian metric measures , tablespoons and cups:

1 teaspoon = 5 ml,  1 dsp (dessertspoon) = 3 tsp, 1 tablespoon = 4tsp = 20 ml (NOT 15ml as in USA),  1 cup = 250 ml.

Kyrgyz rice by bunny

Week 10

KYRGYZSTAN  

This week I got Kyrgyzstan, I didn’t even know how to say it, great start!

Here’s some information about Kyrgyzstan: Located in Central Asia, it is a mountainous country that borders China on its northwestern side, its capital is Bishkek and spoken languages are Russian and Kyrgyz.

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So I looked it up a read up about it on Wikipedia and then searched up Kyrgyzstan cuisine and was thoroughly intrigued by its national dish, Beshbarkmak, (in Kyrgyz Beshbarmak means “Five Fingers” for it is eaten only with your hands). A traditional meal often eaten as part of a feast at a celebration. It is made from horse meat, boiled in its own broth for several hours and served with homemade noodles and chopped parsley and coriander.

It can also be made with mutton or beef and if you make it with mutton, it is traditional to place a boiled sheep’s head on the table in front of the most honoured guest, who then gets to cut the head in to pieces and hand them round the table. Yikes! We won’t be doing that!

When I read this I knew I wouldn’t be making the national dish or any dish involving horse for that matter. For one I couldn’t get it at any of my local shops actually probably couldn’t get it in the whole country!

So I turned my attention to some of the other popular dishes, a lot of skewered meats and dumplings and noodles. First of all I was looking for a dish i could buy all the ingredients for, so it limited my options, in the end I chose Paloo,  the Kyrgyz version of Pilaf or Pulao. Basically a rice dish cooked with spices and meat and vegetables. In Kyrgyzstan they add a lot of sliced carrots to the dish and only a few spices. The most interesting addition for me, was a whole unpeeled head of garlic buried in the dish while it was cooking, I didn’t have that much garlic so i went for just a couple of cloves. maybe i should have put it all in cos’ the dish was a bit boring.

The recipe sourced from http://www.kyrgyzchildrensfuture.org/kyrgyz-culture/kyrgyz-recipes/plov-2/

Paloo/Plov – Krygz Pilaf with lamb & carrot

 

Ingredients                                                  ( 6-8 servings)

800g meat –  lamb, or beef cut into medium pieces
1 big onion, finely chopped
3-4 big carrots, julienne cut
1-2 tomatoes, chopped
4 cloves garlic
2 cups uncooked rice (Basmati)
3.5 cups water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
salt
1 tbsp  ground cumin
pinch of saffron

Preparation

  1. Heat oil in a heavy bottomed, large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, reduce heat to medium and cook slowly until translucent, stirring occasionally.
  2. Increase heat to high heat. Carefully toss in all of the meat and cook, stirring, until all sides of the meat become pleasantly brown and stop sticking to the bottom.
  3. Add carrots and cook until tender, stirring occasionally. Then you can add chopped tomatoes and cook few minutes more.
  4. Pour in the water and let it boil for 5 min. Then add salt, cumin, saffron. The sauce should be salty with the expectation that the rice will absorb it.
  5. Pour the rice evenly over the meat, don’t mix. Water should cover the rice but not more than 1/2 inch. Let the water evaporate a little bit and then flatten the surface with a large slotted spoon.
  6. Place an unpeeled head of garlic in the middle of rice. Immediately cover the pot tightly and reduce the heat to low heat and steam the rice for 22 min.
  7. When the rice is tender turn the heat off but let it stand for 3-5 additional minutes, sprinkle with chopped parsley if wanted.

 

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Plov, Kyrgyzstan Rice Pullao

 

Scored 6/10