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!