Samoan coconut buns

Week 21 – Samoa

Two main islands and eight small islets house pristine beaches with luscious green rainforests coming right down to the sand and in certain places spectacular rocky cliffs. With hundreds of scenic hiking trails you can traverse the country side enjoying waterfalls, secret grottos and wildlife galore. A strong proud culture with many traditions such as their ‘ava ceremony and siva (dancing) live here, welcome to Samoa.

Traditional ‘ava ceremony

Samoa is located in the Polynesian region of the Pacific Ocean it is halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii. The main islands are Upolu and Savai’i with Upolu home to 3/4 of the country’s population. All of the islands of Samoa have been produced by volcanoes, with Savai’i home to 3 active volcanoes (the last eruption was in the early 1900’s).

Samoa’s capital city and largest city is Apia which is situated on a natural harbour on the island of Upolu. The city’s clock tower which is also a war memorial is cited as the center of the city. Scattered there is still some early, wooden, colonial buildings most notably the old courthouse amongst other new infrastructure. Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson who wrote famous books such as Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde resided on the outskirts of town for his last four years of life and he was buried on top of the close mountain Mt. Vaea. The city’s harbour was also the location of a naval standoff in 1889. Seven ships from Germany, the US, and Britain refused to leave the harbor while a typhoon was approaching, all of the ships ended up sinking except one.

Historic old courthouse originally built in 1906 in Historism and Art Deco style.

Historic old courthouse originally built in 1906 in Historism and Art Deco style.

Samoan Cuisine

Samoa’s cuisine very heavily based on fresh produce normally catch or collected that day. Produce such as taro, bananas, papaya, coconut (freshly made coconut cream or milk is an ingredient in an multitude of recipes), fish and other seafood are the basis of most dishes. Most Samoan kitchens are outside and use a umu (earth oven of hot stones) to cook all food. No oil is used in any of their cooking as they wrap their meat or seafood in banana leaves and cook it straight over the hot stones. Some of the most loved dishes include palusami (young taro leaves baked in coconut cream) and oka, (raw fish in coconut cream).

Typical meal

Typical meal

What I Made

I decided to go sweet and chose Panipopo’s (sweet coconut buns) these buns are sold in bakeries all over Samoa. I sourced my recipe from → www.samoafood.com check it out for amazing Samoan recipes!

Recipe

Serves: 12

Ingredients

For Bread Dough:

  • 1 package (2 & ¼ teaspoon) of active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 ½ – 3 cups all purpose flour or bread flour

For Coconut Sauce:

  • ½ can (200ml) canned or freah coconut milk
  • 200ml water
  • ½ sugar

 Method

  1. Put yeast and water in a large bowl and cover, leave for 10 minutes,  your yeast should be frothy at the end of the time.
  2. Add the rest of the dough ingredients and mix to form a soft dough, this can be done with a wooden spoon or any type of automatic mixer.
  3. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 to 20 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  4. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and leave to double in size, about 1 hour depending on your kitchen’s temperature.
  5. Punch down the dough and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Shape into buns and place in an ungreased baking tin. Cover and leave to rise until almost doubled.
  6. While the buns are rising preheat oven  to 190°C/ 375°F. Make your coconut sauce by combing all ingredients and mixing well.
  7. When buns have doubled in size, pour the sauce over them. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until nicely golden. (wait half an hour till cutting them, as it gives time for the sauce to thicken)

The buns were not the most amazing thing I’ve ever had but they sweet and gooey so they hit the spot. I think it was it bread that let them down a bit, the bread seemed a little to savoury for the sweet sauce, I’d suggest finding a sweet bread recipe that you know good and swapping that one for this one. They were nice with a large cup of black tea and a good book. Score 6/10.

My coconut buns!

My coconut buns!

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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Coconut fish parcels grilled in banana leaves

Marshall Islands marshall is stamp

 

Week 13  – Coconut Fish in Banana Leaves

Where are they? Somewhere in the Pacific? was the general response. Yes indeed the Marshall Islands are located in the middle of the vast North Pacific Ocean, north of the equator, and due north ( a long way) of Vanuatu. They are everybody’s  idea of the picture perfect tropical island. Very isolated,  the group of 29 atolls and 5 lone islands is split into the Ratak Chain to the east, poetically called the Sunrise lands and Ralik Chain to the west meaning the Sunset islands . These are formed by two groups of a strung out straggling collection of long low coral atolls or some volcano tops barely rising out of the sea.

In fact since at their highest point the Marshall Islands are only 10 metres above sea-level!! they are in great danger of disappearing altogether. Much to the dismay of the local inhabitants facing rising sea levels. These islands are so small, they only just managed to squeeze an airstrip on one.

There is no fresh water supply, islanders are still pretty much dependent on rain water. Native vegetation is limited to lush tropical island palms that can colonise islands, and wildlife to what ever flew there – so birds, bats, insects but of course fantastic marine life.

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Inhabited by sea-faring Melanesians navigating using ingenious stick charts over 2,000 years ago, the islands came to the attention of Europe with the Spanish laying first claim, then sold to Germany in 1884. They received their name from British explorer John Marshall (1788). During WW2 the islands were invaded by the Japanese after which the USA conquered them.

They remained under US ‘protection” until independence in 1965. I qualify protection because the US government used the islands from 1946 to 1958 to test Nuclear bombs, 67 in total! Including the infamous Bikini Atoll and the testing of the first Hydrogen  bomb in the 1952 which blew Elugelab Atoll off the face of the earth! “Yes Karwowski – Kaboom!”

Marshall Island

Still mostly sustained by a big American presence, there is very little export or industry, some fishing, copra, some handicrafts and although tourism is increasing, it’s low because of it’s isolation .The world’s largest shark sanctuary was established there in 2011. But it’s an idyllic get away for those who like things laid back, and peaceful. Attractions revolve around the gorgeous ocean, diving, snorkelling, fishing or surfing and lolling around on pristine  white beaches overhung by coconut palms is about it.

The Food

Marshall Islands are another on of those countries where I would venture to say that traditionally they don’t have a cuisine – they have food. And much of that nowadays is imported from the USA. Sadly this means a great deal of processed food is consumed, high in salt, sugar and fat. Tinned meat such as Spam is hugely popular as little meat was traditionally available.

Like so many other Pacific Islands where soil quality is very poor, (see post on Kiribati) locally grown crops are scarce and mainly confined to a few starchy roots such as Sweet Potato, sago, cassava and tomatoes along with tropical island fruits like coconut, melons, and breadfruit.

Marshallese food makes the most of the fantastic local fish and seafood, and of course now most fresh food items are available in modern supermarkets- but apparently not always – maybe only after the supply ship has been. Traditional cooking methods are grilling, roasting over fires and ‘Hungi’ style (where food is cooked in a pit on hot rocks buried for many hours.)

Coconut is King

Here spicing and chillies are not common, recipes I found were very plain and simple, the natural goodness of the produce shines through. Since coconut is so vital in the Marshall Islands (not just for food) I paired it with fish, wrapped in banana leaves and topped with red onion and tomatoes. A side dish is sweet potatoes fried and tossed with brown sugar, red onions and some sambal – cos’ we like spicy food.

A simple salad of papaya seemed fairly authentic plus plain steamed rice, all served on banana leaves which gave us the tropical island spirit. Hubby loved the sweet potato which he normally won’t even eat – so a big win there! The fish parcels were delicious, I must confess to adding a bit of a fresh Malaysian style spice paste (or rempah) to jazz them up, but the combination of fish with fresh coconut was terrific. I loved it so much I gave it a 9/10, and hubby 8.5/10 a very high score from Mr Picky!

I hope you will make this as it’s really yummy and the banana wrapping can be substituted with baking paper and foil if you need. I have wild bananas growing down the back of the garden so I can just pick some leaves anytime. Do try to get them if you can as they do impart a special fragrance to the parcels as well as looking exotic.

Chargrilled Coconut Fish Parcels wrapped in Banana Leaves    serves 4

Ingredients for Rempah – spice paste

  • 1 fresh coconut
  • 1 fresh red chilli, chopped
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, peeled & cut into short lengths
  • salt & fresh ground white pepper
  • 4 firm white fish steaks/fillets e.g. snapper, ling, barramundi
  • 1 large tomato, sliced
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 2 large fresh banana leaves/ silicon paper & aluminium foil
  • toothpicks
  • Little oil for leaves

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Methods 

To open a fresh coconut: DON’T PUT IT IN THE OVEN! I know a lot of recipes where this is advised – this is so unnecessary and will only ruin the beautiful flavour of your fresh coconut.  It’s really simple, first pierce the eyes with a sharp knife point, let the coconut water drain through a sieve into a bowl.

(i) Cup the coconut in the palm of one hand, with the eyes at the top of your hand. With the back of a heavy chefs knife or a cleaver firmly hit the middle of the coconut. Go around the circumference of the coconut, hitting firmly. You will hear the shell cracking as you go – once it’s 3/4 done, just pull the rest apart. There you have it – so easy!

(ii) Use a small thick blade to prise the flesh out, it comes out quite easily in large chunks. Peel the brown skin off with a potato peeler, then rinse the coconut flesh and it’s now ready to use.

To make fresh coconut cream and milk: (i) Grate the chunks of fresh coconut in a food processor. Reserve 1/3 for Rempah. Place grated coconut in a blender with 1 cup of near boiling water. Blend on high until smooth. Let sit for 10 minutes.

(ii)  Pour into a wide jug or bowl lined with a clean damp tea towel or cheesecloth.  Tightly wring out the cloth, extracting as much liquid as possible. Put coconut back into blender and repeat process with another cup of water.

(iii) Leave the extract to sit 15 minutes, The thick cream will rise to the top, carefully spoon this off. What’s left is your delicious fresh coconut milk! OMG so much better than even the best of the tinned stuff.

(iv) The coconut solids can still be used, in place of desiccated coconut in cakes and desserts, or in curries etc. Can be toasted golden for a lovely topping to sprinkle on pancakes, cereal or yogurt.

  1. To make Rempah, blend chilli, lemongrass, chopped red onion, reserved grated coconut, salt and pepper together into a smooth paste with a little coconut milk to help blend.
  2. Cut banana leaves into 4 large squares, cutting either side of centre rib. Wash and carefully dip into boiling water to soften. Dry. Oil the centre of each leaf, place fish fillet on top, then top with spice paste.
  3. Lay slices of  red onion along fillet and top with sliced tomato. Spoon 1-2 TB of fresh coconut cream over fish.
  4. Fold leaf over to form a parcel, fold ends over, secure with toothpicks.
  5. Either grill, BBQ  or place on metal rack and cook base of parcels over a gas flame ( to get charred flavour) Turn carefully to cook other side on grill or finish cooking in oven if cooking over flame.  5-10 minutes depending on thickness of fillet.
  6. To serve, place each one on dinner plate and let diner open own parcel- ah the aroma! Will take you to the South Seas!

Overall Marshall Islands scored well, an average 8½ /10,  (7/10 from the kids, as they’re not so keen on fish).

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Sticky Sweet Potato        serves 4 

  • 1 large yellow sweet potato
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1 dsp sambal oelek (malaysian chilli paste) Subs: 1/2 tsp chilli flakes & 1 tb water
  • 1 tb. brown sugar
  • 1 dsp kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) Subs: normal soy sauce & add 1 tsp. extra brown sugar
  • 1 dsp vegetable oil
  1. Cut potato into finger thick slices (about 1.5cm)  Heat oil in large frypan on medium heat,  fry potato on both sides until golden brown.
  2. Add onion and fry till softened. Add chilli, sugar and soy sauce, toss well. Fry, adding a little water if necessary  3-5 minutes on low, until potato is tender.

Papaya Salad       serves 4 

  • 1/2 medium red papaya
  • 10 cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 red chilli (optional)
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • Salt & pepper
  1. Peel, seed and cube papaya and avocado. Cut tomatoes in half and thinly slice chilli.
  2. Put in a small bowl, season with salt & pepper, squeeze over lime juice and toss lightly.

Oceans apart – salt & pepper chicken to die for! and a fishy flop.

Week 6 – Kiribati and Taiwan

 

KIRIBATI

Well Kiribati was a bit of a stumper when I fished it out of the box – where is it exactly? I knew it was somewhere in the Pacific, but couldn’t be specific! Which that reminds me of a old song my mum used to sing…..

“I joined the navy to see the world, and what did I see – I saw the sea! Well the Pacific wasn’t terrific and the Atlantic ‘s not what it’s cracked up to be!”

Anyway, Kiribati is a group of very remote coral atolls and one island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, which may be better known as the Gilbert & Ellice Islands. They were a British colony until independence in 1979. One of the group, is (claimed to be) the largest atoll in the world, and Caroline Island renamed Millennium Island is the first place in the world to get the new day or a new year, hence the name change in 2000.

Because the islands are formed from coral, soil is scarce and very poor quality, few crops are able to be cultivated except coconuts, bananas and root vegetables such as taro and yams. Apart from abundant fish and seafood, and some tropical fruits like papaya most food has to be imported including the now staple rice.

Kiribati is one of the very poorest countries in the world, with virtually no resources and due to it’s remoteness, tourism is low. But it does offer world class fishing, surfing and diving in pristine waters. Interestingly Robbie Louis Stevenson stayed here for two months in 1889, when the islands were ruled by the self appointed tyrant king Tem Binoka, later Stevenson wrote about him in “In the South Seas”.

So the local food : quite hard to track down anything that sounded appealing. I looked at several different sites, including the helpful & informative  –  www.globaltableadventure.com ,  www.196flavors.com and q-zine.blogspot.com.au/ – you go girl!

Cooking is pretty basic, a popular method is wrapping foods in leaves and cooking with heated rocks in the ground like a Maori Hangi. Flavours are simple and ingredients limited, so in the end we cobbled together a few recipes that represented Kiribati to us.

FISH & SWEET POTATO CURRY & STICKY YAMS  (serves 4)

Fish Curry

600gm firm fish fillets

1 onion

1 x 400ml can coconut milk

1 sweet potato

1 long red chilli

2tsp curry powder (tinned)

1 tsp tumeric

1 tb oil

salt & pepper

  1. Cut peeled sweet potato into cubes and parboil.
  2. Slice the onion & chilli, heat oil in medium frypan, and saute until golden. Add the curry powder & turmeric and stir 1 minute.
  3. Cut fish into chunks, add to pan, stir around then add coconut milk and sweet potato. Simmer 5-10 minutes until fish is cooked and potato is tender.  Serve with plain rice.

Sticky Yams

These red yams, not to be confused with sweet potatoes – I boiled till tender, then glazed with a mixture of honey and butter. Weren’t that good, probably should have roasted the yams which is how my mum used to do them in New Zealand (and I loved them). The vegetables were simply steamed and a mix of commonly used veggies on other Pacific islands: cabbage, carrots, and green beans.

Sad to say this Kiribati meal ranked only 2/10, our lowest score ever.  The fish curry barring the sweet potato which had an unpleasant texture and no flavour – was bland and palatable at best and the yams – not good. Ah well it’s all a learning experience. Better luck next time !

Kiribati

Kiribati

 

TAIWAN 

Wow! What a contrast – this dish was sensational! My daughter made this and we all absolutely loved it, couldn’t get enough of this salty peppery moist and tasty chicken. We really recommend this recipe and it will become a family favourite for us.

Guessing you all know where Taiwan is, or you should! Just across the Taiwan Strait from China it was named Ilha Formosa or ‘beautiful island’ by the Portuguese, and had the Dutch East India Company and the Spanish set up trading posts there. Super quick modernisation means the now industrially advanced Taiwan boasts the 19th largest economy in the world.

Still much of the interior of this hilly island remains undeveloped and forested. It looks like a great place to visit with tons of stuff to see and do.  Taiwan is rich in food resources and the diversity in cooking shows the different cultural influences. Fresh produce especially the abundant seafood,  and clean light flavours that allow the natural goodness to shine, is key in Taiwanese cuisine.

To make this we combined two great recipes from rasamalaysia.com/taiwanese-salt-and-pepper-chicken/2/ and www.foodrepublic.com

TAIWANESE SALT AND PEPPER CHICKEN     (serves 4) 

Ingredients

2 large chicken breast, cut into bite-size cubes
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1 cup cornstarch mixed with 1/2 tsp Chinese 5 spice powder
2 cups oil for deep-frying

Marinade

4 scallions/spring onions sliced finely
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tb ginger, grated
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tb rice wine/dry sherry
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tb dark soy sauce
1/2 tsp chicken stock/bouillon
1/2 tsp Chinese 5 spice powder

Salt & Pepper Mix

  1. Mix together –     1 tsp sea salt        1 tsp fresh ground black pepper         1/2 tsp chinese 5 spice

Method

1. Mix marinade ingredients in a big bowl, stir well. Add the chicken pieces and marinate for 30 min. – 2 hours.

2. Heat the oil in a wok for deep-frying. Coat the chicken with the cornstarch evenly. Deep-fry the chicken until golden brown, remove from the oil and set aside.

3. Pour the oil out and add the basil leaves and stir a few times before adding the chicken back into the wok. Remove from the wok, add the salt mix and toss well with the chicken. Serve immediately.

All this fantastic dish needed was some plain rice and some stir-fried green vegetables, we used baby bok choy and snow peas. We all could have eaten a lot more Taiwanese Salt & Pepper Chicken and rated it top score- 10/10!  You have to try it too – you’ll love it!

Taiwan

Taiwan