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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Jerk chicken from The Bahamas packs a punch!

WEEK 21- The Bahamas 

Quick – what do you think of when you think of The Bahamas? Sunbathing on superb white sandy beaches, gently lapped by an impossibly blue, blue sea,  lined with palm trees? then you’d be right, The Bahamas is the original tropical island paradise, in fact one of the 700 islands is called Paradise.

Aerial view of Atlantis, AQUAVENTURE, The Cove and The Reef

Aerial view of Atlantis Resort

Where is it and a bit of history

Located in the Atlantic, north of Cuba and east of Florida Cays, The Bahamas is a sprawling group of islands and cays located on a massive coral reef system. The Bahamas was where Christopher Columbus made landfall in the new world in 1492, probably on San Salvador. It became a British colony in 1718, who worked hard to eliminate its unsavoury reputation from piracy on the high seas and such infamous buccaneers as Blackbeard. Later it became a dumping ground for slaves and those descendants make up 90% of the population today.

The Bahamas

The Bahamas

The Bahamas became an independent country in 1973 while still retaining its Commonwealth membership. Tourism and finance are it’s two main sources of income. Nassau the capital is a buzzing bustling place of cruise-ship stopovers, dubious off-shore banking, big-time duty-free shopping and crazy cabs called jitney’s.

What to see and do

The Bahamas is all about that fabulous water, with sun-bathing, swimming and all water sports at the top of the list along with cruising, shopping and partying on with sunset drinks at beach side shacks. There are some gracious pastel Georgian style old government buildings in Nassau and , a couple of really fascinating museums like the pirate museum and is right next door to the incredible Atlantis Paradise resort and water park.

Pirate Museum Nassau

Pirate Museum Nassau

This a huge themed water park spread over 41 acres and features a transparent water slide down through a shark infested tank! Awesome! All the resorts towering high-rise stuck on tiny sandy atolls are a bizarre sight themselves. Top of the list of must see is the  truly spectacular Thunderball Grotto (from the James Bond Film of the same name) the eerie Andros Blue Holes and the Blue Lagoon.

Blue Hole

Andros Islands Blue hole

Bahamian Cuisine

The food of The Bahamas reflects it’s location with an emphasis on its beautiful fresh seafood and coral reef fish, the conch in many different forms such as ceviche (raw seafood or fish ‘cooked in citrus juice) , escabeche (fish cooked lightly first then pickled), fritters, chowder or salads – is the national dish. Typical tropical crops such as coconut, taro, yams and sweet potato are traditionally grown, along with tomatoes and celery. Pidgeon peas, rice and peas are staples.

fruits

Tropical fruits

Popular flavourings obviously include the native chilli, allspice, cinnamon along with  fresh coriander, rum, native limes and garlic. Many varieties of exotic tropical fruits are used in both sweet and savoury dishes as well as many drinks. Mangoes, pineapple, guava, pawpaw, bananas, soursop and sapodilla and native limes.

 

 Chicken, pork and goat are the favoured meats and sometimes iguana!

Rum is king here, including an unusual coconut infused variety, cocktails with tropical fruits are big, a native limeade and locally brewed beer plus a liqueur – Nassau Royale made by Bicardi , a sweet rum base spiced with coconut and vanilla.

 

 JERK CHICKEN                         Serves – 4-6

 

Ingredients

  • I lime, juice & finely grated rind
  • 8 chicken legs or thigh fillets
  • 2 tsp McCormicks Cajun spice mix ( see below)
  • 1 hot red chilli, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp g allspice
  • 1 tsp coarsely ground pepper
  • 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3 tb dark brown sugar
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 spring onions /scallions, chopped
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 tb fresh ginger, chopped
  • 1 tb soy sauce
  • 2 tsp chicken stock/bouillon powder
  • Salt

Instructions

  1. Pat chicken dry. Rub with lime juice and 2 teaspoons creole spice
  2. Heat oil in a frypan/sauté pan over medium heat, add onion, chilli, & garlic, sauté about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add nutmeg, brown sugar, allspice, cinnamon and continue stirring until the sugar melts and the mixture starts to clump together.
  4. Remove from the heat and let it cool
  5. Place in a food processor or blender, then add rest of ingredients. Pulse for about 30 seconds until well blended
  6. Cover the chicken with jerk marinate, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight. Use gloves to rub mix into chicken.
  7. Preheat oven to 220°C/ 425°F. Drain chicken, reserve the marinade, place on a wire rack if possible,  over a lined baking tray, or on lined tray in a single layer.
  8. Bake chicken until cooked through and skin is crispy, about 30-50 minutes, turn chicken half way through.
  9. Simmer the remaining marinade for about 7 minutes till thickened. Serve with chicken.

Cajun or creole spice mix, if you can’t find this blend, you can make a simple version of your own –

  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tsp fresh gr, black pepper
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tb + 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp salt

Mix all together. Will keep well.

Rice n Beans 

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup oil
  • 2 garlic clove crushed
  • ½ medium onion, diced
  • 2 teaspoons creole spice
  • 2 cups uncooked long grain/jasmine rice
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme or ½ tsp dried thyme
  • 400 ml can  (1¾ cups) coconut milk
  • 400 gm can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chicken stock powder/bouillon (optional)
  • 1 whole red chilli (optional)
  • 1 teaspoons paprika

Instructions

  1. Rinse rice three times & drain.
  2. Heat oil in a medium  saucepan, add onions, garlic, thyme, and hot chilli, sauté for a minute.
  3. Stir in rice for 1 minute, add beans, then add rest of ingredients with 1 cup of water.
  4. Bring to a boil reduce heat, and cover. Simmer on low 12 minutes until tender.
  5. Don’t take lid off to check until 12 minutes. surface should be pocked if cooked. If too wet,  leave with lid on 10 minutes to dry out. If too dry and rice still hard, add little bit of extra water, cover and cook 5 more minutes on low.
  6. Stir gently to serve. Can be cooked half an hour ahead and will stay hot covered on stove top.

Jerk Chicken & Rice'n Beans

This tasty rice was yummy enough to enjoy on its own, but with the delicious jerk chicken was really terrific. We all enjoyed this meal, the chicken was particularly good and we would happily have this dish again. In future I’d make sure to marinate extra chicken , be great in a salad, on a sandwich, or tossed with fried rice.  Score 8.5/10

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

 

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

A Swiss cheese experiment, two breads and a surprise from Somalia

                   Week 4 Switzerland and Georgia 

SWITZERLAND – CHEESE FONDUE & POTATO ROSTI

‘My daughter was excited to have picked Switzerland as her country this week, and despite the recommendations of both parents, Bunny was eager to make a Cheese Fondue. What is the appeal of fondue? Why do people think it sounds so yummy? An iconic dinner party dish from the 70’s,  I always loved those cute little fondue sets with their wooden fork handles each a different colour. I never bought a set though, because having had cheese fondue once, and disliked it – I never wanted to have one again! And yes, we have had it out at a Swiss restaurant and we still didn’t like it at all.

The Mystery of the Fondue

Let’s face it, you can only be fond of fondue …….if you’re Swiss. It’s the kind of very plain subsistence (one could say peasant) type food that is born out of harsh necessity. Developed during long, cold winters in Switzerland when the food started to run out, cheese fondue is an exemplary example of making a warm and filling dish out of scraps, in this case  – hardened old cheese, stale bread and a splash of wine.

I’m sure fondue is dear to so many Swiss hearts because they grew up with it. And like so many dishes you grow up with,  it’s comfort food. It becomes very nostalgic and isn’t just a dish, but your childhood and all the happy memories associated with it.  For those of us non-Swiss peoples, it remains a culinary  siren,  sounds so alluring but in the end you wish you hadn’t.

Not all Recipes are Created Equal – A Sad Fact but True

Undeterred Bunny went to enormous lengths to obtain the correct cheeses to make her fondue, and used vast quantities of bacon making the accompanying Potato Rosti. Using a recipe from the internet, Bunny spent a very long time making this dish. Now my daughter is only a young teenager, and while she loves cooking, is still only learning. One lesson she finds very hard to accept is that just because a recipe is online or even published in a book, doesn’t mean it’s a good recipe or that it will work! Also being methodical, Bunny likes to follow a recipe to the letter, which is normally good practice –  but she lacks the experience to tell when a recipe is badly written, and needs to be adjusted.

Sadly this was the case in our Swiss experiment, the fondue made with vast amounts of expensive cheese was really ghastly – so strong and so overly cheesy that we could hardly eat it.  I gamely ploughed on eating because she had gone to so much trouble- but Hubby and son gave up quickly. And the Potato & Bacon Rosti, exactly following the recipe,  was really greasy and had way too much bacon – and I love bacon! What a shame! All that hard work, not to mention the cost of the ingredients, wasted on a meal we could hardly eat.

How to Choose Good Recipes

My advice to all you cooks out there, be careful in choosing your recipes. Use well-known cookbooks that have been properly tested, preferably three times. On the Internet, use recipes from sources such as magazine websites, TV shows or food companies where the recipes have been professionally developed and tasted. Use your own common sense, analyse the recipe – does it sound yummy? are the ingredients in proportion? does the method make sense? If in doubt, make small quantities as a test batch. And finally don’t stop experimenting – just be prepared for a few failures!

I found this recipe on another lovely local site – http://www.georgianrecipes.net. One thing about this around the world cooking thing we are doing, is that only a few years ago, before the Internet ( yes there was life before the Internet kids!! Hard as that may be to believe! ) this would have been almost impossible to do. It amazes me that no matter how remote and little known some of these countries are (half the people I asked had never heard of a country called Georgia, or Comoros or knew where Somalia was )  there is a web-site dedicated to the food and culture of these places! OMG the world is getting smaller all the time.

GEORGIA – KUBDARI – MEAT FILLED BREAD                             (Makes 4) 

 

OK, so Georgia. Hands up those who knew it’s part of the former Soviet Union?  Tbilisi is the capital city, and the whole country has had waves of foreign conquerors from the Romans, Persians, Ottomans, Mongols and finally the Russian Empire.  The infamous Joseph Stalin was born in Georgia and it was once called Colchis and Iberia. Colchis is famed as the place at the end of the world where Jason and his Argonauts travelled to steal the Golden Fleece.

Now it’s more well known for the Krubera Cave – the deepest in the world,  over 600 glaciers in the Caucasus Mountains, many hot springs and 4 World Heritage sites including the medieval monastery complex at Gelati. And of course food – Georgians take their food very seriously and have a special traditional Feast called a Supra, which is led by a Toastmaster.

This national dish, Kubdari is a delicious meat-filled pasty, very much like a Cornish Pasty. Ideal to take on picnics, it’s robust enough to stand up to carrying around and I imagine it made a hearty meal for hungry peasants toiling in the fields all day.

Georgia

Ingredients (filling): 500 grams of pork, 500 grams  beef, 1 medium sized onion, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 third tsp of ground caraway, 1 quarter tsp of finely chopped dill, 1 level tsp of ground coriander, 1/2 tsp of ground fenugreek, 1 tsp of paprika and salt to taste

Ingredients (dough): 900 grams of flour, 400 ml of warm water, 1 level tbs of yeast, 1 tsp of sugar, 1 tsp of salt, 1 egg (optional) and 200 grams of all-purpose flour for dusting and kneading. Butter for glazing.

Preparation (filling): Finely cube the beef and pork and add to a mixing bowl.

Finely chop the onion and garlic and add to the mixing bowl, together with 1 third tsp of powdered caraway, 1 quarter tsp of powdered dill, 1 level tsp of dried coriander, 1/2 tsp of blue fenugreek, 1 tsp of red pepper, and salt (amount dependent upon individual preference).

Use your hands to thoroughly mix and squash the ingredients. This helps to ensure that the pasty is juicy and the spices blend with the meat.

Preparation (dough): Kubdari requires a robust pastry.  To make it, add 400 ml of water (heated to 35 C) to a bowl and stir in the yeast.

Add 900 grams of flour to a mixing bowl and make a depression in the flour. Add the yeast water and a raw egg (optional). If you want the pastry to have a golden colour, add 1 tsp of sugar. The dough should be formed into a soft ball.

Cover the bowl with cling film and leave in a warm place for 2 hours for the dough to rise. Once the dough has risen, add 150 grams of flour and firmly knead the dough.

Cut the dough into 4 pieces. Shape into balls and the cover with cling film and leave for 10 minutes.

Roll out each ball  into large round, add 1/4 of the filling. Gather the dough together, pinching the top to seal it

Carefully roll the filled dough into a circular shape that is less than 20 cm diameter. Don’t flatten it too much. Bake on a flour dusted baking tray at 200 C until the dough becomes golden brown. The meat will cook inside in its own juices.

Serving: Brush each Kubdari with butter and serve hot.

With these pasties,  I served Georgian style red cabbage and buttered boiled potatoes with fresh herbs. My family all love pasties and pastries and this savoury stuffed Georgian bread was a hit. Simple but tasty, filling and moreish, definitely would make it again as it was quite easy to do and well worth it.

 

Week 5 Somalia and Belize

I was a little dismayed to have selected Somalia – wasn’t this an arid  war-torn and famine ridden country of little resources? What on earth do they eat in Somalia, that is, when there is any food available to eat? I imagined this could be another one of those countries where there is NO CUISINE just Food (if they’re lucky.)

The capital city is Mogadishu and Somalia is often thought to be the location of the fabled Land of Punt written about by ancient Egyptians. Famed for it’s gold, ebony and ivory, wild animals and the highly prized frankincense and myrrh so treasured by the Egyptians, it had a ‘golden age’ in the Middle Ages.

Map of Somalia

 

SOMALIA – LAMB SURBIYAAN with SOMALI FLATBREAD    (Serves 4)

I was greatly surprised by this traditional dish from Somalia, not that it was so delicious, but that it was so similar to the more familiar Biryani’s or Pilafs from India or the Middle-East. Given where Somalia is located, in the Horn of Africa just across the Gulf of Aden from Yemen, I guess that shouldn’t have been unexpected.

The spicing was more subtle than the rich Biryani’s I’m used to, but it was equally delicious. I enjoyed making these Somali dishes, the soft spongy pancake –  like bread, Lahooh,  was fun to make and eat and the shredded vegetables were sort of like a cooked coleslaw. I found all these recipes on a very informative site called http://www.mysomalifood.com.  We ranked this meal highly and put it on our – ‘Would make again’ list.

Ingredients

1/4 cup oil                                                1 onion, sliced,

1/3 cup raisins                                         1 teaspoon saffron threads

1/4 cup boiling water                              2 cups basmati rice

2 1/2 cups water                                       1 kg lamb leg or shoulder steak, cubed

1 small onion, chopped                            2 medium tomatoes, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped                           2 tablespoons coriander/cilantro leaves chopped

2 tsp coriander powder                           2 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp paprika                                               1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

5 cardamom pods cracked                       2 cinnamon sticks

2 tablespoons lemon juice                       1 tsp salt, black pepper

Method

  1. Heat 2 tb. oil over medium heat, add the onion and a pinch of salt, fry until golden brown. Add the raisins and cook until they puff up. Drain on kitchen paper.
  2. In a small bowl, soak the saffron in boiling water for 10-15minutes.

  3. Rinse the rice,  place in medium saucepan with the water & pinch salt. Bring to boil & cover, turn down heat & simmer on low 4 minutes till half cooked. Cool.
  4. Heat rest of oil in a large saute pan or frypan, saute the lamb until brown. Add onions saute until brown, then add the spices.  Stir 1 minute.
  5. Add lemon juice, garlic, tomatoes, and coriander. Mix this together then add 1/2 cup of water & cook for 3 minutes until fragrant.  Bring to the boil then let it simmer while covered on a low-medium heat for 15-20 min.
  6. Add the par-boiled rice,  flatten top, pour over the saffron & soaking liquid. Top with the caramelised onion and raisins.
  7. Cover, bring to boil again, reduce heat to low and simmer until  – take care NOT to BURN the bottom as all the liquid will be absorbed.  The rice should be fluffy and the meat tender.
Somalia

Somalia

 

LAHOOH – QUICK SOMALI FLATBREAD

1 cup plain flour                                   1/2 cup wholemeal flour

1/2 cup cornflour                                 2 cups milk

3 tsp baking powder                            1 tb sugar

1 egg                                                        1/2 tsp salt

  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend to a smooth batter, add little water if necessary.
  2. Heat a heavy frypan on medium,  then heat a few drops of oil,  pour in 1/4 cup of batter starting from centre and s spiralling out to evenly cover base.
  3. Cook till golden brown, can cover pancake to set top if you like.
  4. Keep warm on a covered plate while making the rest. Serve warm.

Traditionally these are eaten in Somalia for breakfast with honey, and I can see this would be delicious. They remind me of a Dosa, also a delicious pancake type flatbread.

BELIZE

My daughter Bunny had picked Belize out of the box, another country we knew little about, other than it was in Central America. It’s famous for the Blue Hole – a fantastic natural  wonder made famous by Jacques Cousteau, the second biggest Coral Reef in the world and it’s stunning biodiversity. Over 60% forest, Belize is home to rich array of flora and fauna, including a Jaguar reserve.

Once the epicentre of the Mayan world, it has their spectacular ruins. Formally a British colony, it’s still a Constitutional Monarchy, and English is the state language.

After a bit of research she came up with a typical Belize meal that sounded nice, a stewed chicken, rice and beans dish. Unfortunately we weren’t able to get the Recado or spiced Annatto paste that gives this dish it’s distinctive rich red colour and probably a lot more flavour. So it ended up OK, but nothing to write home about. I think it was a bit bland for us, we all like big strong flavours and this pleasant, mild dish just didn’t do it for us.

Oh well,  onward – next week another country, and another chance to try something new and exciting!

 

 

 

Continue reading

16 Countries down – 180 to go!

ad_choices_en ad_choices_i   Hello World! My daughter Bunny has posted some info about our cooking round the world experiences so far. I thought I’d add a few extra details of my own.

WEEK 1  Nepal & Romania

I drew Nepal and Bunny picked Romania out of the box. We have a week to research the cuisine of each selected country and make a dish or dishes that sound interesting and reflect that nation’s food. Now bear in mind that there are lots of countries in the world that while they have national dishes and certain specialities, don’t really have a cuisine as such. They have food and cooking but not a cuisine – there is a difference.

Momos’ are pretty much a national dish of Nepal, (like gyoza or baozi) and very delicious these steamed mince filled dumplings were, served with Tomato Achar, a spicy Indian style relish.  Easy to make but involving a few steps, we thought Momos’ were delicious, well worth the effort. We could have eaten a lot more of them – after-all who doesn’t love dumplings? The spicy Achar tomato relish really gave them an extra punch too.

The recipe I used was from taste.com.au and used chicken mince,  I wonder if Buffalo would be more authentic? This is what restaurant ones look like, mine weren’t so nicely shaped, or uniform.

20079_l

  • 400g chicken mince
  • 1 small brown onion, finely chopped
  • 2 shallots, ends trimmed, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 300g (2 cups) plain flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) water
  • Olive oil, to grease
  • 40g butter

Tomato achar

  • Olive oil, to grease
  • 4 ripe tomatoes
  • 2 long fresh red chillies, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seed oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • Step 1

    To make the tomato achar, preheat oven to 200°C. Brush a baking tray with olive oil to lightly grease. Place the tomatoes on the tray. Roast in oven for 45 minutes or until golden and the skin loosens. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Use your fingers to remove the skins and discard. Place the tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor. Add the chilli and process until smooth.

  • Step 2

    Heat mustard seed oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes or until soft. Add the coriander and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds or until aromatic. Add the tomato mixture. Reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until the mixture thickens slightly. Season with salt and pepper.

  • Step 3

    To make the momos, combine the mince, onion, shallot, coriander, cumin, garlic, ginger and nutmeg in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.

  • Step 4

    Place the flour and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the centre. Pour in the water. Use a wooden spoon in a cutting motion to mix until almost combined, adding extra water if necessary. Use your hands to bring the dough together in the bowl. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes or until smooth. Place in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 20 minutes to rest.

  • Step 5

    Brush a large baking tray with olive oil to lightly grease. Roll 1 tablespoonful of dough into a ball. Use the palm of your hand to flatten. Use a rolling pin to roll out to an 8cm-diameter disc. Holding the dough disc in the palm of your hand, place 1 tablespoonful of mince mixture in the centre. Bring the dough together to enclose the filling, pleating and pinching the edges to seal. Place on the prepared tray and cover with a damp tea towel. Repeat with the remaining dough and mince mixture to make 24 momos.

  • Step 6

    Add enough water to a wok to reach a depth of 5cm. Bring to the boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium. Brush a large bamboo steamer with olive oil to lightly grease. Place one-third of the momos in the steamer and cover. Place over the wok and cook, covered, for 12 minutes or until cooked through. Transfer to a large plate. Repeat, in 2 more batches, with remaining momos.

  • Step 7

    Heat half the butter in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Cook half the momos for 2 minutes or until bases are crisp. Repeat with remaining butter and momos. Serve with tomato achar.

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls  Bunny had to do Romania and chose to make some Stuffed Cabbage Rolls so beloved of Eastern European countries. My husband has always said he loathed cabbage rolls so I have never made them, despite having an old-fashioned fondness for them myself.  However they were made in winter, and a hearty tasty meal they made . Served with buttery mashed potato, it was yummy enough to win over my fussy husband who declared they were nicer than he expected. High praise indeed. I will make them again next winter.

I also like stuffed capsicum, anyone else out there like them too? In fact I’m quite fond of most stuffed vegetables, eggplant has to be my favourite – I love eggplant!!

Week 2 Japan & Belarus

I came up with another Asian country, this time Japan, and Bunny came up with Belarus, another Eastern European country.  Now I love Asian food, especially the big spicy flavours of South-East Asia such as Thai, Indian, Malaysia and Indonesian. So Japan with it’s limited flavour palette has the least appeal for me. I know that it’s very fashionable,  I know the presentation is often exquisite, but mostly that leaves me cold. I don’t want my food to look like someone handled it and fussed over it with a fine-toothed comb and tweezers. I like my food to look natural and less fussy. I always used to say that raw fish and cold rice does nothing for me. And even though I now like sushi and eat it quite often,  I still only like the sushi with cooked toppings such as  grilled salmon or  vegetable tempura.

Chicken Yakitori was surprisingly  tasty, served with plain rice and steamed leafy greens., I’d still rather have satay sticks though!

Belorussian Kolduny – Potato Pancakes  stuffed with Minced Beef, Bunny made these and I thought the recipe sounded really strange, I was sure the weird potato pancake mix was too watery and would never hold together. But they stayed together and were really interesting. Quite different from anything we’d had before but very nice. This is what cultural eating is all about – discovering new things that you would never normally try and enjoying it! We got this recipe at  http://www.foodnetwork.com  a great multi-cultural eating site we have discovered, check it out guys. Do try to make these too – it’s fun!

kolduny

Ingredients
2 1/2 ounces ground chicken
2 ounces ground beef
2 ounces yellow onion, cut in small pieces
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
14 ounces fresh potato, peeled and cut into small cubes
4 round tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 beaten egg
2 ounces vegetable oil
Directions
Mix the chicken, beef, onions, 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Form 3 thin patties about 4 1/2 inches in diameter.

Add the potatoes and remaining 1 ounce onions to a grinder and grind everything until the batter is smooth. Pour the batter in a bowl and add the flour, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and the egg. Mix everything thoroughly. Form the batter into round thin pancakes.

Heat the oil in a pan. Place a potato pancake in the pan, topped with a meat patty and covered by more potato batter, covering all the meat. Fry the pancake on one side, about 1 minute. Flip it to the other side with a spatula, holding the top of the not-fried side with the fork. Make the fire smaller and cover the pan. Fry for 5 to 7 minutes, turning the pancakes over from time to time.

Week 3 Crete & The Comoros

OK so I got Crete, fabled isle of old, think of fabulous Minoan temples, gorgeous frescos, bull-dancing,  the minotaur and the Labyrinth supposedly designed by the Daedalus (father of Icarus for those of you who know your Greek mythology)  Not to mention the Mycenaeans, Romans, Byzantines, Venetians and Ottomans who all coveted this,  the biggest island in the Mediterranean. Heraklion the capital city is named after the hero Hercules.

So many appealing dishes to choose from: I chose Cretan Moussaka – and it was totally delicious!

Recipe from a great site: http://www.eatcrete.com which promotes all the lovely food of Crete. Recommend you try this recipe, really yummy. Much nicer than it looks in this photo , but trust me it tasted great! We halved the quantities in the recipe as there are only 4 of us in my family and the two men, (my husband & my  13 year old son) don’t like eggplant.

Don’t be tempted to leave out the cinnamon, it gives the moussaka the real authentic flavour, and a haunting aroma.

Mimsey's Cretan Moussakas

Mimsey’s Cretan Moussakas

8 servingsIngredients1 kilo ground beef and pork (or beet and lamb)
1 kilo potatoes
1 1/2 kilos eggplant or zucchini
1 cup grated cheese
1 Tbs. butter
1 onion
4 large ripe tomatoes
olive oil for frying
salt
pepper
cumin
dash of ground cinnamon
dry breadcrumbsPreparation

In a deep saucepan place the brown meat and onion in olive oil. Stir in the cinnamon, tomato, salt, cumin, and pepper; let simmer over low heat until liquid has been absorbed. Remove from heat. Add 1/3 cheese and 3-4 tablespoons breadcrumbs. Stir well.
  Clean potatoes and trim eggplants. Cut into thin slices (about 1 cm thick) and fry. Drain on kitchen paper.  
Lightly butter the large baking dish; sprinkle with breadcrumbs.
  Layer the potatoes on the bottom of the pan; sprinkle with a little grated cheese. Spread meat mixture over potatoes. Layer eggplant slices over meat. Pour the bechamel sauce over eggplant. Sprinkle with a little grated cheese and breadcrumbs, then drizzle with melted butter. Bake moussaka at 180°C for about one hour. Let cool for 15-20 minutes, then cut into squares and serve.

 Poor Bunny was a bit stuck with Comoros, where the heck are they? she quizzed, having never heard of them! And I wasn’t sure exactly where they were, guessing somewhere near Africa- my geography loving husband scored here. A small group of islands off the coast of East Africa, facing Mozambique. But research came up with a whole bunch of recipes, mostly influenced by Arab traders I’d say, who arrived in the 10th century trading slaves, ivory and other riches out of Africa. See  http://www.healthy-life.narod.ru

She lost track what she made, but I think it was a Comoran Chicken Curry served on Island Rice. Or in the local patois of French – Poulet de Comores and Riz de Iles. Sadly we have no photo, but I remember it was a fairly mild curry, pleasant but not really great. You’ll have to make it yourselves to decide.

Got to go, next time, Switzerland, Georgia, Somalia and Belize!

Happy world eating from Mimsey.