So, where to start?

looking-through_05Having decided to do a virtual culinary tour of the world, the first question was “where to start”.

By a very technical process, which involved catching a 50 cm inflatable world globe and choosing the country that was under my right index finger, Chile is the first country in our virtual tour.

Apart from tasting the food of the country, I also want this to be a learning experience for my grandchildren. The Aussie ones are 14, 8 and 4, and the English ones are 2 and under 1. Most of the time only the Aussie grandies will be part of this adventure, but the English ones will be in Melbourne in March and April (they might not learn much, but they’ll taste a lot).

So, apart from researching the food, I will also make up fact sheets and we can have a little quiz at the end of our meal.

Chile sounds amazing. I didn’t know that it had the driest desert in the world (the Atacama Desert). Or that it has the oldest mummies in the world. Or that it is the world’s fifth largest exporter of wine.  Or that evidence of potato consumption goes back 14,000 years. Master 8-years-old was very pleased to learn that soccer is the most popular sport, and Miss 4-years-old was happy to learn that the Chilean flag has the same colours as the Australian flag (which are not all that unique as far as flag colours go, but hey-ho).

The next step is to research what food we will cook and eat for our lunch on Sunday 29 January. Pisco sour will definitely be on the menu. Any other suggestions are welcome.

Adios for now

Guten Tag, Germany

Browsing the internet for German recipes, I began to think that it might be a bit crazy to eat lots of wonderful German comfort food in an Australian summer. But then I came across a recipe for Black Forest cake. I am not waiting six months to bake and eat a Black Forest cake!

The menu planning has been going really well.

I found a recipe for soft pretzels, and got to wondering how to shape them. Here’s a great You Tube link that shows how. They are now made, shaped and frozen, waiting to be cooked on the day.

The Black Forest cake is also baked and in the freezer, waiting to be assembled for devouration on 28 January (I think I made up a word there!).

I’ve also bottled a jar of sauerkraut, which worries me more than a little. I have never, ever had any success with preserving (not once, ever), so do not have a lot of faith in what we might end up with. I normally don’t cave into worrying too much about what might go wrong but have bought a pouch of sauerkraut, just in case.

Last weekend I did a trial run of kasespatzle. I remember watching MasterChef one night and the judges were amazed that one of the contestants made spatzle the traditional way, by cutting bits of dough off the board straight into the boiling water. Another visit to You Tube showed me how to make it with a special maker, which I had no intention of buying for this one occasion. More digging around found a clip that used a slotted spoon, so I gave that a try last weekend. So, so, so very yummy! That recipe is a keeper, for sure!

Other food on the menu is Bratkartoffeln (pan-fried potatoes), rouladen (which looks a bit like beef olives) and sauerbraten (which is a pot roast). And I’m about to head off to the shops to do some hunting and gathering of bratwurst sausages.

My shopping list includes 27 pieces of bacon. All that bacon! How can this not be the most delicious feast ever?

The drinks for Germany have been the easiest so far, but that might be because I am not responsible for any of them. Viv and Bill are bringing a couple of bottles of Henkel Trocken, which is one of the nicest of the drinks we are not allowed to call champagne anymore. And Lauren and Will are bringing a slab of Bitburger beer. Nice work, Lauren!

Do you know it’s not punishable by law to escape from prison in Germany? It’s in the fact sheet below. I read it on the internet so it must be true 😉






Japanese delights

Oh. my. God. Japan, how wonderful you are! It doesn’t matter what language we say it in, you are magnificent!!

Japan has definitely given us the best lunch yet. We have had some great food so far (Yassou, Greece. Ssalamu lekum, Morocco) but, Japan, you have set the bar seriously high.

We didn’t really talk about which was the hero dish today – there was not an unpopular dish. The teriyaki oysters were very popular with those who eat oysters, the beef with miso mash was delicious and the nasu dengaku was scrumptious (thank you, Karma, for the recipe!). The Japanese pancakes were great, and the toffee apple roll with black sesame ice-cream was yummy. Who could not love black sesame ice-cream?

The Sapporo beer went down well, but not nearly as well as the Japanese Gumboots. This is a seriously nice cocktail, and we enjoyed quite a few. The sake was not to anyone’s liking. We all tried it, but most of it went down the sink.

Jenny brought some lovely Japanese paper, and Elysia made an origami crane. We meant to make some more after our meal, but didn’t get around to it.

Will won the quiz. Again! This is getting more than a little boring.

A decision to eat inside was justified. The sky cleared up a couple of times but not enough to think about eating outside. We would have been very, very wet.

Thanks Elysia, again, for being the official photographer.

Sadly for now, it is Sayonara, Japan (and thanks for the memories!), and Guten Tag, Germany.






Japan flag

Konnichiwa, Japan. I can’t wait to meet you!

It seems so long since we have had an international lunch, and I suppose it is. We were all so busy in November that we couldn’t find a free Sunday, so here we are having lunch in Japan in December.

Our menu comprises prawn and vegetable tempura, smoked salmon and cream cheese rolls, oysters with teriyaki dressing, Japanese pancakes, nasu dengaku, beef with miso mash, black sesame ice-cream and a toffee apple roll. It all sounds yum!

I’m also looking forward to enjoying our Japanese tipples. The internet tells me that Sapporo beer is better than Asahi, so I’ve got some Sapporo in. And how could I resist buying sake while I was at Uncle Dan’s?

I am really, really looking forward to the cocktail. What else would we have but Japanese Gumboots. This is a drink I used to have years ago with a friend of mine (hello, Peter!). Cointreau, Midori and lemon juice. Could there be a better combination? It is officially called a Japanese Slipper but, really! Who wants a slipper-size drink when they can have a gumboot-size drink? Japanese Gumboots, here we come!!!

Getting the factsheet together has been interesting. If we can blindly believe everything we read on the internet (we can trust the internet, can’t we?), Japan has more McDonalds restaurants than any country outside the US. This cannot be a good thing. And the birth rate is so low that there are more adult diapers sold than baby diapers. This also cannot be a good thing. Japan comprises 6,852 islands and, unsurprisingly, sumo wrestling is the national sport, although the most popular spectator sport is baseball. The fact sheet and place mat are attached below.

Our guests this time will be friends of mine from way back. Jenny is a retired school teacher who has been to Japan quite a few times, and Robert is just an all-round nice guy. Lauren, Will and the kids will be there, as will Jan. Lauren is going to write the quiz. Jan, we have to crunch Will somehow!

I have to admit to being a little worried about the weather. I have finally bought an outdoor setting, and Melbourne has just recorded its longest spring period of days with temperatures above 30 degrees (13, I think). I was worried it would be too hot to be outside. But the Weather Bureau announced today that Melbourne can expect three times the average December rain to fall on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, along with “unprecedented” thunderstorms. Ya gotta love Melbourne’s weather!!

Watch this space for my next report. We’ll either be very hot or very wet, or maybe both.

But we will have lots of food, lots of fun, and lots of Japanese Gumboots. We might need those gumboots!









Nepali delights


Lunch in Nepal was another grand affair although, with hindsight, I don’t think I chose the menu wisely. With only a couple of exceptions, the ingredients and cooking methods were quite similar so there didn’t seem to be very much variety.

The standout dish was the mutton curry, except that I couldn’t source mutton in a hurry (why the heck am I always in a hurry?), so it was lamb curry. But it was still very nice, and definitely worth trying again. If only I knew a butcher who could get mutton for me!

The momo (dumplings) were lovely, but I must make a note to myself to not make them the day before and leave them in the fridge overnight. They tasted OK, but looked quite messy.

And the cocktail. Yes, the cocktail lived up to all of our fears. Coconut and curry and lemon and gin was never going to be a good idea. It just goes to show that you should always listen to those little warning bells.

At this stage, it sounds like lunch in Nepal was an exercise in what not to do. But that is a very unfair judgement on our meal. The Chicken Thukpa (soup) was delicious, as was the mango chutney, and the gwaramari (bread) was a big hit. And, if I was perfectly honest, the mango chutney was the nicest I’ve had. The Kheer (vermicelli pudding) has great potential. I’ll definitely make it again, but with more sugar and perhaps some vanilla.

We invited Liam’s two mates (who are twins) and their parents along, so with Jan, we had four kids and six adults. As a variation of frog in a pond, I did a frog on a mountain for the kids.

Will won the quiz. Truly, Jan, we’re going to have to think of a way to sabotage Will so that he doesn’t win so easily so often!

Photos are below. Elysia wasn’t able to make it, so Pete took the photos. Pete – they are awesome photos, especially for a nine-year-old. Thank you so much for taking them!

Namaste, Nepal, and Konnichiwa, Japan. I’m very excited about going to Japan!!


Hitting the heights – we’re off to Nepal!

It’s October. It’s Nepal.

Nepal – land of the Ghurka, birthplace of the Buddha, and home of Mount Everest, the world’s only non-quadrilateral flag and truly amazing food.

I have eaten at quite a few Nepalese restaurants in Melbourne, mainly in Lygon Street, and the food has always been almost to die for.

We’ll have lunch in Nepal on 22 October. The usual suspects will be there – Jan and Lauren and Will and the kids, and we’ll be joined by Jacqui and Rich and their twin boys, who are Liam’s best mates. Its going to be a noisy lunch, this one!

My research tells me that dal bhat is compsulory Nepali food, so obviously we have to give that a try. And there’s chicken thukpa, momo (can’t wait to try the momo!!!), mutton curry, cucumber pickle salad, to name just a few. So much good food to sample!

Alcohol is not a big part of Nepali life, so I’ve had to resort to a cocktail named for Nepal – the Everest cocktail. Like Cleopatra’s kiss for lunch in Egypt, the ingredients sound more than a little contradictory. But hey ho, we’ll give it a shot. Curry and cream of coconut together sound OK, and lemon and gin together sound OK. But curry and coconut and lemon and gin all together sound weird.

Nonetheless, it promises to be yet another afternoon of great food, great company and, um, interesting cocktails.

Thank you, Lauren, for choosing Nepal!

The fact sheet and place mat are attached below. Watch this space for more reports.








Egyptian delights

Omigosh!! Did I truly write that Egyptian food did not sound very exciting? It was amazing.

The dukkah was surely the best dukkah I’ve ever tasted, and I’ll certainly keep that recipe for future use. I had made Paul Hollywood’s Maneesh before, and can highly recommend it. Like most bread recipes, the result belies the simplicity of the method. It’s a very impressive bread for very little effort

Koshari, fattoush, lentil soup, falafel cakes, spiced prawns. The list of yummy foods just goes on and on. Although the “Egyptian roasted chicken and potatoes” was delicious, it was flavoured with Italian herbs. I’m not convinced that putting “Egyptian” at the beginning makes it authentic Egyptian. It could have been Spanish or Moroccan roasted chicken and potatoes. But anyway – very nice it was.

The Om Ali was seriously delicious. It’s a dessert made of nuts and fruit, torn up baked puff pastry, milk and cream. Heavenly!

My work-friend, Jess, had given me a recipe for a unicorn cheesecake, and it’s been sitting on my fridge yelling “make me, make me” for a while now. And every time Lani comes to my place she says “make it, make it”. So Lani and I made it on Friday, and we launched ourselves into it today. Maybe we could have called it an Egyptian unicorn cheesecake.

The first round of Cleopatra’s kiss was too spicy, but the second was milder and a little easier on the palate. Similar or opposite to the real thing, I wonder?

It was a perfect spring day in Melbourne – the first dry day we’ve had in what seems like ages, so it was lovely sitting outside, sipping Cleopatra’s many kisses and chatting about all sorts of things.

Some photos of the day are included below. And, yes, that’s an Egyptian party pie that Liam is eating 🙂

Thanks to Jan and Leonie for your company today – you made it a lovely group, and we had a lot of fun!

Thanks to Jan for doing the quiz. Thanks to Leonie for being gentle and not trouncing us at it. And thanks to Elysia for the photos. Again!

Our next country is Nepal. Love Nepalese food!! Watch this space …


Fasten your seat belts for the descent into Egypt

Egypt flagHello Egypt. Land of the pyramids, the Nile and the oh-so-scrumptious Omar Sharif. Love Omar Sharif!!!

We’ve had to play around with dates for our lunch in Egypt. The last Sunday is 24 September, but Lauren and Will are away that weekend, so we’ll have lunch in Egypt this coming Sunday – 17 September.

I have to admit to being, at first glance, a little disappointed about Egyptian cuisine. I’ve never been there, so didn’t know what to expect, but there is nothing out of the ordinary as far as ingredients are concerned. Probably the most exotic ingredient I need to source is sumac, which is, I suspect, fairly easily obtained at the local Coles or Woolies.

But to put it into perspective, the ingredients for Morocco and Greece were not difficult to obtain, and they were absolutely amazing meals. Fingers crossed for Egypt!

Our Egyptian feast will comprise dukkah (of course), maneesh (Paul Hollywood’s recipe), lentil soup, koshari, spiced prawns (I hope the Australian prawns have got over their white-spot epidemic, or whatever it was they they had), fattoush, falafel cakes, om ali and rose leaves. Actually, when I say those words quickly and all in a row, it does sound quite exotic, doesn’t it?

Contrary to my usual style, I have not researched what our accompanying drinks should be. The Dan Murphy’s web site tells me that they have Egyptian wine, but it’s close to $100 a bottle. Um. No thanks. Maybe there are some Cleopatra or pyramid cocktails out there somewhere.

My friend Jan is coming, as is Leonie, who is a school-friend mum of Lauren’s. Leonie is a very smart operator, and has arranged for her husband and daughter to be somewhere else on Sunday afternoon, so she can enjoy an Egyptian feast solo. She can also walk home from my place. It’s an all-round win-win.

The Egyptian factsheet and place mat are attached. I think it’s my turn to do the quiz this time. They say there’s no rest for the wicked …









Greek delights



Just how good is Greek food? It’s got to be the best in the world. Reflecting back on today’s feast, we are so lucky in this country to be exposed to so many different cuisines. But Greek rules as far as I’m concerned.

Greeks have lived in Melbourne for a long time, and Greek food is so much a part of Melbourne life. We’ve had a lot of time to decide our favourite dishes, and have lots of shops that specialise in Greek food. I could eat Greek food for a long time before I got sick of it.

Will brought his spit around to cook chicken and lamb gyros. I don’t know where he got the meat from, but it was delicious, and was probably the dish of the day.

The saganaki was yummy – I’m so glad I bought kefalotyri cheese from a Greek deli rather than just buying haloumi at the local supermarket. Helen’s baklava was sooooo delicious, and the spanakopita was right up there as well.

The dolmades turned out really well, and were much easier to make than I feared they would be. They were so easy, in fact, that I know I have eaten my last dolmade from the the deli at the supermarket – they just don’t compare.

Browsing through Uncle Dan’s shelves yesterday, I found a bottle of Kokino Kokineli, which the label says is “Greek red wine”. At $13.50 for 1.5 litres, I was a tad worried about how bad it might be but it was surprisingly quaffable, and was exactly the right choice for our food. I’d also bought a bottle of Muscat de Limnos, which remained unopened, mainly because of the extreme quaffability of the red (I might have made up a word there).

It’s Lili’s birthday on Tuesday so even though she was tucked up in her bed in London, we had a cake and sang happy birthday to her. The cake was an experiment that didn’t work very well – it was supposed to look like the Greek flag when it was cut, but it just looked like mixed up layers of blue and white ice-cream. In retrospect there were probably many easier ways to do this – a log cake for example – but, hey, an ice-cream cake still tastes like ice-cream, whatever it looks like.

Thanks again to Elysia, who took all the photos. And thanks to Bec (and Nick) for the salad, Jan for the lamb koftas, Helen for the baklava and Lauren and Will for being a constant help. And another thanks to Elysia for painting Lani’s face!

And so it’s antio sas to Greece, and marhaban to Egypt.






It’s all Greek to me


Planning is well under way for lunch in Greece this coming Sunday 27 August. The hardest part so far has been what not to include on the menu – there is so much yummy Greek food to be had.

I went to Oakleigh yesterday, which is a mecca of Melbourne-Greek food, and got some kefalotyri cheese for the saganki and vine leaves for the dolmades. Making dolmades from scratch is a little intimidating, but I guess that’s the whole point of this trip around the world.

We’re also having lamb koftas (courtesy of Jan), baklava (courtesy of Helen), chicken gyros (courtesy of Will) and Greek salad (courtesy of Nick). I’m expecting great things of that Greek salad, given that Nick has Greek heritage.

We’ll also have moussaka, spanakopita, skordalia and roast lamb.

The fact sheet is attached, as is the place mat. Will is the quiz master this time, so here’s hoping he doesn’t make Elysia cry again.

And it’s Lili’s third birthday on Tuesday 29 August, so we might have to have a birthday cake, even if she won’t be there to blow the candles out.








G’daaaaaaay maaaate!!


Dinner in Australia was fairly awesome. Not so much because it was the first time we had an international meal in my new digs. Not so much because the catering was by far the easiest yet. Not so much because much of the food was so familiar. But I think because much of the food was so very unfamiliar.

The easy stuff – vegemite sandwiches, party pies, fairy bread, chicken parma – was all yummy, and very popular with the kids. And while I understand the argument that chickens and lambs are cute,  and that wallabies, kangaroos and emus are exactly the same, it still took a while to get my head around eating our native fauna. But there was no need for any angst – it was a great experience.

The wallaby sang choi bau was one of the dishes of the day, and while it might seem odd to serve wallaby in such a Chinese way, it was a deliberate and sincere nod to the contribution the Chinese have made to our cuisine. The Asian influence in our cooking is absolutely worth celebrating. The wallaby sang choi bau was fusion at its best and, being a Kylie Kwong recipe, we all know that she knows what she’s talking about when it comes to fusion cooking.

I felt the same about making a lamington tiramisu. Tiramisu might be typically Italian, but this was a great way of celebrating the wonderful contribution that Italy has made to our cuisine. Greece is the other nation that has made a solid, and oh so delicious, contribution to our cuisine. And guess which country we’re going to next month???? Can’t wait for August in Greece!!!! Thank you, Elysia, for choosing Greece:)

Anyway. Back DownUnder. The kangaroo kofta with beetroot and feta was lovely, but I have to admit to not being quite brave enough to try the emu kebabs.

The other dish of the day was the Tim Tam tart. But really, how could Tim Tams, chocolate and fresh raspberries NOT be the dish of the day. It’s hard to believe that seven ingredients could be soooooo delicious.

We loved the Douglas Adams guide to Australia. Do read it if you have a chance – it’s very funny.

And, speaking of funny, the joke of the day, which has nothing to do with Australia, was from Will – What is the difference between a good joke and a bad joke timing. Yes, it is typed correctly – you read it all in a string. I think it’s funny, anyway.

And thanks again to Elysia for the excellent photos. And thanks to Viv for the North Shore cocktails. And well done to Liam for some excellent swimming PBs.

And, Lani, please don’t talk so much next time. You drive us nuts!!! Truly, she did not stop talking the whole time. Did not stop! Once!

So, now it’s See ya layda to Straya and Yasou to Greece.