G’daaaaaaay maaaate!!

Wow!

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 Tm 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.

 

 

 

 

 

Cooooeeeee! Dinner in Australia is almost upon us

Lunch in Australia has become dinner in Australia because Liam has a swimming carnival at lunchtime. But that’s OK – it gives me more time to get organised.

Attached below is one of my all-time favourite takes on Australia. It is Douglas Adams’ (he of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fame) take on Australia. It’s an oldie but a goodie, but it is very well-written and makes me laugh every time I read it.

I’ve also attached the fact sheet, some of which is questionable. Are kangaroos and emus really on the coat of arms simply because they can’t walk backwards? That sounds a little odd.

Viv is bringing all the ingredients for the North Shore cocktail and, treasure that she is, has been practising so that she can be certain she’s got it right. And this will be our first international dinner at my new digs. Lauren and Will (and the kids, of course) can walk home. They’ll be able to sample as many North Shores as they want. Um, not the kids sampling North Shore cocktails – Lauren and Will sampling North Chore cocktails. Kids will be drinking apple juice.

Karma and Rob will not be able to have a simultaneous lunch in Australia with us this time – they are camping this weekend in the Brecon Beacons in Wales. Camping with a one-year old and a three-year old sounds horrendous, but I did it myself when I was young and energetic. We’ll have a North Shore for you, Karma and Rob!

I hope Elysia will be the official photographer again. Watch this space tomorrow for an update on dinner in Australia! And photos!

Australia_factsheet

Douglas Adams

Place-mat_Australia

 

 

 

Landing in Madagascar

Today has been a day of cooking and prep for tomorrow’s lunch in Madagascar.

I’m  not sure that all the recipes are going to be resounding successes. The varenga (shredded beef) is amazing, as is the coco crevettes (prawns in coconut sauce), but I’m not sure about the Malagache fillet of pork – the flavours seem at odds with each other. I don’t know if it is the powdered mustard (normally I would use my fave Milawa mustard) or the brandy.  I very rarely use alcohol in my cooking, and invariably end up deciding that it would have been much better on ice (the alcohol that is, not the food).

As I write this blog, I’m watching the bonbon coco steadfastly refuse to set. It is supposed to be coconut candy, but it looks like it wants to be coconut ice. I think it might be up to Coles in the morning to get some sweetened condensed milk to turn it into what it wants to be. Which, I’m sure, is coconut ice.

On the upside, I’m really looking forward to testing the cocktail I’ve chosen – Madagascar Sour. It is made of lime juice, rum, vanilla liqueur and vanilla syrup. I’ve tried so many places for vanilla syrup with no luck, so asked at my local café. What a brainwave that turned out to be! Brodie and Liss were more than happy to help me out, and I’ve come away with plenty of vanilla syrup to make plenty of cocktails. Thank you, Brodie. Thank you, Liss. Thank you Highside Café in Bayswater. If any readers of this blog are in or near Bayswater, call in and get the best iced coffee you’re gonna get in the eastern suburbs – here’s a link to their facebook page. Go there. Now.

All that is to do now is make the clafouti, which I’ll do tomorrow.

Oh, and test the cocktails.

I’ll do that now.

 

 

 

 

 

Portuguese delights

Melbourne, you have outdone yourself! The weather for our lunch in Portugal was perfect. Again! We put a gazebo up this time to make it a little more festive, and to shelter us from the warm sun. It’s the end of April and we need shelter from the sun. Oh, how we love you, Melbourne.

Thirteen of us enjoyed lunch in Portugal – my two daughters, two sons-in-law, all five grandchildren, and my nephew and his wife and son. OK, Liam and Lani had cocktail frankfurts and, at eight months old, Eden didn’t really try too much (although he did make a decent fist of a party pie). But hats off to Lili who, at two and a half, tries everything and enjoys most of it. Well done, Lili.

It could not possibly have happened without Rob’s amazing help in the kitchen, as we churned out caldo verde (kale soup that tastes much nicer than you think kale could), marinated mushrooms (the star dish of the day), spicy broad beans, pork and mussels, peri peri chicken, beef spiced with ginger and curry leaves, baked cod, and sardines. The marinated mushrooms were scrumptious, but the sardines were a little confronting for most of us. Karma and Rob, who have been to Portugal quite a few times, liked the sardines, but the look and smell of them did not endear them to the rest of us.

Dessert was a great hit. I’ve always loved Portuguese custard tarts, and they were yummy. The almond tart was delicious, and definitely a winner.

Our Portuguese tipple of choice was green wine, which was different but very, very nice.

Elysia wrote the quiz this time, which was absolutely hilarious with Will and Scott getting themselves right into the spirit of taking quizzes seriously. Or not, as the case may be. My favourite answer was by Haiden. Elysia asked when the oldest bookstore in the world was established. Haiden’s answer was “the good old days”. Love your work, H.

Liam turns nine in May, so he has chosen our May country. What other country would an eight-year-old choose but Madagascar. So Madagascar it is. And no, Lauren, we will not be having roasted lemur. I’m looking forward to making something with vanilla! No. Not lemur with vanilla sauce!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preparing for Portugal

Portugal flagAnd so, the planning for Portugal has begun.

We will go to Portugal for lunch on Sunday 23 April, which is two days before Karma, Rob, Lili and Eden go back to London after being DownUnder for five weeks. It’s REALLY scary how quickly five weeks can go.

Anyway, back to Portugal. The lovely Scott and even lovelier Lara are coming to Portugal with us, so it will be a fairly large family affair.

The Portugal factsheet and placemat are attached below. Did you know that:

  1. Portugal was the first colonial power to abolish slavery, which was  50 years before France, Spain, Britain or the US.
  2. Portuguese is the sixth most-spoken first language in the world, and is the official language of nine countries.
  3. The oldest bookstore in the world is in Lisbon.
  4. Portugal is the oldest country in Europe. It has had the same defined borders since 1139, making it the oldest nation-state in Europe.

And the food. mmmmmm! Grilled chorizo sausages, piri piri chicken (the Portuguese invented piri piri sauce!), grilled sardines and, of course, Portuguese custard tarts. Portuguese green wine is worth trying as well, apparently. Dan Murphy’s, here we come!

It’s going to be quite a crunch timewise, so I’m very glad that Rob will be here to help. The only word to describe Rob is the kitchen is amazing.

Tchau for now

Portugal_factsheet

Place-mat (Portugal)

 

 

 

 

Jamaican delights

Welcome to Jamaica and have a nice day. Yes, it’s an oldie. But it’s a goodie.

Eden_Liam
My two boys – Liam and Eden

On yet another day of perfect weather we went to Jamaica on our virtual tour of the world in 80 cuisines.

Rob did a fabulous job in the days beforehand while I was caught up at work, and marinated the chicken and cooked the goat curry, which was awesome, as was the jerk chicken (two recipes!). The pork chops with coconut rum and caramelized pineapple sauce were delicious, due largely to the fact that I used fresh pineapple rather than the sugar-loaded stuff you get in cans.

Karma and Rob liked the salt cod and tomato fritters, but they were too salty for my taste. And I had skipped over all the Jamaican rice and peas recipes, due to my life-long and never-to-waver intense dislike of peas. But, they’re not peas! They’re kidney beans!! This is more than a little confusing for someone who runs a mile at the thought of peas. But wow, the rice and peas were yum, yum, yum.

Karma had cooked a Jamaican ginger cake that used fresh ginger. It was delicious.

And the cocktails. Wow, the cocktails.

The coffee cocktail was everything perfect.  Jamaican rum, Kahlua, coffee and cream. Except that we were supposed to use hot coffee and whip the cream. We had the coffee cold, the cream not whipped, and we added ice-cream for extra creaminess. Perfect, perfect, perfect.

And when we were coffee-cocktailed out, we moved onto pina coladas. Thank you, Will – they were fantastic as well. And thanks for leaving the leftover Bacardi at my place – much appreciated!!!!

So with all that alcohol, we didn’t actually get to have any rum and coke. Which was, perhaps,  very un-Jamaican of us.

Thanks again to Elysia for taking the photos.

Lauren, Liam and Lani drew up the quiz for us, which, by tradition should only be drawn from the factsheet and place-mat, but we let Lani (who has just turned five) add her own question even though it was not particular to Jamaica. The question was “which is bigger out of cats and dogs”. That’s a great question, Lani!

It was so very wondrous to have my whole family together in one place. And we’ll all be together next month for Portugal. Rob and I are already hunting down Portuguese recipes. Any suggestions are welcome …

Place-mat (Jamaica).1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jamaica, here we come

Jamaican rumResearch and planning are well under way for our lunch in Jamaica. This is going to be very exciting because Karma, Rob, Lili and Eden will be here. The Aussie branch of the family is so excited – they’ll be here for five weeks, so we’ll have lots of opportunities for baby cuddles with Eden (who is eight months old) and playing with Lili, who is two and a half. Karma chose Jamaica for March, and Rob has chosen Portugal for April.

As is becoming the custom, when planning for our culinary virtual tours, my mind turned to what alcohol we should have. OK, it’s Jamaica. It’s a given. We’ll have rum. And off we go to Uncle Dan’s in Ringwood to check out their stocks. James was amazingly well versed about what was worth getting and what was not. I ended up with a bottle of Appleton Estate Signature blend rum. Given that we’ll have five adults at this lunch, I’m sure there will be another visit to Uncle Dan’s.

So, some interesting facts about Jamaica?

  • Jamaica is one of only two countries in the world that does not have red, blue or white in its flag. Do you know what the other country is?
  • There are hardly any snakes in Jamaica (mongoose were introduced to kill the rats in the cane fields, and after the mongoose took care of the rats, they turned their attention to the snakes). The ones that are there are not venomous (unlike Downunder!)
  • Ian Fleming wrote ten of his James Bond novels in Jamaica. He designed his dream home, had it built in Jamaica, and called it Goldeneye.
  • Jamaica was the first country in the world to impose economic sanctions against the apartheid regime of South Africa.
  • Jamaica has made significant contributions to two of the most important things that make the world go round – music and sport. We love you, Bob Marley. We love you, Usain Bolt.
  • The movie Cool runnings is not an accurate  depiction of Jamaica’s entry in the 1988 Winter Olympics. In fact, after reading the real story, the movie is rather cringe-worthy.

 

 

 

 

 

Moroccan delights

Oh, Morocco. How you amazed us with your flavours, your subtlety, your variety!

Our lunch in Morocco was wonderful. On another perfect Melbourne summer’s day, we decided to eat outside under the shade of the neighbour’s trees.

I was worried during the menu planning stage that it would all taste the same. Every savoury dish seemed to have dried cumin and coriander in it and fresh coriander and parsley on it (as a garnish). But I should have known that I could trust centuries of Moroccan cooks – every dish was deliciously different, and each complemented the other perfectly.

I would never order soup in a restaurant, but decided to make Harira (lamb and chickpea soup) as a mark of respect to Islam. According to my recipe book, harira is served to break the fast during Ramadan. It was the most hearty, delicious soup I have ever eaten, and will most certainly go into my list of favourite recipes. I suspect that harira is a bit like spag bol, in that there are many different variations – all of them good, but all of them subtly different. The version we tried could not be improved, I’m sure. It was simply wonderful.

Another recipe to keep is beyssara, which is broad bean dip. Except that it needs dried broad beans, and I left it far too late to source non-traditional foods like dried broad beans! I used canned butter beans instead, but the result was delicious. Maybe even better than homemade hommous.

And the filled savoury pancakes! Homemade pastry filled with savoury minced beef then rolled and fried. So very yummy!

The slow-roasted lamb with cumin was easily one of the best roast lamb dishes I’ve had. It was even better than the slow-roasted lamb shoulder at Cumulus Inc. And if you’ve ever had the slow-roasted lamb shoulder at Cumulus Inc, you will understand what a big call that is. It was impossible to stop picking at it.

And if you try nothing else from these pages, try this. Cut the skin and rind off a chunk of watermelon, cut the flesh into 2 cm cubes, put them into a bowl, sprinkle with rosewater, refrigerate for one hour, then sprinkle with chopped mint before serving. This is seriously pimped-up watermelon, and it was even more impossible to stop picking at than the lamb was. In fact, we didn’t stop picking at it, and managed to eat half a watermelon between us.

And the mint tea at the end of our feast settled our stomachs nicely, just as it is supposed to do.

It was so very hard to pick a favourite out of this menu.

I had said that Chile would be a hard act to to follow. Move over, Chile – Morocco is now the benchmark.

And next month, it’s off to Jamaica. The land of Bob Marley, Usain Bolt, jerk chicken, reggae music. Planning starts next week. Watch this space …

The descent into Morocco begins

Fasten your seatbelts and stow your tray tables away, we’re commencing our descent into Morocco!

My friend Viv (who is also Will’s mum) gave Lauren a Moroccan recipe book for Christmas, so I have dipped heavily into that for our lunch in Morocco. My first pass through gave me 18 recipes to try, and given that Liam and Lani are unlikely to try any of it and Elysia will be very hesitant, it leaves three big people to eat 18 lots of food. Ummm, that just ain’t gunna work.

So, after some heavy culling I got it down to 12, and will make half, and even quarter, quantities. My workmate, Jess, doesn’t think I understand the meaning of the word “cull”, but some very difficult decisions were made – it was hard work, Jess!

This is what our menu looks like:

  • Broad bean dip
  • Warm olives with lemon and herbs
  • Fried pastries with seafood
  • Filled savoury pancakes
  • Lamb and chickpea soup
  • Slow roasted lamb with cumin
  • Spicy prawns
  • Fried potato cakes
  • Beetroot and cumin salad
  • Tomato and preserved lemon salad
  • Watermelon with rosewater and mint
  • And, of course,  mint tea. It’s not a visit to Morocco without mint tea.

And maybe hot dogs for the kids, which I will serve on some of the blue platters I bought when I was in Morocco. Which will make them Moroccan hotdogs. Easy peasy!

Looking later through the menu, I realised that I had left off those two most Moroccan of foods – tagine and couscous. The tagine I have is rather big, so I might have to leave it out for this time. Although maybe I could serve some of the food in the tagine. And I bought some couscous – just in case we’re still hungry.

The Morocco fact sheet and place mat are attached. I wonder what questions Quizmaster Will will come up with.

morocco-factsheet

place-mat-morocco

OK. Now’s its off to the supermarket, then hitting the kitchen for lunch in Morocco on Sunday.

wadaeaan al’an

(my translate app tells me that that means “goodbye for now” but I guess it could mean anything)

 

 

 

 

 

Planning for a wonderful world of Chilean food

So, now it’s up to menu planning.

With thanks to the good folk at All recipes for their inspiration, we are going to sample the following at our Chilean lunch on Sunday:

  • Chapaleles
  • Pork empanadas
  • Avocado shrimp ceviche-estillo sarita
  • Gambas pil pil
  • Spanish rice
  • Leche asada
  • Torta de hojas
  • Pisco sour (lots of)
The bottle of pisco poses in front of the lemon tree
Pisco, flags and a lemon tree

I had been told by a work colleague (hello, Martin) that Pisco Sour is one of the best drinks on the planet, so we did a trial run yesterday. Oh my goodness. Martin has not set us wrong! The first mouthful made my face screw up (which, in all honesty, could be considered an improvement), but it was soooo refreshing. Especially on a hot summer evening. Who’d have thought that some pisco, lemon juice, sugar and ice could be so delicious?

Ingredients were not that hard to source. We got pisco from Uncle Dan’s (aka Dan Murphy). Hasa marina caused me some angst, but a visit to USA Foods in Moorabbin kind of fixed that – will harina de maiz be OK for the empanadas? Let’s hope so. Chicharrones also caused some angst until a chance visit to a local Chinese grocer  found fried pork rinds.

Cooking will begin in earnest on Saturday.

Joy made place-mats for lunch in Chile
Joy’s place-mat for lunch in Chile

And table decorations. Master Eight and Miss Four have made Chile flag picks, and I have designed place mats. Now to finish off the factsheet for the quiz, with the disclaimer that I am only going to pull facts off the internet as I find them – I am not going to verify any of them. Especially the quirky ones.

A closer inspection of the pisco label reveals that it is 40.5% proof. Holy moly. No wonder we loved it!

And now I’m off to prepare another Pisco Sour.