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.

Place-mat_Nepal

Factsheet_Nepal

 

 

 

 

 

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 ūüôā

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 …

Factsheet_Egypt

Place-mat_Egypt

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greek delights

Wow!

Saganaki

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

YassouGreece-flag

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.

Greece_factsheet

Place-mat_Greece

 

 

 

 

 

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 Рvegemite sandwiches, party pies, fairy bread, chicken parma Рwas 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 Рit 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 caf√©. 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 Caf√© 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)