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.