Planning for lunch DownUnder

This has turned out to be much more interesting that I thought it would be. Yes, we’ll have vegemite sandwiches and fairy bread (both on white bread, of course), and party pies to keep the kids happy, but there are so many great things to try.

While browsing through some of my Gourmet Traveller magazines this morning, I found a Kylie Kwong recipe for Wallaby sang choi bau. Gotta try that one!!!

But with kangaroo and emu already on the menu, and now wallaby, sourcing good quality game meats could be problematical. Until I found Yarra Valley Game Meats. Ken was fabulous, and I came away with exactly what I needed.

So, apart from the kids’s food, the protein for our lunch will be:

  • emu kebabs
  • kangaroo kofta with warrigal greens (not too sure where to get those babies!), beetroot and fetta
  • wallaby sang choi bau
  • chicken parmigiana – Rob tells me that only Aussies do chicken parma, so this is a great option for people like me who are very unadventurous about trying non-standard protein (I am still more than a tad traumatised by being tricked into eating my pet duck when I was a child).

Being the good Aussies that we are we really should have lamingtons but,  not being much of a cake lover, lamingtons do not inspire me very much. But lamingtons in a tiramisu sound yum. So we’ll have lamington tiramisu with our tim tam and raspberry tarts.

And perhaps we could finish off with some good King Island cheeses.

And booze. What type of booze will we have? Much as John Elliot wanted to foster-ise the world, and the ads are still fairly common in the UK, I do not know anyone who drinks Fosters. Bundy rum is an obvious choice, but it is a very strong flavour.

I think that the feature Aussie tipple for the day will be a North Shore cocktail. We had these on the cruise. We had a  lot of them, actually. Assuming that it is named after Sydney’s north shore, it is a good Aussie choice. They comprise blue curacao, bacardi, coconut milk and pineapple juice. And they’re very blue. And very easy to drink.

And it’s off to Uncle Dan’s we go.

 

 

 

 

 

Lunch in Australia

 

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Oh my oh my, it is ages since I’ve had a chance to add to this blog!

During June, I moved house and had the most relaxing two weeks away with Lauren and the kids, and there was just no time for our next international lunch.

But for now, it’s back to normality, whatever “normal” is.

And we’ll do lunch in Australia in July. At first glance lunch in Australia seems more than a little unexotic, but I promised Lani she could choose a country, and Australia is a country, so lunch in Australia it is.

Lani is looking forward to vegemite sandwiches and fairy bread but, hey, we can do better than that in the land DownUnder!

Sunday 30 July will see us enjoying modern Australian cuisine. I’ll have a go at emu kebabs and kangaroo kofta, and I have found a recipe for Tim Tam tarts with raspberries. My god, how good does that sound! Tim Tams and raspberries is a match made in heaven!

Deep in the recesses of my pantry I have some pepperberries that I bought in Milawa, and I recall the Masterchef judges going into raptures about a beef and pepperberry pie a couple of seasons ago. I might have to look that one up as well.

There will not be any damper, there will not be any burnt sausages on the barbeque and there will be no drowning everything in tomato sauce.

So, off to the planning board I go, with a promise to be a more regular correspondent!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Madagascan delights

Wow. The Madagascans certainly know about good food!Madagascar table

Our, quite large, lunch was full of yummy food. I fear the I let the varenga (shredded beef) dry out too much, but it was still worth a sample. This is one recipe that I’ll definitely do another time. The clafouti was a bit rubbery, and next time I think I would make it with self-raising flour rather than plain. And we ate it with good quality vanilla ice-cream of course. The peanut soup was, well, peanutty. Nice but quite rich.

The bonbon coco, which was so resolutely refusing to cooperate last night, came good after a night in the fridge, and was able to be rolled into balls and then flattened.  Just like coconut ice!

The Madagascar Sour cocktail was very, very nice. The first couple of sips made you think about what flavours were spinning around in your mouth but, after that, it was yummy. Another very refreshing cocktail that would be perfect on a warm lazy Sunday afternoon.

Liam was very good about trying the different flavours on offer, which is good to see. Lani had cocktail frankfurts and vanilla ice-cream. Elysia took all the photos (thanks, Elysia), and Viv was the Quizmaster. Interesting quiz, that!

Maybe it was because I did all the cooking yesterday and today was just about heating up (which, I know,  is not the ideal way to prepare and serve food), or maybe we had exactly the right number of people there, but I found today to be the most relaxing of our international lunches. Or maybe it was because we had the cocktail before lunch.

A selection of photos is below (thanks again, Elysia).

Liam was allowed to choose the country for May because it is his birthday month. Madagascar was a great choice, Liam. And because Liam was allowed to choose a country for May, Lani had to be allowed to choose one for June. Lani has just turned five. Lani doesn’t know a lot of countries. Lani has chosen Australia.

Australia! What can we do with Australia?

I guess there are two choices. We can go boring and have what we have most other days of the week. Or we could do a modern take on classic Australian dishes. OK. There’s only one choice. Modern Australian food, here we come.

So it is a fond “veloma” to Madagascar and a trepidatious “g’day” to 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.

 

 

 

 

 

Hello, Madagascar!

Flag MadagascarIt’s May, so off to Madagascar we go.

Lunch in Madagascar is on Sunday 21 May. Apart from Lauren and Will and the kids, we’ll also have Will’s parents (Viv and Bill) and my friend Jan. Jan and I worked in our very first job together as fresh-faced 17 year olds, and have recently reconnected. I cannot believe that 40 years have gone by, but we have been able to catch up as if it was only 40 days. It’s been wonderful.

Our menu is looking great – peanut soup, curried beans, shredded roast beef, vanilla bean fruity clafouti are just some of the choices. I’ve never made a clafouti before, but it looks easy enough.

Our primary tipple will be Madagascar Sour, which contains rum, lime juice, vanilla liqueur and vanilla syrup. I thought that vanilla liqueur would be the hardest of these ingredients to source, but a trip to good old Uncle Dan’s saw me come out with vanilla Galliano. It’s the vanilla syrup that is proving difficult to get. With none to be seen in any local shops, and my refusal to order it online and pay $16 for delivery, I’m going to have to get creative.

And some interesting facts about Madagascar? We know that it is one of the world’s main suppliers of quality vanilla, but it also supplies the world with cloves. And it provides half the world’s supply of sapphires. Who’d have thought?

Oddly enough, Madagascar was settled by Asians (from Borneo) before it was settled by mainland Africans, and its ecology is truly unique. Lemurs are found only in Madagascar, and a huge percentage of wildlife and plant species are unique to Madagascar. And it has the third largest coral reef system in the world.

Madagascar sounds both amazing and intriguing. I think I might have to add it to my travel wish list.

The Madagascar factsheet and placemat are attached below. The factsheet is only two pages this time – I could not find any famous people from Madagascar. It’s obviously all about the vanilla and the lemurs!

Madagascar_factsheet

Place-mat_Madagascar

 

 

 

 

 

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)

 

 

 

 

 

Morocco, here we come

It’s February 2017. That means Morocco.

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Djemaa el-fna at night – the best time to visit

I have been extremely lucky to have been to Morocco twice.  In August 2009, Karma, Lauren, Will, Liam and I had a few days in Marrakech. Truly, if there is one place to visit before you die, it has to be Marrakech. Djemaa el-fna is the most wonderful souk imaginable, and is all noise, colour, action, smells – everything that stimulates the senses. Beware the water sellers though (see below).

 

In March 2009, I went on a 10-day tour of Morocco. It is the most amazing country, and every moment there was a lesson in life. I’m afraid I let myself be disappointed in Casablanca – maybe I expected Humphrey Bogart to be at the airport, gaze in to my eyes and say “here’s looking at you, kid”. But, of course, that was never going to happen.

hassan-ii-mosqueCasablanca is the home of the fabulous Hussein II mosque, which according to Wikipedia (and we know that Wikipedia never lies) has the tallest minaret in the world, at 210 metres. It is an extraordinarily beautiful building, but its beauty creates a stark contrast to the rest of Casablanca.

And Fez. Don’t forget Fez. Fez is the home of the one of the largest medinas in the world, apparently it is listed as a World Heritage Site. Like Marrakech’s Djemaa El-fna, it is a wonderful assault on the senses. A visit to the tannery at Fez is another Moroccan must, although I’m sure it smells worse than Labyrinth’s Bog of Eternal Stench (I miss you, David Bowie!). They give you bunches of mint to sniff when you go in, but it is entirely ineffective – that’s how bad it is.

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The tannery at Fez – worse than the Bog of Eternal Stench

And so to the water sellers.

We were warned about how pushy the various tourist touts in Morocco would be. But the water sellers at the Djemaa El-fna take the cake in my experience. We were warned to always negotiate a price before taking photos of tourist touts, and ten dirham was the standard and, at about A$1, it wasn’t going to break any banks.

I asked a water seller if I could take his photo. No problems, that’ll be ten dirham. So then he called some of his mates over and said he would use my camera to take a photo of me with them. If I wasn’t so naïve, I would have heard the alarm bells then. The photo was duly taken, and I asked for my camera back. But, suddenly, the cost had gone up to 100 dirham. When I said that we had agreed on ten dirham, the water seller (the one in the middle in the photo below) reminded me that he had my camera. Ten Australian dollars later, I had my camera back.

To be fair though, I did see the water sellers giving money to the beggars in the souk, so they were prepared to spread their income around. I understand that giving alms to the poor is one of the five pillars of Islam, so I didn’t mind too much that my $10 was used in a respectful way. And they have a living to make as well. I never let any tourist touts go near my camera after that, though.

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Marrakech water sellers – a photo with a back story!

Chilean delights

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The table set and ready to go

What a great choice Chile was for our first international lunch! The table looked incredible, and we hopped into the food with great gusto.

I was able to do a fair bit of preparation on Saturday afternoon, which left us with the easier recipes to finish off on Sunday morning. Elysia did a great job at alternately constructing the Torta De Hojas and photographing the food – all the photos on this page are thanks to her!

Lauren and I liked the Avocado Shrimp Ceviche best, but the Chapaleles were a hit as well. And how can Chapaleles not be a hit – pan-fried mashed potato with blitzed pork crackling is always going to be a winner. The pork emapandas were also great, and definitely worth cooking another time, but the Leche Asada was a little too eggy for our palates. The pisco sours were as good as they were last week, except that I’m sure they were even stronger!

Lauren and Will called into Dan Murphy‘s on the way and bought some Chilean wine, which we can highly recommend.

Our factsheet is attached below. Will was the quizmaster and, true to form, devised some fairly obscure questions. Questions like “Which world leader would be most welcome in Chile?” You have to study the factsheet and think outside the box to get the answer to that one.

chile-factsheet

Check out the photos below. Thanks Elysia for taking them!

Chile will indeed be a very hard act to follow.

But now it’s adios to Chile and ssalamū ‘lekum to Morocco.

 

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.