June 9, 2014 at 8:01 pm | Posted in Western Asia | Leave a comment

Time to resurrect this journey, and this weekend I stumbled across an interesting breakfast set of ideas in the Herald.   So far, breakfast has made up very little of our trip, and now I’ve found Shakshuka, its time to conduct a culinary visit to Israel.

Israel – its formation, its tumultuous history, and the uneven treatment it enjoys from the US – is a source of great tension, both directly in the Middle East but in truth this echoes around much of the world.    I imagine that modern Israel could likely operate with much lower levels of global tension if it could find a way to moderate some of its own extremists.

Outside of the uncomfortable position in the Middle East and its highly interesting birth as a nation, there are some other interesting parts to this country.   Numerically, it has the 2nd largest airforce in the world, which may not be surprising given its rabid interest in defense.    Its the only country in the world to have revived a dead language as its national tongue.   Its also the place where the iconic 80s action series, Might Morphin’ Power Rangers, was devised.

The Plan

I stumbled across this while reading the Herald, Shakshuka.   Its a Middle Eastern dish that has a disputed origin (huh.  In Israel.  Who’d a thought) and is effectively eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce.   Its a favourite breakfast in Israel, and is actually classified as parve, which means effectively ‘neutral’ – containing no milk or meat.    Its also quite spicy and with Chris and Jacq out buying furniture, I figured Liam and I could try it, along with his mate Sam.

I lost the link, and again turned to the excellent people at SBS Food for the receipe


  • Olive oil, plus extra, to drizzle
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 long red chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 large red capsicum, finely chopped
  • 800 g (about 10) ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tsp ground sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 8 eggs
  • chargrilled crusty bread, to serve1 tbsp butter


  1. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, chilli and capsicum, and cook, stirring, for 6 minutes or until onions are golden.
  2. Stir in tomatoes and spices, and cook, stirring occasionally, for a further 25 minutes.   It should thicken up nicely.  Season with salt and pepper
  3. Make 8 small holes in tomato mixture and crack an egg into each one. Cover and cook for a further 8 minutes or until the eggs are just done.    Some of the moisture of the tomatoes will float to the top and eggs might look underdone, but they’ll be done
  4. Drizzle with olive oil and serve with bread.

The Event

This was an easy recipe, and needed a big wide fry pan with a lid.  I used two tins of tomatoes and it worked fine. A teaspoon of chilli gave it just the tang – quite hot, but nice.

The Outcome

Liam: “Niiiice!    *cough* a bit spicy.     Its good but you know what it needs?  Bacon

Sam:  “I don’t normally like spicy food, but this is gooood”

Me: This was pretty good, and I think one for brunch as well.   The bread works really well as a side.  The tomato was a bit tart but the eggs balanced it nicely.



June 9, 2013 at 11:42 am | Posted in Northern & Eastern Europe | 1 Comment

So, a long hiatus from cooking experimental meals from other countries, gleaned from the internet.    A few unsuccessful dinners and a couple of whinges so I put this on hold.   But, we’re now back – partly because my parents got my kids an old fashioned spinning globe.

Thus, we’re taking on Hungary this week.    Hungary has some interesting aspects too it, not least of which is their language.   Unlike virtually the rest of mainland Europe, Hungary’s language has very different roots, more closely related to Korean and Japanese than the Romanic languages.   This is because the nation was settled by descendants of the Huns who marched across Europe centuries ago.      Another interesting aspect to Hungary is they’re basically the champion maths country;   many (if not the majority) of pivotal physicists in the last century, including many who build the first atomic bomb in The Manhatten Project, came from Hungary.    Lastly, they also hold the record for the most insane currency hyperinflation ever:  in 1946, the Hungarian Pengo (sadly now replaced) was printed in denominations of 100 quintillion  pengo.   That’s P100,000,000,000,000,000,000.

The Plan

While of course the national disk is Goulash, I wanted to try something a little different.   Here’s a  recipe I found from SBS Food for a chicken casserole

Hungarian chicken casserole

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • olive oil
  • 1 kg skinless chicken thigh pieces
  • 3 onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tbsp sweet or hot paprika
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 750 ml (3 cups) chicken stock
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • sour cream (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. Heat a heavy-based fry pan over a medium heat. Add butter and a tablespoon of olive oil. Cook chicken pieces until golden all over. Set chicken pieces aside in an ovenproof casserole dish.
  3. Add additional oil to the pan, if needed, with the onions and garlic and cook until they begin to soften, about 5–6 minutes. Sprinkle the paprika and flour over the onions and stir well for 1–2 minutes. Add stock and stir until it comes to the boil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Pour onions and sauce over chicken, cover dish and place in the preheated oven. Cook for 1½ hours, by which stage chicken will be tender. Uncover the dish and cook for 30 minutes more to reduce the sauce and intensify the flavour.
  5. Serve with noodles or mashed potatoes, and sour cream if u

The Event

This was a really simple recipe;   basically its chicken with onions bunged into the oven.   However, it really really works well, and isn’t too complex.    It’s got to be all about the paprika

The Outcome

Liam: “I like this one”

Chris: “Mmm, not sold.  Good, but not sure it’s great”

Jacq: “Nice!  Any more chicken?”

Me: I loved this one more than the rest of them.   You do need a lot of chicken though, Chris skimped on the packet size and we needed the last bit.  I suspect this would go well in a slow cooker too. + 1


July 17, 2011 at 9:52 pm | Posted in Northern, Middle & Eastern Africa | Leave a comment

Tunisia is the northernmost country in Africa and right next door to Algeria and Morocco and – as we’ll see – shares much of the gorgeous food of the region.  Jammed right up against the Mediterranean Sea, it’s cuisine reflects a rich history of trading and invasion from a range of different cultures.  However, one particularly important aspect that  I think is under-reflected in Wikipedia is that most of Raiders of The Lost Ark was shot on location in Tunisia.    So, clearly a fantastic country.

Tunisia is also the source of the seed of the Arab Spring, a series of revolutions currently sweeping through the Middle East.  The Tunisians kicked out a corrupt dictator who’s most notable feature seems to be to have a wife with her own personal state-sponsored shopping Boeing (for visiting Milan, Paris, etc.).   Let’s hope they turn the home of Indiana Jones (as it will forever be known to me) into a better place.

The Plan

Tunisia’s national dish is couscous, and we’ll use a recipe I found from The Kitchen Witch.

Tunisian Couscous with Chicken

  • 500g chicken, cubed
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1½ tsp. cumin
  • 1½ tsp. cinnamon
  • 1½ tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 100g tomato paste
  • 2 cups water or more if needed
  • 2 tbsp. harissa (or more to taste)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into 3″ pieces, then halved if large
  • 4 cups cubed butternut pumpkin
  • 2 zucchini sliced 1/2 ” thick then quartered
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 200g plain couscous, uncooked
  • A bunch of coriander


  1. Add oil to a pan and brown the chicken in batches, remove from the pan as cooked. You need to do this in batched to prevent the chicken from cooling the pan and broiling instead of browning.
  2. Add the diced onion and all the spices and fry briskly for 1-2 minutes, add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Return the chicken to the pan.
  3. Add the tomato paste and 1 cup of water to deglaze the pan. Add just enough water to cover the chicken.
  4. Simmer for 30 minutes.
  5. Add more water if necessary and add the carrots. Simmer for another 15 minutes
  6. Add the pumpkin and harissa sauce, simmer for another 10 minutes
  7. Add the zucchini, chickpeas and raisons and simmer for another 10 minutes.
  8. While the chickpeas are cooking, make the couscous according to the instructions on the packet.
  9. Stir in the coriander into the chicken and turn off the heat.
  10. Add a scoop of couscous to each plate, making a well in the middle. Ladle the stew into the middle.

The Event

Pressed for time, I skipped step 4 and just bunged in all the vegies then. I also made *far* too much couscous (reduced quantities now in the recipe above) and used too much salt. The rest of the process was a doddle. I left out the harissa and cayenne pepper as the kids are chilli wimps.

The Outcome

Liam: “This is really great Dad”

Chris: “Yum, this a good one! Very similar to the Moroccan beef”

Jacq: “Still hate pumpkin but I like the rest of it”

Me: This was a big favourite for me. I think the butternut pumpkin is an excellent ingredient but the cinnamon-paprika-cumin combination is excellent. + 1


June 26, 2011 at 8:18 pm | Posted in Northern & Eastern Europe | 1 Comment

Belgium. Known for chocolate & beer and on the surface…er, not a lot more. Belgium is a little short of notable other things. After a bit of research, I didn’t find a whole lot more, other than the fact it hosts the EU headquarters in Brussels and that peculiarly almost-Australian Kim Clijsters actually hails from Belgium. But I think that’s OK – their reputation as creators of fine chocolate and superfluous beer is deservedly unassailable.

The Plan

As it turns out, the Belgian national dish is moules frites or mussels & fries. I love this dish, but I’ve only consumed it in restaurants. How hard can it be to cook? To make it, I’ve followed Gordon Ramsay’s recipe in part, but deferred to Heston Blumenthal’s recipe for chips. You need to make the chips and mayonnaise first, the mussels are completed very quickly.

Note the mussels dish serves about 2 hungry big people (I supplemented this with prawns on the side to make it fit a family of four)


  • 1 kg blue mussels
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 fat garlic cloves, diced
  • 1 large carrot, julienned
  • 1 fresh red chilli
  • 1 bunch thyme
  • 100ml olive oil (I used half of this!)
  • 150 ml dry white wine
  • 2 tbsp sour cream
  • A bunch of parsley leaves.
  1. Put the mussels in a large bowl of water and clean them. Leave them for 20 minutes.
  2. Dice the vegetables. Pick the thyme leaves from the stalks, discarding all of the thicker stalks.
  3. In a large pan, put on the heat and add the oil. When the oil is really hot, throw in the vegetables. The thyme leaves should start crackling and give off a gorgeous smell.
  4. Cook for about 1 ½ minutes, or until the vegetables have started to wilt.
  5. Add the mussels and shake the pan so they form an even layer. Add a tight lid and cook for another 2-3 minutes, shaking the pan occaisionally.
  6. Add the wine, shake through and return to the heat for another 1 ½ minutes.
  7. Take a colander and pour the mussels and vegetables through into a bowl. Discard any mussels that did not open.
  8. Return the reserved liquid to the pan and reheat. Stir in the sour cream and parsley leaves
  9. Add the mussels and vegetables back to the pan. Shake a few times, then serve in large soup bowls.

Home made mayonnaise

  • Two egg yolks
  • ½ teaspoon mustard powder
  • 150ml olive oil
  • 1 tsp wine vinegar.

Put the egg yolks, vinegar, mustard powder, some salt and 2 tbsp of oil into a blender. While blending, slowly add the remainder of the oil to produce a creamy emulsion. Chill

The Ultimate Chip

  • 1.2kg potatoes, washed and peeled (King Edward or Sebago)
  • 1 litre groundnut (peanut) oil
  • 1 litre rendered fat (optional)
  1. Put on a large pot of unsalted water on to boil.
  2. Slice the potatos into chips, around 1cm or more in diameter. Concentrate on making them consistently the same thickness. Square off the ends of the potatoes. Place them in a bowel and run them under a tap for 10 minutes to remove as much starch as possible
  3. Once the water is boiling, add the potatoes. Return to a boil, but then make sure they’re only cooked at a gentle simmer. Cook for 9 minutes.
  4. Using a slotted spoon, remove the chips. Place on trays and refrigerate until chilled. They should harden when they cool.
  5. Heat the oil to 130C and plunge in the chips. After 5 minutes, remove – they should appear drier, but not browned. Drain, dry and return to the fridge for cooling
  6. When ready to cook for serving, you can either use the original oil or the rendered fat. If it’s the latter, heat to 180C (otherwise, heat the vegetable oil to 130C). Fry the chips for 8-10 minutes

The Event

I made a huge mess making this, plus sliced the top off my thumb at the end while making some garlic prawns as a side (forgettable). The chips were slightly over parboiled and I suspect probably too wet to begin with (read up on Heston’s chip making article), but they were still good. Not having a fat thermometer was a problem (meat thermometers peak at 100C). Bearding mussels was a new experience – you do need to be careful not to kill the mussel or it won’t open.

The Outcome

Liam: “The mussels are great except they’re kind of more disgusting than prawns. The mayonnaise is too vinegar-y. I like the chips though! And the bread!”

Jacq: “This is FANTASTIC”

Chris: “10/10 for effort! I’ve never had mussels, these are good!”

Me: The mayonnaise was a disaster (1 tbsp is not 1 tsp) but the rest was hands down perfect. A great meal. In fact, the only real problem was that we don’t have bowls big enough to contain the mussels!


June 19, 2011 at 9:31 pm | Posted in Oceania | Leave a comment

Vanuatu is one of the nations in the Pacific that make up our Oceania region.   It’s west of Fiji and has an interesting history as being a uniquely governed by a joint agreement between the British and the French.     It became it’s own nation in 1980 but a heavy French influence is still evident.

One of the most interesting parts of Vanuatu is that its the source of a unique cargo cult, John Frum.  This cult believes that by following a mystical white man (John Frum), they will be rewarded with Western goods.   John Frum followers surged after  World War II:  during the war,  loads of Americans were stationed in Vanuatu end brought in huge amounts of goods.   When the war ended, the supply dried up:  to encourage the flow of goods again, the cult went on to build new runways to encourage the Americans to fly back in and bring in the wealth.    Spooky religion.

The Plan

This was was taken from Vanuatu chefs.

Local Coconut Cake


4 cups of grated coconut
250 grm unsalted butter
8 whole eggs
2 cups castor sugar
2 cups of self rasing flour


  1. In a bowl using an electric mixer whisk sugar and butter until light and creamy.
  2. Then add the eggs one by one into the butter and sugar mix making sure that you mix    the eggs through thoroughly.
  3. Using a metal spoon mix the flour and grated coconut into the above mixture.
  4. Butter and flour a round or square medium size baking tin and pour mixture into it and then place into pre heated oven.

Cook for 1 hr and 15 minutes @ 130 degrees Celsius

The Event

Er, this was a cake.  Not much to report.

The Outcome

Chris:  “Yum!”

Liam: “Yum!”

Jacq:  “This is the very best thing you have ever cooked”

Me:   I still don’t get deserts.  This was sweet, tasty and…a cake.


June 19, 2011 at 8:59 pm | Posted in Northern, Middle & Eastern Africa | Leave a comment

Ethiopia is often one thinks of the absence of food given the terribly tragedy of the mid 80s. I am of course talking about the circumstances that lead to Band Aid.

Some of the things I didn’t know about Ethiopia:

  • Ethiopia was one of only two countries to retain its independence when European countries divided the rest of Africa between them.
  • The last Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, is the source of worship for the Rastafari movement who see him as the returned Messiah. His title was “His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and Elect of God” 
  • Today Ethiopia is one of the strongest economies in East Africa
  • Ethiopia – the dust bowl we saw in the 80s – is the source of 85% of the water that makes into the Nile.
  • It is generally considered the site of the emergence of the first humans.

As it turns out, the famine that killed nearly 1,000,000 people in Ethiopia in 1984 (and lead to many of us considering Ethiopia perpetually hungry) was caused an horrific drought, but was also exacerbated by a horrendously incompetent Marxist government that spend 46% of its GDP in the year that 9m of its people were famine affected. Thankfully the government and drought eventually disappeared and today Ethiopia is a vibrant country with, as it turns out, excellent food.

The Plan

The Ethiopians have a traditional meal that involves serving a variety of stews on a large piece of flat bread, injera. In many ways, the bread is the tablecloth, and that the meal is only complete when the tablecloth is eaten.

Taken from a few sources, this dish is a Chicken Wat with garlic spinach, yoghurt and flat bread.

Serves 4

  • 450g/1lb boneless, skinned chicken breast, diced
  • 50g of butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 onion, diced.
  • 1 tablespoon berbere
    • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
    • 1 teaspoon paprika
    • ½ teaspoon cumin
    • ¼ teaspoon salt
    • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ inch cube root ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 lugs of olive oil
  • 2 chicken stock cubes
  • 1 can of tomatoes
  • 1 green capsicum, sliced
  • Half a glass of red wine
  1. Fry the onions and ginger until the onions are quite well done.
  2. Add the spice mix and fry for 60 seconds, stirring vigorously.
  3. Add the chicken and the oil. Once the chicken is browned, add the capsicum, stock cubes, wine and tomatoes.
  4. Simmer for 30 minutes. The stew needs to be quite thick – add a tablespoon of flour if necessary.

Make a side dish of garlic & salted silverbeet.


Makes 5 9-inch pancakes

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup water
  1. Mix together to make a batter
  2. Fry the batter into a number of pancakes. Flip when the pancakes are bubbling.

To serve: cover the table with foil. Spread the pancakes over the foil, one in front of everyone but overlapping if possible. Add a scoop of chicken wat, wilted silverbeet, and a dollup of natural yoghurt.

The Event

This was a lot of fun, except the pancakes were a disaster – a shortage of eggs and possibly plain flour isn’t as good as the correct Ethiopian Tef flour. Still, overall a lot of success – the stew needs to be thick or it will seep through the pancakes. I also cheated and had some rice on hand.

Serving was excellent – just dolling out piles of food haphazardly across the table. Also, one is supposed to use just your fingers but we reached for the utensils…

The Outcome

Chris: “I like the chicken, but the bread goes cold quickly. Good though! We’ll take forks if we got to Ethiopia”

Jacq:  “What is this I’m eating? Wat is this I’m eating!”

Liam: “What? Never mind – no-one leave till they’ve eaten the tablecloth″

Me: This was much better than expected. Lots of fun to make and to eat.


June 12, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Posted in Northern & Eastern Europe | Leave a comment

Ah, England. So much influence across the development of the modern world in virtually all things… cuisine not being one of them.

Seriously, England has influenced the world hugely via warfare, colonialism and trade. The British Empire at one stage spanned half the world. The modern language is, despite the lack of native speakers, the de facto international language. Western legal systems are largely founded in English common law, many of Christianity’s modern incarnations can be attributed to the Church of England, and the only comedy worth anything is aped and copied from the classic English sense of humour. So why did they fail to make a significant positive gastronomic imprint on the world (and by saying positive, I’m excluding the chip).

OK, I’m being a tad unfair given some of the dull dishes we’ve had from some far-flung parts of the universe. English cooking is fine – but it’s both ubiquitous and generally evokes a sense of insipid plain fare, where vegies are merely boiled, meat is simply roasted plain, the only starch is a potato and the most exotic spice is a toss-up between pepper and rosemary.

In truth, England has a number of gems: Fish Pie is a gorgeous sloppy mess (Deb, must get your recipe), Toad-in-The-Hole is one of the odder ones from Yorkshire (tried to make a showing here but first attempt was unmitigated disaster), and the historical national dish of Fish and Chips was of course a contender. However, England is, by virtue of the hangover effects of colonialism, is a melting pot of cuisines. We shall tip our hat to that.

The Plan

This dish was invented in England in the 70s, despite its Indian roots. A man dining in Soho was given a dish of Chicken Tikka, but complained to see it arrive without a sauce. Quick as a flash, the chef whipped up a sauce (apparently based on a tin of Campbell’s tomato soup, although what *that* would be doing in an Indian kitchen defies explanation) and created Chicken Tikka Masala.

Matthew sourced this dish for me, and he implored me to use this one for England. No protests here.

Serves 4

  • 450g/1lb boneless, skinned chicken breast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ tsp tandoori colour or a few drops of red food colouring mixed with 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • ½ inch cube root ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 tsps ground coriander
  • ½ tsp ground allspice or garam masala
  • ¼ of a whole nutmeg, finely grated
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 125g/5oz thick set natural yogurt
  • 4 tbsps corn or vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  1. Cut the chicken into 1-inch cubes. Sprinkle with ½ tsp salt from the specified amount, and the lemon juice – mix thoroughly, cover and keep aside for 30 minutes.
  2. Put the rest of the ingredients into an electric food processor or liquidizer and blend until smooth.
  3. Put this marinade into a sieve and hold the sieve over the chicken pieces. Press the marinade through the sieve with the back of a metal spoon until only a very coarse mixture is left.
  4. Coat the chicken thoroughly with the sieved marinade, cover the container and leave to marinate for 6-8 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
  5. Preheat the oven to 230°C.
  6. Line a roasting tin with aluminium foil (this will help maintain the high level of temperature required to cook the chicken quickly without drying it out).
  7. Thread the chicken onto skewers, leaving ¼ inch gap between each piece (this is necessary for the heat to reach all sides of the chicken).
  8. Place the skewers in the prepared roasting tin and brush with some of the remaining marinade.
  9. Cook in the centre of the oven for 6-8 minutes.
  10. Take the tin out of the oven, turn the skewers over and brush the pieces of chicken with the remaining marinade.
  11. Return the tin to the oven and cook for a further 6-8 minutes.
  12. Shake off any excess liquid from the chicken. (Strain the excess liquid and keep aside for Chicken Tikka Masala)
  13. Place the skewers on a serving dish. You may take the tikka off the skewers if you wish, but allow the meat to cool slightly before removing from the skewers.

TIME: Preparation takes 30-35 minutes plus time needed to marinate, cooking takes 15-18 minutes.


Serves 4

  • 450g/1lb Chicken Tikka
  • ½ inch cube of root ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 tsp salt salt or to taste
  • 50g/2oz unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • ¼ tsp ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp garam masala
  • ¼-½ tsp chilli powder
  • 125ml/4fl oz liquid, made up of the reserved juice from the precooked Chicken Tikka and warm water
  • 300ml/10fl oz double cream
  • 2 heaped tbsps ground almonds
  1. Mix together the ginger, garlic and ½ tsp salt from the specified amount and crush to a pulp. Keep the remaining salt aside for later use.
  2. Melt the butter gently and fry the onions for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the ginger/garlic paste and cook for 1 minute.
  4. Stir in the turmeric and then the cumin, coriander, garam masala and chili powder. Stir and cook for 2 minutes.
  5. Add the liquid and stir gently.
  6. Gradually add the cream and stir.
  7. Add the remaining salt and simmer for 5 minutes and then add the chicken. Adjust heat to low, cover and cook for 10 minutes.
  8. Stir in the ground almonds and simmer for 5-6 minutes.
  9. Remove from heat.

TIME: Preparation takes 10 minute plus time needed to marinate the tikka, cooking takes 25 minutes plus time needed to cook the tikka.

Serve over rice. Goes well with a nice yellow dahl on the side.

The Event

I’ve cooked this before:  whenever one roasts the chicken, try to get as much of the liquid marinade off it.   Some will melt and produce a watery liquid, it’s best to drain that off after thee first time you see it and add it to reserved liquid.

The cream in this makes the dish, but it’s very rich:  if anything, go a bit easy on the cream.

The Outcome

Jacq:  “Best. Dish. Ever”

Liam: “I give it 9 out of 10.   Mum’s last attempt was 0 out of 10”

Chris:  “Hey, I didn’t cook that one!  I just served it – and it was awful.  However, this is definitely 9 out of 10 – 10 if I didn’t have the flu.”

Me:  This is definitely a classic recipe, and the outcome is just divine.


June 11, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Posted in Northern, Middle & Eastern Africa | Leave a comment

Morocco is one of the most exotic countries in Africa, holding a place of both old world mystery as well as a  relatively modern and contemporary one.     Morocco also holds a place quite close to France, having been casually occupied by France in the 19th century during The Scramble For Africa  (where European imperialist  nations spent much of that era carving up Africa).   In fact, some people blame the tussle over Morocco between France and Germany to be one of the sparks that started the First World War.   (I still blame Franz Ferdinand’s driver failing to ask for directions…) Oddly enough, despite Morocco’s closeness to the oil rich lands of the Middle East, 75% of their energy comes from coal.  Morocco is also the home of Casablanca, which is actually not the capital (Rabat).

The Plan

Morocco is one of the great food melting pots on the planet, mixing European, African and Middle Eastern flavours.   The flavours are rich and blend exotic spices with fruit and rich meats.   Thus, we’re going for Moroccan Beef Stew borrowed from Mike’s Table.


  • 1 kg chuck steak
  • Ras el Hanout – a dry spice mixture, some example flavours to include in no particular amount:
    • smoked + Hungarian/sweet paprika
    • pepper
    • salt
    • cayenne
    • cinnamon
    • coriander
    • nutmeg
    • cumin
    • cloves
    • allspice
    • turmeric
  • 1 cup of fresh coriander stalks
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • 1 sweet potato, diced into large chunks
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tbsp of fresh ginger
  • 1 440ml can whole tomatoes and juices
  • 1.33 cups beef stock
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • fennel seeds
  • 6 cardamom pods
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 preserved lemon
  • 1 440ml can chickpeas
  • 16 dates, diced
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • pinch of saffron strands
  • ~1/4 cup parsley
  • ~1/4 cup coriander leaves
  1. The first thing is to make a good Ras el Hanout. This literally means “top of the shop” and is a mixture of common spices. I didn’t write down the precise measurements but used only a little cinnamon and cumin and lots of the rest.
  2. Dice the meat into largish chunks. Roll the meat into the spices until liberally covered.
  3. Chop the garlic and coriander stalks roughly, mix in the lemon juice and blend into a paste. Pour over the meat.
  4. Cover the meat and let sit for at least an hour, possibly 8 or even longer
  5. Heat a pan and brown the meat chunk in batches, shaking off excess spice mixture.. Crowding the pan will steam the meat, so don’t do that! While this is cooking, crank the oven to 160C Remove all the meat, but the pan should be really messy with all the spices and juices that have come off the meat.
  6. In this gloriously messy pan, add some more oil and fry off the onions and add the garlic, ginger, carrot and sweet potato. Saute for 5 minutes or until the sweet potato really starts to soften.Add the stock & red wine, deglazing the pan. Pour in the tomatoes and remaining dry spices.
  7. Return the meat to the pot, and simmer for 5 minutes. If there’s any leftover marinate, chuck it in to the pot. The liquid should only barely cover the meat.
  8. Put the pot (or transfer to a casserole dish – you’ll need a big one) into the oven and cook for 1 ½ hours. The pot needs to be covered to not lose any liquidRemove from the oven and add all remaining ingredients except the coriander leaves. Return to the oven for 30 minutes, with the lid slightly ajar.
  9. Remove from oven, and stir in the diced coriander leaves.

Serve over rice.

The Event

The smells this makes while cooking are suburb. For a large list of ingredients, it’s actually pretty straightforward to cook.

The Outcome

Chris: “This is nice, do this one again”

Liam: “more!”

Jacq: “Awesome! I love Mrrocco”

This felt a bit of a “throw-everything-you-have-at-it” dish, but it was surprisingly good while retaining all the complex flavours. We do a lot of hearty


May 29, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Posted in Northern & Eastern Europe | Leave a comment

Wales.   Has there ever been a country in more dire need for vowel control (given w & y are considered vowels).

Interestingly, Wales comes from the Anglo-Saxon word Waelisc which means ‘foreigner’, and Wēalas means ‘where foreigners live’.   So,  the Welsh are essentially is the first group of people the old Anglo-Saxons turned their nose up at.


The Plan

Wales is probably one of the least inspirational places for cooking – they’ve really given the world extremely little in terms of cuisine beyond the leek.  However, today is cold and miserable and it turns out leek and potato soup, with cheese-on-toast (rarebit) is the business.

Leek & Potato Soup

  • 1 rasher of bacon
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 a kg potatos
  • 2 leeks
  • Half a cup chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • Half a cup of milk
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • Grated  cheddar cheese.
  1. Cut up bacon and fry in butter in large, deep skillet or saucepan.
  2. Peel and cut up potatoes.
  3. Clean and cut up leeks.
  4. Add vegetables to pan and sauté 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in stock and add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Cover pan and simmer over low heat 30 minutes, until vegetables are tender.
  7. Add milk and reheat, but do not boil, to prevent milk from curdling.
  8. Add parsley.

Serve with cheese on toast – technically Welsh Rarebit is make with a cheese sauce that is mixed with beer, but really:  It’s just cheese.

The  Event

This is just soup.   The highlight would have to be bacon and leeks frying off.

The  Outcome

Liam:  ”It’s a big thick….but I like it!”

Jacq:  ”Liam loved it, but I was too full to finish it”

Chris:  “It’s good.   Its soup, its automatically good”

Me:  Yep, fairly safe and easy soup.   I’ve not added bacon to leek and potato before, it’s nice.


March 6, 2011 at 9:53 pm | Posted in South Asia & South-East Asia | Leave a comment

Vietnam, a country that seems to be primarily known for it’s wars, is the next stop.   My father was in Vietnam in the 60’s, back when the South was being supported by a UN operation.   He returned on business in the mid 90s, as Vietnam slowly returned to the world stage – at the time, it was cautiously embracing Western commerce.   He spent one evening with hosts drinking the local brew before hopping on the back of a motorcycle and cruising the city.  His companion pointed out an old French-colonial mansion, in partial ruins but blocked by an elderly guard unit.   Despite my dad’s concerns, the driver zipped past the guard and they toured around the largely empty grounds that surrounded the old building.  Upon their return, they found themselves facing a contingent of guards pointing automatic weapons at them in a high state of stress.    After 10-20 minutes of intense shouting from the guards at my dad’s host (during which time he spent facing into a wall wondering whether his not-inconsiderable experience in the Australian army would be of interest), his white-faced driver motioned for him to get on the bike and promptly zipped away.   Unbeknownst to both of them, the Vietnamese Politburo has chosen that abandoned building for a secret meeting that evening.

Despite my Dad very nearly getting shot 30 years after very nearly being shot a number of times, I’d like to go to Vietnam.   And tonight, we’ll eat there.

The Plan

The dish that attracts my attention is Phở.  This is a famous dish of Vietnam, pronouced ‘fuh’.   It’s a big soup, with lots of ‘add-your-own’ side dishes that one adds to your broth. I’m using an excellent guide from Steamy Kitchen.

2 onions, halved
4″ nub of ginger, halved lengthwise
1 kg of osso bucco
6  litres of water
1 package of Pho Spices [1 cinnamon stick, 1 tbl coriander seeds, 1 tbl fennel seeds, 5 whole star anise, 1 cardamom pod, 6 whole cloves – in mesh bag]
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1/4 cup fish sauce
1 inch chunk of yellow rock sugar- or 300g of regular sugar

1 kg rice noodles (dried or fresh)
cooked beef from the broth
250g  rump, sliced as thin as possible.
big handful of each: mint, cilantro, basil
2 limes, cut into wedges
2-3 chili peppers, sliced
2 big handfuls of bean sprouts
Hoisin sauce
Sriracha hot sauce


Char: Turn the grill on high. Place ginger and onions on a baking sheet. Spray  a bit of cooking oil on the cut side of each. Cook until ginger and onions begin to char. Turn over and continue to char. This should take a total of 10-15 minutes.

Parboil the bones: Fill large pot (12 litre capacity) with cool water. Boil water, and then add the osso buccon, keeping the heat on high. Boil vigorously for5 minutes. Drain, rinse the meat gently (not losing the now soft-ish marrow) and rinse out the pot. Refill pot with bones and 6 litres of cool water. Bring to boil over high heat and lower to simmer. Using a ladle or a fine mesh strainer, remove any scum that rises to the top.

Boil broth: Add ginger, onion, spice packet, beef, sugar, fish sauce, salt and simmer uncovered for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the beef meat and set aside. Continue simmering for another 1 1/2 hours. Strain broth and return the broth to the pot. Taste broth and adjust seasoning – this is a crucial step. If the broth’s flavor doesn’t quite shine yet, add 2 teaspoons more of fish sauce, large pinch of salt and a small nugget of rock sugar (or 1 teaspoon of regular sugar).

Prepare noodles & meat: Slice your flank/london broil/sirloin as thin as possible – try freezing for 15 minutes prior to slicing to make it easier. Cut or shred the previously cooked  meat and set aside. Arrange all other ingredients on a platter for the table. Your guests will “assemble” their own bowls. Follow the directions on your package of noodles. For some fresh rice noodles, just a quick 5 second blanch in hot water is all that’s needed.

Ladling: Bring your broth back to a boil. Line up your soup bowls next to the stove. Fill each bowl with rice noodles, shredded cooked beef and raw meat slices. As soon as the broth comes back to a boil, ladle into each bowl. the hot broth will cook your raw beef slices. Serve immediately. Guests can garnish their own bowls as they wish.


The Event

This was a lot of fun to cook, and less trouble that it looks.  The resulting stock was simply gorgeous.  However, I did muck up the soup-to-meat-to-vegetables ratio somehow.   I think I stinged too much on the sprouts and as a result it was really watery soup with a bit of meat.  The very rare beef didn’t go down so well either with the family.

However:  I used the set as a follow-up leftovers the next night and it was awesome.

The Outcome

Chris:  “Not too bad, but not my thing”

Jacq:  “Hmm.  I don’t like the coriander”

Liam: “more meat!  more meat!”

Me:   The soup was really good, and the fresh herbs sensational.  I left out the chilli for the kids and by adding it back in it made a world of difference.

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