March 28, 2010 at 3:24 pm | Posted in Central & South America | Leave a comment

Brazil is our last stop in for the Central & Southern American region – and we picked a great country and a great meal to round it off.  The largest country in South America by some margin in both size and in population, it’s also the only country on the continent that speaks Portuguese.      It’s also of course home to one of the greatest footballing nations on the planet – the kids enjoyed trawling YouTube for videos of Pele.

In terms of food, the country has a wealth of offerings.  Again (sigh) rice & beans comes up, but there’s plenty of others to choose from. I settled on Moqueca Baiana, a fish stew from the Bahia region, with African influence

The Plan

Given the problems we’ve had recently with white fish not being received that enthusiastically, I thought I’d use Salmon.    I took inspiration from recipes I found at Simply Recipes and Suite 101.

Additionally, the chorus of complaints that we’ve ignore dessert has grown loud, so I am including Banana Frusta Com Canella Angular – Fried Banana with Cinnamon sugar.

Salmon Moqueca Baiana



  • The cloves from 1/2 head of garlic, peeled, crushed, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons of fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon of coarse salt
  • 1 Tablespoon of sweet paprika
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons of dry cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper


  • 600g  of salmon, cut into 2-inch pieces (largish-bite sized pieces)
  • Olive oil
  • 2 medium red onions, sliced
  • 1 large red pepper, seeded, de-stemmed, and sliced
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 can thick coconut milk
  • 1 large bunch fresh coriander, chopped, 1-2 cups
  • Freshly cooked rice for serving
  • Palm Oil

1.  Mix the marinade in with the salmon pieces and set to one side

2.  Fry the diced onion in palm oil for one minute and throw in one diced tomato and a handful of coriander.

3.  Place a layer of capsicum and tomato slices over the frying onion

4.  Place the fish pieces on top of the capsicum and tomato

5.  Sprinkle coriander on top and a liberal amount of salt and pepper

6.  Without stirring, pour the coconut milk over the top.

7.  Bring to a gentle boil, move to low heat and leave the lid on tightly.   Stew for 15 minutes

For the Banana Frusta Com Canella Angular, the name says it all:  slice bananas length wise, fry in butter.  The recipe called for “until brown” but that really was “until soggy”.   Sprinkle icing sugar over them as they cook and dust with cinnamon.

The Event

This was actually a pretty simply dish, aside from the number of ingredients.

The Outcome

Liam: “I guess it’s OK – but I still hate fish!”

Jacqueline:  ”Yum, Salmon!  More for me.”

Christina: “Mmm, keep this one.  In fact, print me the receipe, I’ll do this myself.  I mean, it shouldn’t work – tomato and coconut – but it so does.”

This was a gem of a recipe, a truly spectacular find.   We’ll be eating a lot more of this in the future.



March 21, 2010 at 8:20 pm | Posted in Central & South America | Leave a comment

Colombia is our next step – and as a surprise to me, there’s 45 million people in this little country.   The most I know about Colombia is it’s drug history, which seems to have had a vast impact on the last 30 years development of this country.

In trying to share some stories about Colombia, Liam has now decided he will never go there because of the drugs.  Given it was not my objective, I pointed out some other facts about Colombia – the history of the indigenous Indians, the importance of corn in their lifestyle, how religions sprung up around the worship of corn.   Liam then spent much of the rest of the meal bowing and worshiping his cob.

The Plan

The trip has been proving a little difficult for the kids to get into with a few challenging dishes.   Hence, it makes sense to pick something that’s a little more familiar. Fritanga is a Colombian dish which is, well, a bbq.  I modified this to have an Australian flavour.


  • 400g Kangaroo steak
  • 300g sirloin steak
  • 2 chorizo sausages
  • corn cobs
  • 1 cup of white rice
  • 2 cups of vegetable stock
  • 1 can of red kidney beans
  • 2 onions
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • oil
  • butter

1.  Slice 1 onion finely.  Fry it for 1 minute in the butter, then throw in the rice.   Add a tablespoon of oil and stir vigorously until the rice is translucent.

2.  Pour two cups of vegetable stock over the rice and bring to a boil.     Cover with a lid and put on a low heat for 12 minutes.

3.  Meanwhile, fry the second onion (diced)  in a small amount of oil.  Drain the kidney beans, add to the onion.   Add the diced garlic.  Pour half a cup of water in to the pot – the beans won’t quite be covered.  Bring to a boil.  After 5 minutes, pour the beans and water over  the rice.

4. Slice the kangaroo steak into fingers, and slice the chorizo sausages diagonally to produce oval pieces.

5.  BBQ the meat, starting with the chorizo.  As the oil comes out of the sausage, roll the steak in it.

6.  Boil the corn

The Event

This really was an outdoor Aussie BBQ, but with chorizo sausage and semi-exotic rice.

The Outcome

Liam:  “Ohm.  I love you, the corn”

Jacqueline:  “Love the spicy sausage!”

Christina: “The sausage is excellent.   This was a good one”

Yep, this was a success.


March 14, 2010 at 8:02 am | Posted in Central & South America | Leave a comment

Guyana.   Not a place I would say I could name in a game of trivial pursuit.    What question might one ask – which Central American mainland territory is considered part of the Caribbean?  Why Guyana of course.

Guyana also forms part of the West Indies – Clive Lloyd hails from there.

The Plan

I chose Guyana as they have an interesting national dish – Pepperpot.   It sounded like a fairly simple casserole with beef and pork.   Unfortunately once I’d started I realised that I would be unlikely to source cassereep, the root of a local indigenous plant (cassava) which is apparently the essence of this dish.  UK TV provided us with this recipe.


  • 2-3 tbsp groundnut oil
  • 450g pork shoulder, chopped
  • 450g lean stewing beef, chopped
  • 3 pig’s trotters, chopped I left these out
  • 100ml cassereep * See below
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 tbsp demerara sugar
  • 2 tsp hot pepper sauce
  • 2 scotch bonnet peppers, finely chopped
  • cloves
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 1 tsp dried thyme

1. Heat the groundnut oil in a large pan and brown the meat and trotters in batches. Season with salt and pepper, cover with water and bring to the boil. Cook for 1 hour.

2. Add the remaining ingredients to the pan, bring back to the boil and simmer for 1-2 hours, adding more water as necessary.

3. Serve with boiled white rice.

* For the Cassareep, I found a recommended substitute on Caribbean Vacations.

While not exactly a traditional Caribbean way of making pepperpot, the recipe below provides a cassareep substitute that can be used to approximate the color and flavor of this essential ingredient:

½ cup – vinegar (or wine vinegar)
2 tablespoons –
2 tablespoons –
fresh Caribbean limejuice

Replace ½ cup cassareep in the previous Traditional Pepperpot Recipewith these 3 ingredients, and cook as described.

The Event

The faux cassareep was…well, just vinegar-y.   Up until that point the pot had a dangerously sweet taste to it.

Additionally, instead of using hot peppers – an essential part of this dish given it’s supposed to be spicy – I used green capsicum as I have a wussy family.

The Outcome

Liam:  “Not bad – I like it dad”

Jacq:  ”Bleugh – I don’t like steak.  Its too chewy”

Chris:   “OK, but what’s with the vinegar.   And if they honestly have this for Christmas morning in Guyana, it must be the most depressing place on earth”

Me:   I count this as a failure – not epic, but still a failure.    If the next dish we pick has any spice, we’re sticking to it and just watering it down.


March 7, 2010 at 8:02 pm | Posted in Central & South America | Leave a comment

Chile is that long long strip of a country on the left hand side of South America.   Hemmed in by mountains, it hugs the Andes all the way down to the southern tip of the continent.

The kids are still disbelievers that chillis don’t come from Chile.

The Plan

Chile has a range of dishes that could be called their own – porotos granados and curanto, but given that Liam is now starting to dread the next country, we need to pick a ‘safe’ dish.   In a country where we love pies, the Chilean Empanada is a perfect selection.

The Recipe – Empanadas de Pollo

I grabbed this one from About.Com.

Empanada dough

  • 4 cups of flour
  • 1-2 teaspoons salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 12 tablespoons lard or vegetable shortening, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup cup water
  • 2 egg yolks
  1. Sift the flour into a bowl. Stir in the salt and the sugar.
  2. Work the butter and shortening or lard into the flour mixture with your fingers until well blended.
  3. Whisk the egg yolks into the water. Stir in the 1/2 cup of water/egg mixture, a little at a time until the dough comes together smoothly. Keep kneading the dough, adding more water/egg a little bit at a time as necessary (you made need more than 1 cup), until the dough is very smooth, about 5-10 minutes. You can knead the dough with a standing mixer and a dough hook attachment.
  4. Cover the dough with saran wrap and let rest on the counter for about an hour. (Dough can also be kept overnight in the refrigerator, then brought to room temperature before using.) Dough should be soft and smooth, and not elastic – if you poke a hole in it with your finger, the indentation should remain.
  5. Turn dough out onto a floured surface, and roll into desired thickness.

Empanadas de Pollo

  • Empanada dough
  • 2-3 chicken breasts
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 vegetable stock cubes
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder (or to taste)
  • 1.5 tablespoons sugar
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green olives, sliced
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon water
  1. Prepare empanada dough and chill.
  2. Poach the chicken: Place the chicken breasts in a pot with the bouillon and bay leaf, and cover with water or chicken broth.  Bring to a boil, and simmer over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Let cool in the broth.
  3. Shred chicken into small pieces, and moisten with 1 or 2 tablespoons of the broth. Set aside.
  4. Heat oil in a skillet. Add chopped onions, paprika, cumin, chile powder, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until onions are soft and clear, and mixture is golden brown.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in the chicken. For best flavor, refrigerate filling until the next day.
  6. Stir chopped hard boiled egg and olives into filling mixture.
  7. Separate empanada dough into golf ball size pieces, and roll each one into a smooth ball. Let rest 5 minutes.
  8. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  9. On a floured surface, roll each ball of dough into a circle about 6 inches in diameter.
  10. Spoon 2-3 tablespoons of filling in the middle of the circle. Brush the edges of the dough along the bottom half of the circle lightly with water.
  11. Fold the top half of the circle of dough over the filling to form a semicircle, and press edges together firmly to seal.  Brush the pressed edge with a little bit of water, and fold the edge over itself, pinching and crimping as you go to make a braid-like effect. Place empanadas on a baking sheet.
  12. Mix egg yolk with water and brush mixture lightly over entire surface of each empanada.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown and slightly puffed.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 10 to 12 empanadas…

The Event

The amount of dough I produced was about 3x too much.   We rolled the dough pretty thinly.   The kids did most of the preparation so the empanadas were somewhat lumpy and inconsistent in shape.   The previously pristine kitchen was a mess of dough and flour.

The Outcome

Liam:  “Pies!  I love pies!”

Jacq:  “Pies!  I love pies!”

Chris:   “Mmm, not bad.   It does feel a bit odd to just have a tray of pies for dinner”

Me:   I skimped a bit on the oil for the dough, so the bread was a little crusty.   The cheese experiment was a disaster.  However the chicken ones were good, and an impromptu apple empanada at the end was considered the highlight of the night for the kids.


March 6, 2010 at 7:40 pm | Posted in South Asia & South-East Asia | Leave a comment

Thailand is a great place with some of the most sensational flavours on the planet.  I love cooking Thai but in this particular case I need to use a restaurant pass.

As we’re selling out house, cooking is temporarily on hold in the now shiny showroom kitchen.  Takeaway is the new black.  So, for this week, we’re dining when we can, out.

There’s a Thai place around the corner we’ve not tried  – Baan Bua Thai.

The jungle curry is one of my favourite Thai dishes (but garlic prawns, massaman curry, green chicken curry, there’s so many classics).   The jungle curry is very hot but also isn’t made from coconuts – allegedly it comes from the jungles in  north of Thailand where there’s no coconuts.      Apparently normally made with wild boar.  More’s the pity one can’t easily source that.

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