Saudi Arabia

January 28, 2011 at 8:07 am | Posted in Western Asia | Leave a comment

Saudi Arabia is part theocracy, part monarchy and mostly sitting on a sea of oil that funds an incredibly wealthy extended family.   Women have absolutely zero political empowerment and the country is rated 129th out of 135 for gender equality and it’s considered the 7th most authoritarian country in the world.

One possible explanation is their calendar – in Saudi Arabia, they consider this year not 2011 but 1432.   Yep, they’re living in the 15th century alright:  figuratively and literally.

The Plan

Chicken Kabsa is considered a stable of Saudi Arabia.  I’m using this recipe.

  • 2/12 – 3 pound chicken, cut into eight pieces
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 4 tbps tomato puree
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 medium carrots, grated
  • Grated rind of one orange
  • 4 cloves
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 3 sticks cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 400g  long grain rice
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  1. Saute onion in oil until it begins to brown.
  2. Add chicken pieces, tomato puree, chopped tomatoes and garlic and stir for about five minutes over low heat.
  3. Stir in three cups hot water, grated carrot, orange rind, spices, salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat, covered, about 20-25 minutes, until chicken is done.
  4. Remove chicken. Set aside to keep warm. Stir rice into the liquid in the pan, and cook, covered over low heat for about 35 – 40 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed.
  5. Put rice on a serving platter with chicken pieces arranged around the circumference. Toss raisins and almonds over all.

The Event

This was very simple meal to prepare.  Liam helped a lot and enjoyed grating the carrot and orange skin.

The Outcome

Jacq:  “Too orangy!”

Liam: ” I like this – it’s a bit orangy, but it’s not too bad”

Chris:  “Hmm!  Not bad”

Me:  Needs a *lot* of salt.  The orange was an odd flavour, but that’s part of the journey around the world – new flavours.



January 4, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Posted in Northern, Middle & Eastern Africa | Leave a comment

Tanzania is one of those places of ancient Africa that occupied my mind in childhood – there was a picture with a poem that mentioned Timbuktu and Zanzibar.     Tonight we dine in Zanibar, a semi-autonomous archipelago on the eastern coast of Tanzania.

The Plan

I’m drawn to a dish from Zanzibar partly by the name alone:  M’CHUZI WA NYAMA, a beef curry.

  • 1 cup onions, finely chopped.
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon tumeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1-2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 2-4 tablespoons oil
  • 1/2  kg of chuck steak, cut into medium sized cubes
  • 1 cup of water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup of rice
  • 1 cup beef stock

For the relishes

  • 1/2 cup bananas cut in 1/4-inch dice dribbled with lemon juice.
  • 1 cup fried onion slices
  • 1/2 cup mango chutney
  • 2 cups grated coconut
  • 1 orange cut into sections
  • 1/2 cup cucumber, diced.
  1. In a medium  saucepan, saute the onions in the oil.  Once soft, add the garlic, salt and spices and fry for one minute.
  2. Add the beef, but don’t allow to brown
  3. Add the water and lemon juice.  Cover tightly and simmer for one hour
  4. Cook the rice in beef stock

Place the rice in a large bowl and pour the curry over it.  Serve with the relishes.


The Event

This was really just another curry – nothing particularly challenging in this regard.  The hardest part was getting the relishes done.


The Outcome

Chris:  “Yeah, doesn’t do much for me”

Liam:  “Ok”

Jacq:  “Ok”

Me:  Yeah.  Just Ok.


January 3, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Posted in Eastern & Central Asia | Leave a comment

Tonight we eat in China.  Oh man, I’ve been looking forward to this.   I was lucky enough to visit Hangzhou last year and the very first meal I had there was spectacularly different, interesting, weird and mostly tasty.   I went to a restaurant on the banks of West Lake that was famed for serving food that had particularly good effects on your health.  Unfortunately the exact effect was extraordinarily hard to translate for my host so we just tucked in – chilled chillied chicken feet, pig liver pate, boiled bacon and potato, candied ginseng root, cow tail.   It was all awesome – apart from contemplating how far up the cow tail the segment one was eating, and where it had spent it’s life.

There was little to no chance of me being to even remotely source or cook that kind of authentic Chinese food.   Instead, I choose to make Peking Duck.

The Plan

Peking Duck is made classically by blowing air into the duck cavity to separate the skin from the fat, and then air drying the duck for 24 hours before roasting. Jamie Oliver has a far simpler method

  • A packet of pre-made pancakes.  These are any Asian food shop (and get a bamboo steamer too)
  • A duck
  • Chinese five-spice
  • A knob of ginger
  • A handful of spring onions
  • A cucumber
  • 10 plums
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • Half teaspoon chilli powder


  1. Heat the oven to 170c
  2. Wash the duck, pat dry and liberally cover with five spice.   Grate up the ginger and rub around the inside of the duck.   Place the duck in a roasting pan, ideally on a roasting rack – there’ll be heaps of fat coming off – and slide into the oven for around 2 hours.   Check every 20 minutes and baste the skin with the rendered fat.
  3. Make the plum sauce by adding the destoned plums,  sugar, soy sauce, the chilli powder and a splash of water.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 or so minutes
  4. Thinly slice the cucumber and the spring onion
  5. When the duck is ready, use two forks to  shred the meat off the bone.  put aside and keep warm
  6. Steam the pancakes

Server on a platter, allowing every to pick a pancake, add some duck, cucumber, onion and pour over some plum sauce – roll up the pancake and you’re done.  Repeat.

The Event

The cooking of this was really simple.  Plums weren’t in season so I had to resort to a pre-made plum sauce.   Still tasted great!   I didn’t add any chilli but the natural bite of the plums put the kids off just a bit.

The Outcome

Chris:  “Looked like a lot of work but fantastic!”

Liam:  “awesome!  I love the plum sauce….actually, I hate the plum sauce”

Jacq:  “Yum!”

Me:  This was a great meal, eating out in the garden.  Seriously good finger food.

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