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.


February 27, 2010 at 3:41 pm | Posted in Central & South America | Leave a comment

Last year, the usual suspects gathered for a faux Anzac day weekend.   Typically Anzac day makes for nice long weekend but unfortunately the RSL are sticklers for taking time off when it’s bloody well appropriate.   Hence, if Anzac day falls on a Saturday, there’s no long weekend.

However, that can’t stop determined people.   So, all four families engineered at least one day off (if not two) and had 4-5 nights at Colo River.   However, the Norths were sh0rt-staffed – Pete had taken two months off to travel South America.

Nearly a year later we were back at Colo and this time Pete was in attendance as we formed the list of countries for this dinner.  He mentioned a fantastic dish where “they just pour lemon juice marinade over raw fish and serve and it’s fanstastic!”  Hence, the dish we’re looking for is Ceviche.

Ceviche is a disputed dish, either originating from Peru or Ecuador.   Impromptu coin toss in my kitchen settles it – today we dine in Peru!

The Plan

I’m short on time to get through all 80 meals so we’ll go for a lunchtime snack.   A quick run to the fish market this morning and I’ll get some nice white fish fillets.  Given the work we’re doing on the house today we’ll need a lot of protein – win!

The Recipe

I grabbed this one from SBS’s food safari.  However, I eliminated the chilli and I served diced avocado as a garnish – the green next to the bright orange potato against the gleaming white fish and purple salad onion made for a great visual treat.

2 fillets of boneless white fish, diced thickly (I used deep sea perch)
½ red onion, finely sliced
1 Peruvian chilli (or a long orange or yellow chilli)
Pinch salt and pepper
Juice from 2 limes
1 tbsp finely chopped coriander
1 small, sweet potato
1 tbsp raw sugar
1 stick cinnamon
1 tsp cloves (optional)
Ice cubes

For the Peruvian chilli paste, boil the chilli and peel the skin. Add a little lime juice, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and in a mortar and pestle grind into a paste.

For the accompanying sweet potato, boil the sweet potato with raw sugar and cinnamon. Leave it to cool and then cut into thick cubes, about 2 cm pieces.

For the salad, combine the diced fish, lime juice and some ice cubes (to keep ingredients fresh) in a metal bowl. Then add the onion, a pinch of salt, a little freshly ground pepper and little chilli paste (not all of it) and mix together. Top with some finely chopped coriander.

In a small shallow bowl place the fish mixture.

Add the cubed sweet potato on the side and serve to eat immediately. The fresher, the better.

The Event

I ended up misreading the resume and used 5 limes instead of 2.  First mistake.  However, the fish did start to turn white within a few minutes.

The Outcome

Liam:  “I cannot believe this!  I hate fish, onion, sweet potato and avocado!  This dish has everything I hate and nothing I like – it’s the worst dish ever!!”

Jacq:  “Um.  It just tastes like lemons”

Chris:   “Liam, just try some  – its just like eating a lemon.  And no Tim, that’s not a good thing over all. ”

Me:   Ok, yes, it was too citrus-y but I loved it.  The sweet potato against the tart fish was a great mixture.  After speaking with Pete, I’ll be trying this again with less lemon and probably sashimi grade salmon.    This is easily the most interesting dish of the tour so far.


February 21, 2010 at 8:35 pm | Posted in Central & South America | Leave a comment

Belize is one of those countries that only seems to come up on a games night.    Belize just feels like a bit of unknown – it’s hard to name a famous food, event or even a person from Belize.

One possible reason is that it’s pretty damn small.   It’s less than a quarter the size of Tasmania and it would easily inside the Sydney basin.  Another reason for it’s obscurity is that it was formerly known as British Honduras – a name I really shouldn’t be familiar with given the country was officially renamed only three years after I was born.  I blame the globe my parents bought in the 70s for being out of date.

People of Belize are known as Belizean but at least one web site refers to them as Belinean which rolls off the tongue far more satisfactorily.

The Plan

It turns out that while we’re counting Belize in our Central American leg, the cuisine certainly has it’s roots in the Caribbbean.   Yep, it’s rice and beans again.

The Recipe

Belinean Rice & Beans with Stewed Chicken

1 cup of chicken stock
1 cup of rice
1 onion, diced
1 green capsicum, diced
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup red kidney beans
2 cloves of garlic , mashed.
1/2 teaspoon of thyme

1 onion, diced
2 chicken breasts, cut into large cubes
powdered ginger

1.   Lightly fry the onion until translucent.  Stir in the rice and a bit more oil until a few grains start to go translucent. Add the capsicum and garlic and cook for 30 seconds before adding the stock, red kidney beans and  coconut milk.

2.   Add enough additional water to just cover the rice, and bring to a gentle boil.

3.  Fry the chicken and remaining onion in oil, sprinkling liberally with powered ginger.  Once browned, add enough water to cover and stew for 20 minutes.

4.  When the rice is cooked, stir through the thyme.   Strain the chicken and serve over the rice.

The Event

This was a rushed job but it came out OK.   I used too much water and as a result the rice was a bit stodgy.

The Outcome

Liam:  <silence>  (he actually just tuck into it, I can’t recall any whinges what soever)

Jacq:  ”Yum!”

Chris:   “Another keeper.  I like this”

Me:   I was more impressed with the equivalent Rice & Beans from Puerto Rico but this was OK.


February 13, 2010 at 8:50 pm | Posted in Central & South America | Leave a comment

I asked my good friend Jayne about Argentina – she lived there with Matthew for around a year.   She was a little unkind about the food – “It’s boring! Nothing but meat, meat and meat.  And it’s always cooked the same – it’s the only country that likes to BBQ more than Australia!”    I think we’re on nice, safe protein-y ground here.

Argentina is the giant of South American – big country, big cows, big economy (formerly), big football reputation, big on everything.   Oh, and once took on Thatcher over a rock.

Jayne and Matthew moved there in the late 90s – Jayne speaks fluent Spanish.   Matthew does not, and apparently even after a year of lessons and living in the country still can only string together “Excuse me sir, but my helicopter appears to be full of eels”.  Shame he’s not been called upon to use it.

The Plan

Jayne was right – the country does have a signature dish called Asado, which essentially looks like one devours a entire cow in well structured manner.   I’m used to having a single meat portion in a meal, not five or six.   But, when in Buenos Aires….

The cupboard is fairly bare tonight, and time is short.  I’m going to use a bit of artistic license here, and skip the offal.

The Recipe

A range of cuts of steak, sliced in fingers
A side of pork ribs
BBQ sauce
Brown sugar
Garlic & salt
Corn cobs (4)
Tomatos, Salad Onions, Lettuce, etc

1.   Sprinkle the steak cuts with garlic and salt and put aside for 30 minutes.

2.  Cover the pork ribs liberally in BBQ sauce and sprinkle some sugar over them.  Bake in a 200C oven, covered, for an hour. Turn once at the mid point and re-coat with the sauce and sugar.   Remove the cover after an hour and bake for 10 minutes.

2.  Boil the corn for 10 minutes.

3.  Grill the sausages and steak cuts until nearly cooked.  Place on a meat tray and leave to finish in the oven for 5 minutes.

4.  Make a salad.

The Event

Ok, I’m cheating on this one a little bit:  its not much more than an Aussie barbie.   However, I did make it so we had up to 300gm of meat per person, so it was a bit of a protein overdose.

The Outcome

Liam:  “I’m on my third sausage!”

Jacq:  “Yum!”

Chris:   “My god, I can’t believe how much meat I’ve eaten.  I know why Matthew came home with hemorrhoids”

Me:   Yep, this was a meat fest.   I want to live in South America.


January 16, 2010 at 8:11 pm | Posted in Central & South America | Leave a comment

Mexican food is an easy choice, and a favourite one.  We’re not quite done with the Northern American region, but we don’t strictly have to go in order according to the Rules.

The Plan

Sometimes there isn’t a plan.  This simple came up at just the right time – a tired family ready for a home day and a movie night.   What could go better than a simple serve of Nachos…

The Recipe

Beef Nachos is a doddle.  I grabbed the recipe from

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 500g beef mince
  • 300g can kidney beans, drained, rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican chilli powder
  • 35g sachet reduced-salt taco seasoning mix
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup coriander leaves, chopped
  • 230g packet corn chips
  • 1 cup grated tasty cheese
  • 1/2 cup tomato salsa, mashed avocado and sour cream, to serve

The Event

Nothing to add.  This is very simple to make.  I avoid chilli for the kids sake.   However, to make it interesting for me, I spooned some of the mince mix into flour tortillas, topping it with a handful of jalapenos.

This is a great couch food in front of the TV.   Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is a pretty poor film, but the nachos  went in a flash

The Outcome

Jacqueline:  “Yum!”

Liam:  “Is this the scary bit?   Is this the scary bit?”

Chris:  “Why bother writing this one up?  Its a house-staple”

Me:  The quasi-burritos made from the tortillas and nachos mix were excellent.

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