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.


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.


December 4, 2010 at 6:16 pm | Posted in Western Asia | Leave a comment

Lebanon has a rather violent recent history, going from an informal status of “Switzerland of the East” to “oh-my-god-what-a-crap-hole.”    Fifteen years of civil war, largely fought in urban areas, will do that to one’s country.  Hosting an anti-Israel guerrilla group next door to Israel doesn’t add too much either.

One interesting thing about Lebanon though, is that it has a unique political system.  Called confessionalism, government is formed by taking representatives (proportional) from the nation’s religious groups.  Not exactly as free thinking as democracy, but more considerate than a flat out theocracy or monarchy (as much of the region favours)

The Plan

There’s so much good Lebanese food to pick from:  I should know, the family of one of my first school friends had fled Lebanon to Australia.  Baklava, hummus, baba ghanoush, dolma, pitta bread.   However, I’ve got prawns in the fridge, so I tracked down Garlic Prawns with Lemon Pilaf, with a side of spicy chickpeas.

Garlic Prawns with Lemon Pilaf

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, halved and finely sliced
  • 300g long-grain rice
  • 550ml water or stock
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 12 medium prawns, peeled, deveined with tails left
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp paprika  and extra for serving
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 2 tbsp chopped mint
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges


  1. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a frypan and cook onion gently for five minutes. Rinse the rice under cold running water, shake dry and add to the onions, tossing well. Add water, salt, turmeric, lemon juice and zest and bring to the boil. Cover tightly, reduce the heat to very low and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and leave to rest, covered, while cooking the prawns.
  2. Heat remaining oil in frypan and cook garlic over medium heat until it “flutters” in the oil. Add prawns, cayenne, coriander and paprika, tossing well until the prawns are cooked and the garlic is golden and nutty. Toss parsley and mint through rice, top with prawns, garlic, a final dusting of paprika and lemon wedges for squeezing.

Ingredients – Spicy chickpeas

  • 1 can canned chickpeas, or 2 cups dried chickpeas, cooked
  • 2 small tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 sprig fresh coriander


  1. In a large fry pan, add olive oil and heat. Add onions, cumin, salt, red chili powder, and cardamom. Stir frequently over medium high heat until onions are tender.
  2. Lower heat to medium-low. Add tomatoes and stir until juice begins to thicken. Add lemon juice, stir well.
  3. Add chickpeas and stir well, cooking an additional five minutes. If you would like a thicker sauce, reserve about 1/3 of the chickpeas and mash with a food processor or blender. Add mashed chickpeas and stir well before adding remaining chickpeas.
  4. Remove from heat and pour into serving dish. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro. Serve immediately.


The Event

Talk about simple.  This is quick and easy.  The rice is made easier by using a rice cooker.  Do the rice first, the chickpeas second, and then flash the prawns for  2-3 minutes


The Outcome

Chris:  “Yeah, this is a good one.  The chickpeas are good”


Liam:  “Prawns good.  Onion in rice bad.”

Me:  This was great.   Will definitely do this again

Blog at
Entries and comments feeds.