Thursday, 18 December 2014

Grill The Foodie: China

Our regular series “Grill the Foodie” is all about getting inside a country’s food and eating experiences from the perspective of travellers as well as expats living abroad. We will delve into what makes world cuisine great and why travellers love to eat so much. We want you to be inspired by what is happening around the world, how others enjoy their food and how food can unite cultures.

This weeks Grill The Foodie Interview is with Ningning, originally from China, Ningning now resides in Perth, Australia. Although we have not met in person I know myself and Ningning would get along famously. We have a shared passion for Chinese Dumplings and Szechuan Hot Pot and what more do you need for a great friendship? I also feel her pain in not being able to access truly authentic Chinese cuisine in many parts of Australia, food in China is outstanding so read on to find out more about it with Ningning.


What part are of China are you from? 

 I am from Shandong province, in Northern China. My city is  800km east to Beijing on the coast of  the Yellow sea.

Being Chinese and having lived a majority of your life in China how do you think Chinese cuisine and culture has affected your outlook as a Foodie? 


The first 23 years of my life living in China has definitely set my foodie outlook. Pork is not only my favourite meat also an essential element in my diet, especially the pork belly (mouth watering), it doesn't matter how it is cooked (which cuisine cooks it) , lol! Chinese food is my favourite food (not that surprising) and when I go out to eat I normally choose wheat flour food ie, noodles, pasta, buns, roti, pancakes over rice because we don't eat much rice in where I am from. My dad hates rice, he doesn't eat rice AT ALL! A lot of my friends are surprised when I tell them I am not a big fan of rice, being Asian and all.

 We have lots traditions that are food related. for example, I HAVE TO have noodles on my birthday for a long life and mooncake for the moon festival as well as stick rice wrap for the dragon boat festival.

Growing up in China what are your strongest food memories from your childhood? 


DUMPLINGS!!! LOVE them! when I was little my family was like most of other Chinese families, used food vouches to get essential food due to the central government control (this was finally eliminated at the end of 80's when China transformed from a central-controlled economy to market economy).Therefore, dumplings were only for a treat for birthdays and moon festivals and Chinese New Year. And every time there were dumplings on the dinner table, they never lasted long......


Do you find Chinese food differs greatly from region to region and what is your favourite Chinese locality from a Foodie perspective? 

Yes, it is VERY different from region to region. As I mentioned earlier, rice isn't the main carbs for us while it is for almost the rest of Asia! There are 8 streams of Chinese food, I found a few website describing the 8 streams of Chinese food. You may find this website useful to help explain the various cuisines around China.

Now you are living in Australia what authentic Chinese dishes do you crave and immediately make a beeline for upon your return to China? 

There are soooo MANY dishes I crave that I can't get them in Perth... The top one is fried dough, called YouTiao in Chinese, it's like cereal for you guys, very basic and simple breakfast but I can't get it anywhere here :(

Being an avid world traveller where have you found your favourite cuisine or foodie experience? 

Besides China  I loved food in Italy, although I only went to Milan for a few days. I think because noodles play such an important role in my daily diet, all different sorts of pastas just fit in perfectly.

When you travel do you find yourself searching out a particular world cuisine?

When I am travelling, I prefer to eat the local cuisine unless on my birthday when I have to have noodles!

Does being a foodie affect the way you travel and experience a destination?

 I believe so, I always relate my travel experience with the local food, good food means good holidays!

Having lived in both Sydney and Perth which city wins for best Foodie cred? 

Of course Sydney! I used to study at UTS which is next to China town, they even have my local food restaurant there! I used to go to a restaurant whose owner is also from my province. I was very sad when my friend told me that they closed down a couple years after I left.

Now living full-time in Perth where are your favourite food haunts? 

Northbridge and then Vic Park, there are lots Asian places to eat at.

 Do you like to cook at home or head out to fulfil your food dreams? 

I used to hate cooking, but I cook at home a lot now. First reason being I can't find an authentic Chinese restaurant to get food I crave for and second reason being I have a mortgage :(
I just found out that the combination of soy sauce and oyster sauce makes stir fry veggies very tasty!

If you do cook at home feel free to share any favourite recipes or if you know anything about Chinese Hot Pot I would love to know. I am on a never ending mission to re-create Szechuan Hot Pot that I had in Chongqing. I haven't been able to nail it as yet, particularly the dipping sauces and the chilli oil broth.

OMG, do you like hotpot? I LOVE it, although I normally have it with tears. I don't know how to make the broth, I normally buy the package from the supermarket and boil it. There are 2 types of dipping sauces, I am not sure which one you had.. One is garlic mince with sesame oil, the other one is tahini paste (sesame paste) with some chive paste, fermented tofu, garlic, soy paste and if the hotpot is too spicy, some vinegar also helps.
Originally posted on Thursday, 18 December 2014 by

Monday, 15 December 2014

2015 Is Looking Bright

The closure of 2014 sees me wrapping up one very major part of my life. I have written about this before so you can go back to my article about Stacked Cakes to see why I am wrapping up the cake business. This past weekend I finalised my very last paid cake order. So after more than five years, thousands of kilos of chocolate and icing, hundreds and hundreds of cakes, many happy clients, the odd unhappy client (you can’t please them all), a case of tendonitis, many laughs, a few cake disasters and the odd tear shed I am finally done! Now to work out what of my copious amounts of cake equipment I will keep for hobby purposes and what I need to sell, it’s going to be a big job.

So apart from that I am currently on countdown. To what you may ask? Well I have seven working days left before the Christmas break and whilst I am very excited to be heading to the coast with the family over the holidays I am also looking forward to a change of jobs in the new year.

It isn’t as much a change of the actual job I do, I will still be a travel agent. It is more a change of location. I currently commute around 180kms a day and to be honest it is too far and has worn me down. So when a position become available at Queanbeyan City Travel and Cruise which is a 17 minute drive from my house I jumped at the opportunity.

Although the actual job of selling travel is the same, I do need to psyche myself up for a change of pace. My current agency is pretty slow paced. We sell travel but we are not going to be winning any top sellers awards any time soon. Queanbeyan City Travel and Cruise on the other hand are a top selling agency for many travel suppliers. Every year they take out the top awards in the industry so I know that I need to gear up to be busy.

It’s quite exciting really. I have worked in busy agencies before and there is such a different vibe. The consultants really motivate and play off each other. The reps are always offering incentives to sell. Achievement awards always come with prizes that predominantly consist of travel and although it is a more stressful job you feel productive and energised.

My new office and new boss, ever the winners of major travel sales awards
I will admit I have been cruising by the last few years and it has been starting to get to me. When I left the travel industry I had no intention of ever returning. I had been burned by working in management for bosses who had no apparent people skills or thought for their staff. After a year of making cakes for a living I did miss travel but wasn’t ready to go back to a high pressure role. So I went back to the store I started in the industry at as it was a known quantity to me. I can’t complain about the lack of stress in my life, it is nice but it is also demotivating to have long periods of boredom. I am ready to join the real world again.

It also means I can keep running my home based agency in my little town of Bungendore which I currently do after hours. It doesn’t generate a tonne of business but it is a little extra income and it is nice assisting the local folk with their travels. My Bungendore Travel website is currently getting a major overhaul by my genius web designer hubby, it is so modern I am not sure the town of Bungendore are ready for it but it will be going ahead in the next few weeks.

So new things for the new year is always fun to look forward to and I will continue bringing you food and travel adventures through 2015 with the blog. I hope my readers have a lovely Christmas and exciting plans for 2015 to look forward to and if you don’t have exciting plans, something that lights a fire under you bum get some cause you only live once.
Originally posted on Monday, 15 December 2014 by

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Filipino Cooking with Yasmin Newman

Knowing little about Filipino food, sometime ago I purchased a Filipino cookbook "7000 Islands- A Food Portrait of the Philippines". Like with all SBS publications I was not disappointed. The book itself is a personal account a one woman's journey to reconnect with the food she grew up with, her Filipino mother cooking food from her homeland here in Australia. It is quite nostalgic with the author Yasmin Newman telling stories from her childhood which was interwoven with this wonderful cuisine. As you would expect from a modern cookbook it is beautifully photographed and is as much a cultural journey as it is a food journey.

I guess before this cookbook I was under the assumption that Filipino food may bear some resemblance to cuisines in the South East Asian region. Possibly incorporating the fresh herbs of Vietnam or the complex spicy chilli based curries of Thailand. I was completely wrong. It is far more a fusion with the Spanish cuisine bought to the country during the Spanish occupation in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The first dishes we cooked from the book were the Adobo's. Adobo being the national dish of the Philippines it seemed a good place to start.  We made both Lamb and Chicken Adobo for a dinner party we hosted and it went down a treat. The tender juicy meat is infused through a slow cooking process with flavours of garlic, ginger, soy, bay leaves, onion and chilli.  The dish has quite an unusual tangy flavour due to the use of vinegar and I find that unique tang is what makes it so morish.  I have made these dishes a number of times since as they are easy to make, hearty and a crowd pleaser.

Since mastering the Adobo and as much as I just wanted to keep making it over and over as it is one of those dishes you would put in your readily used repotoire I decided we needed to expand our Filipino horizons. I chose a recipe called Binagoongang Baboy, partly lured by the exotic name and partly by the fact the main ingredient is Pork Belly. I love the fact that the name is so foreign, I mentioned to a Filipino colleague that I was making this dish and she immediately knew I was making pork in fish sauce. If I were to give it a literal translation I would say I am making twice cooked pork belly in a tomato and fish sauce.


The beauty of SBS cookbooks is you can also find all their recipes on their fantastic website. So you can see the full recipe right here.

So the first round of cooking the pork belly requires it to be par-boiled and I will give you a tip. Keep the remaining liquid after you have reserved the 250mls required for the rest of the dish, pop it in the fridge and you have an amazing stock to use for other dishes. In the same week I used this stock to cook up a Balinese Bumbu spiced pork dish as well as a Thai Yellow Curry (not a particularly traditional technique to use a pork stock but tasty none the less).

As you see from the recipe you then deep fry the pork belly and add it to a sauce of caramelised tomatoes and shrimp paste. I am still not sure we found the correct shrimp paste. It seems from the recipe description the Filipino shrimp paste is different to the more solid block version you use in Thai cooking so we hunted down a jar that was a wet, lumpy, stinky, blobby paste. Hopefully we got it right and if anyone out there knows more about the correct Filipino shrimp paste and where to get it do drop me a line.

The final result was delish. It did have that odd fishy overtone that a western palate at first wants to reject but after a few mouthfuls it is actually really tasty. The crispy pork belly was divine and the caramelised tomatoes really harked back to that Spanish influence in the cuisine.

I really encourage you to cook this dish. It was not time consuming at all and really highlights how the Filipino cuisine is so unique and stands on it's own amongst what many just like to call "Asian Food" it is proof that food cannot be defined as simply "Asian".


Cost:2/5 Ease:3/5 Time:4/5 Taste:2/5
Originally posted on Tuesday, 9 December 2014 by

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Chicago is...


 I was recently fortunate to be offered a whirlwind trip to the States (or as we call it in the industry a“familiarisation”) through my job as a travel agent and I was thrilled to be spending eight days split between New York & Chicago with a brief stop in San Francisco on the way home.

I have been travelling as an agent for many years now and I am use to seeing cities and countries at lightening speed. Although the time frame is short we always hit the ground running, jetlagged? too bad you will be going all day and into the night non stop. The sponsoring suppliers need to get their value for money out of their agents so they certainly know how to pack it in. I am not complaining at all. I thrive on it and the exhaustive nature of the travel is compensated by the heavily reduced pricing that accompanies these industry sojourn’s.

What heightened my excitement for this trip was that is was my first famil after a break from the travel industry in which I went off to become a cake decorator. Prior to that I had been managing a new travel agency and the few trips we were offered I did give out to the staff who were newer to the industry and not as well travelled as me. So I had been hankering to get myself back into the game and what better way to do it than a week in the USA!

As you may expect as a first timer to New York all my thoughts in the lead up to this trip were centered on the Big Apple. I was so ready to experience that city that all else melted into the background. Of course New York did not disappoint and whilst we didn’t have enough time to really get into the swing a such an expansive city we got a taste of it and I am certainly hungry for more New York. But what caught me completely by surprise was Chicago. Its post snow storm, crisp blue skies enveloped us and the city wriggled it's way deep into my core.


To be honest with more than a decade in the travel industry and sending thousands of people overseas I have never sent a single soul to Chicago and I have never even had anyone enquire about it. It is just not on the radar for Australians which is such a shame. I will put myself out there and I will say that I enjoyed it far more than San Fran which may be unfair to say with my brief single day spent in San Fran and I certainly enjoyed it more than LA or San Diego. It is impossible to compare it to Vegas as it is another world unto itself and I am not game enough to say it was better than New York but I will say it exceeded my expectations and left a real impression on me.

Sometimes cities can be elusive in what cements your love of them. Chicago isn’t in your face saying “I am awesome” like New York is. There isn’t one single aspect I could put my finger on that I would say impressed me the most but I will attempt to convey why you should go there.

Starting with the architecture. Now to preface this I know very little about architecture but Chicago intrigued me to find out more. The city area itself is relatively easy to navigate and beautifully laid out along the Chicago River and bordered by Lake Michigan. A short cruise along the Chicago River takes you on an architectural journey. I won’t pretend I knew any of this prior to reading it on Wikipedia but it is interesting to note that the buildings are not particularly historical as most of Chicago burnt down in a fire in 1871. I don’t know what was here before the fire but I tell you it may have done the city a favour as what has sprung up since this time is just stunning.

I was particularly blown away by the Wrigley Building and the Tribune Tower which gave you the distinct impression that Batman was certainly nearby. Even in their Neo Gothic, French Renaissance and Spanish Revival glory they don't actually manage to leave the more modern buildings in their wake. It seems that tradition of great architecture has carried on in the city and even the more modern constructions like Trump Tower hold their own in the skyline. There is just something about American architecture that is epic and that we do seem to lack here in Australia. Cities like New York and Chicago just scream wealth and power.




The second thing that imprinted on my mind was that lake. Now that is a real lake. Coming from a country where lakes tend to be dry a large part of the year, I was floored by this body of water extending off into the horizon, if I didn’t know better would think was the ocean. Being the end of winter that I was there we didn’t partake in the waterfront activities I believe go on in Chicago, we only viewed from the top of Willis Tower but none the less, wow.


The vibe going on downtown was also noteworthy. The streets are clean, the shopping cheap and accessible and at night the streets twinkled with fairy lights in the trees. The restaurants have that classic American dark wood and hanging portraits thing going on. The kind of places you see in the movies and can imagine the Godfather busting out an Uzi in.

I also felt very safe and comfortable downtown which is interesting. If you look at the crime rate for Chicago you might think you would be lucky to escape without a gunshot wound but I can only assume this kind of violence is predominantly in the suburbs.

Lastly I have to tell you about The Bean. This public artwork mesmerised me, like a fat kid with a lollypop I was spellbound. It’s highly polished mirror finish reflected and warped the surrounding buildings and from every angle the image moved and changed. It provided me endless entertainment and without the strict schedule I may have stayed for many hours, staring into the psychedelic abyss.



I don’t know why Chicago doesn’t have a place in the heart of Australian travellers. All I can do is help spread the word about this amazing city and hope more Aussie’s discover it’s wonders soon.
Originally posted on Wednesday, 3 December 2014 by

Friday, 28 November 2014

Cookbooks or Anthropological Odysseys?

This Kylie Kwong Beef Dish from "Simple Chinese Cooking Class" totally transported me to China

"Anthropology demands the open mindedness with which one must look and listen, record in astonishment and wonder that which one would not have been able to guess". Margaret Mead 

As I was delving into my most recent cookbook “Hidden Kitchens of Sri Lanka” and I was spellbound by a story of a local market stall holder in Colombo who gets up at midnight for the bus commute to his stall I was overwhelmed by the sense of what the modern cookbook really is.

Far beyond recipes and side skirting tourism the cookbook has morphed from a dry set of recipes to an all encompassing anthropological study. The aforementioned book by Bree Hutchins is a foreigner's perspective on a culture and it’s food and has taken me deeper into Sri Lanka than I have ever been. She was sponsored by Dilmah Teas to travel the wild and colourful country of Sri Lanka and has really presented a book that goes far beyond just a cookbook. The photography is captivating, vivid and takes you on a journey through a country that couldn't be more different to the Western World certainly as I know it.

I find it interesting that my current field of interest which has given birth to this blog involves exploring the world through it’s food. When I left school I walked away with a mark that could have allowed be to pursue almost any field I wished and Anthropology was at the top of my list. Choosing at the time to forgo university I stumbled into the travel industry. I don’t believe in fate but it has been a career that has fitted me like a glove. The opportunities it has presented me in terms of travel have been life changing.  But now I have found myself unwittingly wandering into the field of anthropology without even realising it.

It actually didn’t fully dawn on me that food was a form of Anthropology until Anthony Bourdain in his own dry, witty and cynical way pointed it out in his series “Parts Unknown” which by the way is a bloody brilliant show. It was like a light bulb moment for me. Of course I knew that food was a way to experience a country whilst travelling. We have all had those moments whilst travelling where the food and people transcend the ordinary and come together to the perfect crescendo but the idea of it being a doorway to study a culture beyond the food itself is so exciting.

I also have realised that through the mediums of cookbooks as well as  foodie tv shows (such as Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations or Parts Unknown) you can avoid the trappings of commercial travel shows which are becoming increasingly advertising space for paid sponsor programming. They present countries and cultures from an angle that is so refreshing after years of being bogged down in sell out travel television.

If you have not bought a cookbook in the last five years I urge you to check them out. Even if you aren’t an avid cook you will find many modern cookbooks will take you on an in-depth exploration of a region and it’s people through photography as well as the recipes. You will discover stories and lifestyles you knew little about and you may even be inspired to take a journey into your own kitchen and bring yourself even closer to the world.

You should check out my Google Book Library to see what I have been delving into lately. These are all great books and I enjoy being transported to exotic destinations whilst reading and cooking from them all.
Originally posted on Friday, 28 November 2014 by

Monday, 24 November 2014

Hungry Planet Baklava

So it seems after a little research that there are as many Baklava recipes out there as colours of underwear in my undies drawer (which is many). So why add to the Baklava noise that is out there in the world? Cause I can and because it's also fun to make up your own rules, that's why. It also means I can customise the Baklava to suit my specific tastes.

Spot the bristle

My first shot at it came out delicious, all except for the damn pastry brush that shed it's bristles into the pastry as I smothered it in butter, I could have done without that. But shit happens and we ate it anyway...and then I gifted the remainders to friends who I forgot to warn about the bristles and they may now think I rolled a cat in the Baklava, not a great look.

So here it is my Hungry Planet Baklava, your choice if you go with the bristles or not. I suggest not.

Ingredients

170g melted unsalted butter
20 filo sheets
250g walnuts chopped finely
200g blanched almonds chopped finely
40g pistachios chopped finely
65g caster sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves

For the Syrup:
350g caster sugar
100g honey
1 strip of lemon rind
1 cinnamon stick
2 tbs rose water
Juice of 1/2 lemon
5 cloves
250g water
Method:

  • Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius.
  • Take a 30cm x 22 cm slice tray & brush the sides & base with melted butter
  • Lay 10 sheets of filo pastry one on top of the other in the base of the tray buttering between each layer. The excess can overhang the sides of the tray.
  • Combine walnuts, almonds & pistachios with the sugar, cinnamon & cloves. Spread 1/3 of this mixture on top of the filo pastry that is laid out in the tray.
  • Lay down two more layers of filo in the tray buttering each layer as you go. 
  • Spread out another 1/3 of the mixture on top of this layer.
  • Lay out two more layers of pastry buttering each & then spread the last of the nut mixture of top.
  • Finish off with the remaining filo buttering each layer.
  • Trim excess pastry level to the top of the last layer of pastry.
  • Chill in the freezer for 10 minutes & then cut into a diamond pattern all the way through to the base.
  • Bake for 50-60 minutes till golden brown on top.


Syrup:

  • While the Baklava is cooking, combine all syrup ingredients in a saucepan.
  • Bring to the boil over high heat & then reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes stirring occasionally.
  • Set aside & allow syrup to cool to room temperature.
  • Remove the cinnamon, cloves & lemon rind.
  • Once the Baklava is ready remove from oven & pour the syrup over the hot baklava.
  • Set aside to cool and absorb for several hours.
Then close your eyes, take a big bite of that nutty sweetness and imagine you are in Turkey.







Originally posted on Monday, 24 November 2014 by

Sunday, 16 November 2014

We're not In Ethiopia Anymore Toto

I haven't actually been to Ethiopia but after spending a week practicing making Injera with my husband Martin (who made it his sole mission to conquer this bread) and then spending an entire day cooking up an Ethiopian menu of Doro Wat, Injera and Eggplant and Tomato Salad I feel a little closer to this African nation.


After shopping for the ingredients for this feast, many being obscure spices located with the wonders of the internet, I was certainly curious to find out a little more about Ethiopia. What struck me was that we were spending a fortune on ingredients to essentially make two dishes, we came out at around $120 all up. It dawned on me I had spent a large portion of the average Ethiopian income on one single meal. Of course I know you can't compare our economies and our wages are in line with the cost of food here in Australia and when we earn so much more we will pay so much more for food, but that then led me to question what the realities are of living in Ethiopia?

From cooking this one simple meal I was lead down the yellow brick road of curiosity. I am relying on the internet for these facts and figures and whilst I attempted to find reputable sources don't blame me if these are wildly inaccurate. 

So Ethiopia is a country of 90 million people on a land mass not much bigger than my birth state of South Australia, which has a population of 1.2 million people. It has a median monthly income of $284 US dollars is around 1/12th my monthly income. You might then guess food must be really cheap, but according to this website chicken breasts cost $8.35 a kilo and a dozen eggs $1.76. You can currently buy a kilo of chicken at my local Coles Supermarket for $9.98 a kilo and a dozen eggs for $2.90. You can see where I am going here and the disparities are mounting. 

So from this I drew this one major conclusion:

This is not an average meal for most Ethiopians

Profound I know. 

I would also assume that a lot of Ethiopians raise their own chickens and grow some of their own vegetables but you can't deny it must be tough especially with the nations propensity for drought. Subsistence farming in Ethiopia in borne from necessity and not a trend or hobby like here in Australia. 

I also concluded that when I can purchase chicken for $9.98 a kilo that my choice of locally reared, organically raised, pastured chicken at $18.99 a kilo was a dickhead move and made me feel dirty in my choices as a wealthy Australian (wealthy, on global standards not Australian). 


I guess supporting sustainable and animal friendly farming practices is noble but if I had bought the cheap chicken and made more wise purchases like this I could afford to feed an Ethiopian family with the remaining funds. And if all western cultures were wiser with their purchases and denied the monster that is consumerism more often maybe poverty would not exist. That's the thing about Western culture though. We have enough money to revel in our choices and selfishly give little thought on how we can help the wider global community.

Wow that all got very serious there for a moment. Back to the food.

Doro Wat is a heavily spiced chicken stew. You can see the recipe we used here. It was not difficult to make but was reasonably time consuming when also breaking down and skinning your own chicken, making Injera from scratch and also cooking this side salad which involves roasting eggplants and zucchinis. All up it took the two of us around 5 hours to make it all.

The Injera was probably the trickiest to master. There are any number of recipes and tips on the internet, it was a little overwhelming. We experimented with a sourdough method all week. It is also difficult to get traditional Teff flour is Australia so we opted for a mix of white and wholemeal flour.
We also struggled with the cooking temperature so the base did not end up crispy but also getting the Injera to cook through and not be doughy. In the end we had:

1 1/2 cups of plain flour, 1/2 cup Atta (wholemeal flour) half a sachet of yeast and enough water to make a runny consistency. We left it overnight and would adjust the consistency with water when using it. We found it was not creating enough of the bubbling texture so we cheated and use baking powder to do this. We also found a low/mid heat worked best. You will need to play around to get the right thickness and size, this isn't something you will get right the first time. We then kept the leftovers of the sourdough mixture each day, added more flour and water after each use so by the time we were cooking the actual meal the sourdough was aged around 4 days. It did get more sour each day as the yeast continued to develop and that helped with the authentic taste of it.

The Doro Wat itself was fascinating and foreign all at the same time. There was one point during the cooking process that we thought we would end up at a local restaurant for dinner. The quantity of spices in this thing is astounding and with the spices being so foreign we were unsure it was going to be palatable. I made the mistake of tasting it not long after the bulk of spices went in and with the spices being raw it was not a good experience. But as the spices cooked down they developed a far sweeter taste and by the time it was ready it was quite delicious. The stew also had a dozen eggs in it which of course I poo poo'd the $2.90 a dozen option for the $5.60 a dozen local free range variety but in this case the extra money does get you a far superior product.

There is one final conclusion from making this meal. A feast is best when shared and having invited over family to enjoy in this traditional Ethiopian feast the meal was elevated into a real experience that will be slotted away in the memory bank under "good times".


Originally posted on Sunday, 16 November 2014 by

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Grill The Foodie: Macau

Our regular series “Grill the Foodie” is all about getting inside a country’s food and eating experiences from the perspective of travellers as well as expats living abroad. Why travellers and not locals? Well sometimes locals don’t know what makes their country’s cuisine so unique and wonderful they may not have any other points of reference as their own food is all they have experienced. We will delve into what makes world cuisine great and why travellers love to eat so much. We want you to be inspired by what is happening around the world, how others enjoy their food and how food can unite cultures.


 Today we are revisiting with Mike. We originally interviewed Mike to dig deep into his Foodie experiences in Russia .Originally from Sydney, Mike has lived in Hong Kong, Macau and Moscow before settling back in Hong Kong.

The move to Macau gave him a chance to explore Chinese, Portuguese and fusion dishes. His attempts to spice up Russian soup resulted in the Thai/Russian fusion dish ‘Tom Yum Borscht’. He now lives in Hong Kong where all cuisines, and fiery chillies are available, but he always finds space in his suitcase for new and exotic ingredients wherever he travels.

Not sure I will be racing out to try Mike's recommended Tripe Curry but he certainly paints a vivid food experience of Macau, I can hear my tummy rumbling now.

Photo courtesy of Lidxplus

Where is your home country?

Hong Kong SAR (China) is my home, though to avoid confusion I am originally from Australia.

How long did you live in Macau for and where in Macau were you located?

A little under two years. I lived in the CBD, on the Macau peninsula.

What inspired you to move to Macau?

An interesting work project (start-up airline).

Did you find yourself eating out or cooking at home whilst living in Macau?

Mostly eating out. Macanese food is great value, so there's hardly the need to cook at home.

What are your favourite local dishes when eating out?

That's a difficult question. I do not eat much meat, however when I do I  enjoy "nose to tail" dining. The Macanese interpretations of Portuguese tripe curry and ox tail curry are sensational. Portuguese chicken (which I call "road kill" because of the way it is splayed out for cooking) is great everywhere in Macau. It is worth mentioning that the crushed chillies in oil which are served at every local restaurant in Hong Kong and Macau, are much better in Macau. If you are a chilli aficionado like me, you will enjoy the  more complex smoky flavour. By the way, Portuguese wine is inexpensive and surprisingly good.


What are your favourite local food haunts?

Living in the CBD, I had half a dozen restaurants in my apartment building, 50 restaurants within 5 minutes walk and literally hundreds of restaurants within 10 minutes walking time. Aside from many great Chinese (all regions), Portuguese and Macanese restaurants, Macau also boasts some very authentic foreign restaurants. There is an area called "Thai Street" which has a couple of great Thai restaurants and very well stocked Asian supermarkets. My favourite  Chinese restaurant is Shanghai Bund (formerly called Shanghai Tang) near the old Holiday Inn hotel, where the vegetarian dishes are very tasty (they serve both vegetarian and non-vegetarian). For Portuguese, Fernados in Coloane and Antonios in the old Taipa Village are both worth a visit. Café Litoral, near the Inner Harbour area, is probably my favourite Portuguese/Macanese restaurant. For Macanese food, choosing becomes difficult ... in fact I can't choose because it's all great!

 What surprises you most about Macanese food?

Unlike Hong Kong "fusion" food (classics like spaghetti with gravy, carrots and pak choi come to mind!), which somehow misses the mark, the Macanese take on East meets West is great. Tripe curry, for example, might include chick peas in the sauce and "Portuguese fried rice" has olives cooked into the whole affair.

As an expat are there any Macanese foods that you have a total disconnect with e.g. don’t understand or outright hate?

No, it's all good.

What is your favourite food memory or food story from your time in Macau?

Two of the nice things about Macau are the alfresco dining culture and their enjoyment of eating late. I enjoy people watching (and Macau has a diversity of people to watch!), so some of my fondest memories involve sitting in a street-side restaurant, enjoying great food and cold beer, while watching the passing parade.

 For tourists, what local foods would you say are must haves on their trip to Macau?

Egg tarts, which come in two varieties - some are made with whole eggs and some with only egg whites - are great with a café latte. The Portuguese chicken and salted prawns at Fernandos are an institution and, despite this restaurant being on the tourist map, it is genuinely worth visiting for both the atmosphere and great food.

Are there any Macanese foods or experiences that make you feel close to home?

I have lived in Sydney, Hong Kong, Macau and Moscow, so "home" is hard to define for me. It's a bit of a stretch but the saucy nose-to-tail Macanese dishes remind me of some of the delicious food my Mum cooked for my family when I was growing up.

Now that you have left Macau are there any foods or food experiences will you miss most?

I was surprised by how quickly, and how deeply, I fell in love with Macau. Among many things, I miss the café culture.


Photo Courtesy of Brenden Brain

Photo Courtesy of Diego Delso

Photo Courtesy of Whhalbert

Originally posted on Tuesday, 11 November 2014 by

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Food Discoveries Will Not Be Categorised

I have spoken of my love of cookbooks many times and of course those with a focus on world cuisines are my obsession. Recently I have picked up many new titles, I like to grab enticing books when I see them on sale but it comes with the pitfall of actually finding time to devour them in their entirety, take in the stories from across the globe and melt into the images that bring destinations to life. I like to read them through end to end before I actually start cooking from them. And there lies my next conundrum. Finding the time to actually live  all of these great food adventures.

Recent feelings of not having enough time for all my new books bought on mild anxiety which washed over me in an obsessive compulsive form. Thoughts raced through my mind that I needed to start cooking my way around the world systematically, possibly alphabetically or as my husband cheekily but cleverly suggested in the categorisation of the "Human Development Index" possibly worst to best or visa versa. At first I laughed at the suggestion, then I considered it, there is something about structure and order that makes me feel at peace. It seems to run in our family, my sister and I were perpetual over achievers at school. She lived her life governed by the calming order provided by a structured day laid out in her diary. I moved systematically from one project to the next as I still do, making sense of the world and my interests through experimentation.

As I pondered how I could possibly contain the world in some sense of order it dawned on me that the beauty of life is the freedom to chase whatever I wish down the rabbit hole at any time that pleases me. Why contain my adventures and neat little categories? Food adventures in the kitchen are no different to travel adventures.  They should be pursued governed by what I crave at that moment in time. Spontaneity will inevitably lead to discovery. Be it of a great cuisine I will desire for the rest of my life, a cuisine I cannot master the techniques of or a cuisine that I loathe or possibly love to loathe.

Restricting myself with unnecessary rules will only inhibit creativity. If I want to spend weeks mastering the art of the soufflé then so be it or if I decide that I want to hunt for unheard of ingredients for days on end till I have the makings of an Ethiopian feast then that is my prerogative. Food is not to be unnecessarily limited and order and structure will not bring the world any closer.

So on that note, I will continue to let the food discoveries unfold naturally in whatever form that may be.

In case you are interested in taking off on a food journey with me here are some of my most recent highly recommended cookbook purchases that will teleport your taste buds around the world and your heart to a state of happiness.






Originally posted on Sunday, 9 November 2014 by

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Empanadas: The Lazy Bitches Meat Pie

After reading and cooking from the cookbook "Argentinian Street Food" by Enrique Zanoni and Gaston Stivelmaher I was inspired to create my own Empanada recipe. Not that their recipes aren't any good, they are great but it is fun to bring together your own flavours and I am currently in love with Chipotle chilli's.

Empanadas really are quite a fascinating food. At it's core it is just a meat filled pastry but when you look at it closely you realise this South American favourite actually appears in various forms all over the world. And why wouldn't it? It's meat... encased in pastry, enough said.


Here in Australia our meat pies are a classic example of this. A little larger than the Empanada but the same basic concept, a meat filled pastry and like any good Aussie I love a meat pie. If you haven't chowed down on a hot meat pie whilst drunk, spilling it all down your front and declaring it as the best thing you have ever eaten then you aren't a true Aussie. I have dabbled in making my own meat pies and where they differ from the Empanada is that it requires two types of pastry to create and are quite frankly a bit of a pain in the arse. The base being a savory short crust and the lid being puff pastry they are very time consuming to make from scratch. It just made sense to me to try my hand at Empanadas, they are like the lazy bitches meat pie.

For the pastry recipe I used the one from the Argentinian Street Food book. No need to reinvent the wheel here it was the filling I wanted to customise.



 So for the puffed dough which is a suitable recipe for deep friend Empanadas (the book also provides a recipe for a baked dough) you will need:
  • 1 kg plain flour
  • 25g salt
  • 160 ml sunflower oil
  • 350 ml water (I found I needed a bit more than this as the dough was too stiff so add at your own discretion)

Method:
Combine the flour and salt in a bowl. Add the oil and water and mix with a spoon till combined. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and need for 10-15 minutes until smooth. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.

For the baked dough recipe and a large variety of Empanada filling recipes you should purchase the book cause these guys know their Empanadas.

For the Hungry Planet Empanada Filling recipe you will need:
  • 1 brown onion finely diced
  • 1 red capsicum finely diced
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tbs cumin seeds dry toasted & ground
  • 500g minced steak
  • 2 birdseye chillis
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tbs smoky paprika
  • 2 whole dried chipotle chillis
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 1 tbs brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • salt & pepper to season
  • 3 shallots (green onions) thinly sliced

Method:

  • Saute onion & capsicum in a tablespoon of oil on medium heat for 10 minutes until tender. Remove from pan & set aside. 
  • Add another tablespoon of oil and add mince to pan & saute on medium heat till browned. 
  • Add cumin, paprika, chipotles, cayenne, tomato paste and chilli's and heat for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  • Add Chicken stock, oregano, sugar and add back onion & capsicum. Stir to combine.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Put lid on pan and simmer of low to medium heat for 30 minutes. 
  • Remove lid, increase heat to medium and cook till liquid has reduced to nothing (around 20 minutes).
  • Cool filling in fridge (you can leave overnight for a more intense flavour). 
  • Once cooled add sliced shallots.

For detailed pictures and a range of decorative trimming options for your Empanadas again I would refer you to the book (despite the fact that I appear to be shamelessly plugging this book I do not know the authors or receive any kick backs from you buying this book. I just like the book.)

The basic method is as follows:

  • Roll out your dough (it is quite elastic so you may need to do this in a number of goes not all at once)
  • Cut 14 cm circles using a cookie cutter or freehand if you are super skilled.
  • Place a tablespoon of filling in the centre of the circle.
  • Wet the edge of the dough
  • Fold circle in half to enclose the filling and tightly pinch the seam closed all the way around. Your Empanada will be a half moon shape now.
  • For the trim you see on my Empanadas  you start at one end of the little parcel and pinch the edge of the dough and with a twisting action you fold it over itself. You can be creative here, as long as the parcel is fully sealed the trim can be whatever you like, you can leave it plain if you like.


Once sealed and looking all pretty you gotta deep fry those suckers. With the oil on 180 degrees (use a deep fryer if you aren't confident you won't burn the house down on the stove) drop your little parcels into their oily bath and cook till golden brown and crispy (around 5 minutes). Once cooked shove them in your face cause they are super tasty.

Check out the faces of South America from my parents recent trip there. They spent five weeks exploring Peru, Brazil, Chile, The Galapagos and cruising the Amazon. I was really mean to my dad about the pictures he took in Vietnam...looks like he has been practising, touché dad, touché.









Originally posted on Wednesday, 5 November 2014 by

Saturday, 1 November 2014

An Aussie Halloween


Isn't an Aussie Halloween the same as any other Halloween you may ask? Well not quite, it is currently a half arsed attempt to emulate an age old tradition that just has nothing to do with us. Until recently it was virtually unknown here except when watching American movies.

But a day of the year dedicated to eating junk food and scaring the shit out of each other for laughs couldn't go ignored forever. It is still the opinion of many that the Americanisation of Australian culture is not a good thing and that allowing your kids to engorge on lollies is irresponsible and to those people I say Bah Humbug.

Each year little by little the celebrations have been taking hold here and I will admit I am becoming a fan. Thanks to Costco, the great American mega mart, the help of the hubby and a trusty Dremel, I attempted my very own Jack O Lantern.

I was so happy with the results that I am looking forward to next Halloween where I can go all out and decorate the porch and hopefully attract more than the one meager Trick or Treater I got this year.

Here is how you can make your own Jack O Lantern and trust me, use a Dremel, it makes fast work of the job.

Find yourself an inspiration Pumpkin

Google yourself a design you like or design your own

Chop off your Pumpkins scalp

Remove your Pumpkin's brains

Tape your pattern to your Pumpkin

If you are really lazy now you are done

Use a Dremel to mark the outline of your design

Also use a Dremel to cut the design


Put in some tea light candles and there you go, spooky

Originally posted on Saturday, 1 November 2014 by

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Suck It Up Rant: Isis and Ebola Won't Get You On Your Next Holiday

There is a unique experience when you work with the public. You become a sounding board for the inner most thoughts of people you have never met. Things you didn't ask to hear and never wanted to hear. Detailed medical complaints, their opinions on why it is better to book travel online and how my entire professional is superfluous. Any manner of questions from where the toilets are located at any possible airport in the world to "do I need a passport to go to Tasmania" (the answer to that if you are an Australian is no, Tasmania although an island is a state of Australia which should indicate that you don't need a passport duh).

This all may sound very bitchy and yes it is. I can accept that I can be a bitch on occasion. Anyone who has ever worked with the public will relate to what I am saying here. Stupidity I can handle but with all the events happening around the world and with the media's tendency to fear monger there has been a common theme to recent dealings with the public. Ebola and Islamic State.

I am going to come out here and say it once and for all. Neither Ebola or IS will likely kill you or even cause you any issues on your next holiday....especially if you aren't going to West Africa, Syria or Iraq.  Ebola isn't going to chase you through the South Pacific and get you whilst you are laying by the pool in Fiji and IS  won't be secretly plotting to get you whilst you are swimming in the warm waters of Maui.

Of course this is all open to change, Ebola may spread it's claws across the globe but you know what, it hasn't yet so don't waste your energy on fearing it. IS may take over the world, unlikely but I  don't have a degree in world politics so I just don't know. I am no expert but again I don't waste one minute of my life letting it hold me back on what I want to do. That shit is for the future so leave it there.

I am also no psychologist, I don't understand why irrational fears consume the minds of humans. Why when the Flu kills hundreds of thousands of people every year around the world are people not afraid of it? Yet an outbreak of Ebola on the other side of the world has people trembling in terror? Why when you are statistically in great danger everyday on our roads are people so much more terrified of flying? I just don't know.

Why am I bringing this up? Because people need to suck it up, put on their big girl/boy pants and get out there and live their lives free from the fear that seems to bind them to their lounges. The world sucks, a  lot of horrible shit happens everyday but you need to find a way to rationalise it. Spend some time with compassionate thoughts for those affected, it is horrific and we should feel for them. We can donate some money to charity to assist and we can mourn the world we have perceived as lost but we need to move on, live our lives on our own terms and not let fear rule us.

I do find these fears are much more prevalent in older people. My mother will tell you it is because when you are older you are more aware of what COULD happen to you. She had little fear travelling the world alone at age 17, an amazing feat but now in her mid fifties she is far more cautious. I'm not buying it though. I think there is something in the way our brains develop that causes fear to grow as we age. If that is the case I shouldn't judge but I will admit I just want to slap some people. I can't help it.

There are legitimate things to be afraid of. I am not cracking down on all fears. Big hairy Huntsman spiders, that shit is scary. Amusement park rides assembled by toothless carny's, be afraid! Jumping out of a perfectly good plane, now that shits just dumb. But if you are going on a resort holiday on an isolated island populated by pacific islanders I don't want to hear it, get a grip!

I will conclude this rant in saying that I cannot guarantee your safety (although I have been asked to do exactly that before) and that this little monologue comes with a disclaimer that I will not be responsible if something shitty happens on your next travels. But you know what, that's life. It isn't meant to be all sunshine and roses. The unknown should be what lights that fire under your arse and gets you out of bed in the morning. I can't think of anything worse than being subjected to a "safe" existence. I'm gonna get all Oprah on you now. If you feel the fear, acknowledge it, embrace it and tell it to get F**cked cause you are gonna do it anyway.

I don't really have any relevant pictures to go with this blog post. I wish I had some photos of like a 90 year old backpacking in India, so instead I will just post some piccys that might inspire you to get out from under those sheets and go and see the world. Be Fearless.

Florence, Italy...currently Ebola free!


The Canadian Rockies...no Ebola here

Rarotonga, Cook Islands...What's that you said you saw an IS militant?



Milan, Italy...is this dude on his horse running from Ebola?

Milan, Italy...Should be safe up here


Egypt...okay has it's risks I'll admit but bloody worth it!

The Cook Islands...still Ebola free
Okay that's enough I am done being a cheeky bitch now.


Originally posted on Wednesday, 29 October 2014 by