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.


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

  • 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.


  • 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)

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


  • 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