China, here we come!

Chinese groceries
Getting ready for lunch in China

I’m starting to get ready for lunch in China, and have visited the Hiep Phat supermarket in Mitcham.

And what a great place to visit! Not only is there a stunning variety of completely unfamiliar sights and smells, but the staff are extremely helpful. I could browse through those shelves for hours.

I need lotus leaves for the Lotus Leaf Wrap Sticky Rice, and had no idea what to expect of a lotus leaf. Holy moly, they’re huge!

And then it was off to the North Ringwood Meat Supply to buy some belly pork for the crispy roast pork, and chicken and beef for the steamboat. Oh, and to scrounge some butcher’s string to tie the sticky rice in the lotus leaves.

I was a bit half-hearted about making fortune cookies (which aren’t Chinese at all – they originated in the US in 1920), but then found a website with fortunes, and couldn’t resist. I haven’t had fortune cookies very often, and remember not being at all impressed by the very bland taste of flour and water. The recipe I found includes almond essence, which upped the flavour considerably, and was supposed to make ten cookies. But I got 13 quite large ones, so when the real time comes, I’ll make them quite a bit smaller. Which means we’ll have more fortunes!

Other dishes on the menu are dumplings (of course), spring rolls (of course), steamed prawns with garlic, and spring onion pancakes.

I’m not even going to attempt to make Chinese desserts, and bought some pie cookies with mochi and blueberry and custard cream dai-fuku. I have no idea what they are or what they will taste like but, after all, the whole idea of 80 cuisines around the world is to step out of our food comfort zones.

Lani is very keen to write the quiz, so she and I will sit down together during the week and come up with 20 questions. I’m very glad that Lani chose China for her birthday month. I think we’re gunna have another great feast!

It’s Lani’s birthday on Monday. I’ll have to research if the Chinese have a special kind of birthday celebration cakes for six-year olds. Happy birthday for Monday, Lani-pops!











Moroccan delights

Oh, Morocco. How you amazed us with your flavours, your subtlety, your variety!

Our lunch in Morocco was wonderful. On another perfect Melbourne summer’s day, we decided to eat outside under the shade of the neighbour’s trees.

I was worried during the menu planning stage that it would all taste the same. Every savoury dish seemed to have dried cumin and coriander in it and fresh coriander and parsley on it (as a garnish). But I should have known that I could trust centuries of Moroccan cooks – every dish was deliciously different, and each complemented the other perfectly.

I would never order soup in a restaurant, but decided to make Harira (lamb and chickpea soup) as a mark of respect to Islam. According to my recipe book, harira is served to break the fast during Ramadan. It was the most hearty, delicious soup I have ever eaten, and will most certainly go into my list of favourite recipes. I suspect that harira is a bit like spag bol, in that there are many different variations – all of them good, but all of them subtly different. The version we tried could not be improved, I’m sure. It was simply wonderful.

Another recipe to keep is beyssara, which is broad bean dip. Except that it needs dried broad beans, and I left it far too late to source non-traditional foods like dried broad beans! I used canned butter beans instead, but the result was delicious. Maybe even better than homemade hommous.

And the filled savoury pancakes! Homemade pastry filled with savoury minced beef then rolled and fried. So very yummy!

The slow-roasted lamb with cumin was easily one of the best roast lamb dishes I’ve had. It was even better than the slow-roasted lamb shoulder at Cumulus Inc. And if you’ve ever had the slow-roasted lamb shoulder at Cumulus Inc, you will understand what a big call that is. It was impossible to stop picking at it.

And if you try nothing else from these pages, try this. Cut the skin and rind off a chunk of watermelon, cut the flesh into 2 cm cubes, put them into a bowl, sprinkle with rosewater, refrigerate for one hour, then sprinkle with chopped mint before serving. This is seriously pimped-up watermelon, and it was even more impossible to stop picking at than the lamb was. In fact, we didn’t stop picking at it, and managed to eat half a watermelon between us.

And the mint tea at the end of our feast settled our stomachs nicely, just as it is supposed to do.

It was so very hard to pick a favourite out of this menu.

I had said that Chile would be a hard act to to follow. Move over, Chile – Morocco is now the benchmark.

And next month, it’s off to Jamaica. The land of Bob Marley, Usain Bolt, jerk chicken, reggae music. Planning starts next week. Watch this space …

So, where to start?

looking-through_05Having decided to do a virtual culinary tour of the world, the first question was “where to start”.

By a very technical process, which involved catching a 50 cm inflatable world globe and choosing the country that was under my right index finger, Chile is the first country in our virtual tour.

Apart from tasting the food of the country, I also want this to be a learning experience for my grandchildren. The Aussie ones are 14, 8 and 4, and the English ones are 2 and under 1. Most of the time only the Aussie grandies will be part of this adventure, but the English ones will be in Melbourne in March and April (they might not learn much, but they’ll taste a lot).

So, apart from researching the food, I will also make up fact sheets and we can have a little quiz at the end of our meal.

Follow this link to see the countries we’ve visited.