Fijian Menu planned

After a lot of researching I think I’ve nailed down our Fijian Dinner menu.

I’ve got a fresh fruit entrée (it’s still summery here, so I should be able to still get the tropical fruits). So fruit should go down okay with the boys, at least with a choice of a few they can pick their favourites.

Mains is a rather interesting dish involving kumara (sweet potato) and pineapple. Ryan loves pineapple on his pizzas, so I’m hoping this one being a slightly sweet (I’m guessing) will go down well with the boys as well. Might even see if I can swing some half coconuts for them to drink out of – they’ll get a kick out of that. There was also Kokoda as a mains option (a Fijian version of my favourite Samoan dish, Oka), but we’re trying to different food each time and they’re basically identical.

The dessert I’ll leave as a surprise, it’s something I’ve never heard of before, and has an interesting cooking and presentation, and I’m pretty sure the kids will be wanting seconds and thirds. There was the option of Gulgula which looks suspiciously like Samoan Panikeke (so they’d be guaranteed to like that, but we’re trying to get them to try different/different foods).

No really difficult ingredients here, they’re all readily available – I might see if I can find cassava though – that’s a vegetable I haven’t seen before.

Final touch (for the adults) Kava, I’ve ordered some powder to make Kava the drink from, but by looking at their website who knows how long it’ll take to get here, I think it may be on island time.

Thanks for stopping by, photos to come over the weekend.


Sam chooses the next country for International Dinner #14

So! There you have it – we’re venturing back to the South Pacific. Before we started recording he asked me what type of food Canada has, so I thought maybe we’d be going Canuck, but no! He chooses a tiny speck in the ocean. I imagine there’ll be similar food to Samoa – so I’ll have to choose different dishes, there is an Indian influence as well, so that could open some different options.

And yes – Sam needs a haircut!

I’m off to research – happy reading!

International Dinner Project: Mongolia (Ryan’s Choice)

Mongolia Night guest cooks Ruhan, (Uncle) Jono and (Auntie) Mel

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Preparation for some of the course for this dinner started on Thursday. There weren’t to many in the way of hard to find ingredients for this dinner, Seechwan (Sichuan) Pepper, and Star Anise, which wasn’t so much hard to find, we just didn’t have whole stars in the pantry, the rest was present and accounted for in the kitchen! Yay!

This I would say, would have to be our most international, International Dinner yet!

With special guest cook Ruhan, straight from Inner Mongolia, and a special recipe for Bing (of which I learnt the correct pronounciation/inflection from Ruhan) from fantastic fellow blogger Mr L. and his Mongolian cooking guide Bayasaa – thanks to you both! Made for a really stunning night of foodie fare.

Mongolian Roasted or Fried Peanuts

Roasted/Fried Peanuts
A Pan Bread (which disappeared before I could photograph it)
Friday saw me preparing the Mongolian Roasted/Fried Peanuts (I’m assuming in Mongolia they’re just called Fried Peanuts). I was easing myself into it, these just called for a mixture of Star Anise, Sichuan Pepper, Salt and water to be boiled up, peanuts added and boiled a little longer. The left to steep in the pot for another 12 hours or so. Easy, done…. relaxing Friday night – and the room was left very aromatic with the smell of aniseed.

Every time I walked into the kitchen I remarked how boring the rest of the house smelt. After the steeping process, they were patted dry and roasted in the oven, until almost completely dried out. Which means most of the oil has been baked out of them. They could be eaten like this or additionally fried in oil until golden. So on Saturday, after having them in the over for just over an hour, looking at the clock – and with Khuushuur and Buuz/Booz still to make, we tasted a few (once they had cooled a bit) and decided they were pretty delicious as is – and we’d opt for the slightly healthier (and faster) option of roasting them only.
I’d say they were popular with everyone (even though Sam said he was tired of peanuts after the Indonesian Peanuts and the Portuguese Pumpkin Seeds, he still polished off his fair share – as did Ryan), as half of them disappeared and we’d made half a kilo (just over 1 pound) worth. They tasted very lightly salted, with a hint of the anise flavour at the end an as you swallowed you could smell the anise, very nice, and I’m sure that last amount won’t last the weekend.

Bing Bread (garlic and herb flavoured)Open steamed mutton and beef dumplings

Raw ingredients for the Hot PotSam retrieving some 'goodies' from the meat hot potSam and Ryan's Sheep shaped khuushuur

Bing Bread (Pan fried layered pastry bread)
Khuushuur (A fried meat pastie)
Buuz/Booz (A steamed lamb or beef dumpling)
Mongolian Hot Pot (A meat and a spicy vegetarian option)

I was just finishing up the roasting of the peanuts when a comment came in from Mongolia, Mr L. had managed to get the recipe for Bing Bread from his Mongolian friend and cook Bayasaa. Just in the nick of time really, I printed it out, showed it Ryan telling him it had come all the way from Mongolia, just minutes ago, all especially for his Mongolian dinner, disbelief, I think would be the best way to describe, “just for me?!?”.

I followed the carefully transcribed instructions on kneading to create the right consistency, opting to make a garlic and herb variation, in a process of rolling and cross rolling the pastry to create layered pastry (which fascinated the watching boys), and in the end I think we ended up with bread that was pretty much as described, crunchy on the outside, chewy inside, and nicely layered and garlic flavoured, a bit like Indian Naan Bread (although I think I could have been a bit more generous with the garlic and herbs). I made six rounds/circles of Bing (two of which were cinnamon and sugar flavoured as per the boys requests) and not one piece was left at the end of the night – it was a huge success! So much so, that when I told Ruhan what I was making – she thought a while  (processing my pronunciation) – she corrected my pronunciation knowing exactly what I was talking about.

The Khuushuur and Buuz were a team effort, Jono rolling out the pastry, Ruhan, and I making the Buuz dumplings, and the two boys making Khuushuur. When I told the boys, the the meat they were putting in the dough was sheep, Sam started making them look like sheep’s heads, replete with eyes and nose, they had great fun left to their own devices. Apparently Ruhan’s mother is a champion dumpling maker – Ruhan wasn’t happy with her efforts, so I promised not to put up a photo of them.

While all this was going on Ruhan was also making and heating up the mixtures for the hot pots – a vegetarian one and meat one.

Finally we were ready to eat – a little later than planned (but good things take time…) Sam is really starting to get the hang of things and was up for trying lots of different things, the bing, buuz, some more bing, some of the foods from the hot pot, Ryan is still a little reticent, but he did have the peanuts, the bing, and sample some vegetables. It was late and he asked to go to sleep, so he didn’t get to try the dessert until the next night after dinner – (his verdict 100/10).

Mongolian Boortsog – a sweet fried bread dough.

Boortsog (with honey or cheese)
Suutei Tsai (Milk Tea)

These made early as well, as I knew we’d be short for space on the 4-burner gas stove top come Saturday (and I wasn’t wrong). This was probably the one thing I was worried about turning out right. Deep frying stuff is always a bit of pot luck for me, the oil temperature has to be just right, otherwise you’ll either has a very oily thing, or a dark brown burnt outside and at the same time undercooked inside. Which is also the other reason I decided to do these early – so I had a chance at a do-over the next night if I failed miserably ;). The Mongolian cooking spirits were on my side though, I thoroughly kneaded the dough multiple times to removed any air bubbles, and had a really nice consistency in the end, then I cut off the different shapes and sunk them in the oil until a beautiful golden brown, and as luck would have it they were cooked in the middle too – we tested one or two to check initially, they tasted good, so we thought we might need to check a couple more just for good measure!

When I told Ruhan what was for dinner, she wasn’t aware of the Mongol name for it (Boortsog) as inner Mongolia, being part of China speak Chinese, but when I showed her, she knew what they were, and after desert, grabbed the recipe from me and told Aunty Mel and Uncle Jono, her student hosts, that she was cooking next week!

Samuel had retired to the couch with a blanket, pillow, (and Lego Ninjago on DVD) by the time dessert rolled around, but ventured forth three or four times to grab some boortsog and dip it in the honey.

We also had traditional Milk Tea with the Boortsog, as in addition to dipping in honey, you can simply dip the Boortsog into your tea, as we kiwis do with out Gingernut Biscuits, (although I won’t admit to that!).

Ruhan, insisted that we don’t drink the tea that you can buy here, as her father is a distributer back home and the tea that she smuggles into the country (Customs Officials, I’m joking about the smuggling – she learnt her lesson with the chicken’s feet… 😀 ) is of superior quality – so Ruhan brewed up the Milk Tea to have with our boortsog and it had a great aroma and rich dark red colour before the milk and salt were added. It was a great accompaniment to the boortsog and a wonderful way to end the evening, after which I think pretty much everyone was ready for a good night’s sleep.

Thank you again to Ruhan and Mr L. and Bayasaa for your help tonight – the boys and everyone else had a thoroughly enjoyable evening, tasting some quite varied and interesting dishes!

The next evening we all had milk tea (with the special tea leaves Ruhan left us) and boortsog again – Ryan and Sam included – And I know we’ll be making Bing again!

Coincidence and male listening skills…

I’m a male – so genetically listening is not my strong point (let’s go for genetics rather than bad listening skills, okay?) – however if I had listened – then, as my parents and my wife pointed out to me this morning I would have known my sister is currently hosting two exchange students (I’m not that bad a listener! I knew that! And I knew one was from China, and the other from Japan).

What I didn’t know specifically was – Ruhan is actually from Outer Mongolia, so, I may either get some inside information for this weekend’s dinner, or we’ll have my sister, fiancé and the students over for dinner –  better check with them first I guess!

This would be the real acid test for our International Dinner Project’s authenticity I guess…

Ryan picks his country – Dinner #13

I have a sneaky suspicion Ryan was secretly eyeing up his country while I was setting up the camera, because he didn’t take long to pick it. He looks a little self conscious in front of the camera… but it could just as easily be bemusement.

After we’d gone upstairs to tell everyone which country Ryan had chosen, he turned to me and said “I like it because of the Golia.” He likes the sound of the end of the word – I like the way he thinks!

Well they’re not making it easy for me this month after Greenland – but I’ve had a brief look and there’s some interesting dishes that I think the kids might be into.

Bring it on!