IDP#24 Eating New Caledonia (Ryan’s choice)

 Sunday, 24 June 2012

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Nibbles:
Festival des Fromage (Festival of Cheese)
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Ryan is known in our house as “Cheese Boy”. And the whole “Cheese Touch” saga from the Diary of a Wimpy Kid, was extremely troubling for him…

He would have cheese for every meal if we let him.

He asks for cheese on his toast in the morning, cheese in his sandwiches at lunch, or just a few sticks (notice I said sticks, not slices) of cheese for afternoon tea or before dinner.

So I thought this one would be his cup of tea – and I wasn’t wrong. He tried all the cheeses apart from the cracked pepper havarti, because that would probably have been a little too hot for his tastebuds. The little round red wax coated ones were the most popular – to unwrap! – not necessarily to eat though…

Even little Ethan got in on the act (we also had about 3 dutch cheeses in there, and while Ethan declared the Edam and Gouda “yucky” the Maasdam got his approval and that is all he wanted from there on out…

Sam had a dairy allergy when he was younger, so never developed a taste for cheese, but he did have a few pieces of the different varieties, but he did more playing with the wax coating than eating cheese.

Ryan’s Rating: 100/100

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Entree:
Yams and Coconut Cream
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Now to be honest I did read this was more of a breakfast dish, I thought it would be an interesting thick soup type interval before the main dish. And really I can see why it is had for breakfast, a lot like a porridge, hot, thick, and full of carbs to start the day.

It was rather bland in flavor, and our boys do have a bit of a sweet tooth so maybe a little too plain for them, to their credit, they both had a decent helping.

The coconut cream thicken and the yams just softened, you could just taste the sweetness of the yams through the cream, it was different, and not bad at all, but our boys have never tried porridge – so a little too different for them.

Ryan’s Rating: 6/10

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Mains:
Bougna (New Caledonia’s National Dish)
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This dish is supposed to be cooked, wrapped in banana leaves in an earth oven, but being winter here at the moment, and not a tropical country at all, banana leaves are a little hard to come by (and I’ve read you can pay up to $40 from a florist when they are available). So we opted for the next best thing tinfoil (aluminum foil) and a standard oven (it was far to cold and wet for me to go digging up the backyard – maybe in Summer…)

So this dish is similar in preparation to the Fijian Pineapple, Coconut, Sweet Potato bake that we made. In fact I did spot a pretty identical recipe in the few I had gather for New Caledonia.

Ryan was quite interested in helping me put this one together, he took charge of layering the Sweet potato, Taro, Chicken (Fish or Prawns if you wanted), onions and yams into foil (banana leaves), seasoned with salt and pepper, coconut cream is poured over the top, then it’s all wrapped up securely and put in an earth oven for 2-3 hours to cook and absorb the steam and coconut cream.

As we added each ingredient he asked “What’s this?” So he’s learning what the raw ingredients look like before they get cooked and on your plate!

The banana leaves apparently impart a slight anise flavor to the meal so in the absence of the leaves I added a small amount of crushed star anise to the coconut cream.

So when we removed it from the over a nice, gentle anise aroma wafted out, along with coconut, making the room smell tropical and almost summery!

Again, flavor-wise this was quite natural and plain, I think the cream softens a lot of the flavors, and Taro is an acquired taste for those not used to it. But the boys did well, mainly they picked out the chicken, some of the yams and Ryan did have some tomato (Sam and Jocelyn are not big tomato fans, whereas I could eat them all day…)

So the boys had chicken heavy bougna, while mine (through handing over my chicken pieces) was rathe vegetable heavy…

Unlike the fijian pineapple bake, this had nothing sweet or acidic to cut through the creaminess of the coconut, it needed just a little something to give it an edge, I’m thinking maybe when I have this for lunch this week (we had leftovers) tobacco sauce might kick it up a notch…

Ryan’s rating: 6/10

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Dessert:
Papaya and Coconut pudding
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All the dishes tonight preparation-wise have been quite like the Samoan and Fijian dishes, which is understandable, fresh ingredients, cut and mixed together. It’s a nice fresh simple way to cook. It’s not complicated, and makes preparation quite simple – which is great for me after some of the complicated dishes I’ve had to make and time to serve all at the same time.

Ryan also helped me make this one, we had to pulp the papaya, so he took great please in pulsing the food processor until the papaya was souplike… then it was simply heating and mixing in the corn starch to help thicken, then the coconut cream (a lot of coconut cream in all these meals!) and cooking until we had a nice thick  pudding like mixture which I divided into bowls.

We chilled it then brought it out once cooled. Again, the papaya flavor is a gentle sweet flavor and the boys are jut too used to the overly sweet nature of western food. I love papaya, so Jocelyn and I enjoyed this dessert, I find a lot of cakes etc just too sweet to have too much of. The boys how ever said it was okay, but didn’t want too much of it, so I suggested maybe adding a little brown sugar to it to sweeten it. They thought this was a great idea, so a heaped teaspoon was added to both, this saw Sam finishing his off and Ryan doing his best as well – but he was just too full – he ate a lot of cheese!

Ryan’s rating: 8/10

New Caledonia cuisine is historically influenced by many of its neighboring countries, Bougna is of Melanesian origin, and they have their fish in a sashimi style from Japan – I was quite looking forward to raw yellow fin tuna with salt and lemon, but the local fishery didn’t have any fresh tuna in stock this weekend. The French way of cooking has influenced the island nation greatly, although using local ingredients, but I tried to stay away from crepes, as we’ve had them recently for Brazil, Serbia and a couple of other countries recently.

So it was good to try some more traditional New Caledonian dishes… onward to the next country  – Sam… you’re up….

Ryan breaks land speed records choosing his country for dinner

We had a little talk about “milking it” when choosing his country. And surprisingly it sunk in – he chose his country in record time this week! Very impressed!

IDP: Serbia – Superbia! (Sam’s choice)

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Interesting country choice from Sam this week, I don’t know too much about Serbia, but the shopping list I drew up didn’t look too exotic at all, lots of vegetables, dairy products and some kielbasa.

Sam and I finished the shop in record time, sauerkraut was the only thing that took a little while to find in the supermarket. Which meant we had time for our fortnightly muffin and coffee at the cafe after the shopping. Although it turned out to be a Mississippi Mud Cake and Sprite (Sam’s choice… interestingly exactly what Ryan had chosen the previous week) The cake was too sweet for Sam though, and he opted out before he;d finished… next time he might take my suggestion of a nice savory scone – but I doubt it.

And literally straight from the shopping and onto the cooking!

Looking at out soup ingredients laid out on the kitchen bench it looked like we’d need some help eating it all so Grandma and Grandpa got the International Dinner call – and were more than happy to help out – it’s always good to get the family together for a dinner and the boys love it!

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Nibbles:
Stanglice (Salt sticks)
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Well there weren’t too many left tonight since we had cooked them a week earlier, and they’re a little habit-forming… but we put the few we had left out, and they disappeared pretty quickly.

Nicely salty, with the cumin seed flavor they were moreish… and I couldn’t help myself for sampling them all week until Saturday.

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Entrée/Main:
Kupus (Cabbage Soup)
Pogača (Farmer’s Bread)
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While I was searching for recipes, these two stood out as good, honest, traditional Serbian foods.

A simple farmer’s bread, and an everyday winter cabbage soup. And at the very least the kids are guaranteed to like the bread…

The cabbage soup looked good and hearty especially with the good-sized chunks of kielbasa (polish sausage) and large chunks of vegetables, and again, quite simple to make. The aroma while cooking was mouth-watering, the only kielbasa I could find over here was sliced thin like a salami, so I adapted and used chunky chorizo sausage as well – and it seemed to work a treat, I many have found a new favorite sausage meat in kielbasa.

Thanks to “How to Cook with Vesna” for the Kupus (Cabbage soup) recipe – it turned out to be a real treat, and we had enough left over that I’ll be having it for lunch on these cold winter days for most of the upcoming week!

The bread was a yeasted bread, but letting it stand to rise wasn’t really a part of the method. It was simple mixed, kneaded, stood for 15 minutes then baked… a goo quick bread, and given the lack of rising time a lot lighter than I thought it would be. And as predicted it was the boy’s favorite and they even dipped it into the soup, which meant they did get to taste the soup a bit.

Kupus – Sam’s Rating: 5/10
Bread – Sam’s Rating: 10/10

Adults Rating: 10/10

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Mains/Dessert:
Sweet Cheese Palachinke (Sweet Cheese Crepes)
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Now this was an interesting dish, it was a crepe, and the boys love crepes, but with this predominantly cottage cheese filling I wasn’t sure how they were going to take it. In fact I wasn’t sure how I was going to like it – but that’s what this project is all about – stretching the boys (and as an extension, our own) cuisine comfort zones.

The filling was predominantly cottage cheese, with some cream cheese, a little sugar and egg, wrapped up in the crepe and then topped with a mildly sweetened sour cream sauce.

Now the boys have had crepes with lemon and sugar in them, jam and cream, bananas and maple syrup, and berries and cream before,. and even beef mince and tomato sauce for our Brazil night. But a cheese filling was a new one for all of us.

The photo here just shows a single palachinke, and I wished I’d taking a photo of the dish before I’d served up with all six palachinke together covered in the sour cream topping – because it looked more impressive. AS predicted this one was a little strange for the boys. Ryan, who is our cheese-boy – he asks for cheese breakfast, lunch and dinner, but even the promise it was filled with cheese was just a little too strange for him in the form of a pancake/crepe – so he bowed out on the crepe but had seconds and I think thirds of the pogaca (bread). Sam initially was keen,  but as we were serving up requested only half a palachinke, which we reduced to a quarter to let him have a taste and decide if he liked it, with a mild dairy allergy when he was younger he’s never been that big on cheese. But to his credit he tried it, and gave it a rating. But had extra bread helpings instead…

As for the adults, we thought it would be interesting, but didn’t expect to love it as much as we did… in fact we raved. It was stunning – how all the flavors came together and just worked, it was a sweet cheese filling, but only mildly sweet not overpowering, more like “custard-sweet” than “ice-cream sweet”, in fact we were a little disappointed when there were non left in the dish.

Palachinke – Sam’s Rating: 3/10

Adults Rating: 10/10

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Afters:
Vanilice (Almond Crescent Vanilla biscuits/cookies)
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Now this dessert is not an everyday one, these little cookies are a special crescent-shaped Christmas cookie. So while they’re not everyday food, they’re something that are distinctively Serbian, and quite different from anything we have at Christmas.

The ingredients again were quite straightforward and simple, and making the dough took no time at all, making them all into little crescent shapes in the other hand took a while longer, but Sam jumped in and helped speeding up the job considerably, his first couple were a little wobbly (he recognized his first shape once we had cooked all 50-odd cookies) but after making a couple he figured out a way that worked best for him and was churning out crescent indistinguishable to mine. He use the last bits of dough to make an E, S and R personalized cookie for himself and his brothers (what a sweetie!)

Once they were cooked we let them cool slightly and then they were submerged in a vanilla powdered sugar I had prepared last week and left to mature over the last 7 days.

Ryan didn’t want to try the batter, or even any of the clumps vanilla sugar – that was not until he saw his little brother ask for the piece he refused… then he thought he might be missing out on a good thing – one taste and he was hooked. So when it cam to serving them up for dessert, the boys were right into them – Ryan even asking how many he was allowed – “Five” I said, since we’d made 50-odd and they were quite small – that seemed fair enough.

Well I think we all (adults included) had more than five… but there were still enough left over for us to have them with our cup of tea tonight and for Sam and Ryan to take them in their lunch box to school tomorrow, where Sam might (if he’s not too shy) show the boy in his class from Serbia.

Sam’s Rating: 100/100 (and I think we all agreed on that).

All in all – very impressed with the Serbian cuisine, some of it was a little too different for the boys, but it was refreshingly different for Mum and Dad! and Grandma and Grandpa.

Roll on the next country – in fact I hope Ryan chooses Germany, because we had to buy a rather large can of sauerkraut for the soup and we have A LOT left over… 😀

Štanglice: A Serbian appetizer (recipe)

Štanglice (Salt sticks)

Well it seems this weekend just gone that we were just too busy to have our Serbian dinner, so we have had to delay it until this weekend, which is fine because it gives our vanilla sugar time to mature in flavor.

On Saturday when we thought we were going to have enough time to have the dinner, Sam and I made a Serbian appetizer call Štanglice (literally “sticks”). I wasn’t too sure how these were going to turn out looking at the recipe – which was quite simple and straight forward, I thought these would be rather heavy.

Nevertheless Sam helped me measure out all the ingredients, and we mixed them through then Sam handed the kneading of the dough over to me (not his cup of tea) and I kneaded away then left it to rise. Let’s just say it didn’t rise all that much, but enough that we could continue.

So we rolled out the dough until it was about 10mm thick (just over 1/3 of an inch) and sliced it up into finger width pieces, then we brushed them with a whisked egg and oil mixture and liberally sprinkled cumin seeds over them.

Then off into the oven they went until cooked, nicely golden and crisp.

While the recipe looked simple and unimpressive, I can honestly say I’ve been munching on these snacks all week – just as well the recipe makes quite a few!

Sam took some to school in his lunch, and showed them to the Serbian boy in his class.

Might just be making these again – not sure how impressed my doctor would be with the salt though… my tastebuds were impressed though!

Štanglice Recipe

350g flour
2-3 tsp salt
100g butter
130ml milk
3/4 tsp sugar
3 tsp yeast
1 egg for coating
1 Tbsp oil
Cumin seeds

Method
Warm the milk, add yeast mixing through, add the sugar and 1 Tablespoon of the flour. Let it stand in a warm place.

Meanwhile mix the salt (2-3 tsp) through the rest of the flour, and rub in the slightly softened butter by hand until thoroughly mixed. Once the yeast mixture is a little frothy mix that slowly into the flower until a dough forms. Then knead thoroughly to remove all air bubbles and the dough is a nice consistent smooth texture.

Now put the dough in a light oiled bowl, cover with a wet tea towel or plastic wrap and leave somewhere warm to rise (give it 30 minutes to an hour).

Knock it back, and split it into two parts. Roll one part out, flat. Now fold it into thirds, and roll it out again, then fold it into thirds the other way and roll out into a circle again until about 10mm (just over 1/3 inch thick). Now slice up into finger width sticks about 100mm (3 inches) long. Repear with the other half of the dough.

Lay them on baking paper on an over tray, and brush with the egg/oil mixture that’s been whisked together.

Sprinkle liberally with cumin seeds and put into a preheated over at 170˚C (340˚F) for about 25-30 minutes. You may need to turn the tray to avoid the sticks at the back getting overly dark.

At about 25 minutes take one stick out let it cool a little, and snap it, what you’re looking for in a nice firm snap, so that they are rather dry inside.

Enjoy! I know we did!