International Dinner #33 The tastes of South Africa!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Well, Ethan chose his first country which meant he got to come shopping with me and have the customary muffin and coffee (coffee for me – not him!) Well I can tell you, going shopping with an almost 3-year-old is a different experience than the other two boys. I got a workout! He had to jump only on the green checkers in the supermarket, so I had to sustain his jump until he reached the square… sore arm….

He had fun though – and we finished shopping before my arm fell off!

Biltong (cured, spiced meat)

Now, while I normally make all the meals at home from scratch, I’m not really set up to make biltong (not to mention the lead time to cure it), so I took the easy way out and bought it at the local South African store. We had two flavours, chilli (for me! and apparently Sam as well the way he scoffed it down) and a more aromatic sweetly spiced bierstick-like version, I’m guessing cardamom as the main spice, it was quite mellow and smoky.

I honestly thought I’d be the only one eating the chilli spiced biltong so I didn’t get very much of that – but it was the most popular with everyone. Apart from Ryan, who does likes sweet chilli sauce and anything salty, apart from biltong it seems. Ethan had a little try, but it’s a bit of a strange flavour for his young tastebuds.

I couldn’t get a rating out of Ethan, he’s too little, so we’ll take the boys ratings instead.

Sam’s Rating: 10/10
Ryan’s Rating: 4/4

Boerewors (spice, dense long, long sausage)
Chakalaka (spicy tomato, onion sauce)
MielePap (literally Cornmeal Porridge)

Okay, I’ll admit I cheated on the boerewors as well, I bought it from the South African store as well, but I guess on the authenticity side of things you can’t get much more authentic for taste! As I pulled it out of the fridge to cook it the boys took great delight.
Sam: “Dad, what’s that?”
Me: “Boerewors for South Africa night”
Sam: “It looks like a big long pooh”
Me: “Thank you Sam, for that image”
Exact same conversation repeated 5 minutes later with Ryan – little boys love the toilet humour…

Boerewors is easy to cook – throw it on the Braai (BBQ), the trick would be getting the vegetable sauce and the pap cooked and ready at the same time.

Pap. Pap is the dutch/afrikaans word for porridge, this is a versatile dish, it’s basically cornmeal (maizemeal) and water, with a bit of butter. It is eaten for breakfast with a bit of sugar or honey (I might give that a go, since we have cornmeal left over) or eaten for lunch/dinner acompanied with a variety of vegetable, spicy sauces, every family has they own favourite. I decided to cook it with a tomato, onion and baked bean based sauce solely (and I’m not afraid to admit it) because of the name – Chakalaka! How could I pass up a dish with a name like that? When I told the boys the name they danced around the lounge singing “Boom Boom Chakalaka…” over and over.

The Pap cooks for about an hour, I thankfully had advice on how to cook it from two different South Africans over the last week, one version seemed to be the “quick and easy” microwave male-version (told to me by a guy), the other version was the traditional pot over a flame, cook for an hour version, told to me by a woman. And since we’re trying to go traditional old-school, and I didn’t quite get the full particulars of the microwave version, I had it cooking for the full hour, including the “make sure you burn it on the bottom a bit, so you get a nice stiff, solid pap. Well I definitely didn’t want runny pap! It had the consistency of mash potatoes once I was finished which is exactly what I was after.

The chakalaka was just a matter of slowly cooking all the ingredients, we made two versions, hot and spicy for the adults, not really spicy for the kids (although it did have to rounded tsp of curry powder).

Both boys were keen on the boerewors, Sam wanting a curly end bit and Ryan not wanting an end bit, so that was not problem. I wasn’t too sure how the boys would take to the pap, mashed potato isn’t their thing, so I was hoping the chakalaka would disguise that. Ryan and Sam were quick off the mark with, “I don’t want any of that”, but I said they had to take a small amount on their plate and try it at least. Well, Ryan’s Chakalaka and Pap had to be separate on the plate, and Sam was happy to cover his pap with the chakalaka. Ethan wouldn’t touch his at all… but we are having a bit of trouble with him eating at the moment, he’s become vegetarian all of a sudden and will eat his vegetables but not his chicken, the total opposite of the other kids at that age!

Sop back to the pap, both boys weren’t keen to taste it, Ryan dipped his finger in the chakalaka… “I love it!” And although he wanted then separate on his plate he combined them to eat it, and  he had seconds of the boerewors. Sam on the other hand loved the pap – “It’s like scrambled eggs Dad!” he wasn’t keen on the chakalaka, which meant scraping it off…

Ethan ate his sausage, but that was it.

Sam’s Rating: X-Infinity/Infinity
Ryan’s Rating: X-Infinity/Infinity

Sam’s Rating: 4/10
Ryan’s Rating: ABCD-Infinity/Infinity

Sam’s Rating: 10/10
Ryan’s Rating: 10/10

Melktert (literally Milk Tart)

Another milky dessert. similar but different to the baked custard type dessert from Chile . But this one had cinnamon and sugar on top! And the boys love cinnamon and sugar, we have a French Toast breakfast each sunday, with cinnamon sugar topping. This had a nice buttery sweet pastry base, the actual mixture was very, very liquid when I poured it in – I was seriously worries I’d be serving up cold milk soup for dessert, I ending up cooking it for twice as long as the recipe cooked for and that seemed about right, as once we chilled it we had a nice soft milk jelly-like tart. I had to stick it in the bottom of the freezer and entertain the kids (keep their minds off the fact they weren’t eating dessert) for a bit because it hadn’t quite cooled down by the time we’d finished the main course. 10 minutes in the bottom of the freezer, got rid of that last bit of remaining warmth and we were down to business.

It was good! Enough said really. Sam finished his, Ryan had some but not all, and here it is Thursday night and we’ve been having it for dessert each night, and it’s it finally finished. Mildly sweet with a slight vanilla flavour, nice and soft and quite easy to make. (Recipe to come…)

Sam’s Rating: 10/10
Ryan’s Rating: 10/10

Summing up: That pap was not bad at all, now I don’t like mashed potato at all, but pap I can eat, so I might give that ago in the future especially since Sam likes it as well, and it’s gluten-free to boot! Boerewors rocks any day of the week, so if you can get your hands on some give it a go!


International Dinner #33 Little Ethan chooses a country!

Ethan was soon keen to choose a country, that we recorded him straight after Ryan chose his country last week  – we knew he wouldn’t understand having to wait another while week to choose.

He did very well.. and much faster than the other two comedians…

International Dinner #32 Eating Moa and Ryan makes a discovery…

Saturday, 15 September 2012

For a boy that says he’s not that keen on coconut, Ryan sure does choose a lot of tropical countries – I’m not quite sure he’s made the link yet…
French Polynesia consists of a large grouping of islands, the most well known being containing Tahiti, Bora Bora and the Marquesas Islands, rather than doing them all as separate countries – they do have a combined flag (above), I researched and the cuisine seems to be pretty similar throughout the region with the same recipes popping up for these different islands.

Coconut milk or cream features in pretty much each course this week. And dessert is pretty much all banana with just a little something to hold it together.

The weekend started with making the shopping list from the meals we’d chosen, quite a short list actually, we’re obviously well stocked on tropical type ingredients, although unfortunately I did have to go and buy a bottle of rum as we were all out – and the entree called it, must be the French influence in that one!

Like Madagascar, Tahiti is known  for it’s quality vanilla, we couldn’t find any specifically Tahitian vanilla in the shops but we still had some Madagascan vanilla and beggars can’t be choosers.

Crevettes à la Vanille et Coco ( Shrimps in Vanilla Coconut)
served on rice

Now, Sam professes to liking shrimps, and when we were shopping Ryan was keen to get them from the fishery area. But when it comes down to it… they like the idea of the weird looking shrimps, they are however, as it turns out – not to keen on the texture. This one was very tasty and simple to make. A vanilla pod and rum reduction, which coconut milk  and cream is added to then thicken, brown some shrimps and add them to the mixture and serve on rice.

I thought the fancy presentation might have coaxed Ryan into trying one, but he just was not even interested in trying a single shrimp. Sam on the other hand did have a few, but after that they both just finished the rice, with my wife, mother-in-law and myself, relieving the boys of their shrimps, as Ryan wouldn’t touch the rice until all the shrimps had been removed… There was however a bright side to this entree – we did find something new that Ryan loves! The recipe I had said it could be served with sautéed spinach (some varieties of taro are known as polynesian spinach, but I just couldn’t source any taro leaves for tonight), but since the main dish was heavy on the spinach I just garnished this one with a couple of spinach leaves.

Ryan: Is this a real leaf?
Me: Yes
Ryan: Can we eat this?
Me: Yes, Ryan
Ryan: Is it real?
Me: Yes you can eat it Ryan…
Ryan: (pause, small taste – then all in, and the other one) I love it – can I have more?!
Me: Sure Ry, I’ll give you a whole lot more for the main course…

So there is a breakthrough, we used to have to keep on the boys to eat their lettuce salads, but now this summer we’ll be making them spinach salads! Yay! A new food for Ryan and Sam!

Ryan’s Rating: 4/4

Moa Fafa ( literally Chicken Taro)
served on rice
Tahitian Coconut Bread (might be called Pani popo same as Samoan)

The kids liked the name of this one – when I told them we were eating Moa tonight! Moa is the tahitian, samoan, hawaiian and tongan (I believe) name for chicken, over here in New Zealand, I don’t know what happened, either the Maori didn’t bring any chickens across with them when they landed in Aotearoa (New Zealand), or they were having a little joke at our expense, because we have (a now extinct) giant bird called a Moa – maybe it just tasted like chicken to the Maori, as it was hunted to extinction as a food source.

Anyway, the kids liked the thought of eating Moa.

The leafy plate decorations is solely because Ryan liked the spinach soo much that he said he wanted “lots and lots”! And believe me he did!

While Ryan was keen on the raw spinach the cooked spinach in the Moa Fafa he was not so keen on, but the chicken and uncooked spinach all disappeared as did the coconut bread. But, and here’s a new one, this was the first bread that Sam was not at all keen on. So the main meal was pretty successful, with everyone clearing their plates, albeit the boys leaving the cooked spinach on theirs – but they ate the rest. Mmhhmm Moa was good, I can see why it went extinct! 😉

Ryan’s Rating: Infinity/Infinity

Ryan’s Rating: Infinity/Infinity

Po’e (A gluten free Banana almost baked custard type dish)
served with coconut cream topping

This dessert is all about the banana, 8 bananas in all, pureéd up and mixed with brown sugar, corn starch (corn flour) and vanilla, then cooked until it has dried out a bit and then cooled and put in the fridge. Served cold with coconut milk or cream on top. This is a pretty fancy dessert by island standard, and I can tell you i loved it, the texture was a little like a solid custard, and the dessert tasted a lot like the filling to an old candy bar we have in New Zealand called “Perky nana” (‘nana being short for banana – not your grandmother!) So I’d have to say that chocolate bar got the banana taste spot on -‘cos as far as I know there’s no banana in the bar at all!

It was different, but I liked it, the boys tentatively had a few bites, Ryan liked his, Sam was not so keen, so I’ve got dessert lined up for the rest of the week, and a reasonably healthy dessert at that!

Ryan’s Rating: 10/10

So all in all a good pretty successful dinner, and we’ll be planting some spinach in the garden this season… Ryan’s volunteered to help with that.

My mother-in-law enjoyed her first international dinner, so looks like she may be making the trip upcountry for a few more!

Next up our special guest country chooser!

International Dinner #31 Raw Fish and Finland

Finland and Raw Fish

Sunday, 2 September 2012

When Sam chose Finland, we knew exactly who we were going to turn to, to recommend our menu for the night. My wife has had a penfriend from Finland since she was about 12, and even managed to visit her in 2000 when we went to Europe for a couple of months. So Anne, our sincere thanks go out to you for your help and “inside” knowledge in preparing our menu!

Ingredients were not hard to find, we are both countries surrounded by water at similar distances from our respective poles, so fresh fish was not hard to find.

Sam and I went shopping and we finished in record time, most of the ingredients we had in house, it was really just the meats and fresh cream and extra dill that we needed – so we had a bit more time to sit down and talk over our fortnightly muffin and coffee.

GraavilohiKermainen kirjolohikeittoSuomalaisruisleipä—————————————
Graavilohi ( Salt, dill and pepper cured salmon)
Kermainen kirjolohikeitto (Creamy salmon soup)
Suomalaisruisleipä (Rye Bread)

Let’s start with the dish that required the least cooking. Food prep started on Friday morning as the Graavilohi (more commonly known here by its Swedish name Gravlax) needed a few days absorb the flavours. Lots of dill, some salt and some white pepper, set in the fridge and come back two days later – done… simple – moving on!

I love a good rye bread and this was a nice simple rye bread to make, and I’ll be making it again. A mix of rye and wholemeal flour, and brushed with melted butter as soon as you take it out of the oven. Before it was cooked we left it to rise a second time inside the warm car (you should know my technique by now!) and when the boys and I went back to check it an hour or so later it was way more than doubled in size, it was rising right out the top of the bread tin which had the boys laughing hard, so quick it went into the oven – once again – the bread was super popular with the boys.

And lastly the soup. We’re coming toward the end of the cold weather here, but a soup is still welcome as it’s still brisk in the evenings. The recipe made quite a bit of soup, and while I didn’t think the boys would be gulping this down – I hoped they might try some of it. We have given them salmon in the past except it was called “pink chicken” – it worked about twice before they decided “pink chicken” was not something they liked as much as normal chicken… well it was worth a try. Ryan loves celery, so he had some of the celery from the soup, and I thought the fact it had cream in it might convince Sam, (the boy that used to have a dairy allergy that now loves cream, but still drinks rice milk).

Sam did strap on his adventurous hat and try a small bit of the Graavilohi (I was really proud of his for that – Ray fish is a big ask for a kid), but wasn’t all that keen, I think it was the texture more than the flavour – so I had his helpings… 😉

Sam’s Rating: 0/10
Sam’s Rating: 0/10
Sam’s Rating: 10/10


Karjalanpaisti ( Beef, Pork, Lamb hot pot)
served with Mashed Potato and cranberry sauce

This looked like a good hearty, simple dish. With a mixture of beef, lamb and pork it had a good range of meats, some spices and and onions and carrots, all cooked in the oven for 3 hours. The meat absolutely melted in your mouth after 3 hours cooking. Known as a Karelian Roast, or Karelian Hot Pot in english, I had to look up Karelian to find out something about it – it originates from a region called Karelia now split between Finland and Russia (see! Educational as well!)

Served with mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. The cranberry sauce was good as it added a little acidity  to the strongly meaty flavour of the stew. The boys had no problem finishing off their meat, and while they normally eat carrots, they normally have them steamed, and not as soft – they had also absorbed a lot of the juices from the meats, so were a different flavour than they were used to. So the meat got the thumbs up – but the carrots – not so much…

Sam’s Rating: 9/10

Omenapiirakka ja vaniljajäätelöOmenapiirakka ja vaniljajäätelö

Omenapiirakka ja vaniljajäätelö ( Apple flan and vanilla ice cream)

I had my little helper for this one, Sam was really keen to help with the dessert. We called it apple pie, but the base and lack of pastry makes it more like a flan. The base dough was more like a batter, which took no time to make, cinnamon abounds – which you’d expect in an apple dish! Sam tried his hand at peeling the apples (Granny Smiths, they have the nice tart flavour for dishes like this). Then we sliced the apples nice and thinly, tossed them in cinnamon and sugar, and Sam arranged them on top of the batter. We then sprinkled a little more cinnamon for good measure – voila – Sam was extremely proud of his handiwork – I think he did a great job.

30-odd minutes cooking and dessert was ready, double helpings for everyone – and no leftovers for me the next day… never mind I had plenty of the soup left for lunch…

Sam’s Rating: X-Infinity / Infinity

All in all a very successful meal, we didn’t expect the boys to be into the raw salmon, but it was interesting for them to see that not all meat has to be cooked, and there was no hesitation from them over the stewed meat, which is good, that would have cause a major ‘kafuffle’ a year ago. Alright – onward to the next country – Ryan, you’re up!