International Dinner #40: Bonsoir France!

French Dinner Header

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Salut! We are back after a bit of an extended break – so I’ve got a backlog of dinners to put online now…

Samuel chose France for this weekend. And while I did mention the stereotypical escargot and frog’s legs, I don’t think I would have been able to source them if I tried!

Sooo I had to go for something a little less adventurous, but just as typically french as those iconic dishes. French cuisine has so many signature dishes that finding something for the boys shouldn’t be too difficult… narrowing it down to just a couple of dishes will be the trick!

Uncooked Croissants

Cooked Croissants

—————————————
Entree:
Gougères Bourguignones
Croissants
(with chocolate or jam, or cheese, tomato and ham)

——–——————————

Now, I knew croissants had a bit of butter in them.. I wasn’t quite aware how much though… basically you make your dough, then you make a slab of butter about 10″ x 10″ and 1/2″ thick and fold your dough over  it, then fold and roll, fold and roll to create that layered flakey croissant goodness… I felt a sense of accomplishment having actually made these from scratch, but geez – I won’t be doing that again in a hurry, to say it was time consuming is an understatement…

And for our second starter the the Gougères Bourguignones, they looked interesting although my end results were slightly less puffy, cheesey balls and more deflated not so fluffy balls… I think the batter was a little to wet, or maybe the oven was a little hot.. they’ll take some experimentation to get right.

The boys enjoyed both these starters and we didn’t have any left at the end of the night.

SAM’S RATINGS:
Croissant 1000/1000
Gougères Bourguignones 7/10

 

Pommes Duchesse Coq au Vin Coq au Vin

—————————————
Mains:
Pommes Duchesse
Coq au Vin

——–——————————

We used to have potatoes like this as kids, but I haven’t had them for a long time – just as good as I remember, and popular with out boys too – bite size!

Coq au Vin is another good solid, simple to make French dish, I handed the quartering of the whole chicken over to my sous chef (err.. I mean wife) I hate bones and stuff like that. She quartered it then basically you brown it off in a fry pan, then cook it in a large pot with a bottle of red wine, herbs, mushrooms etc, really simple and a perfect winter dish. And apart from the mushrooms the boys were into it as well. Which just meant I got extra mushrooms. We did manage to get them to eat mushrooms a while back we put them in the spaghetti bolognese and I called the mushroo-mallows, it works for a few weeks until Sam figured it out – a bit like the Salmon that we called pink chicken, that lasted a couple of months… darn kids always learning stuff… makes it hard to fool them.

SAM’S RATINGS:
Pommes Duchesse 9/10
Coq au Vin: 8/10

 

Creme Brulee Creme Brulee

—————————————
Dessert:
Creme Brûlée
——–——————————

I’ve made Creme Brûlée before, and it turned out perfectly, this time however… a new oven, and I didn’t have the temperature right, so I had to make another batch with worked just fine. And luckily I had been given a little butane torch for my birthday (or father’s day) the previous year so I could caramelise the sugar on top perfectly.

I thought these were guaranteed to be a hit with the boys, but Sam found them a little bit too sweet, and after the novelty of cracking the sugar top, Ryan had half before he handed it over to me – but in his defence, he’s not really into sweet food.

SAM’S RATINGS:
Creme Brûlée B  8/10 “Nice, but too sweet”

DAD’S/MUM’S/REBECCA’S RATINGS:
11/10 “You’re not going to finish… pass yours over here”

 

FranceDinner_BW

International Dinner #39: Peru – Tiger’s Milk…. umm.. yeah…

Peru Dinner

Saturday, 2 February 2013

We’re ba-ack!

We’ve been a little busy lately with our summer being the best in years, BBQs and days out have slowed our international dinners down, but I have a few stacked up that I haven’t had time to write up, but winter, rain and tornados (small) are making appearances so we won’t be such social butterflies – and will have a bit more time to cook at home… on with the show!

Little Ethan chose his country and again I was spoilt for choice on dishes to make for the boys to try. Ethan and I went shopping together, which didn’t take very long because no speciality shops were needed to procure all our ingredients. He’s getting quite good at supermarket shopping, and I even convinced him that sitting in the shopping trolley was the best way to travel (for me at least!) – although he did insist on pushing the trolley himself for the first half, after a few near misses with other shoppers and aisle displays he got to cruise in style.

Frozen Limonada Pan de Anis Ceviche, Cebiche, Seviche

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Entree:
Frozen Limonada (Limade Slushie)
Pan de Anis (Aniseed Bread)
Cebiche/Ceviche (Lime-cooked Fish)
——–——————————

I can not adequately describe how keen the boys were to have the lemonade made for this meal, suffice to say, when I said it was like a “Slushie” on the day I was asked on a 10 minute basis leading up to the dinner when they could make the lemonade … and when we finally served it up, despite my warnings about “brain freeze” there was the inevitable shout of “Arrggh brain freeze!” from both the boys… It was a little cold for Ethan though and he only had a half of it. It was very good and I have made it again since then (recipe here).

The bread for this meal, peaked my interest straight away, I’m a fan of aniseed, and the smell in the house when these rolls were baking was stunning – they were an absolute hit with everyone, and there were none left when we finished, despite making about 15 rolls. I haven’t made them again yet – but I definitely plan to, despite the fact that they take a while longer because they need (bread pun!) to rise twice.

And lastly for the entree, a strictly adult dish (although Sam did try a small piece) Cerbiche/Cerviche! This is one of my favourite which is pretty much the only reason I made it – very similar to our Samoan Oka just without the coconut milk, this one is all lemon/lime/orange juice! So, simply this dish is just fresh white saltwater fish marinated in the citrus juices which “cooks” it with onions and chopped chillies in the mix, garnished with and coriander (cilantro to you Americans)! Fresh, summery, healthy and nice and raw!

RYAN’S RATINGS:
Limonada 1000/1000
Pan de Anis 100/100
Cebiche: Pass…

Antichuchos and Empanadas

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Mains:
Anticuchos de Carne (Grilled Beef Kebabs with a Chilli Vinegar marinade)
Empanada de Carne (Beef Pastry)
Arroz Blanco (Garlic White Rice)
Tiger’s Milk (no photo – we could barely see straight afterward!)

——–——————————

The boys like kebabs, so I thought this one might be a hit with them, they normally have chicken kebabs (and I’ve made this with chicken since) so I didn’t think beef kebabs would be a stretch for them and it wasn’t. But the secret to these kebabs is definitely the chilli vinegar marinade – it’s killer! Great taste a little hot – I made some milder ones for the boys which were a hit! And to top them of the Garlic Rice was ten times better than plain rice – that might become the staple way of having it at our house now!

And lastly the Empanada, very similar in look to the Cornish Pasties we made for our England dinner but rather different fillings (well apart from mince beef!) Olives, raisins and boiled eggs! Refreshingly different and we had enough left over for lunch the next day!

Well… now… we get to the Tiger’s Milk… haha! What is it you ask?

Obviously I didn’t milk any large felines for this one… turns out that a special delicacy in certain circles (also apparently a hangover cure!) is the juice drained off the raw fish of the Cebiche, put in a shot glass and mixed with a shot or two of vodka and called Tiger’s Milk in Peru – only for the hardy – or is that foolhardy…?

Since we had our special guest from the Netherlands still staying with us, and she’d just come back from a Contiki Tour of the country, I figured her liver would be well practised at this sort of delicacy. I promised I wouldn’t let her go it alone, so on the count of three we downed our Tiger’s Milk – I wish I had my camera ready to catch her expression. Rebecca’s only comment was… “Eugh! You could have used two shots of vodka, might have made it better!” Well… I don’t think that one will become a regular, but when (pretending to be) in Peru…

We felt a bit funny after that for about 5 minutes… it was very lemony, with a fishy smell and the burn of vodka and chilli juice… ahhh… refreshing….

RYAN’S RATINGS:
Anticuchos de Carne 78/100
Empanada de Carne 44/55
Arroz Blanco: 10/10
Tiger’s Milk: You’ve got to be kidding!

Suspiro de Limena Dessert Suspiro de Limena Dessert

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Dessert:
Suspiro de Limena – Sigh of a woman (from Lima)
Dulce de leche with a port meringue piped topping

——–——————————

While researching for dessert, I just couldn’t go past this one. It just looks so cool. And you can pile it up really high if you want, just google image it, and see what others have done it it…

But this one doesn’t win on looks alone. We’ve made dulce de leche before for Argentina. So we knew what we were doing there, it seems its a popular sweet treat in much of South America, I’d never heard of it until we started doing this, but boy it’s good! Anyway, dulce de leche is only part of the magic with this dessert, the port infused meringue is the clincher! I’m partial to a bit of port (I blame my Portuguese heritage!) I thought I’d really blown this because the port had to get to a certain temperature and then cool to a certain temperature before it could be whipped into the meringue – and at that stage I was without a confectioners’ thermometer. But it seems my yoghurt making has made me pretty good at estimating temperatures and it turned out perfectly. Oh boy that meringue was the bomb! I actually made far too much… so there was a bit left over which was a pity – I had to finish it off myself – with a little, just a little help from the boys.

I served it in a small drinking glass, but as it is such a sweet dessert, it could have even been a smaller helping, but we al managed to finish it – apart from Ryan, and Ethan, believe it or not it was too sweet for a kid! Yeah I know… who thought that would be possible…

RYAN’S RATINGS:
Suspiro de Limena 6/10 “Too sweet”

DAD’S/MUM’S/REBECCA’S RATINGS:
11/10 “Don’t worry kids… pass yours over here”

Lovely Summer dinner outside with the tastes of Peru

Lovely Summer dinner outside with the tastes of Peru

International Dinner #38 Germany! Nom nom nom brezel!

Germany Dinner

Saturday, 19 January 2013

There were so many things we could have cooked for Germany International Dinner Night, that narrowing down the list was the hard part. Since this isn’t just a journey for the boys I tried to choose some dishes that I hadn’t tried before as well – that way it would be just as much an experience for us as it was for the boys!

On with the meal…

Apfel Zwiebel Suppe Brezel - German PretzelBrezel (Pretzel)Brezel (Pretzel)

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Entree:
Apfel Zwiebel Suppe (Apple Onion Soup)
Brezel – Large Soft Pretzel
——–——————————

So, first up tonight is an onion and apple soup, I’ve recently had the pleaseure of trying the German Apple Cider Vinegar beverage, and thought this may be a similar variation on that them looking at the ingredients – in flavour at least.

And I wasn’t wrong the soup is cooked long enough to take the kick out of the onion, and it has a nice acidic bite that made it quite refreshing, the recipe is here, as you’ll see a lot of apple juice in this one… it’s gotta be good for you right? But is did need some bread to offset that acidity…

Now, I know the kids aren’t big on soups, which is why I had a more child friendly back-up plan for the entree, Brezel (large soft pretzels)!

You can’t go wrong with pretzels! Everyone loves pretzels! I have made bagels before (not so far for this dinner project, but in the past) and I was under the impressions that pretzels are made in a similar way… I was wrong and right at the same time… Quite simple to make, then need to rise twice so you have to make them early, and then they get a lye bath (but in the interests of not chemically burning myself or the boys – we did a more child-friendly baking soda bath) and then baked them until golden – and it worked a treat – so much so, that we made them again the next week. They were a big hit… in fact I’m kind of craving them again… maybe a project for this weekend…

I will add that true-to-form – Ryan had to have his without salt on top… he just doesn’t like grains or seeds, or little things on top of his food, won’t eat strawberries because of the seeds.

APFEL ZWIEBEL SUPPE: 
Sam’s rating: 10/10
 
Ryan’s rating:
 10/10
BREZEL: 
Sam’s rating: Infinity/Infinity
 
Ryan’s rating:
 8/8

Semmelknoedel - Bread Dumplings Jägerschnitzel and Bratkartoffeln

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Mains:
Sauerkraut (had to have sauerkraut!)
Bratkartofflen (Cottage Potatoes)
Jägerschnitzel with mushroom sauce
Semmelknoedel (Bread dumplings)
——–——————————

Do you see what I mean about being spoilt for choice with German dishes, I couldn’t choose just one or two, there’s four there… but they all go well together. I thought the bread dumplings would be something very different, they were a hit with the adults, and perfect for sopping up the extra mushroom sauce. The boys had the schnitzel, but refused the sauce, mainly because of their aversion to mushrooms, but the rule is that they have to have one taste of everything, which they diligently did. So they had potatoes and bare schnitzel, and a taste of sauerkraut… and took some convincing to believe that it was cabbage – because it tasted so different.

The potatoes, cooked with bacon, onion, marjoram and caraway seeds very good, and the dumplings used similar ingredients so paired well, they were different from what we are used to – but just as moreish. And sauerkraut is – well it’s sauerkraut – you can’t have a German meal without it – it’s iconic!

So at least the potatoes and the schnitzel was a hit with the boys from this course 2 out of 4 ain’t too bad!

SAUERKRAUT: 
Sam’s rating: 3/10
 
Ryan’s rating:
 0/0
BRATKARTOFFLEN: 
Sam’s rating: 8/10
 
Ryan’s rating:
 6/6
Jägerschnitzel with mushroom sauce: 
Sam’s rating: 8/10
 
Ryan’s rating:
 7/7
Semmelknoedel: 
Sam’s rating: 5/10
 
Ryan’s rating:
 4/44

Zucker ZwiebakZucker Zwiebak

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Mains:
Zucker Zwiebak (Sugar Twice Baked – Rusk)
——–——————————

This is a dessert with a difference. This one was either going to be hit or miss with the kids… mildly sweet similar to biscotti I guess, but a bit more bread like. Now I said it would be hit or miss, I just underestimated how much of a hit it would be – and not just with the kids, the adults too – we couldn’t stop nibbling on them, which is just as well, because I accidentally made far too much – well not in the end, because we ate them all, but they were four tins full of these things, I forgot to halve the recipe!

It’s a mildly sweet, then sprinkled lightly with sugar and like their name, they are twice baked to really dry them out and give them a solid crunch, good with coffee, good with tea, good by themselves, or even dunked!  Solid infinity ratings all round – I think the boys ate 8 or 9 of them each that night… I stopped counting after 5….

ZUCKER ZWIEBAK: 
Sam’s rating: Infinity-X/Infinity
 
Ryan’s rating:
 Infinity-XX/Infinity

All in all a good night – and I’d like to thank my ‘sous’ chefs Jocelyn and Rachael for helping with the prep – it was a little bit too much for me to do all myself time wise…

International Dinner Project #37: Solomon Islands

Solomon Islands dinner

Saturday, 12 January 2013

With the  heat, sunshine and humidity we’ve been having lately, Sam’s choice of the Solomon Islands was rather appropriate. We’ve been sweltering for the last few weeks, as I type this it’s 11 o’clock at night, doors and windows are all open and it’s still 28˚C (83˚F) inside the house and humid as all get out! So it will feel like we’re there while we’re eating this!

On with the meal…

Tropical Fruit StarterCoconutMilk Slippery Cabbage Soup SlipperyCabbageSoup_WP

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Entree:
Tropical Fruit
Slippery Cabbage Soup
Coconut Milk / Mango Juice
——–——————————

Fresh tropical fruit are one of the best things about visiting the tropics, right on your doorstep (literally!) Are bananas, papaya, Mangos, and coconut. As a child I remember the amazement at cracking open a coconut and drinking the milk, and although we’ve done it before (straight from the tree in Samoa, armed only with beach rocks) and at home with all the mod-cons, the boys are always excited to help and watch. Normally that’s where it ends, they only “kind of” like Coconut Milk, but this time they were all in with their straws, and they only left the smallest bit behind for me…

The tropical fruit is also popular with them, but mainly the bananas, I think they polished off four tonight, so most of the Papaya, Coconut and Mango went to Jocelyn and I.

And now for the dish that actually involved some cooking (but then again, that’s what I love about island food, it’s all so fresh and simple to prepare). Slippery Cabbage (Hibiscus Manihot / Bele), so called because when cooked the leaves go a little slimy. Cooked up with chillies, onions, shallots and tomatoes in coconut milk, with salt to taste, it was simple to make and the standout dish tonight. Both Jocelyn and I really enjoyed this one I think we may be cooking this again. However as Sam says “We’re not really soup kids” it wasn’t as popular with the boys, I’m aware of their aversion to soups but it was on the only entree I could find for Solomon Islands – so they could at least had a taste and a chance to like it and then could defer to the fruit… which they did… the soup rocked by the way –recipe here!
I
 just found out Samoa actually has an almost identical recipe called Bele Soup!

FRUIT: 
Sam’s rating: 10/10
 
Ryan’s rating:
 10/10
COCONUT MILK: 
Sam’s rating: 7/10
 
Ryan’s rating:
 5/10
SLIPPERY CABBAGE SOUP: 
Sam’s rating: 6/10
 
Ryan’s rating:
 3/10
 
Dad’s rating:
 10/10

ChilliTaiyo_WP Sam-ChilliTaiyo_WP

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Mains:
Chilli Taiyo (with Noodles)
——–——————————

Apparently Tuna (Taiyo) is a staple food in the Solomons, people eat it practically everyday and many dress it up with chilli to make it more interesting. When we were in Samoa, Yellow Fin Tuna was always on the menu and it seems it’s the same in the Solomons. Again preparation was quick and easy, and the end result was spicy, and refreshingly tasty. The tuna was quite hot, a little too hot for the boys, which we found out after their first couple of mouthfuls, but to their credit – once we had pulled out any visible chilli, they did finish it – their favourite part… the noodles! Typical haha!

CHILLI TAIYO:
Sam’s rating: 7/10
 
Ryan’s rating:
 6/6

Cassava Pudding

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Dessert:
Cassava Pudding (sort of)
——–——————————

Cassava Pudding, right I thought this would be interesting. Interestingly enough, cassava is the world’s 3rd most popular crop – but could I find it in New Zealand? If anyone knows where I can get Cassava in Auckland let me know. Tapioca is derived from the cassava root, so tapioca was my fallback ingredient. And it was almost successful… I thought having the tapioca pearls baking in coconut milk for 45 minutes would  have been enough to soften them up, bu in hindsight (and hindtaste) I should have probably boiled them in water first to soften them up, but I thought if they absorbs the coconut milk flavour up it would be better. SO, while they did soften up a bit, not all of them did, especially the ones at the edge – and while the flavour of the dessert was quite nice, the occasional hard tapioca pearl was off-putting when you crunched on it. Everyone enjoyed it – but not the hard tapioca understandably.
This was one of my first real failures in terms of cooking international dinners, so when I find a source of cassava I’ll try it again.

CASSAVA PUDDING: 
Sam’s rating: 8/10
 
Ryan’s rating:
 6/6

International Dinner #36: Venezuela

Header_Venezuela

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Venezuela! Looking through cuisine for Venezuela I saw so many things i was quite keen to cook, but settled on these dishes and they were within the realms of familiarity – but different enough to maybe cause some resistance amongst the tribe… Sam did ask to help with the deep frying of the Tequeños, and Ethan was very well behaved on a weekend shop for ingredients, and we got the whole dinner made and finished before their theoretical bedtime, so everyone was still in a good mood and not overtired…

frying(SML) Tequeños(SML)Cheesy(SML)

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Entree:
Tequeños (Deep fried bread and cheese sticks)
——–——————————

I must admit when I first saw this dish I thought “Man, that’s a lot of cheese!” But turns out it wasn’t too bad, plus it was bound to be a hit with ‘Cheese Boy’, Ryan. I actually didn’t think it would be that tasty, but I’m pleased to say I was wrong, and we have a few frozen to fry up another day!

Really simple to make. A slightly sweet dough, rolled thin and wrapped around small sticks of cheese – then deep fried.

Ryan ate them no problem – in the end he stated “I love them so much, I can’t eat anymore” not quite sure what that means! Even Sam who is not much of a cheese eater due to a dairy allergy when he was younger had one and enjoyed it. Ethan was the only hold out – he was just in a mood where he wouldn’t even have a taste – pity, but that meant more for me!

TEQUEÑOS: 
Sam’s rating: 10/10
 
Ryan’s rating:
 10/10

Pan_de_Jamón(SML) Pabellón_Criollo(SML)

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Mains:
Pan de Jamon (Ham Bread)
Pabellón Criolllo (Shredded Beef, Black Beans, Rice and Fried Plantains)
——–——————————

It’s just turned December so I felt justified choosing a Christmas bread as part of the dinner, plus, it looked interesting – I mean, Ham, Raisins and Olive is an interesting filling for a bread. I was a good buttery dough. Rolled flat and then the fillings layered on and rolled up to form a loaf. Simple enough and yet visually appealing once you cut into it. I really enjoyed the bread, Sam took out the olives as he only likes black olives (noted for next time – however the green and red is much more festive), Ryan was a little more picky – literally – picking out all the fillings, even though he likes ham! and raisins! Ethan munch away, but he doesn’t eat crusts (or skin as he calls it!)

The sweet and salty went well together, and the next day the ham was more like prosciutto – bonus!

There were quite a few tasty looking Venezuelan mains – but I settled on this one because it had ingredients the boys would recognised prepared in a different way. The beans would be the only thing they might get stuck on – but as long as they gave them a go! The shredded meat was very tasty, and tender – but you get that when you’ve simmered something for an hour and a half.

How’d the boys go? Well… not too bad. Straight off the bat both of them said they didn’t like the beans (I served them separately from the rice for them), it could have been the colour, but I was kind of expecting that. But they did eat all there meat, and most of the rice, I forgot the fried plantains until halfway through the meal, the boys really didn’t want theirs fried, so I just gave them uncooked bananas which they ate no problem – surprise surprise!

All in all it was very nice, and apart from the length of time to prepare and shred the meat I think we would have it again.

PAN DE JAMON: 
Sam’s rating: 8/10
 
Ryan’s rating:
 6/6
PABELLÓN CRIOLLO: 
Sam’s rating: 7/10
 
Ryan’s rating:
 7/7

Arroz_Con_Leche(SML)

—————————————
Dessert:
Arroz con Leche (Milk Pudding)
literally translates to Rice with Milk
——–——————————

I’ve been wanting to make a rice dessert for the boys, so they can see that rice can also be a sweet food and not just a side to the main meal, and this recipe looked like the ideal chance, and it looked interesting and tasty. Really simple to make, but again a lot of time on the stove boiling away, we had 3 gas burners going at once for this international dinner.

When they discovered it was rice they were really averse to the idea, Ryan screwed his face up – “this is rice?” It’s mainly milk I replied… To his credit he did try a couple of mouthfuls but then pulled out the “I’m too full” excuse. Sam ate half of his and then said he’d like to save it for tomorrow because he too, was too full. And well Ethan… he ate it – but insisted he only wanted “Just the brown bit” Haha! Just the cinnamon topping, well he got the topping, but my wife made sure that there was a good helping of rice in under that brown – and he ate it no problem – until we ran out of brown!

Main thing – they all tried it.

To me it was just a little too sweet, I’d reduce the amount of sugar in it – and I might adjust it a little and post the recipe.

PAN DE JAMON: 
Sam’s rating: 6/10
 
Ryan’s rating:
 4/4