International Dinner #36: Ethan chooses

Ethan is just so excited to choose a country he can barely even talk!


International Dinner #35: Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea - International Dinner

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Wow, it’s been a while since we cooked our last International Dinner. September, October and November is birthday season for our boys, and we’ve had at least 1 or 2, sometimes 3 birthday parties to take them to, or host (the Death Star Cake!), pretty much every weekend since the last dinner, which makes shopping and preparing dinners a little difficult when the boy who chose the country is off running around hyped up on sugar and adrenaline.

But now it’s November and we finally had a quiet weekend, with no parties, and just me spending both days in the garden, so a little tired from digging and lifting, we set about preparing tonight’s dinner from Papua New Guinea. Very simple to shop for, all very fresh, natural unprocessed food for the most part.

Bugandi Egg Drop Soup

Bugandi Egg Drop Soup (Spinach, Choko Shoots, Spring Onion and Egg)
served with Crusty Bread

I was quick to up-sell this one to Ryan – afterall it had his favourite new leafy ingredient in it – Spinach! The recipe called for choko shoots, a little research tunred up that chokos were a gourd-like pumpkin (hence the recipe alternative of pumpkin shoots) we had a little trouble finding either of these today, but mung bean shoots were another alternative, and those we could find, in fact, Ryan discovered he quite liked them “Dad, they taste like water!” and was happily munching away straight from the bag, so much so he didn’t really want to give me any for the food processor as they had to be liquified for the soup. Suceess#2, another green, healthy food that Ryan likes!

The recipe was quite simple, boil up the mung beans, in water, add salt, spring (green) onions and spinach, boil for a while and when then as the name suggests, drop (dribble) beaten egg into it.

A nice healthy soup, a little strong on the spinach taste, but like the Lomi Soup we had for the Philippines I like the dribble egg in it, although it wasn’t as apparent this time for all the spinach!

Ryan’s rating: 5/4

Papua New Guinea MealKaima Bona GatoiBully Beef CasserolePapua New Guinea Main Dish

Kaima Bona Gatoi (Marinated, BBQd Veges)
Bully Beef Casserole (Corned Beef, Rice and Coconut Cream)

Preparation for these Papuan dishes is quite simple, for the veges it was only a matter of chopping nice rustic chunks of the eggplant, zucchini, capsicum, sweet potato etc. (Ryan loves to peel the onion for me for some reason, he’s eagerly always asking to do it – it’s his THING!) Then marinated in vinegar, garlic, chilli and coriander – BBQ’d and straight to the table, simple – and tasty!

The Casserole looked interesting enough for me to choose it, and it had ingredients I thought the kids would like, rice, they know that, tomatoes, they know that, corned beef – well we haven’t had it before (in fact I haven’t had it since I was a kid), but it’s salty and Ryan loves salty… and coconut milk… again, really simple to make, layered up into a casserole dish and baked. Jocelyn precooked the corned beef simply by boiling it up for a couple of hours, and the plus side of that is that we now have a whole heap of beef broth/stock for making soup, so we froze that for future use. And Ryan was helping me with the onions when it came out of the pot so we offered him a taste saying it was like bacon and ham – both of which he loves – the result? Ryan loves the corned beef and wants more – which is a good omen for tonight’s dinner…

Corned Beef isn’t the most pleasant smell once cooked, but when mixed with coconut, it’s a stunning aroma coming fresh out of the oven. This was the surprise of the night – The tomatoes had a nice acidity which offset the creaminess of the coconut cream. The rice had absorbed both the saltiness from the corned beef and the coconut and was very tasty, infact there was one helping left over which I had for lunch the next day – I might be cooking this one again – it was the surprise winner on the night.

The boys weren’t so keen, Ryan did have some rice, but not the corned beef which he had raved over just a few hours earlier “I like it on its own by itself, not all mixed together…” so a win and a loss on that front – a new meat Ryan likes, but only as a standalone meat. Sam was similar, a wee taste, but not that keen. But they did eat some of the more familiar veges, but the eggplant went untouched on both plates – a bit slimy for them I think….

Ryan’s rating: 5/5
Ryan’s rating: 42/42

Papua New Guinea Dessert - Bariva

Bariva (Banana sago dough, with coconut cream)
sometimes served with ice-cream

This was the only dessert I could find from Papua New Guinea, there was mention of insects as a snack and dessert, but apart from availability I thought that might also be a bit too extreme for everyone!!!

The recipe called for sago flour, which I couldn’t find… but I could make, simply put the sago pearls into the coffee grinder and ground them until I had flour… easy… my little MacGyver moment…

A simple dough made from bananas and sago flour boiled and topped with coconut milk. And sometimes served with ice-cream – I was relying on the icecream to sell this dessert to the boys… and Ryan did have the smallest sample of the Bariva, so at least he tried it. I have to admit –  it was a little plain. It had that very mild sweetness that is characteristic of asian desserts, which was totally overridden by the sweet vanilla ice-cream, I tried the batter while I was making it and it was quite nice, but with the sweet vanilla ice-cream accompaniement it was practically flavourless. With just the coconut cream it was nice – but very different to what we are used to in a dessert. I don’t think we will be trying this one again, maybe our bananas weren’t ripe enough, or maybe it was just too different to what we are used to, very similar to the Tahitian Po’e  in flavour and texture, but without the added sugar; sago flour instead of cornstarch; and boiled not baked. But good on Ryan for having a try! Vanilla ice-cream was a hit though!

Ryan’s rating: Infinity out of Googleplex (I think he’s rating the ice-cream)

Little Ethan gets to choose next week’s country…

In between International Dinners, we make some yoghurt at home

Saturday, 27th October 2012

We’ve had a busy couple of weekends with birthday parties for Ryan and myself, so haven’t had time to do our next International Dinner yet, Papua New Guinea is on it’s way – but in the meantime I decided to show the boys how easy it is to turn milk into natural healthy yoghurt, without all that added sugar and stabilisers etc.

Ryan is a bit of a yoghurt connoisseur – I say connoisseur, but really I just mean particularly picky. He has one favourite yoghurt brand and only likes the vanilla bean flavour of that particular brand, one week the supermarket was totally out of this particular brand so we bought another thinking it wouldn’t be an issue… he never saw the carton, but after about two bites he asked if it was the purple (packaging color) yoghurt. “I don’t like it” And that was the end of that.

So here I am vainly hoping that if I show them the magic of turning milk into yoghurt in little over 5-6 hours, that’ll be enough for him to give it a chance…

Making yoghurt is easy…

Here’s the ingredient list…

• 1L (1 quart) full cream milk
• 2Tbsp plain unsweetened store bought yoghurt with live cultures
• Sterilised jar with airtight lid
• Sterilised spoon (straight from a just finished dishwasher cycle is  sufficient, or just boil them in water for a minute or so)
• Some sort of thermometer (I used the one we have for the kids when they get sick as it doesn’t require direct contact with the liquid, but a cooking/candy thermometer would be better, and the temperature range of the kid’s thermometer is not large)

You only need the store bought yoghurt as a starter the first time, after that you can simply use 2Tbsp of the yoghurt you’ve made again and again.


Bring your two tablespoons of starter yoghurt out to warm up to room temperature while you heat the milk.

Take your full cream milk and heat it in a saucepan on a low heat until tiny froth bubbles start to cover the surface, just until it is starting to boil. Heating the milk has two purposes, it kills any undesirable bacteria already present in the milk and also chemically changes the milk enabling it create stronger bonds and therefore a thicker yoghurt. Once the milk is heated fully remove from the heat and  pour into your sterilised jar and allow to cool until 45˚C (110˚F).

At that temperature you can safely stir in the starter yoghurt (2Tbsp) without killing the live bacteria. Make sure it’s mixed thoroughly into the warm milk.

That’s pretty much it for the preparation. Now you need to incubate your yoghurt at between 35˚C and 45˚C (90˚F – 110˚F) for 5-6 hours. There’s a few ways to do this.

The method I used was to preheat the oven to 45˚C (110˚F) and using a baking dish create a water bath at temperature from the kitchen hot tap.
Then each hour I just checked the temperature inside the oven, in a good well sealed oven the temperature only dropped to about 39˚C (102˚F) over the hour, then I just turned the oven on for about 30-45 seconds to bring it back to heat and closed it  again for an hour.

You can also leave it in the sun on a warm summer’s day – just keep your eye on the temperature. The previously mentioned temperature range is optimal for “culturing” the good yoghurt bacteria, any higher and you’ll kill the bacteria, any lower and undesirable bacteria will likely take over.

Heating mats and simple insulating-yoghurtmakers are also good. And I might try the warming cycle on the rice cooker, but as a cost exercise minimal use of electricity was the aim.

Once your yoghurt has a custard like thick texture it’s up to you how long you leave it incubating, the longer, the stronger the yoghurt “tang” will be.

Once you’ve got a good yoghurt texture simply remove from heat and place in refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight – then you’re ready to enjoy your fresh, homemade unsweetened yoghurt.

Now, back to the boys – given that Ryan only likes his special vanilla yoghurt, i showed him that we could make it simply by adding some honey for sweetness and some vanilla extract (vanilla been juice – as I called it to help by reinforcing the idea that this was just like his normal vanilla bean yoghurt).
He was not keen to even taste it as first, but after Sam had a bowl he didn’t want to be left out so had a taste, decide he liked it and ordered a bowl as well… success… he did get me to add a little extra honey as well to it… He left a couple of spoonfuls behind, which I tried, that was a little too sweet for me… but all good… maybe we can wean him off his “purple yoghurt” (making it at home is 1/3 the cost of buying it!)

Next up Papua New Guinea… Ryan’s had friend’s birthday party’s this weekend so we haven’t really had a chance to go grocery shopping yet…

Just a final note on the yoghurt, when you first open it up just give it a sniff, if it’s really repugnant then something has gone wrong in the process (like bad bacteria sneaking in) and you’ll definitely be able to smell it a mile away…! Otherwise it should mildly yoghurty-smelling… 😀

Intergalactic Dinner Project: Star Wars Old Republic

We took a brief break from international dinners so we could have a birthday party for Ryan, there was no way I was going to try and make a Star Wars birthday cake AND try and do an International Dinner – I needed a lie down after the party as it was!

But we’re back at it again, with Ryan choosing his next country…