Å is a tiny little town that seems to have closed because we arrived few days out of “the season”. The only place we could get a coffee was at an old traditional bakery.
After being in Norway for the last two weeks, the more of Norwegian I hear the more it’s starting to sound a little like English and I have started to feel that I can catch little snatches of what is being said around me and understand some of it. As I was helping myself to some coffee at the counter in the bakery I could hear some Norwegian guys ask the baker, in Norwegian, where she was from and I heard her answer back in Norwegian that she was from Poland.
When the guys left I asked the Baker in English (just about everyone here speaks English) how a Polish person ended up in Å of all places. The baker was surprised that I knew she was from Poland and after a short interrogation from her we quickly got into a discussion about all sorts of things.
I asked what the bread-like cinnamon rolls were called in Norwegian and she told me but said that was the local fisherman’s dialect for them and then went on to give me a bunch of other names that basically meant things like, spice roll, spice snails, cinnamon spirals etc. From this topic we moved onto the people of the Lofoten Islands and the way how they speak and what issues affect their dialect.
It turns out that the baker is an historian and we got talking about how fixated the Lofoten Islanders were on cod (torsk in Norwegian) to the point that when a Lofoten Islander says the word “fish (fiske in Norwegian)”, they are referring to cod and when they speak about other fish they mention them by their specific name.
After hearing this, I suggested that perhaps we could simplify the naming of the little cinnamon rolls by calling them “ikke fiske” (not fish)!
Tonight I’ve got a bunch of friends coming over for a Balinese influenced dinner. Now I know, should be listening to gamelan music, but to be honest, South East Asian food requires a lot of pounding with a mortar and pestle, plus a heck of a lot of fine grating and Balinese music just doesn’t suit such activities.
A while ago, fellow blogger Vanille and her husband Paprika came over from N.Z. for a visit and I met up with them. As we toured the city together, conversation turned to music. I’m always interested in what other people’s taste in music is and we pledged to swap some music that we like, to turn each other onto something new and not on commercial radio (in Oz and N.Z. at least).
Vanille is from France and Paprika is from Hungary, so I knew they’d send me some stuff I’d never heard before. Today as I pounded and grated for what seemed like hours, I listened to the Bobana Markovica Orchestra and it struck me how perfect the music was for what I was doing, even though I was preparing Asian food.
This is one of the scariest old men I’ve ever met.
As I was wandering around Belize City market when I came across this gentleman. I found the colours and textures immediately appealing and I wanted to take a photograph.
Years before I would’ve just taken the photo, like a thief and run if I had to. Those days were behind me and I didn’t believe in doing that anymore. I now believe that photos can be much more interesting when the subject responds to the camera and it’s ethical to ask first. So I walked up to the butcher who was chopping up the meat with a very big cleaver, and I asked him if I could take a photo of him and his shop. His response shocked the hell out of me.
He raised his cleaver and pointed it in my direction and in an angry and aggressive tone, asked me why he should allow me. I told him I that it would make a good photograph but he was not having any of that, and then he also told me that he wasn’t interested in being portrayed in a way that would make him look like fool. I tried to explain again that it was the colours and textures that I was interested in. He said he thought I was trying to make him look like fool, all the while, brandishing the cleaver. I was starting to get worried as his voice started to raise even louder and the cleaver got more animated. I was feeling very threatened and wasn’t too sure how I was going to get out of the predicament without just running.
My break came when I told him my grandfather was a butcher who had trained in England, and that he might be interested in seeing how the butchers do things in Belize. His mood changed immediately. He asked me how old I thought he was. I said late fifties (I was telling the truth about what I thought). He smiled a big smile, puffed out his chest and said he was 78. He then said, “O.K., you can take your picture. So I took the first picture from a distance and I noticed he wasn’t smiling, so I asked him to smile.
“So you want to make me look like some grinning old fool?”
“No! No! I won’t have it!” He picked up the cleaver again.
To mollify him, I backed down with an, O.K., O.K! I then asked him for one more shot a little closer with him standing and he didn’t have to smile.
After that, I put down the camera (I didn’t think it would be wise to take anymore) and he relaxed. He then started asking me questions about my grandfather. He loved it when I told him my grandfather once got in trouble with the law in England, after the war during the time of food rationing. Both my Grandfather and his boss were brought up on charges for putting too much bread crumbs in their sausages and not enough meat.
In hindsight it’s not hard for me to understand why he was annoyed. I’m sure that people in markets all around the world are sick of having their photos taken by tourists for nothing in return. He just wanted to be treated as a human being, to be engaged with, rather than be photographed as some colourful object.
This post was first posted on the 24th of April 2007
Here’s a recipe for a delicious original sorbet I made up last night.
1 x 800gr tin of halved pears in juice (not syrup).
100gr of sweetened condensed skim milk.
50ml Southern Comfort (optional).
I handful of finely chopped mint.
3 lemons juiced.
1 tbls glucose (this stops the sorbet from freezing into a solid ice block)
To ensure quick foolproof churning in your ice-cream maker, it’s best if all the ingredients (except for the condensed milk and glucose) are chilled over night before using. The lemon juice can be frozen.
Place all the contents of the tin of pears into a food processor and puree. While the food processor is running add the other ingredients to the pears to combine. Once all the ingredients have been completely pureed, empty the food processor contents into the ice-cream maker and churn until your machine stops. Place the churned sorbet in the freezer for a few hours firm up it’s consistancy. If the sorbet is too hard to scoop, just let it sit for a while before serving.
This post was first posted on the 11th of January 2008
One of the best places for flavour and value to eat in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is Jalan Alor. Jalan Alor (Alor Street) is a street lined with food vendors (they are known locally as hawkers) who cook their food in semi-permanent stalls that are backed onto shop fronts.
Night is the best time to go as it is much more comfortable after the sun has gone down and Jalan Alor really comes alive as the locals and tourist come to feed. Good food, fast and cheap.
This post was first posted on the 22nd of January 2008
Carcassonne looks like the sort of fortified town that I used to think only existed in children’s fairy tale books.
The old part of the town is like a vast sprawling medieval version of Gormenghast. Like most places that have castles in Europe, Carcassonne has been settled and fortified from pre-roman times. In it’s latest incarnation it’s a mix of a 12th century Cathar castle and later 19th century additions in a romantic vein.
Castles interest me far more than palaces because of their functional and defensive purposes as opposed to the later which are nothing more than vulgar displays of selfish cluelessness and naked greed.
Carcassonne was one of the last Carthar strongholds to fall during the Albigensian Crusade.
The Cathars were a religious Christians sect that was similar in belief to the Bogomils of Bulgaria. They believed that all matter was corrupt and the incorporeal human spirit was trapped in corrupt matter. The Cathars accepted that Jesus held the spirit of god but was not god itself because he was material and god was incorporeal. Basically all matter was created by a lesser corrupt deity (like satan) and the Cathar’s aim was to transcend the material much like the Buddhists.
As I’ve been writing this I found myself thinking about how Buddhists see the human body as a basically a sack of puss and guts to trot the spirit around in while we try and attain enlightenment, and we shouldn’t be too attached to pleasures of the fleshy vehicle we travel in. These thoughts about these old French ideas of the corrupt nature of material life, remind me of a hilarious rabidly anti-French rant (life iz shit; get to know dis!) by Robin Williams.
Needless to say, killing off a pesky papal legate by Raymond VI, Count of Toulouse (a cultured guy who was sympathetic to the Cathars) after he’d been excommunicated, was all the excuse that Pope Innocent III (the Americans didn’t invent irony, the Catholics did) needed to call for a crusade against the Cathars.
Crusade is medieval code for “church sanctioned land grab”, peppered with a liberal dose of rape, plunder and extreme violence. Needless to say, such opportunities attract the worst kind of murderous people, that we nowadays call aristocrats. Probably the most infamous of these, outside of the holy lands (that distinction goes to Raynald of Châtillon), was Simon de Montfort and it was he that finally took Carcassonne after he participated in the massacre at Beziers where 20,000 Cathars were slaughtered. Thousands of people hoping for sanctuary in churches were locked inside and burnt to death. The infamous old quote by the papal legate Arnaud-Amaury, “Kill them all, God will recognize his own” is from the massacre at Beziers.
Knowing something of the crimes committed by Simon de Montfort, I found it surprising that his tombstone with his likeness on it is on display on one of the walls in the Basilica of Saint Nazaire in the old part of the town.
It strikes me as extremely odd that such a darkly evil person who had so many of the local’s ancestors brutally murdered, is accorded any kind of respect in a place that is supposed to be the house of a loving god. I think that tombstone should be laid flat, have the face removed and be used as a toilet set.
Naturally such a picturesque old town like Carcassonne attracts a lot of tourists, but we found that in the early autumn when we were there, the crowds weren’t so bad and we spent a whole day just wandering around the cobbled streets.
Of course cute touristy places like Carcassonne will be derided by those who see themselves as “travellers” (code for backpackers who think they are doing something original…… not!) but I’d say it has a lot to offer those with an interest in history and architecture.
As for those who consider themselves “travellers”, all I have to say to them is that, “if you want an authentic medieval experience for all your senses, check out the public toilets in Carcassonne”.
Because Carcassonne is an actual town, most of it is accessible at night so I’d also recommend having dinner there and wandering around at night.
A word of warning though, make sure if you are wanting to eat the local dish, cassoulet de canard (duck and bean stew), you don’t do what we did and eat at a place run by Moroccans.
To be honest, most of the time, I couldn’t care less where the cook’s ancestors came from, but what I didn’t realise was, that cassoulet de canard has pork in it and that being Moslems, the Moroccans don’t taste it as they make it, so of course it tasted awful. My wife has been permanently scarred by the experience and now refers to cassoulet de canard as lard stew and will never eat it again. Another thing about eating in a place run by Moslems is that they don’t drink wine and therefore can’t really make suggestions about what wine to drink with the same knowledge that a wine drinker can.
Until this experience, I’d never really thought about taking a person’s religious background into account before eating in their restaurant. It just goes to show how secular the little world I live in, is. I guess the lesson here is, that just because a restaurant looks like a traditional French restaurant and has traditional French food and wine on the menu doesn’t mean that their food is going to be automatically authentic.
All I can say, is that I wish I had a movie camera going when I called over our waitress to send back a bottle of wine that was very sour (yep, sour, not corked), and I suggested she have a taste for herself (as is customary in such cases). The look of disgust on her face was priceless but much to her credit the bottle was replaced by a different brand of equally nasty wine. Obviously the restaurant management don’t taste the wine before they buy it and their wine supplier is probably taking advantage of them. It was such a pity because the staff at the restaurant were very nice people trying to make a living with products they had no idea about.
I had a bunch of friends over for a dinner on the eve of Australia Day, which is 26th of January for all you non-Aussies.
The idea behind Australia Day is that it commemorates the landing of the first fleet at Sydney Cove in 1788. Needless to say, one man’s meat is another’s poison and some Aboriginals call the 26th, “Invasion Day”. Fair enough, but to be honest the average Aussie takes the opportunity to have the day off to drink and feast without much thought or reflection on the matter.
Like all young nations, Australia is still struggling with it’s sense of identity. For instance there isn’t what could be called an Australian cuisine in the sense of how the Italians can claim to have a national food culture that is recognisably theirs.
So it was with these nebulous feelings of being culturally adrift that I started to think about what I was going to serve for dinner. It is generally accepted by many people here in Oz that lamb will be eaten on Australia Day, so the main course was a no-brainer. Trouble was, lamb is eaten by lots of other cultures and it’s not exclusively Australian. How was I going to put an intrinsically Australian stamp on my dinner?
When I studied design we were told to always research a theme before we put pen to paper, and it was with that advice that I approached making my interpretation of an Aussie dessert.
My first thought was about what foods are uniquely Australian or at least grew here before colonisation. As everyone knows, Australia was inhabited by Aboriginals before European settlement and about the only uniquely native food that they collected, that has gained international acceptance is the macadamia nut. Coconuts also occur naturally up north in the tropical areas, so I thought they and the macadamia nuts would be a good start.
I also thought about some of the incidents in Australian history that have shaped our collective sense of who we are.
The early history of Australia as an English penal settlement is peppered with stories of convict misery and the corruption of the NSW Corps (the low quality semi-criminal soldiers sent from England to manage the prisoners), which became known as the “Rum Corps” and who were involved in the “Rum Rebellion”. So rum had to be in the list of ingredients as well.
For the first 100 years of white history in Australia, most Australians saw themselves as de facto English and were only too happy to jump into whatever wars England was participating in. One of the biggest military blunders of the First World War was Churchill’s decision to send Australian and New Zealand troops (known as ANZACS which is an acronym for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) with the British Army to Attack the Turks. Thanks to criminal ineptitude on the behalf of the British navy, the ANZACS were landed on the wrong beach at the base of some fairly steep cliffs. This tactical blunder was further compounded by the incredibly poor British army leadership that delayed movement of the soldiers off the beach for so long that the Turks were able to send reinforcements and pin the ANZACS and the British soldiers down on the beach at Gallipoli for almost a year. The disaster at Gallipoli is seen by many Australians and New Zealanders as the watershed moment of our respective senses of nationhood.
Being the willing cannon fodder for the British had lost it’s appeal.
During WWI, the wives, mothers and sisters of the colonial expeditionary forces would send packages which often contained food, to their loved ones overseas in the war. A common food in those boxes of love from home were sweet, buttery oatmeal and coconut biscuits (probably based on traditional Scottish oatmeal biscuits) called ANZAC biscuits.
By the way, when I use the word biscuit, it should be interpreted as “cookie” by North Americans. What North Americans call biscuits, we English speakers call scones.
As I thought about the ANZAC biscuits I remembered when I was a child, a friend of my grandmother, Phyllis Budd, used to make a variation of an old Victorian era dessert out of ginger-snap biscuits and whipped cream. The biscuits were coated on either side with whipped cream and put together to make a log. The biscuits and cream were left over night and the moisture from the cream moved from the cream to biscuits to soften them and as a result, the cream thickened to a ricotta cheese consistancy.
I used to love visiting Phyllis.
Here’s the recipe for what I came up with.
1 1/2 cup plain flour
1 1/2 cup rolled oats
1 1/2 cup desiccated coconut (I use McKenzie’s “Moist flakes” for better flavour and texture)
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
190g (almost 7oz) butter
6 tbs golden syrup (you can substitute 2 tbs of treacle)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 cups of fresh cream
1 cup of coconut cream
2 cups of roughly broken up unsalted macadamia nuts (if you can’t get unsalted nuts; wash salted ones)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup Rum (I use Bundaberg Rum because it’s so quintessentially Australian, in a bad way!)
1 block of dark chocolate (I use Gold’s organic, fair trade 70% coca chocolate)
Several A4 or foolscap sheets of heavy card or paper (about 200 gsm or so)
Start this recipe two days before you serve.
Soak the raisins in the rum, over night in the fridge, on the day before you start this recipe.
The day before you serve.
Preheat your oven to 160C (320F).
Melt the chocolate in a bain marie and pipe it out in 10 abstract grids onto a flat portable surface covered in baking paper that will fit into your freezer. Place them in your freezer while you deal with the rest of the ingredients.
Combine the oats, desiccated coconut and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl. Melt the butter and mix in 3 tablespoons of golden syrup or 1 tablespoon of treacle at low heat. When the butter is completely melted add the bicarbonate of soda. The bicarbonate of soda will cause the butter to froth up so mix it in quickly and pour the combined ingredients onto the dry ingredients in your bowl to combine.
On a large baking tray (I used 300mm x 450mm or about 12″ x 18″) lined with baking paper, evenly roll out the biscuit dough until it covers the whole tray. This operation will be easier to perform if you cover the dough with another layer of baking paper. Remove the top layer of baking paper and place the tray with the dough in the oven for 13 minutes or until the biscuit just begins to turn a light brown. DO NOT cook the biscuits for too long as they will become too crisp.
The sheet of biscuit will still be quite soft after cooking but don’t worry as it will firm up as they cool down. While the sheet of cooked biscuit is still warm use a 6cm or 2 1/2″ biscuit/cookie cutter to cut out 24 ANZAC biscuits.
While the biscuits are cooling down, make a tube of baking paper 9cm or 3 1/2″ high by wrapping it around your biscuit cutter and then wrap the same size of heavy paper around the baking paper to reinforce it. Make a total 8 of these tubes.
Place the Macadamia nuts in a folded tea towel (dish drying cloth) and break them up into large pieces with a rolling pin. Place the nuts under a grill until they begin to go brown. Keep an eye on the nuts as they brown quickly and can burn in a surprisingly short time.
Whip up the cream and slowly add 3 tablespoons of golden syrup or 1 tablespoon of treacle as you go. As the cream starts to thicken, add the coconut cream until until it is well mixed in.
In a large airtight container with a sheet of baking paper in the bottom, place your paper tubes on their ends and sprinkle a some macadamia nuts into them. Then place about 2 tablespoons of the whipped cream mixture into each of the tubes on top of the nuts. The next step is to drop a biscuit into each tube and push it down until a little cream comes out of the bottom of the tubes (just so you know there aren’t any big air pockets).
Next you add the same amount of cream again. On top of the cream drop 3 or 4 rum soaked raisins. Don’t go overboard with the raisins as rum will be the only thing you will taste.
The idea of the raisins it that they are a little hidden surprise and not the main event.
On top of the raisins and cream drop another ANZAC biscuit and push it down to flatten out the cream underneath. More cream and raisins are added again on top of the ANZAC biscuit. Again this layer of cream and raisins is topped with what will be the last ANZAC biscuit (3 ANZAC biscuits are used for each dessert).
Spoon some more cream on the top ANZAC biscuit and then sprinkle some more macadamia nuts on very top of everything. Push the nuts down a little into the cream to level it all off (I used the tamper from my espresso machine).
Push the lid onto the airtight container with all the desserts in it, and put it into your fridge overnight.
Just before you serve your desserts take them out of the airtight container with a spatular so you don’t squash or loose your desserts through the bottom of the tubes.
Place the tubes onto the plates that you will serve them on and carefully cut off the paper tubes with a sharp knife. I used an exacto knife to cut through the sticky tape holding the tubes together.
The last step is to carefully and quickly (so they don’t melt in your fingers) push the chocolate grids into the top of the desserts. If you like, you can put some passionfruit pulp around the dessert as a tasty garnish.
Here’s an amusing video by the talented American comic Rich Hall in the guise of his much convicted uncle Otis Lee Crenshaw, about Bundaberg Rum.
One of the first things we did in Brugge was to buy decent sized box of handmade Belgian chocolates. We found a cute little stone bridge over one of the canals and quickly scoffed down the lot until we felt sick.
There’s nothing like stuffing oneself with chocolate to put yourself off the stuff. Afterwards, over the next couple of days, it made us nauseous to even look at the elaborate displays in the numerous chocolatier’s shops in the old town .
I don’t think we ate any more chocolate for about two months after our pig out.
Having said how we had turned ourselves off even looking at chocolate, the display in the photo below caught my eye.
What can I say? Other than it sure was very different to all the other chocolate stores in Brugge. Talk about, “don’t compete, be unique”!
The writing, in three languages, on the white cards (which can’t be seen very well in size of image that I’ve put up here) says;
also ladies surprise.”
Ladies surprise……. gee I wonder (not really) what that is?
“A nice present for your father or friend.”
A nice present for your father? I bet that would make your mother happy.
Yesterday was the last full day we were in Paris and it was the day that fellow blogger, Epicurienne caught the Eurostar over from London for the day to meet up with us before we left.
As a happy coincidence, I’ve been able to make sure that my landmark 500th post could be about my wife and I meeting up with Epicurienne, who like us comes from the southern hemisphere, likes to travel, eat good food (who doesn’t!) and of course is also a blogger.
The plan was that Epicurienne was going to show us around Paris a bit, but it was a little cool and drizzling rain.
The great indoors looked far more appealing so I piped up with, “why don’t we find a really nice little restaurant and have a fabulous meal with some lovely wine and blow heaps of money doing it!”
Epic ruminated upon the question with great deliberation for about a nanosecond and replied, “sounds like a plan!”
So off the three of us went to wander around Ile St Louis on our quest, where we stumbled across an absolute gem of a restaurant called “Sorza”.
The Sorza provided the perfect setting for a day with Epic who often writes about restaurants and the cusine she has had around the world. The food was excellent and the wine that Epic picked was perfect (I know nothing about French wines).
Just like before when I met up with fellow bloggers Cashmere Cafe, Grasswire and Robert in Slovenia, it was remarkable how easy and pleasant it was to talk to Epic. We came to the conclusion that we felt we’d know each other for ages through our blogs which made the conversation so comfortable and fluid.
Also, just like in Slovenia I felt I had met another person that I wish I lived closer to. I would love to cook for Epic some time. I can’t even really begin to describe what a nice day Engogirl and I have had.
To be in Paris on our last day and to spend it with such a delightful and lovely person such as Epic would have been more than good enough, but the icing on the cake was our meal together.
Meeting up with fellow bloggers has been so pleasant that it is something that I’m going to have to do more often. It’s just a pity that Australia is so far away from where the bloggers I read, come from.