Posts Tagged ‘friends’

04
Mar
2009

Not so Tiny Bites

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tinybites

The world of blogging is indeed a marvellously serendipitous place. I am constantly amazed by the number of interesting and special people I come across, and am privileged to be able to get to know. The virtual links I’ve established over the years have not only taught me a lot about the way other people live, and eat, but they’ve also made me firm friends around the globe.

One such friend is Karen of Tiny Bites. Back when I met Karen she was a food crazy, salsa dancing, photo snapping, Vancouverite. Merrily uploading her photos to Flickr, blogging about food and life and translating Spanish salsa songs into English.

Every time I’d talk to Karen the subject of food, wine, and restaurants would inevitably arise. We’d discuss the reasons why dining in Vancouver is better than dining in Perth (many) and the reasons why Australian wine (Shiraz especially) is better than BC wine (also many :) ) Seeing all of this effort though, it seemed to me that Karen would be an ideal candidate to start up her own food blog, where she could properly explore and have her own place for all her food thoughts and ideas.

So with a little prompting from myself and a few others, Tiny Bites was born, and Karen has yet to look back. It’s been a year now since she started it, and has just launched a new version of her site, where her popularity and success has led her to move into food consulting full time. She now photographs, writes, and develops web sites for Vancouver restaurants and businesses. She’s been heard on radio, written about in news papers, and surely television appearances can’t be far off :)

So this is just a little note to say, well done Karen, I always knew you had it in you, and I will never miss your birthday :)

04
Feb
2009

A Filipino BBQ

Lechon Kawali : The finished product

I’m lucky to have some good friends. Friends who love food as much as I do, and who come from many diverse backgrounds and cultures. One of those friends is Jen, and for as long as I can recall she’s been telling me about how great Filipino food is, and how I need to try it. “Back in the Philippines” is her favourite catch phrase, and yet somehow I always seem to be conveniently absent when all of these amazing dishes were being served up, aside from a scorching batch of Bicol Express she’d made at a curry night that now seems like eons ago.

So enough teasing… It was time to put up or shut up. The word was put out and the date set, the great Filipino bbq was finally going to happen. House boy Ben busily got the patio ready with furniture and umbrellas for shade, and both Ben and Jen starting to acquire all the things they’d need to make a Filipino feast.

Now I started to realise why it had taken such a long time for this to all come together. Filipinos do not do things by halves. The list of dishes Jen had taken it upon herself to make was a tour de force of all things good and traditional, and it took the better part of a few days for her to prep it all up.

She had a little help though. Ben, in true male style, ably manned the bbq all day, sister Jasmin did her bit and brought along a dessert dish, and Filipino food appreciator Greg tried his hand at a dish of his own.

In the end the list of dishes sounded a little like this (apologies for misspelling or poor descriptions):

  • Pinakbet : A kind of vegetable stew with pumpkin, string beans, eggplant, okra, shrimp paste
  • (Pancit) Palabok : Noodles covered in an orange coloured sauce (made from fish sauce, corn flour, and a bunch of other things) with prawns and sliced egg and calamansi lime juice
  • Kare Kare: Oxtail stew in peanut sauce, eaten with shrimp paste.
  • Tilapia : A small fish that gets grilled over coals
  • Grilled Liempo : Basically a massive hunk of marinated pork belly grilled on the bbq
  • Lechon Kawali : An awesome way of cooking pork belly by boiling it, cooling it, deep frying it, cooling it again, and then deep frying a second time. This results in beautifully tender pork belly on the inside, with a fantastic crunchy exterior. Greg did an amazing job of this, served in pieces with a dipping sauce, it was fantastic
  • Brazo de Mercedes : A custard / merengue cake rolled into a log and baked. This didn’t turn out quite how Jasmin wanted, so it ended up being a Lasagne de Mercedes. Still tasted great though :)
  • Leche Flan : The ubiquitous Filipino dessert, a decadently rich version of creme caramel.

Kalamansi Caipirinha

I did my best at getting into the spirit by making some fairly potent caipirihnia (national drink of Brazil) using calamansi limes (which are small and intense) and a healthy dose of Tanduay Rum. They weren’t quite to everyones taste, but did make a refreshing change from San Miguel beer in terms of authentic Filipino drinks.

To say this bbq was a feast would be a drastic understatement. Jen had even gone to the trouble to make her own shrimp paste (Bagoong) which was served both as the saltiest condiment I’ve ever tried (something any true Filipino will appreciate), and to flavour many of the dishes.

So maybe there is something to Filipino food after all :)

Pinakbet Bagoong: Shrimp Paste Sliced Egg Tilapia San Miguel Beer Demolished Palabok and Pinakbet Kare Kare Grilled Liempo Tilapia over the coals Tilapia stuck to the grill A memorable death Chopped lechon kawali Lechon Kawali: Stage 2 Gregs Lechon Kawali Leche Flan Deep fried goodness Matilda Leche Flan Jon and Mithila Leche Flan The final deep fry Poser Sort of Brazo de Mercedes Lechon Kawali : The finished product Ranita & Jasmin Kalamansi Caipirinha The cook, the slave, the fashionista The house boy 

09
Jul
2007

A dinner worth waiting for…

Tiramisu

So I’ve been friends with someone for a very long time. Well a long time in my book. I’m not the best at keeping in touch and staying in regular contact, and so I’ve never been the best at maintaining a close group of friends. Couple that with the fact that my family moved around a lot when I was younger means that I’m lucky to still be in touch with anyone I’ve known longer than a few years.

Amanda is lucky (?) enough to be one of the old guard… which means I’ve known her for a good few years now. But surprisingly in all that time, haven’t been around to her place for dinner. Curious as to whether she actually ate at all, I’ve been trying for a while now to wrangle my way into her kitchen, and finally got the chance a couple of weeks ago when at long last, an invitation was sent out, with all necessary pomp and ceremony.

I think there was a sense of making up for lost time involved… although I know once she sets herself to do something, Amanda is not one for half measures. There were wine and oysters on arrival, a plate full of entrees including smoked salmon, capers, cheeses, fruits, and nuts… probably a meal in itself, but just a primer tonight.

Next was course one… chilli mussels… a giant bowl of fresh mussels heaped in a precariously arranged tower with a hearty tomato chilli sauce that warmed us from the insides. Not wanting to seem impolite… I made sure every last one of them got eaten after a considerable number of “seconds”.

Onto the mains and a lovely piece of swordfish steak, on top of mash, with some steamed veges… hearty and delicious, and more than meaty enough for my rampant carnivorous tendencies that don’t quite mesh with Amanda’s vegetarian sensibilities.

Dessert plate Chocolate Mousse Cognac Truffled Chocolate Jasmine tea Chocolate moussey spoon Proof that geeks get chicks You will eat it all or I will hit you with this... Someone needs to drink more Tiramisu 

Finally, after a couple of bottles of wine, including a Gran Reserva Rioja, and a fantastic Ashbrook Estate Cabernet Merlot Franc, it was time for dessert. Chocolate mouse to start with, with shavings of cognac truffled chocolate on top, decadent enough in itself. Followed later by Tiramisu, a rich spongey delight of flavours and textures, smothered lovingly in cream and chocolate.

If my pants were a little tighter around the waist before this meal, they were doubly so after. We left satisfied and slightly giddy at the gastronomic onslaught, and have vowed to make sure the next dinner doesn’t have to wait for quite so long.

So here from the woman herself is Amanda’s wonderful Tiramisu:

Amanda’s Tiramisu

  • 375ml espresso coffee
  • 500g marscarpone
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 185ml Kahlua or Tia Maria
  • 125ml cream, lightly whipped
  • 250g thin sponge fingers
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa powder

How She Made Hers
Pour the coffee into a shallow dish (do cool it down otherwise the biscuits go soggy too quickly). Mix the marscapone, sugar and liquor in a large bowl until you have a thick mass, then gently fold in the cream. Cover with plastic then put in the fridge. Dip half the biscuits into the coffee then lay them out in a thin layer on the bottom of a 2 litre ceramic dish. Spread half the marscapone mixture over the biscuits and dust liberally with half of the cocoa (use a fine sieve to make it easy).

Dunk the rest of the biscuits in the coffee and add a layer of them before spreading with the remaining marscapone mixture. Dust with the remaining cocoa, then cover and keep in the fridge overnight to allow the flavours to develop before serving.

13
Feb
2007

A (Curry) Night to Remember

Curry !

I had the idea recently of organising a little curry night. I’ve been getting into all sorts of curry over the past couple of years, spurred on by Sharon introducing me to some excellent Malaysian curry. I’d never really understood the curry before then. I just figured it was a hot spicey kind of soup that other people ate, and that I didn’t like. I’m not sure why I had that idea, but I think it’s an important one to get rid of if you ever want to experience all the world of food has to offer.

Since then I haven’t looked back, having tried out a whole range of Malaysian, Thai, Southern Indian, North Indian, and Vietnamese curries, a good number of Moroccan tajines (which are almost kinda like curry), and doing my best to avoid Japanese curry, which still defies all logic.

So just last Saturday night a few of our closest curry making friends dropped by to share the love, and the food in their own special way. Sharon and I spent the better part of the day procuring supplies from Kongs (the local Asian supermarket), and preparing the base for her curry. I’m always amazed walking around in those places… it’s like, just when you think you have a pretty decent grasp on a type of food, you step one foot into a store, look around, realise you don’t know what even half of the stuff is for, and suddenly feel very small again.

A recent discovery along those lines for me personally was Asafoetida… which i’m sure is pretty common to my sub continental readers, but was a complete mystery to me. Turns out it’s a kind of spice made from the resin extracted out of the stems and roots of the Ferula plant, and is used particularly by Indians who are practitioners of Jainism, as a replacement for certain foods (onions, ginger, garlic) that they aren’t allowed to eat.

That has nothing to do with this post of course, other than to state formally that I still know bugger all about a great many things… and any education my learned readers are able to give is always appreciated.

So on to the curries.

Dan and Mabel brought a lovely lamb curry, I would say vindaloo, but I might be wrong, so i’ll stay general for now.
Dave and Mel also brought a lamb curry, this was a southern Indian style dish with no coconut milk and a predominant clove, cinnamon flavour to it.
Jen and Ben brought a Bicol Express (!). My first experience with Filipino curry and apparently one of the few of such dishes that exist in the Phillipines, It’s basically pork, chicken, beans, chilli, tumeric, and… ummm, stuff. Very tasty indeed and sadly too hot for the creator to manage, but well done Jen for taking one for the team.

Sharon made a Malaysian chicken curry. This one had a lot of ginger, chilli, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, garlic, onion, tumeric… all blended into a wonderful paste that got smeared all over the chicken (one the bone) while they cooked away for a good few hours til nice and fall apart-ified.
I was stuck for options, not having a home land from which to draw curry making experience from I either had to choose from my list of previous conquests that turned out ok, or tread the lonely road of experimental curry making.

Lamb curry Duck Curry

Plucking up all my courage, I turned the pages of Mel’s curry book she had kindly lent me, and settled on one that looked sufficiently different yet still tasty… Duck curry. A slightly odd choice perhaps, and not the most well known of all curries, but it was in the book dammit, and apparently is quite popular in the Kerala region of India where water fowl are more prevalent, and clearly not fast enough to not get eaten.

So I started with Duck breast… three of em, skinned and cubed. Fried a little fenugreek and fennel seeds in some oil and then added a whole onion, two green chillis, and a good dose of shredded ginger. When that was nice and soft I added some more chilli powder and a dash of turmeric. To that lovely concoction went the duck breast, to get coated and loved with all the spices and flavours. The rest was simple, throw in a few baby potatoes, a handful of curry leaves and a spash or three of coconut cream, and Babu’s your uncle. It turned out pretty darn good even if I do say so myself, and I do… Of course I am the worlds most biased food critic, and can quite easily overlook the slighty dry and somewhat gamey texture of the duck, which perhaps would have been nicer had I used it on the bone and cooked it for a couple more hours. Still, it was a triumph for experimental curriests the world over, and a great first effort.

Mel's mango cocunut puddings

We finished off with these lovely little mango and coconut puddings that Mel lovingly coaxed out their shells and served with a good dollop of ice cream.

All in all a great night, and like all things curry, the best was yet to come. Two days later and I’m still going strong with the left overs, and as much as a fan of Johnny Cash I am, there hasn’t been one ring of fire to speak of. Thanks to everyone for putting in the effort and all I can say is the next one will have some huge expectations… Anyone know where I can buy Iguana ?