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what love tastes like

WARNING: This post turned out to be so much longer than I planned. It just goes on and on and on. Sorry!

My little family had the honour of being the token Indians at a completely crazy Halloween party hosted by a delightful Irish couple and their friends. Batwings on head Girl went above and beyond the call of anything I’ve ever seen. The house was truly the most haunted one on the block, the treats were gooey and bloody and oogly boogley and there was even a pumpkin brain with blood glooping out of it. Yes, it was a fantastic party!      

 
It was also there that anoder crayzy Irish woman in her delicious accent asked me what my death row meal would be – and without missing a heartbeat I said it would have to be mum’s pork curry chawal. I think it’s because you know when food tastes like love. You can really taste it. Food tastes like love when it’s made with love. 

Like the McDonalds curry Batwings served us that night. It was sweet and spicy and chickeny and divine. That was food from the heart. (I found out later, once I started to understand the Irish accent, that it wasn’t from Maccas. It’s made using McDonnell’s Curry Powder!)

That meal tasted of joy and friendship and was especially meaningful because a family opened their hearts and homes to us and welcomed us in. I also tasted Irish Poison for the first time. It burned a hole on the way down but my big brave husband said I was a wuss. He diluted his with ice and polished off the entire glass. 

I asked my son what love tasted like. He said ‘Sweet, creamy and soft.’ And my other little boy said ‘Mum, you CANNOT taste love but you sure can feel it.’ I secretly think love is a big juicy pork rib for him, he just doesn’t know it yet.  

I also think my husband was being silly but he said ‘Bananas!’ and so, because I am a ‘research scientist’, I had to throw this question out there.

  
In no particular order here are some of the responses I got. My brave and beautiful friend Twisty Lovely Locks said ‘It is soft and very gentle on the palette and the taste lingers…’

One friend said ‘Bitter-sweet, usually.’ And another said ‘Mostly sweet, sometimes spicy sweet. And when it hurts, bitter-sweet.’ I also think Fluffer’s response makes a great pickup line. Ready? He says ‘Anything spicy that will make your mouth numb for a while but will not deter you from eating the same for your next meal!!!’

Mum wrote saying ‘Love can taste hot n spicy or deliciously creamy n sweet….. Depending on the mood!’ My woowoo sister said ‘It tastes like warm sweet velvety Kaety Aunty’s caramel pudding.’ Wow mum, that’s huge!

A cuzzie said ‘For me barbecue sauce, sweet smoky sticky and yummy’ and yet another had this description. She simply said ‘Strawberries.’ Strawberries must be popular, because I just had another friend say ‘True love tastes like pavlova with strawberries and bubbles. But a picnic with French baguette and cheese and a lovely chilled white wine is love too.’  

The Irish must love their berries because Sheena said ‘Delicious raspberries drizzled in cream… Ah that makes me think of home. We used to have “organic” raspberry bushes (organic as in we did nothing to them).’

Lots of kids said ‘Chocolate mud cake’ and their mum is still thinking about her answer. (But she got featured in the death row question so I might not wait till she replies!)

Then there was Taz. She said ‘Wow what a question! I’m inclined to answer with something sweet because it has good connotations. It tastes like the sweet light fluffiness of fairy floss and meringues.’ I also love this other reply – ‘Rose petal ice cream, martini, etc. Rose petal anything.’  

And then this from Shobanana. ‘Love tastes like a full meal. From tickling starters, some boring veggies, some interesting side dishes, lots of rice to keep you full and plenty of spicy kolambu to keep you going. And finally the sweet dessert to satisfy you. It is a bit of everything that I taste. If it weren’t for it all then there would be no balance.’

But I think my favourite one of all was Zinn’s. It deserves two separate paragraphs. She said, and I have to quote, ‘Oh god! Love! Love is an ocean-wide banquet full of unexpected delights and jolts, sweetness and craving. It tastes sometimes as crystal as water and other times as heavy as buttery-sugary-to-die-for-mouth-wateringly-delicious-chocolate-cheesecake.

It tastes like the comfort of a cup of tea on a rainy day and the indulgence of melted cheese like a big hug to your insides. It’s so unexpected that sometimes you bite into a particularly sweet-looking kiwi and it tastes like chillies that spark a fire. It is every lovely, warm, sweet, spicy, intense yet smooth, crackly yet enticing flavour that I could ever think of…’    

I thank you all for sharing your answers with me. I suppose I must share back with you and say love is holding warm kind hands with the people I love. It is a hug that trigger oxytocin and serotonin and it is a cup of tea in the Bollywood Zen Pergola… my children snuggled up by my side, the scent of jasmine and the sound of friends and family talking and laughing. Bamboo swishing in the breeze, my husband stoking the fire in preparation for our marshmallow toasting night…and the moon slowly rising…    

Tell me. What does love taste like to you?

Dee x 

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get your jeera on

I was chatting with an old and dear friend and he made me so nostalgic for the foods and smells we grew up with that I had trouble falling asleep last night. He spoke of how he wanted to eat bhel puri and pani puri. Masala dosa and pav bhaaji. And biryani and tandoori and just heaps of other food of our yesteryears…

So today when we got invited to dinner and I was asked to bring daal and rice I simply had to get my jeera on! But first to get in to the mood my little boy showed me how to meditate (levitate?!).

  

Then we went to the markets and bought gorgeous sun ripened tomatoes. When we came home we turned on old Kishore Kumar / Lata Mangeshkar songs on the radio. Aha, do you see my head wobbles getting more pronounced?
  

And because I cook from recipes and follow them to a tee (not) I chopped up about 8 cloves of garlic, 2 onions, Parsi dhanajeera powder and sambhar powder in oogles of ghee. Two of those roughly chopped tomatoes I added did not die in vain either. They were the shining stars of the entire dish. 

Once the house (and my clothes) started smelling like an Indian restaurant and I opened up all the doors and windows… and thanked God I didn’t have carpets at home… I added a cup and a half of ‘mixed lentils’ and water, salt, sugar and tamarind paste to the cooker. Yes yes it was meant to be a Gujarati style khatta meetha yellow daal but I ran out of daal ok. Don’t judge me. You too can use what’s in the cupboard, the results might shock you!!

While this happy mixture wheezed and whistled away in the pressure cooker and my boys ran out yelling Mum the house is going to explode!! I started on the rice.

Not just any ordinary rice. Heaven forbid we eat ordinary rice today. It was the best long grain basmati I could get my hands on, tempered with jeera (cumin) and garlic in ghee. 

  
And then it all came together in one glorious, mouth watering meal. Do not tell the host that tonight’s meal is being sampled for lunch as we speak.

  
If, like my friend said, I garnish with coriander and a smile, they won’t know the difference will they?

  

  
I’m in heaven right now. And this ENTIRE DISH is vegetarian… Dee x


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lag jet and canola in black and white

Okay so we are just off a pretty long flight back from India. Mum’s 60th surprise reunion at Mahabalipuram and 80 parsis in one spot had us praying a tsunami would not strike. That would be a tenth of our population wiped out in one hit. 

 
  (This isn’t even the whole group. Just the immediate family on dad’s side !)

A twelve hour stop over in Singapore was probably not the best idea in terms of ‘just get us home already’ but we did get to eat Singapore Chilli Crab at Dempsey Hill after two years and I wouldn’t swap that for the world. 
  (Photo courtesy R1)

As I start this next paragraph it occurs to me that I have just, for the first time, referred to Sydney as home and India as India. Did I just swap the language I used to use? India is the zig to my zag. It’s the colour to Sydney’s black. It’s the smells and the sounds and the dirt and the chaos to the order and the clean of home. My god, it must mean I have two homes now and this makes me insanely happy. 

  

I’m so jet lagged at the moment, I’ve just drizzled my roast veges with canola instead of olive oil. (But I figure there’s nothing fresh rosemary and citrus salt can’t fix.) It also means that three weeks of fairly rich, but always delicious food, has now made me crave the simple smells of lamb on an outdoor babrbie. So I will leave it here. I must go hassle Mr. Husby to get our cutlets on. (I’m not being suggestive.)

Dee x

   
 


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what rhymes with ‘DELHI’

It’s hard when you live away from home for so many years. You come back and see things with such different eyes…

 

Women clutch their handbags so SO close. Men walk arm in arm and don’t think twice about sharing icecream from a single cup. They also have glorious moustaches. Children go to bed at the most ridiculous times.

  
  
My Madras smells like coconut oil and jasmine flowers. And did you know only 1 in about every 10 people wrap you in their arms and give you a jolly good great big hug. With damp patches under their arms. It cannot be helped. We are all going to drown in our collective sweat here.

And there is a lot of noise. Always. Loud talking. Loud horns. Loud calls to prayer. Loud street music. 

   
   

Would I change all this? Not. For. The. World. Because this is where I grew up, it’s all I knew for the first 20 years of my life. It’s where I feel at HOME. And the food. Please don’t make me cry thinking about the food.

We started our holiday with Mahiar’s Biryani. It is a long standing tradition at home that that’s what we eat for our first meal. He loads it up with pieces of succulent mutton and bones filled with marrow that can be sluuuked out in one gusty shot! Then you have to sleep it off for an hour or three and wake up and have some chai. We actually had this two days in a row just because we could.

The next few days went by in a blur. Sweet and spicy daal, masala fried fish, mums oogly boogly amazing cauliflower bacon bake, garlic bread, mutton ras… the list goes on and on. 

As if that were not enough. Greed then got the better of me and I longed to eat chicken malai tikka and daal roti at my favourite restaurant. So off I went with a couple of crazy girlfriends and we ate till we popped at the seams. One of them even taught me what I should do in the event I want to rob a bank. 

  (Chicken malai kebab. My undoing)

  (Disguise. In case you need to rob a bank). 

And this then, my dear friends, was my complete and utter undoing. When you’ve lived overseas for so long you tend to have very sanitized insides. You forget how quickly – and why – Delhi rhymes with Belly. Man oh man. Suffice to say for the rest of the week I lived on jam and toast, lots of lime juice, an occasional chappati and when I was really feeling fantastic, curd and hot white steamed rice. Uurgh. 

But like any brave soldier, soldier on I did. I’ve loaded up on the homeopathy, the ayurveda, the home remedies and even some positive thinking. I think I’m ready to go out again and conquer the food world.

Between yesterday and today I’ve eaten possibly the world’s best Indian Chinese. Twice! I’ve had ginger chicken and dragon chicken and this mind blowingly delicious lollipop chicken. (Yes. There’s plenty of chicken). I’ve eaten an ice-cream sundae at Haagen-Dazs and paan icecream and a DIY butterscotch and nut bar at Ibaco. 

   
   

Next I want to tackle the old haunts. Ajnabi. Oh Ajnabi, how I long to step into the slightly dirty, oily confines of your chaat shop. Saravana Bhavan of old, I need to compare you with the dosas your sister store makes in Sydney. Cakes n’ Bakes, do you still make that sickeningly sweet, disgustingly delicious Japoise Pastry? Ponnuswamys, Samco, how about some Chicken 65 and Egg Masala?

Be still my beating heart. We still have two weeks to go. Dee x

  
  


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ghee stoned

Today with hungry bellies and eager hearts we drove many kilometers to a quirky little slice of India right here in Sydney itself! It is a purely vegetarian piece of paradise. Saravana Bhavan. Ah how heavenly…. 

 

We started with medhu wada and cocktail idlis. I love idlis and thought they’d be a tiny little plate full. Well, they were. But there were 14 of them swimming in ghee goodness sensational sambhar. The BEST I’ve ever tasted! And that was only for entree.  

 

For mains it was dosa. My husband devoured a masala dosa. My ghee roast (it really is called a ghee roast, that name should’ve given it away) arrived minutes later and I had to half-stand to take a photo of it. It was HUGE! It was sublime. It was perfect. It was India in Sydney, just better … and no passport required. 

 

At this point I was starting to lose my mind. I couldn’t decide whether I liked the coconut chutney best or the sambhar. I loved the daal they served with it too, that was an unusual touch. I wanted to eat and eat and keep eating. But my jeans became tighter and tighter with every bite and when the waiter asked if he could bring us anything else, I asked for a bed. That was a sure sign I was slipping in to a food coma…

  

I have been sleep deprived and tired and even yoga stoned before, but never GHEE STONED. Yes… That feeling you get when you’ve eaten just way too much. The food was so good. The wait staff were thoughtful and funny and my little boy’s favourite was Bala. He served us with a laugh and a smile and was even kind enough to bring him out some plain parathas to eat.

 

  
That’s the Management Team and…
 …that’s Small Foodie smackin’ his chops!

And in true Indian style we started talking. (Indian farewells last longer than most meals). Turns out the owner knows my dad and my dad knows his business partner. One of them knows my husband’s grandma’s brother’s son and they in turn know someone else’s wife and our ex neighbour here in Sydney!!!! I am not making this up! This is really how it’s done! Come along with me next time, I’ll prove it to you while we feast. 

I cannot recommend this place highly enough. When you live so far from home a 30km drive means nothing in the grand scheme of things when all you want to do is take a bite from your childhood.

We also worked out that from our house it’s one long straight road and a single left turn. Guess I’ll be driving there in the future!! I need to have a sleep now. The ghee is singing me a gentle lullaby… Romba Nandri.  Dee x


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lettuce turnip the beet

This is how little vegetables tickle my fancy. I had to google ‘funny vegetable quotes‘ to even come up with the title of this post. A friend of mine once said my blog was a vegetarian’s worst nightmare. That same friend said it was a carnivore’s orgasm! I’m secretly pleased, (that’s my pleased face below) but you didn’t hear it from me.
  
Now don’t get me wrong. I LUUURVE veges. I just have no idea how to cook them. I mean I can roast veges as well as the next person and they’re pretty damn tasty (but that’s because the roast drippings cover them in oogle boogle deliciousness.)

So to make up for turning the gentle stomachs of vegetarian’s around the world with my (beautiful oom nom nom nom) pulled pork recipe, I promised myself I’d attempt something sans meat. Today we had lunch at a friend’s house and she asked that I bring the coleslaw. ‘Coleslaw’. Yes. Coleslaw. You mean vegetarian? Like you mean you don’t want me to chop bacon in to it? Yes. Yip. Yup. Oui. Cole.Slaw. And what better chance to prove I can vegetarianify food or something or whatever the term is, than today?

After a bit of half-arsed research I concluded that coleslaw wasn’t rocket science but the traditional recipes just. sounded. so. bland. I decided to just wing it, imagining a Vietnamese pork roll while shopping. I came home armed with some cabbage. Green and red. Some chili. Some mint and coriander and carrots. 

From then on it was one big chop fest and I just mixed all these gorgeous ribbony bits of veges into a bowl. For the dressing I used salt and pepper, a good blob of crushed garlic paste and sesame oil. It still tasted too rich..too mayo-eggy-yuck. So in went half a cup of Greek Yoghurt. Boy did that do the trick. Oh, that and a sprinkle of my new favourite Saltbird Citrus Salt. It goes in everything!

  
Try this coleslaw. It’s great! It really IS a vegetarian delight. Especially inside a lovely warm soft roll with some freshly shredded pulled pork or even some supermarket hot roast chook. What? Chicken’s not a vegetable??!!

Lettuce turnip the beet. Dee x


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it’s a full moon ya filthy animal!

I’ve never actually followed a recipe before. I can’t cook from them. So when I was approached by ITC to share a recipe my immediate reaction was one of panic. (And glee. But panic was the overriding emotion). 

How do you share a recipe for something you’ve never cooked? With 6000 people? Why, you just open the fridge and pantry and pray like mad!

Today I’m sharing my version of smokey sticky slightly salty simply super pulled pork. And when I was marinating it all I wanted to do was put on my boots and cowboy hat and pull out my (imaginary) gun from its shiny leather holster. And twirl it around and in my best Southern Accent shout “Its a full moon tonight and you’re goin down ya filthy animal!”

This dish is not for the faint hearted. It’s pig, er I mean big. And bold and bloody and so damn beautiful it’s making me cry. (I think I’m crying because THERE IS NO VEGETARIAN SUBSTITUTE!!!) So without further ado let’s see how we go. A picture may be a good place to start.

  

Caramelise about half a cup of raw sugar till it starts to spit and smoke (it looked like the moon in my photo). Open one of those beautiful little cans of tomato purée and add it to the pot. Whack on a nice big blob of crushed garlic (fresh would be awesome but I’ve run out) and add salt to this concoction. I have to say I love my smoked garlic-herb salt only second to my husband and children. If you can get your hands on some, you too can pretend to be a good cook!

To this I add some cinnamon for family warmth, nutmeg for stability, paprika because I had an accent going on inside my head and lastly turmeric because you can take the girl out of India but you cannot take India out of the girl. If you’re cooking meat, always add turmeric. Just a pinch will do. It’s antiseptic and I’m claiming it makes all meat safer. 

Plonk the pork (I used a 2.5kg shoulder) on a big X that you’ve created with two lengths of foil. Stab it with the biggest knife you’ve got. Don’t worry about it looking nice. It won’t! Coat it with that sweet smokey marinade and let it be for a couple of hours.

Wrap up the foil parcel, place it on an oven tray and leave it in a preheated oven at about 160 for 2.5-3 hours. I learnt the foil trick from my friend Jamie. You know… the one who has a product range at Woollies! So atleast I know that part of the recipe has been tested and works. 

  
And that’s it. You could serve it warm with nachos, coleslaw, in wraps with some guacamole, as a burger… The possibilities are endless. In the words of Homer Simpson, “Ah the pig. Such a wonderful, marvelous animal.”

  
Enjoy. Share some photos of how your version turns out. (Cowboy dress-ups not mandatory). Dee x