Cooking


downtown

Whoa! I’m neglecting my blog again. I gave myself a deadline for doing a wedding entry, which came and went and still no sign of it. Oh well.

I’ve been busy missing Taiwan. It’s my home, even though I’m neither Taiwanese nor was I born there. I only spent about 6 years of my life there, and during that time it grew into me and became the place I miss. I’ve never missed South Africa the same way I miss Taiwan.

This does not mean I do not like SA. I think it is a pretty neat country. I feel great pride when our athletes and sports teams win international competitions or when a great movie or book comes out of the country. I get angry when people diss on South Africa or make ignorant statements about us. I am South Africa. But I miss Taiwan the way Alexander misses the US. I cannot explain it, it just is. Since I left for good in 2006 I’ve been back once a year except for this year.

A friend offered me the opportunity to go back and teach there for two months in October and November. In my head I went over the numbers and figured that it might make financial sense to go back. But it would have meant leaving Alexander behind for the whole time as someone would have had to stay and keep the Piesang market stand going. And it would also have stalled any potential plans for us to open up a place if I’m not here to help with that. And having done long-term in the past there was just no way I was going to leave Alexander here and be on my own for two months. I would have been much too miserable without him always close by my side.

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Sad sigh. I console myself with the knowledge that both of us are missing home. He the US, me Taiwan.

Luckily we could still approximate some things from Taiwan in the form of food and drinks. So when I recently saw this post and recipe for this soupy tomato and egg dish I often had for lunch at school on EatingAsia I decided to make it. I tried to follow the recipe as well as I could, but the tomatoes were not nearly as juicy as they should have been, so my attempt was not exactly great. But it helped with the homesick. The cucumber salad was near perfect though.

tomatoe egg soup

We also heard about a store in the Northern Suburbs owned by a Taiwanese couple, so we decided to go check it out. We chatted a bit to the owners who are from Chiayi and Tainan in the south and reminisced about home. I found they sold the little balls found in pearl milk tea. Of course, the way you get it in Taiwan is mostly from scratch and not from bags with the words ‘starch balls’ on them. It was not right, but it made me feel good having some milky tea with tapioca pearls again!

pearl milk tea

I miss you Taiwan, I miss you all of my friends in Taiwan.

sundown beach

For more about the amazing food in Taiwan and other things Taiwan, go check out these posts on EatingAsia and Primitive Culture.

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A while ago I promised that I was going to venture more into the kind of cooking I grew up with. After years of living abroad, and through Alexander’s encouragement and curiosity, I felt it was time I started enjoying and rediscovering my culinary heritage. In planning meals for our trip to Addo Elephant Park with Alexander’s family we thought that we should prepare some traditional food for our two nights in the park.

Now, before I continue on with the food, a word about Addo. The park was established in 1931, when the elephant population of the region was virtually exterminated. An overzealous major of the time succeeded in killing 120 elephants in 11 months! The park started out small, with only about 15 elephants, but over the years more land was added to the park and animals that have been exterminated in the area were re-introduced- lions, hyenas, eland, buffalo, black rhino and more elephants. During our stay we were lucky enough to see most of these, except for the rhino and eland, on several occasions. The park’s existence and continual growth (it is being expanded to include some coastline soon) is an encouraging sign that the environmental damage past generations inflicted on this planet can and should be rectified.

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Back to our meals now. For our first evening we were to have barbecued chicken and braai broodjies (barbecue sandwiches) on the menu, and for the second evening grilled snoek (South African barracuda) and aartappel koekies (potato cakes). Sadly, things did not work out quite as planned. The barbeque fire I made was way too hot and everything ended up slightly charred. I do not barbecue often and when I do I suppose I generally mess it up.

The second evening’s dinner also did not work out as planned because I could not find any fresh snoek in Port Elizabeth (city nearest to Addo) on a Sunday. Which did not make sense to me as it is a coastal city. But we could make the aartappel koekies and at least they came out perfect with a slightly fluffy and crisp potato texture and flavoured with onion and dried herbs.

To make enough potato cakes for 5 you will need:

1 onion, grated

4 potatoes, peeled and grated

100ml all-purpose flour

salt, pepper and other dry herbs to taste

oil for cooking

To make: Squeeze out as much of the potato and onion juices as possible and mix together. Add the flour, salt, pepper and herbs and mix well. Heat a little oil in a pan over medium high heat and spoon tablespoons full of the potato mixture in and flatten them into little cakes. Cook until they are golden brown on both sides. Drain them on paper towels and serve warm, either with some sour cream or jus as is.

aartappel koekies

We served ours with some hake (frozen was all I could get) wrapped in aluminium foil together with some lemon juice, apricot jam, salt and pepper and grilled in the oven. The cheese gets added before serving. It was not snoek exactly, but it worked well enough.

resepte boek

We were browsing through a bookstore a while ago when I noticed a small recipe book with the title in Afrikaans on the spine 50 van die Beste Tradisionele Suid-Afrikaanse Resepte or 50 of the Best Traditional South African Recipes. With an air of scepticism I picked it up and looked at the cover, not because I have a poor impression of South African food, the little book just seemed a tad bland due to a dull cover design. And I judge a book by its cover.

But this one proved me very wrong. As I flipped through it I was taken back to my youth through 50 recipes that were staples at dining room tables several years ago. Gortsop (gord soup), waterblommetjie bredie (water lilly stew), melkkos (milk-soup), kerrie perskeslaai (curried peach slaw), and of course desserts like asynpoeding (vinegar pudding) and souskluitjies (sauce dumplings). And it was all beautifully illustrated in full-color pictures of the food in seriously retro serving dishes.
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I had to admit that I was very wrong for being so sceptical at first. It is really a neat little recipe book that pays homage to the rich cultural traditions of South African cuisine which the dishes themselves highlights. Our food is, after all, a unique blend of African, European, Malay, and Indian culinary traditions.

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Alexander decided to pick it up immediately so I can start cooking Suid-Afrikaans for him. I have tried my hands at a few of the recipes and they came out with varying degrees of success. I will try to blog about my successes and so be able to not only rediscover for myself but also share with you my gastronomic past with you.

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After a bowl of muesli with yogurt and fresh fruit, my favorite breakfast meal is danbing. Its something I discovered when I first came to Taiwan and fell very much in love with. Danbing literally means egg-pancake and it is, literally, an egg pancake. An egg is fried on a hot griddle, almost like an omelet, a crispy pancake is added on top and then flipped over to grill the pancake. A filling of bacon, cheese, tuna or chicken is often added before the whole thing gets rolled up and served with thick soy sauce. Delicious!

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The pancakes for making danbing can be found at just about any grocer in Taiwan, and so I decided to try my own version for breakfast I chopped up some tomatoes, garlic and mushrooms, wrapped it up in aluminum and cooked in the oven for a few minutes. In a bowl I mixed eggs, salt and pepper and some shredded basil leaves and then fried it, like an omelet, before placing a frozen pancake sheet on top and flipping it all over. I let the pancake grill for a few seconds, added the filling, rolled it up and served it.

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Simple, easy and tasty. Now if only I could find a place in Cape Town who sold the pancakes!

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I was craving adobo again recently and decided to try my hand at a new recipe. Only recently, thanks to Joey, have I discovered this popular Filipino dish, which is also their national dish.

Adobo can be prepared in numerous ways and with a large selection of ingredients and flavors. One of my favorite aspects of adobo is the addition of a little vinegar to some of the recipes early on in the preparation. This adds a great tart flavor, different from that gained from adding lime juice to some Thai dishes. A lot of the recipes also calls for cracked or fresh peppercorns, another favorite of mine.

The dish I made was a chicken and pork adobo. I strayed a little from the recipe, I marinated my meat a little first and used coconut milk instead of stock- I did not have any available when I started cooking.

So to make my version of this dish you need to find:
– 200g pork belly, cut into cubes
– 200g chicken, cut into cubes
– 2 tablespoons vinegar
– cracked pepper
– ¼ teaspoon turmeric
– 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
– ½ teaspoon salt
– 1 tablespoons fish sauce
– 2 tablespoons oil
– 1/2 cup coconut milk (or 1 cup stock)
– fresh green peppercorns

To make:

Marinated the meat in 1tablespoon oil, the turmeric and about a ¼ teaspoon cracked pepper for an hour.
When the meat is ready, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a pan and sauté garlic until fragrant. Add the meat and brown until golden. Add the vinegar, but do not stir until the vinegar boils and release it’s acidic odor. Add a little more cracked pepper if you like and the fish sauce. Add some green peppercorns and the coconut milk (or stock) and stew for a couple of minutes, while stirring regularly. Dish up and serve.

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I topped the adobo with some fried plantains. It made a fine accompaniment to the stew. Note that you can completely leave out the whole marinating in turmeric part, I just felt like experimenting.

Where has the time gone? We’re leaving for Hanoi on Friday and somehow it feels like there are loads of things I still have to finish before then.

One of them is to mention that I received the sweetest prize package from Joey last week and have been experimenting with some adobo recipes. Adobo is the national dish of the Philippines, and I now know why. It’s delicious. There are a myriad varieties on the dish and you can make it using almost any kind of meat or vegetables.

I made one adobo with chicken and another with fish and what was fascinating is how some of the flavors were similar to those used in Thai cooking, yet it tastes completely different. Blending coconut milk in a stew with a little vinegar and some pepper is a sure winner!

Besides Filipino dinners I also tried my hand at some dessert. I made a crazy rich and creamy rice crispy ice cream which can easily be done without using an ice-cream maker. Very simple but really tasty!

I feel I should be sharing the recipes, but I also feel like my head is spinning with everything that needs to be done in the next two days. So I’m just going to share some pictures of…

…the coconut chicken adobo…

… the fish adobo…

… and the ice-cream. It looks a bit wobbly, but it was yummy!

In other news… I’ll be posting the roundup to HHDD on Friday before leaving. Even though entries closed on Monday I will accept some late entries until tomorrow 12PM my time (GMT +7 hours). Entries should be emailed to me at bordeaux76@gmail.com.

Just some apricot cheese, fresh snow pear and almond slivers on top of melted mozzarella and voila!

A dessert pizza is born.

Out of all the pizzas I made recently I think I personally loved this one the most. The fruitiness tasted kind of unique. and looking at it made me very happy.

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