Lasagna

There’s no food like comfort food, and lasagna is comfort food. It doesn’t matter if it takes 4 hours to prepare, once you have that first bite it will hit the spot and you’ll finish eating in 5 minutes. And that’s a fact.

A little while ago, Vito was elected as the Italian represent to make lasagna for our rotating cooking group, and we finally made it happen on Sunday. Excitement levels were high, I was told repeatedly that there was a lot of work, so I arrived at 10:30 am ready for my masterclass!

Note that these quantities would feed 8-10 persons, depending on hunger levels.

Bolognese Sauce

We started with the Bolognese sauce, because it had to simmer for a couple of hours. You can use this recipe for pasta sauce as well, ingredients and method are below.

Ingredients:

- 8 tbs olive oil
– 50g butter, diced (optional, but it does add a lot of richness)
– 1 onion, chopped finely
- 1 carrot, chopped finely
- 1 celery stem, chopped finely
– 200g bacon or pancetta, chopped (do not remove fat!)
– 500g pork, minced
- 500g beef, minced
– 1 cup red wine
– 60g tomato paste
– 350ml tomato passata
– 500ml beef stock, boiled
- black pepper to taste
- salt to taste
-1/2 glass of milk

Preparation method:

1. Heat oil in a large pot, then add butter and melt
2. Add the onion, carrot and celery and stir fry. This is called the soffritto and is the base of many Italian dishes
3. Add the bacon or pancetta and cook for a few minutes
4. Add the pork and beef and keep stirring as they cook
5. Once the meat is cooked, add the wine and keep stirring for a few minutes
6. Add the tomato paste, passata, stock, salt and pepper, stir well and let it simmer for 2 hours with the lid partially covering the pot. You might need to add water while it’s cooking if it goes a little dry
7. A couple of minutes before you turn off the heat, add the milk and stir well 

Tip: Before you add the stock to the meat, check how salty it is, you may not need to add any salt to the sauce

Pasta

While the Bolognese sauce is cooking, we made the lasagna sheets. This was the first time I participate in any kind of pasta making activity, and it was so much fun it must be repeated! Ingredients and method are below.

Ingredients:

- 1kg plain flour
– 8 eggs
– a bit of lukewarm water (if needed)

Preparation method:

1. Add flour to a bowl and make a little well
2. Add eggs 1 or 2 at a time and knead in between additions. You might need more or less eggs, this depends on the dough’s consistency, and you might want to add a little bit of water to make the binding a bit easier.

3. Transfer the dough to the bench and knead for about 10-15 mins until it becomes smooth. You’ll note that it’s harder than kneading pizza dough for example, that’s because we’re only using eggs as the binding agent.
4. Shape the dough into a disc, coat with a bit of flour and let it rest for 10 mins in glad wrap
5. Once the dough has rested, the fun part begins: making the lasagna sheets! I’m going to assume that you have a pasta machine and know how to use it. Slice the dough (as if slicing bread!) in 1cm thickness pieces approximately, and start rolling it with the machine. We used thickness 5 for our lasagna sheets, but started rolling from thickness 1, then 3, then 4, then 5. If you go straight for thickness 5 the dough is likely to break, so you have to get to it gradually.
6. Once rolled, you can place the lasagna sheets on top of each other, however make sure you add enough flour in between each sheet otherwise they will stick together! We had to do some extra rolling when it was time to assemble it all, but luckily we had become experts and it was a quick process.

Tip: If you don’t use all these sheets for your lasagna (and you probably won’t!), you can freeze the rest for up to two weeks.

Bechamel Sauce

We had a few discussions around how easy or difficult making a Bechamel sauce is. It wasn’t too difficult in the end, but it’s also possible that we just had a skilled chef! Ingredients and method are below.

Ingredients:

- 100g butter
– 100g plain flour, sifted
– 1L milk
– 1/2 tbsp nutmeg, freshly grated
– salt to taste

Preparation method:

1. Melt butter, then take the pot off fire and slowly add flour, mixing together as you’re adding. Make sure you don’t leave any lumps, the mix must be smooth. This mixture is called Roux, and is basically the thickening agent for the sauce
2. Add milk then put back on fire and stir constantly in one direction until the sauce thickens
3. Add nutmeg and salt

Lasagna

And then it was time to assemble it all!

Ingredients:
- Lasagna sheets
- Bolognese sauce
- Bechamel sauce
- 200g Parmesan, grated

Preparation method:

1. Preheat oven at 200 degrees fan forced
2. Butter the lasagna tray then add the different elements in the following order:
. Bolognese sauce,
. Lasagna sheets, Bechamel sauce, Bolognese sauce, Parmesan,
. Lasagna sheets, Bolognese sauce, Bechamel sauce, Parmesan,
. Lasagna sheets, Bolognese sauce, Bechamel sauce, Parmesan,
. Lasagna sheets, Bolognese sauce + Bechamel sauce mixed together, Parmesan
3. For the last layer, mix the rest of the Bolognese and Bechamel sauces together before adding to the tray
4. Bake for 35 mins, and once done, let it rest for 10 mins before digging in

And buon appetito!

Mankoushe Cafe Opening Night

The guys at Mankoushe Lebanese bakery have been very busy over the last few months getting their new cafe next door ready. When I got a tour of the new premises two weeks ago, Jad explained to me that he and his brother Hadi had been doing all the work themselves. And after all the hard work, opening night was finally on Tuesday.

The boys invited a bunch of friends and regular customers to what turned out to be an absolute feast cooked by Jad and his mom. The idea for the cafe is to serve traditional home cooked Lebanese food, and that’s exactly what it was. As soon as TheSeventhArt and I stepped into the cafe, the smell of spices filling the air brought a smile to our faces. The first thing I did was to check out the source of the aroma, so I walked over to the counter and found platters of gorgeous looking delicious smelling lebanese food just waiting to be devoured. I got especially excited because it reminded me of home and I realized that I miss MamaLouf‘s cooking!

The room filled with people rather quickly, in fact it filled so much that extra tables and chairs were brought in from the bakery next door and people still had to stand. It was obviously an anticipated event! And then it was dinner time, my favourite time. The dishes were divided into two courses. The first plate we received had stuffed vine leaves, spicy baked potato with garlic and coriander, silverbeet roots with tahini, lemoned chicory, and a variety of home made pickles. Everything was amazing but the stars for me were the vine leaves which were so juicy they just melted in my mouth. The pickles were also oh so amazing, and by the way they guys will be selling them in the cafe as of next week. I’ll definitely be buying a jar!

The second plate we received had two beans based dishes served with rice (green beans and white beans), a lentils rice and stir fried onions based dish called Mdardara, and a non vegetarian version of stuffed vine leaves served with yoghurt. Again, everything was amazing, and every bite increased the level of happiness. However my highlight was the mdardara, surprisingly because I don’t even like lentils, so this must be saying something!

After the savoury come the sweets, naturally. We were served a piece of home made Namoura each, a traditional Lebanese dessert cake made from semolina and topped with syrup. This was a perfect ending as it wasn’t too sweet and the rose water made it even more pleasant.

I am very impressed with what the guys have done and I felt privileged to be part of their opening night. You could not wipe the excited smiles off their faces, they made an effort to speak to everyone, ensured everyone was well fed, and we even had some entertainment in the form of two stand up performances in between meals. TheSeventhArt and I went home feeling very happy and very well nourished. The cafe opens next Tuesday the 28th of August, make sure you check it out.

Address: 323 Lygon Street, Brunswick East
Hours: Tue – Sun: 7am – 3pm
Phone: (03) 9078 9223

Spanish Tortilla, Salmorejo, and Berenjenas Fritas

When I met Kike back in January, we discovered a common passion for food and cooking. Soon enough, we started a Sunday night dinner tradition with our common friends, rotating houses, cooks, and food nationalities. The first time Kike cooked for us, I discovered Salmorejo (a cold tomato soup) and the famous Spanish Tortilla (Spanish omelet). On that day I was too busy eating, but we finally managed to organize a time to cook them again, this time with my notepad and camera ready. He even threw in an extra dish which was a complete trial, but a successful one! All three dishes are really easy to make, recipe and methods are below.

Spanish Tortilla

The Spanish tortilla is not to be confused with the Mexican corn tortillas. It is actually an omelet made essentially with potato and eggs, but that’s only the basic one and it can be altered according to your taste. Dare I say, this seems to be the national dish of Spain, it’s tortilla for breakfast, tortilla for a snack, tortilla sandwich, tortilla this, tortilla that, and don’t you dare even suggest to a Spaniard that another type of tortilla actually exists… you get the picture! It’s actually very easy to make, and these quantities will feed 5 or 6 persons.

Ingredients:
  • 4 larges potatoes, sliced thinly
  • 5 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 onion (optional)
  • 1 cup of olive oil, this is approximate as it depends on the size of the pan. Has to be fried.
  • Milk (as needed, optional)
Preparation method:
  1. Heat oil until it’s really hot to fry the potatoes.
  2. Add half the potatoes to the pan and fry until they seem half fried half baked. Make sure there are a lot of potatoes in the pan because you don’t want them to be crispy. You want them soft enough to be able to cut through even with a wooden spoon.
  3. Strain potatoes and put aside in a bowl.
  4. Repeat the previous two steps with the rest of the potatoes and onions. While this is cooking, add the beaten eggs to the first batch of potatoes and let them sit.
  5. When the potato and onion mixture is cooked, strain and add to the potato and egg mixture, and save the oil used for frying. The resulting mixture should not be too liquid nor too solid. Add one more egg if necessary, a dash of milk, salt, and pepper. At this point, you could also add other ingredients to flavour the tortilla, such as chorizo.
  6. Lower the heat to really low. Add the mixture to the pan, and add the oil you saved. Add a bit more oil if needed, the tortilla needs to be fried.
  7. After 3-4 mins, turn the tortilla upside down on a plate, and add again to the pan, uncooked side down. It’s important not to leave the tortilla cooking too long on the first side as it will burn, but it’s ok to turn it a bit early.
  8. Cook for another 3-4 mins, then stick a knife in the middle to check if it’s done. Some people like it really firm, some like it a bit softer with the eggs not completely cooked, it’s a matter of preference.
  9. Turn the tortilla upside down on a plate and serve.

Tips: Make sure the pan you’re using is non stick, otherwise the potatoes will stick to the pan and you won’t be able to turn it upside down. And of course make sure the plate you’re using to turn it upside down is bigger than the pan!

Salmorejo

Originally from Cordova in the South of Spain, Salmorejo is a thick and creamy tomato based soup, served cold (not to be confused with Gazpacho). Similarly to the tortilla, it uses very common ingredients, but it is even easier to make. Method is below, this would feed 4 to 5 persons.

Ingredients:
  • 5 tomatoes, unpeeled
  • One small baguette (preferably not a very fresh one)
  • 1.5 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 tbs of olive oil
  • Salt, to taste
  • Boiled egg (to serve)
  • Spanish ham (to serve)
Preparation method:
  1. If using a blender, add all ingredients starting with the tomatoes to blend easier, the garlic, the bread, and then a bit of oil. You will probably need to stir the mixture every few seconds until it becomes liquid enough. A hand blender would be much easier to use, in this case just add everything in a bowl and blend.
  2. Once it’s all liquid, taste the mixture; Add more garlic if you want it spicier, more bread to make it thicker, tomato to make it thinner.
  3. Blend for about 3 to 5 minutes until it gets a creamy consistency.
  4. When done put in the fridge to cool.
  5. To serve, place soup in bowls then sprinkle bits of boiled egg and Spanish ham on top.
Berenjenas Fritas Con Miel De Caña

The name of this dish basically translates to “Deep fried eggplants with sugarcane syrup” (but we used honey instead of sugarcane syrup). This is something that Kike had tried in the south of Spain, but we didn’t have a specific recipe, so it was a bit of trial and error. In the end what was cooked was consumed before the plate even reached the table, there were 4 of us were fighting over every last bit! The method is below, this filled one plate to share.

Ingredients:
  • 1 eggplant, sliced thickly and marinated in milk 2 hours before cooking.
  • Oil, to fry
  • Flour
  • Honey, to serve
Preparation method:
  1. Start heating oil for frying.
  2. Cut marinated eggplant in finger shaped pieces.
  3. Add flour to 1 cup of water, enough to create a thick mixture.
  4. Once the oil is ready, dip each piece of eggplant in the mixture then into the pan for frying.
  5. To serve, sprinkle some honey on top of the eggplants.

Fiji: The land of fish, fruits, and beaches

I recently embarked on a short trip to Fiji with no previous planning or research. I knew how to get from the airport to my accommodation, but that was about it. So my adventure started when I got on a very local bus for a sunny 2.5 hours trip with open windows, Michael Learns To Rock’s “Someday Someway” playing loudly, while the inspector was walking around the bus handwriting tickets for newcomers. Epic moment. In fact, you might want to click on this link and re-start reading this post while listening to the song (playing in the background, because you don’t need to see the cheesy video) for full effect.

Food is a big part of travelling for me, and not just because I get to try new dishes. You can find out a lot about a place from its food. The local culture (or cultures), history, habits, values, it’s all inter-related. It’s not just about what the locals eat, it’s also about where it comes from, how it’s prepared, how they eat it, and sometimes it’s even about what they don’t eat. So apart from sitting in hammocks under coconut trees reading with a view of the sea in the background, I was very humbled when I was invited to share food with some of the locals one day. We all sat in a circle and ate cassava and beef curry with our hands, sharing from the same plate because as they explained to me, food is all about sharing for them.

I spent 5 days mostly eating. I had delicious fresh fish every day. I had some amazing curries which are no doubt the influence of the large number of Indians living in Fiji, who were initially brought in as contract labourers by the British in the 19th century. I had scones made with coconut milk. I had home made pineapple jam. I had cassava which had been slow cooked in the ground traditional style the night before, so it had an amazingly smoky flavour (photo above). I had home made lemon juice which was surprisingly sweet, very likely made with what they call bush lemon, or Hawaiian lemons (shown in the fifth photo, top left). And I went to a kava ceremony where I got to try the traditional kava drink, which is prepared by grinding roots of the kava plant (shown in the fifth photo, bottom right) and mixing that powder with water.

But my food adventures didn’t stop there, I also went on a mission exploring the local fruit and veggie markets. The first time I stepped into a local market, I found a mountain of coconuts and bananas, and then what seemed to be a million unknown fruits and vegetables. So I went around from stall to stall asking every vendor about what they had on offer. The first thing I noticed is that every stall had no more than 3 or 4 different types of produce on average, maybe because each of them only sells what grows on their land. I must mention that most produce is organic, making the fruits so juicy and the vegetables so tasty. My oddest fruit discovery was perhaps Wi (top right in the photo below), a fruit green on the outside and white-ish on the inside, has a very spiky seed, and you’re meant to cut it in cubes and sprinkle it with salt before you eat it. I also got to try Hawaiian paw paw (bottom right in the photo below), a very sweet and juicy fruit, and the star of the song “Please don’t touch my papaya” (though I’m pretty sure they’re not actually singing about the fruit!).

Root vegetables are another interesting one, as the Fijian diet seems to consist of a lot of carb-based vegetables. I can’t remember seeing any potatoes, however cassava (top right in the photo below) and taro roots (bottom left in the photo below) were everywhere. In fact, cassava is consumed with everything instead of potatoes: fish and cassava, steak and cassava, curry and cassava, etc. In general the fruits and veggies present were for the most part either unknown or of a different variety to the ones I knew. The markets were certainly very colourful places, both because of the produce and because of the lovely people working there.

My favourite local dish, something all the Fijians said I absolutely have to try, was Kokoda (pronounced Kokonda, photo below). It basically consists of raw fish marinated in a lot of lemon juice, which slowly cooks the fish because of the acidity in the lemon. It is then served cold in spicy coconut milk with vegetables, and on the side, you guessed it, cassava! If I had to describe this dish in 3 words, they would be lemony, spicy, yummy.

I was only in Fiji for 5 days, and although that was definitely not enough time to get to know the place well, I still managed to learn a lot by chatting to the locals, I relaxed a bit and enjoyed the warm weather, I made some really good friends along the way, and I have some great memories that will last me a lifetime.

Can you smell that taste?

A few weeks ago, I was explaining to some friends how the smell of freshly ground coffee beans is possibly one of my favourite smells in the world, yet I still can’t seem to accept the taste of coffee no matter how many times or variations I’ve tried.

And that got me thinking, isn’t smell the doorway to taste? Smell is like the “first sight” of food, the first thing you notice before even seeing a dish. And the better it is, the more you want to dig in as quickly as possible, the more likely you are to fall in love at first bite. In fact, you might already be in love before the first bite. How many times did you get home to the beautiful smell of a cake baking in the kitchen? Didn’t you want to just start eating it before it was even out of the oven? Or how about the smell of that BBQ at the neighbour’s house sneaking past the fence causing instant hunger? It makes me want to take a few beers and shamelessly knock on their door.

I know I’m not the only one with this coffee love-hate relationship. And scientifically speaking, smell actually consists of 75% of taste, so how is it possible to love the smell of a food item but dislike its taste so much and not even be tempted to try it? I think loving (or disliking) a certain smell is not just about the smell itself. In a lot of case it’s connected to stories and memories that revolve around it. I can’t remember the number of times I passed a spice store and turned my head, because it reminded me of one of my best friends who used to live in an apartment just above a spice store. Or how about the smell of onion and garlic being pan fried? Something so common but it will forever remind me of Mamalouf‘s delicious home cooked food. As for coffee, I associate it with a lot of childhood memories.

Coffee is a big part of the Lebanese culture. If you go visit friends and family, the first thing they offer you almost as you step in the door is Lebanese coffee. As a kid you’re obviously not allowed to drink coffee, so there’s an alternative that we call “white coffee”, which is basically hot water, some orange blossom water, and a bit of sugar. We were always excited when we were given our very own cups of “coffee”, and we felt like we were grown ups sitting with our parents, watching them sip their coffee very slowly and imitating them by sipping ours at the same pace. I also remember big family lunches with so much food involved, we would eat until we could eat no more and then we, the kids, had to prepare coffee for the grown ups. So all of us cousins would gather in the kitchen and would take turns at the task that we all eventually became experts in, and while one of us was busy stirring away, the rest were debating whether to play cards afterwards or whether to go for a walk to the ice cream shop.

I guess you could say I grew up to the smell of coffee, and there are so many coffee-related moments that stay engrained in my memory until today, and that are brought back to the surface every time I smell it. I guess I can’t think of it as just the smell of coffee after all, it’s also all the smell of all the happy memories memories it’s linked to, memories of days when my only worry was how quickly could I finish my homework so that I could watch my favourite TV show, memories of happy days spent with loved ones.

Loufy’s Ice Cream Holiday

The first time I went to New Zealand, I discovered the following: Friendly people, some of the most amazing scenery in the world, more sheep than the eye can see, Afghan cookies, amazing fish and chips from just about anywhere you buy it, and Hokey Pokey ice cream. And then I decided to go back.

If you’ve never had a holiday centered around a type of food, then I highly recommend you start planning one right about… now! Before I left, I told everyone that I planned to eat as much ice cream as humanly possible in 5 days. I had a couple of places I wanted to go back to, but I was planning to go on an ice cream discovery journey. And the verdict? It was so much fun, I discovered some amazing places, and here are my highlights.

Giapo Ice Cream & Research Kitchen

What I love about Giapo is that you are guaranteed to find different flavours every time you visit, so they force you to try something new instead of settling for the familiar choice every time. In fact, they pride themselves in the amount of flavours they develop each year (1200 per year), because yes, they do research everything from food pairings to matching food and music. Almost everything they use is sourced locally, they use organic produce, they even make everything from scratch. And by everything, this includes yoghurt and chocolate. So what did I try? I went for the organic blueberry and creme brulee, a rather safe choice considering some of the other flavours available, but most certainly the right choice. I wanted to go back for more, I really did, but here’s the thing… they make different flavours every day! By the way, if you enjoy making ice cream, make sure you check out their website because you’ll find some of their recipes to try.

Address: 279 Queen Street, Auckland City, New Zealand
Phone: +64 9 550 3677
Hours: Daily 11:30 am – ’til late
Website: giapo.com
Facebook: GiapoGelato
Twitter: @Giapo
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Puhoi Valley Cheese

No, I have not drifted off topic, this is still about ice cream. Mostly! Puhoi is a town North of Auckland known for having one of the oldest pubs in New Zealand, a mustard maker, and a cheese factory. So the day started with a cheese platter and a beer at the pub, then continued with some more cheese tasting at the factory. The cheese, by the way, was amazing, my favourite being one of their blue cheeses. And if you make good cheese, you must make good ice cream, right? Damn right! So we decided we hadn’t had enough calcium intake for the day and went for a bit of ice cream tasting at the factory. I first tried the blue cheese and pear ice cream, which was interesting though maybe not my thing. Then there was the dutch chocolate, which was oh-so-intensely-rich-and-good! But I finally settled for a scoop of the Puhoi Hokey, because, let’s face it, I was in New Zealand and I had to have some Hokey Pokey ice cream!

Address: 275 Ahuroa Road, Puhoi, New Zealand
Phone: +64 9 422 0670
Hours: Mon – Thur 10:00 am – 4:00 pm, Fri – Sun 9:30 am – 5:00 pm
Facebook: PuhoiValley
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Movenpick

While this is not a Kiwi brand of ice cream, this is where I discovered it, and it was one of the places I wanted to go back to. The reason? While the ice cream is fantastic, the star for me in this place are… the waffle cones! All I can say is, they crumble so sweetly and gently in your mouth that once you’ve tried one, no other waffle cone will be good enough ever again. Ever! After coming back to Melbourne, I did some research and it turns out that a Movenpick has opened in the last few months Doncaster. A bit far from the city, but if it’s anything like the one in New Zealand, then it’s definitely worth the trip.

Address, Phone, Hours: Various, check the website
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Kohu Road Creamery and Cafe

If you haven’t heard of Kohu Road yet, then you’re obviously not trying hard enough to find all the amazing ice creams of the world. The first time I tried it was in Melbourne. We went into one of the few places that sell it, I cringed when I saw the price on that tub of ice cream, but once I had the first taste, nothing else mattered. The only thing that existed for me at that moment in time was the vanilla ice cream in front of me, which was superior in quality and flavours to anything I had previously tried. The reason is of course the quality of the produce, and their ingredients are organic and sourced fresh locally as much as possible.

A couple of weeks before my trip, a friend of mine proposed going to the new Kohu Road cafe together one afternoon, and I got so excited that I was squealing for a good few minutes. The cafe is a bit far from Auckland CBD and you definitely need a car, so I was lucky to have a friend driving me around. It is done up very simply warehouse style, with an old van for the kids to play around, a divine looking breakfast menu, some sandwiches and sweets, and then most importantly, the ice cream.

We skipped everything and went straight to the ice cream fridge, and we both opted for the sampler with 4 mini scoops. I got mine filled with Golden Syrup, Dark Chocolate, and Salted Caramel ice cream, and then some Mango Sorbet. The Golden Syrup was a real revelation, the Mango Sorbet actually tasted like real mango, but the ones that took me by surprise were the Dark Chocolate and Salted Caramel. I cannot explain or rave enough about the amazing-ness of the Salted Caramel, you will have to try it to believe it.

Address: 44 Portage Road, New Lynn, Auckland, New Zealand
Phone: +64 9 827 9990
Hours: Mon – Sat 8:00 am – 4:30 pm
Twitter: @KohuRoad
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Cook Off

I really can’t think of many things that top sitting with family and/or good friends around a table full of food, sharing conversation, some wine, and most importantly, really bad jokes. I grew up in a large family, and to this day there is often a cousin, an aunt, or a friend who will just happen to come around for coffee during the day and then stay for lunch or dinner. Big family Sunday lunches, Christmas lunches, any excuse or event would end up in a massive gathering centered around food and heated card games.

You could say I grew up always sharing meals even if only with one other person, and to this day, I really dislike eating by myself. That is possibly the reason why my entourage consists mostly of people who love eating about as much as I do. So when I asked one of my friends a little while ago if I could invite myself to her place so she can teach me how to make paella, the event turned into a fully fledged cook off with about 10 persons in attendance, each bringing (or making on the spot) a dish from their own country. So much food was consumed, so much sugar, because funnily enough it seems most of us had the same idea: “Everyone will bring something savoury, I’ll just make dessert!”

I don’t have specific recipes for most of what was made, and even if I did the post would be way too long if I was to add them all, but I decided to at least show you what we ate and give a little explanation around some of the dishes. I’m super hungry again just looking at those photos!

 

Paella (Spain)

This is the dish that started it all, the reason why we were all there to begin with. After everyone arrived, our host Paula demonstrated how to make a chicken and squid paella while everyone was standing around the stove, watching the process and listening intently to every word. I took detailed notes, but I have to confess that I haven’t tried to reproduce it since then. But what can I say, it was the star of the day! Mmm paella…

 

Black Forest Cake (Germany)

This cake originated from the region of the same name in Germany. It basically consists of layers of chocolate cake with whipped cream and cherries in between. And then there’s some more whipped cream on the outside, some shaved chocolate, and then some extra cherries. One of this cake’s key ingredients is also Kirsch, or Kirschwasser, a liqueur made from the double distillation of morello cherries, which also originated in the Black Forest region. So it’s basically a very intense cake, but a very good kind of intense if you love cherries. And cream. And chocolate.

 

Kasekuchen (Germany)

Don’t worry, I can’t really pronounce this word correctly either. All you need to know is… cheese cake! Well, a German cheese cake more specifically, and what’s different about it is the type of cheese used to make it called quark, a fresh cheese similar to cottage cheese. Surprisingly, it wasn’t overly sweet like I normally find cheese cakes to be, and definitely one of my highlights.

 

Brigadeiro (Brazil)

The couple who made these told me a story about how they helped make them once for a wedding in Brazil. It took them one and a half days to finish preparing them, and it took the guests about 5 minutes to consume them. I almost felt sorry for all the work that had been put into making these chocolate and coconut flavoured mini sweets, but as soon as I tried them, I understood why. I really couldn’t stop eating them. Really. Couldn’t. Stop.

 

Crepes (France)

If you don’t know what crepes are, then I don’t know where you’ve been living. A thinner version of pancakes, they are topped with anything from maple syrup to nutella to ham and cheese for a savoury version. These were the children’s favourites, they were consumed almost quicker than the rate at which they were being made!

 

Korokke (Japan)

This was another thing that was completely new to me: A Japanese version of croquettes! The version we had was simply mashed potato balls rolled into flour, egg and bread crumbs, and deep fried to produce maximum yumminess. The filling can also include meat or other vegetables. Very easy to make, VERY tasty!

 

Amongst the other dishes made were a delicious Columbian fruit salad, a Lebanese turmeric and aniseed cake called Sfouf prepared by yours truly, and some amazing green tea ice cream home made by our host.

I would like to thank all the chefs for their efforts, the dishes were amazing and the stories made the whole experience so much more enjoyable. There was a lot of travel and food talk, a kimono being passed around for show with a detailed explanation on how and why it takes so long to put on, an almost heated discussion between a Berliner and a Bavarian, and wedding stories from a very sweet very recently married couple (they had only been married for a few days!).

I would especially like to thank my friend Paula for hosting this event, and for preparing so much sangria that our glasses kept getting magically refilled though it seemed the bucket was always full. Not to worry though, we did manage to finish it in the end!