Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Day 80, Coming home, Christmas special

This is it. My culinary tour around the world has come to an end. Today, I just drank a cuppa'. I didn't feel like cooking because I don't want to let this project go just yet. I will make a nice Christmas dinner in a few days and that's what I want to leave you with. A feast. Around the world in 80 days goes out with a bang!

I learned more about the world, seen a lot of nice places in Birmingham, UK, my adoptive town, found out that I can go on for days on Chinese food, simply adored Indian cuisine and will learn how to cook it properly, I promise.  My signature dish for this project was quiche and I thank heaven for this discovery, I think I will experiment a lot with quiche since, it is, in itself an experimental recipe.

An extra page with acknowledgements will be added so that I can properly thank all those that made this possible, fun and interesting for me and the project. Probably the first one that will be mentioned will be Jules Verne. His books, and in particular 80 Days Around the World made my childhood thrilling and exciting, and led me to this beautiful experiment. Phileas Fogg is an inspirational character. Just google it, you'll see I'm telling the truth.

Saturday Christmas dinner and pictures.

Enjoy every dish that you make and always share it with loved ones. Happy Christmas and A Great New Year.

Later edit: Pictures as promised. 

Romanian Sarmale and English Summer fruit Pudding

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Day 71, New York, New York

I believe I am not wrong when I say that the Americans have brought us the culture of fast food. Personally, I believe that there is nothing wrong with fast food as long as you include it in a balanced diet lifestyle. As with everything else the same principle applies: Use it, don't Abuse it. I really do think that if I'd go to the USA the first thing that I'd want to experience is eating out at a diner where they serve hamburgers and stake, spicy deep-fried chicken wings with fries and lots of ketchup.

My Phileas Fogg would indulge and enjoy the hearty tastes of the US. Out of all the dishes in New York I chose the simple but not at all plain hot dog for a very objective reason. Coming from a country that knows good barbeque and enjoys grilled dishes with plenty of sweet mustard one of the musts of my everyday shopping is good mustard. Up until a few days ago I did not find any resemblance in the hot English mustard with what I knew from back home. I found my favourite mustard under the name American Mustard. Rich, mild and sweet just like I knew it should be. 

Easy to make, delicious or as they say: Yummie! I have never tried hot dogs with sauerkraut before and I have to say it's a nice addition to the sweetness of mustard. Recipe goes as follows: hot dog buns which I toasted for extra crunchiness, all-beef Frankfurters fried in a drop of sunflower oil (in the absence of an outdoor grill), sauerkraut, which is basically pickled white cabbage (look for it in the world foods isle of your local supermarket), loads of mustard, ketchup (that is a must for me).

In the words of food enthusiast Anthony Bourdain this is the Real New York : "Un-Starbucked, GAP free". In the 1870 I believe it would have been just so.

New-York Style Hot Dogs.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Day 62, American Pancakes in San Francisco Bay

I kept thinking what would I do if I'd be cut out from the world for three weeks, on a boat towards the USA? What would I do all day? Would I miss anything? What would be the first thing I would do when my feet would've touched ground? The answer to the last question is simple: EAT. I would run off into the first cafe, have a nice strong cup of coffee and order some American Pancakes. I've never had them before. So I guess now is the best time to try'em out.

Having attended the BBC Good Food Show last week, I looked for inspiration on their website, checked to see if I had the ingredients and started modifying the recipe to my own liking. It was a wonderful mess. Wonderful because of the nice fluffy texture, the absolute perfect taste with fresh raspberries and eucalyptus honey. Messy because of the batter splashing everywhere in the pan and around it and the smoke. I was almost about to set off the fire alarm, and my clothes all smelled funny after I finished.

Yummy American style pancakes with fresh raspberries and eucalyptus honey
 How I did it: 8 oz (225g) flour, 3 eggs (yolks and whites separated), 2 teaspoons of baking powder (I could have done with less), 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 4 teaspoons of caster sugar, 3 drops of almond flavour, 3 drops of vanilla flavour, 1 pinch of nutmeg, 10 oz (300 ml) milk,1 1/2 oz butter (40 g), sunflower oil for frying. Decorate with fresh fruit and honey or maple syrup.

Sift the flour and mix in well the baking powder, 2 teaspoons of sugar and about half of the salt. Heat the milk in the microwave oven. Add the egg yolks, nutmeg, almond and vanilla flavour to the flour mix and start whisking in slowly, adding a bit of hot milk as the batter thickens. Whisk the egg whites with the rest of the salt until they form stiff peaks. Slowly fold egg whites in the batter. Leave to rest for about 30 minutes.

In a flat pan heat a teaspoon of oil. Make sure it is really hot before you put the first pancake. You can try that with a drop of batter. If it starts frying the moment it touched the pan, it is ready. I made my pancakes using a half-full ladle, but you can make it as big or as little as you wish. When the batters starts getting bubbles it is ready to be turned on the other side. This should not take longer that 1 minute for a pancake. Remember to add a bit of oil every time you put a new pancake. And make sure your window is open and the neighbours know you're making panckaes otherwise you might end up with the fire squad at your door.

Serve the pancakes in the company of friends watching Sleepless in Seattle. Dip it in honey and drink plenty of coffee or tea. Apart from the smoke and general kitchen messiness I must say this was good eatin'! :)

I can say it again: Yummy

Friday, 11 November 2011

Day 41, Shanghai Tofu&Cashew Salad

I love the sesame taste and crunchy texture of this salad
Let's just say that I've had a very busy week and I just can't bring my self to write more right now. We can assume that I'm tired and after arriving in Shanghai and eating I checked it at the hotel and went directly to bed. I will write the story of this recipe tomorrow. Until then enjoy the picture and maybe you already spot some of the ingredients.

Later edit:

I tried the salad today and I believe it's event better than yesterday. I think this is one of those dishes that you can prepare a few hours before serving it so that the flavours have time to mix and the spices kick in.

The recipe that serves 4 is quite easy (as I've noticed almost all Asian dishes are quick to make) and it goes like this:
1 package (about 1lb) medium-firm tofu, 1lb of fresh soy beans sprouts, 1 cup rice-vinegar, 2 tb sesame oil, 1 tb dark soy sauce all of which you can buy at an Asian supermarket should you have one nearby.You would also need 1 pound of shredded fresh carrots, 2 small onions, some chives (you can use spring onions instead), salted peanuts or cashews (I like cashews better because they are softer) and 1 half of a fresh cucumber. For the dressing make sure you have 2 tb sunflower oil, 2 tb sugar at hand. For decoration I used coriander.

Start by taking the tofu out of the package to drain the brine. Cut it in 1 inch long pieces which you place on a paper towel and gently press it to get even more brine out of it. With a brush lightly oil the tofu and place it on a pan then shove it in the oven for about 20 minutes at medium heat. It only needs to get a bit brown and then you can take it out and let it cool on a wire rack.

While the tofu is baking you can prepare the veggies by boiling the soy sprouts for 1-2 minutes together with the carrots. You want to cook the vegetables but still keep their crunchiness. If they come out soft, you over did it. Once they are done, let cool and drain the water very well. The cucumber just needs to be cut, say finger lenght and not too coarse but not too fine either. If you put one to stand it should be able to stand for a few seconds on its own.

I guess the final touch would be to mix all together. I put the vegetables first and mixed them all with the dressing then added the tofu. I am new to tofu but one thing is for sure: I love it! This was a successful experiment for me but I wonder if there are other Tofu enthusiasts among my friends.

To top all off, since a salad, let's face it can't really make you feel like you've had a decent dinner I bought some interesting Asian sweet called Husband cake. It pastry filled with a mix of melon and sesame seeds. Altough I'm not a melon fan I am a sesame one and I have to admit the combination is quite nice. Plus the name is just LOL!

Click here if you want to find out more about Husband and Wife Cake

Monday, 7 November 2011

Day 37, Noodle Party in Honk Kong

If my Singapore experience was kind-of a sea sickness one, I wouldn't let the Hong Kong isle pass me by. Again, faith, or karma helped me as the recipe for Hong Kong was suggested by one of my University colleagues who is from Hong Kong. I had the information fresh from the source. Now, bear in mind my stomach has had a hard week, so I wasn't really up for something too strong. I played it safe and went for Chicken Pan-Fried Egg Noodles and as dessert I tried the Hong Kong version of French toasts which adds peanut butter to the mix...calorie bomb, I know, but well worth a try at least once.

Having invited my friends along with my colleague from school to Sunday lunch, I was cooking for 10. I thought that should make up for the fine Singaporean meal I've lost. Sunday morning I went to the Asian Supermarket which I only recently discovered and may I say what a pearl! Nobody speaks English there, I don't understand a word of Chinese but somehow, every time (I shopped there three times now), I come out wearing a big smile on my face because I buy lots of yummy stuff at ridiculously low prices. A supermarket fit for my student budget!

Armed with a bag-pack, a wallet and my bike, I rushed to the supermarket to get my Hong Kong style noodles (egg noodles which you can pan fry without boiling them first), Bok Choy (Chinese cabbage), mushrooms (you can really use any, I went for the champignon type), sesame oil (must have otherwise the taste isn't the same) and corn starch. The recipe only features garlic but I bought some shallots and spring onions because, well, because I can never stick to a recipe. I have to tweak it somehow. Also bought about 1 pound of fresh skinless chicken breast (I know I could have used more, but, budget...), 1 pack of fresh soy been sprouts and went home because it was time for my guests to arrive.

It took me longer than expected to cook the dish, with all the chopping and dicing involved, the conversation, the teas. Oh yes, The Tea. Hong Kong proudly retains the English habit of drinking tea, and Chrysanthemum tea is one of the favourites as I've read. We washed everything down with plenty of cups of lovely Chrysanthemum tea which has become one of my favourites. So, as I was engaging in conversation, making tea I had to keep an eye on the food as well.

I started by chopping the bok choy, mushroom, and chicken meat. I did not have time to put the chicken in a marinade so I fried it alongside the 6 cloves of garlic, 1 bunch of spring onions and about 1 ounce of coarsely chopped shallots which were browning in the sesame oil. I added 4 table spoons of dark soy sauce and 2 table spoons of oyster sauce and let it simmer for about 5 minutes with 1 cup of water. In another pan I fried 2 packs of noodles in sesame oil and then put the in a bowl with steaming hot water and chicken stock. The mushrooms and the bok choy were added when the water had evaporated and let it simmer some more.

I added more soy sauce as it seemed it was too little sauce, about 2 table spoons of malt vinegar (I should have used cooking wine but I didn't find any) and in the hot mix I put 2 tablespoons of corn flour. This thickened the sauce and gave it a nice texture. I served the noodles separately from the veggie&meat mix and everybody topped their plates with as much soy bean sprouts as they wanted to.

The French toast Honk Kong style was in the end just French Toast in the end and everyone got to choose their topping: honey, sugar or peanut butter. I think even Phielas Fogg would have had a go at this yummylicious feast.

No glamour meal just homey and tasty Hong Kong pan-fried noodles

Monday, 31 October 2011

Day 30, Sick in Singapore

To celebrate a month since I began this journey, I came down with the worst food poisoning ever. For the first time in my life I called the ambulance. I panicked and I needed some reassurance that I would be fine. I am still in my bed with a bit of a headache, but, I guess I will pass by Singapore without trying out any dish whatsoever. I can't even think about food right now, let alone smell it.

Perhaps this digestive incident wouldn't have been such a surprise to Phileas Fogg either. Maybe after a month of being on the road, eating irregularly and trying out foods that the stomach is not really used to, something like this was very likely to happen. Plus being on a boat most of the time would surely have it's say. So, I'm left imagining that on his way to China Mr Fogg also got food poisoning but was a true gentleman and did not complain about it.

Obviously, no food today for me, but, that doesn't mean I don't have a story for you. Recently, my little project attracted some media attention from CouchSurfing, the travelers network. I was happy that the idea caught on and I got really nice reactions from the readers. I remembered that in the book, Phileas Fogg journey also made its way to the news. The idea that someone could go around the world in 80 days must have seem preposterous to many, making the news eve more saucy and reader avid.

My journey wont' make the lines of the Times Magazine but to me it is interesting nonetheless. One of my readers is from Singapore and she lives in London. When the article about my blog hit the news section on CouchSurfing.com she wrote me with a suggestion for a recipe that is fairly easy too make and very widespread in Singapore: Bak Kut Teh. It was a very nice gesture and I appreciate it very much, but, since now I'm in bed trying not to think too much about food this recipe won't really come to life.

Before receiving this recipe I tried to do a little research about Singapore and its food, so I spent some time on the internet learning the Singaporeans love to eat and that food is a national obsession for them. Having read that I think I'd like going someday to Singapore and relish in the multiculturalism of their dishes. While I was doing my reading I came across some YouTube videos with Singaporean recipes from Makansutra Cooking.

I generally don't like to watch food being made on TV as it often looks artificial and the way it is presented sounds so rigid and formal that I lose my appetite eventually. Makansutra Cooking however made it sound fresh, and savoury, Seetoh is not afraid to use sounds when describing food, does not have a picture perfect kitchen which makes it look real, like you could do it too, his food literally makes you want to try it. I've picked a recipe I will once like to try, and while I try to get back on my feet for my Hong Kong pit stop, I will let you enjoy a nice video from Makansutra Cooking.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Day 24, Kolkata Lounge

Crossing the Indian continent must be quite an adventure. According to the book, Mr Fogg was supposed to reach Calcutta on 23 October, but, due to unexpected events he only reached Calcutta two days later. I tried to stick to the schedule a little bit so, on Sunday, 23 October I invited people out for a nice Indian dinner in Stirchley. Not at my place though, I thought it would be nice to go to a restaurant this time. I believe that there are enough Indian restaurants in Birmingham to suite everyone's taste and to get a good idea of what real Indian food tastes like.

The Birmingham BUPA Great Run happened on that same day so I decided not to go very far so as not to have bad suprises with delays in traffic and what not. Lucky enough the restaurant's name is Kolkata Lounge, so exactly where I was supposed to be going anyway. I know I'm on a student budget and I should save more, but then again you only live once, and, besides, who's to say a student can't afford going to the restaurant. I made reservations for eight, let the nice people from the CouchSurfing Birmingham group know that it would be great if they could join and got ready for going out.

We arrived there about 6 and I was happy to see that two CouchSurfers were already there. We made presentations, there was me, Alex, my very good friend and lifesaver for letting me crash on his couch the first night I got to Birmignham  (we met through CouchSurfing actually), Kanika and Vinita my house mates, Aaren and Guy who live next door and Jon and Karen who responded to my CouchSurfing invitation. The table was set, the lighting was good, the atmosphere pleasent, so let's eat.

I was very curious to try the Sunday buffet they had and I must say I was impressed with the range of choice we had.
Appetisers: Popadums with various chutneys and nice crispy vegetables. 
Main course: Lamb Sheek kebab and Chicken Wings, Chicken Tikka Masala, Chiken Tandoori
Side dishes: Pilau rice and Naan bread
Desert: I must say I have not remembered the name of the desert nor did I find it later in the menu. Maybe you can help with the name. It's sort of balls of deep fried dough with lots on sweet syrup. It's great, but, as I said the name escapes me.

I do not have the recipes, I haven't researched them because that night it was all about getting together and enjoying a meal. I was quite forgetful and we didn't even have a group picture or anything, we were to busy talking and sharing experiences, the food, the people. Alex is not used to eating spicy food so he excused himself for sweating too much. Karen, who is from Canada shared her amazement with the fact that Continental Europeans don't really seem to be able to eat very spicy at all. Jon, who is really well-traveled and has countless funny stories, kept trying to say "Cheers!" in Hindu which when pronounced come out a bit like "Shut the f*** up!"  (I really do hope no one takes offense at this one, it was hilarious). Aaren and Guy who don't drink alcohol were saying cheers with a glass of water, Vinitha and I ordered a drink which was supposed to be like wine but instead it reminded me of a traditional Romanian drink: Tuica.
Jon trying to say Cheers in Hindu

I postponed the post for today 25 October so that I can still be true to the itinerary. I had fun in Calcutta, the one that you find in Stirchley, Birmingham. The staff was very friendly and helpful, the food was good and fresh with tender meat and crispy veggies, there was a lot of sauce which is always a great thing for me, I loved the blend of spices and I believe I will return to the Kolkata Lounge very soon. But for now, I have to move on towards the rest of Asia, and for some reason I think this will be more challenging than I thought because I am really not an expert in Asian food...