Saturday, February 28, 2009

Too Many Cooks!

Its not true what they say about too many cooks spoiling the broth. We have three cooks in our house at the moment and we are bloody eating like royalty. We are all on holiday but forget restaurants and cafe's they have nothing on us. Surrounded by little rustic villagers, at any given moment markets pop up around us selling local produce, of which we laboriously sift through for the good stuff. the Shangrila of galangal, the prize winning kaffir lime or the aromatic delight of the most pungent lemon grass. As a result our curries and thai soups and stir fries have attained mystical proportions. The locals are curious, "What goes on in this house full of farang's (foreigners)", "what does it mean when they wander back into their house with traditional ingredients - they can't possibly be concoting real thai food". But we do and we do it with glee. In these stinking hot days were the kitchen with the fan is the coolest part of the house, we vie for the chef's hat and relish producing meals fit for kings. Having all gone to Thai cookery classes now as well, we get adventurous and daring and try our hands at new things. Its comraderie and assistance not competiveness and bitchiness, Gordon would be shocked. Although as we all settled down in the living room to listen to music last night and let the swelling of our full bellies subside, a new more intrusive delinquent invaded the space of our oasis in the kitchen. As I wondered into the kitchen to refresh my glass of another vodka (the tipple of choice last night) I encountered these marauders. Six fiesty little bush rats ran up the wall and rushed to their freedom through the eaves. Our kitchen is merely a lean-to at the back of the house so it is open to the elements (we are very tidy and clean cooks so they had no spoils to ransack). So in my best Ozzie Bushman swagger I screamed and ran from the room announcing "fucking rats, fucking rats" and everyone else laughed at me and said they thought I was Steve Irwin. Well, I will venture into this dangerous lair everynight from now on declaring my entrance with vigour and a lot of noise. Rat stew anyone!?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Back due to popular demand!

I must admit its nice when people start commenting that they miss your blog. "When are you gonna write again", "I have not seen a new blog from you in a while". Well yes this is true and its about time 'I climbed back onto the horse' so to speak. Its been a bumpy start to my illustrious blogging career so far. No consistency in subject matter, lack of technology in some instances and just plain too busy on the road all the time. I have travelled from Brisbane at my brothers to Melbourne, Sydney (you got a short run down at this point as I saw Leonard Cohen), then off to New Zealand where I fell in love with not only the stunning scenery the constant shifting tastes and flavours that this country had to offer as well as the numerous consumption of lovely wines, but I also fell in love with a beautiful woman. She kinda side swiped me you might say and I got way laid on a different adventure altogether, but I digress. New Zealand then led me back to Brisbane, then Kuala Lumpur and now currently I am in Thailand in the sunny paradise of Krabi. All freaky jutting mountains and all. No way could you describe the landscape as undulating. It positively explodes out of the ground in great abandon. Sheer cliffs and abutments vie for skyline domination in every direction and in between, cute villages, sandy beaches and bubbling streams of pure delight. And I have not even begun on the food. So apart from missing my sweetheart in New Zealand terribly I have the privilege and the ecstatic good fortune to eat lovely exotic foods but also to cook. Luckily I am staying with friends in a village outside the touristic area of Ao Nang in Krabi. We avoid tourist, buy local produce and cook indoors - we are the only 'pharang' or foreigners in town which is kinda lovely. They do laugh at us though when we wander the streets looking at the foods on display and we think "what the fuck is that!".
I cooked a lovely prawn red curry using locally made red curry pastes and great fresh herbs and spices. I prawn stir fry noodle dish that closely resembled a Pad Thai. Some greens in oyster sauce and garlic, and a carrot and sultana salad typical of Thai style salads, guessing all the ingredients along the way. My friends and I must say it was a bloody good meal, and the seconds that were left over were mightily sought after. My friend Sam from Turkey, who I am visiting in Thailand, also taught me that eating a pot noodle was not always a dodgy slack thing to do especially when livened up with a few spoons of the red curry from the night before. As for whether or not it is a newly concocted hangover cure is yet to be seen but we all managed to pull ourselves together with said pot noodle in belly in order to make our way to the Siam Cuisine Thai Cookery School. Here I learnt the secrets behind curry pastes and how to create the basic model for many a Thai dish.
We cooked Stir Fried Noodles and Prawns (Pad Thai), Fried Rice with Seafood (Khao Phad Talay), Hot and Sour Prawn Soup (Tom Yam Koong - both clear and red - made red by adding sweet chilli paste and a little milk), Chicken in Coconut Milk Soup (Tom Kaa Kai), Papaya Salad (Som Tom Thai - which had a very versatile sweet, sour and spicy sauce that can be used for a number of other dishes, which I made by pulverising garlic, chilli, palm sugar, fish sauce and lime juice together). Finally we made fried chicken with cashews (Kai Pad Met Ma Muang) and fried chicken with ginger (Kai Pad Khing), followed by the all important curry paste and its resultant green and red curries (Nam Phrik Kaeng Key-au & Dang). The curry paste was exhausting and exalting in equal fashion, as I have always wanted to know how to make it just did not know how much bloody effort went into it. Its exhausting due to the lengthy pummeling involved with mortar and pestle. Grinding was not only useless but further time consuming, you had to bash the ingredients to a pulp for about 20 minutes before the teacher was satisfied we had all sweated enough. A bloody blender would have made me very happy at this point but it was nice getting the hands dirty.
So chillies (a lot! green ones for green curry paste and red ones for red curry paste - seems kinda elementary now but I didn't know at the time), shallots, garlic, galangal (Thai ginger), lemon grass, ginseng, kaffir lime peel, coriander root and shrimp paste. Said blender would be used in future at this point, but mash away we did and a fine result furnished us with the tastiest curries any of us had ever had - mine was green and I mean green, not the anemic green I was used to. You may be wondering what about desert and you won't be dissapointed. A sticky rice with mango and coconut cream - it was to die for!
Another thing you may be wondering in between runs to the fridge for a snack after I hopefully have made you all hungry is, what did we do with all the food. You start cooking around 9.30am and each dish you create you have to eat. I tell you by the time we brought our curry's to the table we were begging for doggy bags and only able to dip spoons in to taste. But when the desert came out despite our distended bellies and groans of near stomach exploding proportions, a taste was all we thought we could manage and the second stomach in humans reserved for deserts allowed us literally lick the plates clean.
So as I relish the impending further classes intended, I leave you with the thought that I am a lucky bastard indeed to be in this position. I shall cook for my friends again tonight, a pork red curry with local Thai aubergines and wash it down with Singha beers, which have become my new friend for the next three weeks. More exotic sandy and deserted beaches await me and treks on khayaks through caves and canyons. The feeding of monkeys and the washing of elephants and perhaps a little shopping and bargaining on the tourist streets to buy interesting tid bits for my darling back in New Zealand. Hopefully I can bring you more mouthwatering discussions about Thai culinary delights in the next day or so. Until then try not to bare me any grudges or wish harmful things on me due to jealousy. Thanks dear reader.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The gap in the spaces in between!

My God! You would have thought I had fallen off this godforsaken earth and wound up in an episode of lost. I have been sorta lost for the last three to four weeks! I even had one dear reader beg me to start blogging again as they were hanging out for more intrigue and adventure. Something to hinge their life upon even though I think their life is quite interesting without me. Anyway it was cute - he said he felt like my bitch! Then there was the UK contingent. "When you blogging again mate" is everything alright. Well I was in Melbourne for a stint but this was before the fires. I do feel sorry for the people that have lost their lives and those continuing to struggle with this massive tragedy. I left just as the temp started hanging around the 42 degrees mark everyday. ooooofff thats bloody hot. We had Australia Day celebrations at an amusement park for the clinically boring. Every ride was slow enough for a yawn to seem exciting. I then flew to Sydney to meet an old friend. She was attending a concert of some repute and I decided to surprise her by buying my own ticket and just show up with champagne in hand and a wry smile. Maryanne is in a wheelchair, although her disposition does not stop her from being one of the most loveable and exciting people I know. When I arrived with my auntie and hid behind a wall, as the initial hello's transpired (was trying for surprise you see) she caught a small glimpse and assumed I was my aunties secret lover. Thank god that got cleared up in a jiffy. Well we went off to grab a Chinese in Chinatown and not many were in the mood for being grabbed. However, we settled on one which tantalised our tastebuds, although Verlyn (auntie) had to have a 'heated debate' with the waiter to the point were I believe he intentially then caused her food to arrive tasteless and bland, which is a hard feat in a Chinese restaurant with so much MSG and soy sauce. We tarted it up with chillies and various pastes demanded from the kitchen until she was satisfied. Although she remained annoyed at the fact that everyone else's meals came out tasting deliciously Chinese. It was then off to the concert. Only one Leonard Cohen. 75 in the shade and well known for his maudlin depressing lyrics about lost love and pain. So what did we do - we sat through 3 hours of the most tantalising and inspiring music I had ever heard, with a band that could make you weep. but all the applause needed to go to this man who skipped and cajolled the audience into laughter and adoration. He kneeled on stage to evoke prayer and determination and we could not hear his knees crack as he stood. I think he was fit as a fiddle. He went through his repetoire and I thought I had only a small knowledge of his greatness but it seems I knew most of his songs. He read some as poetry and also encouraged his band and backing singers to steal limelight and take centre stage - he was most ecstatically irreverant when in postures of humble pride for his own band and singers. Hat on chest in supplication. I wanted to kiss him!
It's times like that when you feel quite small and insignificant. This man has written poetry and music and written novel after novel in a career that spans more than 50 years and he was still on the top of his game.
I then on impulse - (I do that!!) flew to Christchurch in New Zealand to attend a wedding of some complete strangers, so that I could get to know a bit better an 'amazing' friend I had met some one whole year earlier. Invited as her guest to this wedding was crazy and exciting in equal measure. I will no doubt bore you all with many stories of my adventures in New Zealand in seperate blogs as some will delight in wine tasting and some in the thrills and spills of Middle Earth and what it has to offer (swimming with dolphins). Some readers will further delight in the antics of local artisans. Comedy shows (although I missed out on Billy Connelly by a wee smidgen), Comedic Theatre in the park, and even some entertaining made by ourselves (kareoke reared its ugly head again). The sights tantalised and the people (and horses) took my breath away. So stay tuned my dear reader and I shall divulge the reasons for my Gap month over the coming days! Heading to Thailand next so stay tuned for even more.