March 30, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Hi everyone. I know I haven’t blogged for a very long time. Besides my obvious laziness, I was also unhappy with the domain and the theme of this blog, amongst other things, so I decided to start a new blog, using a very simple format. I have been blogging more consistently at: packingsbagsandplates.wordpress.com
Please meet me there for more travel and food diaries.
May 19, 2011 § 2 Comments
Akni is my favourite Indian rice dish. It’s so delicious that I was under the impression that its wonderful flavour was directly related to its level of difficulty. I could not have been more wrong.
I love that you only require one pot. I love that you only require 1 tablespoon of oil. I love that you are moist, even without the raita. I love that even if I leave you on the stove for too long, you are still as delicious. I love that I don’t need to cook for three days after preparing you.
2 tblspn oil
1 large onion, chopped finely
- Heat oil in a wide pot. Braise onions.
2 tsp whole cumin
5 cardamom pods, cracked open
2 sticks of cinnamon
1 cup of warm water
- Soak the spices listed above in the water for a few minutes.
- Add to the pot. Allow to boil for about 5 minutes.
1 chicken, cleaned and disjointed
1 tblspn ginger paste
1 tblspn garlic paste
1 tspn salt
2 tspn ground cumin
½ tspn turmeric
- Add the chicken and spices to the put. Mix well. Allow chicken to cook.
2 cups of chopped/grated tomato
3 tspn chilli powder
2 tspn coriander powder
2 tblspn plain yogurt
- Once chicken is cooked, add the ingredients listed above to the pot. Allow to thicken.
3 potatoes, each one cut into 4 equal pieces
2 cups basmati rice
4 cups of boiling water
- Add the above ingredients to the pot. Cook on high heat and stir often. Once the water has almost depleted, turn down the heat and allow to simmer.
- Serve with coriander raita (see recipe below).
500 ml plain yogurt
Green Masala (you will only need about 3 tspn)
- 1 bunch of coriander leaves (about 4 cups)
- 4 green chillies
- 1 tblspn garlic paste
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tblspn lemon juice
- 1 tblspn olive oil
Liquidise all of the above ingredients. Even though you will only use a few teaspoons for the raita to be served with the akhni, the rest can be refrigerated and used to marinate chicken or in other dishes.
For the raita, mix the yogurt with about 3 tspns of the green masala. Serve with the akhni.
May 16, 2011 § 4 Comments
Saturday saw my second pizza baking attempt. Saturday also saw my first successful attempt I used this recipe from allrecipes.com to make the base:
Amazing Whole Wheat Pizza Crust
- 1 teaspoon white sugar
- 1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- In a large bowl, dissolve sugar in warm water. Sprinkle yeast over the top, and let stand for about 10 minutes, until foamy.
- Stir the olive oil and salt into the yeast mixture, then mix in the whole wheat flour and 1 cup of the all-purpose flour until dough starts to come together. Tip dough out onto a surface floured with the remaining all-purpose flour, and knead until all of the flour has been absorbed, and the ball of dough becomes smooth, about 10 minutes. Place dough in an oiled bowl, and turn to coat the surface. Cover loosely with a towel, and let stand in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- When the dough is doubled, tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and divide into 2 pieces for 2 thin crust, or leave whole to make one thick crust. Form into a tight ball. Let rise for about 45 minutes, until doubled.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Roll a ball of dough with a rolling pin until it will not stretch any further. Then, drape it over both of your fists, and gently pull the edges outward, while rotating the crust. When the circle has reached the desired size, place on a well oiled pizza pan. Top pizza with your favorite toppings, such as sauce, cheese, meats, or vegetables.
- Bake for 16 to 20 minutes (depending on thickness) in the preheated oven, until the crust is crisp and golden at the edges, and cheese is melted on the top
The recipe says that it makes one or two pizza bases. I rolled out four decent sized pizzas. I didn’t manage to roll and stretch the pizzas into neat circles. I was more focussed on making sure that the bases were of equal thickness. I’m glad I was more concerned with stretching and rolling them thin, because the bases were excellent.
For the pizza sauce, I mixed equal quantities of store-bought pesto and tomato paste. I applied a thin layer on each pizza. I then topped the pizzas with mozzarella cheese before the real toppings. I chopped up a few tablespoons of de-pitted olives, sun-dried tomatoes and feta cheese for the toppings.
It was really delicious. I froze the other three unbaked, so I will just pop them into the oven when I’m running late with dinner sometime soon. I am looking so forward to it!
May 14, 2011 § 2 Comments
Taiwan has fascinated me with its beauty. I anticipated the hustle and bustle of Taipei city prior to our relocation, but not the natural beauty of its surrounding areas. Last weekend A surprised me with a day trip to Yehliu Geopark. The trip involved an approximately 1 hour bus trip to Jinshan, and then a short walk along the harbour before we reached the park.
Yehliu Geopark is famous for its beautiful coastline, mushroom-like rock formations and sea-trenches. These are consequent of sea erosion and earth movements. I was taken aback by the whole experience. Each rock formation resembled something different, from a calculator to a dragon and to the popular “Queen’s head”. The waters were so beautifully blue and had we been allowed to, we would have dived at the opportunity of experiencing them first hand in the scorching heat. Cracks along the coastline reveal the unique shading of each layer of stone and together they form stunning patterns. I could go on for paragraphs about the harmony amongst sand, stone and sea, but instead, I will allow the pictures to speak for themselves.
Yehliu Geopark is definitely worth the trip for tourists, even if only for an hour or 2. One can take the Kuo Kuang Hao bus headed for Jinshan from Taipei Main Bus station. There is a small market area selling refreshments and local dried fruits, nuts and fish just as you exit the park. I would suggest that you take some water along into the park because there is a lot of walking to do and it can get pretty hot, especially in the summer.
February 10, 2011 § 1 Comment
Sunday was probably the most productive day we had all of last week, even though we only left the apartment after 12. We took the MRT to Xin (new) Beitou. It is only 20 minutes out of the Taipei Main Station, but it feels so detached from the city, because of the mountains, greenery and general peaceful environment.
We visited the Ketalagan Cultural Centre, which is dedicated to the Aboriginal culture that once flourished in the Beitou area. Although there is some English commentary, a lot of the information provided is only in Chinese. This is understandable, given that most tourists to Taipei are from mainland China anyway. Check out the outfits, all coloured with natural dyes. A made an interesting observation – the dyes they used were made of the same foods we try to never get on our clothes, viz. turmeric, pomegranate juice and others.
We then headed to the Beitou Hot Springs museum. On the way, I noticed these children. Shame, they were in a bit of a problem with their ball in the water. I photographed them instead of going to help
The information in the Hot Springs museum which was in English was really interesting. It is so interesting to see how the hot springs are formed. Look at the cute slippers we were given to wear in the museum – red for her and blue for him
Finally, off to Geothermal Valley we went. This is where one can actually view the natural hot spring. It was amazing to see the actual source of the hot spring. We knew we were close when we smelt the rotten eggs. Because the hot springs contain natural sulphur, they smell like eggs or fireworks. It’s actually really funny, I was laughing all the time as we got closer. The natural hot spring is so beautiful – look!
Can you see the holes in the sand? That is where the water comes up from.
There is also the Puji Temple to see in Beitou. It is one of the very few well-preserved Japanese temples in Taiwan. We strolled in the area twice, but just couldn’t find it. I don’t think the labelling is very good. We gave up after the second time and went to do what we do best – EAT!
Bye Bye Beitou Buddha…
February 5, 2011 § 2 Comments
It’s the year of the rabbit, whoopie!!! This weekend has been the most relaxing we’ve had in a while. With all the packing and moving, we really needed the rest. Taipei is so quiet during Chinese New Year. Most people travel to their families who live lower down on the island, or travel elsewhere. It is the ideal time for the Taiwanese to travel, because there is almost a week of holiday. Also, Taiwanese are allowed very few days of vacation, especially when they just start working. In fact, in the first year of working for a new company, they get 0 days of leave. It goes up by merely a few days every year.
In class on Thursday, we had to each write one card to one of our classmates, wishing them a “Happy New Year”. It felt like preschool all over again. I remember having to write cards to my parents for Mother’s Day and Father’s day, under the supervision of my teachers. I received a card from my Japanese classmate, so as you can see, the wishes are in both Japanese and Chinese.
The cool thing about Chinese New Year is that it comes a little after that of the Gregorian calendar, so if you haven’t been keeping up to your new year’s resolutions (like me), then there is a second chance. Yay! I will not eat so much of chocolate.. I will not eat so much of chocolate.. I will not eat so much of chocolate..
January 28, 2011 § 2 Comments
A had to travel to Hong Kong last week and there was no way I was going to miss out on a travel opportunity. We ended up making it a four day trip. It was a fun-filled weekend with good food and good weather. I did the usual touristy things. My favourites were:
1. Kowloon Park
Firstly, I was fascinated by it’s location. It is smack-bang in the middle of Tsim Sha Tsui which means that the beautifully tranquil park is surrounded by skyscrapers. It is positioned along the main thoroughfare of Hong Kong, Nathan Road. Because Kowloon Park was the first place I visited, I didn’t manage to go walk through it in its entirety, because I was antsy to see the rest of Tsim Sha Tsui. The park hosts an abundance of exotic plants and birds. It’s the perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the madness that is Hong Kong, both because of its location and atmosphere.
2. Hong Kong Museum of History
This museum is also very conveniently located just a few metres off Nathan Road. I didn’t expect too much walking in. I think I may be somewhat biased towards museums in Asia. It beat my expectations on all counts. It is big, covers an extensive range of topics and is very interactive – just the way I like them. It’s no wonder, considering that it cost the government of Hong Kong HK$390million to put up. It covers the geographical, ecological, political, social and economical history of Hong Kong. It is both entertaining and educational and the whole experience is enhanced by the special light and sounds effects. I was more than impressed. I think that even little children will not get bored at this museum.
3. Victoria Peak
The mountain that Victoria Peak is located on is on Hong Kong Island, where we spent very little of our time. It is the highest mountain on the island. We took the “peak tram” up the very steep mountain. Even though there was a lot of haze in the sky on that particular morning, the view was breathtaking. A was quite amused at the mall set up at the peak of the mountain. He said “only in Asia will they build a mall at the tip of a mountain”.
4. Jackie Chan’s boat
During our tour on Sunday, as we were approaching the Aberdeen fishing village, our tour guide pointed out that the black yacht was infact that of Jackie Chan’s. I could just picture him doing some funny action movie things on the deck of the boat
5. Ladies’ Market
I was not particularly interested in doing much shopping in Hong Kong. My friend actually said to me, “only you would visit a museum in Hong Kong”. I know, I know! I just don’t fancy shopping as a hobby. When I need particular items of clothing, I am more than open to the idea, but I rarely just shop for fun. Sure, I do get those shopping highs occasionally, but that hasn’t happened in a while. I also have a moral issue with buying “fake” products. So I didn’t plan to buy anything at the Ladies’ Market. I just wanted to see what it was all about. It was so much of fun to observe European tourists bargaining, and to see all of the same products that are sold at much higher rates in branded stores at fractions of the price at the market. I did buy a really cool leather covered notebook. I have serious weakness for stationary shopping, I must admit. I also bought a bright green non-branded handbag and a fridge magnet, because I collect magnets.
I did plan to buy gym pants in Hong Kong. Both the Ladies’ Market and the errrmmm exercise clothes road (Fa Yuen Road) are perpendicular to Argyle Road, so I thought I’d kill both birds with one stone. The exercise clothes road was a big disappointment, mainly because only 1 store on the entire road has a fitting room. I will never buy gym pants without fitting them on. There are few things in life more annoying than uncomfortable exercise wear. I ended up going to a traditional sports store at a shopping centre to get the pants.
Hong Kong was lots of fun overall, but somewhat too busy for my liking. I live in Taipei now, so that alone says a lot. I’d like to go back for another weekend in the future just to visit Disneyland Hong Kong and Ocean Park. I must mention that there are so many dodgey characters standing around on the pavements trying to woo you into their stores in dingey alleys where they sell fakes. They can be so annoying. A swears that the trick is to give them no eye-contact. No prize for guessing where they’re from- hint: the same place as that of my ancestors