Rock Star Excitement in Sydney and Eating Nasi Lemak

It is pretty electric right now.  Only days before the Francis Bacon opening at the AGNSW.  Truly a rock star of the art world, Francis Bacon had a temperament that kept people on their toes. Lots of  BUZZ about  this exhibition.  The papers and other media are hyping this event to the max and for good reason.  Isabel, it will be a memorable show; Bacon is hailed as an artist up there with Picasso.  I am reading the catalogue in spare moments , so I can appreciate it all when I finally see it.

My walks last week unfolded more lovely Sydney spots.  There are many gorgeous pockets around this city. And to think I haven’t even ventured very far from home. There is much to discover further afield. Walking through Centennial Park on an early morning with SM, we passed groves of paper barks. The air was minty in the fresh warm morning.

We finished up the walk I thought most appropriately, having a coffee in the dearest spot, paying homage to a glorious……. tree. Tucked in a little Paddington street was Alimentari, a tiny coffee shop jewel, compensated for its space by a generous picture window in which a majestic gum commanded full attention. I must take you there when you next visit. There are the most enticing stores scattered around this thriving hub which you will love….

And of course ever since it was rumoured, anyone who cares about it has been totally abuzz when Radiohead announced their 2012 world tour. As you know, dad kept a close watch from Toronto to see where we could catch them (Toronto? No, he was in Geneva while they were slated to visit. New York? That wouldn’t work either.)  Amazingly, MB went online as soon as Sydney dates were released and got our four tickets to see them in Australia. Remember how excited we were? This was waaaaay back in April, and we hadn’t even moved back here yet!

Well, all these months of anticipation have certainly not been an overworking of our expectations because come Monday night, we were completely catapulted by the energy and quality from beginning to end of their AMAZING show. No rock star egos to be seen here. And such generosity too: I mean, when was the last time you went to a concert and for an encore they sing SIX songs?  They sang twenty-two songs in all.  The audience was elated . Faithful Radiohead fan that you are, I know you will ADORE every moment when you see them this week-end in Melbourne! Such amazing sound quality, and glorious lighting to boot- AH!

It has been all too distracting to COOK! But dearest Cousin C took me to Paddy’s Markets on the week-end. We bought ingredients to cook our Chrissie cakes, a tray of huge Northern Territory mangoes each, and we found…..PANDAN LEAVES!!!!!! SOOOO excited! As you know, in SE Asian cooking and some Indian cooking these sweetly fragrant leaves add an amazing flavour to a variety of dishes. In sweets and Malay puddings, it substitutes for rose essence or vanilla flavouring. In savoury dishes, it is often used to scent rice, elevating dishes like biriyani, and the Malaysian classic, nasi lemak. Well, of course I had to make something with those beautiful fresh leaves when we got home! If you are nostalgic for a good Malaysian hawker nosh up, you can’t go past nasi lemak.

Nasi Lemak (Coconut Rice)

  • 2 cups jasmine rice, well washed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil or olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1 pandan leaf, washed and chopped into 2 or 3 lengths
  • 2 cups water

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a small non stick pan, and add the jasmine rice.
  2. Stir until the rice grains lose their translucency and become opaque.
  3. Add the desiccated coconut and coconut milk.
  4. Top up the pan with water so that the liquid reaches to about 5 cm above the rice.
  5. Add salt, stir well and bring to the boil. Throw in the leaves.
  6. As soon as the pan begins to bubble, turn the heat to the lowest setting and put a tight lid on the pan.
  7. Leave to cook for 10 minutes on this lowest heat setting.
  8. Check that all the liquid has evaporated. You may have to leave it to cook for another five minutes.
  9. Turn the heat off, remove the pan from the stove and let it sit for about ten minutes.
  10. Serve with chicken curry, some slices of boiled egg and cucumber, fried ikan billis and peanuts. Ikan Billis, or tiny dried anchovies are available at most Asian grocery stores.
  11. The addition of prawn crackers makes it fun, but don’t feel like you are missing out if you can’t manage it.

You might need a hearty meal like this one with your friends before the concert on the week-end. I tell you what: Radiohead was such an energized expereince, we came home feeling starved.

The Standard Chicken Curry- Welcome Home, Izzy!

Posted your 21st birthday invitations, and now I can turn my thoughts to the kitchen and what to prepare for some family meals. I am SO excited to have everyone under one roof, even the doggie girls! Amongst everything, we’ve got birthday party plans to discuss, Miss!

Colourful piles of invites.

Little C finished her last exam, and now begins life as a fully fledged Senior! I am not sure if I like losing her to a shool year- what happened to Grade 11? It is all going to go waaay to quickly.

I have laksa paste at the ready for a quick laksa production, and lots of fruit and veggies for my two healthy living girls. Of course there is the no-fail choc cake ready and waiting too. We’ve got to have a bit of balance, right?

While I think of what else needs whipping up, I am cooking up a simple chicken curry. Such comfort, a chicken curry with potatoes and a nice thick gravy poured over steaming rice. A bit of sambar on the side and a raita cut quickly, there’s your perfect Indian meal. A chicken curry has a couple of standard simple rules to follow, and if you adhere to those, there is really no reason for this dish to be anything but PERFECT:

  1. It is pretty vital to put the curry powder in at the right time. If you don’t, there’s always the chance of tasting the grainy powdery bits of curry- not so cool, and leaves a ‘raw’ taste to the gravy.
  2. Leave off adding any liquid for as long as you possibly can- it allows the meat/veggies or chicken you are cooking to combine directly with the curry powder and have the flavour running right through.
  3. A good brand of curry powder is pretty necessary. Which one to choose? The Malaysian brand ‘Yeoh’s Ayam Brand’ is always trusty. If you want to be truly pedantic about getting it right, dry roast your curry powder before using it in the recipe.

Of course we all have slightly different palates, so add and subtract heat and seasoning to suit yourself. There are any number of chicken curry varieties, cooked with coconut milk or yogurt, tamarind, or not,  Thai style, South Indian style, dry, lots of gravy, etc, etc, etc. Let’s start with this one:

Standard Chicken Curry

  • 1 kg chicken thigh fillets, trimmed of fat and cut into bite sized pieces ( I usually cut one piece of a thigh fillet into three sections)
  • 3 medium sized potatoes, peeled and cut into pieces 
  • 2 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 heaped tablespoon good brand curry powder
  • juice of half to one lemon, depending on your preference of taste
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 can coconut milk (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Heat a heavy based pan with the oil.
  2. Fry the onion, ginger and garlic until golden brown.
  3. Add the curry powder and fry until the mixture is fragrant, about two minutes.
  4. When it begins to stick, add the tomatoes which will add a little moisture and prevent burning. You may add one to two tablespoons of water or vinegar at this point.
  5. As the tomatoes soften, add the chicken and potato pieces and stir well.
  6. As the chicken changes colour, turn the heat down, stir well to coat the potatoes and chicken in the forming gravy, put a lid on the pan and leave to simmer.
  7. After about ten minutes, add salt and pepper to taste, stir again, and if it looks like the gravy is drying up, add a quarter of a cup of water.
  8. Also add the lemon juice at this point, stir to combine all the flavours and continue to simmer on low heat with the lid back on.
  9. Cook for another ten minutes or so, and your curry is pretty much done!
  10. If you like more gravy, add a can of light coconut milk at stage number 7.

 

The wisteria is out in full force, and Alice decided to take a nap under its canopy- totally sweet! It is so wonderful to have you home, and a very happy added bonus is that cousin T is here too for a couple of weeks- complete girl world!

Alice takes a snooze under the wisteria……