Monday, February 16, 2009

Gifts from the Sea

I know I've written about seaweed on this blog before, but I can't help going on about the stuff. This "vegetarian caviar" deserves to be on the menus of finest restaurants, though the fact that it's difficult to keep would be a deterrent. The local Bajau tribe put a leaf or two from a tree that grows in coastal swamps with the seaweed to help keep it plump and fresh. It seems to me that it should keep a day or so if stored in seawater, but I never get to test the theory as we eat it almost immediately.

To my delight, Jok En (visiting us from Rome) found some seaweed in the Filipino night market here in Kota Kinabalu, so I trimmed the grape-like bunches off the stems, rinsed them and tossed them with lime juice, shredded young ginger, sliced shallots and a bit of tomato. Such an explosion of flavour in every mouthful!

Another gift from the sea is yellow-fin tuna, quite abundant and inexpensive here. I bought some in the Kudat fish market for RM12 a kilo (about US$3.50)from the fish seller who managed to conduct a conversation on his mobile phone while cutting off a thick slice.

I kept some of it for pan-frying (dipping it first in Dukkah spice and nut mix) and the rest went into a vaguely Asian tuna carpaccio, made as follows:

1/2 cup (125 ml) extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup (60 ml) lime or lemon juice
4-6 teaspoons fish sauce (depends how salty you like it
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
400 g sashimi-quality fresh tuna, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander leaf

Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, fish sauce and black pepper in a small bowl, whisking to blend. Pour half of the dressing onto a flat plate large enough to hold tuna slices in one layer. Arrange the tuna on top of the dressing, then spoon the remaining dressing over the top. Cover the plate with plastic wrap and refrigerate 20-30 minutes. Transfer the tuna slices to a serving plate, sprinkling with fresh coriander leaf.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Chicken and the Egg

I just spoke on the phone with my grand-daughter, who was busy eating chicken pie for dinner. “Was it bought or made by mummy?” I asked. “Mummy never buys things, she makes always them herself” came the indignant reply. We’re one step before (or after) the chicken, as we’re having egg curry this evening, together with Indian pilau, a couple of vegetable dishes and yoghurt. Coincidentally, the on-line version of the Telegraph has a feature on eggs this weekend, called “Ova Easy”. I promise you a simple, great-tasting recipe, without saturated coconut milk and without a cringe-making header.


2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 small-medium onions (preferably red), fairly finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
2.5 cm ginger, grated or very finely chopped
3 teaspoons coriander powder
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2-1 teaspoon chilli powder
4 medium tomatoes, peeled and diced
salt and black pepper
1/2 cup hot water
6 eggs, hard-boiled, peeled and halved lengthways
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
fresh coriander leaf to garnish

Heat the oil in a pan and gently stir-fry the onions, garlic and ginger until soft and starting to turn golden. Add the coriander, turmeric and chilli, stir-fry for 1 minute, then put in the tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Cook uncovered, stirring from time to time, for 5 minutes. Add the water, cover and simmer until the gravy thickens and everything is really soft. Add the eggs and heat through, sprinkle over the garam masala (not essential) and serve with rice and other dishes.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Missing Moth

Guess Who Came to Dinner?

Last night, I was getting ready for dinner at home with my oldest friend, Jok En, whom I met way back in 1968, and her Italian husband, Sandro. As I walked past our low table, I noticed this cute little fellow, who obliging let me photograph him before jumping out to the verandah where he sat on one of the uprights of a dining chair, as if waiting to join us for dinner.

Later, Jok En found a moth on the floor, sadly dead but still beautiful. How lucky we are to have such visitors!

Friday, February 06, 2009

You Can Go Back continues

I don't know what happened with my last post, text left out and photos on top of each other. Here's the missing text and photos:

Up in the far north of NZ, we were pleasantly surprised by glorious beaches (virtually deserted, even in peak holiday season), old Maori co mmunities along huge Hokianga estuary on the west coast and pretty little towns where I’m happy to see the old grocer shops of my childhood, Four Square, still exist as small supermarkets.

We loved the tannin-stained lake the locals (understandably) call Coca Cola Lake, just inland from the endless Tokara Beach.
Perhaps one of the reasons we enjoyed ourselves so much is that we didn’t spend any time at all in a city. And that we spent most of our time surrounded by family. So what’s to disappoint?

You CAN Go Back

The last time I'd been in the Marlborough Sounds in the far north of New Zealand's South Island was when I was six! Even though that’s more than half a century ago, I had several very clear memories and wondered how I'd react when we went there for a
family holiday at the end of December. I've always believed you should "never go back"

to avoid disappointment. But to my delight, this part of NZ didn’t disappoint. How could it with such a pristine, clean environment, where everyone seemed to genuinely care about conservation? Where it was so easy to swim with wild dolphins, watch seals sunning themselves on a beach and see Oystercatchers with their chicks?