Friday, June 22, 2012

Frizz Cooking Course

The day after my Dreamland excursion, the weekend of glory continued on Saturday morning with a cooking class at Frizz (bucket list item-check), a restaurant in Phnom Penh.  I hopped into a tuk-tuk with some work colleagues and we set off.

After meeting at the restaurant we piled into tuk-tuks again and headed off to a market near the riverside, where our class instructor pointed out the different herbs, spices, fruit, vegetables and meats and told us their names and what kind of dishes they were used in.  Between chatting, taking photos, warily eyeing the live fish and crabs  and the general hustle and bustle, I missed a lot of what he said so can't relay very much of use..  However I did discover that turmeric looks like a cross between a carrot and a ginger root.  Also, I discovered what galangal looks like. Ya, that's about it.  Everything was very fresh and the meat was unaccompanied by the usual smells gained by hanging in a hot, close space for hours on end.  In fact, as I mentioned the crabs and fish were still alive!

After our market tour we carried on to the cooking school.  First up were deep fried spring rolls with taro and carrot and a delicious peanut dipping sauce.

After salting and squeezing the liquid out of the taro, a feat requiring a fair bit of exertion, we rolled it with the carrot into cylindrical shapes before rolling it in the dough and then deep frying.  The rather sedate flavours of the taro and carrot were perfectly contemplated by the nutty, spicy dipping sauce.  Sitting around a table sharing a meal with predominantly strangers means politeness levels are pretty high and after we'd all tucked into our rolls, one lone roll lay on the plate for about 10 minutes before compassion overtook me and I offered to put it out of it's misery.

Next was the fish amok, which I might add is an exceptionally tasty dish.  I've tried it at a few restaurants (the best of which was found in Siem Reap) but had never attempted to make it myself.

It's a rather complicated affair involving pounding lemongrass, lime rind, ginger, garlic, turmeric, chilies and shallots in a pestle and mortar, adding red curry paste and then coconut milk and fish.  We pinned banana leaves into a bowl and then cooked the whole mixture in a double boiler.

Once it's cooked you can garnish it with julienne peppers and coconut milk and enjoy with rice. 

It really was delicious and an added bonus of the day was getting to hang out with some of my colleagues, such lovely people, and making a new friend.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Recent Highlights

I recently finished my 2 month teaching stint and, with the onset of Summer holidays, am relishing working afternoons only.  Holidays started 10 days ago, with what will go down as one of my favourite weekends in Phnom Penh.

First up was dinner at the river side and then a long anticipated trip to Dreamland, an amusement park. The combining factors of growing up on a farm in a small town and being an avid reader meant certain things were formed in my imagination as a child that have had a hold on me ever since.  Things like circuses, hot air balloons, Brownies and Girl Scouts, and amusement parks to name a few.

Imagine my delight at visiting a bonafide theme park.. Besides the Royal Show in Pietermaritzburg and some other rides in East London, I'v never been to an amusement park!

First up was the bumper cars, during which I felt my spine disconnect and hang in mid air on 2 occassions after being rammed from the side.  As they say, it is better to ram than to be rammed and so my goal became to avoid getting hit, a moderately successful endeavour.  In among taking various posed shots with statues of Batman, Superman and newlyweds we made our way to Jack's Ice Cream.  Ordering ice cream proves to be the greatest challenge of the night as the lady behind the counter had lightning fast movements and before a sentence was complete had handed over an ice cream holding the flavours you may or may not have been attempting to ask for.  Coke floats, unexpectedly flavoured ice cream found it's way into a few hands before we got the hang of it..  The trick was to get your request out really fast but also be watching carefully and halt her mid scoop if she was putting on the wrong flavour.  Nevertheless the ice cream was delicious!

Next up was the Ferris Wheel.  The company was good, the breeze was cool and the city lights provided a romantic view.  I loved it.  Unfortunately we had arrived quite late and so the park closed before we could go on any other rides but I've sussed it out and next time there shall be whirling tea cups, a carousel, swings and maybe even some ride where you get strapped in and flung around and around..maybe..

  • Making an awesome new friend
  • Madagascar 3 in 3D (watch this awesome preview if you're not yet convinced you should see it)
  • Getting whatsapp - making communication with faraway friends much easier.
  • Chancing upon a great read, "Peace Like A River" by Leif Enger.  It's a captivating story of fierce, unconditional love and redemption and is a lyrical and evocatively written book
  • Having time to myself 
  • Devotions on a quiet beach in Sihanoukville
  • Those moments in conversation where your heart soars with the resonance of another's words
  • Discovering fresh strawberry smoothies at the market near my house

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Good Stuff: French Toast

I love food.  Cooking it, baking it, thinking about it, eating it.. you name it.

I also have an inherent mistrust of recipes and very rarely will I follow a recipe to the letter.  At times this has been disastrous (flat, sticky, rock hard 'cake' and sticky, rock hard, spoon bending mulberry jam come to mind) and at other times it works out perfectly (and so I keep releasing my inner Nigella, convinced my idea will work just as well if not better than the recipe I'm cooking from). I frequently don't even bother with a recipe (except when baking, that story is for another day).

Anyway, inspired by my friend Claire and the fact that I have the day off work, I decided to make my own version of French Toast for lunch:

I'm fairly sure you'll like it..