Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sunday Roast Brazilian Style?

The Sunday roast was never a big thing in my family. I mean, growing up in my house, it was just me and my mother, and if you want to get into sexist New Zealand stereotypes, the Sunday roast was traditionally a family dish to prepare the working man for his week of hard labour, and to provide fast fillings for sandwiches for the next five days. It just never made sense for the two of us to have such a tradition, and besides, I was a fussy little cunt when it came to eating cold meats anyway! We definitely had roasts from time to time, but there was never any rule that it would be on Sunday, it could pop up at any day of the week - I liked that spontaneity! Today I was invited to my classmate Ana's house for a "Brazilian dinner". I was pretty excited, I really didn't know what to expect, other than I was pretty sure that rice and beans would be part of the equation (I wasn't wrong!). Ana's from Sao Paolo, her father is Brazilian and mother Italian - as soon as I found this out, I told her she had to show me how to make something typically Brazilian, as I'm all about the food exchange!

While we were waiting for the dinner to cook, Ana told us of her problems trying to source the ingredients for this dinner, and strangely enough it was acquiring the beef rump that was most problematic. I mean Germans LOVE meat, almost as much as they love dairy, pickled vegetables, and getting naked in public - so I was surprised to hear that she actually had to order it specially from the local supermarket. Before ordering was even possible, actually figuring out the German word for this particular cut was challenging - with one online translator transcribing "roast beef" as "titty-ficken" (yes that really means titty-fuck). Can you imagine a girl approaching a butcher and politely telling him that she wants a titty-fuck?! What would you do if you were that butcher? Probably lock up the shop, call your your wife and tell her not to wait for you tonight, because something has just COME UP...The other ingredient that I was able to help source was black beans. For some reason, nearly every other kind of bean or lentil is super common in Berlin, just not black beans. I happened to have found a Turkish supermarket that actually sells them, as not many do. Good for everyone, black beans are awesome.

The thing that really surprised me was is that even though New Zealand and Brazil are worlds apart geographically our traditional Sunday dinners are not! it was essentially roast beef flavoured with bay leaves, surrounded with potatoes, carrots, shallots & yellow peppers, then served with rice and black beans. I mean sure, you have to swap a few things out; we don't typically have yellow peppers or rice and beans with a roast, and any good English colonial would be shocked by the absence of our beloved gravy, or perhaps the non-crispy style roast vegetables, BUT, it is still very similar. There was a weird sense of nostalgia eating this dish, and since their were seven of us dining, it definitely had the atmosphere of a traditional Sunday family dinner (apart from the fact we were drinking Caipirinhas...I can't remember that ever happening at home). I really enjoyed the whole experience, black beans & basmati rice are definitely always welcome in my mouth (I also love the blue/black broth the beans make when you boil them), and those soft roast vegetables really soaked up the beef flavours and gentle herby accents of the bay leaves, I found myself pecking at them more than my stomach could accomodate. I should also add that Ana made some pretty tasty looking stuffed aubergines for the vegetarian guests as well - I didn't get a picture of them when they came out of the oven, but they were wearing a layer of grilled cheese by that stage.

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Asparagus Feta Filo Fucker

I've nearly been in Berlin two months already, when you have all the time in the world, it still seems like not enough time to do the things one would like to. I think as humans, we are mislead to believe that we should be exceptional at everything. Renaissance people; capable of indulging all of our ambitions, mastering every one of our crafts, excelling in all hobbies, being more incredible than our neighbours, and still having time to spare for a normal life. Bigger, better, faster, stronger, more efficient, higher yields, greater income etc etc. I'm not saying that it's impossible to juggle loads, or that ambition is at all a bad thing. On the contrary, I think ambition is one of the most venerable human qualities; I'm just trying not to beat myself up about not being a Master of the Universe (yet). 

On the other hand, I realise I do have to try harder, set goals, make deadlines and stick to them in order to get the most out of life. I also am trying to be less passive, chasing things that make me happy, and trying to dial down my empathy for others a bit, because sometimes I put other people's feelings too far ahead of my own, & am not honest about my own thoughts or feelings. Let's call this a mid year resolution. I need to get over the idea that I'm forever letting people down or hurting their feelings...unless of course it's true...

There has been so much change in the air, forks in the road, forks in my heart, forks in my mind; my life sometimes feels like a cutlery drawer falling from a second story window, fucking forks everywhere! Right now I'm sitting by the window of my third story room in a quiet North Friedrichshain apartment. It's a very quiet back street location in the former GDR of East Berlin. It's a very peaceful & unassuming neighbourhood; not at all touristy. I'm looking at two new green friends I bought for my window sill. Yep, living and breathing plants. I love green space, and living things. I was pretty excited in May when Berlin was flooded with an influx of grĂ¼n Spargel, or "green asparagus" as we say in English. I fucking love asparagus (someone once told me it's an aphrodisiac, but I never checked the legitimacy of that fact). I wish I'd taken advantage of it more while it was readily available, as it was only €1 a bunch! Phenomenal, when in London it was usually about £3.50. Berlin is good like that, really close to Brandenburg where there are many farms and orchards bringing in fresh seasonal produce.

Before all of the asparagus disappeared, I managed to try something new with it. I thought with all of the filo pastry floating around Berlin (in the Turkish neighbourhoods at least) and that I could try a twist on the typical spinach & feta filo - instead trying an asparagus/spinach, nutmeg, feta & lemon filo pie. I was surprised that this isn't a common dish, because it's a really good filling for filo. The only problem with it was that I par boiled the asparagus & then soaked it in lemon juice before I put it in the pie. This is a great way to soak up the flavour, but obviously you're soaking up the juice as well, which isn't great for your pastry which needs to crisp up. I made the rookie mistake of forgetting to cook the base of the pie on the stovetop first, so the bottom was a bit soggy and fell out in places. I tried it a second time cooking the base, and it worked better with a few extra leaves of filo on the base as well as COOKING IT OVER THE STOVE. I think If I were to try it again, I might just use lemon zest and a little bit of lemon juice.

I won't bother including a recipe because it's basically the same as any other spinach filo pie. Time for a cup of tea I think :)

Oh, and if you could make strings from my guts today, their symphony would sound like this.

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