Atlas: Tunisia

So, after a long hiatus, it was time for Atlas Tunisia. We gathered at Brownen’s house for a range of Northern African treats, without the political instability.

First up was the garlic and celery soup pictured above. It was absolutely delicious, despite our various trepidation, particularly around the inclusion of celery. But second helpings were consumed by many.

It was then on to the tagines.

These may not be the kinds of pictures you expected to see when thinking “tagine”. In Tunisia, tagines are more like frittatas then stews – it turns out that tagine is actually the name of the fry-pan like dish that both stews and frittatas can be cooked in. Anyway, these tagines were delicious, and even the small people were enthusiastic consumers of them. The second one pictured is called Bey’s tagine and includes lamb, spinach, ricotta and a lot of Rachel’s freshly laid eggs.

Kellie also whipped up some Tunisian style prawns.

The slightly less cayenne’d version were a hit with the small folk, while the full Tunisian version were popular with the grown ups. Delicious.

Next was the complex Lahmet Slata I whipped up. It didn’t turn out quite as beautiful as the one in the book, but I did my best.

This featured beef cooked in tomatoes and the genuine Tunisian harissa I managed to locate at the Belconnen markets, then baked in layers of mashed potato and Swiss cheese which has capsicum and tomato blended in. With capers to finish off. I resisted the instruction that one could choose to flavour the mashed potato with tinned tuna (tinned tuna seems to feature heavily in Tunsian cooking, oddly enough).

It was quite nice, served with the leftover tomato and harissa sauce – could possibly have done with more harissa actually. And interesting take on meat and three vegetables really…

It was then onto dessert. I was intending to make a Tunisian parfait (revealing some French influences) but trouble tracking down some halva meant when I had whipped my cream I suddenly realised it was supposed to set for 24 hours. Oh well, I might have to try cooking it next weekend.

Bronwen however whipped up some wonderful deep fried pastry things called debla which were coated in a honey syrup which hardened on the plate into delicious delicious toffee as it cooled. These were fabulous, and we completely failed to alert the small children to their existence. Cruel gorwn ups.

So delcious all round. Tunisian food seems to display French and Spanish influences, as well as containing some Egyptian and middle eastern flavours. Not a bad cuisine at all.

And while the grown ups ate and drank, the small children watched some DVDs, and everyone was happy.


Atlas Korea

Time to venture to Korea for our culinary delights. This Atlas dinner required somewhat more preparation than usual, and some discussions with local shop owners.

For true authenticity (ish) I made my kimchi two weeks in advance using this recipe provided by the wonderful Zoe. As it sat in the fridge for a fortnight composing itself, I did move through phases of doubt, fear, expectation and the like, so it was with much trepidation that I eventually served it up. Verdict: actually delicious – and it tasted like kimchee from the restaurants + nice and spicy!

I also headed to a tiny Korean store armed with James’ iPhone and a picture of the kind of Korean chilli paste. The mother and daughter in the shop joined together to help me find an equivalent. I also had to ask the, somewhat random, question – how do you make rice purple? I was rewarded with a bag of red beans and an explanation of proportions and thus managed to achieve the desired result as you can see from above.

We started with shallot pancakes prepared by Bronwen. Despite their simplicity they were really quite delicious. Small boys, in particular, really appreciated them.

We then moved onto the excitement of Rachel’s fabulous slow roasted pork belly (with crackling), served with lettuce, Rachel’s cucumber kimchi or my cabbage kimchi and hot chilli sauce. Absolutely heavenly.

It was then time to move into the main dishes: bbq’ed sesame chicken, pork bulgogi, beef bulgogi and a range of accompaniments. All of it was delicious, quick to prepare and impressive to look at.

We ate a lot. It was delicious. We’ll be eating more Korean in the future.

There was also dessert. James whipped up some macadamia and sugar dumplings which were also quite popular amongst the small folk as well as the adults.

In addition we got a lovely fruit platter which Kellie, with a busy and stressful day, had brought, confusing Korea with Egypt temporarily. And forgetting the mango sauce.

All in all, however, it was a night of excellent food, and many recipes which will be repeated. Next stop, Tunisia.


Atlas Central America

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So after a bit of a break, diminished without Burke and Cat now they have returned to WA, we gathered at Kellie's to enjoy the delights of Central America. Please forgive the photo quality and number – had to resort to my phone when the batteries in the camera ran out.

We started with Nicaraguan oysters – serviche de ostras. I am not normally a big fan of oysters, but the lime and chilli combination made these totally delicious.

We then had two different types of tamales, a shredded beef stew and a chicken and onion dish, accompanied by tortillas, rice and bbq'ed sweet corn. The tamales, while not at all bad, are probably the least successful Atlas dish ever – clearly we anglos haven't quite got the knack. The smokey chilli tomato sauce which Rachel preapred to go with them was amazing however.

For dessert, I went for a modern update on the dulche de leche theme with a dulche de leche cheesecake and Bronwen prepared us a baked sweet potato and raisin dish. All round yum.

Next stop, Korea!

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Atlas Ethiopian!

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Time to mix together the spices – it was time for Atlas Ethiopian – which meant, of course, berbere and lots of it.

Atlas ethiopian also had the sad purpose of farwelling Burke and Cat who have now returned to the west. As usual, a lot of food formed part of that farewell.

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  As Atlas Ethiopian was a lunchtime event, the children took advantage and spent their time running about and freaking out the chooks. They also got to eat outside.

Meanwhile, the adults got busy inside.

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We had two very different and both delicious versions of doro wat, lentil curry, black eyed peas curry, tiny little biscuits spiced with cayenne, honey bread, beef curry and other dishes I seem to have forgotten. But delicious! And Rachel managed to make injera though without teff and with buckwheat instead, and without fermenting it for a week. But delicious still.

So Ethiopian was a success and we bid goodbye to Cat and Burke, but not the Atlas concept!

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Atlas: Vietnam

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Another opportunity for international cuisine, this time Vietnam.

As usual the food was excellent – and the hot weather led to the appropriate background atmosphere.

We started with rice paper rolls and then Rachel fulfilled her role of bringing us the dumplings of the world with a delightful steamed Vietnamese version.

From there it was to a profusion of food including a roast chicken, BBQed chicken and chilli and lemongrass chicken, rice pancakes with prawns other deliciousness and caramel pork.

Dessert featured coconut creme caramel and chocolate fudge.


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Atlas: Egypt

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Another opportunity for international cuisine occured on Saturday – Atlas Egypt. Our numbers were initially reduced by the fact that Bronwen is in fact elsewhere in the altas – PNG to be precise – and then further reduced by the non-arrival of Kellie and Reg and co, which we later discovered was for the rather horrible reason that poor little Zoe had broken her femur. Nonetheless, there we were, amongst the columns of Kat and Burke's fabulous new home, ready to eat the food of the land of pyramids, while small boys took advantage of the extensive movie collection.

In the collection of fabulous food was koshari – essential lentils, rice, noodles and chickpeas with tomato sauce – kofta of two delicious types, lamb and black eyed peas and special oily rice of deliciousness.

For dessert, Rachel produced a fabulous brown sugar pavlova which was fabulous and chewy (I think I prefer to white sugar version) which we had with some lemon sorbet.

Delicious all round.

Next stop – Vietnam!

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Atlas – Argentina

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On Sunday we gathered for a lunch time Atlas session, as finding an evening date had proved impossible. Country of choice:  Argentina.

As one would predict, there was a lot of beef in evidence.  And potato. But it was all delicious. There were a couple of varieties of empanadas, a beef stew with beef that was totally falling apart, an Argentinian version of shephards pie which was fabulous and black beans.  We also had seared beef with chimmichurri parsley salsa.

To finish off, Rachel had produced a magnificent Argentine flan, which we all thought looked too good to eat, but, what the hell, we ate it anyway.

We didn't quite manage Argentine wine, but did have some from Chile. But it must be said, the lunchtime experiment was quite successful – plenty of time for grazing over the massive amount of food. Then it was left over empanadas for dinner.

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