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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Atlas: Mongolia

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Having looked at the range of recipes available for Mongolia, and learning from Wikipedia that Mongolian BBQ isn't, in fact, Mongolian, we had feared that it may not have been the culinary highlight of the year, and that it would definitely have been a let down after Cuba. However, as is often the case, the food surprised us and it all turned out extremely well.

We started with a variety of buuz – "steamed pockets" – one set filled with lamb and the others with beef. Rachel, being our resident dumpling expert had made some, as had James. We later had the deep fried version supplied by Bronwen. Then there was stirfry with appropriate Mongolian sauce, barbequed chicken, shulla – lamb and chick pea stew, a noodle and lamb dish and tofu and noodle soup. For once though there was no dessert – but we had all eaten enough that dessert wasn't really necessary. No one did go as far as the making of milk curds.

The children stuck with sausage and carrots and while the weather did choose this as the only day in 6 weeks to rain, it cleared up enough for us to spend some time standing on the deck. we all admired Burke's mid-life crisis hair cut and young Zoe's constant even temperedness, and at the end of the night Cat undertook some Maisy book repairs. So all in all, a very pleasant evening.

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Atlas: Cuba!

With the Cuban music on and limes in hand, we settled in for an evening of Cuban delights. Unfortunately, the weather had disappointed us, and while we had expected to have appropriately hot, it was more cold than Cuban.

Cuban is a land of many drinking specialities, so Jasmin immediately moved to whip up a lime, beer and ginger ale delight.

This proved to be extremely tasty, and was followed by the rather more alcoholic mojitos prepared by Rachel with her Havana rum. Jasmin then moved on to make an extremely delicious rum punch, which was rather too more-ish and enjoyed by all in some quantities…

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But there was food too. We got to sample mojo chicken with warm salsa, smashed potatoes, shredded mojo pork with orange and onion sauce, black beans and rice, chicken with plantains and okra and slow cooked lamb stew. All was extremely delicious, with citrus being a strong theme.

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We finished with the other favourite fruit of Cuba, the mango strongly featured in the fabulous chilled mango soup.

Kellie and Zoe managed to come and join us for dinner, despite illness ravaging their home, and this lead to much delighted baby holding.

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Finally, it was time for everyone to wander home, after an extremely enjoyable Cuban experience. Rachel and Jasmin were sensibly not driving because of the amount of rum expected to be consumed. In a less pleasant end to the evening, the taxis then took two hours to arrive, and when Jasmin left in hers, little did we realise that her driver was a bit of a nutcase who would pull over in a dark carpark, turn off the lights and yell threateningly at her. Very horrible and unfortunate – and scary also. Fortunately she got home safely, but certainly not feeling the way one would have expected.

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Altas: Scandinavia

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Saturday night we ventured into the Nordic lands – speaking of things culinary that is.

Cat and Burke brought the vodka, so we got off to an appropriate start. And the children were all very enthusiastic about the New Year's Eve delicacy which Kellie had uncovered and made – hotdogs in pastry….

The food was actually fabulous. We had potato dumplings and a deer named Daisy with Kugelberry sauce, actual deer with sour cream and thyme, salad with smoked trout, potatoes with cheese, leek and carrot soup, and noodles with a creamy lamb sauce. All delicous.

For dessert, after a reasonable pause given all the food that had gone before, we had saffron buns, a stuffed shortbread type pastry and sour cream porridge, better known as rommegrot.

So we managed another (set of) countries with some form of dumpling and lots of food. I think we rolled home….

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