CHILLI MUSSELS…a find on the last vacation we went on. We spent a few days in Western Australia’s city of PERTH where because of a recommendation from Australian travelers we met in Bali we learned of these Mussels in a Tomato, Hot Pepper, and Wine Sauce. Sounds like Mussels Fra Diavolo? Sounds like a typical ItalianAmerican seafood dish? Since I’ve come back from vacation I’ve been trying to see where this dish originated. I’ve found out a few things. You can find them all over Australia, yet on line research always points to Perth and Western Australia. Australia’s proximity to Asia had me thinking these were possibly an Indonesian or Thai or Chinese style of mussels. No. They are decidedly Mediterranean in their style and flavor. Are they different from ItalianAmerican mussels in hot pepper spiked tomato sauce? When That bowl was placed infront of us in Western Australia’s seaside town of CERVANTES my head said..oh, it’s our Fra Diavolo with an Australian name. Sitting in the CERVANTES BAR AND BISTRO after a full day of driving up the coast I can tell you I was in for a great culinary surprise. These had a bit of sweetness to them. I detected maybe sugar in the mix. There were fresh sliced chile peppers in the mix. Aha. That’s it. Quite possibly with Australia’s large Italian Immigrant population this was a creation made by them with some changes as often happens in immigrant communities. There’s a style of cooking called AustralianItalian, just like we have ItalianAmerican in the States. Now you’ll say, what’s the difference??? Why would the dried chile pepper flakes (peperoncino) taste different than the fresh. Well…taste both for yourself. There’s a difference. And this is not a one is better than the other conversation, this is me telling you my foodcentric friends that there’s new dishes to be had when you change an ingredient. Fresh Chiles is possibly more Asian in it’s flavor profile. It’s a bit fruity. There’s a texture the ItalianAmerican mussels don’t have. It was amazing. Travel Food surprises are always welcome. Simply switch out fresh chiles for the peperoncino, add a pinch of sugar, or brown sugar and you’ll get the chilli mussel experience. Most important, use mid sized fresh mussels. Those enormous Green ones don’t work here. For a recipe, since I’ve not made my own version of them yet, here’s a link from Australia’s great Travel magazine, GOURMET TRAVELLER. I fell in love with this magazine after my daughter bought me one for the beach while we were there.
While on vacation in August 2018 we covered over 22,000 airmiles through South Asia. Visited some places we had previously seen and visiting some new countries. Being on vacation with family is my most favorite thing to do and I include on our trips lots of new TRAVEL FOOD to taste. To write about. To recreate in my home kitchen. Makes a trip continue to go on long after you’ve unpacked and paid the credit card bills you racked up. This post is going to take you to Nepal, that remote country between India and China and the home to the Himalayas. I’m no trekker, hiker, or Mt.Everest climber. Sorry. My adventure sometimes borders “on the edge” but generally I stay within my comfort zone. Smarter. This way I can safely get back home again and blog for you!! LOL. So, Nepal. So remote. So rough. So beautiful. We stayed in 2 places, first in NAGARKOT which is up on a ridge, about 7200 ft. and commands views of the Kathmandu Valley which rise up to the majestic Himalayas. Our time of year is not optimal as it’s the rainy season but with kids in school we have to “vacation” in the Summer months when school is out. August is rainy, it’s Monsoon season. And who knew even though the travel sites and literature told us, that it would be so oppressively hot and humid??? Reasons why you travel. To find out things for yourself. We stayed at the CLUB HIMALAYA because they command an amazing view of the Himalayas when it’s clear. August? Not so clear. The clouds hang low, the fog is thick. But on day 2 the clouds briefly lifted the moisture curtain and blue skies broke through. The low clouds moved up just enough for us to get a pretty clear view of the entire range including Mt. Everest. SUCCESS. The waiters at the hotel informed us it was the first decent view in almost a month. A rare occurance. Within 1/2 hour the cloud and fog again shielded the range from our view. But we saw it. We really saw it. And will never forget it. That same day we were served these delicious potatoes. A little about my limited knowledge of Nepalese food. We found that there are dishes that are from Nepal but there seem to be more that are borrowed from India, especially Northern India’s cuisines. Exciting!!! This dish is a potato and CUMIN SEED dish. I love whole cumin seed. I toast it and grind it or use it whole in various treats from my kitchen But here my eyes were opened to how delicious they are with plain ol’potatoes. It is said that the unskilled bachelor in the kitchen finds this a common and easy dish to make. So there’s some legend and lore here too. Nice. Food with color and flavor. Travel helps to open one’s mind in so many ways and bringing new dishes home keeps that vacation feeling alive. Let’s go to Nepal now and make some ALOO JEERA, ok, maybe we don’t have to travel that far. Let’s go into our kitchens and make this tasty dish!!
1 lb PEELED, CUBED AND BOILED POTATOES
2 TBS. CUMIN SEEDS
2 SMALL GREEN CHOPPED CHILI (REMOVE SEEDS AND RIBS IF YOU WANT LESS HEAT)
1 TSP. CHOPPED GINGER
2 TBS. OIL
1/4 TSP. POWDERED TURMERIC
1 TSP. RED CHILE POWDER
2 TSP. CHOPPED CILANTRO
SALT (now here’s a great dish to use some ground Pink Himalayan salt in !!)
To start, heat the oil in a heavy wide pan. Add the cumin seeds and when they start to give off a wonderful aroma (oh it’s fantastic) then add the green chiles and the ginger, and 1/2 the cilantro. Fry this together for about 1 minutes then add the potatoes, season with the turmeric, red chile powder, and salt. Mix well. Place on high heat and get a nice color on the potatoes and cover. Reduce to low and cook this for 5 minutes. Stir a few times while this is cooking. Your Aloo Jeera should be done now. Transfer to a serving bowl or platter and garnish with the rest of the Cilantro. The dish can be served with Roti, or Paratha, types of Indian breads. A grilled flat Greek Pita or Flour tortilla can sub for the Indian breads if needed. In India and Nepal this is a Vegetarian dish. I’m not vegetarian and enjoy it with a few fried eggs and the breads. Easy and delicious. Thinking of the smiling faces of Nepal and the rough and beautiful landscape. Cooking globally gives you these experiences in your own home. HAPPY COOKING!! Namaste!
Lemony bright, creamy and buttery without being heavy this recipe idea I am happily bringing home to you from my recent trip to South Africa. These are my favorite souvenirs, the food idea ones that allow me to via my kitchen table transport us back to a place where we really enjoyed ourselves relaxing. I love my home but it’s much work and it’s not a vacation. Two weeks ago I was introduced to this sauce during our travels and in South Africa it is served along with Piri-Piri (an African/Portuguese chile sauce) and Garlic Butter Sauce with all of their grilled and steamed seafood dishes. A plate of shellfish or fish was always accompanied by 3 small pitchers or ramekins of these sauces. That awesome platter was local mussels, Prince Prawns from Mozambique (right up the coast from South Africa) and Patagonian Calamari (WOW, thicker than our Atlantic and Mediterranean types but as soft as butter, amazing), a scoop of rice with peppers and onions and the three sauces. This meal was had at the TWO OCEANS RESTAURANT where we had spectacular views of the tip of Africa (Cape of Good Hope) where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans converge. Top lifetime dining experiences, even if the food sucked it would have been amazing but the food rocked our world and so it was just the best, as was the whole trip. Wild baboons completed the whole experience as they romped outside of the restaurant and around our parked cars. It was on this wonderful vacation that my oldest daughter decided the seafood looked just too good (maybe it was the surroundings that helped influence her) and she asked to try the mussels in the LEMON BUTTER SAUCE. One taste and she was hooked. Seriously, HOW COULD YOU NOT BE??? Yes a simple butter, lemon and cream sauce is addictive enough that less than a week after getting home A FOOD OBSESSION (me) had to try the recipe out in our home kitchen (the AFO KITCHEN).
Online I found a recipe from the OCEAN BASKET, which I’ll say is the South African equivalent of the U.S. chain Red Lobster with a very big difference, the seafood was AMAZING at the Ocean Basket. These were not farm raised preservative shot-up shrimp, these were fresh then probably frozen prawns, split with their heads and shells still attached for grilling. Superior seafood. Anyhow it’s very hard to contain my excitement for this trip and most of the food I ate/encountered so this will be the first of many home experiments I will share with you based on the trip.
Here’s the sauce:
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This rich, creamy lemon sauce is delicious served with fish. You can also add other spices to it for extra flavour such as garlic or mixed fish spice.
125ml (1/2 cup) thickened cream
20g butter (if you are using unsalted butter, add salt to taste)
1 1/2 tablespoons (30ml) fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
Heat cream to just below boiling point, do not boil
Add butter, lemon juice and parsley and stir until butter is melted and mixture is smooth.
If the sauce is a little thin, simmer, stirring constantly, until it reaches the desired consistency.
If the sauce is too thick and/or separated, add a little water (one teaspoon at a time) and stir or whisk vigorously until sauce is fixed. Serve immediately.