Friday, August 03, 2007

5 tips for cooking with chilies

During my vacation in Thailand this year, I attended a cooking class. In addition to cooking three delicious dishes, we also received some useful advice on common ingredients in Thai food. Here are some insider's tips for cooking with chilies.

By guest writer Susanne Koch

1. The smaller a chili is, the hotter it will be. Thai people, especially in the south, can devour several whole, small chilies per person per meal. Heat of this kind is an acquired taste, though.

2. Beware of the seeds! The seeds and membranes inside the chili is by far the hottest part, so if you want the aroma of chili pepper without the scorching heat, slice the chili lenghtwise and remove the seeds.

3. There are a couple of other ways to add just a little chili to your dish. One is to put a whole chili into the pan while cooking and remove it before serving. Another, slightly hotter option is to cut the chili in half and add it to your dish.

4. If you are planning on removing the seeds from one of the fierce little Thai chilies, you might want to wear latex gloves. The 'hot stuff' will stick to your fingers for a day or to and if you handle contact lenses or put a finger in your eye to scratch an itch, it will be very unpleasant.

5. If you want the aroma of chilies and the bright red color to perk up your dish without all of the fire, use a larger chili. The larger kinds of chili are not so fierce.

All that said, don't too timid. You will soon get a feeling for how much heat the little fruits pack. And your taste buds will get accustomed too, so soon you will be adding more heat to your dishes and thinking nothing of it.

Susanne Koch is an Internet professional who works as an e-learning and web communication adviser at the University of Oslo. She blogs about search engines and search engine optimization at Susanne loves to travel and blogs about her journeys at Susi's Souvenirs. You may also want to have a look at Susanne Koch's homepage.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Smooth dark chocolate mousse with Cointreau

The main ingredient in this chocolate mousse is 125 grams / 4 oz chocolate with 70% cocoa content. I buy the most delicious dark Ecuadorian chocolate brand at Lidl at a ridiculous price (€ 1,75). Last Saturday I made this creamy delicacy for dessert. My guests loved it!!!

For this portion, suitable for five, you'll need:

125 grams / 4 oz dark high quality chocolate
2 egg yolks
Egg whites from two eggs
1 whole egg
33 cl / 11 fluid oz double cream
4 cl / 1 1/2 fluid oz Cointreau (optional)

Whisk egg whites until completely stiff, and double cream until fluffy. Set egg whites and cream aside.

Break up the chocolate, melt in a glass bowl over hot water. Whisk the egg yolks and the whole egg, add eggs and Cointreau to chocolate and mix until smooth. Fold cream into the chocolate and egg mix, and then the whisked egg whites gently into the mousse at the end.

Pour into a glass bowl and cool down in you refrigerator for at least three hours.

Yum, yum!!

Wondering what to cook today?

See other recipes on Enjoy Food & Travel here!!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Tinta Barocca 2003 - Lammershoek

A pungent potion from a port grape

The Lammershoek Tinta Barocca barrique 2003 comes from Swartland, north of Cape Town. As the magnificent wine producer Allesverloren, Lammershoek has used the tinta barocca grape to produce a rich and full bodied red wine.

Made from 100% tinta barocca grapes, I still did not think it reached the level of the similar wine by Allesverloren. Still Lammershoek Tinta Barocca 2003 is for the mature wine lover. Deep red colour with a very complex character. A wide variety of different aromas as plums, red berries, earth, chocolate, pepper and minerals are all on your pallet.

This is a wine you may enjoy with game, red meat, and rich stews, or you may sit in the dusk in your living room, watching a crime novel on your television and sip a glass of Lammershoek Tinta Barocca Barrique 2003.


Barceloneta - the Barcelona Beach

Where the Barceloneta is now, there used to be wasteland. The whole beach area was renovated to the Olympic Games in 1992. Today this is a great place to enjoy the sun in the middle of the town. And if you are bored to can enjoy a snack and have a glass of wine.

Take the line 4, direction La Pau, and leave at Barceloneta. If you do not know exactly where to go, follow the crowd, as you are probably not the only to go to beach a hot afternoon, as we did. Having walked 15 minutes, this wide white beach appeared and outside - the wonderful blue Mediterranean sea.

The Baja Beach Club - a great hangout

Looking for a cool place? The Baja Beach Club is the perfect hangout to order tall colourful drinks or simply a cold bottle of white wine as we did. Here you think of Venice Beach or Santa Barbara - dip into that Californian feeling.

I had been there before, and I realized that as I went in to go to the lavatory and was met by Willy, freed, stuffed and serving as a bar.

The interior was fascinating as it also contained other marine creatures including a White Shark and other beach equipment.

Terje and I was not in the mood for a swim, but decided to have a bottle of cold, dry white wine outside and enjoyed the beach life on a distance. Last time I visited Barceloneta and the Baja Beach Club was October 2004. Even at that time of the year, the temperature was close to 20 degrees Celsius. Laila and I enjoyed fried calamaris in the hot sunshine. There were no beach bums there, however, as the tourist had decided that the summer was over.

June 27th the sun was shining on a blue and beautiful Spanish sky. Terje shot this film clip as we sat on Baja Beach Club. A moment frozen in time. Such a shame that it is over - forever. But it is great to look at!!

Monday, July 30, 2007

The birth place of Edvard Munch

Engelaug, Østre in Løten

As we drove back from Rokoberget, we passed the small community of Ådals bruk, an old industrial community and the home of Aadals Brug Jernstøberi & Mekaniske Verksted and Klevfos Cellulose & Papirfabrikk.

We passed Engelaug, Østre. On this beautiful old farm one of the most famous Norwegians was born December 12th 1863 - Edvard Munch.

His father, Christian Munch, advanced to the position as doctor for one of the military units stationed in the area. The first daughter, Johanne Sophie was born at By in Løten in September 1862. In 1863, the young doctor and his wife had rented three roms of the upper floor, where the young Edvard was born.

So here, we are on historic ground, as few Norwegians have had the influence on world culture as Edvard Munch has had.

The haunted chapel at Rokoberget

In the middle of the forest, high up on a hill, an hour or so from Hamar you find the remains of an old church. The old church at Rokoberget in Løten was located by the old pilgrims road to Nidaros, the burial place of Saint Olav, the patron saint of Norway.

Today there are not much left of it, sadly neglected as it has been allowed to fall into disrepair. It was once dedicated to Saint Mikael. Still much of its past is shrouded in mystery. We do not know when it was built, but it was probably in the 13th century. The St. Mikaels Church is mentioned in a papal letter from 1254, and it is said to have been a healing spring by its walls.

We do not how long it was in use, but it may have decayed after the reformation, as the large cathedral at Hamar. At one of the corner post somebody has written the year 1567, and this may indicate that it was around this time it fell into decay.

My friend, Øyvind, told me that the local population is hesitant to visit the church ruins during night, as the place is said to be haunted. The place has a strong position in the local folklore as the area is part of an old landscape going far back in time. Today, however, plants and trees are reclaiming the site for itself, as the ruins are slowly taken over by vegetation.

This is surely a place off the beaten track for you to see. The ruins and the area around it has a stunning natural beauty. You can even stop by Rokosjøen lake to have a swim, and you can even take a snack at the local cafe.

Stop by the local Tourist Information to get direction, as it is certainly not easy to find.

Good Luck!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Samui Institute of Thai Culinary Arts

I am just back from a wonderful holiday in Thailand. It is a beautiful country with a fascinating history and culture -- so much to see, I am already planning to go back. One of the mail attractions for me was the food, from a quick street corner snack to elaborate luxury meals by moonlight right on the beach. Because I am in love with Thai food, I decided to enroll in a cooking class. And what a great idea it turned out to be!

By guest writer Susanne Koch

Before I even left home, surfing for info on the island of Koh Samui, I came across the Samui Institute of Thai Culinary Arts. The institute has been featured on both BBC and Globe Trecker, so I had no doubts about singing up for an afternoon class.

Ten people attended the class -- that's the maximum capacity of the institute. Upon arriving, we all received an apron (pictured) and a binder containing the recipes for the evening:massaman curry paste, massaman curry with chicken and potatoes, spicy King prawn salad, and pumpkin coconut milk soup with fish balls.

The recipes were accompanied by step-by-step photos. We all took notes as our instructor presented the recipes. She showed us the different ingredients needed, likegalangal , tamarind, palm sugar, and fish sauce. Then she taught us how to prepare the ingredients -- how to soften hard palm sugar, how to extract the juice from tamarind pulp, how to choose and chop chilies for your need (more on this in another post).

We each had a cutting board and a cleaver. Now assistants brought us individual platters with ingredients for each of the courses. While our instructor showed us the process, gave us tips and answered questions, we sliced, chopped, mixed, and pounded. In an hour everything was ready for cooking and we were awarded with a little break.

The cooking took place in a special teaching kitchen where we were placed in a semi circle, each with our own wok, facing the instructor in the middle (pictured). The assistants brought us the platters with the ingredients we had prepared and then we cooked them, watching her demonstration and receiving a helping hand from the assistants.

The cooking was a lot of fun and was done quickly. The resulting dishes looked like the real thing -- pretty and colorful.

When the class was finished, we had a feast! We had each cooked for two, so now we cloud invite a guest to come and taste our three course home made Thai dinner. In the institute's dining room we had a great little party, tasting theresults of our labours and commenting to each other on the colors, textures and tastes.

Now that I'm home again, I am already cooking Thai dishes, improvising and having a great time.

This is the first time I take a cooking class on my travels, but definitely no the last! The Traveller's Kitchen has a directory of cooking classes around the world.

Susanne Koch is an Internet professional who works as an e-learning and web communication adviser at the University of Oslo. She blogs about search engines and search engine optimization at Susanne loves to travel and blogs about her journeys at Susi's Souvenirs. You may also want to have a look at Susanne Koch's homepage.