Monday, July 26, 2010

Cooking up a storm....

I really love cooking. Over the years I’ve learnt to be careful and not eat as I cook and eat sparingly of the finished product, but I do love food.

Otherwise the hips would overflow and I would be one of those people that would be forced to purchase an extra seat on the plane – "side fat" the boy child calls it. Who hasn’t sat next to that large person on a plane and been swamped by their side fat. Not nice.

Yes I really do like cooking. I’ve joined this International Cooking Group here in town. An eclectic mix of the most wonderful people from all over the world and the Middle East. We have a ball. I count myself lucky to be invited to join. The nature of the group and its activities mean that numbers need to be capped and a balance kept so that one group doesn’t dominate. There’s a limit of 2 from any country and I’m the only one where English is their first language.

It is a hoot!

A big commitment - we meet every week at a different home and the hostess for the week does a demonstration of something from their national cuisine. We start early everyone having brought something for morning tea. We do coffee, talk and then cook and end with lunch and if we’re lucky the hostess has karaoke and then we can go all afternoon. We have so much fun. We learn and share and talk and cook. We get great ideas about food and also different ways of doing things. We share cultures and language.

Sometimes my head spins. I am so humbled by these wonderful ladies whose command of half a dozen languages astounds me flipping from one language to another as they converse across the table. My rudimentary French has improved and while my conversation is basic and limited I am understanding more and more the drift of the French conversations that happen. My Arabic is even more rudimentary but I have wonderful support from those ladies that can speak it to learn more and more. Everyone is helpful and fun.

So what does an Australian cook at an International Cooking Group. I really couldn’t come at anything with vegemite! Wasn’t fussed on doing Anzac Biscuits or a pie! Our food is such a fusion of the multicultural nation that we are. I didn’t have access to the bush herbs and spices that you can get in supermarkets in Australia. So what to do?

Last week was my turn and facing this dilemma was hard. My solution of course was chocolate. A bit like the Godfather thing where the solution is always to “go to the mattresses” my solution is always to go to the chocolate – preferably dark chocolate. Is there any other sort of chocolate to cook with?

Going over the border to the nearest Carrefour (why don’t they come to Australia?) I returned laden with dark chocolate (Dutch), French cream (well UHT), French butter (unsalted of course), rice bubbles and French white cooking chocolate. Well the ingredients may not have been Australian, the recipes weren’t as well but the cook and the attitude and the zest for good food certainly was all Australian.

So what did I cook? Easy! Chocolate spiders, Mars Bar Slice, Nigella’s Molten Chocolate Baby Cakes and Nigella’s Snow Flake Brownies. Nigella and chocolate I truly believe are synonymous and she makes it sooooo easy.

I had to send out a disclaimer though, I wasn’t going to be responsible for people making themselves sick, gaining weight and generally eating too much.

It was a great morning, smooth liquid chocolate melting and mixing and stirring and forming into such yummy treats. Only problem is I think I have turned people off chocolate for at least 3 months.

Were there leftovers after I sent everyone off with little parcels to take home? Well there were a few - a box of brownies and 2 pieces of Mars Bar Slice.

The man in my life loves a chocolate treat. He’d called to see if there was any of that "Rice Bubble stuff" left. I’m sure it was the Mars Bar Slice calling to me all afternoon from the refrigerator. Needless to say those 2 little pieces of slice didn’t last until he got home and when he did get home I said I would make him some more. I explained what we would need to get to make another batch.

"Oh" he said. "That’s not the rice bubble stuff I meant". It turns out the man in my life loves Chocolate Crackles. Almost 24 years we have been married and I never knew. So I promised I’d make Chocolate Crackles for him. A bit of creative shopping substituting coconut oil for copha and I have a happy man!

It just goes to show there is always something new you can learn about each other!

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