Christmas Kai Kai

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It can be quite hard to think about Christmas dinner in the Pacific in the middle of summer. The roast lamb with vegies doesn’t see­m to cut it! It is too hot to be standing in front of a stove all day then eating a hot dinner. So we all tend to do the BBQ thing, where we get our kebabs, prawns, salads, baked tarts, cakes, and filled chilly bin, and head off to the beach for a day or three.

Maybe this year you want to stay home? If so, let’s see what you can do. We have great produce here in Vanuatu and it is easily accessible, delicious and affordable!

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Ribeye on the BBQ with salsa verde and manioc batons.

My favorite cut of meat is the ribeye, and with the bone in it looks great! I have done a simple rib steak, manioc batons and salsa verde.

Char the beef and cook to your liking. All I add is salt and cracked pepper.

Salsa Verde translates to ‘green sauce’. It is yummy with beef and fish. I use parsley as it is in my garden.

Salsa Verde:

1 bunch parsley

1 tbsp capers

1 tbsp lemon juice

4 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper

Blitz it all up in the food processor. You can add more capers if you like it sour.

The manioc batons are easy and are a repeat of previous recipes. But again my favorite, it beats potato! Peel the manioc, cut it into batons and then blanch (half cook) in boiling water. Strain it, then deep fry, preferably in coconut oil. Season with salt and pepper before serving. TIP: The slower and longer you fry the manioc the crispier it is.

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Teouma Prawns cooked in their shells.

Teouma farmed prawns are delicious. I serve them at the Lava lounge, and they are great seller. Again, using simple ingredients, butter, garlic, salt and pepper and parsley. Personally, when cooking fresh prawns I believe you must leave the shell and head on. The shell keeps all that flavor in and makes it taste a whole lot better. Fry the prawns in a little butter and garlic. When nearly cooked, add more butter, salt, pepper and chopped parsley. Serve whole with a finger bowl and a cold towel to wash the fingers.

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Baked Cabbage

White cabbage, bok choy and green beans are locally available most of the year in our markets, organically grown and cheap!

Lovely white cabbage tend to be underused. It somehow became unfashionable and has left the plates of most chefs. We make coleslaw with it or stir fry it, and that is about all the cameo roles that the cabbage sees in our kitchens. Here is a simple, and different recipe for cabbage. Using a whole white cabbage, cut the cabbage from the middle of the core, so each piece is attached to a section of the core and it does not fall apart while cooking. Slice like a steak about 2 cm thick. If you have beef fat in the fridge, this is the best, if not, the next best thing is butter. Put the beef fat on top of the cabbage and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add a little stock or water. Bake in the oven until tender. Make sure there is moisture in the tray at all times so the cabbage does not burn. Once tender, place on a plate and pour the melted fat and stock over the cabbage. It is amazing.

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Marinated Spicy Bok Choy

Bok choy, white bune. What can you do with it? It is an Asian ingredient and very common in Vanuatu. Very common as well are limes, chilli, coriander and lemongrass. Add some garlic and soy sauce, and you have an impressive marinade.

Simply wash and cut half the bok choy, leaving the core so it holds together whilst cooking. I like to quickly char it on the BBQ or a grill plate to blacken it. Lay the bok choy on a baking tray.

For the sauce:

2 chilies

3 cloves garlic

3 tbsp coconut oil

2 leaves Chinese parsley (long leaf coriander)

1 stem lemongrass

1 lime

In a pestle and mortar, start with the garlic, then add chilies, lemongrass and Chinese parsley. Rub all these ingredients together. Take out the unwanted hard lemongrass pieces. Add coconut oil, lime juice and salt. This will give you a liquid paste for you to pour or marinate the bok choy in. Add the soy sauce and quickly stir fry the sauce in a pan. It is a big hit of flavours straight from the garden if you’re lucky, if not it’s a quick stop at the market. Drizzle the sauce over the bok choy and it is ready to serve.

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Deep-fried Green Beans

Green beans are another underutilized green vegetable. I love the long beans. I was introduced to them here in Vanuatu and I cannot return to the classic French bean. Here is a tasty recipe to glorify the humble bean.

Green beans

½ cup flour

2 eggs

Dash of milk

1 cup breadcrumbs

Wash the beans and cut into thirds. In this order, dust the beans with flour, egg wash, (beaten eggs with milk) and breadcrumbs. Deep fry in coconut oil.

If you prefer more of a tempura type batter, forget the breadcrumbs and in this order dust the beans in flour, egg wash and flour again and then deep fry.

Finish off with chunky salt and cracked pepper. Tell the kids it is the new French fry!

We do live in the Pacific, and our cuisine is Pacific Rim. So why not use the local ingredients available to us, almost all year around, to celebrate Christmas? If you are still a fan of the roast, you can easily accompany the ham or turkey with these amazing, flavorsome, organic and low cost dishes.

Last, but by no means least, there is dessert.

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Floating Island

Using my grandmother’s recipe, this dessert reminds me of her and the days we spent with her as a child. We would drink the custard first then eat the white fluffy clouds of sweet egg. It is a light dessert to eat without feeling naughty!

Back then there was no praline, but I love crushing up coconut caramel and sprinkling it on the top.

Sauce

2 vanilla beans

2 cups milk

6 eggs

½ cup sugar

Fluffy clouds

2 cups milk

4 eggs

pinch salt

¼ cup sugar

Caramel

½ cup sugar

¼ cup water

¼ cup dried coconut
For the sauce: Scrape seeds from vanilla bean halves into heavy small saucepan; add beans. Add milk and bring to simmer over medium-high heat. Remove from heat, cover, and steep for 10 minutes. Whisk egg yolks and sugar in heavy medium saucepan until thick, about two minutes.

Gradually whisk in warm milk mixture (including vanilla beans). Stir over medium-low heat until custard thickens leaving a path on the back of a spoon after your finger is drawn across – about nine minutes (do not boil). Strain custard into small bowl. Cover and chill until cold, at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.

For meringues: Pour milk into a pot and bring it to simmer over medium heat. Using electric mixer, beat the egg whites in a large bowl until foamy. Add salt and beat until whites hold soft peaks. Add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until whites are stiff and glossy.

Shape the meringues how you like them – balls or ovals with two spoons, dropping each one into milk. Simmer meringues for one minute. Using spatula, turn the meringues over in the milk. Simmer for one minute longer (meringues will puff up while poaching). Using a slotted spoon, transfer meringues to a towel and repeat the process, to make about 12 meringues. Transfer the meringues to a waxed-paper-lined baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours.

For caramel:  Stir sugar and 1/4 cup water in pot, over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and bring to the boil, brushing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to dissolve any sugar crystals. Boil until syrup is pale golden colour, occasionally swirling pan – about six minutes. Remove pan from heat and then add the coconut and stir it in. Pour the caramel onto some greaseproof paper and let it set. Then with a rolling pin crush the caramel into small pieces and sprinkle over the meringues.

To serve: Pour the sauce onto the plate, scoop the meringue cloud on top and sprinkle with the caramel.


Kandy’s Kitchen range of deli products is available at Libation, on Nambatu and at Organic Paradise in the Vanuatu Handicraft Markets.

For catering and other info, contact Kandy on [email protected], Ph +678 7735602, www.kandys-kitchen.com.

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