A surprising success: Futunan stuffed bananas

There’s an episode of Friends (‘The One Where Ross Got High’, for those playing along at home) in which Monica deigns to let Rachel contribute to the cooking of Thanksgiving dinner by making a trifle for dessert. One can only assume that Monica was pretty confident that Rachel wouldn’t be able to mess that up. What she didn’t foresee was the pages of the cookbook getting stuck together, leading Rachel to create a bizarre combination of trifle (jam, custard, cream, bananas) and shepherd’s pie (beef, peas, onions). Unsurprisingly, in the words of Judy Geller, the end result ‘did not taste good.’

507 Rachel's trifle Continue reading

Slightly Chinese supper: Samoan chop suey

A couple of weekends ago, we spent a night in Amsterdam. Actually, Miranda spent four nights there, as she had to go for a few days for work (such a hardship), but Ash flew out on Saturday morning so we could have the weekend there together. We enjoyed exploring landmarks such as Wynand Fockink and the Cheese Museum: both foodie destinations, so probably no surprise there.

499 Wynand Fockink

500 Dressed up as cheese people

Of course, we had other gastronomic adventures at mealtimes, such as a traditional Dutch dinner at Restaurant Greetje and the famous appeltart at Winkel. Our final meal before flying home on the Sunday night was another Dutch speciality: rijstafel at Sampurna. Whilst the dishes in a ‘rice table’ are entirely Indonesian, the banquet-style service is apparently a Dutch invention, dating back to when Indonesia was a Dutch colony. Miranda had eaten a rijstafel before, Ash hadn’t – but the bottom line was that we certainly weren’t going to go to another country without taking every opportunity to eat as much food as possible. And there is certainly a lot of food in a rijstafel.

501 Rijstafel

But why are we talking about either The Netherlands or Indonesia when today’s dish is from Samoa? Well, it’s a slightly tenuous segue into the fact that what we made is not of entirely ‘traditional’ origins either, and has borrowed inspiration from a country that is certainly not a Pacific Island. Today we bring to you chop suey – known much more widely as being a Chinese dish, not a Samoan one. However, the plot thickens further, as apparently chop suey is much more prolific amongst Chinese Americans rather than in China itself. Either way, it’s also considered a national dish of Samoa, and the fact that it doesn’t contain any coconut immediately won points from Ash. Wikipedia tells us that a traditional chop suey is served with rice, but this recipe is with noodles. We tweaked the original recipe slightly and were also fairly approximate with our measurements. Continue reading

Surprisingly good supper: Tokelauan sweet and sour fish

We mentioned last week that we’d never actually heard of Tokelau, the next country on our list. Some research was therefore required! We found out that this nation is actually a territory of New Zealand and has a land area of only 10km2. It’s therefore probably unsurprising that it doesn’t really seem to have a distinctive national dish. Despite quite a lot of Googling, the only thing we could find for a long time was a blogger trying to complete a similar challenge to ours, who said that there were no Tokelauan recipes to be found. Things were not looking good!

However, then we finally found a Tokelauan information publication, which included a recipe for sweet and sour fish. Now, like us, you might be thinking that that sounds more like a Chinese takeaway dish than one originating in the Pacific Islands, and you’re probably right. However, apparently the tourist market has brought a Chinese influence into the nation’s cuisine, and this recipe says it has been adapted to suit Tokelau and the ingredients available. Given the lack of other published recipes, this seemed about as close as we were going to get to a Tokelauan dish, so we decided to go for it. The quantities in the recipe were very approximate, so here is what we used.

Sweet and sour fish

550g coley (or other firm white fish), cut into large cubes
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
1 small tin of pineapple slices, drained
2 tbsp sugar
A good squirt of tomato puree (1-2 tbsp?)
About 1 tbsp of tomato ketchup
Cooking oil
Salt (not in the original recipe but we thought it needed it)

1. Season the cornflour and use it to coat the fish. (We didn’t add the salt until later, once we’d tasted it, but in hindsight would add it here.)
2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the fish in batches until nicely browned. (The recipe said deep fry; we shallow fried. It’s probably a matter of preference.) When cooked, place in a bowl on the side.
3. Chop the pineapple and fry in the same pan until soft. Add the tomato puree, tomato ketchup and sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves. Let it boil for 3-4 minutes.
4. Add the frozen vegetables, stir, and cook for 3 minutes or until heated through.
5. Return the fish to the pan and mix through.
6. Serve with rice.
Serves 2 generously or could stretch to 3.


Sweet and sour sauce beginnings

Sweet and sour fish

Sweet and sour fish

If we’re honest, we weren’t really looking forward to eating this. Neither of us likes Chinese sweet and sour, so we wouldn’t have opted to cook it ourselves if we’d had more of a choice. However, we were pleasantly surprised. Considering the lack of fresh ingredients, it didn’t taste artificial like the takeaway version (despite the unmistakeable luminescent red hue of the sauce at the start of cooking), and although it was more sweet than sour, it actually wasn’t too overpowering. Shallow frying the fish gave it enough of a crispy coating for our tastes, but if you like the unidentifiable balls that you get with a Chinese takeaway, deep frying as per the original recipe might be for you.

Another major bonus of this dish was that it was very quick and easy to make – although we would recommend getting your fishmonger to remove all scales and bones from your piece of fish if you want it to be even quicker than it was for us…

Next up is Samoa. We were slightly concerned that Samoan food would be the same as American Samoan food, and it pretty much is, but we have already found the recipe that we are going to cook and it’s definitely not the same as our paifala. Stay tuned – although not next weekend because we’re off to Amsterdam, woohoo!

Pineapple pasties: American Samoan paifala (half-moon pies)

Ash’s uncle, a regular reader, recently described our blog as a cross between Bridget Jones’s Diary and Ready Steady Cook. Miranda would like to think of herself as slightly more successful in life than Helen Fielding’s hapless heroine, but can admittedly see that there may be some resemblance between both parties’ ramblings. The Ready Steady Cook comparison came from the fact that sometimes we have to substitute ingredients due to availability and that it’s all a bit of an experiment.

To a small extent, this is true of today’s recipe, which called for crushed pineapple, a luxury that is unavailable at our local London version of a supermarket, so we’ve had to use sliced pineapple cut up small. Not the most outlandish substitution, sure – but at least we’re remaining true to type.

Today’s country is American Samoa. The official national dish of this Pacific Island is palusami, which is taro leaves baked in coconut cream. This posed two problems: 1) we don’t know where to find taro leaves, and 2) Ash’s perpetually difficult dislike of coconut. So we looked further afield and found a recipe for paifala, or half-moon pies. It’s a long time since we made a decent international dessert, and these pineapple turnovers looked nice, and that was how they became the dessert course of tonight’s roast chicken dinner. Continue reading

Polynesian pathways: Tongan keke vai with banana

Once again, we’ve been somewhat absent from the blogging world lately, but you’ll all be pleased to know that this is the last time we’re going to use ‘We were planning a wedding’ as an excuse. Yes, you read correctly: nearly 14 months after getting engaged, we have successfully had one wedding in Australia and a celebration of the same in the UK. Both events were wonderful and we are now faced with the challenge of readjusting to normal life.

We were lucky enough to have Miranda’s mum over from Australia for Wedding #2, and being the feeders that we are, decided to treat her to a Tongan recipe: keke vai (pancakes) with banana. We ate these for breakfast, but they would be equally appropriate for morning or afternoon tea, or even dessert. Continue reading