Monday, 13 July 2009

A Twist on Curry at Home

Until two Sundays ago I'd only made stew-style curries. However, thanks to a suggestion from my sister I opted to attempt to make something different, a curry stir-fry. The inspiration to cook curry thanks to my discovering a vegetable that I haven't found that often in town: Thai eggplants. Eggplants come in various shapes and sizes, and I don't recall ever having Thai eggplants beforehand. Unlike ones commonly used in Italian cuisine, which are fairly large, wide and great for grilling, or those used in Chinese cuisine, which are long, slender and lend themselves better to stir-fries and hot pots, Thai eggplants are small and round. With the urge to try cooking these little vegetables, and still having some red curry paste to use, I decided to do a shrimp and eggplant stir-fry.

For this dish I used eight Thai eggplants chopped into bite-sized pieces, twenty large shrimp (seasoned with corn starch, pepper and Chinese cooking wine), one chopped medium onion, two cloves of chopped garlic, a large handful of basil (the larger leaves torn apart), and a heaping tablespoon of red curry paste (stirred and broken up in a teaspoon of hot water). I first stir-fried the shrimp briefly, pre-cooking them so that at least their exteriors were pink. Setting them aside, I then added a bit more oil and stir-fried the eggplant, garlic and onions until the onions were cooked and the eggplant started to soften, adding a splash of water in the beginning to allow some of the steam to do a bit of cooking as well and a pinch of salt . I then added the shrimp and finished cooking them together, shortly thereafter adding the curry paste. With all the ingredients well mixed and coated, I turned off the heat and finally added the basil, stirring the mixture further before I served it. I thought there was no need for me to add more salt, and I didn't add any more chillis to keep the dish generally mild, though saltiness and spiciness is naturally at every person's discretion.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Cookies and Milk, Australian Style!

While I was still in Australia back in May I was unable to try something that was uniquely Australian and started by that country thanks to a particular product made in that country and well-known amongst cookie lovers around the world. So, with that in mind, and with some Australian currency in need to be emptied from my pockets at Sydney International Airport, I stocked up on three (yes, three) packages of Tim Tams, of which one I gave to share with my department colleagues the day I returned for work. These cookies are quite unique in that the two biscuits used to sandwich the chocolate cream filling and together coated with chocolate are actually not entirely solid; the biscuits have a sort of micro-honeycomb structure allowing air or liquid to run through them. Thanks to that, the Tim Tam Slam was also invented, the practice of using the Tim Tam cookies as straws. Both ends are bitten off, one end is inserted into a liquid and voila, you have an edible straw.

Hot or cold liquids can be used. In my case tonight, I used cold milk. I'll admit I felt quite excited when I realized I could suck the milk through the cookie like a straw, and in a few seconds I could feel the cookie start to collapse as the biscuits started to soften from the milk. However, I managed to gobble up the cookies before they broke up any further, chewing virtually only on the chocolate as the biscuits had completely lost their volume and crunch. It was such a unique experience being a non-Australian, and I can see why Aussies have a special place in their hearts for Tim Tams and the Tim Tam Slam. (As for my colleagues, apparently none of them tried the Slam... most regrettably, their loss in my opinion.)

Next time I should perhaps try with hot milk and see if the chocolate cream in the middle melts as well. In that sense, I'm fortunate that I'll be having single-digit overnight temperatures this weekend in spite of being in the middle of summer. Unfortunately, I only have two boxes of Tim Tams from overseas; if anyone knows where I can buy these cookies in Canada (preferably Winnipeg, Toronto or Ottawa), I wouldn't mind stocking up on these beauties over the winter!