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Tag: Quinoa

Macau & African Chicken (Galinha a Africana)

On our recent trip to Vietnam, we had a day layover in Hong Kong on the way over and about a 12-hour layover on the way back. So, we took advantage of the time to visit with some friends who live in the area and to do a bit of sight-seeing. This is my second time in Asia and also my second time visiting both HK and Macau. The contrasts I observe I think will never cease to amaze me.

On the ferry from Kowloon to Mainland Macau

After landing in Hong Kong, we took the express train straight into Kowloon, where we had booked a hotel for the evening. We checked in, freshened up and headed for the ferry terminal. By the way on a side note, I still had my Octopus Card from about 6 years ago and it worked. The Octopus Card is like the Oyster Card in London, where you can top off as you go and use it for all the underground, busses and some ferries as well. However, one cannot use it for the ferry to Macau, or at least, we don’t think so.

Arriving in Macau

Arriving in Macau… first casinos are visible from the ferry

The journey over is about an hour from Kowloon to Macau. We learned, that since our last visit, there are new ferry lines now going to Taipa as well. Taipa is one of the two islands that along with the Mainland Macau make up this special administrative region. China took over Macau in 1999, after more than 400 years of Portuguese rule. One would think that after such a long time, more Macanese would speak Portuguese, after all it’s one of the official languages, it is still used in government buildings and all signs are in Portuguese, as well as Chinese. Yet, that’s not really the case. I had noticed this on my first visit here, and was again aware of this disparity when trying to communicate to the locals.

Our friend Mary, a Macanese, however speaks multiple languages, one of them being Portuguese. Mary picked us up at the Macau ferry terminal and we headed over one of the long bridges joining the region to Taipa to see the University of Macau, where my husband and she had studied about 12 years ago. The University, which will soon be transferred to mainland China, is located in a modern building on a hill. Most of Macau is made up of hills. And curiously one drives on the left here, just like in Hong Kong (in mainland China and Portugal, one drives on the right). From what we learned it seems that the reasons for this are purely economical rather than historical or cultural, since all cars are imported from Hong Kong.

Waterfront street near the Plaza of Sao Francisco Xavier

Same waterfront street

After a quick zip through the area, we headed over to Coloane, the second island, now joined to Taipa via a landfill. Coloane is also being colonized today, but in a new way. The region’s newest and largest casinos are prominently welcoming the visitor on what is the land-filled area, now called the Cotai Strip. In Coloane, one can still see vestiges of a Portuguese past in a laid back atmosphere, which is relaxing and inviting. It’s almost like stepping back in time. In fact, in the older areas of Macau, one feels like one is no longer in Asia (until the oppressive humidity and heat remind you otherwise) but somewhere on the streets of Lisbon or another part of Portugal. It’s truly a beautiful contrast.

Sao Francisco Xavier church and plaza

We parked along the water front, facing what is mainland China. Yet another contrast. It’s hard to imagine that across what seems like a little pond lies the big giant of the north and yet mainland Chinese are not allowed into Macau without special permission. Macau will remain a special administrative region until 2050, when it should be fully integrated into the rest of the country. And although that is not that far away, it is hard to fathom what type of changes could come about after integration, some maybe not so welcome.

Mary took us to the plaza of Sao Francisco Xavier, which is lined with Chinese restaurants on one side and Portuguese restaurants on the other. We chose a Portuguese one, facing the little church of Sao Francisco Xavier, where we enjoyed some traditional Macanese dishes, such as Bacalhau a Braz, Bok Choi in some special sauce (can’t recall) and African Chicken.  The three dishes are perhaps more symbolic than one would think at first. And they represent Macau’s history perfectly, which is a mixture of the Portuguese heritage, the Chinese roots and the influences of immigrants brought to China by the Portuguese, such as the African slaves.

Menu at the restaurant where we ate

Bacalhau a Braz and Bok Choi & Steamed Vegetables

African Chicken

Restaurant, where we ate

Part of the Plaza of Sao Francisco Xavier

After a delectable lunch, during which Mary had to rush off to get back to work, we strolled through the old parts of the village and then hopped on a bus to get back to Cotai, where we wanted to see what the Macanese version of the Venetian looks like (after all, one cannot come to Macau without visiting a casino, right?). The region’s economy is based on the gaming and tourism industries and it’s very quickly becoming the Las Vegas of Asia, with revenues tripling  those of its American counterpart.

Street in Coloane

Things we saw in Coloane

The Venetian and the other casinos on the Cotai Strip provide free shuttle busses to their sister casinos on Mainland Macau. So, we took advantage of this and went to the Sands casino, which is located across from the new shopping and recreation complex that is being built near the ferry terminal. The complex, when completed, will be amazing with stores, theaters, restaurants and attractions. Mary met us here again in the afternoon and whisked us away to tour the rest of the city. We went up Guia hill for a beautiful view of the city below.

Guia Lighthouse and Chapel – see the wedding couple being photographed?

View of Mainland Macau from the Guia Fortress

The Guia Fortress lighthouse and little chapel are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as is the historical center of Macau. The fort and the chapel were built in the 1600s, with the lighthouse being constructed much later between 1864-65. It’s the first western style lighthouse to be built in east Asia. We were joined on our tour by couples taking their wedding pictures at the fort. It seems like it was the season for weddings on this trip, as I also witnessed many couples taking their wedding pictures, while in Ha Noi. 😉

One of the Portuguese colonial mansions in Mainland Macau

Garden in Mainland Macau

Commemorative plaque at the entrance of the gardens

The Macau Venetian casino, inside

Inside the Venetian

Chinese Pavilion & Koi Pond, part of the new shopping & entertainment complex

After our quick tour, as we needed to get back for dinner with other friends, we bid farewell to Mary and Macau, and boarded the ferry back to Hong Kong.

My African Chicken – Mi Galinha a Africana

AFRICAN CHICKEN (GALINHA A AFRICANA)

For the original recipe, click here.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5-2 kilos of chicken pieces or whole chicken, cut into pieces (I purchased drumsticks, as that’s all I found at Tesco’s)

For the Marinade:

  • 1 teaspoon chili powder (more or less according to how spicy you would like this; I for example didn’t use any)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon pimenton (or paprika if you don’t have it)
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese 5-spice powder (a mixture of star anise, cinnamon, fennel, black pepper and cloves)
For the Sauce:
  • olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup garlic, minced (it’s about 1 head of garlic)
  • 1/4 cup sweet paprika
  • 1/4 cup pimenton
  • 3/4 cup grated coconut
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews (the original recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, as the peanuts are originally an African legume; feel free to substitute)
  • 1 1/2 cups water or chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric

Chicken marinating

Process:
The night before, marinate the chicken pieces: mix all of the ingredients for the marinade together and rub into chicken. Place the chicken in a bowl or dish and cover with plastic wrap. Let the chicken marinate overnight. (The fridge will smell delicious every time you open it!)
Make the sauce:
1. Over medium heat, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the raw cashews. Slightly brown and remove from heat. Scoop out the cashews with as little oil as possible and place in a mortar. With the pestle grind them finely. Set aside.

Ground cashew (pimenton from Spain in the background)

2. Heat about 1/4 cup olive oil in a saucepan or wok over medium to medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes, stirring often so the garlic will not burn. Add the paprika, pimenton, coconut and turmeric and cook for another few minutes. Add the chicken broth or water, coconut milk, bay leaves and ground cashews. Simmer for 10 minutes over low heat. Remove the bay leaves. (The sauce can be made ahead of time, just warm up before finishing the dish.)
To Finish the Dish:
Preheat oven to 200C (about 400F). In a wok or large skillet, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium to medium-high heat. Brown the chicken pieces on all sides. Once browned, transfer the chicken to an oven-proof dish and cover with the sauce. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked and the sauce is bubbly.
Traditionally, this dish is served with rice. However, I served it with a “salad” of quinoa, pomegranate and wild rocket leaves.

Ready to be served…

…and ready to be eaten… 😉

Quinoa, pomegranate and wild rocket “salad”

Pimientos Rellenos con Quinoa – Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Yesterday morning, I finally managed to meet up with two ladies from the American Women’s Club to check out some local riding stables. I think we all concurred on one of the two we saw and will be starting with our lessons soon. I just can’t wait to be on a horse again…it’s been too long! We got a tour of the stables, met some of the horses that were around, and learned a few interesting things during our inspection. It’s always intriguing to find out how things are done differently in other countries. In the UK, when riding a horse from a stable or going on lessons, one cannot ride alone and must always have an instructor by the side for insurance purposes, unless the horse belongs to you, of course. (Then you’re allowed to ride alone.) For a beginner or someone who is rusty, like myself, it’s actually comforting to know this, since it takes a while to establish a rapport with a new horse. But I’m sure that for the more experienced rider it could be a nuisance. In Germany, on the other hand, we were allowed to ride on our own. Yet, in Germany and the Netherlands, if you do not have a certificate with your handicap, you are not allowed to play golf! We haven’t gone golfing here yet.. so no idea how things work in that arena! Every country does things differently. That’s part of the fun of living abroad and being an ex-pat, all these quirky things we get to experience.

One of the things I don’t like about ex-pat life is having only one car. Because we are living in a big city, parking is just not practical with two vehicles. Shopping for groceries can prove to be quite an uncomfortable experience (unless one gets delivery). We usually get our bi-weekly shopping done with the car; but in between, we do shop locally, which means carrying the bags home, an ordeal that can be cumbersome. And if it’s raining like yesterday, you have to perform a juggling act between your purse, the bags, and the umbrella or simply get soaked. I opted for the latter and had an interesting hair do by the time I arrived home with all the bags. 😉

But, as I’m preparing a few surprises for my husband’s birthday next week, I decided to grab the things I needed on way home anyway. However once in the store, I got so distracted that I forgot one of the main ingredients for my surprise! My distraction was looming in the vegetable aisle, where the most gorgeous looking bell peppers I’ve seen in a while were so beautifully stacked.

They looked absolutely perfect for stuffing. So, I bought three of each colour and came quickly home to put out the ground meat to thaw. The recipe that follows is inspired by one of my mother’s, but with quite a few changes of my own. It turned out delicious; and my husband helped himself to seconds!

PIMIENTOS RELLENOS CON QUINOA – QUINOA STUFFED PEPPERS

Ingredients, for 6:

  • 6 large bell peppers (I used yellow and green)
  • 500g lean ground beef
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4-5 brown mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons thyme
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • sea salt, to taste
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed

Process:

Rinse the bell peppers, and cut the tops off, leaving the stem on them. Remove the seeds. Set aside.

Place the quinoa with 2 cups of water in a pot over medium heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 20 minutes, covered.

Preheat oven to 180C, about 350F.

In the meantime, in a skillet or wok, heat about 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and saute for about 3 minutes. Add the ground meat and brown, cooking thoroughly. Add the mushrooms, tomatoes and spices, and cook about 3-4 minutes. Add the wine and cook an additional 5 minutes, or until the wine evaporates. Mix in the quinoa, and adjust for salt, if necessary.

Place the bell peppers in an oven-proof dish (making sure they fit snugly so they do not tip over) and drizzle the insides with some olive oil. Spoon the meat mixture into each pepper, and cover the peppers with their own tops. Drizzle with additional olive oil over the covered peppers. Place in the middle rack of oven and bake for 25-30 minutes.

We ate our stuffed peppers with a side of sautéed bok choi.

Note: I don’t like to use aluminum foil when cooking. So, the peppers got a little “burnt” on top. If you do use aluminum foil, just place a sheet over the peppers, so they do not burn.  Or perhaps a sheet of parchment paper would also do the trick. I’ll have to try that next time!

Quinoa Stuffed Aubergines – Berenjenas Rellenas con Quinoa

I love quinoa. I learned about it, while living in the US from a friend of the family’s, who is from Ecuador. She explained that it was the “miracle” food of the Incas. And when I hear about something new and healthy, I immediately want to try it, of course. Fast forward a few years, and I’m still eating quinoa. But the thing is I hardly vary my recipe and it’s starting to get boring.
So, for dinner tonight, I’d thought I would pair a traditional Mediterranean vegetable with my favourite (pseudo) cereal.
For nutritional information about quinoa, the World’s Healthiest Foods site is a good reference.
Quinoa Stuffed Aubergines
Ingredients, for 4
  • 2 medium or large aubergines
  • 1 large tomato, cut into squares
  • 1 medium courgette, peeled and cut into squares
  • 1 medium onion, cut julienne style
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons thyme
  • 3 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • a pinch of ground cloves
  • sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon parsley
  • olive oil
  • 1 cup of uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese, for garnish (optional)
Process
Prepare the quinoa with chicken broth instead of water, in advance. (Quinoa usually is cooked with double the amount of liquid as the amount of dry quinoa. Bring the broth to a boil, add the dry quinoa and simmer 10-15 minutes. Let stand 5-10 minutes before using with the rest of this recipe.)Wash and cut the tops and bottoms of the aubergines. Cut the aubergines in halves and scoop out the pulp, leaving about a 1 cm core. Sprinkle with salt and set aside. Cut the pulp into squares.

In a wok or frying pan, over medium heat add about 5 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and saute until slightly transparent. Add the aubergine pulp, courgette, and saute about 5 minutes. Add the tomato, thyme, cumin seeds, and a pinch of ground cloves and cook until aubergine and courgette are tender. Add sea salt, to taste.
Mix the cooked quinoa with the cooked vegetables; add chopped parsley and toss. Stuff each aubergine shell with the quinoa mixture.
In a glass ovenproof dish, place the stuffed aubergines and drizzle generously with olive oil on top and around.
Bake at 180C for 15 minutes or until the shells are tender. The quinoa will bake as well and become crisp. If you do not like it crisp, you may want to add a bit more olive oil over each aubergine.
Place on serving dish and garnish with parmesan cheese and more parsley.
Enjoy!
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