Wednesday, August 26, 2009

RECIPE : lemon iced tea

Iced tea (sweetened and unsweetened) is very popular here. It's nice and refreshing on a hot day. I know it's winter in Australia (with some wild weather in Melbourne we hear), so you might have to wait til the weather warms up to try it out.

Recipe from Ina Garten, Food Network
Makes lots

4 tea bags
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (5 to 6 lemons)
1/2 cup superfine (caster) sugar
3 lemon slices

Steep the tea bags in 4 cups of boiling water for 10 minutes. Discard the tea bags and allow the tea to cool.

Combine the lemon juice, sugar and 4 cups of cold water in a large pitcher. Add the tea and lemon slices. Serve over ice.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

RECIPE : chicken and smoked sausage etouffee

Etouffee is a Cajun dish, popular in southern Louisiana. We saw it made on Tyler's Ultimate (Ultimate French Quarter episode), while in LA and had been keen to make it since. This can also be made with seafood – here it would be crawfish or shrimp. The smoked sausage and chicken were great though, and this turned out better than what we've had at restaurants. Would highly recommend giving this
a try.

Recipe from Tyler Florence, Food Network
Serves 4

Extra-virgin olive oil
2 andouille sausages (or other smoked sausages)
4 pieces chicken maryland or thigh (with bone)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (or salted would be fine)
3/4 cup plain flour
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 celery sticks, roughly chopped
1 green capsicum, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic
1 (stubby) beer (newcastle brown ale worked well)
4 cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons paprika (or to taste, we put in about 3 tablespoons)
Pinch cayenne pepper (or to taste, we put in about 2 teaspoons)
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 spring onions, chopped (we didn't put any in)

Set a Dutch oven (cast iron pot) over medium heat and add a 2-count (a couple of tablespoons) of olive oil. Add the sausages and brown slightly. Remove and set aside on paper towel. Season chicken with plenty of salt and pepper and add skin side down to the pan. Cook over medium heat for 7 to 10 minutes, then turn to brown both sides of the chicken. Remove and set aside on paper towel.

With the pot still over medium heat add 2 tablespoons butter to melt with the fat (from the sausage and chicken) then add flour and whisk to incorporate, and then swap to a wooden spoon. Cook until it is nice and brown (you want a nice deep rich coloured roux – aim for the colour of peanut butter), about 10 to 12 minutes.

In a food processor add the onion, celery, capsicum, and garlic, and pulse to roughly chop. Add the vegetable pulp to the pot with the roux and stir with a wooden spoon. Cook over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes to sweat out some of the moisture, then deglaze the pot with the beer. Add the stock, bay leaves, paprika and cayenne. Return the chicken pieces to the pot and simmer until the chicken is tender, about 1 hour. Remove the chicken pieces from pot to a cutting board and shred the meat. Discard the bones and return the meat to the pot. Cut the andouille sausage into chunks and nestle back into the pot amongst chicken to heat through.

Give it all a final taste and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with plenty of parsley and spring onion. Serve with rice.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Have a look at some of the ads we're seeing on telly at the moment:
Outback Steakhouse (they have restaurants all over the country)
Orville Redenbacher popcorn
Baskin-Robbins ice cream and cake (my favourite)

Monday, August 17, 2009


It's Monday again, which means we've been in our apartment for a week (and in BR for three already). We spent the weekend pretty well – starting off on Saturday morning at the Red Stick Farmers Market in town. It wasn't as big as we were expecting, but seemed to have some good fresh veggies (not so much fruit). They also had a couple of stall holders selling seafood like shrimp (prawns) and crab. We picked up some potatoes, jalapenos (which I stuffed and baked, see below), and a tabasco chilli plant. I repotted the plant today and it's sitting on our balcony. Hopefully soon we can get some herbs growing out there too.

Jon heard from someone at work that there are a couple of asian grocers here. Keen to make fried noodles, the asian grocers were our next stop after the market. We found everything we needed from the Saigon Hong Kong Seafood Market – fish, soy and oyster sauces, fresh rice noodles, chinese broccoli. We also picked up a cheap mortar and pestle. It was great, just like any shop we've been in at Box Hill or Springvale. Vietnamese music playing in the background, Hennessy behind the counter, food sitting out that should be in a fridge... there were some pretty funky smells coming from the 'seafood section' too...

After a chat on Skype, we headed out to Ralph & Kacoo's for dinner. This place was recommended to us by a girl from the local cupcake shop for some Louisiana cuisine. Jon had shrimp topped steak, and I tried the Atchafalaya. Not bad, but maybe not the 'seafood excitement' the front door told us we'd get.

On Sunday, we had brunch at IHOP. Light, fluffy pancakes drenched with pecan maple syrup. Need I say more?!

We've passed a shed style fruit and veg shop called Southside Produce a number of times, and this weekend we actually went in to get a few things for the week's meals. It was great – everything seemed fresh and seasonal, but they also had some nice looking breads (not just the sugary, over packaged crap they sell at the shops – hence my bread baking), olive oils, dairy products, local sauces and honeys. Will definitely go back.

In the afternoon, I stuffed and baked the jalapenos from the market (recipe here). I used salami instead of chorizo and didn't bother with the egg though. They turned out deliciously hot and cheesy, mmm! For dinner, Jon made a favourite – fried noodles. The chinese broccoli we bought was a little bitter, but other than that, they were tasty!

Friday, August 14, 2009

settling in

Earlier this week we said goodbye to the trailer and moved into an apartment. It was actually kind of sad to leave the trailer. It was a good little place to start off. Quiet and cosy with nice surroundings.

Our new place is a one bedroom, one bathroom apartment in a big complex of hundreds of apartments. It already has a fridge, microwave and dishwasher (most apartments here do). We also have central aircon and heating, a fireplace (didn't think it got that cold here though!), nice high ceilings, plenty of storage and a balcony. It's also in a great area – not too far from work for Jon and close to shops and restaurants.

We've pretty much bought everything here from Walmart – tv stand, coffee table, couch, desk and chair, lamps, bedside tables and a mattress that came in a box. Yes, that's right, a REAL mattress in a BOX! (check out the pics on flickr).

It's been great to finally get a place, set it up and be able to unpack. It's still kind of weird to think this is our new home though (for a while). I'm imagining friends and family coming to visit and stay here with us, it's quite strange!

It's also so great to be able to cook again. We're keen to get in the kitchen and try making some southern food – etouffee, gumbo, jambalaya, and sweets like beignets and red velvet cake. Stay tuned for some recipes!

Friday, August 7, 2009

the red stick

So I think we've covered most of our trip getting here, now I can tell you about Baton Rouge. It is essentially a college/university town. There is not a great deal happening at the moment, but I have a feeling that once the semester starts, things will be pretty different.

We have been staying in a trailer (!) since we arrived almost two weeks ago. It's on the LSU AgCenter 'farm', and across from the research station where Jon will be working. We are surrounded by green grass, trees and fish ponds.

The trailer's been pretty good – it has electricity and hot water, so we have aircon, a fridge, microwave, stove, shower and toilet. It's been a bit hard to cook though, so I'll admit that we've had more microwave dinners and take-away than we would normally, but it's only temporary!

The others in the lab (where Jon will be working) have been great help, picking us from the airport (five hours after we were due to arrive), giving us lifts to the shops, and to look at apartments. Speaking of which – we signed the lease on a one bedroom apartment this week, and are keen to move in so we can unpack and finally start to settle.

Right now though, we are looking for a car to buy. Public transport here (we've been told) sucks. I've seen a few buses around, but really, you need a car to get around because everything's so spread out.

There is either a Walmart, Albertsons or Winn Dixie on almost every corner (otherwise it's a take-away chain). These are the mega chain stores, kind of like a Safeway or Coles put together with a Big W or Kmart. So you can pretty much buy anything there for cheap. We haven't come across any greengrocers, butchers or bakers, apparently they are quite uncommon here (I guess due to the gigantor stores taking over). We know of a farmer's market held downtown every Saturday though, so that's on our to do / go to list.

Also worth a mention is that the folks here like their sport. We had an idea that college sports were very popular, but didn't fully comprehend until passing the home stadium (Tiger Stadium) on the way to the farm from the airport. It is the same size as the MCG – no kidding. The stadium seats a hundred thousand! Their home baseball stadium seats about 40,000. Also there is a chain of shops called Tiger Mania that sell all the uni/team merchandise. You also see the team colours (purple and gold) everywhere here.

the lax to btr saga

LAX domestic is ridiculous, they need to have a look at Tullamarine and learn how to run an airport properly. We got there at 3am sunday night, and it took until about 5am to get our bags checked. It's set up so that passengers check themselves in, but no one knows how to use the system and there are only a couple of staff around to help. The layover at Houston was supposed to be about two and a half hours, but the flight was delayed by about half an hour. Then we sat in the plane on the runway for a bit, before being told that there was a problem with a wing flap or something and they needed to get it fixed before we took off. So we sat there for another two hours in the plane, then when we went to take off, the pilot came on to say the problem was back and we'd need to get another flight. Luckily they got us on to a flight leaving at 5:30, which was delayed by an hour, so we finally left at 6:30 and got to Baton Rouge about 7:30. The actual flights were fine, except that because the plane companies charge for all checked baggage, everyone takes suitcases as their carry-on luggage so the overhead compartments are packed pretty tight. All in all, I think I'd recommend the train. I've never tried it, and it might still get delayed, but at least you could get off and hitchhike.

la la land

It's almost hard to remember LA, it already feels like so long ago. Here are a few snippets from our first taste of the States:

It is warm and steamy! I'd say the weather (or mainly) the humidity (80% +) was harder to get used to than the time difference. It's different to an Aussie summer because that's a drier heat. Here, the air feels so thick and heavy. By the end of each day you kind of feel a bit gross and in need of a shower.

We stayed at a hotel in West Hollywood. Our room had some interesting artwork, and zebra print sheets (maybe this will give some idea about the artwork?!). Possibly not the nicest area or hotel, but definitely ok for three days. Would probably be great if you're the kind that likes to 'paaarty' ... we did hear a few people getting back noisily in at the wee hours of the mornings.

We spent an afternoon in Santa Monica, which turned out great after paying $40 for a taxi to get there! We weren't entirely sure where we wanted to go, so got a bit conned by the driver who told us it 'wasn't too far' ... sucked in. (Got back to the hotel by bus for only $5 though, so not too bad.) The shopping was good, came across some nice shops like H&M, Urban Outfitters and the very lovely Anthropologie. Saw some buskers, walked down the pier, and took some photos of the people on the beach that had walked half a kilometre to get to the water and were eating the sand cos it was so windy!!

A couple of other things to note: the coffees are BIG, and the cars are REALLY BIG. You can buy beer from a pharmacy. Oh yeah, and they drive on the wrong side of the road!