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The rarely updated blog of Joel Dixon

Viewing blogs posted in 2013

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Argentinian / Australian Feast (well ... meal)

# Posted by Joel Dixon at 29/10/2013 19:50:22
Updated by Joel Dixon at 13/01/2015 12:08:01


Apparently time flies when you are enjoying life - as Pao and I celebrated our one-year anniversary this past weekend. The one present request that Pao made of me was that I cook her dinner - so I decided upon Australian / Argentinian fusion. I also gained immediate fear knowing that I would stuff it up somehow.

I have mentioned before my great surprise at the lack of empanadas in Australia - so I couldn't think of a better first course:

Emp A

Ingredients

Dough
Flour, 3 cups
Egg yolk
Lard or butter, 1/2 cup
Warm milk, 3/4 to 1 cup
Salt, 1/2 tsp.

Beef filling
Mince beef, 450 grams
White onions, 2 diced
Lard or butter, 1/2 cup
Smoked paprika, 2 tbs.
Chili powder, 2 tbs.
Fresh oregano, 1 tbs. finely chopped
Ground Cumin, 1/2 tbs.
Green onions (scallions), 1 bunch finely chopped
Hard boiled eggs, 3 sliced
Green olives, 1/4 cup sliced
Salt and Pepper to taste
Egg, white and yolk separated and lightly whisked

Cheese and Onion filling
Mozzarella cheese, 3 cups
White onion, 1 diced

Method

Dough
1. Mix flour with salt until well combined.

2. Add butter and blend well.

3. Add egg yolk and milk in small amounts, mix until small dough clumps start to form.

4. Make balls out of the mixture and flattern into discs. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

5. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a thin sheet and cut round discs.

6. Store in refridgerator / freezer until ready to use.

Emp B
I could never keep the circle intact when removing the disc from the table - hence the ellipses

Beef filling
1. Mix beef, paprika, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Chill until ready to use.

2. Melt the lard in a large frying pan, add the onions and salt and cook until the onions are soft (about 8 minutes).

3. Add the meat mixture to the onions and cook on medium heat until the meat is done - stirring frequently.

4. Let the meat mixture cool down, then mix in green onions and oregano.

Cheese and Onion filling
1. Mix cheese and onion.

Assembling the Empanadas
1. Add a spoonful of mixture to the centre of each disc. For the meat filling, add a slice of egg and olive.

2. Brush the edges of the empanada discs with the egg white to help seal.

3. Fold the empanada discs and seal the edges gently with your fingers, twist and fold the edges of the empanada with your fingers, then press down with a fork.

4. Lightly brush the top of the empanada with the egg yolk to give colour when baking.

5. Let the empanadas rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

6. Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees celsius and then bake for 25 minutes.

Emp C
I found the empanada recipes on this site - and there's plenty more to be found there.

For the main course I decided on kangaroo steak (which wasn't that bad, but not my favourite type of meat it turns out) with baked potatoes and pumpkin. I really liked the potatoes - so here's the recipe for them (the pumpkins do not fare very well using this method):

Main

Ingredients

Potatoes
Oil (macadamia is what we used, but any vegetable oil should suffice)

Method
1. Peel potatoes and cut into 5cm chunks, placing into a saucepan of water.

2. Bring potato water to the boil over a medium-high heat.

3. Reduce heat to medium and simmer potatoes for 15 minutes.

4. Drain water and place back on heat until remaining water is evaporated. Shake the saucepan to rough up the potato surface.

5. Place oil in a roasting pan and place in oven.

6. Add potatoes to hot oil. Use tongs to turn potatoes to coat in the oil - then return pan to oven.

7. After 20 minutes turn potatoes and continue to cook. Remove when they look especially delicious and add salt.

Flynn
Our dessert was this incredible Flynn-Paff fruit salad

So, I didn't stuff it up too much in the end. Although Pao did find it delicious - so it seems I might have to do the cooking more often than I currently do



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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Buenos Aires, Argentina - 2013

# Posted by Joel Dixon at 22/09/2013 11:46:54
Updated by Joel Dixon at 13/01/2015 12:08:17


Our final city in Argentina started with a long car ride from Bombal to Buenos Aires. Due to the distance (about a 4 - 5 hour drive) our trip contained a quick stop in San Pedro to catch up with a couple that I met during the Rosario wedding. After more delicious meat and an enjoyable tour of San Pedro we continued on to Buenos Aires.

After watching Boca Juniors defeat their rivals River Plate on the hotel television, we went for a quick walk around the city in search of some dinner. This is when I was first struck by the two sides of Buenos Aires. We had just stepped outside of our semi-fancy hotel, looking out towards the widest street in the world and the impressive Obelisco de Buenos Aires (plus the largest McDonald's I've seen) when my gaze was diverted to the three homeless people rooting through the dumpster right in front of us - presumably collecting items of value. This was a common theme - very visible poverty right next to grand displays of excess. We finished the evening with a spirited few games of bowling - which is neither here nor there - but just some great fun.

Pointy
Pointy and tall - exactly what I'm after in an obelisk

McTime
I figure this is a good time to point out that I have now eaten McDonalds on all 6 of the 6 continents that contain a store. As soon as Antarctica gets a Mickey Ds - I'll be on my way

Dumpy
How most of the dumpsters look due to local forragers. Not sure if they found any babies

Over the next two days we decided to catch the sites from the ease of a tourist bus, presumably the quickest and safest way. I've engaged the services of "hop-on, hop-off" buses in many cities before and always found them an excellent method of getting around the city. That is, of course, until I tried the Buenos Aires Bus. An hour long wait standing in the queue, not nearly enough buses for the number of patrons and a terrible audio/visual component that infuriated rather than informed combined to create a very unpleasant experience. Oh - and one of the buses we were on actually broke down and we all had to get off for 30 minutes to await the next one. Still, we were able to see an acceptable amount of sights and started to get a little feel for the city (not the nicest of feels as you can imagine) so I guess the bus served its purpose.

Busline
The number of people waiting to get onto the tourist bus (this particular bus in frame did not allow any passengers on the top level due to a maintenance issue)

MouthStadium
Boca Stadium is not in the nicest part of town, but the blue / gold colour scheme is pretty impressive

Colours
La Boca is full of these colourful houses due to the locals putting together whatever materials they could find. Perhaps they should have setup a website which they could use to keep all the same coloured metals on the same buildings

NiceBit
It wasn't all bad, we found this nice park in the Puerto Madero area

Chortle
These two were pretty funny - I prefer to not think about what happened to this chair before I sat upon it

This Buenos Aires post is quite short as we only really stayed there for two nights and had a very superficial visit. But fear not as I will now provide some further thoughts on Bombal and Rosario.

During my driving tour of Canada and throughout my time in Europe I enjoyed the sights and sounds - but I always felt I was missing the local experience. I wished I could meet and communicate with the locals in a more meaningful way, and really know what it would be like to live as part of that culture. Fortunately, with Pao as my conduit, I was able to achieve this during my stay in Argentina. Unfortunately, it wasn't as enjoyable an experience as I had been hoping.

Don't get me wrong - the time I spent with Pao's family in Bombal was awesome - and although it was very tiring it was time well spent. Pao's Dad and brother harvest corn, soy and wheat around Argentina - and I got to see the inner workings of his combine harvester. We also took a tour around a few of the paddocks that they had harvested - as well as an Uncle's farm in the area. Meeting friends, heading down to the local bakery and celebrating Pao's brother's birthday all added to the feeling of being part of an amazing family.

Weldish
I suspect Inspector Gadget was welded together by somebody with as much experience as me (see the welding on the left). It's no wonder his roller skates are always coming out when he wants his umbrella

MachineBrain
Just one part of the inner workings of the harvester (I got to climb in and all around it) - you can almost smell the glorious spice from here

The part of being an Argentinian local that was less enjoyable was the rest of the time.

As well as not experiencing the complete culture of cities in the past - I have avoided thinking about the full negatives of those cities. This time, as I was evaluating the idea of living in Argentina, I paid a lot more attention. I picked up on the little things that would grate on me if I ever lived in Rosario or Buenos Aires. Things like graffiti and litter everywhere, horribly selfish and dangerous driving (with a terrible pedestrian experience that almost rivals Italy) and a crime problem that requires you to "buzz in" to any store you wish to frequent are just the start of the problems I could see with living in an Argentinian city. That being said - I could see myself enjoying life in a small town near Bombal and Pao's family. Not sure how strong the job market is for a .NET developer in those regions however.

FlagBuilding
Not all of Rosario is bad - Pao almost forgot to take me to see this impressive flag-designed building

JoelsGut
Then again - if Joel is the new City Councillor - how can I not consider living in Argentina



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Thursday, September 12, 2013

# Posted by Joel Dixon at 12/09/2013 01:58:31
Updated by Joel Dixon at 13/01/2015 12:08:32






Red Rings
Argentina has never hosted the Summer Olympics - I wonder if their attempt at the Olympic Rings is part of that

Mr Ducky
These two Mr. Duckys had heard about Ducky Poos and wanted to meet him. Or they wanted bread - one of the two



Newish
This is the kind of location I could imagine living in, and on the left is the style of backpack I will probably be wearing

Fencing
In Argentina you'll find more fences than at your local Cash Converters

I fear I may have neglected descriptions of the Argentina food in my last blog - so here's an update. Firstly, why doesn't Australia have empanadas, alfajores or dulce de leche? Empanadas are similar to pasties but with a more delicious pastry and a better selection of delicious fillings, I'm sure these would do well in Australia. Alfajores are a fantastic confectionery that varies in each region you visit - which goes hand in hand with dulce de leche a sweet caramel spread. We shall be bringing some dulce de leche home with us - along with some of Coke's new product Coca-Cola Life. This is a new formula of Coke, being tested only in the Argentinian market, which uses stevia as well as sugar as sweeteners. McDonalds also serves their breakfast "sandwiches" on a bagel - what's with that? Great idea to have a hole in the middle of the bread that should be holding together an egg and some cheese.

Pastry
Empanadas shown in their natural form - partially eaten

Lomo
The Coke of life. This picture also shows lomo - which is what the Argentinians call tenderloin - in a burger. Lomo, other than sounding cool, tastes great

Maccas
Hotcakes in Argentina come with dulce de leche instead of syrup - that's good. The muffins have holes in them - that's bad. At least neither of them contain potassium benzoate

We also took a trip to Carlos Paz, which has certainly had it's share of notable events. Carlos Paz was quite beautiful, but really had a feel of a Summer party town - especially because we're not in Summer. Most of the stores were closed and we hardly saw anyone (other than a few oldies that had been bussed in).

Carlos
Houses in Carlos Paz were quite nice - especially with the mountains in the background - but the fences made another appearence



Chubby Rain
Rain of hamburgers 2 - now that would be some Chubby Rain!



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Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Rosario and Bombal, Argentina - 2013

# Posted by Joel Dixon at 04/09/2013 21:12:23
Updated by Joel Dixon at 12/01/2015 23:32:11


When I last updated this blog I had just returned from my three month holiday in Europe - happy with all I had achieved and eagerly expecting the arrival of the best souvenir from the trip - my new girlfriend Paola. I had met Pao in a tour bus during my travels and somehow convinced her to spend a year in Australia instead of returning to her home country of Argentina. We've driven the Great Ocean Road, caught a footy game in Perth and reinforced my view that people from Sydney are crazy - but now a wedding invitation has given me a chance to experience life in Argentina, and to meet Pao's family.

The flights were event-free - other than serving to remind me that international travel is the worst time to be tall. We basically travelled for 36 hours (including an 8 hour recess at Pao's Rosario apartment) to arrive at Paola's parents house in Bombal completely exhausted. Imagine our surprise when the 5-person lunch we were expecting turned into a 21-place extended family gathering to welcome Pao back home. Thankfully the food was delicious, everyone was extremely nice and Pao's sister had also brought a boyfriend home - whom could speak Spanish - so he received all the difficult questions.

Meat
The cuisine of Argentina is simply described - lots of meat.

After some food I was taken on a bit of a tour of the town and I found it quite strange. Perhaps I am mistaken - but my memory of small Australian country towns is of very few houses with a lot of space separating them and paddock-bashers being used to get around the fields. Bombal was best described as a mini-city. The 7-by-7 town block had dense housing similar to an outer Eastern suburb back home. Bombal is also home to a car dealership, oil factory and a large petrol station - things I wouldn't expect in an Australian town of 3,500 people.

As part of the town tour - we stopped into the milk bar so I could sample the local candy on offer - and I think I now know why Pao and I were brought together. I distinctly remember first watching the debut-season Simpsons episode The Crepes of Wrath, in which Bart is sent to France on an exchange program where he is forced into slavery as his captors put antifreeze into the wine. The part of that episode that sticks out of my mind is when Bart tries to explain his situation to the local law enforcement - the police man does not understand Bart and so instead gives him a piece of candy.

Candy
"I ... I don't want a piece of candy, I need your ..."

I don't know why - but that piece of candy given to Bart always looked delicious to me! Everytime I see that episode I feel like eating a piece of candy similar to the one given to Bart. I've always found candy in Australia (such as Starburst / Natural Confectionery Company Fruit Chews, toffee apples, red skins etc) to be too chewy and they stick to the teeth too much. The closest chew that I really enjoy is a Sherbie - but I wish they were just a tiny bit less chewy. In the absence of any actual knowledge - I always assumed that the piece of candy that Bart received was the missing link of confectionery consistency that I was searching for.

During the plans for this trip to Argentina, Pao kept telling me about a type of candy that she thinks I would love - as we're both huge fans of tutti-frutti flavour jelly belly jelly beans. Sure enough - in Pao's childhood candy store I tried a "Flynn Paff" and my search to re-create the unattainable candy was completed. Not only that - but Flynn Paffs also come in grape, banana and strawberry/vanilla flavours. I am glad we brought along an extra suitcase with us - that's for sure!

More Candy
Some of the candy we will be taking home with us. Yes, it will be added to - and probably half of this will be devoured before we get on the plane to Melbourne

After returning from my candy awakening, the party had died down and most of the guests had returned home. This gave me a better opportunity to chat one-on-one with Pao's parents - something that I must admit I was a tad nervous about. It went really well - I was surprised by the amount we could actually communicate even without Pao translating for us. Every single Spanish lesson I took helped in this regard - although so did a number of gestures between Pao's Dad and myself. I had a fun time and I'm not surprised Pao turned out the way she did considering how great her parents are.

After another meat-filled meal the next morning, we headed back to Rosario for the wedding that had brought us to Argentina in the first place. Pao is a huge fan of dancing, those that know me understand that this is certainly not the case with me. But my old friend Drunk Joel never passes up an opportunity to dance so I loaded up on wine (interesting side note: it seems most people add ice cubes to their red wine here - kind of took me by surprise) and strutted my stuff with equal parts of gusto and poor execution. There was a guy at the wedding that spoke English and worked in IT - so Pao thought the two of us could chat and would probably get along well. In the end - it was the truck driver sitting next to me that didn't speak a word of English that I spoke with for most of the night. Again, we found a way to understand what the other was saying enough to have a great time.

Wedding
I've only just now noticed that some dude was giving me two cheeks of feedback while I was taking this photo. I am ok with this

All-in-all the wedding was pretty similar to those back home - but with a very different time schedule. The service started at 8 pm, the reception begun at around 9:30 pm and didn't finish until around 6 the following morning. After all that dancing, people end up getting tired and the excellent invention of "second foods" happens at about 4 am - with a second round of pata being offered. The wedding was a heap of fun - and I was really happy to be included.

Dessert Smile
Very surprising that you can still see my eyes in this photo - considering how drunk I was at this point. I guess the ice cream in front of my woke me up momentarily

The long wedding, lack of a regular schedule and perhaps jetlag finally caught up to me - I didn't get out of bed until 7 pm. We caught up with some of Pao's friends at a "Milanesa" restaurant - which is basically a parma store. The 12 Pubs of Christmas uncovered some great parmas on offer in Melbourne - but I don't think you would be able to find a place with as much variety as El Club De La Milanesa. What flavour parma do you want (about 20 on offer)? How do you want the chicken prepared (fried, oven baked etc)? Chips or salad on the side? Salad - what type of salad do you want? Too many choices - but it was all worth it for the flavour.

The next day we caught up with some more of Pao's friends, and I caught upon two trends that I have noticed that are pleasing to me. Firstly - Pao is a very strange Argentinian it would seem - as she does not talk with her hands at all when compared to her friends and family. I'm loving the inventive use of body language, such as knocking yourself on the face to indicate somebody is a "stone face" - and unable to hide their feelings, or pretending that your hand is on fire while shaking it to indicate that something should be done quickly. Another thing I love is that I have acquired a new nickname - "El".

El
Being called "El" reminds me of El Mariachi character from Robert Rodriguez's Mexico trilogy - but with less guitars

Instead of using my name a lot when telling her friends what we've been up to - Pao substitutes with the pronoun of "El" - or literally "he". When someone says "so then he fed some ducks" - it sounds pretty mundane to me - but for some reason the addition of "El" spices things up - "so then El fed some ducks". The idea that "El" was probably feeding the ducks from the back of a flaming motorcycle is implied. I've quite enjoyed being referred to as "El" - even though I am sure it's not being used to indicate my extra bad-assery (even though I can look pretty grim while feeding ducks).

In a word - I'd have to sum up my Argentinian experience so far as "uncomfortable" - the flight, the bus rides, the tiny beds and especially the life-changing lack of communication options. I'm so used to being able to express myself exactly as I feel - having to substitute "I grew up in a large-ish suburb and my family would always leave the doors unlocked - we never felt worried about crime" for "In my town when me child - no robbery much" while taking 3 times as long gets pretty frustrating. But that being said - comfort-zones are made to be broken - and I have been having the time of my life here - spending it with Pao and her family has made it extra special. Finding the delicious Flynn Paff candy didn't hurt either.



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