There isn’t much I miss about Melbourne. Friends were the obvious highlight of my time there, but I don’t know if I could find a culture more opposite to mine than Australian culture. Functioning in Melbourne involved giving up many aspects of life that I loved and valued, and I felt like I was constantly having to adapt to be able to fit in. But adaptation has its benefits. I picked up many new skills in Australia for which I am thankful – driving, camping and beach-ing to name a few.
My favourite gift from Melbourne though was its food. I have done my share of world travel, and I think I have been to the majority of significant world cities, so I don’t take it lightly when I make the following statement – Melbourne has some of the best food in the whole world. It’s probably because the whole world, almost, is in Melbourne. It doesn’t hurt that the cost of eating out is also reasonable.
That city nourished and taught my taste buds and gave my hands confidence in the kitchen. It’s only now that I enjoy the benefits of the years of eating out at Vietnamese, Thai, Greek, Turkish, Indian, Afghan, and so many other restaurants.
One of the vegetables I learned to love in Melbourne is the pumpkin. I grew up eating it in Sri Lankan pumpkin curries, and in the US it is only a dessert, of course. But in Australia (and the U.K., I found out later) pumpkin is roasted regularly for dinner. It is now a favourite vegetable of mine, but sadly it is rarely, if ever, available in the supermarket here. I gave up on ever eating it until a few weeks ago when there was a bin of autumnal gourds in Coop. Apparently pumpkins and squashes only come out in the fall here. I bought a pre-cut and wrapped C-shaped piece of pumpkin, but it was tasteless and disappointing. My second attempt was much better.
This one is technically a butternut squash (based on what it looked like), but tasted like a pumpkin after it was cooked. The Penang curried beef was spicy, salty and a bit sweet, and the pumpkin was predominantly sweet (naturally) and a bit spicy. The broccoli is for good health (just boil it for a few minutes with salt).
- Penang curry let the beef cook in the liquidy sauce for a while until the sauce thickens. I didn’t have the thick coconut cream, but the regular coconut milk worked just fine. As always, pay attention to the proportions of curry paste, coconut milk, fish sauce and sugar.
- Butternut/pumpkin chop it into similar-sized pieces so that it roasts evenly. Heat your oven to a medium temperature (I would give an exact one here, except that our oven doesn’t have temperatures, only 1-8, and I have yet to figure out what that means except that I cannot bake). Toss the chopped pumpkin in olive oil, salt and whatever spices you want. For this pan I sprinkled paprika and chili flakes. I personally find that savoury flavours work well with pumpkin because it is so naturally sweet. Bake for however long it takes to cook (usually between 20 and 40 minutes).