Buon Appetito!

A little bit of Italy came to Banepa last night and it was delish!

Reena (Lok’s cook) has been keen for some time to learn how to cook a few western dishes, and I promised her I’d do just that.  Looking at the fresh vegetables easily available here in Banepa, I thought Italian food might be a good cuisine to start with.

Now, I could have gone into Kathmandu and picked up a ton of specialty ingredients in Patan, but I decided if Reena were to repeat the meal in Banepa, the ingredients would have to be sourced locally at a reasonable price.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been keeping an eye out for Italian ingredients and lo and behold, I managed to source capers, green olives, red wine vinegar, olive oil, a can of passata as well as dried pasta in the stores across Banepa.  Che grande!

Btw, I found a small bottle of olive oil in amongst the hair products.  Olive oil is used here as hair oil, not for cooking.  Who knew?!

Last night was deemed to be a good night for cooking Italian food, so with a little excitement in the air, Reena, Lok’s adopted daughter Shanti and Lok himself turned up ready to roll for the Italian cooking lesson.  Krishna Maya stayed safely at the kitchen door, keeping an eye on things.

I set everyone to work: washing, peeling, cubing, shredding, smashing garlic into paste … the kitchen was all abuzz and careful note was being taken of every step I took.

Our menu (thanks to Jamie Oliver’s easy recipes!) was as follows:

  • Pasta with green olives
  • Italian greens
  • Aubergine stew caponata
  • Mushrooms in garlic butter
  • Garlic bread
Lok enjoying his first Italian meal at home in Banepa

Lok enjoying his first Italian meal at home in Banepa

Aubergine caponata

Aubergine caponata

Oyster mushrooms in garlic butter (ghee)

Oyster mushrooms in garlic butter (ghee)

"Italian" Greens

“Italian” Greens

Pasta with green olives

Pasta with green olives

Garlic bread.  I scoured the town for these uns, eventually finding them in a small bakery store that sells the baked goods of Himalayan Bakery, Dhulikhel!

Garlic bread using olive oil instead of ghee for the garlic butter. I scoured the town for these buns, eventually finding them in a small bakery store that sells the baked goods of Himalayan Bakery, Dhulikhel!

Everyone went for a second helping – a sure sign the meal was a big hit. And no pining after a plate of white rice either!  The garlic bread was something very new for everyone and was snaffled in a jiffy with no leftovers.  Leftover pasta with the aubergine caponata was packed up and taken home to Reena’s daughters to try.

All in all, I think we can call the whole cooking experience a success.

A few things I learned:

  1. Nepali greens are no replacement for what is needed for Italian Greens (swiss chard, cos lettuce, baby spinach, arugula, and herbs like basil, parsley, sorrel and fennel).  These ingredients are just not available in Banepa.  The dish ended up being good enough, but not the best.
  2. Ghee is not a good replacement for butter when it comes to oyster mushrooms done in garlic butter.  Parsley was a key missing ingredient too.
  3. The fresh aubergine / eggplant with super-fresh tomatoes from Krishna Maya’s own garden made all the difference with the caponata, which turned out absolutely delicious.
  4. I suspect garlic bread may become a regular feature in the Lok household.
  5. As for pasta al dente …. white rice might now have a rival!

So what’s next?  While I was scouring the local stores for the Italian ingredients, I noticed the makings of a possible Thai curry, maybe a satay dip too ….. stay tuned for the next cooking installment.

About Kate Coffey

After 30 or so years in the investment management industry, 2013 saw me turn my life up-side-down, making my way first to Nepal, then Bangladesh during that first ‘year away’. The year took me on a journey I did not expect, had me fall in love with Nepal and its people, and become inspired at the work of Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre (SIRC) located in Bhainsepati - 2 hours east of Kathmandu in the Saanga foothills. Since 2014, I have returned to SIRC numerous times, working closely with the folks there in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes. In the past two years, my work in Nepal has expanded to the Bo M. Karlsson Foundation www.bomkarlsson.com and the Spinal Cord Injured Network Nepal. In Bangladesh I marvelled at the strength and resilience of marginalized women who have the courage and audacity to break the rules and make a better life for themselves and their children through microfinance programs with BRAC. 2016-2017 saw me embark on a totally new experience in Sri Lanka, a place I never would have chosen to end up in. It’s the 40C+ heat, big humidity and tropical snakes & animals that scared me! But I ended up love love loving! my time there, working with predominantly Tamil small business owners in remote villages in the north and east of the country, trying their best to recover their businesses and the lives of their employees, after decades of a civil war. My time in Sri Lanka made me realize my hard-earned business skills and experience can really be put to good use! The work the BIZ+ team and I did there ended up earning me International Volunteer of the Year Award in December 2017, presented on Capitol Hill, Washington DC no less. I am currently home on Bowen Island, in the west coast of Canada, shoring up my finances before I head off to who knows where, for my next expert volunteer assignment. This blog initially started out as a travelogue of sorts to keep friends and family worldwide updated while I was off on my travels in 2013-2014. Since then it has morphed into a life story of the many places I have lived and worked and of the wonderful people I have met along the way. I hope you enjoy.
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One Response to Buon Appetito!

  1. Anish says:

    buonissimi !

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