Monday, November 14, 2011

Weekend Events


On Friday night we had people for dinner,  Mary and Lee.  I decided I would make make bread and have soup to start, roast chicken and finally apple turnovers.  I bought a couple of frozen chickens the day before (expecting 4 guests) and the ingredients for the meal.

There is a lot more produce available now than a couple of years ago, but supply is not that reliable.  Right now I see pumpkins/squash in the stores and we always have carrots and onions so I decided it would be a choice of pumpkin or carrot soups.  
Rather pale and tasteless

The chickens were not very big so would take an hour and could rest while we ate or soup.  

I have found a supply of frozen puff pastry, and as apples are always available (Almaty, the old capital, means "place of apples") I decided to do apple turnovers which would cook as we ate our soup and main course.  This was going to be a fairly light touch meal with most work done in advance.  I had rice with ready for the microwave, and a zucchini and tomato dish on the cooker.

I tell all this to evidence my thorough planning.  So about 45 minutes before the guests were due I put the chickens in the oven, the soup was hot on the cooker, nothing to it.  Sandra arrived home at 6.35, guests due at 7.00, I decided to check the chickens.  There they were, sitting together on the tray in the oven, just as cold and pale as when I put them in!  I guessed I had miss-set the timer when I was adjusting the clock, but I couldn't work it out.  Sandra, got out the instructions and we were both trying to make sense of them with no luck.  Time was getting on and the birds were not!

We could get the grill to work but not the oven.  When the guests arrived I was cutting chickens in half on a bloody chopping board, and heating the oven with the top grill.  And we had grilled chickens which were a bit dry but better than raw.

The apple turnovers were another story.  It is not very easy to grill puff pastry but I tried.  I think it was sort-of-cooked.  Rather darker than desired on the outside, and maybe a bit on the soggy side inside.  Unlike baking one has to cook both sides so they were rather oddly misshapen, but our guests, like true troopers, ate them.

The next day the engineer arrived to fix the oven, but it was no good, so he ended up wheeling it away, and turning up 10 minutes later with another identical working one.  I guess they are prepared for such events.


We went for a walk along the river to find an Azeri restaurant that had been recommended by a Shell lawyer from Azerbaijan. 
Restaurant on the left

When we got there it was not opening 'till 2pm, a strange time to open, just after lunch.  We decided to go to the Renco next door which is the large Agip residence.  
The Renco
Not surprisingly it and its restaurants are very Italian.  We decided instead to walk back to the Atyrau hotel which is fairly close to the Marriott and which we had not tried.  They had a very limited menu and a buffet.  We opted for drings and a cheese plate.  There were 4 types of cheese, 3 came as thin thin little triangles, and one as cubes.  The triangle cheeses were best described as yellow, white and yellow and white.  They tasted the same, with far less taste than a Kraft slice, but the same texture.  The cubes were blue, very blue!  I think it was Danish Blue that had ripened over the past few years in their fridge.  By this time we decided to go back to our first place, the Azeri Restaurant.

It was open and empty.  Like all local restaurants, one gets a menu, and as one starts to order finds out that most things are not available.  It is a kind of "Here is the menu, these are things that we would like to offer, let's see if you can guess what we have!"  We each ordered a shashlick, beef and lamb and then with some Russian conversation from Sandra actually agreed a couple of dishes, again beef and lamb.  We expected meet on skewers, but were served two dishes which came with their own charcoals under them to keep them warm.  They both had potatoes, apples, tomatoes and onions with meat in a very oily gravy.  

They tasted all right, but I didn't feel great after eating so much oil.
The oily remains!


We again had people, Doug and Julie, for dinner.  In the morning we walked to a couple of supermarkets to find something for dinner.  I was running out of inspiration.  In the end I found some lamb shanks, so the menu was crispy fried polenta with mushroom sauce, braised lamb shanks with mashed potatoes, zucchini and broccoli (quite a find), then poached pears and ice cream.  I cooked in the afternoon and Sandra went on an ice cream hunt...she succeeded in finding vanilla.

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