It seems that I spend most of my time learning, nowadays. Learning language, learning the geography of the city, learning where to go shopping, learning how to, or rather how not to, negotiate with tuk tuk drivers. The other day, I had a tuk tuk driver explode in my face because I hadn’t told him that I wanted him to drop my friend off at her house en route to mine, prior to agreeing the price. The frustrating thing was that, even after I apologised, the tuk tuk driver refused to tell me what I should have done to ‘not treat me like a slave’ – quote verbatim from the tuk tuk driver – because he ‘didn’t know my plan’. What? Once he’d said that, I figured it was best that this strange tuk tuk driver and I never meet each other again and we go our separate ways, swiftly. I paid him for that part of the journey and walked the rest of the way to my house. Typing ‘how to negotiate with tuk tuk drivers’ into a search engine and reading the results doesn’t prepare oneself on this eventuality.
What I love is, even on the other side of the world, fortunately there are food blogs, youtube and google for so many of my food-related questions. Somewhat naively, I hadn’t anticipated that my move to Phnom Penh would necessitate me learning some back-to-basics skills: the supermarkets here haven’t got a readily available of supply of conveniently prepared cooking ingredients, like in the UK. For example, the other day, I’d decided to make ouzi for my friends and discovered that you can’t buy blanched almonds anywhere. If you’re lucky, you’ll find some whole, unblanched almonds in the supermarket. So, what’s a girl to do?
Google search and a peruse on about.com greek foods later…
I find that there’s something therapeutic about the repetitive nature of this simple task. And as I’m standing by the sink, popping almonds out of their skins by myself, I imagine that in other countries, this could be a community, or at least a familial, endeavour, in which you get together and have a good gossip.
20 minutes later, I’ve got a bowlful of beautifully blanched almonds drying on the countertop, ready to be roasted for ouzi.
Ingredients and Method for Blanching Almonds
You’ll need raw shelled almonds, a pan of boiling water and a colander.
- Bring the water to boil in the saucepan, take the saucepan off the heat, add the almonds and keep them in there for 1 minute. If you leave them in for too long, then the almonds get soggy.
- Drain them in the colander and rinse them in cold water for a few seconds so that they are just cool enough to handle.
- The skin removal process begins as soon as the almonds are cool enough, not to burn your fingers. Take an almond in between your thumb, forefinger and middle finger, massage or squeeze the skin and let the almond pop out of its skin.
Allow the blanched almonds to dry before using them.
If you want to ground almonds, you can put the dried, blanched almonds into a food processor and grind them up.
Ta da! Simple.
Now to learn about the proper etiquette for negotiating the price with a tuk tuk driver. 😛