Raised Vegetable Garden

It's been a joy and truly a labor of love piecing our raised bed garden together. We learnt a lot from our last/first attempt at gardening and this time we were better planned.

The Best Pizza Dough

We got a bit tired of our whole wheat pizza dough I think we got too accustomed to it and decided it needed some tweaking.

US Road trips

We've made a few road trips around the US. There's a lot to see here and a lot of distance to cover. Here are some of our trips on the east coast.

Panama

Panama's carnival celebration in Panama City are supposed to be the second largest in the world. Enjoyed this big party with fantastic street food, dozens of stages and loud music blaring at every corner.

Canada

Canada has some of the most beautiful sceneries and landscapes. I hope to drive across to the West coast some day but till then here's a glimpse of Toronto and beyond.

Prawn Manchurian recipe

Here's my take on the Indian Chinese Hakka Manchurian recipe. It turned out delicious!

Ingredients:-
  • large prawns
  • 1 Tbsp of finely chopped garlic
  • 1 Tbsp of finely chopped ginger
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 green chilli
  • 1 level Tbsp corn flour
  • 2  level Tbsp all purpose flour
  • one egg
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp fish sauce 
  • 1 Tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 2 spring onions
  • 2 small bell peppers.

Preparation:-

Prawns
  • Marinate the prawns with salt and pepper.
  • Make a batter of the corn flour, 1 Tbsp all purpose flour and egg. 
  • Coat the prawns and fry in hot oil.

Manchurian Sauce
  • In a bowl mix Soy sauce, white vinegar, fish sauce, ketchup, 1 Tbsp of all purpose flour and 1/2 cup water
  • Cut two spring onions and green chilli into rounds.
  • Heat a skillet with oil and fry the garlic ginger
  • Add in the spring onions and sauce mix and stir well till sauce becomes transparent. Add water if needed
  • Add in chopped bell peppers. These are usually sweet and tasty raw you want to cook them the least.
  • Serve with fried egg noodles.

Orange Marmalade recipe

Crunchy Orange Marmalade recipe
Here's a simple tasty marmalade recipe. The best recipes are usually the simplest ones. Unlike most of your typical marmalade, this has more peel and a nice crunchy texture, the way I like my marmalade.

Ingredients:-
  • 3 oranges;
  • 1 lemon;
  • 1 red grapefruit
  • Sugar 600 gm.
Preparation:-
  • Use the fine slicing on the food processor and slice up the fruit
  • Place in a cooking pot with lid and boil for 8 minutes on high heat
  • Take off the heat and mix in the sugar till it dissolves.
  • Place back on heat for 8 minutes on medium.
  • Let the marmalade cool down before you serve.

Panamanian cuisine

Panama gets it's name from it's indigenous meaning "Abundance of fishes" and we enjoyed some fresh delicious fish on this trip.We tried the famous Sancocho Santeño, a soup associated with this country which comprises of yams, cilantro, garlic and chicken. There was some scrumptious roast pork  at the Panama Carnival which made my day.

Patacones fried plantain was an excellent alternative to the usual potato side.I'm not sure if they are double fried but they are damn tasty.

You can gauge the quality of a restaurant by it's Ceviche, raw fish marinated with peppers and onions. The fish is usually tilapia and Corvina sea bass and served with garlic ajo.

Our typical breakfast were corn tortillas with roast meats and eggs. We stopped along the highway at several villages to feast on Marañón cashew fruit

If I were to leave with just one dish from here it would be those delicious ice cream sundaes with finely sliced mangoes,melons,papayas,strawberries and pineapple.

I lost count of how many Balboa beers I gulped down on this trip. Reminded me old times where beer flowed like water.

Panamanian cuisine

Buying fresh fish at El Mercado de Mariscos, Panamá City

The simple joys of preparing your own special holiday lunch can be so rewarding. Having tasted some of the best of what Panama had to offer I thought i'd try my hand at cooking something local in this fantastic city.

There's an excellent seafood market El Mercado de Mariscos right next to the pier where you can find lovely fresh fish. If you enjoy seafood like me, you're going to love it here!

The Pacific side of Panama's coastline is rich in seafood and it's such a pleasure to watch the fishermen come in daily and sell their catch.

Despite the fact we couldn't speak a word of Spanish we set out to buy some fresh fish.

The locals were friendly  and we landed up buying fish from three different vendors. After some sign language and awkward pointing, we managed to pick up Red Snapper Pargo, Tilapia and shrimp camarón.

They also had fresh herbs to go along and some seasoning. A quick stop for some ceviche and we head back home to cook a late lunch.

There's nothing quite like fresh fish. Makes me long to return to some warm coastal place. Maybe someday.
El Mercado de Mariscos

Along the Interamerican Highway

We decided to get a little adventurous and head down perhaps the most famous highway in the world, the Interamerican highway.

The Interamerican Highway takes you literally to the end of the road, beyond which is a 70 mile swathe of dense rain forest spanning the length of the country which forms the infamous Darién Gap.

The Darién Gap is the only unbridged section along this 16000 mile or 25,800 km highway between the tips of Alaska and Argentina!

We started off in the morning from Panama City and  had planned to drive from to Chepo and then all the way to Yaviza. There were a lot of road works and traffic in the center was terrible which cost us an hour or two. By the time we got to Chepo, our staring point it was almost noon.

Yaviza is hard to reach during the rains and there are also several check points which slows you down, at least that was what we read.

Given the time, Yaviza was too far and so we set our sights or reaching half way to Torti.

Our first stop was Lago Bayano. We drove over the Bayano Dam and passed the Bayano Hydroelectric Power Plant before heading down some rather remote side roads lined with long stretches of cattle pastures.

We were not sure where we were headed and finally got to pretty much a dead end. Spoke to a few locals which was more sign language with my limited Spanish vocabulary.

Back on the Interamerican we stopped briefly at the Ipeti Kuna community. Having visited the Kuna already we were keen on getting to Torti before 4pm.

Torti is known for its feria featuring rodeos and bull taunting in late March. We would be missing it by a week or so! They are almost famous for their hand-crafted saddles Talabarterias.


I was lucky to meet a few horsemen from this town and after a quick series of friendly gestures, I was climbing onto one of their horses. If only I could understand what they were saying. I guess from my perspective I was riding one of those famed rodeo horses.

Gamboa Rainforest

We spent a lovely morning trekking through the Gamboa rain-forest. the paths were quiet, well maintained and just beautiful. There's nothing like the rain-forest to give you a good perspective of wild nature. I guess i'm too tamed down with the usual conservation areas. Wish we had a bit more time to cover a bit more ground.





Portobelo, Nombre de Dios,Isla Grande and Miramar

Portobelo, about 50 km east of Colon lives up to its name Beautiful Port. Christopher Columbus named this place when his worm eaten ships limped into the bay in 1502 during his final voyage to the New World.

It became prominent in 1597 after Francis Drake sacked Nombre de Dios. Portobelo became the departure point for the treasure fleets carrying the plundered wealth of South America back to Spain.

Portobelo is also known for Iglesia de San Felipe, a church dating back to 1814 and famous for it's life-sized effigy of the Nazareno of Portobelo, better known as the Black Christ. There are several stories related to the appearance of this statue in the village. All the stories conclude the statue is responsible for miracles in the lives of his devotees.

Entering the town you first pass Bateria de Santiago with is cannons in embrasures. Just across the street we hiked up a stepped trail which gave us spectacular views of the town. There is also another battery up here but the path seemed riddled with snake holes. Not the best idea with open sandals.

Portobelo has a lot of PADI Dive centers and most hotels give you access to these facilities. A pity we didn't have enough time to explore further. We'd just have to be content with snorkeling.

We caught the famous Devil's festival, festival of diablos and congos here. The following day we head up the road all the way to Nombre de Dios and then up to Miramar. The drive is beautiful and this area is very picturesque.

On our way we stopped at La Guayra where we parked and took a ferry to Isla Grande well known for its beautiful white sand and crystal clear water. The locals here are of African descent and make a living from fishing and coconuts.

We retired to a fabulous dinner at La Torre. This place has some excellent food and definitely worth a visit.


Festival of Diablos and Congos in Portobelo, Colón

We headed from Panama City to Portobelo to catch the Festival of Diablos and Congos , a rather unique and sinister manifestation of Afro-American folklore.

These dances have great historic significance in the Afro-Panamanian culture. The dance has its roots in ancient African tribal routines, rhythmic drum beats.

The music, elaborate colours, outrageous costumes, lavish masks and rough chants make this one magical mythical extravaganza.

The Congos of Portobelo are the descendants of the Cimarrones, runaway slaves who fought fiercely for their freedom during the Spanish colonial period.

After escaping into the nearby hills and rainforests, the Cimarrones built their fortified villages known as palenques from which they were able to wage wars against their enslavers.

So successful were they in war, that the Spaniards were forced to surrender and restore their freedom.

Today, the Congos memorialise their ancestors during Congo Carnival in street performances, music, dance, and costumes.

It is a dance spectacle full of enchantment and spell that evokes fear and curiosity, in which men and women engage in dance, song and the rhythm of sonorous drums depicting the fight between the good and evil.

The diablos devils, chosen by each community, and are dressed up in elaborate outfits and gigantic masks.

They play during carnaval. The theme of the congo dance represent the congos and their fight against the devil who is said to be loose and unleashed during the carnival.

At the end they are saved by the Reina Conga, queen of the congos, helped by the Pajarito, little bird, and Juan Dios, John God. This traditional dance is a blend between the catholic religion and the Afro-Antillean culture.

A couple of Cuba Libres and we were soon drawn into the mystical and haunting events of the evening. I even got whipped by a Diablo and I can tell you the pain is pretty damn real!



Meeting the Kuna in Archipiélago de San Blas


The essence to happiness is simplicity and respect for your surrounding. I was reminded of this simple truth after meeting the Kuna.

The Archipiélago de San Blas  is a beautiful wilderness of sandy coral islands that  stretch for over 140 miles along Panama's Caribbean coast.

This chain of tiny islands and a narrow strip of mainland  compose the Comarca de Kuna Yala, a district  exclusively populated by the Kuna.

Most Kuna live in 41 communities on palm fringed islands spread across the Archipiélago de San Blas

These self governing people protect their cultural identity and bloodlines and are some of the kindest people you'll meet.
The Kuna choose to live a simple lifestyle and farm the narrow mainland coastal strip which serves as hunting and agricultural ground for the Kuna tribe.

They actively preserve the virgin forests across the Serranía de San Blas and Serranía del Darién.

There is a single road to reach this paradise. It's a treacherous and exhilarating route which should only be attempted with a powerful SUV.

With winding almost roller-coaster like terrain full of ditches, this is either your Elixir or your worst nightmare!

We were ferried through choppy waves to our island where we met some fellow travellers.

We were lucky to meet some really nice people who made this trip memorable!

Over the course of 48 hours we had one of the best times on our trip!

From snorkelling in crystal clear waters, to dancing in the moonlight, dinner on a remote island and singing around the camp-fire.

Apart from the drinking water which we carried to the island, there was just coconut water and the sea

And of course some Panamanian rum to keep our spirits high!

Shipwreck at Dog Island, San Blas, Kuna Yala / Gunayala Island of Panamá

Definitely one of the most rewarding snorkeling shipwreck sites I've been to. It was a beautiful day and perfect to get some underwater shots.
Shipwreck at Dog Island, San Blas, Kuna Yala / Gunayala Island of Panama
Shipwreck at Dog Island
Shipwreck at Dog Island, San Blas, Kuna Yala, Panamá