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Today we travel over 7000 miles back to the other side of the world to The Pacific Ocean, East of Australia to New Caledonia and is a special collectivity of France which was acquired in 1946 and it gained its special status in 1999. France is actually situated 10,026 miles east of France. the population of New Caledonia is approximately 270,000 and the inhabitants are mixed, consisting of the original inhabitants of New Caledonia, which are known as The Kanak people,  people from European descent, Polynesian people and those from South East Asia, along with a few from Maghreban and Pied-Noir descent.  Noumea is the Capital of the New Caledonia.

The availability of food on New Caledonia is excellent, whether you are eating out of cooking at home. In the capital there are street stalls serving a variety of foods to expensive restaurants and bistros that serve up an international variety of foods ranging for French, Italian, Spanish,African and Indonesia. There are a number of speciality foods to be had which can include Pacific spiny lobsters, crabs and prawns, also delicious mangrove Oysters.  A salad of raw fish and marinated in lime juice appears to be popular and a Bougna (fish or chicken wrapped in banana leaves and cooked on hot stones covered in sand). Incidentally there is no tipping in restaurants and if you like French wine there is a good selection to be had – OK for us then Ian….

In deciding what to have tonight we decided to go with the traditional dish Bougna – The word “bougna” comes from the Drehu word puhnya meaning “bundle”…..  However, banana leaves prove difficult to get and we haven’t got hot stones to cook on. So my research lead me to a website by a chef who had visited the area and experienced the dish. She believes that everyone should try if visiting New Caledonia.  It is cooked by the Kanak people and usually prepared on special occasions to celebrate with family and friends form the tribe… As one of my tribe has returned from Uni for the weekend, a no better meal to prepare and cook.  Justine has made the dish so it can be cooked at home using pots and pans we have and ingredients sourced form the supermarket or the local shops and also calls it a “Modern Bougna”

All the ingredients are prepared as Justine has described and place in a casserole dish as she tells us to,  then basically cooked in the oven for 2.5 hours. The prep time was approximately 15 minutes and great for a no fuss meal whether it is a school night or a Friday evening when you just wish to cook your family something delicious…

This shows the Bougna  just before the dish goes in the oven, the colours are amazing and already the smell is mouthwatering

Ok – so the finished dish…….  It didn’t come out of the oven as I had imagined. Also we used chicken breasts as hubby doesn’t really like chicken pieces on the bone.

 The meat free option held its shape so much more….

However, here we can see the chicken pieces.
To my mind this was very much like a chicken broth, that we had made using the left overs from a Sunday lunch…The original colours show previously have gone, but some of it may be down to my photography skills on the camera…maybe I should use the proper camera oppose to the phone???

Family Verdict: Fantastic dish and full of flavour. However, it was felt chicken pieces could have been used and the the chicken would have stayed its shape better…. Although Ian liked it it wasn’t up there with his top favourite meals…Maybe the lack of chilli? But then not everything has to be spicy and hot???   I think when the summer comes round again, we should source banana leaves and try and cook this on the BBQ with chicken pieces and see what that verdict of that is.

Your diet is a bank account. Good food choices are good investments.

Bethenny Frankel

Tomorrow – much to my son, who is home from Uni, dismay, we are off to Iraq….. 🙂  Could be interesting!