Czech Republic

Two posts in one day after a seven month absence!

Next on the list was another European nation: Czech Republic!  Also known as the day in which we discovered caraway seeds.

Veprova Cecene (recipe)

First up was another seasoned and slow cooked pork recipe.  This time around it was seasoned with a paste of oil, mustard, caraway seeds, garlic powder, salt, and pepper:

This was rubbed on the pork roast and left to marinate for half an hour.  Then it was plopped in a baking pan with beer and chopped onions:


After cooking and slicing:



After cooking, the pork is removed, and the juices/onion and cooked with butter and corn starch to make a sauce.


Knedliky (recipe)

My best description of knedliky is that is some kind of bread-dumpling hybrid.  You make a dough with the usual ingredients–flour, baking soda, baking power, salt, water, etc,–then mix in bread cubes (we forgot to remove the crust).  We ended up with a gloppy looking dough:


This is rolled up in cloth:


Then boiled and sliced:

Zeli (recipe)

I am slowly, but surely, developing an affinity for sauerkraut through this project!  This recipe started with frying bacon and onions.  Then a jar of sauerkraut was added with more caraway seeds, salt, and pepper.  Some corn starch and water were added for thickening, and we called it done:


The final meal:


Overall, this meal was surprisingly good!  The caraway seeds gave this a completely different flavor than I have come across before, and somehow the pork seasoning/sauce flavor mixed very well with the tartness of the sauerkraut and the relatively neutral knedliky.  Totally out of my comfort zone, but very good.

I think my biggest complaint was similar to the previous country (Cyprus), in that the cut of pork we used was pretty fatty.  I would definitely use a different cut next time.


Okay world, I have gotten enough requests to keep this blog going that I am going to make one more attempt to catch up.  It has been seven (!) months since my last post on here, and I am 32 (!!!) countries behind.

Waaay back in November, we excitedly made it to Cyprus.  It is always exciting to get to a European country…  different enough from American food to be interesting, fairly accessible ingredients, and a lot of good recipes and options.

Pourgouri (recipe)

This was a great twist on the startchy side dish and was somewhat reminiscent of (but better than) the Uncle Ben’s, Rice-a-roni, etc. rice mixes that Tyler and I have both eaten many times.  Sautéed some onion in oil, add bulgur (a new grain to us!) and vermicilli (or in this case, angel hair pasta…although we have since found the “nests” of vermicelli at our grocery store), add water and seasonings, and let it do its thing for 40 minutes.  At this point, I have no recollection of what “seasonings” we used, although in re-making/re-imagining this dish since the first time we made it, we have thrown in whatever herbs/spices sound good or are on hand.

The next step is to remove the pan from the heat, cover with a towel, and let it stand for 10 minutes to cook to perfection.  We have not yet mastered this step, and usually end up spending more time with it on the heat.

Before cooking:


After cooking:


Afelia (recipe)

This one was pretty easy–brown some pork, then slow cook it with red wine and crushed coriander seeds.  Lots of color, lots of flavor.

Here it is before the long simmer:


And again after cooking, served with the pourgouri:


Pink Pomegranate Pavlova (recipe)

I suppose the one good thing about getting so far behind on the blog is that I get to rediscover some of the things I forgot we made, like this one!  This dessert was really interesting and new to us… beat together ingredients like egg whites, cream of tartar, sugar, corn starch, etc. to get a thick batter (is that the right word?).


This was glopped out into for circles on parchment paper:


Then baked:


I haven’t made or eaten meringue before, but I think this was a pretty similar idea?

Meanwhile, we made the pomegranate syrup.  Pomegranates were in season, we procured the juice by running a bunch of pomegranate seeds through the food mill.  It was a messy and time-consuming endeavor.  In the end, the syrup, homemade whipped cream, and a few pomegranate seeds were artistically drizzled on top of the pavlovas.


The verdict?

Delicious. The afelia and pourgouri were delicious, and as I alluded to above, the pourgouri has had several repeat performances.  We’ve made the second variant on the linked recipe, which adds tomatoes, and I think we added beans a different time for a vegetarian meal.  This has become one of our favorites… it has such a thick, rich consistency and flavor to it.

If I remember correctly, my only complaint with this meal was that the cut of pork was fairly fatty–I think I would use a pork tenderloin cut into medallions if I made it again.

The pink pomegranate pavlova was also great, although it was extremely sweet!  I would say it bordered on too-sweet-to-handle territory for me, so I would probably make smaller portions if I made it again.


When faced with yet another country that I have never heard of…

Step 1: Pull up a map on the nearest electronic device and figure out where it is (island in the southern Caribbean).

Step 2: Look up the pronunciation (cure-a-sow).

Step 3: Google/Wikipedia it (turns out it’s also the name of a liquor).

With that out of the way, from what I recall, Curaçao did not have an abundance of recipes to choose from. As with many of the Caribbean nations, there were several other cultural influences in developing the national cuisine.  I selected tutu, which is another variant of the starchy mush that we are getting used to seeing in the Caribbean and Africa, and a marinated fish recipe descriptively titled “Curaçao Style Snapper” (spoiler alert–pretty sure we didn’t actually use snapper.  It was probably tilapia.).

Curaçao Style Snapper (recipe)

This started with a tasty looking marinade of lime juice, garlic, habanero pepper, and ground pepper.  Then the fish were breaded and fried.  The fish frying pan was deglazed with the remaining marinade, in which the tomatoes, onion, and pepper were cooked.  The fish filets were topped with the veggie mixture and baked in the oven for another ten minutes.  I’m not sure why the recipe asked us to line the baking pan with aluminum foil, but we did as we were told.




Tutu (recipe)

We’ve had mixed luck in the past with these starchy mush side dishes, but we seem to be getting better.  This one used cornmeal and was a little unique in that it also included black eyed peas and was cooked in coconut milk.

It started pretty liquidy:


Gradually thickened…tutu_step2

And eventually was firm enough to hold its shape.tutu_step3

From here it was smashed between two plates (which I don’t remember being anywhere near as disastrous as I expected) for the final presentation:


The recipe recommends serving it with cheese (check!) and cod fish (snapper… cod fish… tilapia… same difference, right?)

The finished meal:


This was a winner!  The lime juice really came through in the fish, but not overpoweringly so.  We loved the flavor and the addition of veggies on top.  The tutu, aside from having a fun name, was surprisingly good and was better than most of the dishes we have made like this.  It was sweeter than I expected–probably thanks to the coconut milk–but that was countered nicely by the cheese and the tart fish.

Overall meal rating: 4

Next up, Cyprus and Czech Republic (we were pretty excited at the time about having a couple European countries and finishing the Cs!)


So way back in October, we cooked Cuba!  Today we cooked The Gambia, which is 20 countries later in the list…

I remember reading about a popular Cuban sandwich but wasn’t excited about the prospect of eating pickles on it. So I went with a slow cooked beef recipe called ropa vieja (the fact that it could be made in the crock pot definitely made it a winner!), yet another rice and beans recipe called “Moros y Cristianos” (“Moors and Christians” … the black beans represent the Moors and the white rice represents the Christians… yep.), and a sweet plantain dish called platanos en tenacion.

Ropa Vieja (recipe)

This was a slow cooked beef recipe with tomatoes, peppers, and a tomato based sauce.

What went in the crock pot in the morning:


The finished product:


Moros y Cristianos (recipe)

This another pretty simple rice and beans recipe.  Sauté onions, garlic, and peppers.  Add beans, tomato paste, and some spices.  Add chicken broth and rice.  Cook until done.


Cuban Platanos en Tentacion (recipe)

The recipes I read (including this one) were very insistent that this is a side dish, not a dessert!  It involved plantains (the riper the better), cinnamon, sugar, butter, and white wine.  All good things.  The brown things sticking out of the bananas are pieces of cinnamon (we did not eat them).


The full meal:


The flavors in this meal were great.  The rice and beans (of which there was a LOT) was good.  The meat tasted great, but the cut that the recipe called for was very stringy after cooking.  I had a hard time getting past the texture, but Tyler was okay with it.  The bananas, which were as sweet as you would expect bananas baked in butter, sugar, and cinnamon to be, actually worked reasonably well as a side dish and complemented the other foods.

Overall, not bad!  I gave the meal a 4/5 rating.

Here’s to catching up on these blog posts…


Croatia was one of the more difficult countries to pick recipes… from what I read (and what I can still remember several weeks later), their cuisine is pretty varied, with different regions enjoying food similar to Bosnia, Italy, Austria, or Hungary.

When I was looking through possible recipes, one that immediately caught my eye is pasticada, also known as a Dalmation pot roast.  Dalmatian like the region… not like 101 Dalmatians.  It is a cut of beef that is marinated and slow cooked with bacon inside of it, then served with a savory tomato/fruit/rosemary/bay leaf/etc. sauce and gnocchi.  Sounds delicious.  We also made a poppy seed roll called makovnjaca for dessert.

Potato Gnocchi (recipe)

We looked at a few gnocchi recipes and went with this mashed potato based one.  We started with boiling and mashing potatoes, which were mixed with butter and left to cool.  Then they were mixed with flour, eggs, salt, and cut into small pieces.  It made a LOT.  We still have 1/3 of the uncooked gnocchi in the freezer for a future meal.


I didn’t get a good picture from after boiling the gnocchi, so you’ll just have to wait for the picture with the main course to see how they turned out.

Pasticada (recipe)

We started with a cut of beef and stuffed little pieces of bacon stuffed inside it.  This was marinated with apple cider vinegar and mustard, and then it was browned in oil.  The onion, garlic, and vegetables (carrots and celery root) were sautéed in the oil, then the meat and veggies were simmered for a couple hours in red wine, water, and sugar.



By the way, it was our first time experiencing a celery root… that thing looked and smelled like pure evil.


More wine and sugar were added throughout the cooking time, as was the tomato paste, apple slices, prunes, and figs.  Later the bay leaves and rosemary went in, too.



At the end, a little bit of semi-sweet chocolate and plum jam were added to taste.  The meat was removed, the remaining sauce/produce were blended, and it was served over the gnocchi!


Makovnjaca (recipe)

This recipe started with making a yeast based dough that was left to rise for several hours.  After that, the (ground) poppy seeds were cooked in hot milk on the stove with honey, lemon rind, cinnamon, and rum.  Then this was left to cool off a bit.

The dough was rolled out and covered with the poppy seed filling.


This was rolled up and could be topped with either sugar or poppy seeds.  Due to some misunderstanding of the recipe, we did not scale it at all and ended up with TWO rolls, so we made one each way.


After baking:


And here it is cut into slices (the swirly was actually much better in the second roll, but I never took a picture of it):


We were very pleased with how this meal turned out.  The gnocchi, beef, and sauce were fantastic.  You definitely had to be mentally prepared for a very rich meal, since the sauce was puréed fruit, aromatic vegetables, and herbs.  But it was delicious.  We both rated it pretty highly.  I’m also excited to get out the frozen leftover gnocchi sometime when we need a quick dinner idea.

The makovnjaca (poppy seed roll) was good, although I would have liked for it to be a bit sweeter.  I normally am okay with less sweet desserts, but this took it a bit too far for my taste.  That said, I thought the dough was very good and enjoyed the taste of poppy seeds… I can’t say I have eaten something so prominently featuring them.  It was pretty good with a cup of tea.

Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

As usual, we started getting nervous when we saw an African country approaching the top of our list.  We don’t have the best track record with African food, although it is slowly improving…

Our plan for Cote d’Ivoire was to make a stew called Kedjenou, attieke (which is, essentially, couscous made of cassava), and gâteau molleux à l’anabas et à la noir de coco (pineapple and coconut cake).  We couldn’t find attieke, so we ended up substituting standard issue couscous and following a similar cooking method to what we used for Algeria.

Kedjenou (recipe)

This was another easy recipe… the instructions are to dump everything in a big pot, then let it cook for a long time.  We used chicken (I think chicken thighs?), eggplant, onions, chili pepper, tomato, ginger, thyme, bay leaf, garlic, chicken stock, and peanut oil.  We turned it into a crockpot meal.

Before cooking (yes, we still had useable thyme in the garden in mid-October for this!):


After cooking:



Served on couscous:


Gâteau Molleux à l’Ananas et à la Noix de Coco (recipe)

It had been a while since we made an international dessert, so we decided to make this cake.  It also seemed fitting to make a cake since it was close to my birthday!

The cake batter involved shredded coconut, butter, flour, sugar, eggs, baking powder, salt, and chopped fresh pineapple (yum!).  Other than the pieces of fruit, the batter and cakes looked pretty normal.  Perhaps slightly more done than I would have liked.



However, the flipping onto a cooling rack step was not so successful (although this gave us a good excuse to sneak a taste of the cake, which got done before dinner was ready🙂 ).


But it still tasted good!



This meal was better than we have come to expect from African food, although it wasn’t phenomenal.  There was a reasonable amount of flavor in the stew, but the chicken seemed dry to me.  The cake was also good, but it seemed like it was missing something.  I would rate this meal as average… not bad, not great.  Probably won’t be making it again.

Costa Rica

It’s been several weeks since my last post.  We’re still going strong working through our list (our next country will put us past the 25% point!!!), but I am, unfortunately, ten countries behind on this blog…

Several weeks ago we cooked Costa Rican food!  One of the most well known national dishes is actually a big breakfast, so we had breakfast for dinner one night.  We made gallo pinto (yet another rice and beans dish…), which is typically served with platanos maduros (fried plantains), eggs (fried or scrambled), and sour cream.

Gallo Pinto (recipe)

This was pretty straightforward–fry onion, pepper, garlic, and cilantro (although I think I may have waited and added cilantro at the end?) in oil.  Then mix in cooked beans, sauce, and spices (we had to buy a new sauce for this: Salsa Lizano… thank you, Amazon Prime).  Then the cooked rice was mixed in.  Done.


Platanos Maduros (recipe)

This was another nice, simple recipe.  The only struggle is that our grocery store did not have very ripe plantains in stock at the time we made this.  We ended up using a combination of medium ripe plantains and very ripe small bananas (I don’t remember their name, but the sticker said they came from Costa Rica, so I called that close enough…).






Post-frying, served with dinner:


Overall, this meal was very good.  Even for an egg hater like me, the scrambled eggs went pretty well with the rest of the food.  Everything on the plate complimented the rest very nicely.  Tyler made the pinto gallo for breakfast several times afterwards in the next couple weeks, and the leftovers went quickly.  So we’ll call that a win.


Oh, The Comoros.

My first step was learning how to pronounce the name.  (The) Cah-muh-rohs seems to be the correct pronunciation.

My second step was researching recipes.  I came up with two contenders… a chicken curry dish that looked good but not too unusual or spectacular… or lobster with vanilla sauce.

My third step was working up the bravery for a memorable shopping trip.

Meet Frank.



…and the tail of “Frozen Frank.”


Yep, that happened.

Langouste a la Vanille (recipe)

Fortunately, Tyler was braver than me… he handled Frank the lobster and diligently followed the recipe’s instructions to stab poor Frank between the eyes and sever his spinal cord from the brain.  It was a little traumatic.  Frank wasn’t happy.


After that traumatic experience and more clicking and scuttling sounds from the lobster box than I needed to hear, our lobster friends found their way to the oven…






I now understand why the Red Lobster restaurants have the name they do…

This yielded a surprisingly small amount of meat.


Meanwhile, on the less traumatic side of the kitchen, I was making the vanilla sauce.  Since we were already spending an arm and a leg on the darn lobsters, we figured we might as well spend another $12 for a vanilla bean and do this right.  I’ve never cooked with a vanilla bean before, and I was pretty amazed by the collection of itty bitty seeds inside it.



The sauce involved sautéing shallots in butter, then adding white wine and white wine vinegar.  Then more (!) butter and 1/2 of the vanilla bean seeds were added.  All said and done, this used a full stick of butter.  That is a LOT of butter.


The recipe suggested serving it with spinach and watercress withered in (more) butter.  I couldn’t find watercress, but I found a blend of spinach and two other types of leaves that were conveniently listed on the internet as reasonable substitutes for watercress.







Ladu (recipe)

Since all that butter wasn’t enough unhealthiness for one meal, we also made a dessert called ladu.  This called for coarsely ground raw rice, and we did manage to find rice that I would define as coarsely ground (I was expecting to end up finding a way to grind up whole rice on our own)  This was cooked in butter on the stove… allegedly this was to be done until it was cooked, but the truth is that butter does not do much for softening rice.  Ladu_cooking


I’m not sure if we had the wrong kind of “coarsely ground raw rice” or if the recipe was incomplete, but much like the arepas for Colombia, I took matters into my own hands and started adding water.  I kept adding water and cooking it until it was soft enough to be edible.


Then the cardamom was added, and after cooking the powdered sugar and pepper were added.  It was supposed to be shaped into “bricks.”  We must have done something wrong, because bricks were not going to happen with this consistency.


The final meal:

The verdict?

Not as good as I was hoping for, considering the cost of lobster and vanilla beans…

Truthfully, I am not a fan of most seafood other than fish, and lobster is no exception.  The sauce was fantastic, but I really struggled with the texture of the lobster meat.  Tyler ate most of it.  And after the traumatic cooking experience, I didn’t have enough an appetite left to be disappointed by this.  On the plus side, we can now check off “cook a live lobster” from the list of life experiences we have completed!  I’m still glad we cooked this meal, and I probably couldn’t have been convinced to purchase and cook a live lobster under any other circumstances.

The dessert was decidedly safe and “normal” for me compared to the lobster, although the combination of cold oatmeal-y rice with pepper and cardamom was unlike anything I have experienced.  I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate in.  In general, I found it to be such a different food experience that I had a hard time wrapping my head around it to form a strong opinion.

Whew.  Our next country of Costa Rica looked pretty reassuringly normal after this.


For Colombia, I selected a main dish of sudado de pollo (Colombian style chicken stew) with a side of arepa (which I can best describe as a mix of cornbread and pancakes). I couldn’t resist selecting a cheese filled version of the arepa.

Sudado de Pollo (recipe)

Like so many recipes before, this one started with sautéing chopped onions (and red pepper, in this case). Tomato, garlic, salt and pepper were added after the onions were cooked.

Then the chicken (we used chicken thighs and some leftover rotisserie chicken from China), chicken stock, and more spices were added. The spices included cumin and a mix called Sazon Soya, for which I read a reasonable substitute is equal parts of ground coriander, cumin, annatto, garlic powder, and salt. This cooked for 25 minutes, and then potatoes and cilantro were added and left to cook until the potatoes were soft.  It thickened some after the below picture.


Arepa Boyacense (recipe)

The arepa proved to be a little more complicated than the main dish…

The main challenge was an ingredient we could not locate: masarepa, a type of pre-cooked cornmeal.  The closest substitute I came across was corn grits for polenta.


As I started “kneading” the corn grits, flour, water, milk, salt, sugar, and butter, it became clear that I had a problem.  There was not a lot of kneading going on, but there was a lot of swashing corn grits around in liquid and scratching my hands going on.  So I totally deviated from the recipe under the assumption that the cornmeal stuff needed to be cooked.  I ended up spending the next hour or so cooking this mixture in a skillet (adding water pretty often) until it became soft enough that I could imagine eating it without cracking a tooth.

So I returned to the recipe at that point and rolled it out into small circles, sprinkled some cheese on top, and added another circle on top to encase the cheese.


These were then fried:


The arepa was served with the sudado de pollo over rice:




The verdict?

Good, but not spectacular.  The chicken stew was definitely enjoyable, but it won’t go down in history as a meal we need to repeat.  Same with the arepas… tasty, but not quite as good as I expected.  The seemed a little too sweet, and although I saved them from being a complete disaster by cooking the “dough” ahead of time, I always wonder how differently some of these recipes we make would turn out if I didn’t have to make any substitutions.


Well, now I’m six countries behind on this thing, so I guess I better keep playing catch up…

Long story short, we really dragged our feet on this next meal.  We had the amazing opportunity to go to China in August to volunteer at an unofficial FIRST Robotics Competition scrimmage.  Ironically, the next country on our list at that time was China.  Somehow, we had a hard time getting excited about eating MORE Chinese food after a week there…

But, we finally got around to it, and we cooked a dish my brother had told us about–xiao long bao.  Also known as soup dumplings.  They are the inverse of what you usually might expect (dumplings in soup).  In this case, the soup is inside the dumpling!  We were very intrigued by the concept, and it was different enough from the food we ate in China that we could go along with it.  This was a pretty involved recipe and included a dipping sauce, so didn’t make anything else.

Xiao Long Bao (recipe)

The first step was making the broth for the soup.  We used the remains of a rotisserie chicken (and ate the good part for an easy dinner🙂 ), along with ham, salt pork, ginger, green onions, garlic, and rice wine.  The smell took us straight back to China.  No chicken feet in the soup here, though…


After simmering for multiple hours and straining out the chunks, we added gelatin and put it in a plan to chill.  The idea is that the soup solidifies when chilled so it can be stuffed in the dumplings, but upon heating it will re-liquify.



The next day I broke it up into pieces (these pieces ended up being too big, but I didn’t realize that until later).


The rest of the dumpling filling consisted of chopped up shrimp and pork with more rice wine, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, etc.  This was mixed with the gelatinous soup:



Meanwhile, Tyler worked on making the dumpling dough.  That wasn’t very exciting, so I didn’t take many pictures.  I followed a similar dumpling making process as I did for the momos for Bhutan… Put the filling in a small circle of dough, then attempt to twist it shut at the top.


We invested in a bamboo steamer (who knew they sold these things at Target???), which was lined with cabbage leaves to prevent sticking.  I didn’t do very well with the 1-2″ spacing between dumplings.



After about twelve minutes of steaming, they came out looking like this:


In the mean time, we also put together the dipping sauce.  An ingredient was Sambal/hot chili and garlic sauce.  We couldn’t find that, so we made our own:


The quantity was overkill… we needed two tablespoons.  It was added soy sauce, sesame oil, and ginger.  It also was supposed to be mixed with black vinegar, which we couldn’t find.  I researched substitutes but didn’t write down what I did (oops).  I think it was a combination of two things… maybe balsamic vinegar with something else.  It wasn’t very photogenic sauce.



So, all said and done, we had a nice looking meal.  We served it with some Chinese green tea.




The dumplings were delicious the first night!  Sadly, most of the soup escaped during the steaming process, but at least the meat filling was good.  And I think some of the broth flavor stuck around, even if the liquid didn’t.  They went very well with a cup of green tea.

We saved the rest of the dumplings (un-steamed) and steamed the another night for leftovers.  I don’t know if they weren’t as good after a couple days, or if we were just regressing to being done with Chinese food, or what, but we really didn’t enjoy them as much the second time around.  Oh well.  The important part is that we broke our fifty day international cooking break and got back into the project!