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:

veprova_cecene_seasonings_paste
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:

veprova_cecene_uncooked

After cooking and slicing:

veprova_cecene_cooked

 

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:

knedliky_dough

This is rolled up in cloth:

knedliky_before_cooking

Then boiled and sliced:
knedliky

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:

zeli

The final meal:

Czech_Republic_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.

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Bolivia

Bolivia was our second trip to South America for this project, and we’ll be back soon to Brazil.

I found a great blog with Bolivian recipes from someone who grew up there, so I used her recipe for silpancho and a hot sauce called llajwa.  Since the siplancho includes rice, potatoes, meat, eggs, and veggies, I didn’t select any side dishes or other recipes.  This made the meal a lot easier than usual!

Llajwa (recipe)

The Llajwa is a traditional spicy sauce made of jalapeño peppers, tomatoes, onion, cilantro, and salt.  It is traditionally prepared in a batan, which looks somewhat similar to a mortar and pestle, but with a much larger base.  I attempted to make the sauce in our large mortar and pestle, but that didn’t work out very well since there was so much liquid.  Jalapeño pepper juice splattering around the kitchen is not a good thing.  So I switched to the mini food processor.

Llajwa_ingredients   Llajwa

Silpancho (recipe)

We started with salad/salsa topping.  Not much too it, but it was easy to make this ahead of time and set it aside.  Chopped tomato, green pepper, red onion, with a dress of oil, vinegar, and salt.

Silpancho_salsa

Next we made the potatoes.  The recipe suggested boiling them for 10 minutes, so they were only partially cooked.  I love the look of the sliced potatoes afterwards!

potatoes_for_Silpancho

Later on, when we were closer to eating, these went back in a pan with some oil to finish cooking.

Silpancho_potatoes_cooking   Silpancho_potatoes

 

 

The most unique part of this meal was the meat.  One pound of ground beef was mixed with salt and pepper, then split into four balls and rolled out with a rolling pin in bread crumbs.  They were supposed to be pretty thin, so even with 1/4 lb ground beef in each, they were bigger than my face.

These were cooked in a large pan on the stove.  They didn’t take too long since they were so thin

Silpancho_meat_cooking_1   Silpancho_meat_cooking_2   Silpancho_meat_cooking_3

I didn’t take any pictures of the eggs, but we also fried three eggs somewhere in this process.  I will note that this is WAY out of my comfort zone–I do not like eggs.  Honestly, I can’t believe I made it through 22 countries before I had to eat a cooked egg (I’m not counting the hardboiled egg that went into our empanadas for Argentina–that was very well disguised).  We also made a cup of rice, but I didn’t take pictures of that either, because we all know what rice looks like.

The assembly process was important since there was SO MUCH food to put together.  First there is a base of rice and potato slices, then the meat patty, then the egg, than the salsa, then the sauce, then some chopped cilantro.

Silpancho

 

The results were delicious!  Once again, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed something that is full of ingredients I don’t really like!  The egg was still a stretch, but it was well disguised among all the other food.  I’m starting to appreciate green pepper and red onion, and I loved the kick of the Llajwa sauce!  Further evidence that my spicy food tolerance is increasing with this project…

Barbados

Once again, we hopped across the ocean to the Caribbean… back to the land of peas and rice, fish, and coconut.  I am starting notice some reoccurring foods in the Caribbean islands, and I’m curious if we will eventually run out of Caribbean staples and go for the lesser-known foods.

Anyway… I learned a few things while researching the food of Barbados:

  1. The national dish of Barbados is flying fish with cou cou.  Flying fish have wing-like fins that allow them to glide over the water for short distances, and they seem to be a big deal in terms of both cuisine and culture.
  2. People of Barbados are referred to as Bajans.  Having recently watched Star Trek DS9, we had a really hard time not saying “Bajoran” instead of “Bajan” and started referring to this as our Bajoran meal.
  3. Rihanna is from Barbados.

I was nervous about choosing the national dish of flying fish and cou cou, due to A) a strong suspicion that they don’t sell flying fish in Iowa, B) fear of a repeat of our Angolan funge disaster (cou cou is the cornmeal version of funge, with the addition of okra), and C) Our general bad luck with fish-based cooking.  I was all set to make macaroni pie, which is similar to macaroni and cheese, and coconut bread, but I couldn’t decide on a main course.  So, flying fish and cou cou it was.

The food:

  • Flying fish and cou cou: as described above the cou cou is similar to funge (or polenta), but made with cornmeal and okra.  The flying fish can be steamed or fried.
  • Coconut bread: This recipe seems to be a favorite throughout the Caribbean, as this is not the first reference I have seen to it.  The recipe reminds me of other sweet breads, such as zucchini bread or banana bread, but instead it uses coconut flakes.  Most recipes also include raisins.

 

Flying Fish and Cou Cou (recipe, also referred to this recipe for the cou cou preparation method)

The first step was actually to make the Bajan seasoning.  We were hoping to find a jar of it at the grocery store but had no luck.   We also didn’t have time to drive across town to the international grocery store and check there.  So we followed this recipe (scaled to 1/4 of the original recipe, since we only needed a few tablespoons).  This was a mix of hot pepper, onion, green onion, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, and a whole bunch of spices and herbs.  Since fresh herbs aren’t exactly in season around here, we used a lot of dried herbs instead.  For the small quantity we needed, we couldn’t talk ourselves into spending the $10-15 on all of the fresh herbs.  Anyway, the ingredients were all measured and roughly chopped, then blended in the food processor.  This smelled pretty good, and it still made a LOT, so we’re going to save the rest for grilling in the summer.  We made this a day in advance.

Bajan_seasoning

Next was the the cou cou.  This stuff takes patience.  The cornmeal was soaked in water for a while as I prepared the okra, onions, garlic, etc (I used frozen okra since we already had it in the freezer, and I rarely see fresh okra at the grocery store).  I saw many of the cou cou recipes refer generically to “herbs” as an ingredient, so I decided to just throw in a bit of the Bajan seasoning that we prepared.  If it were summer and we had a garden overflowing with herbs, I might have approached this differently.

okra_for_coucou

I set these aside and dumped in the soaked cornmeal.  As advised, I added in some of the gooey liquid from cooking the okra.  I stirred very diligently for the first 5-10 minutes, adding water/okra goo regularly.  After a while, I let it sit for 10-15 minutes, then came back to give it a good stir, then repeated this process.  It ended up having 1.5-2 hours of cooking time total.  I kept adding water throughout, since it seemed like the cornmeal was pretty gritty.  I’m really not sure that I ever achieved the right consistency–it wasn’t as smooth as the pictures I saw looked–but it eventually got to be pretty thick and relatively smooth.  So I mixed in the okra and called it good.

cou_cou_before_cooking coucou_mid_cooking coucou_final

I attempted to arrange it into the pretty mounds of cou cou that I saw pictures of… it didn’t quite turn out that way, but it was at least a lot closer to the expected finished product than the funge was a couple months ago.

coucou_served

For the flying fish, we substituted mahi mahi.  I have read that this fish is eaten in Barbados, so it seemed like a reasonable substitute.  I thought that most of the flavor would come from the seasonings and vegetables, so it wouldn’t detract too much from the authentic experience.

The recipes I read all suggested rolling the fish filets up like a sausage.  However, the fish we bought was frozen, and it turned out that a day in the fridge was nowhere near long enough to thaw it out.  So we bit the bullet and put in the microwave on the thaw setting.  Naturally, it started to cook during that time, and Tyler declared there was no way it would roll up without falling apart.  So that didn’t happen.  However, we did follow the instructions to marinate it in lime juice, then rub in Bajan seasoning.  In the mean time, the onion, garlic, tomatoes, etc. started simmering in the stove.  Again, we substituted dried herbs for fresh on this step.

Bajan_fish_veggies

Next the fish and green peppers were added, and then it cooked for fifteen minutes or so.

Bajan_dinner_cooking Bajan_main_course

 

Dinner!

Barbados_meal

 

Bajan Coconut Sweet Bread (recipe)

I found a lot of variation in coconut bread recipes, but I eventually settled on this one.  It was pretty straightforward, so I didn’t take a lot of pictures.  The one change I made was to use shortening instead of lard.  Anyway, the combination of melted butter/shortening, brown sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon smelled wonderful.  Once the eggs, water, vanilla, flower, baking powder, grated coconut, and raisins were added, this was incredibly thick batter.  Like, scoop it into the pan with a spoon thick.  It was perfectly done at the end of the 50-60 minutes of baking time.

Bajan_coconut_bread

 

Meal Review

Better than expected!  At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I was really nervous about repeating the funge incident and every other fish-based meal we have cooked for this project.

The cou cou actually was not bad.  I don’t think we got the consistency quite right, but it had some flavor, the okra added some nice variety, and it was a nice starchy side to go with the fish.  And the fish was actually not a failure!  It recovered from the microwave-thawing experience fairly well, and the flavor was really good.  I definitely enjoyed the Bajan seasoning and look forward to repurposing that for future meals.  I’m even growing to appreciate green peppers, something I never thought would happen.

Speaking of thing I never thought would happen, I made a dessert that was based around coconut and raisins!  And I enjoyed it!  What?!?!  Although it was a little more dry and crumbly than I would like for a sweet bread, the flavor was very good.  I saw many references to Bajan people enjoying this with a cup of tea in the morning, so you better believe that’s how I started the day on Saturday.  And it was great.

Overall, I would call the meal a success.  I wouldn’t go out of my way to make cou cou again, but I enjoyed trying it.  I would definitely use the Bajan seasoning on fish again, and I would definitely make coconut bread again.  I am tempted to make one of the other coconut bread recipes–many of the others used milk or sweetened condensed milk–and see how that effects the texture and flavor.

 

Next we are off to Belarus!

Bangladesh

We have been pretty busy the last few weeks, but we finally got back to cooking last Sunday!  Bangladesh was next in the alphabet.  Once again, I was completely overwhelmed by the options.  I guess that is what happens when you try to cook a single meal from one of top 10 most populous countries in the world.

I wasn’t too surprised to learn that there is a lot of overlap with Indian cuisine, specifically the food of West Bengal, since the Bengal region was split in two when Bangladesh became independent.  Still, there were so many options.  I read that among other things, many foods include mustard based sauces (both mustard seed and mustard oil), seafood (particularly the Ilish fish), and of course, rice.  We weren’t feeling extremely ambitious at the time, so we also tried to limit the number of complex and labor-intensive recipes.  That is always easier said than done, though.

We selected:

  • Singaras: these fried appetizers are similar to another Banladeshi/Indian appetizer called samosas.  A filling of tasty things like cauliflower, peanuts, peas, potatoes, spices, etc. are stuffed in dough and then fried.  They are typically served with a chutney, which gave us our “simple” recipe for the night.
  • Tomato and green mango chutney: See above description–this was an accompaniment to the singaras.  This chutney included mango, tomatoes, and spice mix called panch phoron.
  • Mustard fish and mango curry:  This satisfied the “mustard-based sauce” and “seafood” requirements, although I was a little hesitant since we generally haven’t had the best luck with fish-based dishes.  We couldn’t find the traditional ilish fish in Iowa, so we substituted sea bass steaks.
  • Bengali Dal: As you will read below, we had some problems with the fish dish and decided to make a second attempt at cooking a Bangladeshi main course the next day.  I had been planning doing a dal dish for Bangladesh for weeks but backed out when I decided it would be more adventurous or authentic or something to do the mustard-based fish meal.

Singara (recipe)

The recipe called for a tablespoon of ground spices, such as cumin, coriander, bay leaf, red chili, fennel, cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom.  Once again, I got to measure about a bunch of spices and dry roast them until they become fragrant.  I am starting to love recipes where I get to do this… I love seeing the mix of colors and textures and smelling the different spice mixes as they heat up.

singara_spices_roasting   singara_spices_ground

The cauliflower and potatoes were fried:

singara_cauliflower_potato

Then everything else was added to make the filling:

singara_filling

The dough was pretty straightforward, and it ended up being rolled into small balls, which were flattened and cut in half.  After the filling had cooled, I started rolling up the dough into cone-ish shapes (sealing the edges with water), then stuffing them with the filling.  As usual, we had more filling than dough… but we found that the filling was DELICOUS by itself and quickly disappeared.

singara_dough   singara_stuffing

By the way, I really don’t know why my hand looks so pink in that picture.  Since we cut the recipe in half (bad idea, these things were amazing), we ended up with 6 singaras.  Here they are, before and after frying.

singara_pre_frying   singaras_cooked

Tomato Mango Chutney (recipe)

This was our “simple” recipe for this meal.  It did use another new spice mix, however, called panch phoron.  It used cumin, nigella (also known as black cumin or onion seed), fenugreek, mustard, and fennel seed.  These were fried in oil with a dried chili pepper (or in our case, a dried serrano from last summer’s garden).

panch_phoron_and_chli_roasting

Then the diced tomatos and mangoes were added with some salt and turmeric.  I love how colorful some of these dishes are.

chutney_fruits

These were cooked with water and sugar until the liquid was reduced/thickened.  I didn’t watch the clock to see how long this took… we just kept an eye on it while cooking everything else.

tomato_mango_chutney

Bangladesh_appetizer

Mustard fish and mango curry (recipe)

We rubbed the mixture of chili powder, turmeric, and salt on the fish, then fried them in the wok.  Pretty straightforward, although it took a while.  Little did we know, this was the fatal flaw in this meal… as it turns out, they were not fully cooked in the middle.  More on that later.

frying_fish   Bangladesh_fish_cooked

Meanwhile, we had the mustard seeds soaking in water.  These were blended with with peppers (we used more thai/bird’s eye peppers since we STILL have a container full of those that has lasted over a month), and oil.  We couldn’t find mustard oil, so we substituted sunflower oil.  Tyler attempted crushing this mixture into a paste in the mortar and pestle (fail) and then in the small food processor (still a fail).  The “paste” was really chunky.  I didn’t even bother taking a photo of it.  I did, however, take a photo of the nigella seeds that were heated until they “crackled” in the oil.  I was extremely fascinated by the pattern the seeds made over time as they cooked in the oil without being stirred.  I’m still fascinated and curious at how they formed the repeating pentagon pattern.

onion_seeds_cooking

The “paste,” tomatoes, remaining oil, nigella seeds, other spices, etc. were mixed together on the pan and cooked until the oil separates.  It was not pretty due to the chunky paste.  I can’t be sure, but I don’t think this is what it’s supposed to look like.  I don’t remember if this is before or after we threw it back in the food processor for a while to break up the chunks.  That only helped a little bit.

mustard_fish_sauce

But we were committed, so we marched on down the path… next we added the mango, then the water (too much water, I think… oops again), and the fish.  It cooked for a while longer.  In another twist of fate to doom this meal to even more failure, we realized we forgot the cilantro to put on top.  Actually, I’m pretty sure I just thought the parsley in the fridge was cilantro when I made the ingredient list.  Either way, here’s the finished product.  Considering our struggles with the sauce, it didn’t look half bad.

mustard_fish_mango_curry

Bangladesh_dinner

Well, as we started eating, we both got about 2-3 bites in… and then at the same time, we both stopped, looked at each other, and asked, “Are you sure this fish is cooked all the way?”  It wasn’t raw by any means, and it was slightly flaky, but the texture was just… off.  We covered the pan with remaining fish and turned the heat back on to bake it some more.  I cooked mine in the microwave for a couple minutes, but neither of us quite had the appetite to eat any more fish that night.  SO, we made a resolution to try again the next night with a simple dal recipe.

We ended the night with a nice cup of chai tea (homemade by Tyler… he has been perfecting his chai recipe for months) to recover from the partially cooked fish trauma.

Chai

Bengali Dal (recipe)

I mostly followed the linked recipe, but I made all of the changes suggested in one of the comments.  We 1. Substituted chana dal for red dal (dal=lentils), 2. Substituted 1 or 2 small romas for the cherry tomatoes, 3.  Changed the ratio of onions to only frying 1/4 of the onion and putting the rest in with the dal, and 4. Used small thai peppers (which we had on hand) instead of serranos.

This recipe was pretty simple… sauté the onions and garlic, then add lentils, turmeric, bay leaf, tomatoes, slat, and pepper and cook for a long time.  I think the time of 20 minutes may have been accurate if I used the red lentils that the recipe called for, but the chana dal, which is actually baby chickpeas cut in half, took much longer to cook.  Fortunately we had two leftover singaras to relieve the hunger!

Bengali_dal_cooking

After 40 minutes or so of waiting, I started Googling chana dal and read about its long cooking time.  So we put the lid on the pan and cranked up the heat again.  After abutter 20 minutes or so, the dal was soft so we called it done.  In the mean time, I fried the onions. I learned that it is very important to have consistently sized onion slices for this!  I ran into problems with the thin onion slices being dark brown right away, while some slightly thicker slices were barely cooked.  Some of the small pieces ended up a little burnt, but it wasn’t really noticeable in the final dish.

fried_onions_for_dal

The fried onions were mixed in with the dal, then served over rice.  Unfortunately, we forgot to get cilantro again, so this was missing. 😦

Bengali_dal
Meal review:

The singaras were AMAZING.  I very much regret scaling the recipe in half… for some reason, we thought we would have a ridiculous amount of food if we made all of them.  We were wrong.  I loved the flavors, and I loved the flakiness of the dough.  The chutney was good and did a great job of balancing out some of the more pungent spices in the singara, although it was a little too sweet, and I almost preferred the singaras without the chutney.

The fish… as discussed above, was a bit of a disaster.  The good news is that we didn’t get food poisoning from the partially cooked fish, and it was decent as a leftover.  However, I had a hard time getting the memory of biting into partially cooked fish out of my mind when I ate it at lunch the next day.  I think the mangoes might have been a nice addition, but they mostly dissolved into the sauce after giving the fish so much time to finish cooking.

The dal was good.  The flavor was very different from what I expected.  I’m not entirely sure what I expected, but it wasn’t this.  It was good, though.  I can see where many people describe it as a comfort food.

Bahrain

Next on this list is Bahrain!  An archipelago of islands, it is located in the Persian Gulf off the coast of Saudi Arabia.  Dates, which are a native crop to Bahrain, play a large role in their cuisine, and there is generally a large influence from neighboring middle eastern countries.

I quickly found two recipes that I wanted to make–chicken machboos, which uses an abundance of spices and flavorful ingredients mixed with chicken and rice, and muhammar, which is a sweet rice that is often flavored with dates.  HOWEVER, I didn’t think I could handle two rice dishes in one meal…

We went with the chicken machboos, which just looked too delicious to pass up.  I saw several comments with recipes for chicken machboos that it is often served with a salad and with a warm sauce called daqqous.  The muhammar/sweet rice is going on my list of recipes to revisit sometime in the future.

Chicken Machboos (recipe)

Like with the curry for Antigua and Barbuda, we prepared a spice mix for this recipe.  This mix is called baharat, and it is a wonderful smelling mix of cloves, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, pepper, cardamom, paprika, and nutmeg.

Baharat_spices

Everything except the paprika and nutmeg was cooked in a pan for a few minutes–just until it became fragrant and started to smoke a bit.  As I expected, this smelled great.

Baharat_on_stove

After that cools, it is ground up with the nutmeg and paprika.  At this point, I had no doubt that this was going to be an awesome meal.

Baharat

Next, I prepared another set of ingredients.  One of which was new to me–loomi, also known as black limes.  These are limes that have been boiled in salt water and then set out to dry in the sun.  I was worried we would have to come up with a substitute, but the local international grocery store had them!

loomi

I set out the loomi, cardamom, ground cloves, cinnamon, garlic, pepper, onion, turmeric, baharat, ginger, onions, and tomatoes.  Seriously, with all of these delicious foods and spices going into it, how could this not be delicious?

machboos_chicken_ingredients

While I was doing this prep work, Tyler cooked the chicken pieces so they were golden brown on both sides, then set them aside until later.  We used about a 2 1/2 lb package of bone-in chicken pieces.

The onions were fried in butter, then the ginger, garlic, and peppers were added.  Then the turmeric and baharat.

machboos_chicken_satueed_veggies

Next, all of the above ingredients, plus chicken broth, were added to the pot and brought to a boil.  Then it simmered for an hour and filled the house with wonderful smells.

machboos_chicken_pre_cooking

We were worried about the chicken getting cooked all the way through, so I ended up adding water until the chicken was covered.

The Basmati rice, cilantro, and parsley were added for the last 20 minutes or so.  The rice absorbed all of the liquid during that time and came looking nice and yellow (thank you, turmeric!).  I sprinkled rose water on top before serving.

machboos_chicken

Daqqous (recipe below)

I read through several comments and descriptions of this sauce and decided to wing it.  I cooked two cloves of diced garlic in oil for a minute or two, then added 16 oz. of diced tomatoes, 2 Tbs. tomato paste,  some hot pepper (I used a half of a small Thai pepper, and I think I could have used more since I didn’t notice the kick), and salt.  I simmered this for 15-20 minutes, let it cool for a while, then pulsed it in a small blender to break up the bigger tomato chunks.

Daqqous

Middle Eastern Shirazi Salad (recipe below)

I merged several recipes and descriptions for this one too.  It is pretty straightforward–dice the tomatoes, onion, and cucumber into small pieces (I read somewhere that it is traditional/important to cut it into very small, evenly sized pieces).  Then I roughly chopped the parsley and fresh mint.  I mixed together some lemon juice, olive oil, and salt, and then tossed all of the ingredients together.

Bahrain_salad

Review

YUM.  The smells and piles of delicious looking ingredients and spices while cooking the chicken machboos had me convinced that this would be a winner right away, and it did not disappoint.  I was starting to get burned out on these rice based dishes, but this turned that around!  There was just so much flavor.  It was a very different set of flavors than I’m used to–especially the use of cinnamon in a savory dish.  But every time I ate the leftovers I noticed different flavors coming out.  The consistency was thick, creamy, and moist.  I would give this 5 out of 5 stars, and it definitely gets me excited to make more dishes from this region.  As an added bonus, we threw some of the extra baharat seasoning in a batch of chili the other day, and I thought it was a great addition.  It was a nice mellow contrast to the spiciness.

The daqqous was good, but nothing too unique or exciting.  I wasn’t thrilled with it when we first made this, but I found that it was a great addition to the machboos chicken throughout the week as we ate leftovers, since it counteracted the slight dryness from microwaving the rice.

The salad was also good.  I really enjoyed the cool and refreshing flavor–I’m still so surprised every time I see mint paired with things like tomato and lemon juice!  I’m not a big fan of cucumbers or raw onions, so the crunchy texture wasn’t as enjoyable to me.  Tyler, on the other hand, liked the texture but wasn’t crazy about the flavor.  So I guess that evened out somehow.  Overall, it was nice to have a light side salad with the chicken machboos.  I don’t think I would have had room left in my stomach for a dessert after eating all the rice and chicken.

We’re going to be out of town the rest of this week, so we’ll be back sometime next week with Bangladesh!  In the mean time, we will be reminding ourself what American food tastes like for the next few days…

Daqqous Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbs tomato paste
  • olive oil
  • hot pepper
  • water and salt as needed
Directions:
  1. Cooked the diced garlic in about 1 Tbs olive oil
  2. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, pepper, and salt to taste, then simmer for 10-20 minutes.
  3. Pulse in a blender to break up tomato chunks

Middle Eastern Shirazi Salad Recipe

Ingredients:
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 red onion
  • parsley
  • mint leaves
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 Tbs lemon juice
  • salt to taste
Directions:
  1. Chop the tomatoes, onion, and cucumber into small pieces.
  2. Roughly chop the parsley and mint.
  3. Mix the lemon juice, olive oil, and salt to taste.
  4. Toss all ingredients together.

The Bahamas

We made it to the Bs!!  Once again, we had a cold, snowy day to cook a meal from the Caribbean.

This was another meal that tested my food aversion limits.  I have a bit of a mental block about most seafood, so I started getting nervous when I read about the most famous food being conch meat.  I took the word of several other global cooking bloggers and avoided spending too much time looking into what conchs look like out of their shells but before having the skin and eyes removed…

The three most common conch dishes I read about in The Bahamas are 1) conch salad (in which the conch is usually eaten raw… sorry, not that adventurous!), 2) conch chowder (maybe…), or 3) conch fritters.  The fritters looked the best out of these three, and it definitely occured to me that the conch would be most well disguised in this option.  I almost backed out on cooking with conch when we couldn’t find it locally, but Tyler and my brother convinced me to stick with it.  Amazon to the rescue–they sell canned conch! It was more expensive than I would have liked for one can, but as Tyler keeps reminding me, “we aren’t doing this to save money!”

Our second dish for The Bahamas is peas and rice.  Contrary to what you might expect from their name, pigeon peas are a type of bean.  I’ve read that this is common throughout the Caribbean, so I will probably come across it again.  It seemed like a good accompaniment to the fritters–and a good fallback in case I couldn’t stomach the conch. 🙂

I picked a dessert for our third dish, and I felt pretty confident that it would be good.  Gauva duff–sweet bread filled with guava goop and guava sauce!

Conch Fritters (recipe)

This was another “divide and conquer” meal, and I left Tyler in charge of the fritters (surprise, surprise).  I generally avoided the conch preparing scene, but I did snap a photo of the chopped conch.

conch_meat

The conch pieces were mixed with finely diced veggies–onion, red and green bell peppers, hot pepper (we used small Thai peppers that were leftover from a few countries ago), celery, and chopped cilantro–and the dry ingredients–flour, thyme, and seasoned salt.  Water was added to this to reach a thick, somewhat sticky consistency.  Yes, that is a glass of red wine that appeared between these steps. 🙂

conch_fritters_dry_ingredients   conch_fritters_batter

It took much longer than we expected for the oil to get hot.  We used canola oil in the stockpot (to minimize splattering) and were probably a bit shy of the recommended two inches.  Since this used a LOT of oil, our plan was to add more only if needed.  We appreciated the tip from this recipe to drop a small amount of the batter in the oil to test whether or not it was hot enough.  Eventually, it got hot and Tyler started frying!

frying_conch_fritters

Sadly this took a long time and caused us to miss the beginning of the Olympics closing ceremony. 😦

Conch_fritters

We also made a basic dipping sauce for the fritters.  I saw a lot of variation in what the sauce should include, but I followed a common theme in the recipes and mixed together 2 Tbs. mayonnaise, 2 Tbs. ketchup, and 2 Tbs. lime juice.  I intended to add a dash of hot sauce but forgot about it until we were already eating.

conch_fritter_dipping_sauce

Peas and Rice

There were a lot of recipes out there for Bahamian peas and rice, and just as many comments on those recipes from Bahamian natives with comments about what is it and is not authentic.  I merged a recipe from all of this information, although I have started to notice that two natives of a country do not aways have the same opinion of what is “authentic.”

This recipe started with 3 slices of bacon, chopped and cooked.  Yum.  I added the green pepper, celery, and onion to the bacon and bacon fat and cooked until the onion was translucent.  I added the minced garlic and cooked for another minute or two.

Peas_and_rice_bacon_veggies

Next I added the tomato paste, thyme, coconut milk, and pigeon peas.  I forgot to take a picture at this step, but you’ll have to trust me when I say that it looked pretty tasty at this point.  As a side note, this is the step where I intended to add browning sauce, which some comments said was critical to make authentic Bahamian Peas and Rice.  I totally forgot to put it on the grocery list, and we (Tyler) had already made two trips to the grocery store that day.  I added some extra tomato paste to make up for it.

Once this came to a boil, I added the rice and enough water to cover it.  I used white Basmati rice, since that is the only long grain white rice we had on hand.  In retrospect, I should have soaked it for a while like I did for Azerbaijan, because that stuff was thirsty.  Every time I turned my back, the liquid was gone, so I kept adding water to the pan.  I gave it about 30 minutes, after which I declared it to be done.  It got to hang out on the stove for a while longer, though, since the fritters were taking forever.

Bahama_peas_and_rice

Guava duff (recipe)

This was definitely the most labor intensive of the recipes!  We did most of the work before starting the fritters or peas and rice, and we had to run the dishwasher while cooking the rest of the meal since it was full after making the guava duff.

Unfortunately, we had to use canned guavas.  An employee at our grocery store told Tyler they had fresh guavas the day before, but they were getting too old and had to be tossed.  We used three 28 oz. cans of guava to reach the 4 cups of guava flesh for the filling!  We ended up with extra filling, so I think we could have gotten by with just two cans.

I have never cooked with guavas before.  They smelled deliciously sweet and tropical.  *Note below picture is just ONE of the three cans of guavas!

canned_guavas

I separated the seeds and pulp from the flesh, which I chopped into small pieces.  These were mixed with brown sugar, nutmeg, and a pinch of salt and cooked over medium-low heat for about 30 minutes.  I’m not sure what the final consistency was supposed to be, but I kept mashing them to get rid of the big pieces.  It felt and looked like I was making applesauce!

guava_sauce   IMG_5528

I transferred this to another bowl to chill in our walk-in refrigerator (AKA the screened porch on a cold midwest evening).  Meanwhile, I made the sauce.  This used the pulp from the guavas (I ran them through the food mill to remove the seeds).  The recipe called for 1/2 can of sweetened, condensed milk but didn’t say what size of can, so I used somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 cup.  I also scaled back the sugar a bit from the recipe.  I added a splash of the optional vanilla extract and rum.  This was a crazy, thick, gooey sauce.

guava_sauce

Meanwhile, Tyler prepared the dough and rolled it out.

guava_duff_dough

And this is where disaster struck!  I scooped all of the filling onto the dough and attempted it roll it up.  There was sooo much filling that it was oozing out everywhere.  It was a total mess, and it was HUGE, so there was no way we could really wrap it up in the parchment paper/aluminum foil.  I made a controversial decision to unroll it and start over.  I scooped as much of the filling into a bowl as I could.  The recipe suggests mixing some of the guava filling in with the dough (originally we had skipped this since the filling was still hot), so I didn’t worry about the guava filling that stuck to the dough.  I kneaded it together and had a big sticky mess.  Several additions of flour later, I had a somewhat workable dough.  For the second attempt, we made two smaller rolls instead of one, and we didn’t use all of the filling.  The first roll was somewhat successful, and the second seems pretty close to what it was supposed to look like.

Since my hands were covered with sticky dough/guava goop and I was reasonably frustrated, I didn’t capture any photos of the disaster…

I did document one of the rolls as it was covered in parchment paper and 2-3 layers of aluminum foil.  I definitely felt like a wannabe burrito chef doing this part.

guava_duff_pre_wrapping   guava_duff_parchment_paper   guava_duff_wrapped

Now, the recipe suggests two cooking methods: one on the stove and one in the oven, both involving submerging it in boiling water.  We attempted this in our stockpot, but it just wasn’t big enough.  So we moved them to the crockpot, put on the lid, and set it on high!

guava_duff_cooking

We checked one after the suggested 1 hr. 20 minutes, and it was still pretty goopy.  We decided to experiment a bit, and I re-wrapped this one and set it in a shallow roasting pan with hot water in the oven at 300°F.  I left the second roll in the crockpot.  We checked on them after another hour or so, and then they both came out perfectly done!
guava_duff_cooked

I cut it into thick slices and served it with the sauce (not pictured below).

guava_duff_sliced

I think our frustration over the guava duff, annoyance that we missed the beginning of the Olypmics closing ceremony, and the fact that we ended up eating while watching the rest of it on TV (1-2 hours later than originally planned, as usual…) limited my ability to appreciate this meal.  However, I did enjoy it

The fritters were good.  I won’t say they were phenomenal, but they were good.  I am still working past my mental block of seafood as I eat the leftovers. 🙂  These reminded us a lot of a fried, seafood version of the breakfast muffins we like to make.  I really liked the extra kick of the lime in the dipping sauce.  The conch meat was pretty subdued in this, other than a general seafood flavors.  Several recipes I looked at said that you could substitute other types of seafood for the conch, and I can see why.  I don’t think the difference would be very noticeable.

The peas and rice were good, although they weren’t as flavorful as I hoped.  I think we ended up with too much rice relative to everything else, so the flavors were diluted.  Tyler really enjoyed this though, and I don’t think it will be a problem to go through the leftovers.  I could see jazzing this up with more seasonings (or less rice) as a simple vegetarian meal.

The guava duff was absolutely amazing.  Loved it.  The guavas had a unique and tropical flavor that I’m not used to, and the duff was a great, soft consistency.  I had to go light on the sauce to avoid it getting too sweet, but overall this was wonderful and a great dessert (at least as great as a dessert can be without chocolate 🙂 ).  I have a sneaking suspicion that it would be good with some fresh nutmeg grated on top, but I haven’t tried that yet.  Although I wouldn’t be exited about repeating the amount of work and frustration we had, I would happily eat this again!  I was glad we got to try a new cooking method, and I think we would have less frustration if we made it again.

Bahamas_meal   guava_duff_slice

Overall, I would say this meal was pretty successful!  The biggest downside is all the leftover celery that we have to do something with (sorry, no ants on a log in this house).

Next, we are back across the ocean to Bahrain!

Austria

I am a little behind with blog posts, but we cooked food from Austria last Sunday.  Since Australia was fairly simple and we were feeling more motivated than usual,  we cranked up the some Mozart music and started cooking the food of his homeland and made it two days in a row of international cooking!  Austria is another country that I was excited for.  It is the first of the countries that I have been to, and I really enjoyed the German and Austrian food I have eaten during my trips to Europe.  I was very tempted to make wiener schnitzel and spaetzle, but we decided to save those for Germany (which will be around September this year at our current rate).  We also wanted to avoid just recreating foods that we have eaten before.  I found many references to a boiled beef dish called Tafelspitz, which is often served with an apple-horesradish sauce.  We paired this with a pan fried potatoes recipe called Bratkartoffeln.  Much like Australia, the real struggle was narrowing down the list of fantastic looking desserts!  I wanted to avoid anything cake-like after having cashew cake for Aruba and Lamingtons (chocolate coated cake slices) for Australia, so we settled on Apfelstrudel.

Tafelspitz with apple-horesradish sauce (recipe below–we adapted on our own recipe based on various other recipes, descriptions of this dish, and ingredients that were available or in the fridge waiting to be used)

The tafelspitz is essentially a cut of beef boiled in broth with some seasonings.  The beef is slow cooked for about an hour with a a bone/shank, a bunch of root vegetables, peppercorns, bay leaves, and allspice.

Tafelspitz_starting

Most of the recipes we looked at also suggested slicing an onion in half and frying the flat sides on a cast iron skillet.  I didn’t research why they do this, but it must have to do with releasing the magic onion flavors or something.  Anyway, I thought it looked cool.

toasted_onions

We let this boil for about an hour (until the meat was cooked), then removed the veggies and replaced them with more root veggies.  The idea is that the first ones lost most of their flavor to making a broth, and the second batch of vegetables would be the ones we eat with the beef.  It continued simmering until the vegetables were cooked.  The beef is sliced against the grain and served with the vegetables.  Since the cooking liquid is essentially homemade beef broth, we put that in a gallon sized Ziplock bag and chucked in the freezer.  Whenever we need broth for a soup or something, I’m sure it will be delicious.

tafelspitz

It seems to be common to serve tafelspitz with apple-horeseradish sauce and chopped chives (or chive sauce).  We used chopped chives instead of the sauce, but we were both intrigued by the idea of apple horseradish sauce.  It was pretty simple to make–we just chopped an apple and combined it with a small (4 oz.) jar of prepared horseradish sauce.  We blended this in a small food processor until it had a fairly smooth consistency.

Apple-horeradish_sauce

Bratkartoffeln (recipe)

I roughly followed this recipe from food.com.  I’ve eaten similar fried potato dishes in Germany, so it looked relatively authentic to me.  I knew this would test my patience, since you are supposed to let the potatoes sit in the pan for several minutes (without stirring) to get crispy.  I am terrible at leaving food alone… I like to poke and prod my food, whether it is on the stove or leftover on my plate at the end of a meal…

This recipe called for cooking the onions and bacon first until the onions are translucent.  In retrospect, I think I should have given the bacon a head start because it looked pretty raw still when the onions were starting to turn brown.  I also should have used a larger pan.

Bratkartoffeln_onions_bacon

Next the potatoes are added.  I boiled the potatoes earlier in the day until they were mostly cooked but not mushy.  Some people recommend cooking them the day before, but I didn’t even know I would be cooking this the day before.  I put them in the fridge for the afternoon then cut them into thin slices and added them to the pan.  I also added oil–since the bacon wasn’t fully cooked and, therefore, wasn’t emitting much bacon fat liquid to cook the potatoes in.  I wasn’t successful in getting the nice crispy finish I’ve had on similar dishes in Germany.  Although the bottom of the potatoes got crispy, the crispy part stayed behind every time I flipped the potatoes.  As a result, I kept adding oil to keep it from sticking.  In the end, I got some browned potatoes, onions, and bacon, and I scraped the crispies off the bottom of the pan and mixed them in.

Bratkartoffeln_frying

The tafelspitz, sauce, chives, and potatoes made a nice spread of dishes for dinner.

Austrian_dinner_dishes

Of course, this was supplemented with a loaf of crusty bread. 🙂

bread_for_Austria_meal

Apfelstrudel (recipe)

I found a lot of recipes from apfelstruedel, but I loved this blog post with a family recipe and a wonderful explanation of how to make it.  Once I saw the pictures of dough stretched out to fill a table, then rolled up with the tablecloth, I knew we had to make this.

This started with a small ball of dough, which we let sit out for several hours (as with the boiled potatoes, we didn’t plan ahead well enough to make this the day before).

apfelstruedel_dough

Once the rest of the meal was almost ready, we started preparing the apfelstrudel.  I chopped apples and measured the cinnamon, sugar, and bread crumbs, while Tyler worked on the dough.  He put flour out on a clean tablecloth then started rolling out the dough, occasionally spreading melted butter over the dough.  It started pretty small and eventually stretched out to the size of our table!  Then he trimmed off the thick dough around the border… which looked like a surprisingly large percent of the original ball of dough’s volume.

Apfelstreudel_dough_1   Apfelstreudel_dough_2   Apfelstreudel_dough_3   Apfelstreudel_dough_4

I spread the apples, cinnamon, sugar, and bread crumbs (we omitted the raisins, because… yuck.  I may have warmed up to raisins in savory dishes, but I’m keeping them out of dessert as long as possible).  It was super fun to roll up the strudel with the tablecloth.  I took an awesome video of this, but sadly it appears that I can’t uploaded it without paying to upgrade my WordPress account. 😦  So here are a couple snapshots of the process.

Apfelstreudel_pre_rolling

Apfelstreudel_rolling_1   Apfelstreudel_rolling_2

We twisted it into a horseshoe shape and spread some more melted butter on top, then baked it.  YUM.

Apfelstreudel_before_baking   Apfelstreudel_after_baking

The finished meal was wonderful.  I was a little worried that the tafelspitz would be bland, but the flavor really came from the meat.  I liked the flavor the chopped chives added. The apple-horesradish sauce was also very good with this, although it was a very dominant flavor.   I had to make sure I ate a few bites without it to appreciate all of the flavors.  The potatoes were also good, but they weren’t as good as similar dishes I’ve had in Europe.  I had too many problems with them sticking to the pan, and I think they also ended up too oily from all the oil I added to prevent sticking.  They were good with the meal, but I think I will opt for less oily potato cooking method. 🙂

As much as we enjoyed dinner, the apfelstrudel was the clear winner of this meal.  Delicious.  The flaky pastry layers were wonderful, and the apple filling was so wonderfully cinnamony and warm.  I can’t say enough good things about this… we will definitely be making it again!!

Austria_dinner   Apfelstreudel_slice

Tafelspitz Recipe

Prep 10 mins ∙ Cook 4 hrs ∙ Makes 6 ∙ Difficulty Medium

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs beef (we used Bottom Round Roast)
  • 1 beef bone (shanks work)
  • 1 onion
  • 6 carrots
  • 2 turnips
  • 2 leeks
  • 12 peppercorns
  • 2 bay leafs
  • 1 allspice berry
  • 1 jar horseradish sauce
  • 1 apple, skin removed and chopped

Directions

  1. Separate the carrots, turnips, and leeks (other root vegetables can be substituted) in half.
  2. Cut half of the vegetables in large chunks.
  3. Bring a small pan to a high heat. Cut the onion in half (do not peel it). Place the onion halves on the heat and hold until brown but not charred.
  4. Place the bone in a large stock pot. Put the meat on top of the bone and placed the chopped vegetables and onion halves on top of the meat.
  5. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the vegetables with an extra inch above. Guess if the vegetables start floating.
  6. Bring the pot to a boil. While the water is heating up add all spices except the salt.
  7. Once the water is boiling, reduce to an uncovered simmer for 1 hour.
  8. Add salt to taste, about a tablespoon. Resume simmering until the meat is tender, about 2 to 2.5 hours. Refresh water as necessary.
  9. Once the meat can be easily stabbed with a fork, remove meat, bone, and vegetables. Save the water but discard the vegetables and bone (they have no more flavor). Put the meat back in the water.
  10. Chop the reserved vegetables in whatever manner you want to eat them. Add them to the broth. Simmer for 1 hour or until the vegetables are at desired tenderness.
  11. While vegetables are in the water, combine horseradish sauce and diced apple in a food processor. Use the amount of apple that seems appropriate. Blend the two until the sauce is smooth.
  12. When vegetables are done, remove the beef and slice thinly against the grain. Vegetables can be removed and served along the beef or kept in the broth and eaten as a soup. If serving the vegetables as a side, keep the broth for later use.

Notes

This meal sounds bland but the boiling process adds wonderful flavor to the meat. This meal is the rare sort where the flavor comes from the meat and not the spices on the meat.

Antigua and Barbuda: Flambéed Bananas

This recipe was so much fun and so delicious.  We used this recipe from http://www.recipeisland.com, but I saw a lot of other variations that looked just as good.

I mixed the sauce ingredients (brown sugar, water, cinnamon, nutmeg, and lime juice) in a skillet until thickened.

Antigua&Barbuda_flambee_bananas_sauce

Then added the peeled and sliced bananas and cooked for a few minutes.

Antigua&Barbuda_flambee_bananas_cooking

Then we transferred the bananas and sauce to another pan, drizzled some rum on top, and lit it on fire!

Antigua&Barbuda_flambee_bananas_on_fire

The finished product was served hot over vanilla ice cream.

Antigua&Barbuda_flambee_bananas_on_ice_cream

Antigua and Barbuda: Curry Chicken with Roti

Our main dish for Antigua and Barbuda was curry chicken with roti.  I’m not sure it was the most authentic recipe out there, but we used this recipe from Emeril Lagasse.  It lined up with the photos and descriptions I saw for this dish in Antigua and Barbuda.  This recipe involved making our own curry powder, which was fun and smelled great.

My first step was to prepare the dough for the roti, as it was supposed to sit for 2 hours.  This was pretty straightforward… mix the flour and baking soda, then add water and oil, and then knead for five minutes.  My dough was very dry and crumbly, so I added a few extra tablespoons of water to get it to stick together.

Antigua&Barbuda_roti_dough

This was rolled into six balls of dough then left to sit for two hours.

Antigua&Barbuda_roti_dough_rolled_out

Meanwhile, I started getting out the spices for the curry powder!

Antigua&Barbuda_curry_ingredients

I loved seeing all the different colors and patterns mixed together.

Antigua&Barbuda_curry_spices

This went in a frying pan for a few minutes, until the spices were fragrant and starting to smoke.

Antigua&Barbuda_curry_spices_in_pan

Then the mixture was set out on a plate to cool.  It smelled wonderful.

Antigua&Barbuda_curry_cooling

Finally, we ground it in the mortar and pestle.

Antigua&Barbuda_curry_pre_grinding

Next we started on the chicken.  It was left to marinate for 20 minutes in curry powder, vegetable oil, and salt.

Antigua&Barbuda_marinating_chicken

Then this was browned in a large pan (we don’t own a dutch oven, so we used a deep skillet instead).

Antigua&Barbuda_cooking_chicken

The next ingredients are the onion, garlic, ginger, thyme, and pepper:

Antigua&Barbuda_veggies

This was all mixed together with the chicken, along with the chicken stock and coconut milk.

Antigua&Barbuda_chicken_in_sauce

Over the next hour and a half, the liquid reduced somewhat.  The recipe called for bone-in chicken pieces, but we just used four chicken breasts instead.  We shredded the chicken in our stand mixer, then mixed it back in with the liquid.

Antigua&Barbuda_curry_chicken

Meanwhile, we rolled out the roti dough and cooked it on the griddle for a little under a minute on each side.

Antigua&Barbuda_roti_frying

The finished product–curry chicken served in roti:

Antigua&Barbuda_curry_chicken_roti