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.

Cyprus

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:

pourgouri_uncooked

After cooking:

pourgouri

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:

afelia_1

And again after cooking, served with the pourgouri:

Cypriot_meal

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?).

pavlova_batter

This was glopped out into for circles on parchment paper:

pavlolva_before_cooking

Then baked:

pavlova_after_cooking

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.

pink_pomegranate_pavlova

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.

Brazil

After our 3+ week break, we finally got back into this project with Brazil.  It was a bit of a doozy to start back into the project with this country because there were SO MANY OPTIONS.  These big countries are tough; there is just so much information and variety in cuisine.  The most commonly selected dish by the other international cooking blogs I follow is a meat and bean stew called feijoada, so I went with that.  The traditional sides are cove mineira (cooked collard greens or kale), farofa (toasted manioc flour), and rice.  I planned to make all of those but had to bail on the farofa when I couldn’t find the coarse manioc flour locally (in case anyone is interested, here is the recipe I was planning to use).  I also made a simple dessert called brigadeiros, which are similar to chocolate truffles and are named after a 1920s Brazilian politician.

Feijoada (recipe)

This dish consists of a whole bunch of meat and some beans slow cooked together.  The first challenge was gathering all of the meat.  This recipe called for 1 lb corned beef, 2 lb smoked spareribs or pork chops, 3/4 lb slab of bacon, 1 1/2 lb boneless beef chuck or eye round, 1 ham hock, 1 pig’s food, and 1/4 lb chorizo.  That is a lot of meet.

We checked with multiple grocery stores, and none of them have corned beef in stock (maybe they consider it seasonal??).  I read in multiple other recipes that the corned beef is actually a substitute for a type of Brazillian dried beef called carne seca.  I did some searching on how to make your own carne seca, and it involved several days of letting salted beef dry out in the sun.  Not happening.  Since I read many comments that the more smoked meats you put in this dish the better, we decided our substitute would be to smoke a piece of beef (we went with a beef chuck cut) with some salt on it.  We let it smoke long enough to get somewhat dry, hoping that would be closer to the authentic ingredient.

We also couldn’t find pig feet (darn, how disappointing…), so instead we used the second ham hock that came in the package of two.  The only other substitution/change is that the chorizo we found didn’t have a casing, so it was cooked like ground beef as opposed to being cut in slices.

After retrieving all of the meat, we started cooking.  Most of the meat simmered in the stock pot for an hour or two.  It was a very full pot.

Feijoada_cooking_meats

 

After the meat was all cooked and tender (it took longer than the recipe recommended), it was removed from the broth and then chopped/shredded.  I set aside the broth.

Feijoada_meats   Feijoada_shredded_meats

 

Next the (pre-soaked) black beans went in the stock pot with some of the reserved broth.  I don’t have any pictures to share of this step… it didn’t look very exciting.

Next we chopped the jalapeño, scallions, and garlic.

Feijoada_veggies

They were cooked with the chorizo.  It smelled delicious.

Feijoada_veggies_chorizo_uncooked   Feijoada_chorizo_veggies

 

The beans, some broth, the bacon/ham hock meat, and eventually the rest of the meats were added and left to simmer for a little while to get to the final product.

Feijoada

 

Brazilian Style Rice (recipe)

This was pretty close to your standard white rice, except that you start by frying some garlic, onion, and the uncooked rice in oil.  The intent was to lightly brown the rice, although I can’t say that really happened with mine.  Then you add the water and cook as usual.

Brazilian_style_rice

 Couve Mineira (recipe)

This was another quick and simple.  It was my first time cooking with collard greens, and I was pretty impressed at how huge the leaves are.  I also was excited to chiffonade them (A. What a fun word! B. What a fun way to slice stuff and make cool ribbon shaped strips!).

chiffonading_collard_greens   chiffonaded_collard_greens

The chiffonaded collard greens were boiled for a couple minutes then dunked in cold water.  It took two batches because it turns out that “two large bunches” of collard greens makes a LOT of food.

Then the garlic, salt, and pepper were heated in olive oil and tossed with the collard greens.  Nice and simple.

Couve_mineira

Brigadeiros (recipe)

These also had a short ingredient list and simple cooking instructions… they just took a while.  A can of sweetened, condensed milk, butter, and cocoa powder were mixed in a small pan over medium-low heat.  This was stirred constantly for about half an hour (and by constantly I mean stirred constantly for a minute or two, left alone for a few minutes while I folded laundry, stirred for another minute or two, then left alone again as I continued folding laundry, then back to stir, etc…).  I forgot to take a picture of the final consistency, but the idea was to continue this process until it was thick enough that you can see the bottom of the pan when you stir.

Brigadeiros_1   Brigadeiros_2   Brigadeiros_3   Brigadeiros_4

 

After the heating process it was left in a buttered pan to cool.  It felt like I was making brownies.

Brigadeiros_5

 

Then the batter was rolled by into small balls and coated with chocolate sprinkles.  The tip to put some butter (I used crisco) on your hands to keep the mixture from sticking was very helpful.

Brigadeiros

 

The final meal looked surprisingly similar to Botswana from a few weeks ago.  It is traditional to serve the feijoada with orange wedges to help with digestion or something.  They also added some nice color to the plate.

Brazil_meal

 

We are loving the nice weather and enjoyed this meal on our screened-in porch. 🙂

Brazil_meal_table

 

The meal was good.  I can’t say it was a favorite, but it was good.  The feijoada had a fairly complex flavor from all of the different meats.  It was overwhelmingly meaty and heavy, though… definitely more meat than we are used to eating.  Since it made so much, we ended up freezing half, and I’m tempted to use some of those leftovers with barbecue sauce as a sandwiches.  The meat reminded me a bit of the saucy southerner sandwich from the delicious Hickory Park of Ames, IA.  I don’t know if orange really goes that well with this dish or if I just was really in the mood for oranges, but the orange wedges were delicious with the feijoada.

The rice was good, but I can’t say I noticed a big difference in texture or flavor from the standard method of boiling white rice in water.  I’m still not a big fan of cooked greens as a side, but I will say that this recipe for collard greens were better than average.  I may warm up to them by the end of this project in a few years.

The brigadeiros were quite good.  They were similar to chocolate truffles, but the filling reminded me more of brownie batter.  Very rich, so one or two was all I could eat in one sitting.  My co-workers benefitted from some of the extras. 🙂

Belarus

It was unusually easy to pick out recipes for Belarus!  Everything I read talked about potatoes, with draniki being the potato dish of choice.  They were described as a potato-based pancake, which sounded pretty good.  It seems that machanka is the most well-known dish to serve with draniki.  It features bites of pork cooked in a sour cream based sauce, and to me it looked similar to stroganoff.  Since I read about many meals starting with a soup, we picked that for our third dish.  Borscht seems to be a common choice, but we went with the cold version of it that is usually served in summer–Khaladnik.

Khaladnik (recipe)

This was one of our first cooking experiences with beets… we attempted to grow them in our garden a couple years ago and ended up with a handful of pathetic looking beets that we made into chips.  So we were pretty amazed by the vivid color this one beet produced when boiled in water.

beets beet_liquid

We couldn’t find sorrel, so I followed the internet’s advice to substitute it with spinach and lemon zest.  We weren’t really sure how to interpret the instructions to boil the sorrel (boil usually implies boil in water, but the descriptions of sorrel online suggested it might wilt into a sauce without water?)  We ended up boiling the spinach in water, which I think was a mistake… there was a LOT of water left after the spinach was soft/wilted/slightly dissolving, so we kept it on the stove for 30 minutes or so to boil off the rest of the water.

We did all of these steps early in the afternoon since they needed to cool, and we went on a walk to enjoy the nice weather!  No green growth yet, but clear blue skies!

going_for_a_walk

When we got back, we tackled the rest of the khaladnik recipe.  We put the food processor to good use shredding the beet and cucumbers then mixed all of the ingredients together.  I try to follow recipes as closely as possible during this project, but in this case I did omit the egg.  I don’t like taking chances with salmonella…

Khaladnik

Khaladnik_in_bowl

Draniki (recipe)

This recipe was pretty straightforward.  Grate/shred the potatoes and onion (thank you food processor!).  I started using the food processor blade that is specifically for grating, but since the recipe suggested that the potatoes should be somewhat liquidy, I pulsed them with the regular food processor blade for a little while to get some smaller/mushier pieces.  This was mixed with the egg, salt, and pepper.

Draniki_batter

Then I dropped tablespoon-fills into a hot pan with the sunflower oil.  I found that I had to spread out the batter drops with the back of the spoon to get more of a pancake shape.  This process went pretty well at first, but I ran into my usual problem of smoking out the kitchen when I fry things.  I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong, but every time we fry foods in oil we end up with massive amounts of smoke filling the house…

draniki_cooking

draniki

I put these in the oven on a warming setting to keep them hot while we finished the rest of the meal.

 

Machanka (recipe)

We first cut the pork into bite sized pieces and browned it.  Then it was simmered in beef stock for 20 minutes or so.  This made it nice and tender!

IMG_5882

For the sauce, we started with a roux–the recipe said to sauté the flour, and since it never mentions when to use the butter, we assumed this is what was supposed to happen.  My experience has been that a lot of sauces started with a butter/flour roux.  The stock and spices (the recipe didn’t specify type of spice, but other descriptions and recipes used bay leaves, so that is what we went with) were added to this, and in the mean time the chopped onions were fried in a different pan.  Eventually it all got mixed together with the sour cream in an oven-safe pan.

Machanka_pre_cooking

It still seemed pretty liquidy after baking, so we put it back in a pan on the stove for 10 minutes or so, until it got a bit thicker.

Machanka_warm_and_bubbly

Belarus_meal

This turned out to be another delicious meal!

The soup was very… unique.  I can’t think of anything I have ever eaten with a similar flavor…  the cucumber and green onion gave it a very light, fresh, and summery flavor.  The beets, on other hand, kept it grounded with a very earthy flavor.  It’s not a soup that I will find myself craving very often, but I’m definitely glad we tried it.

The draniki and machanka was wonderful.  It is amazing how such a short and simple ingredient list can produce so much flavor.  The draniki was very good by itself but even better with some of the machanka sauce.  The pork was perfectly tender, and the machanka sauce had a great flavor… who knew you could get so much flavor out of some sour cream, beef stock, and bay leaves!  It wasn’t the healthiest meal we have made, but I think it would be the perfect meal for a cold, winter night.

We get to stay and Europe and hop over a few states to Belgium next time!