Beanz still meanz Heinz: Macedonian tavche gravche

‘I’m going to write the fastest blog post ever,’ Miranda declared just now as she sat down at the computer. The irony of this then dawned on her, as she considered the fact that this dish was probably the one that has taken longer to cook than any other. Nonetheless, a quick post is all this is going to be, we’re afraid, because we’re going away in a few days (woohoo!) and have more pre-holiday jobs to do than we care to think about. So today you are spared a lengthy preamble, whilst we merely present you with the recipe (with thanks to 196 Flavors for Macedonian tavche gravche: beans in a skillet. Continue reading

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Better than frogs’ legs: Dominican pudin de pan

For such a small island (population less than 75,000), Dominica (which is pronounced, dom-in-KNEE-ka, by the way, not do-MIN-i-ka) has an interesting history and range of national dishes. For years the national dish was unofficially mountain chicken (more on that later), but in 2013, following a series of surveys among Dominicans, it was replaced by callaloo.

Now, we’ve already made callaloo, and given that it was probably the worst international dish we’ve ever made, we weren’t keen to walk that road again, so we had a look at the other options on the Dominican survey: sancoche, broth, fig and saltfish and titiwi. We’ve already made fig and saltfish too, broth didn’t sound terribly interesting, and whilst we could childishly snigger at the names of both sancoche (stew with loads of meat) and titiwi (a type of tiny fish), neither was really what we wanted to cook.

Next, we figured that if mountain chicken had been good enough for the Dominicans to consider it their unofficial national dish, it would be good enough for us. But then we found out that mountain chicken ISN’T CHICKEN AT ALL. It’s frogs’ legs. And, frankly, even if we’d known where to buy frogs’ legs, we didn’t want to. We’re being as adventurous and open-minded as we can during this cooking challenge, but the line has to be drawn somewhere.

Back at square one, we finally found Clara’s recipe for pudin de pan, or spiced bread pudding, on Dominican Cooking. As she points out, the Dominicans didn’t invent bread pudding, but they have put their own spin on it, and as two people who a) haven’t made an international dessert for a while and b) love bread pudding, we decided that this one actually was ‘good enough for us.’ Continue reading

A series of discoveries: Maldivian mas riha

If you type ‘Maldives national dish’ into Google (other search engines are available), you are presented with a one word response: Fish. Not terribly helpful. Reading a little more reveals that the favourite fish of the Maldivians is tuna, which was good news for us because we consider a beautiful, just-seared fillet of tuna to be a real treat. It’s something we don’t eat a lot, though, because it’s so expensive, so when we found out that a typically Maldivian way of preparing it is mas riha (curry), we were faced with a dilemma. Did we really want to spend premium prices on a premium product to then hide it in a spicy coconut sauce?

Luckily for us, the solution was literally placed right in front of us. When we were waiting in line at the fishmonger for the snapper for our Martiniquais dish, we noticed that they had one kilo bags of frozen tuna fillets for £8. They weren’t going to be any good for sashimi, but for a curry, we figured it was a pretty safe bet. And the gamble paid off! Continue reading

Caribbean riffing: Martiniquais grilled snapper with sauce au chien

We each learnt a valuable lesson in the making of this recipe:
Ash: If you use up all the garlic and don’t tell Wifey, she won’t put it on the shopping list and therefore won’t buy any more.
Miranda: A whole fried fish is hard to take a decent photo of (especially when using an iPhone instead of a camera).

Nonetheless, here we are, with a slightly improvised version of one of Martinique’s national dishes and our best attempts at photographing it! We say ‘one of’because research would suggest that there are actually three: a lamb curry, a fish stew, and this one, grilled snapper with sauce au chien. Yes, that does mean ‘dog sauce’ in English. No, we’re not sure why. The recipe we used describes it as ‘an exotic vinaigrette made with herbs, chillies, aromatic vegetables and lime juice’, which sounds much more appealing. Continue reading

New chicken routine: Sri Lankan kothu roti

Regular readers of this blog will know that when we first started this ‘cook around the world’ challenge, we said that if we had a cookbook with a recipe in it that we could use, we would use it instead of trying to find a recipe on the Internet. When we realised that Sri Lanka was the next country on our list, we were therefore excited, as we hadn’t been able to use one of our cookbooks for a while, and we were sure to have a Sri Lankan recipe with which to break that drought.

Well, imagine our surprise when we found that within our 150+ cookbooks, there is not a single Sri Lankan recipe – at least not one that we could lay our hands on. Indian, yes; Cambodian, yes; Bangladeshi, yes – but Sri Lankan was nowhere to be seen. The good news here is that we clearly have a need to buy another cookbook…

Not to be deterred, our next port of call was Miranda’s friend Lucy, who travelled to Sri Lanka last year and, as a fellow foodie, may have had a recipe for us. She didn’t, but she did suggest kothu roti as a dish that ‘everyone eats everywhere’ in Sri Lanka. Having had an average version of this at a local establishment fairly recently, the challenge to better their version seemed like a worthy one, so the kothu roti recipe search began. Continue reading

Another twist on fish and chips: Saint Lucian green figs and salt fish

For a young Miranda, the concept of St Lucia was a bit confusing. More familiar with the geography of Brisbane than that of the Caribbean, she knew St Lucia as an affluent suburb that was the home of the University of Queensland (where she would eventually study), not a mountainous island nation.

969b UQ

969c Graduation

However, a couple of university degrees and a good dose of worldliness will teach a person that there can be more than one place with the same name, and it’s a good thing too, because the traditional food of St Lucia, Brisbane, is probably a few slices from UQ’s Pizza Caffe: delicious, but not the significantly more unusual meal we had for dinner last night. Also, Caribbean St Lucia is really pretty.

969d St Lucia

Upon learning that St Lucia’s national dish is green figs and salt fish, at first we were expecting unripe figs on our plates, but were relieved to discover that this actually refers to green bananas, which we discovered were something of an equivalent to potatoes when we cooked Grenadian oil down. It was at this point that we realised that another spin on fish and chips was on the menu! Continue reading

Grand greens: Monacan barbagiuan

At first it seemed surprising that the national dish of Monaco – a nation known for its wealth and flashiness – was barbagiuan, which is little more than street food. However, as we painstakingly formed each tiny half-moon of pastry, stuffed with a spinach and ricotta mixture, it started to make more sense. In the way that an artisanal, hand-crafted item always costs more than a mass-produced one – much like the couture fashions of Monaco’s residents, no doubt – the time spent making these little nibbles surely makes them rare and desirable.

We say this partly tongue-in-cheek, of course. The barbagiuan in Monaco are probably often produced by machine, and even if not, we do have to admit that they got easier and quicker once we started to figure out the knack. Be assured, though, that this is not a quick-to-make recipe. That said, there isn’t much that’s difficult about it, and once you get in the zone, hand-crafting can be both relaxing and satisfying. Continue reading