Not for the faint-hearted: Montserratian goat water

We approached this recipe with some trepidation. Yes, it really does say 4-5 scotch bonnet chillies. Knowing how hot just one of these bad boys can make a dish, we nearly chickened out, but in the end we decided that we do like spicy food, we could talk ourselves into being brave for one meal, and if it really was unbearably hot, we had plenty of yoghurt in the fridge. Thus, our Montserratian goat water journey of discovery began.

Goat water is also referred to as kiddy stew, which is obviously in reference to the term for a baby goat but is also quite ironic in that you would never dare serve this volcanic concoction to a human kiddy. It is the national dish of the island of Montserrat, a small Caribbean island with a population of less than 5000, all of whom clearly have strong constitutions and steel-lined digestive systems. Many of Montserrat’s inhabitants also have Irish ancestry, so there is a good chance that goat water is a descendant of Irish stew – just with a considerable Caribbean twist. Continue reading

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Food before politics: Kosovan Tavë Prizreni

Kosovo’s status as a country is somewhat contentious. After claiming independence from Serbia in 2008, it is only partially recognised within the United Nations (43% of the member states don’t acknowledge it as an independent state). Still, that’s 57% of member states that do recognise it, so as far as we were concerned, that was enough to justify making a Kosovan dish. However, a nine-year-old country doesn’t exactly have a traditional national dish. Due to historical and ethnic connections with Albania (see, this just gets more complicated), Kosovan cuisine has been particularly influenced by Albanian cuisine. We haven’t yet made a dish from Albania so we didn’t want to accidentally make Albania’s national dish for Kosovo!

Fortunately, we stumbled upon tavë prizreni, which translates to Plate of Prizren, Prizren being a Kosovan city. This seemed like the closest thing to a national dish that we were going to find, so Friday’s dinner menu was decided! It was impossible to find a recipe in English, though, so we turned to Google Translate, which is always fun: we had to decipher such instructions as ‘put the mass of the pizza into the pan’ and ingredients like ‘lacquered and cropped tomatoes’. We think that our recipe below is a pretty accurate version of the original dish, but if we have any Kosovan readers, please do set us straight if we’re wrong! Continue reading

Autumn warmer: Guadeloupe porc-colombo

We recently spent two weeks in South Africa and had a wonderful time. Although much of the holiday centred around food, drink and outdoor activities (as is typical for us), it was in other ways unlike any other holiday we’ve taken before, and we wished we had time to see and do more. Sadly, though, our jobs beckoned, so we had to cut it off at two weeks.

In addition to the bounteous (and cheap!) food and wine, fascinating social dynamics and incredible wildlife experiences, one thing we particularly enjoyed was the glorious weather. We spent our last few days in the far north of the country, right near the Botswana-South Africa border, and temperatures were in the mid-to-high 30s every day. To look on the bright side of returning to a crisp English autumn day, the colours were vibrant and beautiful, but the 30 degree drop in temperature between getting on the plane in Johannesburg and getting off at Heathrow was not appreciated! Fortunately, we had a Guadeloupe curry to warm us up. Continue reading

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

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