Benefiting from batch cooking: Belizean stew chicken with rice and beans

Batch cooking is our survival technique at the moment. Food and nutrition are important to us and we didn’t want a baby to get in the way of healthy, home-cooked meals, so we’ve been cooking a lot of stews and chillies and the like, which we then have in the freezer and eat on rotation. This also means we eat a lot of rice, partly because it is a good accompaniment to the sorts of meals we’ve been making and partly because it’s quick and easy to cook (if you don’t have a microwave rice cooker, get one. Seriously. #notanad).

Belize’s national dish of stew chicken with rice and beans, therefore, fit very neatly into our food prep routine! We initially weren’t going to bother with the rice and beans and were just going to make plain rice (Ash was particularly fine with this due to the coconut in the rice), but we decided to go all in. Continue reading

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Redefining easy: Cocos Island ayam begana

The Cocos (Keeling) Islands are an Australian territory with a population of just over 600. Unsurprisingly, there aren’t loads of traditional recipes to be found online from a nation so small! In fact, a search for ‘Cocos Island national dish’ brings up… nothing. Nothing, that is, except the findings of Travel by Stove, who cooked around the world long before we did and did the investigative and interpretative grunt work for this particular recipe way back in 2012. So yes, we’ve taken a lazy approach to research this time, but let’s face it: we often do. And it fits in nicely with our new ‘keep it simple’ approach.

Simple appeared to be the name of the game with ayam (chicken) begana, which is a Cocos Malay dish. A fairly short list of ingredients, no overly complicated processes and a quick cooking time were just what we were after. Ash turned his nose up at the coconut, but beggars can’t be choosers and this was the only recipe we had. We decided to make it on Maundy Thursday, not because it’s anything to do with Easter but because we figured that with both of us at home for the following four days, we might actually manage to write a blog about it.

How did we get on? Find out after the recipe… Continue reading

Holy mole: Mexican chicken and chorizo in an almond mole

We’ve been wanting to cook a Mexican dish for a long while. It didn’t seem right to do so, however, without the company of our Mexican cuisine-loving friends (who cook Mexican food for us on a regular basis), and what with the whole disastrous renovations/new baby situation, we haven’t really felt in a position to host a dinner party. Hosting one with a seven-week-old in a particularly fussy phase may seem an odd choice as well, but we figured that we need to keep living our lives even with the presence of our infant interloper. Besides, what are friends for if not to forgive a little culinary chaos?

We love Mexican food, but have never been a fan of mole, so when we saw that mole is Mexico’s national dish, our hearts sunk a little. Why couldn’t it be burritos, or tacos? However, it turns out that we’d been a little confused about what mole actually means. We thought it was only ever a chocolatey sauce served with meat, but that is mole poblano (the most common mole to be served outside of Mexico). The term mole is more generic and simply refers to a sauce that typically contains a fruit, a nut, chilli and spices (not necessarily chocolate). Continue reading

Beans for three: Bosnian prebranac

Our last post was on 21 January, and in it we mentioned the domestic chaos that had been caused by some disastrous renovation works. Well, that’s still ongoing, but three days after that post, something else happened to throw Good Food on Bad Plates HQ into disarray: the birth of our son! Any parent will know that looking after a newborn does not lend itself to cooking elaborate meals, which is why we’ve been a little quiet lately. It’s also why GFoBP may take a slightly different turn for a while: so far, we’ve aimed to cook the national dish from each country, and sometimes that has involved hours of work. We hope you’ll forgive us if occasionally we choose a simpler traditional recipe if the national dish is too complicated for our sleep-deprived brains.

That’s exactly what we’ve done for our Bosnian dish, although actually not for that reason. The national dish of Bosnia and Herzegovina is ćevapi, a sort of lamb and beef kebab/sausage thing, but we made a version of that for Serbia, so we didn’t want to make it again. We were therefore very pleased to find a nice simple recipe for prebranac, or Balkan baked beans, on the ever-reliable Global Table Adventure. We made it for supper on Friday, after we’d been out for lunch and didn’t want a huge evening meal.

Prebranac

Ingredients
2 tins butter beans, drained
2 medium onions, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp flour
Salt
Pepper
Possibly a splash of water
Bread, to serve

Method
1. Preheat oven to 205C.
2. Heat the oil in an ovenproof dish over medium heat.
3. Add onion and cook until golden (don’t rush this – you want them to be nice and caramelised).
4. Add the garlic, paprika, flour, salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes until the spices are fragrant. (Depending on your pan, you may need to add a splash of water here to deglaze and prevent it all from sticking and burning.)
5. Add the beans and stir to combine.
6. Bake uncovered until crusty on top, about 15 minutes (a bit more if you’ve added water).
7. Serve with crusty or toasted bread
Serves 2 (plus a third, indirectly!) as a light meal

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Well, it doesn’t get much easier than this, not least because all the ingredients are things we’d have in stock anyway. It also took less than half an hour from start to finish, which is the sort of thing you want with a new baby! It’s not a big, or particularly full, meal – it would actually work well as a side dish too – but is perfect as a light supper. Although there aren’t many ingredients, the sweet onions pair nicely with the slight bitterness of the paprika to really pep up the beans. The original recipe didn’t include the water, but wed’d have ended up with a burnt mess without it – it might depend on what pan you use (ours wasn’t non-stick which may have had an impact).

We’ll be back as soon as the boss baby lets us!

Easing back in: Bhutanese ema datshi

It’s been a bit of a tumultuous time lately in the Mash House. Back in November, when we last blogged, we mentioned the renovations project we were in the middle of. Well, thanks to some unreliable tradespeople (that’s a rant for another day) and some unexpected hurdles, that project took considerably longer than expected. Truth be told, it’s still going, although the light at the end of the tunnel is gradually growing brighter. And whilst we’re proud to say that we’ve rarely succumbed to the lure of takeaways or ready meals, we have to admit that living in a perpetual state of chaos and mess has somewhat dampened our motivation to cook experimental or complicated dishes, so we’ve mostly been living on things we can cook without a recipe or that can be thrown together with whatever ingredients we have in the fridge.

However, this evening we decided it was high time we got our act together and returned to the world of Good Food on Bad Plates. The next country on our list was Bhutan, the national dish of which is a soup called ema datshi. The name refers to ‘chilli’ and ‘cheese’, which sounded like a good combination to us. We realised too late that we’d committed to a recipe for the Tibetan version of the dish, rather than the Bhutanese one, but the roots are the same. We also think that the fact that we’re finally posting again after over two months means you should forgive us. Continue reading

Weekend baking: Antarctic chocolate chip cookies

Hang on – what? Antarctic chocolate chip cookies? Surely chocolate chip cookies are from America, not the Earth’s southernmost continent that doesn’t even have a native population and is only inhabited by scientists, researchers and the occasional transient tourist.

If you thought any of that when you read the title of this post, you’re entirely correct. Chocolate chip cookies originated in the USA in around 1938 when a woman called Ruth Graves Wakefield added chopped up bits from a Nestle semi-sweet chocolate bar into a cookie at the Toll House Inn.

Just saying… Continue reading

Embracing cosiness: Albanian tavë kosi

We recently returned from a cosy ‘staycation’. We’re in the throes of renovations chaos in the Mash House, so the opportunity to escape the mess and spend a few days relaxing in the countryside was very welcome. Our first stop was Marlow, where we achieved the Tom Kerridge trifecta by eating delicious meals at The Hand & Flowers, The Coach and The Butcher’s Tap, as well as discovering the best hot chocolate ever in a little cafe. We found out afterwards that apparently The Hand & Flowers claims to serve the best chips in the world, but we’d already given that title to those on offer at The Coach – Ash ordered two portions!

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