Yankee foodle dandy: American meatloaf, pancakes, chicken and biscuits, and apple pie

827a American flag compressed

We’ve only been to the USA once, in August 2013, when we visited Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York City. We were there for ten days and were overwhelmed by the size of everything (security queues at Dulles Airport, hotel rooms, food portions, personalities, buildings, roads, monuments, duration of baseball games…) – but in such a good way. We crammed a lot into our relatively short stay, and fell in love with the Land of Liberty, and we can’t wait to go back!

Of course, for us, a major part of any successful holiday is the food. As well as trying to follow in the footsteps of Man v. Food’s Adam Richman wherever we went, and making sure we had Philly in Philly/New York strip in New York/Long Island Iced Tea on Long Island, and eating bologna without really understanding what it is, we dined at a farm-to-table restaurant in Washington, ate cheesesteaks and hoagies at a ball game in Philadelphia, and visited the legendary Katz’s Deli (of When Harry Met Sally fame) in NYC. Not to mention the piece of red velvet cheesecake at Junior’s Diner that defeated even Ash. Continue reading

Pancake Day the Finnish way (sort of): Hernekeitto and pannukkau

It’s appropriate that we’re up to Finland on our culinary journey at a time when the whole world seems to have gone crazy for Moomins, the white, sort-of-hippo-esque cartoon creatures created by Finnish writer and illustrator Tove Jansson. There is a Moomin shop in central London, a Moomin exhibition at the Southbank Centre and, on the other side of the globe, a Moomin café in Bangkok – and undoubtedly other Moomin experiences around the world. Ash grew up with these quirky characters, but Miranda hadn’t even heard of them before moving to England. Her ignorance has been slowly cured over the years, but never more so than a couple of weeks ago when the ladies of the family went to the aforementioned Southbank Centre exhibition and learned about all things Moomin.


But even the Moomins couldn’t help us with Finnish food, so for that we turned to Wikipedia, which told us that typical a Shrove Tuesday menu in Finland consists of hernekeitto (pea and ham soup) and laskiaispulla, a sweet cardmom-flavoured bun filled with whipped cream and jam. Shrove Tuesday was imminent, so it seemed that we had a plan.

On reflection, however, it wasn’t as perfect as we first thought. The soup and the bun were each going to take a couple of hours, which isn’t really what one wants on a Tuesday night. We also couldn’t deny the fact that we were starting to feel a little bit sad about missing out on pancakes on Pancake Day. So we had a rethink and did a bit more research, and discovered that in Finland, it is traditional to eat hernekeitto on Thursdays (the Shrove Tuesday thing presumably being an annual aberration), along with a special dessert pancake. Even though we were going to be making this on a Tuesday, it seemed like a good compromise – so our Shrove Tuesday menu was created. Continue reading

Bread and wine: Estonian kringel

Because of our ridiculously and embarrassingly large collection of cookbooks, we decided when we started this challenge that if we could find an appropriate recipe in one of them, we would use it. For Estonia, thanks to the Hairy Bikers, we were spoilt for choice. Well, sort of. Having three options was less of a treat when we realised that the first was jellied pigs’ trotters (no thank you) and the second was redcurrant semolina pudding (which is probably very nice but not terribly exciting and would also involve finding fresh redcurrants). The third option of kringel, however, appealed to us much more.

Kringel is a pretzel-shaped enriched bread with raisins and chocolates and is mostly served on special occasions. Well, we were having a special occasion of sorts: some friends coming around for a wine-tasting evening, hosted by Pieroth. The wine tasting itself was just OK, with the most notable part being the discovery that our visiting wine rep was actually Estonian! This was slightly nerve-wracking at first, given that we were serving up one of her key national dishes alongside the wine, but she seemed to approve (as did we and our guests), so we must have pulled it off. Because wine and cheese are obviously such inseparable bedfellows, we made a cheddar version of the kringel as well as the traditional sweet one. Continue reading

Edible against all odds: Palauan seboseb

Here we are, folks: Palau, our last Pacific Island! It’s been a long, sometimes tedious, often coconut-flavoured journey, but we’ve made it to the end. Our next culinary steps will take us back into Asia, and we’re looking forward to the new tastes we’ll find there.

But before moving forward, we must first look back, to the Palauan seboseb Miranda made the other day. Unlike most of our other island recipes, seboseb contains no coconut, no meat and no vegetables. It’s also one of the rare desserts traditional to this part of the world. It was nearly impossible to find a traditional Palauan recipe, and the process involved Miranda spending a lot of time on the sofa with an iPad and a blanket while Ash continued trying to beautify our kitchen: hard work for all involved. The fact that Afghanistan’s national dish is called ‘qabili palau’ didn’t help the search either. Steering well clear of any mention of fruit bat soup and trying to avoid too much coconut, Miranda eventually found the seboseb recipe on a website all about Palau. Ostensibly some sort of milk jelly, it didn’t look all that appetising (see scary-looking purple substance below), and didn’t sound all that appetising (see ingredients below) but being pretty much the only recipe we had, it was worth a try. It shouldn’t have worked, but somehow it did… Continue reading

Too good at least: Marshallese macadamia nut pie

A few days ago marked the end of British Pie Week, so this recipe is particularly appropriate, coincidence though that may be. We didn’t eat it during British Pie Week, you see. We actually made it the weekend before, but it was equally appropriate then due to the fact that on the same weekend we watched an excellent production of Sweeney Todd. In this story based on urban legend, the pies are filled with human remains. Fortunately this was not the case in our recipe from the Marshall Islands!

Pies have also been prominent in the media lately due to the controversial decision to award the top prize at the British Pie Awards to… a pasty. This prompted debate over what a pie actually is, with the chairman of the Awards pointing out that the definition of a pie is ‘a filling totally encased in pastry’ whilst pie purists everywhere threatened to boycott next year’s Awards. Miranda’s many years of working in bakeries led her to believe that a pasty is a pasty, a pie must have a pastry lid, and a pie without a lid is a tart. Thus, seemingly by all definitions, the Marshallese recipe we have made is a tart and not a pie at all. Continue reading

Pineapple pasties: American Samoan paifala (half-moon pies)

Ash’s uncle, a regular reader, recently described our blog as a cross between Bridget Jones’s Diary and Ready Steady Cook. Miranda would like to think of herself as slightly more successful in life than Helen Fielding’s hapless heroine, but can admittedly see that there may be some resemblance between both parties’ ramblings. The Ready Steady Cook comparison came from the fact that sometimes we have to substitute ingredients due to availability and that it’s all a bit of an experiment.

To a small extent, this is true of today’s recipe, which called for crushed pineapple, a luxury that is unavailable at our local London version of a supermarket, so we’ve had to use sliced pineapple cut up small. Not the most outlandish substitution, sure – but at least we’re remaining true to type.

Today’s country is American Samoa. The official national dish of this Pacific Island is palusami, which is taro leaves baked in coconut cream. This posed two problems: 1) we don’t know where to find taro leaves, and 2) Ash’s perpetually difficult dislike of coconut. So we looked further afield and found a recipe for paifala, or half-moon pies. It’s a long time since we made a decent international dessert, and these pineapple turnovers looked nice, and that was how they became the dessert course of tonight’s roast chicken dinner. Continue reading

Kiwi cooking: New Zealand cheese rolls, lamb, cloud cake and onion dip

When consulting Professor Google on the national dish of New Zealand, one learns that there are two contenders for the title, pavlova and hângi, both of which proved rather problematic for us in terms of deciding what to make. Pavlova was immediately out of the question, because to concede defeat and acknowledge pavlova as a Kiwi dish would require Miranda to completely turn her back on her Aussie heritage (as if moving to England and marrying a Pom wasn’t bad enough). And there were some obvious logistical problems with hângi, which is a traditional Maori method of cooking in a big pit in the ground.

Fortunately, during our recent visit to Australia, we had three very useful things at our disposal:
a) cultural experts (our Kiwi friend and his wife);
b) their collection of Annabel Langbein cookbooks and their Speight’s Southern Man Cookbook; and
c) supermarkets that stock Maggi onion soup mix and Nestle reduced fat cream. Both of these are key ingredients in New Zealand dishes but are not available in the UK (or if onion soup mix is, it would only be in specialty shops and would cost a fortune).

Kiwi ingredients

Therefore, perhaps somewhat inappropriately, but at the same time totally appropriately, our last night in Australia was spent preparing and eating a New Zealand feast, accompanied by New Zealand wine, beer and cider. Continue reading