A lucky gamble: Tunisian kosksi

Making something you’ve never made before for guests is always a bit of a risk. We really learnt this the hard way when we made Lao dtom jeaw pla (fish soup) for a friend a few years ago. We maybe should have predicted in advance that a batch of soup containing 10-12 red bird’s eye chillies would be on the spicy side – and it certainly was. All three of us were running for the tissues by the time we’d finished eating it!

Still, learning from your mistakes is boring, so once again we decided to make what seemed like a fairly chilli-heavy dish for some friends earlier in the week: Tunisian kosksi. Kosksi itself simply means couscous, but it is typically served in Tunisia with a meat stew of some kind, and we opted for lamb as our meat, in a recipe that included both harissa and chilli powder. What sets Tunisia’s version apart from other neighbouring countries’ couscous recipes is its red colour (due to the tomato used).

The problem with most recipes for kosksi is that they assume that the couscous starts in its original, unrefined form, whereas what we get in UK supermarkets is actually parcooked, which is why you can make it so quickly. We chose a recipe from 196 Flavors because it had already been adjusted to accommodate for parcooked couscous. It was, however, a little vague on how to prepare the vegetables, so what follows is what we did. Continue reading

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Twist on a classic: Icelandic skyr crème brûlée

Some things we think of when we think of Iceland:
1. It’s somewhere we want to go, but we haven’t managed it yet.
2. An amusing story of friends who spent one night there en route to the US and didn’t manage to see quite as much of it as they wanted to because they booked a hotel miles away from Reykjavik (the perpetrator of this crime is is still hearing about that from his wife some years later).
3. A ubiquitous frozen food supermarket, in which we almost never shop because we don’t buy convenience foods, but which has recently found itself firmly in our good books because of its vow to remove palm oil from its own-label products AND its quest to remove plastic packaging from its own-label products.
4. The fact that when I sat down to write this blog, I got distracted by a video of members of the cast of Friends appearing on The Graham Norton Show which had an ad for Iceland (the supermarket) in the middle of it. Serendipity.

One thing we don’t think of when we think of Iceland:
1. Classic French cookery.

Yet, somehow, we’ve made a crème brûlée. Why? How? Well, it’s a combination of things. Continue reading

When a surplus of cake slows you down: Greenlandic kalaallit kaagiat

We don’t know a great deal about Greenland. We briefly considered going there for our honeymoon, because it was somewhere totally different and also because we have one of those scratch-off-the-places-you’ve-visited maps and, because of the skew of the map, Greenland is huge, making it a more lucrative scratching exercise than, say, the Maldives. However, we then considered the fact that actually, it’s pretty cold, so opted against it.

Otherwise, essentially all we knew about Greenland came from Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow, a novel that Miranda bought in conjunction with our weekend in Copenhagen a couple of years ago. Set in both Copenhagen and Gela Alta (a remote Greenlandic island), it is a weighty and dense tome, and one that took Miranda quite a lot of time to trudge through, the main end result being that our impression of Greenland as a cold, barren wasteland was essentially confirmed.

Upon reaching Greenland in our cooking challenge, we learnt one more thing: the national dish of Greenland is suaasat, a soup that is often made from seal, whale, reindeer or seabirds. They also enjoy mattak, which is raw whale skin and blubber. Hmmm. Problem number one.

Not particularly wanting to cook or eat either of these dishes (not to mention the question of where we would even get hold of any seal or whale), we were relieved to discover the blog of Rachel Cotterill, who introduced us to kalaallit kaagiat, or ‘Greenlandic cake.’ That sounded more like something we could get on board with! Continue reading

Cake recipe as you’ve never known it: Buns of TAAF

Readers, we once again apologise for the length of time it has been since our last blog post. It’s partly due to a particularly busy time, but more to do with the fact that Terres australes et antarctiques francaise (TAAF), or the French Southern and Antarctic Lands to you and me, isn’t really a real country. Well, it is, but no one lives there, and as a result, no one really cooks there, so recipes are pretty hard to come by.

Whilst we usually wish we were the first to come up with the idea of cooking one dish from every country in the world so that we could become rich and famous and quit our day jobs, it’s times like these that we are grateful for the trailblazers who have paved the way ahead of us. Thanks to Travel by Stove, we found a recipe for Buns of TAAF, which may actually be called that or may have just been christened that by Google Translate. Either way, it was good enough for us, except for the fact that we had a house full of not only Christmas cake but also Miranda’s birthday cake, so we had to wait a few weeks before it was practical to make it. But wait we did, and make we did, and today we bring you the results (although technically we only made a singular Bun of TAAF, as we halved the recipe). 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

Celebrating two years: Pitcairn Island arrowroot pie

Whilst working our way through this challenge, although we’ve encountered many foods and cooking styles that we haven’t tried before, it’s been unusual for us to come across a country that we’ve never heard of. The Pitcairn Islands, though, were an exception! A group of four islands in the southern Pacific Ocean, the Pitcairn Islands are a British Overseas Territory, apparently most famous as the hideaway settlement for the notorious HMS Bounty mutineers (but not famous enough for us to know that without consulting Lonely Planet).

The other distinctive thing about the Pitcairn Islands is that their total population is somewhere around the 50 mark, making it the least populous nation in the world. Unsurprisingly, then, recipes are few and far between! There is actually a cookbook out there, called (creatively) Pitcairn Island Cookbook, but not having a copy of that left us at the hands of Google, which yielded a total of two options: some sort of baked pumpkin and coconut milk concoction, and a pineapple and arrowroot pie. We opted for the latter, with a slightly vague recipe from Elite Life that required a few guesses and some instinct! Continue reading

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