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

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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

Away and home: Canadian (Quebecois) mussel chowder

Leaving the food of Europe behind (for now) and jumping over to the Americas feels like we’ve really made some progress in this cooking journey. We started in Wales and have made our way through most of Europe, Asia and Oceania, discovering so many new dishes (and ingredients) along the way. Now we’re embarking on a whole new region, starting with Canada, which we are excited about – but which also posed a problem.

Many of you will be aware that Canada’s national dish is poutine: fries, cheese curds and gravy. Poutine seemed to experience a bit of a rebirth in London a couple of years ago, probably partially because of the ‘it’s cool to eat really unhealthy food and Instagram it’ age we’re in. (Speaking of which, remember that you can follow us on Instagram @goodfoodonbadplates – with very little unhealthy food, in fact!) We’d never actually tried it though, so the idea of making our own was quite fun… until we realised that we don’t have a deep fryer so wouldn’t be making brilliant fries, didn’t know where we’d get cheese curds from, and probably wouldn’t make gravy worthy of this revered dish. Continue reading

Breaking free from borscht: Russian smoked fish pie

‘Russian food – well, that’s borscht, isn’t it?’

The look on Ash’s face was a mix of horror and dismay. Whilst he’ll eat beetroot if required, he is certainly not in its fan club, and memories of a Russian housemate stinking out the house by boiling beetroot were adding to the feeling of dread. Miranda’s Australian background means she’s more in tune with beetroot and its benefits, but even she wasn’t all that excited about the thought of this particular meal. However, we both had to make our peace with the fact that it’s Russia’s national dish and that’s the challenge we set ourselves when we started this project.

Fortunately for us, we were saved by Diana Henry and her lovely book Roast Figs Sugar Snow, which contains a recipe for Russian smoked fish pie with cream cheese pastry. As we mentioned a few weeks ago, we did say that if we had an appropriate recipe on our bulging shelves, we’d use it – so smoked fish pie it was! We were saved – and more than a little relieved. The book tells us that Russians love pies, so we were happy to play along. 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.

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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

A weekend of surprises: Lithuanian cepelinai

With this weekend somehow nearly over already, here we are reflecting on last weekend, which was very enjoyable, even though much of it didn’t turn out as we expected!

It started on Friday night at a dinner party with friends. We knew that was happening, but what we didn’t know was that we were going to be introduced to the wonder of raclette. We’d seen raclette at Borough Market but never eaten it, and can now happily report that the ensuing cheese coma was totally worth it. An experience to repeat!

Our plans for Saturday were to go to the theatre and then out for dinner in the evening. That sort of happened – Miranda went to the theatre, but Ash had a better offer in the form of tickets to England v France at Twickenham.

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Wonderful wife that she is, Miranda couldn’t deny Ash this opportunity, so off we trotted in our separate directions, both pretty happy, meeting back in the Mash House afterwards for a gourmet supper of avocado on toast. Continue reading

Winter warmer: Belarusian machanka

Once again, we return from an unintentional blogging hiatus. Rather embarrassingly, we made this dish on 3rd December and are only just getting around to writing about it now. There are all sorts of excuses, like the hecticness of the festive period (which also includes Miranda’s birthday), a long weekend in Marrakesh and some recent houseguests, but the fact that so much time has passed that we’ve almost forgotten ever making it is probably a pretty significant one! So for this blog entry, we’re going to do away with the usual tenuously-linked preamble and just give you the recipe for Belarusian machanka, or pork stew (found thanks to Where the Food Is, a fellow eat-around-the-world blogger). We’ll try harder in future. Continue reading