Unpretentious comma garlicky: Dominican la bandera Dominicana

We’re back! It’s been nearly two months since we made the fabulous Puerto Rican pan de Mallorcas and, to be honest, it seems like a distant memory. So much has happened since then, including (but not limited to!) a two-week trip around Italy, a long weekend in Yorkshire, the planning of some future holidays and the beginning of some much-needed home renovations. All of that meant that we were rarely home for long enough to both buy ingredients and cook a new dish! Life momentarily settled down last weekend, however, so we seized the opportunity to explore the Dominican Republic’s national dish, la bandera Dominicana.

The title of this blog post comes from a season 9 episode of Friends (‘TOW Rachel’s Dream’, for those playing along at home), in which Monica is working as the head chef at Javu, ‘kind of a classy place’. At one point during the episode, after denigrating the ‘tiny portions’ served there, an angry Phoebe describes the restaurant’s tone as ‘pretentious comma garlicky.’ Now, we are in no way opposed to a bit of classy food (we have reservations for our anniversary on Thursday at Monica Galetti’s Mere, which we are very excited about), but there was something delightfully unpretentious about this Dominican dish. La bandera Dominicana translates to ‘the Dominican flag’, and its three components (a meat stew, a bean dish and rice) come together to create a thoroughly hearty plate of food that is packed with flavour without any fussiness or refinement. There was also plenty of garlic involved! Continue reading

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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

Why not try this to-marrow: Maltese stuffed courgettes

#puntastic

Today finds us in the unusual position of cooking a dish from a country one of us (Ash) has been to before, and a dish that we have a recipe for in one of our cookbooks. The official national dish of Malta is stuffat tal-fenek, a rabbit stew, but we said from the start that if we already had a recipe from a country, we’d make it, which is how we decided to make stuffed marrow from The Hairy Bikers’ Best-Loved Recipes: Mums still know best.

Ash’s strongest culinary memories from a university rugby tour to Malta are of horse and snails: part of a pre-match feast with the locals. The horsemeat was apparently supposed to make them strong and indeed fuelled the Exeter University team to a significant victory over the Presidents XV the following day.

1095a Rugby tour photo Continue reading

A game of two halves: British Virgin Island fish and fungi

Three momentous things happened yesterday. The first two, if we’re honest, didn’t grab us all that much. The first, of course, was the wedding of Prince Henry of Wales and Ms (why Ms?) Rachel Meghan Markle. We did watch the ceremony, but failed to get any more excited about it than we were before we started viewing. Don’t get us wrong, we love a good wedding – we just prefer it when they involve people we know. We can assume, however, that for Harry and Meghan, it was a day of two halves: the ceremony was very traditional and demure, and presumably the lunchtime reception hosted by HRH had a similar vibe, but word has it that the evening reception was perhaps more fitting for a couple that has never really fit the royal mould.

The second thing that everyone was going on about yesterday was the FA Cup final between Chelsea and Manchester United. As two people who have literally no interest in football, we’ve only just now found out the result (SPOILER ALERT). Given that the final score was 1-0 to Chelsea, it’s probably inaccurate to say that it was a game of two halves (because clearly hardly anything happened for 90 minutes, true of most football matches), but that idiom did originate in the sporting world, so it’s tenuously appropriate.

Most importantly though, was our foray into the cuisine of the British Virgin Islands, an archipelago in the Caribbean. The national dish of the islands is fungi, which is nothing to do with mushrooms and instead a combination of cornmeal and okra that is pronounced foon-jee and served with fish. We chose a recipe from the British Virgin Islands government website to allow us to experience it for ourselves. Continue reading

A winning combination: Faroese salmon with rhubarb

The Faroe Islands are located halfway between Norway and Iceland. As such, their traditional foods are along the same lines as those of their neighbouring countries: whale blubber and the like. However, the location of the Faroe Islands also seems to have made them a part of the Scandinavian nouveau cuisine revolution, which worked out well for us.

At first, a search for Faroe Islands recipes yields little more than fermented lamb, wind-dried fish, sheep’s head and stuffed puffins. After further digging, however, we also managed to unearth a cookery programme called Tareq Taylor’s Nordic Cookery. Tareq Taylor is a Swedish chef and restrauteur who made this series to showcase dishes inspired by travels to a range of Nordic regions. Although one of the dishes in the Faroe Islands episode was puffin and lamb tartar (eek), another one was salmon with rhubarb. Admittedly, this was still a combination we weren’t sure about, but it sure beat puffin, so our menu was born. Continue reading

In honour of beef: Anguillan pigeon peas and rice

Last weekend saw the tail end of Great British Beef Week (23-30 April). What we didn’t know until just now is that GBBW was founded by Ladies in Beef, ‘an organisation of female beef farmers who care passionately about British beef’, which is pretty cool in a ‘girl power’ sense. Another cool fact is that it was launched by Princess Anne (also known as HRH The Princess Royal), who isn’t just any old princess but is also Master of the Worshipful Company of Butchers. Who knew?!

However, if you’ll forgive us the use of a rather less progressive descriptor for a moment, Ash wanted a man-sized portion of beef on Sunday in honour of the occasion, which led us to The Hairy Bikers’ Meat Feasts and a recipe for Creole spiced beef. Conveniently, the next country on our list was Anguilla, a small Caribbean island with a national dish of pigeon peas and rice, which sounded like it would pair perfectly with the Creole beef. Sunday’s menu was set. Continue reading

Olympic level cheese fest: Dutch Antilles keshi yena

‘Netherlands Antilles – I know them! They’re from the Olympics,’ was Ash’s response when we read the next nation on our list. Now, obviously every country is potentially ‘from the Olympics’ (cue debate about whether the four GB nations should be represented individually in the Olympics like they are in the Commonwealth Games), but Ash’s point was that the only place he’d ever heard of the Netherlands Antilles was via Olympics coverage. That was one step ahead of Miranda, who didn’t think she’d ever heard of it at all.

Further research revealed that the Netherlands Antilles consists of several island territories, including Aruba and Curacao, which Miranda had actually heard of. It also begged (and continues to beg) the question of whether we’ve cheated a bit with this one: it’s not really clear whether each of those island territories should really be considered nations in their own right – they’re ‘constituent countries’, but does that mean they’re actually countries? This dilemma was solved to an extent when we realised that they pretty much share a national dish, keshi yena… so we just made that. Continue reading