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!

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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

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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A poultry dose of irony: Bahamian fish chowder

Another day, another Caribbean archipelago, another nation declaring conch as its national dish. Still unable to source this seafood anywhere other than in a William Golding novel, we once again looked further afield, coming up with two alternative options: fish chowder or steamed chicken. Both looked nice, but Ash pointed out that we tend to eat a lot of chicken anyway, so maybe we should give the fish chowder a try. The recipe we used is by Norman Van Aken, a chef we’d probably have heard of if we lived in the US, given that he’s been described as the ‘Walt Whitman of American cuisine’ (and that makes two literary references in one paragraph).

Poet or otherwise, he seems to know his stuff, so on Saturday, while Ash was continuing his work as a DIY wizard, Miranda retrieved some previously made fish stock from the freezer and set about rustling up a hearty soup (despite the unseasonably warm weather!). Continue reading

Take us to the April sun: Cuban arroz con pollo a la chorrera

The nights are drawing in here in South London and we’re sure it’s only a matter of time before bitter temperatures follow suit: as ever, we’ve been promised the coldest winter ever with months of apocalyptic snowfall! Confident though we are that this is tabloid sensationalism, a visit to a Caribbean island would still be pretty nice. With some fairly significant renovations getting started in the Mash House, however, we’re going to have to imagine that warming sunshine vicariously through our cooking.

Today’s island nation is Cuba. We’ve never been there, but we know people who have! Ash’s sister and her husband went there on their honeymoon and amidst their adventures of swimming with dolphins, riding around in Cadillacs and drinking pina coladas, they were considerate enough to pick up some recipes for us (and some Cuban rum!) as Thomas Cook had left a handy folder of local information in their hotel.

According to Google, the national dish of Cuba is ropa vieja, which is a beef and tomato stew. This was one of the recipes in the folder, but we ended up deciding against it because ingredient number one was ‘1kg of brisket (previously used as boiling meat for a soup)’. Now, we love brisket, but prefer it when it has been smoked long and slow on a barbecue, rather than boiling all the flavour out of it in a soup base. Instead, we opted for arroz con pollo a la chorrera, which means rice with chicken in Chorrera style (interesting, given that Chorrera culture originated in Ecuador and didn’t make it as far up as Cuba – but if the Thomas Cook recipes aren’t 100% authentic, they still came from actual Cuba, so we went with it!). Continue reading

Labour of Luxembourg: Judd mat Gaardebounen

Here we are again at a country we’ve been fortunate enough to visit. We spent a weekend in Luxembourg City in December 2015. The main purpose of the trip was to visit the Christmas markets: after visiting the markets in Hamburg a couple of years earlier and realising the delights of spending a couple of days wandering around, eating street food and drinking glühwein, we wanted to experience the same thing somewhere else. Luxembourg did not disappoint (and it wasn’t as bitterly cold as Hamburg had been!).

1153 Gluhwein

Our stomachs were well and truly indulged on that trip. In addition to the glühwein already mentioned (and not forgetting the version served with a rum-soaked and flaming cone of sugar perched on top so it could slowly melt into the drink!) and the eierpunsch (eggnog), there was the perpetual lure of bratwurst, sides of salmon smoked over an open fire and served in a bread roll, the inspired combination of marzipan-filled pretzels, and complimentary ‘executive lounge’ beverages and petit-fours in our hotel. It’s a good thing we also found time for a couple of long walks around the city!

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It’s called saltfish for a reason: Jamaican ackee and saltfish

After a long stretch of cooking dishes from countries we’ve never been to, we’re finally back to one that we have . Well, one of us (Ash) has, and certainly got the benefit of the full hospitality offered by the locals to their guests when attending a wedding back in 2004. As one of very few Brits in attendance at the wedding of a Jamaican bride and English groom, he was treated like a VIP and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

When it comes to refreshments, his overriding memories are primarily of Appleton’s rum, rum punch (one sour, two sweet, three strong, four weak – or forget the weak if you’re that way inclined) and fantastic jerk BBQ. The tales of Uncle John spit roasting a cow on a telegraph pole for one of his birthday parties were all too believable from a man who was larger than life and not without wealth!

On one visit to the less salubrious parts of downtown Kingston, Ash and his companions received a real eye opener at the famous market. Locals with a sense of humour offered the group bags of fish heads (for stewing?) whilst they kept a close eye on their wallets. The sights and sounds of the market – including loudly played dominoes – were not to be forgotten.

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Today’s recipe comes from a book called The Real Taste of Jamaica, which Ash bought on his travels. A combination of his food memories and the knowledge of Jamaican cuisine that Miranda could bring to the table led us to expect to be making jerk chicken; however, with the national dish of Jamaica officially being ackee and saltfish, we had to move in that direction instead. Continue reading