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

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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!

1154 Me and Ash with punch Continue reading

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.

1142a Ash and dolphin

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

A celebration of onions: Haitian griot and and pikliz

Haiti is an island in the Caribbean. Therefore, as seems to be the case for most of the islands in the Caribbean, its national dish is a version of rice and peas. We didn’t want to make that again, having already made it for Anguilla, so we dug a little deeper and eventually found a recipe for griot and pikliz that was accompanied by a video of a woman (Joyce Louis-Jean) who was so enthusiastic about the dish that we figured it must have something going for it – even if griot is deep-fried pork (which Miranda didn’t expect to like) and pikliz is very vinegary pickles (which Ash didn’t expect to like).

This is a multi-stage dish, so you want to make sure you’ve planned ahead before you start making it. The pikliz needs to mature for at least 12 hours, but a few days is even better. The pork needs to marinate overnight (although if you get home late the night before you make it, you could do our trick of getting up early on the day of cooking and quickly organise it then…). The pork then needs to braise for a couple of hours before eventually being deep-fried. The aforementioned enthusiastic Haitian woman assured us that all of this effort was worth it, though, so four days before we planned to cook this dish, the pikliz process began… Continue reading

Fridge raiding: Turks and Caicos Island rasta pasta

You know it’s been a busy summer when you’ve only managed to cook one dish for this blog in two months! With life set to get even busier, we thought we’d better squeeze in one more before Miranda ‘creeps like snail unwillingly’ back to work.

At first, however, this was easier said than done. The next country on our list was the Turks and Caicos Islands, a British Overseas Territory made up of 40 coral islands in the Atlantic. Its national dish is conch fritters. Other than in Lord of the Flies, we’ve never come across conch, and it certainly wasn’t an ingredient we could easily lay our hands on. With a population of only around 35,000, the Turks and Caicos Islands aren’t exactly swimming in alternative national dishes, so the search for something we could make proved a little elusive.

Eventually, we found a website that promised to teach us ‘how to cook like a Turks Islander’, and its recipe for rasta pasta listed ingredients that we could easily obtain. In fact, it bears a striking resemblance to what we often decide to make for dinner when we only have random bits and pieces of food in the house. So whilst we’re not entirely sure of rasta pasta’s authenticity, it was a meal that we could actually make! Continue reading

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

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