Beanz still meanz Heinz: Macedonian tavche gravche

‘I’m going to write the fastest blog post ever,’ Miranda declared just now as she sat down at the computer. The irony of this then dawned on her, as she considered the fact that this dish was probably the one that has taken longer to cook than any other. Nonetheless, a quick post is all this is going to be, we’re afraid, because we’re going away in a few days (woohoo!) and have more pre-holiday jobs to do than we care to think about. So today you are spared a lengthy preamble, whilst we merely present you with the recipe (with thanks to 196 Flavors for Macedonian tavche gravche: beans in a skillet. Continue reading

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A series of discoveries: Maldivian mas riha

If you type ‘Maldives national dish’ into Google (other search engines are available), you are presented with a one word response: Fish. Not terribly helpful. Reading a little more reveals that the favourite fish of the Maldivians is tuna, which was good news for us because we consider a beautiful, just-seared fillet of tuna to be a real treat. It’s something we don’t eat a lot, though, because it’s so expensive, so when we found out that a typically Maldivian way of preparing it is mas riha (curry), we were faced with a dilemma. Did we really want to spend premium prices on a premium product to then hide it in a spicy coconut sauce?

Luckily for us, the solution was literally placed right in front of us. When we were waiting in line at the fishmonger for the snapper for our Martiniquais dish, we noticed that they had one kilo bags of frozen tuna fillets for £8. They weren’t going to be any good for sashimi, but for a curry, we figured it was a pretty safe bet. And the gamble paid off! Continue reading

Caribbean riffing: Martiniquais grilled snapper with sauce au chien

We each learnt a valuable lesson in the making of this recipe:
Ash: If you use up all the garlic and don’t tell Wifey, she won’t put it on the shopping list and therefore won’t buy any more.
Miranda: A whole fried fish is hard to take a decent photo of (especially when using an iPhone instead of a camera).

Nonetheless, here we are, with a slightly improvised version of one of Martinique’s national dishes and our best attempts at photographing it! We say ‘one of’because research would suggest that there are actually three: a lamb curry, a fish stew, and this one, grilled snapper with sauce au chien. Yes, that does mean ‘dog sauce’ in English. No, we’re not sure why. The recipe we used describes it as ‘an exotic vinaigrette made with herbs, chillies, aromatic vegetables and lime juice’, which sounds much more appealing. Continue reading

New chicken routine: Sri Lankan kothu roti

Regular readers of this blog will know that when we first started this ‘cook around the world’ challenge, we said that if we had a cookbook with a recipe in it that we could use, we would use it instead of trying to find a recipe on the Internet. When we realised that Sri Lanka was the next country on our list, we were therefore excited, as we hadn’t been able to use one of our cookbooks for a while, and we were sure to have a Sri Lankan recipe with which to break that drought.

Well, imagine our surprise when we found that within our 150+ cookbooks, there is not a single Sri Lankan recipe – at least not one that we could lay our hands on. Indian, yes; Cambodian, yes; Bangladeshi, yes – but Sri Lankan was nowhere to be seen. The good news here is that we clearly have a need to buy another cookbook…

Not to be deterred, our next port of call was Miranda’s friend Lucy, who travelled to Sri Lanka last year and, as a fellow foodie, may have had a recipe for us. She didn’t, but she did suggest kothu roti as a dish that ‘everyone eats everywhere’ in Sri Lanka. Having had an average version of this at a local establishment fairly recently, the challenge to better their version seemed like a worthy one, so the kothu roti recipe search began. Continue reading

Another twist on fish and chips: Saint Lucian green figs and salt fish

For a young Miranda, the concept of St Lucia was a bit confusing. More familiar with the geography of Brisbane than that of the Caribbean, she knew St Lucia as an affluent suburb that was the home of the University of Queensland (where she would eventually study), not a mountainous island nation.

969b UQ

969c Graduation

However, a couple of university degrees and a good dose of worldliness will teach a person that there can be more than one place with the same name, and it’s a good thing too, because the traditional food of St Lucia, Brisbane, is probably a few slices from UQ’s Pizza Caffe: delicious, but not the significantly more unusual meal we had for dinner last night. Also, Caribbean St Lucia is really pretty.

969d St Lucia

Upon learning that St Lucia’s national dish is green figs and salt fish, at first we were expecting unripe figs on our plates, but were relieved to discover that this actually refers to green bananas, which we discovered were something of an equivalent to potatoes when we cooked Grenadian oil down. It was at this point that we realised that another spin on fish and chips was on the menu! Continue reading

Grand greens: Monacan barbagiuan

At first it seemed surprising that the national dish of Monaco – a nation known for its wealth and flashiness – was barbagiuan, which is little more than street food. However, as we painstakingly formed each tiny half-moon of pastry, stuffed with a spinach and ricotta mixture, it started to make more sense. In the way that an artisanal, hand-crafted item always costs more than a mass-produced one – much like the couture fashions of Monaco’s residents, no doubt – the time spent making these little nibbles surely makes them rare and desirable.

We say this partly tongue-in-cheek, of course. The barbagiuan in Monaco are probably often produced by machine, and even if not, we do have to admit that they got easier and quicker once we started to figure out the knack. Be assured, though, that this is not a quick-to-make recipe. That said, there isn’t much that’s difficult about it, and once you get in the zone, hand-crafting can be both relaxing and satisfying. Continue reading

Sunshine on a rainy day: Barbadian cou-cou and fish

One thing we learnt when reading about Barbados’s national dish, cou-cou, is that when writing about anything Barbadian (or Bajan, more colloquially), one must mention Rihanna, because apparently this makes the piece more contemporary and down-with-the-kids. Of course, now here we are doing the same thing. It’s not an inappropriate reference though, because we’ve needed our umbrella-ella-ellas here in London over the past few days. What a miserable end to the summer it’s been!

The other thing we learnt is that, surprisingly for such a simple dish, there are a lot of versions of cou-cou out there. Essentially, it’s a cornmeal and okra mixture, topped with a fish stew – typically flying fish, although tilapia, sea bass and basa all work as substitutes if (like us) you can’t get hold of flying fish – but everyone seems to have his own way of doing it. In the end, we surprised ourselves by choosing a recipe from Jason Howard on Great British Chefs – not the sort of website we would usually gravitate towards for foreign cuisine, but its main advantage was that it provided a recipe for Bajan chopped seasoning, which other websites didn’t. The other comforting thing about Jason’s recipe was that he actually said that although it’s a Barbadian dish, it’s ‘also perfect for a typical British rainy day’ – and that is what we had! Don’t be put off by the seemingly long list of ingredients – you’ll find that a lot of them double up, and they’re mostly pretty common. Continue reading