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

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

Pork, veg and stuffing: Moldovan sarmale

Five notable foodie experiences of recent times, in order of appearance:

1. ‘Come Dine With Me.’ We have our own version of this reality TV experience happening on a regular basis with four friends, with each round having a different theme. The current theme is Our Countries of Origin and a few weeks ago, we were treated to a wonderful English meal at the home of two of our friends. It’s our turn this weekend and we are determined to try to reach the lofty standard set by their meal!

2. BBC Good Food Show. We were lucky enough to win tickets to this foodie extravaganza at Kensington Olympia and spent the day sampling delicacies and picking up as many freebies as possible. The highlight, however, was the fact that we got to meet Tom Kerridge! We’ve long been fans of his no-nonsense-yet-still-exquisite style of cooking, and a meal at his two-Michelin-starred pub The Hand & Flowers is on our bucket list, so it was a real fangirl/boy moment for us.

3. Fortnum & Mason Christmas hamper. We were very fortunate to win another competition, this time making us the recipients of a fabulous hamper from Fortnum & Mason, filled with lots of Christmassy goodies. It actually arrived on 25th November, so it really was like Christmas a month early! We haven’t eaten any of it yet, but we are very excited about it.

4. Finale of Masterchef Australia 2016. It’s always tricky to watch this show in England, as we’re a few months behind and avoiding spoilers is nearly impossible, but we managed it this year, which meant that the nail-biting finish between Elena and Matt really was nail-biting. A particular proud moment was the fact that both of the finalists hailed from the Sunshine Coast, where Miranda is from!

5. Moldovan sarmale. We struggled to find a Moldovan dish that was actually Moldovan, because just about every ‘traditional’ recipe we found seemed to be of Romanian origin. Eventually we came across a recipe for stuffed cabbage leaves on AllRecipes – a website we tend to avoid because it can be so generic and unregulated, but times were starting to get desperate. Stuffed cabbage leaves seem to be a staple of many Eastern European countries, but this recipe claimed to be Moldovan, and we haven’t actually made any stuffed cabbage leaves yet despite them being so prolific, so we thought it was about time. Continue reading

Post-holiday poultry: Georgian chakhokbili

We recently returned from a few days away in Madeira, known as a holiday destination for ‘newlyweds and nearly-deads.’ To the best of our knowledge (and optimism), we’re neither of those, but we quite fancied a bit of sunshine and warmth somewhere a bit different, and that’s exactly what we got. Madeira was stunningly beautiful, with its mountainous landscapes and balmy temperatures. You need longer than the three-and-a-half days that we had to properly explore it, but we did our best to scrape the surface in as much detail as possible, despite finding out too late that our last day was a public holiday and therefore some of the things we wanted to do weren’t open! We managed the most important thing, though – drinking madeira in Madeira – and that’s what counts.

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735a-madeira-in-madeira-compressed Continue reading

Porridge as you’ve never seen it before: Armenian harissa and khorvadzed vegetables

This recipe will challenge everything you ever thought you knew about both porridge and harissa. Like most people in this part of the world, porridge for us is a breakfast food (or, admittedly for Miranda, a lazy dinner), with a base of oats and greatly improved by such additions as cinnamon, honey, peanut butter or, for a festive twist, fruit mince (seriously – try it). Likewise, as far as we knew, harissa was a delicious chilli paste used in North African cuisine.

Then we searched for ‘Armenian national dish.’

Armenia lies in the mountains between Asia and Europe, and its cuisine is characterised by fresh ingredients, and wheat in a variety of forms. If its national dish of harissa is anything to go by, simplicity is also key, as this dish really only has two main ingredients: wheat and chicken. We opted for a recipe from SBS because it used pearl barley (which we could easily get hold of) rather than wheat (which we couldn’t). It’s therefore not 100% traditional, but seems to be pretty close. Continue reading

Back with basics: Azerbaijani toyug

Hello, blog friends, and apologies for our extended absence! We’re horrified to note that the last time we updated this blog was on 24th August. The only real excuse we can offer is that we have been very busy. Doing what, exactly, it’s hard to pinpoint, but it’s a combination of work, weekends away and the calamitous occurrence of an extinguished pilot light on our boiler. But we managed to keep this blog up to date whilst planning a wedding (two, in fact), so that excuse is a bit lame. At any rate, we’re not going to become world-famous food bloggers with that sort of attitude, so… we’re back!

Admittedly, our choice of Azerbaijani recipe was in many ways a result of the aforementioned busyness rather than an attempt to recreate an unmistakeably traditional dish. It was mid-week, we had all the ingredients required and we hadn’t cooked an international dish for a while, so toyug was what we decided on. There is a version of this dish from many countries, so it’s possibly unlikely that it originated in Azerbaijan, but it was quick, easy and surprisingly tasty given how basic the ingredient list was, so it worked for us. And that said, Azerbaijani cuisine is characterised by its use of fresh herbs, which were certainly present in this dish – so maybe it was traditional after all! Continue reading