Finally, we again find ourselves in a country we have actually visited. We spent a rainy weekend in Rome in February 2014 and of course visited Vatican City while we were there. Vatican City (or, to use its full name, Vatican City State) lies within Rome’s borders and is the smallest state in the world by both area (110 acres) and population (1000). Other than being the home of the Pope, it is most well-known for its extensive museum (including the Sistine Chapel) and St Peter’s Basilica, both of which we visited.
Kosovo’s status as a country is somewhat contentious. After claiming independence from Serbia in 2008, it is only partially recognised within the United Nations (43% of the member states don’t acknowledge it as an independent state). Still, that’s 57% of member states that do recognise it, so as far as we were concerned, that was enough to justify making a Kosovan dish. However, a nine-year-old country doesn’t exactly have a traditional national dish. Due to historical and ethnic connections with Albania (see, this just gets more complicated), Kosovan cuisine has been particularly influenced by Albanian cuisine. We haven’t yet made a dish from Albania so we didn’t want to accidentally make Albania’s national dish for Kosovo!
Fortunately, we stumbled upon tavë prizreni, which translates to Plate of Prizren, Prizren being a Kosovan city. This seemed like the closest thing to a national dish that we were going to find, so Friday’s dinner menu was decided! It was impossible to find a recipe in English, though, so we turned to Google Translate, which is always fun: we had to decipher such instructions as ‘put the mass of the pizza into the pan’ and ingredients like ‘lacquered and cropped tomatoes’. We think that our recipe below is a pretty accurate version of the original dish, but if we have any Kosovan readers, please do set us straight if we’re wrong! Continue reading →
‘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 →
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 →
NB: We’ve just returned from eighteen glorious days in Spain, which explains our absence from the blog world. This entry was actually written before we went, but not posted due to the always frantic last-minute exercise of packing. However, this means it is now three weeks out of date. We’re just going to post it anyway rather than trying to edit it. Forgive us!
Here in London we have finally experienced some half-decent weather later – only half-decent, mind you. This weekend, our Saturday involved a lot of moving our laundry (and ourselves) from inside to outside and back again, trying to avoid the intermittent downpours that made things like mowing the lawn or even sitting outside unnecessarily difficult. Fortunately, Sunday was glorious, and we were able to spend the afternoon sitting out in the sun and BBQing with good friends.
However, this is not the BBQ to which we allude in the title of this post. This one was the weekend before, when we decided to make the most of a rainless Saturday and eat outdoors. We’d already decided that we’d revisit our Lao marinated chicken, but we also needed a salad of some kind to go with it, and that’s where the nation of Tajikstan stepped in! Continue reading →
Hong Kong is another ‘is it really a country?’ country. Wikipedia tells us that it’s an autonomous territory, just like Macau, which essentially means it’s part of China whilst also standing on its own. This was exemplified perfectly when Miranda asked a Hong Kongese student whether there were any dishes specific to Hong Kong. With an expression that was a mix of bewilderment and panic, he said, ‘Um… they just have Chinese restaurants.’
That avenue well and truly exhausted, our next step was to turn to Google for a Hong Kongese dish, but the World Wide Web pretty much gave us the same answer: Hong Kong cuisine is mainly influenced by Cantonese cuisine, and there really isn’t much to distinguish between the two. The only food we could associate with Hong Kong was the luminescent deep fried balls of unidentifiable meat you get from the takeaway, and we didn’t want that. We could have made fish balls, which seem to be a popular Hong Kong street food, but pounding white fish into a paste didn’t especially appeal to us, so in the end we settled for spicy fried noodles as inspired by Cookpad (we played with the quantities a bit). Honestly, we really couldn’t tell you whether this is even close to ‘authentic’ Hong Kongese, but there were very few options and it seemed along the right lines… Continue reading →
We’re back! It’s been a few weeks since we cooked anything exotic, our excuse for last week being that we spent four glorious days in France, drinking champagne and eating fantastic food. In fact, this time last week we were basking in the sunshine, eating a freshly-procured picnic of bread, farmhouse pate, goat cheese, heirloom tomato and red wine drunk out of plastic glasses, with a raspberry tart and rhubarb flan waiting for us to be ready for dessert. Today, we’re inside looking out at the grey sky and wet pavements. C’est la vie.
But back to the mission and country at hand: a dish from Laos. We’ve recently had the pleasure of reconnecting with Wendy, a school friend of Miranda’s who has been brave/crazy enough to join the throngs of people battling rush hour on the London Underground for the past two years. Last night, she joined us for a farewell dinner before returning to the Land Down Under, and that meant we could inflict more Lao-style chillies on her than she was probably expecting!
When researching Lao food, we discovered that the national dish is larb, a salad of minced meat (or vegetarian alternative), flavoured with a variety of herbs and spices and, crucially, toasted ground rice. We also learnt that the Lao eat more sticky rice than any other people in the world, and will often refer to themselves as ‘luk khao niaow’ which, roughly translated, means ‘children or descendants of sticky rice’. Larb and sticky rice needed to feature, then, but salad and rice doesn’t exactly scream ‘dinner party menu’. A bit more reading around eventually led us to create the following menu:
– Dtom jeaw pla (fish soup)
– Ping gai (marinated grilled chicken)
– Larb het (spicy mushroom salad)
– Sticky rice
– For dessert, Gordon Ramsay’s pineapple and mango crumble, which isn’t Lao, but seemed to fit Continue reading →