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

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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

Bank holiday burgers: Montenegrin pljeskavica and ajvar

‘Bank holiday’ and ‘beautiful weather’ are two phrases which are rarely found together in the same paragraph, let alone the same sentence, but we experienced a happy aberration this weekend, which saw three gloriously sunny days in a row. I think the explanation for this incredible phenomenon is the fact that we weren’t camping: we had initially planned to, but that plan fell through, and you can bet your bottom dollar that if we had been out in the wilderness somewhere, it would have tanked it down the whole time.

What makes all of this even more amazing is the fact that the weather is set to return to its usual gloomy self throughout the rest of this working week (16 degrees and heavy rain, anyone?), making our good fortune on the weekend even more, well, fortunate. So believe us when we say that we did our best to make the most of it! Continue reading

Fish and chips with a twist: Saint Vincentian roasted breadfruit and fried jackfish

Today we return to the Caribbean, to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, an island nation home to the filming of Pirates of the Caribbean and, for a time, Mick Jagger. Store that little titbit up for a future episode of University Challenge.

As you can see from its national dish, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is also home to the breadfruit, which is possibly the world’s largest and most expensive vegetable. At £7 each (‘What?! Imagine how many potatoes you could buy for £7!’ exclaimed Ash), it’s a good thing they’re nice! To serve two, this dish doesn’t use anywhere near a whole one (in fact, we only used a quarter, and that was with quite generous portions), but apparently they are best when roasted whole, so roast it whole we did. That means that we now have three-quarters of a breadfruit to use up, so if you have any suggestions, please comment below… Continue reading

Celebrating two years: Pitcairn Island arrowroot pie

Whilst working our way through this challenge, although we’ve encountered many foods and cooking styles that we haven’t tried before, it’s been unusual for us to come across a country that we’ve never heard of. The Pitcairn Islands, though, were an exception! A group of four islands in the southern Pacific Ocean, the Pitcairn Islands are a British Overseas Territory, apparently most famous as the hideaway settlement for the notorious HMS Bounty mutineers (but not famous enough for us to know that without consulting Lonely Planet).

The other distinctive thing about the Pitcairn Islands is that their total population is somewhere around the 50 mark, making it the least populous nation in the world. Unsurprisingly, then, recipes are few and far between! There is actually a cookbook out there, called (creatively) Pitcairn Island Cookbook, but not having a copy of that left us at the hands of Google, which yielded a total of two options: some sort of baked pumpkin and coconut milk concoction, and a pineapple and arrowroot pie. We opted for the latter, with a slightly vague recipe from Elite Life that required a few guesses and some instinct! Continue reading