Away and home: Canadian (Quebecois) mussel chowder

Leaving the food of Europe behind (for now) and jumping over to the Americas feels like we’ve really made some progress in this cooking journey. We started in Wales and have made our way through most of Europe, Asia and Oceania, discovering so many new dishes (and ingredients) along the way. Now we’re embarking on a whole new region, starting with Canada, which we are excited about – but which also posed a problem.

Many of you will be aware that Canada’s national dish is poutine: fries, cheese curds and gravy. Poutine seemed to experience a bit of a rebirth in London a couple of years ago, probably partially because of the ‘it’s cool to eat really unhealthy food and Instagram it’ age we’re in. (Speaking of which, remember that you can follow us on Instagram @goodfoodonbadplates – with very little unhealthy food, in fact!) We’d never actually tried it though, so the idea of making our own was quite fun… until we realised that we don’t have a deep fryer so wouldn’t be making brilliant fries, didn’t know where we’d get cheese curds from, and probably wouldn’t make gravy worthy of this revered dish. Continue reading

Breaking free from borscht: Russian smoked fish pie

‘Russian food – well, that’s borscht, isn’t it?’

The look on Ash’s face was a mix of horror and dismay. Whilst he’ll eat beetroot if required, he is certainly not in its fan club, and memories of a Russian housemate stinking out the house by boiling beetroot were adding to the feeling of dread. Miranda’s Australian background means she’s more in tune with beetroot and its benefits, but even she wasn’t all that excited about the thought of this particular meal. However, we both had to make our peace with the fact that it’s Russia’s national dish and that’s the challenge we set ourselves when we started this project.

Fortunately for us, we were saved by Diana Henry and her lovely book Roast Figs Sugar Snow, which contains a recipe for Russian smoked fish pie with cream cheese pastry. As we mentioned a few weeks ago, we did say that if we had an appropriate recipe on our bulging shelves, we’d use it – so smoked fish pie it was! We were saved – and more than a little relieved. The book tells us that Russians love pies, so we were happy to play along. Continue reading

Island-style takeaway: Nauruan coconut fish, chips and crunchy pineapple relish

Despite growing up on opposite sides of the world, we both come from countries in which fish and chips is something of a cultural icon. In coastal Australia, fish straight out of the ocean is transported into seaside fish and chip shops, lightly crumbed and fried or grilled, and the chips are enhanced by one of the culinary world’s greatest inventions: chicken salt. And that’s not even mentioning such delicacies as calamari and prawn cutlets, as well as and the ubiquitous Chiko Rolls, potato scallops and dim sims. If you’re a tomato-sauce-with-chips kind of person, you get the unique Australian experience of the squeezy sauce sachet.

561 Squeezy sauce

In cold, gloomy England, on the other hand, wet Friday evenings are traditionally brightened by queuing at the ‘chippy’ to be presented with greasy, thickly-battered fish, chips with salt and odd-tasting malt vinegar and a side of mushy peas (more commonly served with a meat pie in Australia). Curry sauce is a more popular condiment than ketchup. After polishing it all off and feeling slightly sick as a result, grease-filled Englishmen have left the worries of the week behind them and are ready to face the weekend, once they have discarded the old bits of newspaper – now coated in a film of oil – that their dinners came wrapped in.

Can you tell which one of us is writing this blog yet? Continue reading

South Sea sunshine: Tuvaluan tuna curry

Next on our culinary tour of the Pacific Islands is Tuvalu, which lies halfway between Hawaii and Australia and is made up of three reef islands and six atolls. Its population is only about 10,000, so, unsurprisingly, there weren’t many Tuvaluan websites telling us what to cook!

Like most of these small island nations, Tuvaluan cuisine is centred around ingredients that are locally grown or hunted and therefore easy to acquire. Specifically, most dishes are based on the staples of coconut and fish. Imported ingredients (essentially the remainder of this recipe) are also necessary, however, as so little can actually grow in Tuvalu.

We rejected this recipe at first: we like tuna a lot, but we don’t like messing with it, and hiding it in a curry constituted messing with it. However, as mentioned earlier, our options were limited, which is how we found ourselves making tuna curry last weekend (thanks once again to Global Table Adventure for the recipe). Continue reading

Surprisingly good supper: Tokelauan sweet and sour fish

We mentioned last week that we’d never actually heard of Tokelau, the next country on our list. Some research was therefore required! We found out that this nation is actually a territory of New Zealand and has a land area of only 10km2. It’s therefore probably unsurprising that it doesn’t really seem to have a distinctive national dish. Despite quite a lot of Googling, the only thing we could find for a long time was a blogger trying to complete a similar challenge to ours, who said that there were no Tokelauan recipes to be found. Things were not looking good!

However, then we finally found a Tokelauan information publication, which included a recipe for sweet and sour fish. Now, like us, you might be thinking that that sounds more like a Chinese takeaway dish than one originating in the Pacific Islands, and you’re probably right. However, apparently the tourist market has brought a Chinese influence into the nation’s cuisine, and this recipe says it has been adapted to suit Tokelau and the ingredients available. Given the lack of other published recipes, this seemed about as close as we were going to get to a Tokelauan dish, so we decided to go for it. The quantities in the recipe were very approximate, so here is what we used.

Sweet and sour fish

Ingredients
550g coley (or other firm white fish), cut into large cubes
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
1 small tin of pineapple slices, drained
2 tbsp sugar
A good squirt of tomato puree (1-2 tbsp?)
About 1 tbsp of tomato ketchup
Cornflour
Cooking oil
Salt (not in the original recipe but we thought it needed it)

Method
1. Season the cornflour and use it to coat the fish. (We didn’t add the salt until later, once we’d tasted it, but in hindsight would add it here.)
2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the fish in batches until nicely browned. (The recipe said deep fry; we shallow fried. It’s probably a matter of preference.) When cooked, place in a bowl on the side.
3. Chop the pineapple and fry in the same pan until soft. Add the tomato puree, tomato ketchup and sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves. Let it boil for 3-4 minutes.
4. Add the frozen vegetables, stir, and cook for 3 minutes or until heated through.
5. Return the fish to the pan and mix through.
6. Serve with rice.
Serves 2 generously or could stretch to 3.

Fish

Sweet and sour sauce beginnings

Sweet and sour fish

Sweet and sour fish

If we’re honest, we weren’t really looking forward to eating this. Neither of us likes Chinese sweet and sour, so we wouldn’t have opted to cook it ourselves if we’d had more of a choice. However, we were pleasantly surprised. Considering the lack of fresh ingredients, it didn’t taste artificial like the takeaway version (despite the unmistakeable luminescent red hue of the sauce at the start of cooking), and although it was more sweet than sour, it actually wasn’t too overpowering. Shallow frying the fish gave it enough of a crispy coating for our tastes, but if you like the unidentifiable balls that you get with a Chinese takeaway, deep frying as per the original recipe might be for you.

Another major bonus of this dish was that it was very quick and easy to make – although we would recommend getting your fishmonger to remove all scales and bones from your piece of fish if you want it to be even quicker than it was for us…

Next up is Samoa. We were slightly concerned that Samoan food would be the same as American Samoan food, and it pretty much is, but we have already found the recipe that we are going to cook and it’s definitely not the same as our paifala. Stay tuned – although not next weekend because we’re off to Amsterdam, woohoo!

Tahitian tuna: French Polynesian poisson cru

After we got married, we had a three-night mini-moon in Dubai on our way back from Australia. A full-blown honeymoon just wasn’t realistic at that point (plus we had just spent three weeks in Australia), so we decided we’d have a few days of post-wedding R&R and delay the ‘real’ honeymoon until next summer. Dubai was everything we hoped for, with temperatures in the low 40s every day, cocktails by the beach, and plenty of all-you-can-eat meals (for that reason, it’s a good thing we were only there for three days).

Canape station at Al Qasr brunch
Just a hint of some of the yummy food we ate during our stay at Madinat Jumeirah. Continue reading

Trouting about: East Timorese ikan pepes

Our ‘to do’ list for these two weeks looks like this:
1. Get everything organised for Wedding #1
2. Make a lot of headway on organising Wedding #2
3. Cook meals from four different countries so that we’re up to Australia when we’re actually in Australia

Good thing Miranda’s on holidays from work and can basically spend all day doing these things! How people with real jobs (i.e. non-teachers) get anything done is a mystery. And good thing we cooked an East Timorese dish on Wednesday, so now we’re down to just three countries. It would have been even easier if the following hadn’t happened at the fishmonger:

Miranda enters fishmonger looking for red snapper, finds it, but decides it’s too big to fit in the pots we have, so looks for a suitable alternative…
Fish man: Can I help you?
Miranda: I wanted red snapper, but this one is too big.
Fish man: What about this smaller one?
Miranda: No, it’s still too big, really. Do you have a similar fish?
Fish man: Um…. (looks around helplessly) We have this yellow tail snapper?
Miranda: Is that similar to red snapper then?
Fish man: Well, I don’t know, but it has the same name… Continue reading