Embracing cosiness: Albanian tavë kosi

We recently returned from a cosy ‘staycation’. We’re in the throes of renovations chaos in the Mash House, so the opportunity to escape the mess and spend a few days relaxing in the countryside was very welcome. Our first stop was Marlow, where we achieved the Tom Kerridge trifecta by eating delicious meals at The Hand & Flowers, The Coach and The Butcher’s Tap, as well as discovering the best hot chocolate ever in a little cafe. We found out afterwards that apparently The Hand & Flowers claims to serve the best chips in the world, but we’d already given that title to those on offer at The Coach – Ash ordered two portions!

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A poultry dose of irony: Bahamian fish chowder

Another day, another Caribbean archipelago, another nation declaring conch as its national dish. Still unable to source this seafood anywhere other than in a William Golding novel, we once again looked further afield, coming up with two alternative options: fish chowder or steamed chicken. Both looked nice, but Ash pointed out that we tend to eat a lot of chicken anyway, so maybe we should give the fish chowder a try. The recipe we used is by Norman Van Aken, a chef we’d probably have heard of if we lived in the US, given that he’s been described as the ‘Walt Whitman of American cuisine’ (and that makes two literary references in one paragraph).

Poet or otherwise, he seems to know his stuff, so on Saturday, while Ash was continuing his work as a DIY wizard, Miranda retrieved some previously made fish stock from the freezer and set about rustling up a hearty soup (despite the unseasonably warm weather!). Continue reading

Sort of healthy apple crumble… ish: Liechtensteiner ribel

Some facts about Liechtenstein:

· It is the sixth-smallest country in the world
· Despite its tiny size, it has one of the highest GDPs in the world
· It is situated between Austria and Switzerland, and as a result, its cuisine is significantly influenced by that of both countries
· We’ve never been there, but it looks pretty nice:

Balzers village in Liechtenstein

· Its national dish is käseknöpfle (basically mac and cheese)… which we made for Germany

A combination of many of these factors meant that finding something to make for Liechtenstein was a little tricky! A tiny country with big influences from neighbouring countries doesn’t have a long list of traditional recipes to its name, unfortunately. In the end, we opted for ribel (also spelt rebl), which a Liechtenstein tourism website describes as ‘probably the most traditional dish in Liechtenstein’ due to its origins as a staple dish for the country’s ‘poor population’. Traditional was what we wanted; a vague recipe for a slightly odd-sounding dish wasn’t quite, but a lack of other options meant that ribel was on our dessert menu on the weekend! (Is it even a dessert? We’re not really sure.) Continue reading

Take us to the April sun: Cuban arroz con pollo a la chorrera

The nights are drawing in here in South London and we’re sure it’s only a matter of time before bitter temperatures follow suit: as ever, we’ve been promised the coldest winter ever with months of apocalyptic snowfall! Confident though we are that this is tabloid sensationalism, a visit to a Caribbean island would still be pretty nice. With some fairly significant renovations getting started in the Mash House, however, we’re going to have to imagine that warming sunshine vicariously through our cooking.

Today’s island nation is Cuba. We’ve never been there, but we know people who have! Ash’s sister and her husband went there on their honeymoon and amidst their adventures of swimming with dolphins, riding around in Cadillacs and drinking pina coladas, they were considerate enough to pick up some recipes for us (and some Cuban rum!) as Thomas Cook had left a handy folder of local information in their hotel.

According to Google, the national dish of Cuba is ropa vieja, which is a beef and tomato stew. This was one of the recipes in the folder, but we ended up deciding against it because ingredient number one was ‘1kg of brisket (previously used as boiling meat for a soup)’. Now, we love brisket, but prefer it when it has been smoked long and slow on a barbecue, rather than boiling all the flavour out of it in a soup base. Instead, we opted for arroz con pollo a la chorrera, which means rice with chicken in Chorrera style (interesting, given that Chorrera culture originated in Ecuador and didn’t make it as far up as Cuba – but if the Thomas Cook recipes aren’t 100% authentic, they still came from actual Cuba, so we went with it!). Continue reading

Labour of Luxembourg: Judd mat Gaardebounen

Here we are again at a country we’ve been fortunate enough to visit. We spent a weekend in Luxembourg City in December 2015. The main purpose of the trip was to visit the Christmas markets: after visiting the markets in Hamburg a couple of years earlier and realising the delights of spending a couple of days wandering around, eating street food and drinking glühwein, we wanted to experience the same thing somewhere else. Luxembourg did not disappoint (and it wasn’t as bitterly cold as Hamburg had been!).

1153 Gluhwein

Our stomachs were well and truly indulged on that trip. In addition to the glühwein already mentioned (and not forgetting the version served with a rum-soaked and flaming cone of sugar perched on top so it could slowly melt into the drink!) and the eierpunsch (eggnog), there was the perpetual lure of bratwurst, sides of salmon smoked over an open fire and served in a bread roll, the inspired combination of marzipan-filled pretzels, and complimentary ‘executive lounge’ beverages and petit-fours in our hotel. It’s a good thing we also found time for a couple of long walks around the city!

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From salty to sweet: Caymanian custard-topped cornbread

And boy, do we mean sweet…

Other than it being a tax haven and therefore the home of potentially dodgy offshore bank accounts, we don’t know much about the Cayman Islands. After some Googling, we don’t know much about its national dish either, because it doesn’t seem to have one. Popular foods are conch, whelks, coconut, plantain, breadfruit, yams, cassava, rice and beans, but there isn’t one specific dish that is considered native to the group of three islands. This left our options open.

Pretty quickly, we found a recipe combining two wonderful things (custard and cornbread), and when we saw that, we knew there was no point in looking for anything else! The introduction to the recipe said that ‘you won’t find the recipe anywhere other than the Cayman Islands’ so it ticked the ‘delicious’ and ‘authentic’ boxes for us. Continue reading

It’s called saltfish for a reason: Jamaican ackee and saltfish

After a long stretch of cooking dishes from countries we’ve never been to, we’re finally back to one that we have . Well, one of us (Ash) has, and certainly got the benefit of the full hospitality offered by the locals to their guests when attending a wedding back in 2004. As one of very few Brits in attendance at the wedding of a Jamaican bride and English groom, he was treated like a VIP and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

When it comes to refreshments, his overriding memories are primarily of Appleton’s rum, rum punch (one sour, two sweet, three strong, four weak – or forget the weak if you’re that way inclined) and fantastic jerk BBQ. The tales of Uncle John spit roasting a cow on a telegraph pole for one of his birthday parties were all too believable from a man who was larger than life and not without wealth!

On one visit to the less salubrious parts of downtown Kingston, Ash and his companions received a real eye opener at the famous market. Locals with a sense of humour offered the group bags of fish heads (for stewing?) whilst they kept a close eye on their wallets. The sights and sounds of the market – including loudly played dominoes – were not to be forgotten.

1142a Ash and dolphin

Today’s recipe comes from a book called The Real Taste of Jamaica, which Ash bought on his travels. A combination of his food memories and the knowledge of Jamaican cuisine that Miranda could bring to the table led us to expect to be making jerk chicken; however, with the national dish of Jamaica officially being ackee and saltfish, we had to move in that direction instead. Continue reading