Category Archives: Food

World Cooking – Brunei

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Brunei
Progress: 90/193

I have made no secret that I want to try and cross off the smaller or less known food countries first so that, later in this challenge, it is plain sailing towards the end. Sure I sprinkle in some big ones along the way (like Japan and Cuba), but there’s something nice about getting some of the more research heavy ones out of the way first.

So here we are with Brunei, one of the smallest nations in Asia (although I have covered smaller Asian nations before like Singapore and the Maldives) and one that I am likely never to visit as they have the death penalty for gay men. It’s made up of two small parcels of land on the island of Borneo – an island it shares with the much larger nations of Malaysia and Indonesia.

With two large food nation as neighbours, the food of Brunei is influenced by those around them – as well as some influences from nearby Singapore and the cultural juggernaut that is China. They also have a very specific national dish called Ambuyat, which is essentially a bland sticky food made from starch of the sago palm which you dip into sauces using a specially designed fork. Now there was no chance of me spending all that time on something that is meant to be bland, so I went for something else that is specifically from Brunei.

Main: Honey Barbecue Chicken Pizza

Okay so hear me out. I am going to be cooking something from Malaysia and Indonesia in the future anyway, so I wanted to make a dish that would not tread on their toes. So, when I came across an article on food in Brunei that mentioned that they had a nationally unique Pizza Hut menu item. As in, at the time of writing this, it is only in Bruneian Pizza Huts that you will be able to find Honey Barbecue Chicken Pizza.

Since I didn’t make pizza for Italy, and I have no plans to do it for the USA, I honestly thought why not. Also, this is a chance for me to roast garlic for the first time and to make my own proper garlic butter. Using the recipe from Foreign Fork, I brought this pizza creation to life – and it was delicious. A bit… soupier than expected because I didn’t reduce the barbecue sauce down enough – but the taste was there.

As I know what went wrong, this is something that we are definitely going to be having again – even though my husband insists that he dislikes chicken (and if you’ve kept track of all the chicken things I have made for this food list, you know how much of a saint this man is). Then again he ate his share of the pizza before I got halfway, so it’s not like I’m forcing him to eat asbestos.

It has been way too long since I last made something European, so that’s where my culinary journey will be taking me. Since I am not going to be doing the UK until the final nation, this is likely the closest I am going to to get to my home nation until then. Should make for something good to eat.

World Cooking – Panama

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Panama
Progress: 89/193

It’s unusual for me to cook for the same continent twice unless there has been a massive gap in cooking (and I forgot that it was a duplication) or I am massively behind. In this instance, it’s because I had another recipe for another country that shares a protein and the Panamanian recipe was a lot more complicated to make.

Probably a good thing that, for the purposes of my own tracking, I decided to just go with ‘Americas’ as the positioning of Panama would make things a bit awkward. Like with Turkey and Russia, Panama is a country that spans two continents: North America and South America. Depending on where you look, this separation happens either within Panama (at different places) or where Panama meets Colombia. As someone who has loved maps since he was very young, it’s a really interesting country.

Same can be said of the cuisine, which is heavily influenced by its native history, it’s Spanish colonial past and it’s present state of having one of the heaviest trade routes in the world thanks to the Panama canal. There are a lot of interesting dishes that I could make… if I actually knew where I could get my hands on some yucca and culantro in the current state of pandemic. Sadly that ruled out making the national soup of sancocho, but there were more than enough options for me to pick from.

Main: Tamal de Olla

Tamales are one of those dishes that you see on lists of foods for all countries in Central America. I’ve had them only once before, and that was nearly six years ago. It was only with my first cooking of Venezuela (and my wonderful neighbour) that I knew what to look for when it came to the right sort of cornmeal to make Central American dishes – and even them I have been mostly been making my own bastardised version of arepas.

Traditional tamales are steamed inside a corn husk or a banana/plantain leaf which has always stopped me from trying to make my own. Then I found out that there is a Panamanian version whose name translates to ‘tamale of the oven’. Thanks to this recipe by The World Cook I have been able to make what is basically a tamale pie – which is pretty damned delicious.

In between a thin cornmeal bottom and a thicker cornmeal top, you have a filling containing bell peppers, onion, olives, capers and chicken that has been pre-soaked in red wine. There is also a delicious sauce which included a hastily improvised version of recaito, a flavour base that ended up being mostly coriander leaf. Of course we couldn’t eat the whole thing in one go, so that’s a quick lunch ready for tomorrow. Just wish I didn’t have to get the cornmeal in via a special order.

Like I said at the beginning, I got a big pack of chicken meaning I am able to make two food country foods in a row. The food I am making for the next country won’t make a lot of sense on the face of it, but it’s a fun recipe and I have a hankering for some homemade pizza.

World Cooking – Antigua & Barbuda

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Antigua & Barbuda
Progress: 88/193

The ampersand in a country name is such a Caribbean thing. I know that the reason for this is down to the colonial history that this area of the world was forced to live through, but it’s one of those things that you only really start to notice when you go through a country list. I know there are two exceptions (I think), but it’s just an interesting thing to see.

The food of Antigua & Barbuda has a number of similarities with other nations within the Leeward Island area of the Caribbean – and to a lesser extent the wider Caribbean. From the island there is sweet potato, corn (both as the vegetable and as cornmeal) and local seafood. You also see saltfish, like with the rest of the area, and some influences from nearby islands.

I know that there is actual national dish for Antigua & Barbuda, one called fungi that is made primarily of cornmeal and peppers, but this is one of those cases where there is recipe that I found that I had to make it because it sounded different. Also, it sounded pretty delicious.

Main: Ducana (and Saltfish)

Ducana is a dumpling from Antigua & Barbuda that is made by mixing grated sweet potato with coconut, raisins, nuts, banana, spices and a bunch of other ingredients. It’s one of those things that really sounds more like a dessert than an accompaniment to a main meal. Following this recipe from Dinner By Dennis, this is an interestingly different side dish. But as this is a side dish, it’s not like I can just eat a bowl of them.

So this is how I ended up with yet another dish with saltfish, albeit cooked in a somewhat different way (thanks to Melinda Strauss) which may be the best way that I have made made it. I was a bit worried that the ducana themselves would be a bit too sweet to go with the saltfish, but obviously this is a tried and true combination that – somehow – works.

I still think that the ducana themselves would make for a good dessert with the right sauce or frosting. Maybe if I found a less wasteful way to cook them other than by using a bunch of aluminium foil to wrap them individually. Traditionally you could also use some form of leaf to wrap them – but given everything with Covid, I didn’t want to venture up to Chinatown to just purchase some cooking leaves.

Thanks to an overcooking of African countries, it looks like I am back to Europe, Asia or even the Americas (again) for the next country. Given that, as of writing this, we are just starting Lockdown II in the UK – I am going to have to see if I am able to get ingredients or, like with the previous lockdown, I am going to need to press pause on this challenge once again. Hopefully I can grab something, even if it’s something a bit simple.

World Cooking – Mongolia

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Mongolia
Progress: 87/193

I am getting close to the halfway point on this challenge and I have reached another country that has made me think about how I do the recipes. Like with Lebanon and Yemen, I found various savoury recipes where it would have been a shame to ignore them in favour of shoehorning in a dessert. Instead, I am making two dishes that are variations around the theme that also require different cooking skills.

The moment the word Mongolia enters my brain, I obviously default to Genghis Khan… then to an episode of Running Man that I saw on the plane to Korea where the hosts had to milk yaks. Both of these thoughts pretty much help when thinking of what would be Mongolian cuisine, as it pretty much what you would expect from a culture that derives from nomadic horseman. Lots of dishes built on meat and dairy where you use as much of the animal as possible.

For the dishes I ended up making, they contain a lot of the same basic elements (lamb, flour and a sparing use of spice) but are prepared in very different ways. After the easy food I made for Micronesia it felt right to challenge myself again.

Main: Buuz

Since I wanted to get the more difficult recipe out of the way first, I ended making Buuz first. These are steamed dumplings where the flavour mostly comes from minced lamb and a small amount of caraway and black pepper. I followed a recipe from Adamant Kitchen for these, almost burning myself when I had to hand-knead the dough due to the use of boiling water, and these turned out beautifully.

This is only the second time that I have made steamed dumplings from scratch and, to be honest, one of the reasons for doing this was to try and help me build some confidence before I try and make dim sum for China. Well, mission accomplished, I think that these buuz turned out beautifully and I now know that I can make good steamed dumplings from scratch should the need ever arise. Maybe I’ll make these again when it’s time for the lunar new year.

Main: Khuushuur

So the counterpoint to the buuz in this post are the fried Khuushuur dumplings, which I made using a recipe from Anna Meanders. I didn’t want to make both with lamb, so seeing that beef was also an option made the filling choice a no brainer: beef with marjoram and garlic.

Due to their size and that you have to fry them, there was a part of me that was legitimately scared that I would see raw meat once I cut into them. Shouldn’t have feared, perfectly cooked and so very juicy. Like the buuz, these did not need any additional sauces – the sparse seasoning and the juiciness of the beef worked wonders.

Making both buuz and khuushuur does mean there is an inevitable comparison as to which I liked more. I think for the size and the texture, I liked the buuz more. However, because of ease of the process I can see myself making khuushuur again as it was like half of the time. Maybe the more I make steamed dumplings the quicker I’ll be able to wrap? Is that a thing?

It’s been a long time since I last made something from the Caribbean, so in my next food post I will be focussing on this area.

World Cooking – Federated States of Micronesia

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Federated States of Micronesia
Progress: 86/193

Tine for the now twice yearly visit to the cuisines of Oceania. With this I am now halfway through the countries in this region and I still have no idea what I am going to cook for Australia. Still though, that can wait as today I am cooking for one of the longest country names in the world. It also has one of the largest areas in the world, although most of that is made up of their claims in the Pacific Ocean.

The four stars in the flag represent the four states that make up the nation, each state having jurisdiction a section of the 607 islands. Each state has their own sets of cultural traditions, the state of Yap being especially famous for their massive stone currency. However, if you want to find recipes for each of these states… it’s pretty hard. The fact that two other nations also come under the Micronesian umbrella also complicates things somewhat. Still though, I managed to find something that ended up being truly scrumptious.

Main: Chicken Micronesia

With a name like Chicken Micronesia, it gave me immediate hope that this might be the perfect recipe for this country. The fact that multiple places talked about a chicken recipe for the Federated States of Micronesia with coconut and pineapple as main ingredients really helped to give me that confidence to make it.

Following this recipe on Food.com, may have made for one of the easiest things that I have ever made for the food country challenge. It will probably end up being the easiest thing when I am at the end of the 193 country journey. However, just because this was easy doesn’t mean that it wasn’t delicious.

Of all the recipes I have made so far, this is the one that will easily enter a weeknight rotation. Sure, for the best result you need to marinade it overnight – but once you have done that its super moist and super flavourful. Especially those pineapple chunks soaking up all the juice from the chicken and the flavour of the soy sauce.

As this week’s recipe was a nice and simple one, I am going to push the boat out a bit next week when I am ticking off my next Asian nation. This will be the first time in a long time that I will be making dumplings from scratch – which should be a lot easier now that I have a pasta maker to roll out the dough super thin.

World Cooking – Central African Republic

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Central African Republic
Progress: 85/193

Any guesses where on the map you’d be able to find the Central African Republic? Seriously though, I love a name that is descriptive enough that anyone can find it – like South Africa or… okay I think that’s actually about it.

This is one of those nations where I got excited about making something that, whilst it has similarities with dishes I know how to make, still uses a bit of an unusual ingredient. It is also a recipe that a lot of other people doing similar cooking around the world tours seem to do – mainly because it sounds good and the ingredients are still accessible outside of the Central African Republic.

In terms of a cuisine, this shares a lot with other Central African countries as well as those in Western Africa. This means that fufu/ugali is regularly served as a main part of a meal with the protein coming from fish, chicken, goat, wild game or insects. Since a lot of things tend to bleed borders, I am glad to have found something that seems specific to the country.

Main: Kanda

First things first, I mentioned back in Eswatini, that I was going to use pumpkin seeds that I toasted myself from the carving pumpkin I previously used. This did not end up working because I didn’t have enough and because of the pumpkin cultivar, they were a bit bitter. So, off to the local health food store to buy edible pumpkin seeds it was.

For this recipe, from Tara’s Multicultural Table, you have a gluten-free beef meatball where pumpkin seeds are used as filler and to add flavour. The raw meatball mix smelt absolutely amazing and reminded me of some mushroom pate that I used to get from Borough Market before the end times.

The recipe I used has you boil the meatballs rather than fry them, but I think in retrospect that I should have done so. It also says to serve this over rice – however I went another way  and turned these into meatball subs. Tasty ones they were, but I think they could have used some more spice in the sauce.

With so many African countries done in quick succession, it’ll be a while before I have to look up a recipe for this continent or have the conversation of whether this is the time that I need to make jollof rice. Not sure where I will be throwing my recipe dart for the next country, but it’ll be fun to see what happens.

World Cooking – Eswatini

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Eswatini
Progress: 84/193

Eswatini is interesting for this list seeing as this is one of two countries that changed their official name since I started cooking my way around the world (the other being North Macedonia). This also means that, along with South Africa and Lesotho, I have now made dishes for the three southernmost countries in Africa. Once I have made something for Namibia, then I will be able to claim even more coverage with the recipes.

There is not a lot of information online about the cuisine of Eswatini, but other than biltong (which is eaten a lot in this area, and I am NOT going to be making myself) the main things are porridges of different types and ingredients which are then served with a meat stew. Like a goat stew or something like that.  I need to find a source of goat seeing how often this comes up in the different cuisines and, thanks to an Ethiopian food stall I used to frequent, is a meat I developed a taste for.

Main: Sidvudvu

Okay, so before I go any further – one thing I hadn’t quite banked on when making this recipe was how different the pumpkin cultivars are between what I get in my local supermarket compared to what would be used to properly make this dish.

Sidvudvu (recipe from this blog) is a porridge made using pumpkin and cornmeal. In the UK, it’s not common to find pumpkins in regular supermarkets at any point other than October. Of course, these aren’t necessarily pumpkins for making porridge or (as I found later, cheesecake). No, in the UK they’re basically bred and sold in supermarkets for the sake of carving. This means that they’re structurally fine, but the flesh is more watery and less flavourful.

This is my way of saying that this porridge wasn’t as flavourful as I was hoping and that this will be down to not having the right kind of pumpkin. In retrospect, I should have made this with the butternut squash as recommended as an alternative. It’s just that I got so excited at the prospect of actually using seasonal pumpkins in my cooking.

Such a misadventure doesn’t necessarily bode well for my next food nation which uses pumpkin seeds as a binding agent. I mean if the pumpkins have been bred to be more watery and less flavourful… then these seeds may not be quite right. Oh well, you learn more from mistakes – and today I learned a lot about pumpkin cultivars.

World Cooking – Malta

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Malta
Progress: 83/193

This completes a little two-parter of mine to make the foods of the countries where COVID-19 made my travel plans fall though. My trip to Malta was due to happen just before Easter 2020, a week after they announced mandatory 2 week quarantine to anyone entering the country. Really didn’t make a 5 day visit feel worth it.

I’ll make it to Malta eventually, but for now it was actually quite nice to look into some of the foods that I might have been able to find when I was there. Also helped further cement into my head how interesting the Maltese language looks and how, if I had been there, I was clearly going to bank on people speaking English since it is one of those nations that used to be part of the British Empire.

There are some British influences on the cuisine, but the strongest influences are mercifully the local trading nations. That makes for an interesting mix of Italian with a influence of France and North Africa. Despite being the tenth smallest country in the world, and officially under the same microstate umbrella as Monaco, San Marino and Nauru,  the wealth of cuisine to pick from was somewhat dizzying. Especially the wide array of desserts. Wow the desserts I could make for Malta. This is really an underrated cuisine.

Main: Imqarrun

The national dish of Malta is rabbit pie. I like rabbit, but as I couldn’t find a decent way to source rabbit meat, I had to go to plan b – which would also appear to be the runner up national dish. This baked pasta dish consists of a variation of a bolognese sauce mixed with cheese, egg and a large tube shaped pasta.

As you may notice from the picture, this recipe (courtesy of A Maltese Mouthful) made a bit too much to fit into my regular pasta dish. I had to give it a proper press down and a bit of rearranging in order to get everything in – and even then I had rigatoni and peas trying to claim asylum underneath my freezer. When this recipe says serves six, they were not kidding. Usually my husband and myself can share a three person portion between us as a meal – for this we ended up having to really spread this out over multiple days.

This really is the sort of hearty meal that makes for a great meal for a cold and rainy autumn or winter day. Not sure where this would fit into the Maltese climate and their average temperature.

Dessert: Kwareżimal

Kwareżimal. I still have no idea how to pronounce this because of the ‘ż’, but as the name comes from the Italian word “quaresima” – meaning the forty days of Lent – I can make an educated guess. There are so many of these Lenten cakes and biscuits that can be found around different European cuisines – including one I made for Finland – and they share similar flavour palettes of spice and citrus.

In this instance, following the recipe from Apron & Whisk, it also meant that I was able to get use of the orange blossom water that I used in all my Algerian food. The smell of cookies baking, which seem to contain every vegan baking ingredient under the sun (plus honey), was ultimately that of the orange blossom. They smelt amazing in the oven and they came out absolutely massive. Delicious, but massive.

Since it is autumn (as I write this), there are a lot of pumpkins available – which means it is time to go through my saved recipes to find those where pumpkins are needed. I had a lovely conversation with a supermarket employee about ways to cook them. Should make for some fun posts.

World Cooking – Uganda

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Uganda
Progress: 82/193

I love the Ugandan flag. Sure, the stripes are a little bit busy but how many national flags are there with such a majestic bird on it. I’ll save you the time, none. There are none with such a majestic bird. The only way I can see that happening is if we suddenly get part of Japan breaking away and they use a white egret as their symbol.

Whilst I was doing my research for what to make for Uganda, I had a sudden brain wave. You see, for many nations left on my list in most areas, there is a lot of sharing of national dishes. For Uganda’s immediate vicinity, the main foods that come up are those I have done for other countries (such as ugali and groundnut stew) or some that I wanted to keep in my pocket for more relevant countries (like samosa). Also, there’s ingredients that I just can’t acquire, for good or for ill.

So I thought it would be cool to go down the street food route for Uganda and something particular to Uganda immediately came up. This might be one of the easier things I have made, but nothing in the challenge said that every nation needed to be a feast that took me all day to cobble together.

Main: Rolex

With a name like Rolex you would expect something rather decedent. Then you find out that this dish is a corruption of the English words ‘rolled eggs’ – which makes a lot of sense when you say it out loud. It’s a pretty descriptive name too, considering that this is a dish made by rolling up an omelette in a chapatti.

This variation of the recipe (that I found on Cookpad) feels a lot like making a Mexican omelette before you wrap it up in the chapatti. It’s pretty filling for something that only takes about 10 minutes to make from beginning to end. Made all the better with some spicy mayonnaise or some chilli sauce.

I think that’s a mission accomplished on the ‘make street food’ angle – so this may be something I end up trying to include in some of my more immediate searches for the nations that I have trouble with. Next time for the world cooking, I will finish what I started with Canada by cooking for the holidays we had to cancel. Time for some Maltese cuisine.

World Cooking – Canada

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Canada
Progress: 81/193

If you can’t beat them, join them – and if you can’t join them, eat them. This was meant to be the day that we landed in Quebec City and began, what was set to be, an amazing two weeks in the great nation of Canada. Alas, it was not to be so I thought that it would only make sense to have them as my next food nation. Planning to have a vaguely Canadian day helped take some of the sting out.

When looking at what to make for Canada, I really wanted to make sure I made things that were quintessentially Canadian whilst not just languishing in one area. After all, this is a vast nation with major food influences from the indigenous populations as well as the British and French colonisers that invaded and took over. This is also a country with an established enough East Asian population that California rolls are included as top tier Canadian fare.

Since I can’t exactly get my hands on seal meat to make flipper pie (although, I am now super curious to see what those taste like) I wanted to go for something found on both sides of the country. This means that I looked to Quebecois cuisine to provide me with the iconic main dish of poutine and then to British Columbia in the west to give me a dessert that was truly delicious.

Main: Poutine

There was not a chance in hell that, when I came around to Canada, I was not going to make poutine. I have had poutine a few times before (when there used to be a monthly visit from the Poutinerie at a nearby food market) and I fell in love with it in a big way. The idea of chips with gravy and cheese curds is a bit of a weird one at first blush, but then again most chip shops in the UK offer chips and gravy and cheesy chips – poutine is just the next step.

First I had to actually get my hand on cheese curds – through a special order from a dairy over the internet where I also ordered four wedges of cheese. Once I had those, it was time to find a good recipe for poutine gravy (from Seasons and Suppers) and then perfect making chips in the air fryer. I know that chips would be better if I fried them in oil, but this is rich enough as it is so why not cut the calories where I can.

So glad that I have enough potatoes, cheese curds and butter to make another batch of this tomorrow. This was glorious to eat whilst watching a Canadian movie where the dialogue would occasionally be interrupted by some squeaks from the cheese curds as I chewed them with my back teeth.

Dessert: Nanaimo Bars

I know I’m having time off when it’s midnight and I want to make sweets. It helps that these sweet treats, named after the Canadian city of Nanaimo, are no bake and just need time to set in the fridge between layers. The base is a glorious coconut-biscuit-walnut-cocoa crust, the middle is a very rich custard and then the top is dark chocolate. I used a whole stick of butter making these… so of course they are bloody gorgeous.

Looking at mine and those from The Endless Meal, I can tell that I got some timings wrong because of it being 1:30 am and me being a mix of tired and very high on sugar from all the taste tests. The custard wasn’t entirely set when I poured the chocolate on the custard, then the chocolate was too set for when I cut them into pieces. Doesn’t change the taste though because these are rich and delicious. I am having to ration these because of how much butter is in them and how I would probably feel sick if I went with my poor impulse control.

Since I am now off for two weeks, I am going to try and fit in two extra food countries to be cooked for a weekday lunch. Both are countries where I found it hard to find specific recipes and ended up with just one – the first extra county being Uganda where I found a cool recipe for some street food.