Category Archives: Food

World Cooking – Nicaragua

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Nicaragua
Progress: 119/193

When making food for the Americas, it becomes a bit too easy to forget that there is a large amount of countries in Central America waiting to be crossed off – their position being usurped by the large number of Caribbean nations and the physically large nations of South America. It’s been 6-7 months since I was last making food in this area (where I made something delicious for Panama), so a return is long overdue.

Like with other nations in this area, the food of Nicaragua is influenced by a mixture of the native cuisines and that of the Spanish colonizers. Also like other nations on this particular isthmus, there is some variation depending on whether you are Caribbean or Pacific facing, however that did not end up being the main focus of my cooking.

Instead, I wanted to focus on a national dish as there was something specifically Nicaraguan that was within my power to make. It is based on corn, like so many of the dishes I make from this region end up being, and has some really interesting flavours in there which made the kitchen smell like I was making a salsa mojito. Not a bad thing, although the idea of that as a drink sounds rank.

Main: Indio Viejo

So, for Nicaragua I ended up making Indio Viejo (meaning ‘Old Indian’ in Spanish). There is a story behind the name that says it originates from a native Mesoamerican who did not want to share their food and instead said that they were eating the remains of a dead member of his community. It’s a fun story which gets across the general feeling towards the interloping Spanish, like ‘you’ve taken everything else, so just let me eat my dinner in peace’.

This dish (made using a recipe from Curious Cuisiniere) uses old corn tortillas mixed with beef broth to make a thick porridge-like stew. In there was beef, bell pepper, onion, garlic, mint, tomato and lemon juice. You are meant to put coriander leaf in too, but as usual I leave this out otherwise my husband would have a rotten time eating it.

For a dish from an equatorial country that doesn’t exactly know bitter cold, Indio Viejo really feels like a hearty dish that would work well in winter. However, I can see this being great on a summer’s evening due to the cool flavours provided by the mint and lemon. So this may just be a dish suitable for all seasons – just need to find a way to streamline the early prep if I want to make it again.

Back to Europe next time with what may be a long overdue return to Northern or Western Europe. I’ve been a little bit over-focused on getting a variety of Eastern European dishes in that I think I have been neglecting the countries closer to home. Also means I have a better shot at finding a dessert recipe, which could be really fun.


World Cooking – Equatorial Guinea

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Equatorial Guinea
Progress: 118/193

Well, not only have I managed to save some of the bigger African food nations for another day – but also found a different sought of recipe for a country that I thought would be rather difficult to find. Again, it helps that I far from the first person to try a cooking challenge like this – so suddenly finding a recipe for Equatorial Guinea is easier than it wold have been when I first started the blog.

Previously for this challenge, I made food for neighbouring Gabon – which was a delicious mustard chicken recipe that I have still yet to try with pork. The food for Equatorial Guinea has some similarities because of the varied colonial history, but has a key difference around being a more coastal area with plenty of jungle. This means that coconut and plantain/banana can play more of a role in their food.

Given that there are a number of countries in Africa with Guinea in the name, it can be a bit of a challenge to make sure a recipe you have is for the right one. Thanks to this particular search, I now have an intriguing recipe for regular Guinea. For today, I have been able to find a really different kind of dish compared to those I have so far made for Africa – even if is more traditionally a breakfast.

Main: Akwadu

So Akwadu (recipe from 196 Flavors) is more normally made as a breakfast. You can make it with plantains or bananas, but after the trouble I had with plantains for Burundi, I decided to stick with the more humble banana. This means I didn’t get the cool photo of it being served roasted in its skin, but my sanity has to come first.

The bananas are roasted in orange and lemon juices and topped with brown sugar, coconut and honey. On their own, the akwadu definitely makes for a nice brunch – but I can just imagine how much better this would be as the topping of a waffle, crepe or a pancake. That would be absurdly delicious and the more alcohol minded people could use Cointreau as a replace for some of the orange juice to make it a mix between a crepe suzette and… something with bananas.

Even more joyful is how simple this is to make. It’s something that would could have helped a lot of people in lockdown who were getting sick and tired of making banana bread. Again I am thinking about how nice this would be on pancakes with some cream on top and really feel like I have to make this attempt at fusion cuisine at some point in the future.

Looking at the numbers on my spreadsheet, I guess the next area for me to look for recipes would be the Americas. However, I have company next time and need a sure-fire recipe – so I guess will need to be a bit more flexible. Not that the Americas haven’t given me brilliant food, but sometimes you just want some confidence in the kitchen.

World Cooking – Vietnam

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Vietnam
Progress: 117/193

Vietnam is one of those massive culinary countries where there is so much to pick from. I have been looking forward to crossing them off since the beginning and did Laos and Cambodia as pre-cursors in order to prolong my wait. I had so many ideas of what I would make… and then my husband had an amazing banh mi in Hong Kong and my decision was made for me. I would replicate it in the UK and therefore be able to have a banh mi to myself.

This is great in a way as it gave such a focus for somewhere that would have otherwise been pulling me in so many different directions. Like, I even have a tin of banana blossoms in the cupboard in case I ended up needing for something Vietnamese. This is the country of pho, summer rolls and all manner of delicious other dishes with rice noodles, salads and fragrant spices.

I imagined myself slaving over a large hot pan making stock for pho or bò kho. Instead, I was in my local small Asian mart buying daikon radish and fresh lemongrass in order to make the banh mi of my dreams. It’s fine, I’ll just make more Vietnamese food outside of this blog. Sometimes it’s just nice to have an excuse to make an amazing sandwich.

Main: Lemongrass Pork Banh Mi

And an amazing sandwich this was. I have made some amazing sandwiches as I have been cooking my way around the world and this might just have taken the crown for the best. It may one of the more involved sandwiches as there were three distinct phases of preparation: overnight pickling of vegetables, half day marination of the pork and then the final push.

However, despite all the work in making the fix-ins for this sandwich (recipe from Tasty) – this banh mi tasted incredible. It tasted like I had remembered my husband’s sandwich tasted and it resembled the banh mi that a Vietnamese place near my old office used to sell. Also, this recipe made so much to the point that it was lunch, dinner and then breakfast for the next day plus one that I wrapped up and delivered to my mum. Good thing I couldn’t get enough of it!

So, what is in this sandwich? Well, there’s (light) mayonnaise, liver pate, marinated grilled pork, fried onion and lemongrass, cucumber and homemade pickled carrot and daikon. The recipe also called for raw onion, coriander leaves and jalapeno, but I had to draw a line somewhere. I wish we could have had proper bread for this, but between these crusty rolls and the baguette we ended up buying – I think I made the best of it.

Next time it is back to African cuisine. Thanks to the plantains for Burundi taking so long to ripen, I am now overdue for another African country. I am dearly hoping that I don’t end up with the same green produce issues as last time, but with some of these countries being so difficult to find recipes for I am going to have to cook what I can get. Still sitting on Morocco and Ethiopia though. Those are for fun times at the food finale.

World Cooking – Burundi

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Burundi
Progress: 116/193

Two weeks these plantains were sat in a paper bag with an apple for company. After all that time, they were still green with the occasional patch of yellow. This became a minor obsession of mine, even bringing it up in a team meeting to ask for help. The fact that, three days later, the head of my department ended up asking about the state of my plantains shows both how nice my team is and how stupid this became. So, I ended up throwing them in a low oven for 20 minutes and, in the words of Kerry Godliman, ‘bosh’.

This is usually where I would talk about the food in the country and the choices I needed to make around this. Honestly though, Burundi is one of those nations where it was really hard to find something. There are a number of these left and I am still trying to cross these off in order to properly clear the path to the end of the list. This is not a rich country, nor is it (according to the measures) a particularly happy one. I guess this, along with the fact that it nearly completely deforested, explains the dish I ended up making.

Main: Red Beans and Plantains

This is a main meal and a simple one at that. Usually I put aside time on a weekend for these world cooking meals, but thanks to the plantains I had to make this after work. Given how simple the recipe is (courtesy of Foreign Fork) this actually worked perfectly to make after a long day in meetings. Would have been even better if I hadn’t lost time on ripening the plantains in the oven.

As the name and the photo suggests, this is really simple to make and does not contain a lot of ingredients. For my taste, I should have lowered the cumin and maybe used smoked paprika. So many dishes around the world make heavy use of cumin and, whilst I cannot deny it is a good taste, I never realised just how widespread a spice it was. I think it would probably also work better as a side, or at least have some meat in it so it becomes more like a cassoulet – but that is probably my Western privilege talking here.

Next time is an Asian dish that I have been wanting to make ever since my husband had a version of it in Hong Kong and I had some serious food envy. This is not, however, going to be me finally crossing China off of the list – rather fulfilling a promise I made to myself in the blog post about trying to make it for myself. It may not be proper spring rolls, but this banh mi will hopefully be a great way to cross of Vietnam.

World Cooking – Bulgaria

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Bulgaria
Progress: 115/193

Well, as I said last time, this was meant to be a trip to African cuisine. Sadly it has been over a week and the plantains that I bought are still not ripe enough – even though they have been confined to a closed paper bag with an apple for company. So I will get to that once they turn black and have them as a midweek country meal and continue on with the next country I was going to tackle: Bulgaria.

Given it’s position in Europe, you will find a lot of dishes in Bulgarian cuisine that would also see in the Balkans to the west, Greece to the south and Turkey to the south-east. There are a number of delicious pastries made using filo dough, grilled meats and vegetables and lots of things with yogurt.

Had I not looked into the food, I would have probably discounted Bulgarian food for being a bit boring, but wow I really would like to find a Bulgarian restaurant in London – especially given how it feels like a spin on Turkish food that I would really enjoy. Assuiming that what I made today is anything to go by.

Main: Mish-Mash

It is rare to find a dish with such an appropriate name. Especially when the name is actually Bulgarian and just happens to feel incredibly appropriate in English. This is not the prettiest dish to photograph, I mean this is essentially in the omelette family but is like a more well put together scrambled egg with roasted peppers and a lot of cheese.

That is not a complaint though. Mish-Mash (following the recipe from 196 Flavors) was a really delicious dinner. I can see how this would work in the UK as a breakfast dish as we tend to have eggs like this cooked in the morning, but the cheesiness and the sweetness from the roasted vegetables make this delicious any time of day.

Aside from just being a good and easy meal, this recipe also gave me the chance to try out something new: roasting peppers. This feels like something so many know how to do and, seeing how I did this to aubergines for Lebanon and that is definitely a more involved process given that vegetable’s bitterness. So yes, an easy new recipe and a new skill to boot.

Main: Banitsa

Like the mish-mash, this picture of the banitsa is not the prettiest. I probably should have taken a picture of the slice of banitsa I had for lunch the next day. Not only was it perfectly firm, unlike the first cut which was probably too fresh from the oven when I first ate it – but also tasted better. I thought I liked it fresher from the oven, but when I had it the next day the pie was less sour and everything has just… settled. So yes a lesson for next time: make sure to properly eat and photograph pies like this the next day.

Banitsa, recipe from Cooktoria, is a feta pie using filo, an egg-yogurt sauce and an incredibly amount of cheese. I know that, to make this authentic, I should have used actual Bulgarian cheese – but the recipe specified feta so I figured it would be fine. Given the amount of cheese and filo, to say this gives six servings id being rather generous – although I wouldn’t say no to a big slice of this again. Especially the next day, it was gorgeous.

I am hoping that the next food post I make will be about the African country I have been planning for, now, a fortnight. I am going to be keeping watch on the plantains and try and fit it in among the after work dinner schedule. Else, it is back to Asia where I am really running out of excuses to not make food from either India or China.

World Cooking – Sri Lanka

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Sri Lanka
Progress: 114/193

Like I said when I posted about Fiji, it has been way too long since I last made something from the Indian subcontinent. Last time it was Pakistan when I made a slightly ill-fated attempt at making dessert. It was nice enough, but nowhere close to what it should have been. Given that I am on a ‘coming towards the end of lockdown’ diet I am not making dessert this time, although it would be more likely that I would have tried to make hoppers… if I knew I could pull them off.

The main influence in Sri Lankan cuisine is, somewhat unsurprisingly, South Indian food. This not only makes total sense seeing how they are across the water from each other, but also because until 540 years ago they were directly connected by a land bridge that was destroyed by a cyclone. These ties would have had to shift entirely towards naval trade, but the food shows just how much they remained in tact.

So much of the food you see in Sri Lankan recipes online is for various types of curry and the foods that you would like to have with your curry. Roti, hoppers, sambal and many other delicious things. Being one of the big spice islands in the area, specifically for cinnamon, you are unlikely to find bland foods in a recipe book. As I knew I would end up making curry again, I wanted a protein in the curry that I had yet to make and still made sense for Sri Lanka. I think I achieved that.

Main: Polos Curry

One thing, when making this I misread the recipe when it came to the amount of salt. I managed to stop most of it going in, but it was still saltier than it should have been. I know now that the recipe from Olive asked for three-quarters a tablespoon of salt rather than three to four… so I am glad I only ended up with a bit more rather than so much it would have ruined the dish.

If I had ruined this dish completely, it would have been a crying shame because this jackfruit curry was delicious even with the extra salt (which I tried to combat with a bit of extra lime juice and coconut milk). I have never made anything with jackfruit, although have eaten it before both as a dessert and as a vegan pulled pork. Now that my local supermarket actually has jackfruit available in a can.

This sauce was gorgeous though. Gorgeous enough that I didn’t even think twice that I was (again) making curry for this challenge and (again) having a side of konjac rice so I can try and control the caloric intake. Curry is such a broad category of food that I am sure I could have made crossed off half of the countries using some sort of curry and had an incredibly eclectic mix.

No curry for next week. Like I am sure I could come up with an African country I haven’t ticked off and make a curry, but I think I owe my husband a bit more variety. Also, I just want to make something a bit different next time, even if I do wonder about how starchy it is going to end up being.

World Cooking – Fiji

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Fiji
Progress: 113/193

So the weather improved enough for me to go on a longer walk in order to secure an ingredient. Turns out it was one of those things at the Lidl that was ‘once it’s gone, it’s gone’ so I made do with something from Tesco instead which was just as good. This is a roundabout way to say that I was finally able to make the dish I have been wanting to make for Fiji for a long time.

Fiji is the third of four countries that I will be making food for from the Melanesia region – having already made food for Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. Due to their history as part of the British Empire, and the indentured servitude of many people from India, there is a sizeable minority of Indo-Fijians and so the Indian influence on a more typical Melanesian cuisine is felt deeply.

You still have a majority cuisine which is primarily seasonal, based on what comes from the sea and features local starches such as yam, taro and coconut. Because of the unique history and continued residence of many with an Indian background, I wanted to find something that symbolised this and would make for a different dish from Oceania. Thanks to a good amount of searching, I found what I needed.

Main: Fijian Duck Curry

There is one sentence in this recipe from That Fiji Taste that made me realize that this is something I need to make: “Duck curry is one of Fiji’s favourite dishes”. This coming from a blog about Fijian recipes as written by someone from Fiji carries a lot of weight. Also, in making this, I am adding a new meat to the list of things I have used to make dishes for this challenge. Barring finding actual goat meat nearby or there being a national dish containing turkey, I am not sure if or when this will happen.

The curry itself is a dry one, the only sauce coming from the ducks natural juices, rendered fat and the oil that you cook the spices and onion in. Since it specified a masala spice mix, I figured it would be a good idea to use the leftover mix I made for Kenya. After all, that was fresh enough and I had exactly the right amount left.

Since Lidl no longer stocked a whole duck, I used a pair of duck legs and a pair of duck breasts. It was £4 more expensive this way, but it did take a lot of the faff out of having to debone a whole duck for the sake of curry meat. It also gave me a better idea of the calorie counts, which would be slightly inflated as I only included a third of the duck skin as the recipe indicated.

What was left was probably enough for two good-sized potions than four, but this was a delicious meal and I really did appreciate how flavourful and rich the sauce was. It would have been better with actual rice instead of the konjac rice I had, but that was to ensure I would be able to have something to dip in the sauce – so the pay-off was ultimately a good one.

Next time I post for this particular list, I will be definitely be making something from Asia. Again it will depend slightly if I am able to get what I need and if I am happy to do curry twice in a row. Then again I have really neglected the Indian subcontinent since doing Pakistan years ago, so it makes good sense for me to cover it soon.

World Cooking – Jamaica

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Jamaica
Progress: 112/193

Despite many times cooking thing things from the Americas, it has been a long long time since I last made something from the Caribbean. The last time was Dominica and it was back when I was at the beginning of what would be a longish recovery from COVID-19. I am still thinking about those bacon-wrapped bananas and really need to find more reasons to make them.

With Jamaican food, there are a lot of options to make. The influences on the cuisine are from all over the world – although the main ones are from Africa and from the many nations of the Commonwealth. Unlike a lot of countries on this list, Jamaican food is something I have made before thanks to the 1001 food list. I liked the ackee and saltfish, but obviously I don’t really want to do a repeat when I don’t have to.

So there came the question of do I make something iconic or something a bit different…

Main: Jerk Chicken with Rice & Peas

There was no question that I would be making this dish for Jamaica. Jerk chicken with rice and peas is an iconic meal and it isn’t one I have had before. I am not even sure I have had jerk chicken before, mainly because I have always been worried about the spice level. At least when making it myself, with this recipe from BBC Good Food, I would have some control over the spice level.

It’s not that I’m bad for spice, but I remember being 8 and getting scotch bonnet chilli on my face and it being worse than a bee sting. In the end, I ended up using two peppers instead of three (seeds and membranes removed) so I could taste the peppers without the spice being overwhelming. Instead it was this beautifully warming flavour with plenty of lime and some sweetness. I am a convert and think I might look forward to taking this recipe to some pork in the future – or at least to a barbecue should I find myself at one.

The rice and peas are a great accompaniment. The coconut milk helping if there is any spice from the chicken and the allspice helping to unite the flavours of the plates two halves. This plate is something I have just been too scared too make because of that one experience and I am so glad I got there now. If the comments section of the recipe say anything, whilst this isn’t from Jamaica this is a version that has met with the approval of many of the Caribbean diaspora.

As the weather still isn’t warming up for a while, I don’t think it’ll quite be the weather for the next Oceania weather. So it’s time to make something from Asia once again and it’s a long-needed return to the Indian subcontinent. Feels like it has been a while since I made some curry.

World Cooking – Slovakia

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Slovakia
Progress: 111/193

Well, I’ve done Czechia a while back so it was probably high time that I got around to making food from the other partner from the divorce. The cuisines have a little bit in common, but there’s a good deal of separate dishes to make them both interesting enough to read into. It’s also made me think about how delicious a time I might have when I eventually make it to Bratislava once all the vaccinations have been dished out.

This is one of those cuisines where, now I am in the latter half of the countries, a lot of pieces are falling into place. There is no doubt that it’s influenced by its former partner nation – but there are also pieces of Hungary, Poland and the former Soviet bloc. Like there are pieces here I have seen when researching Ukraine and in meals I had in Lithuania. Definitely going to be a nice food visit when I get there and can gorge on a bunch of different dumplings and pancakes.

This is going to be one of the many countries that is going to suffer from my latest attempt at weight loss. I managed to put on a fair bit in the lockdowns and reversed a fair bit of what made me able to climb Hallasan. As such, I will probably not be making much in the way of desserts for a while. It’s a shame as Slovakia had a lot of nice looking desserts, but the challenge was to make one dish with the option of two… so I won’t beat myself up too much.

Main: Bryndzové Halušky

Okay, I know, I could have done a bit better with the plating of this for the photograph. Then again, I want to enjoy my food whilst it is still warm rather than waiting for the perfect photo for it only to be cold at the first bite. Then again, I am not sure how I could make this look stunning other than by showcasing that this is a dish with bacon, cheese and homemade little potato dumplings.

The name of the dish – bryndzové halušky – is a very descriptive name for this dish, meaning boiled potato dough covered in sheep cheese. To make this, as mentioned in the recipe from a Slovak food store called Halusky, I specially bought a spaetzle maker and that really made the difference here. Between that and the grater attachment on my food processor – I really managed to shave a lot of time when making this.

Since I couldn’t get my hands on proper bryndza in the local Eastern European mart (although I did get some stunning sausages), I followed the recommendation to replace it with feta and sour cream. Must say that the whole thing tasted gorgeous. These little dumplings really smelt like spaetzle and I can imagine them working really well in a clear soup. I might try and fry up the leftovers with some bacon and hope they don’t become one crispy mass. Or maybe I do. That can only taste good.

I found a recipe for a future country that requires a whole duck… but the only place to get it is a long walk away and it’s suddenly getting a bit cold and rainy again. Maybe that’ll have to wait for warmer times and I’ll look at many of the other countries still left to cross off of my list. Maybe make some green noodles assuming I can find enough dill.

World Cooking – Kenya

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Kenya
Progress: 110/193

I am still not too sure how to pronounce Kenya. I usually hear it as Ken-ya, but sometimes I will watch something (for example As Time Goes By) and then it becomes Keen-ya. Now I should probably go with the pronunciation done at the Olympic Games, but you know how it comes to second-guessing yourself when you rarely say the name of a country out loud.

There are a lot of dishes going for Kenyan cuisine. There are some, like ugali, that I have already made for other nations. Then there’s foods like samosa and chapati which I am hoping to make for another nation that doesn’t have quite so many options. Chips mayai would have also been an option, but I don’t know how I could quite justify making a chip omelette… okay so maybe I should have made that. Hopefully another country has this within their cultural repertoire.

Main: Beef and Potato Pilau

Even though my tarte tatin didn’t go the way I’d hoped, I still haven’t counted Tasty out when it comes to recipes. Case in point, today I used their recipe for this Kenyan pilau dish where I ended up eating two servings to myself. With the right side dish, in this instance kachumbari, I can see the serving count working. However kachumbari is a raw onion and tomato salad – and raw onion is one of my two major food hates.

Good thing I didn’t mind too much by having double helpings of this. Similarly, I am super glad I ended up going with some of the more expensive steak so it could be tender and flavourful. As a one-pot dish, this beef and potato pilau hits a lot of the right spots, especially that pilau masala spice blend of cardamom, clove, cumin and paprika which I now have plenty pre-made in an old cinnamon jar. Could be one to make again.

Next time it is back to European cuisine and I will be trying to cross off another country in the Central-Eastern European group. Since I am on a diet, I cannot yet do Slovenia justice as I want to make myself one of those delicious cream slices. I can, however, make food from a country not too far away – even if I did just have to buy a new tool in order to do it justice.