Category Archives: Food

World Cooking – Lesotho

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Lesotho
Progress: 13/193

I have been waiting for a month or two to make this recipe. When I was doing my initial research for the world cooking challenge a recipe from Lesotho caught my eye, but tangerines have only just come into season. Now that they have, it’s time to cross off another one of the lesser known countries.

The food of Lesotho shares a lot in common with many other countries south of the Nile. At some point I will need to make pap, ugali or fufu, but I want to leave those until I have crossed off more countries from this region. Until then, I found something a bit different to do for Lesotho. I will cook food from a larger African nation at some point, but those can wait until later – let’s have some soup.

Main: Butha-Buthe

Whenever someone online does the whole ‘cooking around the world’ thing, and it’s their time to cover Lesotho, they all seem to gravitate to this soup. A soup whose principle ingredients are tangerine and spinach. Yes, I know, it sounds a bit weird to have this as a combination. However, spinach and lemon juice go very well together – so I figured that this would be a slight extension of that pairing… just in the form of a soup.

There are a number of versions of butha-buthe out there, but I went for the recipe posted by International Cuisine. I love her blog and will be looking to her for a whole lot more inspiration as this challenge continues on. Also, in the recipes, I really trust her portion sizes.

This soup is such a good and fresh dish for the summer (which is when I’m writing this, during a heat wave in July). The slight earthiness of the turmeric and spinach work surprisingly well with the sweet acidity of the tangerines. Topped with a nice dollop of yoghurt and served with a side of crackers (rosemary crackers from my local supermarket) then you have a quick and different dinner.

From Southern Africa to South America as I take on possibly the best sounding sandwich that I have ever heard of. No, it isn’t the Cuban sandwich (although I might end up doing that one later), but I will be temping my tastebuds with one of Uruguay’s national dishes. Maybe two. I feel the need to bake some cake.

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Good Eatin’ – Green Peppercorns and a Meatloaf Attempt

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 747/751Food item: Green Peppercorns

So I’ve had this little tin of green peppercorns in my cupboard for a while now and have been waiting for a good recipe to use them in. I know that my husband probably would have been pulling for these to be use to make a peppercorn sauce for some steak… but I’m not the best at cooking steak. Instead I decided to use them in something that I am even worse at making: meatloaf.

The recipe I used for this was meant to bring forth a beautifully pink loaf of leberkase… and because I’ve never succeeded in making a non-crumbly meatloaf I didn’t bother using this recipe for my world cookery challenge. My instincts were, indeed, correct.

 

In the end, I think that the meat wasn’t ground fine enough and that the meatloaf wasn’t cool enough before entering the oven. So, instead, what I got was a really moist regular meatloaf. It was a bit of a win in a way as this is the best meatloaf I’ve ever made, just not what I was hoping from as leberkase.

The green peppercorns added a fruity and summery heat to this meatloaf, which wasn’t too overpowering although it did drown out some of the marjoram taste. I tried some of the peppercorns by themselves and I just felt the heat of it slamming against the back of my throat for a solid ten minutes.

At some point I will use the rest of these to make a steak sauce, after all I should be nice to my husband. But he can cook the steak itself. I don’t want to be blamed for ruining a good steak.

Good Eatin’ – Provolone Valpadana

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 746/751Food item: Provolone Valpadana

I had already prepared to have to pay out of the nose for this cheese. For some stupid reason I didn’t buy some of this when I spotted it in La Boqueria in Barcelona. Since then, the only time I had seen this cheese was online for £155 for a 3kg block. Then fortune smiled on me. After my failed attempt to find Ardrahan cheese, I managed to find a place that offered this provolone cheese for about $4… so I bought two types of provolone Valpadana.

So, what are these two types? Well firstly there’s the dolce, which means sweet in Italian. A bit of a misnomer as there is nothing sweet about it, but it is a milder version that is softer and far more springy. It feels more like the type of cheese that you might use on a pizza or in a hot sandwich. Also, yes I know dolce also means ‘mild’ in Italian when used for cheese; I just enjoy words.

Then there is the piccante version, which means piquant or spicy. The texture, whilst still sligtly springy, lacks the rubberiness of the dolce version. In fact it has the start of a crumb, which moves it from being like mozzarella and into something more like Caerphilly. The taste is also quite different, with the extra maturing time and the introduced lactase givine it a lightly acidic taste (that’s also slightly oily). It would definitely still work as a melter cheese, but I think it would need to be with something strong like steak or smoked pork in order to truly shine.

Sometimes it’s good to wait with these food items as it gets you a better deal. Others… well I need to find a solution to the Ardrahan issue at some point. Maybe I’ll find a similar cheese from the same region and so a posthumous crossing off.

Good Eatin’ – Monkfish Liver on Crackers

So, a few days ago I made an enquiry into where to buy the final Irish cheese for the food list. I thought that since this cheese didn’t have far to go, it would be an easy one to cross off. Then I got this e-mail:

So… that means this list has become impossible to complete. I have asked the cheesemonger for their recommendation of a similar cheese so I can cross this food off in spirit. So, yea… I think I need to evaluate just how many of these are things I won’t be able to eat – whether it be down to ceased production, ceased growing or an embargo on harvesting.

Anyway, onto something a bit more positive.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 745/751Food item: Monkfish Liver

Oh, so what did you have as a late night snack whilst watching Review With Forrest McNeilI? Why, it was monkfish liver on Italian lingue crackers. Sounds a bit highfalutin, especially when I think how expensive monkfish steaks, but this tin was just over 3€ from the same website that I bought the figatellu from.

Honestly, there was a bit of trepidation as I opened this can. You’d think that after eating lamb’s brain and bull testicle I would have become a bit more cavalier about things. Then again, it isn’t every day you eat fish liver.

I’ve seen it written that monkfish liver is the foie gras of the sea… which isn’t the best thing to bring to mind as I didn’t think too much of foie gras. I guess that what struck me first about the monkfish liver was just how soft it was to slice, it was softer than butter.

The liver itself was rich and unbelievably mild. It had a mildly briny taste and aroma which came alive when it was topped with a pinch of salt on top and when served on a lightly salted cracker. Since the hub didn’t like it too much, I had to to eat the whole thing myself. To be honest, a whole tin made me feel a little bit sick. I guess it was just a bit too rich for me to eat in large amounts.

World Cooking – Yemen

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Yemen
Progress: 12/193

For most people in my generation the country Yemen is known firstly for the joke in Friends and secondly for the war that continues to ravage it to this day. But this isn’t the place to talk about either of those – so let’s look at the food.

On the whole there is a lot of overlap when it comes to Middle Eastern cuisine, but thanks to it’s history as a trading post with the East – there are a lot of Indian influences alongside the more local Turkish and Levantine traditions. Since I couldn’t find a dessert for Yemen I figured that I could make a side dish instead. I won’t always make two things, but I figured that this would give me a good chance to try and make bread.

Side Dish: Khobz Al Tawa

I have not made flatbreads since the ajowan parathas and so I was feeling a little bit anxious about making something like this again. However, the recipe from Sheba Yemeni Food made me feel as if these could be within my wheelhouse… and what would you know, these turned out beautifully.

For bread like this, I know that it is traditional to make this is in some form of stone oven – but this recipe was made to work by frying it and for that I am grateful. This flatbread was buttery and incredibly moreish. It was like someone made a naan bread using filo pastry… which is something that I could not believe that I was able to make. This is going to be a bread that I continue to make as I do more Middle Eastern countries for this list.

Main: Saltah

Right so this recipe required making two condiments to be added at the end – hubla and bisbas. The bisbas was easy to make and went really well with saltah. The hulba, on the other hand, did not work out. The recipe says to whip the re-hydrated fenugreek powder until it turned white. Well, I whipped it for a solid 20 minutes. Twice. Neither time did it change colour from the original brown. So, with no hulba, I improvised and topped the saltah with a mixture of bisbas and tahini. Sure this isn’t accurate to the dish, but the taste combination really worked.

In addition to these condiments, there is the saltah itself. It’s essentially a shredded beef stew that’s served bubbling hot with flatbread and makes for a good lunch dish. The broth itself could have had more flavour (then again, that’s why you add the bisbas and hulba), but the beef had really absorbed the flavours of the turmeric, cumin and coriander.

I think that if I were to make this again I would, firstly, buy premade hulba instead of give myself arm cramps as I unsuccessfully try to whip it into a frenzy (or at least find a different recipe). I would also add some more vegetables like potato or tomato, or maybe even some rice to give it some real bulk. This is something that, with some extras, I can see adding to the repertoire.

It’s back to Africa with the next food country and, once again, I am going to be with one of the smaller countries in Africa, which is also the only enclaved country on the continent. That’s right, grocery shop willing, I will be making a dish from the nation of Lesotho. I will be getting to the larger nations at some point, but I’ve had this recipe for a while… so why not cross it off early.

World Cooking – San Marino

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: San Marino
Progress: 11/193

Ah the Most Serene Republic of San Marino. The oldest constitutional republic in the world (founded by Saint Marinus in 301 AD) as well as one of the smallest countries by both area and population. It is also an extremely beautiful country that I hope to visit at some point in the future thanks to it’s magnificent castle and it’s expanse of green countryside.

Despite being a small country that’s completely surrounded by Italy, it wasn’t too difficult to find a dish that could be described as uniquely Sammarinese – a dessert which I somehow managed to make despite being unable to find suitably large wafers (more on that later). For a main dish, I went something that a few websites have identified as being both Sammarinese and Northern Italian. I could have gone for a really delicious looking hot sandwich, but I decided for something a bit more photogenic.

Main: Nidi di Rondine

Nidi di Rondine, also known as Swallow’s Nests, is a dish consisting of pasta roses (containing cheese, ham and bechemal sauce) and marinara sauce that is baked in the oven. In a way it’s a bit of a deconstructed (then reconstructed) tortellini, bit sure looks a whole lot more impressive this way.

To make this I followed a recipe from Mission Eurovision, which is such a cool idea for a food project, who also tried their hand at another Sammarinese recipe. On the whole I have to say I was really happy with how these pasta roses turned out (although I think it could have done with a bit more prosciutto and a bit more marinara sauce to help the pasta fully cook). It takes a while to roll all the roses, especially as you need to do it quickly in order to properly pack them into the dish, but it really is worth it for the effect as it leaves the oven.

Dessert: Torta Tre Monti

For a dessert that is considered a national dish – it was surprisingly difficult to find a recipe for this online. Most people who blog about Torta Tre Monti tend to have imported it in from San Marino rather than make it from scratch. However, there was one place where someone had come up with a recipe… but it was in Norwegian. Thanks again Google Translate.

Having translated the recipe from Nasjonalgastro I was left with the challenge of finding large circular wafers that I could use in the recipe. As you can see in the picture, I was unsuccessful. Oh well, at least I could buy a pack of 50 smaller wafers and make my own variation of the Torta Tre Monti – which is a 5 wafers filled with a hazelnut-chocolate spread (made from scratch) which is then brushed on the outside with melted chocolate.

It was a bit of a fraught construction process to get the whole thing stable, but the result was delicious and easy to cut into 10 individual pieces. This may be one of the best desserts I have made so far and, if I am able to find larger wafers next time, one of the easier to make.

So that’s San Marino. Whilst there are still a few smaller nations on the list, I doubt that they’ll be as delicious as this one – although I suppose Monaco, Tuvalu and Nauru could surprise me. However, it’ll be a while before I get to those for next time will be my first foray into the Middle East as I try my hand at some Yemeni cuisine.

Good Eatin’ – Shanxi Aged Vinegar and Gyoza

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 744/751Food item: Shanxi Extra Aged Vinegar

I have had this bottle of vinegar in my cupboards for months. Like a lot of my more recent food items, I had to buy this online as I feel a bit self-conscious when buying things like this in a speciality store where I need to check bottles against Chinese characters on my phone. Also, in this way, I don’t come home with products that turn out to be incorrect… which happened to me twice when trying to get this vinegar.

Since I figured this type of vinegar would work really well as a dipping sauce, I made sure that we got some gyoza during a recent takeout order. I didn’t realise, however, just how strong this vinegar was and how a little of it really does go a long way. Good thing I’m fairly conservative when dipping my dumplings.

The first thing that hits you as you open the bottle is smokiness. I guess that’s part of the result of the ageing process coming through, but it always throws me for a loop when something like vinegar has a smokey aroma. Underneath it, the taste has a sour and dark sweetness – like if you made vinegar using molasses or jaggery. I guess it’s like a really potent balsamic but with very little of the acidity. Not sure where I am going to use this other than as a dipping vinegar but whatever I end up doing with it, this will be used sparingly.

World Cooking – Seychelles

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Seychelles
Progress: 10/193

I previously wrote about how I was going to try and tackle one of the geographically larger countries in Africa… and here we are with another one of the smaller island nations. This ended up being a bit of a last minute pick whilst I was going some online grocery shopping. In no way do I mean to sell Seychelles short because I managed to find two rather delicious sounding recipes without much hassle.

Much like the Maldives, Seychelles really is a cuisine where they take what they’ve got and add in a bunch of the colonial and trade influences that have extended their reach over the years. This means a lot of seafood, tropical fruit, coconuts and rice. This is also a country that eats fruit bats and shark… but try getting either of those in London. Actually don’t, I’m not sure if I’m quite ready to eat a cute little fruit bat.

Main: Seychellois Creole Prawn Curry 

I didn’t quite bank on making another curry so soon, but so many recipes that I found was one sort of curry or another. So in the interest of making something that was another fish curry… I went for this prawn curry recipe. I know the picture isn’t great, but I was hungry and it’s amazing how quickly a curry can go cold if you’re fiddling with your iPhone for ages to get the lighting right.

Since the mas riha curry for the Maldives is so recent it is difficult to not compare the two. Both are coconut based curries using sea food as a key protein and some similar spices, but the similarities really end there. These curries are surprisingly different, with this Seychellois curry being naturally warming and not too complex with the number of spices playing on your tongue.

Whilst I liked the Maldivian curry, I would probably choose this Seychellois curry over it. The spice level is about where I prefer it to be and I liked the inclusion of chopped up aubergine. I think this is something I could easily substitute in chicken or lamb for the prawns, which would make this cheaper and an easier recipe to include in the weeknight rotation.

Dessert: La Daube Banane

To be honest, it was finding this recipe that made me choose the Seychelles as the next country. I mean, the idea of something banana related in a thick sauce made of coconut milk, cinnamon and vanilla… well somethings are just too hard to resist. Especially when, since this recipe called for raw sugar, I could cross off something from the 1001 list:

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 743/751Food item: Rapadura

To be honest, I have been itching to find a good use for this (which feels like a slightly toned down version of jaggery) and sprinkling a few teaspoons of this over the cut plantains felt like the right time to use it.

Like with my entry for São Tomé, I found the recipe for this dessert on a tourist website for a chain of waterfront hotels in the Seychelles. Am I going to stay at one of these resorts? Probably not, it’s not something I think I’d be able to afford – but at least I know they have decent food there.

The best thing about this recipe is the sauce – after 40 minutes of simmering it essentially tasted like evaporated milk flavoured with mulling spice (which makes this a nice idea for a Christmas dessert with a tropical lilt). Plantains aren’t typically as sweet or as mushy as bananas which works well enough for this recipe, but I think that I’d like to try making this with other fruit before I settle.

Oh yes, this is definitely a repeat-worthy recipe. I mean not only does it have a delicious sauce, but it also great with a fruit sorbet (which I tried on my second bowl) and very easy to make. I think the people of the Seychelles got it right here.

So that’s the first ten countries ticked off, but I will definitely not be calling it quits when I have heavy hitters like Japan, France and Italy to look forward to. Speaking of Italy… next week I will be Italy adjacent as I return to European cuisine in the form of the Sammarinese food. What will this micronation have to offer? Well let’s see, shall we.

World Cooking – El Salvador

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: El Salvador
Progress: 9/193

After going to Poland it was oh so tempting to make that my next country to make a dish from. But no, I am going to be scientific about this and make sure that I cover the different continents when the percentages in my spreadsheet says that I need to. In any event, it didn’t matter because I have been looking forward to making today’s recipe.

Being the smallest nation in Central America there was a part of me that originally wondered how difficult it would be to find something that was distinctly Salvadorian – then I find that not only do they have a delicious looking national dish, but it is actually a dish that originated in El Salvador (I feel it’s worth noting how this is not always a given… like with the national dishes of the US).

Like other Central and South American countries, the food of El Salvador is a fusion of native cuisine and that brought over by the Europeans (usually Spain, but that isn’t a given in this neck of the woods). A lot is done with meat, corn and spices in varying combinations and amounts; which has resulted in a huge number of different dishes. For now, let’s get on with the pupusas.

Main: Pupusa Revuelta and Curdito

I would be lying if I said that the challenge of making my own chicharrón (think finely ground pulled pork) wasn’t a major attraction to making this. I’ve made my own pulled pork just once before, and this recipe really did make things easier whilst not compromising on flavour.

Of course, this made too much for the papusas so I kept some for a later meal where I used them to make quesadillas. I would also like to add just how much it broke my heard to blitz this beautiful pork into a paste – sure it still tasted cook, but I missed the mouthfeel.

I am going to hold my hands up and say that I don’t think I wetted the dough enough for the papusas (which the recipe did warn me about), but I still really enjoyed having these thick corn tortillas filled with pork and beans (I didn’t bother with the cheese for all of the papusas as I kept overfilling them with pork paste). Also it’s probable that, despite the Spanish words on the packet, this may have not been the 100% correct type of corn flour to make this dish.

Still, these were incredibly filling and were even more delicious with some salsa and grated cheese on top – which turned these into mini pork hot pocket tortilla pizzas. With practice I’ll probably be able to get these better looking in the future.

Also a revelation (especially to someone who cannot stand raw red onion) was the curdito. It’s essentially a vinegar-based cabbage slaw where extra time in the vinegar really makes all the difference. I mean, I let this marinade for a few hours and the onion was already starting to go pink and had lost a lot of the harsh acidity that I hate.

It was so simple to make as well, so I think the BBC Good Food version of curdito is going to appear as a side dish for a few more Central American nations.

So, the numbers tell me that it is back to Africa for the next country. As I sit here typing (whilst the hub plays Breath of the Wild in the background) I do not know where in Africa this is likely to be, but I am probably going to try and find something for one of the larger nations… even if it’s to make sure the pins on the map don’t get to clustered.

Good Eatin’ – Rydze Mushrooms from Kraków Airport

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 742/751Food item: Saffron Milk Cap

Talk about a last minute purchase. If our plane home from Kraków hadn’t been delayed then I would have likely not had the time or the agency to find a jar of these mushrooms within one of the Polish food shops at the airport. I guess it also helps that I’ve scoured the 1001 foods book for years now, and I recognised the mushrooms on the label despite all the text being in Polish.

I know that, like with most mushrooms, these saffron milk caps are probably best enjoyed fresh and fried in butter or in some sort of cream sauce. Still, beggars can’t be choosers and the book does mention how these mushrooms can be enjoyed when pickled. Also I have been wanting to cook the schnitzel in my freezer for an awfully long time – so this felt like the perfect opportunity.

One thing that you don’t see with the pickled mushrooms is how the fresh mushrooms seem to exude a red coloured milk (ergo the name). Also, the colour of the pickled mushrooms are somewhat muted. However, these were still delicious and had a texture not unlike oyster mushrooms. Some of the flavour will have been down to the sweet vinegar it was pickled in but, in all honesty, these are the first pickled mushrooms that I’ve really enjoyed eating – and that’s down to their flat caps.

With these crossed off, I am now left with two mushrooms on the list: oronge mushrooms (also known as Caesar’s mushrooms) and iwatake (which has many other names). I’m not sure where to find either of these at the moment – so please leave a comment if you have any leads.