Thursday, October 29, 2009

Day 67 Cuba

Cuban fare is relatively well know and has risen in popularity lately owing to a surge of restaurants catering to diverse ethnic groups. On recommendation I stopped off at a few in New York and Philadelphia in my attempt to acquire a taste for it and failed or perhaps I ordered the wrong things. Either way, I was determined to cook myself a meal and decide once in for all. The black beans and rice have been done and a Ropa Vieja ( shredded Beef ) did not hold much appeal to me so I passed on their national dish and went with a Boliche instead which displays the classic Cuban characteristic I'm told, of being well seasoned but not spicy.

A Boliche is a Cuban Pot roast; a beef eye round roast rubbed with spices, stuffed with ham and slow roasted to keep it moist and tender. A paste was made with garlic, salt, pepper and oregano and rubbed onto the roast. Seville oranges were juiced and the juice poured over the marinated meat and left overnight. The next day I made a horizontal cut in the roast and stuffed it with cubed ham. The meat was removed from the liquid and the marinade reserved. It was seared briefly in hot smoking oil in a heavy casserole and coarsely chopped onion, peppers, tomato puree, sherry and reserved marinade were added and brought to a boil. It was roasted for about 2 hours, placed on a cutting board, sliced and served with white rice, poured over with the juices. Tender and juicy, the ham filling made a less expensive cut of meat so much more exciting. Even though this roast will never be a favorite, it was an eye opener - Cuban food is not half bad...

Guatemala's up next.....

Day 66 Costa Rica

There is something to be said about the laid-back pace of island life , and this holds true more than ever for the idyllic life style of Costa Rica wedged strategically between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Home to diverse flora and fauna despite its minute size, this island tops the list of ultimate sun worshipers destinations. The Gallo Pinto is considered a staple and I believe, exemplifies the simple nature of island existence. It consists of black beans and rice cooked together to make a nutritious and no-nonsense meal. On a different note, I decided upon a Hearts of palm salad which made me nostalgic for island vacations and cocktails with umbrellas on the beach.

The first thing was to cook the beans till soft and then the long grain rice. Diced white onion was sautéed till caramelized before combining the rice, beans and salt. After sprinkling over with cilantro one is supposed to serve it with Lizano a popular hot sauce of Costa Rica which has a sweet and spicy taste with curry undertones. I stuck with my personal favorite "Pain in the Ass".

The hearts of palm were drained and cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Red and yellow peppers and fresh parsley and onion were sliced and combined with the hearts of palm. The dressing was simply olive oil, lemon juice,and mustard whisked together and seasoned with salt and fresh ground pepper. The veggies were dressed and served over a bed of romaine lettuce.

Next stop : Cuba

Day 65 Venezuela

Venezuela ranked as one of the top ten oil and natural gas reserves in the world and has a culture shaped largely by African, Spanish and Caribbean influences. Interestingly the name "Venezuela" literally translates to "Little Venice" owing to a tendency of the locals to build villages over water. This was off course in the late 1400's. Today it is considered one of South Americas most urban countries. Our dish today is a Pabellon Criollo or Creole Flag, as it resembles somewhat the Venezuelan flag and consists of the three most popular ingredients of Venezuelan cuisine; black beans, flank steak and rice, which brings it as close to a national dish as one can get.

The flank steak was seasoned with salt and pepper and a bay leaf, covered with beef broth and simmered ( I used the oven) for an hour and a half. Once cooked it was shredded and sautéed with diced onion, tomato, minced garlic, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper.

The Beans aka Caraotas Négras were soaked overnight and boiled till soft. Onions were sautéed along with smashed garlic, diced red peppers and seasoned with cumin, brown sugar, salt and freshly ground pepper.

Arroz blanco or white rice was cooked and set aside. To assemble the dish, the beef, rice and beans were arranged in rows and embellished with fried plantain slices. Best way to cook stringy flank steaks- sweetened beans and rice were the perfect accompaniment to the meat.

Moving on to Central America- first stop: Costa Rica....

Day 64 Uruguay

On the South Eastern coastline of South America is the relatively small country of Uruguay. Due to its elusive nature, most of us are not aware of its architectural heritage or its rich legacy of artists and poets. The same applies to the food; I, for one have never before eaten or cooked Uruguayan cuisine and the loss is mine entirely.Everyday I become al ittle more infatuated with the strange and wonderful cuisines of South America. I chose Crepas de Pollo for tonight's meal and was amazed by this dish of simple chicken crepes which is comparable to the best Lasagna.

Step one was to make the crepe batter with eggs, all purpose flour, salt, milk and clarified butter. It was combined in the mixer and set aside to rest for at least 30 minutes, after which the crepes were made and kept warm.

Step two was to make a Salsa Blanca or Bechamel with butter, flour and milk, seasoned with salt and white pepper.

Step three was to make the chicken filling by sautéing diced onion, mushrooms and cooked shredded chicken ( I used left over rotisserie chicken) and seasoning it with salt and pepper. A little flour was added in followed by sherry, half and half and Fontina cheese and simmered till thickened.

The final step was to grease a large oven proof dish, fill in the crepes with the chicken filling and lay them out in a single layer, cover with the bechamel and sprinkle over with almond slivers, grated parmesan and cream. They were then baked till bubbling and gooey .....need I say more?

Next stop Venezuela....

Day 63 Peru

Peruvian cuisine is considered to be one of the world's most diverse; comparable to French, Indian or Chinese fare, where every region has it's own favorites. Although the origins are mostly Spanish, there is evidence of European, Japanese, Cantonese and even African influences in the different regions. My pick for today is Causa Rellena de Pollo or Potato Cake filled with chicken salad. Causa is a specialty that hails from the Andean highlands of Peru, however it was the Spaniards that introduced the interesting fillings and garnishes that make it so much more exciting.

Yukon Gold potatoes were cooked and riced. They were seasoned with salt, white pepper, and a chili paste from rehydrated Anaheim peppers ( in the absence of Peruvian yellow peppers) and set aside. To make the filling, cooked chicken and carrots were diced and combined with finely diced onion, parsley, cilantro, and dressed with a mixture of mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. The final assembly was done by placing a cake ring over the serving platter, and filling it with a part of the potato, followed by the chicken salad and topped with more potato. I used sliced hard boiled eggs and olives for the garnish but could have used greens and Avocado to dress it up some more. Unfortunately my Avocado did not cooperate and remained rock hard. It was good anyway and tops my list of great picnic food.

Moving on to Uruguay...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Day 62 Colombia

Colombia has a bad rap for its long history of violence and drugs which puts it at the bottom of the list of potential holiday destinations. In reality its culture and food are as interesting as any other Latin American country and has even produced its own brand of talent, the likes of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, John Leguizamo and Shakira. Best known for its coffee, Colombian cuisine also has a fairly large repertoire of dishes to pick from. Today I picked a Colombian Sobrebarriga, flank steak and a side of Papas Chorreadas.
The steaks( fat untrimmed) were placed in the bottom of the pot along with onion and tomato wedges,carrot,garlic, bayleaf, oregano, parsley and thyme. Left over chicken broth was used to cover all the ingredients and it was left simmering for a couple of hours. (I stuck mine in the oven). Once tender and cooked through, the steaks were removed, patted dry on paper towels, slathered with butter and tossed in fresh breadcrumbs. They were then stuck under the broiler till crisp and golden. The meat fell apart even as I served it, and the flavors were all there.

The Papas Chorreadas is a potato salad that goes hand-in-hand with the Sobrebarriga. Red potatoes are cooked and cut into halves. A mixture of tomatoes and onions is sauteed with salt pepper and a dash of paprika. Queso blanco and milk are added in and this wonderfully cheesy gooey mess is poured over the potatoes. This topping, I guess is what gives this dish it's identity.
Next stop: Peru....

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Day 61 Chile

Pablo Neruda put Chile on the map and the locals are apt to call themselves País de Poetas or country of poets. Unfortunately their cuisine enjoys no such reputation and little information is available on the subject. They tend to depend on the staples of South American fare that are prevalent throughout the continent such as Empanadas, Asado and Humitas. Having said that, there is nothing mundane or stereotype about this recipe for Empanadas made with ground beef and a Creole style filling of olives, raisins and chilies.

Lean ground beef was sauteed in a pan with a little olive oil till all the pink was gone. Diced onion, crushed garlic, chilies, salt and pepper were added and once the onions were translucent, cumin, parsley, cilantro, and tomatoes were thrown in. Seasoned and sprinkled with a handful of raisins the filling was set aside till before dinner.

About half an hour before dinner the puff pastry dough was rolled out, circles were cut about 3 inches wide and filled with the meat mixture, an olive thrown in every now and then. Formed into half moons, sealed with the tines of a fork, and baked at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes , the little meat pies turned an appetizing golden brown and permeated my house with the scent of buttery pastry.It drew the family to the kitchen like paper clips to a magnet.

Onwards to Colombia tomorrow...

Day 60 Brazil

Most of us associate Brazil with Rio De Janiero,(which has rightfully earned its reputation as the culture capital of Brazil) miles of sun drenched beaches or for soccer fans- Pele. I personally think that it's best contribution to the world is the Caipirinha, Brazil's national drink, made with limes, sugar, water and the sugar cane brandy known as Cachaça. I could spend hours digressing but to stay on track, I chose to do a Vatapa de Galinha a Bahian style Chicken stew.

The Vatapa is the quintessential Afro- Brazilian stew, from the Bahia region of Brazil, and has a few ingredients that makes it unique and inimitable. Dende ( palm oil), dried shrimp and roasted peanuts are like a breath of fresh air when making yet another soupy stew with chicken and coconut milk. A thick paste of onion, garlic, ginger, a generous helping of cilantro, green pepper, tomatoes, the whites of scallions and diced Jalapenos was prepared and sauteed in olive oil . This is called a refogado and is the base of many Brazilian dishes.( picture Below) The chicken seasoned with salt and pepper was added to this and simmered till cooked through. At this point the chicken was removed, deboned and returned along with the shrimp, coconut milk, lime juice, salt, ground peanuts and a piece of bread processed with water which acted as a thickening agent. Simmered till thick and rich the sauce sank into the rice and gave a wonderfully creamy mouth feel.

Note: For those of us that do not have access to Dende; I was given a great alternative. Drops of olive oil mixed with Annato powder is what gave this stew it's golden hues.

Chile tomorrow....

Day 59 Bolivia

Bolivia landlocked between Chile, Peru and Brazil is considered the poorest country in South America. It also has the most, remote, isolated and rugged terrain that boasts the worlds hottest, coldest, steamiest or windiest spots on this planet not to mention its swamps and marshlands. No, it does not grab my fancy but I could not pass on it. A recipe for Pastel de Choclo con Pollo Boliviano AKA Bolivian style Corn Torte with Chicken filling seemed like something my boys would devour in minutes.

The Torte, to put it simply, is made up of two layers of Huminta (corn batter) with a layer of chicken sandwiched between them. The Huminta was made by processing thawed frozen corn kernels and adding in corn meal, baking powder,sugar, salt, eggs and egg whites, melted butter and grated swiss cheese. It is rich ( can be eaten by the spoonful once cooked- I believe) and creamy uncooked. Cooked chicken breasts were shredded and set aside along with the broth they were simmered in. Onions were sliced thinly and sauteed briefly. Peeled and diced tomatoes were thrown in as well as oregano,bay leaf, salt, chili paste (I made mine with rehydrated Ancho chilies)white wine and the broth. Cooked till all the juices are absorbed, the pie was finally assembled.

In a well buttered dish the Huminta and chicken were layered and baked for about 60 minutes at 350 degrees. It took me a while to wrap my head around this recipe, having never cooked nor tasted a Bolivian Torte before. To make matters worse, my recipe did not come with a picture so I had to taste it in my head when I picked it- but it was everything I imagined and more.

Brazil's coming up ....

Day 58 Argentina

Argentina of Maradona fame is the eight largest country on the planet and is not insignificant in it's contribution to the world be it sport, literature or food. Although it has a culture that hails back to before the Incas, an influx of Spanish, European and descendants of African slaves has played an important role in making it what it is today. The cuisine is best known for its Asado (barbecued meat), Yucca, Empanadas and Yerba Mate ( green tea). I settled for the Asado which typically comprises of chorizo, organ meats, ribs and flank steak slow roasted over wood fires. Mine was less exciting( being just steak on a gas grill) but I made an authentic Chimichurri to give it oomph.
The skirt steaks were grilled seasoned with salt and pepper as they tend to do in Argentina. The Chimichurri is what gives it all the flavor; made by whisking olive oil and red wine vinegar till well combined, finely chopped flat leaf parsley, onion and garlic were added in along with red chili powder, dried oregano, salt and black pepper.

A grated carrot salad goes hand in hand with the Asado, I'm told. The carrots were dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, freshly ground pepper and a diced roasted onion. Sprinkled over with cheese just before serving, the salad adds a certain sweetness that complements the salty/spiciness of the Chimichurri.
Bolivia's our next port of call....

Day 57 Tunisia

Tunisian legend has it that the amount of love that a wife feels for her husband is measured by the amount of hot peppers she uses in her food . This may not necessarily work in our favor here in the West, but I saw evidence of it in my search for a recipe . Most dishes are flavored with a fiery Harissa ( a hot paste found commonly in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia). Couscous is considered their national dish, but I found a recipe for Tunisian Chicken with Roasted Oranges that sent my salivary glands into overdrive and there was no looking back. To accompany it I am doing a Tuna salad or a Salade Michwiya.

The chicken breasts were rubbed with a Harissa paste made from scratch from a recipe found in my stash of old magazine clippings. Caraway seed, Anaheim pepper, coriander seed, garlic, olive oil and salt were ground to coarse paste, rubbed over the chicken and grilled. Oranges were quartered, sprinkled with powdered sugar and thrown on the grill. The grilled chicken was then garnished with the oranges and fresh cilantro. Nasal passages opened up as did tear ducts...

The Salade Michwiya is a colorful salad made with roasted tomatoes, yellow and red pepper, onion, dressed with a paste of garlic and Caraway seed. Arranged on a platter with boiled eggs cut into quarters and canned tuna, the salad was sprinkled with olive oil and lemon juice. Simple and satisfying it was like a twist on the Cobb salad.

Leaving Africa and heading out to South America. Argentina's up first....

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Day 56 Madagascar

Madagascar aka Vanilla Island has long been a sanctuary to some unusual animals. Shockingly, 75% of those animals do not exist anywhere else on the planet and some are on the verge of extinction. Thankfully the locals eat a diet based on rice with Chicken, Beef and Fish as their proteins of choice. After much consideration I am leaning towards a dish called Akoho Sy Voanio or Madagascar Style Chicken in Coconut Milk, which served Malagasy style over rice showcases the strong Asian influences as well as the island flavors. It is a staple of Christmas celebrations in Madagascar.

Chicken breasts are ideal for this dish, as they cook easily and can be made bite-size. These were marinated briefly in the juice and grated rind of a lemon. Onion paste was sauteed in a little oil before the garlic paste and the chicken cubes are introduced. The chicken pieces should be almost fully cooked before adding in the ginger paste and finally the coconut milk and salt.

This dish holds it's own; I have never cooked without any kind of seasoning/ spice or herb before and expected it to be bland and tasteless but it was strangely flavorful - the sweetness from the coconut milk, the gentle heat of the ginger and garlic, and the hint of lemon make it mild yet quite memorable.

Moving on to Tunisia....
NOTE: Please check previous postings- I had to tweak the dates.

Day 55 Nigeria

It was practically impossible to find any interesting trivia on Nigeria, other than politics, sports and the latest news, none of which piqued my interest. In fact I almost decided against doing Nigeria, but was persuaded by a very appealing recipe for Jollof Chicken and Rice which originated during their French colonization and reminded me fleetingly of a good old fashioned Jambalaya.
Several variations of this dish have evolved over time in several African countries; the Nigerian version of the recipe calls for boneless chicken breasts pan fried and set aside. In the same pan, onions were sauteed along with the chicken juices and seasoned with salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, cinnamon, and thyme. A small can of tomatoes was added in and eventually the chicken broth. Once it started to boil, the heat was reduced and the cooked chicken and rice were simmered in this flavorful soupy mix till cooked through. Amazingly quick and simple and very satisfying, I will probably continue to cook this for a long time experimenting with different ingredients along the way.

Madagascar is coming up next.....

Day 54 Morocco

The destination of my dreams- I have a romantic fixation with the culture and heritage of this North African country. Call it the "Casablanca syndrome"if you please, but one day I hope to find myself in a corner of a crowded Souk in Marrakesh or Tangier, breathing in it's spice laden air, tasting local delicacies or smoking a hookah perhaps! Meanwhile back on planet earth I had a menu to plan, but it was easy. The quintessential Chicken Tagine was a no-brainer.

The Tagine was relatively easy. I started with a roasting chicken cut into pieces. Red onions were diced and sauteed followed by garlic and ginger pastes, and finally the chicken. According to instruction, I used a large pot so that all the chicken browned evenly. Cinnamon powder, saffron strands soaked briefly in water, chopped parsley and cilantro were thrown in. This was simmered in chicken broth and seasoned.I also added in some chopped preserved lemon peel (bought on a trip to Dubai a while ago). The last step was to add in a can of drained and rinsed chick peas.
As I looked for a good Tagine recipe, a Classic Casablancan Coucous recipe caught my eye and it was hard to resist the temptation. The couscous was made in minutes with the box instructions, but it was the toppings that made it so delectable. I had the last of my garden zucchini and eggplant and cut those length wise along with onion, red peppers and tomato. A few slivers of ginger and smashed garlic along with a couple of sprigs of rosemary were scattered over. Then a generous drizzle of olive oil, honey, salt and pepper and into the oven where they roasted till golden. This is spooned willy nilly over the couscous and served.
The final verdict- best Cous cous recipe! Jessica and David ate dinner with us and agreed.

Nigeria - next up....

Day 53 Mauritius

We are officially in the beautiful island nation of Mauritius, in the middle of the Indian Ocean, where the last Dodo ( extinct bird ) was sighted. Strong French,Creole, British and Indian influences are seen in their culture, as in their food. Seafood and curry seem to be ingrained in their cuisine, so I decided upon Prawns ( or Shrimp as we may know it) in Almond Sauce, which gives us a taste of both.
The base of this dish is an almond sauce which is made by sauteing ground almonds and minced green chilies briefly in a little butter and finishing with a touch of light cream. Once the shrimp is cleaned and deveined it is rubbed with curry powder and garlic, cooked briefly in mustard oil and set aside. Next, strips of red and green pepper are sauteed and combined with the shrimp. The final step is to combine the shrimp, veggies and sauce and season to taste. To me it felt like the ultimate East meets West dish with its creamy sauce (very European) and curry undertones ( Asian influence).

Morocco's coming up next...

Day 52 Kenya

Kenya on the East coast of Africa has so much diversity that there is no single tribe, language or dish that is truly representative of their cuisine. However there are a few dishes eaten throughout Kenya - such as Ugali, Nyama choma and Sukuma wiki, which are a porridge, a roasted goat and cooked greens respectively. I considered the roasted goat but since lugging a headless goat onto an open fire did not seem to be an option, I settled for a vegetarian stew or Dengu. Served with Chapati (a remnant of Indian culture in Kenya) a type of unleavened wheat bread, this meal is hearty and very healthy.

The stew is made with whole green lentils (Mung Bean) soaked overnight and boiled with just enough water to cook it. Diced onions were sauteed with a green chili and smashed garlic in butter until fragrant, at which point the tomato paste was added, followed by the lentils and diced red and green peppers. Stirred ever so often to prevent it from sticking, it was ready within minutes.

The Chapatis were made from wheat ( from the Indian store).The dough is kneaded with a pinch of salt and water until elastic and smooth.They should ideally be rolled out thinly, sprinkled generously with dry flour to prevent sticking and toasted lightly on both sides till puffy with brown spots. Served hot with or without a dab of butter they complement lentils very well.
Mauritius up next.....

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Day 51 Ethiopia

They say that when you eat Ethiopian food you end up eating the tablecloth. In reality the "tablecloth" is a kind of bread called Injera, the backbone of Ethiopian fare. It is a sourdough, pancake- like bread onto which the various stews and vegetables are served. Each person then tears off a piece and uses this to scoop and form the food into a roll before eating. Today I picked Awaze Tibs, Injera, and Ethiopian Style Collard Greens.

Injera is typically made with Tef a kind of flour indigenous to Ethiopia. In it's absence I used buckwheat flour which is similar in color and texture. Mixed with a little all-purpose flour, eggs and milk the batter was made and kept aside. Crepes were made- I tried to make them larger than I would normally to give it the "Tablecloth" look.

Awaze Tibs is made from thin slices of beef or Lamb cooked with onion, garlic, chilies and ginger. A unique spice mix called Berbere was used to season this dish which is a cross between a stew and a stir fry. I made my Berbere from scratch with ground ginger, garlic, cinnamon, dry basil, cardamom, chili powder and paprika which gives it its characteristic rich color. It is finished with a healthy dose of clarified butter.

I also cooked up Ethiopian Collard greens with sauteed onion, garlic, ginger, chilies, red bell pepper, salt and pepper. First the thick stems were removed, the leaves were blanched in boiling water and then they were chopped finely and cooked.Chicken broth is used to add moisture and flavor to the greens while cooking. Very healthy and tasty too.

Next up: Kenya....

Day 50 Egypt

Egyptian cuisine can be dated back to ancient times and is deceptively similar to Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines. While we may be blindsided by the Kebabs, Shawarma, Falafal and Baba Ghanoush that are commonly found throughout Egypt, there is also a less recognized yet rich heritage of strange and unusual ingredients. Salep, Carob and Mastic are: a flour like powder from an orchid, a legume and a resin respectively and yes, they are used to cook with.

As I searched, I was intrigued by a recipe for an "Ancient " Egyptian marinade for chicken skewers, so I made it the recipe of the day. The marinade consists of olive oil, ground cumin and coriander, onion paste, cayenne and black pepper and salt.The chicken is cut into strips and marinated for a few hours or overnight. Then once it is skewered and grilled,the chicken can be basted with the remaining marinade to prevent it from drying out.
Eating it over Pita bread, I was transported temporarily to the streets of Cairo.

Ethiopia tomorrow....

Day 49 Cameroon

It is Day 49 and I am finally in Africa; much anticipated and at the same time a little nerve wracking, being unfamiliar terrain. Cameroonian Suya is on the menu ; an easy pick as I rushed past recipes of stews with bitter leaves, and bush meat. Pangolin, Porcupine or Giant rat are not things I associate necessarily with dinner, but Buea Coconut Rice and Flank steak kebabs with a spicy peanut rub- it's a done deal.

Suya is made with flank steak cut into thin strips and marinated in ground ginger, garlic powder, sugar, ground cinnamon, chili powder, onion salt, paprika and ground peanuts. Brushed with vegetable oil before being skewered and grilled the Suya gets a unique flavor from the peanut rub.
The Coconut Rice originated in the small town of Buea to the North West of the country. Diced onion, tomato paste, coconut milk, carrots, peppers, thyme, chilies and salt are cooked down with the rice. Moist and fragrant, the rice can be eaten alone, but Rhea was over and we both agreed that the Suya definitely kicks it up a few notches.

Moving on to Egypt...

Day 48 Yugoslavia

This is a first for me and having discovered that Yugoslavian cuisine has a bad rap for being insipid and boring, I tried to stay on the straight and narrow. In my search for a fool proof recipe I stumbled upon a Yugoslavian Roast Chicken with stuffing and a Dalmation Rice and Vegetable salad, both of which look promising.

A whole roasting chicken was cleaned and slathered with melted butter, lemon juice, sea salt and cracked pepper. A stuffing was made with diced onion and celery sauteed with sage, thyme, parsley, salt and pepper. This was combined with toasted bread cubes, egg and enough chicken broth to bind it. The bird was stuffed and roasted till golden and cooked through.

The Rice salad was made with cooked brown rice, diced cucumber, tomatoes, capers, onion and scallions. the dressing was a mixture of white wine vinegar, olive oil, crushed garlic, sugar, salt and pepper.

What can I say? It was like Christmas in October. The moist chicken and nutty rice salad went perfectly together. Kids loved it!

Sadly it is time to exit Europe and head out to Africa... Cameroon is first....

Day 47 Britain

Britain is not famous for its food and has become the victim of much bad press, being bland and nondescript for the most part. I personally find their food quite entertaining : Bubble and Squeak, Spotted Dick and Toad in the hole are some of the traditional dishes that have me amused. However jokes aside, they do some great roasts and a wide selection of desserts too.I have a serious penchant for English Tea- finger sandwiches, hot scones with jam or crumpets with Devonshire cream

Tonight's menu is Fish and Chips, a staple of traditional English cuisine. Typically Cod or Haddock fillets are batter fried and served up with potato wedges dredged with malt vinegar. I found fresh Flounder and went with it. Home made Tartare sauce, chips and a English Trifle dessert are also on the menu.

The batter was made with a cup of beer, egg whites, and seasoned flour. Dipped in the batter and deep fried, the fish turns crunchy and golden on the outside. The potatoes were cut into wedges and deep fried to a crisp. Light Mayonnaise, capers, dill pickle, onion and lemon juice were churned together briefly to make the Tartar Sauce.
I felt compelled to make a long distance call to my aunt Sheila in England to get an authentic recipe for the Trifle. Her trifle is made with a sponge cake cut up and placed in the bottom of the dish. This is covered with assorted fruit and jello made with jello powder dissolved in hot water. A couple of tablespoons of Sherry can be mixed in at this time. Once it is set in the refrigerator, the jello is covered with a generous helping of Creme Anglaise and Whipping cream. It can be decorated with cherries, grated chocolate or anything you fancy. Amazingly creamy with enough crunch from the fruit - tops my list of easy desserts.
Yugoslavia up next....

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Day 46 Turkey

Turkey situated geographically between Asia and Europe, made it hard to place in the right chronology, but was way too interesting to pass up. It has a cuisine which mirrors both continents in its own unique way, taking the best of both Middle Eastern and Mediterranean fare and utilizing its local produce in the bargain, to its best advantage.
Today's dish was Turkish kebabs with a chickpea dip. Easy as can be and yet great tasting. I bought the meat cut into cubes for Kebabs, and marinated them in a paste made with onion, garlic,lemon juice, flat leaf parsley, cumin, cinnamon, paprika, salt and fresh ground pepper. Olive oil was drizzled over the marinade as it churned in the food processor, turning it thick and creamy. The meat was marinated and grilled. I served it with Pita and a chickpea dip.

The dip was made with canned chickpeas pureed with lemon juice, cinnamon, and salt drizzled with olive oil, pine nuts and currants soaked till plump. Served with parsley and lemon slices it was very compatible with the kebabs.

Britain's up next.....

Friday, October 2, 2009

Day 45 Switzerland

The influence of French, German and Italian cuisines are so intricately woven into Swiss cooking that it makes it almost impossible to extract an authentic Swiss meal. Then there is the ubiquitous Fondue which does not necessarily involve cooking in the true sense of the word. So after weeks upon weeks of eating elaborate meals, I decided to do just dessert. So Apfel Kuchen, it is.
This particular recipe intrigued me -it starts with a yeast dough for the base, and is filled with apples and cream cheese inside. A very soft and pliable dough is made with flour, sugar, yeast, egg and butter. Left to rise, the dough doubles in size after which it is patted down into a cake tin and filled with sliced apples tossed in Cinnamon, sugar, lemon juice and a little flour. Cream cheese, egg and sugar are whipped together and poured over the apples. Baked in the oven for about 30 minutes, my kitchen starts to smell divine. Soft and spongy on the outside and creamy apple on the inside, a kuchen is like a doughnut, an apple pie and a cheesecake all rolled into one.
In case any of you were wondering - This was dinner- steak, creamed potatoes and steamed veggies.

Turkey's up next...

Day 44 Sweden

In my quest for tonight's meal I stumbled upon a Smorgasbord (pun intended) of Swedish fare, but could not resist the temptation to go with the Kottbuller or Swedish meatballs, not only because they are extremely appetizing but are also far less dodgy than the lutkfisk, gravlax or eel, all of which left me cold. Then there was a dizzying array of recipes to sort through; fortunately that's when Andrea (friend Rhea's mom) came to my rescue. She claimed to have the best recipe for Swedish Meatballs and when asked if it was an old recipe, her answer was " from before the advent of meat grinders." That clinched it...

The meatballs are made with ground Beef/Veal/Pork with the ratio being 3:2:1. Breadcrumbs are softened in light cream while onions are diced and sauteed. These are added to the meat along with an egg, chopped parsley, ginger powder, nutmeg, salt and freshly ground pepper. They are beaten together till homogenous, shaped into balls and shallow fried in butter. Flour is added to the drippings and cooked briefly before adding in beef broth and instant coffee. Stirred till thickened, the meat balls go back into the pan where they are basted with the sauce repeatedly until generously coated with the sauce. The meatballs were tender and juicy unlike any other.

Next up: Switzerland....

Day 43 Spain

Attempting to do Spain in a day is not unlike doing a day tour of Barcelona on a transit visa - there is so much diversity and culture, one can only scratch the surface. In an attempt to make the most of it, I am doing an assortment of Tapas instead of the well known Paella or Gazpacho. Traditionally these small bites were eaten to sustain one between meals, but lately have become so notoriously popular paired with the right wine that they have reached the status of a significant meal in themselves.
I delved into it with great enthusiasm and took on 5 different Tapas:
Stuffed tomatoes, Artichoke Rice cakes with Manchego, Pinchitos Morunos, Barbecued Ribs and Crisp Shrimp Fritters.

The tomatoes were blanched and peeled, insides scooped out and filled with hard boiled eggs, Aioli and parsley.

The artichoke rice cakes were made with artichoke hearts sauteed in butter and cooked down with Arborio rice and broth. Grated Parmesan and parsley were mixed in, shaped into cakes, filled with Manchego cheese and shallow fried in olive oil.

The ribs were marinated overnight in sherry, soy sauce, Tabasco, tomato puree, brown sugar and sea salt before grilling.

The Pinchitos were made from cubed lean pork rubbed with Spanish paprika, thyme, olive oil, lemon juice, ground coriander, salt, freshly ground pepper and a touch of curry powder. These too were marinated overnight, and grilled.

For the shrimp fritters, small shrimp were blanched and diced finely. A paste of scallions, chickpea flour, paprika, parsley and salt was combined with the shrimp and fried in batches to a crisp.

It turned -as you can imagine into a veritable feast. I should also mention that I managed to get grease all over the camera lens so if the picture looks a little foggy- it's not your eyesight - it's my camera skills.

I probably shouldn't eat for at least the next two days but I soldier on ...... Sweden next...

Day 42 Romania

Romania remains an enigma- to me it seems like a nation suspended in a bubble in medieval or almost ancient times, but then most of my knowledge is gleaned from childhood readings of "The Adventures of Tintin" often set in the streets of Moldova and Transylvania. In my search for tonight's menu, I was discouraged by their predilection for sour soups, calf's feet and tripe, so I was relieved to find a very appetizing and authentic sausage recipe aka Mititei.

My recipe for Mititei called for a combination of ground Pork and Beef, although there are several possible variations of this recipe. I threw in thyme, beef bouillon, soda bicarb, salt and pepper and left it to soak in for a few hours. Just before dinner, the sausages were formed and cooked on the grill. Served with a salad, corn on the cob, sauteed green beans and mashed potato, the sausages tasted fresh and succulent, and amazingly like a very good kebab!

Next port of call: Spain... so bring on the Sangria.......

Day 41 Portugal

Portuguese cuisine evolved slowly over centuries and is an amalgamation of techniques and flavors of many different cultures. It is not hard to see the Spanish and Mediterranean influences on Portuguese fare, although it remains unique because of the way it brings them into play. A diet rich in beans and legumes as well as leafy greens, the Caldo Verde is a very appropriate representation of this cuisine.
The Caldo Verde is a starchy soup made from potatoes and Kale, which gives it its vivid green color. Diced onions and garlic are sauteed briefly. Sliced potato is added in and simmered with enough water till cooked through and then pureed. The Kale is shredded finely and introduced at this point and simmered for 5 minutes. Chorizo sausage ( in the absence of Portuguese sausage) is thinly sliced, fried and stirred into the soup.

Portuguese Baked Flan was the dessert of choice. Sugar and water are made into a deep golden caramel and poured into individual flan dishes to coat the bases. Milk and heavy cream are boiled and added to egg yolks with a few drops of vanilla essence and a little caramelized sugar. This mixture is poured into the dishes and baked in a pan half filled with boiling water and baked till set. Chilled and served with assorted berries, they are the perfect ending to an unseasonably warm October evening.

Romania is coming up next......