Egypt- An ancient bread, kofta and pistachio dukkah

EGYPT –

Aish Baladi, Lamb Kofta and Pistachio Dukkah.

Ah Egypt! Who has not heard of this most fabled land? – cradle of civilization and still a place of mystery and wonder.  A tourist destination for centuries, even the ancient Greeks and imperial Romans marveled at its monuments and it has lost none of its amazing allure today.

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Ras Mohammed N.Park

From the seething ancient/modern cities of Cairo and Alexandria, the famed Great Pyramids of Giza and  the Valley of Kings, the magnificent ruins of Karnak, Abydos and Luxor. The Suez canal, the medieval Ottoman  town of Al-Qasr, cruising the picturesque Nile itself, palm fringed oasis where you can bathe in natural hot springs in Cleopatra’s Bath  and the stark beauty of the White Desert National Park, Sahra al-Beida….the Aladdin’s Cave of Cairo’s teeming markets, and everywhere you go in Egypt is stepping back in time into myth and legend.

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Dunes in Western Egypt

 

The Food

How extraordinary to make food that was eaten by ancient Egyptian workers building the pyramids! In fact the pyramid builders were paid with bread and onions!

Making any kind of bread I always think is a very atavistic process, there is something so elemental and satisfying about making bread, especially yeast risen breads,  which is a little bit of alchemy – a mysterious magic trick. The food of Egypt is based around breads, most commonly the pita bread aish baladi, whose very name means life or sustenance. Made from emmer wheat (hulled, as is the now popular spelt wheat )  it’s baked at very high temperatures so the bread puffs up to form a pocket, which is then used as a utensil to scoop up dips and vegetables and wrap around chunks of food like  kebab, dolma and falafel.

spices

Egyptian Spices & Dry Goods

The other great staple of the Egyptian diet is beans and lentils, in particular ful (fava beans or broad beans)  and brown lentils, these are some of the oldest known foods and have been found in Egyptian tombs. Still popular after centuries are such vegetables as eggplant, onions and garlic(used extensively) celery and squashes and leafy greens like lettuces, mallow and jute. A wide range of grains are the starchy staples, millet which is easily grown in dry conditions, barley also used to make the ubiquitous beer which together with bread and spring onions (scallions)  formed the basic diet.

Traditionally beef, lamb and goat was supplied from domestic animals along with game such as pigeon, duck and rabbit. Especially prized is brains and liver. Fish both fresh water and ocean and a wide range of seafood is very popular. The culinary heritage has been influenced by the robust Moroccan cuisine and of course the cuisines of the Eastern Mediterranean. Most noticeable in desserts which are very sweet and feature nuts, fruits like figs, dates, and melons, with honey, filo pastry and spices such as cinnamon.

Ancient Foods

Serving food on Temple 

Recently dukkah has been very popular (here in Aussie at least) and has found its way onto many trendy menus, especially on eggs, vegetable salads, and flat breads and in many different varieties including hazelnut and pistachio as well as the more common almond. My favourite brunch dish at the moment is a poached egg on sour-dough toast with avocado, diced tomato, showered with my own spicy dukkah. I really recommend this delicious condiment and it’s super easy to make with a spice grinder or food processor, if you try it, you’ll fall in love with it too!

The Recipes

Egyptian Flatbread – Aish Baladi

This recipe was taken from http://www.saveur.com and changed a little to suit home cooking better.When I made it, for some reason I cooked it in a fry pan on the stove top – which didn’t work very well! I suggest you follow the recipe and bake it in a very hot oven on a hot oven tray.

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
    1 tsp sugar
    1¼ cups warm water
    2½ cups wholemeal flour, plus extra for dusting, or can use wheat germ/bran
    1 tsp salt
    1 tbsp. vegetable oil, plus more for greasing
Method
  1. Dissolve sugar in water, in bowl of mixer if you have one. Mix in yeast and let stand until foamy, 10 minutes.
  2. Add rest of ingredients and mix with dough hook or by hand, knead 10 minutes, cover and let stand for 30 minutes.
  3. Let stand until doubled in size, about 1 12 hours.
  4. Place a baking stone on a rack in the oven and heat the oven to 500° for 30 minutes, or use a heavy oven tray and heat 15 minutes. Meanwhile, punch the dough down and divide into 8 equal pieces.
  5. Roll each piece into a ball and then flatten/roll into a 5-inch circle. Lightly sprinkle the bran or more flour and loosely cover with a kitchen towel.
  6. Let stand until slightly puffed, about 30 minutes
  7. Working in batches, place the dough circles on the hot baking stone, spaced 2 inches apart, and bake until puffed and lightly charred in spots, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool before serving.
Our Egyptian Meal

Egyptian Meal

Lamb Kefta

Ingredients
  •  500 gm lamb mince
  • 1/2 bunch finely chopped parsley
  • 1 finely chopped small onion
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 tb chopped oregano
  • 1 Tbs salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp nutmeg

Directions:

  1. Mix the onion and garlic with the spices and let it stand for 15 minutes
  2. Add the meat and rest of ingredients to the onion and mix well.  Shape the meat into kofta shapes.(long oval fingers)
  3. Lightly oil large heavy fry pan, heat the pan over medium high heat. When the pan is hot, add the koftas and pan fry on all sides.
  4.  Lower the heat and cover the pan. Cook for 5 minutes.  Then uncover the pan and let any liquid evaporate.

These kefteh need some sort of sauce to go with them, some hummus, baba ganoush, tzatziki, bean dip, a spicy tomato sauce or even greek  yogurt will all work and add moisture to an otherwise dry dish.

dukkah

Pistachio Dukkah

Pistachio Dukkah

Ingredients

  • 40g (1/4 cup) sesame seeds
  • 75g (1/2 cup) pistachio kernels, finely chopped
  • 3 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 3 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Method

  1. Toast the sesame seeds in a small dry pan, stirring until golden. Put aside to cool

  2. Toast pistachios for 1 minutes. Put aside in another bowl, then toast coriander, cumin and pepper for 1 minute or until aromatic. Stir in the salt and set aside to cool. Grind to fine powder

  3. Process nuts until very finely chopped. Mix in nuts and sesame seeds and mix well

  4. Store dukkah in an airtight container or jar, in a cool, dry place for up to 2 months.

This is a delicious sprinkle to add a flavourful punch to lots of things from steamed or roasted vegetables, poached eggs, grilled chicken, fish or dips like hummus. If you try nothing else – do try this – it’ll become your latest favourite thing!

Tasting notes: this meal was very similar to meals we often eat , the bread was a bit heavy – sadly I wasn’t able top get it to puff up to form a proper pocket. The kefteh were ok, we have had better – these were rather plain for our tastes…….but we loved the dukkah which lifted them into something quite special.

Overall Score: 7/10 for the whole meal,  9/10 for the dukkah on its own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fettuccine alla papalina – The Pope’s Fettuccine

Country 49 – Vatican City

The smallest country in the world with a total of 44 hectares makes up the entire country! It also has an extremely small population with the grand total coming to under 1000 people. This walled city of great religious power is nestled right in the heart of the ancient city of Rome. Benvenuto a Città del Vaticano or Welcome to Vatican City!

vc - gardens

Food in the Vatican

As the Vatican is located right in the middle of Rome its cuisine is identical to traditional Italian food. There is also only two places tourists and residents alike can dine out in the Vatican which are a café/pizzeria in the Vatican Museums and a café near the Sistine Chapel rightfully called Sistina. The favourites are classic pizza’s and pasta’s favourites of millions, Italian and otherwise. Most residents eat at home for breakfast, lunch and tea, in which in the Italian way have a simple early breakfast of coffee, cereals and bread. A large lunch often in the early afternoon and can last for a couple of hours with family and friends and dinner or tea is served relatively late for someone like me who usually has dinner between 6-8pm the Italians have their dinner late as they had a large lunch so they usually dine around 8pm or later, their meal is quite smaller usually salads, cold appetizers or soups.

A popular Italian breakfast: cappuccino, spremuta (freshly squeezed orange juice) and beautifully crispy, soft and buttery pastries.

A popular Italian breakfast: cappuccino, spremuta (freshly squeezed orange juice) and beautifully crispy, soft and buttery pastries.

WHAT I MADE

While scouring the internet for a recipe that isn’t just Italian but has links to the Vatican in particular I came across this other blog GlobalTableAdventure which is this amazing food blog that is cooking meals from around the world also and has been very successful. So the recipe is Fettuccine alla Papalina which was created for Pope Pius XII in the late 1930’s. There’s many stories of why this recipe was created but they popular one is that the Pope’s chef first made this for the Pope as a classier and more luxurious version of Carbonara. So a big thank you to Global Table Adventure as you saved me from having no idea where I could possibly find a Vatican recipe! Here’s the link to the recipe on Global Table Adventure’s page Fettuccine alla Papalina

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RECIPE

Serves 4

Ingredients

3 Tbsp butter
1 onion, finely chopped
4 ounces prosciutto, diced
3 eggs
2 Tbsp heavy cream
1 1/2 cups grated parmesan reggiano (best quality you can buy)

1 lb dried or fresh fettuccine
fresh cracked blacked pepper, however much you like but more is better and is what makes Paplina, Paplina

Method

Whisk together the eggs, heavy cream, and parmesan cheese. Set the mixture aside.

Boil your fettuccine , drain, and toss them with a bit of oil or butter to keep them from sticking.

Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, cook the onion in butter until totally soft and translucent on a low heat with a lid on, about 5 minutes

Add in the proscuitto and heat it for a few moments until fragrant. 

Toss hot, drained fettuccine and turn off the heat.

Pour egg mixture over pasta and toss thoroughly with fresh cracked pepper

Stir until egg has thickened and thoroughly coats fettuccine and cheese has melted

Now add as much pepper as desired, remember its meant to be peppery!

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This meal was utterly delicious! As you can see I served it with a beautiful organic tomato, soft goats cheese and basil salad with a balsamic dressing. Together they were creamy,cheesey, salty and peppery heaven! I a hundred percentage will make this again and again it’s just so good. Score was overwhelming 10/10.

Roma x

 

Macchi Tandoori & Raita from The Lion City

COUNTRY 48 – SINGAPORE

Lion City, Garden City, and the Red Dot are all other names given to this island country. A mix of  Malay, Chinese, Indian and Western culture, this country is one of tradition and new technology. Asia’s most influential city and the world’s 7th greenest city,                           selamat datang ke Singapore or Welcome to Singapore!

 Climate Controlled Botanical Gardens by the Bay in Singapore


Climate Controlled Botanical Gardens by the Bay in Singapore

This is where I usually talk about the country’s capital city but Singapore doesn’t have a capital as the whole country is basically one big island and 60 other small islands. So I am going to talk about the Downtown Core of Singapore as this is the CBD and where the main population resides and where several cultural landmarks are. The area surrounds the mouth of the Singapore River and is a 266 hectares in size. In 1822 under orders from Sir Stamford Raffles the Jackson Plan for the Town of Singapore was created, this urban plan was to organise to city, into segregated sections each minority having its own areas. The ideas for segregation were later taken away but the layout and streets are still very similar. Raffles Place (commercial area) and the European Town now make up the Downtown Core.

Singapore's Skyline. Marina Bay Sands over to the left (the world's most expensive casino) and the Climate Controlled gardens below that.

Singapore’s Skyline. Marina Bay Sands over to the left (a resort and the world’s most expensive casino) and the durian shaped Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay (performing arts centre) below that.

Singaporean Cuisine

Singapore a country with an extremely multicultural and diverse population is the same in its food. A melting pot, heavy with big flavours, spices and condiments. It’s roughly 74% Chinese, 13%  Malay, 9% Indian, and 3% Eurasian which together create a cuisine of rice and noodles, of seafood and meat, of curries and stir-fry’s and soups. Many traditional Singaporean meals have been created by mixing and borrowing the flavours of the various different cuisines present. Some dishes like this include: Hokkien mee, Wonton mee, Singaporean-style Biryani.

Most people to eat head out to Hawker Centres to get their meals, these are open-air enclosed “food courts” with dozens of stalls preparing a few signature dishes, hawker centres get extremely packed at prime meal times with a sometimes half hour wait to get served. The other style of food court is Cze Chas (Eating Houses) which are also open-air and enclosed but have fewer stalls and each stall has longer menus, they are considerably less busy and their is table service. Kopitiams (a mix of the Malay word for coffee and the Chinese word for shop) are coffee shops but also places for a small bite or quick meal and long chats with large groups of people.

The most popular dishes from influences such as China, India and Malaysia are: Hokkein mee from the Fuijan Province, China, Hainanese chicken rice from Southern China, Carrot Cake (not just your average carrot cake) from Fujianese region China, Roti from Indian influence, Laska a mix of Chinese and Malaysian flavours, Popiah from Southern China, Rojak from Malay influence and Chilli Crab one of the most iconic Singaporean dishes.

Spicy Singapore Laksa

Spicy Singapore Laksa

WHAT I MADE

I decided to look through our various Asian and Singaporean cookbooks we have at home. Lucky me I found a recipe in one of the books so I didn’t need to research for ages! I wanted to make something interesting something I hadn’t had or made before I chose a baked fish dish. Macchi Tandoori & Raita : Marinated Baked Fish & Cucumber in Yoghurt, this recipe was sourced from a cookbook we have at home called the Food 0f Singapore – Authentic Recipes from the Lion City by Djoko Wibisono. The same author has a new cookbook out this year called The Food of Singapore: Simple Street Food Recipes from the Lion City.

RECIPE

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 750g white fish fillets
  • 1 lime or lemon, cut in wedges

Tandoori paste

  • 2.5cm fresh turmeric, or 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 6 shallots
  • 4cm ginger
  • 3 large cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tbl Tandoori paste or powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp white pepper (not essential you can just use black pepper)
  • ¾ cup plain yoghurt
  • 1 tbl lemon juice

Raita

  • 2 cucumber peeled
  • 1 tbl salt
  • ¾ cup of plain yoghurt
  • bunch of mint, roughly chopped

Method

  1. Make Tandoori paste by pounding or blending the turmeric, shallots, ginger and garlic together until fine (add a little yoghurt if hard to mix). Mix this with the remaining ingredients.
  2. Rub both sides of each fish fillet with this mixture and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least an hour.
  3. Place fish in a baking dish and cook in at 200°C for 30 minutes or until firm.
  4. Halve cucumbers lengthwise and remove seeds with a small spoon (I used a teaspoon). Cut in thin slices and put in a bowl, sprinkle with salt. Leave to marinate for about 10 minutes, then squeeze out the water. Rinse and drain.
  5. Mix the cucumber slices with the yoghurt and mint. Season with salt and pepper, can be sprinkled with ground chilli or cumin if desired.
  6. Serve fish hot with wedges of lime, boiled rice and accompanied with Raita.

This recipe was full of big flavours that really packed a punch! It was only the second time I think I’ve ever filleted fish, so that was a new experience and I’d also never worked with fresh turmeric, let me say it stains your hands like crazy! I’d advise using some plastic gloves when handling. Also the techniques for preparing the cucumbers for Raita was different to how I usually make it but has taught me a new technique I will now know and use. My score for this recipe is 7/10.

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Mexican food – a fiesta on your palate: Picadas Veracruzanas

COUNTRY 47 – MEXICO

La comidaMexicana es deliciosa!  Now I know all you Americans out there love your food from south of the border and have great super fresh Mexican food available all the time, but down here in Oz, we aren’t so lucky! Mexican food still seems to be rather boring and stuck in a rut where everything tastes the same. (Did you know that we from New South Wales call Victorians, Mexicans?  Why? ‘Cos they’re south of our border of course!)

My Picadas Veracruzanas

I know how amazing real Mexican food can be, having done a cooking course years ago with a wonderful ex-pat home cook called Rolando. He taught me a lot about the subtleties of this great cuisine and I’ve loved it ever since and mourned the lack of any really good Mexican restaurants here. Having said that, there are a few places out there that have discovered the incredible flavours, textures and colours of Mexican food and are jumpin!

I also worked in a Mexican restaurant, many years ago called La Gaupa and they made the best chicken enchiladas! I couldn’t resist them and every night I would ask – una enchilada de pollo para mi por favour!

The country

Smoking snow-topped volcanoes, steamy jungle, baking cactus desert and endless azure coastlines, fabulous ancient ruins, historic churches, colourful noisy (and frequent) fiestas and markets, outstanding museums, friendly locals and terrific food –  Mexico has got it all and more – what’s not to love?

Chichen Itza, Yucatan

Chichen Itza, Yucatan

Personally I’ve always wanted to go to Mexico, I’d love to visit the fabulous ancient cities of Teotihuacan (Mayan)  Tenochtitlan and La Venta (Olmec)  Chichen Itza (Mayan) Tula (Toltec)  Tulum and Uxmal both Mayan.  Plus the rugged coastline of Baja California Sur is also on my bucket list (sigh, as if ……………….!)

Mexican Baja California

Mexican Baja California

The food

Mexican food is founded on the holy trinity of corn, beans and chillies, backed up by a wealth of native foods that took  the old world by storm. Can you imagine Italian food without tomatoes, Thai food without chilies, or a world without chocolate or vanilla ice-cream? Unthinkable! But there’s a lot more to Mexican food than the common taco or burrito, gluey refried beans and overly sweet flan. Although like the chappatis in India, or pasta in Italy,  fresh tortillas are served with every meal, this simple mix of maize (or masa harina) can be transformed into endless and delicious variations.

TORTILLAS

Fresh tortillas

Cooked properly,  with its huge variety of spices and fresh herbs and native ingredients fused with European foods particularly meats like chicken, beef, pork, and lamb or goat, and dairy especially cheese, has produced a splendidly rich and complex cuisine up there with the world’s greatest.

Moles are a  truly unique national dish, its rich depth of  flavour and laborious cooking methods rivals in complexity anything from Europe.  A balance of 5 tastes – hot (chillies)  sweet ( fruit/sugar) sour (tomatillos) spices and thickeners (ground nuts/tortillas) , this dish can take several days to make, has many versions containing 20 – 30 ingredients and traditionally all painstakingly ground by hand.

MEXICAN SWEETS

The Spanish influence is very prominent in the Mexican love of (very) sweet desserts  mostly based on milk such as the popular Pastel des Tres Leches con Coco, or Mexican/caramel flan. And don’t  forget the huge range of  biscuits many of them baked for special occasions such as weddings, religious holidays including the famous Day of the Dead.

The drinks

DRINKS

Beer of course springs to mind, these have been brewed (from corn) since ancient pre-Spanish times, and there are loads of different varieties, the most famous is the ubiquitous Corona and thanks to German migrants, such beers as Bohemia. Beer is drunk ice-cold and with fresh lime.

Aquas Fresca are a range of refreshing drinks based on fruits, seeds and cereals blended with sweetened water, flavours such as tamarind, hibiscus, cantaloupe and lime. There is a unique range of fermented drinks made from corn such as Charanda, Tejuino and well-known Pozol.

Then of course there are the distilled drinks of the fiery kind called Aguardiente, the knock-back Tequila and Mezcal both brewed from Maguey, once a highly sacred plant. Corzo, Sotol, Pox and Pulque are all other spirits made from local ingredients.

Finally there is Mexican chocolate, a frothy spiced concoction very different from the sweet blandness of drinking chocolate in the West. Solid chocolate is sweetened and blended with milk and water with ground almonds along with cinnamon, vanilla and is whipped to foamy heights with a special tool called a molmillo in tall pots called chocolateros.

‘Pinched’ Tostadas

Picadas  Veracruzanas – “Pinched’ Tostadas

Filling:

  • 1 tb oil
  • 1 small onion,  chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 5oo gm. beef mince
  • 1 tsp g. cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp thyme leaves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt & fresh ground pepper
  • fresh  chopped coriander to garnish
  • fresh salsa to serve

Method:

  1. Heat oil in a frypan, sauté onion and garlic till soft. add meat and on med-high heat, fry till brown.
  2. Add rest of ingredients and simmer 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile cook the tortillas.
  4. Fill hot picadas with the picadilllo mixture, top with fresh salsa and chopped coriander and serve immediately.

For Tortillas:

  • 3 cups masa harina/fresh masa
  • 1 – 2 cups warm water (NOTE: do not add if you have fresh masa!)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • oil for shallow frying

Method:

  1. Mix masa harina, water and salt to form a pliable dough, or just roll fresh masa. Form into golf ball size, keep rest of dough covered while working.
  2. Roll out into 10cm rounds, or press in a tortilla press if you are lucky enough to have one.
  3. Cook in a hot dry frypan on both sides, immediately press and pinch the edges to form a small rim around the tortilla.
  4. Repeat till all are done, then  heat oil in frypan and fry till lightly brown on both sides. Drain on paper towel.

Frijoles Meneados

Frijoles Meneados – creamed borlotti beans

  • 2 cups dried borlotti beans
  • ½ large onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tomato, diced
  • 2 tsp salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 tb oil
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 long dried chili – chilli ancho if possible
  • ½ cup cheddar cheese, cut into small dice (or grated for quick version!)
  • 2 sprigs epazote – Optional – Mexican herb that is a counter flatulent! (NOTE: If you live near Bondi Beach, it used to grow wild in the cracks of the road around North Bondi streets like Ramsgate Ave. It’s a tall straggly weed with narrow toothed leaves that smell strongly medicinal when touched.)
  • chopped fresh coriander to garnish

Method:

  1. Cover beans with cold water and soak overnight.
  2. Drain, place in a saucepan or large bowl,  cover with water again and bring to boil. Simmer or microwave with lid on until soft, about 30 min. Don’t let dry out, top up with more warm water if needed.
  3. Add salt and milk and mash till smooth.
  4. Pre-heat oven to 180°/350°
  5. Heat oil in fry-pan and saute onion and garlic till soft. Add tomato and epazote and saute till tomato is soft. Stir into bean mixture.
  6. Simmer dried chilli until soft, remove seeds, pat dry and cut into strips. Stir into beans, season
  7.  Place beans in an oven dish, bake in oven 30 minutes, push cheese cubes into beans – don’t stir in – and serve with coriander on top.
  8. Quick Version: skip step 7,  simply reheat bean mixture to piping hot and stir in grated cheese

The Verdict

Both these recipes are delicious and a real eye-opener for those who have only ever made tacos from a packet. If you have any beans leftover, they go great with fried eggs and bacon the next day for breakfast. Our family is pretty keen on Mexican flavours so we loved this meal, rating it 9/10 and a definite repeat. If you have never made your own tortillas before – please give it a go as it’s really easy, fun (especially if you have a tortilla press!) and the fresh taste will be a revelation! They taste so good you can understand why they are such a necessary part of every meal.

Latvian Frikadelle Soup for you!

Country 46 – Latvia

Sharing borders with Estonia, Russia, Belarus and Lithuania, it is the non-official capital of the Baltic. The landscape is in many places untouched with hundreds of kilometres of undeveloped seashore and large proportions of its land area covered in forest. Not a well known tourist destination like its fellow European countries, but still having so much to offer, Laipni lūgti Latvijā or Welcome to Latvia!

This amazing place is Sun City, a housing development in Cēsis, Latvia. There are 300 homes, all made from environmentally friendly materials. To read more about this head to: http://www.solaripedia.com/13/186/1861/sun_city_latvia_aerial_water.html

This amazing place is Sun City, a housing development in Cēsis, Latvia. There are 300 homes, all made from environmentally friendly materials. To read more about this click here: Sun City, Latvia

Riga is the capital and lies on the Gulf of Riga, at the mouth of the Daugava river. During 2014 the city was the European Capital of Culture and over the past 10 years has held many international events. The Old Town of Riga is an UNESCO World Heritage Site with famous places including; Riga Castle (Rīgas Pils), House of the Blackheads and St. Peter’s Church. The city is well known for its Art Nouveau style and wooden architecture, the other extremely prominent style is English Gothic which can be seen in the Large Guild building.

House of Blackheads and St. Peters Church

House of Blackheads and St. Peters Church

Latvian Cuisine

Their cuisine is influenced heavily by its neighbouring countries and other Eastern European countries. The basis of most meals include; fish (they have a long history with fishing and have specialties including raw and smoked fish), meats, and starchy products including; potatoes, rye, wheat and oats, cabbage is a very popular vegetable. Latvian cuisine uses little spice or herbs but quite a lot of fats and butter the spices they do use include; black pepper, dill and caraway seeds. Latvians also eat a lot of dairy products in particular cheese and sour cream, they have quite an extensive range of cheeses produced in the country. Specialties in Latvia include; kvass (a fermented drink made with rye bread), Riga Black Balsam (a herbal liqueur) and various soups (zupa).

The bread pavilion at Riga's Central Market

The bread pavilion at Riga’s Central Market

WHAT I MADE

I decided to make zupa in particular Frikadelle Soup (Latvian meatball soup). Its a very simple recipe with only a handful of ingredients. It is usually served a dollop of sour cream and sliced rye bread. I sourced my recipe from → Latvian Eats, check out their page for more recipes.

RECIPE

Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients

  • 2 litres water
  • 3 bay leafs
  • 1 stock cube or 2 teaspoons of stock powder
  • black peppercorns
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and finely sliced
  • 4 potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 500g beef mince
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon pepper and salt
  • 1 large gherkin (optional)
  • sour cream for serving

Method

  1. Place the carrots, bay leaf, peppercorn, stock cube and the water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 3 minutes.
  2. Add diced potatoes, bring back to a boil and simmer for additional 3 – 5 minutes.
  3. While carrots and potatoes are simmering, place mince, egg, breadcrumbs and salt & pepper in a medium bowl and mix together. With wet hands form small balls (size of a teaspoon).
  4. Add the balls to the saucepan and simmer on low heat for about 15-20 minutes, until vegetables and meatballs have cooked through. Add sliced gherkin if adding.
  5. Ladle the soup in bowls and add a tablespoon of sour cream. Serve with sliced rye bread, we forgot to buy the rye bread so we just had some a white crusty loaf with butter.
My meatball soup with sliced crusty bread.

My meatball soup, I added some parsley at the end as well, with sliced crusty bread.

REVIEW

The soup was very simple and didn’t have many big flavours so to someone like me who is used to a lot of strong flavours its did seem a bit bland but reading about Latvian cuisine most of their meals are quite simple and because they don’t use many spices or flavourings their meals to foreigners especially from Asian, Mediterranean and other countries do seem a bit tasteless or bland. But their cuisine does have a homely, rustic vibe which I quite like. So the soup was nice but just a little plain. Score = 6/10 Comment down below what country your most excited for us to make! And also we now have a Facebook page Bunny and Mimsey’s Food Blog and it would be really nice if you could go over and like it!

Salvadoran Pupusas Revueltas

Country 44 – El Salvador

The smallest and most populated country in Central America, its landscape ranges from high mountains and active volcanoes to over 300km of Pacific sandy coastline to its spectacular nightlife to the dozens of coffee plantations situated in the country. Nicknamed the Tom Thumb of the Americas, welcome to El Salvador.

Coatepeque Lake, El Salvador

Coatepeque Lake, El Salvador

El Salvador is a small country bordering Guatemala and Honduras in Central America. The official language is Spanish since it was part of the New Spain colony for over 200 years (between the 16th to 18th centuries).  El Salvador is situated on the Cocos tectonic plate, which has led to country to have hundreds of earthquake and volcanic eruptions.

San Salvador is the capital and is located Boquerón Volcano Valley in the south west of the country. The city is heavily influenced by Los Angles especially in architectural terms, with styles architectural styles like Googie, Populuxe, Modernist, Streamline Moderne, Art Deco and Futurist being present in buildings around the city. The city has a historic downtown area with numerous buildings being national attractions.

Teatro Nacional de El Salvador (National Theatre in the historic downtown)

Teatro Nacional de El Salvador (National Theatre in the historic downtown)

Salvadoran Cuisine

The indigenous Pipil and Spanish peoples have heavily influenced the traditional cuisine. Popular ingredients include; maize (corn), Loroco (an edible vine), Izote flower, plantain, yucca or cassava and Salvadoran cheeses such as queso duro, queso freso, and cuajada. Some of the most loved dishes include; Pupusas, Tamales, Sopa de pata (soup made from plantain, cow’s feet, corn and tripe),  yuca frita and panes rellenos. The national liquor of El Salvador is Tic Tack, distilled from sugar cane and the other popular drink is Horchata, made from milk and a mix of spices.

Tic-Tack

WHAT I MADE

I decided to make Pupusas , one of the most common dishes in El Salvador. I’d heard of them before from a TV show called Bizarre Foods America (its really good, I would greatly suggest watching if possible) anyway in episode 1 season 3 the host visits a Salvadoran restaurant and samples some Pupusas, so when I got El Salvador I knew I had to make them. After finding a recipe here’s the link  Pupusas Revueltas from fellow WordPress blog Latinaish. Next I had a quite large obstacle of trying to locate a store that sold MASECA Corn Flour (Instant Corn Masa Flour) in my area, let me tell you this took so long, at first I thought I had found a place but ringing them found that they only sold in bulk for businesses, so the search continued long and far with me scouring the internet for any mention of MASECA in Sydney. I finally found a small Latin American store in Fairfield that stocked it, success! So if any you dear readers live in the Sydney area and are in need MASECA or some other Latin ingredients go to  Tierras Latinas.

RECIPE

Serves: 4-6

Ingredients

For the Filling

  • 500g pork mince (you can even use turkey or chicken if you don’t eat pork)
  • 1 tbs. minced garlic
  • 1-2 tbs. canola oil
  • 1 medium tomato, washed and quartered
  • 1 medium Poblano or the equivalent green pepper, washed, stem & seeds removed, and quartered
  • 1/2 a medium onion, cut in half
  • 1/2 cup refried beans
  • 250g whole milk mozzarella cheese, grated coarsely
  • salt to taste

For the Dough

  • 3 cups MASECA
  • 3 1/4 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

For Salsa

  • 3 to 4 fresh large tomatoes (Roma are best), chopped
  • 1 handful fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 of a medium-sized red onion, chopped
  • 1/4 of a medium Poblano pepper, chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • A few shakes of Worcestershire sauce (also known as “Salsa Perrins.”)

Method

1. Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add oil and garlic. Stir for a few seconds before adding meat and season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally until browned. Remove from heat, set aside. (Note: Many people use chunks of pork in place of ground pork and after cooking, run it through the food processor. This is totally up to you. I’ve used both methods and both work.)

2. In the food processor blend together tomato, chilli and onion till as smooth consistency. Pour into a bowl, add to the pork and mix to combine. Taste and correct with salt if needed. Add the refried beans. Stir to combine. Set the mixture aside.

4. In a large bowl sprinkle salt over MASECA and then pour in water. Mix by hand until combined, should be a smooth soft consistency.

5. To form pupusas, take a large handful of dough, (slightly bigger than a golf ball), and pat it into a tortilla. Cup your hand so the tortilla forms a bowl-like shape. In the hollow, place a large pinch of the pupusa filling. Close your hand gently to fold the sides up around the filling and form the ball again. Pat out into a thick tortilla shape, repeat with remaining dough and mixture.

6. Make salsa by combining all ingredients.

7. Place on a hot griddle, comal or non-stick frying pan. (No oil is needed, although I did some with oil and they were better) Flip to cook on each side. Serve with salsa.

 

My pupusas with salsa

My pupusas with salsa

The pupusas were alright, quite doughy. I’m not exactly sure what went wrong with mine, I think I didn’t put quite enough meat & cheese mixture but then I couldn’t fit much more in my dough “cups” without the mixture spilling out or being seen through the dough. Also I didn’t like the salsa that I made that much as it was very strong and acidic, I have changed the recipe from the one I followed, to something I think is a lot nicer.Maybe you’ll have more luck with both the pupusas and the salsa! And as for me I’ll just have to wait for some lovely Salvadoran to make some pupusas for me. Score 5/10

P.S Sorry for the lack of posts the last 2 months, we’ve both been super busy working and learning, hope you’ve all been eating some good food while we’ve been gone! Comment your favourite meal you’ve had in the last week below!

 

Samoan coconut buns

Week 21 – Samoa

Two main islands and eight small islets house pristine beaches with luscious green rainforests coming right down to the sand and in certain places spectacular rocky cliffs. With hundreds of scenic hiking trails you can traverse the country side enjoying waterfalls, secret grottos and wildlife galore. A strong proud culture with many traditions such as their ‘ava ceremony and siva (dancing) live here, welcome to Samoa.

Traditional ‘ava ceremony

Samoa is located in the Polynesian region of the Pacific Ocean it is halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii. The main islands are Upolu and Savai’i with Upolu home to 3/4 of the country’s population. All of the islands of Samoa have been produced by volcanoes, with Savai’i home to 3 active volcanoes (the last eruption was in the early 1900’s).

Samoa’s capital city and largest city is Apia which is situated on a natural harbour on the island of Upolu. The city’s clock tower which is also a war memorial is cited as the center of the city. Scattered there is still some early, wooden, colonial buildings most notably the old courthouse amongst other new infrastructure. Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson who wrote famous books such as Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde resided on the outskirts of town for his last four years of life and he was buried on top of the close mountain Mt. Vaea. The city’s harbour was also the location of a naval standoff in 1889. Seven ships from Germany, the US, and Britain refused to leave the harbor while a typhoon was approaching, all of the ships ended up sinking except one.

Historic old courthouse originally built in 1906 in Historism and Art Deco style.

Historic old courthouse originally built in 1906 in Historism and Art Deco style.

Samoan Cuisine

Samoa’s cuisine very heavily based on fresh produce normally catch or collected that day. Produce such as taro, bananas, papaya, coconut (freshly made coconut cream or milk is an ingredient in an multitude of recipes), fish and other seafood are the basis of most dishes. Most Samoan kitchens are outside and use a umu (earth oven of hot stones) to cook all food. No oil is used in any of their cooking as they wrap their meat or seafood in banana leaves and cook it straight over the hot stones. Some of the most loved dishes include palusami (young taro leaves baked in coconut cream) and oka, (raw fish in coconut cream).

Typical meal

Typical meal

What I Made

I decided to go sweet and chose Panipopo’s (sweet coconut buns) these buns are sold in bakeries all over Samoa. I sourced my recipe from → www.samoafood.com check it out for amazing Samoan recipes!

Recipe

Serves: 12

Ingredients

For Bread Dough:

  • 1 package (2 & ¼ teaspoon) of active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 ½ – 3 cups all purpose flour or bread flour

For Coconut Sauce:

  • ½ can (200ml) canned or freah coconut milk
  • 200ml water
  • ½ sugar

 Method

  1. Put yeast and water in a large bowl and cover, leave for 10 minutes,  your yeast should be frothy at the end of the time.
  2. Add the rest of the dough ingredients and mix to form a soft dough, this can be done with a wooden spoon or any type of automatic mixer.
  3. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 to 20 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  4. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and leave to double in size, about 1 hour depending on your kitchen’s temperature.
  5. Punch down the dough and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Shape into buns and place in an ungreased baking tin. Cover and leave to rise until almost doubled.
  6. While the buns are rising preheat oven  to 190°C/ 375°F. Make your coconut sauce by combing all ingredients and mixing well.
  7. When buns have doubled in size, pour the sauce over them. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until nicely golden. (wait half an hour till cutting them, as it gives time for the sauce to thicken)

The buns were not the most amazing thing I’ve ever had but they sweet and gooey so they hit the spot. I think it was it bread that let them down a bit, the bread seemed a little to savoury for the sweet sauce, I’d suggest finding a sweet bread recipe that you know good and swapping that one for this one. They were nice with a large cup of black tea and a good book. Score 6/10.

My coconut buns!

My coconut buns!