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.

egypt_western_desert_dune_patterns_2 - Copy - Copy

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

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!

Spanish Baked Eggs with Chorizo and Beans

Eggs Baked in Spicy Tomato Sauce with Chorizo and Cannellini Beans

Looking for a brunch or breakfast dish that ‘s a little bit different? Like to kick-start the day with a punch?  Then this spicy recipe is for you. Try it for a tasty change and if you like spicy like we do – you’ll probably love it – like we do! 

Adapted from a classic Spanish tapas dish, I’ve made it more substantial by the addition of the white beans. It could easily be a light lunch or supper dish with the addition of some crusty bread and a salad. Spicy, quick and simple, but tasting great and made from a few simple ingredients  – what’s not to like?

Ingredients                                                                        SERVES 4-6

  • 1 tb olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1 long red chilli
  • 1-2 hot chorizo sausage
  • 6 tomatoes
  • 1½ tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • salt & black pepper
  • 1x 400gm can cannellini beans drained & rinsed
  • 4-6 eggs
  • fresh coriander leaves

My Chorizo Baked Eggs

Metthod

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180° C/350° F
  2. Chop onion, garlic and seeded chilli, ,  remove casing from chorizo and crumble.
  3. Heat oil in large oven proof frypan or saute pan, fry onion till soft, add chilli and garlic and fry till soft and golden.
  4. Add chorizo, breaking up limps and fry, add cumin, stir then add rest of ingredients except beans. Cover and simmer on low about 15 minutes.
  5. Stir in beans, cover and simmer another 10 minutes. When sauce is nicely thickened, make a well, break each egg into a cup then slide into each depression. Cover and bake in oven 10- 15 minutes until whites are set.
  6.  Garnish with coriander and serve from dish.
  7. Nice served with crusty bread or toasted Turkish bread to mop up the yummy sauce. Enjoy!

The Best Dutch Apple Pie you will ever eat!!

WEEK 20 – The Netherlands

Known for windmills, tulips, clogs, bicycles, Van Gogh, canals and croquettes. It was voted the fourth happiest country in the world. With a name meaning ‘Low Countries’ because over 50% would be underwater without the help of huge dykes, its the place to be, The Netherlands.

Vincent Van Gogh - Wheat Field with Crows (1890)

Vincent Van Gogh – Wheat Field with Crows (1890)

The Netherlands has 12 provinces on its mainland and various islands located in the Caribbean and being great sea farers it used to rule over 30 different colonies all over the world, including modern day Indonesia, New York, Senegal, Burma and Taiwan.

Its capital city, Amsterdam, is located in the west of the country in the province of North Holland. Amsterdam originated as a small fishing village in the 12th century.  Its name comes from Amstelredamme which describes it as a dam of the river Amstel. It contains 2 UNESCO World Heritage Listed places, the 17th-century canals throughout Amsterdam and the 19–20th century Defence Line of Amsterdam.  The Defence Line is a 135 km long ring of 42 forts around Amsterdam, the line took 40 years to complete and almost right its completion they were discarded as a tool because of the introduction of tanks and aeroplanes.

Amsterdam from above

Amsterdam from above

DUTCH CUISINE

Dutch cuisine is simple and rustic. Traditionally breakfast and lunch are very similar, you would have bread with toppings (cold cuts, cheeses and sweet toppings; such as hagelslag, vlokken, muisjes, chocolate spread, treacle and peanut butter) and for dinner meat, potatoes and seasonal vegetables. In terms of cuisines The Netherlands’ are often divided 3 regions:

An advertisement for a quick snack

An advertisement for a quick snack

Northeastern; Groningen, Friesland, Drenthe, Overijssel and North Gelderland: Dominated by meat and meat products, the region is famous for their dried metworst sausages and succulent smoked rookworst sausages, sausages are eaten with other popular side dishes or as a snack food. The region is also fond of their sweets and pastries. 

Western;  North Holland, South Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht and the Gelderlandic region of Betuwe: This region is on the foodie map for its dairy products, particularly for their cheeses; Gouda, Leyden and Edam. Whereas the district of Zaanstreek in North Holland are known for their mayonnaise and mustards. Fish and seafood are popular with raw herring being a favourite as well as mussels, eel, oysters, shrimp and Kibbeling (battered white fish).

Southern;  North-Brabant and Limburg and the Flemish Region in Belgium: Also known as Burgudian, this region’s cuisine is characterised by soups, stews and rich pastries and represents the traditional Dutch cuisine. It is the only region that has developed a haute cuisine which is evident in their restaurants.

A Bossche Bol from Brabant (Southern region)

A Bossche Bol from Brabant (Southern region)

WHAT I MADE

Dutch apple pie comes in two styles either with a crumb topping (appelkruimeltaart) or a lattice style pie (appeltaart). I decided on appeltaart since this is the one I’ve grown up eating and my personal favourite. The origin of apple pie in The Netherlands dates back to the Dutch Golden Age and can be seen in a painting from 1626 also an almost identical recipe to the modern one was first used in a cookbook from the late medieval era (around 1514). I sourced my recipe from → mylittleexpatkitchen which they adapted from Dutch Cooking.

RECIPE

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours

Serves: 8-10

Ingredients

For  Filling:

  • 1 kg tart apples, like Goudrenet (if you can get) or Granny Smith (which I used)
  • Juice of 1 medium-sized lemon, freshly squeezed
  • 70 g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 50 g raisins (I used sultanas)

For Dough:

  • 175 g unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing the pan
  • 175 g all-purpose flour
  • 175 g self-raising flour
  • 175 g caster sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ tsp lemon zest, freshly grated
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • Pinch of salt

 

  • 1 Tbsp dried breadcrumbs

For Glaze

  • 70 g apricot jam
  • 30 ml (2 Tbsp) rum (or water)

To Serve

  • Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream for serving
  • Ground cinnamon for sprinkling over the top

Method

Preparation
Put the raisins in a small bowl along with a cup of hot water and let them soak for 15 minutes.

Prepare the filling
In the meantime, in a large bowl, add the lemon juice. Start peeling, coring and cutting the apples into small pieces, placing them in the bowl as you go. Stir them around in the lemon juice every once in a while, so that they don’t discolor.
Drain the raisins, squeeze them with your hands and add them to the bowl along with the sugar and cinnamon. Mix well with a wooden spoon or spatula. Set bowl aside.

Butter the bottom and sides of a 22 cm spring-form pan (7 cm deep), generously. Preheat your oven to 180-185 degrees Celsius.

Prepare the dough
In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl), beat the butter on medium speed with the paddle attachment (or with your hand-held mixer), until softened and creamy, for 1-2 minutes. Sift all-purpose and self-raising flour directly into the bowl and add the sugar, salt, lemon zest, water and the egg. Mix all the ingredients with your hands and knead until you have a smooth, shiny, soft yet pliable dough that’s not sticking to your hands. It will come together very quickly and easily. If it’s too dry, add a teaspoon of water and if it’s sticky, add a little bit of all-purpose flour.

Cut off a third of the dough and leave it aside.
Take the rest of the dough, shape it into a ball and place it in the middle of the spring-form pan. Using the back of your hand, press the dough over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. The dough should come up to 2/3 of the height of the pan. Try to spread the dough as evenly as possible.

Sprinkle the base of the pastry case with the dried breadcrumbs, which are used to soak up the juices from the apples, so that the base doesn’t become soggy.ix the filling once more with a spoon or spatula and empty it into the pan. It should fill the whole pastry case.

Take the piece of dough you left aside and divide it into smaller pieces. Roll each piece into long, thin round strips and use them to decorate the tart, lattice style. Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 45-50 minutes, until the crust takes on a golden-brown color.

Prepare apricot glaze
Ten minutes before the pie is ready, prepare the glaze by putting the apricot jam and the rum (or water) in a small saucepan. Heat the jam over medium heat, until it comes to the boil and then immediately remove from the heat.

When the apple pie is ready, take it out of the oven and immediately glaze it, using a pastry brush. Allow the pie to slightly cool inside the pan and then remove the sides of the pan. Allow to cool completely and if you want, move the pie onto a platter or cake stand.

The pie is eaten either warm or at room temperature. Serve with a dollop or two of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and sprinkled with a little ground cinnamon. It is best eaten the day you make it, as well as the following day. It can be kept at room temperature, covered, for 2 days (3 tops) but as the days pass, the crust will become softer and more cake-like.

The photos on My Little Expat Kitchen were detailed and really helped me in making my appeltaart so I have provided them below.

Preparing the filling

Preparing the filling

Making the dough

Making the dough

Constructing the taart and once its cooked

Constructing the taart and once its cooked

This recipe made the best appeltaart I have ever ever had! It was delicious, the dough was buttery and sweet , the appel filling had just the right amount of spice and  lemon and with a large dollop of freshly whipped cream it was straight from heaven! I highly recommend trying this recipe and also checking out other recipes from My Little Expat Kitchen. Here’s what my appeltaart looked like, I must say I was pretty proud! Score 10/10

DSCN9480

A big slice with whipped cream is the right way to end an evening

DSCN9472

 

 

Jerk chicken from The Bahamas packs a punch!

WEEK 21- The Bahamas 

Quick – what do you think of when you think of The Bahamas? Sunbathing on superb white sandy beaches, gently lapped by an impossibly blue, blue sea,  lined with palm trees? then you’d be right, The Bahamas is the original tropical island paradise, in fact one of the 700 islands is called Paradise.

Aerial view of Atlantis, AQUAVENTURE, The Cove and The Reef

Aerial view of Atlantis Resort

Where is it and a bit of history

Located in the Atlantic, north of Cuba and east of Florida Cays, The Bahamas is a sprawling group of islands and cays located on a massive coral reef system. The Bahamas was where Christopher Columbus made landfall in the new world in 1492, probably on San Salvador. It became a British colony in 1718, who worked hard to eliminate its unsavoury reputation from piracy on the high seas and such infamous buccaneers as Blackbeard. Later it became a dumping ground for slaves and those descendants make up 90% of the population today.

The Bahamas

The Bahamas

The Bahamas became an independent country in 1973 while still retaining its Commonwealth membership. Tourism and finance are it’s two main sources of income. Nassau the capital is a buzzing bustling place of cruise-ship stopovers, dubious off-shore banking, big-time duty-free shopping and crazy cabs called jitney’s.

What to see and do

The Bahamas is all about that fabulous water, with sun-bathing, swimming and all water sports at the top of the list along with cruising, shopping and partying on with sunset drinks at beach side shacks. There are some gracious pastel Georgian style old government buildings in Nassau and , a couple of really fascinating museums like the pirate museum and is right next door to the incredible Atlantis Paradise resort and water park.

Pirate Museum Nassau

Pirate Museum Nassau

This a huge themed water park spread over 41 acres and features a transparent water slide down through a shark infested tank! Awesome! All the resorts towering high-rise stuck on tiny sandy atolls are a bizarre sight themselves. Top of the list of must see is the  truly spectacular Thunderball Grotto (from the James Bond Film of the same name) the eerie Andros Blue Holes and the Blue Lagoon.

Blue Hole

Andros Islands Blue hole

Bahamian Cuisine

The food of The Bahamas reflects it’s location with an emphasis on its beautiful fresh seafood and coral reef fish, the conch in many different forms such as ceviche (raw seafood or fish ‘cooked in citrus juice) , escabeche (fish cooked lightly first then pickled), fritters, chowder or salads – is the national dish. Typical tropical crops such as coconut, taro, yams and sweet potato are traditionally grown, along with tomatoes and celery. Pidgeon peas, rice and peas are staples.

fruits

Tropical fruits

Popular flavourings obviously include the native chilli, allspice, cinnamon along with  fresh coriander, rum, native limes and garlic. Many varieties of exotic tropical fruits are used in both sweet and savoury dishes as well as many drinks. Mangoes, pineapple, guava, pawpaw, bananas, soursop and sapodilla and native limes.

 

 Chicken, pork and goat are the favoured meats and sometimes iguana!

Rum is king here, including an unusual coconut infused variety, cocktails with tropical fruits are big, a native limeade and locally brewed beer plus a liqueur – Nassau Royale made by Bicardi , a sweet rum base spiced with coconut and vanilla.

 

 JERK CHICKEN                         Serves – 4-6

 

Ingredients

  • I lime, juice & finely grated rind
  • 8 chicken legs or thigh fillets
  • 2 tsp McCormicks Cajun spice mix ( see below)
  • 1 hot red chilli, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp g allspice
  • 1 tsp coarsely ground pepper
  • 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3 tb dark brown sugar
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 spring onions /scallions, chopped
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 tb fresh ginger, chopped
  • 1 tb soy sauce
  • 2 tsp chicken stock/bouillon powder
  • Salt

Instructions

  1. Pat chicken dry. Rub with lime juice and 2 teaspoons creole spice
  2. Heat oil in a frypan/sauté pan over medium heat, add onion, chilli, & garlic, sauté about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add nutmeg, brown sugar, allspice, cinnamon and continue stirring until the sugar melts and the mixture starts to clump together.
  4. Remove from the heat and let it cool
  5. Place in a food processor or blender, then add rest of ingredients. Pulse for about 30 seconds until well blended
  6. Cover the chicken with jerk marinate, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight. Use gloves to rub mix into chicken.
  7. Preheat oven to 220°C/ 425°F. Drain chicken, reserve the marinade, place on a wire rack if possible,  over a lined baking tray, or on lined tray in a single layer.
  8. Bake chicken until cooked through and skin is crispy, about 30-50 minutes, turn chicken half way through.
  9. Simmer the remaining marinade for about 7 minutes till thickened. Serve with chicken.

Cajun or creole spice mix, if you can’t find this blend, you can make a simple version of your own –

  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tsp fresh gr, black pepper
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tb + 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp salt

Mix all together. Will keep well.

Rice n Beans 

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup oil
  • 2 garlic clove crushed
  • ½ medium onion, diced
  • 2 teaspoons creole spice
  • 2 cups uncooked long grain/jasmine rice
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme or ½ tsp dried thyme
  • 400 ml can  (1¾ cups) coconut milk
  • 400 gm can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chicken stock powder/bouillon (optional)
  • 1 whole red chilli (optional)
  • 1 teaspoons paprika

Instructions

  1. Rinse rice three times & drain.
  2. Heat oil in a medium  saucepan, add onions, garlic, thyme, and hot chilli, sauté for a minute.
  3. Stir in rice for 1 minute, add beans, then add rest of ingredients with 1 cup of water.
  4. Bring to a boil reduce heat, and cover. Simmer on low 12 minutes until tender.
  5. Don’t take lid off to check until 12 minutes. surface should be pocked if cooked. If too wet,  leave with lid on 10 minutes to dry out. If too dry and rice still hard, add little bit of extra water, cover and cook 5 more minutes on low.
  6. Stir gently to serve. Can be cooked half an hour ahead and will stay hot covered on stove top.

Jerk Chicken & Rice'n Beans

This tasty rice was yummy enough to enjoy on its own, but with the delicious jerk chicken was really terrific. We all enjoyed this meal, the chicken was particularly good and we would happily have this dish again. In future I’d make sure to marinate extra chicken , be great in a salad, on a sandwich, or tossed with fried rice.  Score 8.5/10

An ancient bread : Injera from Eritrea and Zigni

ERITREA : Wholemeal Flatbread with Spicy Beef Stew

“Oh no” my son groaned – “not more African food!” Not much can be done about it, there just are an awful lot of African countries! So in our quest to cook from every country in the world, African food will feature a lot obviously.  However this meal was a surprise, very spicy (which we like) and the bread was delicious.

History

Eritrea wasn’t on the maps when I was growing up, then it was part of Ethiopia (which my mum called Abyssinia) but became a separate country in 1993. The modern name comes from early Greek meaning Red Sea, once part of the fabled Land of Punt in the horn of Africa. That’s the hook that sticks out into the Red Sea opposite Arabia.

Known as the cradle of (human) life, many ancient kingdoms have risen and fallen in and around this area. After 1869 and ‘the scramble for Africa’ Italy claimed this territory and it became Italian Eritrea in 1880.  A legacy of that time is the wonderful Italianate architecture in the capital city Asmara.

Danakil Depression Dallol

Now sadly Eritrea is a little visited place, due to on-going hostilities with Ethiopia (who may possibly want some of their coastline back)  and Djibouti. Eritrea has a long coastline, and in a world first in 2006, made the entire length an environmental protected zone.  Wildlife is protected and is rich and varied, with lots of large animals like lions, leopards, elephants, wild ass, oryx, jackals, gazelles and baboons.

Landscapes

Keren

Eritrea is a volcanic hot-spot, where three tectonic plates meet, giving the dramatic Martian landscapes of the Dankalia region with psychedelic sulphurous pools, and the impressive Danakil Depression, one of the hottest and lowest places on earth, with virtually no rain, Never-the-less it was where ‘Lucy’ the 3.2 million year old hominid the earliest ever. was discovered.

Sharing part of the Great Rift, there are awesome mountains in the south, and thick tropical jungle in the cooler fertile highlands.

Dahlak Islands

Coral Reef off Dahlak Islands

Cuisine

Obviously the traditional food of Eritrea is very similar to Ethiopia and Somalia, using lots of spices and tomatoes but less butter. A huge favourite is the herb and spice paste Berbere, which is eaten with just about everything. Basic foods are flat-breads (injera)  made from teff, sorghum, barley or wheat, and grains cooked like porridge (akelet) .

Legumes especially lentils and fava beans and vegetables are also key staples and the meats are beef, goat, lamb and near the coast, fish. Milk products like yogurt and fresh cheeses also feature and  spicy meat and vegetable stews known as sebhi are the main type of dish.

Drinks are a beer  brewed from corn and barley and flavoured with wild buckthorn (sowa) and mies a sweet wine made from  honey. Coffee preparation and serving has a very important ceremony and is drunk in enormous quantities.

Injera

INJERA

Ingredients

  • 125 gm wholemeal flour and 125 gm white flour
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 pinch baking soda
  • 2 cups warm water
  • ½ teaspoon of salt

Preparation

  1. Process all ingredients except salt for 1 minute
  2. Add salt and whizz again for 15 seconds.
  3. Let mix stand covered for 30 minutes in warm, or in fridge for 48 hours if possible to ferment slightly.
  4. Heat a nonstick frypan or griddle on medium high, add a dribble of oil. Pour a small ladle of batter for each injera and swirl mixture quickly with the back of a spoon to spread it out.
  5. Cook on one side for 1 minute 30 seconds to 2 minutes, turn to brown other side. Keep warm

Mimsey’s Zigni with Injera

ZIGNI: Spicy Beef Stew

Ingredients

  • 500 gm beef mince
  • 1 x 400 gm tin diced tomatoes in juice, not drained
  • 3 spring onions/scallions sliced
  • 1 red capsicum, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves,  chopped
  • 4 tablespoons berbere (recipe below)
  • 1 bunch coriander/cilantro, chopped
  • 5 tablespoons oil
  • Salt
  1. Heat oil in medium frypan or saute pan over medium-high heat. add the beef mince and brown.
  2. Add the onions, garlic and cook till softened. Add capsicum and cook 2 minutes.
  3. Add the berbere and mix well and cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Adding the tomatoes and their juice, season lightly, reduce heat and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.
  5. Five minutes before serving,mix in the chopped coriander.
Berbere

Berbere Spices

BERBERE

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 ½ tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 8 cardamom seeds
  • ½ teaspoon of white pepper
  • 2 cloves
  • ½ teaspoon ground fenugreek
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon

Method

  1. In a small heavy frypan, toast the whole spices on low for 2 minutes till fragrant.
  2. Allow to cool, grind to a fine powder
  3. In the pan, put all the ground spices and salt and toast on low heat for 1 minute.
  4. Add garlic, onion, salt and water, gradually, stirring constantly. Mix well.
  5. Add the ground spice mixture, stir thoroughly and cook over very low heat for 15 minutes, then blend to a smooth paste.

All this took quite a while to make, so my advice is to make the Berbere spice paste one day and the Injera dough if you want, and then make the beef stew the next day and cook the injera too. We were surprised how spicy this dish was, and it was very tasty, particularly with the flatbread which really was delicious. We liked it enough to have it again, a rare accolade indeed. Score: 7/10