Saturday, February 13, 2016

India

Colorful Fishing Trawlers
Picture from the state of Kerala, India courtesy of user Thangaraj Kumaravel on Flickr.

India has an incredibly long and rich history which I could not do justice in this blog. Suffice to say there are a lot of influences in India and it influences the world. It is in Southern Asia and is the seventh biggest country in the world. It is slightly more than a third the size of the US. The World Factbook lists at least 13 spoken languages. It has the second highest population in the world at over 1.2 billion. Read more!

India is a country I've been looking forward to since starting this journey. I had some grand plans. Different recipes from different parts of the country! Sharing food with friends! Finding some amazing curries!

I got some of this done. I did multiple Indian recipes, but not necessarily from widely varying areas. Instead I asked some people I know that either lived in India for a while or had Indian ties to send me some recipes and I tries some of those. I would love to do more later but I eventually realized I had to move on or I would never get past it. So these definitely aren't representative of the whole country, but it's a start.

First up was Chicken Biryani suggested by my friend Sadie. She said she ate this in Kerala, a southern Indian state on the coast.
Rice from India. Good start.
Right from the start I didn't have curry paste. I had curry powder. I added water to it. Correct? I don't really know.

Also, cooking with kids is sometimes a bit difficult. The solution is to strap them to you!


Anyway, this recipe had a fairly standard beginning. Fry some onion and spices in butter. Was this the first thing people learned how to cook? Because it seriously seems to be global.


Okay! Turmeric, chicken, and curry paste as a go. This one really ended up being pretty easy.


Sadie sent me a recipe for homemade bread, but we just used some naan from Costco. This stuff is seriously amazing.


I got a little worried when it wanted me to add the rice and raisins but then only cook for five minutes plus ten minutes of sitting off of the heat. What kind of rice cooks that quickly?

Apparently basmati. Other recipes we found had similar cooking times. Amazing! I still have some leftover from that bag, but I'll have to see when I need some more quick rice.

This time I realized that coriander meant cilantro and actually put in the right stuff.


We ignored the almonds because I wanted Kevin to eat it.


Everyone liked this one. The girls devoured it. Definitely a nice solid dish. It wasn't what I would generally consider "Indian" but again that is like saying jambalaya isn't American because all you've had are burgers. A little bit sweeter than I was used to and a little bit less saucy. There wasn't much that was spicy in there and there was no yogurt, so that accounts for a lot of it.

Pretty solid start to India. We're not done!

Next time: India the Second

Friday, February 5, 2016

Iceland

iceland
Photo of the Aurora in Iceland courtesy of Flickr user Moyan Brenn via Creative Commons
Iceland is an island in Northern Europe, northwest of the UK. It has been fully independent since 1944, and also had three hundred years of independence starting in the 900's. It is about the same size as Kentucky and has a population of over 300,000. It has very high literacy, longevity, and social cohesion. Read more at the CIA World Factbook.

I knew that Iceland was going to be difficult. An island nation does not mesh well with a fish allergy. When I saw that fermented shark, Hakarl, was the national dish it was off to a bad start. They traditionally made use of all parts of an animal, so I found a number of references to Svio, or boiled lambs head. I had to go in a different direction.

After some searching, I found an Icelandic Asparagus Ham Bake. It seemed kinda like making a frittata which was familiar enough but definitely had some new stuff going on too. It claims to be very popular in Iceland.

I used fresh asparagus instead of canned, so I didn't have any of those "juices" to add to the torn bread pieces. I'm not even sure I knew I could get canned asparagus.


I used my normal Costco wheat bread and the liquid from the mushrooms to create a mush. This was definitely something new. The eggs just made it more gooey.


Next was the cream cheese, mayo, ham, and veggies. I think around now I decided it most definitely wasn't a frittata. The eggs were not the main deal here. Also the asparagus didn't break up a ton, probably because they were fresh instead of canned. I did what I could.


After being topped with cheese and baked, this is how it came out. Hmm, back to the frittata estimation again? At least it doesn't look unappetizing!


No, starfruit is not a traditional Icelandic fruit. However, we have been letting Brendan pick out a new fruit or vegetable when we go to the store so we can all expand our palettes, hoping that if he picks it out he will be more likely to try it. That particular experiment has mixed results.

This "experiment" into Icelandic cooking, however, was not so great. The texture was bizarre. Soggy bread plus cream cheese really just didn't meld too well here. It wasn't inedible, but the leftovers got ignored. And ignored. In fact, none of it seemed to go well. Maybe canned asparagus is the secret? If so, that is not what I would have expected.

Everyone loved the starfruit though. That was a good choice, Brendan!

Next time: The saga of India begins.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Hungary

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Dennis Jarvis via Creative Commons
Hungary is a Central European country about the same size as Indiana. It is landlocked and the capital is Budapest. For more information, see the CIA World Factbook.

I knew what I wanted to do for Hungary before I ever got there. Goulash. I remember loving it when my grade school served that for hot lunch (although, in retrospect, it was probably "American Goulash.") My in-laws mentioned it when they visited Hungary. The World Factbook even calls their liberalizing their economy "Goulash Communism." There really was no choice here.

Best yet, my in-laws brought some paprika back from Hungary for me, so when the recipe called for Hungarian paprika I could definitively check it off the list.
And in Hungarian!
Somehow when I put this recipe into my meal planner (Plan To Eat...if you're interested, let me know!) it doubled the recipe, so I double-bought a lot of things. Like parsnips. Which is a fairly new vegetable for me.

Brendan helped by chopping these babies up. He just has a butter knife, but it worked quite well. He thinks it is pretty fun. My plan is to have him not have some of the normal "bachelor cooking problems" a lot of people have when they leave home. Chopping parsnips at 3 has to help, right?


Cooking the recipe was relatively straight-forward. Onion and paprika, then meat, then start adding some flavor.

It said, however, that it wanted the meat to turn white. I'm not sure what was up with that. Mine didn't. It was brown. Like beef normally does.



It had my favorite kind of instructions: vague. "You’ll probably have to add some more (2-3 cups) water too." And what is a celery leaf?

I did have a fresh green pepper from the garden. Yay veggies!


I did not make the csipetke noodles (they were optional anyway) but did homemade bread in the bread maker instead.

To give you an idea of how long ago this was, we ate outside.


The goulash was meh. Nothing great. It kinda felt like cooked meat in tomato-water. It didn't really gel together or anything like that. Nothing melded and the broth was really really weak. I don't think we ended up eating all of the leftovers.

I'm sure goulash in Hungary is delicious. Anyone that wants to fund my research on this supposition, I am all ears.

Next time: Iceland

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Recap #3 51-75

These children weren't born when I started this set. Here we are training them to take over. They'll be cooking the meals themselves by L or so
We're going to do this despite the ridiculousness of lumping these all together.

I posted 51, Dominican Republic, in August of 2012. That's over three years ago. Three years, guys. I cooked it even before that. Since doing the cooking, I have had three children. We moved from Virginia to Michigan and I went from working to "staying home." Life is not at all recognizable from then.

Stats

-Hit all six natively inhabited continents. Woo!
Africa (9): Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau
Asia (2): East Timor, Georgia
Europe (5): Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece
North America (6): Dominican RepublicEl Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras
Oceania (1): Fiji
South America (2): EcuadorGuyana,
-Five speciality posts: Danielle Hetzel's BlogFrance Again, More Georgia, Germany The Failure, Greece 2,
-Started Everyday International with these posts: Everyday International, Spaghetti alla Carbonara, Sweet and Sour Chicken

Thoughts

There are a lot of things that I don't even remember about some of these countries. Kevin and I went through and took note of which ones we remembered in either a good or bad way and that is making up my Best and Worst lists this time. I really don't have much more to add. Sorry. We're just going to keep going though!

Top Recipes
Equatorial Guinea (2)
Eritrea (1)
France (1)
France Again (1)
Germany (1)
Ghana (1)
Greece (2)
Haiti (2)

Least Favorites
Ecuador (1)
El Salvador (1)
Georgia (2)
Guinea (2)

Next 25

My biggest goal: take less than three years. I've already cooked a few. And everyone should get excited about I. That letter is going to rock.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Everyday China: Sweet and Sour Chicken

I once had someone that had taught English in China tell me that Sweet and Sour Chicken was one of the more authentic foods that people in America consider Chinese. Who knew, right? Whether this is true or not, I know that I find it delicious. So how do you get it other than takeout? Very differently than I would have thought.

I originally found the recipe here, but now I notice it points back to another site with different proportions. I think I'll be using the original next time, and you'll see why!

The sauce is made by whisking apple cider vinegar, ketchup, soy sauce, sugar, and garlic powder. My initial credulity was ketchup. Really? But ketchup originated in Asia. This is one reason why you can find it spelled differently different places, since it was being translated from a different alphabet. So I call possibly legit.

With the sauce ready, I took cut-up chicken and seasoned them then stirred them around with some cornstarch. The original recipe says that they toss it all in a bag. I will be trying that next time.

I also doubled this recipe, and noticed that the original has way more meat the the same amount of sauce. I will be trying that too.

You're supposed to dip the chicken individually into egg after the cornstarch. Ain't nobody got time for that. I did it in batches and then pulled them out with a fork.

Your coated chicken then gets flash-fried, just enough to get your crispy outside. I also had to do this in batches since they wouldn't all fit in the pan together. After a minute or two, the chicken sits on some paper-towels to get the excess oil off, then right into a baking dish. Next batch!

After all of the chicken has been fried, you pour on the sweet and sour sauce and bake for an hour. Yeah, an hour. Then you look at your mound of dishes. This is certainly the downside of this one.



I simultaneously cooked some rice in the rice cooker. The hardest part is waiting for this to be done. You can just taste it in the air the whole time.

Just thinking about this has me putting it on the meal plan for next week. So delicious. In addition to the changes I mentioned above, I'm also hoping to add some pineapple and maybe bell peppers next time. And maybe make a quadruple batch. This stuff doesn't last long around here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Honduras

Honduras is in Central America bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean. It is slightly larger than Tennessee and has almost 9 million people. The official language is Spanish and the capital is Tegucigalpa. It is one of the poorest countries in Latin America with the world's highest murder rate. Read more at the CIA World Factbook.

Sometimes it is really hard to decide what recipe to do for a country. There are too many options, or nothing out there are all. Then there are the countries where you do a search and Carne Asada comes up and you don't need to look anymore.

There were, of course, multiple versions of the recipe, so I did have to do some deciding. I ended up with this recipe from a blog doing the same thing that I am. Hello fellow world cooker!

Kevin's parents came to visit us in early September, so it seemed like a good time to plan this one. The weather was great and we had company, so why not make something delicious?

Flank steak is much nicer than the normal cut of meat I get so I really didn't want to mess it up.

This beauty got marinated in orange juice, garlic, and some other spices. The orange juice surprised me, but it was very consistent across different versions of the recipe I found. Maybe this is the integral ingredient?

One of the other ingredients was Worcestershire sauce. Did you know it has anchovies in it? I didn't until Brendan was diagnosed with his fish allergy. He has never had a reaction to this or Caesar dressing before so we don't think it is triggered by anchovies but we're usually still cautious. I put a little in, but less than what the recipe wanted.

The meat marinated in the fridge and I went to make the chimol that the recipes recommends, which is basically a fresh salsa like pico de gallo. Unfortunately I can't find the recipe I used, but it called for lots of coriander. I know that coriander and cilantro are used interchangeably at times. But when I put this all into my list I didn't make that connection. Instead I saw coriander, knew I had the spice, and didn't buy any. And fresh salsa without cilantro is...not fresh salsa. Instead we used the stuff Kevin and I had just canned recently.

Okay, time to grill the marinated meat! Steak on, sizzling, great! About two minutes later: nothing. We are out of gas. Whomp whomp.
We got no farther than this
We did the rest with the broiler in our oven. That was a little sad. Luckily it was still gorgeous out so at least we could eat outside even if not cook there.
It actually cooked up really nicely.
We ate outside almost every day over the summer. Do you know how much easier it is to clean up when you can just sweep everything off of the deck?

The carne asada was good. Really, truly good. But not spend-that-much-money-on-a-cut-of-meat good. The flavor was really subtle. I understand that you want that with good meat, but this didn't seem to bring out the best in the meat.

Again, it was really good to eat. And obviously we had some cooking problems. We didn't get the grill sear or anything else like that. I'm sure that makes a difference in true carne asada. Maybe fresh-squeezed, heavily-pulped orange juice would help too. But it is probably not something I will be making on my own again soon.

Next country: Hungary

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Haiti

Haiti, along with the Dominican Republic, is one of the two countries on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. Haiti declared independence from France in 1804, making it one of the first post-colonial nations. It is currently considered the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

French and Creole are the official languages. The country is slightly smaller than Maryland, with over 10 million citizens. Port-au-Prince is the capital. Read more at the CIA World Factbook.

I have never been to Haiti, but feel a slight connection. In high school, one of my close friends and her family went there often to help on medical mission trips. More recently, my little brother Patrick has gone two years in a row to help do some work there too. I have art up in the house that they have brought back for me and I have heard plenty of stories. I would love to go someday and try to help and get to know the people as well.

I reached out for some help on what I should make for Haiti. Might as well go to the people that have actually been there, right? They agreed on three things: fried plantain, rice and beans, and Poulet Aux Noix (Chicken with Cashew Nuts). They also agreed they hadn't ever actually seen them served with cashews, probably because of cost.

With their approval I went with this version of the recipe, excluding the cashews. I also got some plantains to fry, but skipped the rice and beans so as to head off unnecessary stress. We've done those a few times.
Washing a chicken with a lime was different but kinda made sense to me. I don't know how much flavor it imparted, but it can't hurt, right?

This recipe had my least favorite thing: estimating. It told me the spices in a blend, but not the proportions. I just had to make it up. I had some fresh thyme and parsley growing on the deck so those made up some good volume, but from there used random amounts of everything else to make up the difference. Four tablespoons is a lot.


That marinated for a while and then got cooked in a Dutch oven - no liquid or anything added. After that, I removed everything from the pan, cooked some tomato paste for a bit, then put the chicken back in. It seemed like a bit more back and forth than was strictly necessary.

This tomato paste is great for when you just need a small amount!
 From there I added everything else, including the optional hot pepper straight from the garden!

Overabundant serrano plant for the win!

While that finished cooking, Brendan helped me slice the plantains and then sprinkle them with cinnamon. We (well, technically me) then fried them in some coconut oil.



 Once the chicken was cooked, I served it over some brown rice and let everyone dig in!


Kevin: "Cook this again!" Yeah, it was really delicious. The chicken was moist and tasty and just good overall. And I even think I could modify the recipe a little bit to reduce some of the back and forth to make it a more weeknight-friendly dish.

The girls really liked the plantains. I liked plantains when I was in the Caribbean but have never found that magic here. I don't know if it is the cooking techniques or the freshness of the produce, but it just hasn't been the same.

Well this has certainly increased my desire to go to Haiti. Yum!

Next time: Honduras