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