Sunday, 28 September 2014

G for Georgia

Dee:  “There was a great web site containing all the food recipes we needed for tonight’s meal, and featured plenty more that we’d both like to try out in the future.  I found Georgian cuisine to contain elements of Turkish, Russian and Armenian cuisines, but also with a character of its own.  There were lots of tomatoes and lots of walnuts used in the dishes we selected, and the watermelon came as a surprise to me.  The ingredients were mostly readily available and the recipes were easy to follow, although they took some time to prepare.  I started the melon dish yesterday and the marinated peppers two days ago.  Before selecting the recipes I was expecting Georgian cuisine to be strongly spiced with lots of thick sauces and boiled potatoes but the overall flavours were quite subtle, with only a few spices being used, allowing the other ingredients to hold their own.  It’s definitely a cuisine that we will return to.”

All food recipes from 'Georgian Recipes':  Link
Tea from 'Nothing but Tea':  Link

Chakhokhbili with Walnuts
Dee:  “The chicken in this dish was poached in the wine rather than being fried.  We used skinless breast rather than a jointed chicken but it still tasted great, and the walnuts, tomatoes and herbs made a tasty sauce which the bread went well with.”

Georgian Salad with Nuts
Dee:  “A nice big chunky salad which made a change from the finely chopped salads that I usually go for.  The walnut puree that accompanied it gave it a unique character.”

Lobiani (Bean Bread)
Dee:  “This bread took a few attempts to get right but fortunately I achieved a result that I was happy with on the fourth and final one.  It worked best by rolling out two separate discs, spreading the bean puree on one of them, laying the other on top then cooking the whole thing in a pan.  This isn’t what the recipe described for the method, so it may not be one hundred per cent authentic but it looked and tasted good.  It is a very filling bread so after halving the ingredients listed on the web site we made four small loaves and served up half of one each, which was plenty.”

Marinated Hot Peppers
Dee:  “These were supposed to be served as a salad or side dish, but they were still retaining their fire when I sampled a bit of one, so I just deseeded and chopped a couple of the smaller ones up and used them as a garnish to the chicken dish.”

Georgian Old Gentleman Tea
Dee:  “The ‘Nothing But Tea’ web site sells a number of Georgian teas but I have only sampled this one so far as I liked it the first time I tried it and have ordered it a couple of times since.  The write up for it on the web site says it can take milk, but I much prefer it black.  It has a unique, earthy and slightly woody kind of flavour which is not to everyone’s taste but it went well with tonight’s meal.”

Melon Muraba
Dee:  “This was a labour of love as it took a long time to prepare.  Despite the huge amount of sugar needed for the syrup in which the watermelon pieces were submerged, it was not overly sweet and the flavour of the cinnamon (less so the cardamom and clove) was noticeable.  The watermelon pieces retained a slight crunch which I’m not sure is correct as the recipe says it can be used as a jam.  It went together very well with the thick yoghurt that we served it with.  There was lots of syrup left over so we’ve bottled that to drizzle over fruit, yoghurt and pancakes at breakfast time.”

Soundtrack:  Georgia: Rustavi Choir and Duduki Trio
Dee:  “Most of this album was vocal and sounded to me to be very much like Byzantine and Eastern Orthodox choral music.  People either like this or they don’t.  It’s as simple as that.  The final few tracks however were instrumental and it was a shame that they were hidden away at the end of the album as they were very beautiful pieces played on what I guess are traditional instruments.  It’s difficult for me to describe them without resorting to clichés about the sounds transporting the listener on a journey along the silk road with the spice caravans.  They would have been perfect music to accompany the meal but we’d finished by the time they came on.  In conclusion then, I liked the album a lot, but would have arranged the running order differently in order to mix the instrumental tracks in with the vocal.”

Next week:  H is for Hawaii

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Ready for the Macmillan Coffee Morning

Dee:  "Tomorrow is  the World's biggest Coffee Morning, organised by the Macmillan Cancer Support Charity:  see here for details  so we've contributed a couple of bakes.

Apple Cake

Raspberry and White Chocolate Brownies

Recipes are ones that we had saved from old Sainsbury's Magazines.  The samples we tried were positive, so I hope they're well received."

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

F for Finland

Dee:  “While looking for some suitable recipes to represent Finnish cuisine I found out that it had received a bad press from non-Finns who had sampled it.  England has a similar reputation, so I felt like this was something I wanted to make work.  I discovered a number of recipes which included reindeer meat but there was no way I’d have been able to get hold of any of that without putting a special order in, and its closest local alternative, venison, wasn’t readily available either, so I decided to go for the vegetarian option.  There must be vegetarians in Finland.  The dishes were simple to prepare and tasted great, so I’ll just disregard the nay-sayers.”

Finnish Flatbread
Dee:  “Although this bread has broadly the same ingredients as a soda bread, it is made differently and has a different taste and texture.  It is a dense bread, and the sugar really comes through in the flavour.  However, it is certainly a bread to have with savoury dishes, and proved ideal for soaking up the sauces and salad dressing.”

Korvasienimuhennos (Mushroom Stew)
Dee:  “I did a simplified version of the recipe above and had to use button mushrooms instead of morels.  Basically I fried up an onion until softened, then added a sliced garlic clove and continued to fry for about 30 seconds, then added the quartered mushrooms and cooked them until their juices evaporated.  I then let the mixture cool down a little before stirring in some sour cream and chopped dill, and finally seasoned it with salt and white pepper.”

Kaalilaatikko (Cabbage Box)
Dee:  “I left out the minced meat and used vegetable bouillon instead of beef stock in this recipe and it certainly didn’t suffer for it.  This was a simple dish but was remarkably tasty and filling.”

Rosolli (Beetroot Salad)
Dee:  “This is actually a Christmas dish but it sounded so good I didn’t want to miss out or wait until December to try it.  The dressing looked like it belonged on a cupcake but the mix of textures in the salad vegetables and the sourness of the dressing really worked well together.”

Omenapiirakka (Apple Tart)
Dee:  “The recipe that this is based on is actually for a rhubarb tart, but rhubarb is out of season at the moment.  It’s occasionally on sale in some of the supermarkets, but not this week, so I decided to go with apples instead.  No extra spices, just apples and sugar.  The recipe certainly didn’t suffer for it, and I loved the crumbliness of both the pastry base and the topping.  One of my favourite desserts so far.”

Soundtrack:  Tuomari Nurmio & Köyhien Ystävät – ‘Kohdusta hautaan’
Dee:  “I did a search for the best Finnish album of all time (up to the present day, of course), and this came out on top.  Before hearing it I read up a little on Finnish music and found out that there were several active music scenes including a number of styles of folk music, hip hop and heavy metal, so this album was always going to come as a surprise.  What it turned out to be was a collection of old time sounding Rock n Roll, Country and Western and Blues songs, all sung in Finnish.  The song writing and instrumentation were of a very high standard and the sound was polished and radio friendly.  There was an album made in England in 1990 by the Notting Hillbillies and it reminded me very much of that, though this album predates it by a good ten years.”

Next week:  G is for Georgia.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

E for Ethiopia

Dee:  “I’d read about Ethiopian cuisine but not cooked it, so was looking forward to giving it a go.  The most common dishes I saw mentioned were Injera and Doro Wat, so they went straight onto the list.  Buticha was described as a hummus like dip, so that also went on and I liked the sound of the Ethiopian tomato salad.  The lentils and shiro alecha completed a nice selection of food to sample and we were away.  Four hours later and we were ready.”

Injera (pancake bread)
Dee:  “Injera are huge pancake like flatbreads that are used as an edible tablecloth in Ethiopia, and diners also tear off pieces of them to scoop up the stews and other dishes that are served on top of them.  The correct way of making it is with a grain called Teff, but there was no way I was going to be able to find that, so I had to seek out a substitute.  Also in the pictures of meals that I checked while researching the menu, the injera were huge, and we don’t have any pans large enough to make them authentically, so again we had to compromise.  The taste is supposed to be quite sour, and the texture quite spongy, owing to a sourdough culture that is incorporated into the mixture, so I had to do my best to replicate that.  There is a recipe for an injera in Sally Butcher’s ‘Snackistan’ book, so I used that as a starting point for my version.  I was sure I’d read somewhere that teff tasted a bit like Buckwheat flour, so used some of that in my recipe.  The finished product didn’t turn out too bad, so I don’t mind sharing the recipe;

The following ingredients will make 8 dinner plate sized injera.  We found that two of these were plenty for one person

100g self raising flour
100g buckwheat flour
20g sourdough starter
Large pinch of salt
400g sparkling water

1.       Mix all the ingredients for the batter together in a bowl until there are no lumps
2.       Cost the bottom of a pancake pan with a little oil and heat the pan until it is hot
3.       Turn the heat down a little and add a ladlefull of batter to the pan.  Spread it around until it forms a circle.
4.       As the injera cooks, small holes will start to appear on the top.  When this happens, cover the pan (I used folded tin foil for this) to trap the steam which will help cook the top.
5.       Keep checking the pan.  The injera will be ready when the texture has firmed up.  There is no need to flip it.

Once the injera were done, we served the other dishes on top of them, as shown in the picture below;

So, as you look at the picture, this is what we made;

Top Left corner:  Shiro Alecha (Chick pea flour porridge)

Top Right corner:  Timatim Selata (Ethiopian tomato salad)
Dee:  “Loved this simple but effective salad.  We left out the bread and the oil and enjoyed the sharp tastes from the berbere and vinegar.”

In the middle:  Doro Wat (Chicken Stew)
Recipe from Maeve O’Meara’s book ‘Food Safari’
Dee:  “This took a long long time to cook but was worth the wait.  I think next time I make it though I’ll use slightly less ajwan seeds as they have a very strong flavour.”

Bottom Left corner:  Mesir Wat (Lentil Stew)

Bottom Right corner:  Buticha (Chick Pea puree)

Dee:  “I was very pleased with this meal, and it could well be my favourite since starting this blog.  Although we had a meat based dish included in the meal, I think Ethiopian cuisine is well suited to meat free dining.  In fact, there are certain days in the Ethiopian calendar when eating meat is not allowed.  I loved the way the sauces from the various dishes soaked into the injera.  Although the injera is supposed to be used as edible cutlery, I have to admit that I used a knife and fork for most of the meal.  There’s plenty of it left, so we can enjoy another Ethiopian meal again soon.  I also know there’s an Ethiopian restaurant in Brum called the Blue Nile ( and as they share their name with a brilliant band I think a visit is needed soon.”

Soundtrack:  Shambel Belayneh – ‘Arheebu’
Dee:  “This is an album from 1999 and sounds like a fusion of traditional and modern songs played on synthesizers with electronic percussion.  The songs are all quite long, the shortest coming in at just under 5 minutes, and are generally upbeat with complex melodies.  There were even some of those distinctive cries (ululation?) in some of the songs.  I enjoyed it, and it created the right atmosphere for the meal.”

Next week:  F is for Finland.

Monday, 8 September 2014

D for Dominican Republic

Dee:  “The overriding influence in the dishes tonight was undoubtedly Spanish, and, to a lesser degree, African.  The sauces in both savoury dishes were tomato based and not at all fiery hot or heavily spiced.  The whole meal took a while to prepare and cook but nothing was overly complicated or fussy, and it all looked and tasted great.  We served a salad of tomatoes, red onion, chilli and coriander, and some crusty bread on the side.”

Source for all recipes:  Aunt Clara's Kitchen

Albondigas de Pescado (Fish Balls)
Dee:  “I had to get my hands messy with this one.  I added a few prawns to the fish ball mixture, which wasn’t stipulated in the recipe but the fish available was just short of what was required for the recipe.  As mentioned above, the flavours were subtle and nothing overpowered anything else.”
Jay:  “This was really tasty although I wasn’t so sure about the texture. I think I’d have liked a bit of crunch with it”

Molondron es Guisados (Okra Stew)
Dee:  “This could have been a main dish, but we served it alongside the fish balls.  There is plenty of it left so it will probably make for a good tea alongside some rice.”
Jay:  “my fault for not checking quantities! We’ll be eating this out of the freezer for a while”

Dominican Arepa
Dee:  “I’ve tried Venezuelan Arepas before, but the Dominican Arepa is unrelated and eaten as a dessert dish.  For a simple dish with only a few ingredients, it was absolutely delicious and I’ll certainly be making it again.  Traditionally it is baked in a pot over hot coals, but I managed to do mine in a pie dish in a conventional oven.  Towards the end of the baking time, I put a piece of tin foil over the dish to stop the top from burning.”
Jay:  “I can certainly see us having this one again. Next time a bit warm out of the oven with some ice cream on top.. Yum.”

Soundtrack:  Rita Indiana Y Los Misterios – ‘El Juidero’, followed by a Bachata playlist featuring Romeo Santos, Aventura and Prince Royce
Dee:  “Two very different sides of the modern music from this country.  The Rita Indiana Y Los Myseterios album was of a style I hadn’t heard before.  It’s certainly a far cry from any kind of traditional Latin American music.  Imagine a minimalistic style of electro dance with Latin percussion and up front vocals and you’re fairly close to it.  The album includes a very sultry version of the Eurythmics’ ‘Sweet Dreams (are made of this)’, but my favourites were the slowly building ‘Da pa lo do’ and the album’s closing 15 minute epic ‘Equeibol’.
In stark contrast, the Bachata mix was made up of simple, melodies with intricate guitar and gentle rhythms.  The songs all sounded quite sad and heartfelt.  My favourites on the mix were by Romeo Santos, in particular ‘Que se mueran’ which had a particularly haunting beauty".

Next week E is for Ethiopia.