Recipes from Marche, Italy

For this entry, I made two recipes. Neither of them were especially good, but I don't blame the people who posted the original recipes or any of the traditions they came from, I blame myself and my propensity for Googling things that might kill me.

Recipes from Marche, Italy: Brodetto

A seafood stew with mussels and clams, minus the Vibrio.

Recipes from Marche, Italy: Filone Casereccio

An Italian bread that will come out much better than mine did if you use fresh brewer's yeast and steam.

Recipes from Malta

This is actually the third time I’ve cooked a meal from Malta. The first time, I cooked the meal and then just did not write the blog post. Years went by.

Recipes from Malta: Imqarrun

Imquarrum (also called Imqarrun il-forn) is descended from a dish served in Sicily, but the Maltese have adopted it as a traditional staple. The key to making this dish is to be patient.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Recipes from Hong Kong

Hong Kong is an international city of commerce, which also makes it a place of great culinary wealth. Food in Hong Kong is influenced by China, Japan, Southeast Asia and parts of the Western world, and all that diversity has contributed to a unique cuisine that is worthy of a stop on anyone’s culinary world journey.

I love American Chinese food, but that’s just what it is. Americanized Chinese food, not to be confused with true Chinese cuisine.

Of course, it’s next to impossible to promise that anything I present on this blog is a true representation of any particular cuisine, just based on the difficultly of verifying Internet sources. So now that I’ve said all that stuff about American Chinese food verses authentic Chinese food, someone is probably going to write to me and tell me that I botched Hong Kong.

Anyway the point I was going to make is that I’m learning that I love true Chinese cuisine as much as I love the Americanized stuff, and if this week is any indication of that I may actually love it even more. Because this week’s menu was delicious.

But first things first. Yes, I know, Hong Kong isn’t a country or really a region, either, but you’re used to that with this blog. Hong Kong is a “Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China.” It is also 7 million people stuffed into 426 square miles of land, which makes it one of the most densely populated areas of the world and, in my defense, far more populated than some of the actual countries I’ve done for this blog.

Photo Credit: Flickr User Sprengben

Despite the smog, which we’ve heard a lot about this year, Hong Kong is really a pretty good place to live. It has one of the highest per-capita incomes in the world, one of the best public transportation systems in the world and is highly ranked in economic freedom, quality of life and human development. If that’s not good enough, Hong Kong residents have the highest average IQ score out of 81 different world nations, oh and the longest life expectancy of any region in the world, though I expect that might change if they don’t get the smog under control.

So yes, the food is very Chinese in nature but is also influenced by the western nations that have at one time or another either controlled it (British colonialism and all) or simply had a trade relationship with it. Because Hong Kong is so densely populated, there are a lot of restaurants there, and competition is fierce. Fierce competition amongst restaurants, of course, leads to excellent food, which is really good for everyone isn’t it?

Anyway I did have to do some digging and also some online shopping to put this meal together, because although food from Hong Kong is delicious it doesn’t always contain easy-to-find-in-California ingredients, which is a shame because otherwise I would eat it all the time. So here are the recipes I chose, with the following disclaimer: every recipe in this menu contains soy sauce. This may be a little overly soy-saucy or salty for the average person. You have been warned.

Hong Kong style soy sauce chicken
(this recipe comes from
  • 10 chicken drumsticks, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 8 slices of fresh ginger
  • 6 stalks green onions
  • 1 star anise
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup dark soy sauce *
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 tbsp Shaoxing Wine
  • 2 tbsp rock sugar
*There are two kinds of soy sauce in Chinese cooking: light and dark. “Light” simply refers to the soy sauce we Americans are used to and can find in any supermarket. “Dark” soy sauce is thicker and sweeter, and can generally only be found in Asian supermarkets.

Stir-fried green beans with minced pork
(this recipe comes from Christine’s Recipes)
  • 12 oz green beans, trimmed
  • 1 stalk salted mustard greens*
  • 3 1/2 oz ground pork
  • 2 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp corn starch
  • 1 tbsp water
  • pepper to taste
  • Sugar to taste
  • 1/2 tsp garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp Ground Bean Sauce
  • 1 tsp Chili Bean Sauce
  • 1 tsp XO Sauce
  • 1/3 tsp salt
*To make salted mustard greens, rub fresh mustard greens with salt and then place them in the refrigerator for a few days. Confession: I didn’t do this, instead I just cooked them down a little with some salt and water on the stove.

Soy sauce fried noodles
(this one is also from Christine’s Recipes)
  • 7 oz fresh egg noodles
  • 4 oz bean sprouts
  • 1 1/2 oz chives, chopped into 3-inch lengths
  • 1/2 onion, shredded
  • Crushed ginger to taste
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • Sesame seeds, toasted
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 1/2 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp raw sugar
  • 2 tsp oyster sauce
  • Sesame oil to taste
So you do need to do a bit of juggling to get all of this food to come together at the right time, but I think you have a bit more wiggle room with the chicken, so I’ll start there.

Heat 3 tbsp of cooking oil in a large pot over low heat. Add the ginger, garlic and green onions and cook until aromatic. Now pour in both types of soy sauce and the water. Turn the heat up and bring to a boil, then add the sugar and wine.

Wow, this is an epically bad photograph.

Reduce heat to low and simmer, then add the drumsticks.

Cook for 25 to 30 minutes, turning the drumsticks about halfway through to ensure that they cook evenly. Check for doneness with a meat thermometer (I like to cook dark meat to 175 degrees).

Remove from the pot and serve.

Now for the noodles:

Mix the water with the two types of soy sauce, sugar, oyster sauce and sesame oil. Make sure the sugar dissolves all the way, and then set aside.

Cook the noodles briefly according to package directions. I used dried lo-mien noodles because that’s what was available, and I cooked them for one minute less than the package told me to. My past experience has taught me that you can’t overcook lo-mien noodles because they get slimy, and then your kids don’t want to eat them.

Drain the noodles and set aside. Now heat the oil and stir fry the bean sprouts and chives for just a minute or two. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Add a little more oil to the pan and cook the onion until translucent. Move the onion to one side of the pan, add more oil, then cook the ginger with the shallot until the shallot starts to soften.

Another terrible photo, I'm on a roll.

Add the noodles, tossing gently if they are stuck together. Cook for another three minutes or so, then add the sauce. Stir so everything is well-coated, then return the sprouts and chives to the pan. Serve hot sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds.

Finally, the beans:

Soak the salted mustard greens in cold water for 20 minutes or so, then rinse and squeeze to remove excess moisture. Chop roughly and set aside.

Mix the soy sauce, sugar, corn starch, water and pepper together and then pour over the pork. Let marinate for at least 15 minutes.

Heat about an inch of cooking oil in a medium sized pan until bubbles rise around the end of a wooden spoon. Now add the green beans and fry for three minutes or so, or until bright green and just starting to soften. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Remove all but a tablespoon of the oil from the pan and add the pork. Stir until cooked all the way through, then remove to a plate and set aside. Add a little more oil to the pan and cook the garlic until aromatic. Add the mustard greens, sugar to taste and stir fry for a minute or so. Then return the pork and green beans to the pan. Add the ground bean sauce, chili bean sauce and salt to taste. Sprinkle with a little bit of wine and then stir in the XO sauce. Serve hot.

I loved, loved, loved this meal and amazingly, my kids did too. The chicken was a huge hit and I wished I’d made more. The noodles were the best Asian noodles I’ve ever made—a perfect texture and very well-seasoned. And the beans were equally yummy and perfectly cooked.

This food was definitely reminiscent of American Chinese food but was also definitely not the same animal. I felt like I was eating food in a restaurant in Hong Kong, rather than in a Chinese restaurant in California, so I must have been doing something right. This is one of those rare meals where everything was delicious, and I was really thrilled with how it came out—especially since my whole family seemed to enjoy it. Well, my kids didn’t eat the beans but that has more to do with the fact that they were green than whether or not they tasted good. Kids.

Next week: Anhui Provence, China (Huangshan Mountains)

For printable versions of this week's recipes:

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Recipes from Honduras

The great civilization of the Mayans fell in the 16th century, leaving behind only its monuments and its culinary traditions. Today, the food in modern Honduras echoes those Mayan influences, with staples such as corn and beans coming together with Spanish ingredients to create this modern, Central American cuisine.

Until I started doing this blog, I had no idea how many preconceived notions I had about cooking. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at one of these world recipes and thought to myself, “There’s no way that’s going to work.” And then been wrong.

It happened again this week with corn tortillas.

Now I know, you’ve probably made corn tortillas before and are laughing at me. But when I looked at the ingredients and saw that corn tortillas are made entirely from masa flour, salt and water and nothing else, my first thought was, “There’s no way that’s going to work.”

I’ll get to the details in a minute, but I’m sure you’d have already guessed that we're in Central America just based on the above comment, even if you hadn't actually read the title and intro of this week’s entry. Yes, we're in Honduras, a fact that pleased me immensely because I love food from Central America.

Honduras is bordered by Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. Historically, it's one of the regions that Spain conquered and oppressed back in the 16th Century. It stayed under Spanish rule until 1821, and since then has had about 300 internal rebellions and civil wars, which works out to about one every seven or eight months. The nation has also had a sort of unstable relationship with El Salvador and in fact fought a war with its neighbor in 1969 that was misleadingly titled “The Soccer War,” since it broke out shortly after Honduras and El Salvador met for a World Cup elimination match. It was a short lived war that really stemmed from a disagreement about the economic impact of immigrants from El Salvador, but you know how history loves a good story.

Copan, Honduras. Photo by Mario Pleitez.

Speaking of stories, Honduras is also known for Lluvia de Peces, a phenomenon where fish literally fall from the sky. Or not, depending on who you believe.

Anyway this week’s menu does not include any fish, from the sky or otherwise. I stuck with a pretty basic menu instead:


  • 1 1/3 lb beef flank or skirt, cubed
  • 1/2 cup seville orange juice
  • 4 garlic cloves, mashed
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

The next three recipes come from This is Honduras:

Refried Beans
  • 1 3/4 lb canned red kidney beans
  • 2 tbsp ground cumin
  • 6 tbsp oil (canola or sunflower)
  • 2 tbsp chopped onion
  • 2 tbsp chopped green bell pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 white onion, finely diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 diced tomato, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp powdered garlic (optional)
Corn Tortillas
  • 2 cups masa flour (such as MASECA)
  • 1  1/4 cups water
  • 1/8 tsp salt
Let’s do the carneada first, since it needs to marinate for a while. But first a word about Seville oranges, otherwise know as “bitter orange” or “sour orange.” You can’t buy them here in California, or at least not in my part of California. Now this carneada recipe says you can substitute tangerine juice but that’s not what I did, because I thought it would be a little too sweet. Instead I used the Cook’s Thesaurus substitution for bitter orange: 2 parts grapefruit juice, one part lime with a little bit of orange zest. My results were excellent. If you can’t find Seville oranges, I suggest you use the same substitute I did.

OK so first you will want to cut your beef into strips that are one inch wide. Then mix the rest of the ingredients together and add the strips, turning until they are completely coated with the marinade. Let marinate in your fridge for a few hours, preferably overnight.

Heat your BBQ. Now I personally swear by charcoal, though I know it isn’t as popular as propane. This recipe mentions charcoal specifically, though I'm sure you could get by with using a gas grill. Anyway cook the strips on your grill until medium rare, then slice into smaller pieces and serve with the corn tortillas and chimol.

Next the chimol, which is easy to make and can be prepared ahead of time:

Toss the vegetables together and add the cilantro. Add the lime juice and salt to taste, and powdered garlic (if using; I did). Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Now the beans:

Open up the can and pour the beans directly into your blender, liquid and all. Pulse until mostly a paste with a few whole beans remaining.

Meanwhile, heat a small amount of oil in a large pot and add the onions, peppers and garlic (I like to add the garlic last so it doesn't burn). Cook until the onions are translucent. Add the beans and stir in the cumin.

Reduce heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans thicken.

Finally the tortillas. Mix the masa flour with the salt and water. Your dough should be smooth and not sticky, but it shouldn't be too dry either. I had to add a little more water to mine then the recipe called for.

Now separate the dough into golfball sized balls.

Flatten each ball with a tortilla press. If you don't have a tortilla press, you can put the balls between two layers of plastic wrap (I actually used a ziplock bag) and flatten with a rolling pin. Your tortillas should be pretty thin, no more than maybe a millimeter.

Now heat up a large frying pan over high heat.

Here's where the magic happens: I was pretty sure these things would just fall to pieces in the pan. After all, they were just held together with nothing but water. But they didn't so much as crack, and when I served them they held together fabulously--unlike store bought tortillas, which tend to split when you fold them.

So here's how to make perfect corn tortillas: Transfer the flattened dough to the pan (don't use any oil, it should just be a dry pan). Cook on one side until the tortilla starts to curl around the edges, then flip. It should have some golden spots on the cooked side.

Cook on the other side until you get some more golden spots, then transfer to a warm plate. I put damp paper towels in between each one and they were perfect when I served them.

And so was everything else. The beans: delicious. The chimol: delicious. Really just a simple salsa but the peppers were a nice twist. The beef: to die for. The combo: heavenly. It really was a very easy meal to put together but before we were finished Martin was already talking about how we should recreate it for some friends.

Next week: Hong Kong.

For printable versions of this week’s recipes:

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Recipes from the Holy See (Vatican City)

Pope Francis prefers meals of skinless chicken and salad, but past Holy Fathers haven’t always had such simple tastes. This week we’re going to take our culinary Tardis back to the Renaissance for a meal that comes directly from the Pope’s personal chef, ala several hundred years ago.

I could have taken the easy way out this week, because there are a few very prominent recipes available from our destination. “Papal Fettuccine,” for a start, which was the favorite meal of Pope Pius XII circa 1939. And Polish Papal Cream Cake, which was favored by Pope John Paul II. But meh, that seemed way too easy. I like fettuccine, but I’ve eaten way too many Lean Cuisine versions of it. And Polish Papal Cream Cake has custard in it which, ew.

St. Peter's Square and the Papal Apartments, The Holy See.
Photo by vgm8383 via Flickr.

So I poked around a little and discovered a wonderful book by Terence Scully, or rather a translation by Terence Scully of a 16th Century masterwork entitled The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi. Who was Bartolomeo Scappi? Well, he might be best described as the world’s first celebrity chef. He cooked for Charles V and was the personal chef for two different popes, Pius IV and Pius V.

So that’s where I decided to seek my Holy See recipes, because I confess I’ve always had a soft spot for really old recipes, and I don’t mean Betty Crocker recipes from 1962. I like ancient recipes, formerly buried beneath piles of crumbling rubble, or something.

Now The Holy See as you probably know is an interesting case, country-wise. It is actually on the official list of world nations, not just that weird list I use that includes places like Europa Island and Bassas da India. The Holy See (otherwise just known as Vatican City) is a UN “observer state,” which means that it is a non-member state but is still involved with the UN at multiple other levels. It is governed by officials appointed by the Pope and it administers several “extraterritorial properties” in Italy. So it’s Italian, but not really.

Foodwise you can’t really separate The Holy See from the Pope, so it seemed very natural to seek out recipes that were actually eaten by the Pope or at the very least were created by his personal chef. And after looking through The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi I have to say that I felt a little overwhelmed by choice. The Opera might be roughly 500 years old but it contains a lot of really delicious-sounding recipes. Here are the ones I chose:

Stuffed Bresaola
  • 1 lb beef tenderloin
  • 1 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, ground
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp lard
  • 1 slice prosciutto
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp parsley, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp mint, minced
  • 1 tsp thyme, minced
Scappi’s Broccoli
  • 1 bunch broccoli
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Now as with most old recipes, some measurements were missing, so I’ve added them based on the amounts I used when making these recipes. Feel free to make adjustments to your tastes, if you like.

I also chose this recipe, taken from a book called Ancient Roman Feasts and Recipes Adapted for Modern Cooking by Jon and Julia Solomon:

Cato's Cheese Bread (Libum)
  • 1 cup feta cheese, drained, crumbled and packed
  • ½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp honey (optional)
This particular recipe was served during religious ceremonies, so (I hope) it’s appropriate for this application—though I guess I don’t know exactly how “ancient” it actually is.

First the beef:

Cut the beef loin into slices roughly the size of your hand. Flatten with a meat mallet and drizzle with the vinegar.

Sprinkle with the ground fennel, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Stack the pieces and let marinate in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Now rub the meat pieces with the lard and prosciutto*. In a small bowl, mix the garlic and egg yolks with the cheese, parsley, mint and thyme. Add a little more pepper to taste.

Spread this mixture over the beef slices and roll up. Place on a skewer with a piece of bacon and a sage leaf between each roll.

Pan cook until medium-rare.

* Note: I don't know a whole lot about the prosciutto of the past, but "rubbing" my steak with a thin slice of it seemed like an exercise in futility. Instead, I sliced up my prosciutto and simply rolled it up with the rest of the filling.

Meanwhile, make the broccoli:

Boil broccoli in salted water until tender-crisp. Drain, reserving some of the cooking water. Meanwhile, saute garlic in oil for about one minute.

Transfer the garlic to a platter and drizzle with oil and orange juice. Top with cracked pepper and a little bit of the broccoli water.

And the bread, which you can actually do ahead of time:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Put the cheese in a mixing bowl or food processor and mash well until it you get a smooth paste. There should be no lumps in the mixture. Add the flour and blend well, using your fingers if necessary. Now add the egg. The result is going to be a pretty sticky dough.

Divide the dough into two parts (you will need to flour them a little in order to do this). Flatten until they are about a half inch thick. Put the bay leaves on a greased cookie sheet and then place the two pieces of bread over the leaves.

Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes or until golden. Note: the original recipe said to bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, but mine were well on their way to being burned by about 35 minutes. Make sure you keep checking on them and remove them when they start to brown.

Remove the bay leaves and serve with honey.

What we thought: yum. I mean, you really can’t go wrong with a fillet of beef, can you? And the bacon and seasonings were just enough to give the beef a great flavor without hiding the natural taste of the fillet, which is often one of my complaints about steak. Why bury all that lovely steakness with a lot of flavor it doesn’t need?

The broccoli was delicious too (even my kids liked it) though I timed it badly and it was a little cold. But it was a very simple and tasty twist on ordinary broccoli and it went really nicely with the beef.

The bread: also good, cheesy and had a nice texture. I have to admit to being a little surprised by it because I kind of expected it to be rock-like without any baking powder or yeast to give it that bready texture. But it really did have nice flavor and texture and went well with the rest of the meal. I didn’t even have honey with mine.

So that’s how popes eat, or at least how two of them ate 500 years ago. If you like, you can try the skinless chicken and salad instead and get back to me. :)

Next week: Honduras

For printable versions of this week’s recipes:

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Recipes from Heard Island and McDonald Islands

What do intrepid explorers eat when visiting remote Antarctic islands? If you guessed canned food, you're right! This week is an ode to that very non-gourmet meal: tinned, processed and frozen. And also botulism.

Uh ... yum?

Yes, botulism. I know what you're thinking: Wow, Becki, that's a really appetizing way to start a food blog entry! Don't worry, no one here has botulism. But I think about it every time I buy imported canned food, because I am one of those people who Googles every unlikely thing that might harm my children and then obsesses over it for unnecessarily long periods of time.

This week it was the canned corn beef, which is shockingly expensive--like six bucks a can expensive, and I needed two of them. Happily, I found canned corned beef at the grocery outlet for about half price. Sadly, I noticed after I already bought it that it was imported from South America, and then I started to wonder if the particular South American nation it hailed from had the same food safety standards that we do, and then I learned that said South American nation also had a recent case of mad cow disease that they tried to hide from the world and that gave me something else to worry about.

Curse you, Google.

Anyway, buy American corned beef for this meal. Unless you aren't unreasonably paranoid to the point of it probably being clinical.

So now I guess we have to stop talking about botulism and bovine spongiform encephalopathy and start talking about why I had to buy corned beef. Because our nation du jour is Heard Island and McDonald Islands, which is another one of those tiny, uninhabited places. This particular island group is an Australian territory located about two thirds of the way from Madagascar to Antarctica, though it is technically in the Indian Ocean. It's roughly 144 square miles and is home to the only two active volcanoes on Australian territory. Historically it was a big sealing settlement, furnishing more than 100,000 barrels of elephant seal oil to the world over a period of about 25 years, until the sealers wiped out all of the seals. Today the seal population on the islands is protected and most species are bouncing back. Those seals are the only mammals that are tough enough to call the islands home, besides the occasional human.
Satellite image of the southern tip of Heard Island. (Image source: NASA)
With the holidays so recently behind me, I actually didn't have a lot of energy to go chasing down scientists and other people who'd spent time on Heard Island and the McDonald Islands. Fortunately, I found a book that provided me with some details about what past visitors have eaten there in the past, this one: Unique & Unspoilt: A Year Among the Natural Wonders of Heard Island (edited by Bernadette Hince). The book details a year-long expedition to Heard Island in 1953, and lists rations and a few dishes that the visitors ate during their time there. 
There were no recipes of course, so I tracked down some Australian versions of the dishes and rations listed and came up with this oh-so gourmet menu:

Bully beef stew
(This recipe comes from Mouths of Mums)
  • 2 cans corned beef
  • 2 beef stock cubes
  • 2 potatoes
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder and a small amount of water

Australian Whole meal biscuits
(From a website called "The Discount Travel Site")
  • 1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 oz butter
  • Pinch baking soda
  • 1/2 cup warm milk

Pineapple Betty
(This is an old recipe published on
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed pineapple
  • 1 cup soft bread crumbs
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup pineapple juice

The good news is, food out of a can is easy to prepare. Here's how to make the stew: 

First peel and dice the carrots and potatoes. Make sure the carrots are cut into suitably large chunks so you don't have to eat them.

Now boil the potatoes and carrots with the stock cubes and enough water to cover until they are almost cooked through. 

Now, I also put my beef in at this point because of the whole stupid botulism thing (botulism toxin is destroyed by high temperatures) but my beef disintegrated, so I don't recommend this if you are reasonably sure your corned beef is botulism-free.

Next, mix the flour with the baking powder and add enough water to make "doughy chunks." What you're doing, really, is making some very basic dumplings to put in the stew. 
 Now add the corned beef and the frozen corn and heat through. In the last five minutes, add the "doughy chunks" and let them cook until they're puffy. All done!
Meanwhile make the biscuits. First, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Sift together the whole wheat flour with the all purpose flour and salt. 

Add the sugar. Now melt the butter and stir in the warm milk, then blend with the dry ingredients until you get a nice soft dough. 

Roll into a 1/4 inch thick sheet and cut into rounds with a biscuit cutter. Transfer to lightly greased baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until golden.
Now make the dessert, which is super simple: just mix the pineapple with the bread crumbs, sugar, cinnamon and juice. 
Transfer to a buttered baking dish and dot with pieces of butter. Bake in that same 375 degree oven until golden.
Now you're eating like the king of Heard Island and McDonald Islands, of which there is no actual king so interpret that how you want to.

Here's what we thought: the stew looked downright nasty. I'm not going to describe it, because you've seen the picture. But it looked gross. When Martin saw it he made a sound that I can only describe as a mortified grunt.

But it didn't taste bad. It was actually pretty decent tasting, in fact. Definitely not something I would expect at a four star restaurant, or even a two star restaurant, but perfectly edible. Martin went back for seconds so there you go. The biscuits were also perfectly pleasant, especially with a little honey though they didn't need it since they were already sweet. And the pineapple Betty was fine, too, in fact as far as desserts go it was quite a nice switch from all that rich chocolate stuff we've been eating for weeks.

So yeah, it was fine. And you have to admit it at least made for an entertaining entry, I hope. And no one got botulism, either.

Next week: the Holy See (Vatican City)
For printable versions of this week's recipes:

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Recipes from Haiti

Hey! Welcome to 2014, and the H’s. We’re opening up a new year with a new letter of the alphabet, how’s that for a clean slate?

I hope your holiday was lovely, and that you’re not dreading the first half of the year like I am. Because for me, it’s birthday party planning just about every month until May. I’d say my least favorite thing about being a mom is birthday party planning. So, I’m just going to put it out of my mind and tell you about Haiti instead.

If you’re up on current events the first thing that probably pops into your head when you hear the name “Haiti” is that 7.0 earthquake of 2010, which devastated an already suffering population. Haiti is a poor nation, and as with many poor nations it has an unstable government that was wholly unprepared to handle the aftermath of such an event.

So most of us on the outside have probably been rightfully fixating on that quake and its impact on Haiti, forgetting entirely the inspiring early history of that nation. Haiti was the first independent nation in Latin America and the Caribbean—but most importantly, it was the only nation in the whole world that was established after a successful revolt by slaves. In fact, all of Haiti’s original leaders were former slaves. That’s pretty cool, and it’s a great legacy for this small Caribbean nation.

 Fort St. Joseph - Fort-Liberté, Haiti. Photo by Nick Hobgood.

Sadly, Haiti doesn’t benefit as much as it ought to from its location in the Caribbean, at least not as far as the tourism industry is concerned. That’s because Haiti is not really a safe place for tourists, who sometimes get kidnapped or murdered while on holiday there. So tourists often prefer neighboring Dominican Republic, and then of course they miss out on the food.

Haitian food is good. Its style is a blend of French, African and Taíno (the aboriginal population), and it’s flavorful. It’s Caribbean, but with it’s own flare.

Here are the two recipes I chose for my culinary trip to Haiti:

Tassot (stewed meat)
(from Everything Haitian)
  • 2-3 lbs beef or goat, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup lime or lemon juice (I used lemon)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp parsley
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
Diri kolé ak pwa (beans and rice)
(from Kreyol Cuisine)
  • 3 cups basmati rice
  • 1 cup red beans
  • 8 cups water
  • 5 tbsp oil, divided
  • 1 tsp margarine
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 cloves
  • 3 cubes chicken stock
  • 1 hot pepper
  • 2 chopped shallots
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
I also bought the ingredients for a dessert called “Bonbon Sirop,” but in the end decided not to make it. Honestly, I’m sick of sugar. I know, I bet you never thought you’d hear me say that. But after several weeks of fudge, pie, cakes and cookies I really am done with sweets for a while. So if you decide to make Bonbon Sirop, please let me know how it came out, because I don’t think I’m going to get around to it any time soon.

The two recipes I did make were really easy. Here’s how, starting with the tassot:

Now, I did not use goat for mine even though I have some in my freezer. In retrospect, goat would have been great for this dish because you can cook it for as long as it takes to get a tender meat. My goat is all on the bone, though, so I would have had to endure my husband moaning about “booby-trapped meat,” as he often does. So I used stew beef instead. But really, I think you could do this in a crockpot with even a tougher bit of goat and it would be delicious.

OK, first put all the ingredients except for the vegetable oil in a large bowl. Toss and let marinate in the fridge for 3 or 4 hours.

Now move the whole lot to a pot and add just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Cover and let simmer until the meat is tender.

Now heat the oil in a large frying pan. Remove the meat from the pot with a slotted spoon and fry it in the oil until it’s golden brown all over. I know, this seems backwards, but it works. Trust me.

It doesn't look very exciting, but it really is very tasty.

Now for the beans and rice: First rinse the beans and transfer to a large pot with 8 cups of water and a tablespoon of the oil. Bring to a boil and cook for an hour or two, until they start to split. Drain but keep the cooking water.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large frying pan and saute the onions, garlic, and shallots until they start to soften. Add the spices, the red beans and the stock cubes.

Now add 6 cups of liquid from the beans (I didn’t have that much left over, so I had to top it off with water). Bring to a boil, then add the rice and the hot pepper.

Cook uncovered over low heat until all the water has been absorbed. Now add the last tablespoon of oil and the butter. Cover the pan and make sure the flame is on a medium-low setting. Cook for another 15 minutes. Have faith! I know it seems like you’re going to burn the rice, but you’re not. You’re going to get a nice golden crust on the bottom and rice that is the most perfect texture ever.

Now, let me preface this by saying that I used to only ever boil rice. After doing this blog for a few years I now understand that boiling is the dumbest way to make rice. Sure, you get edible rice but you can’t get that wonderful, fluffy texture unless you make it in the above (or similar) manner.

My rice and beans came out perfectly. In fact I almost cried when I realized that the leftovers had been buried under a bunch of holiday leftovers and forgotten about, and I had to throw them out. Because this was probably one of my life’s top five beans-and-rice experiences. It was flavorful, but that texture, oh-my. You just can’t underestimate the importance of good texture in food.

The meat was also very delicious. Mine was a little dry, but that was my own fault for not keeping it topped up with water. Like I said, I think I would do this again in a crockpot. The flavor was really good and the crockpot would make a tender beef (or goat!) without drying it out too much.

So there you go, the first TbS meal of 2014—and it was a good one! I love when things start off well.

Next week: Heard Island and McDonald Islands

For printable versions of this week’s recipes:

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