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, March 27, 2014

Recipes from The Isle of Man

It just so happens that our next nation follows the last one in proximity as well as alphabetically, though technically I suppose it's closer to England than it is to Ireland. Yes, it's The Isle of Man, as I'm sure you know if you are obsessed with geography and memorizing the location of every tiny, obscure place in the world. If that last sentence does not describe you and you have not in fact heard of the Isle of Man, don't worry, because it's pretty tiny and obscure. I only know about it because when I was a kid I had a penny from the Isle of Man--a tiny copper thing with a fish on it.

The Isle of Man is indeed a small place, roughly the size of Columbus, Ohio. Despite its diminutive size generations of kings and queens have delighted in attaching it to their titles, including the current Queen of England who calls herself "The Lord of Mann."

People have been living on this little island since 6500 BC, and since then it has been claimed by Northumbria, Norway, Scotland, then England, then Scotland, then England and so forth. Today it is a "self-governing British Crown Dependency."

Derbyhaven, Isle of Man. Photo by Mariusz Kluzniak.

Given its proximity to the UK and Ireland, I'm sure it will not surprise you to hear that Isle of Man cuisine is very similar to the cuisine of those close neighbors, in fact I was a bit miffed when I discovered that the Isle of Man's trademark food, "bonnag," is pretty much exactly the same thing as the Irish soda bread I made last week.

Fortunately I was able to find a dessert version of this famous foodstuff (or probably more of a "have-with-a-cuppa" version). And since I've been whining about it for the last two paragraphs I'll list that recipe first:

Fruit Bonnag
(from Isle of
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup currants
  • 1 tbsp margarine
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 heaping tsp mixed spice
  • 3 drops vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of buttermilk (more if needed)
This week I also made a simple roast beef, which wasn't a whole lot different from any other roast beef but was the culmination of a rather frustrating search for main courses:

Manx Roast Beef
(from I Love Manx)
  • 2 to 3 lb beef roast
  • 1 head garlic
  • 4 or 5 bay leaves
  • 2 cups sweet sherry
But the star of the show was this deceptively simple dish:

Fatherless pie
(also from Isle of

  • 2 lbs. potatoes, sliced
  • 6 oz butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Short pastry
And finally I made a cheese sauce to go with some steamed cauliflower:

Allison Ratcliffe's luxury Manx cheese sauce
(from Manx NFU)
  • 1 to 2 oz butter
  • 1 oz all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 to 4 oz cheese (Gloucester is a good choice for this sauce)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Dijon mustard
  • Pinch ground mustard
Make the bonnag first. It's super-easy--first preheat your oven to 350 degrees, then rub the butter into the flour until you get a mixture like coarse breadcrumbs. Now mix in the rest of the dry ingredients and blend well. Now add the currants.

Finally, add the buttermilk and transfer to a cake pan.

Bake for one hour or until a toothpick comes out clean. Now hide it from your family so you can eat it all yourself.

Meanwhile start making the beef. Just score the meat and stuff with garlic cloves and bay leaves to taste. Now pour a large glass if sherry into a covered roasting pan and set the beef on top.

Cover and roast at 350 degrees until the internal temperature reaches about 100 degrees, then take off the lid and pour another glass of sherry on top. Keep roasting until the internal temperature reaches about 125 degrees. If you don't like it that rare don't worry, the temperature will continue to rise until it gets to 140 or so, which is medium rare. Or, if you're dumb and you forget to take the lid off the roast for the last 30 minutes and then you leave the lid on after you take it out of the oven too, because you're extra-dumb, you will end up with super well-done, almost inedible beef. Not that I did that or anything.

No, I didn't overcook my beef. I got this photo from the ... um ... internet?

Now for the fatherless pie:

Butter a regular pie pan and and then add a layer of sliced potatoes. Top with pieces of butter and some salt and pepper. Repeat until you've used up all the potatoes and butter.

Mix the milk with the water and pour that over the pie. Now top with your pie crust (I just used refrigerated dough, I know, cheater) and make a couple of slits to let steam escape. I also painted mine with an egg wash so that it would turn a nice color, though the recipe didn't say to.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the pastry is golden.

Finally, the cheese sauce.

In a medium pan, melt the butter. Add the flour, stirring to make a roux. Cook for 20 or 30 seconds, then add the milk a few splashes at a time, stirring continuously. Keep going until you've used all the milk.

Remove from heat and stir in the cheese.

When it has all melted, add the salt and pepper and mustard. Add a little more milk until you have a nice sauce that's the consistency you like (ideally not so thick that you can't pour it).

Meanwhile, of course, steam the cauliflower. Serve hot with the cheese sauce poured over.

What we thought: Well, first we had to come up with theories about the fatherless pie. Why fatherless? Clearly, it's because if you eat too much of it, you'll have a heart attack and die, thus leaving your children without a father. Or I suppose it could also be because it's a meatless dish, and therefore not very expensive--the kind of thing you would likely eat if you didn't have a father and you lived in those days when the family's income came entirely from the "man of the house."

Anyway, the meat did not come out well. Totally my fault, because I was actually dumb enough to leave the lid on the baking dish and I ended up with dried out, way overcooked meat. I did love the fatherless pie, though. The potatoes were tender and delicious with the pastry and all that butter, what's not to love? Simple and yummy, and oh so bad for you. As for the cheese sauce, well, it was cheese sauce and I therefore had to gush about it. It was so good in fact that I saved the leftovers and used them to make mac and cheese for lunch for the next two days.

Finally, the bonnag. We all loved this, but yes it seemed more like a teatime snack than a dessert. Which is probably how it was meant to be eaten, but nevermind. We gobbled it up. One thing this blog has really given me is an appreciation for sweets that are only mildly sweet. Guess what America, it doesn't have to be drowning in chocolate sauce to be delicious.

Next week: Israel

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Recipes from Ireland

You might imagine that it's the small nations that present the biggest challenge for this blog. Smaller, poorer nations don't tend to put large numbers of recipes online, and online is where I get most of my material. I know, Google University. But I don't have the budget (or the bookshelf space!) to buy a book from every nation, so I Google everything. And anyway, I'd have the same problem with those small nations, which don't tend to produce a lot of books about their cuisine, either.

But really an equally big challenge comes from the larger nations, or those nations that are prominent on the international radar. Why? Because you can find loads of different websites that feature the food from these places, and most of them are so overstuffed with information that a) you just don't know what to choose and b) you don't know how much of what you're seeing is authentic, vs. how much is just the stuff people in that nation like to eat.

Yes, I found pasta and curry recipes while I was searching for authentic Irish dishes.

So I had to go with recipes that I knew were authentic, and that limited me again, almost as much as I'm limited by the lack of information about those smaller, more obscure places.

Drombeg Stone Circle, County Cork, Ireland. Photo by Karli Watson.
Ireland. It's the land of four leaf clovers and little green men who drink beer and live in pots of gold under the rainbow. Except that's just the way we clueless Americans view Ireland, because we Americans can't get past the whole St. Patrick's Day thing.

In fact in Ireland St. Patrick's Day is not the 24 hour party it is here in the states--it's more of a holiday on par with Labor Day, where all the banks close and everyone takes the day off to be with friends and family. For fun, the Irish spend St. Patrick's Day watching television broadcasts of all those ridiculous Americans getting drunk at St. Patrick's Day parades.

But guess what, Ireland also exists during the other 364 days of the year. It is divided into two parts: Northern Ireland, which is a part of the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland, which is independent. It is actually an island nation: the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth. That doesn't mean that Irish food is coconuts, crab and piña coladas, though. As island nations go, it's just too far north for that. Instead the Irish eat pretty similar stuff to what the English eat--lots of stodgy pies, beef and lamb and, of course, cabbage.

Which brings me to my meager pickins for this week's recipes. I know just a couple of weeks ago when I did Hungary I rejected several recipes because they were too similar to recipes I already cook at home on a regular basis. This week I had no such qualms--I chose a beef and Guinness casserole even though it was quite similar to the beef and Guinness stew I often do during the winter months. Why did I decide to do this? Because of all the recipes I found during my search, it was one if the few I could actually verify as being Irish. And also because my husband loves beef and Guinness anything.

So here's the recipe:

Beef and Guinness Casserole
  • 1 1/2 lbs beef, cubed
6 oz lean bacon, cubed

  • 1 tbsp vegetable Oil

  • 1 lb shallots or small onions

  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp sugar
to taste salt

  • to taste pepper

  • to taste dried Basil

  • to taste dried Parsley

  • 1 tbsp butter or margarine

  • 2 tbsp flour

  • 1 bottle Guinness Stout

  • 1 tbsp wine or cider vinegar

And on the side:

  • 1 1/2 lbs potatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 head green cabbage, grated
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

And some bread:

Irish soda bread
  • 4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups buttermilk

For dessert:

Irish apple pie

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 1/4 cup lard, shortening
  • 2 tbsp cold water
  • 2 lbs Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • Cream or custard to serve
Let's do the beef casserole first. Start by browning the beef and bacon in a hot pan ...

... then drain off the fat and transfer to a deep casserole dish with the onions. Season with salt and pepper and the herbs and top with the garlic. Sprinkle some sugar on top.

Now add some butter to the pan you used to brown the meat. When it's melted, add the flour and stir to make a roux. Add the Guinness and stir until thickened, then pour over the beef and onions.

Put the cover on your casserole dish and cook at 300 degrees for up to 3 hours (I only left mine in for about an hour, and that was plenty of time). Add more Guinness if the meat dries out. When ready to serve, pour over a little bit of vinegar.

Now for the bread:

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Sift the whole wheat flour with the all-purpose flour, salt and baking soda. Make a well and add about 3/4ths of the milk. Mix gently until you get a soft ball, adding more milk if necessary.

Now shape the dough into an oval about two inches thick. With a knife, make an "X" in the top and transfer to the oven.

Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 400 degrees and bake for 30 to 40 minutes more. Remove when the bread makes a hollow sound when you knock on it.

And the colcannon, which is basically a mashed potato with a twist.

First boil the potatoes until they can be pierced easily with a fork. Drain and mash and mix with the milk. In a separate pot, boil the cabbage. Remove from the pot and toss with the butter until it melts.

Fold the cabbage into the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

And finally the apple pie. All I really have to tell you is to just make the apple pie the way you make every apple pie, because it's really not that different. But in case you don't often make apple pie, here are the instructions anyway:

First mix the flour with the salt, then rub in the butter and lard/shortening until you get a mixture like breadcrumbs.

Add cold water a little bit at a time until you have a firm dough.

Now roll out about 3/4ths of the pastry into a flat disk and use it to line an 8-inch pie pan. Pour in the apples and sprinkle with the cinnamon and sugar.

Now take the remaining pastry and cover the apples. Please try to do a better job than I did.  Crimp the edges to seal and cut a few slits in the top to allow steam to escape. Brush with milk and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden.

This was a great, hearty cold-weather meal. Too bad it wasn't actually cold outside, but there you go. The Guinness stew was great, and actually quite a bit different from the one I make--mine doesn't have vinegar or bacon, so there were definitely some different flavors in this one. I really liked the colcannon, in fact I think I'll make this as a side for roast beef in the future because I could only taste a hint of cabbage in there and I doubt my kids would suspect that they're being given vegetables.

I liked the bread, too, though it was heavy as you would suspect for any bread that doesn't have yeast in it. As for the pie, well, it was apple pie, what's not t like? It really wasn't any different from American apple pie though, so it almost seems like it doesn't count. But whatever, tasty meal, very British isles, but shhh don't tell anyone from the Republic of Ireland that I said that because no one there would ever call themselves "British."

Next week: The Isle of Man

For printable versions of this week's recipes:

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Recipes from Iraq

So I won't bore you by telling you a bunch of stuff about Iraq that you already know. Instead I will start this entry with a bunch of useless bits of trivia.

In Biblical times, Iraq was known as Mesopotamia. Many of the places mentioned in the Bible are in Iraq, such as the Garden of Eden and the Tower of Babel. There have been stable populations living in this part of the world since the 7th century BC, which is remarkable when you consider that so much of the country is inhospitable. Over half of it is covered by desert, and sand and dust storms occur regularly, up to 50 times a year. Sandstorms can be 50 feet high but dust storms can reach an incredible 3,000 to 6,000 feet, which is roughly half as tall as Mount Everest is (from base to peak).

Iraq was the place of origin for the 60 second minute and the 60 minute hour, the wheel, the first accurate calendar and the first maps. The world's oldest known system of writing was developed in Iraq, but today only about 40% of Iraqis can read and write.

Al Faw Palace, Iraq. Photo by William Allen.

Finally, Iraq is home to one of the worlds most poisonous snakes: the saw-scale viper, which has been known to bite people for fun and also chase them. Yeah, I'm pretty sure I never want to go to Iraq.

 The saw scale viper. No, thank you.

Fortunately, the good parts of Iraq can come to me instead. The food,  mean. It may interest you to know that in addition to all those other firsts mentioned above, Iraq is also the place of origin for the world's first cookbooks--stone tablets that show recipes prepared for religious festivals.  Much of Iraq's modern culinary traditions are inherited from ancient Mesopotamia, but there are also influences from neighboring countries such as Iran, Turkey and Syria.

Here are the recipes I chose for this week's menu:

Dijaj bil-Timman il-Ahmar (Chicken with Red Rice) 
(from Delights from the Garden of Eden by Nawal Nasrallah)
  • 3 lbs bone-in chicken
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 heaping tbsp tomato paste
  • 6 cups hot water
  • 1 tsp Noomi Basra, ground*
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 4 to 5 cardamom pods
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups Basmati rice
  • 3 eggs, boiled and sliced
  • 1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup raisins
*Noomi  Basra is a dried Persian lime. I got mine on Amazon.

 These are Noomi Basra--dried Persian limes.

(from The Maajabua Forum)

  • 1 cup bulghur wheat
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup minced scallions, white and green parts
  • 1 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and medium-diced
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Iraqi Bread with Cheese and Olives 
(from the Abjdeat Forum)
  • 5 cups white flour
  • 2 1/4 cups warm water
  • 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives, seeded and sliced
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
And for dessert:

(from In My Iraqi Kitchen)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 cups pitted dates
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp coarsely ground toasted aniseeds
  • 1/2 tsp crushed coriander seeds
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnut halves
  • 1/4 cup coarsely crushed pistachio

The tabbouleh is easy, because it's just a salad, so let's start there. First put the bulgur wheat in a bowl and pour the boiling water over it. Add the lemon juice, oil, and 1 1/2 tsp of the salt and give it a stir, then let it sit at room temperature for one hour, or until soft. Now stir in the remaining ingredients and serve.

Now for the bread:

Mix the yeast in with a little bit if water and let stand until frothy. Then mix together the flour and the rest of the water and add the yeast mixture. Knead until you get a soft dough. Let rise in a warm place for about an hour and a half. Now roll the dough flat and sprinkle the olives and feta cheese over one half.

Fold over and roll again, taking care that the olives don't burst through the surface of the dough.

Brush the top with olive oil.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Put a large baking sheet into the oven for 10 minutes, then transfer the bread to the warmed baking sheet. Bake for four to six minutes, or until the bread starts to puff up and forms a pale golden crust. Take it out and gobble it up.

Now for the dessert, which I don't mind saying is quite strange by American standards:
First, toast the flour. Not in a toaster, in a dry pan. Just put it in and stir until it turns a golden brown color and starts to smell a bit nutty. This should take around five minutes. Let cool.

Now transfer the flour to a food processor with everything but the nuts. Process until you get a paste. Now take note, if you are using dried dates as I was you may have to add a little bit of water. Your goal should be a paste that can be shaped into a ball.

Now divide the paste into two parts and shape into the aforementioned balls. Flatten them, and sprinkle the toasted walnuts over one of the two disks. Then top with the second disk and sprinkle the pistachios on top of that one. That's it, no baking required.

And now for the main course:

First, rinse the rice until the water runs clear, then soak in cold water for 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, brown the chicken pieces in the oil. Drain and transfer to a large pot.

 Now sauté the onion in that same skillet until translucent. Then pour on top of the chicken.
Dissolve the tomato paste in the hot water, then stir in the Noomi Basra, coriander, salt, pepper and cardamom. Pour over the chicken and drop in the bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or so, or until the chicken is cooked through and tender.

Now remove the chicken and check to see how much water is left. You need four cups--if there isn't enough add a little. If there's too much, pour some away.

Put the rice in a medium pot and add the water. Bring to a boil, and let boil for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and give the rice a gentle stir. Then cover the pot and let simmer for 20 minutes. Fluff and transfer to a platter. Arrange the chicken pieces around the outside of the platter and garnish with the egg slices, almonds and raisins. Serve with plain yogurt on the side.

Ok, the tabbouleh. Did not like, but purely because of my personal tastes. I just don't like mint. This may harken back to my childhood, when my grandma had a mint plant and my sister and I used to pull the leaves off and eat them until one day my mom suggested that the cat might have been peeing in there. And so ended my positive relationship with mint. I think this would have been great sans-mint, because I do enjoy bulgur wheat.

The chicken was good, but I have to agree with Martin when he shrugged and said "It's just chicken." It really wasn't terribly exciting, despite how yummy that Noomi Basra smelled when I was grinding it up. The rice was very good though--I think that was where all the flavor ended up.

Loved the bread. I mean, it was pretty standard but the olives and feta made it delicious.

As for the dessert, well, I wanted to like it. I really did. But it was just ... weird. Maybe without the tahini, which I think has a really strong flavor and doesn't seem like it should be in a dessert. Give me hummus, please, but in a dessert ... Hmm. My kids were so disappointed by this dessert that I had to give them candy to appease them. I really think it would have been fine if that date flavor hadn't been so overwhelmed by the tahini, but again, opinions opinions. Funnily, I put the rest of the dessert on top of the microwave and it slowly vanished over the course of a few days, so clearly someone in my house liked it. Martin, I'm sure, because my kids wouldn't have touched it if they were starving in the desert.

Next week:  Ireland

For printable versions of this week's recipes:

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Recipes from Iran

Also known as "Persian cuisine," Iranian cuisine is unique to the region, though it has heavily influenced many of the traditions of neighboring nations, such as Turkey and Afghanistan. Iran's culinary influence is felt around the world, too--the kebab originated in Iran, and so did ice cream.

And so we reach Iran. I guess I don't have to tell you where that is, unless you really, really aren't paying attention to what goes on in the world.

Iran, as I understand it, doesn't really like us. I don't know why, because we're so nice. It might have something to do with all of the deep, fundamental religious and philosophical differences we have, and also because we're always sticking our noses into other people's business.

 Khaju Bridge, Isfahan, Iran. Photo by Flickr user
At any rate, you may not actually know that Iran is home to one of the worlds oldest civilizations, which dates back to 3200 BC. For a while, it was also one of the largest empires in the world, stretching from the Indus Valley to Macedon to Greece. From 550 BC until 330 BC, the empire thrived, right up until Alexander the Great came along and wrecked everything. More dynasties, invasions and revolutions followed, until we arrive at today.

Today, Iran has a hybrid political system with elements of democracy and theocracy, but mostly theocracy. The country is primarily run by Muslim clerics, with "the Supreme Leader" wielding most of the power and influence. Of course, we're just here for the food, so let's talk about that for a minute.

Iranian food really didn't surprise me a whole lot, based on its proximity to other nations I've already covered, such as Armenia and Afghanistan. There's lots of rice and meat, of course, and yogurt and herbs such as saffron and cinnamon. It did actually surprise me to hear the Iran is famous for its caviar, though I didn't go so far as to try and find any. I can't afford to eat the stuff that I actually can find here.

Anyway there are a ton of supposedly Iranian recipes all over the internet, most of which are impossible to verify as actually being authentic Iranian recipes. So I will admit to taking the easy way out on this one, mostly because I am now being paid to write about other stuff and it's sucked up a ton of my recipe research time.

So yes, all of these recipes came from the same place: The Iran Chamber Society, which is a research organization that studies Iranian culture and history. Here they are:

Jooje Kabab (chicken kebabs)
  • 2 lbs chicken, white and dark meat, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large onions, grated
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp saffron
  • 4 medium tomatoes
Meigoo Polow (rice with shrimp)

For the shrimp:
  • 1 lb large shrimps
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • one tbsp flour
  • 1 to 2 tbsp curry powder
  • 3 to 4 large hardboiled eggs
  • 2 cups parsley
  • cooking oil
  • salt and black pepper to taste
For the rice (Kateh) :
  • 2  1/2 cups basmati or long-grain rice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp cooking oil
Kotlet (fried meat and potatoes)
  • 1 lb lean ground lamb or beef
  • 1 lb small potatoes
  • 3 to 4 medium eggs
  • 2 to 3 medium onions, grated
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • Cooking oil
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
Let's start by marinating the chicken:

Mix the olive oil with the onions, lime juice, salt, pepper and saffron.

Add the chicken (keeping the white and dark meat separate) and cover. Marinate overnight in the fridge.

Place the chicken on metal skewers--you'll want to have separate skewers for the white and dark meat, since the white meat cooks more quickly. Place the tomatoes on a separate skewer and grill for five to 10 minutes on each side, or until cooked through. Alternately, you can use your broiler.

Now prepare the meatballs. Start by peeling the potatoes and boiling them until done (12 to 15 minutes). Mash, then add the grated onion, eggs, salt and pepper, parsley, and finally the meat. Mix well.

Now shape the mixture into balls that are 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter.

Roll each ball in breadcrumbs ...

... and then shape each into an ellipse about half an inch thick.

Heat the oil in a large skillet and fry the balls on both sides until golden.

You will note that these meatballs are not an ellipse shape. 'Cause I forgot.
Now for the shrimp and rice. Shrimp cooks fast, so make the rice first. First rinse your rice until the water runs clear, then drain and transfer to a nonstick pan. Add 5 cups of water, 4 tsp oil and 2 tsp salt. Let boil until the water gets to just below the surface of the rice, then reduce heat to low and cook, covered for about 30 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving.

A few minutes before the rice is finished, cover the shrimp with salted water and boil over medium heat until pink. Reserve about one cup of the cooking water.

In a separate pan, melt the butter and add flour to make a roux. Cook, stirring continuously, for five minutes.

Now mix the tomato paste with the shrimp broth until dissolved. Add to the roux and whisk until you get a smooth sauce. Add the salt and pepper and curry powder and continue to cook for two or three minutes. Now mix the sauce in with the shrimp. Garnish with the  chopped parsley and serve over the rice with sliced eggs on the side.

So to this meal, Martin gave perhaps the most rousing endorsement I’ve ever been given for any single meal: “It’s fine. I don’t mind it.” Jeez, really?

I thought it deserved better than “I don’t mind it,” but it’s true that there wasn’t a ton of flavor in any one of these dishes--except for the chicken, which tasted very strongly of saffron. To be honest, though, I probably don’t like saffron enough to justify it’s ridiculous expense. The meatballs were pretty good, though I confess they got overcooked a bit and as you can plainly see in the photos, they were also not the right shape. Martin claimed he was unable to tell that they had any actual meat in them because they tasted mostly of potato, but hey, at least he “didn’t mind them.”

My favorite part of this meal was the shrimp, which I thought tasted pretty good even though it wasn’t stunning. This meal just didn’t contain a lot of spice, and I don’t know if that’s indicative of Iranian food in general or just the food that was posted on that one particular website. At any rate it is certainly a good example of why it's really best to shop around for these sorts of recipes.

Anyway, I didn’t mind it either, but there you go. One of these days I think I’ll go searching for more Iranian recipes, just to see if a do-over might be in order.

Next week: Iraq

For printable versions of this week's recipes:

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