Growing up in the United States, discussions of Iraq were often about war and conflict. Despite the media’s portrayal, we know this country is full of amazing, kind people and has a very rich history.
Iraq has two major rivers – the Tigris and the Euphrates. Seated between these rivers is part of the region known as Mesopotamia. Mesopotamia is considered by many as the birthplace of modern civilization and is home to the world’s earliest known forms of writing, mathematics, and the wheel.
Masgouf is Iraq’s national dish. This dish typically involves a large carp fish covered in curry and a well-spiced tomato-based sauce which is traditionally cooked over an open fire. The recipe we used is here. In this recipe, she also recommends baking and finishing with the broil setting which is what I did.
Rub the fish with curry and salt and then begin to prepare the sauce.
Prepare your ingredients and begin by sautéing onion and garlic briefly first.
Add the chopped tomato, parsley, tomato paste, vinegar, lemon juice, water, salt, curry, and cayenne pepper mixing well. Occasionally stir the sauce while it simmers for 5 minutes. Since I didn’t prepare this over an open fire, I added some liquid smoke to bring some of that element into the dish.
Cover the fish with your sauce and top that with slices of tomato and onion. Bake this in the oven for about 30 minutes at 375-degrees. Turn the oven to broil for the last 3-5 minutes to add a char to the dish.
Finally, serve with your favorite rice! The sauce for this dish was delicious and the addition of liquid smoke helped give this dish the authentic flavor. We felt however the dish was missing something.. Final score: 7.5/10. This sauce would pair well with any meat!
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country located on the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe. Its name translates to water, earned for its density of lakes, rivers and waterfalls. It also contains what is considered Europe’s last remaining rain forest know as the Perućica that houses trees over 300 years old.
The dish I decided to cook is called Kvrgusa. It’s similar to a chicken pot pie, but instead of the crust surrounding the filling, the batter is first laid down and then the filling is added which bakes as more of a single layer. The recipe referenced is here. The process was simple, I started by mixing the few ingredients for the batter until it was a pancake mix consistency.
The recipe called for a small amount of vegeta seasoning. I didn’t have this, but a quick search online gave a common list of ingredients for vegeta such as turmeric, salt and garlic. I used quite a bit more seasoning than what the recipe called for. Chicken was then placed into the batter and then popped into the oven. Off note- the traditional recipes often call for a whole chicken being parted or at least bone-in chicken. We had boneless chicken breasts so this is what I used. You need to be careful not to overcook the chicken when substituting boneless pieces.
After the dish had cooked to a browned crust an additional layer of sour cream and milk is added and the dish is then returned to the oven for another 5-10 minutes.
The verdict: Even with the additional milk and sour cream the dish was dense and lacked the creaminess of the chicken pot pies I’ve grown up with. This may have been due to the pan not being big enough, resulting in a thicker pie. Despite adding more seasoning than what the recipe called for I still found the dish rather bland.
Day three in France we arrive at the classic dish Coq Au Vin, which name translates to rooster in wine. This is another dish that was once considered for the lower class but has risen as a fine dining staple at restaurants throughout the county. This dish was brought to popularity in the U.S by Julia Childs, like many of her recipes featured in Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
The key to this dish is the acidity from the red wine, which transforms the chicken to fall apart tenderness. The low and slow cooking process ensures that the flavors are well infused into the dish.
Because this night was short on time we decided to try this Instant Pot recipe. The convenience was nice and after attempting to brown the chicken and bacon in butter it was as easy as throwing the rest of the ingredients into the pot.
The results however fell a little short of our expectations. I found I was unable to get the desired browning of the meat with the instant pot. It seems as though these traditional recipes are best cooked well.. traditionally.
Sri Lanka is known by two alternative names “The pearl of he Indian Ocean” and the “tear drop of India”. The first name comes from the beautiful tropical landscape, high levels of biodiversity and the fine gemstones found there. It’s second name can be easily be understood when looking at a map, as the tear drop shaped country appears to be falling from the southern point of India.
Despite being such a small country, Sri Lanka is one of the world’s largest exporters of cinnamon and tea. Cinnamon is actually native to Sri Lanka. The spice is processed by peeling the inner bark of the native cinnamon trees.
Tonight’s meal is Kottu Roti which is a famous street food from Sri Lanka. It’s said when walking the streets you can hear the rhythmic scraping and chopping as chefs prepare this meal with their steel hand spatulas. Here and here are the two recipes I referenced.
Coconut Roti is a Sri Lankan flatbread that is both spicy and sweet. Below is the Dry ingredients, and the final dough ball once water is mixed and folded in.
The ball is then split into several smaller pieces that are rolled flat and then placed onto the frying pan.
The Final product is a sweet, spicy, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside flat bread!
Separately the shrimp and vegetables are heavily spiced and cooked.
The roti is then chopped and everything is mixed together for the final plating.
This dish is spiced well and is packed full of flavor with multiple layers of mild heat. The shrimp and roti provide a crisp texture, and the coconut infuses the dish with mild sweetness. We loved how the simple ingredients packed such bold flavor.
Finland is a northern European country and it’s known for more than just polar plunges and saunas. Recently Finland has been repeatedly rated as the happiest country in the world. We think it may have something to do with this soup!
Lohikeitto is a traditional Finnish salmon soup that is packed full of flavor. This soup reminded me a lot of the Greek Avgolemono soup. It was creamy and hearty, but not too heavy. Enough rambling, here is how simple this recipe is.
Start by sautéing the sliced leek in butter.
Add fish stock or water to the leeks once they become translucent. Bring this to a boil and add potatoes and carrots. Once the potatoes are almost fully cooked add your salmon and heavy cream.
Finally, the addition of fresh dill transforms the dish into something more bright and refreshing. You can find the recipe here.
In nontraditional fashion I chose to add a splash of lemon juice, because I love how it compliments fish.
There is no doubt we will be making this soup again. Simple and delicious!
Sudan was formerly the largest country in Africa. But on July 9, 2011, following decades of civil war, the southern portion seceded and declared its independence. In the south, the Nile and its tributaries form a vast swamp known as the Sudd which is one of the largest wetland areas in the world. Extending up north lies portions of the vast savanna, a border along the Red sea, and blending with the Egyptian deserts.
The Sudanese cuisine has influences from bordering countries as well as traditional roots stretching far back in the past. This recipe includes a staple ingredient for Sudanese cuisine- tomatoes!
The ingredients and spices used were true to this recipe. I decided to ditch the measurements of the spices and just go by taste. I ended up using quite a bit more of all the spices than what the recipe called for.
The tomatoes were cut and hollowed creating perfect vessels for the ingredients to be piled into. Due to the difficulty of trying to fry the stuffed tomatoes and cook all sides in a skillet, I opted to place them in a baking pan filled with the recipe’s sauce and briefly cook them at 500 degrees in the oven.
This dish was really good! The meat and rice remained tender because of the high moisture content of the tomato. Subtle hints of fresh dill were appreciated. Surprisingly the real highlight of this dish was the combination of cinnamon and tomato in the sauce which complimented each other very well. Final score 7/10.
Next week we will explore more of Africa starting with The Democratic Republic of the Congo.
If your looking for a quick and easy meal that packs a tasty punch on a Friday night, Gyudon is a great option. In Japan this meal is consider a quick, comfort meal.
Although there are small variations in the recipes I found, there are consistent staple ingredients of thin slices of beef, thin slices of onion, egg, and a savory sauce that sits on top of rice. Although the ingredient list is short and simple this meal is flavorful.
Once considered lower-class budget meal, Gyudon has surged in popularity as a western influence on cuisine has increased in Japan. There was a time when consumption of beef was prohibited in Japan as it clashed with Buddhist philosophy. It has a reputation for filling your belly without breaking the bank and we found this to be true. The thinly sliced onions create bring sweetness to the dish. The simmered meat is tender and delicious.
The recipe I used can be found here. We thought this dish was worth 6-6.5/10 for a rating. It has a delicious fusion of flavor and a great week night meal. Tomorrow one more bonus dish will be made from Japan before heading to Africa.
Denmark is a southern Scandinavian country composed of the Jutland Peninsula and other various islands. Because this region sits in the temperate zone, the area experiences varying weather and well-defined seasons.
Most notoriously known for it’s history of fierce, bearded, axe-wielding Vikings, Denmark is also home to some delicious food! We chose to take a crack at their traditional meatballs known as Frikadellar.
The general consensus is that Frikadellar originated from northern Germany. I found recipes throughout Germany and Scandinavia with small variations of a rather simple combination of veil, pork or beef, onions, eggs, milk, oatmeal, flour, and salt and pepper. Simply combine all the ingredients into a bowl and mix. Allow the mixture to consolidate in the fridge for anywhere from 30 minutes to a day. Once settled you can then form your meatballs and cook them on the stove top in butter or margarine. When sifting through recipes one may notice that these meatballs often appear more like meat patties. It’s said that the today’s hamburgers actually evolved from the frikadellar recipes of Hamburg Germany. So thank your favorite German with a “Danke”, the next time your appreciating a fine burger.
In addition to the meatballs, I made a basic gravy and mashed potatoes for a side, as well as another Danish specialty known as Rødkål- which is a red cabbage concoction that balanced this savory “meat and potatoes” kind of dish with notes of sweet and sour.
Kuwait is a small middle eastern county roughly the size of Hawaii. Its western border abuts Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The dry, hot desert climate is somewhat lessened by its eastern border along the Persian Gulf. The country is largely urban and its capital Kuwait City is home to some very unique and modern architecture. Alcohol is illegal in Kuwait, so nightlife is largely based on food… delicious food! If there is one dish to check all the boxes and has the power to transport your pallet to the middle east, it must be Machboos!
Although time-consuming to make, this dish has been our unanimous favorite since the start of this blog. The spice blend of Baharat packed an aromatic punch and had a profile of earthy, spicy, and sweet notes which paired nicely with the hotness of the pepper.
The slow simmering preparation, left the chicken falling from the bone and extremely tender. The jasmine rice absorbed the flavor-packed broth perfectly and transformed the meal from soup to a consistency that could be successfully served on a plate or in a bowl.
This had all the feelings of comfort food but didn’t leave us feeling groggy, bloated, or regretful. The spices are known to be chocked full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Here is the recipe. Do yourself a favor and just make it! Final score 9/10.
Crikey, it’s our last Australian dish! What makes this burger authentic to Australia is the beetroot, pineapple, and egg combination. This bad boy is thicc and you may find yourself intimidated to commit to the first bite!
The unique toppings balance each other nicely with the saltiness from the burger patty balanced with savoriness from the egg, and sweetness from the pineapple and beetroot. Combining all this with your standard burger toppings will have you asking for round two! Final rating- 8.5/10.