(104) Ireland Day 1 – Fish Pie

We have made it Ireland! We will be exploring traditional dishes for the next several days to honor our heritage. Ian is much more Irish than myself which makes up nearly half of his ancestry! Without further ado that’s dig in!

Source: Vacations.AirCanada

Ireland is an Island country west of Scotland, England, and Wales. Northern Ireland is considered to be part of the United Kingdom which covers 1/6th of the island. Ireland has nearly 2,000 miles of scenic coastlines with several beaches and dramatic cliffs. Along with the beautiful scenery you can find historic castles throughout the country and other ruins- about 30,000 total! The county of Mayo has the closest pub to person ratio in the country topping Dublin at 323:1 Did you know that Halloween actually has Irish origins? A Celtic festival called Samhain which means “summer’s end” is celebrated by having having bonfires, wearing scary masks, and dressing up. At this ancient gathering it was believed dead spirits would visit you on the eve of Halloween.

There is more to Irish cooking than just potatoes and stews! Irish cuisine consists of English and other European influence. Natural resources such as seafood and native grown crops and raised livestock. In general meals are hearty and are often served with soda bread. In the 18th century potatoes were the primary food source for the Irish until 1845 when the potato famine arrived.

The dish I am starting this Irish adventure with is fish pie. Thought to have originated by its’ neighboring country Scotland, fish pie was made similar to shepherds pie with potatoes on top. Fish pie may have also been the result of experimentation during lent since all other meats were not allowed. These pies often involve a white or cheese sauce using milk that the fish was poached in. You then bake the pie in the oven and garnish it with dill. You can find the recipe here!

I had to add a few extra steps for my preparation due to some of the seafood being partially frozen and the salmon having skin attached- I allowed the thawing shrimp to gently come to temperature in a pot full of water at medium heat and after the salmon cooked I removed the skins. The rest of the cooking wasn’t too complicated, I had made a bechamel sauce before and was familiar with the process. Don’t forget the dill!!

We thought this dish packed a savory punch with the seafood medley and crisp potatoes. The pie was overall very creamy and the dill complimented the other components of the pie. It was very unique especially with the cheese component, not what I would have expected had Irish origin. We rated it 7.75/10!

(98) São Tomé and Príncipe – Matata

Pico Cão Grande. Source: elevation.maplogs.com

Here we are with yet another African Island country, São Tomé and Príncipe. This nation made up of two islands, two atolls that’s found in the Gulf of Guinea near the equator along a volcanic chain. It was another country that was uninhabited until Portuguese explorers discovered it in the 15th century. The main crop of the country is cocoa and at one time of the world’s biggest producer. You can rest easy if you explore the rainforests of the island- the most predatory creature is a mosquito!

Cuisine of São Tomé and Príncipe include seafood and local crops such as bananas, plantains, pineapple, maize, and avocado. Coffee is frequently used not only as a wake me up drink but a seasoning for meals! The main influences of their cuisine is Portuguese and African. For São Tomé and Príncipe I found a recipe called “matata” which is a seafood dish with recipe that involves vegetables and clams cooking in port wine. This dish is also popular in Mozambique. You can find the recipe I used here.

I have to admit the aromas were not desirable compared to past dishes- definitely a strong seafood odor. If I had fresh clams I wonder if the experience would be any different. Prep and cooking was easy, not time consuming at all. I couldn’t buy pumpkin leaves so I substituted spinach.

It was better than what we were expecting- man was it smelly! The flavor was relatively bland, however the flavor of the wine came through. The peanuts did help the texture and surprisingly worked well with the rest of the dish giving an extra dose of saltiness. We weren’t super into it which warranted a rating of 4/10. Side note I am aware the plating is not the greatest- Ian let me know about it after the fact 😅

(79) Cooks Islands – Moana-Roa Mahi Mahi

Mitiaro Cave of Rarotonga Island. Source: Pinterest

Hello fellow foodies, today we are at the Cooks Islands, a group of 15 islands in the South Pacific. You can find these scattered islands below Tahiti and close to New Zealand. Rarotonga is the capital island and most populated with approximately 13k inhabitants. This country was named after the exploring Captain James Hook, however he never visited the islands. Known for its tropical beauty the islands are not overdone with fancy resorts and flashy lights- actually no stop lights either! You can explore the limestone caves, pristine sandy beaches and underwater scuba excursions. The Cooks Islands is a top producer of the black pearl- a very scientific and precise process of inseminating oysters with sphere like shells. Over time the oyster will avoid the foreign object ultimately coating shell to make a black pearl over a few years time.

The Cooks Islands pride themselves of clean waters and immaculate seafood which their cuisine is filled with. Coconut and other native fruits are commonly eaten as well. All other foods are imported from their neighbor New Zealand. Today to honor the Cooks Islands I made Moana-Roa Mahi Mahi with a side of beats and salad (my easy way out of not making a potato salad). This traditional island fare includes taro leaves, green bananas, coconut cream, ginger, taro root, and more to accompany the fish. If you want to experience the real deal try this dish.

Once again there was no mahi mahi at my local store so I used tuna steaks instead! I also could not get taro roots or leaves so I substituted potatoes and spinach. This was definitely a new for us since we can never prepared or eaten bananas in a savory fashion before. I think this was easy enough to make just difficult to get my hands on all the right ingredients!

We thought the Cooks Islands brought unique flavors to the table. The bananas and fish may sound super strange, but the combination was actually pretty good. The cooked bananas didn’t lose their flavor and tasted like the uncooked fruit. It was surprisingly pleasant, but didn’t blow us away. We rated it 6.5/10.

Before traveling to ITALY we will be making a pit stop in Puerto Rico! Stay tuned!!

(77) Liberia – Liberian Chicken Gravy

Hey guys I’m back! Summer time brings a lot of outdoor adventures and less time at the computer and stove to bring you more content. Hope you are also enjoying your summer!

Pygmy hippopotamus, Source: Dinoanimals.com

Before we get to it, lets first learn a little bit about Liberia! Liberia is a West African country that borders the Atlantic Ocean, Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire, and Guinea. English is mostly spoken here, however there are 20 indigenous languages still spoken today. It is the oldest African republic and was the first to gain its independence in 1847; its name literally translating to “land of the free.” This beautiful country is home to incredible surfing, over 700 bird species, the endangered pygmy hippopotamus, and Sapo National Park (which contains a portion of West Africa’s primary rainforest).

Today we make a classic Liberian dish, chicken gravy. This meal consists of not only chicken but shrimp and fish steaks as well. I decided to omit the fried fish and use additional shrimp instead. At the heart of traditional African stews lies tomatoes, garlic, and herbs along with other complementary ingredients to increase the savory and heartiness. Liberian cuisine alike other West African countries include plantains, cassava, rice, yams, and other local fruits and vegetables. Local seafood and fish is the primary meat source of Liberians diet however poultry and other red meat can be eaten on occasion. You can find this recipe here.

Preparation and cooking was simple. This is another good option for a week night meal that can simmer while you cram in a 30 minute work out or finish up a blog post (maybe that’s just me..). I look back now and would have added more tomato paste to thicken up the sauce.

So we had never experienced chicken and shrimp together before and thought it was pretty good! The sauce as I said earlier should have been thicker, however the herbs and ginger really pulled through. It had unique elements, but was an easy meal with common ingredients. We thought it was tasty and rated it 6.5/10.

Next up we head to Zimbabwe for another tender chicken meal!

(76) Saint Barthélemy (St. Barts) – West Indian Red Snapper

We are still in the tropics and visiting Saint Barthélemy (also known as St. Barts). This itty-bitty island sits below Anguilla, East to the U.S. Virgin Islands, and above St. Nitts and Nevis. The island is primarily French-speaking and is part of a collectivity of France (first-order division of France) that also contains Martinique, Saint Martin, and Guadeloupe. At just under 10 sq miles in size it has an impressive array of high class restaurants and luxurious resorts. The island has no fresh water sources so the locals rely on desalination plants to collect rain for drinking water- talk about stressful!

Saint Barthélemy cooking incorporates French, Creole, West Indian, and Asian influence with many fine dinning restaurants around the island. Indian cooking styles often include fish and steamed vegetables, Creole include more spice. More often you will see French and Creole styles of food. Like other Caribbean islands they use native produce and seafood in their meals, much like today’s dish. Red snapper can be found in the Caribbean waters and is the main attraction of this West Indian dish. You can find the details here.

This was a pretty straight forward dish using common ingredients, most already being present in the apartment. Never skip marinating since this is how the fish will absorb all the flavor. We decided to pan fry the fish (especially since it was cod fillets vs red snapper).

We felt this dish was well seasoned, however it was more on the simple side. I was also unable to get red snapper again because it is rarely ordered at the rural Hannaford I go to. We can’t lie and give this dish a rating higher than 6.5/10 because it does not compare to other fish dishes we have made. It is still good and easy to make but not a knock out recipe.

Next we go to Liberia! See you there

Brazil Day 3 – Moqueca

For day 3 we made moqueca, a seafood stew that is traditionally cooked in a terracotta casserole dish. With its Brazilian origin you understandably find lime, garlic, and cilantro to season the dish up. You serve this stew with a side of white rice and garish with a lime wedge and fresh herbs. Typically a fish component accompanies the shrimp, but the fish I bought went bad (although the date was good).. not cool Hannaford! If moqueca entices you, you can find the recipe here.

It was important to allow the shrimp to sit in the lime/ginger marinade for at least 30 minutes prior to cooking. This was another great weeknight meal that took little time and mostly was a “sit and wait” method. I was able to utilize the shrimp shells to make fish stock while they were marinating.. I highly recommend this to save money. Just throw it in the freezer and you’re good for another seafood chowder or stew!

Oh man this was great. This super creamy and warming broth paired well with the shrimp and veggies. Also a new enjoyable combination of basil and cilantro was discovered. There was nothing bland about this stew (which seems to be an issue 50% of the time) and we felt it was a new refreshing way to enjoy shrimp (no fish was needed). We thought it was deserving of a 9/10.

(65) St. Pierre & Miquelon – Cod Fillet with Cream & Crab and Fruit Salad

Source: Borgenproject.org

Hey guys welcome to another island territory, but for once it is not sitting in the warm waters of the Caribbean or South Pacific; instead it is just south of Newfoundland, Canada in the Atlantic Ocean. St. Pierre and Miquelon is a sovereign state of France which is situated in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and is an archipelago consisting of eight islands, only two of which are inhabited. It has an interesting history of being the location where alcohol was smuggled into the US during the 1920s. The islands even have its own time zone which is 30 minutes ahead of Newfoundland.

This quaint territory has some local seafood flare, however French food is the most common cuisine found here. I found a more traditional recipe native to the island versus France itself to use for tonight’s dinner. Although the salad didn’t sound appealing to me I told myself I needed to branch out and stomp judging things before I tried it. The recipes can be found here.

So that is what I did, I jumped into these recipes with an open mind. It was simple cooking that didn’t take much time, the cream taking the most of my time. I did sample the salad dressing, it was delish!

So we weren’t fans of this one.. the cod and cream was decent but nothing spectacular and the crab/fruit salad did not do a thing for me. Cold crab meat with fruit and veggies just didn’t make sense for me and I had a difficult time with the texture. Ian did better than me, but he also didn’t care for it. That being said we rated it 5/10. I don’t know if there is another recipe I can do for this territory, but maybe another French dish will do? 😉

(63) Kiribati – Crab and Tuna Curry

Kiribati Aerial View. Source: The Loop.com

Welcome to another tiny and mighty country of the Pacific Islands- Kiribati! This country is made up of 32 atolls and a coral raised island, the majority living on Tarawa atoll. Kiribati can mostly be split into three main sections: Tungaru, Line Islands, and Phoenix Islands (Banaba is the only island excluded from the groupings). You can spot this chain of islands bordering several other islands of the Pacific including Fiji, The Solomon Islands, The Marshall Islands, and Tuvalu. It’s the only country that can be found in all four hemispheres of the world and the first to ring in the new year. You can find coconut trees on every island which most measure only 13ft above sea level. Unfortunately as you can see this country is thin and at high risk of sinking under the ocean due to global warming.

The cuisine found on the islands consists mostly of local produce and meat such as coconut, various seafood, taro root, and breadfruit. Due to limited land area not much produce is grown on the island. The meal I made to honor Kiribati was a crab and tuna curry. The recipe I used was made out of inspiration of Kiribati and not a “traditional recipe” but likely is something that could be made and enjoyed in this nation.

The recipe was fairly simple and straight forward. I opted to use frozen vegetables to make cooking easier and had to substitute crab legs with mussels because I was unable to get any locally. The only crab meat that was available (and not totally fake) was the kind you would use to make crab cakes, so not the most ideal. Other than the seafood mishaps it was easy to get the ingredients. Look at all those colors!

This curry-dominated dish was delicious and extremely flavorful. Unfortunately the crab meat did not stand up to what I would suspect full crab legs would bring to the table, however the additional of mussels helped it out. I would suggest lobster tail/claws or shrimp as the closest substitutes if you are unable to get your hands on crab meat. All in all it was another great dish. We rated it 7.5/10.

(56) Singapore – Chili Prawns

The majestic merlion of Singapore. Source: Travel Awaits

Hey guys, we are in Singapore! This beautiful country borders Western Malaysia and is guarded by the mythical merlion (seen above). This figure came to life from the combination of its previous name Singapura (lion city in Malay) and honoring the the past, modest fishing village that the country started as (hence lion head and fish body). Singapore is known for its ban on chewing gum, affordable street food, and its summer-like weather year round (it is situated near the equator).

No that isn’t guacamole, I could only find green chilis

For a smaller country Singapore is well-known for its incredible cuisine, especially seafood. Rice, noodles, and other meats are also found in many of its dishes, but today we pay tribute to seafood. I was originally going to make the very popular chili crab, but I couldn’t buy any crab locally.. only crab meat for crab cakes and that wasn’t going to cover it. So the next best thing was chili prawns (or shrimp).

The dish consists of a sweet and spicy chili sauce that simmers prior to the addition of the seafood of choice. At the end a beaten egg is mixed in briefly and the dish is removed from heat to serve over rice or noodles. Luckily I had some leftover coconut rice which paired wonderfully! This dish is so good that it’s mentioned in the top 50 best dishes on CNN. The recipe can be found here.

So we loved it, obviously. It was sweet with a mild heat, the ginger and garlic coming through well. The egg made the sauce creamy and delightful, just make sure not to let it sit too long so the egg doesn’t fry. Our only suggestion would have been some vegetables added to the mix to complete the meal. We absolutely loved it and will be making it in the future! It was rated 8.5/10.

(55) French Polynesia – Mahi Mahi with Tahitian Vanilla Sauce

Source: Discover the World

Ia ora na (Tahitian for hello) and welcome to French Polynesia! This French territory is made up of over 100 islands, only 67 being inhabited. These islands are sorted into five archipelagos/island groupings: Tuamotu, Austral, Marquesas, Gambier, and Society. Tahiti, a Society island, is the capital and the most populated island making up nearly 70% of the entire country’s population. Most inhabitants are Polynesian, but a quarter of them are European and Chinese. French Polynesia is known for its hundreds of sandy beaches, exploring wild life in the jungle and dives into the ocean. I’m ready to pack my bags!!

Cuisine of French Polynesia consists of a large variety of seafood, locally grown produce such as uru (breadfruit) and umara (sweet potato), and for special occasions suckling pigs. A well known dish, poisson cru, is made up of raw tuna, lime juice, and coconut milk.

Today I made a recipe with cooked fish (sorry sushi lovers) with a decadent vanilla bean sauce and a side of sautéed veggies.

It was pretty easy and quick to prepare, the vanilla sauce being the most technical part of the recipe. Make sure to scrape out every little bit of those vanilla beans to get your moneys worth!

The end result should look something like this, a beautiful sheen on the fish with specks of vanilla bean throughout. I did feel my sauce was slightly on the runny side, but it was still delicious. I ended up using three times as much sauce then pictured when eating the fish to get as much flavor as possible (I didn’t want my plate to look soupy). We loved the uniqueness of the vanilla bean sauce and thought it worked well not only with the fish but the rice as well. There was a hint of sourness I felt came from the rum, but the rum flavor in general was not strong.

This would be a great healthy alternative to try for your work week! We rated it 7.25/10