Israel, apart of the Middle East is a country known for its religions and sacred Jerusalem. Israel borders the Mediterranean Sea, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. Israel is the only country to have revived a “dead” language and has made it their national language. This language is Hebrew. The Dead Sea, which borders Jordan and Israel, is the lowest point on Earth, nearly 420 m or 1377 ft below sea level and is 10x saltier which means there is no marine life hence “dead” sea.
The cuisine of Israel is a blend of Jewish, Middle Eastern, Arab, and Mediterranean cuisines. Like many other countries, the cuisine can differ depending on what region you are in. Holidays and celebrations of the Jewish and Arab cultures also have their special dishes for the occasion. It is said a meal without a salad is not a meal at all in Israel (oops I dropped the ball!). Common foods you can find throughout Israeli cuisine include chickpeas, couscous, fish, fresh vegetables, pita bread, and chicken to name a few components. Israel is thought to be a melting pot of cultures which brings a vast variety of foods and an ever growing cuisine!
For Israel I decided to attempt the beloved falafel, up until now I had never tried it before! Falafel is an unofficial national dish of Israel due to being the most popular street food, however it is also considered a national dish in several of the surrounding countries. Some believe that it was first created in Egypt over 1,000 years ago and brought to the Middle East and others claim India was the inventor of falafel 1,400 years ago. There is also talk that Egypt create falafel more recently in the late 19th century and originally was made using fava beans instead of chickpeas.
I didn’t cut any corners here, except for the use of my air fryer of course! I allowed my chickpeas to soak as the recipe warned it wouldn’t work otherwise. I followed the recipe but had difficulty getting them to stay in perfect ball shape. A lot of them would crumble with any pressure. This recipe also is VERY time consuming, just prepare ahead! Shaping every ball alone is time consuming. The recipe recommends frying in a pan which would allow more to cook at once but the air fryer decreased the grease. This could have lead to the falafel being on the dry side.
This meal had good flavors with roasted garlic being a highlight on our palettes. Hummus was key to balance the dryness of the dish and the fresh vegetables brought a refreshing crunch and more moisture to the meal. This was my first attempt at falafel and I think it was a decent go at it. We rated it 7.5/10.
Madagascar is an island of Africa found off the coast of Mozambique and is surrounded by smaller islands Comoros, Mayotte, Reunion, and Mauritius. Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world and has very diverse wildlife, a good portion of which can’t be found anywhere else in the world.
Madagascan cuisine is a reflection of the cultures found on the island. There are 18 ethnic groups all of which have there own particular traditional foods and cooking styles. Their cuisine has three main influences: Chinese, French, and Indian. Traditionally rice is accompanied with every meal and seasoning is sparce, salt in particular is rarely used, us Americans couldn’t imagine.. Fresh sugar cane, fruits, vegetables (asparagus, tomatoes, carrots, green beans, and cabbage) and yams are grown on the island. Fish and beef is also consumed here.
To represent Madagascar I found this recipe for viande hachée et pomme de terre à la malgache which translates to “minced meat with Madagascan potatoes.” It is a specialty of Madagascar with a spicy tomato sauce and hearty mix of potatoes and beef. I had originally cooked this with another recipe that is similar but is no longer available, that is why you see the inconsistencies with the ingredients I used.
The ingredients are simple and relatively inexpensive. Cooking is easy and can be completed during the work week.
The meal was unfortunately underwhelming to us. The consistency was different and would probably be better with smaller potato pieces. There was a mild heat that we enjoyed but needed more salt and pepper for sure- 6.5/10 from us.
Pilau is a festive and celebratory dish of Eastern Africa. Prepared with either beef or chicken, the dish has tons of seasoning. This rice dish is unlike its’ sister Indian pilau since it lacks curry powder making it less spicy.
The origins of pilau are rooted in Swahili culture. There is debate on weather pilau originated in the Middle East or Africa. However, with further research Indians/Middle Easterners likely brought this dish to Africa and it was then adapted by the locals with what ingredients were more readily available.
This stew-like meal was easy to follow along. I think I should have cooked the liquids down more to dry out the rice as it was intended. The aroma of the spices roasting in the skillet was very enticing.
We thought this meal had an awesome spice profile with cardamom being the stand out. There was a little more moisture (sorry to anyone who hates the word) than anticipated, but at least the meat was tender! 😅 We rated this Kenyan meal 8.5/10
A flavorful rice dish with beef and hearty vegetables. Recipe included for pilau masala spice blend
Combine whole ingredients if using and place in pan on low heat. Allow to roast until fragrant.
Place all ingredients in a grinder and combine. You will likely have leftover seasoning- you may save this in an airtight container.
Heat a stock pot on medium-high heat. Add oil and allow to heat. Add onions and fry making sure to brown, but not burn them. This can take 10-15 minutes
Add in pepper, ginger, and garlic allowing to cook until fragrant. Then add beef, spice blend, beef stock cubes (if using), cilantro, bay, and salt. Mix well and cook until beef caramelizes. Make sure to stir often, cook 8-10 minutes.
Add in tomatoes and cook until their liquid has been released, about 4-5 minutes.
Stir in potatoes and water (or broth) bringing mixture to a boil. Stir in rice and cover reducing heat to low and allow to simmer for 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
Today we are in Eswatini which was previously known as Swaziland. 50 years after gaining independence the country changed its name to Eswatini which is the original ancient name prior to the British rule. You can find this landlocked, African country situated between South Africa and Mozambique. Like the surrounding countries it is known as a safari hot spot due to having all five of the large “game” animals (lions, buffalos, elephants, leopards, and rhinos).
Eswatini cuisine is centered around vegetables and grains. Meat dishes, also known as inyama is reserved for special occasions which could include goats or chickens. Without access to the sea, fish and other seafood is not common. “Mealie meal” which is a maize grain is a staple to Swazis which can be eaten alone or paired with a stew to soak up the savory flavors.
The meal I chose to represent Eswatini vegetarian and includes ingredients that may be accessed on a more regular basis. This meal was inspired by someone who had volunteered for several months, a tomato based curry being a regular meal. The writer amped up the base of the meal and added Eswatini staples such as ginger and sweet potato to highlight the cuisine of the country. I also was happy to see I didn’t have to attempt another maize product as they seem to go wrong for me! You can check out the recipe here!
Cauliflower rice is something I am familiar with and is super simple, just makes a mess if you aren’t careful! The preparation and cooking was pretty straight forward. There wasn’t any arugula in the store so I got spinach instead. One way to save you time is get the canned version of the foods- there is no shame in that and it saves you on prep time. I used to always think fresher is better but with the grocery prices too.. this is the way (unless of course you can support a local farm stand!)
This one was really AMAZING- two words: almond butter! This dish had the perfect balance of sweetness and spice, the tomatoes were tangy, and the almonds brought a crisp crunch. We were blown away and plan to add this to our personal recipe collection! We rated it 9.75/10❤️
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 😅
Welcome to day 3 in Italy! We are making the saucy chicken cacciatore today, a breaded chicken that bathes in a savory tomato-wine sauce. Cacciatore translates to hunter which were the first people to enjoy this dish. Because hunters first made this dish it was actually made with game instead of chicken. The dish was created sometime between the 14th and 16th century.
The dish is so popular it has its own holiday on the 15th of October! Although we know this dish to be adorned with tomato it was originally made without. Tomatoes were not introduced to Italy until later on!
I really appreciated that this meal took less than an hour to prepare (since the majority take longer). The sauce smelt ahhhmazing and picked up the flavors of the stewing veggies. The recipes I used can be found here.
I even made a caperse salad (although the chipmunk ate most of my basil!!)
In the end we were left with a beautiful Italian dinner. The chicken was coated with a nice thick and rich tomato sauce, but I could not tell it was breaded. The vegetables apart of the meal paired well and gave us stew vibes. The salad was nice and fresh and paired well with the hearty chicken. We really loved this dish and rated it 8.25/10!
To close out our week we will have a classic that is commonly seen American restaurants.
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!
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!
Welcome to another day traveling the globe by taste bud, today we land in the Caribbean on an island called Curaçao. You can find this Dutch island off the shores of Venezuela. It has a unique landscape that makes it stand out from the other Caribbean islands- it is a true desert island that receives little rain. Because of its dry climate growing crops is a challenge. When the Spanish came to the island and wanted to grow oranges they instead got small and tart fruit. Eventually it was discovered that the leaves from these plants were great to make liquor known today as blue curacao! This island of course has beautiful sandy beaches, incredible coral reefs, and a vibrant capital city know for its array of colors.
This gem of an island has strong European influence that can be found in its buildings, culture, and of course food. Dutch treats are enjoyed around the island along with Caribbean specialties. Keshi yena is considered to be the national dish of Curaçao which can be made vegetarian or with meat. It consists of cheese lined molds (such as a muffin tin or ramekins) filled with a savory filling that is baked until the cheese melts to completely enclose the center. You end up with several “cheese-castles” which is best served with a sliced up French baguette. The recipe I used can be found here.
When I was starting to make this dish I was surprised by the ingredients I was using. I would have never thought that raisins, capers, and soy sauce would be together as a part of this dishes filling! I found it tricky to cut the cheese thin enough to mold into my muffin tray, but I made it work. I used two different gouda cheeses (one older and one younger) which I felt elevated the meal.
Once I stuffed the cheese molded tray with the filling I used the remaining sliced cheese to encase the concoctions. Warning, there was a lot of grease that formed on the top of my tray and I had to keep dabbing it throughout the cooking time to avoid it dripping into the bottom of my oven. The author of this recipe used separate cooking dishes which may have eliminated this issue.
The end result once again surprised as with its complex and rich flavor. Most of my little cheese castles fell apart, but I was able to get a couple to stick together (shown above). We served them with the recommended baguette which we discovered tasted great with the keshi yena on top. Ian thought it reminded him of a lasagna in a way. If you don’t like your meals really cheesy this would probably be too much for you (or if dairy makes your tummy upset). We rated the dish 7.5/10.
Ya sou! Welcome to Greece, a stunning European country not only known for the white buildings and Greek mythology, but as the cradle of western civilization. It’s capital Athens is over 3,400 years old and is where democracy was born. It has an impressive 9,942 miles of coastline and over 6,000 islands. Ian was fortunate enough to visit Greece and all its beauty in the fall of 2019. He will be making three Greek dishes later on this week.. as for me I will be starting with the traditional moussaka!
Moussaka is a classic Greek dish that is mostly made up of eggplant, potatoes, meat sauce and béchamel sauce. Most of us think of Greece when we think of this meal, however it is believed that it was created by Arabs which stars eggplant a vegetable they introduced to Europe. Moussaka is eaten by many throughout the Middle East and is prepared similar.
Nikos Tselementes, a Greek chef who was well educated on French cooking, decided to give the Middle Eastern dish some European flare by adding béchamel sauce. This is when the traditional Greek moussaka was born!
Béchamel sauce is at its core combination of a roux (butter and flour) and milk. To prepare the sauce in today’s dish 2 eggs and parmesan cheese were additions. The recipe I used can be found here.
To prepare the moussaka I layered a thin layer of béchamel sauce, potatoes, eggplant, the red meat sauce, and the remaining béchamel sauce with a healthy 😉 about of parmesan on top!
This meal was successful and very hearty. I would consider it a Greek “comfort food” with the sauces and potatoes. I loved the combination of both sauces. It was my first time eating it and I was not disappointed! We rated it 8/10.
Our next dish is a refreshing lemon soup that is light enough for a summer time gathering. Stay tuned 👀
Welcome to another day at The Messy Aprons, we are quickly approaching 50 countries! Today we are in Morocco, a Northern African country that is a blend of Arabic, European, and Berber culture which heavily influences the cuisine. Berbers are an ethnic group of Northern Africa that are often farmers in rural areas, but historically were nomadic merchants that brought caravans across the deserts. Fridays are known as “couscous day” which is the holy day of the week in Morocco.
I made a lovely, flavorful dish to represent the beauty of Morocco – Lamb Tagine with Apricots. Tagine is a traditional Berber, slow-cooked stew that is named after the special clay pot that it’s prepared in. These stews are full of several of delicious ingredients including chickpeas, diced tomatoes, and garlic. This dish is also full of spice that makes the dish so warm and comforting. Luckily I found a recipe that I could follow without the special cookware, time to fire up the Instant Pot!
Again, I substituted stewing beef for the lamb but let me know if you decide to make it traditionally! The recipe was straight forward, but it definitely took me longer to make than the 10 minutes of prep time. This aromatic dish had my kitchen full of Arabic smells and left my stomach growling! I decided to add extra ginger, garlic, and dry spices because why not? It did not leave us disappointed!
We LOVED this dish. I loved all of the elements and it left us craving more. I could see myself eating this on the regular. It had that winning combo of tomato and cinnamon that we had discovered in paste dishes. The topping of cilantro brightened the hearty stew. Top marks Morocco- we rate you 10/10.