Poland, a central country in Europe resides between Germany, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Russia, and the Baltic Sea. Poland is home the most ancient forest of Europe known as the Białowieża forest which is heavily protected and preserved. It also is home to wild Bison, one of the only places in the world where the population is thriving once again. Pictured above is one of the historic cities of Poland, Krakow which is known for Wawel Castle and architectural styles from over the centuries.
Of course when we think of Polish cuisine we think of pierogis! The delicious little potato and cheese dumplings are the ideal comfort food, but there is so much more to Polish cuisine. Poland loves their meat and is often found at the heart of their meals. Cereals, grains, and noodles along with a variety of vegetables and mushrooms accompany the meat. Dairy products especially butter is used during cooking preparation or in the meal itself. A traditional Polish dinner is made up of three courses- soup (tomato is common), sometimes an appetizer such as cured meat or herring, the main course, and a dessert. You won’t go hungry visiting Poland!
The meal we opted to try was something we had never heard of before- krokiety. Polish krokiety (also known as croquettes) is a staple of Poland often filled with meat, cabbage, and/or veggies. Once the pancake is filled it is folded then fried with bread crumbs. Crikey! You can find the recipe to the Krokiety here (there’s my dad joke for this post).
Ian prepared this one and it was time consuming! The outer part of the krokiety is pancake like and wasn’t too complicated but the assembling and folding of these bad boys took a few trials. Keeping the breading on them too was tricky but either way I applauded Ian on the end result and presentation! He definitely has an eye for plating!
This was another unique dish that was very different from the rest. It was crepe like and had a nice crunchiness to it. We thought it also was in need of a sauce and found red sauce worked well (can you tell we like tomato sauce?). The filling was very savory and left us feeling satisfied! This dish got 7.5/10.
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❤️
Bringing us to our 106th country is Malta, a small country situated in the central Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Sicily and North Africa. Prior to its’ independence in 1964 Malta was apart of the British Empire. Malta is approximately 121 sq miles with a population of just over 500k people spread across 3 islands. On the island Gozo there are ancient ruins that date back to 3,600 B.C, which is older than Stonehedge! The country is full of history and delicious food.
Maltese cuisine is influenced by several surrounding countries including Italy, Spain, Provence (France), and other countries of the Mediterranean. Since Malta is a small network of islands it relies on importing the majority of its goods and with its location the country receives goods from its’ neighboring countries. The national dish of Malta is rabbit stew or stuffat tal-fenek, but since there is no rabbit in the grocery stores we made another dish that is special to Malta.
The dish we will be making today is a Maltese omelet or as it is known in Malta as froġa tat-tarja. It shows its influence from the Italian frittati di pasta which has the core ingredients of egg, parmesan, and pasta. I was unable to find a back story to the dish but I believe a good possibility could be someone mixing together leftover ingredients and voila an inexpensive dish was born. The recipe I used as a guide can be found here.
Preparation didn’t take long, just simple cooking skills were required- I hope you all know how to cook pasta and beat eggs! I was able to get some farm fresh eggs from my coworkers farm, this makes all the difference. While the pasta was cooking I beat the eggs, cut the parsley, and grated the cheese. This meal a good one to try during the work week since it isn’t time consuming. Another bonus is the simplicity of ingredients which many have as staples in their home. One thing that was a little difficult for me was flipping the omelet. Due to its heft and my lack of flipping finesse I placed a plate on top of the skillet so that once I flipped it over it was on the plate and I slid it back to the skillet. The omelet wanted to break apart so make sure to take care when plating!
This was truly unique and was actually recommended by a fellow Instagramer who shares the same passion for food as I do. He is from Malta and said this was a dish we had to try! The flavors of the parsley, parmesan, and egg was nice and light however without sauce it was more on the dry side. With addition of classic tomato sauce it was like a crunchy spaghetti! Although it looked really pretty on the plate we rated it 6.25/10 on average. We appreciate trying a dish that is so different than the rest!
Sweden, a country of Scandinavia is found neighboring Finland and Norway and the Baltic and North Seas. Sweden is known for its vast forests and bountiful lakes. Interestingly Sweden is an importer of waste and recycles, composts, or incinerates all but 1% of waste. That being said their cities tend to be cleaner than others across the nation with Stockholm being one of the cleanest (Sweden’s capitol).
The food of Sweden is known for focusing on dairy, bread, meat, seafood, and berry products. Lingonberry in particular is berry native to Northern Europe and is featured in this dish. It is a country known for foraging and many citizens participate in this. Some Swedish staples besides lingonberries included pickled herring, crispbread, pea soup, and crayfish. Of course meat balls are very popular here too but did you know they actually don’t originate in Sweden?
Swedish meatballs originate from the Ottoman Empire which is now present day Turkey. More recently there was a debate on how Swedish svenska köttbullar is and apparently the Swedish King Charles XII brought this recipe from his exile in the Ottoman Empire back to Sweden. Lingonberries however are as Swedish as it gets. This country favorite which is also the national dish is what we are making today. You can find the recipe here.
Cooking wasn’t too complicated, the meatball making was pretty standard and so was the gravy. Butter is the key and important to enhance the sweetness and richness of the dish. Once the gravy is made add the meatballs in and allow them to get fully coated. I decided to serve my meatballs on top of mashed potatoes, but I have seen it served on the side too.
Dang this was a yummy one! We appreciated the sweetness that the lingonberry brought to a hearty meal. I find it comparable to cranberry sauce with gravy on Thanksgiving! The meatballs were delicious and the gravy was sweet and creamy- a perfect balance of sweetness and tang! We thought this meal was worthy of 8.75/10 for a rating!
The last Irish meal is a layered, boiled dish that dates back to the Irish famine in the late 1700s. It was like many other meals at the time thrown together with whatever was on hand. This could have been anything from chicken broth, beer, or milk- today we use Guinness of course!
The word coddle comes from the French word “caudle” which translates to boil, stew, or parboil. The closest thing to bangers I could find were these bratwurst. These were placed on the top of the layer potatoes, bacon, and onions. The recipe I used can be found here. There are many variations, this one seeming to be the most traditional.
As for the soda bread this beautiful creation is named for the use of baking soda as the raising agent vs traditional yeast. Interestingly, soda bread originated in Northern America by Native Americans using pearl ash which is found in ashes of wood to leaven the bread. Soda bread was first made in Ireland in the 18030s when baking soda was introduced to the country.
It is believed by cutting a cross on the top of bread it will ward off evil and protect the household. The cross also has practical reasons to help heat the deepest part of the dough and allow the bread to expand easier as it rises. Soda bread is an ideal side kick to a savory stew to help absorb the flavorful juices! If you wish to try soda bread too you can find that recipe here. Along with the bread we roasted up some carrots to accompany our meal.
Our last Irish meal we shared with our dear friends which served up nicely with a glass of red wine. I know I sound like a broken record but this was another very hearty dish with the beer and bacon as stronger flavors. The Irish soda bread had a nice herby/garlicy tones that competed in a more subtle way with the juices of the rich meal. Overall it was a more simple meal but a solid pairing. We rated it 8.25/10
For Ireland’s third dish I bring you more potatoes! This simple and tasty dish was first made in the 1700s and was easy enough to make due to the use of potatoes, a widely available staple.
The first preparations of boxty used the following ingredients of grated potatoes, either oatmeal or flour, egg yolk, milk, and butter or animal fat. Many would transform tin cans into graters. Traditionally these “potato cakes” were cooked over the stove in a pan. The more modern approach to this meal does not differ dramatically, you can find the recipe here.
The combination of mashed with raw potatoes gives this dish a nice texture. Sometimes the cakes are served with a rich stout reduction sauce or a simple tab of butter- we used sour cream! 😍
Often times it’s recommended to serve these cakes with sausage and veg. We opted for honey glazed carrots and parsnips with thyme and rosemary along with kielbasa which is not traditional but what we prefer.
Oh the versatility of a potato. This recipe forever changes the game for leftover mashed potatoes! It was a wonderful surprise especially with the addition of sour cream. The carrots and parsnips were a lovely side and completed the meal. Don’t underestimate the ack of meat in this dish because these little cakes will fill you up! We rated them 8.5/10.
Oh how beautiful a fresh pot of stew is on a cold night (that was the case we had this meal). Irish Guinness Stew is a classic and is comparable to France’s Boeuf Bourgignon (which you can find here).
The origins of Irish stew were thought to contain mutton otherwise known as older sheep. Due to its tougher consistency it was cooked for long durations of time, otherwise known as stewing or the nowadays slow cooking! According to Alan Davidson, a food expert/historian using neck or shank meat on the bone was thought to add more flavor. The very first stews primarily was made up of mutton, beef, or lamb, potatoes, and onions.
Over time other hearty veggies and herbs were added along with the well loved Guinness stout. The stout of course is characteristic of Ireland, the alcohol evaporating over time during the stewing process. The contribution Guinness brings is unmistakable. Another way to really pack in flavor is by browning the meat and scrapping any stuck bits from the bottom of the pot.
The recipe Ian used can be found here. He thought the recipe was straight forward and was enjoyable to see all the elements come together.
Ian served up a very hearty stew full of rich flavors and a variety of vegetables. The flavor was more “complex” and allowed for the perfect opportunity for bread dipping.. if only we had bought bread 🤷♀️Either way it got high marks with 9/10!
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!
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!
Micronesia, officially known as the Federal States of Micronesia is a country that spans over 600 islands and even more atolls in the western Pacific Ocean. The name Micronesia comes from the Greek words “mikros” meaning small and “nesos” meaning island. The main country is made up of four island states: Chuuk, Pohnpei, Yap, and Kosrae. This Oceania country was once a territory of Spain, Germany, and Japan. During World War II Japan had a Navel Base at Truk Lagoon (also known as Chuuk Lagoon) which now is a hot spot for scuba diving to explore the several ship wrecks and other sunken army vehicles along with the reclaiming coral reefs. Another spot to visit in Micronesia is the ancient city that was built between 1200 and 1500 on a coral reef and is the only one of its kind.
As an island nation, Micronesia depends on natural resources for much of its cuisine. Taro, bread fruit, coconut, banana, and yams are the most common staples. Shellfish, pig, and chicken are the primary proteins on the islands. Many inhabitants grow raise their own livestock and harvest the above staples. There is a mix of eastern and western influences due to its prior inhabitants, every state also having its own distinct cuisine. Rice is an important element and can be found served with every meal. Micronesians also take care with their seasoning, a step that shouldn’t be skimped.
The meal I prepared for mighty Micronesia is a coconut chicken curry. I couldn’t find much on origins, I summed it up to a flavor fusion from its culinary influences. You can find the recipe here.
The cooking and preparation was easy and was done in half an hour. The steps were simple and easy to follow. I had no complaints! As a bonus I used coconut milk to make a fragrant coconut rice, (in Jonathan voice) yasss queen!
Micronesia served up a flavorful curry with beautiful colors from the array of veggies. The spices were comforting and not too strong. The variety of ingredients gave nice contrasting textures. We thought this dish deserved 7.75/10 as a rating.
Welcome to the Netherlands, a Northwestern European country which borders the North Sea, Belgium, and Germany. Netherlands means “low-lying country” which is indeed a true fact. The country is relatively flat with 25% of the country being below sea level, and 50% 3ft or less above sea level. When many think of Netherlands you think of tulips right? Even though the Dutch are the world’s largest exporters of flower bulbs, tulips are not native. Tulips originate in Turkey and were imported in the 16th century. Another big export of the country is beer which they rank the 2nd largest in the world. The Dutch really like their booze because they are also the inventors of gin which was created in the 16th century and introduced to the British. Sounds like they know how to have a good time!
When it comes to the cuisine of Netherlands the country is relatively healthy and is the 2nd largest exporter of vegetables in the world. With veggies on the mind there are two other key ingredients to the Dutch dinner- meat and potatoes! Back in the 1800s potatoes were eaten with every meal since they were widely available and inexpensive. With colonization and trading of goods during the Golden Age (1581 to 1672) Dutch cuisine is quite the fusion of flavors. The national dish of the Netherlands is called stamppot, doesn’t that sound appetizing?
There are a variety of ways to prepare stamppot, but the base always is mashed potatoes. The variations come from the vegetables that are mixed in, whatever is available in the kitchen! This meal is said to be one of the oldest Dutch meals and used to be a staple dish in the winter. Using the seasons past crops and the heartiness of the potatoes and sausage left you warm and full with little expense. Boerenkool translates to kale and is the type of stamppot I prepared with the addition of carrots. This is the recipe I used.
The meal was easy enough to prepare. I made a basic gravy using a rue which turned out to be more pale than I had anticipated- I suspect I needed more time to get the deeper brown color. I substituted my go to kielbasa for the sausage because of the more desirable texture and leaner meat (I go for turkey). I made sure to liberally season the potatoes with nutmeg, nothing is worse than bland mashed potatoes!
We found this dish to be very hearty with a nice mix of veggies and kielbasa. The warmth from the nutmeg was notable and a pleasant. The gravy paired well, however it also made the dish heavier and more filling. I didn’t chop the kale fine enough, but I think this element helped lighten the meal. We rated it 6.5/10.