(101) Latvia – Piragi

Riga, Latvia. Source: Kimkim.com

To start our journey over 100 we head to Latvia, a lesser known European country with historic charm and breath-taking scenery. You can find Latvia situated between Estonia, Lithuania, Russia, Belarus, and the Baltic Sea. It has an expansive coastline that spans nearly 310 miles. Latvia also has an impressive amount of forests which covers over half of the country. Riga, the capital of Latvia, was founded in 1201 and is home to famous art nouveau architecture which makes up a third of the city. Additionally in 1510 the world’s first Christmas tree was decorated in Riga and additionally caught on nationally.

Latvian cuisine is heavily influenced by Russia and Germany, along with other bordering countries. Latvia is well-known for the popularity of foraging, especially for mushrooms, berries, and herbs. With distinguished four seasons, the cuisine is dependent on what is available at the time of the year. Seafood is another substantial part of Latvian cuisine due to the country’s sizable border along the Baltic Sea. Other agricultural resources are used as well in the Latvian kitchen including the dish we are making!

Not to be confused with the Polish pierogi, piragis are meat pastries filled with bacon, ham, onion, and spices. Also known belovingly as “bacon buns” these pastries traditionally were eaten for special occasions due to the hours of work required to make these little masterpieces. Each Latvian family may have a slightly different rendition of these bad boys and luckily that is exactly where I found this recipe! I reached out to a past coworker of mine knowing of her origin and was fortunate to gain a recipe that will be apart of my repertoire. You can find Sandy’s recipe at the end of this post!

I started by making the filling which chilled in the fridge while I made the pastry. It is a timely process, but an important one. I feel it would not truly be a piragi with store bought dough due to some unique ingredients. It was so satisfying seeing how much the dough had tripled in size! As I was making the fillings I discovered using the edge of a glass helped seal the edges of my piragis. Make sure you try this on a day off or a weekend, you will need hours to go through all the steps!

WOW Latvia knows what’s up! All the labor that went into making these was paid off by the unique blend of savory flavors that danced our tastebuds. The creamy sour cream was a nice pairing with the rich meat and pastry flavors. The pastry itself was pillowy soft with a nice crust. Ian being the red sauce man that he is tried a marinara sauce too and that was also a success. Once we tried the piragis with marinara it made us think of little mini calzones. Don’t hate us Latvia πŸ˜…

We had put up our aprons for a little while and found this to be just the dish to get us back into the swing of things again. We rated this dish 9.5/10 😍

(85) St Helena – Plo Pilau

Source: Pinterest

St. Helena is a British Territory situated in the South Atlantic Ocean west of Southern Africa. It is a volcanic island that is roughly 10 mi by 5 mi is size. The island is named after St Helena of Constantinople, a empress of the Roman empire and mother of Constantine the Great. The colorful buildings are distinct as you arrive to the island. Napoleon was exiled here after his defeat in the Battle of Waterloo. Charles Darwin has also stepped foot on the island and thought it was β€œa curious little world within itself”. St. Helena is well known for an endangered species “green tipped Bourbon Arabica coffee” and is home to 45 other plant species that are not found anywhere else in the world. If you’re adventurous you could climb Jacob’s steps (nearly 700 total), which is the only remnants of a past cable railway or see where Napoleon stayed after exile.

The cuisine on the island of course has British influence, but also other European countries, China, Africa, and India. Natives take advantage of seafood and locally grown produce. Fishcakes are very popular here which is a mix of fresh seafood and plenty of spices. Plo, a one pot dish also full of spices, veg, and various meats is a well known to the island. Similar to Middle Eastern plov it has a rice base. I decided to tackle this dish and used this recipe.

Look at all the colors of this meal! Luckily I was able to use mostly fresh produce which I fell you can taste the difference in a dish like this! I loaded it up with just a little more curry than what was asked for, because why not. Nothing is worse than a bland meal!

This dish was suuuper savory, bring on that curry seasoning! There was a nice variety of veggies which balanced out the meat. It was nice that I didn’t have to dirty too many dishes and it could all cook in the same pot! Unfortunately my rice was over cooked so the texture was a bit off.. I’m sure if the texture was more desirable we could have rated it a little higher. The dish definitely has potential for a higher rating… maybe I will make again in the near future. We decided 6.75/10 was fair.

(83) Antigua + Barbuda – Pork Chops with Bacon-Wrapped Bananas

Source: Big Seven Travel

We are back in the Caribbean visiting a tropical country with two names and three islands. The official language is English due to past British rule, although you can find people speaking Spanish as well in certain regions. The island has no lakes, rivers, forests, or mountains, but they have plenty of beaches! A & B is even nicknamed β€œthe land of 365 beaches.” Even though it looks like there is a small mountain range on the Antigua it is actually remnants of a volcanic crater (the islands are partially volcanic but there is no active volcanos). This Caribbean nation is popular for vacations due to all the beautiful beaches and top-notch bird watching.

The cuisine of A & B is like many other Caribbean dishes, but they have some unique national dishes. One is called “fish water” which is a stewed or boiled fish, another is “fungee” which is similar to polenta. Food here often involves fresh seafood and produce. Today we do something different- pork chops with bacon-wrapped bananas. This seemingly random pairing of food had me intrigued. Banana is one of the most abundant crops of the island and locals find this dish a wonderful pairing of salty and sweet. Unfortunately, I could not find a back story of how this dish came to be. Most times it is grilled when being prepared, however our grill stopped working so I was very thankful to have my air fryer! The grill version of this dish is found here.

It was tricky to get the bacon to stay on the bananas but luckily most of them stayed put. If you are wanting to fire up that air fryer or are grill-less place the wrapped bananas in for 8-12 minutes depending on the thickness of the bacon at 380 F. You will want to make sure the bacon is crispy and the bananas are slightly browned.

As interesting as this dish was it wasn’t too bad. The pork chops were very well seasoned, we thought the lemon and cumin was a great combination. The bananas and bacon were a nice balance of sweet and savory, however the texture of the bananas wasn’t what we had hoped. They were very mushy while the bacon was crispy, too much contrast for me. Overall the meal was well seasoned and pleasant. We rated it 7.25/10.

Brazil Day 2 – Feijoada

Welcome back! Day two in Brazil consists of a garlicy mixture of pork, short ribs, bacon, and beans… we are making feijoada! Feijoada (fay-jwa-da) is a traditional black bean stew that originated when slaves would combine the plantation owners leftovers with black beans to make a stew. This dish is a symbol to Brazil’s past and is enjoyed by citizens of all social classes.

The recipe I used was a slow cooker approach after all the meat was browned. Over time each element was added to the crock pot to slowly cook down to a savory party in your mouth! Yes it smelled like heaven in the kitchen and I did not feel guilty with all of the fatty meat slow cooking to perfection. I opted to use canned black beans for time and simplicity sake. The recipe can be found here.

Another hit here in Brazil! This garlicy, meaty meal was bursting with flavor. The addition of the orange slices gave the dish a bit of sweetness and acidity which we appreciated. We both drizzled the top with orange juice and decided to get a bite of the orange with the rest of the savory dish. We already knew beans and bacon were a powerful duo, but garlic amps it up! We thought this meal was worth an 8/10.

Next we tackle another stew with a fishy twist!