For our final meal of the week we had a classic street foot of Greece- the Gyro. Pronounced like “yee-roh” (Greek for spin) this savory wrap is traditionally filled with a grilled meat (lamb or beef), tzatziki sauce, sliced tomato, and red onion wrapped inside pita bread. The sandwich did not become mass produced like it is now until the 1970s as American tourism quickly made it a fast food. It is now popular in the US especially in New York City.
It does originate from Greece, however it is believed to be very similar to the Turkish döner kebabs. The term gyro refers to the method the meat is traditionally cooked, rotating vertically on a spit. The Turkish kebabs are cooked in a similar fashion and alike ingredients. We were unable to achieve that, however we broke out our little Colman grill and got the job done. We used sirloin tips for our meat of choice, yum!
As for the tzatziki sauce it is a refreshing combination of Greek yogurt (make sure its plain!), shredded cucumber, lemon juice, and herbs. This sauce can be found in cuisine along the Balkans and the Middle East along with Greece with slightly different preparations. We were glad to use our nifty shredding attachment to make this step even more of a breeze!
This meal wasn’t new to us, but that wasn’t going to stop us from making it one of our four. We loved the tender meat with the cooling tzatziki and fresh vegetables. Our only downfall (slight) was the naan bread since I could not find pita bread anywhere! The naan made it VERY filling, but nonetheless it is one of our favorite dinners to make. With that said we rated it 9.5/10 (10/10 with pita). We hope you enjoy Ian’s recipes just as much as we do!
Welcome to another day in Greece, today we will be making a refreshingly light soup that is great on a warm summer day or when you need a pick me up. This dish is dominated by the taste of lemon and dill.
This citrusy soup is a lesser known Greek classic and is believed to have made its way there with the Sephardic Jews. This ethnic group originating from the Iberian Peninsula has a cuisine that consists of stuffed vegetables, salads, fruits, nuts, herbs, lentils and chickpeas (to name a few). It was originally made with pomegranate or orange juice, but with the popularization of lemon juice in the 10th century it is now the preferred fruit juice.
Ian felt this recipe was straight forward, however there was a crucial part that you want to pay attention to. It was important to whisk the hot broth and egg/lemon juice mixture constantly to avoid cooking the egg. It is also the same method when adding it back into the remaining soup.
We thought the soup was unique compared to others we have made and enjoyed how the lemon and dill made it lighter and refreshing. We would have liked more rice than what was asked for since a 1/4 cup was not much.
If you prefer fish over chicken, a similar recipe we have cooked in the past called Lohikeitto might be the soup for you!
We did enjoy the Finnish lemon and dill soup a little more than this one. The rating we gave it was 7/10.
Hello again! Today we are in Moldova, a small Eastern European country that is well known for its extensive wine collections (Guiness World record actually). Moldova does not get a lot of foreign foot traffic since it is a more impoverished country, however there is more than what meets the eye! There are beautiful old monasteries that can be found throughout the cities and admirable country sides and forests. Moldovans love wine (and other booze) so much that they dedicate two days to wine in October as a National holiday. Sign me up!
I was originally going to make the national dish of Moldova which is mămăligă, but I decided the zeamă would suffice. Zeamă is like a chicken noodle soup with a European twist. This dish is very traditional in this country and served year round, even in hot weather. This soup is a sign of welcoming or celebration the morning before a wedding. It even pairs well with wine.. who would have thought! The recipe I referenced can be found here.
I did make some substitutions since lovage and borsch couldn’t be found in my local grocery store. I used celery salt and lemon juice as replacements and enjoyed the flavors they brought to the dish. I also substituted store bought egg noodles for homemade ones to save myself time.
It was pretty easy to make and took advantage of the perfect opportunity to use some of my dehydrated carrots I made up last year, they taste just as fresh! I also added tons of herbs- more than the suggested to bring out more flavors in the simple broth.
I let a cut jalapeno soak in the soup which did give a very mild heat to the soup which was nice. The lemon and dill combo will always rate high in our book, however I wish there was more flavor. I’m wondering if I had the recommended ingredients if it would have more gusto.
Due to this we rated it a little lower at 6/10 average.. sorry Moldova😔
For our next country we visited Kyrgyzstan which is situated in Central Asia. Kyrgyz is thought to be derived from the Turkic word “forty” because of the forty clans of Manas. These forty clans can be found represented as the rays of sun on their flag. -stan translates from Pakistani to “country” or “place of.” 80% of the landscape is made up of the Tian Shan mountain region, the highest point of elevation being over 24,000ft. It is also known to have some of the world’s largest walnut forests.
I made a traditional dish of the Central Asian and nomadic Turkic people, beshbarmak. This dish is also the national dish of Kyrgyzstan. Beshbarmak translates to “five fingers” because it was eaten without utensils originally by the nomadic people. The authentic version if made with lamb, however I have opted to use beef once again as a substitute. The recipe I used today can be found here.
This is another quick and simple meal which would work well on week nights. It consists of boiled meat, noodles, onion, broth, and sprigs of dill for garnish. Although it seems pretty basic I had read high marks on this recipe and that the flavor of lamb was able to stand out in the simplicity.
We really wanted to like this dish, but unfortunately it fell short and did not wow our taste buds. Reading up on the nomadic history and how they had to rely on their animals and resources for their meals it made sense why there was only a handful of ingredients. Maybe there could have been something we could have changed to bring out more of the beefy flavor or maybe lamb is the only way to go.
On a positive note we did enjoy the freshness and pop of flavor dill brought to the dish, but it still rated on the lower end of our reviews at 5/10. Once we come full circle with our culinary endeavors we will come back to Kyrgyzstan and create another traditional dish to better understand and appreciate the country.
Here we are back in Europe with a salmon dish. Similar to its neighbor, Norway traditionally has salmon dishes to represent their nation. Interestingly, Japan did not use salmon when making sushi until it was suggested in 1980s by Norwegian delegation- this not only created a popular sushi, but helped out the overwhelming amount of farmed salmon. Norway is a part of Scandinavia and has a dramatic landscape that I wish I could place myself in.
To represent Norway and its famous salmon aquaculture I made a creamy salmon bake. In Norway, salmon is a true staple in their diet which could be eaten for any meal of the day. For this dish salmon lies on top of potatoes, onions, dill and cream cheese and is bathed in eggs and milk. I was unable to use true Norwegian salmon, but made up for it with wild caught Maine salmon- the next best thing!
Once again salmon and dill make a wonderful pair. We liked the creamy texture the dish had and how well all the aspects of the dish played together. It did not blow either one of us away, however it was an easy meal to prepare during the week and was tasty! We rated it 6.5/10.
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.