Onto our 28th country- Bulgaria! This Balkan country is known for having the second richest natural mineral springs, producing 85% of the world’s rose oil, and bordering the Black Sea. Bulgaria is also one of the oldest European countries estimated to by established in 681 A.D. This country has Greek, Ottoman, Persian, and Slavic influence that definitely impacts their cooking style and flavors.
For Bulgaria I made two smaller dishes that worked well together and are very traditional to the country. The first part of this meal is kebapcheta a minced beef sausage that is well seasoned with paprika, cumin, and a little bit of clove. The name kebapcheta is derived from the word kebab, -che meaning small aka small kebab! Typically they are served as three with a side of chips (fries).
The traditional way to cook these little guys in on a grill, but I decided to put my new air fryer to use! 8 minutes later and some flipping mid way they were done!
The second part of the meal was shopska salata, an easy to assemble salad that is made up of the three colors of the Bulgarian flag (I accidently grabbed an orange pepper, silly me) – red, green, and white! Chopped cucumber, tomatoes, pepper, and onion are the base of the meal. Parsley and a good amount of feta is mixed throughout. Vinaigrettes are great to use as a dressing, but any light dressing will work!
Together it makes a beautiful spread! We thought the meat was well seasoned, the salad was refreshing and crisp, and the fries obviously did not take away from the meal. It was quick and simple so this is another great option for week night cooking. We rated it 7/10.
It is an exciting week here at The Messy Aprons- we have arrived in France! I absolutely love French food (and wine) and can not wait to try cooking some classic French dishes. Before I dive into today’s meal I want to talk about a little more about France.
France is part of Western Europe and actually is the largest European country. It also is the most popular place to travel in the world, Paris being a top destination. France is well known for its top notch wine and cuisine along with incredible historic museums and culture. There are several French inventions that we use on a daily basis such as the stethoscope, braille, pasteurization, food preservation/tin cans, and sewing machines to name a few. Above is a picture of a medieval castle complete with water mote in Nantes, France. Nantes is were my ancestors originate from and I have a special dish dedicated to that region to finish our week!
Calling Julie and Julia fans- I channeled my inner Julia Child today when making her adored Beef Bourguignon! I definitely watched the movie the night prior to get me in the right spirit! This hearty beef stew originates in the province of Bourgogne, France where wine and beef are high quality. This dish dates back to medieval times as a common peasant food. They would combine tougher pieces of beef with vegetables cooking for long periods of time in order to save meat that may had gone to waste. Fast forward to the 1960s when Julia Child put her own spin on the dish. This recipe can be found here and to watch Julia make it herself you can find the video here. Since I don’t own a Dutch oven I opted to slow cook mine on high (this is around 300 degrees depending on your model/make) for the same amount of time.
Boeuf Bourguignon is a timely process that consists of slow cooking dried beef (key step!) that has been browned in butter then bathed in a red wine sauce.
Shallots and mushrooms are prepared separately and added into the dish once the slow cooking is complete. The red wine is an important element which brings a rich flavor to the meal. You better believe your kitchen is going to smell like a slice of French heaven by the time you’re done!
I referenced Julia’s video and recipe to get a better understanding of how to process each aspect of the meal. Julia suggests slitting the bottom of each shallot of making a small “x” prior to cooking them so they will stay whole. I simmered mine in beef stock as the recipe suggested.
As for the mushrooms I followed Julia’s video once again, taking care to wash and dry the mushrooms as she does. I will admit I am not a mushroom fan, but I was hopeful that the lovely wine sauce would help distract me from the texture.
I served my stew with a French baguette, side salad, and a glass of that red wine (obviously!). It was so savory and delicious, each part of the stew melting in our mouths!
The red wine brought a unique yet very appreciated flavor and it was well seasoned. I have to admit I did not like mushrooms, but after having this meal my mind has been changed. I mean how could something taste bad after being sautéed in butter?
We rated this dish 8.25/10 and I would definitely make it again! Next we will try another peasant dish.. the well known ratatouille!
Sri Lanka is known by two alternative names “The pearl of he Indian Ocean” and the “tear drop of India”. The first name comes from the beautiful tropical landscape, high levels of biodiversity and the fine gemstones found there. It’s second name can be easily be understood when looking at a map, as the tear drop shaped country appears to be falling from the southern point of India.
Despite being such a small country, Sri Lanka is one of the world’s largest exporters of cinnamon and tea. Cinnamon is actually native to Sri Lanka. The spice is processed by peeling the inner bark of the native cinnamon trees.
Tonight’s meal is Kottu Roti which is a famous street food from Sri Lanka. It’s said when walking the streets you can hear the rhythmic scraping and chopping as chefs prepare this meal with their steel hand spatulas. Here and here are the two recipes I referenced.
Coconut Roti is a Sri Lankan flatbread that is both spicy and sweet. Below is the Dry ingredients, and the final dough ball once water is mixed and folded in.
The ball is then split into several smaller pieces that are rolled flat and then placed onto the frying pan.
The Final product is a sweet, spicy, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside flat bread!
Separately the shrimp and vegetables are heavily spiced and cooked.
The roti is then chopped and everything is mixed together for the final plating.
This dish is spiced well and is packed full of flavor with multiple layers of mild heat. The shrimp and roti provide a crisp texture, and the coconut infuses the dish with mild sweetness. We loved how the simple ingredients packed such bold flavor.
Welcome back! Today we are in Libya, a North African country known for its desert terrain and oil production. Due to most of the country being made up of this barren landscape they must import the majority of their food. Part of the Sahara desert can be found in this country, the Libyan portion is known for being the harshest and driest; so dry that decades could pass without rain.
That description of Libya might have you wondering “what good can come from such a place?” Well let me introduce you to their take on the stuffed bell pepper (mahshee)! I love that this recipe comes from someone who grew up eating this passed down in their family. Although stuffed peppers are not truly unique to this country, the flavors that are packed inside are very traditional.
Mahshee or mahshi are stuffed peppers or squash that originates back in the Ottoman empire. It is popular in the Middle East and each representation maybe very unique to the region it has been made in. That is true for Libya as well, you will find in this recipe several spices and herbs to bring a fresh new perspective on the stuffed pepper.
We absolutely loved this dish! Super easy to make (a little time consuming) and full of flavor! We loved the mild heat of the dish along with flavor that packed a punch! If you are looking to spice up your stuffed pepper this is the meal for you. I was able to share this meal among friends and they all agreed it was a keeper! We rated this dish 8/10 and it creeps up into our list favorites.
To end our week we will land in Sri Lanka to try another authentic dish. We hope you are enjoying our taste bud travels.. until next time!
To close out the week we are in Costa Rica! I decided to make two dishes that are very popular in the Costa Rican diet. Costa Rica is found in Central America and is known as the hummingbird capital with over 50 species native to the region. It is full of spectacular nature, an overwhelming amount of insects, and active volcanos. This country has it all- amazing views and food!
Nauyaca Waterfalls of Costa Rica. Source: Pinterest
The first portion of this meal is carne en salsa – a shredded beef dish that soaks up a flavorful red sauce. The finely shredded beef is very versatile and could be used for tacos, tamales, sandwiches or even nachos! I was able to find the highly recommended Salsa Lizano on Etsy which helped give the meat and rice a wonderfully sweet and smoky flavor. This sauce has been a Costa Rican staple for over 100 years!
The recipe I used for the lovely carne en salsa can be found here. This blog also has a separate link for the preparation prior to the shredding. If you don’t have an Instant Pot I would recommend slow cooking the beef for 6-8 hours or until it easily shreds.
For the second part of this dish I decided to make the national dish of Costa Rica- Gallo Pinto. Gallo pinto translates to spotted rooster and was likely given this name due to its contrasting appearance. Nicaragua also claims this dish as its own, however it is controversial.
I used this recipe which was very easy to follow. It required 1/2 of cup of the locally made sauce, but have no fear Worchester sauce is a good substitute. This paired well with the beef and once again seemed like a dish that could be used for many different meals. In Costa Rica it’s commonly served up with eggs for breakfast.
Additionally I fried up some plantains which brought a wonderful crunch to the dish. This meal was well balanced and honestly one of my favorites! It was pretty straight forward to prepare and not too time consuming. Another bonus is how each element could be used in various dishes or stand out alone.
We could not recommend this meal more and gave it an 8.5/10 rating (definitely suggest frying some green plantains as well). Next on the menu is Guyana 😊
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!
Welcome to another day in Europe! Today we are in Kosovo, the second youngest country in the world. It gained independence from Serbia in 2008 (although not all countries view it this way). This little Balkan country is roughly the size of Delaware. The name Kosovo is derived from Serbia meaning “field of black birds.” Below is a picture of the stone bridge of Prizren which sits in the center of this very historical city.
To honor this little known country I will be making tavë kosi. This dish is a national dish of Albania technically, but due to recent independence it was hard to find a truly authentic Kosovan dish. The dish is thought to have been created back in the 14th century when lamb was being marinated in yogurt in preparation to feed the sultan. Leftover grilled lamb was then baked with yogurt and voila the dish was born!
I used this recipe from a fellow international food blogger and it was very easy to follow! I personally added extra oregano and nutmeg because I enjoy those flavors. The four cups of yogurt equaled an entire large container for this recipe. I also substituted stewing beef for lamb which I thought worked well.
Layer oneLayer twoDone!
We were surprised with how good this dish tasted! It was well seasoned, rich and creamy with slight sourness on top and the beef was tender and had a wonderful flavor from the garlic and butter. I did not prepare this meal with any side dishes, but I would recommend a side dish of salad or cooked vegetables to balance it out. We rated the dish 7.5/10 👍👍
Welcome to our final week of February which is our 8th week traveling by taste bud! I started out this week in Romania dreaming of roaming the Carpathian Mountains and exploring several medieval castles. Scărișoara Glacier hides underground inside a 105m (344ft) cave and Berca Mud Volcanoes spew out occasionally colorful bubbles of the earth- it feels like we are in a fantasy land!
I chose to prepare the beloved sarmale which is very representative of this country. It is believed to by Turkish in origin, however Romania has definitely put it’s mark on the dish. It consists of sauerkraut or boiled cabbage which is filled with ground pork, rice, onions, and spices. The rolls are then layered or placed side by side in boiling water along with bacon and occasionally spare ribs to cook for several hours. Tomatoes are used in various stages of this process depending on what recipe you use. The very lengthy recipe I used can be found here if you have 6+ hours to spare. There are other variations that are a little less time consuming, but it is for sure a labor of love.
I found it challenging to roll the pork mixture in the cabbage, but I was able to get two full layers as the recipe called for. I would recommend prepping as much as you can before hand so the cooking and assembly takes less time. I felt like a chicken without her head trying to juggle cooking bacon and spare ribs while prepping the cabbage and onion! Also it was very difficult to assemble the boiled cabbage leaves without the filling oozing out.. I tried to make Romania proud 😅
This dish was well seasoned combining savory and pickling flavors together. I was glad I had triumphed with this very long process, it was very satisfying to watch it come together along with the sides of polenta and topping of homemade pickled hot peppers. I will say though it came down to texture for me due to the I rated this dish lower than Ian bringing our average to 6/10. Don’t let my review scare you away, if you are motivated for a 15+ step process this might be your recipe! Up next Finland!
Greetings from Oman! This old country (one of the oldest inhabited countries in the world dating back over 106,000 years) is home to some of the best ship builders of the world. Oman is also known as one of the more elite Arabian horse breeders. Port Sultan Qaboos (pictured above) is the largest port of Muscat and is the main connection between India and the Far East to Oman.
To celebrate one of Oman’s delicacies I made omani shuwa which is a slow cooked lamb dish. As stated in a previous post we are not huge lamb eaters, but I was able to substitute short ribs for lamb shanks. Traditionally, this special occasion meal takes days to prepare. The first day it marinates in Omani spices, then it is wrapped in palm or banana leaves and is places in a sand oven underground slowly cooking for 1-2 days! I was able to follow this recipe for a modified version.
I ended up letting the meat marinade two days and cut slashes in the meat as recommended to allow the flavor to absorb into the meat. Then I slow cooked the ribs in my crockpot for 3ish hours with 1 cup of water and a little extra lime juice. Above is the end result served aside a bed of spinach, turnip fries with middle eastern inspired seasoning, and red peppers for garnish. The meat was so delicious and we loved the punchiness of the lime with the dynamic garlic and ginger duo. Personally we felt the meat choice was a little too fatty, but we would definitely use this marinade and slow cooking method for other cuts of beef or even chicken. We rated this dish 7/10!
Next week we will arrive in Romania for a totally new dish unlike anything I’ve ever had before! Talk to you soon!
Welcome back to another day traveling around the globe by your taste buds! I have to admit we had another dish failure this week when trying to recreate Lithuania’s cepelinai. 3 hours and 8lbs of potatoes the recipe we used just did not work. We will return to this country in the future to redeem ourselves!
Mali is the biggest West African country and is home to the Grand Mosquée which can be found pictured above. This building is made from sun-baked earth bricks, clay, earth based mortar, and plaster to coat the outside and is the largest of it’s kind. It sits on top of a 246ft x 246ft platform and is 52 ft in height.
The meal I made today is called Tigua Degué aka Mafé which is yet another chicken in peanut sauce dish. This one differs from the rest by having several more vegetables involved and has more of a soup like flavor (in my opinion). This is the national dish of Mali and is also prepared similarly in Senegal (referred to as Mafé). I could not find out much information on the dish, but it definitely reminds me of other African dishes we have tried.
I followed this recipe, but unfortunately my sauce split and it was definitely more soup-like. That mishap aside it was successful. It was a good hearty meal filled with several vegetables. I served the chicken/vegetable concoction with white rice as recommended which seems to be the norm in African cuisine. The meal didn’t compare to the previous African dish from DRC, but was still enjoyed by both of us. We rated this meal 6/10.
Lastly we travel to Oman to try something quite a bit different than the previous two dishes. Stay tuned 🥩