Doesn’t Buddas of Bamiyan look like something out of Star Wars? Welcome to Afghanistan, a landlocked country situated between Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and China. It holds the title for the most flag changes out of any other country- a total of 26! This country is known for its extreme weather due to its large range of elevation of 23,734ft between its highest and lowest points and contrasting arid and mountainous terrains. The world’s oldest oil paintings have been found in Afghanistan and date back to 650 BC. Lastly did you know Afghans have been asking for their national game buzkashi or goat grabbing to become an Olympic sport? Wouldn’t that be interesting..
The cuisine of Afghanistan has influence from India, Persia, and Central Asia. Rice using usually found at the base of every meal accompanied by meat (lamb and chicken mostly), nuts, fruit, and vegetables. Tea like in many countries is a sign of hospitality and often shared between family and friends. The recipe I decided to make is called Kabuli Palau, also known as Qabili Palau which is Afghanistan’s national dish! This decadent dish was first made by the upper class Afghans, but over time as society became wealthier the dish was made all over the country despite status. The name then changed from Kabuli Palau to Qabili Palau. Its said that the ability of a Afghan woman to make this dish will effect her marriage prospects (dramatic eye roll).. If this dish entices you click here.
To help myself out I decided to cook the carrot, raisin, and almonds the night before so that I wasn’t so crunched on time during the week. The recipe was easy to follow and used basic cooking techniques. The chicken smelled so lovely while it cooked!
What a beautiful dish! I knew from the get go it was going to be delicious. The warmth from the seasoning for the rice and meat is well balanced with the caramelized carrots, almonds, and raisins. Overall it left me feeling completely satisfied! We have already made this meal again since it was originally made, it is now part of my repertoire. We rated it 8.75/10.
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 “a 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.
The Cayman Islands are a British Territory that sits between Cuba and Central America in the Caribbean Sea. The territory is made up of three islands that each have their own personality and attraction. The islands are actually the tops of the Cayman Ridge that sits 7,500 m (24,600ft) above the ocean floor! It is well known for its Seven Mile Beach, but come to find out it is only 5 1/2 miles long! The Cayman Islands are best known for their scuba diving excursions and gorgeous beaches.
The cuisine found here mostly consists of seafood, vegetables, spices- this even includes turtles! You can find other traditional Caribbean dishes here as well like jerk chicken, rice, beans, and fried plantains. These islands are sometimes referred to as the culinary capital of the Caribbean because of their high class foods (often found at their world class resorts). Today I made a mango, chicken, rice and bean bake that contains plenty of island spice paired with tropical fruit sweetness. If this tickles your taste buds click here.
The meal was mildly confusing to me which lead me to cook the rice prior to added it to the bake which lead me to mushy rice- just add it in dry and it will absorb all the wonderful flavors. I couldn’t find mango chutney in my local Hannaford so I substituted it with apricot preserves.
We thought the Cayman Islands brought as a nicely spiced and savory. It was definitely a casserole like dish that was comforting to eat, although the texture of the rice really bothered me. The mango kept the spiciness at a tolerable level and gave the dish a nice balance. We thought it was worth 7.5/10 and considered it mostly successful..
For day 3 we made moqueca, a seafood stew that is traditionally cooked in a terracotta casserole dish. With its Brazilian origin you understandably find lime, garlic, and cilantro to season the dish up. You serve this stew with a side of white rice and garish with a lime wedge and fresh herbs. Typically a fish component accompanies the shrimp, but the fish I bought went bad (although the date was good).. not cool Hannaford! If moqueca entices you, you can find the recipe here.
It was important to allow the shrimp to sit in the lime/ginger marinade for at least 30 minutes prior to cooking. This was another great weeknight meal that took little time and mostly was a “sit and wait” method. I was able to utilize the shrimp shells to make fish stock while they were marinating.. I highly recommend this to save money. Just throw it in the freezer and you’re good for another seafood chowder or stew!
Oh man this was great. This super creamy and warming broth paired well with the shrimp and veggies. Also a new enjoyable combination of basil and cilantro was discovered. There was nothing bland about this stew (which seems to be an issue 50% of the time) and we felt it was a new refreshing way to enjoy shrimp (no fish was needed). We thought it was deserving of a 9/10.
Hey guys- today we are in VENEZUELA! You already know it’s going to be good. Venezuela is situated on the Northern coast of South America neighboring Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and Colombia. It is considered to be a megadiverse country with several species calling Venezuela their one and only home. Also found here is the world’s largest waterfall, Angel Falls which measures at a staggering 3,212ft total height!
Venezuelan cuisine is influenced by West Africa, Europe, and Native Americans. Their dishes can often contain yams, plantains, corn, beans, and of course meat! The dish I made for Venezuela is called Pabellón Criollo. It consists of four separate dishes: shredded beef, garlic rice, plantains, and the most amazing black beans you’ve ever had. If you don’t know by now I have quite the plantain obsession and I hope you will grow to have one too!!
The history of this country’s national dish is not set in stone, however it is thought to represent the ethnic groups that populated Venezuela in the colonial area- shredded beef and plantains represent the indigenous people, white rice represents the European (Spanish) settlers, and black beans the Africans that were brought over with the Spanish. Another interpretation is that the colors represent the country’s flag.
I used this recipe which was easy to follow even with several elements cooking at the same time. I had prepped veggies while the meat was cooking which saved time later on. The rice I saved for later so it wouldn’t get cold. Plantains are always since they are a fried food and would not taste as good reheated.
We loved this dish! It was very savory, the beans especially standing out with rich flavor. I think I would have liked the shredded beef cooking in a sauce versus beef juices, however it was still very good. All the flavors went well together and the plantains brought a nice crunchy texture to the dish.
We rated the dish 7.5/10. Let us know what you think and drop a comment below!
Welcome back to a warm place in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.. The Northern Mariana Islands. This archipelago has 15 volcanoes that are mostly dormant . The Northern 10 volcanic islands are uninhabited leaving 5- Rota, Guam, Aguijan, Tinian and Saipan. Guam is a US territory that is the southernmost island of the chain. The Mariana Trench (West of the Mariana Islands) is actually the lowest part of the Earth’s crust and it is so deep that Mount Everest would completely fit with room to spare between the peak and the surface of the water!
These islands neighbor Japan and the Philippines and are traveled to for their beauty, coral reefs, and golf courses. Today I made a dish that is popular in Guam, however it will represent the chain of islands in their entirety. Kelaguen Mannok is a chicken salad which can be eaten as is or wrapped in a tortilla. This salad is made up of cooked chicken that traditionally is marinated in soy sauce and cane sugar. Other ingredients include items that might make you feel like you are some place tropical- unsweetened coconut, lemons, and hot peppers. I used this recipe to create this dish and took advantage of the tip to use a rotisserie chicken!
I decided to make the common red rice pairing as well. The rice gets its color from annatto powder (I had to make my own blend using tumeric, paprika, and nutmeg). Annatto powder is more commonly used in cooking solely for the color it gives food vs flavor. It comes from the seeds of spiny fruit of an achiote tree, the fruit remind me of burdock that are found stuck to your clothes when coming out to hike in Maine!
I will admit I wish I had done more research prior to making this dish to know to marinate the chicken. Instead I just drizzled some soy sauce on the salad and mixed it well prior to wrapping it up. The rice had nice flavor from my spice blend, however no matter how much I tried it did not look nearly as colorful as the real deal.
We thought this was a pretty yummy dish and the addition of a tortilla obviously was a superior way to eat it! It was surprising that the chicken with the combination of flavors and the fact that it was cold tricked my mind several times to think it was fish! The citrus and mild heat components was a nice contrast that paired well with the sweetness of the coconut. We rated this dish an average of 7/10.
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!
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 😊
Welcome to our sixth week cooking every country! I start the week of in the beautiful Uzbekistan (roughly translating to Land of the Free from Turkish/Persian). It is a landlocked country meaning it does not border any oceans or seas. It was the center of the Silk Road which was what connected Europe, China and and the Middle East together. Additionally, Uzbekistan did not become an independent country from Russia until 1991.
There are various varieties (upwards of 60) which depends on which region of the country you are in. Common ingredients that make up the base of all plovs are rice, mutton/lamb, carrots, and spices. One other meat that can be found as a substitute is kazi or horse meat sausage.
Plov was first created back in the 10th and 11th centuries for weddings and other big events. At this time only the high class could afford to eat it, but in present day it is adored by all classes and tourists alike. It can be made for weddings, holidays, or on a daily basis which will predict how grand the dish will be.
I used this straight forward recipe for this meal. We loved the new blend of flavors (especially the currants/raisins)! We feel that there could have been more seasoning (I added more after the fact) to let the ingredients come to life. Also after cooking lamb a few times now we have discovered that we aren’t huge fans of the flavor.. in the future we will be substituting the beef equivalent (much cheaper too). We rated this dish 6-6.5/10, it would be higher with beef and more seasoning.
Tomorrow I break out the Instant Pot to make Ropa Vieja from Cuba!