(104) Ireland Day 1 – Fish Pie

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!

Source: Vacations.AirCanada

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!

(94) Seychelles – Creole Prawn Curry

A beautiful Seychelles beach. Source: CNN.com

Doesn’t that look nice? I would love to be sticking my toes in that warm, white sand.. but instead of sand I’m stuck with white snow. Anyways.. welcome to Seychelles! You can find this African country in the Indian Ocean north of Madagascar. Seychelles is an archipelago made up of 115 islands with 8 being having the majority of inhabitants. Interestingly there were no inhabitants until the late 1700s when the French discovered the islands. These are the only islands in the world that are formed from granite versus typical volcanic or coral elements. The worlds largest seed, Coco de Mer, can weigh up to 40lbs and can be found on two of the 115 islands making it heavily (pun intended) protected due to its variety.

The cuisine of the island is like many other neighboring islands. Local produce and seafood dominate the main course which includes shark chutneys and fish curries. You can eat the cherished Coco de Mer seeds however due to their size and harvesting rules many do not. Breadfruit is very popular here and according to legend if you eat breadfruit here you will return some day. I used this recipe which was actually created by Chef Daniel Louis on the island of Mahe, Seychelles. The recipe is for traditional shrimp creole curry. Creole cuisine ) is a mix of African, French, Spanish, and Caribbean influences that involve a lot of spice and heat using simple cooking methods.

Cooking and preparation was simple using basic cooking techniques. I liked that this recipe used a whole cinnamon stick to give a deeper flavor. Good thing I still have 50+ from a previous order..🙃

As you know we love shrimp dishes and this one didn’t disappoint! We enjoyed the warmth from the ginger and curry, however it did remind us of some dishes we have made before. The shrimp pairs well with these flavors and the coconut rice is just a given at this point (it is the only way to eat rice with curry flavors). We though it was deserving of a 7.25/10. Side not still not a huge fan of eggplant- think I will pass in the future🍆

(92) Fiji – Chili Coconut Prawns

Source: travelonline.com

Oh do I wish I was someplace warm right now! I feel Maine’s winter has been pretty mild so far but that tropical climate seems to be calling my name. Today we explore Fiji, a country of the South Pacific Ocean composed of more than 300 islands (110 of which are inhabited). This archipelago nation became independent from Great Britain in October of 1970 and is well known in the tourist industry. Walking across a hot bed of stones originated in Fiji around 500 years ago by the Sawau tribe. Fiji is also the “soft coral” capital of the world and has over 4,000 square miles across its nation with several popular places to snorkel. Additionally “Fiji Water” is one of the main exports of the country and is drank world wide.

The cuisine of Fiji is made up mostly of local ingredients whether if be foraged, hunted, farmed, or caught. With colonization teas, rice, grains, and flour are other staples in their diet. Seasonal produce is usually highlighted in their cooking. Coconut, taro, cassava, and bele (native vegetable) are especially popular here. The meal I made today tries to embody the nation using (or substituting) local ingredients. This chili coconut prawn (shrimp) recipe can be found here.

The execution was easy and used known ingredients. I added some peppers to give the dish more color and substance. I opted to make coconut rice to really bring out those sweet flavors (and because I’m obsessed).

Another awesome shrimp dish! The shrimp was super savory and paired well with the coconut rice (winning rice flavor in my opinion). The spice was enjoyable and complimented the dish. This one was worthy of 8/10.

(77) Liberia – Liberian Chicken Gravy

Hey guys I’m back! Summer time brings a lot of outdoor adventures and less time at the computer and stove to bring you more content. Hope you are also enjoying your summer!

Pygmy hippopotamus, Source: Dinoanimals.com

Before we get to it, lets first learn a little bit about Liberia! Liberia is a West African country that borders the Atlantic Ocean, Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire, and Guinea. English is mostly spoken here, however there are 20 indigenous languages still spoken today. It is the oldest African republic and was the first to gain its independence in 1847; its name literally translating to “land of the free.” This beautiful country is home to incredible surfing, over 700 bird species, the endangered pygmy hippopotamus, and Sapo National Park (which contains a portion of West Africa’s primary rainforest).

Today we make a classic Liberian dish, chicken gravy. This meal consists of not only chicken but shrimp and fish steaks as well. I decided to omit the fried fish and use additional shrimp instead. At the heart of traditional African stews lies tomatoes, garlic, and herbs along with other complementary ingredients to increase the savory and heartiness. Liberian cuisine alike other West African countries include plantains, cassava, rice, yams, and other local fruits and vegetables. Local seafood and fish is the primary meat source of Liberians diet however poultry and other red meat can be eaten on occasion. You can find this recipe here.

Preparation and cooking was simple. This is another good option for a week night meal that can simmer while you cram in a 30 minute work out or finish up a blog post (maybe that’s just me..). I look back now and would have added more tomato paste to thicken up the sauce.

So we had never experienced chicken and shrimp together before and thought it was pretty good! The sauce as I said earlier should have been thicker, however the herbs and ginger really pulled through. It had unique elements, but was an easy meal with common ingredients. We thought it was tasty and rated it 6.5/10.

Next up we head to Zimbabwe for another tender chicken meal!

Brazil Day 3 – Moqueca

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.

Vietnam Day 3 – Bánh Xèo

I have been very excited to try this dish. I have watched several videos and feel ready to tackle it. I am concerned I won’t get the right crispy texture of the crepe, but time will tell.

Hailing from central Vietnam these fancy crepes are usually filled with prawns and pork along with various vegetables. To make the crepe you use a combination of rice flour, turmeric powder, and water. Bánh xèo literally translates to “sizzling cake” which is what you should hear as it is cooking in the pan. As it cooks you add in your filling and once it gets to the desired crispiness you fold it over and serve it with greens, herbs, and a dipping sauce.

Unfortunately we did not hear the sizzle that was expected and after SEVERAL attempts to change the batter consistency and remake the batter with my gluten free flour we could not make this special masterpiece. What we had created was more soft and chewy textured “thing” that was hints of turmeric flavor. We could not fold our crepe because it wanted to break and tried it as an open faced dish. Disappointed and extremely frustrated I picked at our final result not enjoying the textures I was experiencing in my mouth. So it is safe to say this was another failed recipe that we will remake in the future with hopefully more success. I will not share the recipe I had gone by because who knows maybe it was poor interpretation of the instructions. Let us know if you have a go-to recipe that is bullet proof for us to try.

It is safe to say our next recipe was extremely successful and delicious! Stay tuned my faithful foodies

(56) Singapore – Chili Prawns

The majestic merlion of Singapore. Source: Travel Awaits

Hey guys, we are in Singapore! This beautiful country borders Western Malaysia and is guarded by the mythical merlion (seen above). This figure came to life from the combination of its previous name Singapura (lion city in Malay) and honoring the the past, modest fishing village that the country started as (hence lion head and fish body). Singapore is known for its ban on chewing gum, affordable street food, and its summer-like weather year round (it is situated near the equator).

No that isn’t guacamole, I could only find green chilis

For a smaller country Singapore is well-known for its incredible cuisine, especially seafood. Rice, noodles, and other meats are also found in many of its dishes, but today we pay tribute to seafood. I was originally going to make the very popular chili crab, but I couldn’t buy any crab locally.. only crab meat for crab cakes and that wasn’t going to cover it. So the next best thing was chili prawns (or shrimp).

The dish consists of a sweet and spicy chili sauce that simmers prior to the addition of the seafood of choice. At the end a beaten egg is mixed in briefly and the dish is removed from heat to serve over rice or noodles. Luckily I had some leftover coconut rice which paired wonderfully! This dish is so good that it’s mentioned in the top 50 best dishes on CNN. The recipe can be found here.

So we loved it, obviously. It was sweet with a mild heat, the ginger and garlic coming through well. The egg made the sauce creamy and delightful, just make sure not to let it sit too long so the egg doesn’t fry. Our only suggestion would have been some vegetables added to the mix to complete the meal. We absolutely loved it and will be making it in the future! It was rated 8.5/10.

Greece Day 3 – Garides tou Fournou

For our third day in Greece Ian made another recipe from Kokkari: Contemporary Greek Flavors. He has great understanding of Greek food from his experience as a line cook in a Greek-Italian restaurant and is part Greek himself. For those reasons that is why we decided to spend a week here – what a rough decision!

Ian and his family enjoying the ocean views

With Greece’s vast coastline and numerous islands it makes sense why seafood is a staple of their cuisine. Garides tou fournou roughly translates to baked shrimp and honors the delicious crustacean. Other common seafood that is used widely in Greek cuisine include sardines, squid, anchovies, smelt, mackerel, and bogue. It is not uncommon to find other varieties of seafood on the plate since this country is all about fresh ingredients. In this dish you will find shrimp that are topped with a flavorful shell-infused stock/tomato sauce and a healthy amount of feta. Yum yum!

The additional of dill to the sauce took me by surprise at first, but remembering our track record of dill and seafood pairing I knew it was going to be good. Thinking back to Libya as well we discovered the beautiful combination of dill, cinnamon, and tomatoes. You never know what unique pairings you are going to find by traveling by taste bud!

All aspects of the preparation and cooking was straightforward and easy to follow. The ingredients can easily be found in most grocery stores and it did not take long to finish. Making your own seafood stock is simple and a great way to save a little moolah. I don’t know why I had never thought to do that before..

We really enjoyed this meal and thought the addition of orzo was a must. Cooking the shrimp at a higher temperature allowed for a wonderful crust to form and give the dish a nice contrasting texture. Feta being incorporated in the sauce and garnished on top gave the sweet sauce a punch of saltiness (don’t go overboard adding salt to the dish!).

We loved this elevated shrimp dish and rated it 8.5/10. We give props to the orzo as well since this dish would be incomplete without it. If you don’t like shrimp you might be able to get away with scallops- let us know how that goes of course! If you still feel it needs more try pairing it with a fresh salad and a glass of your favorite white wine. Onto the last meal in Greece!

(32) Vanuatu – Coconut Sweet Potato Soup with Spicy Shrimp

Port Vila, Vanuatu. Source: SPREP.org

Welcome back! Today we are in the tropical Vanuatu, a country made up of 83 islands in the South Pacific Ocean near Australia. Bungee jumping was first done here when brave boys and men would jump from 20-30m (60-90ft) with vines tied to their ankles off wooden towers as part of a ritual called Nanggol. I think I’ll pass on that one!

The Vanuatuan cuisine consists main ingredients such as mangos, bananas, taro, yam, coconut, and seafood. You can find chickens and pigs used as a meat source, however seafood is primarily used. With that being said today’s dish screams Vanuatu!

I ended up finding a wonderful recipe that consisted of seasoned shrimp on top of a shredded spinach which sits in a sweet potato and coconut soup, yum yum!

Their national dish lap lap did not seem possible for me to attempt which is the product of pounded taro root paste which is layered with cabbage and meat wrapped in a banana leaf.. something tells me this would only taste good if eating it local.

All in all we appreciated the sweetness from the coconut and sweet potato and slight kick of chili powder (did not have cayenne). The shrimp was seasoned perfectly and had a bit of a crunch to it. The additional of spinach brought a freshness to the dish. We ended up rating it 7.25/10!

France Day 4 – Cognac Shrimp With Beurre Blanc Sauce

🧈🧈🧈WARNING, this recipe contains A LOT of butter!🧈🧈🧈

Recipe can be found here

Bonjour! We are ending the week with a lesser known dish that honors the mighty shrimp. This incredibly easy and flavorful dish can be whipped up in less than 45 minutes. All you need is shrimp, shallots, white wine, cognac (or similar brandy), lemon juice, heavy cream and LOTS of butter!

The beurre blanc sauce originates along the Loire Valley region of France. It’s comprised of a wonderful balance of acidic and rich flavors that transforms the simple shrimp to a creamy decadence.

As you probably guessed the cooking of shrimp in cognac brandy originated in Cognac, France. This added a nice sharpness to help contrast the sauce. I served this with toasted baguette and salad. Ian discovered leftover risotto paired well also.

We rated this final dish 7/10, although it left we feeling surprisingly full! We enjoyed the buttery sauce and found it was essential to dip the baguette in leftover sauce on the plate. This is a nice, straight forward meal that can be made during the week or a lazy weekend!