Italy Day 3 – Chicken Cacciatore

Welcome to day 3 in Italy! We are making the saucy chicken cacciatore today, a breaded chicken that bathes in a savory tomato-wine sauce. Cacciatore translates to hunter which were the first people to enjoy this dish. Because hunters first made this dish it was actually made with game instead of chicken. The dish was created sometime between the 14th and 16th century.

The dish is so popular it has its own holiday on the 15th of October! Although we know this dish to be adorned with tomato it was originally made without. Tomatoes were not introduced to Italy until later on!

I really appreciated that this meal took less than an hour to prepare (since the majority take longer). The sauce smelt ahhhmazing and picked up the flavors of the stewing veggies. The recipes I used can be found here.

I even made a caperse salad (although the chipmunk ate most of my basil!!)

In the end we were left with a beautiful Italian dinner. The chicken was coated with a nice thick and rich tomato sauce, but I could not tell it was breaded. The vegetables apart of the meal paired well and gave us stew vibes. The salad was nice and fresh and paired well with the hearty chicken. We really loved this dish and rated it 8.25/10!

To close out our week we will have a classic that is commonly seen American restaurants.

(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!

(59) Curaçao – Keshi Yena

Willemstad, the capital of Curaçao. Source: Reddit

Welcome to another day traveling the globe by taste bud, today we land in the Caribbean on an island called Curaçao. You can find this Dutch island off the shores of Venezuela. It has a unique landscape that makes it stand out from the other Caribbean islands- it is a true desert island that receives little rain. Because of its dry climate growing crops is a challenge. When the Spanish came to the island and wanted to grow oranges they instead got small and tart fruit. Eventually it was discovered that the leaves from these plants were great to make liquor known today as blue curacao! This island of course has beautiful sandy beaches, incredible coral reefs, and a vibrant capital city know for its array of colors.

This gem of an island has strong European influence that can be found in its buildings, culture, and of course food. Dutch treats are enjoyed around the island along with Caribbean specialties. Keshi yena is considered to be the national dish of Curaçao which can be made vegetarian or with meat. It consists of cheese lined molds (such as a muffin tin or ramekins) filled with a savory filling that is baked until the cheese melts to completely enclose the center. You end up with several “cheese-castles” which is best served with a sliced up French baguette. The recipe I used can be found here.

When I was starting to make this dish I was surprised by the ingredients I was using. I would have never thought that raisins, capers, and soy sauce would be together as a part of this dishes filling! I found it tricky to cut the cheese thin enough to mold into my muffin tray, but I made it work. I used two different gouda cheeses (one older and one younger) which I felt elevated the meal.

Once I stuffed the cheese molded tray with the filling I used the remaining sliced cheese to encase the concoctions. Warning, there was a lot of grease that formed on the top of my tray and I had to keep dabbing it throughout the cooking time to avoid it dripping into the bottom of my oven. The author of this recipe used separate cooking dishes which may have eliminated this issue.

The end result once again surprised as with its complex and rich flavor. Most of my little cheese castles fell apart, but I was able to get a couple to stick together (shown above). We served them with the recommended baguette which we discovered tasted great with the keshi yena on top. Ian thought it reminded him of a lasagna in a way. If you don’t like your meals really cheesy this would probably be too much for you (or if dairy makes your tummy upset). We rated the dish 7.5/10.

(51) Greece Day 1 – Moussaka

Ya sou! Welcome to Greece, a stunning European country not only known for the white buildings and Greek mythology, but as the cradle of western civilization. It’s capital Athens is over 3,400 years old and is where democracy was born. It has an impressive 9,942 miles of coastline and over 6,000 islands. Ian was fortunate enough to visit Greece and all its beauty in the fall of 2019. He will be making three Greek dishes later on this week.. as for me I will be starting with the traditional moussaka!

Santorini, Greece. Source: Loveexploring.com

Moussaka is a classic Greek dish that is mostly made up of eggplant, potatoes, meat sauce and béchamel sauce. Most of us think of Greece when we think of this meal, however it is believed that it was created by Arabs which stars eggplant a vegetable they introduced to Europe. Moussaka is eaten by many throughout the Middle East and is prepared similar.

Nikos Tselementes, a Greek chef who was well educated on French cooking, decided to give the Middle Eastern dish some European flare by adding béchamel sauce. This is when the traditional Greek moussaka was born!

Béchamel sauce is at its core combination of a roux (butter and flour) and milk. To prepare the sauce in today’s dish 2 eggs and parmesan cheese were additions. The recipe I used can be found here.

To prepare the moussaka I layered a thin layer of béchamel sauce, potatoes, eggplant, the red meat sauce, and the remaining béchamel sauce with a healthy 😉 about of parmesan on top!

This meal was successful and very hearty. I would consider it a Greek “comfort food” with the sauces and potatoes. I loved the combination of both sauces. It was my first time eating it and I was not disappointed! We rated it 8/10.

Our next dish is a refreshing lemon soup that is light enough for a summer time gathering. Stay tuned 👀

(46) Morocco – Lamb Tagine with Apricots

Tamnougalt, Morocco. Source: blogs.sas.com

Welcome to another day at The Messy Aprons, we are quickly approaching 50 countries! Today we are in Morocco, a Northern African country that is a blend of Arabic, European, and Berber culture which heavily influences the cuisine. Berbers are an ethnic group of Northern Africa that are often farmers in rural areas, but historically were nomadic merchants that brought caravans across the deserts. Fridays are known as “couscous day” which is the holy day of the week in Morocco.

I made a lovely, flavorful dish to represent the beauty of Morocco – Lamb Tagine with Apricots. Tagine is a traditional Berber, slow-cooked stew that is named after the special clay pot that it’s prepared in. These stews are full of several of delicious ingredients including chickpeas, diced tomatoes, and garlic. This dish is also full of spice that makes the dish so warm and comforting. Luckily I found a recipe that I could follow without the special cookware, time to fire up the Instant Pot!

Again, I substituted stewing beef for the lamb but let me know if you decide to make it traditionally! The recipe was straight forward, but it definitely took me longer to make than the 10 minutes of prep time. This aromatic dish had my kitchen full of Arabic smells and left my stomach growling! I decided to add extra ginger, garlic, and dry spices because why not? It did not leave us disappointed!

We LOVED this dish. I loved all of the elements and it left us craving more. I could see myself eating this on the regular. It had that winning combo of tomato and cinnamon that we had discovered in paste dishes. The topping of cilantro brightened the hearty stew. Top marks Morocco- we rate you 10/10.

(44) Iraq – Masgouf

Iraq’s capital Bagdad. Source Britannica .

Growing up in the United States, discussions of Iraq were often about war and conflict. Despite the media’s portrayal, we know this country is full of amazing, kind people and has a very rich history.

Credit- Wikipedia

Iraq has two major rivers – the Tigris and the Euphrates. Seated between these rivers is part of the region known as Mesopotamia. Mesopotamia is considered by many as the birthplace of modern civilization and is home to the world’s earliest known forms of writing, mathematics, and the wheel.

Masgouf is Iraq’s national dish. This dish typically involves a large carp fish covered in curry and a well-spiced tomato-based sauce which is traditionally cooked over an open fire. The recipe we used is here. In this recipe, she also recommends baking and finishing with the broil setting which is what I did.

Rub the fish with curry and salt and then begin to prepare the sauce.

Prepare your ingredients and begin by sautéing onion and garlic briefly first.

Add the chopped tomato, parsley, tomato paste, vinegar, lemon juice, water, salt, curry, and cayenne pepper mixing well. Occasionally stir the sauce while it simmers for 5 minutes. Since I didn’t prepare this over an open fire, I added some liquid smoke to bring some of that element into the dish.

Cover the fish with your sauce and top that with slices of tomato and onion. Bake this in the oven for about 30 minutes at 375-degrees. Turn the oven to broil for the last 3-5 minutes to add a char to the dish.

Finally, serve with your favorite rice! The sauce for this dish was delicious and the addition of liquid smoke helped give this dish the authentic flavor. We felt however the dish was missing something.. Final score: 7.5/10. This sauce would pair well with any meat!

(41) Zambia – N’shima, Fried Rape, and Roasted Beef

We are now over 40 countries, that is crazy! I have a little surprise for you once we hit 50 😉. Today we explore Zambia, a South African country famous for its safaris and the beautiful Victoria falls. It is considered one of the safer countries of Africa and has tons of opportunities for tourists to really explore the country and the protected wildlife by car, boat, foot, or jump.. Yes you can bungee jump off of the Victoria Falls Bridge which is 420 ft high! The wildlife is so crazy here that you can find termite mounds the size of small houses!

Victoria Falls. Source: Telegraph.co.uk Credit- AP/FOTOLIA

The meal I made today is a combination of “grilled” goat (I used beef), fried rape (I used red swiss chard), and n’shima (similar to grits or polenta). N’shima is considered to be the national food of Zambia due to the abundance of maize in the country. You can find n’shima served up with most meals accompanied with a relish, stew, or vegetables.

Rape leaves are a green also found in Zambia and are relatable to swiss chard. I used the suggested substitutions from this recipe. This dish was only seasoned with salt, however I decided to add a little chilli powder and mustard to give it more flavor.

The meat was similar with seasoning, once again only requiring salt. From learning from past dishes that this may not be enough to really allow the dish to shine I added a little cumin, coriander, and pepper after researching common spices in Zambian cooking. The recipe I referenced can be found here.

We thought overall it was a tasty meal thanks to the addition of spices. All of the components tasted good together and there was a mild heat from the chili powder and peppers. It is definitely a healthier dish than some of our other meals we have tried. We rated this dish 6.5/10 averaged between the two of us.

Next up we head to the Caribbean for a curry, pineapple, and coconut fusion😋

(40) Venezuela – Pabellón Criollo

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!

Angel Falls. Source: Australian Geographic Luis Carillo/wikimedia.org

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!

(31) Suriname – Pom

Kasikasima Mountain, Suriname. Source: Wallpapercave.com

We are finally circling back to South America to Suriname. Suriname is found in the Northern part of the country bordered by Guyana, French Guinea, and Brazil. 80% of the country is made up of rainforests and is home to 467 species. One of these being the world’s deadliest poison dart frog which can only be found in these forests. Suriname is a large exporter of gold making up 67% of South America total exports.

The Blue Poison Dart frog (only found in Suriname). Source: ZME Science – (Dendrobates Azureus)

Today I made a dish known as Pom which is a very well known dish in Suriname. It has Jewish and Creole origins and was introduced by the Jewish-Portuguese plantain owners in the 17th century as a potato oven dish. The dish was adapted to the Surinamese culture by substituting potatoes that were difficult to grow in this region with the root of pomtajer which is a native root vegetable.

Pom is made up of three main ingredients: citrus juices (commonly orange with lemon or lime), chicken, and pomtajer (or potato). The use of citrus juice when cooking chicken is how Jewish cooks “cleansed chicken of their smell.”

I had also read with my research on this dish that how a woman prepares this dish for the first time is a rite of passage into the Surinamese culture and a wife’s success can be measured on how well she can make pom. No pressure.. 😅

Ready for the to bake!

I found the recipe relatively straight forward, but was glad I made it on my day off as it was a time consuming process. I did use a combination of chicken breast and chicken apple sausage (Creole version).

We thought the orange juice was the stand out of this dish and definitely dominated our palettes. I would taste some of the other flavors like the sweetness of the chicken sausage or mild spice of the relish, but orange was the one that dominated the others. I feel like after my research that I should have had a thicker potato crust and slightly less juice so I could have experienced a nice crisp top layer.

We ended up rating the dish 6.75/10, Ian rating it higher than myself for above reasons. Let us know what you think if you try to recreate the Suriname sensation!

(14) Sudan – Maschi

The Sudd. Source: Amusing Planet

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 Meroe Pyramids Source: Northern Sudan Expedition

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.