Israel, apart of the Middle East is a country known for its religions and sacred Jerusalem. Israel borders the Mediterranean Sea, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. Israel is the only country to have revived a “dead” language and has made it their national language. This language is Hebrew. The Dead Sea, which borders Jordan and Israel, is the lowest point on Earth, nearly 420 m or 1377 ft below sea level and is 10x saltier which means there is no marine life hence “dead” sea.
The cuisine of Israel is a blend of Jewish, Middle Eastern, Arab, and Mediterranean cuisines. Like many other countries, the cuisine can differ depending on what region you are in. Holidays and celebrations of the Jewish and Arab cultures also have their special dishes for the occasion. It is said a meal without a salad is not a meal at all in Israel (oops I dropped the ball!). Common foods you can find throughout Israeli cuisine include chickpeas, couscous, fish, fresh vegetables, pita bread, and chicken to name a few components. Israel is thought to be a melting pot of cultures which brings a vast variety of foods and an ever growing cuisine!
For Israel I decided to attempt the beloved falafel, up until now I had never tried it before! Falafel is an unofficial national dish of Israel due to being the most popular street food, however it is also considered a national dish in several of the surrounding countries. Some believe that it was first created in Egypt over 1,000 years ago and brought to the Middle East and others claim India was the inventor of falafel 1,400 years ago. There is also talk that Egypt create falafel more recently in the late 19th century and originally was made using fava beans instead of chickpeas.
I didn’t cut any corners here, except for the use of my air fryer of course! I allowed my chickpeas to soak as the recipe warned it wouldn’t work otherwise. I followed the recipe but had difficulty getting them to stay in perfect ball shape. A lot of them would crumble with any pressure. This recipe also is VERY time consuming, just prepare ahead! Shaping every ball alone is time consuming. The recipe recommends frying in a pan which would allow more to cook at once but the air fryer decreased the grease. This could have lead to the falafel being on the dry side.
This meal had good flavors with roasted garlic being a highlight on our palettes. Hummus was key to balance the dryness of the dish and the fresh vegetables brought a refreshing crunch and more moisture to the meal. This was my first attempt at falafel and I think it was a decent go at it. We rated it 7.5/10.
The island of Guernsey is apart of the islands of the English Channel found between France and England. It is apart of the Bailiwick of Guernsey which is a British Crown Dependency. Although English can be spoken on the island, the locals also speak a native language known as Guernésiais, their own variation of French. Guernsey is also known for one of the largest tidal ranges in the world of 33ft.
I’m sure you’ve heard of Guernsey cows, these cows are native to the island and are known for their rich dairy products with high protein and butterfat quantities. As for particular cuisine of the island it was difficult to find, but I found for the Channel Islands collectively local seafood and dairy products. There is a popular dish called “bean jar” from Guernsey which is slow cooked beans that traditionally was cooked over night in the oven and eaten for breakfast. Guernsey bean jar has been around for centuries and is one of the better known dishes.
I decided to try “potato peel pie” which caught my eye as I was scouring for recipes. There are several variations, but I picked one that had the peels on top which was appealing (pun intended) because the potential for a heavenly crispy top layer. The origins of the pie comes from the WWII time period when food was rationed. At the time Guernsey was occupied by Germany making food even more hard to come by. Most farm animals were taken away so farmers relied on their crops which included potatoes. Beet root can be found in a lot of the recipes, but the one I decided on had omitted it.
The cooking process is simple, just a lot of prep work. I used my mandolin to get evenly cut potatoes. I opted for cheddar cheese to get that nice rich flavor. You don’t have to use a baking dish, a pan works too but it could alter your cooking time. I thought dish since the recipe is for a “pie.”
We loved how unique this dish was! The crispy potato peels on top brought a fun texture to the meal and the cheese of course made the potatoes very creamy. The onions also were a good pairing and brought more dimension to the flavor profile. What a great way to use veggie scraps too! I will definitely think twice before I toss potato skins and see if I can repurpose them for a crunchy topping! We rated this one 8.5/10 🔥🥔
Next we head southeast to Israel!
Potato Peel Pie – Guernsey
Don't throw out the potato peels! This dish uses all of the potato- consisting of layers of thinly sliced potato, onions, and cheese this pie is topped with potato peels. It is baked in the oven for a nice crispy crust.
I have a vegetarian and vegan option for you fellow foodies out there! Today’s meal consists of a bean dish (maharagwe) and a side of collard greens (sukuma wiki).
Maharagwe is a creamy bean stew that is found along the Eastern coast of Africa. Maharagwe means beans in Swahili and often refers to kidney-like beans that have a molted/speckled appearance. Coconut milk, spices, tomatoes, and diced peppers and onions are also found in the dish. You can find the recipe I referenced here.
As for the sukuma wiki (recipe), it is a simple side that is often found in African cooking due to the few ingredients which can be found locally and its versatility. With it being fewer ingredients it certainly doesn’t break the bank to make! The affordability of the meal is actually in the name- sukuma wiki meaning “stretch the week” in Swahili. There are variations on the dish but at its core is collard greens, oil, salt, tomatoes, and onions.
I opted for flatbread once again, but to keep it traditional you can take a swing at ugali. The entire meal was simple to make especially with the use of several canned ingredients it cut down the prep time. This was a nice option for the work week and also very affordable!
This hearty bean meal was well complimented by the cream coconut sauce. The bed of collard greens paired well. The flat bread was the perfect vessel to scoop everything up. Overall the flavor was found to be underwhelming so we rated this meal 6/10 average. Oh well!
Today’s meal is from Tunisia, not Greece as the above picture may convince you. Tunisia is apart of Northern Africa which borders the Mediterranean Sea, Algeria, and Libya. Here you can find a blend of Arab and Berber culture, 99% of the country being Arab. An interesting fact about Tunisia is that Star Wars A New Hope was filmed in several locations.
The local fare is greatly influenced by the countries culture and surrounding regions. Like other countries that border the Mediterranean Sea, olive oil, tomatoes, and seafood are commonly used in their meals. A trait that sets Tunisian cuisine apart from other Northern African countries is that most of their meals are spicy. These spices include cumin, caraway, chili peppers, paprika, coriander, and garlic.
The dish I found to represent Tunisia is called shakshuka. It is thought to have originated here, but is widely eaten as a breakfast dish throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa. Simply it is lightly poached eggs in a pepper and tomato sauce along with other fresh ingredients. This meal traditionally is vegetarian and the recipe I used can be found here.
After prepping all the veggies (or using canned) you end up combining all the ingredients in one pot and making wells for the eggs to sit while they cook. The recipe is fairly simple and quick to make.
We found this plate to be unique, but unfortunately underwhelming in flavor and textures. The flatbread pair well and was the perfect vessel to transport the meal to your mouth. I can’t see us trying this one again, it was rated 6/10.
Today we are in Eswatini which was previously known as Swaziland. 50 years after gaining independence the country changed its name to Eswatini which is the original ancient name prior to the British rule. You can find this landlocked, African country situated between South Africa and Mozambique. Like the surrounding countries it is known as a safari hot spot due to having all five of the large “game” animals (lions, buffalos, elephants, leopards, and rhinos).
Eswatini cuisine is centered around vegetables and grains. Meat dishes, also known as inyama is reserved for special occasions which could include goats or chickens. Without access to the sea, fish and other seafood is not common. “Mealie meal” which is a maize grain is a staple to Swazis which can be eaten alone or paired with a stew to soak up the savory flavors.
The meal I chose to represent Eswatini is vegetarian and includes ingredients that may be accessed on a more regular basis. This meal was inspired by someone who had volunteered for several months, a tomato based curry being a regular meal. The writer amped up the base of the meal and added Eswatini staples such as ginger and sweet potato to highlight the cuisine of the country. I also was happy to see I didn’t have to attempt another maize product as they seem to go wrong for me! You can check out the recipe here!
Cauliflower rice is something I am familiar with and is super simple, just makes a mess if you aren’t careful! The preparation and cooking was pretty straight forward. There wasn’t any arugula in the store so I got spinach instead. One way to save you time is get the canned version of the foods- there is no shame in that and it saves you on prep time. I used to always think fresher is better but with the grocery prices too.. this is the way (unless of course you can support a local farm stand!)
This one was really AMAZING- two words: almond butter! This dish had the perfect balance of sweetness and spice, the tomatoes were tangy, and the almonds brought a crisp crunch. We were blown away and plan to add this to our personal recipe collection! We rated it 9.75/10❤️
Mexico is home to the most diverse corn in the world with a total of 64 varieties found throughout the country. This crop was first domesticated in Honduras (6600 BCE – 3500 BCE) and eventually made its way up to Mexico where it was used greatly by the indigenous people. Today we will be honoring that staple by making elotes or as most know it Mexican street corn! Elote was born in Mexico City and quickly spread throughout the Americas. It became popular because it was portable and tasty! Restaurants sometimes will serve this up as a side dish, but tonight it is the dish! Recipes can vary and include an array of toppings but I decided to go the classic route.
First you start by cooking the corn. Traditionally you would grill them, but I chose to boil them. While the corn is preparing combine the remaining ingredients to make your sauce. If you are unfamiliar with cotija cheese it reminds me of feta with a similar texture.
Once your corn is cooked just slather the sauce on evenly and garnish with cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice. Be warned a little sauce goes a long ways! If you want a kick you can add a little chili powder (not pictured).
Ian was a bit overwhelmed by the sauce and found it tasty but very heavy, I on the other hand thought it was heavenly. I think if you are able to grill the corn it would have elevated the dish. We made up some chicken to go with the meal but it honestly is so filling it could have been eaten alone. We rated it 7/10!
Today we are in Ghana, a West African country that borders the Ivory Coast, Togo, Burkina Faso, and the Gulf of Guinea. In 1957 Ghana became the first African-American country of the sub-Sahara to become independent from colonial rule. It is the second most populated country in this region of Africa with a large variety of ethnic groups. Due to its proximity to the equator the climate is either hot and dry or tropical and wet. Ghana is known for its gold production which is the largest in Africa. Love butterflies? Consider visiting Kakum National Park which is home to over 600 species!
The cuisine of Ghana always includes a starch of some sort, it usually being rice, plantains, maize, or cassava. The starches are often paired with soups or stews that primarily have vegetable bases. Meats and spices are also important to their cuisine. The dish I decided to make for Ghana is called red-red, also known as black eyed peas stew. This stew gets some heat from freshly grated ginger and habanero pepper. You can find this meatless meal here (which can be made vegetarian/vegan if vegetable broth is substituted).
Cooking was simple and allowed for me to multitask as I typically do. We substituted the habanero with jalapeno because we are wimps (sorry not sorry). I was able to find ripe plantains at the store and definitely felt comfortable with their preparation.
This was another unique dish. The plantains with beans was an interesting combination, but we thought it worked. It was actually nice to have the sweetness of the plantains contrast with the other savory elements. I didn’t think the rice was necessary with the peas. Marinated chicken or red meat would have paired well. We rated it 7/10.
To close out our time in Italy I chose a classic known to most- the margherita pizza. This simple yet delicious masterpiece came to be on June 11th 1889 to honor the Queen consort of Italy- Margherita of Savoy. Raffaele Esposito created the pizza to represent the colors of the Italian flag by using basil for green, mozzarella for white, and tomato for red. Originally the pizza dough used was more of a flat bread compared to the sweeter, fuller crusts we are accustomed to most of the time.
Pizza dates back 7,000 years ago throughout Europe with various toppings placed on top of flatbreads and round breads. The pizza we know today dates back to the late 19th century when tomato and bread were being paired together.
We appreciated the simplicity that we only needed a few ingredients to have an amazing meal. Of course I used local basil Portland Pie Pizza Dough which just added to how yummy it was! As pretty as fresh basil looks on the pizza as you’re making it once it comes out of the oven it doesn’t have the same appeal. I would suggest added basil afterwards unless it is dried. We rated this dish 9.5/10 because it was just so good! How could you go wrong with pizza?
Welcome to elevated Bhutan, a peaceful Buddhist-loving country that is high in the clouds. The country borders China and India and nestles in Himalayan Mountains. The name Bhutan actually translates to “land of the thunder dragon” because of the intense thunder storms in the mountainous country. One gorgeous hot spot in the country is The Tiger’s Nest which is a monetary situated on the side of a mountain over 900m up. It is the only country that bans the sale of tobacco products and until 11 years ago banned TV and internet! The world’s the tallest unclimbed mountain can also be found here, Gangkhar Puensum which is a staggering 24,840 feet tall.
Cuisine here is a bit unique compared to its surrounding countries due to its harsh climate and high elevation. Rice is a typical base of most meals which could contain meat, root vegetables, chilis, onions, and beans. The national dish of Bhutan is ema datshi which is the mixture of chilis and a Bhutanese cheese called datshi (which can be substituted with yak cheese). There are different varieties that include meat or other vegetables, however the base is the same. You can find this dish accompanying many meals due to its popularity. You can find the recipe here.
Going into this I knew it might be a little too simple so we decided to add some ground meat to it as well for more sustenance. I used a combination of feta and cheddar to fill in for the traditional cheese- I did search for yak cheese. The great thing about this meal is that it was quick and easy, definitely something you could whip up during the work week!
So we tried this dish with and without the beef to experience it as close to the original as possible.. without the beef we found the dairy elements kept the dish from being too spicy. With the meat we thought it helped complete the meal and overall the cheese mixed well with all the elements. It was simple but good, although I don’t know if I see myself making this again. Ian liked it a little more than me so we give it an averaged rating of 7.5/10.
Back to Europe we go! Today we are in Hungary, a central, landlocked country found next to Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Austria, Croatia, Serbia, and Ukraine. Hungary is one of the older countries of Europe and came to be after the fall of Roman Empire in 897. Thermal Springs are are a big deal here and are known for their healing and cleansing properties. There are here over 1,300 in the entire country, some being an outdoor attraction and others in luxurious bath houses. Many well known composers call Hungary their home including Franz Liszt, György Ligeti, and Béla Bartók. I don’t know about you but I think I’m Hungary for more 😉
Hungarian or Magyarian cuisine often includes paprika, onion, black pepper, and other spices to make their dishes flavorful. The focus of each meal is well seasoned meat and vegetables and the use of fresh dairy and baked goods. Their national dish goulash is a one pot dish that was traditionally cooked over an open flame consisting over various vegetables, beef or beans seasoned with the above spices. Goulash gets its name from the Hungarian word gulyás for cow herder since they were the inventor of this meal. The goulash I am making today is vegetarian and using beans to substitute the meat (which was traditionally done when beef was scarce. You can find the recipe here.
I made a few alternations to the recipe to make my life easier and to match the authenticity. I used liquid smoke once again to capture the smokiness it would have had if cooked traditionally and instead of grinding my caraway seeds I let them steep in a tea bag will the stew was cooking (pictured bellow)! Pro tip, make your on veggie broth (pictured above) by using veggie scraps will you are prepping! Make sure to compost them when you’re done 😁
We thought the stew was spicy, smoky and had a nice tomato-based broth. You could almost say it had a barbecue like flavor! It had a hearty mixture of vegetables which made me think of how this would be a great fall or winter meal. We thought it was worthy of a 7/10 rating.
Next we make something truly unique in Bhutan, see you then!