Eat The World

195 Countries

3 – Algeria (and still some Albania) August 9, 2012

Filed under: Albania,Algeria — Emily @ 6:16 pm

It was such a joy to have my mother and nephew visit last week. We had a lot of healthy vegetarian food including summer squash pasta and lentil cakes from Martha Stewart which have a middle eastern flair. I also tried my hand at making Aplets which are the Washingtonian version of Turkish Delight, a common dessert in Albania.

Next week I will make Harira, the fast-breaking stew that many Muslims eat during Ramadan. This year’s Ramadan started at the end of July and will last for 2 more weeks. Since both Albania and the next country on my list, Algeria, are Muslim countries, I thought it would be interesting to learn a little bit about Ramadan. Ramadan is a month devoted to prayer and spiritual reflection. Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. The pre sunrise meal is called suhoor and the post sunset meal is called iftar. Suhoor is generally light, just a few dates, but I read that iftar is often a very big meal or feast.

This article from Huffington Post talks about how Muslim athletes are dealing with the fasting during Ramadan. Since the fasting is one of the 5 pillars of Islam, it is an extremely big deal to observing Muslims. According to FIFA officials, athletes can still compete during the fasting time without compromising athletic performance but the Egyptian athletes are eating during the Olympics with approval from their government.

This article from Al Jazeera said that 3000 Muslim athletes were allowed to avoid the restrictions for the Olympics. Charity is very important for Muslims and some athletes are upping the charity donations to help compensate. I think that’s a great idea. Kind of an interesting thing to think about when you are watching the rest of the Olympics.

In Washington, there is this wonderful company in Cashmere that makes Aplets and Cotlets. These are a very similar treat to Turkish Delight. Turkish Delight is a food that was introduced to many countries via the Ottoman Empire. I intended to make it for Albania, but it is eaten all over the Middle East, Balkans and North Africa. Here’s a picture of the extent of the Ottoman Empire’s conquest.

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You can read about the Ottoman Empire at that link. The conquest of these areas by the Turks defined much of Europe and set the stage for later tragedies including the genocide of ethnic Albanians (120,000 to 250,000 deaths) in Kosovo. I was old enough to remember that but not old enough to understand. The Balkans are at an interesting location. They are caught between the Eastern Orthodox church, the Roman Catholic church and the Islamic forces of the Turks. Like the Greeks, they are fiercely independent and from what I read, have a practice of vendettas and feuding.

At any rate, the Turkish influence was extreme and the Albanians converted from Christianity to Islam mainly because of the perks, less taxes, less chance your kids would be taken and forced into the military. Turkish delight is a softer gummy treat. It is flavored with rosewater and has a variety of nuts and flavors. Since I’ve grown up eating Aplets and Cotlets, I decided to try and make those instead of the more traditional Turkish delight. Long story short – sticky, messy, failure.

Luckily at that same time I was trying to find harissa paste in Indianapolis and stumbled upon Saraga International Grocery. It is a tremendously huge grocery with foods from all over the world including some oddities from Africa. I found my harissa and in the same aisle found some packaged Turkish delight. I brought it home and we all had a delicious snack!

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This stuff is delicious and mild. I highly recommend it! (as long as you don’t have nut allergies)

The other thing I made this week was supposed to represent Algeria (even though it comes from Martha Stewart). I made Lentil Cakes with Feta-Yogurt Sauce. I used lettuce instead of watercress but it was very flavorful and delicious AND vegetarian.

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This next week I hope to make that Harira (tomato lentil soup) and hopefully Makroud (semolina date pastry) if I find semolina flour at the international grocery. I’m also working my way through the Albanian books still. They are pretty heavy and as you might imagine very depressing. There has definitely been a lot of sadness in the world during my lifetime.

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One Good One Bad July 20, 2012

Filed under: Albania — Emily @ 10:33 pm

The first dish I made this week was eggs with peppers, onions and tomatoes. This dish was from The Best of Albanian Cooking and is pretty similar to some Italian recipes I’ve tried. I served it with pita bread. I fried a bell pepper, 4 tomatoes and an anaheim. When they were cooked down, I cracked 4 eggs into the pot and covered it for 3-4 min. I enjoy a liquid yolk but John doesn’t. Cook longer if you want it more solid!

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Another dish I made this week was chicken and spinach cooked in yogurt. I used a frozen spinach and it was just way too much spinach. The way it was cooked, the yogurt became very sour and unpleasant. We were not fans. And as you can see below, I served it over rice even though a flat bread would be more authentic.

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I didn’t have a lot of time to research or read this week so this is all for  now on Albania! I would like to make Turkish Delight like Global Table Adventure but I’m not sure I will have the time for it.

 

2 – Albania July 12, 2012

Filed under: Albania — Emily @ 3:10 pm

It appears from some light reading on the subject, that a favorite food of Albania is chicken livers! I’m afraid I’m not very epicurean and our little family draws the line at offal. Luckily Albania has a ton of delicious dishes and I was able to cook two this week!

Albanians have a number of savory pies called Byrek.

This recipe is from the Best of Albanian Cooking by Klementina and John Hysa and also inspired by Global Table Adventure. This recipe is lighter.

Cook 4 leeks in a ton of butter until soft. Add 1/4 lb. ground meat (we chose chicken) and saute until cooked. Remove from heat and add in 3 eggs, salt and pepper. Don’t be stingy with the salt. Prepare the crust by using 1 package of fully defrosted phyllo dough. Be sure to lay a damp cloth over the dough while you are working with it because it dries out super fast. Layer two sheets at a time, brushing with oil between each two, on the bottom. Use half the package here. Add the filling and then use the remainder. You might choose to make a pretty design if you are a kitchen goddess but I just tucked and folded and tried to make it not look like a train wreck.

Cook at 350 for 35 min until top is golden brown. Make sure to let it rest for a good half hour before cutting into it.

The flavor was reminiscent of a quiche but the phyllo was nice and crunchy. Byrek’s are a very common pie and have a number of different fillings including the one used in GTA’s blog with feta cheese or cottage cheese. John gave this two thumbs up.

I also had time to make dessert.

I found this recipe on a blog but it is originally from the Moosewood Cookbook. The recipe is an Albanian Walnut Cake with Lemon Glaze and as the blog author mentions, it’s more like a muffin-y/coffee cake batter. We all loved it and best thing is, it was easy to make.

I ate my piece while doing OChem!

I was curious how authentic this recipe was and as I looked through the Albanian cookbooks, I didn’t really see any cakes similar to this. Typical Albanian desserts are halva, stewed fruits, baklava, and fruit jellies like Turkish Delight. I found a recipe in one cookbook under Turkish food called Soft Walnut Cake “Ulutma” which was a walnut cake with semolina flour and a lemon syrup glaze.

An interesting thing when looking into the cuisine here is the large influences from North, South, East and West. Albania owes a large part of it’s cultural heritage from two main sources, Greece and Turkey. It is positioned directly north of Greece and you can see that with the feta cheese, phyllo dough, baklava and moussaka. Albania was also invaded and occupied by the Ottoman Empire from Turkey for a considerable length of time. From Turkey you see the kofta, korma, halva and other of those very typical Middle Eastern dishes.

I’m excited to get into Albania as this is another country that I know little of its past. My reading list is quite long this time and finals are coming up so we’ll see exactly how many more I can get through!

Cookbooks:

  • The Best of Albanian Cooking – Klementina and John Hysa
  • The Ottoman Kitchen – Sarah Woodward
  • The Balkan Cookbook – Vladimir Mirodan
  • The Balkan Cookbook – Jugoslovenska Knjiga

Other:

  • The Albanians: A Modern History – Miranda Vickers
  • The Bridge on the River Drina – Ivo Andric
  • The General of the Dead Army – Ismail Kadare
  • Black Lamb and Grey Falcon – Rebecca West
 

Kofta July 7, 2012

Filed under: Afghanistan — Emily @ 12:20 am

Like just about every country in Europe and the Middle East, Afghanistan has a meatball dish. Meatballs are an easy thing to make and are especially delicious with a creamy sauce. Since we are in the Middle East, we went with yogurt.

This recipe is adapted from the same cookbook as the other Afghan recipes, Afghan Food and Cookery by Helen Saberi.

The gist is, take some ground meat (we used turkey but lamb is more authentic) and mix it with a chopped onion, cilantro, ground coriander, cumin, ground cloves and cinnamon. Just a tiny bit of those spices. Add an egg for a binder and shape into balls or lil loaves.

The sauce was 2 chopped onions browned in oil with a Tbs. of tomato sauce. Brown the meatballs in the pan on all sides and then add some water to thicken the sauce and cook on low for about 30 min or until your meat is cooked through.

I will confess, I used the rice cooker. I’m sorry, nothing beats that for convenience. And since we had asparagus, I had to saute that in butter and add some lemon juice.

This was my last Afghan meal and John’s favorite. All the meals I made really revolved around meat and bread and I was hoping for more vegetables. With the future countries I’d like to try some veggie recipes and perhaps some dessert ones since I’m a huge dessert person. It was interesting to see the different influences on Afghan food.

One last tidbit about Afghanistan. The country has definitely had a tumultuous history having been invaded many times. Recently I watched that horrible history of Alexander the Great with Angelina Jolie in it as his mother. At any rate, Alexander was one of the many who invaded Afghanistan. Next came a Samanid invasion that converted the majority of the population to Islam. Afghanistan was also invaded by Genghis Khan, the Turks, the British and the Soviet Union. We are the latest in a long line of conquerors of this battered country.

This website has some beautiful photos of the country.

Next  up: Albania!

 

Osh Pyozee and Murgh Pilau June 25, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Emily @ 8:35 pm

This last week was pretty busy. I made Osh Pyozee and Murgh Pilau. I also attempted to read the Wars of Afghanistan but about 10 pages in it was feeling like a homework assignment.

My recipe for Osh Pyozee came from Duo Dishes blog. Osh Pyozee is a stuffed onion recipe.

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The recipe calls for a quick steam of the onions to loosen the layers. Then I peeled the layers apart and stuffed them with rice, ground beef and prunes. The onions were then cooked on the stovetop at low temperature for 2 hours. As you can see they got quite dark. If you like dishes with sweet elements, you would like this! For me, the prunes were a little sweeter than I would like but the onions were soft and yummy. Make sure to add plenty of salt to the outside of the onions.

I believe this is supposed to be a side dish to a multi-dish dinner or celebration. As you can see, the onions look pretty pathetic all by themselves on my plate.

The other thing I made yesterday actually is Murgh Pilau or Chicken Rice.

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The recipe for this was from Helen Saberi’s book. It was fairly easy, cook everything separately in oil and then combine and simmer for 45 min. 2 onions chopped and browned in oil. 1 chicken browned in oil. 3/4 c. raisins plumped in oil. 2 carrots softened in oil. 2 1/2 c. rice parboiled for 2 min. Combine all and cook for 45min.

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Again this was another recipe with a sweet element in it. Additionally, this recipe is usually for lamb or a whole chicken. Chicken breast  was a bad idea because there’s just not enough fat in it to keep it moist. It gets dry really easily. Other than that, the rice was light and flaky and the carrots and raisins were delicious. Definitely reminded me of the pilafs we used to have when I was a kid.

 

I’m not a huge fan of anything sweet at all in my main dishes but I’m wondering if adding fruit to a main dish is a theme of middle eastern cooking. I would not be too surprised since they are a huge exporter of fruit!

 

Kebabs and Chalow June 19, 2012

Filed under: Afghanistan — Emily @ 12:16 am

Lamb kebabs are a popular street food in Afghanistan. Chicken is a little more our speed so I decided to prepare a chicken kebab tonight. John’s mother gave us her grill several months back and since then we’ve been trying to get some good use out of it. Neither of us have done tons of grilling in our life and in fact this was my first time making kebabs. Luckily, I have watched a number of Alton Brown’s Good Eats shows on grilling!

I got up this morning and started to break down the chicken to marinate all day. It is always hilarious to see John’s reaction to a little raw chicken. The blood freaks him out and I think he gets nervous when I start swinging around that sharp knife. Luckily for me, Sheldon, was VERY interested in watching me butcher the chicken.

Chicken marinated in the fridge today with half an onion, half a lemon’s worth of lemon juice, 1 diced habanero, ground coriander, oil/s&p. I don’t think habanero is the traditional pepper for the dish but our grocery store was out of Thai. It took a little playing with our grill when I got home but we grilled up skewers of breast and thigh meat as well as the drumsticks and wings until they were crunchy. It was 92 degrees outside today so grilling was a “fun” affair.

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I made chalow to go with the kebabs which is just basically just steamed basmati rice. I have a rice cooker but decided to make it the way described in the cookbook. Parboil for 2-3 min., then add oil, cumin, salt, cover and reduce heat to low for 40 min. The result was a non-sticky rice with a crunchy golden crust. Top it all with cilantro, yum!

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Overall, it was tasty! I think I might serve some sort of yogurt sauce to make it a little less dry. The rice was tasty but not quite to the amazing quality of the rice we get at our local Indian restaurant. I loved the golden crunch. The habanero in the marinade made the chicken deliciously spicy.

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I finished reading the Kite Runner today. It was a fantastic book about redemption. Awful things happen to the characters in the book but in the end the main character faces his fears that he is not the man that his father hoped he would grow into. And the ending gives a good cry. I explained the plot to John and he decided he would never read the book. It is really hard to read about awful things happening to children.

There were a lot of great quotes from the book:

“For you, a thousand times over” – the new “as you wish!” from Princess Bride

“There is only one sin. and that is theft… when you tell a lie, you steal someones right to the truth.”

“A boy who won’t stand up for himself becomes a man who can’t stand up to anything.”

Although it was a pretty heavy subject, I enjoyed reading all the comments about food and culture. It’s been difficult to find food and culture JUST about Afghanistan. The whole Islamic middle eastern world has greatly influenced all the countries in the region. Afghanistan is also heavily influenced by Pakistan and India. Naans, kormas and biryanis are all things we order at our Indian restaurant (Punjabi). They are also all popular dishes in Afghanistan. Additionally Afghanistan has been invaded several times from the north by the Mongols and Russians.

My next book to read is the Wars of Afghanistan. I’m interested to learn more about the history of the area. The country seems like it has been through a lot of different conflicts.

I’ve never heard of the Shahnameh which is a epic poem from Persian history that featured in the book but I found a website that is turning it into a series of graphic novels. I think that would be worth a read if you are into mythology.

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1 – Afghanistan June 17, 2012

Filed under: Afghanistan — Emily @ 1:15 am

I don’t really know much about Afghanistan other than the capitol is Kabul and we had a war there. So Gavin and I explored some children’s books about Afghanistan. Afghanistan is one of the oldest settled areas in the world since it is between the Fertile Crescent and India. Most of the people seem to be subsistence farmers and goat herding is popular. The population of Afghanistan is the same size as that of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio put together.

Pictures of the country remind me a lot of Eastern Washington. There are miles of barren hills and grass lands. It’s a landlocked country with no ports and only a few rivers. One is an offshoot of the Indus. The Hindu Kush mountains cross in the Northeast into Pakistan.

Here’s some interesting facts we found about the country:

  • Buzkashi is a national game that looks like polo with a stuffed goat carcass.
  • the fascinating religion of Zoroastrianism started here
  • poppies are a big crop as well as wheat, fruits and nuts
  • literacy is 36%, 21% for women
  • the people are 42% Pashtun and 27% Tajik (Persian)
  • goat is the most commonly eaten meat
  • people eat with their fingers seated on the floor around a heated table (sandali – similar to the kotatsu in Japan)
  • Mongols brought noodles to the country
  • kite flying is a popular activity
  • more than 30 languages are spoken
  • Islam is the main religion but Buddhism, Zoroastrianism and Hinduism are also practiced

Here’s some photos from the internet:

from Kite Running

Tajik kids with the Hindu Kush behind. Some guy’s flickr

Yes that is a headless goat. Some other guy’s flickr.

In the next few weeks I’m going to try and make a few dishes and read a few books.

Here are some of the most popular dishes:

  • Qabli Pulao (Kabli Pilau) – Yellow Rice with Chicken, Raisins and Carrots
  • Kababs (Kebabs) – we’ll probably have chicken since we are not huge lamb eaters
  • Qorma (Korma) – I’m not sure how similar this is to an Indian korma
  • Mantu – steamed meat filled wontons
  • Chalow – white rice Afghan style
  • Kofta – meatballs in curry sauce
  • Osh Pyozee – onions stuffed with ground meat and rice – this is probably the first I’ll make
  • Naan
  • Halwa – a wheat dessert
  • Baqlawa – baklava

Books that were recommended:

  • The wars of Afghanistan: messianic terrorism, tribal conflicts, and the failures of great powers – Peter Tomsen
  • Afghan Food and Cookery – Helen Saberi
  • Food of Life: a book of Persian and Modern Iranian cooking and ceremonies – Najmieh Batmanglij
  • The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini