Iran has been negatively in the news, which is so sad especially because the country is sooo beautiful, and the people are incredibly generous and friendly. And if you think Iran is a country made up entirely of dry desert plains, think again. Not only does it have plenty of mountains (and half a dozen volcanoes), head for the peaks of the Alborz Mountains – only a few hours from Tehran – and you’ll discover several ski resorts! Dizin is the largest and, at 8,700 ft, it’s higher than Europe’s highest resort. I would have never associated Iran with skiing! But apparently anything is possible
Things you didn’t know about Iran:
- If you get in a cab anywhere in Iran, chances are when you try to pay, your driver will refuse to take your money. Walk into a shop to buy something, the same happens. Baffled? The cultural practice of Taarof is Iran’s own personal brand of etiquette. You’re not really being given a freebie, it’s a form of civility and all you have to do is play along. It’s all about denying your will to please the other person – and it extends to pretty much every social situation.
- You should accept all offers of food and drink (but be sure to decline once or twice first!) and it is polite to try a bit of everything that is served.
- Believe it or not, Iran has the highest rate of nose surgery in the world per capita. The pursuit of the perfect nose certainly has a lot to do with the restrictions of the hijab dress code leading to a larger focus on the face but it’s about more than physical beauty. For Persian women (and some men), it’s also an indicator of wealth and social status.
- Iran is the largest exporter of the most expensive caviar in the world
- According to an old Persian proverb, “A Persian rug is perfectly imperfect, and precisely imprecise”. Why? It’s simple, really. A fine Persian rug will almost always include intentional imperfections to symbolize how only God can create perfection.
Jeweled Rice is mostly served at weddings and other joyful occasions. The fruitiness of the cranberries and raisins makes it special! A yummy side dish!
Split between a glorious past and a very bloody recent affaires. Iraq has been a country of turmoil for years! But I really don’t want to focus on the bloody part we see on the news almost everyday today. I want to focus on the good things, the amazing old culture with customs that have been preserved for years!Things you didn’t know about Iraq:
- In Iraq it is typical belief that wrinkles in old age, are caused from wisdom. For this reason parents, and grandparents are highly respected. In fact it is not only rude, but a disgrace for children to be rude.
- The famous children’s story Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves was written in Iraq about 1,000 years ago
- If someone admires an Iraqi’s possession, such as a vase, the Iraqi will usually insist that the person takes it. Therefore, it is proper etiquette to avoid lavishly praising another person’s possessions.
- For 5,000 years Iraqis have been keeping bees. Honey is an important source of food and income for many Iraq families.
This week I made a very special branzino, this Iraqi dish is spicy and special and great with a pilav side dish
- 1 1/2 pound white freshwater fish (carp, catfish, branzino, etc), descaled, gutted and butterflied
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon tamarind paste, dissolved in water (or substitute with 1 tablespoon lemon juice)
- 1 teaspoon dried fenugreek (optional)
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
Tomato Curry Sauce
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 medium onions, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1-inch piece of ginger, minced
- 2 stalks fresh parsley, chopped finely
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves (optional, but highly recommended)
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
Stage 1 – Butterfly and Marinate Fish
- If not already butterflied, take your whole fish and cut it lengthwise down the belly. Keep the back intact, and spread both parts of the fish open to create one flat, connected piece. (Alternatively, you can ask your fishmonger to pre-butterfly the fish for you)
- Place the fish into an oven-safe baking dish (cast iron works best), and set aside for the time being
- Next, take a small bowl and mix together your olive oil, dissolved tamarind paste, turmeric powder, salt and pepper. Mix well until you have a marinade with a smooth, even consistency to it
- Spoon or brush your marinade over the outside of your fish, then open the fish to lay flat and generously marinade the inside
- Cover the fish and let sit in the fridge for 30 minutes while you tend to the tomato topping
Stage 2 – Prepare Tomato Curry Topping
- Take a medium-sized pot over medium-high heat with a healthy dollop of olive oil
- Start by adding in your minced garlic and onions, and cook for 1-2 minutes as it starts to sweat and become translucent
- Next, add in your tomato paste and cherry tomatoes, and cook together for another 1-2 minutes
- Follow this by adding in your turmeric, ginger, curry powder, dried parsley leaves and black pepper and mix well. Once well mixed, cook everything for another 6-7 minutes over a medium heat as the tomatoes begin to soften
- Turn off the heat at this point and add in your lemon juice. Stir the lemon juice in well into the sauce and then let your sauce sit until your fish is finished baking
Stage 3 – Bake the Fish
- By now, your fish will have marinated well and will be ready for the “makeshift masgouf” cooking. Start by preheating your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit
- Sprinkle a little extra sea salt (for good luck) over your butterflied marinated fish, and place it in the oven for 35 minutes
- After 35 minutes, take your fish out ever so briefly. Hopefully it appears flaky, at which point you can drizzle some of the tomato curry sauce on top of fish
- Turn on the broiler and broil the fish for another 2 minutes, then you’re done. Alternatively, you could also bake it for another 5 minutes at the same heat
Remove the masgouf from the oven, let cool for a few minutes, then serve with extra tomato sauce, bread, chutney, salad, a few lemon wedges and anything else you might like. Enjoy!
Indonesia, the worlds largest archipelago! It stretches from the southern tip of the Malay peninsula most of the way to Australia, taking in the southern half of Borneo and the Western half of New Guinea along the way. In other words HUGE!!!! A country created by volcanoes and earthquakes, the landscape is still changing every day, with a new volcano eruption almost every year, new islands spring up out the ocean. But that is not all Indonesia has to offer! Delicious food, insane golden temples, wild jungle landscape, and beaches like nowhere else in the world!
Things you didn’t know about Indonesia
- Of its 17,508 islands, only around 6,000 are inhabited by people.
- Indonesia is strict when it comes to…religion. The government only recognizes six religions – Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Protestantism, Catholicism, and Confucianism – and every citizen must officially subscribe to one of those religions, regardless of what he or she may actually believe. Two individuals with different religions are not allowed to marry, unless one of them converts.
- Indonesia was a regional superpower before it was colonized by the Dutch. The Sri Vijaya and Majapahit Empires spanned the entire Indonesian archipelago, even including the present-day Malaysia and even the southern islands of the Philippines.
- Indonesia has a fiery side, too. The country is situated on the Pacific Ring of Fire and is home to around 150 volcanoes. They’re mostly not a threat – and make great tourist attractions – but the country does experience around one volcanic eruption per year.
These meatballs, are out of this world delicious and definitely worth giving a try! they are spicy, but soooo good. I had them with rice but you can just aswel serve them as an appetizer or even on a sandwich 😀 the sauce is sooo creamy and spicy!
The south of India is stunning! Cities like Kerala, Cochin, and Senai are known for their epic beaches, over abundant spices, some of the worlds richest temples. Things you didn’t know about South India:
- Sree Ananthapadmanabha Swamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala is known as the ‘Richest Temple in the World’ and is valued at a staggering $22.3 billion in all.
- Unlike many North Indian states which usually see a concentration of one religion or the other; the religious demographics of South India is more balanced.
- India is the worlds largest democracy
- It’s illegal for foreigners to take currency (rupees) out of India
- The world’s biggest family lives together in India: a man with 39 wives and 94 children.
This egg drop curry is so good I didn’t miss the meat and trust me I LOVVVVVEEE meat! But this I would happily have for lunch every single day!
- Oil – 3 tblspn
- Cumin Seeds / Jeerakam – 1 tsp
- Onion – 1 large chopped finely
- Green Chillies – 2 slit
- Tomatoes – 3 medium size pureed
- 1/2 cup of frozen peas
- Chilli Powder – 2 tsp
- Coriander Powder – 1 tblspn
- Turmeric Powder / Manjal Podi – 1 tsp
- Garam Masala Powder – 1 tsp
- Salt to taste
- Eggs – 2 or 4
- Sugar – 1/2 tsp
- Coriander leaves – 3 tblspn finely chopped
- Water – 1.5 cup to 2 cup
Goa is the smallest state in India, but I chose to write a separate piece about it anyway because it has very particular past and food culture since Goa was ruled by the Portuguese for 4 centuries, and they left certainly left their mark on the food!
Things you didn’t know about Goa:
- Not many people know this but Goan people can apply and avail a Portuguese passport along with the Indian one.
- Goa is the only place in India where you can hire a two wheeler taxi commonly known as “Pilots”. It’s basically a motorcycle and the driver will charge you and drop you to your destination.
- It might be the smallest state in India but nonetheless it’s also the richest state in India
- 26.6 percent of Goans practice Christianity and 6.8 percent practice Islam. The remaining one percent are Sikh, Buddhists and Jain.
The term Vindaloo, derivative of the Portuguese “vinho de alho” (wine with garlic) was first brought to Goa by the Portuguese some 400 years ago. The original traditional Portuguese dish was made with pork preserved in red wine or red wine vinegar,chili pepper, and stewed with garlic. The Goans modified it by adding plenty of spices. You can make this with chicken or lamb or pork.
I’ve had vindaloo curry before, but this one is soooo good, the spice hits just the right spot! This recipe is one the greats people so pleas please please try to make it!!! Again if you have all the dry spices it’s soooo cheap!
- Dry red chillies(or fresh) ,6 – 8
- Black mustard seeds 1tbsp
- White vinegar 1/2 cup (about 100 ml)
- Onions ,2 diced and pureed
- Ginger paste 1 tbsp
- Garlic paste 1 tbsp
- Brown sugar 1 tbsp
- Cinnamon powder ½ tsp
- Cardamom powder ½ tsp
- Cumin powder 1 tsp
- Black pepper powder ½ tsp
- Oil 4 tbsp
- Salt,to taste
- Soak mustard seeds and chillies in vinegar for about 2-4 hours (preferably overnight) and grind to a coarse paste.
- Marinate the prawns with the vinegar mixture, ginger-garlic paste and the ground spices,
- Heat oil in a large wok, add onion puree and sauté well. Add the prawns pieces and mix well till meat appears sealed and glossy.
- Take shrimp out, do they don’t overcook
- Add ½ cup water, cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes so the sauce is reduced Stir occasionally. Add the prawns back in.
- Add brown sugar and salt to taste. Serve hot with rice.
It’s been over 2 weeks and the image and taste of this cake are still floating around in my head. I’d wanted to make it for ages, since I heard so much about it, and I was pretty nervous when I started. So different from any other cake I ever baked before, so light and fluffy. My Christmas was epic, my mother and I cooked for days, and we really brought Christmas to another level this year. But for me this cake was one of the highlights, so I will share the recipe with you guys! Because I know this is a cake that makes everybody yearning for more.
Hungary is one of the oldest countries in Europe, older then France and Germany. Strange enough we don’t hear a lot about it in our history books. Nowadays Budapest is beyond doubt the most visited city in Hungary maybe even in Eastern Europe! It’s known to be a party city, cheap booze and lots of clubs and also to be be culture city: They belonged to the Roman empire, Greek empire and the Sovjet empire so basically Hungary is every history freaks wet dream! Despite all that Budapest is just hauntingly beautiful in every way! A riot of gorgeous architectural palaces, grand public spaces, former mansions of various princes. And then I haven’t either started talking about Dracula of course!
Things you didn’t know about Hungary:
- Don’t be surprised if you don’t get the name of the person you just met – just try to reverse the order. Hungarians give (and write) their family name first, and their first name after. And sometimes, there might be a middle name in there too!
- Hungarians are addicted to paprika spice!!! It’s so important it was national news when spice and sauce maker Univer announced in late October that its paprika-based condiments would continue to be made from 100% Hungarian produce, despite a poor harvest.
- 20% of Hungary’s population lives in Budapest. So, every 5th person in Hungary is a ‘Budapester’.
- Hungary was formerly a part of the Roman Empire, after the fall of which, ‘the Huns’ – people of the country at that time gave the country their name Hungary!
- You cannot name your child in Hungary unless it is approved by the government. They have an extensive list of names, and if the name of your choice is missing from the list, fill the form for approval with the Research Institute for Linguistics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
Ingredients: 950ml chicken stock, 30g powdered unflavored gelatin, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, 1.25kg whole boneless beef chuck roast, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, 4 medium carrots (2 split lengthwise, 2 cut into bite-size pieces), 2 small stalks celery, 1 large yellow onion (thinly sliced), 2 red bell peppers ( thinly sliced), 4 cloves garlic (thinly sliced), 1/2 cup sweet Hungarian paprika powder, 2 bay leaves, 4 sprigs thyme, 2 tablespoons flour, 450g Yukon Gold potatoes (peeled and cubed), 1 to 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, chopped fresh parsley leaves, for serving
- Sprinkle gelatin over chicken stock and set aside. Adjust oven rack to lower position and preheat oven to 300°F. In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Season beef all over with salt and pepper and add to Dutch oven. Cook, turning occasionally, until beef is well browned on 2 sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer beef to a rimmed baking sheet or large plate and set aside.
- Add diced carrots to Dutch oven and cook, stirring, until well browned on all sides, about 4 minutes, lowering heat as necessary to prevent scorching. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then transfer to a bowl and set aside. Add split carrot, celery stalks, onion, peppers, and garlic and cook until onion and peppers are softened and lightly browned, about 8 minutes.
- Add paprika and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chicken stock/gelatin mixture, followed by soy sauce, fish sauce, bay leaves, and thyme.
- Cut seared steaks into 1 1/2- to 2-inch chunks and transfer to a large bowl. Toss with flour. Add beef and any juices accumulated in the tray or plate to the Dutch oven. Stir to combine and return to a simmer over medium heat. Transfer to oven, cover with lid partially open, and cook until beef is starting to become tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Liquid should remain at a slow, steady simmer throughout. Adjust oven temperature if necessary during cooking.
- Remove stew from oven. Using tongs, fish out and discard carrot, celery, thyme, and bay leaves. Add potatoes and reserved sautéed carrots to stew, return to oven, and continue to cook, partially covered, until beef, potatoes, and carrots are tender and broth has thickened, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Using a ladle, skim off any excess fat from the surface of the stew and discard.
- Remove stew from oven. If necessary, place over a burner and simmer for up to 15 minutes to reduce to desired consistency. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons vinegar (to taste). Season to taste with salt and pepper if necessary. Serve immediately, sprinkled with parsley. Alternatively, let cool overnight or refrigerate for up to 5 days and reheat to serve.