Month: April 2017

94. Iran: Jeweled Rice

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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

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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!

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95. Iraq: Masgouf Iraqi Tamarind and Turmeric Marinated Fish

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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!Schermafbeelding 2017-03-29 om 21.26.54Things 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

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pound white freshwater fish (carp, catfish, branzino, etc), descaled, gutted and butterflied

Marinade

  • 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

  1. 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)
  2. Place the fish into an oven-safe baking dish (cast iron works best), and set aside for the time being
  3. 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
  4. Spoon or brush your marinade over the outside of your fish, then open the fish to lay flat and generously marinade the inside
  5. 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

  1. Take a medium-sized pot over medium-high heat with a healthy dollop of olive oil
  2. Start by adding in your minced garlic and onions, and cook for 1-2 minutes as it starts to sweat and become translucent
  3. Next, add in your tomato paste and cherry tomatoes, and cook together for another 1-2 minutes
  4. 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
  5. 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

  1. 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
  2. Sprinkle a little extra sea salt (for good luck) over your butterflied marinated fish, and place it in the oven for 35 minutes
  3. 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
  4. 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!

 

92. Indonesia: Indonesian meatballs

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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!

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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!

meatballs