The North of Italy is completely different from what most people would expect when they hear Italy. I have been there twice, once on a skiing trip when I was 17 to Selva val Gardena which is in the Trentino South Tyrol region. And the second time was last summer on a surprise city trip to Milano with my best friend. Food wise the dishes are heavier then in the rest of the country and have more of German/Swiss/Austrian influence, which is not that strange since the Northern part of Italy shares a border with Switzerland and Austria.
Things you didn’t know about the North of Italy:
- There is no legal drinking age in Italy, in the sense that a young person of any age can legally consume alcohol, but a person must be 16 years old in order to be served alcohol in a restaurant or a bar.
- The world record truffle weighing 3.3 pounds was discovered in Tuscany by a dog named Rocco and it was sold at an auction to Macau casino mogul and billionaire Stanley Ho for $330,000.
- The United States banned Prosciutto from being imported until 1989, and Mortadella and Speck until 2000. Other meats like Cotechino and Zampone are still banned at present. Some say it is to protect the American livestock from disease but most speculate that it is to protect US meat producers from competition.
- The Italian Wedding Soup or Minestra Maritata is not traditionally served at Italian weddings. “Maritata” means “married” but in the context of the dish, it pertains to the soup’s ingredients — meats and green vegetables — going well together, therefore “married” in a sense
- The origins of Italian surnames are either patronymic, occupational, descriptive or geographical. Surnames ending in “o” usually come from Southern Italy, while surnames ending with “i” are often from Northern Italy.
The pesto on top of this dish really really brings it to another level! I have had osso bucco many times! but this one is really really traditional and my favorite version. I ate the whole lot with pasta. But you can make
The amazing country of Ireland, I love Ireland went to Dublin with a couple of friends last year! A country with such a turbulent history, meanwhile the people are among the jolliest I have ever met! Always in for a beer or a great party! Yes these people know how to live and laugh! Apart from that the Irish have had sort of a rough history. The potato famine, their struggle for independence from The United Kingdom wasn’t very smoothly either. Ireland is also famous for it’s many legends and myths. Ireland’s long history is riddled with ancient mythology and folklore. Ireland’s ancient societies, the Druids and the Celtics, believed in the power of magic and many of these beliefs spread to modern day legends told again and again across the country. Stories of warriors with all the knowledge of the world, fairies playing pranks on farm owners and leprechauns hiding their gold at the end of a rainbow add to the mysterious appeal of Ireland.
Things you probably didn’t know about Ireland
- The Irish report the lowest annual number of UFO sightings in Europe.
- 70% of married Irish women would consider having an affair while on a foreign holiday without their spouse or children. 90% of all Irish men would do the same…
- Irish marriages last an average of 13 years, although the majority do not end in divorce. Irish couples prefer to separate and live in sin with their new partners rather than go through costly legal process.
- Dublin boasts one pub for every 100 head of population. (as I said they know how to party!!)
- A song only needs to sell 5,000 copies to top the Irish music charts. A book only needs to sell 3,000 copies to top the Irish bestseller list.
I think Irish food is largely underrated! Yes it might not be 5 star cuisine but comfort food! And I love comfort food, the kind of food you have after coming home from hockey practice after you faced a rain storm, and you’re completely soaked. You take a nice hot shower and then your mom puts a steaming plate a stew in front of you with a side of mashed potatoes. To that is the perfect way to describe Irish food!!!
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.
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.
Haiti, it’s impossible for anything you’ve seen on tv to prepare you for what Port-au-Prince (capital of Haiti) looks like after the earthquake in 2010 that killed about 300.000 people in a day in 2010. And it’s cliche the worst kind of cliche to say life goes on, but of course it does. This is a city of 2.000.000 people as in so many places in the world you do what you need to do get by, you fight to live. Six years after the earthquake many of the damage that the earthquake caused is still there. The main religion in Haiti is Voodoo, on of their gods in Baron Samedi he is the keeper of the gateway between this world and the next, to the believers certainly a creepy guy. Would it help you if I told you his also the saint of procreation and humor? On the day of Baron Samedi, parades are organized with the cemetery as a destination. Although I can’t imagine going to cemetery is a happy occasion, the Haitians see this differently. On the day of Baron Samedi they celebrate life and bring offers to their ancestors. Offers like food and coffee.
- Haiti produces Rhum Barbancourt, an award winning brand of rum that is referred to as “the rum of connoisseurs”.
- Haiti issued free visas and passports to 70 Jewish families during the Holocaust, about 300 lives saved. It has been speculated that one of the reason they couldn’t give more was the debt Haiti was paying to France, which was basically money the French decided Haiti owed them for freeing themselves from slavery. Haiti’s debt was “forgiven” after the devastating earthquake that hit the country in 2010.
- In 1791, Haitians began what became the only successful slave revolt in the history of the world. Yes, the only one.
- The English word barbecue is that it’s a derivation from the Haitian word barbacoa. The Haitians were referring to the framework of sticks used to cook meat over fire, but Spanish explorers who encountered this cooking method also referred to the results – the cooked meat – as barbacoa.
- Colorful busses called taptaps take you from place to place named after the tap a passenger makes on the bus when they would like to get on or off.
The event that put Guyana on the map for a lot of people is the catastrophe that happend in 1978. Guyana was still a British colony back then. In the middle of jungle a cult called “Peoples Temple” settled and founded their own town “Jonestown” under the leadership of Jim Jones. A total of 909 Americans died in Jonestown, all but two from apparent cyanide poisoning, in an event termed “revolutionary suicide” by Jones and some members on an audio tape of the event and in prior discussions.
That is what put Guyana on the map nowadays there is much more to Guyana. Few places on the planet offer raw adventure as authentic as densely forested Guyana. Although the country has a troubled history of political instability and inter-ethnic tension, underneath the headlines of corruption and economic mismanagement is a joyful and motivated mix of people who are turning the country into the continent’s best-kept ecotourism destination secret. Georgetown, the country’s crumbling colonial capital, is distinctly Carinbbea with a rocking nightlife, great places to eat and an edgy market.
Things you didn’t know about Guyana:
- The official name of Guyana is the “Co-operative Republic of Guyana.
- The national motto of Guyana is “One People, One Nation, One Destiny
- The Omai Gold Mine in Guyana is one of the largest open-pit gold mines in South America.
- Slavery in the state was banned in 1834. There was a great demand for plantation workers after slavery in Guyana, which led to the immigration of the East Indians into the nation
Ingredients: 4 boiled eggs, 1/2 onion sliced, 2 cloves garlic sliced thin (or crushed), 1/2 tomato sliced, 1/2 teaspoon curry powder, 1 scallion, dash of black pepper, 1/4 hot pepper, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 1/2 cup water, salt to taste (less than 1/4 teaspoon)
- Prepare the onion, hot pepper, garlic, scallion and tomato and set aside.
- Put the eggs to boil on a medium to high flame (cover eggs with cold water and bring to a boil), then as soon as it comes to a vigorous boil, turn off the heat, cover the pot and let it stand in there for 10-12 minutes.
- Heat the oil in a sauce pan on medium/high heat, then add the sliced onion and garlic and allow to cook for a few minutes. Until they go soft, release their aromatic oils and stars to brown on the edges. Then turn down the heat to medium /low and add the curry powder and slices of hot pepper (if you need some good madras curry powder, check out the store – where you can find tons of Caribbean goodies) and stir. Allow this to cook for about 3-4 minutes, so the curry won’t have a “raw” taste to it.
- The next step is to add the water and give it a good stir and bring it up to a gentle simmer. Then add the slices of tomato and scallion and top off with the eggs. Cut the eggs in half before adding and be very gentle at this point forward, since the eggs will fall apart easily. Add the salt and black pepper at this point as well.
- On low heat, cover the pot and allow to cook for abut 4-5 minutes, so the sauce thickens and all the flavors get a chance to marry together. If you find that the sauce is a bit runny, cook for an extra minute or two with the pot uncovered.
- Serve with Rice or Roti
Grenada, Spice Island! It is said you can basically smell the nutmeg in the air everywhere you go. And it could be called the Fruit Island for the luscious bounty growing in the green hills. Then again it could be called the Beach Island for the idyllic sandy strands. Yes Grenada is another of those oh so dreamy destinations, you would go to in a heartbeat is someone offert you a ticket. I haven’t been there but like sooooo many other countries, it’s on my list!
Things you didn’t know about Grenada:
- Being on the southern edge of where hurricanes usually pass through, Grenada has only experienced three hurricanes in the last 50 years.
- Grenada has an underwater sculpture park! Divers and snorkelers can visit it! The sculptures of this underwater gallery very much reflect Grenada’s culture.
- The French arrived in Grenada on 20th June 1650 and got engaged in a bloody campaign to take control of the island from the Caribs. After an unsuccessful attack on the fort of St. George, the Carib were chased by the French to a steep sea side cliff. Once there, the Carib saw that they had no escape and jumped into the sea below. All those who jumped perished and that point got named ‘Le Morne des Sauteurs’ or ‘Jumpers Hill’.
Ingredients: 2 pounds lamb shoulder (boneless and cubed), 1 large onion, diced small, ½ cup finely diced chile peppers, 1 bunch scallions (chopped), 3 tablespoons curry powder, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon ground black pepper, 2-3 tablespoons coconut oil, 2 cloves garlic (minced), 1 can chicken stock, 1 can coconut milk, limes (for garnish) ,chopped cilantro (for garnish)
- Combine lamb, onion, peppers, scallions, curry, salt and pepper together and toss to coat meat and vegetables with spices. Pour into a covered container or Ziploc bag and refrigerate overnight.
- After meat has marinated for 12-24 hours, heat coconut oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the meat and vegetable mixture and brown for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute more, then pour in stock and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover, and cook until very tender and thickened, about 2-3 hours. Adjust seasoning by adding more salt or curry powder as desired.
- Serve over fragrant rice and garnish with limes and cilantro.