Weeknight Meal

105. Jordan: Kofta with Tahini Sauce

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Jordan, a little bit of slice of peaceful heaven in the middle of the conflict area of the Middle East. Jordan isn’t involved in any of it! They do however harbor a lot of refugees from the surrounding countries. Jordan has a tradition of welcoming visitors: camel caravans walked the legendary King’s Highway transporting frankincense in exchange for spices and Nabataean tradesmen, Roman legionnaires, Muslim armies, and Crusaders all passed through the land, leaving behind these impressive monuments. Schermafbeelding 2017-07-01 om 13.26.32Things you didn’t know about Jordan:

  • Aqaba is the Red Sea destination you probably haven’t considered. But as question marks continue to hang over Egypt’s coastal resorts – Sharm El Sheikh in particular – this little urban nugget at Jordan’s southern tip is a plausible alternative. It has a pleasant ambiance in its bars and cafes, hits the temperature sweet-spot of the upper Twenties Celsius during October
  • It may be one of the oldest cities on the planet, in fact. Archaeological evidence suggests that what is now Amman witnessed human settlement as early as the 13th century BC. It was also established on the surface of our world so long ago that it features in the Bible (as Rabath Ammon).
  • It is arguably the most memorable scene in the Indiana Jones movies – the moment at the climax of Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade when the Indy lays eyes on Al-Khazneh, the rock-carved Treasury building in the “lost” Nabatean city of Petra (which is masquerading on screen as the resting place of the Holy Grail).
  • Sitting 1,200 meters above sea level, Ajloun Forest Reserve in northwest Jordan is five square miles of hills and valleys where you can camp among wildflowers or stay overnight in one of the log cabins, leaving the days wide open for wandering among oak, strawberry, carob, and wild pistachio forests.

The tahini sauce however simple it goes perfectly with the kofta!! I served it with couscous but a nice salad will do very well of course! I used fresh mint in the kofta because I have lot’s of it on my plant on the roof terrace, but you can just as well use dried mint.

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103. Japan: Hiroshima: Okonomiyaki (Savory Cabbage Pancakes)

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Hiroshima has been through a lot, recovering from the atomic bomb as I hope everyone knows, and if you don’t please read up on your history!!! But really that’s really not what I want to talk about!  Hiroshima is located on the island of Honshu. Nowadays Hiroshima is known as the street food paradise of Japan, especially the tiny island of Miyajima that is a 10-minute ferry trip from the city center. Miyajima is also known for the deer that just roam the village freely, not scared of humans. If you’re lucky you can even pet them!

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Things you didn’t know about Hiroshima:

  • Hiroshima has been farming oysters since the 1500s. Today it produces 25,000 to 30,000 tons of oysters a year, 60 to 70 per cent of Japan’s total production. Known locally as sea milk for their nutritional value, they are eaten boiled, fried, grilled, with rice, in stews, or raw.
  • After the war, Hiroshima needed to get its transport system up and running fast. Tram cars were donated from cities all over Japan and even abroad, earning them the nickname Mobile Museum. Today the tram fleet ranges from pre-war clunkers to the futuristic Green Mover Max. It’s the cheapest, easiest and most eco-friendly way to get around town.
  • Kumano, a village 20 kilometers east of Hiroshima, produces 15 million calligraphy, makeup and artist’s brushes a year. That’s 80 per cent of Japan’s production. Of the town’s 27,000 inhabitants, 1,500 are brush craftsmen, hand-making brushes the traditional way. Visit on September 23 when 10,000 brushes festoon the streets for Kumano’s spectacular Brush Festival.

Okonomiyaki is a very popular takeaway dish in Hiroshima, you can add any ingredients you want so great for using up veggie leftovers! It would also be the perfect drunk food!!!! However, let someone sober make it for you because the transferring from pan to pan will be pretty hard once you had a few drinks.

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101. Italy Rome: Pasta Cacio e Peppe

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Boy oh boy do I have some story about Rome… Last year I went to Rome with my 2 sisters and my brother. Apart from Rome being an amazing city with epic food! To do as much sightseeing as we could we decided to rent 3 scooters, I was sitting in the back of brother’s scooter. In the beginning, everything went great, just the 4 of us cruising through the eternal city of Rome… but then after lunch, things started to go south… While eating our pizza we were discussing where to go next. My little sister was going to read the map, I don’t remember exactly where we were trying to go, but the point is we got lost and just a little lost, very very lost! My little sister managed to get accidentally get us on the highway during the freaking rush hour, with cars honking beside us!! We took the first exit we could find, to a parking. My brother was livid, my older sister panicking, I was calm as day (no idea why), but my little sister has this very annoying habit that when she gets nervous or stressed she starts laughing hysterically and can’t stop.
Which managed to piss off my brother, even more, this kick-started an enormous fight between them. We tried to find our way back to the hotel, getting lost over and over again, my brother getting angrier by the second! Eventually, my older sister stepped in, I got in a cab and asked the cab driver to drive me to the hotel while my brother and sisters followed. I have never been so happy to get back to a hotel!

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Things you didn’t know about Rome:

  • Tradition has it that throwing a coin over your left shoulder into Trevi Fountain will ensure a trip back to the Eternal City, but it also helps feed the needy. The Catholic charity Caritas collects the coins and uses the proceeds on a supermarket program that provides rechargeable grocery cards to Rome’s low-income citizens. Over a million dollars worth of coins is tossed into the fountain each year, or over $3,000 a day.
  • In September 1870, Rome found itself under siege by the Italian army and was formally annexed by the Kingdom of Italy on October 2nd that year. The wars leading to the unification of Italy had already been going on for decades, and essentially ended when Rome was captured and made capital in 1871.
  • Almost everyone has heard the saying that “all roads lead to Rome.” In fact, Romans would have flipped that saying on its head. In their view, all roads led from the Milliarium Aureum, or Golden Milestone, erected by Augustus in the Roman Forum. The Romans had an impressive network of highways and roads, necessary not just for trade but for military transport. Many still exist, including a section of the Appian Way.

This pasta really is as simple as it gets! But it’s hella good!!!! Cheese, black pepper and butter three of the best ingredients in the world in my opinion! Pasta Cacio e Peppe is basically the elevated version of the pasta with cheese you craved as a kid. And a great option when your broke 😛

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100. Italy: Sicily: Egg Plant, Pine nut & Raisin Fusilli

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Every time I hear Sicily The Godfather theme song starts playing in my head! Sorry for the stereotyping… but after the research I did I am apparently not that far off. Sicily is still largely ruled by the Mafia, and I don’t think it’s as romantic and exciting as it sounds… It just means lots and lots of corruption. The Mafia is an everyday part of life in Sicily, I mean over 80% of businesses in Palermo pay pizzo (protection money). The strangest thing is the government only recently (1992) started fighting back against the mafia, before that no one really cared… Imagine having your country been taken over by organized crime and no one actually giving a damn about it. Nonetheless, the island of Sicily is supposed to be extraordinary, and I really really really wanna go there especially since Palermo the capital has been awarded the title of best street food capital of the world!!!

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Things you didn’t know about Sicily:

  • According to Greek mythology, ships that pass to the Messina strait between Sicily and Calabria are in danger of being attacked by Scylla and Charibdys, the monsters that guard either side of the narrow passage. This myth gave rise to the expression “between Scylla and Charybdis,” a local equivalent to “between a rock and a hard place.”
  • The Sonnet! The most famous of all traditional poetic forms, consisting of fourteen lines written in iambic pentameter with an elaborate rhyme pattern, was originally invented by a poet from the Sicilian school, Giacomo da Lentini. From Italy, the sonnet was taken to France and England, where writers such as William Shakespeare made extensive use of the form.
  • The hilltop town of Corleone has become synonymous with the Mafia: the place where bosses Salvatore Riina and Bernardo Provenzano were raised was also chosen by Mario Puzo as the home town of his characters in The Godfather.
  • While the Invasion of Normandy, or D-Day, is celebrated as the great turning point of World War II, it is also true that the invasion of Sicily by the Allies in 1943 was an earlier victory that began turning the tables on the Axis powers. Codenamed Operation Husky, the battle lasted for 38 days and culminated with a decisive victory for the invading Allied forces.
  • Sicily is rich in ancient Greek ruins, and many say that they surpass in beauty those found in modern-day Greece. For a long time, the ancient Greeks controlled a large part of the island, mostly in the eastern region around Syracuse, where the famous mathematician Archimedes was born. Well-preserved Greek ruins still remain in Syracuse, Taormina, and near Agrigento. The latter is the location of the famous “Valley of the temples,” a collection of seven different temples dedicated to different Greek deities.

This is basically my twist on Pasta a la Norma/caponata, Sicilians love eggplants any way they can get them so almost every Sicilian dish contains them. No problem for me since I really like eggplants. This is pasta I have been making for years, one of the first recipes I came up with myself, by simply being broke and working with what I had laying around… Back then I used canned roasted eggplant and canned tomatoes and all the spices were dried and that works fine as well but fresh veggies are just so much better believe me. And on the plus side, it is really quick and easy.

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97. Israel: Fatteh (Pita with chickpeas and yoghurt)

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Israel, it’s easily the most fought over piece of land in the world. To talk about it without pissing somebody if not everybody off is sort of an impossible task. So here goes nothing…

The people of modern day Israel share the same language and culture shaped by the Jewish heritage and religion passed through generations starting with the founding father Abraham (ca. 1800 BC). Jews have had continuous presence in the land of Israel for the past 3,300 years. After the exile by the Romans at 70 CE, the Jewish people migrated to Europe and North Africa. In the Diaspora (scattered outside of the Land of Israel), they established rich cultural and economic lives, and contributed greatly to the societies where they lived. Yet, they continued their national culture and prayed to return to Israel through centuries. In the first half of the 20th century there were major waves of immigration of Jews back to Israel from Arab countries and from Europe. During the British rule in Palestine, the Jewish people were subject to great violence and massacres directed by Arab civilians or forces of the neighboring Arab states. During World War II, the Nazi regime in Germany decimated about 6 million Jews creating the great tragedy of The Holocaust. In 1948, Jewish Community in Israel under the leadership of David Ben-Gurion reestablished sovereignty over their ancient homeland. Declaration of independence of the modern State of Israel was announced on the day that the last British forces left Israel (May 14, 1948). (I did not write this by myself but this is the briefest history that I could find of the history of the Israel http://www.science.co.il/israel-history/)

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Things you didn’t know about Israel:

  • Israel led the world by banning size Zero models before any other country.
  • More Israelis graduate from college than any other country (per capita)
  • Israel is the only country to revive an unspoken language, making Hebrew one of its two national languages (the other official language is Arabic).
  • Israeli cows are milkier than any other cows in the world – producing nearly twice the yield of European cows.
  • Starbucks succeeded in every country in the world…except for Israel.

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96. Ireland: Beef Stew

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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.

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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!!!

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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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