3. Algeria: Traditional Fish Soup

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Algeria located in the north of Africa, the 10th largest country in the world. Yet only 10% is inhabited. The other 90% is covered by the Sahara desert, the largest desert in the world. To me the Sahara desert brings up a lot of romantic thoughts about nomads who live in the desert in small groups and travel from oasis to oasis on camels. For me it’s very hard to imagin not to have water from the tap or the take a shower whenever it pleases, but ofcourse I am aware that clean tapwater is a luxury a lot of people around the world can’t afford or in very limited ways. Like in most African countries I would not advise drinking tapwater because you will regret it the next day on the toillet. Here are a few facts about Algeria:

  • Women make up 60% of Algeria’s judges, 70% of the lawyers, and 60% of the student population. What’s more, they have a bigger household income contribution than men. (GIRLPOWER!!!!)
  • Alcoholic drinks are rarely found in Algeria because of Islamitic orientation, they are seldom found in foodestablishments, and even if they are available they are not listed on the menu.
  • Only 12% of Algeria is inhabited because over 90% is covered by the Sahara desert.
  • Petroleum and gas make up 98% of Algeria’s export.

Ingredients: 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 large red onion, 3 garlic cloves, 300g whole tomatoes (tinned), 1 tsp paprika, pinch of saffron, salt and black pepper to taste, 2 large potatoes, cubed,3 celery sticks, diced, 2l chicken stock, 900g firm white fish cut into steaks

Heat the olive oil in a  frying pan and fry the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and tomatoes and continue to simmer until most of the liquid is gone. Add the spices, potatoes, and broth, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.Add the fish and continue to cook until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Allow the soup to cool a little, purée in a blender then return to the pan and simmer for a further 10 minutes to heat thoroughly. Serve in soup bowls garnished with chopped coriander.

2. Albania: Byrek Filopastry with spinach and feta cheese

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Albania another country I know nothing about, but as you must know by now I’m very eager to learn. What do I know about Albania, it’s in Eastern Europe (Balkan country) and the capital is Tirana,… euhm I guess that’s about all I know about Albania. So I looked up some fun facts about Albania:

  • Albania, Armenia and Vatican City are the only European countries without a McDonald’s branch.
  • Albanians nod their head up and down to mean ‘no’, and shake it from side to side for ‘yes’(I guess that would beconvienient to know for people who are visiting Albania, could solve a lot of misunderstandings)
  • Sometimes Albanians add an extra zero to the end of numbers. Albanians do this sometimes not to be shady but rather out of habit since that is the difference between the “old lek” and “new lek”. For instance, someone might say you owe 1000 lek when they really mean you owe 100 lek. (I find this very odd to say the least!)
  • Mother Teresa was from Albania and is the only Albanian Noble Price Winner.
  • There are more Albanians who live outside Albania, then inside Albania. (a lot of the people outside of Albania are gypsies)

This seems like a very odd little country, but again we are eager to learn, let’s hope there kitchen is better then their counting :D . But I read everywhere that Albanians are very generous and when they invite you for diner you will get enough to feed an army eventhough the host has to go hungry the next day, which I think is very admirable because they don’t have a lot to give. It’s close to Greece, so their kitchen must contain products and spices that are similar to the Greek kitchen.

Here is some albanian pop music for you to enjoy while cooking: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVgsYttAlCc

So this week I made Byrek, it’s a kind of vegetarian side (although sometimes they put in meat as well). I can also be eaten with a sweet filling of pumpkin for instance. But I chose to make the most traditional recipe. I served it for lunch with some green salad. I guess you could compare it to an East European form of quiche.

So this week I made Byrek, it’s a kind of vegetarian side (although sometimes they put in meat as well). I can also be eaten with a sweet filling of pumpkin for instance. But I chose to make the most traditional recipe. I served it for lunch with some green salad. I guess you could compare it to an East European form of quiche.

albanie byrek

 

Ingredients: 1 cup of olive oil, filodough about 30 pastry leaves, 600gr of spinach, 1 cup of diced feta cheese, 1 cup of chopped green onion, 2 eggs, salt

Preheat the oven to 180C. Fry off the spinach in a little olive oil and salt. Brush the baking pan with some of the oil and start layering the pastry leaves inside. First lay 2 leaves, sprinkle or brush them with oil, then lay 2 other leaves and repeat the procedure. Until half of the leaves are laid. Make sure that they cover the pan by hanign them about one cm over the edges of the pan. Mix the spinach with the feta cheese oil onions and eggs and spread the mixture over the already laid pastry leaves. Finish by covering the spinach with the rest of the pastry leaves repeating the procedure with the oil. Put in a preheated oven for about 45 minutes, or until golden brown.

Next week it’s Algeria’s turn! I can’t wait! :D

1. Afghanistan: Rice Pilav with Lamb, Carrots, Raisins and Chicken kebabs with Cilanto Garlic Yoghurt Sauce

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The first country mentioned in my book is Afghanistan. To be honest I don’t really know anything about Afghanistan except for the obvious things that show up on the news.

    So I looked up some fun facts about Afghanistan!
  • Poetry is a big part of Afghans’culture and it has been for centuries. In the city of Herat, women, men and children gather on Thursday night to share verses from old and new poetry.
  • Afghanistan’s national sport is Buzkashi (no idea how it is pronounced), or in other words, goat-grabbing. It’s a sport where the players in two teams try to catch a goat while riding on a horse. They have been playing it for centuries. Nowadays there even are sponsors involved.
  •    The main income of the local people in Afghanistan is from the agricultural sector. Many people plant their farm with rice, fruit, veggies and nuts. Some of their crops are exported too.

I had no idea what the Afghan kitchen entailed. My starting point was Google (obviously). It quickly became clear that Pilaf is their national dish but that everyone makes it in their own way, so I tried to combine all of them. I was at my parents house when I made this, and my family loved this dish. When I told them that I was going to cook Afghan food they were a little worried. But fortunately they were pleasantly surprised when this came to the table! If anyone has any suggestions, opinions, critisisms or maybe you make this dish in a different way (or maybe i’m doing it completly wrong) please let me know, because I want to learn how to do it the right way! I found all the recipes on!

afghan rice pilaf with lamb and chicken kebabs
afghan rice pilaf with lamb and chicken kebabs

Rice Pilaf with Lamb Carrots and Raisins (for 7 people) Ingredients:3 cups of basmati rice, 1 medium onion, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 5 cups of water, 2 large carrots, 1 1/2 pounds of boneless lamb shank cut into thumb size pieces, raisins to taste. Wash rice in several changes of cold water until the water becomes almost clear. Soak the rice in cold water for 1 hour, then drain well in a sieve. While the rice soaks, fry un onion in oil in a large casserole pan. Pat the lamb dry and sprinkle over 1 teaspoon of salt. Add to the onion and brown on all sides about 8 minutes total. Add 1 cup of water and bring to simmer. Cover pot and reduce heat to ,ow, then braise lamb stirring occasionally, until meat is tender about. 15 minutes. Stir in the drained rice, carrots, raisins and 2 teaspoons of salt. Add enough water to cover the mixture by 1 inch and bing to a boil, uncovered, over medium-high heat, until rice is tender and liquid about 20 minutes. Fluff rice with a fork and transfer pilaf to a large platter. Chicken Kebabs Ingredients: 1/4 cup of greek yoghurt, 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, 6 garlic cloves minced, 1 teaspoon turmeric, 3 chickenbreasts.  Equipment: Metal skewers Whisk together yoghurt, lemon juice, garlic, turmeric and 1 teaspoon salt  in a large bowl, then add the chicken, stirring to coat. Marinate, covered and chilled at least 4 hours ( the recipe said 8, but I didn’t have the time, so I marinated them as long as possible). Thread  pieces onto the skewers. and put them on BBQ or grill pan. Cilantro Garlic Yoghurt Sauce (for the chicken kebabs) Ingredients: 1 1/2 cups of greek yoghurt, 3/4 cup finely chopped cilantro, 4 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1 1/2 teaspoon of finely chopped garlic, 3/4 teaspoon of cayenne.  Stir together all  ingredients with 1 teaspoon of salt, then chill, covered at leaf 30 minutes (for flavors to blend)

Great movie about Afghanistan: The Kiterunner (2007)