98. North Italy: Osso Bucco a la Milanese with Pesto

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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.

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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

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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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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

91. South India: Egg Drop Curry

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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. schermafbeelding-2017-01-08-om-22-42-02Things 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!

egg-drop-curry

Ingredients: 

  • 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
Heat oil in a pan. Add in cumin seeds and let them splatter.
Add in onions and chillies cook till golden. Add in the spice powders and salt, cook for few sec.
Add in tomato puree and cook till it is dried and oil separates from it. Stir in the peas.
Add in water and sugar and bring it to a boil.
Crack open eggs in the curry. Cover and cook on a low heat for 5 mins.
Add in coriander leaves.
Serve.