June 9, 2013 at 11:42 am | Posted in Northern & Eastern Europe | 1 Comment

So, a long hiatus from cooking experimental meals from other countries, gleaned from the internet.    A few unsuccessful dinners and a couple of whinges so I put this on hold.   But, we’re now back – partly because my parents got my kids an old fashioned spinning globe.

Thus, we’re taking on Hungary this week.    Hungary has some interesting aspects too it, not least of which is their language.   Unlike virtually the rest of mainland Europe, Hungary’s language has very different roots, more closely related to Korean and Japanese than the Romanic languages.   This is because the nation was settled by descendants of the Huns who marched across Europe centuries ago.      Another interesting aspect to Hungary is they’re basically the champion maths country;   many (if not the majority) of pivotal physicists in the last century, including many who build the first atomic bomb in The Manhatten Project, came from Hungary.    Lastly, they also hold the record for the most insane currency hyperinflation ever:  in 1946, the Hungarian Pengo (sadly now replaced) was printed in denominations of 100 quintillion  pengo.   That’s P100,000,000,000,000,000,000.

The Plan

While of course the national disk is Goulash, I wanted to try something a little different.   Here’s a  recipe I found from SBS Food for a chicken casserole

Hungarian chicken casserole

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • olive oil
  • 1 kg skinless chicken thigh pieces
  • 3 onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tbsp sweet or hot paprika
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 750 ml (3 cups) chicken stock
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • sour cream (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. Heat a heavy-based fry pan over a medium heat. Add butter and a tablespoon of olive oil. Cook chicken pieces until golden all over. Set chicken pieces aside in an ovenproof casserole dish.
  3. Add additional oil to the pan, if needed, with the onions and garlic and cook until they begin to soften, about 5–6 minutes. Sprinkle the paprika and flour over the onions and stir well for 1–2 minutes. Add stock and stir until it comes to the boil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Pour onions and sauce over chicken, cover dish and place in the preheated oven. Cook for 1½ hours, by which stage chicken will be tender. Uncover the dish and cook for 30 minutes more to reduce the sauce and intensify the flavour.
  5. Serve with noodles or mashed potatoes, and sour cream if u

The Event

This was a really simple recipe;   basically its chicken with onions bunged into the oven.   However, it really really works well, and isn’t too complex.    It’s got to be all about the paprika

The Outcome

Liam: “I like this one”

Chris: “Mmm, not sold.  Good, but not sure it’s great”

Jacq: “Nice!  Any more chicken?”

Me: I loved this one more than the rest of them.   You do need a lot of chicken though, Chris skimped on the packet size and we needed the last bit.  I suspect this would go well in a slow cooker too. + 1



June 26, 2011 at 8:18 pm | Posted in Northern & Eastern Europe | 1 Comment

Belgium. Known for chocolate & beer and on the surface…er, not a lot more. Belgium is a little short of notable other things. After a bit of research, I didn’t find a whole lot more, other than the fact it hosts the EU headquarters in Brussels and that peculiarly almost-Australian Kim Clijsters actually hails from Belgium. But I think that’s OK – their reputation as creators of fine chocolate and superfluous beer is deservedly unassailable.

The Plan

As it turns out, the Belgian national dish is moules frites or mussels & fries. I love this dish, but I’ve only consumed it in restaurants. How hard can it be to cook? To make it, I’ve followed Gordon Ramsay’s recipe in part, but deferred to Heston Blumenthal’s recipe for chips. You need to make the chips and mayonnaise first, the mussels are completed very quickly.

Note the mussels dish serves about 2 hungry big people (I supplemented this with prawns on the side to make it fit a family of four)


  • 1 kg blue mussels
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 fat garlic cloves, diced
  • 1 large carrot, julienned
  • 1 fresh red chilli
  • 1 bunch thyme
  • 100ml olive oil (I used half of this!)
  • 150 ml dry white wine
  • 2 tbsp sour cream
  • A bunch of parsley leaves.
  1. Put the mussels in a large bowl of water and clean them. Leave them for 20 minutes.
  2. Dice the vegetables. Pick the thyme leaves from the stalks, discarding all of the thicker stalks.
  3. In a large pan, put on the heat and add the oil. When the oil is really hot, throw in the vegetables. The thyme leaves should start crackling and give off a gorgeous smell.
  4. Cook for about 1 ½ minutes, or until the vegetables have started to wilt.
  5. Add the mussels and shake the pan so they form an even layer. Add a tight lid and cook for another 2-3 minutes, shaking the pan occaisionally.
  6. Add the wine, shake through and return to the heat for another 1 ½ minutes.
  7. Take a colander and pour the mussels and vegetables through into a bowl. Discard any mussels that did not open.
  8. Return the reserved liquid to the pan and reheat. Stir in the sour cream and parsley leaves
  9. Add the mussels and vegetables back to the pan. Shake a few times, then serve in large soup bowls.

Home made mayonnaise

  • Two egg yolks
  • ½ teaspoon mustard powder
  • 150ml olive oil
  • 1 tsp wine vinegar.

Put the egg yolks, vinegar, mustard powder, some salt and 2 tbsp of oil into a blender. While blending, slowly add the remainder of the oil to produce a creamy emulsion. Chill

The Ultimate Chip

  • 1.2kg potatoes, washed and peeled (King Edward or Sebago)
  • 1 litre groundnut (peanut) oil
  • 1 litre rendered fat (optional)
  1. Put on a large pot of unsalted water on to boil.
  2. Slice the potatos into chips, around 1cm or more in diameter. Concentrate on making them consistently the same thickness. Square off the ends of the potatoes. Place them in a bowel and run them under a tap for 10 minutes to remove as much starch as possible
  3. Once the water is boiling, add the potatoes. Return to a boil, but then make sure they’re only cooked at a gentle simmer. Cook for 9 minutes.
  4. Using a slotted spoon, remove the chips. Place on trays and refrigerate until chilled. They should harden when they cool.
  5. Heat the oil to 130C and plunge in the chips. After 5 minutes, remove – they should appear drier, but not browned. Drain, dry and return to the fridge for cooling
  6. When ready to cook for serving, you can either use the original oil or the rendered fat. If it’s the latter, heat to 180C (otherwise, heat the vegetable oil to 130C). Fry the chips for 8-10 minutes

The Event

I made a huge mess making this, plus sliced the top off my thumb at the end while making some garlic prawns as a side (forgettable). The chips were slightly over parboiled and I suspect probably too wet to begin with (read up on Heston’s chip making article), but they were still good. Not having a fat thermometer was a problem (meat thermometers peak at 100C). Bearding mussels was a new experience – you do need to be careful not to kill the mussel or it won’t open.

The Outcome

Liam: “The mussels are great except they’re kind of more disgusting than prawns. The mayonnaise is too vinegar-y. I like the chips though! And the bread!”

Jacq: “This is FANTASTIC”

Chris: “10/10 for effort! I’ve never had mussels, these are good!”

Me: The mayonnaise was a disaster (1 tbsp is not 1 tsp) but the rest was hands down perfect. A great meal. In fact, the only real problem was that we don’t have bowls big enough to contain the mussels!


June 12, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Posted in Northern & Eastern Europe | Leave a comment

Ah, England. So much influence across the development of the modern world in virtually all things… cuisine not being one of them.

Seriously, England has influenced the world hugely via warfare, colonialism and trade. The British Empire at one stage spanned half the world. The modern language is, despite the lack of native speakers, the de facto international language. Western legal systems are largely founded in English common law, many of Christianity’s modern incarnations can be attributed to the Church of England, and the only comedy worth anything is aped and copied from the classic English sense of humour. So why did they fail to make a significant positive gastronomic imprint on the world (and by saying positive, I’m excluding the chip).

OK, I’m being a tad unfair given some of the dull dishes we’ve had from some far-flung parts of the universe. English cooking is fine – but it’s both ubiquitous and generally evokes a sense of insipid plain fare, where vegies are merely boiled, meat is simply roasted plain, the only starch is a potato and the most exotic spice is a toss-up between pepper and rosemary.

In truth, England has a number of gems: Fish Pie is a gorgeous sloppy mess (Deb, must get your recipe), Toad-in-The-Hole is one of the odder ones from Yorkshire (tried to make a showing here but first attempt was unmitigated disaster), and the historical national dish of Fish and Chips was of course a contender. However, England is, by virtue of the hangover effects of colonialism, is a melting pot of cuisines. We shall tip our hat to that.

The Plan

This dish was invented in England in the 70s, despite its Indian roots. A man dining in Soho was given a dish of Chicken Tikka, but complained to see it arrive without a sauce. Quick as a flash, the chef whipped up a sauce (apparently based on a tin of Campbell’s tomato soup, although what *that* would be doing in an Indian kitchen defies explanation) and created Chicken Tikka Masala.

Matthew sourced this dish for me, and he implored me to use this one for England. No protests here.

Serves 4

  • 450g/1lb boneless, skinned chicken breast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ tsp tandoori colour or a few drops of red food colouring mixed with 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • ½ inch cube root ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 tsps ground coriander
  • ½ tsp ground allspice or garam masala
  • ¼ of a whole nutmeg, finely grated
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 125g/5oz thick set natural yogurt
  • 4 tbsps corn or vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  1. Cut the chicken into 1-inch cubes. Sprinkle with ½ tsp salt from the specified amount, and the lemon juice – mix thoroughly, cover and keep aside for 30 minutes.
  2. Put the rest of the ingredients into an electric food processor or liquidizer and blend until smooth.
  3. Put this marinade into a sieve and hold the sieve over the chicken pieces. Press the marinade through the sieve with the back of a metal spoon until only a very coarse mixture is left.
  4. Coat the chicken thoroughly with the sieved marinade, cover the container and leave to marinate for 6-8 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
  5. Preheat the oven to 230°C.
  6. Line a roasting tin with aluminium foil (this will help maintain the high level of temperature required to cook the chicken quickly without drying it out).
  7. Thread the chicken onto skewers, leaving ¼ inch gap between each piece (this is necessary for the heat to reach all sides of the chicken).
  8. Place the skewers in the prepared roasting tin and brush with some of the remaining marinade.
  9. Cook in the centre of the oven for 6-8 minutes.
  10. Take the tin out of the oven, turn the skewers over and brush the pieces of chicken with the remaining marinade.
  11. Return the tin to the oven and cook for a further 6-8 minutes.
  12. Shake off any excess liquid from the chicken. (Strain the excess liquid and keep aside for Chicken Tikka Masala)
  13. Place the skewers on a serving dish. You may take the tikka off the skewers if you wish, but allow the meat to cool slightly before removing from the skewers.

TIME: Preparation takes 30-35 minutes plus time needed to marinate, cooking takes 15-18 minutes.


Serves 4

  • 450g/1lb Chicken Tikka
  • ½ inch cube of root ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 tsp salt salt or to taste
  • 50g/2oz unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • ¼ tsp ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp garam masala
  • ¼-½ tsp chilli powder
  • 125ml/4fl oz liquid, made up of the reserved juice from the precooked Chicken Tikka and warm water
  • 300ml/10fl oz double cream
  • 2 heaped tbsps ground almonds
  1. Mix together the ginger, garlic and ½ tsp salt from the specified amount and crush to a pulp. Keep the remaining salt aside for later use.
  2. Melt the butter gently and fry the onions for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the ginger/garlic paste and cook for 1 minute.
  4. Stir in the turmeric and then the cumin, coriander, garam masala and chili powder. Stir and cook for 2 minutes.
  5. Add the liquid and stir gently.
  6. Gradually add the cream and stir.
  7. Add the remaining salt and simmer for 5 minutes and then add the chicken. Adjust heat to low, cover and cook for 10 minutes.
  8. Stir in the ground almonds and simmer for 5-6 minutes.
  9. Remove from heat.

TIME: Preparation takes 10 minute plus time needed to marinate the tikka, cooking takes 25 minutes plus time needed to cook the tikka.

Serve over rice. Goes well with a nice yellow dahl on the side.

The Event

I’ve cooked this before:  whenever one roasts the chicken, try to get as much of the liquid marinade off it.   Some will melt and produce a watery liquid, it’s best to drain that off after thee first time you see it and add it to reserved liquid.

The cream in this makes the dish, but it’s very rich:  if anything, go a bit easy on the cream.

The Outcome

Jacq:  “Best. Dish. Ever”

Liam: “I give it 9 out of 10.   Mum’s last attempt was 0 out of 10”

Chris:  “Hey, I didn’t cook that one!  I just served it – and it was awful.  However, this is definitely 9 out of 10 – 10 if I didn’t have the flu.”

Me:  This is definitely a classic recipe, and the outcome is just divine.


May 29, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Posted in Northern & Eastern Europe | Leave a comment

Wales.   Has there ever been a country in more dire need for vowel control (given w & y are considered vowels).

Interestingly, Wales comes from the Anglo-Saxon word Waelisc which means ‘foreigner’, and Wēalas means ‘where foreigners live’.   So,  the Welsh are essentially is the first group of people the old Anglo-Saxons turned their nose up at.


The Plan

Wales is probably one of the least inspirational places for cooking – they’ve really given the world extremely little in terms of cuisine beyond the leek.  However, today is cold and miserable and it turns out leek and potato soup, with cheese-on-toast (rarebit) is the business.

Leek & Potato Soup

  • 1 rasher of bacon
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 a kg potatos
  • 2 leeks
  • Half a cup chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • Half a cup of milk
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • Grated  cheddar cheese.
  1. Cut up bacon and fry in butter in large, deep skillet or saucepan.
  2. Peel and cut up potatoes.
  3. Clean and cut up leeks.
  4. Add vegetables to pan and sauté 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in stock and add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Cover pan and simmer over low heat 30 minutes, until vegetables are tender.
  7. Add milk and reheat, but do not boil, to prevent milk from curdling.
  8. Add parsley.

Serve with cheese on toast – technically Welsh Rarebit is make with a cheese sauce that is mixed with beer, but really:  It’s just cheese.

The  Event

This is just soup.   The highlight would have to be bacon and leeks frying off.

The  Outcome

Liam:  ”It’s a big thick….but I like it!”

Jacq:  ”Liam loved it, but I was too full to finish it”

Chris:  “It’s good.   Its soup, its automatically good”

Me:  Yep, fairly safe and easy soup.   I’ve not added bacon to leek and potato before, it’s nice.


August 8, 2010 at 11:18 am | Posted in Northern & Eastern Europe | Leave a comment

Russia is a vast sprawling country that seems to be much more removed from the western cultures – more isolated than Africa, Asia or even the Middle East.  Very little immigration out of the country is obviously one factor, the political boundaries over the last  century but probably a key factor is fundamentally that it’s very size makes it somewhat impenetrable.    It’s a long way north (virtually all of it further north than London), the majority of it land locked, and for large chunk of the year it’s freezing:  -44°C in the capital.

Regardless, Russian culture is a bit unusual here in Australia:  we seem to have plenty of Russian IT contractors and every type of Russian vodka, but not a huge amount of Russian food.

The  Plan

The quintessential Russian dish would have to be the Borscht:  a thick soup made primarily from beetroot.  Googling around, there also seems to be more recipes for borscht than there are subdivisions in  Russia. I’m picking this one, from Simply Recipes, with some minor modifications.   Also included a hefty portion of garlic bread.


  • 6 cups beef stock
  • 4 beef bones
  • 300g chuck steak, cubed into large chunks (3cm)
  • 1 large onion, peeled, quartered
  • 2 large beetroot, peeled, chopped into small cubes
  • 3 carrots, peeled, chopped into small cubes
  • 1 large  sebago potato, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 cups thinly sliced cabbage
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Bring 4 cups of the beef broth, the beef bones, and onion to boil in large pot. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for around  an hour.
  2. Remove the bones, trim any meat remaining and return it to the pan.  Add the chuck steak and cook for another hour.
  3. Remove the meat from the stock.   Dice, and put to one side.
  4. Place the broth in the fridge for an hour or tow
  5. Skim the fat from the top of the chilled broth and discard.
  6. Return the pan to the stove, adding the beetroot, potato and carrots and the remaining stock.  This needs to be thick and hearty so don’t make it too watery.  Bring to the boil and simmer for 30-40 minutes.
  7. Add the meat, cabbage and most of the dill (reserve some for garnish).  Simmer for a further 15-20 minutes
  8. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of dill on each plate.

Serves 4 (just).

The  Event

This was a few steps –  making up the stock – but worth it.  It was only just enough for the four of us.

The  Outcomes

Chris:  “This is great!”

Jacqueline:  “Ergh.   I don’t like beetroot”  <adds much more sour cream> <adds more>  “Now its good”

Liam:  “it’s pink!  Oh no!  It’s gross!”  (still ate it)

Me:   I’ve had borscht, and not liked it.  This recipe though was great:  the sour cream and dill make it, and slowly drawing in bits of cream gave the dish different flavours.   Very nice.


July 11, 2010 at 7:14 pm | Posted in Northern & Eastern Europe | Leave a comment

Bork bork bork.

We’ve decided to jump out of Africa and pop up to  Northern Europe.  Sweden’s our next stop.   Tonight’s all about Abba, Vikings, Pippi Longstocking, Ikea, pickled herring and elderflower.  Ikea is important – not only is it the place to get adult sized Lego, they also stock a variety of Swedish food.

The Plan

Chris opportunistically picked up a range of Swedish samples from Ikea – pickled fish, various types of breads & crackers, some elderflower cordial and some cheese.   I decided that we’d have a form of a smörgåsbord as a starter with the Ikea snack, followed up by (of course)  Swedish Meatballs, and finishing off with a Swedish cheesecake.

Entree: Smörgåsbord

  • Assortment of pickled herring (plain, sour cream, dijon mustard and with lingonberries)
  • Matjes Herring
  • Three hard boiled eggs, sliced
  • Assortment of Swedish bread, crispbread and crackers (Knackebrod, Leksands)
  • Elderflower cordial  (used as mixer with Vodka for adults)
  • Wãstgöta Kloster (Swedish cheese)

Simply assemble on a plate and make ad-hoc open sandwiches

Main: Kostbullar (Swedish Meatballs)

  • 1 (7 ounce) ground beef
  • 1 (7 ounce) ground veal
  • 1 (3 1/2 ounce) ground pork
  • 1 eggs
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped onions
  • 3 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs
  • 2 small boiled potatoes, cold and mashed
  • salt
  • white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon epice riche
  • 4-5 tablespoons butter
  • Mashed potato, pickled cucumber (accompaniments)


  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • beef stock
  • soy sauce
  • salt
  • white pepper
  1. Fry the onion light yellow in a little butter.
  2. Soak the breadcrumbs in the liquid.
  3. Mix everything well and add spices to taste.
  4. Make 1- to 1 1/2-inch meatballs with the help of two wet spoons.
  5. Put them on a plate coated with a little flour and fry them slowly on all sides in lots of butter (putting the meatballs in the freezer for a while before frying makes them firmer).
  6. Place the meatballs on a hot plate, fry the flour in the remaining fat and pour in the stock and the cream.
  7. Boil for a few minutes.
  8. Add soy, salt and pepper to taste and pour the hot sauce over the meatballs.
  9. Serve hot with mashed potates, pickled cucumber and preserved lingonberry or cranberry.

Desert: Ostaka (Swedish Cheesecake), pickled herring, elderflower,

  • 1/4 cup of almonds
  • 3 eggs
  • 5 tbsp sugar (6 or 7 might be better though as I did not find this very sweet)
  • 1/4 cup of plain flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 500g cottage cheese
  1. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius.
  2. Whisk the eggs and sugar together and then add in the sifted flour, milk, cream, cottage cheese and almonds.
  3. Stir to combine and then pour into an oven proof dish
  4. Bake for 1 hour and then serve warm with whipped cream and lingon berry jam, or any berries available.

The Event

The IKEA themed smörgåsbord was great to assemble and very different.   The pickled herring was, shall we say, interesting but with a different reaction to each one.   The Matjes Herring elicited the most unfortunate and violent reaction from Chris who, retching, bolted from the table to spit her mouthful in the bin.  Huge amusement value for the kids.

The Swedish meatballs – with a Muppet interlude – were quite difficult to assemble, being very sticky.   The amount of cream made me shudder but in the interests of international gastronomy, I continued.  Putting them in the freezer was almost mandatory before cooking.   Be careful using too much stock, I made the sauce far too strong.

The Swedish cheesecake came out, well, a bit like custard.    It’s important to serve immediately as it comes out of the oven very fluffy but collapses quickly.

The Outcome

Jacqueline:  ”The fish is stinky!  I don’t like the meatballs.  But the cheese cake is good!  The Swedish Chef was hilarious!  Bork bork bork!”

Liam:  ”I liked the meatballs a tiny bit and I hated the fish.  I liked watching Mum & Dad spit the fish into the bin. I liked the Swedish chef alot!”

Christina: “<blewwegrghg>  OK, never again with the herring.   Meatballs – yep.   Swedish cheesecake – pretty tasteless”

Me:   The fish was, well, I guess, an acquired taste. The meatballs were surprisingly gravy-ish and really quite nice:  Italian ones are better though.  The cheesecake…yeah, a disappointment.   Overall though, 10/10 for a very different meal.

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