Eat the World – Part 5

Week 19 – Azerbaijan – 24 May 2015

Plov.

I write the name of the dish alone because it’s half the reason I chose to make it. Plov. What’s not to love about a name like that? Eastern Europe and the Middle East meet in Azerbaijani cuisine, which to be honest I hadn’t given a single thought to before looking on the map for my next destination. Perhaps it was my heritage (very loosely speaking) that made up my mind, but of the countries I passed over this year, I didn’t want this to be one of them. Then I found Plov…

Plov is a popular pilaf dish from the Azerbaijani kitchen. In its method, it was quite similar to that of the one I made for Afghanistan, except at the end when broth is incorporated in the dish. Flavour wise, it was quite different, with the sugars of apricots and their reconstituted texture adding an exciting element to the dish – albeit an altogether different sweetness to that of its Afghan neighbours caramel elements.

Overall though, this dish didn’t complete a hattrick of amazing bowls I was on track for. While the nuts and apricots were delicious in their own right, there was not enough transferred across through to the rice. The saffron helped a little, but my experiment just didn’t add up.

19 Azerbaijan

Recipe appeared in Feast and is available here.

Week 20 – Lebanon – 28 June 2015

Enough with rice, it’s about time it was given a rest. From Azerbaijan, it’s a fair hop over a couple of countries to get to Lebanon, but I think Asia established that direct routes across borders wasn’t always going to happen.

This week I decided to make kibbeh, a Lebanese meat dish. While the dish incorporates burghul or cracked wheat, it is predominantly mincemeat and certainly reflects such meatiness in its final form. It is spiced with baharat, which is an eight spice blend (yes, I was excited!) of paprika, cumin, black pepper, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and cloves. Whilst only a little of this was used, the flavour blend still goes a long way in creating a unique taste.

Add to the above a load of onion and pine nuts and you pretty much have all the components you need. You then create two parts – a raw meat/wheat paste and a crumbly cooked mince. Assembly is simply: one layer meat paste, one layer cooked mince, another layer meat paste. You end up with a kind of baked meat sandwich where the bread is… meat.

This needed to be balanced somehow, so I tracked down a Lebanese salad named fattoush. This is effectively the antithesis of the kibbeh, made from lettuce, capsicum, cucumber, spring onions, parsley, mint and lemon. Balanced with a little hummus and pita bread, the fattoush excused the levels of meat and made for a well rounded plate.

20.1 Lebanon

Kibbeh: http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/kibbeh-bil-sanieh

Fattoush: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/authentic-lebanese-fattoush/

Following my kibbeh experience, I kept on searching and received a little more insight into Lebanese food, learning that pretty much every recipe for a kibbeh is different and its authenticity is actually quite tricky. Along with this info, I borrowed a Lebanese cookbook consisting of many traditional recipes, including all sorts of kibbeh. Instead of a reattempt, I tried something new by ways of Lebanese chicken breast rolls. This was simple looking, but complex tasting dish which involved a cooked stuffing of basmati rice, pine nuts, almonds, spinach, spring onions, raisins, salt & pepper and (as in pretty much anything Lebanese) lemon juice.

With stuffing on hand, you butterfly a chicken breast to create a wide piece, load in the goodies and roll into a tight log, securing with toothpicks before dusting with baharat, searing and roasting in the oven for 20 minutes, basting every so often with oil and lemon juice.

Once rested for 10 minutes, the chicken sliced nicely and looked great with all the shapes and textures crammed up inside. I rounded out the chicken as a meal with a Lebanese potato salad (cold boiled potatoes with lemon, oil, mint and salt) and a cheat’s tabouleh (made with cous cous instead of burghul, along with parsley, mint, tomato, cucumber and lemon juice).

The chicken recipe was from Abla Amad’s Abla’s Lebanese Kitchen. The potato salad recipe can be found widely across the internet. The cheat’s tabouleh was simply made up.

20.2 Lebanon

Week 21 – Turkey – 5 July 2015

This is exciting… After leaving the familiar realm of Asia in April this is the first hint of geographic familiarity in a while. My experience of Turkey does not extend beyond a visit to Istanbul, but in that week exploring Turkey’s Western-most city I managed to pack in a huge load of culinary delights. However, as far as Eat the World was concerned, something entirely new for me was coming from the kitchen this week.

While perusing the flood of Turkish recipes on the internet, it all seemed a little overwhelming, which is why I simply picked something random. I’d come across a dumpling soup, which looked perfect for the winter months in Melbourne and at the same time quite confusing – corn and cabbage based soup felt Asian, chicken and cornbread dumplings felt South American… How would it come together?

The recipe was made up of several elements and while it required a lot of time, none of the elements was in any way difficult. The cornbread was made in advance, although the recipe made way more of this than I would need. Everything else could be put together at the same time.

My amendments to the recipe included using canned beans instead of soaking my own, and using polenta instead of cornmeal and purple cabbage instead of black cabbage in the soup.

The soup itself is made with 2 litres of water, not stock. This resulted in a subtler flavour overall, although the corn and tomato paste did come through, as did the cabbage (quite strongly) when eating leftovers the next day. With thanks to polenta, the soup thickened right up and the dumplings (arguably the winner of the dish) sat atop the soup rather than swimming about in it.

21 Turkey

Recipe is available here.

Week 22 – Greece – 12 July 2015

Greek recipes are ridiculous, not for the ingredients, method or time, but for the quantity! With yet again a huge range of Greek recipes to choose from, I was easily convinced by moussaka; but had I not reduced the recipe I’d settled on, I would have landed enough for 15 people on my bench.

Having not had moussaka before, I was excited by the elements that made it up and how its structure vaguely resembled the lord of food: lasagne. While the recipe below can expand on each element, the dish was basically made up of breadcrumbs, boiled potato, roasted eggplant, a spiced meat/tomato sauce and a béchamel sauce, all stacked and baked to delicious combination.

I followed the recipe rather accurately with only a couple of changes, such as using passata to develop a really rich, thick meat sauce and infusing the milk with thyme, bay, onion and nutmeg before making the béchamel.

Out of the oven, allowing the moussaka to sit for a little while was rather important, as it cooled slightly and everything settled in its place to result in an easy slice and serve. The elements of this moussaka worked really well together, with a variety of rich flavours and mixed textures: crunchy crumbed eggplant, soft potato, meaty sauce and creamy béchamel. This one is will be made again!

22 Greece

The recipe I used is available here (and I dare you to make the full amount).

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