Friday, December 30, 2022

Argentina

Our timing to study Argentina was fantastic, as we just spent almost an entire month watching the 2022 Men's World Cup where Argentina (and Messi!) emerged victorious!


Video List


For our food experience, I found a place that makes Argentinian empanadas called Fat Tummy Empanadas, so we went to check it out.  It was delicious!  We started off with a single empanada each, but they were so delicious that most of us went back for a second.  Our favorites were the traditional beef (ground beef with chopped up kalamata olives), the rajas con queso (poblano peppers with cheese and corn), and the Argentinian-style chorizo with eggs.  We also had the beef and potatoes and spicy chicken, which were also good.  At the end we brought home some of the sweet empanadas to bake and have as dessert.  We tried the dulce de leche (like a caramel filling), guava and cream cheese, apple, and pineapple.  Surprisingly, we liked the savory empanadas much more than the sweet ones, and later we found out that in Argentina, they don't really serve sweet ones anyway.

L to R: apple, dulce de leche, and guava & cream cheese

Monday, November 21, 2022

Antigua & Barbuda

Next up are the islands of Antigua & Barbuda.  There are so many islands in the Caribbean Sea with amazing history and culture that we were excited to learn about them.  They are not that far (relatively) from where we live, but we don't hear about them very often, so this was a great opportunity.


Antigua is the southernmost island and the most populated (97% of total population).  There are very few people who live on Barbuda (~1,634), all of whom had to be completely evacuated in 2017 due to Hurricane Irma, but most residents have since returned.
 

Video List


In looking for a way to experience Antigua & Barbuda cuisine, I checked around locally to see if there were any specialty restaurants that could help.  There are a number of Caribbean and specifically Jamaican places, but I did some research online about traditionally Antiguan dishes and couldn't find anyplace that included those in the menu.

Next I tried to find some way to order and ship some Antiguan black pineapple, known as being the sweetest pineapple in the world.  They are only grown in Antigua and are delicate enough that they cannot be transported and so rarely ever leave the island.  I found this to be very true, as I couldn't find it anywhere, even in candied, canned, or preserved form.

By this time, we needed to move on to our next country study, so I settled for ordering tamarind balls from Amazon for us to try.  While these are from Jamaica, it is said that they are an incredibly popular snack in Antigua & Barbuda.


I thought they were delicious, a wonderful combination of sweet and sour.  Our family was divided pretty evenly on who liked them and who didn't finish theirs.  😅


Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Angola

 Angola is the second-largest Portuguese-speaking country in the world (after Brazil) and is the seventh-largest country in Africa.  There is a small part of the country that is not connected to the rest: Cabinda.  It is along the Atlantic Coast just north of the main body of the country and accounts for an estimated 60% of Angola's oil production.

Video List


For our food experience, I found a recipe for Muamba De Galinha (or Muamba Chicken), referred to in some places as Angola's national dish.  I had a lot of the ingredients already on hand or easily obtainable at my local grocery store but needed to special order red palm oil to make the dish.  It had a rich, nutty smell when heated up that added a lot to the dish, so I'm glad I made the effort to get some!



We served it over rice, and our whole family enjoyed it!

Monday, August 22, 2022

Andorra

Located in the mountains between France and Spain, Andorra is one of the smallest countries in the world, only 2.5 times the size of Washington, D.C.   Despite its size, it boasts a robust economy, high life expectancy, and the highest capital city in Europe (Andorra la Vella).  Catalan is the official language.

Video List

I was happy to find a recipe for the Andorran national dish - escudella!  This is a rich and meaty Catalan stew that has a little bit of everything in it: three kinds of meat (sausage, chicken, ham) and about every major carb/fiber group you can think of (shell pasta, garbanzo beans, rice, white beans, potato).  Oh, and cabbage!  I used this recipe, but other recipes have slightly different ingredients but still the basic mashup of lots of meats and lots of different grains and beans.

This dish is now typically served in the winter, especially around Christmas, but we are enjoying it in the heat of a Texas summer!  😅

The whole family agreed that the flavor was quite good, but it was really rich so it took us awhile to finish it off.  (Hello, heartburn!)  Also, if I had to do it again, I think I would time the cooking of the different ingredients a little more instead of throwing them all in at the same time like the recipe indicates.  Then I think each item would still be distinct instead of all mushed up together.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Algeria

 Next up was Algeria!  It is a large country (10th largest in the world) that has green areas along the Mediterranean Sea and other parts in the middle of the Sahara Desert.  It has been influenced by so many different civilizations, from the Romans to the Ottoman Empire to French colonial rule.  The main spoken language is Algerian Arabic.

Video List


I spent a lot of time trying to find a restaurant that would be able to give us a taste of something close to Algerian cuisine.  I thought we might be able to try the harira or tajine at a local Moroccan place, but the reviews were spotty, so we decided to sit this one out.  Amazon turned up nothing food-wise from Algeria (although there are a number of cookbooks).  Instead I have a few links below to some food lists, and if you have any recipes, dishes, or restaurants in the San Antonio area to recommend, I'd love to know!

Food Info

  • Top 10 Algerian Traditional Foods - This video can be watched at 1.5 speed just fine, as there is no talking.  There are good pictures, but no information about what is in each dish or how to pronounce it, so this is more a starting list of dishes to look up.
  • Traditional Foods of Algeria - This video has good background information and shows various Algerian dishes actually being made.  However, the narrator sounds like it is a digital text reader narrating, so I am not certain that the pronunciations of the dishes are correct.
  • Algerian Food: 14 Traditional and Popular Dishes to Try - This article has great descriptions of the dishes, their ingredients, and when/where they are eaten.
  • 12 Classic Foods in Algeria - This article is doesn't give as much history or context for each dish, but it does provide a detailed description of what it tastes like, which is especially nice when you can't try them yourself!

Monday, February 21, 2022

Albania

Now that we are back on track with our alphabetical exploration, our next stop was Albania!  It was fun to learn about this country and recognize some similarities from our study of North Macedonia.  Located along the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, Albania's geography has meant a long and storied geopolitical history as well as rich biodiversity.  Today, it is an active participant in the international scene and is a member of NATO.


Video List


For our foray into Albanian food, I scoured the interwebs looking for an Albanian restaurant in the area.  I thought I found a food truck called Albanian Kuizine not that far away, but it looks like they went under some time in 2020.  Interestingly enough, word on the street (ie - Facebook) is that there are a number of Albanian-owned restaurants in the San Antonio area, but that they tend to be pizza places and serve what we would consider to be typically Italian food.  This makes sense since their neighbor to the west (just over the sea but not that far away) is Italy.  However, we wanted to try more traditionally Albanian dishes, so we decided to find some recipes online and make some ourselves.

First decided to go with fërgesë, a roasted peppers, tomato, and cheese dish that is usually served as a side but can also be a main course if meat is added.  The traditional meat that is used is liver, which would have been a hard sell to the rest of the family, so we went with the vegetarian side dish option.

The second dish we decided to make was byrek, which is essentially a pastry pie that can have various fillings.  Since it was going to be our main dish, we opted for a pretty standard beef and potato filling.


The first challenge I ran into was that our local grocery store was out of pre-made phyllo pastry, which is the kind of pastry that byrek calls for.  I thought about substituting puff pastry (which was readily available), but then looked up a recipe for phyllo and realized how drastically different the pastries were.  For example, puff pastry is all about the butter for its layers and flakiness, but there is no butter at all in phyllo, and it the layers in phyllo are incredibly thin.  So I sighed, rolled up my sleeves, and got to work making phyllo pastry for the first time!


The ingredients for both the byrek and the fërgesë had to be simmered for awhile to cook off the excess liquid, so it meant our house smelled super yummy!
(Bottom left is the meat and potato filling for the byrek, top right are the roasted peppers and tomatoes for the fërgesë)


I was super pleased with the final results!  The fërgesë was super tasty and really nice on crackers.  It was actually reminiscent of the ajvar that we ate for our study of North Macedonia and would make an awesome dip for hosting.


The byrek was a smash hit with the family.  I was thrilled that my first attempt at phyllo resulted in a crispy and flaky pastry, and the filling was delicious.  The kids have asked me if I can make it again, which is good because the recipes I used made two whole pies, so we have another one for tomorrow!