Monday, May 30, 2016

Dining-In: A Culinary tour of the World-Finland

The Country: Finland

Continent: Europe, North
Capital: Helsinki
Current Head of State: Prime Minister Juha Sipila, President Sauli Niinisto
Form of Government: Unitary Parliamentary Constitutional Republic
Official Language: Finnish, Swedish
Ethnic Groups: Finns, Swedes, Sami, Roma, Russian
Formation Date: 15th century, though first known inhabitants date back to 5200 BCE.
Population: As of March 2016: 5,488,543
Currency: Euro
Independence Date: December 6, 1917-From Russia
Main Religion: Christianity-Luthern, Eastern Orthodox
Famous Finnish Americans: Jean Auel, Pamela Anderson, Matt Damon, George Gaynes, Jessica Lange, Vanessa Williams
National Anthem:

The Food: Lohikeitto and Pannukakku
Translated into English, this is salmon chowder and a giant oven pancake. The two items aren't necessarily related, but they were recipes I could make that didn't require me to special order any ingredients and actually sounded like things I would eat. It's not easy to get my hands on lingon berries or reindeer meat in Seattle. Both recipes come from the internet and I will post the original links in the sources section.

Lohikeitto-Finnish Salmon Chowder

3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 leek, chopped (white and light green part only)
3 cups plus 1 Tbsp. water, divided
1 bay leaf
3/4 lb. potatoes, cubed and peeled
3/4 lb. salmon filet, skinned, boned and cut into small chunks
3/4 cup cream (I used coconut milk since I can’t eat cream of any kind)
1 Tbsp. cornstarch (up to 1 1/2 Tablespoons if you'd like the broth thick)
1 Tbsp. butter
Salt and pepper
Fresh parsley or dill for topping
Lemon wedge (optional)

Heat the olive in a large saucepan and saute the leek until softened. Add 3 cups of the water and the bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and carefully add the potatoes. Cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender.
Add the salmon and simmer for five minutes. Add the coconut milk and stir to mix. Make a cornstarch slurry with the cornstarch and 1 Tablespoon of water, stirring to dissolve the cornstarch. Add to the soup and simmer until the soup has thickened.
Add the butter and remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top with plenty of fresh parsley or dill. Serve with a squeeze of lemon, if desired.
This soup is really light for a chowder. One thing I have noticed with Scandinavian cooking is a minimalist style. The ingredient list is usually pretty small and the dish is prepared in such a way that each ingredient shines for what it is. In this one, the potatoes were very potatoey and the salmon was very salmony but not fishy. I used dill and lemon to drizzle over the top and both helped enhance the flavor. I highly recommend using both.

Even though the soup is light, it was filling as well. It's a chowder for warm weather. Using the coconut milk helps it from being too heavy and don't worry, all the other flavors mask any coconut flavor, so it doesn't taste odd with the chowder. I recommend using the kind of coconut milk in the cardboard containers, not the kind in cans. The canned kind is "real" coconut milk and very strongly flavored. The kind you find in the baking aisle is not what I consider "true" coconut milk, and works better for things you don't want to taste like coconut. Also, be careful when you stir this soup. The salmon and potatoes are both very delicate and you want to keep them in pieces, not broken up to bits.

Next up was the Pannukakku, or the oven pancake. This shows up in other cultures. It's called a Dutch Baby or German Oven Pancake, but this is the Finnish version. I found this to be a very easy and fun recipe and it made me want to try other versions.


6 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar (optional)(I cut it down to 2 Tbsp. and it was a very light sweetness. If you like sweeter foods, I would use the full amount.)
1 Tbsp. vanilla sugar (or 1 tsp. vanilla extract) (I used the extract)
1/8 tsp. grated lemon zest(I didn’t measure this exactly, but used the zest of one whole lemon. You could also use orange zest if you want. That would be amazing too.)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/3 cup butter(I found this to be a bit too much. I blotted out some of the butter, so you might cut out one or two Tablespoons of it.)
1 cup cream, whipped until stiff peaks form(I sprinkled powdered sugar on mine instead of this)
Fresh fruit, fruit compote, or sautéed apples(I used fresh blueberries and they were amazing with this)

Whisk together the eggs, milk, sugar, and vanilla sugar (or vanilla) until creamy. Stir in grated lemon zest. Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder and stir into egg mixture. Allow batter to rest for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 450º. When pancake batter has rested, place butter in an oven-proof frying pan. Place pan in oven and allow butter to melt without browning. Once your butter has melted, remove pan from oven and use pastry brush to coat surface and side of pan evenly with the melted butter.
Pour pancake batter into the hot, buttered pan and return to oven. Bake for 15 minutes, or until puffed and golden.(Resist the urge to open the door to look at it. Like a soufflé, you don’t want to let the heat out for this one.)
Serve with whipped cream and fresh fruit, fruit compote, or lightly sautéed apples.
Yield: 5-6 servings.
This pancake was fun! It's all puffy when you take it out of the oven, but it deflates after a minute. It's really dense and eggy. I'm not sure it was supposed to be that dense, but it was still delicious. I really liked it with the powdered sugar and blueberries. Raspberries and blackberries would be great too. Strawberries too, obviously!
I really enjoyed making and eating both of these recipes. Neither of them takes too much time to make and were not difficult at all. I highly recommend both of them! Finland always seems to be forgotten, but their food is really tasty. Give it a try!

Salmon Chowder Recipe

Pannukakku Recipe

National Anthem

Flag Link

Map Link

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Dining-In: A Culinary Tour of the World-Botswana

 The Country: Botswana
Continent: Africa, south
Capital: Gaborone
Current Head of State: President Ian Khama
Form of Government: Parliamentary Republic
Official Language: Setswana, English
Ethnic Groups: Tswana, Kgalagadi, Bajarwa, Kalanga, white
Population: As of 2014-2,155,784
Currency: Pula
Independence Date: September 30, 1966-From the UK
Main Religion: Christianity
National Anthem:

The Food: Phaphatha and Botswanan Chicken Groundnut Stew
This is my first stop in Africa for this project and it turns out it was a delicious stop! Both of my items were amazing. A lot of Botswanan recipes were for beef, and since I don't eat that, I had to look around for something that worked. I managed to find one I really liked. For my other recipe, I chose Phaphatha. Though a difficult word to pronounce, phaphatha is actually a delicious bread. It is essentially an English muffin, but with elements of biscuits and pancakes added. It's baked on the stove top which really intrigued me. It doesn't rise nearly as long as a traditional yeast bread, like biscuits. And the way it cooks on the stove, is like pancakes. I ate mine with butter but you could add jam if you wanted. The original recipe says it makes a good breakfast sandwich too, if you are so inclined. The recipe used metric measurements, which I had to translate. I will provide the translated amount, as well as my own notes.


17.6oz flour, plus extra for rolling and kneading
½ pkg. yeast
1-1 ½ cups lukewarm water
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt

Sift the flour and yeast into a bowl. Add the sugar and salt. Gradually add water and combine with your hands to form a dough. Only add enough water to form the dough.
Knead the dough for about 5 minutes till it’s soft and pliable.

Put aside in a bowl covered with a damp cloth and leave to rise for 30 minutes.

On a floured surface, roll out the dough to about half an inch thickness. Using a round object like a plastic cup or cookie cutter, cut the dough into circles. 
Dust the phaphathas liberally on both sides and place in a flat pan on medium heat with enough space between them to allow for rising. The phaphatha will continue to rise while cooking. When it is very puffed on the top, turn over to cook on the other side.
Remove from heat when cooked through and enjoy with tea (or coffee) while warm. Alternatively, stuff with whatever you like to make a sandwich.

My first batch got a little too done on one side and the part that touched the pan got too hard to eat. It was easy enough to eat around that part though. The second batch I had turned down the heat and they ended up being less overdone on top. These were delicious and I loved the texture. I'm curious to see if these would freeze well to eat at a later date. I think they would, if I planned on toasting them. I can see how they would make an awesome breakfast sandwich too. Maybe I'll freeze one and test it out next weekend!

For my entree, I decided to try the chicken and groundnut stew. Groundnut is basically peanut butter. I have heard of savory items with peanut butter in them. It's used a lot in certain Asian cuisines like Thai food, but I haven't had a lot of experience with it myself. I vaguely remember using it one time in last year's project, but it evades me at the moment what I did with it. This was a very good use of peanut butter, and if you aren't used to it in savory preparations, I highly recommend this one. Again, I translated the metric amounts and will provide them here.

Botswanan Chicken Groundnut Stew:   

1 chicken, cut into serving pieces
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 med. onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
8.5 oz. water
4.5 oz peanut butter(I used freshly ground peanut butter with no sugar added.)
4.5 oz. tomato paste
1 tsp. grated ginger
2 Tbsp. brown sugar(I completely forgot this and left it out. I didn’t even notice until typing this out. Feel free to leave it out if you want it to be less sweet)
1/2 tsp chili pepper flakes

Prepare the sauce by combining the sugar, chili flakes, ginger, peanut butter and tomato paste in a bowl. Slowly stir-in the water a little at a time until the sauce is smooth. Add the oil to a large pan and fry the chopped onion until translucent. Add the chicken and continue frying until the chicken has begun to brown before adding the bell pepper. 

Continue cooking until the chicken is nicely browned all over. Pour in the peanut sauce and stir well.
Cover and reduce the heat to low simmer. Cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Serve over rice or rice balls. (I served mine with cooked whole wheat berries and bulgur wheat that I had left over from some salads I had a couple weeks ago.) 
I ended up doing this for Sunday lunch instead of Saturday dinner and it was a great Sunday lunch! The peanut butter isn't very peanutty, it's just very rich and savory. Because I left out the sugar and used fresh peanut butter, there was no real sweetness to it. It blended with the tomato paste really well. I found that this had a lot of oil on the top. Probably from the chicken and the peanut butter, as well as the small amount of oil in the pan to start with. I recommend pouring this off or using a spoon to skim it off because you don't need that much fat in it.

I liked how both of these items cooked on the stove top. It's good for times when you don't want to use your oven, like hot summer days. Of course, the chicken is a bit heavy for a really hot day, so you might want to wait for colder weather. It's great comfort food! If you have never had African food, and are curious about it, this is a great place to start. I highly recommend both of these recipes!


Sunday, May 1, 2016

Dining-In: A Culinary Tour of the World-Canada

The Location: Canada
Continent: North America, North
Capital: Ottawa
Current Head of State: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Form of Government: Federal Parliamentary Constitutional Monarchy
Official Language: French and English
Ethnic Groups: Like the US, Canada is made up of immigrants and First Nation's Peoples. Nearly every ethnic group is represented.
Population: 36,048,521
Independence Day: July 1, 1867
Main Religion: Roman Catholicism, though the country does not have a national religion. They are a secular state.
Famous Canadians: L.M. Montgomery, William Shatner, K.D. Lang, Alanis Morissette
National Anthem:

The Food: Poutine and Butter Tarts
I have heard of poutine my entire life but have not had a chance to try it before. I am sad that I waited so long because it is a fantastic dish! I could have been enjoying it for years before now. People might make fun of it because it's a rather humble dish, but some of the best foods in the world are the simplest dishes.

Poutine, for those of you who have never heard of it before, is French fries with cheese curds on them, smothered in brown gravy. You definitely need a knife and fork for these fries. This presented two challenges for me from the start: I can't eat the cheese curds because I am lactose intolerant, and I cannot eat brown gravy, because I don't eat beef. So, a dish with only three components isn't going to be much of anything if you take two of the three away. I had to replace them with something different that would still keep the integrity of the original dish. I managed to do so, and it turns out it's not that hard to do at all. Chicken gravy was an easy and obvious replacement for the brown gravy. I decided to make gravy from scratch, though, rather than use a packet of gravy mix, but use a mix if you are so inclined. The harder item to replace, were the cheese curds. I found the solution on the internet: vegan cheese curds. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but it works. It's tofu that's been flavored to mimic cheese curds. Tofu already has a texture akin to cheese curds, so it's a natural fit.

This recipe has several components that I made individually. I will write it out as I made it.

French fries(I chose to make homemade oven fries with garlic, but you can use whatever French fry you want. You can deep fry them or use frozen or even tater tots if you like. Just make sure they're nice and hot and you should be fine!)
Cheese curds(You can use regular cheese curds, as is traditional, or make the vegan cheese curds, like I did. Here is how I made the vegan curds: 1/3 cup lemon juice, 4 tsp. kosher salt, and torn pieces of firm tofu. Mix the juice and salt and stir for a while until the salt dissolves. Mix the tofu in and soak for 30 minutes. Drain and rinse and set aside until ready to use.)
Gravy(Brown gravy is traditional, but I made homemade chicken gravy. I actually roasted chicken breasts for my dinners this coming week and used the drippings, and some chicken broth for the base. I splurged and made a roux to thicken it. Roux is equal parts melted butter and flour. You cook it on the stove until it's thick and smells nutty. Then slowly pour the liquid into it and let it come to a boil. Stir very well with a whisk and season to taste with salt and pepper. But you can make a mix if you want to instead. I'm sure it would be fine as well.)

Cook the French fries and put them on a plate. Top them with the cheese curds, and pour gravy over that. You will need a knife and fork for this.
The "cheese" curds have a nice salty, lemony tang to them and it all mixes really well with the gravy. I had garlic on my fries so there was a garlic flavor in all this too. This was ridiculously amazing! I will absolutely have to eat these more often!

To go with the poutine, I needed a dessert. One of the desserts that came up over and over again was "butter tarts". This sparked a memory and I ran to my own personal recipe collection where I found a hand-written recipe card my grandmother had written out for me for butter tarts. My grandmother, and her whole side of the family is Canadian. So, I feel that using her recipe makes it even more authentically Canadian. The recipe was pretty easy and since both dishes were pretty simple, I wanted to make my own pastry. I just couldn't stomach the idea of store-bought pastry for these. I found another recipe in my collection and tried it out. Both were huge successes! I will write them out as I made them:

Pate Brisee
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/4-1/2 cup ice water(I needed nearly the full 1/2 cup)

In a bowl, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or forks. Slowly add the ice water and mix until dough comes together. Knead gently a few times to combine and pat down into a disc. Cover with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour. You can also freeze it for later use as well, if desired.

My Grandmother's Butter Tarts
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups brown sugar(Or do what I did: 1 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. white vinegar
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla

Combine all the ingredients except for the dough, in a medium bowl.
Roll out the dough to about 1/4" thick and using a 2" cookie cutter or a drinking glass, cut out as many dough rounds as possible.
These work best with mini muffin tins. Place the dough inside each cup of a mini muffin tin and fill with a spoonful of the filling mixture. Bake at 425 degrees for 8 minutes and then turn the oven down to 350 degrees and bake for 10-15 minutes longer.
I think these things are filled with crack or something, because I cannot stop eating them. The pastry was fantastic and it will definitely be my go-to pastry recipe from now on. It's buttery and flakey and is everything pastry should be.The filling is slightly like the filling in a pecan pie, but not as gooey or sweet. The walnuts work really well in this.

I shared these with my Canadian grandmother and grandfather and also my Canadian dad and my mom, who is technically a Canadian citizen as well, because her mother was Canadian. I too am technically Canadian, due to my father. I think that's what made these dishes extra delicious, because it's not just amazing food, it's also my heritage.

While eating these, I of course had to watch a few episodes of one of my favorite Canadian tv shows: Road to Avonlea. I have several Canadian shows I love, but this one just sounded right today. If you've never watched it, you really should. It's by the same people who made Anne of Green Gables and is set in the same town. Visiting Prince Edward Island is on my bucket list. I'd like to visit all my Canadian family one day, maybe I'll do all of that at the same time! I'll bring them some butter tarts to try...!

Vegan Cheese Curds Recipe

Flag Link

Map Link

National Anthem Video