#65: Togo

How’s it going, food friends!?

I hope this week found you enjoying good food and friends– it was National Dog Day on Wednesday and it’s Denver Restaurant week! 5280 Magazine puts out the list of the best and brightest food venues in the metro area and then people flock to devour all the yummy eats. It’s filled with new and fresh faces, as well as old standbys: Cherry Cricket, Linger, Osterio Marco, etc. I love this state for it’s views, people and active lifestyle, but I stay for the food and music scenes. There’s never a dull moment in the 303 and that’s something we are all thankful for.

THE DINNER: The origin of Jollof rice is a subject of great debate in West Africa, as many countries have their own version, and abhor “inauthentic* variations. We of course will be making the Togolese variation for the blog this week…and here’s where I believe it’s going to differ from other neighboring countries: the meat. Typically all things held equal, the meat is what sets jollof recipes apart. The recipe gives you free interpretation at the point you add the meat and you’re able to add chicken, beef and/or pork in ratios or unilaterally.

We picked pork in the form of bacon and chicken for our proteins. We also used our reserve of Jasmine rice on this one. We decided about halfway through that it felt a whole lot like we were making the Togo version of fried rice. I mean, this had all the components and apart from cooking the rice in the juices, it was very akin to that. Nothing was super complex, and the recipe was easy to read and ingredients were variable as discussed above given taste preference and availability.

Jollof Rice Recipe: http://www.hungrylittlegirl.com/1/post/2013/07/jollof-rice.html

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OVERALL COUNTRY SCORE:

Ease of prep and cooking: TWO STARS out of five this meal!
Whenever you start off with frying rice and add veggies to it, you’re in for a little bit of leg work. Prep on meals like this tend to involve a lot of peeling, chopping, and preparing veggies. You then have to fry the meat. Then the rice. Then things get to hang out in a pot and “get happy” as my mother puts it, so that’s fairly easy. Overall, this one was a well structured recipe so that made things simple. We gave it a two out of five for difficulty more because it’s just some time involved, but many hands make light work. Have at it!

Best dish of all time scale: FIVE STARS out of five for Meal!!
That’s right— we had another five star meal… this rice was begrudgingly good. I mean, we wanted to find a fault in it. We wanted to make sure we aren’t padding the grade book, but honestly, there’s no way we can get away without a five on this one. This deserves every star. It’s delicious. It was not so much spicy as peppery and it had this wonderful, intoxicating bacon fat thing going on that is just beyond words. It’s like the Togo version of fried rice meats gumbo. It had a tomato base and with the veggies (carrots, beans, bell pepper) it felt more hearty than just fried rice. It was so quick and dirty that we are excited to revisit this one and already have discussed our own family adjustments to Jollof rice– in true Togolese fashion. This will make a few guest appearances in our rotation.

For the next stop off we are jet setting to Iran for country #66! 

Toodles Poodles!
– L & K

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#64: Ireland

Tráthnóna Maith! (that’s “good morning” in Gaelic)

In this portion of this week’s love note to food, I would like to update you on my favorite meal of the day: Breakfast. I know I have typically used this prelude to our meal as an update of the goings on in Brovskyland, but honestly, there’s not much new to report on at the moment. I’m dedicating this space to the best meal of the day– I could eat breakfast any time of every day for every meal and be happy as a clam. Give me eggs or give me death! Bacon and sausage are two of the modern marvels of mankind and pancakes and waffles are the dough that binds us together. In all reality, breakfast is the sturdy foundation that we have built the modern cosmos on. It deserves a shout out. It’s varied all over the world, and we’ve gotten to see how some countries like France eats mostly a small breakfast to where some middle eastern countries make this is biggest meal of their day to power through labor intensive work days. It’s coffee, OJ and toast for some Americans and kiddos like everything from cereal to oatmeal. When you stop and think about “breakfast” from quiche to poptarts, it’s really a quilt and a love-song to the diversity of a meal. As a foodie you can’t help but see the beauty in breakfast.

THE DINNER: This week, we took a little trip to another island (after island visits to the Maldives and Singapore last week). We continued this thread to Europe and stopped off in Ireland to see what sort of food trouble we could muster up in the Emerald Isle. Of course when you think of Ireland, you can’t help but take three or four assumptions about food in that country: Lamb stews, potatoes, sausage, more potatoes (and possible cabbage). It’s so far beyond mash and corned beef though. The food culture in Ireland is that of sustainability. They eat what they grow and ranch. They eat heart to sustain a working man’s body. There’s a lot of beauty to be seen in their love and passion to create perfectly crafted alcohol in the form of beer and whiskey. I think many people discount Irish cuisine in the discussion of great food, but it’s creature comforts at it’s best. These people can eat.

We decided to make a dish called “Fisherman’s Pie” which immediately started a dialogue about the lack of recognition Ireland gets for seafood. I mean, it’s an island. They employ fish mongers and fisherman and have hatcheries and yards — yet we hardly think about them eating seafood dishes. Fisherman’s pie combined all the components we would hope in an Irish dish– and it has potatoes to boot. Such is the impact of fishing in Irish culture that every year in Galway the international Galway Oyster Festival is held. The dish this week has everything you could want: mushrooms, shrimp, potatoes and as a nightcap salute we of COURSE had to make Irish Coffee. I can’t express to you the love affair between whiskey and coffee, because words don’t do it justice. I will tell you, it’s a close second place to my favorite coffee additive (as an daughter of an Italian mother, we worship amaretto in our java).

Fisherman’s Pie Recipe: http://cookingwithcurls.com/2014/03/10/fishermans-pie-food-world-ireland/
Traditional Irish Coffee Recipe: http://www.nutmegnanny.com/2015/03/13/traditional-irish-coffee/

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OVERALL COUNTRY SCORE:

Ease of prep and cooking: TWO STARS out of five this meal!
Whenever you need to make a rue, I truly believe that up’s your difficulty points considerable. You don’t want to make it too quickly because it scorches the flour. If you make it too fast, it gets lumps and doesn’t thicken properly. It’s a tango of timing. My mom makes this look easy as dumping a pre-made jar of sauce in a pan– so it’s not really a fair comparison; though I think generally speaking this meal falls at a two or maybe even three star for hardness. You have a lot of moving parts with this one: baking the fish, sauteing the shrimp and mushrooms, mashing to potatoes and then the layering of it all with the rue. It’s complex. But it wasn’t challenging. As far as our bonus dessert went, that was a half star- you pour two ingredients into a mug and top with whip cream… and promptly float away to heaven.

Best dish of all time scale: FIVE STARS out of five for Meal!!
I think the term thrown around was “Home Run Weekend” for how this meal was received. We all immediately said nothing after biting into this one, and the next things that all spilled out of our mouths was “FIVE. FIVE STARS.” If I’m able to paint this picture this fish was steamed in white wine (not cooking wine either– real wine) and then you put shrimp and mushrooms on it which vastly improves anything you put them on– soak it in cream sauce from the drippings and then smother the whole business in mashed potatoes… and let it bake. I think if you listen you can hear angels singing. It was really hearty too– as someone who typically goes back for more, I was stuffed. It was rib sticking and warm. Followed by a cup of traditional Irish coffee, it was like a hug from the inside. The best part of the coffee, apart from the whiskey, was the tablespoon of brown sugar. You know that nanny that always sang about “A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down…” yeah, it was just the case in point on this one. It was wonderful how the brown sugar cut the whiskey and bitterness of the coffee– also, I took a close up of the wonderful melting thing the whipped cream does.

After a great Irish meal and a suprise bonus Irish drink, we say goodbye to the island nations for a spell and take up #65 back in Africa in the country of Togo! Togolese food looks like it’s going to be just as hearty from the recipes, and potentially spicy!

Cheers to Irish Coffee and AW195S being a great culinary compass!
– L & K

#63: The Maldives

Picking up where we left off,

Welcome to part duex of our double header foodie weekend on AW195S! We have been chipping away at life and projects this week. One food surgery completed, one job interview down, one wedding invitation addressing party on the books and sooooo much yard work in our future. Guys, it’s an exciting time of year!! Kids are headed back to school and football has started. I happen to be madly in love with the fall. It’s the best time of year, in my opinion and this week, I have started to feel like it’s getting closer. Fingers crossed that I’m correct.

THE DINNER: You’re going to love what we have in store for your palates this weekend! I mean, double headers are the best in so many ways. Our hit on Singapore cuisine was a resounding success, but now for some fried food in the Maldives…playground of the rich and fabulous, for those unaware (like my dad). We are making Biskeemiyaa which is an egg roll type dish that is eaten at lunch and as a snack or appetizer in the Maldives. The main ingredients comprise of chopped cabbage and boiled egg though there are variations with tuna, which is one of the Maldavian favorite foods. These little egg roll type pockets re called hedhika or “short eats“. I’m pretty excited about taking a day trip to this island paradise… wish I were there in person. Someday perhaps.

Biskeemiyaa Recipe: https://thefoodfairy.wordpress.com/2012/08/22/maldivian-biskeemiyaa-a-recipe-from-six-senses-laamu-maldives/

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OVERALL COUNTRY SCORE:

Ease of prep and cooking: THREE STARS out of five this meal!
In terms of the ingredients this is a half star. In terms of the filling, this is also a half star… but then we get into stuffing and folding egg rolls– which ups the difficulty and then frying in general in hot oil is something of a challenge not ventured into by the faint of heart. It’s safe bet that this one falls around the three star range for those reasons, though if you’ve got a knack for folding egg rolls (like yours truly, evidently is) then you’ll probably find these to be something of a cake walk. So this one is a little subjective, much like leftsa (See Norway from week #34: https://brovskyadventures.wordpress.com/2014/12/29/34-norway/)

Best dish of all time scale: FIVE STARS out of five for Meal!!
This double header weekend was a grand slam all around. TWO five star meals chalked up on the score board was a perfect way to scratch off another weekend on the ol’ calendar, if I do say so myself. These were lovely– i mean, who doesn’t love that there are eggs inside the egg rolls! That alliteration is just poetic and ironic. I love cabbage, so that was great. Additionally, my dad commented that the curry leaves were the “peppery” part that he really liked. The shells were crispy and I literally could eat these all week (which I might be because our yield was about 20) and they’re vegetarian which is a great plan for many out there too.

#64 will have us breaking shore on the coast of another island country (that’s our third in a row, btw…) Ireland!
Can’t wait for what that food holds… I’m guessing, if you need a hint, it’s going to include potatoes and some kind of whiskey 😉 the surprise will be all yours.

Great playing from our Boys of Fall this opening weekend!
– L & K

#62: Singapore

Here’s lookin at you kid!

I just had to add that because, though I often watch old movies, I’ve been on a Bogart kick all week. Something to be said about that time period, and about Bogart. He was snappy and a little sappy, but always in a gentlemanly way. His counterpart, in my mind, is Harrison Ford, who perfectly embodies the Bogart swagger. This week has been relaxing in Brovskyland. Colorado has been in for a little cool down, which is welcomed by most. I for one am ready for fall.. and the Boys of Fall, our Broncos, have kicked off the season under the Friday night lights. It’s all good in our hood. All is right.

THE DINNER: This weekend on 195 Sundays we wanted to have a little adventure, so we picked two island nations to venture to. Singapore and The Maldives. For our first meal, we hit up Singapore for some of their famous spicy cuisine. I’ve always wanted to visit Singapore (and really Thailand) after seeing The King and I. A lot of their food on the island of Singapore is Indian curries and Chinese noodle based. A large amount of their food, understandably is fried, unlike Thai food and surrounding island nations of Indonesia.

We were seeking to find something a little different from the fried food (as our dish for the Maldives was to be fried) and we came across the best recipe for Chili-ed Prawn soup or curry. It has a really great an light base and is spicy… which we love. We can’t help but note that as an island nation, Singaporeans eat very little fish and seafood. In fact, they consume a fair amount more of pork (pork fallopian tube soup, anyone?!) and noodles in their daily diet.

Singapore Chili Prawn Curry: http://www.closetcooking.com/2009/06/singapore-chili-prawns.html

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OVERALL COUNTRY SCORE:

Ease of prep and cooking: ONE STAR out of five this meal!
I can’t stress this enough, this was one of the easiest meals I think we’ve made on AW195S! I can’t tell if it was our tandem foodie telepathy keeping L & K in sync in the kitchen (insert 90’s boy band reference here). I can’t tell if the recipe was really just that simple, either way, one thing is for sure, it was really just a walk in the park. We prepped the dry and wet ingredients completely before we started, and though the recipe does not state to do this– it was the best laid plan. It was smooth as silk and quick as lightening.

Best dish of all time scale: FIVE STARS out of five for Meal!!
This weekend was a great adventure in food– mainly because we had two back to back five star meals. We loved these chili prawns… my initial comment was “those aren’t prawns– those are lobsters!” because landsake, they were gigantic!! We started to eat and we were are immediately struck by how spicy it was— but not overly so. I mean, I’ll be real, my nose was running but we could all use a good sinus clearing now and again. Even my father, who is a spice baby, would be the first to give it a five. It was so yummy. The egg at the end, very traditional for Asian cooking, was brilliant. It made the sauce really velvety and thick. The peppers we picked were initially just by availability but ended up being the best pick of the meal. Overall, I think served over rice noodles or steamed white rice would be the best way to have this, though we had it “naked”… also we would have tripled the recipe because it was gone oh too soon… like really… come back… we miss you already.

#63 puts us into the second half of the doubleheader weekend! So we are off to The Maldives!

Here’s Lookin’ at you, kid!
– L & K

#61: Cameroon

Howdy!

So things have finally started to calm down around these parts. It’s been a whirlwind several weeks with tournaments, outings, cooking, vacations, concerts and the like. It’s nice to have a relaxing weekend where I don’t end up hitting Monday morning at a full run and muttering “wait, did the weekend start yet? I wasn’t ready…” into my umpteenth cup of joe. I’m glad for the break, even though I enjoy a hectic pace. The more activity the merrier, but we all need a little reboot from time to time.

THE DINNER: We picked our final runner up from our country poll a few weeks ago, which was Cameroon. Cameroonian food made me cringe and intrigued me just enough to keep going. I saw recipes for Bush Meat which for those not well versed, please allow me to elaborate… that’s like the African desert equivalent of road kill. It’s everything from large rats to porcupines and from chimpanzee to lemurs. Luckily, those aren’t considered staples, so we didn’t have to try and dig up porcupine meat. Whew! Dodged that bullet!

Overall, this country’s pallet looked unsurprisingly similar to other African nations we’ve eaten around: cassava, fufu, plantains, okra, chicken, peanuts, stews and tangines, braised river fish. Uniquely though, soya or brochette is a national food that is basically a kabob or souvlaki typically with the use of chicken. We picked this awesome grilled chicken called Kati Kati which was indicative of this grilling culture seen in Cameroon. With a little research, I was able to find out that, Kati Kati is one of the signature dishes of the Nkom people in Northwest Cameroon.

Kati Kati Recipe: http://africanbites.com/?p=9466

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OVERALL COUNTRY SCORE:

Ease of prep and cooking: TWO STARS out of five this meal!
In real time, this one is pretty simple…but we went the traditional route and mom literally quartered a chicken. If you purchase your chicken already pieced out, you’ll undoubtedly find this week’s meal a one or less out of five stars. You dry the chicken and then sprinkle on this lovely powder rub and then fry or grill it. We are convinced that if we added some oil and made it more of a paste, then grilled it– we would be in hog heaven. We plan on using this method next time we make it. We also plan on adding in some rice or casssava which would add some degree of additional difficulty, but minimally. It’s good to note that we made this for lunch and it was delightfully easy.

Best dish of all time scale: FOUR STARS out of five for Meal!!
To be fair to Cameroon, this very very very narrowly missed the mark for 4.5 stars… the take away was the salt. It was salty, but no where near the level of South Africa in week #35 (https://brovskyadventures.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/35-south-africa/) it was just a little too salty to earn a 4.5 or higher. It was however pretty darn spicy which is something we dig immensely in Brovskyland. I’m glad we served it on Kale because it most definitely allowed for cutting that spice a little for those that needed that. I could think of an easy million and three other things I would love to do with this chicken (visions of wraps, salads and pastas danced in my head like sugar plums). I think it’s earned a good four stars. It was likeable but not the belle of the ball. Can’t wait to revisit it in the day-to-day meal grind though, it’s got potential! In my very best Marlon Brando: It could have been a contender!

I can’t believe we are at #62  — and #63 for that matter… we plan on doing a double header weekend for you guys next week. We basically thought about where in the world a fabulous vacation would pan out and came up with Singapore and The Maldives!
So, culinary jet setters, grab your best swim trunks and suites as we head off to back to back island nations next week on AW195S!

Wishing everyone puppy kisses and sunshine,
– L & K

#60: Yemen

Holy Pack of Pickled Peppers, Batman!

That’s right, ladies and gents, pickles! All manner and type of pickled cucumber has been brined and “put up” around the brovskyland kitchen. It’s an exciting foodie adventure for me at least, because this is the first time I’ve preserved food, though I’ve always loved eating it. It is quite the process and to be honest, it looks like it’s a lot of work and it turns out that assumption is 110% real. What a mess. As is the case study for so many delicious creations, this one made the kitchen into a tornado.

THE DINNER: This week we picked a runner up from our previous reader poll: Yemen. Yemeni cuisine is trademarked by the Middle East (of which it is a regional country) and by the Indian peninsula (of which trade routes are common and seafaring peoples visited). These two realities of geography make for one of the most interesting flavor profiles we’ve encountered on AW195S. You have the slow roasted and hearty nature of the middle eastern foods paired with the complexity of Indian curries and spices. It’s wonderful and fascinating.

We mixed up the mix and opted to make a traditional Yemeni breakfast!! The Brovskys are BIG fans of the breakfast and insist that “the most important meal of the day” should be eaten at all times and in all ways. In this way, we think of ourselves as breakfast pioneers. That fits in line with how the Middle East views breakfast. We made these crepe like egg pockets with green onion and cilantro and peppers. They’re called مطبقية يمنية
Which translates Mutaqabiya Yemeniyah or basically a Yemeni take on the breakfast hot pocket. It’s traditional to be served vegetarian and with black tea. The dough remind me of a tortilla and a crepe hybrid.

Mutaqabiya Yemeniyah Recipe: http://yemeniyah.com/category/breads/

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OVERALL COUNTRY SCORE:

Ease of prep and cooking: ONE STARS out of five this meal!
I honestly set out looking at this recipe as Mount Everest. We had been canning pickles all weekend and I had a feeling that this recipe was going to put us over the edge. I anticipated incorrectly, because this recipe was actually pretty darn easy. Its intimidating when we have to make dough and it can sometimes be finicky on how it’s handled or rolls out or fries up. This one was a dream though and we were already plotting on how to make this a breakfast food staple in Brovskyland. Talks of modifying the filling with spices and different veggies abounded before we even finished clearing the dishes. I’m gonna tell you, this one is one to make and one to make often. The most fascinating part of the whole process was that twice-fried dough… it was pretty amazing, because naturally you would think the thin layers would become fused together and become one but instead they separate and fry evenly. It was pretty incredible actually and we are still in awe of how well the dough worked. It was also super easy which is a bonus.

Best dish of all time scale: FIVE STARS out of five for Meal!!
The five star salute for this one was pretty much unanimous. It was so yummy. There’s not much to say about it, really, it is what it is. Fried dough that echoed to toastada-like visions of huevos racheros. It was like an egg quesadilla but better than that sounds– there was no cheese (though you could easily enough make it your own). There was a hint of spice from the pepper and then the tangy green onion. It was satisfying but still on the lighter side which is important for breakfast fare. Breakfast shouldn’t make you wanna crawl back into bed nursing a food coma. Breakfast should power your day, and this was case-point-example of that. Well played, Yemen, we look forward to meeting you again.

We are chipping away at our total of 195 countries and we mark #61  with food from the African nation of Cameroon!
It’s beginning to ramp up as we get closer to our goal of eating our way around the world, stopping at every country. We would love to hear your feedback too as you’re a big part of the journey we are on.

BTW, a pack of pickled peppers is a whole lot of work!
Catch you next week,
– L & K