IDP#30 The camera cuts Ryan off…

At first Ryan doesn’t think we’re recording, then when I tell him we are – the camera has already stopped…
Plus he’s finally remembered all the islands that are uninhabited, and calls Lake Baikal in Russia, “the swimming pool”

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IDP#29 Iceland: The 12 hour Thunder Bread

Saturday, 4 August 2012

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Entree:
Skonsur ( Small thick pancakes – we call them pikelets here)
Mayonnaise and Sour Cream spread
Topped with shrimp, meat, salmon or plain
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Sam and I sat down together to choose the menu for tonight. Skonsur (Skonsa) looked good to him, it was something recognizable, we make very similar things called pikelets, except ours are sweeter and of British origin. Skonsur is like the english word scones, but these are basically small (american-style) pancakes. Topped with a spread of mixed Mayonnaise and Sour Cream shrimps, meat or salmon.

Probably more an adult flavor, because the boys were expecting them to be sweeter they weren’t as popular with them as I thought they’d be. I especially left some with no toppings for the boys, and although they all disappeared, you can see from Sam’s rating they weren’t quite what he was expecting – maybe if I’d let them but jam on them they would have been happier.

Sam’s Rating: 5/10

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Mains:
Beinlausir Fuglar (Boneless Birds – not actually birds though!)
served with peas, potatoes and Rhubarb Jam
Rúgbrauð (Black Bread or Thunder Bread)
with Cheese and Meats
Jolabland (Christmas beverage unique to Iceland)
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We were looking through main meal recipes, and more than a couple involved Puffins, which we definitely couldn’t get here, so we moved on, we came across a recipe which translated to “Boneless Birds” – Sma loved the name, so he was sold on that!

And again the name sold it for same on the bread, when I asked if he;d like to make brown bread or black bread, he of course chose the most different sounding one, and when he found out it was also known as Thunder Bread, he grinned all over. It wasn’t until afterwards going through the recipes I found out the unique cooking method of this bread.

We found a drink recipe that Sam was keen on for Ginger Milk, but it seemed like a home-grown recipe rather than a national drink, then I stumble upon Jolabland, a unique Icelandic Christmas drink mix, that might just do the trick. While the specific brand of orange soda and malt extract aren’t available here, fanta and Guinness apparently are very close to the original flavor – so it’ll just be a small taste for the boys I guess, then they can just have the Fanta.

Now, this Black Bread… I read the recipe… and I read it again… Apparently traditionally this recipe is sometimes either slow boiled in a natural hot spring, or buried in sand near a hot spring. The alternative for those of us without a hot spring in the backyard is to cook it in the oven at 212˚F (100˚C) for 12 hours, yeah that’s right 12 hours… I wasn’t too sure about this, I thought it’s more than likely I’d end up with a couple of bricks at the end of the cooking, but… nothing lost nothing gained. So away I went and left it cooking overnight – and guess what? – and the loaves turned out perfectly, dark rye bread with a distinct molasses smell although there was no molasses involved. I love the bread, and am having the remaining loaf for lunch this week topped with cheese – goes great with soup! Sam on the other hand found that although it had a cool name it was not quite what he was expecting, it had a stronger flavor than he is used to in his bread – but that’s okay I guess… he tried it – and I get the rest!

Apparently Icelandic cynics will say Coca-cola is Iceland’s national drink, because the consumption per capita is the highest in the world. But Coca-cola would have been a cop out so… Jolabland was the choice.

Jolabland – I forgot to take a photo of this, but it basically looks like Coca-cola. It’s a mix of two beverages, when you drink it you get the sweet taste of the Fanta at first, which is followed but the stout flavor of the malt, it’s interesting and different, Sam wasn’t so keen, Ryan finished his share – but after that they both asked for plain Fanta.

As for the main dish, it sounded quite fiddly to make, it’s thin strips of lamb, beef or horse meat (we choose beef!) rolled in pepper and salt and then bacon place don top and rolled into a spiral and tied with string, or pinned with a toothpick to hold it in place. Now as I said with the Dutch Slavinken, anything rolled in bacon is good – and it is just as true in Iceland as it is in the Netherlands. The boys loved it, Mum and Dad loved it… and there was none left… we served it with Potatoes, Peas and mushrooms, and it was supposed to have rhubarb jam as well, which I totally forgot and that got left in the fridge. But I think we’ll have this again, so the rhubarb jam won’t go to waste!

BEINLAUSIR FUGLAR
Sam’s Rating: 10/10 (Gotta say I agree with him there – we’ll have that again!)

RÚGBRAUÐ
Sam’s Rating: 4/10
Dad’s Rating: 10/10
(I’ve been having it with the cheese for lunch everyday this week)

JOLABLAND
Sam’s Rating: 5/10

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Dessert:
Vînaterta (Layer Cake)
Cocoa Súpa (Cocoa Soup)
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Dessert! The boys favorite meal!

Mine too!

Sam loved the idea of this layer cake, so that was his choice. Other options were Mandarínu-ostakaka (Mandarin-orange cheesecake), but Sam said “I’m not big on cheese”, I said it didn’t have cheese in it – but the name was enough for him. There was also something called Astabollur (translates to Love Muffins) but the look almost identical to the Netherlands’ Oliebollen, Pönnukökur were also an option, but we’ve done pancakes in various forms a few times already.

So layer cake it was. I must learn to read these recipes before I agree to them, this one involved cooling 6 separate layers of dough separately then sandwiching a stewed prune mixture between them and compressing. It wasn’t hard, but I was up late making it.

But it was worth it – it was a hit with everyone, on the night Sam had at least two servings – he has asked to have it for dessert every night since, and we promised Mum and Dad a quarter to take home with them.

Cocoa soup was very similar to Hot Cocoa, just less sugar and more cocoa, and use of a thickener to give it a bit more body, plus a touch of salt. I thought it might not be sweet enough for everyone, but the coca was nice and strong and it went down a treat on a cold winter night. I forgot to photograph the soup, but it just looked like a hot cocoa…

VINATERTA
Sam’s Rating: Infinity/Infinity

COCOA SÚPA
Sam’s Rating: 10/10

IDP#28 Algeria – Cold yoghurt soup, and links to Serbia and Mongolia?

Algerian Dinner

Saturday, 28 July 2012

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Entree:
Pita Bread ( الخبز العربي )
Dates ( مجدول ), Prunes ( الخوخ ), Almonds ( لوز )
Cold Cucumber Yoghurt Soup (Khyar bil laban – خيار زبادي)
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I was so busy cooking the flatbread I forgot to take a photo of the pita/date/prune/almond platter – but then again, I think we all know what dates and prunes look like anyway!

So, Ryan almost chose Kazahkstan, but settled on Algeria, two very similar North African/Middle Eastern countries in a row, the trick will be getting some variation I guess. I think pita bread is a must, but I changed it up with the fruit rather than dips this time. The boys weren’t too keen on the dates, the prunes they thought were so-so, and Sam loves almonds. Pita bread, as with all breads was a hit with the boys (as it was last week) and well the cold soup was refreshingly nice and pretty much identical to the Cucumber Yoghurt dip we had for Egypt ingredients-wise, just more liquid, and well, soupier… more liquid. The boys were not keen, as a soup I liked it.

Sam’s Rating: Infinity/Infinity (That’s the pita bread, the prunes 5/10, raisins 10/10, almonds 10/10)
Ryan’s Rating: Infinity/Infinity

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Entree:
Saffron and Raisin Couscous ( مجدول )
Sweet Lamb with Prunes ( Lham Lahlou – خروف الحلو )
Algerian Flat Bread (Rakhssess – 
رخساس )
Limonada ( عصير الليمون )
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Couscous is the national dish of Algeria, with the Berbers purportedly the first to create it, so it definitely had to be included in our meal – we normally have it plain, or sometimes with  a soy/chilli sauce that I make, and while I like it, the kids “tolerate” it. Sam and Ryan are starting to take a liking to it though, so this Saffron and Raisin Couscous will be something familiar, but a little different for them – as an added bonus for me, couscous is simple to make. This one involved soaking the saffron in the boiled water for half and hour, then reheating and adding the couscous, sultanas and salt, and letting it stand for another 30 minutes – which gave me time to concentrate on cooking the flat bread.

Now, the flat bread is where my title comment about Mongolia came in, this bread is made almost identical to the Mongolian Bing Bread – the dough ingredients and the act of rolling then rolling to a spiral and flattening out again. The filling spices were quite different though – turmeric, cumin and paprika… I love a bread that’s cooked in 4 minutes! And so do the boys – gone in 60 seconds literally! You can see from the photo – I couldn’t snap Ryan fast enough – he was into the bread straight away!
ANother easy one for me – the Sweet Lamb, simply spice the lamb, boil away for an hour, add prunes and raisins and sweeteners and build away for another hour or so – a rather hands off meal to make. Now, although the lamb we bought was not top quality, (it was casserole lamb) – once it’s been stewed for that long it just melts in your mouth – so got rave reviews from our guests, the boys’ Aunt and Uncle. The couscous was just slightly savoury so complimented the lamb’s sweetness nicely. This dish is served during Ramadan as a special meal to break the daylong fast.
The boys ate the couscous, but were a little more reticent on the lamb (I should have just called it chicken!), Sam did eat his though, Ryan, not so much.

Apart from the bread, the boys’ favorite was definitely the Limonada – although Sam’s face after the first sip was classic “It’s a little sour!” It wasn’t really, but it wasn’t what they’re used to which is “sprite sweet” which isn’t sour at all….  so I just topped the freshly squeezed lemon juice and sugar syrup up with a bit more soda water, and that diluted it down enough for Sam and Ryan, so much so, that they ordered seconds! It was definitely refreshing and the added mint and flower water added a whole new dimension to it – I absolutely prefer it to normal lemonade, but juicing 10 lemonades every time I want a lemonade might be a bit too much, might make some more when summer rolls around though – would be great at kiwi barbecues!

SAFFRON AND RAISIN COUSCOUS:
Sam’s rating: 10/10
Ryan’s rating: 9/10
SWEET LAMB WITH PRUNES:
Sam’s rating: 10/10
Ryan’s rating: 0/10
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ALGERIAN FLAT BREAD:
Sam’s rating: 10/10
Ryan’s rating: Infinity/Infinity
LIMONADA:
Sam’s rating: 10/10
Ryan’s rating: Infinity/Infinity
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Dessert:
Almond Cookies ( Makroud el Louse )
Almond stuffed Dates and Walnuts
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And  the dessert is where the link to Serbia comes in, these Almond cookies, apart from shape were almost identical to the Serbian Almond Crescent Cookies we made with some regional differences, namely the orange blossom water. The Almond Cookies, made solely from Almonds, Sugar and Eggs (no flour at all), cooked and then dipped in a flower water flavored sugar syrup and then rolled in confectioner’s sugar, extremely similar to the Serbian variant, and these countries aren’t all that close, although Algeria does have a lot of Greek and French influences being on the Meditteranean Coast. Honestly, the major difference was that these were cut diamond-shaped and the Serbian ones are crescent shaped, there was also no vanilla in these, flower water was the Algerian flavoring.
Now the dates and walnuts dessert I chose because it looked interesting and might convince the boys to try dates.. it was simply a paste made of almonds, pistachio and orange blossom water, filling the almonds and sticking to walnut halves together, I even tried to upsell the walnuts by calling them brains – which worked on Sam!
The deal was if he wanted more of the almond cookies then he had to have a “brain”, Ryan wasn’t as easily convinced, had had some cookies, but was pretty full, and tired.
MAKROUD EL LOUSE:
Sam’s rating: 10/10
Ryan’s rating: 10/100
STUFFED MAHDJOUL DATES:
Sam’s rating: Didn’t try them
Ryan’s rating: Didn’t try them
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ALMOND STUFFED WALNUT “BRAINS”:
Sam’s rating: 2/10
Ryan’s rating: Didn’t try them

All in all a very good meal – and I think I’ll be cooking the sweet lamb again – it was great. The boys enjoyed themselves, and love the nibbles at the beginning of each meal. And I may try spicing our couscous in future as well, as it was a nice change.

Skinning the blanched almonds was probably my least favorite part, and there were a lot more blanched almonds to peel for Algeria than there were for Egypt, but we were quicker and had the child labor workforce eager and onhand…