Wonders of the World

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Jun 20, 2017

This recipe comes from the excellent Indian Home Cooking, co-written by Suvir Saran, who is a friend of a friend, and who has been personally kind and generous to me for years now.  Buy his book(s).

Indian cuisine is fantastic if you are a vegetarian, and one of the hallmarks of typical Indian cooking is dal, or lentils, stewed up and served over rice or with quick-fired bread.

This recipe is great for weeknight dinners.  It’s easy, flavorful, a little spicy, and totally good for you.  My 10-year-old son loves it.  I don’t have mango powder, but I find that the lemon works really well to bring that bit of acidity to balance the turmeric and cumin.


  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 3 whole dried red chilies
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 small garlic cloves, minced or 1⁄8 teaspoon asafetida powder
  • 1 cup dried lentils, picked over, washed and drained - I used green lentils, but brown is traditional
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon amchur (dried mango powder) or juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)


  1. Combine the oil, cumin, red chiles and turmeric in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Cook, stirring, 1 to 2 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic or asafetida, lentils, cayenne, and mango powder, if using (if using lemon juice instead, stir in at the end), and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
  3. Add the water and salt, bring to a boil and skim well.  Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the lentils are soft, 20 to 30 minutes.  Add more water during cooking if necessary. Taste for salt and add more if you need to.
  4. Ladle about ½ cup of the lentils into a small bowl and mash them with a spoon. Return the mashed lentils to the pot and give the dal a stir. Then continue cooking at a simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes to thicken.
  5. If you like a thicker dal, use a whisk to break up the lentils into a puree. If you like a thinner dal, add more water. Stir in the lemon juice, if using. Serve hot.

Try this out with rice - I like to use basmati and to do a pilaf (toasting the rice in cumin-studded oil before rehydrating).  I think you’ll enjoy it!

Recipe from: Indian Home Cooking, Suvir Saran and Stephanie Lyness

(I forgot to take a picture - I will next time)

Jun 6, 2017

Traditionally, this dish requires carp caught from the Yellow River.  You won’t have access to that in all likelihood, so use any good firm mild-flavored fish.  Whole fish looks really cool, but if you’re not trying to impress, filets work just as well.  Bass, trout, halibut, all would work fine.  I used grouper, which worked fantastically well.  The recipe is for the whole fish, but cooking a filet is easier.

Basically, score the skin of the fish if you’re using whole fish, coat it with cornstarch and then flash-fry it in a very hot wok.  Then drain the oil, and make a simple lightly sweet and vinegary sauce in the wok and serve with rice and veggies.  The sauce is not fluorescent orange.  The key is the black vinegar.  I had never heard of this.  It’s a rice-based vinegar, but aged so it becomes dark and umami-rich.  It’s kinda like balsamic but more magical, and the way it mingles with the sugar, garlic, scallions and ginger… wow.  You can use the sauce on chicken, tofu, pork… I bet it’s really good with strips of lean beef stir-fried.  Try it.  You will like it.


1 whole or filleted fish (1 1/2 lbs)
1 tsp salt
oil for frying (peanut or vegetable or similar)

2 green onions, chopped fine
2 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1/4 cup black vinegar
3 tbsp sugar (preferably turbinado)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 chicken stock (unsalted)
1 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 3 tbsp cold water


  1. Pat the fish dry with paper towels, then using a sharp knife, score the fish with deep curved angled cuts along both sides.  Sprinkle the fish with salt, including within the cuts, and let it sit while you prepare the rest.
  2. Heat a wok over medium heat until it starts to smoke, then add about 3 inches of oil (which is a lot more than you’d think).  Get all your other ingredients next to the stove along with chopsticks and a slotted spoon and a serving platter, lined with paper towels.  Be ready because you’ll be moving fast.
  3. Hold the fish up by the tail so the slashes you made flap open.  Coat the fish with cornstarch, including the slashes, then drop a little starch into the oil to determine that it’s hot enough (you’ll want it around 300 degrees F).  If the starch bubbles and disappears, you’re ready.  Lower the fish headfirst slowly into the oil, letting the slashes open up wide.  Adjust the heat if necessary so that the oil is bubbling but  the fish is not browning too fast. Ladle hot oil over the fish to ensure even frying.  When one side is golden brown, use your spoon and chopsticks to gently turn the fish over.  Keep the tail raw for as long as possible, to keep it from breaking off - it cooks very quickly at the end. Once the second side is golden brown, carefully use your spoon and chopsticks to lift it out of the oil and onto your serving platter.
  4. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of oil from the wok - pour the excess into a large empty glass jar or two so you can safely dispose of it later.  Heat the remaining oil over medium-high high, then add the green onions, ginger, and garlic.  Stir them for about 10 seconds to release there aroma, then add the vinegar, sugar, soy sauce and stock.  Bring to a boil and adjust seasoning if necessary - probably not needed, but just in case - then stir in the corn starch slurry.  As soon as the sauce bubbles, pour it evenly over the fish and garnish with excess scallions (the green parts of the green onions).
  5. Enjoy with rice and a veg - I sauteed broccolini in sesame oil, but you do you.

Adapted from All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cuisines of China by Carolyn Phillips

May 16, 2017

An incredibly delicious dish of North African origin, shakshuka is eggs poached in tomato sauce, but it’s so much more than that.  Brought to Israel by immigrants from Morocco, Tunisia, and Libya, shakshuka has been throughly embraced by Israelis, and it’s easy to see why.  I like it as part of the breakfast meal that’s traditionally served at sundown on the day after Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which is the fast day in September or October. 

Basically, start by sautéing onions and pepper in a cast-iron skillet.  Get them brown and even a little charred, then add a bit of garlic.  Paprika, cumin, coriander come in. Canned whole tomatoes, mashed up as you cook them.  Then whatever else you want: olives, feta, greens, beans, artichokes, whatever. 

Once you’ve got a crazy good sauce, use a spoon to make indentations in the sauce and then crack the eggs into those holes.  Finish it in a preheated oven until the egg whites are just set.  Then Woot!  Dig in!

Serves 6


  • 3 tablespoons (45ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large red pepper (bell pepper for milder heat, or a hotter variety, such as red horned pepper, chopped
  • 1 fresh small hot chili (such as jalapeño, serrano, or Fresno), stems, seeds, and ribs removed, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (15g) sweet Hungarian or smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1 tablespoons (10g) ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon (5g) ground coriander
  • 1 (28-ounce; 800g) can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by squeezing between your fingers
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Large handful minced cilantro, parsley, or a mix
  • 6 eggs
  • Crusty bread, for serving


  1. Heat oil in a large cast-iron skillet on medium heat.  Sauté the onion and peppers.  Don’t stir for the first 6 minutes, allowing the veggies to get brown and crispy in parts.  I like the texture that the browning gives.  Then stir give it another six minutes without stirring Finally, once you have good charred bits, sauté another 4 minutes or so.
  2. Add the garlic, but only until it softens (30 seconds)
  3. Throw in the spices, and cook while stirring until you can smell it.
  4. Immediately add the hand-crushed tomatoes, stir, and reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for 10 minutes, then add salt, pepper and half of the herbs.
  5. With a large spoon, make six indentations in the reduced sauce.  Crack the eggs and slide them into the indentations.  Spoon some sauce onto the whites of the eggs, leaving the yolks visible.  Add a little salt onto the eggs, then cover and let simmer for 5-8 minutes, until the whites are barely set and the yolks still runny.
  6. Definitely serve with crusty bread for dipping, although pita, sourdough, heck anything will do.

Again, play around with this.  Once you have the basic down, add other stuff: olives, artichokes, greens, mushrooms, cheese, chorizo, you name it.  If this doesn't become your go-to brunch standard, I'll eat my new hipster hat.

Recipe a blend of ideas from and 

May 3, 2017

Falafel are crunchy-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside deep-fried balls of ground chickpeas.  They are an essential part of most Middle-Eastern cuisines, and are particularly embraced in Israel - since they are vegetarian, they can be eaten at any meal even if you’re keeping kosher.

Normally, I scour the web and test different recipes to find the right one to share with you. And typically, I make some changes to match my experience. In this case, I am going to direct you straight to a recipe I used that needs no changes or doctoring.  This recipe made phenomenal falafels, and I even had success with their accompanying condiments.

So here:

Just make that.  Make the tahini and the zhug and get good pitas to go with.  But you don’t need the bread.

Tell me this isn’t as good as restaurant-quality falafel.  It’s so so so good.  And not too difficult.

Apr 18, 2017

When you need something sweet and simple, look no further than mahalabia, a “milk pudding” made with just milk, sugar, corn starch, and flavor.

Traditionally, rosewater is the way to go, but if you can find rosewater, you’re better connected than I am.  Moroccans go with orange blossom water, but again, that’s not at your local 7-11 either.  So if you must, which I did, vanilla works in a pinch, but it’s not a 1:1 trade!

Making mahalabia is super easy, but you have to pay attention.  It’s very easy to burn this or not make it thick enough or make it too thick.  When I tried making it, it was not thick enough.  Ack!  But don’t stress too much.  Just watch the clues: when it coats the back of your spoon, it’s done.

Serves 4


  • 2 cups Milk, plus 1/2 cup extra
  • 1/2 cups Sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons Cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons rosewater (or 2 tsp orange blossom water or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)


  1. Over medium heat, warm milk and sugar to close to boiling.  Be sure to stir pretty constantly to keep the milk from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Turn down to low.
  2. In a side bowl, while the milk/sugar combo is heating up, combine cornstarch and extra milk.
  3. Add cornstarch mixture to milk, stir and warm until milk mixture thickens and coats the back of your spoon.  They say it takes 2 minutes, but I think it’s a bit longer than that.
  4. Take off the heat, and add rosewater or substitute. Stir and cool in refrigerator until thick and delicious.  3 hours minimum, but the longer the better.
  5. Consider adding raisins, pistachios, or almonds.

Play around with this - other versions have cardamon as well.  Just watch the heat when you’re boiling the milk - you don’t want it to stick or burn.  The final consistency ought to be something similar to Greek yogurt.

Apr 4, 2017


Molokhia is a vegetable, technically the leaves of the jute plant, also called Jew’s Mallow. Jute, like other mallows such as marshmallow (not that marshmallow, but the original plant) and okra, is mucilaginous, which means that it creates a mucus-lke texture when cooked.  Molokhia is also the name of a soup which has been enjoyed by Egyptians since pharaonic times.  Does the idea of a slimy bright green soup seem appealing?  No? 

Well, you’ll never know until you try it.  So why not give it a try?  Molokhia is full of vitamins, and the onion, garlic, coriander and chicken stock will all help make the soup flavorful and delicious.  Serve with a side of rice, and you’re good to go.  It’s like a bright green chicken gumbo.  Really.  Molokhia is vague related to okra, and serves a similar purpose.

There are a variety of different recipes for molokhia, but they all have some consistencies.  Most start with chicken, but others use rabbit - which was the original, traditional choice - or duck, lamb, or any other meat.  Most include using the meat to make the stock for the soup, but honestly, if you’re using chicken, save a step by using one of the fine organic chicken stocks available in most groceries.

Molokhia the vegetable is not something you're going to find in most Western groceries, and outside the Middle East and Asia, you’re not going to find it fresh at all.  Word on the interwebs though is that frozen molokhia works very well for this soup, and that should be available at any Middle Eastern grocery, and apparently at some Asian groceries as well.

You really can’t substitute spinach or kale or mustard greens or anything similar.  The texture of the jute is important.

I’m basing this recipe on the recipe here: — Yvonne’s recipe is the best I’ve found so far, but I’m putting coriander back into the mix, because it’s in every other recipe I’ve found, and that feels important.

Serves 6


  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided into 2
  • 1 cup diced yellow onions (about 2 small onions)
  • 2 split chicken breasts, skin-on
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 4 cups Chicken stock (preferably organic/roasted/reduced sodium)
  • 2 packages frozen molokhia leaves (jute leaves)
  • 8 cloves garlic (chopped - the finer you mince the garlic, the stronger the flavor.  This calls for larger chunks, which should be a little more mellow)
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  • 4 cups prepared white rice (basmati works fine)


  1. In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, heat the first 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sauté the onions until translucent or slightly browned.
  2. Season the chicken with salt, pepper and cumin, rubbing the spices into and under the skin.
  3. Add the chicken and sauté for about 2-3 minutes. Continue to sauté until the chicken is nicely browned on all sides.
  4. Add the stock and increase the heat to bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, for 35 minutes.
  5. Remove the chicken and let cool. Once cooled, remove the skin and bones and pull the meat apart so that it’s nicely shredded. Add back to the broth.
  6. Open up the packages of molokhia and drop directly into the pot.  As the molokhia heats up, it will break apart, but you can use your wooden spoon to help this along.
  7. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a small sauté pan for the garlic and coriander.  Start with the garlic, then after a couple of minutes, add the coriander. Cook until nicely browned, about 5 minutes total, stirring constantly.  Watch this - you do not want to burn the garlic or overly toast the coriander.
  8. Add the garlic and coriander with the oil directly into the soup and stir it up.
  9. Scoop the rice into soup bowls and serve the soup on top, with fresh lemon on the side.

Play around with this - other versions have cinnamon, paprika, dill and cilantro making appearances.  I promise I will try when I get back to my kitchen, and I will update this appropriately.

Thanks to Yvonne Maffei (




Mar 21, 2017

Om Ali (Egyptian Bread Pudding)

I don’t do a lot of desserts on this podcast, mainly because, well, I don’t know why.  I just don’t.  Maybe it’s the hassle of baking, maybe it’s that I prefer savory dishes, maybe it’s that desserts aren’t THAT different from place to place?  Maybe it’s something deep in my psyche.

Well, I’m bucking the trend today!  Om Ali (sometimes spelled Umm Ali) is an Egyptian bread pudding.  The name means “Ali’s Mom” and refers to the wife of an Egyptian sultan back in the middle ages.  The story is that after the sultan died, Om Ali got into a fight with another of his wives, had her killed, and then gave this succulent dessert to the people of Egypt to celebrate.  A weird story, if you ask me.  She doesn’t have a name?  Just “Ali’s Mom”? 

Anyway, the story is awkward, but the dessert is delicious.  In its most basic form, it’s layered phyllo dough, crisped in an oven, and then soaked in sweetened milk to make a bread pudding, and then studded with nuts, raisins and such.

That can be delicious, but it’s also possible to make it particularly awesome by adding a couple of small steps.

I’m basing this recipe on the recipe here:  — When Tasbih claimed that this was “best ever”, I took her at her word.

I’ve changed hers up a little bit, mainly because a) I like the warmth that a little cinnamon, cardamom and vanilla provide and b) I don’t have access to country-style clotted cream, so I thickened up the milk sauce with some extra cream.

There are plenty of other recipes that say those two changes are OK, so I’m comfortable with not being yelled at.

Anyway, try this.  It’s so freaking delicious.  So so so good.


  • 1 package (17.5 oz / 500 g) of frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
  • 1 cup / 240 ml sugar, divided in two
  • 1 tsp cinnamon, divided in two
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom, divided in two
  • 4 cups / 1 liter whole milk
  • 1/2 cup / 120 ml whipping cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins (aka sultanas) (optional)
  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachios (optional)


  1. Preheat an oven to 200 C / 400 F.  Unfold the puff pastry sheets onto a floured surface.  Take 1/4 cup of the sugar, and sprinkle it onto the pastry sheets.  Do the same with 1/2 tsp of the cinnamon and 1/4 tsp of the cardamom.  Use a rolling pin to push the sugar and spices into the dough.
  2. Fold the bottom sixth of the pastry up.  Do the same with the top sixth.  Then fold the top and bottom again so that they meet in the middle.  Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar.  Fold the top onto the bottom one last time.  You should have six layers.
  3. Refrigerate the dough for 20 minutes to firm up.
  4. Cut the dough into 3/8 inch / 1 cm pieces.  Put them onto a baking sheet with plenty of space between.  Cook for 6-8 minutes per side - Don’t forget to flip! - then set aside.  These lovely cookies are called Lunettes or Palmiers.  You can actually enjoy them as is, if you like, but only a couple of more steps will take you to Om Ali brilliance. 
  5. Crumble up 3/4 of the lunettes and put them in a 9’x11’ glass baking dish.  Layer on the raisins and the pistachios if you’re using them.
  6. In a medium saucepan, combine the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and 1/4 cardomom.  Add the milk and bring to a rolling simmer.  Take it off the heat and add vanilla and cream.
  7. Pour the milk mixture over the cookies.  Let it sit for 10 minutes.  While that’s doing, preheat the broiler.
  8. Put the rest of the cookies, crumbled up, on top of the soaked mixture.  Put it under the broiler for about 10 minutes to ensure a crispy golden brown top.
  9. Enjoy!

Thanks to Tasbih at for the brilliant idea of pre-cooking the puff pastry!

Mar 7, 2017

Most food on Santorini requires the local volcanic soil or crystal blue waters to make it special.  While we could make tomatokeftedes, the deep-fried fritters fueled by the phenomenal local tomatoes, so perfect in the volcanic soil, you can’t get Santorini tomatoes where you are, so it would be a pale imitation at best.

Therefore, we’re going with something simple, that you can make with ingredients from your local supermarket.  Dakos is translated as “bread salad” but I prefer to think of it as a cheesy Greek bruschetta. 

Officially, these are made with barley rusks, which are twice-cooked bread rounds that are approximately as hard as rock.  By letting them soak up the tomato juice and olive oil of the marinade, you make the rusks edible.  So that’s one way of going, but my version is a pansy American attempt, mainly because I can’t get barley rusks anywhere and I live in a major metropolitan area in the 21st century: I’m guessing if I can’t get ‘em, you can’t get ‘em either.

So yes, this is absolutely not actual dakos.  But you know what?  It’s amazing.  My new favorite thing.  It made me love feta for the first time in my life.  Eat. It.


  • 4 slices of good, rustic country crusty bread
  • 4 ripe tomatoes - use heirloom if you can
  • 4 tbsp feta cheese - if you can do 2 tbsp feta, 2 tsp mzithra, even better
  • 4 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp oregano (Greek or Turkish, not Mexican - there is a difference)
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Chop the tomatoes. Some recipes call for grating them, but I find that unless you have perfect summer tomatoes, grating loses too much texture and leads to an unsavory mushiness. Put the tomatoes in a large bowl.
  2. Mix with cheese, olive oil and oregano.  Let sit for five minutes for flavors to meld.
  3. Toast the bread to a golden brown.
  4. While still hot - which is not at all canon, but I love what the warmth of the bread does to the tomatoes and cheese - top the slices with the mixture.
  5. Let sit on the bread for a few minutes so the juices soak in.  Salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Enjoy!

NB: The picture does NOT match the recipe.  The picture is of ACTUAL dakos, courtesy of wikipedia user Frente.  I only remember to take a picture of what I'm cooking something like 20% of the time, which leaves me frantically scrambling and searching the internet like a college freshman.  Anyway, you'll note the barley rusk on this picture.  Frente also used olives, which you are welcome and encouraged to do - I am weird (as noted in Episode 3: The Statue of Zeus): I don't like olives though I love olive oil.  But do as you will.

Feb 21, 2017

You would think that something as simple as melted cheese on toast would be fairly straightforward, but there are billions of recipes out there for welsh rarebit. Well, maybe not billions, but quite a lot.  Fortunately, Felicity Cloake of the Guardian has gone through virtually all of them ( and has found the perfect cheese and toast combo.  Read her whole article - it’s fantastic.  I’ve made it to serve four, and have switched the cheese to Cheddar, since getting Lancashire cheese can be dicey.  I also found a little extra Worcestershire and cayenne pepper added oomph. 

But seriously.  Eat this.  Cymru am byth!!!


  • 2 tsp English mustard powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 6 tbsp stout  (3/8 cup)
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • Worcestershire sauce, to taste but at least 2 tsp
  • 12 oz cheddar cheese, grated
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 slices bread



  1. Mix the mustard powder with a little stout in the bottom of a small pan to make a paste, then stir in the rest of the stout and add the butter and about 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce – you can always add more later if you like. Heat gently until the butter has melted.
  2. Tip in the cheese and stir to melt, but do not let the mixture boil. Once smooth, taste for seasoning, then take off the heat and allow to cool until just slightly warm, being careful it doesn't solidify.
  3. Set your oven to broil, and toast the bread on both sides. Beat the yolks into the warm cheese until smooth, and then spoon on to the toast and broil until bubbling and golden. Serve immediately.

NB:  Eat this all at once - the sauce does not reheat well.  Mine broke almost immediately when I tried to reheat it for Mrs. Wonders of the World. 


Feb 21, 2017

The most important piece of afternoon tea is the tea itself, but that is outside the scope of this episode.  So instead, let’s focus on the scone, the perfect little pastry at the center of the meal.

This recipe is adapted from Mark Bittman in the New York Times (  These are English scones, so why am I using an American recipe?  I don’t know - I guess because this was the one which seemed simplest, with ingredients which can be obtained anywhere.


  • 2 cups cake flour, more as needed
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 5 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 egg
  • ½ to ¾ cup heavy cream, more for brushing


  1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees F (230 C). Put the flour, salt, baking powder and 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal.  Using a food processor helps to incorporate the butter thoroughly; you could mix it by hand, but you’ll need to work your fingers in there to make sure the butter gets blended.
  2. Add the egg and just enough cream to form a slightly sticky dough. If it’s too sticky, add a little flour, but very little; it should still stick a little to your hands.
  3. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead once or twice, then press it into a 3/4-inch-thick circle and cut into 2-inch rounds with a biscuit cutter or glass. Put the rounds on an non-greased baking sheet. Gently reshape the leftover dough and cut again. Brush the top of each scone with a bit of cream and sprinkle with a little of the remaining sugar.
  4. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, or until the scones are a beautiful golden brown.
  5. Serve immediately, preferably with clotted cream (lightly salted, high fat butter will do if you don’t have the clotted cream).  Be sure to let the butter soften.  Then top with preserves: strawberry are traditional, but I had a vanilla chai jam that was outstanding, so do what feels good.


Picture courtesy of Ibán Yarza via Wikimedia commons

Feb 7, 2017

Since I’m not allowed to cook kangaroo steaks, here’s a recipe for a completely different Australian masterpiece: the pie floater, South Australia’s gift to the culinary world.  Imagine if you will: flaky pie crust, filled with seasoned ground meat and vegetables like leeks, carrots, and celery.  So sort of like a beef or lamb pot pie.  This is then floated in a bowl of bright green pea soup and served with a dollop of tomato sauce on top.  Yep.  I don’t understand it either. 

But let’s try!  This is, without question, the best recipe I’ve found.  Mainly because it’s the only one that makes each part of the floater individually; many say "Pick up a meat pie at the butcher's" - a silly thing to say when you live in the 99% of countries who don't have meat pie-selling butchers.  It also doesn’t require mediocre tomato sauce, because why?  I’m translating this from the original Australian English.


Part I:

  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1⁄4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups beer (good beer - not Fosters)
  • 1 1⁄2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 teaspoons Vegemite (use Marmite if Vegemite not available)
  • 1⁄4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Part II:

  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1⁄2 yellow onion, extra, finely chopped
  • 1/4 lb potato, peeled, finely chopped
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 3 cups chicken stock

Part III:

  • 4 sheets frozen butter puff pastry, just thawed
  • 1 tablespoon creme fraiche


Part I:

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add onion. Cook for 5 minutes. Increase heat to high. Add ground beef. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until the ground beef starts to brown. Add tomato paste and flour. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add beer and stir. Add stock and Vegemite. Simmer for 30 minutes until thickened. Add parsley. Set aside to cool.

Part II:

While the ground meat mixture is simmering, heat remaining oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add extra onion. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add potato, peas, mint and stock. Simmer for 20 minutes or until potato is soft. Cool slightly. Blend with a hand blender.

Part III:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Preheat oven tray on lowest shelf. Use a pizza cutter to cut a disc from the corner of 4 pastry sheets. Ease remaining pastry into four 4-inch (10cm) diameter round springform pans. Divide ground beef mixture among pans. Top each with a pastry disc. Press to seal edges. Trim excess. Cut 2 slits on each pie top. Place on tray. Bake for 15 minutes. Transfer tray to top shelf. Cook for 15 minutes until golden. Return soup to medium-high heat. Add creme fraiche. Simmer until warmed though. Divide soup among 4 bowls. Top with pies.

Adapted from:


Jan 24, 2017

The national dish of Tanzania, if there is one, is ugali, which is basically a very simple form of polenta.  You add cornmeal to hot water, cook until it thickens into a solid dough, and then use it to eat with a vegetable stew. When sharing a meal, people will make one big bowl of ugali that everyone can grab pieces that they then dip into their own bowls.  To make ugali for four people, first boil 6 cups of water in a large saucepan.  Then, slowly pour in 4 cups of cornmeal (as finely ground as you can get), while stirring.  Keep stirring - you want it as thick as possible, like thicker than mashed potatoes.  Keep cooking and stirring for about 6 minutes.  Done.  I tried this at home, and I would recommend using the finest cornmeal you can find.  I used American corn meal, and it was fine, but I bet if you used masa harina, you will be happy.

Since ugali literally tastes like nothing, the key is to be able to eat it with something delicious. For that the Tanzanians give you mchicha, also known as amaranth, a green that’s a lot like spinach and cooked with garlic, onion and tomatoes, or with peanuts in a coconut curry sauce.   

This is simple stuff, and totally doable at home, if you’d like a taste before you go.  You’ll want to start with the mchicha, because it takes longer.  Since you likely can’t get actual mchicha at your fancy western grocery store, use spinach instead. 



2 lbs spinach (or other green)

1 1⁄2 ounces peanut butter (I used sunflower seed butter for allergy reasons)

1 tomato (It’s winter, so I used half a can)

1 onion

2 teaspoons curry powder

1 cup coconut milk

3 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon salt


Chop the onion and sauté it in the butter over medium heat.  Add the tomato and curry powder, stir and let it cook for five minutes or until the onion is soft.  Then add the peanut butter and coconut milk, stirring well to combine.  Make sure it’s all integrated. 

Bring back up to a boil and let it simmer, reducing until the sauce is on the thick side.  Then add your greens - they will cook down quickly.  Thicker greens will take longer.  I used baby spinach, and it was done before you could say Ngorongoro.  Next time, I'd try something more robust like chard or kale.  Season to taste and spoon over the ugali (or rice if you prefer).

A simple, healthy Tanzanian meal.  Just like our great great great great great …. you get the idea… grandfathers might have made.  Except that not really, since cornmeal comes from the Americas, but you get the idea.

Dec 29, 2016

So what do you eat while you’re enjoying the sunshine, beaches, shopping, art and architecture of Rhodes?  That’s tricky, since Rhodes has all the great Greek masterpieces available, but one thing that is truly Rhodian is pitaroudia.  Pitaroudia are big, fluffy chickpea fritters.  Think falafel, but irregularly shaped, and mixed with tomatoes, mint, and onions, so a different flavor profile.  So while you have your fish and souvlaki and spanakopita and everything else, make sure to try Rhodes’ national dish.

Here’s how. 


2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups onions, very finely chopped
2 tomatoes, grated
1/4 cup mint, finely chopped
1 tsp cumin (optional)
salt and pepper
olive oil to fry (NOT extra virgin)

Most recipes will tell you to start with dried chickpeas, which you have to soak overnight and then boil for a couple of hours.  Look.  You’re busy.  And they make some very high quality canned chickpeas.  The foodies tell me there’s a difference, but honestly, with chickpeas, I can’t tell it.  So make it easy on yourself.  Start with two good cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained, and grind them in a food processor until they’re coarsely ground and kind of mealy. 

Then in a big bowl, mix them with 1 and 1/2 cups of very finely chopped onion, 2 medium grated tomatoes - yes grated.  It’s a mess, but you want flavor and texture without chunks - 1/4 cup finely chopped mint, and salt and pepper to taste. If you like (and I do), throw in a teaspoon of cumin as well.  Then add just enough flour to make a dough that will allow you to make patties that won’t fall apart, approximately 2-3 tablespoons.

Spread more flour onto a large plate and warm up about a quarter inch of oil in a large heavy skillet. This is frying, so don’t use extra-virgin olive oil.  Use a frying olive oil with a higher smoke point.  If you don’t have olive, use canola or vegetable, but the high smoke point is key.  Form a patty in your hands with about 2 tablespoons of the dough, dredge it lightly in flour and fry until golden, flipping once to cook on both sides. You can do a few at a time, but not too many - crowding the pan will lower the temperature of the oil and make them greasy.  Remove and drain on paper towels. If you need to add more oil, be sure to let it get fully hot before adding more patties.  Serve with a tzatziki dip.   Yum.

Adapted from:

Dec 13, 2016

Kiliç Şiş


Swordfish kabobs can be done with any meaty fish if you don’t have swordfish handy.  Tuna would work.  So would halibut or mahi mahi, probably.



1.25 lbs swordfish (or similar), cut in 1-inch cubes

24 Turkish bay leaves

2 lemons, cut into 8 wedges each, + 1/2 for juicing

2 red onions, quartered

2 tbs olive oil

1 tsp crushed Aleppo peppers

salt & fresh ground black pepper


Prepare a charcoal grill to high heat.


Mix the final three ingredients plus the juice of the half-lemon.  Let the fish marinate for 10-15 minutes.  While it’s marinating, let the bay leaves sit in warm water for 15 minutes to rehydrate.


Thread fish onto skewers, alternating with bay leaves and onion and lemon wedges.  Cook over high heat until the fish is cooked through and the onion and lemon get a little charred.


The key to doing this right is threefold: first, don’t overmarinate.  I do this way too often, but the acidity starts to “cook” the fish if you leave it too long.  So keep to to 15 minutes tops.  I’d use maybe a couple of tablespoons of good olive oil plus the juice of half a lemon, maybe a teaspoon of red pepper flakes - use aleppo peppers if you can get them, and some salt and pepper.  Really basic.  Slice your swordfish or mani or whatever into biggish chunks, marinate them, and thread them onto a skewer. 


Tip two: alternate the fish on the skewer with aromatics: onion slices, peppers, lemon wedges, and most importantly, rehydrated bay leaves.  This is huge.  Just soak some bay leaves in warm water for 15 minutes.  The flavor boost is intense.


The third tip is to grill over charcoal.  I’m a gas guy because I have kids and very little time to set a fire ahead of time, but if you want maximum flavor, you’re going to want to use charcoal.  The smoke helps boost the power of those aromatic veggies and bay leaves.  Oh, and use an extra skewer for more veggies: tomatoes, onions, peppers.


Unskewer them over a bed of rice pilaf and enjoy!


Here’s where I adapted this recipe from:


And here’s a recipe for awesome rice pilaf:

Nov 30, 2016

To start with, try the stuffed mussels, or midye dolma, which is our recipe of the week.   I found this recipe at


  • 25 - 30 large black mussels, cleaned and bearded
  • 2 medium to large onions, finely chopped
  • 1 oz. currants
  • 1 oz. pine nuts
  • ½ cup short grain rice
  • 1 tomato, very finely chopped
  • Handful (about ⅓ cup) finely chopped flat leaf parsley
  • Handful (about ⅓ cup) finely chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 – 2 tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp. red pepper flakes or chili flakes
  • 5 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup hot water
  • Salt to taste
  • Lemon wedges to serve


We start with the stuffing.  Soak the dried currants in warm water for 15 minutes to rehydrate them.  While they rest, rinse the short-grain rice under cold water, then drain and set aside.  Drain the currants and put them aside as well.

Sauté the onions in a 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium-high heat for 5 minutes.  Then add an ounce of pine nuts and stir frequently for 3 minutes.  After that, add the rice, the currants, a very finely chopped tomato, the tomato paste, freshly ground black pepper, cinnamon and salt to taste.  spices and season with salt to your taste. Pour in a cup of hot water and stir it all together. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, until all the liquid has been absorbed. At this point, the rice should still have a bit of a bite. Remove from heat and add a handful of chopped parsley and a handful of chopped dill.  You can make the rice a day ahead of time, which would help the flavors develop.

Now for the mussels.  Mussels seems really daunting, but they’re not that difficult. Put 25-30 large mussels in a big bowl and rinse under cold water. Scrub the shells clean, scraping off any dirt that may linger. I find at this point that soaking the mussels in warm water for 15 minutes helps relax them, which makes opening them easier.  Use the point of a thin knife to cut around the edges of the two halves of the shell.  Open them, but don’t separate the two halves. 

Pour the juice from each mussel to a bowl. Then, clean them by removing any beards or debris that is still attached. Any mussels that smell funny or are open before you start to clean them should be thrown away.  Once the mussels are cleaned and cut, scoop about 2 tsp. of stuffing into each mussel (trying not to overfill) and push the half shells together again.

Place the mussels side-by-side on a wide heavy pan, but do not layer them.  If you need another pan, that’s fine, but use a single layer of mussels only. 

Strain the mussel juice to remove any solids. Add the juice to enough water to fill one cup and pour this over the mussels.  It should only cover them about halfway.  Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove the mussels from the heat and leave to rest so the rice soaks up all the water.  These are traditionally served cold, but I like them warm.  If you like sweet, succulent, salty, savory, this is for you. 

Nov 11, 2016

This is a recipe for tepsi, a layered baked casserole dish from Iraq, which I'm borrowing from someone who borrowed it from someone else.  Not overly spiced, but frying the components and baking the final dish gives the flavors a chance to intensify.



  • 2 large eggplants
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 1 large onion
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1kg ground beef
  • 2 medium potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • pepper
  • salt
  • corn oil



  1. Peel the eggplant in wide stripes and remove stems. Cut the eggplant into rounds about 1" thick.
  2. Peel and slice the potatoes into 1" thick round slices, set aside. Slice the onions the same way. Peel the garlic and crush it using one of those little garlic contraptions. Slice the tomatoes.
  3. Heat about 1/2 cup of oil in a non-stick pan and fry the eggplant slices until each piece is light golden. In the same oil, lightly fry the potatoes- they don't have to cook all the way through. Set aside. In the same pan, fry the onion, and set aside. Drain the fried pieces on some paper towels.
  4. Mix the ground beef, half of the crushed garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Make small meatballs and fry them. Set aside.
  5. Mix about 2 1/2 cups of water with 3 tablespoons of tomato paste, the remainder of the crushed garlic, salt (about 3 teaspoons), and pepper (preferably white pepper) and -- you guessed it -- set aside.
  6. In a baking dish, arrange the eggplant pieces so they slightly overlap (do 2nd layer if necessary.) On top of the eggplant, arrange the potato slices, then the onion, then the slices of tomato on the very top. Arrange the meatballs in between the tomato slices, spreading them evenly. Pour the tomato paste mixture on top of all of this. Arrange the meatballs in between the tomato slices, spreading them evenly.
  7. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 170-180 c, for 45-60 mins, be careful not to burn --
  8. This dish is served with Basmati rice or any other kind of rice -- we prefer Basmati or 'Ammbar'.


Nov 11, 2016

I found this recipe on the web, written by someone named Hans buried in the answers for a random Yahoo answers question.  That's all I know about him, but this seems the best I've found.  If you follow this, you'll have far more rice than you'll need, but that's OK, since you can use that for other purposes.  The paprika sauce burns very quickly, so be careful with that.


From Hans (

A typical Egyptian street Koshary dish is combined of 6 layers of ingredients served on top of each other in a deep plate not mixed. You then have the option to add two sauces that are served on the side, mix your plate..and DIG-IN

So in total we are talking about 8 components for an authentic Koshary meal, which you can mostly prepare the day before.
Please find some tips at the end to make your Koshary compete with the best restaurant in Egypt!!! Promise

From Bottom up, the 6 layers of the koshary dish are:

1 Pasta
2 Rice with Vermicelli noodles
3 Boiled lentils
4 Tomato Sauce with Garlic
5 Fried onions
6 Chickpeas

the two sauces served on the side are:

Hot Paprika Sauce
Garlic lemon sauce

Following is simple recipes for each of these components:

for 4 persons

PASTA 250 gms
Use the smallest "Penne" you can find for this recipe, the perfect pasta is called "Ditanlini", which is a short straight tube no longer than 1/4 inch. Boil the pasta, sieve it and mix it with 1 table spoon of oil and 1/2 tsp salt.

Rice (1 1/2 cup) with Vermicelli noodles(1/4 cup)
In a pot, stir fry the Vermicelli in 1 spoon of oil until dark brown, add the washed rice, stir for two minutes. Add 2 cups of boiling water, salt and paper. put on very low heat and cover for 20 minutes.

Boiled lentils (1 cup) -can be prepared the day before and heated in the microwave before serving.
Use Black or green whole lentils for this recipe. Boil the lentils in 4 cups of water, strain and season with salt and pepper.

Tomato Sauce with Garlic - can be prepared the day before and heated before serving
Stir-fry 1 minced onion with two garlic cloves in a pot with one spoon of oil. When yellow, add two cans of whole tomatoes or 1 KG of fresh ripe tomatoes cut to small pieces. Add a cup of water and simmer for 15 minutes. Blend the sauce until smooth and put back on heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Salt + pepper

Fried onions - can be prepared the day before.
This is the most annoying part of making a Koshary, because of the smell that fills the house when frying the onions. You may find in a Chinese Deli ready fried onions that can serve well for this recipe. just mix 1 cup of it with 1 spoon oil, 3 spoons water and 1/2 tsp salt. microwave for 2 minutes and here you go.
If you want to be authentic (recommended) cut two large onions very small, season with 1/2 tsp of salt and mix well to separate the onion. Fry in the widest pan you have in 1/4 cup of hot oil , keep stirring until very dark brown. Almost black. Pick the now fluffy and crunchy fried onions to absorbent paper. Don't get rid of the remaining oil - see my tips

Chickpeas - the easiest part of the recipe -
buy a can of chickpeas, open it and rinse it under running water!!!!

Hot paprika Sauce - can be prepared the day before no heating needed.
heat 3 spoons of oil in a small pan, remove from heat, mix two spoons of hot Paprika , add 3 spoons of tomato sauce which you already prepared. serve in a small bowl on the side

Garlic Lemon Sauce - again ..prepare the day before...
Mix 3 minced garlic cloves with 1/8 cup white vinegar, 1 big lemon juice, 1 tsp cumin powder and 1 tsp coriander powder.

Do not use Olive oil for this recipe, it will change the taste
Use the oil you used for frying the onions to mix with the Pasta.

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