When it comes to our main meals we easily travel the world with our culinary experimentation; Indian, Italian, Mexican and so on are all foods we regularly consume, but I have noticed we tend to overlook the desserts which are available. For example, we all know chilli is a Mexican dish but can you name any Mexican desserts?
Here we have some great desserts from around the world, how many have you tried, have you made any? If you haven’t tried any why not find the dessert recipes and make one yourself?
Pantanos de Centla, Mexico
Mexico: Spiced Chocolate Brownies
Mexican desserts are generally custard or bread based, and it was hard to choose our favourite! Although thought of as more of an American creation the Chocolate Brownie has strong roots in Mexico! They are slightly different though with Mexican Chocolate Brownies potentially containing more spices giving a completely different culinary experience. Spices often added include cinnamon, cayenne and of course chilli powder, all of which bring something new to the table.
Spiced Chocolate Brownies
Royal Palace and Santa María la Real de La Almudena, Spain
When looking at the huge choice of Spanish desserts available you will see they are based around eggs and almonds with a flan base and almond flavours such as marzipan, almond biscuits all being popular. Churros however can easily be found as one of the most popular desserts in Spain, having originated from Madrid. Simple to make these are strips of dough, deep fried and topped with sugar and a choice of toppings or dips.
Churros con chocolate
Kedar Range, Greater Himalayas, India
India: Carrot Halwa
India desserts are as flavoursome as their main meals; Kulfi, a frozen milk dessert, Payasam and Coconut Chikki are just a few of them! Some are slightly complex to make but that is part of the fun. Coconut, mango and carrot are pretty popular ingredients in many of the Indian desserts. Carrot Halwa is an easy creamy dessert you can make at home in about an hour consisting of carrots, raisins, nuts, cream and milk.
Carrot Halwa with fruits
United Kingdom: Eton Mess
The UK has a huge variation of traditional desserts which have been popular for decades, examples include the Battenburg Cake, Victoria Sponge Cake and Trifle. Our favourite has got to be the exceptionally simple but effective Eton Mess. Now you can go simple and use ready made meringues from the supermarket or, make them yourself! Make a puree blending strawberries with icing sugar, crush the meringues and mix them with whipped double cream and some more chopped strawberries.
Great Wall, China
China: Banana Spring Rolls
Chinese desserts are as exciting as their main meals and starters with some of the favoured options centering around steamed puddings, fruit pudding and cakes mung beans and egg tarts. Banana spring rolls are popular throughout the year and is a sweet take on the traditional spring roll. The rolls are filled with a banana and brown sugar and are typically served warm after being deep fried with vanilla ice cream on the side.
banana spring rolls and purple yam ice cream (image via http://www.flickr.com/photos/extracelestial/)
Pardon that you’d be bombarded with pasta dishes in the following posts. Still part of our Italian tour, we visited Bologna, which is year 2000′s European capital of culture and the capital of the Emilia-Romagna Region in Northern Italy as the last stop.
Hubby jokingly said that he would have its infamous dish, pasta with ragu alla bolognese for sure…I said we would probably be tired of eating pasta by then having tried a lot in the other 4 cities. Truth be told, I was already tired that I do not have the delight to sightsee anymore. We spent most of our time at the hotel which is not exactly in the city proper of Bologna and we’ll need to take a taxi every time we go – that added to my laziness.
walking about in Bologna (photo by hubby)
Summing it up, we probably only had a total of 4 hours enjoying the historical city. I felt short of my mission to actually travel and enjoy food the city is known for. But, hubby didn’t back out on his earlier joke, we dined at a trattoria we found while exploring (my god, I totally forgot the name), he got his ragu alla bolognese while I had grilled swordfish (too lazy to talk about it now really).
I think, I am injecting in this post the lazy feeling I had while wandering about in Bologna. It was like walking back in time, to its early existence since the 9th century BC. Of course, it is a more modern comune now but the antiquity is all over the streets, the walls, each and every corner. It was both a pleasurable and a melancholic experience.
hubby’s spaghetti alla bolognese
That being said, I admire foodie-travelers who seem to go on from city to city exploring not just the landscape but also the what could tickle their palate. One of them is Chantal Royer. Chantal enjoys traveling and cooking. She combines these two interests by traveling around the world and learning about regional cuisine in the countries she visits. Italy, Greece and Spain are some of the European countries she has visited. She traveled to Morocco during a trip to Africa. Her culinary journeys have taken her across the world to Australia and New Zealand.
Royer became interested in traditional Italian food after visiting Italy. She developed a taste for traditional Italian food after a trip to Bologna in the Emilia-Romagna region. Cannellini beans are one of the Tuscan foods she likes. Her family and friends enjoy her pasta dishes. Seafood, eggplant and pesto are some of the ingredients in these dishes. Royer cooks pasta with imported olive oil. Learning how Italian traditions have influenced cuisine in the United States is one of her interests.
Visiting Greece helped Royer develop an interest in Greek dishes. She also learned about Greek cuisine when she traveled around the United States and Australia. Royer found great Greek food in Chicago’s Greektown neighborhood. Part of her time in Australia was spent eating at Greek restaurants in Melbourne and other Australian cities. Her travels in search of great Italian food in the United States have taken her to New York, St. Louis, Chicago and Boston. Royer has enjoyed traditional Italian cuisine served at New York restaurants in the boroughs of Queens, Staten Island and Brooklyn. One of her favorite pizza places is on Chicago’s Harlem Avenue. She has traveled to the Western states to sample the Italian food in Seattle.
The nearest I have been to Greece is through this mixed seafood grill ^_^
Royer’s international travels have also allowed her to enjoy recreational hiking. She has hiked in Greece, New Zealand and Italy. A trip to Morocco gave her the opportunity to hike and drive through that country’s mountains and desert. Royer was able to spend time with nomadic tribes while she was in the desert. Casablanca, Fez and Rabat were some of the cities she visited during her trip. She spent some of her time in Casablanca browsing through the city’s markets. The Canary Islands and the island of Lanzarote were also on her itinerary during this trip.
I somehow could relate to Chantal in this area albeit I am a newbie. Like my previous post where I recreated a dish (well, I tried) I had in Florence, I am sharing with you a recipe of ragù alla bolognese. Mind you, like carbonara and lasagne, bolognese has been twisted far from the original recipe. Although it is fair to have evolved, the variation we mostly know is very different – and I think most food does anyway.
The recipe registered by the Academia Italiana della Cucina with the Bologna Chamber of Commerce in 1982 calls for tomato paste, celery, carrots, onion, pancetta, finely chopped or ground beef, sea salt, pepper, white wine, milk and water or chicken stock! Whew! And with all that, preparation takes about 4 hours – actually more but the cooking process takes 1/3 of that!
pardon, no garlic needed, use butter instead of olive oil…
pancetta, white wine, tomatoes, onion, cheese (not in photo:beef, celery, carrots)
So here’s what you’ll need and what you should do:
Soffritto or mirepoix: the holy trinity of Italian and French cooking composed of celery (2 stalks), onion (1 head) and carrots (2 large) – well for this dish just those but it’s not always as much with other recipes
Butter: little bit, maybe a tablespoon
Pancetta: bacon or pork belly meat that is salt cured and seasoned with peppercorns – about 8 slices, dice them nicely
Sea salt and black pepper: adjust according to taste
Beef: lean ground beef – half a kilo
Milk: surprise! The milk gives bolognese sauce the orange color…just 1 cup.
Tomato paste: there’s specifically the San Marzano – I guess they are the origin of tomato pastes, so if you can’t find them raw, look for them in a can
White wine: a glass will do
Water or chicken, maybe beef stock – your adjustments
Parmiggiano-reggiano cheese, grated
Pasta: Ideally, tagliatelle is used but bolognese sauce can also be used with other broad, flat pasta shapes, such as pappardelle or fettuccine, or with short tube shapes, such as rigatoni or penne.
1. Melt butter in a saucepan. Add pancetta, carrot, celery and onion. Saute for about 10 minutes.
2. Add meat into the mixture and mix, in a way breaking the lumps. After 10 minutes or so, add wine…Lower the heat at this point and allow the wine to evaporate.
3. If there’s part of the mixture that gets stuck to the pan, put a little water or stock and scrape it off.
4. Stir in tomatoes or tomato paste, milk, beef or chicken stock, salt and pepper.
5. Cover the pan. Let simmer on low heat and half-covered – about 3 hours but, ideally? It should actually be four! Add more water if needed and let simmer. It should be really, really thick.
6. Cook pasta per package directions. It is best to cook the pasta when you are almost done with the sauce so it is still hot enough.
7. Serve with pasta, top with cheese. Enjoy your pasta alla bolognese!
use thicker pasta
The last week of July was spent with so much walking I felt like I lost 5 kilos as I go…then again, it was also spent eating here and there that the kilos lost came back too soon! And where did our itchy feet took us, you might ask? Hubby and I went to five cities in a one-week stretch and drank history along with art, old architecture, cars, Vespas and heat in sunny, sophisticated, busy Italy.
Among the cities we’ve seen, Florence – dubbed as the Athens of the Middle Ages impressed me the most. Being on the streets walked upon by the artists responsible for the Renaissance, I had a good feeling I might be able to write my own book while there (lol). Seeing the spots Robert Langdon and Sienna Brooks trailed made Inferno a much more tangible story for hubby and me.
Morning walks -I just love the empty streets, the cool breeze and that distinct scent that only those certain times of the day bring…no matter which city. The nostalgia, the cobblestones and the foggy horizon makes up for a perfect mood.
Though we are walking buddies, hubby and I would spend some hours apart sightseeing by ourselves, taking photos of what we would see. I ended up exploring the streets leading to Il Duomo while hubby went over to the side of Ponte Vecchio. And just like in any city, I did another thing I enjoy most: people-watching. Shooting scenes (and crowd), Florence’s old-world architecture and charm – here and there, it took me a full two hours.
Hidden garden and display
Within those two hours, I had another quest – find an appropriate restaurant perhaps and get a taste of the region’s take on pasta, a wee bit. Ahh, writing about the food experience while travelling is another thing I love to do! It’s like having a chunk of locality – relishing a cuisine that a particular city is known for. So walk I did and of course a number of trattoria, ristorante, gelateria and pizzeria abound. Italy’s rich food culture can be perceived literally in the open- the streets. There’s garlic, pungent and welcome-y sauteed in olive oil, lemony fresh peels just off the board and you’ll catch some fresh basil blending along the busy kitchen rush!
Just a stone’s throw away from the Il Duomo I found a restaurant with a hidden garden - a perfect spot to have a quiet lunch amidst the busy, touristy streets. Well, the garden was very quiet, so eat, I did. That’s at Little David (I’ Daviddino) at Via de’ Martelli.
why do I forget to properly take a photo of my food? :/
My first choice up the menu is anything with salmon and caviar - I have always been fond of fish on pasta (can’t remember how many times I’ve reiterated this) that I have often featured dishes to cook with salmon in this blog. The offering on the menu is farfalle with white sauce, so I had that.
I’m not a big eater so I was ok with the serving but others might say it wouldn’t suffice a hungry tummy or someone who did a walkathon - under the Tuscan sun. And who would complain about al dente pasta, rich thick sauce, salmon bits and caviar bursting wonderfully into a yummy spoonful? Not me. You might argue that I should have also gotten a Bistecca Fiorentina or Ribollita…well, hubby called just when I was finishing and said we would be eating dinner at a lovely restaurant he saw – so we did have those for dinner but let’s save them for another post.
Far from forgetting the flavors and scents, I’ve made a similar dish at home recently. This time, I could generously topple a plateful with lots of caviar…
And here’s what you need:
half a kilo Farfalle (bow-tie pasta, cooked per package directions)
¾ cups butter
2 cups whipping cream
½ kilo smoked salmon, sliced to pieces
salt and pepper to taste
1. In a sauce pan, melt butter and add cream. Stir constantly and bring to a boil.
2. Lower heat and continue cooking until the sauce thickens.
3. Add salmon, parsley, salt and pepper (caviar could make it for salt though). Simmer a bit and remove from heat.
4. Pour over pasta and toss gently.
5. Serve, top with a spoonful of caviar or how much you like and garnish with more parsley. There, one hearty meal to remember the Italian coast by.
just making it colorful ^_^
Would have loved squid and crab meat in this too.
What’s your comfort food? I have a lot but, anything that’s cooked with fruits of the sea is comfort enough for me. As far as vim and the palate could get – a fusion between flavors – I think pasta and a mix of a Filipino favorite would be a hit. Thus, the aligue or what we endearingly call taba ng talangka (crab fat) has found a following among foodies….despite and in spite of the calorie content it will add to any dish.
And for some expats, bringing a precious bottle of this back from a Philippine vacation is a must (read: hubby and I). The aligue has become synonymous to our bagoong (shrimp paste) in a certain level. ^_^
So here’s an attempt to introduce aligue in a presentable manner – not in a spoon or alongside egg and rice – which is a usual breakfast fare in our kitchen. (Quite a long overdue post).
What you’ll need:
250 grams Fettucine (or linguine, cooked until al dente)
300 grams cocktail shrimps
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium red onion, chopped ( I used red onion to add color and tang but white would be definitely fine)
half a jar of Aligue (the 250gram jar)
half a lemon (calamansi would be ideal…but…)
salt and pepper to taste
1. Cook Fettucine per package directions and set aside.
2. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a pan. Saute garlic a bit and add red onions. Add bits of parsley and mix. Set on a dish.
3. Heat the remaining olive oil and cook shrimps. Add the previous mixture of garlic, shallots and parsley along with aligue.
4. Toss in the cooked pasta and remove from heat. Serve hot, squeeze a wee bit lemon on and garnish with more parsley.
On those very rare occasions that hubby and I have little spats I heed an age-old advice “the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” – sometimes it proves true, sometimes it doesn’t…I will try its effectiveness again with this dish tomorrow.
Fettucine and Taba ng Talangka (crab fat/aligue)
Vegetables are the bane of some people’s existence. You know you have to eat them to maintain a healthy and balanced diet. However, they can be quite bland on their own and unless you know how to make a tasty dish, they can leave a bad taste in your mouth. There are ways to add them to your diet, without it being a burden though.
Buy them fresh
Fresh vegetables are not as bland as frozen or pre-bagged vegetables. If you can, buy them from a farm. Vegetables which have been grown outside have more flavour and vitamins and minerals than those mass produced in a greenhouse. You’ll also find they are cheaper to buy fresh.
Some people are more likely to eat vegetables if they can zap them in the microwave in between games on WeLuvBingo.com and Facebook conversations. Pre-bagged microwavable vegetable packs are sold fairly cheaply in supermarkets, and can take as little time as three minutes to heat up for your meal, dependent on how big the bag is.
Mix with everyday meals
Find ways to sneak vegetables into the meals you cook for yourself for dinner. For example, bolognese benefits from having tiny pieces of carrot chopped up and mixed in with the sauce. Not only do you not notice they are there, they also enhance the flavour and pack it out making the meal more filling.
Try steaming your vegetables for your meals. Boiling them takes away a lot of the flavour and goodness. When you steam them, the condensation falls back onto the vegetables, meaning the nutrients stay.
Plan around the vegetables
Most people add vegetables as an aside. Try planning your meals around the vegetables instead, that way you are guaranteed to include them, and they’re more likely to be tasty because you’ll incorporate them more fully. For example, a vegetable stir fry.