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International Cuisine – A European Food Tour

While you’re studying abroad and dabbling in the various aspects surrounding you, one of the most important ones to consider are the delectable goodies and treats offered in your new host country culture. Though it’s easy to turn to the familiar American comfort that reminds you of home, such as; hamburgers, pizza or a big ol’ burrito, it’s important to step out of your comfort zone and explore all of the delicious cuisine!

When I studied abroad in Uppsala, Sweden I got to try so many traditional Swedish meals and snacks. Additionally, as I traveled to other countries and cities in Europe, I made it my mission to try at least one traditional (or popular) food item from each of the places I visited. So, are you ready for a European food tour? Here are the top ten most delicious foods I experienced in Europe (in no particular order)!

 1. Sweden – Köttbullar (Meatballs) 

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If you’ve never been to Sweden, but if you’ve been to IKEA in the U.S, you’ll notice that a very popular Swedish meal is meatballs accompanied by boiled potatoes, gravy and lingonberry sauce. Meatballs are a staple in Sweden and eaten regularly. I had them almost every week during my time there! The meal is hearty and of course incredibly tasty. Add a side of Daim pie if you want a treat twice as special.

2. Croatia – Fusi Pasta 

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Believe it or not, Italy isn’t the only famous country for its pasta. In Croatia, specifically the region of Dalmatia, pasta is a very popular dish and is often handmade and dressed in various ways. This pasta, called fusi pasta is a heavier in texture and can be described as a crossover between a typical noodle pasta and gnocchi. The pasta had a creamy spiced sauce, fresh vegetables and fish for an extremely affordable price! The restaurant also provided gorgeous views of the Adriatic Sea at sunset.

3. Spain – Seafood Paella 

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Paella is a Spanish rice dish seasoned with saffron. While in Barcelona, I chose to try the seafood paella. Inside the paella were shrimp, mussels, lobster and scallops. This dish is extremely flavorful and oh so very filling. Definitely set me up for a much-needed siesta afterwards.

4. Denmark – Plaice and French Fries 

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The Danes have a huge affinity for fish since they are surrounded by sea. During a trip to Copenhagen and a stop in Tivoli gardens I decided to try the popular dish of breaded filet of Plaice, french fries and remoulade. Plaice is a type of flounder that is fried similar to a catfish fillet. The Danes like to use remoulade sauce instead of tartar sauce to accompany this hearty meal. The remoulade sauce is a bit sweet and tart but incredibly delicious!

5. France – French Macarons 

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French macarons are one of the world’s best desserts! They’re delicately made and flavored with infusions ranging from coffee, mocha, pistachio and rose petal. My favorite macarons are the pistachio ones. These serve for a perfect afternoon treat to satisfy that sweet tooth. And if you’re ever in a major city, look up La Duree, French luxury bakery they have the BEST macarons around.

6. Sweden – Kanelbullar 

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As you may remember from a previous blogpost, fika is an extremely important staple in Swedish life. A fika is typically deemed as a “coffee break” for people to catch up with each other and enjoy dessert or something tasty together. Read more about fika here. My favorite fika item is the kanelbullar, which translates to “cinnamon roll.” BUT, the Swedish kanelbulle taste much different than American ones. Rather than being slathered with frosting, kanelbulle are sprinkled with crystal or pearl sugar. But, the thing that sets these goodies apart from all the other cinnamon rolls is the flavor and spice. Kanelbulle are seasoned with black cardamom. Cardamom has a very potent and distinctive state, and without it, Swedish kanelbulle wouldn’t be the same.  Check out this recipe I use to make them at home here.

7. France – Croque Monsieur and French Fries 

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In France, croquet monsieur is a very popular snack. Its essentially a grilled ham and cheese sandwich topped with delicious béchamel sauce. I enjoyed this one with a sweet view of the Eiffel Tower!

8. Russia – Rice, Beef and Piroshki (stuffed bread-rolls)

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During our first day in St. Petersburg we decided to jump right in! We visited a traditional Russian restaurant on Nevsky Prospekt (the main street in St. Petersburg) and ordered the daily lunch special. Unfortunately, I don’t recall the Russian name of the meal but on the menu was white rice, cooked beef and some sort of sweet and sour tasting red sauce and bread rolls. An awesome thing about the rolls in Russia is that they are always filled with something and are almost never just bread. Mine were filled with potato and the other with cabbage and ground beef. Awesome introduction to Eurasian cuisine!

9. United Kingdom – Crumpets 

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Although the most typical British meal we all know and love is fish and chips, a popular breakfast food in England is crumpets! Crumpets are sort of like pancakes and are made from yeast, and are essentially a fluffier English muffin. Brits often dress up their crumpets with butter or jam and of course, a cup of tea. Yum!

10. Spain – Bocadillos (Montaditos)

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In addition to tapas and their other world-famous foods, Spain boasts these delicious treats called bocadillos. Bocadillos are essentially crusty, spanish bread topped with any of the toppings or fillings that your heart desires. We visited a very popular bocadillo restaurant called 100 Montaditos, where on Wednesdays any montadito is only 1 Euro. These make for a perfect snack at any time of day.

Summer Sweet: Sticky Toffee Pudding

Sticky Toffee Pudding

In the last of our Summer Recipes series, we steal this delicious recipe from Rahul Panchal’s blog:

Who knew that Jamie Oliver, better known for his nutritional revolutions and healthy cooking movement, would have such a devilishly indulgent recipe up his sleeve? Then again, being British, it would be a shame for him not to have a good recipe for sticky toffee pudding. Addicting to the core, my friend gobbled down three helpings of this stuff in one sitting! With that said, let’s quickly run through the basics and get to this recipe! I guarantee that you that the tray will be wiped clean before you can even swing by for seconds!

In England, pudding is a generic term given to describe many things dessert-like, not just the custardy stuff that most people are used to. Therefore, sticky toffee pudding is essentially a quick-baking cake made primarily of dried dates. Even though they are madly delicious on their own, dried dates add sweetness, bulk, and such a wonderful moistness to this pudding that you’ll be questioning why you don’t have a date farm in your backyard. Cinnamon adds a characteristic flavor that makes this reminiscent of a spice cake, while ovaltine adds a slight malty note in the background.

After the pudding (or cake if you are looking for a more American description) is baked, it is soaked in a wicked awesome toffee sauce, hence the name sticky toffee pudding. The sauce is also superbly easy to make. It’s a simple reduction of cream, butter, and brown sugar. Even though the recipe asks for unsalted butter, I actually went ahead and used salted butter, and believe me, it was probably one of the best decisions that I had made in a while. Using salted butter allows you to offset the sweetness from the sugar, which sometimes can be cloying, especially if you plan on consuming it in liberal amounts (as you must do with this recipe). It also doesn’t hurt to mention that Denmark happens to have some of the best butter in the world, so naturally I try to use it whenever I get the chance! However, regardless of where you live, and whether or not you actually like to bake, please, please, please give this recipe a try! It will have addicted to this new realm of quick-cooking deserts in a heartbeat. In fact, I’ve already made this twice!

Recipe: Sticky Toffee Pudding

Adapted Slightly from Jamie Oliver

Ingredients

  • 225 grams fresh or dried dates, pitted
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 85 grams salted butter, softened
  • 170 grams sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 170 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons ovaltine powder
  • 2 tablespoons yogurt

For the Toffee Sauce:

  • 115 grams salted butter
  • 115 grams light or dark brown sugar
  • 140 ml heavy cream

Method

1. In a medium-sized bowl, cover the dates with about 1 cup of boiling water. Allow the dates to soak for a couple of minutes and then drain. Puree the dates in a food processor or blender until they are smooth.

2. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius/ 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with a wooden spoon until the mixture is pale in color. Then add the eggs, flour, ovaltine, cinnamon, and baking soda. Mix the batter together until everything is well incorporated. Then fold in the pureed dates and the yogurt. Pour the batter into a greased, ovenproof dish and bake for about 35 minutes, ’til a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

3. While the pudding is baking, make the toffee sauce. Combine the butter, brown sugar, and heavy cream in a small saucepan, and heat the mixture over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened, reduced, and darkened to a rich brown color.

4. Serve the pudding hot out of the oven scooped out into plates with a generous pouring of the hot toffee sauce. No ice cream or whipped cream is needed. Just the pure pudding, toffee sauce, a spoon, and a happy person to eat it. Enjoy!

Another Summer Snack: Qubani ka Meetha

Guest Blogger: Rahul Panchal

I spent the summer as a research intern working at a diagnostics lab in Hyderabad, a bustling metropolis in Southern India. I won’t bother sharing all the work-related details here because you can find them on another specially dedicated blog I wrote to document the experience, Andhra-Style: My Life in Hyderabad. Do give it a read if you want to know more about me! I think I was able to make some pretty gritty and introspective realizations about my life at the time.

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The cramped work area where I conducted my experiments

One thing worth sharing are the contradictory emotions. While I was in Hyderabad, I was faced with a culture that was familiar, yet so alien at the same time. There were many days were I felt lonely, bored, and just wanted to fly back home.

Is it weird though now, to say that I miss almost everything about Hyderabad? I miss those rain splattered walks through work along Abid Road, through the full blown sensory assault that would greet me everyday. The incessant sound of cars, trucks, busses, and motorcycles honking their horns, the endless flow of humanity spilling onto the streets, the smell of the frying oil wafting away in the mornings from little vada and dosa stalls, the uncomfortable splashes of mucky water, swept up from roadside puddles, seeping into my shoes. I miss the lab, all cramped up in that small and windowless space,  full of the incessant chitter-chatter of my coworkers in rapid Telugu. I miss my initially feeble, but eventually triumphant attempts at speaking Hindi and trying to be more “Indian”.

Hyderabad’s Finest: the Famed Chicken Biryani at Shadaab Restaurant

For obvious reasons, I miss the food the most: waking up to an arrangement of fried goodies and peppery hot masala chai, gulab jamuns and puffy-hot pooris every Tuesday at the workplace cafeteria, spending the weekends at Lakshmi Aunty’s house, where I was reacquainted with her simple, yet heavily satisfying cuisine after so many years, and the biryani, oh, oh, oh do I miss that biryani. Juicy chunks (or legs) of chicken or mutton (goat) layered between intensely aromatic basmati rice and served with a peanut and coconut gravy known as salan, I could probably go on for posts about its uniqueness and how I will never be able to replicate this true Hyderabadi delicacy in my home. That makes me sad because most biryanis found here in the States or really anywhere outside Hyderabad for that matter, just cannot compare. What’s Andhra stays Andhra.

Fortunately, there are some Hyderabadi treats which I can prepare within the confines of my small, apartment kitchen. Best of all, this little dish is chock full of one my all time favorite snack foods, dried apricots. Where my love affair with these bright orange gems began is not hard to trace. I would go through almost a bag a day back in Denmark, for they were both cheap and a good way to hold over the hunger until the next meal. When I learned that one of Hyderabad’s trademark sweets features dried apricots as the key ingredient, it became imperative that there was going to be no way that I would be leaving the city without having bowls aplenty, all to be licked down to the last bit of golden and sticky apricot goo.

Qubani ka Meetha, which translates to “apricot-sweet” in Urdu, the language of Hyderabad’s Muslim community, is a dessert straight out of the kitchens of the Nizams (old Muslim rulers) of Hyderabad, who would have most likely sourced the dried beauties from the eastern lands of Afghanistan and Iran. Today a staple at most Hyderabadi weddings, qubani ka meetha is enjoyed by all Indians alike, but if you want a truly authentic taste, you still have to venture into the old Muslim quarter of the city, across the dried up river bank, to grab a taste at famous eateries such as Shadaab, where I was able to grab a delicious mouthful.

Qubani ka Meetha in its original splendor, how I enjoyed it in Hyderabad

Simplicity is the essence of this dish for the simplest recipes only require a boiling down of dried apricots, water, and sugar, finished with apricot kernels and a spoon of malai (clotted cream). Thus the quality and more so type of product, specifically the apricot, really factors into the final taste of this dish. In India most, if not all dried apricots, are unsulphured, meaning that they are not treated with sulfur dioxide to give them that bright orange color. They have a different taste, one that is often sweeter and more earthy. Furthermore, the pits are left in, and the utilization of the kernels within, little seeds that resemble almonds, both in terms of taste and appearance, provide the element of crunch. As sweets in India are usually only reserved for special occasions, Indian cooks typically show no restraint with the sugar, so during both instances in which I hadQubani in Hyderabad, they were cloyingly sweet, a taste that was only tempered by stirring in some of the malai. 

While I loved the Qubani ka Meetha with all its realness at Shadaab, this became one of the few dishes were I felt that I could actually make it, dare I say better, with the usage of American ingredients back home. There were naturally some big changes I had to make. Firstly, that the dried apricots we get in the US are the more familiar brightly orange-tinted Turkish varieties, which for me, have oddly enough always bursted with a fruity reminiscence of the fresh fruit. Secondly, as these apricots come without the pits, I decided to substitute this textural element by stirring in some toasted almonds. Also, as making malai usually requires long hours spent over the stove, boiling milk down and  stirring it continuously, I opted for serving with vanilla ice cream instead because as a busy and overworked college student, I ain’t got time to replicate all of my ancestral ways. The change I am the most proud of though, is the addition of crushed cardamom seeds.

A key flavor in almost all Indian desserts, cardamom is used as often in India as vanilla is in the US, but the two don’t taste anything the same, save for their floral aromas. Lusty, jammy, and full of the warm aromas of an Indian childhood (thanks to my buddy cardamom), the flavors of Qubani ka Meetha will have you missing it as soon as you finish your first bowl. Good thing, I made it again last weekend.

Recipe: Qubani ka Meetha

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried apricots, packed
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, adjust to taste
  • 6 crushed cardamom pods, optional
  • 1/4 cup whole almonds, toasted
  • vanilla ice cream, for serving

Method:

  1. Soak the apricots in warm water overnight, till they have plumped up fully.
  2. Pour the apricots with the water (it should have a nice orange color) into a heavy bottom sauce pan with the crushed cardamom pods. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  3. Simmer the mixture for 20-25 minutes, mashing intermittently, until the apricots are softened and falling apart.
  4. Stir in the sugar and toasted almonds, cook for another 5 minutes.
  5. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or dollop of whipped cream.

Cooking Notes:

  • If you want your Qubani to mimic both the taste and appearance of the Hyderabadi original, try using unsulphured apricots instead of the conventional Turkish kind. Also there are a good deal of Indian grocery stores that carry Indian apricots as well. These may be complete with the pits and will naturally lend you the most authentic flavor.
  • Qubani ka Meehta can also be served with a vanilla custard, creme anglaise, unsweetened whipped cream, or Greek yogurt.
  • My new favorite way to use Qubani ka Meetha is by featuring it as a cake filling. Use your favorite yellow cake recipe, place a thick layer of the Qubani between the layers, and frost with a cardamom whipped cream. It is guaranteed to blow the minds of your guests. It sure did for mine :)!

Find more of Rahul’s recipes and stories at his blog, Cooking Fever

 

A True Red Gem: Rødgrød med Fløde

Guest Blogger: Rahul Panchal

After a lot of waiting and crying over blisteringly cold days, springtime has finally come to Denmark. The sun is out almost everyday, the weather is brisk, yet pleasant enough to walk around without a jacket, and Copenhageners have finally stepped out to reclaim their streets. Perhaps the best part of this new season would have to be the large amounts of Danish-grown produce that is slowly arriving in the markets. Just last week, while strolling though the city center, I saw little cartons of ruby-red strawberries, the packaging proudly proclaiming, “dansk jordbær” (Danish strawberries). Excited to say the least, I immediately caved in and shelled out 25 kroner (about 4.50 dollars) for the little half-pound box. Yes, they may have only been like 12 DSCN9563little strawberries in total, but each of them was full of magnificent and richly concentrated strawberry flavor that balanced perfectly between the dimensions of sweet and sour. It got me thinking ahead far into the Danish summertime.

Because the summertime is so short in Scandinavia, people all over the region, including Denmark, savor it to the fullest. Festivals are built around the climate and the sun, particularly in the northernmost reaches of Sweden of Norway, where special parties are thrown to celebrate “midnight sun”, a phenomenon where the sun shines for almost the entire day. Even here in Copenhagen, the sun only sets around 9 pm now, it’s crazy!

DSCN9573It has been built into the mentality of Danish cuisine to only savor certain ingredients when they are at their best, and actually, I think that the same can be said for almost every cuisine. Rødgrød med Fløde is a celebration of the Danish summertime harvest. Translating to “red porridge with cream”, Rødgrød med Fløde traditionally consists of a mixture of red and black currants, strawberries, and raspberries that are simmered down with sugar and water and then thickened with a couple of spoons of potato flour. The resulting “pudding” is then served chilled with a splashing of ice-cold DSCN9617cream on top. That’s right, just pure, unsweetened, unwhipped, and unadulterated cream. The simplicity of everything is   beautiful. The milky cream puts to sleep the tangy chattering of the berries. The contrast is utterly refreshing while still maintaining a measure of substance in your stomach due to the starch in the recipe.

Because currants are not available at all in Denmark until June/July, I used a mixture of strawberries, raspberries, andDSCN9571rhubarb in this recipe. Even though it it’s not a berry, rhubarb is often a traditional ingredient in many rødgrød med fløde recipes. Furthermore, it kind of also has become one of my favorite fruits at the moment, and the pairing of strawberries and rhubarb is not only symbolic and eternal, it’s a match made in heaven.

So, when summer finally hits your homes, take to the kitchens with some Danish inspiration and try cooking up some Rødgrød med Fløde. Sure, it may be a workout to pronounce, but it certainly isn’t a workout to make.

DSCN9625Recipe: Rødgrød med Fløde

Adapted slightly from this recipe found on the blog,  My Danish Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped in half
  • 2 stalks rhubarb, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
  • 1/3 pound raspberries
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons potato flour or cornstarch
  • heavy cream, for serving

Method:

Wash all the fruit and then cut up the rhubarb and strawberries. Place the fruit in a large pot with the sugar and water. DSCN9583Simmer over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes, until the fruit has fallen apart and is tender. Pass the fruit through a sieve to separate out the seeds, but keep the pulp! Return the juices and pulp to the pot. Stir the potato flour with some water to dissolve and make a slurry mixture. Bring the fruit juices and pulp back to a simmer and then stir in the dissolved potato flour in increments. Keep letting the mixture simmer until it has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, similar to what would DSCN9590happen if you were to be making a custard or a pudding.

Pour the rødgrød into a bowl and allow it to cool in the fridge until completely chilled, about 4 hours to overnight. Serve in shallow plates or bowls with a splashing of ice cold cream on top.

Cooking Notes:

  • There is not a ton of sugar in this recipe, but the idea is that you will be using ripe fruit, and rødgrød is not supposed to be that sweet anyway.
  • If you are not into cream, you can also serve Rødgrød med Fløde with milk or even a spoon of greek yoghurt or cottage cheese.
  • For people with a massive sweet tooth, rødgrød can also be used as a topping over vanilla ice cream.

Find more recipe’s at Rahul’s blog, Cooking Fever!

cookingfever

DSCN9560After a lot of waiting and crying over blisteringly cold days, springtime has finally come to Denmark. The sun is out almost everyday, the weather is brisk, yet pleasant enough to walk around without a jacket, and Copenhageners have finally stepped out to reclaim their streets. Perhaps the best part of this new season would have to be the large amounts of Danish-grown produce that is slowly arriving in the markets. Just last week, while strolling though the city center, I saw little cartons of ruby-red strawberries, the packaging proudly proclaiming, “dansk jordbær” (Danish strawberries). Excited to say the least, I immediately caved in and shelled out 25 kroner (about 4.50 dollars) for the little half-pound box. Yes, they may have only been like 12 DSCN9563little strawberries in total, but each of them was full of magnificent and richly concentrated strawberry flavor that balanced perfectly between the dimensions of…

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