Libya - Couscous
This was a great week for food, kicking it off with Libya's couscous. I am very used to couscous as a side dish, but this recipe called for particularly large grains, which completely changes the texture, making each grain have significantly more chew to it. The grains are flavoured with orange blossom water, cinnamon and a significant amount of butter, a combination which I absolutely adored, having recreated this on multiple other occasions since, when I'm after a quick side dish for middle-eastern inspired dishes. Adorning these grains is a spicy sauce coating chickpeas, meat (lamb in my case), courgette, squash and potato, along with a boiled egg. I think it's more common to have hard boiled eggs, but I'm a complete sucker for a runny yolk. The sauce itself is very onion-heavy (naturally cooked over a long time, because I'm not a fan of crunch), with flavourings of turmeric, tomato and chili. I was wary at first of the orange flavour in the couscous, but I think the lack of strong seasoning in the sauce allowed it to shine through, without clashing with any other tastes.
Mexico - Mole
Recipe from https://mexicanfoodjournal.com/mole-poblano/
Mole wins the prize of being the dish that I personally found the trickiest to look appetising (and required a lot of post-photographing manipulation!). Mole refers to the sauce, a delicately balanced mixture of a whole bunch of flavours- chilies, bread, onion, garlic, raisins, peanuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, coriander seeds, cinnamon, cloves, pepper, chocolate, chicken broth and seasoning. Some would argue that this is an excessive amount of ingredients, but I would strongly disagree. There is no overarching flavour in it, rather a whole plethora of complementary tastes. On top of that, there are deep notes of browning, as a lot of the ingredients are cooked, almost to burning point in oil. The mysterious looking lump in the middle of my plate is just a chicken thigh, adding a bit more substance to the meal.
India - Khichdi
India is another country with an incredible diversity of food and as such, has no official national dish. Khichdi is a staple dish for many households, a simple 30-minute dish of moong dal and rice. Different households will flavour this differently, but the recipe I used called for bay, cumin, ginger, onion, chili, asafoetida, turmeric and tomatoes. In addition, a carrot, some french beans and a small potato were added for a little texture. The consistency is slightly porridge-like, somewhere between liquid and solid, slightly more gelatinous than dahls I've made before. I imagine that khichdi would shine a lot more when paired with other dishes or curries, but it was definitely still tasty in its own right!
Armenia - Harissa
Recipe from https://thearmeniankitchen.com/harissa-herriseh-keshkeg-it-all-
Armenia's harissa was another of these dishes that really surprised me, and in a good way. A very simple dish of chicken with whole wheat kernels (which took me a very long time to source off of the internet!) boiled down for 5 hours in chicken stock with a little salt, before topping with some reserved boiled chicken and paprika. The beauty of the dish comes from its simplicity. It's completely savoury, and there's not a lot going on in terms of flavours, but the umami from the chicken broth is comforting and moreish. I love recipes that encourage the use of all of any animal that is cooked, and being able to instantly use the broth from the chicken carcass really appealed to me, as well as giving excellent meaty flavour.
Uzbekistan - Plov
Recipe from https://www.allasyummyfood.com/blog/uzbek-plov
I think this is the third "plov" I've made - a rice based dish with meat, in this case, lamb. The rice is infused with saffron, garlic and cumin, and mixed through with julienned carrot and onion. Whilst tasty, it doesn't quite give me the joy that Azerbaijan's offering did, which was rich with butter and sweet with dried fruits. I think that this dish also wasn't helped by the lack of much seasoning on the meat. All in all though, not a bad dinner.