Saffron tea (Kuwait)

Posted in Drinks, Middle East on January 20th, 2014 by Maija Haavisto — Be the first to comment!

Kuwait is a very small Arab country located by the Persian Gulf. The earliest evidence of sailing has been found in Kuwait and for decades it was known as a center of boat construction. It used to be a major location for trade and has one of the biggest oil reserves in the world, though the Gulf War with its setting fire on hundreds of oil wells, as well as trade blockades, have damaged the prosperous economy. The country is tax-free, while the government owns the oil reserves. Kuwait is extremely hot in the summer, with average high temperatures over 45C (114F+) from June to August.

The Kuwaiti cuisine has been influenced by Arab and Persian cuisines and especially the Indian one. Foods are often flavoured with saffron, cinnamon and cardamom. Cumin, mustard seed, fennel seed and coriander seed are also common The national dish is biryani, a rich spiced rice dish known by anyone familiar with Indian food. Seafood is very popular, usually eaten with rice or khubz, a local flatbread. Main dishes may also be served with bulgur, spelt or noodles may also be served. Many dishes include eggs. Desserts tend to be rich, spiced cookies, cakes or dumplings, often with nuts. A proper Kuwaiti meal always includes dates and tea.

Saffron is one of the world’s most expensive spices by weight, but luckily minuscule quantities of it are used, so it is not unaffordable. This recipe makes for a very aromatic tea, though I find it hard to describe the taste. It makes you think of Indian chai, but is still quite different. Try it yourself!

Saffron tea

Kuwaiti saffron tea

1 1/2 cups/3.6 dl water
2 whole cardamom pods, broken
1 pinch saffron
2 teabags
1 tsp sugar

Combine the water, saffron and cardamom in a saucepan over medium heat. Cover and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat. Add teabags, and let tea steep for a minute. Strain into a cup and sweeten with sugar if desired. Serve hot.

Kutia wigilijna, or Christmas wheat pudding with poppy seed (Poland)

Posted in Desserts and sweets on December 18th, 2013 by Maija Haavisto — 1 Comment so far

Poland is a large country in Central Europe, located by the Baltic Sea. It has several mountainous areas and even one of the five deserts in Europe. About 1/3 of the country is covered by forest. Poland is an important agricultural producer of potatoes, rye, triticale and sugar beets. It has a very healthy economy, said to be unaffected by the recent recession. It is one of the most religious countries in Europe, being Roman Catholic. Football is the most important sport and poetry/literature and painting traditionally perhaps the most important types of art.

The Polish cuisine is known as quite heavy and meat-based, with sausages being particularly popular. Potatoes, mushrooms, beets and cabbage (including sauerkraut) are among the most important ingredients. Pickled cucumbers and buckwheat are also eaten a lot. Bread, rye or wheat, has been a crucial part of Polish cuisine. Nowadays the most well-known Polish dish world-wide is probably pierogi, a filled savoury or sweet dumpling. There are many kinds of soups, including several different kinds of beet soup. Soup may also be made out of e.g. tripe, sorrel, pickles or soured milk. Salads tend to be heavy and often feature potatoes, eggs, mayonnaise and/or sour cream. Most desserts are rich baked goods.

Kutia wigilijna is a traditional Polish Christmas dessert. Similar dishes are known in many neighbour countries. It is based on wheat berries (unprocessed wheat), but can also be made from kamut berries, barley or rice. Like many desserts of the region, especially Christmas ones, it is seasoned with ground poppy seed. Their flavour is quite similar to tahini, but more bitter, so the amount of sugar (and originally honey) isn’t excessive. (I was only able to find white poppy seed, for some reason.) The wheat berries seemed a bit weird in texture, so it might be more enjoyable made with rice, though the cooking time must be adjusted when using different grains. This recipe came from and I made it vegan.

Kutia wigilijna

Kutia wigilijna

1 cup/2.4 dl wheat berries or kamut berries
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup/2.4 dl poppy seeds
1/2 cup/1.2 dl confectioners’ sugar
4 tbsp agave syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
(1/4 tsp orange flower water, to replicate honey taste with the agave)
zest of 1 lemon
2/3 cup plumped raisins
(1/2 cup ground walnuts)
(1/2 cup coarsely ground blanched almonds)
(5 plumped figs, chopped)
(5 plumped dates, chopped
1/2 cup vegan cream (like soy cream or cashew cream)

Rinse wheat berries well. Place them in a large pot and cover with plenty of water. Stir let soak overnight. Drain the wheat, rinse, drain again and place back in the pot. Add 6 cups/1.5 l cold water and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until tender (90 minutes to 3 hours, mine took less than 2 hours). Drain and set aside to cool.

Place poppy seeds in a saucepan and cover with boiling water. Let stand for 15 minutes. Place the pan on the stove and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Poppy seeds are ready when they can be pulverized between the fingers. Drain and grind in a blender.

In a large bowl, combine cooled wheat, ground poppy seeds, sugar, agave, vanilla, zest, raisins and other dried fruit and nuts (if using). Mix well and add vegan cream, incorporating thoroughly. Serve cold. Makes 4-5 portions.

Chimichurri, or parsley condiment (Nicaragua)

Posted in Dips, sauces and condiments, South and Central America on November 15th, 2013 by Maija Haavisto — 1 Comment so far

Nicaragua is an ethnically and culturally diverse country in Central America, a a former colony of Spain. It gained independence back in the 1800s, though it was occupied by the U.S. from 1912 to 1933, which was followed by several dictatorships. Nicaragua has three distinct geographical regions: the Pacific lowlands, the Amerrisque Mountains, and the Mosquito Coast. Coffee is the main export and tourism is heavily growing. Music, dancing, literature and folklore are important forms of culture and baseball is the favorite sport, followed by boxing. Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in the Americas and population growth is very high, but life expectancy is still well over 70 years. Nicaragua is also one of five countries in the world where abortion is illegal with no exceptions.

Corn is the staple of Nicaraguan cuisine, eaten as several popular savoury dishes like nacatamal (similar to tamales), desserts and made into beverages as well, like pinolillo which is flavoured with cocoa. Beans and rice are also used a lot. Other common ingredients include e.g. coconut, yuca, avocados, bananas/plantains, mango, papaya and tamarind. Several vegetables and spices lesser known in the Western world are also used, like mimbro or tree sorrel, jocote (related to cashews), quequisque (a type of starchy corm) and culantro or Mexican coriander. There is a large variety of desserts, many containing fruit but also rich ones based on milk, honey or coconut. Most of the large variety of traditional drinks are made with fruit. Macuá is called the national drink of Nicaragua and usually contains rum, lime juice and guava juice.

Chimichurri is a pesto-like herb sauce used in several South American countries. It’s perhaps best known as an Argentinean condiment used for meat, but it’s also popular in e.g. Nicaragua. I’ve lost my notes as to where I got this chimichurri recipe or whether it was combined from several different ones. Sorry! Several Nicaraguan chimichurri recipes featured a small amount of dried oregano yet at least one source said it’s not used in Nicaragua. Instead of mock meat I decided to use cauliflower “steaks”. While not exactly meat-like, they are a very tasty way to prepare cauliflower and I find they work the best with herbs, like pesto.



3 cloves garlic
0.5 tsp salt
1/2 cup/1.2 dl flat leaf parsley, packed
2 tbsp white vinegar
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Blend all the ingredients together until it resembles coarse pesto. Use as a marinade/sauce for e.g. tofu, seitan or cauliflower steaks. It should make enough for four cauliflower steaks.

For cauliflower “steaks”, take a medium or large cauliflower and slice it stem-wise into two with a long-bladed sharp knife. Cut a relatively thin slice (maybe 1/3″ or 0.75 cm) from the cut side of both halves. Even the largest cauliflower usually only yields two steaks. You can of course use the remains for other dishes.

Trim off any excess cauliflower stem. Smother chimichurri on the steaks. Fry the steaks in oil on medium heat until tender, about 5-8 minutes (test whether they can be pierced with a fork). Serve hot with the remaining chimichurri (if there is any left).

Black-eyed bean fritters (Burkina Faso)

Posted in Africa, Other main dishes on October 16th, 2013 by Maija Haavisto — Be the first to comment!

Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in West Africa, perhaps best known for its funnily named capital of Ouagadougou (which at least in Finland commonly features in quizzes). It is a former colony of France. About 2/3 of the people are Muslims and 1/4 are Christian, though animist beliefs are also widely incorporated in religious practice. The country is known for its mud buildings – not just simple houses, but e.g. elaborate mosques. Ceramics, theatre and literature (originally based on oral tradition) and more recently cinema, are important forms of culture. Many kinds of sports are popular, but especially football. Despite gold being its main export, Burkina Faso ranks as the third least developed country in the world. HIV prevalence is low, but the life expectancy is still only 50/52.

The Burkinabé cuisine uses many starches, such as millet, sorghum, fonio, corn, yams and rice. As in many West African countries, a popular dish is fufu, a kind of cassava dough, often served with peanut soup. Sumbala is a local fermented condiment paste somewhat similar to miso. Fish, chicken, mutton, goat and yoghurt are eaten, as are carrots, turnips, eggplants, avocados, sweet potatoes, zucchini, beets, leeks, potatoes, okra, tomatoes, cabbage, cucumber, pumpkin, sorrel and spinach. Most desserts are based on banana, though many other fruits are also eaten a lot. A popular drink is bissap, made from roselle (a type of hibiscus) petals. There are also several kinds of drinks made from millet.

These Burkinabé black-eyed bean cakes were okay, but nothing very exciting. The lack of spices isn’t too bothersome, since they’re meant to be comfort food like anyway, it’s more about the texture, starchy and flour-like mash. Perhaps it was because I forgot to rub off the bean skins?

Black-eyed bean fritters

Black-eyed bean fritters

400 g/0.9 lbs dried black-eyed beans
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 small carrots, chopped
substitute for 1 egg (if using a dry egg replacer like soy flour, don’t add any liquid)
salt and black pepper to taste
flour for coating
peanut or palm oil for frying

Soak the beans overnight. Drain and rub them between your fingers to remove the skins. Cook until soft, 45-60 minutes. Drain and let cool for a bit.

Blend all the ingredients together. Form into balls and flatten into discs. Dip them in flour and shallow fry in the oil on medium heat until browned, about 10 minutes. Serve hot, perhaps with tomato sauce (they’re quite bland by themselves).

Serves 5-6 people.

Borani kadu, or roasted butternut squash with spices and yoghurt (Afghanistan)

Posted in Asia, Starters and appetizers on September 25th, 2013 by Maija Haavisto — 2 Comments

Afghanistan is a large landlocked country in Central Asia, unfortunately one that nowadays most would first associate with war or terrorism. Many also know the Afghan hounds, which originated from Afghanistan. It is a dry, mountainous country which gets quite a few earthquakes. The area has been inhabited by humans for up to 50,000 years. Afghanistan is a tribal and nomadic society, almost completely Muslim. The country has large natural resources consisting of e.g. oil, gas and various minerals. Still it is one of the poorest countries in the world, where especially maternal mortality and infant mortality are very high. Despite low literacy rates, poetry has long been an important cultural tradition. Football, cricket and some other sports are popular. Buzkhashi is a traditional sport resembling polo.

The Afghan cuisine could be described as somewhere between Middle Eastern food and Indian food. It tends to be not spicy even though many spices are used, including cilantro, coriander, mint, sumac, saffron and cardamom. The country is known for its fruit, especially pomegranates and grapes (hence also raisins). Fruit and vegetables may be made into pickles. Other important ingredients include e.g. lamb, yogurt, potatoes, nuts, tomato, onion, turnip, eggplant and spinach. Rice dishes are also considered the core of Afghan cuisine, including the national dish qabili palao with meat, raisins and pistachios. Some rice dishes also include fruit. Bulgur wheat is eaten as well and there are several types of dumplings. Food is often served with naan or another bread.

In Finland butternut squash was something exotic, very hard to find and very expensive, so I first tried it only after moving to the Netherlands, where suddenly it was everywhere. It was somewhat of a disappointment, I prefer pumpkin. However, this recipe was quite nice and looks fancy too, the squash slices looking like crescent moons. Despite the fanciness there’s a certain comfort food feel to it, in a good way.

I hate peeling raw squash, I think it works the best here to first slice, then peel the half-moons, but it may depend on the knife you use. The original recipe tells you to make the slices about 1/4 inch thick, but considering I cut them slightly thinner, they took much longer to roast than in the original recipe and they look thicker when finished, I think that’s too thick.

I’m not sure if there is such a thing as commercial vegan Greek yogurt, but you could either strain normal soy yogurt or just do as I did: add a little oil, a little lemon juice (depending on the tartness of the yogurt) and a tiny sprinkle xanthan gum to make the flavor and texture resemble Greek yogurt more.

Borani kadu

Borani kadu

1 medium butternut squash
olive oil for roasting
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
3/4 cup/1,75 dl vegan plain Greek yogurt (see notes)
salt to taste
more olive oil
dried mint

Preheat oven to 410F/210C. Halve the butternut squash lengthwise, remove the seeds and the pulpy mass surrounding them, slice the squash into thin half-circle slices of about 1/8-1/6 inch, or 3-4 mm thick, and peel the slices. Toss with enough olive oil to coat and the turmeric, coriander and cumin. Roast for 20-30 minutes in the oven, until soft and starting to brown. Toss with salt and let cool.

Place vegan yogurt on a plate, top with the squash slices, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with dried mint. Serve as an appetizer, cold or in room temperature. Serves at least 6-8 people.

Salsa de albahac, or basil sauce (Bolivia)

Posted in Dips, sauces and condiments, South and Central America on August 31st, 2013 by Maija Haavisto — Be the first to comment!

Bolivia is a large landlocked country in South America, named after Símon Bolívar, an important figure in the independence of several Latin American countries. A former part of the Inca empire, it remains a very multinational country with 37(!) official languages. It is also one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, with rainforest, valleys and savanna and enormous altitude variations. There are over 3,000 species of butterflies and over 4,000 types of potatoes are produced in Bolivia! Folk music, dance, football and table football are culturally important. Malnutrition and lack of sanitation remain major problems. Infant mortality and maternal death rate in Bolivia are among the highest in the world.

The cuisine of Bolivia is mostly a mixture of Spanish and indigenous cuisines. The staples of Bolivian cuisine are beans, corn and potatoes. Corn, sometimes purple corn, is also made into a drink called chicha. Rice is eaten regularly, as well. Quinoa is losing popularity, as much of it is now being exported abroad. Many meats are consumed, from iguana to llamas and guinea pigs, as well as more common types like pork and chicken. Meat is often served in skewers. Ají peppers (several related types of chili peppers, most of them hot and quite fruity) are an important spice. Lunch is the main meal in Bolivia, including several courses, dessert and coffee. Bolivians enjoy afternoon tea (té), often in tea salons which also serve baked goods. The tea may be either black tea or yerba maté.

This recipe for a basil sauce comes from Bolivia Bella. I found the original recipe way too acidic, so I halved the amount of vinegar and lemon juice. Otherwise it was quite tasty.

Salsa de albahac

Salsa de albahac

1 cup/2.4 dl plain non-dairy yoghurt (homemade is best, as usual)
2 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup/1.2 dl fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
1 tsp green onion tails (or chives)
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Mix or blend all ingredients together (if blending, you don’t have to chop the basil or press the garlic, of course). Serve on a veggie burger or similar, I used pizza-flavoured tofu.

Nigvziani badrijani, or eggplant rolls with walnuts and cilantro (Georgia)

Posted in Asia, Europe, Starters and appetizers on July 25th, 2013 by Maija Haavisto — 2 Comments

Georgia (not to be confused with the U.S. state with the same name) is located in the Caucasus region of Eurasia, and a former part of the Soviet Union. It also considers Abkhazia and South Ossetia parts of the country. The character of the country is highly defined by the mountainous location. The deepest known cave, the Krubera cave, which is at least 2 km deep, is also located in Georgia. The climate is very diverse. There is a long tradition of wine making and tourism is increasing, attracted by e.g. ski resorts, thousands of mineral springs and thousands of historical monuments. Perhaps the most fascinating thing about Georgia is that the Georgian language has three separate alphabets.

The most distinctive part of Georgian cuisine is supra, a feast featuring tons of different dishes and plenty of wine, which can last for hours. Georgian food has become quite popular in Russia thanks to immigration. Important ingredients include fish, chicken, meat, dairy products, rice, breads, beans, potatoes, eggplant, mushrooms, spinach and other greens. Walnuts are used in almost every dish. Pastries, soups and salads are popular. There is a decent amount of vegetarian and even vegan dishes. Plenty of fresh herbs are used, especially parsley, dill and cilantro. Chili is used too, as well as the local spice blue fenugreek. Food may also be flavored with tart fruits, such as plums and pomegranate. There is a wide variety of desserts and sweets, usually featuring nuts and/or honey.

Easy to veganize, low-carb (which is how I am mostly forced to eat nowadays), with only a few ingredients and healthy ones at that (save for all that oil…)? I had my doubts, but nigvziani badrijani was something I had to try. When I tried the filling by itself, it tasted too much of walnuts and cilantro, as I had expected, since it was, after all, pretty much just walnuts and cilantro. But when the eggplants were filled with it, everything fell into place. The cilantro, the walnut and the greasy eggplant flavour just mingled together to create a really nice dish, and a nice surprise too.

Nigvziani badrijani

Nigvziani badrijani

2 eggplants
olive oil for frying
1 1/2 cups/3.6 dl ground walnuts
1 cup/2.5 dl finely chopped cilantro (coriander leaves)
2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
a few tablespoons of vegan mayonnaise
salt to taste

Slice the eggplants lengthwise thinly; about 1/8 inch (3 mm) thin. Fry thes slices in some olive oil until slightly browned and set aside to cool. They will soak up a lot of oil. If you soak them in water before frying they will end up slightly less greasy, but then they will splutter more (and you will still need a lot of oil). Take care that the eggplant is tender, it’s one of those vegetables you never want al dente. Place on a kitchen towel to drain out excess oil, flip and drain the other side too (or pat with a kitchen towel).

Mix the walnuts, cilantro, garlic and enough vegan mayo to bind it together. Take about a meatball-sized lump of the filling (depending on the size of the slice – my rolls are a bit too thick), place on one end of an eggplant and roll. Serve as a snack, appetizer or side dish, in room temperature or warmed up. Makes enough for 4-8 people. Because of the nuts they are more filling than they seem.

Peri peri kari, or “shrimp” in a spicy sauce (Mozambique)

Posted in Africa, Protein main dishes on June 20th, 2013 by Maija Haavisto — Be the first to comment!

Mozambique is a large country located on the coast of Southeast Africa. For almost 400 years it was a colony of Portugal, which has left major cultural influence on the country. Portuguese remains the official language, even though most people speak a Bantu language as their native tongue. After gaining independence in 1975, Mozambique lapsed into a civil war that lasted until 1992, but since 1994 it has been a multiparty presidential republic. It is one of the poorest countries in the world. The economy is heavily based on aluminium. However last year large natural gas reserves were found in Mozambique, so both of these might be subject to change. Football, music and dance are very important and wooden carvings, including elaborate masks, are the most traditional type of visual art.

Portuguese cuisine and imports from other Portuguese colonies, like cassava and cashew nuts from Brazil, have significantly influenced the cuisine of Mozambique. A wide range of spices is in use, such as bay leaves, ginger, saffron, nutmeg, paprika, garlic, fresh coriander and especially fiery peri peri chilies. Peanuts, coconut, onions and tomatoes also lend their flavours to dishes. Chicken, other meats, fish and seafood are all popular, often prepared into spicy sauces. They are usually served with chutneys or relishes like mango chutney. Wine is also used as a seasoning, as in Portugal. Staple starches include potatoes, rice, maize, sorghum and millet. There is a wide variety of fruit, especially citrus fruit, and most desserts are based on fruit.

This recipe made for a relatively tasty dish, spicy of course. The brand of mock shrimp I used (from a Chinese store) turned out to be rubbery and bland, so luckily the sauce was flavorful. I had happened to buy lemon thyme just before making this, too, but it can be quite hard to find (unless you grow it yourself, garden stores often have it and it’s quite lovely).

Peri peri kari

Peri peri kari

10 oz/300 g vegetarian “shrimp” (or cubed tofu)
1 tsp Malawi curry powder
3 tbsp coconut oil or peanut oil
2 tsp chopped garlic
1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 tsp peri peri paste (or other very hot chilies)
2 medium-size ripe tomatoes, minced
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon thyme (or scant 1 tsp thyme with a little lemon zest)
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
2 tsp paprika powder
0.5 cups/120 ml “chicken” broth or vegetable broth
coarse sea salt to taste

Heat 1 tbsp coconut oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Add the garlic and “shrimp”.

Add the remaining oil to the pan and when melted add the onions. Reduce the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring continually, until the onions soften and begin to brown (about 4 minutes).

Stir-in the peri-peri paste, tomatoes, lemon juice, lemon thyme, parsley, paprika and the broth. Cook for about 3 minutes, or until the tomatoes soften and the sauce thickens.

Serve hot with rice. Makes about 3 portions.

Crnogorska corba od kopriva, or nettle soup (Montenegro)

Posted in Europe, Stews and soups on May 18th, 2013 by Maija Haavisto — 2 Comments

Montenegro is a country in the Balkan, formerly a part of Yugoslavia. It has a fairly low population, only 620,000 people. After dissolution of Yugoslavia it remained in union with Serbia and only gained independence in 2006. Montenegro is perhaps best known for its mountains and mountainous regions. It is also a highly biodiverse area with the highest biodiversity index of all European countries. There is even some rainforest left. Tourism is very important for the country. Besides the mountains and canyons it focuses on the beaches and picturesque coastal towns. The Montenegrins are rather fond of sports, especially team sports from football to the unofficial national sport of water polo, as well as chess and a traditional circle dance called oro.

The Montenegrin cuisine has been influenced by e.g. Italy, Greece and Hungary. The coastal area is more Mediterranean with plenty of seafood, while in other parts more oriental food is served. Homemade bread is served at every meal, bread can be made with rye, wheat, barley or corn. Meat and dairy products are important. Nettles, collard greens, cabbage, beans and mushrooms are commonly used. Most dishes are soups, stews or porridges. They may feature potatoes, rice, cornmeal or noodles. Pastries, pies and salads are common too. Spices aren’t used very much. Pomegranate juice is a popular drink. Dessert is usually just fruit, sweets, often featuring nuts, honey and fruit, are served on their own.

This recipe is hardly very exciting, but I wanted to post more recipes with wild vegetables, especially stinging nettles, which are in season now on the Northern hemisphere. They grow widely, are tasty and not at all bitter like many greens, especially wild greens. They can be used like spinach but are far more nutritious, especially containing huge quantities of iron, calcium and vitamin C, as well as some anti-inflammatory substances. Eating nettles regularly could even help your hayfever. This soup is quite mild and plain as could be expected, some other spices, perhaps nutmeg, would help make it molre flavorful. However, it gets much tastier by the next day, so I’d recommend making it a day in advance.

Crnogorska corba od kopriva

Crnogorska corba od kopriva

1 lbs/450 g young top shoots of nettles, well washed
1 quart/1 litre water
oil for frying
2 potatoes, diced small
1 bunch spring onions, coarsely chopped
50 g short-grain rice, cooked
a little soy cream, cashew butter or similar
salt to taste

Use gloves and scissors or knife to pick the nettles. Use only young plants, or if using a bit taller ones, only pick the tops (but don’t use ones that are already flowering). Don’t pick them near outhouses or other terrains very rich in nitrogen. While still wearing gloves, cut the leaves off and discard the stems. Wash the nettles well. Steam the nettle leaves until just wilted. Puree with half of the water.

Fry the spring onions and potatoes in oil for a few minutes. Add the rest of the water. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the rice, cream, salt and the nettles and continue simmering until the potatoes are tender. Add more water if it seems too thick. Serve hot. Makes 4-5 portions.

Curried baked “beef” with yoghurt and fruit (Kyrgyzstan)

Posted in Asia, Protein main dishes on April 17th, 2013 by Maija Haavisto — Be the first to comment!

Kyrgyzstan is a country in Central asia, a former member of the USSR. It is landlocked and farther from a sea than any other country in the world. 80 % of the country is made up by a mountainous area. Historically the Kyrgyz have been mostly semi-nomadic herders living in yurts. Horse riding remains important. Despite plenty of gold resources, the country is very poor and the number of people living in poverty is growing. Football and wrestling are very popular, with ice hockey and bandy also increasing in popularity. Kyrgyzstan is troubled by political and ethnic conflicts, frequently leading to unrest. Some politicians have fled the country, others have been arrested or even assassinated.

The Kyrgyz cuisine is most similar to Kazakh cuisine, with horse meat and mutton being very important. Other meats and fish are eaten too (except for pork, as most people are Muslims). Cabbage, onion and peppers are among the most popular vegetables. Nuts are eaten a lot, one specialty is a sweet preserve made from young walnuts. Food preparation stems from the nomadic history, so focus has been on preservation. Food is often greasy with oil or sheep fat. Both rice and noodles are used. Food in Northern Kyrgyzstan has traditionally been bland, while fresh herbs and other spices are used more in the South. Naan bread with tea is a traditional meal served to guests. There are several popular fermented drinks, made with mare’s milk or grains. Honey is used for sweetening.

This dish originally comes from Celtnet, as many Vegventures recipes. I veganized it by leaving out the eggs. It was okay, but even though I like dried fruit, it felt a bit too sweet.

Curried baked “beef”

Kirgiz baked "beef"

1 lbs/450 g seitan (or other mock meat), cut into 1 cm dice
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 medium green bell pepper, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup/120 ml plain soy yoghurt
1 tsp corn starch
1 apple, diced
2.5 oz/75 g dried apricots, chopped
1.4 oz/40 g seedless raisins
1.4 oz/40 g dried prunes, pitted and chopped
1 tbsp curry powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly-ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 170C/340F. Heat the oil on a frying pan. Fry the onion and bell pepper until soft, about 6 minutes. Add the cubed seitan and brown a bit. Turn off the heat and sprinkle in the cornstarch fairly evenly.

Combine all the ingredients in a casserole dish and mix well. Cover and bake for about 30 minutes. Serve hot.