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

Posted in Africa, Other 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, Other 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.

“Shrimp” with mushrooms and dill (Cayman Islands)

Posted in Caribbean, Other main dishes on March 21st, 2013 by Maija Haavisto — Be the first to comment!

Cayman Islands are a “British Overseas Territory” consisting of three small islands located in the Caribbean. Columbus originally called them Las Tortugas (tortoises), but soon later they were named after the caiman, a close relative of the alligator. There is no evidence of indigenous inhabitation before the settlers arrived. Nowadays the place is best known as a tax haven, as there are no direct taxes. The population is only a little over 50,000 and there are more registered businesses than people. The Cayman Islands are also a popular tourist destination, especially for scubadiving.

The cuisine of Cayman Islands is quite similar to the rest of the Caribbean, especially to Jamaica, with surprisingly little British influence. It includes plenty of fish, seafood (especially conch), coconut, peppers, plantains, breadfruit and cassava, which is also made into a dessert pudding called heavy cake. Turtle meat is also popular. Both jerk seasoning and curry powder are commonly used to season foods. Traditionally most dishes have been slow-cooked stews of fish/seafood, starchy vegetables and other vegetables, often with coconut milk and chili. Vinegar, tomatoes, onions, lime juice and mango are also used as seasonings. More recently rice and peas (rice, red peas and coconut milk) has gained popularity.

This recipe which I veganized, comes from Wuzzle, originally apparently from Tropical Cookbook. I bought the mock shrimp from Chinatown, frozen with a non-descript label (there are also canned brands). They look eeriely like real peeled shrimp, stripes and all, but the taste was a disappointment. Bland with a somewhat rubbery texture. But there are other vegetarian “shrimp” products which are probably better. The dish was pretty okay – though would have been a lot better with better “shrimp”!

“Shrimp” with mushrooms and dill

Mock shrimp with dill

7 oz/200 g mock shrimp (see notes)
3 tbsp margarine or coconut oil
1 lbs/450 g fresh mushrooms
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup/0.6 dl flour
2 tbsp dry white wine
1 tbsp brandy
1 1/4 cups/3 dl non-dairy milk
1/4 cup/0.6 dl non-dairy cream
1 tbsp fresh dill or 1 tsp dried
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the mushrooms and garlic in the margarine/oil for 2 minutes. Add the “shrimp” and flour and stir to mix. Gradually whisk in milk, cream, brandy and wine. Cook until mixture becomes very thick. Add remaining ingredients and serve with rice. Makes four servings.

Salad de mangue, or mango and pineapple salad (Niger)

Posted in Africa, Desserts and sweets, Salads on February 23rd, 2013 by Maija Haavisto — 2 Comments

Niger, not to be confused with the neighbouring Nigeria, is a large (almost twice as big as Texas) landlocked country in Central/Western Africa. With just 15 million inhabitants it is much more sparsely populated than Nigeria, which houses 170 million people. It is a very poor country and has the second poorest human development index in the world. A lot of the country consists of the Sahara desert (explaining the low population) and much of the rest is threatened by desertification. Low education and extremely low literacy also cause problems. After a tumultuous recent history, with many coups and military governments, a 2010 coup left Niger lead by a junta again, but the 2011 elections were judged free and fair.

The Nigerien cuisine has some French, Portuguese and British influences and obviously also from North, Central and West Africa. Nigerien meals usually start with a salad of seasonal vegetables. The main dish is starch, usually millet or rice but sometimes couscous, served with a sauce or stew, generally based on greens, other vegetables and legumes because meat (usually goat, mutton, fish or chicken, but also beef) is more expensive. Restaurants usually serve grilled meat, though. Food tends to be hot and spicy and may be seasoned with ginger, nutmeg, cumin, cinnamon, saffron, cloves and lemon juice. Often there’s a lot of peanut oil as well. Tea is a popular drink.

This is a very simple fruit salad recipe, not particularly exotic, but definitely tasty. My picky husband doesn’t usually like mango, because he finds properly ripe mango too sweet, but there’s so much lemon in it that it tones down the sweetness, so he was a big fan. You really need a properly ripe fresh mango, in my experience frozen mango usually isn’t sweet enough. This dish is supposed to be served from lettuce cups, but I wasn’t able to buy lettuce.

Salad de mangue

Salad de mangue

1 ripe mango, cubed
1/4 fresh pineapple, peeled and cubed
1/4 cup/0.6 dl fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup/1.25 dl apricot nectar or orange juice
lettuce leaves
strawberries, to garnish

Combine cubed fruit and the juices. Serve on lettuce cups or bowls, garnished with the strawberries. Makes 3-4 portions.

Mushrooms with caraway (Czech)

Posted in Europe, Side dishes on January 19th, 2013 by Maija Haavisto — 4 Comments

I have some bad news for Vegventures fans. My health has been extremely poor, with about 5-10% of my previous functionality, since 23rd November 2011. I was already ill with an infectious neurological illness before that, but was pretty functional thanks to proper treatment. Unfortunately hypopituitarism, one complication of that illness, gets permanently worse (sometimes much worse) from even short-lived acute stress and my health has been likely permanently sabotaged by other people.

I’ve tried to keep up with Vegventures, but it’s hard when I can hardly cook these days and writing the posts also takes a lot of energy. I have also had to stop working on my vegan cookbook, which I already have a contract for and which was originally supposed to be published almost a year ago (any idea how frustrating this is!). I will have to reduce the posting frequency on this blog from three posts a month to 1-2 a month until further notice, likely permanently. With that change I hope to be able to complete the project – cook a dish from every cuisine (as explained/defined in more detail here).

Anyway, today we’re traveling to the Czech republic, which is in Central Europe (pretty much at the center of it) and until 1993 formed the country Czechoslovakia together with Slovakia. Its geography is very varied, with many low mountains. Czech republic has a rich tradition of music, literature, glass art, theatre, sports and science. It is one of the least religious populations in the world. The main export is cars and car parts, followed by electronic components. Czech is a popular tourist destination, especially the capital Prague (Praha). Future adoption of the Euro will likely increase tourism further. One of the tourist attractions is beer, especially beer festivals, but also national parks, spa towns, puppet festivals and the biggest waterpark in Central Europe.

The Czech cuisine is heavy on meat, more so than before, as well as eggs and dairy, e.g. sour cream. Meals usually start with a soup. Dumplings are a popular dish, filled with e.g. smoked meat, spinach or sour cabbage. Food may be served with potatoes, buckwheat, millet, rice or noodles, braised cabbage is a common side dish. Barley is used too. Bread is made with rye, wheat, or a combination, and usually flavored with spices. Popular vegetables include bell peppers, peas, carrot, celery, turnip, cauliflower, beet, tomatoes, onion, leek, spinach and kale. Mushrooms are a common ingredient, as they grow plentifully in the Czech forests, and they are prepared in many different ways. Desserts include e.g. cakes, pastries (often containing fruit, nuts and/or poppy seeds) and fruit dumplings.

This recipe is very simple, but the caraway adds an unusual taste to it. It is very earthy, complementing the earthiness of the mushrooms. I used a mushroom mix with chestnut mushrooms and two other types of mushrooms. I changed the recipe a bit, as it was quite greasy and you get much better results if you first fry mushrooms without any fat.

Mushrooms with caraway (Czech)

Czech mushrooms

4 tbsp margarine or coconut oil
1/2 cup/1.2 dl finely chopped onion
1 lb/450 g fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp caraway seed
salt and black pepper, to taste

Fry mushrooms on a dry pan (you can add a splash of water if needed) until they have exuded their juices and most of them have evaporated. Remove from the pan. Fry the onions until translucent, 4-6 minutes. Add the mushrooms, caraway seed and salt. Sauté for 10-15 minutes. Serve hot as a side dish.

Spicy brown beans (Suriname)

Posted in Other main dishes, South and Central America on December 31st, 2012 by Maija Haavisto — Be the first to comment!

Suriname is the smallest country in South America, located on its northeastern coast. very close to the equator. It is a former colony of the Netherlands and Dutch remains the official language. The population is only about 560,000, most of whom live in the north of the country. The largest ethnic group is Hindustanis from India, with Amerindians only forming a tiny minority. 80 % of the country consists of rainforest with very little inhabitation. Bauxite is the cornerstone of the economy. The Surinamese drive on the left side, even though the Dutch drive on the right.

The Surinamese cuisine has been heavily influenced by India and Indonesia and to a lesser extent e.g. Dutch, Chinese, Creole, Jewish, West African and Portuguese cuisines. Here in the Netherlands there are tons of Surinamese-Indonesian restaurants, though most Surinamese restaurants serve very similar food to Indonesian restaurants. A typical dish is roti, a large flatbread eaten with a vegetable or meat curry. Other dishes are served with noodles or rice, often Indonesian style fried rice. Caribbean influences show in the use of beans, cassava, plantains, sweet potatoes and okra. Chicken, fish, pork, coconut, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, lentils and peanuts are also used a lot. Some Surinamese dishes, especially sauces, can be very spicy, often quite greasy too.

I chose this recipe from the magazine of the AH grocery store chain, because the spices sounded quite interesting. It was fairly tasty, but very “earthy”, so I’d recommend some very fresh/cool tasting dishes to accompany it, like a green salad, cucumber and/or something with lemon, the recipe recommends a sweet and sour cucumber salad.

Spicy brown beans

Surinamese brown beans

2 tbsp oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 cm fresh ginger, finely chopped
200 g/0.45 lbs vegetarian “bacon”
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp vegetarian “chicken” bouillon powder
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 dl/0.4 cup water
3 red chilis, chopped and seeds removed
1 large can brown beans, or 2.5 cups freshly cooked brown beans
40 g leaf celery, finely chopped

Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the onion and ginger for a few minutes. Add the “bacon”, tomato puree, tomatoes, bouillon powder, nutmeg and the water. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add the chili, the beans and half of the leaf celery to the pan and simmer covered for 10 minutes more. Sprinkle with the rest of the leaf celery and serve hot with rice. Serves four.

Charoset, or dried fruit and nut sweets with spices (Yemen)

Posted in Desserts and sweets, Middle East on December 22nd, 2012 by Maija Haavisto — 1 Comment so far

Yemen is a fairly large country located in the very Southwest of the Arabian Peninsula, very close to Africa. Until 1990 it used to be two separate countries, North Yemen and South Yemen. The territory also includes over 200 islands, many of them volcanic, including the Socotra archipelago whose biodiversity has made it a UNESCO natural heritage site. Yemen is a Muslim country, but also largely a tribal society with some tribes having a caste system. During the 2011 Arab Spring there was a revolution in Yemen, like in many other nearby countries.

Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the Arab world, because it has smaller oil reserves than the neighbouring countries. The oil is still economically very important, which might soon bring a catastrophe as they are estimated to be depleted in 2017. Seafood, mango and cotton also important. Yemen struggles with huge population growth, large unemployment, lack of healthcare and lack of clean water. Football is very popular and some tribes practice camel jumping (people jump, not the camels).

Because Yemen used to be so isolated, the cuisine is quite different from the rest of the Middle East, with only slight Ottoman (Turkish) and Indian influences. It is currently very popular in other Arabic countries. Chicken, lamb and fish are popular, but dairy not so much, though buttermilk is consumed by some tribes. The national dish is saltah, a meat stew with fenugreek, skhug chili sauce and herbs, which may be eaten with rice, potatoes, scrambled eggs and vegetables. There are many traditional breads baked in tandoori oven. Hawayig is a spice blend containing aniseed, fennel seed, ginger, and cardamom. Both coffee and tea are popular, the latter often flavoured with cardamom, cloves and mint. Qishr is another common drink made with coffee husks and ginger.

Charoset is a traditional Yemenite holiday candy, I created my recipe by mixing two recipes: this and another one I misplaced and can’t find anymore. It is very similar to the common fruit and nut bars that everyone who has ever been into raw food has made, except with the addition of white wine and some less common spices. If you want to keep this fully raw, you could substitute for a little lemon juice, perhaps some apple juice, for the wine (or you could blend a few grapes, but it might adversely affect how long they keep).

I was surprised by how good the result was: the spices, lemon zest and wine combine to accent the figs (which are the only fruit you clearly taste, IMO) in a pleasant and quite sophisticated way. I also served them to a TV producer who was interviewing me who had seconds.

This recipe makes about 25 small balls, depending how large you roll them, of course. It’s a fine amount for eating by yourself or with family (not sure if kids would like these, hard to say), but if you want to serve them at a party or make for presents you should probably double the recipe. I don’t know how long they keep – normally nut and fruit bars keep pretty well in room temperature, but the wine makes them moister so if you are not eating them in a few days, I have stored mine in the fridge and they’re probably fine for at least three weeks.

Charoset

Charoset

1/4 cup/0.6 dl dried dates (remove stones if present!)
1/4 cup/0.6 dl raisins
1/4 cup/0.6 dl dried apricots
1/4 cup/0.6 dl dried figs
1/2 cup/1.2 dl almonds, or half almonds, half walnuts
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 pinch cumin
3 tbsp sweet white wine
sesame seeds for rolling

Soak the dried fruit in the white wine until absorbed (if some fruit are a lot drier than the others, only soak them). Grind the nuts fairly fine in a blender or food processor (don’t use a hand blender). Add all the other ingredients and process until fairly smooth (you probably have to mix with a spoon every now and then). Refrigerate for an hour. Shape into balls. Roll in sesame seeds (I had run out).

Maharagwe, or curried black-eyed beans in coconut milk (Mali)

Posted in Africa, Stews and soups on December 11th, 2012 by Maija Haavisto — Be the first to comment!

People know very little about Mali, considering that area-wise it is the 24th largest country in the world. Few would be able to place it on the map: it is in West Africa, landlocked. The natural resources include gold and uranium, but Mali is still one of the poorest countries in the world, with malnutrition and lack of clean water a major problem. A long time ago, however, it used to be the site of “one of the richest and largest empires of the world”, where art and science flourished. In the spring of 2012 there was a coup and it is currently lead by an interim government. Most of the country lies in Southern Sahara, but the southern part has a tropical climate. Music and literature are very important, as are football and basketball.

The staples of the Malinese cuisine are millet, corn, and rice (often made into porridge), sometimes couscous, served with sauces. Sorghum and pasta are eaten too. Common ingredients include fish, chicken, different meats, eggs, peanuts, sesame seeds, beans, tomatoes, onions, green bell peppers, cucumber, cassava, chili, eggplants, plantains, yams, okra, baobab leaves and sweet potato leaves. Many fruit are also popular, including watermelon, other melons, orange, mango and papaya. As in many African countries, Maggi cubes are are an ubiquitous seasoning. Tea is very important and there are two popular “national drinks”: jinjinbere (made of water, sugar, lemon, and ginger) and dabileni (made of water, sugar, and sorrel).

This recipe for a coconut milk based black-eyed bean curry didn’t appear particularly exotic or unusual (nor most the ingredients that are supposedly most popular in Mali), but it seemed tasty, and it was.

Maharagwe

Maharagwe

1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cans black-eyed beans (or about 3 cups/7.2 dl freshly cooked black-eyed beans)
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp chili powder
4 tbsp cilantro, chopped
1 1/2 cups/3.6 dl coconut milk
oil
salt

Heat the oil in a large pot or pan. Fry the onion and garlic until soft and golden. Partially mash the cooked peas with a fork and add to the onion. Add the tomatoes and mix well. Add the turmeric, red pepper, chili powder and half the cilantro. Pour in the coconut milk and stir to blend all the ingredients.

Cover the pot and leave to simmer for 10 minutes. Serve over rice or stirred into the rice, garnished with the remaining cilantro.

Oignons à la Monégasque, or sweet and sour onions (Monaco)

Posted in Europe, Side dishes, Starters and appetizers on November 30th, 2012 by Maija Haavisto — Be the first to comment!

Monaco is a tiny city state in Southern France near Nice and the Italian border. With an area of about 2 km2 it is the second smallest (after Vatican) and with its population of about 37,000 the most densely populated country in the world. The official language is French, while a minority speak Monégasque, a Ligurian language similar to several local Italian languages. It has the world’s highest GDP nominal per capita, highest life expectancy, lowest unemployment rate (0%) and the most expensive real estate market. It is a tax haven with no income tax and high business taxes. But Monaco also has a very long history, having been governed by the same royal family since 1297. The economy is built around tourism, especially casinos – which the citizens are not allowed to use.

The Monégasque cuisine is of course very similar to the French, with some Italian influences, but there are some special delicacies, like a pastry called barbagiuan with spinach or pumpkin and fougasse, another pastry with nuts and aniseed. Both meat and fish (especially cod) are very important parts of the cuisine. Cured and smoked hams are eaten a lot. Sweet and sour flavours are quite popular, created with tomato or sometimes lime juice. The only more “pheasant” specialty is socca, or chickpea flour pancakes. There are four(?) Michelin-starred restaurants in Monaco, including one with two stars and one with three stars.

I found these onions quite nice, though the flavour is still mostly onion with sweet and sour undertones – not very sweet or very sour. So if you like onions, you should like these. The recipe says they’re usually served as a snack, but I’d rather serve them as a side dish or as a part of buffet table.

Oignons à la Monégasque

Oignons à la Monégasque

675 g/1.5 lbs small pickling onions
2.25 dl/0.9 cup water
1 bouquet garni (wrap a sprig of thyme, parsley, bay leaf and a leafy celery top in a leek leaf and tie securely together, or use dried spices)
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
4 tbsp raisins
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp sugar
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Top and tail the onions with a sharp knife. Place in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside for 10 minutes, then drain the onions and slip off the skins (note: I didn’t succeed in doing this, so I had to peel them manually, but the blanching made it a lot easier). Cut a cross at the root end of each onion. This allows them to cook evenly and prevents the cores from popping out.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions and cook gently for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in all the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan and cook on low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid and simmer for a further 15 minutes, for the sauce to thicken. Stir constantly at this point to prevent the sauce from sticking. When ready the sauce should be very thick and the onions tender.

Check the taste for salt, sugar and vinegar. Cool to room temperature, remove the herbs (if using fresh, or at least the bay leaf if using dried) and serve.