Around the world in 14 Dinners - Week One round-up

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The lockdown has spun my cooking onto a new level. At least in terms of quantity and variety if not always quality. I now have time to prepare us a proper meal every night and because shopping is so difficult I have become very organised about our weekly menus. I always used to meal plan, even when we were still allowed to go to the office, do you remember? The times when in the morning you put on make up, actually styled your hair a little, put on proper clothes including a bra, hopped in your car with your thermos coffee and zoomed along the M1. Then flashed your ID-badge at the automatic door and clip-clopped to your office in your high-heeled pumps.

Or travel. For me this was pretty much a weekly occurence, breezing through Heathrow with my little trolley bag, picking up a tuna baguette and a bottle of sparkling water from the Pret at the A gates in terminal 5. Opening the sparkling water too quickly and ending up spraying myself almost every time. Being picked up by a chatty taxi driver at 8 am in Newcastle international, the thick Geordie accent indecipherable even if my brain had had a chance to wake up. Busy day in the office and the evening run on the North Sea coast and call to husband from the bed in the quaint old-world hotel with an impressive but wonky staircase.
The fabulous staircase at The Grand Hotel Tynemouth. The stairs are not as straight as they look and they almost make you feel like you are drunk. And let's be honest, depending on whether any fun colleagues are staying as well we may have a couple of drinks in the downstairs bar. 
But yes, even then I meal planned. Sometimes in a meeting, maybe in one of our regular quality reviews or a 6 sigma project update, I would scribble in my notebook, glancing towards the screen every once in a while and nodding sagely as if listening and taking notes, when in reality I was writing down the weekend's menu and shopping list trying to decide if Greek was better or we should go Italian.

But now because I don't have to / can't go to the office or travel and because eating is one of the few allowed entertainments (husband's doing pretty well on the Netflix front) I have made this into a bit of an art form. So every night I want it to be something a little bit special. I haven't cooked the same meal since the lockdown started. So that's where the 14 days world travel idea came from. Or originally it was 7 days, but there were so many things I wanted to cook that I had to extend the holiday.

I am still of two minds whether I should do another week. I have more recipes to do, but I might give husband a week's respite with more familiar favourites. We will see. I have to decide by Sunday night because that's when my weekly food order needs to be finalised and all ingredients must be in, because I hate going into the shops now. It is just such an uncomfortable and even scary experience. There is always someone who hasn't heard of social distancing and you are scared to touch anything and try to do the whole thing using your elbows and knuckles and in the end you forget half of what you went in for, and are scared to touch anything or breath until you've had a full body decontamination. So I do one big online shop a week and that will have to do.

So here was week 1.

Norway - Fårikål



Our successful start of the culinary World Tour was this simple and humble three-ingredient (plus salt and pepper) lamb and cabbage dish fårikål. Many Northern and Eastern European countries have their own version of this dish.



Mexico - Chicken Fajitas


It was Cinco de Mayo so it had to be Mexican. Or maybe this was more Tex Mex. Mexican is a cuisine that I haven't really delved into much. I mean the authentic Mexican cuisine beyond my moose tortilla lasagne which I don't think originates on the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico.

But this was fun and delicious and tasted of lime and cumin.


Ukraine - Borscht and Pampushki


As fun as it sounds the experience to half our our travelling party was a step too far. For someone who doesn't like beetroot this clearly is not the ideal dinner. But just as a useful tip, don't keep your aversion a secret. It is a bit embarrassing not to like something as innocent as beetroot, but be a man, don't hide if from the wife for 18 years, otherwise this is what you get.


Turkey - Gözleme




This was a revelation. I can't wait to do these lovely filled pancakes again. You can fill your gözleme with anything. I think spinach and feta are quite a traditional choice as is minced lamb. I added a layer of shredded halloumi for extra cheesy ooziness. After a slavic hiccup we were back on track.

Sweden - Jansson's frestelse




I didn't realise how much I missed this little weirdo, Jansson's Temptation or Jansson Frestelse in Swedish, a potato gratin with sprats posing as anchovies. Salty and... well, potatoey. Wonderful eaten al fresco with some gorgeous baked seabass on a warm bank holiday Friday night. 



Greece - Moussaka



Full of fresh herbs and vegetables, lemon and feta, one of my favourite cuisines without a doubt is Greek. It takes me back to our magical honeymoon on the little island of Santorini, so beautiful, white and blue that you think it was build to be a film set. And us two, so happy and in love, which of course we still are, and me still so slim after all the bloody running and dieting for the wedding. I would have walked around in my bikini all day every day. Which I didn't as a modest young (not very) wife. So whenever I can cook something authentically Greek or inspired by Greece I am happy. Moussaka hasn't been on my list much, but it is a wonderful dish and will have to feature a lot more in future.

Meadow flowers, which probably are not supposed to be picked, it wasn't really a completely wild meadow and it took a lot of encouragement from husband for me to gather enough courage to go for this criminal act. And then we slinked home through back alleys because I was scared we'd get caught. By the meadow flower protection squad. I wouldn't make much of a criminal. 

Indonesia - Beef rendang





The further away from Europe we travel the less confident I get. I am not a master of many of the wonderful Asian kitchens. But according to a CNN list the world's most popular food is Rendang. I don't know how they came to this conclusion, but there it is. So I had to include it. Also I have quite a lot of chuck and brisket in my freezer, so I thought let's bravely go for it and added some lemon grass and coconut milk on my shopping list. I didn't have exactly all the ingredients called for in various recipes, but I kind of combined a couple of different ones (this and this) and threw in stuff a bit Swedish Chef-like. I cooked it in the oven, just because it's easier and I could leave it while we went for our daily walk. I probably even overcooked it, the meat was literally falling apart. But boy was it amazing.


So there it was, our first week. Lovely things, all of which I will definitely be cooking again. Even the borscht - I would love to cook it for my parents one day, if they ever lift the travel restrictions and I get to visit them again.

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