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Nova Scotian Hodge Podge with Tuna

Nova Scotia’s Hodge Podge, with Tuna

Nova Scotia’s Hodge Podge is a homey one-pot supper of fresh potatoes, carrots, peas and green beans. What takes it over the top? The addition of heavy cream and butter, along with a few pearl onions for mild sweetness. A gardener’s delight While there are different ways to go about making Hodge Podge, one thing is for certain: it’s best made straight from the garden, when vegetables are fresh and abundant, just as in the eastern Canadian province that lends its name to this dish. Fresh is fresh. In my research I discovered locals prepare Hodge Podge with baby potatoes just 50-60 days in the ground and the gangling carrots pulled to thin the garden bed. This is a foreign concept to someone who doesn’t grow their own vegetables, but it makes sense in verdant Nova Scotia. When a garden does well, it can produce so much food, it has to be used up throughout the growing season, not just in a final harvest. Farm life is common in the province, as are farmer’s markets – …

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Zambian Pumpkin and Peanut Oatmeal Recipe

Zambian Pumpkin n’ Peanut Oats: To keep Mermaids away

Forget what you know about The Little Mermaid. Zambia’s infamous mermaid, Chitapo, is no dewy-eyed, red-haired princess. To set eyes on this fierce water spirit, paddle along the Zambian/Congolese waterways – along Lake Namulolobwe, down Victoria Falls, into any number of smaller ponds. You might even find her cresting the salty Atlantic. How will you know it’s her? See that shadow caught up in a whirlwind? An elusive figure sunning on a rock, with the body of a woman and the tail of a fish or serpent? That’s Chitapo. Beware: Beautiful Chitapo is not content to observe humans from afar. Pay attention if things seem amiss in your village. Did a woven mat or a few beloved baskets vanish, then reappear a few days later? Is a neighbor’s missing collection of pots and pans now floating on the murky lake? Chitapo pushes this shiny bait in the shallows, luring unsuspecting victims to their untimely death. Tempted to wade into the water to retrieve these prizes? Think you can outwit, or out-muscle this water spirit? Good luck. Even those with unflinching biceps and …

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Swedish Cheese Custard Recipe

Swedish Cheese Custard

“Winters are long in Sweden,” Alex reminded me. I’d just flipped to the Swedish Cheese Custard in my 100-year old copy of the “Pan Pacific Cookbook” and lifted my eyebrows. My eyebrows lifted further as I scanned the main ingredients – cheese, eggs, and milk. She laughed and nodded. Turns out Cheese Custard is a dairy farmer’s happy place. Perfect after a casual ski through deep snow. But one question remained… Is cheese custard good? Cheese custard is a question mark on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. We don’t typically eat savory chilled custards. But Swede’s know it is a silky, indulgent affair. It’s as if someone took the ingredients to a quiche and mixed them up – there’s fewer eggs, more cheese and much more milk. All that milk? It makes for a delicate spoonful. The most fun? As the custard cools the cheese creates a soft, flaky crust. The golden top looks similar to the crust of France’s often swooned over crème brûlée. My friend recommended using Jalsburg cheese – unless you can find Sweden’s whiskey-cured Prästost. Jalsburg gives the custard a mild, nutty flavor with a little extra …

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Victoria Sponge Cake Recipe inspired by Mary Poppins

British Victoria Sponge Cake

Imagine a cake good enough to eat upside down. This Victoria Sponge Cake is 100% inspired by Mary Poppins – that lovable British nanny at the heart of  countless quirky adventures – and, yes, it’s that good. The recipe is mentioned in Mary Poppins: 80th Anniversary Collection, which I gave my daughter for Valentine’s Day. A note on these books: P.L. Travers’s collection goes well beyond the parameters of the Disney movie – the floating tea party scene at the heart of the film can be found on page 42, barely cracking the spine of this 1024 page classic. Every night at bedtime we settle into a new chapter, following the 5 Banks children on another adventure. They paint the sky, eat gingerbread stars, hang out with the constellations at a circus in space, and travel the world with a compass – and all that within the first few hundred pages. Mary Poppins not only never explains their adventures once they’re over, she insists she has no idea what the children are talking about. More than buttoned up, Mary Poppins is flat out strict, yet the children always have fun when she’s …

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Honeymoon Smoothie | عصر المتزوجين

How do you know it’s springtime in Yemen? So much of Yemen is dusty: sand overwhelms the northern stretches in an area called “Rub’ al Khali” or the “Empty Quarter”; even ancient skyscrapers are made of sun-baked mud, as can be found in the town of Shibam. But… like a mirage, there’s another, glimmering view of Yemen. Between the dusty cliffs of the Hadramout desert lies a valley of prickly trees and honey bees, where one of the world’s great aphrodisiacs accumulates in golden pools. This is Sidr Honey, a.k.a. jujube honey. Every year, semi-nomadic beekeepers flock to the Do’an Valley, where the sweet fragrance of the jujube tree sets the bees into motion. The resulting honey is said to be a tremendous aphrodisiac. And what do you do with an aphrodisiac? You drink it, of course. Honeymoon Smoothie عصير المتزوجين is a love potion of sorts – a honey-laced smoothie meant to sweeten marriage and to help single folks find true love. I call it a “honeymoon smoothie,” though I read that the literal translation is “married couples juice.” Inside you’ll find everything …

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besan doodh recipe

Besan Doodh: A Drink Worthy of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, Malala & Kailash

One thought crossed my mind every time I took a sip of the Besan Doodh. The thought overwhelmed the bold cardamom and it distracted from the warm milk tinged with saffron. A small thing, really – a sentence, again and again, bringing tears to my eyes. “I didn’t clip her wings.” These are the words of Malala Yousafzai’s father. Malala is a young woman from Pakistan – just 17 years old. She is easily the greatest superstar in the peace movement right now thanks to her unapologetic opposition to those who would keep girls from receiving an education. Though she’d been blogging for the BBC since she was 11, the whole world paid attention when she took a shot to the head on the way to school at age 15, two years ago. As of Friday, Malala is the world’s youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner and the first Pakistani winner. In a nice nod to her work for children’s education, she found out about the award during chemistry class. Malala’s father was the first person to write a girl’s name on the family …

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Zimbabwe Candy Cake | Chikenduza

Candy. Cake. From Zimbabwe. Given the name… and the fact that we needed a celebration recipe (this being the last recipe of our ‘official’ adventure to eat a dish from every country in the world)… well, I had to make it. That’s not to say there weren’t other choices for celebration food. I could have made sweet potato cake (spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg) or sliced mango with custard. But I was sold when I saw the shiny pink glaze on the mound of cakey bread. I would have never known this cake existed, if it weren’t for several homesick Zimbabweans who shared their pinings on Fiso’s Kitchen. This is a treat you’d find in Zimbabwe’s city bakeries. From what Fiso says, Candy Cakes are usually big and dense, made in a double a standard muffin, but I made mini ones in my muffin tin so I wouldn’t have to go buy special equipment. Though her version is yeasty, she also mentions a recent trend of baking powder being used in Zimbabwe’s Candy Cake. Personally, I’m …

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Swedish Princess Cake | Prinsesstårta

They say this spring green dome from the 1930’s made with layers of sponge cake, raspberry jam, custard, and whipped cream is DIFFICULT. Everyone says so, in fact, except for the Swedes. Curious, right? I finally figured out why: Swedish folk have great recipes and three quarters of a century’s worth of tips and tricks up their sleeves. Like, ahem, pre-rolled marzipan and boxed custard. I even saw one Swedish video which used prepacked cake, already sliced in thirds. “We all start out as children.” This Swedish Proverb hints at what I learned, first hand, when making this cake: we must crawl before we can walk, we must be children before we are grown. Experience comes one step at a time. Considering I made each part of this cake 3 times, and messed it up terribly along the way… I thought you might benefit from my errors. So, do forgive me, but before we get into the recipe, I must tell you about the top five mistakes I made when making this cake, so you don’t do …

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South Africa’s Bobotie

Are you ready for a big bite of everything, ever? South Africa’s Bobotie (ba-boor-tea) reminds me of when I was a little girl, playing in the kitchen next to mom. I’d dump every possible ingredient into my little inventions, hoping they’d come out amazing. While chopped apples and pickles didn’t pan out when I was a kid, bobotie most decidedly does. But don’t worry – there’s no apple or pickle in it. So what is in it? Some people call Bobotie South African Moussaka, but I’m not convinced that gives the dish enough credit. My friend Janine says Bobotie is from the Cape Malay region and belies much more Indian influence. At her most basic, Bobotie is a spiced meat casserole topped with egg custard and a few bay leaves. Inside, you’ll find everything from rich curry power, to garlic, ginger, lemon juice, raisins, and almonds. There’s even a scoop of chutney. While this all sounds incredibly overwhelming, the ingredients mellow as they cook. Still not sure? Trust years of history: there’s a reason South Africans love this …

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Braided Heart Bread | Pleteno Srce

We are closing in on spring …  that special time of year, when weddings and baby showers sprinkle our calendars, and everything is awash in the promise of new love. In Slovenia, such times are marked with Pleteno Scre – an ornamental, braided, tender loaf of bread, shaped into a heart. Pleteno Scre is an honored gift. The slightly sweet loaves are painstakingly decorated with edible tokens, like wedding rings and flowers (as I have done), or even astonishingly detailed birds, or paper thin leaves that seem to crackle under the slightest breeze. This art form takes time to master, so I stuck with simple flowers, a wreath, and rings. The best part is that this is something you can do as a family. Little ones love to have a piece of dough to play with. Mashing and rolling, twisting and turning – it’s what they do best. Ava didn’t even want to make any shapes for the heart – she just wanted to play next to me, while I worked. It was sweet. And …

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Slovak Sour Bean Soup

When winter raindrops slide down the glass… when the droplets are  so close to ice that they sting on my wind-chapped face… there’s nothing better than a piping hot bowl of soup. Thankfully for me, Slovakia knows what’s what in this department. The fine people of Slovakia could probably make this staple soup with their eyes shut, and – for the first part, at least – that’s exactly what they do. While the house slumbers under the bright moon, a quiet bowl of bean sits in the shadows, soaking overnight. In the morning, after a big stretch, the softened beans are put to a bubble with bits of bacon (or perhaps a ham hock), potato, and – not to be forgotten – a splash of vinegar. The whole thing is thickened with sour cream and flour (or sometimes cream). The result is a bowl of warm, thick goodness – but of course every family has their own version… versions so good, you’ll want to snag a bite (or three) from under each other’s noses.   While traditional …

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Blueberry Bublanina | Bubbly Cake

From early springtime all the way into the deep heart of fall, Slovakia’s mountains and hills burst with nature’s bounty. For those who search, a perpetual harvest reveals herself. Here, trees swoon with the weight of delightfully sour cherries, juicy, grapes, apricots, and apples. There, bushes bloom with blueberries, woodsy and sweet. This land, surely, is magic. When there is more fruit than can be gathered in an apron, Slovakia makes Bublanina, a.k.a. Bubbly Cake. Just one secret makes this slightly sweet cake light and fluffy: whipped egg whites. Fruit, sliced, chunked, or left whole, is scattered across the foamy surface and, as the cake puffs up in the oven, it bubbles around the fruit. Some fruit sinks down. Some fruit does not. Once out of the oven, the whole thing is covered with a cloud of powdered sugar, until even the air around it tastes sweet. It’s all kinds of whimsical and the perfect way to ring in the hope of spring (I promise it’s coming – I even witnessed a few daffodil leaves …

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