Ireland – Irish Stew

As a child my idea of Irish stew was that thick grey gloop that used to come in a tin.  When you opened the tin the stew would come out in one piece and stand up in the pot still in the shape of the tin.  It really wasn’t good and I don’t want to think about what was in it to make it that distinctive grey colour.  Then on a trip to the Isle of Man to visit my family I experienced the real thing.  We were at an event with my great-Aunt, it was at a hotel on the promenade and it all seemed very posh to me.  I don’t remember the starter or the dessert but I do remember the wonderful bowl of steaming meaty stew that was served as the main course.  The meat fell to pieces as I tried to spear it with my fork; the carrots and potatoes were soft and infused with the juices of the lamb and the broth was perfect for soaking up with thick slices of buttery bread.  I have tried to replicate this dish many times but have never succeeded.  But perhaps as with many things from our childhood that we remember through rose tinted glasses it probably wasn’t that good just as I’m sure that every summer holiday from my childhood wasn’t rain free.

Here is my version of a traditional Irish stew.  It is easy to prepare and cook and if there is any left it freezes well for up to 3 months.  Enjoy with a side of peas and cabbage, some crusty bread and a bottle of red.

Irish Stew

Serves 6

  • 500g lamb neck fillet – trim off any thick pieces of fat or sinew and dice into 2cm pieces
  • 2 onions – thickly sliced
  • 6 carrots – sliced on the diagonal into 2cm pieces
  • 3 waxy potatoes – sliced into 2cm chunks
  • 4 turnips – quartered
  • 4tbsp pearl barley
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1.5l lamb stock
  • Salt & pepper to season
  • 1 tbsp parsley


Put everything except for the potatoes and salt & pepper in a large pot.  Cook the stew on a very low heat for 1 ½ hrs.

Add the potatoes by placing them on the top of the stew, do not stir in.   Cook for an hour.

Season the stew with the salt & pepper and top with the parsley.  Serve on its own or with some hot buttery soda bread and green vegetables.

Sweden – Meatballs

If King Minos was around today, rather than create an elaborate labyrinth in which to imprison the Minotaur I’m sure he would save himself some hassle and leave the minotaur in the middle of the kitchen section at Ikea.  Even Theseus with his ball of twine would not be able to find his way out of this winding, twisting maze of plates, cups and useless plastic hooks.  If like me you find Ikea infuriating, confusing and after your second circuit of the bed linen section you start to worry that you are never again going to see daylight, do you ever stop and ask why you are putting yourself through this?  Then you smell them and you remember why you keep returning.  You sniff again, you know they are somewhere nearby, if only you could find your way out of the oversized prints of New York section.  The little spicy balls coated in creamy, fruity sauce topped off with a big dollop of lingonberry sauce.  There is something very moreish about the meatballs at Ikea, they pop in your mouth and are gone in one bite, then the next, then the next, you keep going until you have wiped every last smear of sauce off the plate.  Then you stand up, clear away your plate and head back out into the maze knowing that even if you are destined to spend the rest of your days wandering aimlessly around the pot plant department you have provided your body with the sustenance to keep going.  Now you just need to find the bags of Daim nuggets and you will be able to take on anything.

If you don’t fancy wasting a day of your life traipsing around the big blue box here is my recipe for Swedish meatballs.

Swedish Meatballs

Serves 4-6


  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 350g pork mince
  • 250g beef mince
  • 1tbsp dill – roughly chopped
  • 1tbsp parsley – roughly chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 100ml milk
  • 75g dried breadcrumbs
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  • pinch of grated nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning

For the sauce

  • 400ml beef stock
  • 1 1/2tbsp plain flour
  • 75ml double cream
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tbsp cranberry sauce


In a large bowl mix together the herbs, beef & pork mince, egg, milk, breadcrumbs, mixed spice and nutmeg until completely combined – go on get your hands stuck in there.  Add a pinch of salt and pepper.

Clean you hands then roll the mix into balls – it makes 16 large balls or 24 small ones.  Put the meatballs on a tray, cover and put in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Put the oil in a large pan, add the meatballs and fry on a medium heat for 10-15 minutes for small meatballs or 15-20 for large ones.  Turn them over a couple of times so they brown on all sides.

Remove the meatballs from the pan and keep them warm.  Add the lemon juice, flour, cream and 100ml of the stock to the pan.  Stir well until the flour is mixed in.  Add the rest of the stock, the cranberry sauce and a pinch of salt and pepper, stir well, bring the mix to the boil, then reduce to a simmer until the sauce becomes thick.  Return the meatballs to the pan and coat in the sauce, cook for 2-3 minutes to re-heat the meatballs.

Serve with extra cranberry sauce, big fat chips and some peas.

Iraq – Shorbat Rumman (Lamb & Pomegranate Soup)

As a child I used to spend my summers in Newquay, eating huge Knickerbocker Glories, trying to learn to surf and coveting the latest ‘Fat Willy’ t-shirt (for those not familiar with this brand it’s best not to ask, or google it!).  We stayed with the parents of my Mum’s bestfriend in a terraced house that to a seven year old seemed palatial.  They had a strange oven in the corner of their dining room (an Aga) and cooked vegetables that they grew themselves; to someone familiar only with tinned sweetcorn and frozen peas this in itself was something to wonder at; I would look on in amazement as muddy carrots and potatoes just plucked from the earth were turned into my tea.  My one distinct memory is of the little silver pot that always appeared on the table for lunch and dinner.  It was filled with homegrown and homemade pickled beetroot and it was served with roast dinners, salads and even beans on toast.  I devoured the little purple discs, watching the little rivers of deep red run around my plate forcing themselves on the other flavours and colours.  I haven’t been to Cornwall for at least fifteen years but I still love beetroot, although the mess and fuss has led me to rely on the readymade pickled variety.  But when I saw this recipe in all its glorious purpleness I just knew that I would have to get my hands dirty.  The flavours are strong, the lamb competing with the pomegranate and the onions; but lurking in the background is the raw earthiness of the beetroot reminding me of summers spent building sandcastles and catching shrimps.

Shorbat Rumman

Serves 4 – 6

  • 2 Lamb shanks
  • 1 onion – finely chopped
  • 1.5l water
  • 125g yellow split peas
  • 2 raw beetroots – peeled and diced
  • 100g rice
  • 2 spring onions – chopped
  • 2tbsp sugar
  • 2tbsp lime juice
  • 2tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 2tbsp parsley – chopped
  • 50g spinach
  • 1tsp dried mint
  • Salt and pepper to season


The day before soak the yellow split peas (or for at least 8 hours).

Put the water, onion, yellow split peas and lamb in a large pot, bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer for 1 hour.

Add the beetroot and rice to the pot and cook for 30 minutes.

Remove the lamb from the pot, shred the meat off the bone, return the meat to the pot.

Add the spring onions, sugar, lime juice, pomegranate molasses and parsley to the pot, cook for five minutes.

Add the spinach and cook until just wilted.  Season with salt and pepper.

Serve topped with the dried mint and accompanied by lots of bread and butter.

Bulgaria – Pork Kavarma Kebap

One of the things that I am enjoying about doing this blog is all the research I have to do.  I know that sounds a bit potty, but I’m one of those people who has to research everything.  My husband will testify that before we go on holiday I buy all the relevant guidebooks, look at all the websites and often contact the local tourist information centre and ask them to send me even more information.  It drives him mad but he can’t complain as I always manage to find that hidden away gem that most tourists would bypass.  That is what I think I have found with this recipe.  Although Kavarma Kebap is a well known Bulgarian dish here the finished product is a mix of several recipes that I found during my investigations.  But here I also find a downside to all the research I am doing for this blog – the more I research I do the more variations I find of the traditional recipes.  For this dish some say add mushrooms, some say use beef, some (to my disgust) say don’t use wine, others don’t mind if you use red or white.  After a while it does make my head spin.  But I think the dish I finally put together is pretty amazing.  The pork is tender, the vegetables soft and sweet and the sauce is lightly spiced and moreish.  I served it with buttery noodles but I think it would go very well with some fresh crusty bread and butter.  The raw chilli and onion may sound a bit strange but they cook ever so slightly in the heat from the sauce and add a subtle kick that works well with the sweetness of the tomato sauce.

Pork Kavarma Kebap

Serves 2


  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 300g pork loin, cut into 1cm cubes
  • 1 carrot, sliced diagonally
  • 1 leek, cut into rings
  • 1tbsp tomato puree
  • 1tsp paprika
  • ½tsp ground black pepper
  • 150ml white wine
  • 250ml chicken stock
  • ¼ onion, finely chopped
  • ¼ red chilli, finely chopped
  • 1tbsp parsley, chopped
  • Salt for seasoning


Put the oil in a heavy based pot over a medium heat.  Add the pork and carrots, gently fry until the meat is browned.  Remove from the pot.

Add the leeks to the pot and cook until soft.

Add the paprika, tomato puree, pepper, wine and stock, mix well, season.  Return the pork and carrots to the pot, mix.  Turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes – 1 hour, until the sauce thickens.

Serve topped with the onion, chilli and parsley on a bed of buttery noodles.

Morocco – Chicken and Lemon Tagine

I love lemons.  I can’t explain how much I love them.  My favourite cake is lemon drizzle.  I love those sugar coated lemon slices you get at Christmas and don’t even get me started on Limoncello (or remind me of that night I spent trying all the free samples in Sorrento).  So when I decided to cook a Moroccan dish I was drawn straightaway to a tagine involving lemon.  I have never tried preserved lemons before (although claim to fame, Christine Hamilton once asked me for a jar of them when I worked in Sainsbury’s), but I thought they’re lemons what’s not to love.  Well how wrong I was.  The tagine smelt and tasted amazing but every now and then I would get a mouthful of metallic, soapy mush.  The little greeny, yellow morsels gave such a blast of flavour that every following mouthful was tainted by their intensity.  So, I don’t like preserved lemons, which is a bit annoying as now I have a giant (expensive) jar of them staring back at me every time I open my fridge.

Now you may think it strange that I have included a recipe that I didn’t like, but apart from the lemons the tagine was amazing, the chicken melted off the bone and the fennel yielded a sweet aniseed flavour that mixed perfectly with the seasoned couscous.  Also everyone else that tried it, liked it, lemons and all.  So if you are a fan of preserved lemons feel free to try the recipe as written, if not swap the lemons for a 100g green olives.  Whichever way you try it, enjoy!

Serves 4 – 6


  • 4 chicken legs
  • 4 chicken thighs (bone-in)
  • 1 bulb fennel – chopped into wedges
  • 2 onions – chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic – minced
  • 2 preserved lemons – deseeded and chopped
  • Pinch of saffron
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • Salt & pepper to season

For the Marinade

  • 1tsp ground cumin
  • 1tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1tsp ground ginger
  • 3tsp olive oil


Put the chicken in a bowl.  Mix the cumin, coriander seeds, ginger and oil together and use to coat the chicken pieces.  Cover and put in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Heat some olive oil in a tagine or casserole dish.  Fry a couple of pieces of chicken at a time, skin side down, until golden.

Put all the chicken in the pot and add the fennel wedges, onion and garlic.  Cook for a couple of minutes on a medium heat then add the saffron, lemons and stock.  Stir everything together and cover the pot with the tagine lid (or if using a casserole dish cover with foil and then the lid).  Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 1 ½ hours.  Half way through check the dish, if it looks dry add a splash of water.

When ready check for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.  Serve with hot couscous.

Japan – Tori Nabe

I have always enjoyed Japanese food, whether eating sushi in a restaurant or making my own restorative ramen dishes.  But I have always thought of the food as an Anglicised version of the original so I decided to find a traditional recipe.  The recipes I found for Nabe seemed to be quite flexible, adding different meats, vegetables and bases for the broth.  The recipe I settled on turned out to be quite bland, the kombu broth did not add enough flavour for my liking.  I tried it with some sliced chilli, as I would put in my own ramen dishes, but found that this overpowered the subtlety of the kombu.  After trying a variety of versions I settled on the one below.  The ginger adds some warmth and depth to the dish and complements the kombu rather than covering it up.  This is a great meal to serve for friends as there is very little preparation and served at the table it makes an interesting talking point.


Serves 4

  • 1 piece of dried kombu, or 1 litre chicken stock
  • 1cm cube ginger, grated
  • 6 boneless chicken thighs – cut into cubes
  • 1 block of firm tofu cut into 1cm cubes
  • 4 Savoy cabbage leaves, thinly sliced
  • Carrot – very finely sliced
  • a handful of spinach
  • 1 pack of mixed mushrooms, including shitake and enoki
  • 1 leek – thinly sliced
  • 1 pack of fresh udon noodles


Soy sauce

lemon or lime juice


Put the kombu in a pot and add 1 litre of water, leave to soak for 30 mins. Put on the hob and bring to the boil.  Simmer for 10 minutes, remove and finely slice, put to one side.  (Or if using stock bring to the boil.)  Add the ginger to the stock and continue to simmer.

Prepare all your ingredients. Add the chicken to the stock and cook for a couple of minutes, then add the tofu and vegetables (leeks, carrots, mushrooms, spinach, kombu) and noodles.  Skim off any scum that rises to the surface to keep the broth clear. Cook for 4-5 minutes until the noodles are soft.

Traditionally the nabe is served in the pot and the table and your guests help themselves, eating the meat, vegetables and noodles, then finishing off with the broth.  If you have a tabletop cooker you can provide extra vegetables and meat at the table and add these throughout, like a Japanese fondue!  Soy sauce and lemon or lime juice should be provided so your guests can season the nabe to their own taste.

Mexico – Chicken Enchiladas and Refried Beans

I have never really tried Mexican food – having an aversion to kidney beans and avocado meant that I avoided going to Mexican restaurants or trying any recipes.  All I can say is big mistake!  These enchiladas are delicious – they are sweet, spicy, cheesy, incredibly filling and without a kidney bean or pile of green mush in sight.  With the refried beans on the side and a bowl of tangy salsa they make a great meal.  Enjoy!
Chicken Enchiladas
Serves 2 very hungry people (or 4 with a selections of accompaniments)
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped fine (or 1tbsp if using from a jar)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1½  tsp sugar
  • 200g can passata
  • 125ml water
  • 3 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 100g cheddar cheese, grated
  • 4 soft corn tortillas
  • salt and ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 200°c
Put the onion, jalapeno, salt and oil in a large saucepan.  Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring until the onions and jalapeno have softened. Stir in the garlic, cayenne pepper, cumin, and sugar and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the passata, water, and chopped tomato. Bring to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes until it starts to thicken.
Put the chicken in the pan and cover with the sauce. Reduce the heat, cover,
and simmer until chicken is cooked. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
Strain the sauce through a sieve into a bowl, pressing the onion mixture to
extract as much liquid as possible.  Season sauce with salt and pepper.
Shred the chicken. Add to the onion mixture, 3 tbsp of the sauce and 50g of the
cheese. Stir to combine.
Heat a frying pan and dry fry each tortilla for 5 seconds per side.  Spread the tortillas on a clean work surface, and spoon ¼ of the chicken mixture down the centre of each. Tightly roll each tortilla and lay seam-side down in a baking dish and pour the remaining sauce on top. Top with the remaining cheese. Cover dish with foil, and bake for 20 minutes.
Remove foil and bake for another 5 minutes to brown the cheese.
Refried beans
  • 400g can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4tsp ground cumin
Put the beans into a saucepan and add enough water to just cover.
Add the onion, garlic and cumin and season with salt and pepper.
Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer for ten minutes.
Drain the mixture and mash.

Albania – Tave Me Presh

When I first found this recipe I didn’t have high expectations.  The ingredients were few and simple and there wasn’t much to the method.  But I was wrong – this is a delicious meal.  The fat from the lamb mince mingled with the vegetables creating the most amazing, buttery leeks I have ever had.  I would have been quite happy eating a plate of just the leeks and some toast.  I served the dish with some heavily buttered mashed potatoes, a glass of red and then melted away in enjoyment of this simple yet scrumptious meal.

Tave Me Presh (Baked Leeks)

Serves 4


  • 100ml olive oil
  • 4 leeks, cut into 2.5cm slices
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 450g lamb mince
  • 2tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 red peppers, de-seeded and chopped
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning
  • Vegetable stock


Put the oven on to 190°c.

Heat half the oil in a saucepan and fry the leeks until soft.

Put the leeks in a baking dish that has a lid.

Heat the remaining oil in the pan and fry the onions and mince until the mince is browned.

Add the tomato sauce, red pepper, seasoning and enough stock to cover and bring to the boil.

Pour the mixture over the leeks, cover and bake for 1 hour.

Serve hot with buttery mashed potato or rice.

Germany – Gulaschsuppe

So next on to Germany – and as you can see I’ve already given up on the alphabet!  First a bit of a confession – I’m not a fan of German food and wine.  I have been to Germany three times and have never had a great meal or experienced an incredible taste.  And don’t get me started on their obsession with putting almonds in all their cakes.  So with a feeling of dread in my stomach, I thought I would get Germany out of the way early and on a snowy winter’s night I decided to make some Gulaschsuppe – a dish somewhere between a soup and a stew.  And it actually wasn’t bad.  The soup is a thick mix of beef, potatoes and onion flavoured with paprika and caraway seeds and makes a wonderfully warming and filling meal when served with crusty bread.  Enjoy!


Serves 4


  • 500g beef cut in small cubes
  • 2tbsp oil
  • 3 onions chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1tbsp paprika
  • ½ tsp caraway seeds
  • 2tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 750ml beef stock
  • 125ml red wine
  • 5 medium potatoes cubed
  • Salt & pepper for seasoning


Put the oil in a large pot and add the meat to brown

Add the onions and garlic and fry until the onions are soft.

Add the paprika and caraway seeds, stir well to coat the meat.  Add the bay leaf and stock.  Bring to a boil, cover and then reduce to a simmer for about 45 minutes

Add the potatoes and simmer for a further 30 minutes.

Stir in the tomato paste and red wine; simmer for a further 15 minutes.

Season as required.  Remove the bay leaf.  Serve with crusty bread.

Afghanistan – Qabili Pilau

I couldn’t decide which of the 205 countries I should start the challenge with so I thought the most logical way would be to start with ‘A’ – in this case Afghanistan.  When I told my husband that we were having an Afghani meal for tea he looked slightly bemused but bless him he is quite happy to let me experiment on him.  I found this recipe after searching the various foodie chatrooms and Afghani sites.  It seemed a very popular choice especially with the expats wanting to remind themselves of home.  The dish was simple to make, made the kitchen smell delicious and looked fantastic with the raisins and carrots sprinkled through it.  I was also pleased that I managed to cook basmati rice and not turn it into rice pudding – I have a pathological need to stir things for which I really need to seek treatment or forever eat clumped rice.  So here is the recipe, if you are not a fan of lamb you can replace this with chicken thighs/legs or beef.  Enjoy.

Qabili Pilau
(Lamb and rice with carrots and raisins)


  • 300g long grain rice, preferably basmati
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 750g stewing lamb on the bone
  • 750ml water
  • 1 onion – diced
  • 2 large carrots – cut into batons
  • 100g black seedless raisins or golden sultanas
  • 2tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Sugar
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Ground Cumin
  • 1 tsp Ground Cardamom

Add 2tbsp of the oil to a pan and brown the onion. Add the lamb and cook until sealed on all sides.

Add 750ml water, 1tsp of the salt and the cinnamon, ground cumin and ground cardamom.  Cover and simmer for about an hour, or until the meat is tender.

Separate the meat from the liquid and put both to one side.  At this point I removed the meat from the bone but many of the recipes I read say to leave it on and serve that way.

Saute the carrots and sugar in 2tbsp of oil. Cook until they are lightly browned. Remove from oil, then add the raisins (or golden sultanas) and cook until they swell up.

In a pot bring the meat juice to the boil and add the rice, the remaining salt and if needed, enough boiling water to come 2 inches over the rice. Cook for 10-15mins until the water is barely absorbed and the rice is tender – do not stir the rice.

With a fork mix the meat, carrots, raisins and rice together, add a splash of water. Place in a large oven-proof casserole, cover and bake at 150°c for about 30mins.