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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.

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.

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.

The Plan…

I have always enjoyed cooking but have to admit that I have often taken short cuts or got stuck in a rut of cooking the same thing over and over just because it’s easy.  That’s part of the reason I decided to create this blog.  I want to gain more cookery skills and knowledge but I know myself too well and without a solid reason to change I will quickly slip back to my old ways of opening jars of premade sauces and buying ready meals.  So I hit on the idea of tying this in with the Olympics, not because I’m patriotic but because it gives me a deadline and a bit of a challenge.

I started this blog with 572 days until the beginning of the 2012 games in London.  There are currently 205 countries that will be taking part and I am going to cook a meal from each of those countries.  It means that I will be cooking one meal every 2.79 days.

Similar to many cooks of my age I have been influenced by food writers that themselves were influenced by Elizabeth David and the influx of Italian and French recipes that became fashionable from the 1950’s until the present day.  I love cooking French and Italian dishes but it has left me in a bit of a creative rut when it comes to creating new dishes.  I am hoping that this challenge and this blog will lead me to discover a whole new world of culinary wonders and will develop my gastronomic imagination.

To my readers I promise to post new blogs at least once a week and each will be accompanied by a picture of the finished product.  I will also apologise now my lack of photographic skills, but I am working on that and hope that you will stick with me.  Please also feel free to comment on any of the recipes and make suggestions on how I can improve the photos.

The clock is ticking, the games are getting closer, so I’d better get cooking.  Hope you enjoy the blog as much as I am going to enjoy writing it and eating the food.