Eastern Europe

75. Georgia: Kharcho

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I am soo sorry, I have been incredibly busy with work in the restaurant, my social life, school! Really it’s been crazy these past few months, but I promise i’m going to try to work more on this project folks.

Is Georgia part of Europe or Asia. Honestly no one knows, so strange. We all know it’s close to Russia and that it used be part of the communist Sovjet Union. But what do we really know about Georgia. (for the people who haven’t realized I’m talking about Georgia the Country not the state.) There is actually quite a lot of debate over exactly what continent Georgia is on, and exactly where Europe is located.

Most people have think that there is a geographic place where Europe ends and Asia begins, but where exactly that is is open to debate.The general consensus seems to be that the divider between Europe and Asia is the Urals–but they don’t reach far enough South to be helpful with determining Georgia’s location.  Geographically, the Caucasus mountains are the Southern border of Europe–in fact, the highest point in Europe is Mt. Elbrus which is right next to Georgia.

This division very helpfully puts PART of Georgia in Europe.  Georgia is not a very big country, so dividing it between two continents seems very silly! As you can see I really made a study of it and tried to find a correct answer, but there is none! So WHERE does Europe END and where begins Asia???? Of there is anyone who knows this please let me know in the comments because I am very confused!

Things you didn’t know about Georgia:

  • Abkhazia. This former province declared itself independent after a bloody war. Since the war the are trying to re-establish the country’s former reputation of being a holiday destination. The rest of the world still considers Abkhazia as part of Georgia not as an independent state.
  • Russian dictator Josef Stalin was born in the tiny village of Gori in Georgia. He is still considered a hero in Gori. There is a Stalin museum and on their website it says. Stalin the greatest politician of the 20th century.
  • Security guards in clubs have guns. So please don’t pick a fight with them
  •  Spoken Georgian is like no other language you are likely to hear. It belongs to its own ancient linguistic group unlike any other language spoken outside the region. It includes rare sounds that many visitors may never have heard before. Georgian has its own 33-letter alphabet thought to be based on the sort of Aramaic spoken in the time of Jesus.
  • A guest is a gift from God, goes the saying in Georgia. So foreign visitors are plied with food and drink – an enjoyable experience, if not always good for the waistline.

You could say this Georgian delicacy is the Balkan version of a risotto. It’s a little more rustic, and the spices are completely different but the rice is cooked the same way.

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51. Czech Republic: Czech Meatballs

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It’s kind of a hype to go on a citytrip to the Czech Republic, a few years ago nobody even knew about Czech Republic but then they discovered the supposedly hauntingly beautiful city of Prague. These days are hear everybody going on and on and on about Prague that I think I can draw a map of the entire city without even having been there! You might hear a little envy in my writing voice today, since I having been wanting to go to Prague for so long! But then again, almost every place I wrote about until now I want to go. In fact when researching for all these countries I feel like a kid in a candy store who is not allowed to touch or taste anything.  My friends have started to sigh whenever I go on and on about the particular country I am working on that week. 
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  • The Czech invented defenestration: Defenestration means throwing someone out of a window and the Czechs were the first ones to coin the term back in 1618 when two Imperial Governors and their secretary were thrown out of a window of Prague Castle and started the 30 years war.
  • World famed Italian writer and legendary lover Giacomo Casanova spent the last years of his life at Waldstein’s castle in Duchov (Bohemia) where he worked as a librarian, wrote his most famous book (The Story of My Life) and died at the age of 73.
  • As you can’t talk about Italians without mentioning food, it’s hard to talk about Czechs without pulling beer in the discussion.
  • The Czech Republic is castle capital of the world. Given its location in the center of Europe, there were armies from all sides who always wanted to come through what is today the Czech Republic. As such, they built a lot of castles. Over 2,000 of them!
  • When someone asks “How are you?”, the polite response is not “I’m fine thank you”, but “Ah, I feel like sh*t” or whatever is actually on your mind. Being super happy can be seen as bragging or being false.

These are so perfect! They are incredibly tasty and easy to make for big group of people! Total Winner!

Czech MeatballI managed to make about 20 ping pong ball sized meatballsIngredients: 1 clove garlic minced, 1/2 tablespoon salt, 1 tablespoon caraway seeds, 1 tablespoon ground paprika, 1 tablespoon ground black pepper, 1 cup fresh parsley leaves minced (about 1/4 cup), 1 tablespoon grainy mustard, 1 large egg, 2 pounds ground pork
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the garlic, salt, caraway seeds, paprika, pepper, parsley, mustard, and egg with a fork until combined. With your hands crumble the pork into the bowl and knead until all of the ingredients are incorporated.
  3. Moisten your hands with water and shake to remove excess. Measure a level tablespoon of pork and roll into a ball between your palms.
  4. Line up the meatballs on the prepared baking sheet
  5. Slide the meatballs into the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes,  turn them at about halfway into your baking time. Bake until golden brown and cooked through.

49. Croatia: Baked Octopus in White Wine

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So Croatia is literally one of the first countries on my list I want to visit. I’ve heard such great stories about and seen so many travel documentaries about the beautiful Croatian coast, and the food is supposed to be similar to Italian. Over the past few years Croatia became a tourist destination, and they are determined to keep that status. There are good sides to this like Croatia economy and bad sides like the mass tourism that brings all the teenagers to Croatia to drink cheap alcohol.

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Here are some things you probably didn’t know about Croatia:

  • This is just a fun little fact I thought I’d share, as it turns out Croatia invented the necktie. During the Thirty Years’ War in the 17th century, the traditional small, knotted neckerchiefs worn by Croatian mercenaries aroused the interest of Parisians who for some reason immediately took to the new fashion accessory.
  • That Croatia is the homeland of the famous merchant traveler Marco Polo. I thought he was Italian but apparently I was mistaken.
  • Croatians can vote by the age of 16 provided they’re employed. If not, they must wait until the age of 18.
  • The largest truffle in the world, which is 19.5cm long, 12.4 cm wide and 13.5 cm high, was discovered near Buje, Croatia. In fact Croatia has the largest truffle forest in the world!
  • There is a compulsory 6-month military service for all boys over the age of 18.
  • The highest quality tuna is farmed in Croatia, sushi chefs from the best restaurant in the world buy their tuna in Croatia, this tuna is not meant to end in a can or mixed up with mayonaise. No this is what you would call “The Good Stuff”.

When I bought the octopus I was very intimidated by it. I was soon scared to screw it up! Fortunately I didn’t! The food was awesome, just the natural juices that came out of the octopus itself! YUMMY! This is seriously one to remember. I got the idea after watching an episode of Anthony Bourdain in Croatia, I saw his reaction when he ate the octopus so that’s why I decided to give it a go!

octopus in white wine

 

This recipe is meant for 6 people

Ingredients: 1 kg of octopus, heads cleaned (learn how to do this right here), 500 gr potatoes, peeled, thickly sliced, 6 garlic cloves, chopped, 2carrots, thickly sliced, 60 ml(¼ cup) olive oil, 125 ml(½ cup) dry white wine

Preheat oven to 250°. Toss potatoes, garlic and carrots in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a 40 cm baking dish, add oil and cover tightly with foil and an upturned stainless-steel bowl. (If you have a peka dish, or tajine, preheat it according to manufacturer’s instructions and place mixture inside it.)

Bake for 1 hour, then carefully remove the lid and pour over wine. Replace lid and bake for a further 30 minutes or until vegetables and octopus are tender. Serve with lemon wedges and crusty bread.

25. Bosnia and Herzegovina: Cevapi with Ajvar (Roasted Red Pepper Sauce)

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Bosnia Herzegovina a country plagued by so many wars, but still going strong. I remember when I was really small, seeing the horrifying images on television. I think it’s one of the first big new events that I remember.  It all seemed so far away back then, but now I realize it wasn’t that far at all. Only a 3 hour flight away! Bosnia & Herzegovina are to parts, the Bosnian region is mostly covered by thick dark forests and the Herzegovina part is flat farmland.

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So here we go fun stuff about Bosnia

  • It has the last remaining jungle in Europe at Perućica: It may not be huge being some 6 kilometres long and 1–3 kilometres wide, but with an area of 1,400 hectares, the Perućica forest has many trees that are 300 years old, and the forest’s vintage is stated to be 20,000 years. You don’t need to go to some far away exotic destination to have your own jungle expedition!
  • People drink hard liquor to start the day: brandy to be specific (well that’s what I call a breakfast of champions)
  • Bribing cops is the rule not the exeception
  • Births and Weddings are still celebrated with “celebratory gunfire”.
  • The Eurovision Songcontest is really big in Eastern Europe, also in Bosnia.

Here is the recipe for this week, it was a really really good one! Quick, easy and tasty!

cevapi

Cevapi

Ingredients Roasted Red Pepper Sauce:  1 jar roasted red bell peppers,  1 medium eggplant, 5 teaspoons freshly minced garlic (about 5 medium cloves), 1/4 cup sunflower or olive oil, 1 tablespoon white vinegar, 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more to taste, Freshly ground black pepper to taste and a teaspoon of sugar.

Ingredients Cevapi: 350 gr ground beef, 350 gr ground lamb, 1 finely minced shallot, 3 cloves of garlic finely minced, 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika, 3/4 teaspoon baking soda, salt to taste, pepper to taste

Several toppings I used garlic sauce, cucumber and cilantro

CEVAPI RECIPE

In a medium bowl, mix together beef, lamb, onion, garlic, paprika, salt, pepper, and baking soda by hand until thoroughly combined. Form meat mixture into finger-length sausages 3/4-inch in diameter. Bake the sausages on the BBQ or in a griddle pan.

AVJAR RECIPE

Place eggplant on cool side of grill. Cover and cook until skin darkens and wrinkles and eggplant is uniformly soft when pressed with tongs, about 30 minutes, turning halfway through for even cooking. Remove eggplant from grill and let sit until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Trim top off eggplant and split lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out flesh of eggplant; discard skin, Place roasted red peppers, eggplant pulp, and garlic in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse until roughly chopped. Add in oil, vinegar, and salt and pulse until incorporated and peppers are finely chopped.Transfer sauce to a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Let cool to room temperature then use immediately or transfer to an airtight container and store in refrigerator for up to two weeks.

18.Belarus: Kotleta Pokrestyansky and Baked Apples with Honey

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Belarus also being reffered to as White Russia, I asked a lot of people what they think about if I say White Russia and they don’t have no idea! These are some of the answers I got: 1. “Next to Ukraine and Russia right?” 2.”White Russia was in the Sovjetunion!” 3. “Aren’t they the same as Russia, isn’t it a province or something?”. Nobody seems to have a clue about what’s been going on in Belarus in the present. Where does that name even come from “White Russia”? Thank god for Google I found the answer! It’s actually pretty funny! Flax is the plant from which white clothes were made and it grows in Belarus ,during the Tsarist regime, and that is how Belarus got its name.

  • In Belarus every year people find the most treasure (compared to the rest of Europe)
  • Birch sap – one of the favorite drinks of Belarusians. It is sold in packs and large glass jars. In the village people harvest birch sap every spring.
  • Belovezhskaya Pushcha (Please dont ask me how to pronounce this because I don’t have a clue!) is the largest ancient forest in Europe
  •  No Street Food If you are hungry in Brussels and don’t want to spend 30 Euros on mussels, there will always be a kebab nearby. The Berliners joke that their national dish is now a döner, which completely pushed out currywurst. But the Berliners still had currywurst in the beginning and then döner; the residents of Minsk have neither döner nor currywurst. (what do they eat after clubbing? Here in The Netherlands it’s almost tradition to eat street food after clubbing!)

I found a playlist with Belarussian Rockbands I really like them!

So about the Belarussian cuisine, I was quite surprised about this one! I made 2 Belarussian recipes this week! a main cours and a dessert or sweet treat. Especially the dessert was sooo good, and it’s really cheap and easy to make!

Kotleta PokrestyanskySo Kotleta Pokrestyansky is basically pork chops with a very nice mushroom sauce! This recipe makes enough for 4 people

Ingredients: ounces mushrooms sliced, 2 garlic cloves choppe, 1 knob of butter, 1/2 cup sherry wine, 1/2 cup chicken stock or 1/2 cup pork stock, 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarchpork chops

Melt half of the butter in a frying pan and add the mushrooms and garlic. Keep stirring until the mushrooms start to shrink and soften. Add the sherry, the stock, the cornstarch and a little salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook for five minutes. Meanwhile, melt the rest of the butter in another pan. Brown the pork chops on both sides, then pour the sauce over the chops. So really really easy right?!

Baked Honey Apples Ingredients: 4 apples, good quality honey, icing sugar (optional) Scoop out the core from each apple, leaving the rest of it whole. Pour honey into the hollows of each apple where the core was.Bake at 350 degrees for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. The texture should resemble the apple slices in a pie. Sprinkle over the icing sugar although you don’t really need it! It’s sweet enough with the honey! I will definitely make this again for my friends! My mom loved this so much she almost licked her plate! YES IT’S THAT GOOD!

That’s it for Belarus for now! Hope you liked it please comment below if you have any suggestions or other belarussian recipes! Speak to ya next week!