Friday, February 25, 2011


My impression from reading the recipes in my favorite cookbook (ATK International, of course) is that Irish food is hearty, not too heavily spiced, and big on potatoes. Since my friend Ben gave me a gorgeous dutch oven for Christmas, I definitely wanted to utilize it, so I went with some standards: Guinness Beef Stew and Irish Soda Bread. My friend Becky of BeCouply joined me for the meal, and if I do say so myself, we both thought it was tasty! My dad even enjoyed the leftover bread, untoasted, for breakfast two days later. I'm making a couple more loaves for potluck contributions this weekend. One thing I have to say, though: the recipe says not to overknead the dough, and they are not kidding (apparently in Ireland, it was a huge compliment to say that someone had a light hand with the bread). Also make sure you don't use too much flour like I did the first time.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


When I started this blog, I asked my friend Blair, who spent a summer in Cairo, if she would cook with me. She immediately got excited about showing me koshari (or koshary), which she pretty much lived on while she was there. Months passed and we never got around to cooking together, but then last week she sent me this article about how koshari was pretty much feeding the revolution. It's peasant food: filling and frequently cheaper to buy than to make yourself. So we found a recipe she said looked reasonably authentic, and whipped it up on Thursday. Blair describes koshari as Egyptian chili. It was tasty, and my favorite thing about it is that it's a complete meal you can whip up with pantry staples. It wasn't quite as cheap as Ramen, but close, and much more nutritious.

We ate the koshari with some wine my friend Kenny brought me back from Egypt. We expected it to be terrible, but it was actually reasonably drinkable.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Vietnamese cuisine is heavily influenced by Cantonese cuisine, with many French influences. Rice and noodles are both used frequently, as are fresh fruit and vegetables and herbs. When I wanted to make Vietnamese food, I called Kim of DCWrappedDates. He sent me a chao recipe that looked good to him and approved my proposal to make pho as well.

According to Kim, chao and pho are the two most common Vietnamese dishes. Chao, a rice porridge cooked in chicken broth, is generally eaten for breakfast. Pho, a clear beef soup with noodles and flavorful garnishes, is considered a hangover cure, and is a complete meal in and of itself. I'd had pho before at Pho75 in Rosslyn, and loved it. Chao was totally new to me.

These are not quick dishes to make. The broth for the chao, which I made from scratch as per the recipe, took about 5 hours and required me to disassemble a whole chicken. I'd be interested to try it again with packaged chicken broth and see whether I notice a difference. But I enjoyed the finished product, and Kim said it was spot on. Pho is supposed to cook all day (at a minimum) to infuse the broth with a robust beefy flavor. It's a great way to use less-tender parts of a cow like tripe and oxtail. Obviously I didn't have all day to sit on a pot of soup, so I used the America's Test Kitchen recipe, which was ready in about an hour and only used beef tenderloin. It was good (especially the sliced beef), but Kim said it was definitely an American version of the recipe: many of the flavors were there, but it didn't have the meatiness you get from the real thing. I also accidentally got wheat noodles instead of rice noodles, but they seemed fine; I just cooked them according to the package directions instead of the recipe.

I had a great time eating with Kim. He was super helpful toward the end when the last-minute prep got hectic, and it was great to find out how authentic (or not) the finished dishes were. If you know a cuisine and want to get involved with my blog, send an email to 45sqftkitchen at gmail dot com. I'd love to have you!

Friday, February 4, 2011


Mauritius (not to be confused with Mauritania) is a small island in the Indian Ocean. Its economy is doing relatively well for sub-Saharan Africa, and the government advertises the island as an excellent tourist destination, especially for honeymooning couples. Because of its location, the influences on its cuisine are diverse; the major ones are French, Indian, and Chinese.

I decided to go for a curry. My only real experience was with Burmese curry, which I liked a lot. This was different in that most of the flavor came from packaged curry powder from the international section of Shopper's instead of a paste of onions, garlic, and fresh ginger. I went for the Asian style curry powder, but I'm sure it would have been better to make it from scratch. All in all, I didn't love this. It was hotter than I wanted it to be, and I'm pretty sure I couldn't have eaten it without the recommended sour cream. But for all that it was hot, I didn't find it that flavorful. Probably just a function of the recipe, and I will say that what coworkers I could get to try the leftovers all said it was very good curry. Still, I won't be making this again.