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World flavours: recipes from around the world

Helen Alexander

Senior Contributor

Eating local dishes is a great way of experiencing a new country. But if you don’t have any travel plans in the near future, you can still recreate iconic dishes from abroad in your own kitchen with just a few easy-to-find ingredients.

Making a meal of the Mediterranean

From Spanish tapas to Italian antipasti and Greek salads, the countries that share a coastline with the sparkling Mediterranean serve up some seriously delicious – and incredibly simple – dishes. With a few pots of olives, capers, anchovies, sun-dried tomatoes and grilled artichokes in your store-cupboard, you already have many of the important elements of a sun-kissed spread.

Learn to make your own pasta and start growing that kitchen, balcony or backyard herb garden – rosemary, mint and parsley add a fragrant twist to dishes from this region. For a warm ray of recipe inspiration, follow Georgina Hayden as she traces her Greek-Cypriot roots in Taverna. Grab some potatoes, aubergines and lamb mince, and make moussaka for your next family meal. 

A culinary journey through the Caucasus

Uniting recipes from the Caucasian peoples of Armenia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Georgia and beyond, food writer and storyteller Olia Hercules takes globetrotting gourmands on a recipe road-trip in Kaukasis The Cookbook. Even if you haven’t experienced this part of the world first-hand, her evocative writing will encourage you to try your hand at traditional dishes like holbtsy (cabbage leaves stuffed with rice, meat and vegetables, which are cooked in a tomato sauce) and serdakh (a rich vegetarian concoction of aubergines and tomatoes).

Having spoken to family members and new-found friends throughout the sprawling area, it reads like a fascinating encyclopaedia of regional cuisines. And, when it comes to refreshments, the refreshing tarragon and cucumber lemonade recipes awaits. 

Begin your day the Mexico way

Forget about grabbing a bowl of cereal or a bagel on your way out of the door, in Mexico the first meal of the day is elevated to a special occasion with a range of morning meals. Grab a skillet and cook sliced red peppers, garlic, ripe tomatoes, chillies and a couple of tins of plum tomatoes until bubbling, then add eggs to make brunch-time favourite huevos rancheros.

Or cook corn chips in salsa verde or salsa roja (green or red salsa) to make chilaquiles. This super-versatile dish can be topped with pretty much anything you might have to hand – fried eggs, shredded chicken, avocado, sour cream, red onion, grated cheese, sliced radish. The possibilities are endless and, for an extra challenge, make your own salsas to store in the fridge for impromptu fiestas. From the legendary San Francisco restaurant, Nopalito has the basics and beyond covered. 

A crash course in Korean

Over the past few years, words like bulgogi (marinated barbecued beef) and bibimbap (mixed rice bowl) have entered the home cook’s everyday vocabulary, which shows just how popular the big, bold flavours of Korean cooking is becoming. Ranging from complex offerings to the kind of dishes that might be served in a Seoul soju bar, rock-star chef David Chang’s Momofuku is filled with beautiful photography and noodle-based dishes.

If you are worried about splashing this good-looking book, grab an online recipe for kimchi and discover why people have been fermenting white (Chinese or napa) cabbage since the Silla Dynasty (around 2,000 years ago). Having a jar of this spicy sidekick in the fridge can turn any meal into a punchy Korean-inspired concoction, make yours with garlic, spring onions, daikon, mooli, miso paste and chilli flakes – or get experimental and add slices of green apple and chunks of fresh ginger.

Journey through American’s Southern states

Take a recipe road trip as you get to grips with iconic dishes like shrimp and grits, fried chicken and tomato okra stew in Sean Brock’s South: Essential Recipes and New Explorations. The ultimate in comfort food, the American South doesn’t need any introduction, but if you want to recreate the flavours – and learn about the regional differences – of Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina and more, then this is the perfect companion. Start off with snacks like devilled eggs and work your way up to desserts like sweet potato pie.

In Sean’s words: “The roots of Southern cooking are driven by something that I believe we share with all cultures: the joy and happiness we feel when we gather around a table with our families and our communities.”

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