Hey everybody! I am a 2nd year Biochemistry student at the University of Birmingham and this is a challenge I have set myself. It’s basically what it says in the title – I will attempt to “visit” 80 different countries around the world by cooking, from scratch, a dish that is national/unique/typical of each country! Well, I say from scratch – I won’t attempt to corn my own beef for example, or only cook a joint of beef just to use its juices for gravy, but I will be cooking my dishes mostly from scratch. I’ve set the time frame as the whole academic year, so I have to average 2-3 of these dishes a week (I’m not sure if that’s a lot or not, I’ll find out I guess?). Alongside the challenge of cooking the dishes, I’ll be writing regular articles about my cooking experiences with recipes (found using the phone app Yummly) with a bit of history and culture.a
So why have I set myself this challenge? Firstly, I love food – not in the sense that I’m just fat*, but that I love experiencing different dishes and doing the odd cooking experiment in the kitchen. I like to try throwing ingredients together and seeing how nice the final creations taste. Secondly, I’m trying to get into better eating habits. I’m not a massive fan of gym exercise and I don’t want to go on any diets, so hopefully I’ll get into the swing of cooking a variety of nutritional dishes as opposed to constantly buying snacks or cooking the same simple meals again and again. Finally, I want to see if this challenge is possible. At this point, I believe it is entirely possible. Additionally, it would just make for bad writing if I didn’t finish the challenge so I guess I’ll just have to!
On top of this, the fact that I’m a student with unique dietary requirements introduces other difficult aspects to the challenge:
So that’s my challenge. After this, all the articles will be documenting my experiences of researching, cooking and (most importantly) eating each of the 80 dishes I set out to make. I hope you continue to follow my article series and even attempt some of my recipes yourself!
*I am actually a bit fat.
Dish 01: Falafels & Salad (Israel)
Falafels are fried, herby balls or patties made from chick peas (also known as garbanzo), fava beans or both and they are made and eaten all over the Middle East, and also served as a popular street food in North America. Although the origins of the falafel are uncertain, the common theory states that the Egyptian city of Alexandria is the historic home of the falafel – originally just made from fava beans and traditionally eaten by Coptic Christians during Lent. From the port of Alexandria the falafel travelled all over the Middle East, and its arrival in the Levant (Eastern Mediterranean) saw the recipe change from fava beans to chick peas. It was later brought to North America in the 70s by Jewish and Middle Eastern immigrants According to the Wikipedia article on “national dishes”, falafels are a national dish of Israel – especially when served with a simple Israeli salad.
I’d like to begin my documentation of my falafel cooking experience with an apology – an apology to all Israelis and to all Vegetarian chefs for near enough ruining the dish. To put it simply, my Israeli housemate looked at the shattered fragments of chick pea mash, rolled his eyes and told me what I’d done wrong: the patties needed to be smaller and the heat needed to be higher. It wasn’t the most auspicious start to my culinary challenge, as I created falafels that didn’t hold well and I had to throw two away as they completely crumbled (see below!). However when I did make some more stable falafels they did taste pretty nice. When following the recipe, do put emphasis on the imperatives (i.e. when it says “mash” the chick pea mixture, read it as “MAAAASSSSSHHHH!” and properly go for it). The salad was a lot simpler – I just diced some cucumber, a green pepper and some tomatoes and added olive oil and salt. Would I attempt falafels again? Maybe. Could I have prevented them from falling apart? Probably. Here’s my adaptation of the falafel recipe I used:
For the original recipe, go to BBC Good Food and have a look at the Spicy Falafels dish.Written by: Sam Arrowsmith
The UoB Linguist Magazine
Guild of Students,
University of Birmingham