Tuesday, February 18, 2014

#8 Seoul mates in Korea

Sorry for the lack of posts recently - I have been away travelling through Poland and Germany with work, so upon my return, to help me out, our lovely mate Mrs D offered to host our Korean dinner for us.

Mrs D's husband had previously worked in Korea for about a year in 2005 and they are both big fans of Korean cuisine.

Around the table we had the usual suspects of Mr & Mrs D, Mr & Mrs W and our mutual friend Mr V who were all very excited to taste test the fabulous feast from Korea, and to wash it down with Hite and OB beers, Soju (a Korean spirit made from sweet potato) and a Korean plum liquer.

The Menu
  • Chicken Ginseng soup
  • Mandu
  • Beef Bulgogi
  • Seaweed rice balls and kimchi
  • Chicken a la Chris Sutton
  • Assortment of pickled radish, green beans and white bait
  • Sweet pancake with green tea ice cream

Yet again Mrs D came up trumps with a starter of delicious warming chicken ginseng soup, followed by sticky dumplings (Mandu) – these are my absolute favourite thing on the menu. The Beef Bulgogi which had been marinated in soy and chillis and garlic for 24 hours was served with a smoky barbecue sauce and wrapped in a lettuce leaf which made the taste light, crunchy and just superb.  

Chicken a la Chris Sutton was a concoction that was served to Mr & Mrs D in a bar in Seoul.  The lovely, smiling barman only knew two phrases in English – 'My service' and 'Chris Sutton'. Mr D had gone to the bar and explained to the barman that he was from Glasgow – to which he replied 'Aaaaah, Chris Sutton' who was a player for Celtic at the time. 
The next thing Mr D knew, the barman was bringing spicy chicken wings to him served on a bed of mashed potatoes and was saying 'My service – Chris Sutton' and smiling a lot. So in honour of the lovely gentleman in the bar, and of course Chris Sutton himself, we had to serve the same dish!


The Verdict

A really beautiful menu, incredibly well executed and a very worthy 9.5 out of 10.  The 0.5 was lost only because the soju which was very bitter and made me judder after every sip! Though the Korean plum liquer tasted very nice indeed.  

All of the food that in these recipe's came from K-mart on Rue Saint Anne in the 1st arrondissement of Paris (between Palais Royal and Opera).

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

#7 USA! Super Bowls on Sunday!

Due to the chef being away on business this week it is her partner in crime reporting on the latest World Cup dinner. With Sunday being the NFL Superbowl between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos we decided to take on the United States. In theory this should have been one of the easiest to achieve as practically every supermarket has plenty of US imported goods and there are hundreds of options to choose from for every one of the courses.

After a brainstorm that pondered Deep South dishes like gumbo and jambalaya, our San Francisco favourite clam chowder and homemade apple pie we decided on the straightforward option:

  • Buffalo wings with blue cheese dip and celery
  • Bacon cheeseburgers with fries
  • Ice cream sundae
  • Budweiser

Unfortunately, assuming that all these items would be easy to source we left the important part of getting the central ingredients until the last minute and quickly realised that perhaps not everything is as easy to pick up as we thought.

For the Buffalo wings we got a hot sauce from the Thanksgiving store in the 4th arrondissement. This shop stocks a decent variety of American sauces, beverages and sweets. There is also a second American market in Paris close to the Eiffel Tower in the 7th arrondissement called The Real McCoy – where we got our Budweiser from. However, the chicken wings that we intended to coat in the hot sauce were no so simple to get. Heading to the local supermarket on Sunday morning all I could find were small chicken drumsticks rather than wings and none of the small independent stores had anything better. A rule you can never learn to obey quickly enough in Paris – always get you shopping essentials in on Saturday!

Similarly, regular American-style burgers were not as readily available so standard steak haché had to do instead and was not quite up to standard.

Ice cream for dessert will always be a success, but we gave it a bit more of an American twist by adding slices of a Hershey bar and some Hershey chocolate sauce on top.

The Verdict

The Buffalo chicken bits were really good and given the small quantity on each stick could have been eaten twice! The blue cheese dip was made by mixing some Roquefort cheese with a ranch sauce dressing. That is definitely an appetiser that will get a second outing. The burgers, like every McDonalds dinner, was far better in anticipation. French fries will very rarely live up to the kind bought in a fast food outlet and these did not hit the target, the burger itself was fine but not as tasty as the idea of the burger beforehand.

The Hersheys ice cream sundae though was 10/10! We had a Ben & Jerry's Cookie Dough ice cream base with some chocolate brownie pieces, cream, chocolate sauce and chocolate Hershey pieces.

With grand plans to stay up and watch the Superbowl there was a spare burger for later in the evening during the game, but, like every other year before, I got too tired waiting for the game to start and decided to go to bed instead – so the leftover burger was a handy first dinner for the week I have been left to fend for myself in the kitchen.

The week off from the project while the chef is away on business has given me time to ponder some upcoming dishes for the rest of our dinners and also how we can maybe fit a few salad-based dishes into the menu to help save my waistline before we get to No 32!

If you would like to you can follow the World Cup Dinners Twitter feed – here.

Monday, January 27, 2014

#6 Don't cry for meat, Argentina.....

Good evening folks! Tonight we are bringing you some of Argentina's finest dishes, from the heart of my little Parisian kitchen.

We picked Argentina because we were yet to do one of the South American countries, and Mr W just so happened to have an Argentina football shirt at the ready. Also, this was one of the first countries where we have an actual recommendation from a player! Although we didn't actually cook our meat asado style, as recommended by former Wycombe Wanderers midfielder Sergio Torres, we did our best to do Argentina proud!

We kicked off our evening listening to songs from Evita and then had some Argentine tango music playing in the background. We were about to try a little Tango ourselves but
(a) there is hardly room to swing a cat in our apartment
(b) we would have sounded like two pet elephants to our neighbours downstairs - and the last thing we'd want is them knocking on the door and catching us mid-tango!

The Menu

  • Spicy empanadas and chorizo
  • Argentinian rib eye steak with roasted potatoes and chimichurri sauce
  • Divine dulce de leche
The starter was accompanied by the beer Quilmes, and to serve with the main course a bottle of Argentinian red wine called Ché.

When researching typical Argentinian/South American foods, the most common recipe I came across was the empanada, which is, I guess their answer to the pasty. Considering the fact that I worked right next door to the head office of Greggs for ten years this made me giggle (for anybody who flies into Newcastle airport – check out the Greggs' pasty signs on your way into the baggage area).  

The dulce de leche looked relatively easy to make, and I decided to have a go at making it myself. Big mistake, big - huge! And indeed I, (or rather Mr W) had to go shopping to buy proper dulce de leche.  Mine looked and tasted like sweet, lumpy wall paper paste with crushed beetles in it. But we can't get it right all of the time.  I think my mistake was just that I was too impatient to let the evaporated and condensed milk simmer away and thought I knew what I was doing by putting corn flour in there – wrong!

The Verdict

Another sterling meal, my favourite part was the empanadas – the pastry was crunchy and golden on the outside and the filling slightly spicy, very nice.  The main course was also really good, but the meat sweats really started to kick in quite soon. I think it was because it was a huuuuuge chunk of meat and I started to feel tired just thinking about eating it.

It was cooked quite rare, which I love but Mr W was not so keen.  The chimichurri sauce was the saving grace as it made an already very good cut of meat absolutely sing with flavour and texture.  Marks out of ten – a very respectable seven.

You'll find all of the recipes we used to make tonight's World Cup dinner at this site, and if you are in Paris and want authentic Argentinian products or cuts of meat visit Carnar in the 7eme arrondissement.

Remember you can follow us on twitter @worldcupdinners for more photos and suggestions of authentic World Cup dinners.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

#5 Switzerland - More cheese please!

Bonsoir les amies – tonight was the turn of Switzerland to take centre stage in our tiny living room, and it certainly didn't disappoint!

Last week, Mr W was in Zurich for a meeting, and on his way through the airport he managed to grab some delicious and authentic goodies for us.

Our table was decked with the red and white flag of Switzerland, we had a musical accompaniment of yodeling from youtube - all that was missing was the Lederhosen and some cows – whilst we ate the first two courses.

We then settled down to watch my team, Sunderland, playing in the Football League Cup semi-final against Manchester United and waited until half time to serve the dessert as we were so stuffed!

The Menu

  • Rösti potato with cervelat (brain) sausage – a Swiss specialty – and fried onions.
  • Raclette – Swiss cheese which you melt in small pans under a grill, served with potatoes, gherkins, bread and cooked meats.  
  • Toblerone fondue with marshmallows, banana and Swiss roll.

One little secret that Mr W kept from me about tonight's menu was the fact that cervelat sausage is traditionally made from animal brains. This surprise was only revealed after I had actually eaten it!! But the egg was on his face because I really enjoyed it. If I had known before what it was made of then I doubt I would have eaten it – but as the saying goes: "What you don't know doesn't hurt you". Whether the recipe still contains brains now I don't know but I suddenly feel more intelligent from eating it ;) 

Raclette cheese is one the most amazing and delicious cheeses ever. When it melts it goes really gooey and stretchy but still kind of keeps it's form, and is just so moreish, you will want to keep eating and eating until you feel you're going to burst (as we did tonight).

The Verdict

Very nice, simple fare but very heavy on the meat and potatoes. The Toblerone fondue, which was made by melting half a bar of Toblerone with about 100 mls of cream was really rich and delicious, but because of all of the cheese in the main course I really couldn't eat a lot. Overall a very respectable 7.5 out of 10, losing marks for how heavy each dish was but gaining marks for the simplicity, the very nice wine and for the fact that I'm in a very generous mood because Sunderland beat Manchester United and are now in the Football League Cup Final at Wembley!

Don't forget to follow us on Twitter for additional pics and news of our upcoming menus*, and tweet us some recipes from your favourite World Cup country.

* Argentina and the recommendation of  a professional player!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

#4 Ghana - How does my fufu taste...?

Good evening folks! Tonight's meal and blog was brought to you by our very good friend, the delightful Mrs D.  We had a great night courtesy of our guest host, who cooked every bit of this delicious meal from scratch. 

During discussions over a long, drunken lunch at Les Pipos I felt it was of paramount importance that I offer my services as a guest chef to assist in taking some of the pressure from my dear friend in sourcing and preparing a World Cup dinner.  I love to cook and, more importantly, love a party so what better way to celebrate our recent return to Paris and our new Parisian home.  Mr W deemed Ghana as my challenge ..... Erm, ok, GAME ON.

As an eternal optimist, a life-long resource investigator and, most importantly, having a husband who has colleagues working in Ghana (cheers Mr D and Wee R) I was armed with details of a traditional menu, and recipes with a little help from the wonderful website Ghana Nation. As Paris is a huge melting pot of nationalities, even sourcing traditional Ghanaian products was a breeze, and I'd like to give thanks to my new friend from Togo who filled my basket with everything I needed for the feast at the Togo Exotique store.  Although he seemed to lose interest, and appeared offended, when I refused the beer from Togo and asked for Ghanaian Star Beer instead – which sadly wasn't to be found. 

The only issue I had was having to negotiate the nine circles of hell to get to this amazing African market in Rue Dejean in the 18th arrondissement – Marché Dejean.  If you ever need an animal's head or fancy some meat still with its teeth in then this is the place to go. 


  • Cassava Chips
  • Groundnut Soup garnished with fufu, fried plantain, prawns and crushed peanuts 
  • Mango and pineapple salad, with chili and coriander
  • Garlic chicken with yam jollof rice and 'red red'.
  • Myllabbua (groundnuts and rice flour flavoured with rose water) / Raspberry Fool

With a Ghanaian Party Mix found on YouTube we had the beginnings of a party.

The five guests have over the past three years had many memorable nights and can/will create a party in an empty house. Ghana night proved to be another fantastic memory: from laughing about my fufu (further details can be provided as to why this was particularly funny – unless your name is Baz!) to being astonished at how tasty and different our dishes were. 

We finished the end of the night with full bellies and the Beatles via Oz, a series of show tunes, a demonstration of our favourite tap dance moves, and clockwork doll dancing à la Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Did I mention there was wine!

All in all, I feel I did Mr W and Ghana proud and had a fantastic night with good friends. 

A bientôt!

The Verdict

An absolutely fantastic evening with delicious food, and all served with beautiful presentation and a beautiful smile from Mrs D. A lot of effort was put into creating the perfect Ghanaian atmosphere, all stops were pulled out, therefore scoring a whopping 10 out of 10. My favourite dish was the dessert of Myllabbua -  with the delicate flavouring of rose water, it was superb and the favourite of all the desserts we have had so far in our series of World Cup dinners.

We are now on twitter - why not follow us @worldcupdinners - feel free to tweet us with recipes and ideas, and also if you've made any themed dinners we'd love to see your pictures!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

#3 Vive La France

Today we took our inspiration from the country that we live in - France.  I had planned to invite some friends round, but considering the fact that the night before, between five of us, we consumed twelve bottles of Pouilly-Fumé over a late lunch in Les Pipos in the 5th arrondissement, none of us were really feeling up to it.  But, because I had started preparing the meat in a still semi-drunk state early this morning, I decided to make it and have it for a late dinner.

The Menu

Starter - Escargots avec sauce beurre, ail et persil (Snails in garlic and parsley butter)
Main Course - Boeuf Bourgignon, puree de patates, haricots verts, roti carrottes (Beef Bourgignon, creamy mashed potatoes, green beans and roasted carrots)
Dessert - Crème Brûlée

Boeuf Bourgignon is a classic French beef and red wine stew, slowly cooked for several hours. This needs to be cooked for a minimum of three hours, but the longer that you can leave it the better. It's the perfect dish to cook on a lazy Sunday because once you put it in the oven you can basically just leave it there as long as you like, and doesn't really take a lot of effort to prepare.

The Verdict

This meal has been my favourite so far. I absolutely LOVE snails, their garlicky butteryness is just amazing. The beef was delicious, I cooked it for almost six hours and the meat was literally falling apart  when you put your fork in it, and the crème brûlée was light, egg custardy and just the perfect way to top off the meal. This meal got top marks, ten out of ten!

We ate our dessert as we listened to Edith Piaf's rousing rendition of the French national anthem La Marseillaise, which I think is my favourite national anthem that I have heard – and then washed it all down with French beer Kronenbourg 1664.

Due to time constraints and feeling slightly hungover, I bought the snails and crème brûlée from the local supermarket. The crème brûlée looked relatively easy to make but I just didn't have the time. However, I will add a link for a home made recipe for this at the bottom of the page.


Boeuf Bourgignon

To make this you will need:
  • 1kg of stewing beef or braising steak
  • 1 bottle of red wine (choose a pretty decent wine because this is where a lot of the flavour comes from – I used a bottle of Saint Emilion)
  • 2  largely sliced onions
  • 250g of lardons (or streaky bacon/pancetta)
  • bouquet garni
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 pint of beef stock
  • 1 tbsp of plain flour
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  1. To start, cut the beef into bite-size chunks, then put in a large bowl. Add the bouquet garni, bay leaves and full bottle of red wine and let this stand for as long as you can (preferably overnight but for one hour at least).
  2. Remove the beef from the marinade but ensure you keep all of the liquid because this is going to make the sauce/gravy in the stew.
  3. Add the beef into a clean, dry bowl and add the flour. Stir thoroughly, ensuring all of the beef has a good coating of flour.
  4. Add the oil to the pan on a medium heat, and then gently brown all of the beef. Next add the lardons or bacon and the onions and fry together with the beef for a few minutes.
  5. Pour the wine, bay leaves and bouquet garni back onto the meat and add the beef stock. Bring this to the boil, and make sure you scrape any bits of flour or bacon that might be stuck to the bottom of the pan.
  6. Put the lid on your pan and transfer to the oven 160 degrees, for a minimum of three hours, until the beef is tender.
Hint – if when you remove it from the oven and the sauce is not thick enough, try putting back in the oven without the lid for about 20 minutes, or put on the hob and add a couple of teaspoons of cornflour loosened off with water, and simmer until the desired thickness is achieved.

Serve with creamy mashed potatoes, green beans and roasted carrots.

Where I bought the ingredients from:

Fresh vegetables from Marché Ledru-Rollin, and any French supermarket for the snails and crème brûlée.

To discover your neighbourhood market click here.

Friday, January 10, 2014

#2 Belgium - Brussels, mussels and waffles.....

The next stop on our culinary tour of the World Cup in 32 dinners is Belgium.

Belgium is probably most famous for its homegrown beer and chocolate, although there is a strong influence on the cuisine from neighbouring countries Germany, France and the Netherlands.

The signature dish of Belgium is moules-frites – mussels and chips – while the most famous dessert is probably sweet waffles, or gaufres as they are known to the Flemish and Walloons, smothered in Belgian chocolate and cream. I was struggling to find a famous Belgian dish to use as a starter, but then Mr W reminded me of a starter that we had when were on our honeymoon which was brussels sprouts, and because they are in season at the moment and nice and easy to cook, I decided to make these.

The Menu 
Starter – chou de bruxelles a la flamande.
Main Course – moules a la Eddie avec frites
Dessert – warm waffles in Belgian chocolate sauce and whipped cream.

The trickiest part of the meal was (a) cleaning the mussels, and (b) getting the frites all cooked and keeping them warm until the mussels were ready. I only have a two ring hotplate and I needed to use the big one for the frites, as well as the moules, so the chips were cooked in batches and then put in the oven to keep warm.

Because we had not got home from work til after 7pm Mr W offered to clean the mussels, whilst I peeled and cut the potatoes – I was so relieved! What he didn't realise was that it would be such an arduous task because you have to pull the beardy-seaweed bits off them and then scrape all of the barnacles and gnarly bits off until they are nice and shiny and clean.

Half way through cleaning them, Mr W had noticed that some of the shells were starting to open and close and asked if this was normal, or did it mean that they had 'gone off'.  I turned to him and reassured him that this was perfectly normal and a good sign that they were still very fresh and alive. Big Mistake - the look of sheer horror and terror on his face was absolutely priceless and he screamed: "The mussels are aliiive?????" which then had me in stitches laughing because it reminded me of the cult '80s film Flash Gordon and Brian Blessed's immortal line "Gordon's aliiiiive???!!!"

We then had a discussion about whether they would feel the pain of being steamed alive, but no, we had treated them well and given them a good thorough cleaning before they were put to their death. After he got over the shock, and after I had peeled and fried the chips, it was time to cook the moules.

The traditional way of cooking them is with onions and celery, but I don't really like celery and I have strange quirks about fish. I'm a fisherman's daughter and when we were kids, when money was tight, we would have fish or lobster to eat, and because money was often tight, well, let's just say we ended up eating an awful lot of fish!! So as a teenager I rebelled against all things fishy and it is only now since moving to Paris I am learning that it really isn't so bad.

Back to the mussels. As I was saying, I'm not the biggest fan of celery and the only mussels dish my Dad could ever get me to eat was the recipe I ended up making.

The Verdict

Delicieux! And fairly easy to make, but loses 1 point for the time to clean and de-barnacle the mussels.  A very good nine out of ten.


Chou de bruxelles a la Flamande
This a simple dish of boiled sprouts, finished in melted butter and nutmeg. Boil the sprouts in salted water until a knife is just able to pierce them.  Drain well, then put about two table spoons of butter into a large frying pan and melt over a medium heat, add the sprouts and gently cook for a few minutes until the edges start to crisp a little and turn slightly golden brown. Take off the heat, serve and sprinkle a small dusting of freshly ground nutmeg over the hot, buttery sprouts.

Moules a la Eddie avec frites

For the moules you will need:

  • 1kg of cleaned mussels
  • 1 400g can of chopped tomatoes
  • a good splash of olive oil (enough to cover the bottom of your pan with a thin layer)
  • 4 cloves of finely chopped garlic
  • 2 finely chopped shallots
  • 400g of dry white wine
  • 1 tsp of dried basil
  • 1 tsp of dried oregano 

  1. Take a large pan that has a lid and cover the bottom with a thin layer of olive oil.
  2. Turn the heat to a medium setting and gently saute the chopped onions and garlic until they are just translucent, being careful NOT to brown them.
  3. Add the tin of chopped tomatoes and dried herbs, and turn up the heat to a high setting so that the       tomatoes are bubbling quite vigorously.
  4. Stir the tomatoes and then add the mussels into the pan of bubbling tomatoes and cover with the lid, leaving them on a high heat.
  5. Leave the mussels for approximately five to seven minutes, giving them a good shake once or twice to ensure all of the mussels get a good covering of the sauce. Once they look as though they have all opened serve immediately with the frites, and a crusty baguette for dipping in the sauce.  IMPORTANT – discard any mussels that do not open, do not eat these.

Where I bought the ingredients from:
Moules, Les Huîtres du Bonhomme 25 Boulevard Jean Jaurès, 92100 Boulogne-BillancourtAll other ingredients found at your local market or supermarket.