Food is often the centerpiece of significant moments in life—first dates, weddings, religious celebrations, reunions … the list is endless. And as someone who loves to try new dishes from around the world, it’s only natural that food plays a role in my stories. In each of my books, the heroine is visiting a new-to-her country for the first time and as part of the cultural experience (and being wooed by a very handsome foreign man!), my heroine gets to try local dishes.
As nice as it would be to travel around the world and taste an array of dishes, sometimes taking a journey in your kitchen can be just as much fun. If you’re planning a romantic dinner for your loved one, you might like to take them on an “Around the World Dining Experience”, complete with a Food Passport that you can stamp when each course is served. Who knows, this might become a new tradition!
Below are some of my favorite recipes that relate to the books in my Wandering Skies series. Hopefully this will get you inspired!
Gazpacho (Spain – Under the Spanish Stars)
Gazpacho is one of Spain’s most famous recipes and it originated in Andalucia. This soup is delicious when served with crusty bread just out of the oven, as well as a side of olives, cheese, artichokes, and avocado. It’s one of those recipes where you can add your own flair and make it totally yours.
You will need:
2 lbs of tomatoes
4 slices of stale bread
1 green pepper (or capsicum, depending on your nationality)
1 red pepper (as above)
1 yellow pepper (as above)
2+ garlic cloves (depending on how much you love garlic!)
1 tsp superfine sugar
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
Tabasco sauce (if you like it spicy!)
1 boiled egg – hard
freshly ground black pepper
Cut a cross at the end of each tomato and immerse in boiling water for 20 seconds. Take out the tomatoes and plunge them in the ice-cold water for a few seconds. This will make it easy to remove the tomato skins. Once peeled, cut the tomatoes and use the knife to remove seeds but do this over a bowl because it will catch the juice and you can use this later.
Place tomatoes in a blender. Put the leftover juice, cores and skins in a sieve over a bowl and press with a spatula. Once the juice is released, chop a couple of slices of bread and soak them in the juice for five to seven minutes.
Finely chop the green pepper (capsicum) and add this to the blender, along with garlic and the soaked bread, two tablespoons of olive oil, sherry vinegar and a few drops of tabasco sauce (or more if you like some kick). Blend. Check the consistency of the soup and if it looks too thick, add a few splashes of ice-cold water. The ideal consistency for this soup is for it to be thicker than most soups but not too thick. Put in the refrigerator and chill for a couple of hours.*
Boil the egg and finely dice the cucumber, yellow and red peppers (capsicum). Refrigerate.
Cube the remaining bread, add a smidge of olive oil and salt and pepper and put in the oven until it is golden and crispy. Peel and finely chop the hard boiled egg then put in a small bowl. When the bread is ready, place the bowls of bread cubes, chopped egg, and cucumber and peppers (capsicums) on the table and serve the soup in chilled bowls.
Sit back, relax, and enjoy!
*Note: Some people like tomato vines in their gazpacho so if you buy tomatoes with vines, set the vines aside and add to the soup just before you refrigerate.
Empanadas (Argentina – Midnight Serenade)
1 Tbs olive oil
1 pound of ground beef
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
A pinch of ground nutmeg
A inch of ground cloves
3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled, coarsely chopped
16 pitted black olives
Melted butter, to brush
3 cups of plain flour
1/3 cup of chilled butter
1 tsp salt
1 egg yolk, lightly whisked
1/3 cup of chilled water
Make the pastry by placing the flour, butter, and salt in a blender. Process until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and water and process again until the dough starts to cling. Take out and place on a floured surface and knead the dough until all lumps are removed. Wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes.
While the dough is chilling, heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the onion, stir until it is clear and soft. Add the ground beef, stirring with a wooden spoon until brown and cooked through. Add the cumin, garlic, cinnamon, paprika, nutmeg, and cloves. Mix well, take off the stove and transfer to a large, heatproof bowl. Add the chopped hardboiled eggs and set aside mixture.
Remove dough from refrigerator and line 2 large baking trays with baking paper. Turn on oven to 400F. Roll out the pastry until it is less than a quarter of an inch thick. Cut the pastry into 16 discs, 4.5 to 5 inches in diameter.
Place a heaped tablespoon of ground beef in the center of the pastry disc. Top with 1 or 2 olives and brush the edges of the pastry with water. Fold so it is in the shape of a half moon. Press the edges together and use a fork to crimp the edge or you can pinch edges with your fingers. Place on a lined tray and repeat this until all the empanadas have been made. Brush the empanadas with melted butter, bake in the over until golden (around 25 minutes). Eat and enjoy!
Pavlova – (Australia/France – Under the Parisian Sky)
Pavlova is a dessert with a meringue base, loads of whipped cream and often topped with shredded chocolate or fruit such as berries or passion fruit. It is delicious in any form and, depending on whether you’re in Australia or New Zealand, citizens of those countries will proudly tell you that it was first invented in honor of Ana Pavlova, a famed ballerina who once danced with the Ballets Russes (that I write about in Under the Parisian Sky). When Ana was on her world tour in 1926 the dessert we know as pavlova was named after her to represent the white tutu that Ana wore when she performed in her role of the dying swan in Swan Lake. When you look at a pavlova and a tutu, it’s easy to see the connection. The country of origin, however, is a lot harder to define. Australians and New Zealanders have always had a friendly rivalry and there’s nothing like the subject of pavlova or rugby or cricket to spark a bout of patriotism. For the sake of peace, I’ll leave the subject of origin alone and concentrate on giving you the recipe for one of my most favorite desserts.
You will need:
1 tablespoon of corn flour
6 egg whites
1 teaspoon of cream of tartar
1 1/3 cups of superfine sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of white vinegar
1 cup of pure cream
1 cup of fresh berries of any sort (or three passion fruits scooped out or 2 bananas, sliced)
Preheat the oven to 390 F (200C).
On a sheet of baking paper, draw a 9 inch (24 centimeter) circle. Turn it over so the pencil marking is on the underside of the baking paper and place it on a baking tray. Sprinkle one teaspoon of corn flour on top of the baking paper.
Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer, add cream of tartar and keep beating until soft peaks form. Slowly add the sugar – one teaspoon at a time but set aside a tablespoon of sugar for later – and keep the beater going, making sure the mixture grows thick and shiny. Once this happens, add in three teaspoons of corn flour and the last tablespoon of sugar. Then add the vanilla and vinegar.
Spoon the merengue onto the baking paper, ensuring it stays within the circle you have drawn. Make sure the merengue is higher around the outer edges and lower in the middle. Turn your oven heat down to 210 F (100C) and bake for 75 to 90 minutes or until the merengue is crisp (but not dark brown). Turn off the oven and open the door but leave the merengue in the oven to cool down. Don’t worry if it sinks a little in the middle, that’s common!
Once the merengue is completely cool and you’re ready to serve, beat your cream until thick, spread over the top of the merengue and add your favorite topping. Sit back and enjoy!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Alli Sinclair is a multi award-winning author who spent her early adult years travelling the globe, intent on becoming an Indiana Jones in heels. She scaled mountains in Nepal, Argentina, and Peru, rafted the Ganges, and rode a camel in the Sahara. Argentina and Peru became her home for a few years and when she wasn’t working as a mountain or tour guide, Alli could be found in the dance halls dancing the tango, salsa, merengue, and samba.
All of these adventures made for fun storytelling and this is when she discovered her love of writing. Alli’s stories capture the romance and thrill of exploring new destinations and cultures that also take readers on a journey of discovery.
To find out more about Alli, please visit allisinclair.com.
Alli can be found at allisinclair.com
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