USA

Hey ya’all!

Food and Flags is starting this year with a recipe from “the land of dreams” – and with the current overwhelming amount of media coverage on US politics, I think we could all take a little break and just focus on what it all always boils down to at the end of the day: a delicious dinner.

My cook in this episode is Phillip, a boy from the the coast of Florida. He prepares nothing other than a classic “Southern comfort” dish: mac’n’cheese –  and boy oh boy, is it gonna be tasty!

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All you need – macaroni, (old) cheese, onion, garlic, breadcrumbs, butter, milk, broccoli, oil, salt, pepper

Start by boiling water in one pot and in the meantime chopping both your onion and garlic. If you bought a bigger block of cheese instead of a pack of pre-grated one, also take some time for grating – we used old Dutch cheese that gave the meal a fine savory taste at the end. Boil your pasta and in another pot melt some butter and crisp the onion and garlic. When golden, add more butter, slowly some milk, and lastly cheese – portions all depend on personal preferences, but let’s face it: can there ever be too much cheese? No.

Phil is coming from the US, but I personally believe he also comes from a land of imagination, being the daydreamer he is – when having a cup of coffee or a drink together, we always end up having the best endless conversations about philosophy, the afterlife, or about one of his hundred conspiracy theories. He is a Capricorn, he believes in the power of thought more than anyone I know (e.g. “Phil, are you cold?” – “No, I tell myself it’s not cold.”), and if I would ever have a question about hip-hop, he could not only tell me about artists and songs to listen to but could also teach me some dance moves. Reading this you definitely feel like wanting to get to know this person – and I don’t blame you, so far he definitely is one of the most interesting little gems of Amsterdam I have found!

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Let’s keep crackin’ that cookin’ though! When pasta is ready, still pay attention to your sauce – add salt, pepper, and a pinch of paprika to it. Take a baking pan and layer the noodles with the creamy sauce, covering the top with extra breadcrumbs and grated cheese. In the oven it goes for 20-25 minutes on 175 degrees, until the top gets golden brown and crispy. You are practically done – easy peasy lemon squeezy! 

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Only thing left to do while waiting for the main dish to reach its final crunchy form is to steam your broccoli – this part speaks for itself, so I’ll rather speak a bit more about Phil and ‘Merica while you do it. I asked him what was one thing he does not come across in Europe but is very typical for him at home: and he told me how no one calls him sweety or honey, for instance when just looking for something in a store and asking the old lady behind the counter to help. So let’s step up our game, Europeans, and stop waiting for a reason to be overly nice to each other! Does not take much extra effort but might make someone’s day nicer.

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Mac and Cheese

By now you have read enough and your food should also be ready, so farewell, reader, enjoy the meal! And thank you for cooking, Russel-Phillip Bodine!

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The American

Hungary Vol. 2

Hey All,

Yes, I am in The Netherlands. Yes, the best Hungarian food is probably back in Budapest. But! There are quite some of us Hungarians around here in Amsterdam too and we so miss the tastes of home that every once in a while we just must cook up some of those delicious dishes of the motherland! The chef of the night was Gellért and we made túrógombóc (cottage cheese dumplings I guess? maybe cheesecake balls?) – here we go:

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All you need – cottage cheese, egg, raisin, cherry compote, breadcrumbs, cinnamon, lemon, flour, sour cream

You start the preparations for this sweet and filling meal a few hours ahead because the dollop needs a two hour nap in the fridge before the next steps. This part is crucial because unless the portions are right, your balls of cheese will fall apart easily. So, in a bowl you basically just mix cottage cheese, raisins, and breadcrumbs. You don’t want it to become too dry but also not too liquid: try 50dg cottage cheese, 3 eggs, 2dl flour, but it may vary.

Now that this is done you have some time to read upon the one and only amazing Hungarian cook featured in this post! Though Gellért is Hungarian and he couldn’t hide it with this name even if he wanted to, he is still as international as it can get – he lived abroad basically by the time he could formulate a full-length sentence and ended up spending around 13 years in Malaysia, heading occasionally over to Australia or New Zealand, later on visiting the US…I won’t even try to complete the list, but let’s just say he is heading home for Christmas to Oman this year, which is just too amazing! We are both cracking the business master’s in the heart of Holland and get into the occasional nostalgia on the little things of home, such as a delicious piece of sportszelet, swimming in Lake Balaton, or just saying egészségedre without someone thinking that we are choking.

It’s time to go on with preparing the túrógombóc! Put on a big bowl of water to boil and another small one for the compote. In the latter you boil the cherries on low heat, add cinnamon, juice of a lemon, vanilla sugar, and a pinch of flour to it and keep stirring, making it into a jam-sauce kind of mix. While that’s cooking, get out the mix from the fridge, water your hands a little bit. Then you shape handful of balls and gently drop them into the boiling water. This is also the time of justice regarding whether you managed a fine consistency, the balls should more or less keep the shape and boil as long as coming up to the surface of the water.

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Watch out for the jam-sauce thingy! When it looks alright, you mash the cherry pieces with a fork or spoon a little to make it smoother, then put it away to cool down a bit. You can use this already hot spot of the stove to heat up a pan that you completely fill up with breadcrumbs to toast a bit. The ready balls will roll around in here right before going on your plate. The last touch to this tasty meal is sour cream, powder sugar, and optional mint leaves on top – the picture below explains it best! Yummmm.

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Túrógombóc

Whenever someone asks me what food I miss most from home, I usually say sour cream, because it’s just not the same here. But what is even worse, there is just no túró AT ALL. And I have got to keep using the Hungarian expression, because there is no term for it in English. Because you cannot buy it anywhere abroad. Because it’s as magyar as possible. This leads to my last note on this tasty meal: if you decide to prepare it (and looking at this picture I’m pretty sure you will), try to look for a Hungarian shop and buy some of the real túró – cottage cheese or ricotta are really just fine substitutes.

Gellért and I ate a few of these balls and we could both only do one thing: smile. It wasn’t simply just delicious but became one of those great meals which reminds you of home, of the days when your mom cooks something simple but sweet on a Sunday.

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The Hungarian

Köszönöm a gombócokat! And of course good appetite, aka jóétvágyat, to all the readers!

Italy Vol.3

Hey All,

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls – drums please -, I am very glad to announce what you have been waiting for continuously for the past months, the reason why you got no sleep and why you had not a single proper dish, the unbelievable that you will witness: Food and Flags is back on, YES!

To make sure that this reawakening is to your greatest joy, I couldn’t help but bring some new Italian tastes. I mean, seriously, who does not like the Italian cuisine? It just cannot go wrong.

You know the feeling when you know someone only for a couple of days or weeks, but it seems like that you have always known them? Like how could you not have these people around you before? I recently moved to Amsterdam and found a couple of Italians who make me feel exactly that way, and whom I am also happy to present as the cooks for this episode: Davide and Eugenio. The boys are from the cute little town of Este and wandered over to the rainy Netherlands for the same reason as I have: to try our best of effort and luck and snatch a master’s degree.

But enough of all this seriousness, let’s eat!

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All you need – Appetizer – bread, salame nostrano, parmigiano reggiano, pearl onions

That’s right, you are reading full on Italian ingredient names under the picture – we got our supply straight from the boys’ motherland, so big shoutout to the famiglia for sending us all the goodies, grazie! Nevertheless, as you can see, the starter is pretty straightforward: just layer these four things on top of each other and they are ready! And so tasty.

Of course once I had Eug and Davide over for a cooking session, I could not let them go so simply – so here we go, we are making Risotto ai Funghi Porcini! 

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All you need – Risotto – onion, garlic, butter, risotto rice, dried porcini mushroom, parmesan, parsley, oil, salt, pepper

Start by putting all your mushrooms (we used two packs) in a bowl of water and let it soak for around half an hour. You might already be hungry, but Italians usually eat quite late anyway, so just take your time. In the meantime you can chop your onions and garlic and keep eating pieces of the delicious appetizer!

While I feel like I have known them for a long time, my cooks really have known each other for eternity! They went to the same kindergarten, same schools – and now, twenty years later, here they still are in the same city and and sharing a flat. (To get a feeling of this nicest of friendship, I suggest to skip down to the end of the post for a peak of the sweetest photo ever!!)

Though I am most probably putting you in the mood of digging up old memories of lost and found childhood friendships, let’s just keep cooking. Once your mushrooms have softened enough, you cut them into not too small pieces. The stove gets a whole bunch to heat up: start by a pot of water. You will use this to drop in there a pre-made bouillon cube. (Of course very ambitious ones shall make this part from scratch!) A second pot and pan follows, both heated up with a sprinkle of oil.

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Fry your mushrooms with garlic in the pan, while doing the same with the onion in the second pot with butter. The boiling water can get the tasty bouillon cube and keep bubbling on low heat. The risotto rice follows the onion in the pan now. Once in, cover it with a few ladles of bouillon and keep repeating so every time it sort of starts drying up; stir it frequently. This process will last 20-30 minutes easily, so good that you still have some of those starters and hopefully also a whole bottle of wine! At the end mix the mushrooms with the risotto, keep grating parmesan in it until it becomes smooth and creamy, and of course add salt, pepper and parsley according to taste. Done! 

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Risotto ai Funghi Porcini

I still have at least another 8 months ahead of me with these two Italians and I could not be happier – whenever I won’t know what music to listen to (crazy how much they know), what to eat, or simply just need someone around to cheer me up, I’m completely sure they will be the best to turn to. I hope you enjoy these easy-to-make and delicious dishes, reader! Buon appetito and of course as always, thank you for cooking, guys!

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The Italians

Sweden

Hey All,

Malm. Ektorp. Pokal. Basically the only Swedish words I know – all of them IKEA products. I guess once you think of Sweden, also the meatballs come to mind, or an IKEA, or ABBA. After this post Einar’s name will come to mind as well!

My chef for the day is studying with me in Vienna, is 21 years old, and he’s from the city of Linköping. He always has a smile, and already just his presence cheers you up right away. Seriously, no kidding, I have hardly ever met such a positive person before! He is very enthusiastic about travelling, meeting new people, and sports. And he misses his doggie so much! Special about this post is that we didn’t cook something very typical Swedish – but still very Swedish in heart. Let me explain. We made chicken lasagne with some nice salad. But this recipe doesn’t just come from a cooking book – Einar and his friends came up with it themselves two years ago. Sooo, as the Swedish came up with the whole idea, I think it represents the local cuisine just enough.

All you need - Salad - balsamic vinegar, olive oil, rocket, radish, tomato
All you need – Salad – balsamic vinegar, olive oil, rocket, radish, tomato
All you need - Chicken lasagne - chicken, onion, garlic, mushroom, pepper, spinach, grated cheese, lasagne 'plates', bacon, creme fraiche, salt, pepper, oil
All you need – Chicken lasagne – chicken, onion, garlic, mushroom, pepper, spinach, grated cheese, lasagne ‘plates’, bacon, creme fraiche, salt, pepper, oil

We start with the lasagne, will do the salad later. (My greatest excuses if the label ‘lasagne’ hurts the Italian, it’s nothing against you guys!) If you’re a regular visitor here, you probably already know the drill – always start by chopping up every ingredient. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. You fry the onion, garlic, paprika, and mushroom pieces in a pan. Later you do the same with your tiny pieces of chicken and the bacon. You put both in a bowl and mix it with creme fraiche, salt, pepper.

Once done, get a frying pan and cover it in some oil. Put a layer of your mix on the bottom, cover it with lasagne, and keep repeating – we had 3 layers at the end, but the more the merrier. Top the whole thing with more creme fraiche, spinach, and a lot of cheese – and goes in the oven.

I can really recommend a glass of wine for the process, as well as a lot of Swedish music. We listened to Avicii, First Aid Kit, The Cardigans – and, naturally, ABBA! No wonder why Einar is so energetic, the combination of cooking, wine, and this music also made my day!

While the lasagne is in the oven, make your salad quickly so you have some time to dance around for the great background songs. Basically you just got to grab a bowl, put the rocket salad in there, the leftover spinach, pieces of tomato and radish. You mix it with some honey, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Done!

Chicken lasagne and Swedish candy
Chicken lasagne and Swedish candy

While we ate this amazingly tasty dish, we had a great talk about our countries, food, student life in Vienna. I also got a suprise dessert – real Swedish candy! Yum yum. It was butterscotch, one of my favorites. We ended our night by playing some pool with friends, so we kiinda worked off the dinner.

The Swedish
The Swedish

Enjoy the dish, and please, try to look for your own Einar! As a matter of fact he has a twin brother, so you may try to meet him as well. Thank you for cooking, Swedish friend!

France

Hey All,

Have you been missing Food and Flags? Awww.I know, it has been very long since I have posted any recipes – but summer has treated me so well, I didn’t really have the time to look for new flags for the blog. However, one of the most famous cuisines is presenting itself in this post: the French!

I have just started my Erasmus exchange semester in Vienna, so, lucky for you, I meet many new great people who can introduce me to completely new tastes and new stories. Today’s Frenchie cooks didn’t come from the same city, so I kinda count today as two flags… Julie is from Burgundy, studies business as I do, and very happy to be in Vienna (quote: “I’m not going to tell you the name of my place because nobody knows it as it is very small. So, Vienna changes my life!’). She was also surprised to realize that so many people know Dijon because of the mustard – I bet you also couldn’t point at it on the map, just think of the delicious and spicy taste of the mustard. My other guest is Valentin, business student as well, coming from Strasbourg, but is originally from the romantic city of Paris – “capital of well being and good food”. Great people bringing yummi food to my kitchen: hachis parmentier.

All you need - minced meat, onion, garlic, flour, egg, parmesan, emmental, potato, oli, salt, pepper
All you need – minced meat, onion, garlic, flour, egg, tomato, parmesan cheese, emmental cheese, potato, butter, salt, pepper

As much as you missed my posts, I bet you missed chopping ingredients even more. So, start by doing that with two onions, garlic, and tomatoes. Important note: cut the liquid, seedy part of the tomatoes out, and chop the rest to tiny cubes. When done, fry the onion and garlic on butter. Then add the tomatoes, and a few minutes later the meat. Flavor it with salt and pepper, and let it fry for a while. In the meantime, separate an egg yolk from its white.

Oh, aaand you’ve gotta make mashed potatoes! We were super lazy and just used the pre-mix, shame on us – but if you have time and energy, make the proper one of course!

Now put a few spoons of flour on the top and mix it well. Just let it be for a while, and preheat your oven to 200 degrees. Cooking can be even nicer on a Sunday afternoon if you freshen yourself up with a cold glass of white wine – at least this was the French way of doing so today.

After your tasty mix is done, put it over into a bowl, drop the egg yolk on it as well as some parmesan. Afterwards you grab a frying pan – ours was way too big, so we found a rather creative solution of making the right fit, putting in a sub-pan made of aluminium foil… Anywaay, the meat goes from the bowl into the frying pan. You cover it with mashed potatoes, and a great layer of grated emmental. At the end, the oven takes over the work for 20 minutes. All done!

Hachis parmentier

This recipe was a first for all three of us. Even though the French are very famous for their kitchen, my cooks aren’t that practiced. Hopefully after today they will make more délicieux dishes like this one! All I can say for now is that this dish is very easy to make, and makes me wanna extend the French motto of Liberté, égalité, fraternité with the word arômes (or something alike).

The French

I promise not to disappear for so long again and really hope you’ll enjoy this meal in the company of the French around you – or in France! Bon appétit!

PS.: We also had the cutest sous-chef in the kitchen. Dog owners watch out, curious pets may try to steal your meat, or just slobber all over – too much food with good smell!