Join twowildtides on the country challenge. Each week, we’re going to be heading to a new country (in spirit). Primarily, we’ll be cooking a meal from each country; but we’ll also be watching travel documentaries, reading travel blogs, and listening to music. During the global pandemic, travel is largely inaccessible. We want to reignite our wanderlust, satisfy our travel bug as much as we can, and learn some new things along the way. I have a feeling our bucket list will have a number of items added to it through this experience as well. We created a simple alphabetical spreadsheet with all the countries of the world, and each week we will draw a random number that corresponds with a country on the spreadsheet.
Iraq is the country of the week. Iraq has become synonymous with war, however, like many other countries with political tension and/or violence, Iraq has a rich culture, incredible ancient history, and many natural wonders that should not be overlooked. Check out the following article– the author of which wrote something that I truly admire and support:
I always live with the idea that there are no dangerous countries. Yet there are dangerous places or dangerous times.
I’m just realizing how tiny Iraq’s coastline is. It’s only 36 miles!!
The national dish of Iraq is called Masgouf, which is a native fish BBQ’d on open coals. I don’t have a coal BBQ or access to Iraqi native fish, so I did a bit more research on Iraqi cuisine and found another dish with really interesting techniques and ingredients that I got excited about.
Dolma is a stuffed vegetable dish, considered an unofficial national dish and according to ExploreIraq.com, it is one of the most common foods in the country. Dolma makes it on many of the “top foods in…” lists that I’ve been loving throughout this challenge. Dolma ranks #10 on this list by CultureTrip, #10 on this list by WorldFood.Guide, #9 on this list by Flavorverse, and #3 on this list by Trip101. This is the recipe we followed:
We chose this recipe in the spirit of authenticity (as we try to with every country) and support. The chef is a woman who was displaced from her home in Iraq along with her family and cooks Dolma as a way to remember her home.
The key spice ingredient in this recipe is Sumac, which I had never tried before, let alone cooked with. It was available at my local grocery store. I was not expecting Sumac to have such a sweet, citrusy aroma. It smells like a perfume I’d actually wear or a summertime sweet drink. I already made a simple syrup out of the Sumac I purchased for this dish and made whiskey cocktails out of it (SO GOOD).
We started by cooking the rice according to package directions and hollowing out our green peppers, onions, zucchini, and eggplant. This is also my first time cooking with eggplant and I found the consistency to be similar to zucchini.
We made our rice and beef stuffing mixture and began stuffing the veggies and forming the leafy rolls. We had to use Swiss Chard instead of grape leaves as we could not buy them locally and the canned version was not available on Amazon.
We placed everything in the pot, poured in the Sumac juice, and set the whole thing to boil. We did not have high expectations for how well everything would hold together. We honestly expected the pot to be a sloppy mess. We were wrong! Everything stayed stuffed and in place really well.
Overall, this recipe really impressed in terms of both flavour and our own success in pulling off a somewhat intricate dish. The vegetables still had some bone to them (i.e. not too mushy) and the Sumac and allspice gave the dish a super rich flavour. I’d compare the flavour of the rice to our Uzbek Plov, which makes sense because the barberries added the same citrus flavour that the Sumac did. I’m not sure that I’d make this recipe again considering the substantial amount of work that went into it compared to the Plov. But I’m really glad we tried it and it certainly lived up to the expectation.
While we ate, we watched this video about travel in Iraq:
Happy cooking and see you next week!