One of the things we love most about holiday rentals over hotels is that we’re able to cook and eat ‘at home’. Because unless you’re Keith Floyd (one of my inspirations as a wannabe cook in my 20s), you can’t just rock up to a hotel kitchen and whip something up. You can, however, do just that in a holiday rental.
In each destination we visited this year, I was determined to identify a quintessentially local dish to cook in our holiday rental kitchens. I have to confess that sometimes I became a bit obsessed, eating the designated dish several times in restaurants before attempting it at ‘home’ and then making it a few times until I perfected it. Here are some of my favourite recipes from my series on The Dish:
1. Côte de Bœuf
Ever since I saw (and smelt) Pierre Gagnaire’s version of this dish wafting past me several times at his Dubai restaurant Reflets, where we once spent a night in his kitchen, I’ve had fantasies about it. It’s a premium cut of bone-in ribeye, perfect for a decadent meal for two, and Pierre burns thyme in the dish, which give it a smoky aroma. When we were in Paris, I asked Pierre what he thought was the city’s quintessential dish, hoping he would say Côte de Bœuf. His immediate response was ‘couscous’ (!) but as we’d just been to Marrakech, I asked him for his second dish. You guessed it! An added bonus: if you don’t finish it the first night, you’re going to have the best beef and grainy mustard sandwiches ever the next day. Hint: put some rucola on them too!
2. Lamb Tajine with Prunes and Almonds
Côte de Bœuf might be extravagant, but for most of the dishes I cooked during our grand tour I turned to cheaper cuts of meat and slow-cooking. These kinds of dishes are perfect for a holiday rental as they fill the house or apartment with mouthwatering aromas and are generally easy to make. I love tagine and make it often, so when we were in Marrakech I enlisted the help of our riad‘s manager-cum-cook, Jamila to steal some of her secrets to a perfect tagine. This is a dish that needs to be cooked for a really long time to get that fall-off-the-bone texture that’s so desirable with this kind of cooking.
3. Rabo de Toro or Oxtail Stew
It was at Bar Juanito in Jerez, Spain, that Rabo de Toro and I became acquainted. Ok, we became lovers. When it comes to nose to tail eating – well, it’s pretty obvious where this fits in! And as much as I love Bœuf Bourguignon, to me this is a much richer dish due to the bone marrow and the fact that it’s twice-cooked. While locals like to beef it up (so to speak) with sherry, I prefer a bottle of big red wine. Delicious.
As we were to discover, regional French food is very, well, regional. Ceret, in the southwest of France, has a population of Catalan locals that don’t consider themselves to be flag-waving French citizens, despite what’s on their passports. To some of the locals, Cassoulet is a ‘foreign’ dish, despite it appearing on restaurant menus and a tinned version of it taking up a lot of shelf space in the local supermarkets, butchers and gourmet shops. With the main ingredients being pork belly, pork and garlic sausages, beans, and duck confit – it’s a dish that clearly came about during the depths of winter.
5. The Dish Formerly Known as Hungarian Goulash…
Speaking of winter, when we arrived in Budapest I already knew I wanted to make goulash. Except what I wanted to make wasn’t really ‘Hungarian Goulash’ but the stew called pörkölt. While goulash is a delicious soup, pörkölt is the more filling slow-cooked dish that has a similar flavour that people in other countries call Goulash. Don’t worry, we were confused too. Whatever you want to call it, it’s all about the paprika.
6. Tomato Bredie, a Classic Cape Town Stew
When we arrived in Cape Town, I expected I’d be cooking braai or BBQ for The Dish. However, I soon found a typical local dish that fitted in better with many of the other slow-cooked dishes I’d already been cooking during the year – the bredie, an Afrikaans word meaning ‘stew’, even though it’s a dish of Cape Malay origin. This spicy lamb and tomato stew is also cooked twice (like the Rabo de Toro) and it’s an honest, homely dish that really packs in a lot of flavour.
7. Fish Soup from Kotor, Montenegro
In the Bay of Kotor, Montenegro, it’s the seafood that dominates the centre of the dining table. And it always starts with fish soup or riblja čorba. In the Old Town restaurant Cesarica chef, fisherman, sea captain, and travel and tour operator, Rino Janovic, showed me just how simple and hearty his generations-old version of the soup is. Sublime.
8. Huevos Rancheros
My Weekend Eggs series was a lot of fun to explore for the year, but I particularly enjoyed updating one of my favourite egg dishes, Huevos Rancheros (Ranch Eggs), which is practically Mexico’s quintessential dish. This Mexican eggs dish usually features fried eggs, but I made a deconstructed version with poached eggs. I’m proud of the video too, because although I did a couple of typical ‘to camera’ cooking show-style pieces, I have to admit that I’m pretty bored with the genre, so with this I tried to do something a little different.
9. Tacos al Pastor
Still down Mexico way… after meeting with the Taco Mafia in Austin, Texas, and hearing how they want to reclaim the authentic taco, I became obsessed with my favourite taco, Tacos al Pastor. A street food tour of Mexico City with Lesley Tellez of Eat Mexico just furthered my fascinations. While al Pastor is normally cooked on a vertical spit (taking its inspiration from the Middle Eastern shawarma), I wanted to explore how it could be done at home. I think it turned out pretty well. What do you think?
10. Spicy Turkish Lamb Chops with Bulgur
This was the dish I made during our stay in Istanbul and I love it for a variety of reasons. Firstly, a few years ago when a butcher in Kas, Turkey gave me a bag of heady spices to go along with my lamb chops which he’d just smashed to a pulp, I was dubious. But after marinating them and cooking them very quickly, I was hooked. Secondly, in the Middle East, lamb chops are always the part of a mixed grill that I can’t wait to dig into. Thirdly, I think the grain, burghul (or bulgur), is very underrated and I love spicing it up a little. Delicious!