Simple meal suggestions

AnRoinnUltra

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Apologies if this should be at home in the lounge -the cookery advice there looked hardcore.

I was looking for some meal ideas for a story. It's an intergalactic cookery book, and the story has a food critic inhabiting people's imaginations around the globe. I'm reasonably ok with northwest Europe, but after that am mostly relying on research; and I reckon first hand knowledge always trumps. The idea is that the meals would be simple enough for a reader to put together with fairly universal foodstuffs (or as close as possible). I'd love for it to be a broad span picked up by a creature who has no knowledge of cultures or politics, so just jumps around the physical places where humans live. Just the name of something would be good (Eg. 'Boxty'), all advice appreciated.
 

The Judge

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Are you looking for meals, or for recipes? The latter usually just represent part of a meal -- even something homely like a stew or cottage pie wouldn't constitute a meal on its own, since there would usually also be carbs or veg to go along with it. And what about cakes or desserts?

I can't help with non-English food from my own knowledge, but I do have a number of cookery books which cover other parts of Europe, as well as Persia and the Levant, so if you were wanting something specific -- ie dumpling recipes, which are found in practically every cuisine! -- I could go and have a dig round and see what I could find.

If you're wanting recipes, though, and you're copying them exactly from a book or website (and there are plenty of those around!) do ensure that, at the very least, you acknowledge the source, and be wary of infringing copyright if it's something created by a specific person, as opposed to a look at traditional fare.
 

AnRoinnUltra

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Thanks @The Judge for your kind offer. The thread title is confusing. I hadn't really given the word meal a thought. I was just thinking of a simple staple. My plan is to then make it myself and write a rough recipe based on that.

If you think there's Persian recipe that might fit it'd be great. I could look it up and have a go (might be a good way of getting in the frame of mind for that part of the story, plus I'd like to stand over what's written). Traditional fare is the goal, or as close to it as I can manage. (y)
 

The Judge

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OK, the book I've got is The Legendary Cuisine of Persia by Margaret Shaida, and as I was flicking through it I was rather confused as I didn't recognise any of the recipes, and then I remembered that I'd mainly used this for its introductions and general info on Persian food and the book I'd looked at in greater detail was one I'd borrowed from the library, which was The Saffron Tales: Recipes from the Persian Kitchen by Yasmin Khan. The latter had a recipe for chicken with walnuts and pomegranates which I recall thinking I could manage (though in the event I never did try it).

So, a couple of recipes from the Shaida book:
  • stuffed shoulder of lamb with rice, saffron, apricots, almonds, sultanas, a dried herb mix and lemon juice (there's also a stuffing for a whole lamb which could be adapted which has saffron, spring onions, fresh herbs, walnuts, pistachios, almonds, apricots, onions and barberries)
  • barberry and almond stew, which has boned leg of lamb, onion, pistachios, almonds, barberries and saffron
Either of those interest you? If so, I'll let you have the recipe(s). If not, there are lots of other stews, incl aubergine, and omelettes are also popular.

The most important dish culturally is the rice dish called polow but the master recipe has ten separate steps, and each alternative (jewelled rice, rice with dried fruits/nuts, with herbs etc etc) can add another half-dozen. They look wonderful, and I dare say once the technique is mastered it's easy enough, but probably not what you're looking for in a simple recipe!
 

therapist

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Are you only looking for dishes that are easily made from home? There's several dishes I would reccomend from bangkok but many contain ingredients that an average reader would struggle to procure.

Green Papaya Salad (som tum) ส้มตำไทย—One of the most popular dishes here, but finding green papaya and dried shrimp may be tricky? Also (optionally) served with sticky rice which will prove difficult. recipe

Grilled beef 'Waterfall' Salad (nam tok) น้ำตกเนื้อย่าง—alot more doable, but often served with sticky rice. recipe

Stir fry noodle (pad see ew) ผัดซีอิ้ว—Another very popular street food dish and a favourite of mine. Easy to find ingredients. recipe.

Also worth mentioning that Thailand is home to the greatest desert of all time, Mango Sticky Rice. (I wouldn't reccomend attempting to make sticky rice without a rice cooker) recipe
 

AnRoinnUltra

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Thanks @The Judge and @therapist for taking the time to give detailed responses. Much appreciated, and exactly what the doctor ordered. I'm gonna go with Polow. I'm taking onboard what you said about it being a fine art to get right @The Judge but will try make a basic version. The lamb dishes sound deadly and my stomach is whinging thinking of them, but I sorta want to keep the book simple (am lucky enough to be able to afford lamb myself, but it mightn't be within reach of some readers). Stir fry noodle will be the focus of the second section of the story -all those dishes seem class @therapist but a relatively simple fry is probably more in keeping with the tale. Fair play, ya can't beat Chrons for folk taking a daft idea seriously and giving considered advice. Plan is to work on one dish/ section a month so loads to be getting on with there. Thanks again, fair play.
 

Bramandin

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You know how one technique for making rice-balls is to put rice into a plastic bag? Making onigiri with a plastic bag What I do is to use a snack-size lunch container, I think they're 150ml, and pack it with rice to make a rectangular cake. I don't fill mine, but I like canned sardines with rice. I could imagine a musubi version where the rice takes the place of a bagel, like cream cheese and lox, or maybe there's a rice ball with pizza-bagel toppings. Maybe an alien uses a slice of cooked egg instead of spam.

There's a recipe I have that started as African Peanut soup, but I've mangled the heck out of it. The base is a can of V8, a generous dollop of cheap peanut butter (the grainy stuff that the oil comes out of is great) and a shot of Louisiana hot sauce. The original recipe called for okra, I've done peas or green beans but I prefer spinach. Leftover sweet-potato fries are great in it, but I've also used frozen cubed squash. Usually I'd throw a brick of cheap ramen in it without the flavor packet, but cheesy crackers like goldfish are great for the carb. Vegetarian unless you poach an egg in it.

This is something I did when I really wanted pizza but I hadn't gotten the hang of eating without most of my teeth. Take these dumpling instructions and use a packet of cheddar-garlic roll mix or Red Lobster's cheese biscuit recipe. Use V8 as the cooking-liquid. I had added finely-chopped summer sausage to the liquid, but it wasn't worth it. I imagine that it would be good with mushrooms or other stuff that goes on pizza.

Great, now I want impossible cheeseburger pie. I wonder if I can bake it in a frying pan like a pizza or if I need to run the toaster-oven.
 

AnRoinnUltra

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You know how one technique for making rice-balls is to put rice into a plastic bag? Making onigiri with a plastic bag What I do is to use a snack-size lunch container, I think they're 150ml, and pack it with rice to make a rectangular cake. I don't fill mine, but I like canned sardines with rice. I could imagine a musubi version where the rice takes the place of a bagel, like cream cheese and lox, or maybe there's a rice ball with pizza-bagel toppings. Maybe an alien uses a slice of cooked egg instead of spam.

There's a recipe I have that started as African Peanut soup, but I've mangled the heck out of it. The base is a can of V8, a generous dollop of cheap peanut butter (the grainy stuff that the oil comes out of is great) and a shot of Louisiana hot sauce. The original recipe called for okra, I've done peas or green beans but I prefer spinach. Leftover sweet-potato fries are great in it, but I've also used frozen cubed squash. Usually I'd throw a brick of cheap ramen in it without the flavor packet, but cheesy crackers like goldfish are great for the carb. Vegetarian unless you poach an egg in it.

This is something I did when I really wanted pizza but I hadn't gotten the hang of eating without most of my teeth. Take these dumpling instructions and use a packet of cheddar-garlic roll mix or Red Lobster's cheese biscuit recipe. Use V8 as the cooking-liquid. I had added finely-chopped summer sausage to the liquid, but it wasn't worth it. I imagine that it would be good with mushrooms or other stuff that goes on pizza.

Great, now I want impossible cheeseburger pie. I wonder if I can bake it in a frying pan like a pizza or if I need to run the toaster-oven.
Fair play, I didn't know about the rice ball thing & the dumplings look tasty in the picture anyway (I'm with you on the canned sardines and rice). Do you mind me asking what part of the world you're in? The idea is to have food to represent, or be found in a geographical place -the protagonist sort of picks up on the ubiquity of the grub and takes note.
I was thinking it'd end up as mostly cereal or grain based stuff but It's just a guess.
Thanks, and well done on the food experimentation (y)
 

Bramandin

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Fair play, I didn't know about the rice ball thing & the dumplings look tasty in the picture anyway (I'm with you on the canned sardines and rice). Do you mind me asking what part of the world you're in? The idea is to have food to represent, or be found in a geographical place -the protagonist sort of picks up on the ubiquity of the grub and takes note.
I was thinking it'd end up as mostly cereal or grain based stuff but It's just a guess.
Thanks, and well done on the food experimentation (y)

I'm nearish Chicago. I'm trying to think of what's normal for families to cook in the region, but I'm coming up blank. We do have a Greek fest, there used to be a pierogi shop, plenty of gyros fast food places, and many American-style diners have greek dishes as well as the normal burgers and such.
 

therapist

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Sticky rice is sold in my local grocery store (small town ontario). It took a few tries, but I find it easy enough to cook just in a pot with water.
That is impressive. I tried several times using a pot, even tried using traditional bamboo steamers, but for whatever reason could never quite crack it. The day I got my rice cooker my life changed forever.
 

The Judge

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I'm gonna go with Polow. I'm taking onboard what you said about it being a fine art to get right @The Judge but will try make a basic version.
The thing about polow, though, is that although it's culturally important, it still is only an accompaniment, not a meal in itself -- actually as far as I can gather it's still the case that meals tend to have lots of separate dishes ie more like a hot buffet to Western eyes.

I picked out the lamb dishes as it's a traditional meat, rather than eg beef, but they were very much celebration-type dishes. If you're looking at food which people might want to replicate on a day to day basis, then something like an aubergine stew or a herb omelette might be easier and still be very Persian.
 

The Judge

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I've finally remembered the name of the novel I've been racking my brains about since I first read your post -- The Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester. That has real recipes given as part of the novel, as the unreliable narrator travels down to Provence, giving details of his life (including a trail of corpses) as he goes.
 

AnRoinnUltra

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I've finally remembered the name of the novel I've been racking my brains about since I first read your post -- The Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester. That has real recipes given as part of the novel, as the unreliable narrator travels down to Provence, giving details of his life (including a trail of corpses) as he goes.
Great spot, and thanks. Looks good -goes to show all ideas are variations on theme. Looking forward to reading it.
 

AnRoinnUltra

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If you want to go South American -check out Cuy al horno.
Thanks, appreciate that. Will definitely be going South American -am hopefully gonna have that section as they key part of the story (if I can get it over the line). Dunno about the Guinea Pig thing though, it looks tasty but might be just a bit much for most have a go chefs.
 

JunkMonkey

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Apologies if this should be at home in the lounge -the cookery advice there looked hardcore.

I was looking for some meal ideas for a story. It's an intergalactic cookery book, and the story has a food critic inhabiting people's imaginations around the globe. I'm reasonably ok with northwest Europe, but after that am mostly relying on research; and I reckon first hand knowledge always trumps. The idea is that the meals would be simple enough for a reader to put together with fairly universal foodstuffs (or as close as possible). I'd love for it to be a broad span picked up by a creature who has no knowledge of cultures or politics, so just jumps around the physical places where humans live. Just the name of something would be good (Eg. 'Boxty'), all advice appreciated.

There was running joke in Babylon 5 that every sentient species in the galaxy had independently come up with something that was identical to Swedish Meatballs. Maybe you could work a nod to that in?
 

Mon0Zer0

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From China:

Tomato Eggs (西红柿炒鸡蛋)- real Chinese comfort food - easy to make and delicious - beat some eggs, stir fry them and add tomatoes and garnish with scallions. Job done. Has to be whisked with Chopsticks to get the right texture.

Chinese Omelette (葱蛋饼) - eggs, spring onion, soy and salt - another classic comfort food dish

Baozi (包子) - Meat filled dumplings - ubiquitous on street corners, shops, as street food. Delicious. Used to get them after uni from a cart on the corner.

Duck tongue (鸭舌) - deep fried duck tongue - intensely meaty flavour - duck's tongues have a bone inside!

Crossing the bridge noodles (过桥米线)- a rice noodle broth served with a side of very thinly sliced vegetables and meats. You slide the accompaniments into the broth and it cooks very quickly. It's a delicacy of Yunnan, south western China and quite similar to Vietnamese Pho Ga (Chicken Pho)

Then you've got Stir fries, Hot Pot's, Sichuan Pepper dishes, Stinky Tofu (臭豆腐), so many regional dishes... most of them are quick to cook in a wok.

Vietnam


Banh Mi - A beef baguette with lettuce and spices. Incredible tasting.

Pho - similar to crossing the bridge noodles but different spices. Amazing dish.


Sri Lanka

Beef Curry - just the best. Chuck the ingredients in a pot with some spices and leave to cook.

Jamaica


Aki and Saltfish
Goat curry
Jamaican patty's - like pasties with smoky spiced ingredients.

India

Curry obvs
Tikka wraps are pretty much what they sound like - chicken in spiced yogurt done in a clay oven then served in a wrap with onions - bloody lovely. I had one off a street cart on my first night in Mumbai and was ill for two months.

Korea

I've never been, but I was obsessed with watching the street food videos for a while - they look incredible - twists on burgers and chips, beautifully made sandwhiches, Hot dogs.... *Homer Simpson gargle*

 

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