Wild Mushroom Sauce — Latvia

Wild Mushroom Sauce - Latvia - 193 Recipes

Food-wise, Latvia has many things in common with its neighbors, Estonia and Lithuania. Potatoes, wheat, barley, and rye are staples. Meat is the centerpiece of many meals. Latvia is a huge producer of dairy products, and you can see this in the cuisine. Sauerkraut is a favorite, each family preparing sautéed sauerkraut its own way. Cranberries and other wild berries are turned into deserts. Foraging is a common way to gather food, and foraged mushrooms are pickled or prepared as a sauce, as they are here.

Wild Mushroom Sauce - Latvia - 193 Countries

I wanted cook a traditional Latvian food for this project. This mushroom sauce is very simple, but it’s also a celebration of Latvia’s foraged mushrooms. If I were making the most authentic, Latvian version of it, I might make it with boletus mushrooms, which are abundant in Latvian forests and one of the most popular varieties for cooking. I didn’t have access to any boletus mushrooms, so I used locally grown shiitake mushrooms from my CSA share. You can use your favorite locally grown or foraged mushrooms in this sauce. 

Shiitake Mushrooms

I first came across this sauce in this 1984 archived New York Times article on Latvian cuisine. I also saw it mentioned as a favorite in this blog post about foraging in the Gaujas National Forest, and this blog post on common varieties of Latvian mushrooms. Some versions of the sauce include bacon or ham, and others don’t. I have chosen a bacon-free version to suit my own preferences.

I served the sauce spooned over peeled and boiled potatoes, topped with parsley, for a hearty lunch.

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Porgandipirukas (Carrot Pie) – Estonia

Estonian Carrot Pie

This is the very first recipe in my 193 Recipes Project

Why did I start with Estonia? I figured I would begin with one of the Baltic states because I don’t know too much about the food in this region. This challenge is about eating new foods and learning about far away places. I certainly didn’t know what Estonians ate before I started to research. 

My local library didn’t have much information on Estonian cuisine, but I found the information I was looking for on Wikipedia, Estonia’s Ministry of Rural Affairs website, and several Estonian food blogs. There’s a lot of meat and fish in the national cuisine—  I saw many recipes that called for ground beef, pork, or fresh fish. There were a number of baked pastries and soups, as well as pickled vegetables and fermented foods. What I didn’t expect is how seasonal and fresh Estonian food is. There are many plant-based dishes, featuring fresh carrots, potatoes, peas, foraged berries, apples, and many varieties of local wild mushrooms. 

For my recipe, I chose to make porgandipirukas, a savory carrot pie. 

Estonian Carrot Pie

There are many variations on this pie, but the filling base is always boiled or sautéed carrots and onions, seasoned with salt and pepper. Sometimes a chopped boiled egg, cheese, smoked meat, fish, or chives are added to the filling. The pastry is Danish dough. Home cooks use frozen Danish dough, or make a quick yeasted enriched dough with butter and cheese. The pies are most often shaped into a long rectangle, and sliced thinly to serve— that’s what you’ll see in this post. Some cooks also make hand-pie versions, and others make open-top pies. 

The version of porgandipirukas I made is filled with grated carrot, minced onion, and a  chopped boiled egg, and wrapped in a buttery yeasted dough. The filling is sweet from the carrots, savory from the bit of onion, and almost meaty from the egg. The pastry is made in two parts— first milk, yeast, and flour are whisked together to form a wet dough, then a crumbly, buttery mix is kneaded in. It’s a simple yeasted enriched dough, but the two-part process also makes it pleasantly flaky and light. (There’s also an easier shortcut variation in the recipe notes.) 

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193 Recipes: Guidelines for This Challenge

Yesterday, I wrote about my personal challenge to cook a dish from every country around the world. Today, I’m writing out my guidelines for this challenge. Not because I need a formal set of rules— this is a just-for-fun side project— but because I think typing out some rough guidelines before a big project like this will give me some basic structure and sanity. 
Here are my guidelines.
1.  No Particular Order
I’ll work through the countries list in no particular order. I might make a dish from a certain country when I see a good recipe, or when inspiration strikes. I might hop around a particular region of the world. I probably won’t go alphabetically, but who knows, that may happen, too. I’ll work my way through these countries and recipes in whatever order I please. Fewer rules = more fun. 
2. Representative Dishes
As I cook my way around the world, I’d like to try the most representative dishes I can find from each country. These might be everyday staple foods, or they might be fancy special occasion affairs. Whatever they are, I’ll try to find something typical of that region, or special to that nation. 
I know that most countries contain a multitude of cultures and sub-cultures, each with their own special cuisine. I won’t be able to represent every culture in every country with a dish, but I hope I will capture at least one unique and remarkable facet.
I may stray from this if the most representative dishes from a given country are things I can’t eat (guideline #3) or made with obscure ingredients and equipment I can’t find (guideline #4). In that case, I might pick a more obscure or less unique dish. 
3. Things I’ll Eat
It’s no fun cooking your way around the world if you’re only cooking things other people can eat.
I grew up vegetarian, and I still eat that way. While I’ll gladly cook meat for other people, I’m not yet comfortable eating it myself. In the spirit of only cooking things I will eat and enjoy, every recipe on this website will probably be vegetarian, unless I have an unlikely change of heart and decide I must have moqueca (Brazilian fish stew). I am otherwise a very adventurous eater, and the world is filled with plant-based foods, so I don’t think this will restrict me too much. 
4. Keep It Simple
Cooking your way around the world means exploring a variety of ingredients and cooking techniques, which is excellent. However, there are also a lot of traditional ingredients and cooking implements that will probably be out of reach to me, even in this day and age. I’ll try to choose simple, accessible recipes over complex ones that need modifications. In the event that I do need to modify a recipe, I’ll note the changes. 
Keeping it simple isn’t just about the recipes, either. Food bloggers have really ramped up in the last few years, with excellent writing, step-by-step photos, videos, etc. It’s great that the quality of content has gone up, but sometimes it can feel hard to participate if you aren’t creating magazine-quality content. So, I’m giving myself official permission to keep my posts simple. Each dish will have at least one photo, and a recipe— and that’s it for minimum requirements. 
5. Do Your Research
Any time you work with geography and national boundaries, even in the context of a cooking project, you are bound to run into issues of politics and power. Trying to go through every UN-recognized nation also means confronting your own ignorance– some of the countries on the list, I hadn’t even heard of before yesterday. Over the course of this project, I’ll do my best to stay informed and be culturally sensitive. If I’m unfamiliar with a certain place or idea, I’ll stay open minded about it and do my research. 
Photo by Adolfo Félix on Unsplash
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193 Recipes: Cooking My Way Around the World

Cook one dish from each country around the world. 
This is my personal challenge. What better way to get to know the variety of cultures and cuisines on our planet than by cooking a dish from each country?
There are no timelines, and no target dates. This is a challenge, but it’s also meant to be fun. “Every country” is a fuzzy concept, and somewhat controversial, but I decided to use the United Nation member states list as my benchmark. I’ll update the count + link the recipes below as I work my way through this list. Here are my guidelines for the challenge. 
Current status: 2/193
193 United Nations Member States:
  1. Afghanistan
  2. Albania
  3. Algeria
  4. Andorra
  5. Angola
  6. Antigua and Barbuda
  7. Argentina
  8. Armenia
  9. Australia
  10. Austria
  11. Azerbaijan
  12. Bahamas
  13. Bahrain
  14. Bangladesh
  15. Barbados
  16. Belarus
  17. Belgium
  18. Belize
  19. Benin
  20. Bhutan
  21. Bolivia (Plurinational State of)
  22. Bosnia and Herzegovina
  23. Botswana
  24. Brazil
  25. Brunei Darussalam
  26. Bulgaria
  27. Burkina Faso
  28. Burundi
  29. Cabo Verde
  30. Cambodia
  31. Cameroon
  32. Canada
  33. Central African Republic
  34. Chad
  35. Chile
  36. China
  37. Colombia
  38. Comoros
  39. Congo
  40. Costa Rica
  41. Côte D’Ivoire
  42. Croatia
  43. Cuba
  44. Cyprus
  45. Czech Republic
  46. Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
  47. Democratic Republic of the Congo
  48. Denmark
  49. Djibouti
  50. Dominica
  51. Dominican Republic
  52. Ecuador
  53. Egypt
  54. El Salvador
  55. Equatorial Guinea
  56. Eritrea
  57. Estonia
  58. Ethiopia
  59. Fiji
  60. Finland
  61. France
  62. Gabon
  63. Gambia (Republic of The)
  64. Georgia
  65. Germany
  66. Ghana
  67. Greece
  68. Grenada
  69. Guatemala
  70. Guinea
  71. Guinea Bissau
  72. Guyana
  73. Haiti
  74. Honduras
  75. Hungary
  76. Iceland
  77. India
  78. Indonesia
  79. Iran (Islamic Republic of)
  80. Iraq
  81. Ireland
  82. Israel
  83. Italy
  84. Jamaica
  85. Japan
  86. Jordan
  87. Kazakhstan
  88. Kenya
  89. Kiribati
  90. Kuwait
  91. Kyrgyzstan
  92. Lao’s People’s Democratic Republic
  93. Latvia
  94. Lebanon
  95. Lesotho
  96. Liberia
  97. Libya
  98. Liechtenstein
  99. Lithuania
  100. Luxembourg
  101. Madagascar
  102. Malawi
  103. Malaysia
  104. Maldives
  105. Mali
  106. Malta
  107. Marshall Islands
  108. Mauritania
  109. Mauritius
  110. Mexico
  111. Micronesia (Federated States of)
  112. Monaco
  113. Mongolia
  114. Montenegro
  115. Morocco
  116. Mozambique
  117. Myanmar
  118. Namibia
  119. Nauru
  120. Nepal
  121. Netherlands
  122. New Zeland
  123. Nicaragua
  124. Niger
  125. Nigeria
  126. Norway
  127. Oman
  128. Pakistan
  129. Palau
  130. Panama
  131. Papua New Guinea
  132. Paraguay
  133. Peru
  134. Philippines
  135. Poland
  136. Portugal
  137. Quatar
  138. Republic of Korea
  139. Republic of Moldova
  140. Romania
  141. Russian Federation
  142. Rwanda
  143. Saint Kitts and Nevis
  144. Saint Lucia
  145. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  146. Samoa
  147. San Marino
  148. Sao Tome and Principe
  149. Saudi Arabia
  150. Senegal
  151. Serbia
  152. Seychelles
  153. Sierra Leone
  154. Singapore
  155. Slovakia
  156. Slovenia
  157. Solomon Islands
  158. Somalia
  159. South Africa
  160. South Sudan
  161. Spain
  162. Sri Lanka
  163. Sudan
  164. Suriname
  165. Swaziland
  166. Sweden
  167. Switzerland
  168. Syrian Arab Republic
  169. Tajikistan
  170. Thailand
  171. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
  172. Timor-Leste
  173. Togo
  174. Tonga
  175. Trinidad and Tobago
  176. Tunisia
  177. Turkey
  178. Turkmenistan
  179. Tuvalu
  180. Uganda
  181. Ukraine
  182. United Arab Emirates
  183. United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  184. United Republic of Tanzania
  185. United States of America
  186. Uruguay
  187. Uzbekistan
  188. Vanuatu
  189. Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of
  190. Viet Nam
  191. Yemen
  192. Zambia
  193. Zimbabwe
P.S. This is inspired in large part by Chris Guillebeau’s “Every Country In The World” challenge. He travelled the world, and I’m cooking 193 recipes from the comfort of my own home, so his version is far more ambitious. But the spirit of adventure and enthusiasm for the world is shared.
Photo by Sara Riaño on Unsplash 
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