Sugar Free

Azerbaijani Lamb Soup


As Zemfira and Tarlan Ahmadov from Baku, Azerbaijan, showed Lindsay Sterling in Portland, Maine. 

Serves: 10 as a first course
Cooking Time: 2 hours
Perfect with: Azerbaijani beef with chestnutsyellow rice, fresh vegetable platter, and a small bowl of pickled vegetables


  • 1 pound ground lamb (preferably not super lean)
  • 1/2 tsp salt + more to taste
  • 1/2 onion
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 egg
  • water
  • dash turmeric
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked black eyed peas or kidney beans (if using canned, use 1 can strained and rinsed)
  • dried mint
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar


1. Make lamb meatballs. Fine dice half an onion, mix into ground lamb with a little salt, and form meatballs that are about the diameter of a quarter. Simmer the meatballs gently in water (which becomes the broth of your soup) for forty minutes, discarding foam or oils that rise to the top with a spoon.

2. Make fresh pasta by hand. It's easy once you know how to do it. In a large mixing bowl make a well in 3 cups flour and fill it with one egg. Mix the egg with your pointer finger around and around faster than meets the eye. Then once the egg is mixed start widening the circle you're drawing with your finger to incorporate flour from the edges of the well. As you do this, pour water slowly from a cup into the egg mixture, allowing you to continue mixing your wet whirl into the dry flour around it until you have a dry dough that is soft and pliable. Continue folding the dough on top of itself so that it's uniform.

3. Split the dough into three equal sized balls. Make them nice and round by pulling the edges of each ball and pressing them into the bottom of it. Let the three balls rest in the center of the flour bowl, covered with a cloth for twenty minutes.

4. On a clear table or counter top, pat one of the balls of dough into a circle. Then roll it out with a rolling pin into a large thin sheet. You'll need to sprinkle flour liberally on the dough as you are rolling it out.  Also, intermittently lift the sheet off the counter and flour the other side.

5. Once you have a nice big thin sheet about the thickness of a piece of construction paper, fold the outside edges of the sheet into the middle, and then fold the shape in half making the crease where the edges are. Now you have a really long rectangle. Shorten the rectangle by folding it in half again.

6. Cut across this packet into thin strips with a chef knife, making fresh pasta. To help cut parrallel lines (making noodles with even width) use the hand not holding the knife as a guide. What I mean is: stick the elbow of the hand not holding the knife out in front of you. Then put that hand along the short length of the dough to visually guide the parallel line where to cut across the dough. 

7. Once you've cut the noodles, toss the noodles so they're dusted in flour and stay separate from each other. Repeat with the other two dough balls.

8. Turn the soup to medium high. When it's simmering, add black eyed peas, a dash of turmeric, and a couple handfuls of fresh pasta. Reserve the rest of the pasta, covered in the fridge, for any fresh pasta dish you like tomorrow. 

9. When pasta's done and the soup has slightly thickened from the pasta starch, it's done. Sprinkle each bowl with dried mint. Serve with small vessel of balsamic for people to drizzle on top.




Please help improve this recipe for others by sharing your suggestions in the comment box below. 

Congolese Orange-Ginger Energy Drink

As Constance Kabaziga's daughter, from Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, taught Lindsay Sterling in Freeport, ME. Photo by Ted Axelrod

Note: This awesome energy drink cleanses and burns in a reviving way. It wakes you up with flavor!

Makes: 10 servings
Cooking time: 20 minutes


  • 1 quart of orange juice
  • 6-inch stalk of ginger
  • Sweetener (optional)
  • Pineapple juice (optional)


1. Peel and cut ginger into chunks.

2. Blend ginger in blender with orange juice. Pour juice through a mesh strainer to strain out the ginger fibers.  

3. Serve the strained ginger-orange juice straight as a refreshing and healthy energy drink. Add sweetener or fresh pineapple juice if you wish.

Bolivian Beef, Rice, Potatoes and Salad


As Rommy Cornejo Holman, from Cochabamba, Bolivia, taught Lindsay Sterling in North Yarmouth, ME. Photos by David Holman.

Serves: 4
Cooking time: 1 hr


  • 1 c. white rice
  • 3 yukon gold potatoes
  • 3/4 c. breadcrumbs
  • salt 
  • pepper
  • 3/4 lb. ground beef
  • 1 small green pepper
  • 1/2 small red onion
  • 1 red pepper
  • 2 tsp cider vinegar
  • 3 tomatoes
  • about 1/2 cup + 2 tsp canola or sunflower oil
  • 1 jalapeño (in Bolivia she uses locoto peppers, similiar to habañero, w/o seeds)
  • small bunch cilantro (in Bolivia, she would use an herb called quilquina)
  • 4 eggs


  • small to medium pot w/ lid for cooking rice
  • medium pot for boiling potatoes
  • mixing bowl
  • cutting board
  • knife
  • 2 cereal bowls
  • 2 spoons
  • rolling pin
  • 2 dinner plates
  • 2 large saute pans
  • spatula 
  • nonstick pan or egg poacher
  • large platter or sheet pan 
  • paper towels
  • food mill, blender, or food processor (or a bottle of hotsauce)


1. Cook white rice. Put rice in a small to medium pot. Cover rice with 3/4 inch water, bring to a boil, cover, turn to simmer, and cook on low for 20 minutes. 

2. Par-cook the potatoes. In a medium pot cover potatoes with water, bring to a boil, and cook for 5-10 minutes until the potatoes are cooked half way through. The potatoes are soft on the outside but still hard on the inside. 

3. Make the salad topping. Cut one red pepper, one green pepper, one red onion, and one tomato into 1/4-inch cubes and put into a bowl. Make the dressing by mixing 2teaspoons cider vinegar, 2 teaspoons canola or sunflower oil, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper in a small bowl with a fork. Gently mix the dressing into the salad.

Rommy Holman teaches how to cook her favorite dish.

4. Blend fresh hot sauce. Blend the chili peppers and 2 tomatoes (cut wedges) as briefly as possible to liquify for a fresh hot sauce (or skip this step and use your favorite bottled hot sauce). For hotter sauce, include the seeds of the peppers. For milder, just use the flesh of the peppers. Put the hot sauce in a small bowl with a spoon and put on the table as a condiment.

5. Roll the beef. In a mixing bowl, massage 1/4 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper into beef with hands. Separate ground beef into 4 balls. Put the breadcrumbs in a pile on cutting board. Flatten each ball and press both sides into ground beef. Roll with a rolling pin on top of breadcrumbs sprinkled with more fresh pepper. Flip over beef patty and roll again. Continue rolling and flipping until the beef is the thinness of a crepe. Make a stack of four of these on a dinner plate. Wash the cutting board, mixing bowl, your hands, and anything else the raw beef touched.

6. Fry the potatoes. Drain potatoes, cool enough to touch, then slice across the potatoes making 1/4-inch rounds. Heat two large saute pans or flat griddle on medium with 1 Tbsp oil on each. Cook potatoes in a single layer, three to five minutes on each side or as long as it takes to turn the potatoes golden brown. Once the potatoes are golden, cool them on paper towels.

7. Sear the beef. Turn the heat to medium high under the same pan(s) you used to cook the potatoes. Add 1 Tbsp oil to each pan. Once oil is hot, add one beef patty per pan. Flip the beef when the cooked brown color starts replaces about half of the raw pink. Stack cooked beef rolls on a fresh plate, and wash the plate that the raw beef was on. 

8. Fry four eggs, leaving yolks runny. 

9. Assemble the plates. Gather all the components (rice, potatoes, beef, eggs, and salad) near a stack of serving plates. On each plate, put a scoop of rice in the center. Decorate the rim with five potatoes spaced evenly. Put the beef on top of the rice (the potatoes should be poking out from underneath). Put egg on top of beef, and the the colorful salad on top of the egg. Garnish with quilquina or cilantro. Serve with fresh hot sauce on the table as a condiment.

Bulgarian Bean Soup

As Svetla Popova, from Kustenvil, Bulgaria, taught Lindsay Sterling in Portland, Maine. Photos by Lindsay Sterling.

Serves: 6
Cooking time:  30 minutes (using pressure cooker) or 1-2 hours (using regular pot), plus soaking beans overnight
Notes: Svetla says, “Why do you have to put chicken stock in everything?” Good point. This dish goes well with spanikopita for a wonderful vegetarian meal. 


1 1/2 cup dry beans (any kind you like, she used kidney)
1 stalk celery, medium dice
1 medium onion, medium diced
2 carrots, cut into ½-thick rounds
½ green pepper, large dice
1 ½ Tbsp paprika
1 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes
1 Tbsp chopped fresh spearmint
2 cloves garlic, minced
about 2 tsp salt

Instructions (if using pressure cooker)

1. Generously cover beans with boiling water and let soak over night or at least a few hours before cooking.

2. Strain beans, and put into pressure cooker on high with 5 cups water, onion, carrot, green pepper, celery, and paprika. Once safety valve hisses on the pressure cooker turn down heat to medium-low and cook for 20 minutes. If using a regular pot, it could take anywhere from 50 minutes to 2 hours to soften the beans, depending on how old they are.

3. Then put whole pot in clean sink, run cool water over pot until it stops hissing, and open it up to add tomato and salt to taste. Simmer to incorporate, 5 minutes. Turn off heat and add fresh mint and garlic before serving.

Instructions (if using regular soup pot) 

1. Generously cover beans with boiling water and let soak over night or at least a few hours before cooking. 

2. Strain beans, and put into large pot with 6 cups water and paprika. Once boiling, turn down heat to medium-low. Cook for 45 minutes. Add onion, carrot, green pepper, celery and continue cooking until beans and veggies are soft, 15-60 minutes depending on the age and type of beans.

3. When beans are soft, add tomato and salt to taste. Simmer to incorporate, 5 minutes. Turn off heat. Add fresh mint and garlic before serving.

Nicaraguan Beans and Rice

Gallo Pinto

As Jenny Sanchez, from Leon, Nicaragua, taught Lindsay Sterling in Freeport, Maine. Photo by Lindsay Sterling.

Note: "Gallo" means "rooster" in Spanish; "pinto" means "spotted." The rice and beans cooked this way look mottled like a rooster's feathers.
Cooking Time: 45 minutes
Makes: 4-6 servings


  • 1 can pinto beans, strained and rinsed
  • 1 cup medium or long grain white rice (preferably not parboiled)
  • 1/4 green pepper, medium dice
  • 1/4 red pepper, medium dice
  • ½ small yellow onion, medium dice
  • 1/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp salt
  • about 16 cilantro leaves
  • 4 ripe bananas or plantains (yellow with black spots)
  • 8 oz. sour cream
  • 8 oz. salsa
  • 1/2 small cabbage
  • 2 tomatoes, large dice
  • 1 1/3 limes
  • 1/4 cup cheddar cheese, cut in ½ inch cubes (Jenny couldn’t find the Nicaraguan cheese in the States and found that cheddar tastes great here)


1. In a small pot with a lid, bring 1 cup rice and 2 cups water to a boil. Turn heat to low, cover, and let cook for 20 minutes.

2. While the rice is cooking, in ¼ cup olive oil in large sauté pan, saute yellow onion, red and green peppers until soft. Mix in beans and let cook for 5 minutes on medium high so beans are sizzling in the oil and beginning to brown. Turn over sections of the beans gently with spatula to brown the other sides of the beans. Once beans are slightly browned, scoot the beans into a ring around the outer edge of the pan so the center of the pan is empty.

3. Pile the cooked rice into the center of the pan. Sprinkle 1/4 tsp salt onto the beans around the rice. Mix the beans and rice together so that the beans are evenly distributed in the rice. Add cilantro leaves, cover and turn off heat.

4. Peel bananas or plantains and slice each lengthwise, then across so that you have 2.5-inch long segments. In 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large sautee pan (preferably nonstick) on medium-low heat, saute bananas or plantains in a single layer until golden brown. (If not using non-stick pan you may use more oil). You may use two pans at once or fry the plantains batches. Because the fruit is so sweet, the natural sugars can burn easily, so keep an eye on your heat and if they’re getting too dark too fast, turn the heat down. Flip each piece so both sides become golden brown.

5. While the bananas are cooking, shave the cabbage on a large cutting board into lacy thin shavings with a paring knife. Cut limes in half and squeeze lime juice directly onto the cabbage. Sprinkle cabbage with ¼ tsp salt. Toss the cabbage so that the lime and salt are evenly distributed.  Sprinkle the diced tomato on top of the cabbage.

6. Get ready to assemble each person’s plate by putting all the components of the dish next to your stack of serving plates: the rice and beans, sour cream, salsa, fried plantains, and cabbage salad.

7. Now fill a cup-sized small bowl or measuring cup with rice and beans and press down as if packing sand into a mold for a sand castle. Flip over the cup of packed rice and beans onto the center of the first plate, releasing an unusually orderly mound of rice and beans. Now make an “X” out of two banana or plantain segments on one side of the beans and repeat with two more segments on the other side. Decorate the empty parts of the plate surrounding the beans and plantains with a generous dollop of sour cream, a couple spoonfuls of salsa, and the cabbage salad. Sprinkle cubes of cheese on top of the rice and beans. Continue assembling the rest of the plates. Enjoy this fine meal!