My first soufflé

Having spent 12 months of my life cooking recipes from every country in the world, I am often frustrated by the restrictions I place on my own cooking approach. I hate waste, the thought of spending hours cooking something that doesn’t taste good and my overriding obsession with tidiness hold me back from throwing caution to the wind. So with a determined and unleashed frame of mind, I decided to tackle my first ever soufflé. I’ve watched countless masterchef episodes where they have failed and succeeded in equal measure. As my palate prefers savoury, I opted to try a cheese and herb version adapted from a Nigel Slater recipe. All up it took about 45 minutes to make and was much simpler than I anticipated. I was rewarded with not only a tasty lunch, but a small sense of overcoming some of my self inflicted shackles. I felt I cooked mine a tad too much so I’ve reduced the cooking time – it should still be creamy inside.

Comte and chervil soufflé
Serves 2

Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

a knob of butter
5 – 10g parmesan, grated
150ml milk
1 bay leaf
2 large eggs, separated
30g plain flour
30g butter
50g comte cheese, grated
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp dried chervil
salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees (fan)
Butter 2 ramekin dishes and then scatter each with grated parmesan shaking to cover all sides
Bring the milk and bay leaf to boil in a small pan, turn off the heat and set aside
Melt the butter in a pan and then add the flour, stirring continuously for a couple of minutes
Remove the bay leaf from the milk and add to the butter & flour, stirring to blend
Take it off the heat and let it rest for a minute or 2 before adding the egg yolks and stirring to a smooth consistency
Stir in the comte, mustard, chervil and seasoning
Whisk the egg whites until frothy but not stiff and then gently but thoroughly fold into the mixture
Pour into the ramekin dishes and tap to even out the surface
Cook in the preheated oven for 20 – 25 minutes, until golden brown on top


A day in a professional kitchen

As much as I love cooking, I also love eating out and one of our regular haunts is The Beehive pub and restaurant in White Waltham. We’ve visited many times since it was taken over by Dominic Chapman, who we knew previously from The Royal Oak in Paley Street. His food, quite simply is outstanding and never disappoints. Having been an avid Masterchef fan for years, I’ve always wanted to ‘do a service’ in a professional kitchen but it’s not exactly something you can buy on Amazon!! So I penned a message to Dom asking if he’d be kind enough to let me join him for a lunchtime service and lucky for me, he said yes!

So with great excitement, enthusiasm and some comfortable shoes (Dom’s recommendation!) I made my way to The Beehive for 9am on Tuesday morning. The kitchen is quite small but extremely organised. After meeting the team – Katie, Dave and Johnjo, I was given the task of preparing the beautiful fresh wild garlic that had arrived that morning. I then moved on to spelt bread loaves and with Johnjo’s guidance, I rolled and shaped the dough, placed them into their tins and watched them prove. I was delighted with Dom’s later comment ‘Nice bread Nat’! I watched in awe as the well rehearsed teamwork glided through the lunchtime service without a hitch and 30 covers later it was done. My final task of the day was by far my favourite, which perhaps has something to do with the fact that it’s one of the best dishes I’ve ever tasted and is one of Dom’s signature dishes – Rabbit lasagne. In all fairness, the hardwork had already been done so it was simply a case of assembling the lasagnes for dinner service. It was both therapeutic and rewarding bringing together all of the lovingly prepared ingredients into the final dish.

After 6 and a bit hours of being on my feet, I was definitely ready for a glass of wine!! I have the upmost respect for everyone in the restaurant business purely for the hours they put in, the care and love they give to their job and because it is seriously one of my favourite past times. Thank you Dom and team for welcoming me into your kitchen for the day. A very special day that I will remember forever.

In honour of my fabulous day and National Pie week, I cooked Dom’s chicken and mushroom pie … it was yum!

My top 20 recipes

1. Taiwan – Taiwanese minced pork


2. Chad – Kachumbari (Chadian tomato and onion salad)


3. Switzerland – Fondue


4. Mexico – Chicken Enchiladas

Chicken enchiladas

5. Paraguay – Sopa Paraguaya (corn and cheese bread)

Sopa Paraguaya (corn and cheese bread)

6. Italy – Risotto milanese

Risotto alla Milanese (risotto with saffron)

7. Finland – Kalakeitto (fish stew)

Kalakeitto (fish stew)

8. Luxembourg – Bouneschlupp (green bean soup with smoked bacon)

Bouneschlupp (green bean soup with smoked bacon)

9. Spain – Tapas
Champinones al ajillo (garlic mushrooms)
Garbanzos con chorizo (chickpeas with chorizo)
Tortilla (Spanish omelette)
Croquetas de jamon (ham croquettes)
Padron peppers


10. Sweden – Köttbulla (Swedish meatballs)


11. South Korea – Bulgogi (grilled marinated beef)

South Korea – Bulgogi (grilled marinated beef)

12. Honduras – Banana bread

Honduran banana and coconut bread

13. Nicaragua – Tres leches (Three milks cake)


14. Guyana – Roti (flatbread)

Guyana – Rotis (flatbreads)

15. Guatemala – Chicharrónes (crispy pork skin)


16. China – Char Sui pork (“Fork roast” – Cantonese barbecued pork)

Char Sui Pork (Cantonese BBQ pork)

17. Comoros – Poulet au Coco (Comorian coconut chicken)

Poulet au Coco (Comorian coconut chicken)

18. France – Bœuf bourguignon (beef braised in red wine with onions and mushrooms)

Bœuf bourguignon (beef braised in red wine with onions and mushrooms)

19. Micronesia – Kelaguen Chicken (Marinated chicken with coconut, spring onion & chilli)


20. Solomon Islands – Fish curry with tomatoes

Fish curry with tomatoes

A whole brill

On Friday I was lucky enough to pick up a whole brill half price in my local supermarket. I was quite surprised to see it there in the reduced section and as I like to challenge myself, I quickly grabbed it and put it in my trolley.

Several years ago my sister and I spent a wonderful few days taking a cookery class just outside Toulouse, where we learnt about all things duck, how to fillet flat fish, and what makes the perfect lemon tart. Since then I’ve only attempted to fillet a John Dory once or twice, so a large brill was definitely a step further in testing my knife skills.

When I got home I unpacked the brill and set about filleting it. I certainly wouldn’t win any awards for speed but I was pretty chuffed with my effort. My husband never used to eat fish at all and he is still somewhat nervous when he has to ‘face’ a fish head! Fortunately for him, all of the filleting was done by the time he got home.

I made fish stock from the bones and head, froze 2 large fillets and kept the 2 remaining fillets for our dinner – Brill with butter and tarragon. It’s such a simple recipe and I wonder why I don’t cook it more often. I felt ‘proper cheffy’ as I deftly spooned the frothy butter over the fish in the pan. It was a decadent delicious triumph, even if I say so myself.

Serves: 2

Prep time: 20 minutes (if you are filleting the fish yourself, otherwise 5 minutes)
Cook time: 6 – 8 minutes

2 brill fillets
plain flour
50g butter
2 tbsp veg oil
freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon
handful of chopped fresh tarragon

Put some flour on a large place, add the fish, cover with flour on both sides and shake off the excess.

Reserve 20g of the butter. Heat the oil and remaining butter over a medium high heat in a non stick frying pan large enough to hold both fish side by side. When it sizzles, add the fish skin side down and cook for 3 minutes. Turn them over and cook them on the other side for 3 minutes. Sprinkle the first side with salt while the second side is cooking.

Transfer the fish to a warmed plate. Return the frying pan to the heat, add the remaining butter and when its melted and starts to sizzle, lower the heat and add the lemon juice. Place the fish back into the pan skin side up, sprinkle with the tarragon and rapidly spoon over the melted butter for about 30 seconds (smile while you do this!). Serve immediately, pouring the sauce equally over each fish.


And so to the final country of my year cooking the world challenge…

France is my favourite country in the world, although the Maldives comes a very close second. A trip to France, for however long, never disappoints me. A few of my ultimate picks include Samoens Alpine ski resort, Biarritz beaches, Toulouse food, picture postcard Annecy, Provence’s lavender fields and the stunning architecture of Paris. It’s no surprise that it is the world’s most visited country with 83.7 million visitors in 2014. The Louvre is the most visited museum in the world with 9.3 million visitors annually.

France has the world’s sixth-largest economy by nominal figures. It is one of the largest exporters of luxury goods in the world, with the top four companies Cartier, Chanel, Hermes and Louis Vuitton alone worth billions. The French perfume industry is world leader in its sector and the town of Grasse is considered the world capital of perfume.

France has produced some of the world’s most influential writers and thinkers. They have won more Nobel Prizes for Literature (15) than any other country. It is also the birthplace of cinema, thanks to the Lumière brothers who held their first private screening of projected motion pictures in 1895. The Cannes film festival was founded in 1946 and is an invitation-only festival, set up to preview new films of all genres, from all around the world. The Palme d’Or is the highest prize awarded and was won by Ken Loach in 2016 for the drama file I, Daniel Blake.

In January 2010, International Living magazine annual Quality of Life survey ranked France as “best country to live in” for the fifth year running, crediting it to an unsurpassable quality of life and what is described as ‘the best health service in the world’.

French gastronomy was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Status in 2010, when it was added to the list of ‘intangible cultural heritage of humanity’. They produce nearly a billion tons of cheese a year in around 1,200 different varieties. French cuisine is regarded as a key element of the quality of life and the attractiveness of France. Traditionally, each region of France has its own distinctive cuisine. Some of my favourite French dishes would be Escargots à la Bourguignonne (snails with garlic butter), Moules marinière (mussels in wine and cream sauce), Cassoulet (slow cooked casserole with pork sausages, goose, duck, pork skin and white beans), Bouillabaisse (fish and seafood stew), Soupe à l’oignon (French onion soup), Coq au vin (chicken braised in red wine, lardons and mushrooms), Croque monsieur (ham and cheese toasted sandwich), Duck a l’orange, Îles flottantes (meringue ‘islands’ floating in custard), Tarte Tatin (upside-down pastry tart) and Crêpes suzette (pancakes with orange caramel sauce and Grand Marnier). I opted to make my husband’s favourite dish, Bœuf bourguignon (beef braised in red wine with onions and mushrooms). As I mentioned before, one of my favourite films is Julie and Julia, so I used Julia Child’s recipe.

Rating: 10/10

Serves: 6
Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 4 hours

For the Stew
6 ounces smoked bacon with rind
1 tbsp olive oil
3 lbs lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 onion, peeled and sliced
1 tsp salt
1⁄4 tsp pepper, freshly ground
2 tbsp flour
3 cups red wine (a full bodied wine like Bordeaux or Burgundy)
2 -3 cups beef stock
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, mashed (you may choose to add more)
1 sprig thyme (or 1/2 tsp dred thyme)
1 fresh bay leaf

For the braised onions
18 -24 white pearl onions, peeled
1 1⁄2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1⁄2 tbsp olive oil
1⁄2 cup beef stock
salt & fresh ground pepper
1 fresh bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh parsley

For the Sauteed Mushrooms
1 lb mushroom, quartered
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp olive oil

First prepare the bacon: cut off the rind and reserve.
Cut the bacon into lardons about 1/4″ thick and 1 1/2″ long.
Simmer the rind and the lardons for ten minutes in 2 1/2 pints of water.
Drain and dry the lardons and rind and reserve.
Pre-heat the oven to 450°F.
Put the tablespoon of olive oil in a large (9″ – 10″ wide, 3” deep) fireproof casserole and warm over moderate heat.
Saute the lardons for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly.
Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.
Dry off the pieces of beef and saute them, a few at a time in the hot oil/bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides.
Once browned, remove to the side plate with the bacon.
In the same oil/fat, saute the onion and the carrot until softened.
Pour off the fat and return the lardons and the beef to the casserole with the carrots and onion.
Toss the contents of the casserole with the salt and pepper and sprinkle with the flour.
Set the uncovered casserole in the oven for four minutes.
Toss the contents of the casserole again and return to the hot oven for 4 more minutes.
Now, lower the heat to 325°F and remove the casserole from the oven.
Add the wine and enough stock so that the meat is barely covered.
Add the tomato paste, garlic and herbs and the bacon rind.
Bring to a simmer on the top of the stove.
Cover and place in the oven, adjusting the heat so that the liquid simmers very slowly for three to four hours.
The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
While the meat is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms and set them aside till needed.
For the onion, if using frozen, make sure they are defrosted and drained.
Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet and add the onions to the skillet.
Saute over medium heat for about ten minutes, rolling the onions about so they brown as evenly as possible, without breaking apart.
Pour in the stock, season to taste, add the herbs, and cover.
Simmer over low heat for about 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but retain their shape and the liquid has mostly evaporated.
Remove the herbs and set the onions aside.
For the mushrooms, heat the butter and oil over high heat in a large skillet.
As soon as the foam begins to subside add the mushrooms and toss and shake the pan for about five minutes.
As soon as they have browned lightly, remove from heat.
To Finish the Stew:.
When the meat is tender, remover the casserole from the oven and empty its contents into a sieve set over a saucepan.
Wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it (discarding the bits of carrot and onion and herbs which remain in the sieve).
Distribute the mushrooms and onions over the meat.
Skim the fat off the sauce and simmer it for a minute or two, skimming off any additional fat which rises to the surface.
You should be left with about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly.
If the sauce is too thick, add a few tablespoons of stock.
If the sauce is too thin, boil it down to reduce to the right consistency.
Taste for seasoning.
Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables.
If you are serving immediately, place the covered casserole over medium low heat and simmer 2 to 3 minutes.
Serve in the casserole or on a warm platter surrounded by noodles, potatoes or rice and garnished with fresh parsley.
If serving later or the next day, allow the casserole to cool and place cold, covered casserole in the refrigerator.
20 minutes prior to serving, place over medium low heat and simmer very slowly for ten minutes, occasionally basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.

Louvre, Paris
On our trip to Paris in Feb 2016
Samoëns ski resort, France
The chalet we stay at in Samoëns
Lavender field in Provence
Biarritz beach


The Kingdom of Spain was the leading world power throughout the 16th and most of the 17th century, however continued wars and other problems eventually led to a diminished status. It maintained and enlarged its vast overseas empire, which remained intact until the beginning of the 19th century. When the Carthaginians arrived in Spain in 300 BCE they called it Ispania, which meant “land of the rabbits” which over time has changed to España.
I’ve visited Spain many many times and it is a truly wonderful place. My highlights include exploring the stunning Alhambra Palace in Granada, lazing on sun drenched beaches in the Balearics, sampling exquisite pintxos in San Sebastián, shopping in my favourite store – Massimo Dutti in Madrid, and dancing the night away in Barcelona’s W Hotel rooftop bar.
A few interesting facts:
Spain was the third most visited country in the world in 2015 with 68.1 million visitors
The Sagrada Familia church in Spain, has been under construction for over 130 years and it’s only expected to be complete by 2026
There are no laws against public nudity in Spain
The world’s oldest existing lighthouse is the Tower of Hercules, in Spain, erected in the first century and still operational
Spain produces 45% of all olive oil in the world and it accounts for 20% of the world’s olive oil consumption
Britain accidentally invaded Spain in 2002. About 20 Royal Marines disembarked in Spain instead of Gibraltar for 5 minutes until the error was recognised and they all withdrew
There’s a zipline connecting Spain and Portugal. It’s 2,365 ft (720 m) and 60 seconds long
The youngest king ever was Alfonso XIII of Spain, who became king the day he was born
There’s a direct descendant of Christopher Columbus alive today. His name is Cristóbal Colón de Carvajal y Gorosábel and he’s the 18th Duke of Veragua
The Eiffel Tower was originally intended for Barcelona, Spain, but the project was rejected as it was “too expensive and strange”
Real Madrid is the most valuable sports team in the world with annual revenues of $650m and a brand value of $3.3 billion

Spanish cuisine has humble origins and is the result of ingredients put together by poor peasants or farmers often using leftovers. Geography and climate, had great influence on cooking methods and available ingredients. One of the things that makes Spanish food so popular is the quality and variety of the ingredients. Jamon Iberico is considered the best and most expensive ham in the world. Some favourite Spanish dishes include Paella (Valencian rice dish), Esqueixada (salted cod salad with tomato and onion), Ajo blanco (almond soup), Gazpacho (cold soup made from raw vegetables), Polbo á feira (Galician octopus), Conejo en salmorejo (braised rabbit in paprika sauce), Cochinillo asado (roast suckling pig) and Crema catalana (burnt cream). I decided to make a selection of Tapas – Champinones al ajillo (garlic mushrooms), Garbanzos con chorizo (chickpeas with chorizo), Tortilla (Spanish omelette), Croquetas de jamon (ham croquettes) and Padron peppers. Although it was quite a lot of effort, it was absolutely worth it. They were all delicious, but the chickpeas were super scrumptious!

Rating: 10/10

Serves: 4
Prep time: 2-3 hours
Cook time: 2 hours

Champinones al ajillo (garlic mushrooms)

500 grams mushrooms
5 or 6 cloves of garlic cut in slices
1/3 cup (100 ml) olive oil
½ or more cup white wine
½ cup of pieces of jamon Serrano or cubes of deli ham (optional)
a generous pinch of salt
pepper to taste
1 tbsp. chopped parsley

First clean and slice your mushrooms and peel and slice the garlic
For cooking this dish you can use a clay casserole dish or a regular frying pan
Heat a generous amount of olive oil, just enough so that the garlic doesn’t burn but not so much that its completely swimming
After a couple minutes add the mushrooms and the white wine
Feel free to also add a bit more oil if you need to
The mushrooms will take about 10 minutes to cook and you can add the ham bits at any time
When they are cooked, and most of the juice has been cooked off, add salt, pepper and the chopped parsley

Garbanzos con chorizo (chickpeas with chorizo)

1 tin chickpeas
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 onion, chopped
1 carrots, chopped
200g spicy chorizo, sliced
150g dry-cured bacon, cubed
700ml chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 pinch sea salt
1 pinch fresh ground black pepper
1 handful flat-leaf parsley, freshly chopped

Heat the oil in a saucepan and lightly fry the chopped garlic, onions and carrots
When the vegetables are nicely golden, add the chorizo and bacon and fry until the bits are brown all over
Add the stock and the bay leaf and bring to the boil
Add the chickpeas and cook for about 1 hour (taste to check they’re cooked)
While they are cooking, skim off any foam or chorizo fat that comes to the surface
Once the chickpeas are soft but not mushy, season to taste
Add a little boiling water if you like a more soupy consistency
Drizzle a little olive oil over the top and scatter over the chopped parsley

Tortilla (Spanish omelette)

100ml olive oil for the potato
2 medium potatoes, finely sliced
1/2 onion, finely sliced
2 large free-range eggs
2 tbsp olive oil for the tortilla
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

In a saucepan, heat the oil over a medium heat. Add the potatoes and the onion and cook for around 10 minutes or until they are soft. Drain the oil.
In a bowl, beat the eggs and add the potato and onion mixture, combining well.
Heat the oil in a non-stick 15 cm frying pan. When the oil is hot, add the mixture. Swirl the pan over a high heat until the mixture starts to set around the edges, then reduce the heat and cook for 4–5 minutes until it just starts to set and the bottom and sides are golden, but it is still quite loose in the middle.
Cover the pan with a flat lid or board and turn the tortilla carefully onto it. Don’t worry that it is still quite runny – it will all come back together when you continue to cook it. Slide the tortilla back into the pan, then put the pan back on a low heat. Use a spatula to tuck the edges of the tortilla under to give it its characteristic curved look. Cook for a couple of minutes, then turn onto a board and keep warm.
The tortilla should still be lovely and juicy in the middle when you cut into them

Croquetas de jamon (ham croquettes)

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ small leek, diced as small as possible – 3mm pieces
70g Ibérico or other air-dried ham, diced very small
60g plain flour
75ml ham or vegetable stock
325ml whole milk
freshly grated nutmeg
sea salt and freshly ground
black pepper
75g plain flour
2 large eggs, beaten
25g manchego cheese, finely grated
75g breadcrumbs
oil, for frying

Heat the olive oil in a pan until it starts to shimmer, then add the leek and sauté until soft but not coloured
Stir in the ham, fry for another minute, then stir in the flour and fry over a medium heat until the mixture is golden but not burnt, this will take about 5 minutes. It is important that the flour is cooked properly otherwise the croquetas will taste of flour.
Combine the stock and milk in a small pan and heat until hot but not boiling. Season the liquid with a few scrapes of nutmeg. Gradually add the liquid to the roux, a few tablespoons at a time, stirring the mixture all the time. Once you have incorporated all the milk, continue to cook the sauce for about 5 minutes until it thickens and leaves the sides of the pan when you stir it. At this stage, add a couple of turns of the pepper mill, taste the roux and adjust the salt if necessary – the ham can be very salty to start with. The sauce is now done: it’s got to be really thick because you don’t want the croquetas to turn into pancakes! Smooth the sauce on to a baking tray (30cm x 20cm is fine) then cover with clingfilm to stop the mixture drying out. Leave it to cool before putting it in the fridge for an hour.
When you are ready for the next stage, line up three bowls: one with flour, the other with beaten egg, and the third with the breadcrumbs and grated cheese. Dust your hands with flour, take a ball and roll it between your palms. The size of the croquettes is up to you, but the easiest is a walnut-sized ball. Next, dunk the croqueta into the flour – you want more of dusting than a coat – followed by the egg and then the breadcrumbs. Put the croquetas on a tray and when you’ve used up all the mixture, put them all back in the fridge for 30 minutes.
If you have a deep fat fryer, heat the oil to 175°C/325°F and fry the croquetas for a couple of minutes. If not, heat the oil in a frying pan until it starts to shimmer, then add 3 or 4 croquetas at a time and fry until they are golden all over. You don’t want them to cook too quickly otherwise the centre won’t be hot enough.

Padron peppers

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces whole Padrón peppers
Sea salt flakes

Heat olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium high heat
Add the peppers to the pan in a single layer
Fry the peppers, moving constantly until the peppers begin to brown and blister, do not overcook
Remove from the oil and drain on a rack lined with paper towels
Sprinkle with sea salt and serve immediately

Indulging in Spanish Tapas!
Parte Vieja. Old town. Donostia. San Sebastian. Basque Country. Spain.
Pintxos bars in San Sebastián
Aguas Blancas beach, Ibiza
Alhambra Palace, Granada
Barcelona’s W Hotel rooftop bar
Enjoying the Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid, Spain

United Kingdom

The UK consists of four countries — England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. There are also 14 British Overseas Territories including Bermuda, Cayman Island and Montserrat. These are the remnants of the British Empire which, at its height in the 1920s, encompassed almost a quarter of the world’s land mass and was the largest empire in history.

Some interesting facts
The Queen is the legal owner of one-sixth of the Earth’s land surface
In 2015, Queen Elizabeth II became the longest-reigning UK monarch ever (64 years), surpassing Queen Victoria’s 63
The word “Britain” is derived from “Pretain” meaning “painted”, originally because the Britons had tattoos
In the UK, accents change noticeably about every 25 miles
There is a law that states it is illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament
The world’s shortest scheduled airline flight lasts 2 minutes and connects Westray and Papa Westray in Orkney
Life expectancy in the UK was around 47 in 1900, it is now 80
London has more Indian restaurants than Mumbai or Delhi
The UK is ranked as the sixth major tourist destination in the world and London has the most international visitors of any city in the world
The UK has an external debt of $9.6 trillion dollars, second only in the world to the US’$18.5 trillion dollar debt

It is said that food rationing imposed during British wartime was the reason for the food’s international poor reputation. Modern British cuisine has been influenced by many TV chefs including Delia Smith, Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay and my personal favourite, Nigel Slater Some British cuisine classics include the full breakfast, fish and chips, roast beef and yorkshire pudding, steak and kidney pie, sandwiches and Cornish pasty. However, British cuisine has taken on the cultural influence of those who have settled in Britain, producing hybrid dishes, such as chicken tikka masala. I opted to cook the traditional Christmas dinner which has been served at tables in England since the late 16th century. Roast Turkey with the all the trimmings. For many years we have followed the same recipe for the Roast Turkey which involves removing and boning the legs then stuffing them with sausagemeat. It means the turkey doesn’t need as much cooking and the legs are easily carved and shared around. It was thoroughly enjoyed by the whole family.

Rating: 10/10

Serves: 8 – 10 (with some leftovers)
Prep time: 3 hours
Cook time: 3 & 1/2 hours

6kg free range turkey
450g sausages, skins removed
350g sausagemeat
6 slices parma ham
1 lemon, halved
1 onion, halved
3 carrots, roughly chopped
3 sticks celery, roughly chopped
2 onions, roughly chopped
250g butter
Salt and pepper

To make the turkey stock
Turkey giblets
Turkey leg bones
10 peppercorns
1 tsp salt
2 sticks celery, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
2 tsp mixed herbs

To make the gravy
50g plain flour
500ml turkey stock
150ml red wine
2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp marmite
1 beef oxo cube
Salt & pepper

To prepare the turkey (which can be done a day in advance):
Start by removing the legs from the turkey with a sharp knife (the wings should remain on the turkey)
Then remove the main bone from the turkey leg and then remove the smaller bones from the flesh
Flatten out the leg, cover with clingfilm and then bash it down with a rolling pin
Dot the leg with 50g of slice butter and season well with salt & pepper
Place half of the sausages (removed from the skins) on to the middle of the leg meat lengthways
Roll the leg lengthways into a sausage shape and tie up securely with string at both ends and in the middle
Repeat this for the other leg
Wrap each leg in tin foil.
Just one of the stuffed legs is sufficient to go with the turkey, so you can freeze the other leg

To make the stock (this can also be done a day in advance):
Put the giblets and leg bones into a large stockpot with the vegetables, peppecorns, salt and herbs
Cover with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for 90 minutes, remove the scum as necessary
Remove from the heat and strain the liquid then flake some giblet meat into the liquid
Reserve until ready to make gravy

To cook the turkey:
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees
Place the celery, carrots and onion in a baking dish big enough for the turkey
Stuff the sausagemeat into the neck end of the turkey and tuck the skin in securely
Place the onions and lemons inside the cavity
Place 150g of sliced butter over the top of the turkey breasts and season liberally with salt & pepper
Layer the slices of parma ham over the butter
Cover the turkey loosely with foil
Cook the turkey for 3 hours then remove the foil and cook for a further 30 minutes
Remove from the oven, transfer to a carving board and let it rest for 1 hour before carving
Take the sausagemeat out of the turkey neck and slice
Serve with the gravy and your favourite Christmas vegetables

To cook the turkey leg:
Place on a baking tray and cook for 1 hour in a preheated oven to 190 degrees
Open the foil and place back in the oven for 15 minutes
Remove from the oven and let it rest for 20 minutes before slicing

To make the gravy:
Using the dish the turkey was cooked in, sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and place over a medium heat stirring continuously
Cook the flour for a few minutes before stirring in the red wine and stock
Bring to a rolling simmer and cook for 30 minutes
Add the worcestershire sauce, marmite, oxo cube and season well
Continue to cook for 10 minutes, checking the seasoning
Place into a warmed gravy jug

Roast Turkey
Roast Turkey
Roast Turkey
Roast Turkey
Celebrating Christmas Day 2016
Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament
Isle of Skye, Scotland
Gower Peninsula, Wales
Giants Causeway, Northern Ireland

El Salvador

El Salvador, literally “The Savior” was named by Conquistador Pedro de Alvarado, who was the first governor until his death in 1541. The history of El Salvador has been a struggle against many conquistadors, empires, dictatorships and world powers. As the smallest country in continental America, El Salvador is affectionately called Pulgarcito de America (the “Tom Thumb of the Americas”). There have been many destructive earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The capital San Salvador was destroyed in 1756 and 1854, and it suffered heavy damage in the 1919, 1982, and 1986 tremors. Santa Ana Volcano is the highest volcano in El Salvador at 7,760 feet above sea level.

There are eight species of sea turtles in the world, four of which make their home on the Salvadoran coast: the Leatherback turtle, the Hawksbill, the Green Sea turtle and the Olive Ridley. Since 2008, FUNZEL (the Zoological Foundation of El Salvador) has established more than 15 incubation hatcheries that receive eggs from more than 44 beaches in El Salvador. They have released more than 3 million sea turtle hatchlings from all four species.

El Salvador is a popular destination for surfing. There is surf all along the coast but a good place to start is La Libertad with waves like The Pier, La Paz and Playa Conchalio that are great for beginners. The ultimate waves are Punta Roca in the west, and Las Flores and Punta Mango in the east.

Traditional Salvadoran cuisine consists of food from Native American cuisine, indigenous Lenca, Maya, Pipil and European Spanish peoples. Popular dishes include Pupusa (stuffed corn tortilla), Salvadoran enchiladas, Yuca frita (deep fried cassava), Pan con pollo/pavo (turkey or chicken-filled submarine sandwiches), Lomo entomatado (beef with tomatoes), Ceviche de camarones (lime-cooked shrimp), Salvadoran Albóndigas (meatballs), Pescado empanizado (breaded, fried fish fillets) and Maria Luisa (layered cake soaked in marmalade). I opted to cook Carne guisada (saucy beef with potatoes and carrots) which was unctuously delicious.

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 4
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 3 hours

Achiote paste:
1 1/2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon white vinegar
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

600g beef (chuck steak)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
¼ cup red cooking wine
¾ cup water, plus water to cover
2 bay leaves
1 tsp achiote
1 cup chopped tomatoes or passata
1 tsp minced garlic
¼ cup diced onion
1 tsp basil
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
6 large carrots, cut in large chunks
1 to 1.5 lbs. potatoes (or yucca), cut in large chunks

Make the Achiote paste by blending all the ingredients together in a pestle and mortar

1. Pat the chuck roast with a clean, dry paper towel to remove any excess moisture. In a stainless steel pan, heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil over high heat. Season the chuck roast with salt and pepper. When the oil is very hot and begins to smoke a little, carefully place the chuck roast in the pot. Do not move or attempt to lift the chuck roast while it’s searing. Shake the pan a little once in awhile to see if it’ll come loose on its own. When it easily comes loose on its own, that means it’s finished searing, (about 1 to 2 minutes.) There should be a nice crust on the meat. Carefully flip it over and sear the other side.

2. Remove the chuck roast to a plate while you deglaze the pan. How to deglaze the pan: Add ¾ cup water and ¼ cup red cooking wine to the pan immediately after you remove the meat. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to remove any bits that are stuck to it. Stir boiling 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat. This “base” liquid will add a lot of flavor and we’re going to add it to the pot where we cook the meat the rest of the way.

3. Cut the meat into large chunks and put into a large pot with the “base” liquid. Add enough water to cover (for me it was 4 cups.) Add the bay leaves and achiote. Bring to a slow simmer and cover. Cook slowly on low heat for tender meat. If you cook it faster on higher heat the dish won’t be completely ruined or anything, but the meat will be much less tender, so avoid boiling. If the liquid comes to a boil, lower the heat. I cooked mine for about 2 hours and the burner was around the “2” setting on my stove. After 30 minutes to an hour, you may see that the meat is already cooked through but if you try to pull it apart with a fork, you won’t be able to – This means the meat has not cooked long enough. Trust me, cook it to around 2 hours and you will see how tender it becomes.

4. In a blender, combine tomato sauce, garlic, onion, basil, and Worcestershire sauce. Blend until combined. Add to the pot. (Don’t do this until the meat is done cooking or nearly done cooking.) Also add the carrots and potatoes to the pot. Simmer covered until vegetables are fork tender. Remove from heat. Do not cook too long after adding the vegetables as you don’t want them to get mushy. Add salt to taste.

Optional: If you prefer to thicken the sauce (I do), you can remove one cup of the liquid and whisk in a few tablespoons of flour, then add the thickened liquid back to the pot. Tip: Do not add flour directly to the pot. It must be whisked to combine properly and you can’t do that with the meat and vegetables in the way.

Serve with rice and tortillas

Ingredients for Carne guisada (saucy beef with potatoes and carrots)
Carne guisada (saucy beef with potatoes and carrots)
Carne guisada (saucy beef with potatoes and carrots)
Carne guisada (saucy beef with potatoes and carrots)
Carne guisada (saucy beef with potatoes and carrots)
La Libertad beach, El Salvador
Pedro de Alvarado
Santa Ana Volcano, El Salvador


The Republic of Kosovo is a partially recognised state in Southeast Europe, that declared independence from Serbia in February 2008. The capital and largest city is Pristina, which has been inhabited for nearly 10,000 years. The Pristina region is home to Gračanica monastery, a Unesco world heritage site since 2006, which was rebuilt by the Serbian king Stefan Milutin in 1321 on the ruins of a 6th-century early Christian three-naved basilica. Pristina also features the Great Hammam, a 15th century Turkish bath and one of the first buildings built under Ottoman rule. Kosovo was part of the Ottoman Empire from 1455 to 1912.

Kosovo is surrounded by mountains including the Sharr and Kopaonik mountain ranges. It also has a large number of karst springs, thermal and mineral water springs. One of Kosovo’s most prominent geological features is the Rugova Canyon of the Accursed Mountains, which is a 25 km long canyon. It was declared a protected monument of natural heritage due to its geological, hydrological, speleological and botanic values and its spectacular landscape.

Kosovo has large reserves of lead, zinc, silver, nickel, cobalt, copper, iron and bauxite. According to a joint survey conducted in 2005 by the Directorate for Mines and Minerals and the World Bank, it is estimated that Kosovo had €13.5 billion worth of minerals. Since the declaration of independence in 2008 Kosovo’s economy has grown each year. The assets of the banking system have increased from 5% of GDP in 2000 to 60% of GDP as of January 2012.

Kosovo became a full member of the International Olympic Committee on 9 December 2014 and they participated in the 2015 European Games in Baku and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Majlinda Kelmendi, a judoka, was the first Kosovan Olympic athlete to win a gold medal at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

Cuisine in Kosovo has been significantly influenced by Turkish cuisine and Albanian cuisine. Popular recipes include Burek (baked filled pastries), flija (crepe layers brushed with cream and served with kaymak), kebab, suxhuk (spicy sausage) stuffed peppers and sarma (meat wrapped with cabbage or vine leaves). I decided to make Pasul në tavë (bean and beef casserole), thanks to Mimoze, one of my blog followers for the recipe. It was really delicious and warming on a cold winter’s day.

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 3
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour

2 400g tins cannellini beans
200g rump steak, chopped into small chunks
50g smoked beef or pork, sliced into small pieces (optional)
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely sliced
1/2 tbsp pimenton
2 tbsp vegetable oil
500ml beef stock
1 tsp flour mixed with 2 tbsp water
1/2 tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper

Drain the beans and rinse thoroughly
Heat the oil in a casserole dish
Fry the onion and garlic over a low – medium heat for 5 – 7 minutes until soft
Add the pimenton, salt & pepper
Turn the heat up to medium, add the steak and smoked beef or pork (if using), stirring well to coat
Pour in the beef stock followed by the beans and bring to a boil then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 30 minutes, stirring ocassionally
Preheat the oven to 180
Carefully stir in the flour mix and then put the casserole dish in the oven and cook for 20 minutes (you can put them in individual pots if you have them)
Serve immediately with some fresh bread

Ingredients for Pasul në tavë (bean and beef casserole)
Pasul në tavë (bean and beef casserole)
Pasul në tavë (bean and beef casserole)
Pasul në tavë (bean and beef casserole)
Pasul në tavë (bean and beef casserole)
Rugova Canyon, Kosovo
Gračanica monastery, Kosovo
Kopaonik mountain range


The Republic of the Philippines is a Southeast Asian country in the Western Pacific, comprising more than 7,000 islands and named after King Phillip II of Spain.

A few interesting facts:
The world’s largest pearl was discovered by a Filipino diver in the Palawan Sea in 1934. The gem weighs 14 pounds, is valued at US$40 million and is believed to be 600 years old.
The Philippines is the world’s largest producer of coconuts producing 19,500,000 tons in 2009
The Philippines is one of only 3 countries where skunks are found (Indonesia & US are the other two), they are known as skunk badgers
The city of Manilla is the world’s most densely populated city with 41,515 people per square kilometer
The Philippines is home to the world’s longest snake, the Reticulated Python (Python reticulatus), which also happens to be the world’s longest reptile. It can grow to 28.5 feet (8.7 m) in length
The Mindanao Trench or Philippine Trench, to the east of the Philippines in the Pacific Ocean, is the third deepest spot under the world’s oceans at a depth of 10,540 metres
The Battle of Leyte Gulf is generally considered to be the largest naval battle of World War II and, by some criteria, possibly the largest naval battle in history. It was fought in waters near the Philippine islands of Leyte, Samar and Luzon, from 23–26 October 1944

There is no shortage of beautiful beaches in the Philippines, to name a few – the White Beach on Borocay Island (named “Best Island in the World” by travel magazine Travel + Leisure in 2012), El Nido in Palawan (Best Island in 2016), Puerto Galera, Samal Island, Davao City and Panglao Island, Bohol.

Philippine cuisine adopted the preferred Austronesian methods for food preparation; boiling, steaming and roasting and takes influence from by the cuisines of Malay-Indonesia, India, Japan, China, Spain and America. Dishes centre around the combination of sweet (tamis), sour (asim), and salty (alat). Filipino recipes I came across include Afritada (chicken and/or pork and potatoes cooked in tomato sauce), Tinolang Manok (chicken soup), Lechon (roasted whole pig), Torta (omelette), Kaldereta (goat meat stew), Mechado (braised larded beef), Kare-kare (oxtail stew), Sinigang (sour soup) and Bibingka (rice cake). I made Adobo (pork braised in garlic, vinegar, oil, peppercorns, bay leaves and soy sauce), which is one of the most popular Filipino dishes and can also be made with chicken. It was simple to make and full of flavour.

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 10 minutes + 2 hours marinating
Cook time: 1 hr 10 minutes

450g pork belly
2 cloves of garlic pounded
3 bay leaves
1/4 cup soy sauce
3/4 cups water
1/8 cup malt vinegar
1 tbsp cooking oil

Marinate pork belly, soy sauce, bay leaves & garlic for at least 1 hour in a pan or wok.
Turn the heat on the pan to medium and stir well
Add water and simmer for 30-45 minutes
Add vinegar and simmer for 10-15 minutes
Turn off the heat and separate the meat from the marinade
Add the oil to the pan over a medium – high heat
Fry the meat for 5 – 10 minutes
Add the sauce, stir and serve with hot rice

Ingredients for Adobo (pork braised in garlic, vinegar, oil, peppercorns, bay leaves and soy sauce)
Pork belly pieces
Adobo (pork braised in garlic, vinegar, oil, peppercorns, bay leaves and soy sauce)
Adobo (pork braised in garlic, vinegar, oil, peppercorns, bay leaves and soy sauce)
Adobo (pork braised in garlic, vinegar, oil, peppercorns, bay leaves and soy sauce) with rice
Borocay Island
Manila, Philippines
Aerial of Beach Along St. John Island

Sierra Leone

Sierre Leone is located in West Africa and is bordered by Guinea, Liberia and the Atlantic Ocean. The name comes from the words ‘Serra Leão’ meaning ‘Lion Mountain Range’ in Portuguese. About sixteen ethnic groups inhabit Sierra Leone, each with its own language and customs. The two largest and most influential are the Temne and the Mende people. Sierra Leone is considered one of the most religiously tolerant nations in the world. Muslims and Christians interact with each other peacefully and religious violence is very rare.

Sierra Leone’s economy relies on mining, especially diamonds. It is among the top ten diamond producing nations and is a major producer of gem-quality diamonds. Sierra Leone is known for its blood diamonds that were mined and sold to diamond conglomerates during the civil war, to buy the weapons that fuelled its atrocities. Between 1991 and 2001, about 50,000 people were killed in the civil war and hundreds of thousands became refugees in Guinea and Liberia.

The capital, Freetown sits on a coastal peninsula next to the Sierra Leone Harbour, the world’s third largest natural harbour. It has a population of just over 1 million people. The Freetown peninsula is ringed by long stretches of white sand. Lumley Beach, on the western side of the peninsula, is a popular location for local parties and festivals.

Popular staples of Sierra Leone’s cuisine include rice, cassava, peanuts and stews. Commonly eaten meats include goats, chickens and beef. Recipes include Foo-foo (ground plantain or cassava), Fried cassava bread with gravy, Stewed beans, Pumpkin “punky” stew, Pepper soup, Fry stew (onions, hot peppers, tomato paste with meat or fish), Fry fry (street food served on bread) and groundnut cakes (like peanut brittle). I opted to cook the national dish – Groundnut stew (chicken and peanut stew) which we had with rice. It was strong with peanut flavour and served as a comforting dinner.

Rating: 7/10

Serves: 4
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 30 – 40 minutes

1 cup peanut butter
85g tomato puree
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 green chilli peppers, chopped
2 cups chicken stock
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 skinless, boneless chicken breast, cubed
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
cayenne pepper to taste

Melt peanut butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in tomato paste, and blend with peanut butter until smooth
Mix in chopped tomatoes, chilli pepper and chicken stock and leave to cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally
Meanwhile heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat and fry the chicken and onions for 5 – 10 minutes until chicken is cooked
Add the chicken, onions, and mushrooms into the peanut butter mixture, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes
Season with cayenne pepper and serve with rice

Ingredient for Groundnut stew (chicken and peanut stew)
Groundnut stew (chicken and peanut stew)
Groundnut stew (chicken and peanut stew)
Groundnut stew (chicken and peanut stew)
Groundnut stew (chicken and peanut stew)
Freetown, Sierra Leone
Diamond workers, Sierra Leone
Fishing village in northern Sierra Leone
Beach, Sierra Leone

St Kitts and Nevis

The Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis is a dual island country in the West Indies known for cloud-shrouded mountains and beaches. It is the smallest country in the Caribbean (and indeed in the whole of the Americas), covering just 104 square miles, and is home to around 45,000 people. Both islands were discovered by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage to the New World in 1493.

Cricket is common in Saint Kitts and Nevis and was the smallest country to host 2007 Cricket World Cup matches at the capital, Basseterre’s stadium. Top players can be selected for the West Indies cricket team.

St. Kitts is dependent upon tourism to drive its economy. Tourism to the island has been expanding since 1978. In 2009 there were 587,479 arrivals to Saint Kitts compared to 379,473 in 2007, representing an increase of just under 40% in a two year period. The two biggest occasions in the social calendar are the St. Kitts Music Festival, held in June and now in its 20th year and the St. Kitts-Nevis National Carnival, also known as Sugar Mas, which takes place around Christmas and New Year.

St Kitts’ historical highlight, Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, became a Unesco World Heritage site in 1999 for being an exceptionally well-preserved example of 17th and 18th century military architecture. It was designed by British military engineers and built by African slave labour.

Local St Kitts and Nevis cooking is simple, spicy and makes use of the plentiful fresh fish, vegetables and fruit. Some specialities include Droppers (coconut dumplings), Stewed saltfish, Goat waterstew (goat and tomato based stew), Cook up or Pelau (chicken, pigtail, saltfish with rice and vegetables), Rikkita beef (fried beefsteak marinated in Champagne and hot peppers), Conkies (cornmeal savoury snack) and Coconut rum bread pudding. I decided to make Jam Cake, which was full of lovely spice and nuttiness.

Rating: 9/10

Serves: Makes 10 – 12 slices
Prep time: 45 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes

1-3/4 cups flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup seedless blackberry jam
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs

Caramel Icing (optional)
113g unsalted butter
300g brown sugar
3 fl oz double cream
200g icing sugar

Mix all ingredients (except the jam) together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle (or by hand with a wooden spoon).
Pour into 2 greased and floured 9-inch cake pans
Bake at 175 C for 35 minutes
Leave the cakes to cool then take them out of the pans on to a wire rack

To make the icing
Add the butter, cream and brown sugar to a pan and heat for 2 minutes, stirring to combine
Sift the icing sugar and beat into the mixture

Spread the blackberry jam over the top of one of the cakes and top with the other
Pour the icing over the top of the cake (you may have some left over which you can freeze)
Serve with tea and coffee

Ingredients for Jam Cake
Jam Cake
Jam Cake
Caramel sauce for Jam Cake
Caramel sauce for Jam Cake
Jam Cake
Jam Cake
Jam Cake
Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park
Basseterre, St Kitts and Nevis


The State of Palestine is a modern de-jure sovereign state in the Middle East recognised by 136 UN members and with non-member observer state status in the UN since 2012. The term “Palestine” has been associated with the geographical area that currently covers the State of Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Most of the areas claimed by the State of Palestine have been occupied by Israel since 1967, in the aftermath of the Six-Day War. Since ancient times Palestine has been a crossroads between Asia, Europe, and Africa.

Described as one of the most troubled corners of the planet, travelling in Palestine can be challenging. Ancient Jericho is believed to be the oldest inhabited city in the world with the oldest known protective wall in the world. Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of more than 20 successive settlements in Jericho, dating back to 9000 BC, almost to the very beginning of the Holocene epoch of the Earth’s history. The city of Bethlehem has more than two million visitors every year and The Church of the Nativity is one of the major tourist attractions. It stands in the Manger Square, over a grotto called the Holy Crypt, where Jesus is believed to have been born. Christmas is celebrated three times a year in Bethlehem:
Catholics and Western denominations celebrate Christmas on December 25, Greek Orthodox followers celebrate on January 6, and Armenians celebrate on January 18.

Palestinian cuisine is similar to other Levantine cuisines, including Lebanese, Syrian and Jordanian. It is a diffusion of the cultures of civilisations that settled in the region of Palestine, with strong influence from Turkish cuisine. Some recipes I came across include Kubbi balls (fried spiced minced meat croquettes), Adas (lentil soup), Manakish (pizza), Musakhan (roasted chicken baked with onions, sumac, allspice, saffron, and fried pine nuts), Mansaf (lamb cooked in yoghurt), Mujaddara (lentils with rice & onions) and Sumaghiyyeh (beef stew with beans, sumac and tahina). I decided to make Labneh (cheese made from yoghurt) with pistachios, parsley, lemon and sumac dip served with freshly made pitta bread. It is commonly served for breakfast among Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It had a similar taste and texture to cream cheese and we thought it was delicious, especially with the homemade pitta bread.

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 4 as a nibble
Prep time: 25 minutes + 5 – 7 days resting in the fridge (I left mine for 7 days)

500g greek yoghurt
Good pinch of salt
1/2 tbsp pistachios
1/2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 lemon zest, finely chopped
pinch sumac
1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 – 6 pitta bread
Sliced carrot, pepper and celery

Pitta bread
2 tsp active dry yeast
½ tsp sugar
35 g wholemeal flour (1/4 cup)
310 g plain flour (2 1/2 cups)
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil

To make the labneh:
Place sieve over a large bowl and line it with cheesecloth in a cross formation (so you have two layers of cheesecloth lining the bottom of the sieve)
Add a pinch of salt to yoghurt and stir through
Scoop yoghurt into the cheesecloth-lined sieve
Gather the edges of the cloth and tie with kitchen string to form a parcel
With the sieve resting over a large bowl, place in the fridge and let drain for 5 – 7 days. The longer the yoghurt drains, the thicker the labneh consistency will be. It should have the consistency of cream cheese
Gently squeeze out the excess liquid and remove labneh from cheesecloth and place in a bowl

To make the Pitta bread:
Put 1 cup lukewarm water in a large mixing bowl, add yeast and sugar
Stir to dissolve and add the wholemeal flour and 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and whisk together
Put bowl in a warm (not hot) place, uncovered, until mixture is frothy and bubbling, about 15 minutes
Add salt, olive oil and nearly all remaining all-purpose flour (reserve 1/2 cup)
With a wooden spoon or a pair of chopsticks, stir until mixture forms a shaggy mass
Dust with a little reserved flour, then knead in bowl for 1 minute, incorporating any stray bits of dry dough
Turn dough onto work surface and knead lightly for 2 minutes, until smooth
Cover and let rest 10 minutes, then knead again for 2 minutes
Try not to add too much reserved flour as the dough should be soft and a bit moist
Clean the mixing bowl and put dough back in it
Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap, then cover with a towel
Put bowl in a warm (not hot) place and leave until dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour
Pre heat oven to 240 c
On bottom shelf of oven, place a heavy-duty baking sheet or ceramic baking tile
Punch down dough and divide into 8 pieces of equal size
Form each piece into a little ball
Place dough balls on work surface, cover with a damp towel and leave for 10 minutes
Remove 1 ball (keeping others covered) and press into a flat disc with rolling pin
Roll to a 6-inch circle, then to an 8-inch diameter, about 1/8 inch thick, dusting with flour if necessary
Carefully lift the dough circle and place quickly on hot baking sheet and place in the oven
After 2 minutes the dough should be nicely puffed
Turn over with tongs and bake for 1 minute
The pitta should be pale, with only a few brown speckles
Transfer warm pitta to a napkin-lined basket and cover so bread stays soft
Repeat with the rest of the dough balls

When you’re ready to serve the labneh:
Toast the pistachios in a pan then chop into small pieces
Fill a small serving dish with labneh
Sprinkle pistachios, parsley, lemon zest and a pinch of sumac over the labneh. Drizzle the olive oil over everything
Serve with fresh pitta bread and crudités

Ingredients for Labneh (cheese made from yoghurt) with pistachios, parsley, lemon and sumac dip
Labneh (cheese made from yoghurt)
Labneh (cheese made from yoghurt)
Labneh (cheese made from yoghurt)
Labneh (cheese made from yoghurt) with pistachios, parsley, lemon and sumac dip
Pitta bread
Pitta bread
Labneh (cheese made from yoghurt) with pistachios, parsley, lemon and sumac dip with homemade pitta bread
Mosque of Omar, Jerusalem
Abraham path, Jericho
The Church of the Nativity


Luxembourg is a parliamentary representative democracy with a constitutional monarch, ruled by a Grand Duke. It is the world’s only remaining sovereign Grand Duchy. The country has a highly developed economy, with the second highest GDP per capita in the world, after Qatar. Luxembourg is a founding member of the EU, NATO, United Nations, Benelux and the Western European Union, reflecting the political consensus in favour of economic, political and military integration.

Consistently ranked among the world’s top three nations in both wealth and wine consumption. Luxembourg’s prosperity was formerly based on steel manufacturing, however with the decline of that industry, Luxembourg diversified and is now best known for its status as Europe’s most powerful investment management centre.

The country is mostly rural, featuring dense Ardennes forest, nature parks in the north rocky gorges in the east and the Moselle river valley in the southeast. Its capital, Luxembourg city, is famed for its medieval old town perched on sheer cliffs. A popular tourist attraction is the vast Bock Casemates tunnel encompassing a dungeon, prison and the Archaeological Crypt. These subterranean tunnels and passageways were first built in 1644, in the era of the Spanish domination, and in 1933 they were opened to the public. Luxembourg is also home to “Europes most beautiful balcony” – Le Chemin de la Corniche, a cobbled promenade along the side of a cliff, with views across the river canyon, the Alzette valley and the viaduct.

Luxembourgish cuisine is influenced by the cuisines of neighbouring France, Belgium and Germany. It’s certainly not a cuisine for those on a diet, but it’s definitely tasty with lots of meat, fish, potatoes, beans, and dashes of cream and wine. Some of the tasty recipes I considered were Judd mat Gaardebounen (smoked neck of pork with broad beans), F’rell Am Rèisleck (fried trout in a rich Riesling wine and cream sauce) Stäerzelen (a dish made of buckwheat flour with smoked bacon and cream), Friture (fried fish from Luxembourg’s part of the Moselle river), Gromperekichelcher (crispy fried potato cakes or fritters), Huesenziwwi (hare stew) and Paschtéit or bouchée à la reine (like vol aux vents). I opted for Bouneschlupp (green bean soup with smoked bacon) which was exceptional.

Rating: 10/10

Serves: 4
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time 1 hr 15 minutes

400g green beans, sliced in 1 cm pieces
100g onions, chopped
150g potatoes, cubed
100g smoked bacon
25g butter
1500ml chicken or vegetable stock
75ml double cream or crème fraiche
1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
Freshly ground pepper

Heat the butter in a large saucepan and fry the bacon for 5 minutes
Add the chopped onions and fry for 5 minutes
Add salt, pepper and mint, beans and stock
Cook for 45 minutes
Add diced potatoes and cook for 20 minutes until they are just soft
Add cream
Check seasoning and serve

Ingredients for Bouneschlupp (green bean soup with smoked bacon)
Bouneschlupp (green bean soup with smoked bacon)
Bouneschlupp (green bean soup with smoked bacon)
Bouneschlupp (green bean soup with smoked bacon)
Bouneschlupp (green bean soup with smoked bacon)
Vianden Castle
Le Chemin de la Corniche
Luxembourg City


Mozambique is a southern African nation whose coastline stretches 2,470 km and is dotted with popular beaches like Tofo, as well as offshore marine parks. Tanzania is to the north; Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe to the west, and South Africa and Swaziland to the south. The country is generally a low-lying plateau broken up by 25 sizeable rivers that flow into the Indian Ocean. The largest is the Zambezi which provides access to central Africa. Mozambique has several Indian Ocean Islands which attract tourists.

Mozambique was explored by Vasco de Gama in 1498 and first colonised by Portugal in 1505. The Portuguese had control of all of the former Arab sultanates on the east African coast. Guerilla activity began in 1963 and became so effective by 1973, that Portugal was forced to dispatch 40,000 troops to fight the rebels. A cease-fire was signed in September 1974 and after having been under Portuguese colonial rule for 470 years Mozambique became independent on 25 June 1975. The first President Samora Moises Machel, had been the head of the National Front for the liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) in its 10 year guerilla war for independence. He died in a plane crash in 1986, and was succeeded by his foreign minister Joaquim Chissano. In 2004 President Joaquim Chissano stepped down after 18 years in office, he was succeeded by Armando Guebuza.
Current Leader Filipe Nyusi, of the ruling party Frelimo party, was sworn in as president in January 2015. Two months later he succeeded former president Armando Guebuza as party leader, representing a change in Frelimo which has dominated politics in Mozambique since it won independence. During his election campaign, Mr Nyusi pledged to transform Mozambique, one of Africa’s poorest nations. He now presides over a country on the cusp of tapping newly discovered offshore gas fields, set to transform Mozambique’s economy. Despite recent economic growth, more than half of Mozambique’s 24 million people continue to live below the poverty line.

Maputo, known as Lourenco Marques before independence, is the capital and largest city of Mozambique. Today it is a port city with its economy centred on the harbour. It is known as the City of Acacias, in reference to acacia trees commonly found along its avenues. Highlights for the visitor include The Quirimbas Archipelago, Gorongosa National Park, Lake Niassa and the Chimanimani Mountains.

The cuisine of Mozambique has been deeply influenced by the Portuguese, who introduced new crops, flavourings, and cooking methods. The staple food for many Mozambicans is ncima, a thick porridge made from maize/corn flour. Other dishes I came across include Matata (clam and peanut stew), Xima (maize porridge), Frango a calrial (piri piri chicken over charcoal), Sandes de Queijo (Baked Cheese Sandwich), Chamusas (savoury triangular pastries), Ananas con vihno do porto (pineapple in port), Mozambican Peri-Peri Prawns and Malasadas (Doughnuts). I opted for a healthy dish of Salada Pera de Abacate (Tomato and Avocado Salad) which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 2 as a starter or light lunch

Prep time: 15 minutes
1/2 head iceberg lettuce or salad leaves
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 avocado, sliced
6 peach slices, chopped
Lemon Dressing:
4 tsp lemon juice
4 tsp olive oil
4 tsp syrup from peaches (you can use any fruit syrup or a teaspoon of honey)
salt & pepper
1/2 tsp dried herbs de Provence
1 tbsp fresh coriander leaves

Mix lemon juice with olive oil, syrup, salt, pepper and herbs
Cut the lettuce and lay out on a plate
Lay the avocado on top of the lettuce
Top with the tomatoes and peaches
Sprinkle the dressing over the salad

Ingredients for Salada Pera de Abacate (Tomato and Avocado Salad)
Salada Pera de Abacate (Tomato and Avocado Salad)
Salada Pera de Abacate (Tomato and Avocado Salad)
Northern Mozambique
Gorongosa National Park
Lake Niassa


The Republic of Zambia is a landlocked country in Southern Africa, neighbouring the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia to the south, and Angola to the west. The highest point in Zambia is found in the Mafinga Hills, with the point is at a height of 2,301 metres. The official language of Zambia is English, but between 43 and 73 languages are spoken.

Zambia unlike most of its neighbours, has managed to avoid the war and upheaval that has marked much of Africa’s postcolonial history, earning itself a reputation for political stability. In 1889 Britain established control over Northern Rhodesia. On the 24th October 1964, Northern Rhodesia became the Republic of Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda led the struggle for independence in the 1960’s and he served as president for nearly 30 years. It became the first country ever to change its name and flag between the opening and closing ceremonies of an Olympic Games. The current Leader Edgar Lunga became the 6th president of Zambia in 2015, a former justice and defence minister, his toughest challenge has been to turn around a slowing economy hit by a slump in copper prices, the country’s biggest export.

Zambia has one of the world’s fastest growing populations with the UN, projecting that its population of 13 million will triple by 2050. In 2010, the World Bank named Zambia one of the world’s fastest economically reformed countries. The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) is headquartered in Lusaka, the capital of Zamb, which is located in the southeast of the country.

One of the most popular places to visit in Zambia are the mighty Victoria Falls. They are 100 metres high and 1.6 kilometres wide. In 1855 the Scottish explorer David Livingstone was the first European to see the magnificent falls on the Zambezi River, naming them after Queen Victoria. The town of Livingstone, near to the falls is named after him, and was the original Capital until 1935.

For many Zambians, the staple food is maize (white cornflour) and one of the most popular dishes is nshima, a stiff porridge made from ground maize. Other recipes I came across included Chibwabwa (pumpkin leaves), Mealie Bread, Mbuzi yo Phika (goat stew), Ifisashi (green vegetables in peanut sauce), Imibu ya Nama (meatballs), Inkoko ya Kocha (grilled chicken), Umukate wa Mbata (duck loaf) and Ikanga yakufumbika (braised guinea fowl). I decided to cook Spicy Village Chicken (free range chicken with tomatoes, onions and spices). I served it with steamed rice and really enjoyed the subtle spicy flavour.

Rating: 8/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes

600g free range chicken pieces
1 big tomato
1/2 medium onion
1 tbsp of vegetable oil)
Salt to taste
100 ml water
1 tsp tomato paste
½ tsp curry powder
½ a tsp of chilli flakes/ or ½ a red chilli, chopped (optional)
½ tsp of garlic powder
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped

Over a high heat boil the water in a medium casserole dish
Place the chicken pieces into the pot and bring to the boil (don’t add any salt)
Turn the chicken pieces after 15 minutes
Cover the pot and allow the chicken to boil for another 10 minutes
Once the chicken is cooked and the liquid has reduced, add the oil and cook over a med – low heat for 5 minutes
Chop the onions and tomatoes, add them to the chicken and stir gently to allow the ingredients to mix thoroughly
Add your tomato paste, salt, curry powder, garlic powder and chilli to taste and stir to blend together
Cook over a low – medium heat for 15 – 20 minutes
Serve with steamed rice

Ingredients for Spicy Village Chicken (free range chicken with tomatoes, onions and spices)
Spicy Village Chicken (free range chicken with tomatoes, onions and spices)
Spicy Village Chicken (free range chicken with tomatoes, onions and spices)
Spicy Village Chicken (free range chicken with tomatoes, onions and spices)
Rafting down the Zambezi River
Wild giraffes in Zambia
Victoria Falls, Zambia

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a Central American country known for its beaches, volcanoes and biodiversity. More than 25% of Costa Rican land is protected national parks and refuges. There are over 130 species of fish, 220 of reptiles, 1,000 butterflies (10% of the world’s butterflies), 9,000 plants, 20,000 species of spiders and 34,000 species of insects. Costa Rica has successfully managed to diminish deforestation from some of the worst rates in the world from 1973 to 1989, to almost zero by 2005. It was identified by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) as the greenest country in the world in 2009.

Costa Rica stands as the most visited nation in the Central American region, with 2.66 million foreign visitors in 2015. Since 1999, tourism earns more foreign exchange than bananas, pineapples and coffee exports combined. Elected in 2007 by Costa Ricans through an open contest in a leading newspaper, the 7 natural wonders of Costa Rica are:
1. Cocos Island
2. Arenal Volcano
3. Chirripo Mountain
4. Celeste River
5. Tortuguero Canals
6. Poás Volcano
7. Monteverde Reserve

Costa Rican fare is nutritionally well rounded, and nearly always cooked from scratch from fresh ingredients. Rice and black beans are a staple of most traditional Costa Rican meals. Recipes I came across included Olla de carne or “pot of beef” (beef stew with potatoes and vegetables), Casado (rice, black beans, plantains, salad served with tortilla and meat), Gallo pinto (spotted chicken with rice and beans), Patacones (fried plantains), Arroz con Pollo (chicken and fried rice), Sodas (savoury pastries), Ceviche (raw seafood salad) and Arepas (crepes). I made Sopa Negra (black bean soup) which was simple to make, healthy and flavoursome.

Rating: 7/10

Serves: 2 as a starter or light lunch
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 1.5 hours (if cooking the beans)

1 can of cooked black beans drained or 100g dried black beans
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup coriander, finely chopped
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup oil
350 ml water
1 hard boiled egg per portion (optional)

If using dried black beans, cook according to packet instructions
Fry the onion and coriander until onion is softened
Add the beans and the remaining ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth
Put it back in the pan and heat for 5 minutes but don’t boil
It is a hearty soup and can be served with a hard boiled egg in it

Ingredients for Sopa Negra (black bean soup)
Sopa Negra (black bean soup)
Sopa Negra (black bean soup)
Sopa Negra (black bean soup)
Tortuguero Canals, Costa Rica
Costa Rican beach sunset
Poás Volcano, Costa Rica
Costa Rican Red-Eye tree frog


Rwanda is a small landlocked country in Central East Africa. It is in the African Great Lakes region and its geography is dominated by mountains in the west and savanna to the east. The highest peaks are found in the Virunga volcano chain in the northwest including Mount Karisimbi, Rwanda’s highest point, at 4,507 metres. Volcanoes National Park is home to an estimated one third of the worldwide mountain gorilla population and it is one of only two countries where mountain gorillas can be visited safely.

A few facts
Rwanda has the world’s highest representation of women in parliament. 64% of Rwanda’s members of parliament are women
In 2007, Rwanda became the first country in the world to legislate an outright ban on plastic bags
Rwanda the most densely populated country in Africa with 445 inhabitants per square km
A dramatic improvement in healthcare delivery and health outcomes has seen life expectancy in Rwanda rise by 10 years in the last decade
Rwanda has two public holidays mourning the 1994 genocide. The national mourning period begins with Kwibuka, the national commemoration, on April 7 and concludes with Liberation Day on July 4

The cuisine of Rwanda is based on local staple foods produced by subsistence agriculture such as bananas, plantains, pulses, sweet potatoes, beans, and cassava. Recipes I came across during my research Rwandan Fruit Salad, Umutsima (a dish of cassava and corn), Isombe (cassava leaves with aubergine and spinach), Mizuzu (fried plantains), Rwandan Beef Stew, Ugali (African Cornmeal Mush) and Pinto Beans and Vegetables. I opted for Kachumbari (tomato, onion and avocado salad) which made a very tasty lunch.

Rating: 8/10

Serves: 1 as a starter or light lunch
Prep time: 15 minutes

1/2 onion, very thinly sliced
1 tomato, thinly sliced
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 baby avocado, sliced
1/2 red chilli, sliced
1/2 tbsp fresh coriander, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
juice of 1/2 lime
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Layer the tomatoes, chilli coriander, avocado and sliced onions in a dish
Mix together the lime juice and olive oil then season with salt and black pepper
Pour the dressing over the salad and serve

Ingredients for Kachumbari (tomato, onion and avocado salad)
Kachumbari (tomato, onion and avocado salad)
Kachumbari (tomato, onion and avocado salad)
Rwandan countryside
Lake Kivu, Rwanda
Traditional Rwandan intore dancers


The Republic of Liberia, is a country on the West African coast. Liberia means “Land of the Free” in Latin. It began as a settlement of the American Colonisation Society (ACS), who believed blacks would face better chances for freedom in Africa than in the United States. On January 3, 1848 Joseph Jenkins Roberts, a wealthy, free-born black American from Virginia who settled in Liberia, was elected as Liberia’s first president after the people proclaimed independence. Liberia holds the record of the longest stable rule by a single political party from 1877 to 1980, by the quaintly named True Whig Party. Liberia has been independent since 1847, making it the oldest republic in Africa.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became Africa’s first elected female President in January 2006. Liberia’s government is hard at work trying to improve its electricity access, currently only 3% of the population are connected to grid power, one of the world’s lowest, after the civil war took out its entire grid.

Liberia is home to the rare and endangered Pygmy Hippopotamus. The World Conservation Union estimates that there are fewer than 3,000 pygmy hippos remaining in the wild. Liberia contains a significant portion of West Africa’s remaining rainforest, with about 43% of the Upper Guinean forest, an important forest that spans several West African nations. It hosts the last remaining viable populations of certain species including western chimpanzees, forest elephants and leopards.

The Liberian diet is centered on the consumption of rice and other starches, tropical fruits, vegetables, and local fish and meat. Liberia also has a tradition of baking imported from the United States that is unique in West Africa. Popular recipes include Liberian potato salad, Palava (stew), Chicken peanut stew, Eggplant fritters, Pineapple nut bread, Stewed mango with cloves, Jollof rice, Ginger cookies and Carrot cake. I opted to make Sweet potato pone, which I’ll be honest is one of the strangest foods I’ve tasted on this challenge. I don’t think I’ll be trying it again.

Rating: 2/10

Serves: 6 as a dessert
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes

750 ml grated raw sweet potato
250 ml dark syrup
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
85ml oil

Preheat the oven to 160c degrees
Place all the ingredients in a saucepan over a medium heat and cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly
Grease a 9 inch baking dish and pour in the mixture
Bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes for the first 20 minutes to ensure that the mixture is evenly combined
Smooth the top and cook until brown
Cut into squares and serve hot or cooled


The Kingdom of Belgium is located in Western Europe and the capital, Brussels, is home to the headquarters of the European Union and NATO.

The Belgian coastal tram Kusttram is the longest tram line in the world at 68km long. It opened in 1885 and operates between De Panne and Knokke-Heist, from the French border to the Dutch border.

The Law Courts of Brussels is the largest court of justice in the world. It has a built land area of 26,000 m² at ground level, which makes it bigger than the Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome (21,000 m²).

Belgium has been producing chocolate for almost 400 years, with the first evidence of chocolate production dating back to 1635. Today Belgium produces over 220,000 tons of chocolate per year, and there are an estimated 2,000 chocolate shops.

Belgium holds the world record for the most lights lit simultaneously on a Christmas tree at 194,672 and was achieved by Kiwanis Malmedy / Haute Fagnes Belgium in Malmedy, Belgium, on 10 December 2010.

For the small country that Belgium is, there’s a surprising amount of regional diversity when it comes to the cuisine. Pork, beef, game, fish and seafood are staple items, often cooked with butter, cream and herbs, or sometimes beer which is Belgium’s national drink. Popular recipes include Carbonade flamande (steak and ale stew), Boulets à la liégeoise (rabbit meatballs in sweet sauce), Waterzooi (creamy fish or chicken stew with vegetables), Lapin à la gueuze (rabbit & beer stew), Chicon au gratin (ham and endive gratin), Flamiche (savoury tart), Waffles, Couque de Dinant (hard sweet biscuit) and Tarte au riz (rice pudding pie). I decided to make the Belgian classic dish – Moules frites (steamed mussels and chips) and it didn’t disappoint.

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 45 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes

1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 egg yolk
1 cup canola oil, plus more for frying
2 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1⁄2 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 lb old potatoes, peeled and cut into 1⁄4″thick sticks (use a mandolin if you have one)
2 1⁄2 lb mussels, debearded and scrubbed
2⁄3 cup dry white wine
2 tbsp unsalted butter, cubed
3 sticks celery, finely chopped
1 1⁄2 leeks, light green and white parts, cut into 1⁄4″thick slices
1⁄2 large yellow onion, finely chopped

To make the mayonnaise:
In a large bowl, whisk mustard and egg yolk
Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in oil in a thin stream until it begins to emulsify
Whisk in the vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and pepper
Set aside

To make the fries
Pour oil into a deep pan to a depth of 2″, and heat over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer reads 375°
Add potatoes and cook until tender, about 8 minutes
Using a slotted spoon, transfer fries to a rack set over a rimmed baking sheet; chill
Increase oil temperature to 385°.
Working in batches, add chilled potatoes and cook until golden brown and crisp, about 4 minutes
Using a slotted spoon, return fries to rack and season with salt

To make the mussels:
Heat a 12″ high-sided skillet over high heat
Add mussels, wine, butter, celery, leeks, and onions
Season with salt and pepper, and cover skillet
Cook, shaking occasionally, until all mussels are opened, about 5 minutes
Divide mussels between 2 large bowls
Serve with fries and mayonnaise