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

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

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

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

Zambia

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

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

Rwanda

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

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

Liberia

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

Uganda

Uganda is situated in East Africa and takes its name from the Buganda kingdom, which encompasses a large portion of the south of the country, including the capital Kampala.
Much of the south of the country is heavily influenced by Lake Nalubaale or Lake Victoria, which contains many islands. It is the source of the Nile and is the largest tropical lake in the world.

During his 1907 visit Winston Churchill said of Uganda “For magnificence, for variety of form and colour, for profusion of brilliant life — bird, insect, reptile, beast — for vast scale — Uganda is truly “the Pearl of Africa”. It gained independence from Britain in 1962 as a Commonwealth realm with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. In 1963, Uganda became a republic but maintained its membership in the Commonwealth of Nations.

Idi Amin ruled Uganda from 1971 until 1979. He carried out mass killings within the country and an estimated 300,000 Ugandans lost their lives during his regime. Amin’s rule was characterised by human rights abuses, political repression, ethnic persecution, extrajudicial killings, nepotism, corruption, and gross economic mismanagement.

Uganda is home to the endangered mountain gorillas. As of September 2016, the estimated number remaining is about 880 and they are found in Bwindi National Park in Uganda, Rwanda, and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Ugandan cuisine consists of traditional and modern cooking styles, practices, foods and dishes. Main dishes usually consist of a sauce or stew with groundnuts, beans or meat. Recipes I came across included Ugali (maize porridge), Matooke (mashed plantains), Luwombo (meat stew) and Nsenene (pan fried grasshoppers). I made Sim Sim Cookies (sesame seed biscuits) which were very sweet, but tasty.

Rating: 7/10

Makes 10 – 12
Cook time: 15 minutes
Cooling time: 2 hours

3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup sesame seeds

Heat together over a low temperature until the sugar liquefies. Keep an eye on it constantly and stir it gently to bring it together
Be careful not to let the mixture cook too long, or the cookies will be too brittle
Pour the hot mixture onto a flat, greased surface. Work quickly to pat or roll the hot mixture into a flat sheet, approximately 1/4 inch thick
Cool until warm to the touch, but not hot and slice into squares
Separate the square cookies and remove them to another surface to continue cooling

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Ingredients for Sim Sim cookies (sesame seed biscuits)
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Making Sim Sim cookies (sesame seed biscuits)
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Sim Sim cookies (sesame seed biscuits)
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Sim Sim cookies (sesame seed biscuits)
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Mountain Gorilla, Uganda
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Lake Victoria, Uganda

Niger

Named after the Niger River in West Africa, the Republic of Niger is a landlocked country located in Western Africa. At a length of 2,600 miles the Niger River is the third longest river in Africa, after the Nile and the Congo. It contains 36 families of freshwater fish and nearly 250 fish species, twenty of these are found nowhere else on the planet.

A few interesting facts
Uranium is Niger’s largest mineral export. The country is ranked fifth in Uranium production globally
Niger is one of the poorest nations on the earth. In 2014 it was ranked 188 in the world on the UN Human Development Index
Niger is home to the largest protected area in Africa, covering some 7.7 million ha. The Air and Tenere Natural Reserves is the refuge for animals like addax, Cheetah, Oryx and the gazelle
It is one of the hottest countries in the world and is famously nicknamed as ‘Frying Pan of the World’. It can get hot enough to make raindrops evaporate before they hit the ground
A dinosaur named Nigersaurus has been discovered in Niger. It had a long neck and a mouth like a hammerhead shark with up to six hundred teeth for grazing ferns. It lived during the middle Cretaceous period, about 115 to 105 million years ago

Typical Nigerien meals consist of a starch (rice being the most popular) paired with a sauce or stew. Some dishes I came across were Cecena (black-eyed pea and onion fritters), Fari masa (deep fried dough, served with stews), Beignet (savoury wheat pastry of French origin), Fufu (paste made from yam or manioc), Jollof rice (rice and tomato dish), Dodo (fried plantains), Gumbo stew (sticky stew with okra and beef), Tukasu (mutton stew with dumplings), Salad de mangue (green salad with mango) and Chakery (sweet dessert made with cous-cous, cream, fruit and spices). I opted to make Jo jo meat balls (made with beef, green pepper, potato and egg). They were a little disappointing as they lacked flavour and didn’t hold together particularly well, as I think there was too much moisture (I have adapted the recipe below to hopefully alleviate this).

Rating: 5/10

Serves: 4
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 15-20 minutes

500g ground beef
1 green pepper
1 onion
2 medium potatoes
2 eggs
Salt & pepper
Plain flour
Vegetable oil for frying
Jar of tomato sauce (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180c
Place the potatoes in a food processer until they are well chopped
Remove to a tea towel and leave for a few minutes, then wring out any moisture
Place the green pepper and onion in the food processer until well chopped
Put the beef in a mixing bowl and add the chopped potatoes, onion, green pepper and eggs
Season well with salt & pepper and mix together
Place some plain flour on a plate
Roll your mixture into medium sized balls, roll each one in a little flour
Heat the oil in a pan and fry the meatballs for 5 – 8 minutes until browned
Place the meatballs in a dish and cook in the oven for around 10 minutes
You can cover the meatballs with tomato sauce before you put them in the oven or leave them plain
Serve with rice

Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso, once named ‘Upper Volta’, was renamed “Burkina Faso” on 4 August 1984 by then President Thomas Sankara. The words “Burkina” and “Faso” both stem from different languages spoken in the country. “Burkina” comes from Mossi and means “honest” or “honest people”, while “Faso” comes from the Dyula language and means “fatherland”. The capital of Burkina Faso is Ouagadougou, it literally means “You are welcome here at home with us”.

Gold is Burkina Faso’s main export, followed by cotton and animal products. Together gold and cotton make up 70% of the country’s exports. It is Africa’s largest producer of cotton.
However it remains one of the poorest countries in the world, with around 44.5% of its population living below the poverty line and it ranks 183 out of 187 countries on the UNDP Human Development Index in 2014. The World Food Programme has several projects geared towards increasing food security in Burkina Faso.

According to Lonely Planet, highlights for visitors to Burkina Faso include:
Colourfully painted fortress like houses in Tiebélé
Mud-brick mosques of Bani
Gorom Gorom market
Fespaco – Ouagadougou’s film festival and
Moro-Naba ceremony, a throwback to the Mossi’s golden age.

Burkina Faso’s cuisine is based on staple foods of sorghum, millet, rice, maize, peanuts, potatoes, beans, yams and okra. The most common sources of animal protein are chicken and fresh water fish. Grilled meat is also common, particularly mutton, goat and beef. Recipes I came across included Tô or Saghbo (a dough-based meal of cooked millet, served with a sauce of vegetables and mutton), Ragout d’Igname (lamb and yam stew), Gombo (okra sauce), Maan Nezim Nzedo (fish stew) and Krakro (sweet potato fritters). I opted for Riz graz (“Fat rice” cooked with onions, tomatoes and meat), which had a pleasant spicy warmth and good flavour.

Rating: 8/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes

1 habanero or jalapeno chilli pepper
1-2 garlic cloves
1⁄2 onion, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1⁄4 cup oil
250g beef or chicken, cubed
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 cups water
1 maggi seasoning, cube (or chicken bouillon)
1 cup long grain white rice
salt and pepper

Put the chilli, garlic, tomatoes and onion into a food processor and pulse until you get a nice paste
Add the oil to a pan over medium heat and add the paste
Cook for 8 minutes, then remove from the heat and set asid
Use a little bit of water (about 1/2 cup) to rinse out your food processor, then put the water in a separate pot along with the meat
Bring the meat and water to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes
Add the meat to the pan containing the paste, along with the tomato puree remaining water and Maggi (or stock) cube and stir
Wash the rice under the tap until the water runs clear, then add it to the pot and bring to a boil
Reduce heat, cover and let simmer for 15 minutes
Check it, then cook for another 10 minutes or until the water has been absorbed
Season to taste and serve

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Ingredients for Riz graz (“Fat rice” cooked with onions, tomatoes and meat)
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Sauce for Riz graz (“Fat rice” cooked with onions, tomatoes and meat)
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Riz graz (“Fat rice” cooked with onions, tomatoes and meat)
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Riz graz (“Fat rice” cooked with onions, tomatoes and meat)
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Riz graz (“Fat rice” cooked with onions, tomatoes and meat)
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Gurunsi tribe houses in Tiebélé
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Ouagadougou
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Mud Mosque Bani

South Sudan

With a 97% vote for independence, South Sudan became the world’s newest country in July 2011. It should be a country full of hope five years after gaining independence. Instead, it is in the grip of a massive, man-made humanitarian crisis. The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, the ruling political party that originally led the way for independence, is now divided and fighting for power. Since the conflict began, 1 in 5 people in South Sudan have been displaced, more than 2.3 million citizens having been forced to flee their homes. Sudan, and what was then the semi-independent Southern Sudan, endured a brutal civil war for more than 25 years, which resulted in South Sudan’s independence in 2011. But the conflict in December 2013 reopened deeply-rooted political and ethnic tensions that hadn’t yet been reconciled.

South Sudan’s protected area of Bandingilo National Park hosts the second largest wildlife migration in the world. Established in 1992, it is situated in a wooded area near the White Nile River and is over 10,000 square kilometres. South Sudan’s forest reserves are home to hartebeest, kob, topi, buffalo, elephants, giraffes, lions, bongo, giant forest hogs, red river hogs, forest elephants, chimpanzees, and forest monkeys.

Recipes I came across for South Sudan include Kisra (flatbread), Goraasa be Dama (beef stew with flatbread), Fuul (stewed beans), Khodra mafroka (beef and spinach) and Tamia (deep fried chickpea balls). I opted to make Dama be Potaatas (beef stew with potatoes) which was a hearty stew with a pleasant flavour.

Rating: 7/10

Serves: 4
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes

1/3 cup oil
6 onions, chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 cups water
500g beef steak
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp cinnamon
4 tbsp tomato paste
3 cloves of crushed garlic

Heat the oil in a casserole pot over a medium heat and add the onions
Add 1 cup of water, cover and leave to cook on medium heat for around 10 minutes until the water is almost evaporated
Fry the potatoes in a separate pan until golden then set aside
Lightly blend onions and return them to the casserole pot with the tomatoes
Chop steak into small pieces and add to the pot along with the green pepper, salt, cardamom and cinnamon
Cover and cook for 3 minutes
Add tomato paste, stir, adding water until smooth and runny
Add potatoes, cover and leave to simmer for 10 minutes adding more water occasionally
Stir in crushed garlic and serve

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Ingredients for Dama be Potaatas (beef stew with potatoes)
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Dama be Potaatas (beef stew with potatoes)
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South Sudan flag on map
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Bandigalo National Park, South Sudan
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Dama be Potaatas (beef stew with potatoes)
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Dama be Potaatas (beef stew with potatoes)

Tanzania

Tanzania is a large country in East Africa which includes the spice islands of Zanzibar, Pemba, and Mafia and also contains Africa’s highest point—Kilimanjaro, at 5,895 meters (19,340 feet).

A few facts
Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater is home to the world’s densest population of lions, wildebeest, elephants, hippopotamus, rhinoceros, zebra, leopards, and hyenas. There are approximately 25,000 animals in the crater of just 100 square miles
Lake Manyara National Park is home to the world’s only tree-climbing lions
The largest crab in the world – the coconut crab, can be found on Chumbe Island of Zanzibar
The world’s earliest human skull was found in the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania by Louis and Mary Leakey
Freddie Mercury was born in Stone Town, Zanzibar

The cuisine of Tanzania has been influenced by Portuguese as well as Indian cuisine. The national dish of Tanzania is the humble Ugali, a simple porridge made with either maize, millet, or sorghum flour. Other dishes include Mandazi (deep-fried doughnut-like cakes), Kashata (coconut bars), Mkate wa kumimina (Zanzibari rice bread), Vitumbua (rice patties), Wali wa Nazi (rice in coconut milk) and coconut bean soup. I opted to cook Mshikaki (marinated meat) which was quite tasty, thanks to the overnight marinating.

Rating: 6/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 15 minutes + overnight marinating
Cook time: 8 minutes

350g steak, cut into cubes
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
1 garlic clove, mashed
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
Black pepper & salt

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl and marinate meat overnight or for at least 4 hrs in the fridge
Skewer the meat on water soaked wooden skewers
Grill the meat skewers on an open coal BBQ, basting with marinate until cooked
Serve with pitta or wraps and salad leaves

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Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
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Serengeti National Park
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Zanzibar
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Elephants in the wild, Tanzania

Somalia

Somalia is a country located in the Horn of Africa and boasts the longest coastline on Africa’s mainland. It is one of the oldest sea-faring and trading nations in the world. Some of it’s ancient trading ports include Kismaayo, Berbera, Barawe, Merca, Las Qoray, Hobyo and historically the wealthiest being the 1,000 year old city of Mogadishu.

Some of the earliest known cave paintings in the African continent are Somalia’s Laas Geel’s rock art, estimated to date back to somewhere between 3,000–9,000 BC. Somalia is among the most probable locations of the fabled ancient Land of Punt, an ancient kingdom and trading partner of Egypt. It was known for producing and exporting gold, aromatic resins, blackwood, ebony, ivory, and wild animals.

Due to its proximity and geological similarity to the oil-rich Gulf Arab states such as Yemen, it is believed that Somalia contains substantial unexploited reserves of oil. An oil group listed in Sydney, Range Resources, estimates that the Puntland region in the northeast of Somalia has the potential to produce 5 to 10 billion barrels of oil. As a result of these developments, the Somalia Petroleum Corporation was established by the federal government. In the late 1960s, UN geologists also discovered major uranium deposits and other rare mineral reserves in Somalia. The find was the largest of its kind, with industry experts estimating that the amount of the deposits could amount to over 25% of the world’s then known uranium reserves of 800,000 tons.

The cuisine of Somalia varies from region to region and is a mixture of diverse culinary influences. It is the product of Somalia’s rich tradition of trade and commerce. All food is served halal. There are therefore no pork dishes and nothing that died on its own is eaten. Popular recipes include
Quraa/Quraac (Somali Fried Dough), Muufo (flatbread) , Lahoh (pancake like bread) , Maraq (stew) , Busteeki (Steak), Gashaato (coconut confection) and Bajiye (savoury pastry snacks). I opted to make Macsharo (rice cake), which despite me following the recipe very strictly, was a total disaster. The rice wasn’t cooked at all so sadly, it was inedible. I think perhaps the oven needed to be at a higher temperature.

Rating: 0/10

Serves: Makes 10 – 12 slices
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes

2 cups basmati rice (soaked in water overnight)
¾ cup coconut powder (Maggi brand ideally)
1 tbsp instant yeast
¾ cup sugar
2 tbsp plain flour
¼ tsp ground cardamom
1 – 1 ¼ cup water (substitute milk for water for a softer cake)

Blend all the ingredients together to a smooth batter
Add ¼ cup water if the mixture looks too thick. You need a pancake like consistency. Let the batter rest until it doubles in size. This should take about an hour or so
Preheat the oven to 180c
Brush oil over a baking dish and pour in the batter
Bake in a hot oven for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown at the top
Remove from the oven, cool and cut into pieces for serving

Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea is a small country on the west coast of Africa comprising the Rio Muni mainland. It is bordered by Cameroon to the north, Gabon to the south and east, and 5 volcanic offshore islands. Malabo, the capital is located on the north coast of Bioko Island and has a population of 187,000 inhabitants. It is the oldest city in the country with Spanish colonial architecture and is a hub for the country’s prosperous oil industry. Oyala is a planned city currently under construction, designed to replace Malabo as the capital. The planned city’s location which was chosen for its easy access and benign climate, is located in Wele-Nzas Province, near the town of Mengomeyen.

Since the mid-1990s, Equatorial Guinea has become one of sub-Saharan Africa’s largest oil producers. It is the richest country per capita in Africa, and its GDP per capita ranks 69th in the world. However, the wealth is distributed very unevenly and few people have benefited from the oil riches. According to the UN less than half of the population has access to clean drinking water.

Equatorial Guinea is the only sovereign African state in which Spanish is an official language. The country gained independence in 1968 after 190 years of Spanish rule. Between 1968 and 1979, autocratic President Francisco Macias Nguema virtually destroyed all of the country’s political, economic, and social institutions before being deposed by his nephew Teodoro Obian Nguema Mbasogo in a coup. President Obiang has ruled since 1979 and was re-elected in 2016.

According to Trip Advisor, highlights for the visitor include Catedral de Santa Isabel in Malabo, Arena Blanca beach in Luba, Pico Basilé (the tallest mountain of Equatorial Guinea) and Mbini (a town in Rio Muni, lying at the mouth of the Benito River).

The cuisine of Equatorial Guinea is a blend of the cuisines of the native tribes along with Spanish influence. As the wealthiest nation in west Africa, its cuisine incorporates various meats include game. A few recipes I came across were chicken in peanut sauce with rice, meat or fish grilled with crushed pumpkin seeds served in leaves and Banana Coconut Bake. I opted to cook Guinea Fowl Paella which we enjoyed with my parents. It was very flavoursome although it was fairly time consuming boning the bird and making the stock.

Rating: 8/10

Serves: 4
Prep time: 30 minutes – 1 hr 30 minutes (depending on if you need to de-bone the guinea fowl!)
Cook time: 40 minutes

500g guinea fowl breast and leg meat, cut into 3 cm strips
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
650ml chicken stock or stock from the guinea fowl bones
200g long grain rice
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp pimenton or paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/8 tsp turmeric
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 red pepper, de-seeded and cut into strips
1/2 tin or 250 g cooked black beans

Heat the oil in a pan and cook the guinea fowl strips until they are almost done, then remove the meat and set aside
Fry the onion and garlic and cook until the onion has softened
Add the rice and fry for a few minutes before adding the stock, oregano, pimenton, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper and turmeric
Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes
Add the tinned tomatoes, red pepper and beans
Stir, cover, and simmer for 5 more minutes, until the rice is tender
Add the meat, cook for a few minutes to heat the meat then serve

Djibouti

Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa, is a country of dry shrublands, volcanic formations and Gulf of Aden beaches. It is a small country, occupying a total area of just 8,958 sq m. Djibouti is strategically located near some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, controlling access to the Red Sea and Indian Ocean, serving as a key refueling and transshipment centre. It is home to one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world, the low-lying Lake Assal, in the Danakil Desert. The Djibouti firm Salt Investment (SIS) began a large-scale operation to industrialise the lake, with an annual capacity of 4 million tons, the desalination project has lifted export revenues, created more job opportunities, and provided more fresh water for the area’s residents.

76% of the population live in the capital, Djibouti City, which is also the principal tourist destination for visitors. Places to explore in the city include Place Ménélik in the European Quarter, Place Mahmoud Harbi (Place Rimbaud) in the African Quarter, L’Escale marina, Église Éthiopienne Orthodoxe Tewahido St Gabriel du Soleil and Les Caisses Market.

Despite it’s small size, there are plenty more highlights for the visitor. From the ancient Juniper forests in the Day Forest National Park to snorkelling alongside whale sharks in the Gulf of Tadjoura, feeling the eerie atmosphere at Obock’s Ras Bir Lighthouse and the calmness of Moucha coral Island. It is a melting pot of weird landscapes.

Djiboutian cuisine consists of a mixture of Somali, Afar, Yemeni, and French cuisine, with some additional South Asian influences. Popular dishes include Sambusa (Samosas), Fah-Fah (Soupe Djiboutienne), Yetakelt W’et (Spiced Vegetable Stew), Lahoh (pancake like bread), Garoobey (porridge), Xalwo (halva confection) and Banana fritters. I made Djibouti’s national dish – Skoudehkaris (spiced lamb stew) which was very simple and full of interesting flavours.

Rating: 8/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour

300g lamb, cubed
1 onion, chopped
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp cumin
4 cloves
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 /214 oz can diced tomatoes
1 /2 cup water, plus extra as needed
1/4 cup long-grain rice
salt & pepper

Add the vegetable oil, onions, cumin, cloves, cardamom, cayenne, and cinnamon to a medium pan with lid and cook until soft and fragrant
Add the lamb and brown it a little
Add the tomatoes, 1/4 cup of water, salt & pepper
Cover and simmer for 45 minutes
Add the rice to pan and 1/4 cup of water
Cover and simmer for a further 15 – 20 minutes, until the rice is cooked

Mauritius

We spent New Year’s Eve 2015 on the beautiful island of Mauritius, gorging on delicious seafood, sipping champagne on the beach and dancing the night away with new found friends! The Republic of Mauritius is situated in the Indian Ocean and with a population of 1.2 million, it has the highest population density in Africa. It is known for its beaches, lagoons and reefs, as well as it’s mountainous interior featuring Black River Gorges National Park, rainforests, waterfalls, hiking trails and abundant wildlife. Mauritius was the only known habitat of the now extinct dodo bird and the dodo is prominently featured as a supporter of the national coat of arms of Mauritius.

Mauritius has been ruled by the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French and the British. It became an independent state in 1968, following the adoption of a new constitution. There isn’t an official language but English and French are generally used by government administration and business.

Mauritius received the world leading island destination award for the third time and world’s best beach at the World Travel Awards in January 2012. Around 1 million tourists visit each year. Lonely Planet’s highlights include Pointe d’Esny and Blue Bay, the capital – Port Louis, Chamarel, Rodrigues coastal walk and Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Gardens.

The cuisine of Mauritius is a blend of Chinese, European and Indian influences. French cuisine has also grown very popular. Recipes I came across included Gajak (deep fried snacks), Fish vindaye (spiced fish served with rice, lentils and chutneys), Gateau patat douce (sweet potato cakes), Dholl puris (fried thin bread stuffed with ground yellow split peas), Cari Mutton (Mauritian mutton curry) and Chicken daube (chicken stew). I decided to make Cari Poisson (fish curry) which was pleasantly flavoursome.

Rating: 7/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes

2 fish fillets
1/2 aubergine, cut into strips or batons
1/2 medium onion, sliced
1/2 tsp ginger and garlic paste, heaped
1/2 tbsp thyme leaves, fresh or dried
3 curry leaves, finely chopped
1 tomato, chopped
2 tbsp medium curry powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp coriander leaves, chopped
1 tbsp spring onions, finely chopped
water
vegetable oil, for frying the fish and for cooking
1 & 1/2 tbsp cornflour

Pat fish dry, season with salt and pepper then coat in your corn flour evenly and fry in a pan with vegetable oil on medium heat till they turn a golden brown colour
Drain the fried fish slices on a paper towel to remove all the excess oil and put aside
Season the aubergine with some salt and pepper then fry in the same oil, drain the fried aubergine on a paper towel and put aside
In the same pan, add more oil if needed, and on a medium heat add in your sliced onions, thyme leaves, curry leaves and stir fry for 2 minutes, then add in the garlic and ginger paste, give it a stir
Mix the curry powder, tumeric, cinnamon, cumin and coriander with a little warm water so that it forms a paste and add to the pan and stir well
Add the chopped tomato and 50ml of water to start cooking the sauce, cover and cook on medium heat till tomatoes are done Progressively add 50ml of water in intervals if the sauce starts to dry out
The sauce should be creamy in texture, add in the fried fish with the aubergine and add warm water to preferred consistency, take care not to move the fish around too much or it will break
Taste for seasoning and add salt as needed
Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with coriander leaves and spring onions
Serve with steamed basmati rice

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Ingredients for Cari Poisson (fish curry)
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Cari Poisson (fish curry)
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Cari Poisson (fish curry)
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Cari Poisson (fish curry)
mauritius-mountains
Mauritius mountain
mauritius-beach
Mauritius beach
chamarel-waterfall-mauritius
Chamarel waterfall

Togo

Togo is one of the smallest countries in Africa and is situated above the Gulf of Guinea, sharing borders with Ghana, Benin and Burkina Faso. It has a population of 7.5 million. Despite it being a small country, there are approximately 40 different ethnic groups and 40 indigenous languages, including the Gbe languages of Ewe, Mina and Aja, although French is the official language used in education, administration & commerce.

After leading a successful military coup d’état in 1967, Gnassingbé Eyadéma became president of Togo for 38 years. At the time of his death in 2005, he was the longest serving leader in Africa. During his rule he escaped several assassination attempts, one by a bodyguard and in 1974 he survived a plane crash. He claimed he was the only survivor, but he deliberately misrepresented the details of the accident to make himself look like a hero. He also claimed that the crash was not an accident and was in fact a conspiracy to kill him. He came to his demise in a plane whilst flying over Tunisia and the cause of death was a heart attack.

According to Lonely Planet, Togo’s highlights for the tourist include the Unesco world heritage listed area of Koutammakou, palm fringed boulevards of the capital, Lomé, hiking the picturesque mountains of Badou, watching the wildlife at Parc Sarakawa and swimming in Lac Togo.

Togolese cuisine’s staples include maize, rice, millet, cassava, yam, plantain and beans, with fish and poultry also being popular. Recipes I came across were Akume (maize porridge, also known as paté served with a light vegetable stew), Riz sauce d’arachide (rice with peanut sauce), Gbomo Dessi (Spicy beef and spinach stew), Djenkoume (Tomato cornmeal cakes) and Ablo (Cornmeal bread). I decided to make Togolese Grilled Chicken served with pitta breads and salad. It had a subtle flavour which I enjoyed, but Bern added some spicy sauce to his.

Rating: 7/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 15 minutes + overnight marinating
Cook time: 20 – 30 minutes

2 – 4 pieces of chicken (legs, thighs or breasts), bone in and skin on
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger root
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tbsp red palm oil (a must have ingredient, no other oil will give the unique flavour)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper (or more if you want it spicy)

In a bowl, mix together the salt, peppers, garlic, ginger, and red palm oil
Place the chicken pieces in a plastic bag, then pour the marinade over them and rub into the chicken pieces, making sure they are all well covered and refrigerate overnight
Grill the chicken over a medium to high heat, turning the pieces over once
Cook until the skins are a rich, deep golden (almost blackened) color, and the juices run clear – this takes about 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken pieces. (Note: if you are using breast meat, the cooking time will be less so don’t overcook, or the meat will be dry)
Let the chicken rest for a few minutes before serving with pitta bread and salad. You can also serve it with spicy sauce, grilled onions and tomatoes.

Egypt

Egypt is a Mediterranean country linking North East Africa with the Middle East. It is the driest and sunniest country in the world and most of its land surface is desert.

Egypt’s northern coastline runs for 500 km along the mediterranean shores. One of the most popular places for visitors in the height of the summer, is the port city of Alexandria. Founded by Alexander the Great and once the seat of Queen Cleopatra. Its harbour entrance was once marked by the towering “Pharos Light House”, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and it’s great library was renowned as the ultimate archive of ancient knowledge.

Cairo, Egypt’s sprawling capital, is set on the Nile River. At the heart of Cairo is Tahrir Square and the vast Egyptian Museum. Nearby Giza Necropolis is the site of the iconic pyramids and Great Sphinx. The old saying that Egypt is the gift of the Nile still rings true, without the river there would be no fertile land, no food, no electricity. Ancient Egypt experienced some of the earliest developments of writing, agriculture, urbanisation, organised religion and central government.

The Suez Canal is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through the Isthmus of Suez. It was constructed by the Suez Canal Company between 1859-1869. At the Northern Gate, lies the city of Port Said, this is the third largest city in Egypt and was established in 1859 during the building of the Suez Canal.

Some traditional Egyptian recipes I came across were Ful Medami (stewed beans) , Molokeya (green soup with garlic and coriander) , Koshari (lentils, rice and macaroni, ) Eish Masri (pitta bread) and Basbousa (syrup cake). I opted to make Shawarma Lahme (chicken stuffed in pitta with tahina sauce) which we enjoyed as a tasty snack.

Rating: 8/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 5 minutes + 4 hours marinating
Cook time: 10 minutes

250g chicken breasts
1 large garlic clove
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp tomato paste
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp plain yoghurt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
Ground black pepper
Salt to taste
Pitta breads

Tahina sauce
2 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp warm water
1 garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper to taste

For the tahina sauce
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl

Cut your chicken breasts into long strips. Make sure they are thin
Put the chicken in a bag with lemon juice, garlic, tomato paste, olive oil, yoghurt, spices, salt and pepper and put in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight
Heat some oil in a pan and fry the chicken for 10 minutes
Serve with pitta, tahini and salad leaves

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Ingredients for Shawarma Lahme
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Cooking Shawarma Lahme
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Shawarma Lahme (chicken stuffed in pitta with tahina sauce)
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Shawarma Lahme (chicken stuffed in pitta with tahina sauce)
sphinx
Great Sphinx, Egypt
river-nile
The River Nile, Egypt
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Pyramids of Giza
alexandria
Alexandria, Egypt

Nigeria

Nigeria, the “Giant of Africa”, is the most populous country in Africa with approximately 184 million inhabitants and it is also Africa’s largest economy (overtaking South Africa in 2014). The key contributors to Nigeria’s economy are telecommunications, banking, and its film industry. ‘Nollywood’, as the film industry is known, is rated as the third most valuable film industry in the world based on its worth and revenues generated.

Nigeria has a few interesting world records, namely:
The largest Internet café is ChamsCity Digital Mall with facilities in Lagos and Abuja, Nigeria, each with 1,027 computer terminals.
The largest group of carol singers was 25,272 by Godswill Akpabio unity choir at the Uyo Township Stadium, Akwa Ibom, Nigeria in 2013.
The largest football shirt measures 73.55 m (241 ft 3 in) wide and 89.67 m (294 ft 2 in) long and was created by Guinness Nigeria Plc.

Highlights for visitors to Nigeria include Kano, West Africa’s oldest surviving city, Nike Art Gallery in Lagos, the walled city of Zaria, the sacred forest in Yoruba Oshogbo and Gashaka Gumpti National Park.

Spices, hot chilli peppers, palm oil and groundnut oil are common ingredients in Nigerian cuisine. Dishes I came across were Balangu (grilled meat), Banga soup (soup made from palm nuts), Afang (vegetable soup), Moimoi (steamed bean pudding), Funkaso (millet pancakes) and Groundnut chop (peanut stew). I cooked Suya (Nigerian chicken skewers) which were incredibly spicy, a little too much for me, Bern enjoyed them but didn’t really like the peanut flavour.

Rating: 6/10

Serves: 4
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 6 minutes

1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp cayenne powder
1 tbsp dried onion flakes
2 tbsp peanuts, finely minced
500g boneless skinless chicken breast
2 tbsp groundnut oil

Mix all the dry ingredients together
Slice the chicken into thin pieces. Sprinkle with the seasoning mix, and allow to marinate for 5 minutes
Thread the chicken onto skewers and brush with the oil
Grill or BBQ for 3 minutes on each side, or until chicken is cooked through
(if using wooden skewers, soak them for at least half an hour before using to avoid them burning)
Serve with salad in pitta bread, with rice or chips

Algeria

Algeria is a sovereign state in Northern Africa, sharing borders with Tunisia, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Mali and Niger. With an area of 919,595 sq mi it is the largest country on the Mediterranean coast, the tenth largest country in the world and Africa’s largest country. The capital, Algiers is located in the country’s far north and is the country’s most populous city, with a mix of colonial and modernist architecture. Around 80% of Algeria is covered by the Sahara, the world’s largest hot desert. The Saharan oasis of Tabelbala in Bechar has its own language called “Korandje”. The vast mountain ranges of Aures and Nememcha occupy the entire north eastern part of Algeria and it’s highest point is Mount Tahat (3,003.m).

Football is the most popular sport in Algeria. The Algerian National Football Team joined Fifa in 1964, a year and a half after gaining independence. They have qualified for four world cups; the first in 1982, when they were the first African team to defeat a European team (2-1 against West Germany). In 2014 Algeria became the first African team to score four goals in a world cup match.

The cuisine of Algeria is a fusion of Arab, Berber, Mediterranean and Ottoman cuisine, differing slightly from region to region. Common ingredients are lamb, potatoes, carrots, onions, courgette and tomatoes. Traditional dishes include Couscous, Shakshouka (eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers, and onions), Khabz (flatbread), Jwaz (vegetable stew), Merguez (spicy lamb sausage), Baghrir (Maghreb’s pancakes) and Sfenj (doughnuts). I decided to make Lahm Lhalou (Algerian Sweet Lamb) which is popular during the month of Ramadan. I served it with roasted vegetable couscous. It was indeed quite sweet and rich in flavour but very enjoyable.

Rating: 7/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour

350g lamb, boneless , cubed
1/2 cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp oil
2 tbsp orange juice
2 tbsp almonds, blanched
3/4 cup prunes, pitted
1/4 cup sugar

Sprinkle the lamb with salt and cook in a medium saucepan in oil until lightly browned
Remove the lamb and set aside
Add almonds, sugar, cinnamon to the same pan, stir well, then add water and orange juice
Bring to a boil, stirring constantly
Add lamb, cover and simmer 1 hour or until tender
Stir in prunes 15 minutes prior to the end of the cooking time
Remove cinnamon stick before serving
Serve with couscous flavoured with roasted vegetables

Swaziland

Swaziland is a small landlocked country in Southern Africa. It has a wide variety of landscapes, from the mountains along the Mozambican border to savannas in the east and rain forest in the northwest. It is the only remaining absolute monarchy in Africa and the head of state is the king or Ngwenyama (meaning Lion), currently King Mswati III, who ascended to the throne in 1986 after the death of his father King Sobhuza II in 1982. By tradition, the king reigns along with his mother or a ritual substitute, the Ndlovukati (meaning She-Elephant).

It is home to many protected nature reserves and national parks, most notably Hlane Royal National Park, Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary and Mkhaya Game Reserve. The latter is known for its black and white rhino population. The Ngwenya Mine, situated northwest of Mbabane and near the north-western border of Swaziland is considered to be the world’s oldest, estimated to date back 43,000 years.

Staple foods in Swaziland include sorghum, maize, peanuts, rice and goat meat. Dishes include Umkhunsu (cooked and dried meat), Emasi lavutiwe (ground corn mixed with sour milk) , Sinkwa Sembila (corn bread) and Sishibo senkhukhu (chicken stew). I made Slaai (avocado & peanut salad) which looked promising, but I found the dressing and peanuts overpowered the flavour of the avocado.

Rating: 6/10

Serves: 4
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 0

3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-3 large ripe avocados, diced into ½ inch cubes
1/2 cup peanuts, crushed

Mix lemon juice, ginger and salt in a large bowl
Add the avocado and mix gently
Marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes
Sprinkle with crushed peanuts and serve

Namibia

Namibia, “Land of the Brave” according to the national anthem, is situated in southern Africa between the Namib and the Kalahari deserts. The Namib (meaning “vast place”) coastal desert is one of the oldest in the world, it’s sand dunes are the highest in the world and they are a rich source of diamonds. The Sperrgebiet (meaning “Prohibited Area”) National Park, also known as Diamond Area 1, was created by the Germans in 1908, it was then taken over by the South Africans and De Beers had full ownership until the 1990s when the Namibian government bought a fifty percent stake, forming a partnership called the Namdeb Diamond Corporation. Namibian diamonds are the highest valued in the world and were worth $550 dollars per carat in 2012 vs Russian diamonds (the world’s largest producer) at $82 per carat.

A few other interesting facts:
Namibia is the second least densely populated country in the world after Mongolia
It has the largest number of cheetahs in the world
Namibia is one of only two countries in the world that has desert dwelling elephants
‘Hoba’, the world’s largest intact meteorite landed in Namibia weighing over 60 tonnes
It is the fifth largest producer of uranium in the world and is expected to become the second largest once the Husab mine reaches full production in 2017

Highlights for the tourist include the sand dunes at Sossusvlei, Spitzkoppe (the ‘Matterhorn of Africa’), the Skeleton Coast, Etosha National Park and the Fish River Canyon gorge. In 2010, Lonely Planet named Namibia the 5th best tourist destination in the world in terms of value.

Namibian cuisine varies by region but staple foods include pap (porridge), meat, game and fish. A few dishes I came across were Potjiekos (small pot stew), sheep’s tails, veldt bread and Namibian black eyed peas. However, I decided to have a go at ‘Kapana’ which is simply grilled meat, generally beef. It is a highly popular street food found in the Windhoek Katutura area. It can be served on its own, with spices or with vetkoeks (fat cakes). A special thanks to Chantel from the Namibian Chefs Association who gave me some advice to ensure it’s authenticity. Even though we have a fabulously large gas BBQ, I bought a disposable charcoal BBQ so it had the ‘real’ taste. We thought the vetkoeks were a little sweet and overpowered the meat, but were a very tasty treat for breakfast the next morning!

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 20 minutes + 1 – 2 hours proving time
Cook time: 15 minutes

For the kapana
2 ribeye steaks (choose chunky steaks with a good amount of fat)
coarse sea salt
fresh ground black pepper
groundnut oil
hot chilli sauce (optional)
disposable BBQ

For the vetkoeks (makes 4)
2 cups flour
7g instant dry yeast
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp oil
1 cup warm water
vegetable oil for deep frying

For the vetkoeks
Sieve flour and combine all the dry ingredients in a big bowl
Add the oil and then water bit by bit until you get the consistency of a soft bread dough. The mixture must still be quite sticky.
Place the dough on a floured surface and gently knead for 5-10 minutes
You may need to add a little more flour to the dough to prevent it sticking to your fingers
Place the dough in a clean bowl and cover with a cloth and set aside in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, about 1 – 2 hours
Divide the dough into 4 portions and mould into balls
Deep fry a few vetkoek at a time over a medium/low heat until golden brown, about 10 minutes

For the kapana
Light the disposable BBQ 20 minutes before you want to use it
Generously season the steaks and rub a little groundnut oil all over
Grill the steaks on the BBQ for 5 minutes on each side for medium rare steaks and then rest for 2 minutes
Serve with the vetkoeks and hot chilli sauce

Spitzkoppe Namibia
Spitzkoppe Namibia

Sossusvlei Namibia
Sossusvlei Namibia

Desert dwelling elephants Namibia
Desert dwelling elephants Namibia

Sperrgebiet National Park
Sperrgebiet National Park Namibia