Sudan

Sudan is dominated by the River Nile with the main tributaries, the Blue and the White Nile, merging at Sudan’s capital city, Khartoum. The Republic of Sudan was the largest country in Africa until 2011, when South Sudan separated to become the world’s newest independent country. Two rounds of north-south civil war have cost the lives of almost 2 million people, and continuing conflict in the western region of Darfur has driven two million people from their homes and killed more than 200,000.

There are more pyramids in Sudan than in Egypt. Approximately 255 pyramids were constructed at three sites in Nubia, Sudan over a period of a few hundred years to serve as tombs for the kings and queens of Napata and Meroë. The royal cemetery at Begrawiya is one of the most amazing sites in Sudan, where you’ll see two main groups of pyramids separated by several hundred metres of sandy desert. The archeological sites of Meroë were listed by Unesco as World Heritage Sites in 2011.

The merging of the Blue and White Niles are best seen from the White Nile bridge in Khartoum. You can actually see the different colours of each Nile flowing side by side before blending further downstream, although neither are blue or white.

Popular Sudanese cuisine includes Kissra (bread) , Tamia (fried chickpea balls), Gorraasa (flatbread) , Fuul (stewed beans) , Fasulia (haricot bean stew) Bamya (okra stew) and Taheena (sesame seed dip). As it was a sunny day and we were keen for something healthy, I opted to make Salata jibna (salad with cheese). It was simple yet delicious.

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 0 minutes

1/2 cup onions, cut into slivers or thin slices
1/2 cup cabbage, cut into slivers or thin slices
1/4 cup carrots, cut into very thin slices
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, diced
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp white vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
pinch black pepper
1 small clove garlic, minced
25g parmesan cheese, grated

In a salad bowl, combine onions, cabbage, carrots, and tomatoes
Mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper in a bowl
Pour dressing and parmesan over salad and toss well

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Ingredients for Salata jibna
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Salata jibna
Pyramids Sudan
Meroe pyramids Sudan
White Nile bridge, Khartoum Sudan
White Nile bridge, Khartoum, Sudan

Ethiopia

Ethiopia is a landlocked country in the northeast African region known as the Horn of Africa. It is the only African nation that has never been colonised. It is the most populous landlocked country in the world and it’s population has grown from 33.5 million in 1983 to 87.9 million in 2014. The population is forecast to grow to over 210 million by 2060. According to WaterAid UK over 44 million people (more than half the population) do not have access to clean water.

Most Ethiopians are farmers and herders. Deforestation, drought, and soil degradation have caused crop failures and famine during the past few decades. At the beginning of the 20th century, around 35% of Ethiopia’s land was covered by trees, but research indicates that forest cover is now approximately 11.9% of the area. It produces more coffee than any other nation in Africa and remains it’s most important export.

With 9 altogether, Ethiopia has the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Africa. These include the ruins of the city of Aksum, dating from the 1st to the 13th century; the fortified historic town of Harar Jugol containing 82 mosques; the Lower Valley of the Awash, where the oldest fossil skeleton of a human was found (called Lucy) dated back to 3.2 million years ago and Lalibela, where there are 11 medieval cave churches from the 13th century.

Typical Ethiopian cuisine includes Injera (spongy flatbread), Wat (spicy stew), Tibs (fried meat with vegetables) and Kitfo (raw beef marinated in spice). Some other recipes I came across were Sambusa (fried & filled dough pastry), Yekik Alicha (yellow lentils with turmeric sauce) and Doro dabo (chicken bread). I made Misir Wot (spicy lentil stew) which contains 2 traditional Ethiopian ingredients – niter kibbeh (spiced butter) and berbere (spice blend). It it usually served with injera, but we had it on it’s own and thoroughly enjoyed it. We felt it would work equally well with some roast lamb.

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 1 or 2 as a side dish
Prep time: 40 mins
Cook time: 40 mins

1/2 cup red lentils
2 tbsp niter kibbeh or unsalted butter
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp berbere spice blend
1 small tomato, cored and chopped or a few cherry tomatoes, chopped
Salt, to taste

For the niter kibbeh
120g butter
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
seeds from 1 cardamom pod
1/4 cinnamon stick
pinch of ground nutmeg
1 small whole clove
1/2 small garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped

For the berbere spice blend
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/4 tsp black peppercorns
2 whole cloves
1/2 tsp crushed chillies
1 tsp ground coriander
pinch ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tbsp onion powder
1 heaped tbsp paprika
1/4 tbsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
pinch ground cinnamon

Rinse the lentils in a sieve under cold running water and set aside
Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat
Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 10 minutes
Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds
Add the reserved lentils, 1/2 tbsp of the berbere spice blend, tomato, and 2 cups water to the saucepan
Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and the lentils are tender, 25 – 30 minutes
Stir in the remaining berbere and season generously with salt
Serve immediately

For the niter kibbeh
Melt the butter and heat it until it foams. At this point add the other ingredients. Reduce the heat and simmer very gently for about 20 minutes. Do not stir. This will separate out the milk solids, leaving a clear butter mix on top
Cool the mixture, strain a few times through a sieve or muslin and discard the milk solids
You can store the spiced butter in the fridge in a sealed jar and use as desired.

For the berbere spice blend
Combine fenugreek seeds, peppercorns, and cloves in a small frying pan. Heat over medium high heat until fragrant and toasted, about 3 minutes. Do not burn. Set aside.
Grind the crushed chillies in a pestle and mortar. Add the toasted spices and grind until fine.
In a medium bowl, combine the ground toasted spice mixture with the remaining ingredients. Mix together until well blended.
Store in an airtight container.

 

Obelisk of Aksum Ethiopia
Obelisk at Aksum, Ethiopia
Lalibela Ethiopia
Lalibela, Ethiopia
Harar Jugol Ethiopia
Harar Jugol, Ethiopia
Ethiopian village children
Ethiopian village children

Gabon

Gabon, independent from France since 1960 is a country on the west coast of Central Africa. It was politically dominated by one of the longest serving heads of state in the world, President Omar Bongo who led the country from 1967 until his death in 2009 when his son, Ali Bongo, took power. The economy, which was dependent on timber and manganese, until oil was discovered in the 1970s, is one of the highest in Africa.

In 2002, President Omar Bongo designated that roughly 10% of the nation’s territory was to be part of its national park system (with 13 parks in total), one of the largest proportions of nature parkland in the world. The largest of the parks is Minkébé National Park in the northeast, which the WWF have been actively working to protect since 1997. The forest elephant is particularly important to the park and is believed by the WWF to contain one of the largest populations in Africa. It has been proposed as a World Heritage Site. Another of Gabon’s parks is Loango National Park, part of the African lagoon system and considered the jewel of Africa’s west coast. After South Africa, the world’s largest concentration and variety of whales and dolphins can be found off the Loango coast.

Gabonese cuisine includes food staples of cassava, rice and yams and there are notable French influences. Recipes I came across were Gabon mustard chicken, Cucumber salad, Baked bananas, Gari (manioc porridge) and Dongo dongo (vegetable and smoke-dried fish stew). I made the popular dish of Chicken Nyembwe (chicken with palm oil), which I served with rice. I was slightly alarmed by one recipe I found which suggested ‘some people may need to take a diarrhoea tablet after consuming this dish’, but thankfully we weren’t affected! It had quite a sweet tasty flavour.

Rating: 7/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour

4-6 chicken pieces (bone in)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp or 40g palm oil (available from African/Asian supermarkets)
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 large yellow pepper, chopped
1 large tomato, sliced
2 Maggi cubes or vegetable stock cubes
3/4 cup water
salt and pepper (to taste)
1 bay leaf

Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper
Fry the chicken in the vegetable oil in a casserole dish until brown all over, about 6 – 8 minutes, then set aside and cover
In the same dish fry the onion and garlic in the palm oil for a few minutes
Add peppers, tomato, salt, Maggi cubes and water
Bring to the boil and then simmer for 30 minutes
Add the chicken pieces to the dish cover and continue to simmer for 15 – 20 minutes
Serve with steamed rice

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Ingredients for Chicken Nyembwe
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Chicken Nyembwe
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Chicken Nyembwe
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Chicken Nyembwe with rice
Loango National Park Gabon
Loango National Park Gabon

Kenya

I visited Kenya for a holiday over 20 years ago and was fortunate to enjoy a 2 day safari in Tsavo East National Park. It was my first experience of seeing elephants, giraffe and lions in their natural habitat and it took my breath away. I remember staying overnight in a little round hut on stilts in the middle of the park, listening to the intriguing sounds of the animals during the night. It was a truly wonderful experience.
Tsavo East is the oldest and largest of Kenya’s national parks, open since 1948. Famous for the Tsavo lions, a population of lions, where adult males often lack manes entirely.

Other highlights of Kenya include the annual migration of wildebeest across the Masai Mara, views of Mount Kenya, sipping a cold Tusker beer watching the sunset, beautiful beaches at Kikambala (where my mum has always wanted to go), Lamu and Watamu.

The Kenyan food staple is ugali (cornmeal paste) usually served with stewed meat and/or vegetables. There are different varieties of cuisine based on the region. In Central Kenya popular ingredients are ngwaci (sweet potatoes), ndũma (taro root, known in Kenya as arrowroot), ikwa (yams), and mianga (cassava). In the western area near Lake Victoria favourites are Gweno (chicken), Aliya (sun dried meat), Onyoso (a type of ant), and Dede (grasshoppers). Other recipes I came across include Ingoho (luhya-style chicken), Githeri (beans and corn), Sukuma Wiki (collard greens or kale) and Mutura (Kenyan sausage). I decided to cook Nyama Choma (grilled meat) which I served with Kachumbari (Tomatoes and Onions) as is tradition. It is a very popular dish across Kenya and it seems there is usually someone in the family who is ’the grill pro’ and is in charge of ensuring it doesn’t burn. We also had some roasted potatoes too. It went down a storm, particularly the Kachumbari, which I had made before for Chad so twice it has scored 10/10!

Rating overall: 9/10

Serves: 4 hungry people
Prep time: 30 – 40 minutes + 3 hours marinating
Cook time: 40 minutes

For the Nyama Choma
2 chicken breasts on the bone, cut in half
4 small chicken thighs on the bone
800g beef short ribs
juice of 1 large lemon – approx 100ml
100ml light soy sauce
150ml olive oil
1 inch fresh ginger, grated
2 large garlic cloves, bashed
A few fresh rosemary sprigs, roughly chopped
A few fresh thyme sprigs, roughly chopped

For the Kachumbari
20 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small red onion
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and black pepper
3 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
1 ripe avocado, sliced

For the Nyama Choma
Add the lemon juice, soy sauce, olive oil, fresh ginger, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper to a bowl and whisk until well blended
Put your chicken into a sealable bag and your beef ribs into a separate sealable bag
Divide the marinade equally between the chicken and the beef and place the sealed bags in the fridge for 3 hours
When ready to cook, light your bbq and cook the meat until it is gently charred but not black!! Approximately 5 – 10 minutes
Wrap the beef and chicken pieces in separate pieces of foil along with any marinade mix that’s left and leave them in the foil on the bbq for 25 minutes
Take them out of the foil and place them directly on the heat for a few minutes to give them a good colour
Let the meat rest for 5 minutes and then serve with the Kachumbari and roasted potatoes

For the Kachumbari
Slice the onions thinly and put them in a small bowl of salted water for 15 minutes, then rinse through with cold water
Put the onions into a salad bowl, along with the tomatoes, chilli and coriander
In a jug mix together the lime juice and olive oil with some salt and pepper
When ready to serve, garnish with the slice avocado and pour over the dressing

 

 

Comoros

A volcanic archipelago off Africa’s east coast, the Comoros are situated in the Indian Ocean and consists of three major islands – Grande Comore, Mohéli and Anjouan as well as numerous smaller islands. It has a claim on a fourth major island, Mayotte (Maore), though Mayotte voted against independence from France in 1974, it has never been administered by an independent Comoros government, and continues to be administered by France. The Comoros have been called the “perfumed islands” for their fragrant plant life including frangipani, jasmine, and lemongrass and they are also known for their great scenic beauty.

Agriculture, including fishing, hunting, and forestry, is the leading sector of the economy. It contributes 40% to GDP, employs 80% of the labor force, and provides most of the country’s exports. Economic growth and poverty reduction are major priorities for the government. Customary oral law includes sanctions against disrespect toward elders, disobedience, theft, and adultery. Until a fine is paid in money or cattle, a convicted person is banished, and he and his family are cut off from the village’s social life.

Since independence there have been a number of coups and attempted coups with various heads of state assassinated. In 1997 the islands of Anjouan and Mohéli declared independence, but a new federal constitution in 2001 brought the islands back together.

Despite it’s beautiful beaches, virgin rainforests and historical architecture, a holiday in the Comoros isn’t for everyone. Everything moves ‘mora mora’ (slowly slowly), tourist facilities aren’t plush, women are expected to cover up and alcohol is a no no, but if you’re feeling brave and up for somewhere exotic it may be for you.

Rice is the staple daily diet with manioc, root vegetables, plantains, fish and coconut milk. It was quite tricky finding authentic Comorian recipes but these were a few I came across; Langouste a la vanilla (Lobster with Vanilla Sauce), M’tsolola (Green plantains with fish in coconut milk), Donas (doughnuts) and Mkatra siniya (rice and coconut cake). I made Poulet au Coco (Comorian coconut chicken) which was really simple to make, had a great flavour and went well with the Zimbabwean peanut butter rice. Steamed rice would work equally well.

Rating: 10/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 15 minutes + 2 hours marinating time
Cook time: 25 – 30 minutes

2 chicken breasts cubed
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
salt and pepper
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
3 cherry tomatoes, peeled and chopped
160ml can of coconut cream
1/4 cup water
fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped

Mix lemon juice, turmeric and cumin, salt and pepper together in a plastic bag with the chicken cubes and leave in the fridge for a couple of hours
In a frying pan, add a little oil and fry the chicken gently without browning for about 5 – 7 minutes
Add the onion, garlic and tomato, stir well and cook for a few minutes
Add the coconut cream and 1/4 cup of water and bring it to a rolling simmer
Let it simmer away until the chicken is cooked and the sauce has reduced, about 15 – 20 minutes.
If the sauce has thickened too much, you can add a little more water
Sprinkle with coriander and serve with rice

 

Comoros beach
Comoros beach
Comoros
Comoros
Summit crater and crater lake of Kasatochi volcano, August 6, 20
Volcanic crater, Comoros

 

Zimbabwe

The Republic of Zimbabwe, is a landlocked sovereign state located in southern Africa, between the Zambezi and Limpopo Rivers. The country is mostly savannah, although the moist and mountainous eastern highlands support areas of tropical evergreen and hardwood forests. There are around 350 species of mammals that can be found in Zimbabwe. There are also many snakes and lizards, over 500 bird species, and 131 fish species.

The interestingly named Canaan Banana was the first President of Zimbabwe from 1980 until 1987, in a mostly ceremonial role. Robert Mugabe was the country’s first Prime Minister and Head of Government. In 1987, Mugabe succeeded Banana as President after he revised the Constitution to make himself Executive President. In 2008, Zimbabwe held a presidential election along with a parliamentary election. The results of this election were withheld for two weeks, after which it was generally acknowledged that the opposition party ‘Movement for Democratic Change’ – Tsvangirai (MDC-T) had achieved a majority of one seat in the lower house of parliament. However at the ZANU-PF congress in December 2014, President Robert Mugabe accidentally let slip that the opposition had in fact won the contentious 2008 polls by an astounding 73%. On 6th July, 2016 a national strike, named “stay-away day,” took place with thousands of Zimbabweans protesting government repression, poor public services, 85 percent unemployment, widespread corruption and delays in getting state salaries.

Since the downward spiral of the economy in 2000, tourism in Zimbabwe has steadily declined, however according to Lonely Planet it is back on the rise. It’s major tourist attractions include Victoria Falls on the Zambezi, Mount Nyangani and the Nyanga National Park, the Great Zimbabwe ruins in Masvingo, the ancient Matobo Hills and Lake Kariba on the Zambia-Zimbabwe border, the world’s largest reservoir by volume.

Some traditional Zimbabwean recipes include Covo neDovi (Greens in Peanut Butter sauce), Sadza (cooked cornmeal), Biltong (cured beef), Bota (breakfast porridge) and Mutakura (boiled corn, peanuts and beans). I opted to cook a favourite dish in Zimbabwe – Peanut butter rice, which was very simple to make. Although it is usually served with meat, vegetables and a thick gravy, I paired it with Poulet Coco from Comoros and we thought they complemented each other well.

Rating: 7/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 25 – 30 minutes

1 cup long grain rice or brown rice
1 1/2 cups water
Salt to taste
1 tbsp cooking oil
2 tbsp peanut butter

Put rice in a pan with the water, add salt and oil and bring to the boil, then simmer until all the water is absorbed (or you can cook the rice in the microwave as I usually do with a drizzle of oil and salt)
Fluff the rice with a fork
Add peanut butter and mix with a spoon. The rice should be a bit sticky in appearance
Add more peanut butter according to your taste as needed

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Ingredients for peanut butter rice
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Zimbabwean peanut butter rice
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Zimbabwean peanut butter rice with Comorian poulet au coco
Victoria falls2
Victoria Falls
Matobo Hills, Zimbabwe
Matobo Hills, Zimbabwe
Great Zimbabwe ruins, Masvingo
Great Zimbabwe ruins, Masvingo
Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe
Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe

Senegal

Senegal is in Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Guinea-Bissau and Mauritania. It remains one of the most stable democracies in Africa and has a long history of participating in international peacekeeping and regional mediation. The landscape consists of mainly rolling sandy plains. It’s highest peak at 584m is found southwest of Kedougou and is unnamed. Senegal has a population of over 13.5 million with a wide variety of ethnic groups including the Wolof, Fula, Toucouleur and Serer.

The lively capital of Dakar was once the finishing point of the Paris-Dakar rally, which originated in 1978 when motorcycle racer Thierry Sabine got lost in the Ténéré desert whilst competing in the Abidjan-Nice rally. He realised that the desert would be a good location for a regular rally where amateurs could test their ability. In 1979, 182 vehicles started the inaugural race from Paris with 74 surviving the 10,000km trip to Dakar, Senegal. Cyril Neveu won the race on a Yamaha XT500. Due to security threats in Mauritania, which led to the cancellation of the 2008 rally, races since 2009 have been held in South America.

Saint Louis, founded in 1659 on an island in the River Senegal, this port town was once the capital of French West Africa. It is now host to the annual Saint Louis jazz festival, the biggest of its kind in Africa, bringing 500 musicians together to play in the central square of the historic quarter. In 2000 it was designated as a UNESCO world heritage site.

Wrestling is Senegal’s most popular sport and has become a national obsession. A type of folk wrestling traditionally performed by the Serer people, it is now the national sport. Adama Diatta and Isabelle Sambou will be competing in the freestyle wrestling category at the 2016 Olympics.

Sengalese cuisine takes influence from North Africa, France and Portugal, as well as its ethnic groups. Sengalese recipes I came across include Mafe (fish, chicken or lamb stewed with peanut butter sauce and vegetables), Thieboudienne (rice & fish), Sombi (sweet milk rice soup), Chere (cous cous) and Ndambé (spicy beans). I cooked Poulet Yassa (chicken marinated with onions and lemons), which is now popular across all of West Africa but it originated in Senegal. It was delicious! Traditionally it is served with rice or sweet potato, however I served it with a green salad of leaves, avocado and soya beans which complemented it very well.

Rating: 9/10
Serve: 4
Prep time: 20 mins + overnight marinating
Cook time: 1 hour

1 small chicken (1-2 kg) or 8 – 10 chicken pieces on the bone
French mustard
Lemon juice or 4 squished lemons
2 cubes of chicken stock
peanut or groundnut oil
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
4 onions
Salt and pepper
1 cup of water

Make the marinade sauce by mixing 2 tablespoons french mustard with 4 tablespoons of peanut or groundnut oil and 6 tablespoons of lemon juice
Cut the chicken into smaller pieces
Pour ¾ of the mix into a plastic bag with the chicken pieces and let it marinate in the fridge overnight or for at least 3 hours
Keep the rest of the marinade for the next day
Cut the onions in to large pieces and mix them with the rest of the marinade
Heat 2 tablespoons of peanut or groundnut oil in a large pan
Fry the chicken on high heat for 5 minutes so it browns, then remove from the pan and set aside
Reduce the heat, add the onions and the rest of the marinade and cook for around 10 minutes
Scrap any burnt bits from the bottom of the pan and stir well to blend in
Once the onions are soft, add the chicken pieces back into the pan, then add the chicken stock cubes, 2 cups of water, salt & pepper and chilli flakes
Let it cook for around 45 minutes, stirring occasionally
Taste to check if extra salt or pepper are needed
Serve with rice, sweet potato or a green salad with avocado and soya beans

Libya

The state of Libya, formerly an Italian colony until independence in 1951 was an authoritarian socialist state under Muammar Qaddafi from 1969 to 2011. His backing of terrorism led to a US bombing in 1986 and UN sanctions in 1992. In 2003 Libya ended its international isolation and abandoned its weapons programs. Since September 2014 the UN has been working to reconcile the governments and encouraging them to form a national unity government.

Libya’s coastline is the longest of any African country bordering the Mediterranean. The Libyan Desert forms the northern and eastern part of the Sahara Desert and covers 95% of Libyan territory. It is one of the driest, harshest and most remote parts of the greater Sahara and in 1922 the highest temperature (58 °C) on earth was recorded here (however it was disqualified by the World Meteorological Organisation in 2013 as it was found to be invalid).

Libya has many sights including the Roman city of Leptis Magna (originally a Phoenician port), the ancient Greek city of Cyrene, the Saharan Ubari lakes and 12,000 year old rock art at Jebel Acacus. However you’ll have to wait a while as travelling to Libya currently is a total no no.

Libyan cuisine derives much from the traditions of Tunisia and Egypt. There are four main ingredients of traditional Libyan food: olives (and olive oil), dates, grains and milk. Some recipes I came across include Mubatan (fried potato stuffed with meat), Mhalbiya (rice pudding), Bureek (pastries), Bazin (bread dome served with lamb stew and eggs) and Khubs bi’ tun (bread with tuna fish). I made Khubzah bil Ashab (Libyan Herb Bread) which was very flavoursome.

Rating: 8/10

Serves: 6 – 8
Prep time: 25 mins + 1 – 1/2 hours resting time
Cook time: 25 – 35 mins

1 cup warm milk
1 cup warm water
1 tbsp dried yeast
1 tsp sugar
8 level tbsp cornflour
3 1/2 cups plain flour
40ml olive oil
4 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
Bunch of thyme, chopped
Bunch of parsley, chopped
Green olives, chopped
1 tsp paprika

Add the dried yeast to 1/2 cup of warm water with a tsp of sugar
Measure 2 level tbsp into a cup and then fill to the top with plain flour then sieve into a bowl, repeat this 3 more times
Sieve the flour and cornflour 4 more times, then seive in the salt and baking powder
Add the warm water into the yeast and sugar and stir well
Add the liquid to the sieved flour gradually and bring into together to a soft dough
Stir in the herbs, olives and paprika into the dough
Stir in the olive oil
Cover the dough with a tea towel and leave it somewhere warm for 1 – 1/2 hours
Preheat the oven to 220 C.
Grease a loose base cake tin (about 20cm by 20cm)
Pour the dough and smoothen.
Brush generously with olive oil.
Put in the hot oven and cook for 25 – 30 mins or until golden
Use a skewer to ensure the dough is cooked
Remove from the cake tin and leave to cool on a wire rack
Cut into squares and serve with mint tea

Tunisia

Tunisia is a North African nation bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. It contains the eastern end of the Atlas Mountains and the northern reaches of the Sahara desert.

Independent from France since 1956, the country’s first president, Habib Bourguiba, established a strict one-party state. He dominated the country for 31 years, repressing Islamic fundamentalism and establishing rights for women unmatched by any other Arab nation. In 1987, Bourguiba was removed from office and replaced by Zine el Abidine Ben Ali in a bloodless coup. Street protests followed over high unemployment, corruption, widespread poverty, and high food prices, culminating in rioting that led to hundreds of deaths. In January 2011 Ben Ali dismissed the government, fled the country, and a “national unity government” was formed.

A state of emergency is currently in effect in Tunisia, imposed after a suicide attack on a police bus on 24 November 2015. It has been extended a number of times. On 20 June it was extended for a further month to 21 July. Until recently tourism had provided jobs for 11.5% of the working population with 6.2 million tourist visitors in 2013. Some of the main attractions are the ancient ruins of Carthage, Jerba’s El-Ghriba synagogue, Sfax Medina and the Mosque of Sidi Mahres in Tunis.

Tunisian cuisine uses a variety of ingredients in many different ways. Unlike other North African cuisine, Tunisian food is quite spicy. Harissa, a hot red pepper sauce is commonly used. Cous cous or Kosksi as it’s known, is the national dish of Tunisia. Recipes I came across include Koucha (slow cooked lamb), Felfel Mehchi (stuffed peppers), Lablabi (a thick soup made with chickpeas and garlic), Brik (a fried Malsouka dough stuffed with tuna and an egg) and Marqa (slow cooked stew).  As I was cooking Morocco and Tunisia on the same day, I decided to make Tunisian vegetable cous cous to serve with the Moroccan Mshermel chicken tagine. It was quick and easy to make and very tasty.

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 4
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 30 mins

3 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 courgette, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
750ml vegetable stock
1 tbsp fresh coriander
1 tin chickpeas, drained
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 and 1/2 cups couscous

Heat oil in large pot over medium-low heat
Put the onion, courgette and carrot in a saucepan and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions begin to soften and turn translucent, about 15 minutes.
Stir in the red peppers and cook for 5 minutes
Pour in the vegetable stock and coriander
Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low for 5 minutes
Stir in chickpeas and tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes
Slowly pour in the couscous and stir
Remove from the heat and cover the pan immediately
Let it stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff the couscous with a fork
Serve at slightly warmer than room temperature

Morocco

I have visited Marrakesh in Morocco a couple of times and found it to be a heart warming and fascinating city. The central Djemaa el-Fna square is a sight to behold morning, noon and night with snake charmers, orange juice sellers and the general hustle and bustle.

The Kingdom of Morocco is situated in the north-western corner of Africa and is the only African country that is not a member of the African Union. It is surrounded by the Atlantic to the west, the Mediterranean to the north and the Sahara desert to the south. Almost the entire population are Sunni Muslims. Arabic is the official language but Berber (another dialect) and French are also spoken widely.

The snow topped Atlas mountains are a visible and dominant feature of Morocco’s geography. Highlights for the visitor include Fes, the oldest of Morocco’s imperial cities, the quiet mountain town of Chefchaouen, where every house is painted blue, camel trekking in the Western Sahara and the Dades Gorges. You can indulge yourself in a hamman (bath house) or haggle for souvenirs in the souqs.

Moroccan food is a mix of Mediterranean, Arabic, Andalusian and Berber cuisine and is extremely diverse. Some of the dishes I came across include Makouda (deep fried potato balls) , B’stilla (pigeon pie), Khobz (semolina flatbread) and Mechoui (roasted lamb). I decided to cook the traditional Moroccan dish Mshermel chicken tagine, which I served with a Tunisian vegetable cous cous. My family were a little divided by the taste but overall found it enjoyable.

Rating: 8/10

Serves: 4
Prep time: 40 mins
Cook time: 90 mins

3 chicken breasts, cut into 3 pieces
3 chicken thigh fillets, halved
1 Preserved lemon
Handful of coriander and parsley
2 large garlic cloves
1 tsp ground paprika
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp of pepper
4 tbsp of olive oil
2 onions, peeled and grated
A good pinch of saffron
Small tin of green olives
Salt

Finely chop the preserved lemon, garlic, cilantro, parsley and place in a bag with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, pepper, cumin, ginger, paprika
Place the chicken pieces into the bag and massage well. Marinade in the fridge for 6 hours
When ready to cook, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in your tagine pot
Add the onions and chicken and cook over low heat for 30 minutes
Soak the saffron threads in some warm water then add it to the tagine and cook for 30 minutes
Add the green olives and a teaspoon of salt and cook for a further 30 minutes
Serve with cous cous

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Ingredients for Mshermel chicken tagine
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Marinading the chicken
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Mshermel chicken tagine
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Mshermel chicken tagine
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Mshermel chicken tagine
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Mshermel chicken tagine served with Tunisian vegetable cous cous
View over Marrakesh
View over Marrakesh, Morocco
Fez Morocco
Fez, Morocco
Sahara Desert Morocco
Sahara Desert, Morocco

 

Angola

The Republic of Angola is in Southern Africa on the west coast. The Portuguese explorer Diogo Cão found what was known as the Kingdom of Kongo in 1484. It was a Portuguese colony until independence in 1975 and in the same year civil war broke out until 2002. The war ravaged the country’s political and social institutions and littered the country with land mines. However since the end of the war Angola’s standard of living has overall greatly improved. Life expectancy, which was just 46 years in 2002, reached 51 in 2011.

Angola’s oil and diamonds are its primary sources of income, making up roughly 60% of the country’s economy. The Northern Angolan province of Cabinda is unusual in that it is separated from the rest of the country, sharing borders with the Congo Republic and the DRC. It is best known for it’s oil production and has the nickname “the Kuwait of Africa”. It accounts for more than half of Angola’s oil output.

Despite it’s turbulent history, Angola has many interesting historical highlights including the Parque Nacional da Kissama (home to elephants and water buffalo, thanks to a relief project known as Operation Noah’s Ark), Fortaleza de São Miguel (a fort constructed by the Portuguese in 1576 and is the capital, Luanda’s, oldest surviving building) and the beautiful beaches of Namibe.

The cuisine of Angola is significantly influenced by Portuguese food. Common dishes include Funge (cassava porridge), Caldeirada de peixe (fish stew), Moamba de galinha (chicken stew with palm oil). Some other recipes I came across were Catatos (caterpillar fried with garlic!), Camaro Grelhado (grilled prawns) and Cocada amarela (yellow coconut pudding). I opted to cook Frango piri piri (grilled chicken in hot marinade). Although piri piri is generally associated with Portugal, it’s origins were from Angola and Mozambique. We enjoyed the chicken very much, but found the piri piri sauce too garlicky.

Rating: 7/10

Serves: 4
Prep time: 15 mins + 1 hour marinating time
Cook time: 35-40 mins

1 medium chicken
6 garlic cloves, crushed
2 lemons, juiced
2 bay leaves, chopped
2 tsp sweet paprika
80 ml scotch whisky (or brandy – I used brandy as we’re not big whisky drinkers)
2 tbsp butter, softened
rock salt

Piri piri sauce
6 small red chillies, finely chopped
pinch of salt
1 lemon, juiced
50 ml olive oil
1 tbsp garlic powder

Trim the chicken of excess fat. Use a sharp knife or kitchen scissors to cut the chicken through the breastbone. Open the chicken out, turn over and flatten it by pressing down on the backbone. Make a small cut under each wing to help the chicken flatten further. Make several slashes in the flesh with a sharp knife to allow the flavours of the marinade to get in and the fat to drain out. Prick the chicken all over with a fork.

Combine the garlic, lemon juice, bay leaf powder, paprika, whisky and butter, mixing well. Brush the chicken on both sides with the mixture and sprinkle with rock salt. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Mix the piri piri ingredients into a thickish sauce.

Cook the chicken on a hot charcoal barbecue, turning frequently and basting continuously with the leftover marinade, for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Cut the chicken into pieces and serve with the piri piri sauce.

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Ingredients for Frango piri piri
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Barbecuing the Frango piri piri
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Barbecuing the Frango piri piri

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Angolan President Not To Seek Re-Election
Angola
Miradouro da Lua mountains, Angola
Miradouro da Lua mountains, Angola

Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), located in Central Africa is the second largest country in Africa and was previously named Zaire (from 1971 – 1997). It is slightly larger than the combined areas of Spain, France, Germany, Sweden, and Norway. The country has a tiny coast on the Atlantic Ocean, just enough to accommodate the mouth of the Congo River. It’s equatorial position gives it the highest frequency of thunderstorms in the world and it is home to the Congo Rainforest, the second largest rain forest in the world (after the Amazon). Five of the country’s national parks are listed as World Heritage Sites: the Garumba, Kahuzi-Biega, Salonga and Virunga National Parks, and the Okapi Wildlife Reserve.

The Congolese Civil Wars, which began in 1996, brought about the end of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko’s 32-year reign and devastated the country. The wars ultimately involved nine African nations and resulted in the deaths of 5.4 million people. Mobutu Sésé Seko (he renamed himself), roughly means “the all-conquering warrior, who goes from triumph to triumph”. Mobutu became notorious for corruption, nepotism and embezzlement. Mobutu allegedly stole as much as US$5 billion while in office. In July 2009, a Swiss court determined that the statute of limitations had run out on an international asset recovery case of about $6.7 million of deposits of Mobutu’s in a Swiss bank, and therefore the assets should be returned to Mobutu’s family. Under his rule the nation suffered from uncontrolled inflation, a large debt, and massive currency devaluations. Around 55% of people live below the poverty line, living on less than a dollar each day and less than a third of children in the DRC attend secondary school.

The DRC is the world’s largest producer of cobalt ore and a major producer of copper and diamonds. It is the second largest diamond-producing nation in the world, although a third of the DRC’s diamonds are believed to be smuggled, making quantifying production very difficult.

Although the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against non essential travel to the majority of the DRC, it has a lot to offer adventurous travellers. Highlights include the rare Mountain Gorillas, living in the Virunga Mountains, the Lola Ya Bonobo Sanctuary, Mt Nyiragongo volcano and taking a cruise down the Congo River.

Some of the recipes I came across were Poulet à la Moambé (chicken with a peanut sauce), Soso na Loso (chicken and rice), Ntaba or Ngulu yako tumba (grilled goat or pork), Liboke (fish stewed in manioc leaves). I opted to cook Kamundele (beef kebabs) which traditionally would be served with fried plantain (not that easy to find), so I served it in pitta bread with salad and grated cheese. It was very simple and pretty tasty.

Rating: 8/10

Serves 2 hungry people
Prep time: 10 mins + overnight marinating
Cook time: 6 mins

500g sirloin steak, trimmed of fat and cut into cubes
1 tsp ginger root, grated
2 tbsp mustard
1 oxo or maggi beef cube
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Juice of half a lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil

Place all the ingredients in a bag, except the olive oil and marinate in the fridge overnight.
Put the beef on to skewers.
Heat the griddle pan or BBQ and cook the beef kebabs for 3 minutes on each side.
Serve with pitta, salad & grated cheese.

 

Chad

Chad is a landlocked nation in north central Africa. It is the fifth largest country in Africa in terms of area and the largest of Africa’s 16 landlocked countries. Lake Chad, after which the country is named, is the largest wetland in Chad and the second largest in Africa. Lake Chad occupied 130,000 sq mi of the Chad Basin 7,000 years ago, now it covers only 6,875 sq mi. Sadly it is falling victim to the Sahara and is receding northwards each year and may soon not even be in Chad.

Not long ago, geologically speaking – what is today the Sahara, was green savannah teeming with wildlife. During the African Humid Period, roughly 11,000 to 5,000 years ago, a vibrant animal community including elephants, giraffes, hippos, and antelope lived there. The last remnant of the “Green Sahara” exists in the Lakes of Ounianga in northern Chad, a series of 18 interconnected freshwater, saline, and hypersaline lakes now protected as a World Heritage site.

Extensive deforestation has resulted in loss of trees such as acacias, baobab, dates and palm trees. This has also caused loss of natural habitat for wild animals and lions, leopards and rhino have been almost decimated. Poaching is a serious problem in the country, particularly of elephants for the profitable ivory industry. Elephants are often massacred in herds in and around the parks by organised poaching. The problem is worsened by the fact that the parks are understaffed and that a number of wardens have been murdered by poachers.

Since independence from France in 1960, Chad has suffered instability stemming mostly from tension between the mainly Arab-Muslim north and the predominantly Christian and animist south. The only thing that unites the two is abject poverty. The United Nations’ Human Development Index ranks Chad as the seventh poorest country in the world, with 80% of the population living below the poverty line. In 2005, Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index named Chad (tied with Bangladesh) as the most corrupt country in the world.

Despite all this, Chad possesses a rich cultural heritage and the cuisine offers a variety of grains, vegetables, fruits and meats. Fish is abundant in northern Chad, including tilapia, perch, eel, carp and catfish. Some of the recipes I came across during my research include Jarret de Boeuf (slow cooked beef and vegetable stew), Broiled Fish (A recipe from the villages along the Chari River) , Kisser (sourdough crepe) , Fangasou (fried doughnuts made of millet or wheat flour) and Maharagwe (beans in coconut milk). I decided to make Kachumbari (Chadian Tomato & Onion Salad) which I enjoyed al fresco in my garden on a rare sunny day in the UK! Unbelievably simple and it tasted so zingy and fresh – I absolutely loved it.

Rating 10/10

Serves 1
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 0 mins

1/4 red onion, thinly sliced (or diced)
8 cherry tomatoes – red & yellow, halved (use ripe ones, ideally that have been on the window shelf for a while)
2 inches of cucumber, middle removed and diced
1/2 red chilli, seeds & placenta removed and sliced
Handful of fresh coriander, chopped
The juice of 1/2 lime

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and toss until well combined and serve immediately.

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Ingredients for Kachumbari (Chadian tomato and onion salad)

 

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Kachumbari (Chadian tomato and onion salad)

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Kachumbari (Chadian tomato and onion salad)
chad sahara
Chad Sahara

Mali

This is a land locked country, some say in North Africa, others say West Africa. Mali lies in the torrid zone and is among the hottest countries in the world. Most of Mali receives negligible rainfall and droughts are very frequent.

Mali has considerable natural resources, with gold, uranium, phosphates, kaolinite, salt and limestone. It has the third highest gold production in Africa (after South Africa and Ghana). Despite this, Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world with an average worker’s annual salary of approximately US$1,500.

Infamous Timbuktu, known as the remotest place on earth, is a city in Northern Mali. Goods from the Mediterranean shores and salt were traded in Timbuktu for gold from the 11th century. The prosperity of the city attracted African and Arabs who were both scholars and merchants. To sum it up, Timbuktu was the city of Divine light, the city of knowledge, the city of trade and the city of hospitality.
It is home to three of the oldest mosques in West Africa. The Centre de Recherches Historiques Ahmed Baba houses 23,000 Islamic religious, historical and scientific texts from all over the world. The oldest manuscripts date from the 12th century, but there are countless other priceless works. Mali is also home to the world’s largest mud brick building – the Great Mosque of Djenne, built in 1907 and became a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1988.

Rice and millet are the staples of Malian cuisine. Popular dishes include fufu (pounded cassava), jollof rice, and maafe (peanut stew). A friend of my sister has lent me a cookbook with many traditional recipes from countries all over the world (thank you Laurie).  I was pleased to find it included one for Mali called Meni-meniyong (Sesame seed sticks) which sounded quite tasty. Unfortunately they didn’t turn out well at all as they were far too sticky and soft to actually eat, so sadly the first recipe of the challenge to end up in the bin (the photo is deceptive!).

Rating: 0/10 (so sorry Mali)

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Burundi

Burundi is a landlocked country in the African Great Lakes region of East Africa. The Twa, Hutu and Tutsi peoples have lived in Burundi for at least 500 years. Burundi has been plagued by ethnic conflict between the majority Hutus and the Tutsis, who tend to dominate the government and army—but are only 14 percent of the population. A 2003 cease-fire and new government offered hope for peace, however this peace came to a shattering end in 2015 when President Nkurunziza decided to run for what many Burundians believed to be a constitution breaking third term in office. Violence broke out before the election, and has escalated since. The entire country is now considered a no go area for travellers.

Burundi is one of the most eroded and deforested countries in all of tropical Africa. The cutting of forests for fuel is uncontrolled despite legislation requiring permits. Only about 5.7% of Burundi’s total land area is protected.

Burundi is one of the world’s poorest countries, owing in part to its landlocked geography, poor legal system, lack of economic freedom, lack of access to education, and the proliferation of HIV/AIDS. The World Happiness Report 2016 update ranked Burundi as the world’s least happy nation.

Bujumbura’s Lake Tanganyika beaches are some of the best urban beaches of any landlocked country in Africa. A small spring at Kasumo, 115km southeast of Bujumbura might be the southernmost source of the River Nile. Drumming is an important part of Burundi’s cultural heritage. The world-famous Royal Drummers of Burundi have performed for over 40 years.

A typical Burundian meal consists of sweet potatoes, corn, and peas. Due to the expense, meat is eaten only a few times per month. Recipes I came across included Marahagwe (bean and vegetable stew), Ibiharage (fried beans) and the somewhat strange pairing of banana with beans. I opted to make date & banana loaf, which although it was a little dry, the flavour was pretty good.  Untraditionally, I did however serve it with clotted cream as I felt it was too dry on it’s own.

Rating: 6/10

Serves 8
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 30 mins

260g butter, melted
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
4 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 large or 2 small bananas
1 & 1/2 cup chopped dates
2 tbsp powdered sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 175c.
Beat 230g of the melted butter with the sugar until well blended.
Add the eggs one at a time mixing well before adding the second one.
Add the flour, salt and baking powder and mix well.
Line a loaf tin with parchment paper.
Spread half of the mix in the bottom of the tin and level the surface with your fingertips.
Add the sliced bananas.
Remove pits from dates, chop coarsely and pout on top of the bananas.
Cover with the remaining cake mix.
Bake for about 30 minutes until golden brown in an oven.
Remove from the oven and brush the top of the cake with the remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter.
Sprinkle the surface with a mixture of powdered sugar and cinnamon.

Benin

Benin is a country in West Africa, bordered by Togo to the west, Nigeria to the east, and Burkina Faso and Niger to the north. About 42 African ethnic groups live in Benin, with most people living on its small southern coastline on the Bight of Benin.  It was formerly called Dahomey, a kingdom that rose to prominence in about 1600 and over the next two and half centuries became a regional power, largely based on its slave trade. Dahomey was also widely known for its corps of female soldiers known as the Dahomey Amazons.

Benin is widely seen as the birthplace of voodoo. They hold an annual Voodoo festival in Ouidah on Voodoo Day (January 10th), which is a public holiday. There is a national Voodoo museum.  Voodoo is more than a belief system, it is a complete way of life, including culture, philosophy, language, art, dance, music and medicine.

Oscar nominated Djimon Hounsou (of Gladiator and Blood Diamond) was born in Cotonou, Benin.

It offers the visitor many interesting sights including the Parc National de la Pendjari, which is one of the best wildlife parks in West Africa. Lions, cheetahs, leopards, elephants and hundreds of other species thrive here.  Other highlights are Grand Popo (palm fringed beaches), the colonial buildings of Porto Novo (the capital) and Grand Marche de Dantokpa (the large market in Cotonou).

Recipes I came across for Benin include Ago Glain (spicy crab, tomato and onion stew) , Akkra Funfun (white bean fritters) , Talé Talé (deep fried banana fritters).  I opted to make Yovo doko (Beninese sweet fritters) which I served for breakfast.  The kids enjoyed them with chocolate spread!

Rating: 8/10

Makes about 40 fritters
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 30 mins

Peanut oil
500g plain flour
170g caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla powder
15g yeast
500ml water
Salt

Put the flour, yeast, salt, sugar and water in a bowl and mix with your fingers until it is well blended.
In a large frying pan, heat the oil to low – medium.
Place spoonfuls of the mixture around the pan and fry for 6 minutes on each side and then 2 minutes again on the first side.
Drain on kitchen towel and serve with a dusting of icing sugar.

Malawi

Malawi lies landlocked in southeast Africa.  It was formerly known as Nyasaland.  The name Malawi comes from the Maravi, an old name of the Nyanja people that inhabit the area. The country is also nicknamed “The Warm Heart of Africa”.  Lake Malawi, which takes up a third of Malawi’s area is a huge freshwater lake, lined with excellent beaches and filled with colorful fish, as well as the occasional hippo and crocodile.   Lake Malawi was once called “The Lake of the Stars” by the famed Scottish explorer David Livingstone, because lantern lights he saw from the fishermen’s boats resembled the stars at night.

Malawi has been independent from Britain since 1964.  President Hastings Kamuzu Banda ruled for more than 25 years until democratic elections in 1994 brought in new leadership.

Apparently Malawi is the only country in the world that has a Carlsberg factory (with the exception, of course, of Denmark) – so Carlsberg beer is sold here at just about 35p!

Highlights for the visitor are aplenty with several wildlife national parks and reserves (Nyika, Nkhotakota, Lilongwe and Majete to name a few), the beaches of Likoma Island, Mt Mulanje and the impressive Manchewe Falls.

Popular cuisine of Malawi includes different types of fish, nsima (ground corn), kachumbari (tomato & onion salad) and kondowole (cassava flour & water). They also enjoy tea & coffee, so I opted to cook a dish called Mandasi (doughnuts) which are generally served with a hot drink.  We had some family visiting for the weekend so I served these for breakfast alongside Yovo Doko fritters from Benin and the kids really tucked in!!

Rating: 9/10

Makes 12 doughnuts
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 15 mins

2 cups plain flour
Pinch of salt
2 tsps of baking powder
2 tbsps of sugar
1 beaten egg
1 cup of milk
Vegetable oil for frying

Mix the flour, salt, baking power in a bowl. Add the sugar, egg, milk and beat until smooth.
Drop spoonfuls of the batter into a deep fat fryer with hot oil and fry until golden brown, turning once.
Drain on kitchen towel and serve with a dusting of icing sugar.

 

 

The Gambia

The Gambia is the smallest country in Africa.  It is mostly surrounded by Senegal, except for a short strip on the Atlantic coastline.  The River Gambie (from which the country takes it’s name) flows from east to west for three hundred miles, the entire length of the country.

The Gambia gained its independence from the UK in 1965.  A short-lived federation of Senegambia was formed between 1982 and 1989. In 1991 the two nations signed a friendship and cooperation treaty, but tensions have flared up intermittently since then.

The Gambia’s economy is dominated by farming, fishing, and especially tourism.  They have 100,000 tourists visiting each year, mainly from Europe, and 50% are from the UK.  Among birdwatchers it is revered as one of Africa’s best birding destinations with more than 560 different species spotted.  Other highlights include the Atlantic Coast resorts with it’s lovely beaches & fishing villages, Banjul market (the capital), taking a pirogue ride through the mangroves and James Island slavery museum.

Recipes I came across for The Gambia were Domada (peanut & tomato paste), Superkanja (okra & beef stew), Base nyebe (rich stew of chicken or beef with green beans and other vegetables) and Chere (steamed millet flour balls).  I decided to make Cashew Nut Ngato (cashew nut brittle), which in all honesty turned into a bit of a disaster.  I’m not sure if the ingredient ratios I followed weren’t quite right or if I should’ve bashed the nuts before adding them to the sugar, but either way it wasn’t great!

Rating: 3/10

Mauritania

Situated in West Africa, Mauritania (officially the Islamic Republic of Mauritania) is in western North Africa.  The country derives its name from the ancient Berber Kingdom of Mauretania, which existed from the 3rd century BC to the 7th century, in the far north of modern-day Morocco.  Part of French West Africa until independence in 1960, Mauritania is influenced by Arab as well as African cultures.  Some of the world’s richest fishing grounds lie off the coast. The population still largely depends on agriculture and livestock for their livelihood.  Fish exports account for 60% of foreign earnings.
 
Mauritania passed a law to abolish slavery only in 1981. It is one of the last countries to do so.  Despite the legislation against slavery, there still exists around 90,000 slaves in Mauritania according to 2003 estimates.
 
Nouahchott, which means “place of the winds,” was designated as the country’s capital only in 1960 and is therefore one of the world’s newest capitals.  It’s highlights include Port de Pêche (fish market), Mosquée Saudique and the Musée National.
 
Tourists are also attracted to Atar, the ancient capital of the Almoravid kingdom, and Chinguetti, with houses and mosques dating back to the 13th century.
 
The cuisine of Mauritania has an overlap with Moroccan cuisine in the north and Senegalese cuisine in the south.  Some traditional dishes include Thieboudienne (Cheb-u-jin), a coastal dish of fish and rice, considered to be the national dish, Mahfe (goat or camel meat in a peanut, okra and tomato sauce) and Cherchem (lamb couscous).  I opted to cook Méchoui, whole roasted lamb.  I followed a brilliant recipe from a fellow ‘around the world cook’ Sasha Martin.
 
Rating: 9/10
 
Serves: 6
Prep time: 30 mins
Cook time: 3 hours
 
1 deboned leg of lamb
1/4 cup raisins
2 pitted dates, chopped
4 dried figs, chopped
1 onion, diced
1 cup rice, uncooked
2 1/2 cups stock
salt & pepper
1/2 tsp coriander
 
Chop the onion, dried fruits, and add to a skillet with rice, stock, salt, pepper and ground coriander. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes and then let it cool slightly.
Preheat the oven to 160C.
Stuff the lamb with the rice & fruit mix and then tie up the lamb with string.
Put the remaining rice mix in a small casserole dish and cover with foil.
Roast the lamb for 2 1/2 to three hours. Put the casserole of stuffing in for the last 30-45 minutes of roasting.
Let the meat rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
Serve with the extra rice and roasted carrots.
 

Guinea-Bissau

The Republic of Guinea-Bissau on the Atlantic coast of West Africa is bordered by Senegal to the north and Guinea to the south and east.
Guinea-Bissau is among the world’s least developed countries, with most people engaged in subsistence agriculture and fishing.  More than two-thirds of the population lives below the poverty line.  It’s history is one of painful wars and coups and since 1974, no president has successfully served a full five-year term.

 

Tourist attractions include the Former Presidential Palace in the capital of Bissau, Orango Islands National Park (home to rare saltwater hippos) and the beautiful island of Bolama.

 

The food of Guinea-Bissau is dominated by rice, fruit, vegetables and peanuts.  Soups and stews are popular.  Recipes I came across include Frango com bagique (chicken with spinach) , Macarra with Citi (Chicken with peanuts and palm oil), Bolinhos de mancarra com peixe (fish and peanut balls).  I decided to cook Cafriela de Frango (grilled spicy chicken) which was very simple and really tasty.

 

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 4
Prep time: 10 mins + 3 hours marinating time
Cook time: 45 mins
1 medium chicken, jointed
1 tsp salt
5 hot chilies, sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 medium onion, sliced
1 1/2 lemons, juice only
salt
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Place the chicken pieces in a large plastic zipper bag with the garlic, chilies, half the sliced onions and lemon juice. Marinate for 3 hours (or more) in the fridge.
Add the oil to a large skillet and add the marinated ingredients.
Add 3/4 cup of water and cook over a medium heat, covered, for 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through, adding a little more water if it is drying out.
Preheat the BBQ or grill.
Remove the chicken to a plate leaving the excess liquid in the pan.
BBQ or grill the chicken pieces for 15 minutes or until well browned.
In the meantime heat the liquid adding the rest of the finely sliced onions. Cook over a medium heat for 15 minutes, adding a little more water if necessary.
When the chicken is well-browned, place it onto a serving plate and pour the sauce over it.