Palau

Palau is an archipelago of approximately 250 islands, part of the Micronesia region in the western Pacific Ocean. The total land area of Palau is 189 sq miles. Its most populous islands are Angaur, Babeldaob, Koror and Peleliu. About 70% of the population live on Koror. The population of Palau is approximately 21,000, of whom 70% are native Palauans of mixed Melanesian, and Austronesian descent.

Saltwater crocodiles are indigenous to Palau and occur in varying numbers throughout the various mangroves and parts of the beautiful rock islands. Although the species is generally considered extremely dangerous, there has only been one fatal human attack in Palau within modern history, and that was in the 1960s. The largest crocodile in Palau measured in at 4.5 metres (15 ft) long.

In September 2009, Palau announced that it would create the world’s first shark sanctuary. The sanctuary protects about 600,000 sq km of ocean. Palau is home to 135 endangered or vulnerable shark and ray species.

Several television programmes and films have been shot in Palau, including the reality show ‘Survivor: Palau’ in 2005 and the 1968 film ‘Hell in the Pacific’ starring Lee Marvin.

The cuisine includes local foods such as cassava, taro, yam, potato, fish and pork. A few Palaun recipes I came across include Taro rosti, Fruit bat soup, Tinola (chicken, papaya & ginger soup), Ulkoy (shrimp fritters) and Pichi Pichi (cassava and coconut dessert). I opted to make Tama (crispy sweet croquettes), which were similar to doughnuts.

Rating: 8/10

Makes 20
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes

Crisco oil (for deep frying)
2 eggs
88 ml milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 3/4 tbsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt

In a deep fryer or deep skillet, heat oil to 350 F or until hot
In a large bowl, beat eggs, milk, and vanilla
Sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a separate bowl, stir and add to egg mixture
Mix until dry ingredients are moistened and dough is smooth
Drop teaspoonfuls of dough into the hot oil, fry until golden brown and doughnuts rise to the surface
Drain on paper towel lined plates and serve hot, but they are also good cooled down

img_3348
Ingredients for Tama (crispy sweet croquettes)
fullsizeoutput_1280
Making Tama (crispy sweet croquettes)
img_3359
Tama (crispy sweet croquettes)
img_3365
Tama (crispy sweet croquettes)
divers-in-palau
Divers in Palau
rock-islands-palau
Rock Islands, Palau
Advertisements

Marshall Islands

The Marshall Islands are a sprawling chain of volcanic islands and coral atolls in the central Pacific Ocean, between Hawaii and Australia. The Islands include the Ratak (sunrise chain) and Ralik (sunset chain), two parallel chains of 29 atolls, each made up of many small islets, and five single islands. The Islands of Bikini and Enewetak are former US nuclear test sites.The Kwajalein Atoll, with a huge central lagoon, is the largest coral atoll on the planet, also famous as a WWII battleground, and the US maintains a strong military presence here with a missile testing range. The island city of Ebeye is the second largest settlement in the Marshall Islands, after Majuro which contains the capital, and is one of the most densely populated in the Pacific.

Islands in the archipelago were first explored by Europeans in the 1520s with Spanish explorer Alonso de Salazar sighting an atoll in August 1526. Other expeditions by Spanish and English ships followed. The islands derive their name from the British explorer John Marshall, who visited in 1788. The islands were historically known by the inhabitants as “jolet jen Anij” (Gifts from the God).

In October 2011, the government declared that an area covering nearly 2,000,000 square km of ocean shall be reserved as a shark sanctuary. This is the world’s largest shark sanctuary, extending the current worldwide ocean area in which sharks are protected from 2,700,000 to 4,600,000 square km. In protected waters, all shark fishing is banned. However, some have questioned the ability of the Marshall Islands to enforce this zone.

For almost 40 years the islands were under US administration. In 1979, the Government of the Marshall Islands was officially established and the country became self-governing. In 1986, the Compact of Free Association with the United States entered into force, granting the Republic of the Marshall Islands its sovereignty. Under the terms of that agreement, the US would provide significant financial aid, that to date now exceeds $1 billion.

When it comes to recipes, this was one of the toughest I’ve found in terms of research. There’s virtually no information on the internet relating to authentic recipes from The Marshall Islands, so using common ingredients from the area and with a little help from other people doing a similar challenge, I opted to cook Coconut Fish with Roasted Sweet Potato. It was unusual in flavour, not unpleasant, but for a reason I cannot explain, I wouldn’t be rushing to have it again.

Rating: 7/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes

2 pieces white fish fillets, cleaned, filleted & de-boned (I used cod)
160ml coconut cream
1/4 onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1 small red chilli, thinly sliced in rounds
1/3 tbsp cornflour
1/3 tbsp lemon juice
1 large tomato sliced
2 tbsp peanut oil
2 tbso flour
1/2 tsp salt
pinch ground white pepper
2 sweet potatoes

Mix cornflour to a paste with a little of the cold coconut cream
Put the coconut cream, chopped onion, 1 tsp salt, chilli, lemon juice, and the cornflour mix in a saucepan
Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, stirring all the time, don’t allow the sauce to boil hard as it will become lumpy
Simmer for 3 minutes, then remove from the heat
Heat oven to 160 C (300F)
Put your sweet potatoes on a baking tray and bake for 40 – 60 minutes (depending on the size)
Cut fish into even sized pieces (about 2 cm thick, 3cm wide & 6 cm long)
Mix flour, extra salt & white pepper in a sealable plastic bag
Place the fish in the bag and shake well until the fish is evenly coated with the flour mix
Heat the peanut oil in a frying pan
Brown fish rapidly & lightly on all sides in the hot oil
Place the fish in an ovenproof dish as it is browned
Evenly cover the fish with the tomato slices
Pour the coconut sauce over the top
Bake uncovered in the oven for 30 minutes or until the top begins to brown
Serve with the roasted sweet potatoes

Fiji

A loud and enthusiastic ‘Bula’ (meaning Hello) was how all the Resort staff welcomed me when I visited Fiji a number of years ago. Famed for exquisite beaches, undersea marvels, lush interiors and fascinating culture, Fiji is an archipelago of more than 330 islands in Melanesia in the South Pacific Ocean. The two major islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, account for 87% of the population of almost 900,000. Viti Levu is home to the capital, Suva, a port city with British Colonial architecture.

Fiji became independent in 1970 after nearly a century as a British Colony. Fijian life revolves around the church, the village, the rugby field and the garden. While this may sound insular you would be hard pressed to find a more open and welcoming population. Though the realities of local life are less sunny than the country’s skies, many regions are poor and lack basic services. Fijians are famous for their hospitality and warmth.

Fiji has one of the most developed economies in the Pacific due to an abundance of forest, mineral, and fish resources. Today, the main sources of foreign exchange are its tourist industry and sugar exports. The country’s currency is Fijian dollar, the official languages are English, Fijian and Hindi.

Rugby Union is the most-popular sport played in Fiji. The Fiji national sevens side is one of the most popular and successful rugby sevens teams in the world, and has won the Hong Kong Sevens a record fifteen times, and they have also won the Rugby World Cup Sevens twice in 1997 and 2005. In 2016 they won Fiji’s first ever Olympic medal in the Rugby sevens at the Summer Olympics, winning gold by comprehensively defeating Great Britain 43-7 in the final.

Fijian food has traditionally been very healthy. Staple foods would include taro (a root crop similar to artichoke), coconut, cassava, seafood, breadfruit and rice. Recipes I came across include Palusami (Taro leaves filled with corned beef and onion), Lovo (marinated fish or meat wrapped in foil and cooked underground), Cassava cake and Coconut fish soup. I was recommended the dish Kokoda (raw fish salad), which is marinated fresh fish with coconut milk. I had it for my lunch and I really enjoyed the fresh zingy flavour. And with Fiji done, that means I’m 75% of the way through my challenge.

Rating: 8/10

Serves: 1
Prep time: 15 minutes + 6 hours marinating

1 fish fillet (I used red mullet but cod or halibut will work. Mahi Mahi is traditionally used)
Juice of 1 large lime
pinch salt
80ml coconut cream
1/4 red onion, very finely chopped or minced
1/2 green chilli pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
1 tomato, finely chopped
Salad leaves to serve

Cut the fish into bite-size pieces and place in a bag together with the lime juice and salt
Mix well, then refrigerate and leave to marinate for 6 hours
When ready to serve, remove from the refrigerator, add the coconut cream, chopped onion, and chilli and mix well
Place the salad leaves on a plate, top with the fish mixture and garnish with the chopped tomato

Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea is in the southwestern Pacific, encompasses the eastern half of New Guinea and its offshore Islands. The country is situated on the Pacific Ring of Fire, at the point of collision of several tectonic plates. There are a number of active Volcanoes and eruptions are frequent. Earthquakes are relatively common sometimes accompanied by Tsunamis. It is a country of immense cultural and biological diversity. It’s known for its beaches and coral reefs and is one of the world’s least explored countries both culturally and geographically.

Madang on the western coast was once dubbed the prettiest town in the Pacific, surrounded by azure waters sprinkled with picturesque islands. Madang was virtually destroyed during the Japanese occupation and subsequent fighting in world war II, so much of what you see today was built after the war.

Papua New Guinea has more languages than any other country – 852 languages are listed, of which 12 have no known living speakers. The most widely spoken indigenous language is Enga with about 200,000 speakers. English is the language of government and the education system but it is not spoken widely. The country established its sovereignty in 1975, following nearly 60 years of Australian administration. It became a separate Commonwealth realm with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state and became a member of the Commonwealth of Nations in its own right.

Sport is an important part of Papua New Guinea culture and Rugby League is by far the most popular sport. Other major sports which have a part in the countries sporting landscape are Australian rules Football, Association Football, rugby union and, in Eastern Papua cricket. The capital and largest city Port Moresby hosted the Pacific Games in 2015.

Popular recipes from Papua New Guinea include Kaukau (baked sweet potato) , Chicken and greens in coconut milk , Mumu (roasted pork with root vegetables, greens, fruit and coconut milk) , Chicken pot (chicken stew with coconut milk), Sago (sago palm is the starch used for making bread and puddings), Dia (sago and bananas cooked with coconut cream) and Yam patties. I opted to make Banana cake which was simple and quite tasty, although not overly sweet.

Rating: 8/10

Makes 10 – 12 slices
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 45 – 50 minutes

1⁄2 cup margarine or butter
1⁄2 cup of sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 large bananas (mashed)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 1⁄2 cup of self-raising flour
1/3 cup of milk (enough to give it a wet texture, but not runny)

Pre heat oven to 180 degrees
Beat butter, sugar and vanilla essence until creamy
Gradually beat in eggs and add mashed bananas
Mix milk and bicarbonate of soda and blend into banana mixture with flour (note – the amount of milk will vary depending on the mushiness of the bananas)
Pour the batter into a round greased 20 cm deep-sided cake pan
Bake for 45-50 minutes in a hot oven

img_2222
Ingredients for Banana cake
img_2235
Papua New Guinean Banana cake
img_2240
Family enjoying Papua New Guinean Banana cake
dancing-warriors-in-papua-new-guinea
Dancing warriors in Papua New Guinea
resident-of-papua-new-guinea
Tribal resident of Papua New Guinea

New Zealand

New Zealand was first explored by the Maori known as Kupe around 1,000 years ago. He came across the Pacific from his Polynesian homeland of Hawaiki. Then in 1642, Dutch explorer Abel Tasman sighted a ‘large high-lying land’ off the West Coast of the South Island and named it ‘Staten Landt’. It was later changed to New Zealand by Dutch mapmakers. Tasman never actually set foot on New Zealand and ended up settling in Indonesia.

Some interesting facts
Wellington is the southernmost capital in the world
The first commercial bungee jump was made by AJ Hackett in the Kawarau Bridge in Queenstown in 1988
Of all the population in New Zealand, only 5% are humans, the rest are animals, making it the highest animal to human ratio in the world
It has the 9th longest coastline in the world, with a length of 15,134 km
According to the Corruptions Perception Index, New Zealand is the least corrupt nation in the world (tied with Denmark)

I had the pleasure of spending 6 weeks travelling around New Zealand during my round the world trip. It has so much to offer the visitor. My highlights were sailing around the stunning Milford Sound, wine tasting in Havelock North, skiing in Queenstown, taking in the views from Waiheke Island and strolling along the beach in The Bay of Islands.

When it came to researching New Zealand recipes, I sought advice from my dear friend Pauline who had a plethora of options ranging from lamb, bacon and egg pie, afghan biscuits, lamingtons and apple and bran muffins. I opted to make Louise Cake, which I took to my sisters for her Macmillan Champagne evening. They were pretty well received, despite very good competition!!

Rating: 9/10

Makes 12 – 24 pieces
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes

Base:
75g butter, softened
55g caster sugar
2 egg yolks
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1¼ cups plain flour
½ tsp baking powder

Topping:
¼ cup raspberry, plum or blackcurrant jam
2 egg whites
½ cup caster sugar
½ cup fine desiccated coconut

Preheat the oven to 180ºC
Lightly grease a 20cm x 30cm shallow tin and line the base and sides with baking paper
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the egg yolks and mix thoroughly
Add the lemon juice and then sift in the flour and baking powder and mix to a firm dough
Press the dough evenly into the prepared tin, and spread over the jam. You don’t need a thick layer
Beat the egg whites until stiff then gently fold in the caster sugar and the coconut using a metal spoon. Spread carefully over the jam, again trying to keep an even thickness. Sprinkle with a little more coconut
Bake for about 25 minutes until the coconut is just turning golden brown
Remove from the oven, and cut into squares or fingers while it is still warm
Cool in the tin on a wire rack

Vanuatu

Vanuatu is situated between the Coral sea and the South Pacific sea, 2,500 km, northeast of Sydney, Australia. It is a Y shaped archipelago consisting of 82 islands of volcanic origin, 65 of which are inhabited. The islands are rugged with deserted beaches and rumbling active Volcanoes. Mt Yasur is popular with visitors as it is possible for 4×4 vehicles to get within 150m of the crater rim. The climate in Vanuatu is tropical and they have a long rainy season. In March 2015, Cyclone Pam devastated much of Vanuatu and caused extensive damage to all of the islands. Cyclone Pam is possibly the worst natural disaster to affect Vanuatu.

The mainstays of the economy are agriculture, tourism, offshore financial services and raising cattle. Copra, cocoa, kava and beef account for more than 60% of Vanuatu’s total exports. The roots of the kava plant are used to produce a drink with sedative, anesthetic, euphoriant, and entheogenic properties. It has been used to treat anxiety, stress and depression.

Vanuatu is widely recognised as one of the premier destinations in the South Pacific region for scuba divers wishing to explore coral reefs. A key attraction is the wreck of the US luxury cruise liner converted troop carrier “President Coolidge” on Espiritu Santo island, which sank during World War II and is one of the largest shipwrecks in the world, accessible for recreational diving.

Traditional staple foods of Vanatu cuisine include yam, taro, banana, coconut, sugarcane, tropical nuts, greens, pork, chicken, and seafood. I came across recipes for Lap Lap (root vegetable cake layered with coconut milk, meat or fish cooked in an underground pit), Nalot (boiled or roasted taro, and banana or breadfruit mixed with grated coconut and water) , Tuluk (tapioca dough filled with shredded pork) , Banana and Peanut Butter Biscuit, Sweet potato salad, Gato (doughnuts) and Tanna soup (chicken and coconut soup). I decided to make coconut scones, which had a very subtle coconut flavour and went well with butter and jam.

Rating: 6/10

Makes 12
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

4 tbsp coconut cream
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
2 teaspoon sugar
1 egg
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to 180c
Beat together the coconut cream, sugar, and egg
Add the dry coconut and baking powder and beat together well
Add flour gradually until it’s all added and blended well together. The dough should be slightly strong
Bring the mixture together with your hands and roll into a sausage shape.
Cut into 12 slices and place them on a greaseproof paper lined baking tray
Bake for 15 minutes, or until they are light brown

img_1959
Ingredients for coconut scones
img_1960
Coconut scone mix
img_1964
Coconut scone mix
img_1966
Coconut scone mix
img_1968
Coconut scones
img_1971
Coconut scones
vanuatu-child
Child from Vanuatu
vanuatu-map
Map of Vanuatu
mt-yasur
Mt Yasur, Vanuatu

Solomon Islands

The Solomon Islands is a nation of hundreds of islands in the South Pacific lying to the east of Papua New Guinea and northwest of Vanuatu. The major islands are Guadalcanal, Choiseul, Santa Isabel, New Georgia, Malaita and Makira (or San Cristobal). It is believed that Papuan-speaking settlers began to arrive around 30,000 BC and the first European to visit the islands was the Spanish navigator Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira, coming from Peru in 1568.

Some of the most intense fighting of WWII occurred in the Solomon Islands. Many ships were sunk in the sea off Honiara and there are many WWII relics beneath’s the ocean’s surface that are a real treat for divers.

The Marovo lagoon is allegedly the world’s largest saltwater lagoon. It contains hundreds of beautiful small islands, most of which are covered by coconut palms and rainforest and surrounded by coral. Other highlights include the Vilu War Museum, Skull Island, Lake Te’Nggano (the South Pacific’s largest expanse of fresh water), Mataniko Falls and the central market of Honiara.

The cuisine of the Solomon Islands features fish, coconuts, cassava, sweet potatoes, ulu (breadfruit) and a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Dishes I came across were curried coconut and lime gourd soup, cassava pudding and papaya chicken with coconut milk. I opted to make fish curry with tomatoes which I served with a green salad. It was so simple, fresh tasting and very delicious.

Rating: 10/10

Serves: 2

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

2 fish fillets (I used red mullet, but snapper, tuna or even cod would work)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp medium curry powder
2 tomatoes, chopped
Juice of 2 limes
Salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat
Stir in the curry powder and cook for a couple of minutes, keep stirring
Stir in the chopped tomatoes, lime juice, salt and pepper and cook for a minute
Add the fish to the mixture, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes or until fish is cooked
Serve with green salad or steamed rice

IMG_1494
Ingredients for fish curry with tomatoes
IMG_1499
Fish curry with tomatoes
IMG_1502
Fish curry with tomatoes
IMG_1509
Fish curry with tomatoes
Mataniko Falls, Soloman Islands
Mataniko Falls, Soloman Islands
Marovo Lagoon, Soloman Islands
Marovo Lagoon, Soloman Islands
Solomon Islands
Soloman Islands

Tonga

The Kingdom of Tonga is an archipelago of 169 islands in the Pacific Ocean and 36 of the islands are inhabited. Spread over 500 miles from north to south, there are 3 main island groups – Vava’u, Ha’apai, and Tongatapu. 70% of the population living on the main island of Tongatapu. Tonga became a constitutional monarchy in 1875 and remains the only monarchy in the Pacific. King Tupou VI has reigned since 18 March 2012.

Rugby union is the national sport and they are very proud of the national team known as the Sea Eagles. Like New Zealand, Tonga performs a war-like dance before matches called the “Sipi Tau”.

Tourism is the 2nd largest source of Tongan earnings with 45,000 visitors in 2013. Highlights include Ha’amonga ‘a Maui Trilithon (the South Pacific’s stonehenge), St Joseph’s Cathedral, Mapu’a ‘a Vaea Blowholes, Ha’atafu Beach and ‘Anahulu Cave.

Tongan cuisine features taro, yams, bananas, coconuts, and fish baked in leaves. Traditionally they would have eaten one meal at lunchtime each day that had been cooked in an ‘umu’ (earth oven). Nowadays they have adopted a more western meal schedule of breakfast, light lunch and dinner. Some Tongan dishes include Faikakai topai (dumplings in sweet coconut syrup), Lo’I Feke (Octopus in coconut cream) , Lū sipi (taro leaves with lamb), Kapisi Pulu (cabbage and corned beef in coconut cream) , Keke Vai with Banana (Banana Pancakes) and Oka Ita (Tongan ceviche). I opted to make coconut bread which was a little crumbly but quite tasty.

Rating: 7/10

Makes: 8 – 10 slices
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 egg
1 & ½ cup coconut milk
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp scraped vanilla bean

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees
Mix flour, baking soda, salt and grated coconut in a bowl
Whisk egg, add sugar, vanilla and coconut milk and mix well
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix well
Pour into greased loaf tin
Bake for 1 hour and remove from the tin to a cooling rack

IMG_1247
Ingredients for Tongan coconut bread
IMG_1248
Tongan coconut bread
Tonga rugby team performing sipi-tau
Tonga rugby team performing sipi-tau

IMG_1252

Nuku Island Vava'u
Nuku Island Vava’u Tonga
Ha’amonga ‘a Maui Trilithon Tonga
Ha’amonga ‘a Maui Trilithon Tonga

Tuvalu

Tuvalu is the world’s fourth smallest nation. It is made up of 9 low lying atolls and reef islands in the South Pacific Ocean, with the highest point reaching only 4.6m above sea level. The name Tuvalu means “eight islands” and although there are nine islands comprising the country today, only eight were initially inhabited so the ninth is not included in its name. It previously formed part of the British colony of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands until 1975 when the Ellice Islands separated from the Gilbert Islands and it became Tuvalu.

The country is isolated, almost entirely dependent on imports, particularly of food and fuel, and vulnerable to climate change and rising sea levels, which pose significant challenges to development. At the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference, the Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Emele Sopoaga said “Tuvalu’s future at current warming, is already bleak, any further temperature increase will spell the total demise of Tuvalu…. For Small Island Developing States, Least Developed Countries and many others, setting a global temperature goal of below 1.5 degrees Celsius relative to pre-industrial levels is critical. I call on the people of Europe to think carefully about their obsession with 2 degrees. Surely, we must aim for the best future we can deliver and not a weak compromise. Let’s do it for Tuvalu. For if we save Tuvalu we save the world.”

The main staples of Tuvaluan cuisine are coconut, banana, taro and fish. Two popular traditional dishes are Palusami (taro leaf, onions and fish) and Laulu (taro leaf in coconut cream). Finding Tuvaluan recipes was quite a challenge however I came across a recipe for Tuvalu coconut tuna which was really simple and very tasty.

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

300g raw yellowfin tuna, cut into chunks
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 tbsp freshly grated ginger root
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 Scotch Bonnet hot chili peppers, seeds left in, and rough chopped
1/2 tbsp medium curry powder
tin coconut milk
2 spring onions, chopped
3 tbsp light soy sauce
Fresh coriander, chopped

In a large skillet or wok, heat up some vegetable oil over medium-high heat.
Fry the onions for a few minutes, until fragrant and translucent.
Add in the Scotch Bonnet pepper, curry powder, garlic and reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 5 minutes
Stir in the coconut milk, and the spring onions
Add the tuna and soy sauce and cook over a medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally
Finish off by adding the coriander and serve with steamed rice

IMG_1207
Tuvalu coconut tuna

IMG_1192
Ingredients for Tuvalu coconut tuna

IMG_1195
Tuvalu coconut tuna

IMG_1197
Tuvalu coconut tuna

IMG_1201
Tuvalu coconut tuna

IMG_1212
Tuvalu coconut tuna with steamed rice

Tuvalu beach
Tuvalu beach

Tuvalu
Tuvalu

Australia

In 2002, I spent a few months travelling in Australia and had the pleasure of spending my 30th birthday in the small town of Broome in Western Australia. We rode camels on Cable beach, swam in the crystal clear water and ate Barramundi for dinner! Western Australia is less popular than the busy resorts on the eastern coast such as Byron Bay, The Whitsundays and The Gold Coast, but has so many beautiful places to explore. Just a few of my highlights include trying my hand at surfing (and failing epically) on Exmouth beach, tasting amazing wine in Margaret River, hiking in Kalbarri National park and dining out in the fabulous restaurants of Perth.

The Commonwealth of Australia is the world’s sixth largest country by land area and the world’s smallest continent. Inhabited by indigenous Australians potentially as far back as 125,000 years ago. It is the flattest and driest inhabited continent with the oldest and least fertile soils. The outback makes up by far the largest portion of land. Home to the Great Barrier Reef, the worlds’s largest coral reef system stretching over 2,300km which is visible from outer space. Quite surprisingly it has only the 6th longest coastline in the world at 25,760km, just pipping Norway at 25,148km. Canada has the longest at 202,080km.

Independent from the UK since 1901, it is one of the wealthiest countries in the world and 2nd highest on the human development index, which is measured by life expectancy, education, and income per capita. It generates its income from various sources including mining-related exports, telecommunications, banking and manufacturing. In terms of average wealth, Australia ranked second in the world after Switzerland in 2013.

A few facts:
There are more kangaroos in Australia than people!
You could visit a different beach in Australia every day for over 27 years
The Argyle diamond mine in the Kimberley is the world’s biggest producer of natural diamonds and contributes approximately one-third of the world’s natural supply
The Australian wine industry is the world’s fourth largest exporter of wine. Only 40% of production is consumed domestically
Of the top 10 deadliest snakes, 5 of them can be found in Australia, including the most venomous snake in the world, the Inland Taipan

Fortunately for me (and my husband) Australian cuisine has come on a long way since it’s indigenous hunter gatherer diet of ‘bush tucker’, with influences from the British, Mediterranean and East Asian cuisine. Meat is a core component of the Australian diet and the production of meat has been a significant part of Australia’s agricultural economy. Some dishes that are considered traditional Australian fare include Barbecued meat, Chiko rolls (deep fried savoury roll), Anzac biscuits , Damper (soda bread), Lamington cakes and Pavlova. I decided to make Aussie meat pies, served with tomato ketchup, as is tradition. There is actually an annual competition for the ‘Great Aussie meat pie’ which has been going since 1990 and now has 14 different categories. We thoroughly enjoyed ours, but I’m not sure if they were worthy of a competition entry!

Rating: 9/10

Serves: Makes 4 pies

Prep time: 25 mins
Cook time: 1 hour 15 mins

500g beef rump steak, trimmed, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium brown onion, finely chopped
2 rashers middle bacon, trimmed, chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp plain flour
1 cup beef stock
1/2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
2 sheets frozen ready-rolled shortcrust pastry
1 sheet frozen ready-rolled puff pastry
1 egg, lightly beaten
Tomato ketchup, to serve

Grease and line four 7.5cm round pie moulds with the shortcrust pastry, trimming any excess and put in the fridge
Using a food processor, blend the steak until it resembles mince
Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat
Add the onion and bacon and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally
Add the mince and cook for 5 minutes stirring with a wooden spoon to break up the mince.
Stir in the tomato paste and flour and cook for 1 minute
Stir in the stock and thyme and bring to the boil
Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes or until sauce has thickened and meat is tender
Season with pepper, remove from heat and let it cool for 10 minutes
Preheat oven to 200°C
Fill the chilled pies cases with the steak mixture and top with puff pastry, trimming any excess
Press the edges together with a fork to seal
Using a small sharp knife, cut a small cross in pie tops
Brush with egg and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden
Serve with tomato ketchup

 

broome-cable-beach
Camel riding on Cable Beach, Broome
Australian outback
The Australian outback
Kangaroos
Kangaroos in their natural habitat
Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef

Kiribati

Kiribati, pronounced ‘Kiribas’, is formed of 33 atolls and 1 island, across the equator in the Pacific Ocean, which are dispersed over 3.5 million sq km. It has been independent of the UK since 1979 and over half the population live on Tarawa atoll and South Tarawa is the capital. It was previously named the Gilbert Islands, after the British explorer Thomas Gilbert who found the islands in 1788 and it then became the Republic of Kiribati after independence.

It is home to the Phoenix Islands, the 2nd largest marine protected area in the world, after the Chagos Archipelago in the Maldives. Christmas Island, otherwise known as Kiritimati, is part of this island group and is the world’s largest coral atoll. Nuclear tests were conducted on and around Kiribati by the UK in the late 1950s, and by the US in 1962. During these tests islanders were not evacuated. Subsequently British, New Zealand, and Fijian servicemen, as well as local islanders have claimed to have suffered from exposure to the radiation from these blasts.

The native people of Kiribati are called I-Kiribati and they speak an Oceanic language called “Gilbertese”, although English is also an official language, it is not often used outside the island capital of Tarawa. It has the 3rd highest prevalence of smoking with 54% of the population reported as smokers.

When it comes to the cuisine of Kiribati, most commonly available ingredients include coconut, breadfruit, chinese cabbage, pumpkin, tomato, watermelon and cucumber. Rice and fish also form an important part of the diet. Palu sami (a coconut cream curry powder taro leave seaweed concoction) is a Kiribati specialty. I have to be honest and say that I struggled to find an authentic recipe and I sought help from a fellow round the world cook, Sasha Martin. I hope you don’t feel that I cheated when I tell you that I bought a cooked lobster, as I had to ‘deal’ with it in order to get to the tasty flesh! I made Lobster with coconut curry dip, which I served as a canapé.

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 4 as a canapé
Prep time: 30
Cook time: 10 mins

1 cooked lobster
1 400g tin coconut milk
2 tsp homemade spice mix
1 tsp honey

For the homemade spice mix
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/4 tsp cumin seed
1/8 tsp fennel seed
1/8 tsp cayenne
seeds from 2 cardamom pods
1 whole clove

For the spice mix
Toast the spices over a medium low heat until fragrant and you see a few wisps of smoke. This should only take a minute or two. Keep the spices moving so they do not burn.
Put them into a grinder or pestle and mortar and grind until smooth.

Prepare the lobster as per the instructions on the packet – ensuring you remove all the meat from the tail and claws.
Place the coconut milk into a pan over a medium heat and whisk in the spice mix. I added a tsp of honey to give a little bit of sweetness to the dip.
Serve hot with the lobster.

Kiribati_1990462bkiribati_map

Samoa

The Independent State of Samoa made up from two entities; Independent Samoa (or Western Samoa) and the US territory of American Samoa. The two main islands are Savai’i and Upolu. The Samoan Islands share a history of being one of the strongest cultural forces in the Pacific and were the first small island country in the Pacific to become independent in 1962. Ongoing scientific research suggests that Samoa’s history dates back 3,000 years. It is located south of the equator, about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand.

At the end of December 2011, Samoa jumped forward by one day, omitting 30 December from the local calendar, when the nation moved to the west of the International Date Line. This aimed to help the nation boost its economy in doing business with Australia and New Zealand. Before this change, Samoa was 21 hours behind Sydney, they are now three hours ahead.

The famous Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson brought his family to live on Upolu in 1890 and built a large home in the foothills above the city of Apia, where he spent the last five years of his life. His home was destroyed in the cyclones of the early 1990s but was rebuilt and opened as a museum in 1994 on the centenary of his death.

Samoa has all the attributes of island paradise; white sand, blue lagoons and jade jungles, but without the glitz and flashiness of mega tourist resorts. With an average temperature of 26.5 degress, it is a very appealing destination for travellers seeking both serenity and adventure.

Popular food in Samoan cuisine are rice, fish, roasted chicken and pork, yams, taro, fresh fruit and coconut. Dishes I came across include umu (oven-pit-baked meat), sapasui (chop suey), puligi (pudding) and oka (raw fish in lime juice and coconut milk). I cooked Chicken Kale Moa (Samoan chicken curry) which had a subtle flavour but a little lacking in umph. I made 2 versions, one with potatoes, one without (as I’m not a big fan of potato in curry) and we preferred the one without potato. I would be inclined to use hot curry powder next time.

Rating: 6/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 40 mins

1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp curry powder (use hot curry powder if you like heat)
350g chicken breast, cubed
1 cup water
2 cups coconut milk
2 medium potatoes, chopped into cubes
1 large carrot, chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
1 tbsp cornflour mixed with 3 tbsp water
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, then fry the onion gently for 5 minutes until it is translucent
Add the garlic, ginger and curry powder and fry for about a minute stirring well.
Add the chicken, 1 cup of water and 2 cups of coconut milk. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer and cover.
Simmer for 10 – 15 minutes.
Add the vegetables and bring to a boil again. Turn down heat and cover again. Simmer for 20 minutes or until soft.
Add the cornflour mix and turn the heat up to medium, stirring until thickened.
Season well with salt and pepper.
Serve with boiled rice.

IMG_0143
Ingredients for chicken kale moa (Samoan chicken curry)
IMG_0147
Chicken kale moa (Samoan chicken curry
IMG_0152
Chicken kale moa (Samoan chicken curry
Samoa
Samoa
Harvesting coconuts in Samoa
Harvesting coconuts in Samoa
Samoan beach
Samoan beach

Nauru

Nauru is the world’s smallest island nation, covering just 21 square kilometers and is the only republic in the world without an official capital.

Nauru is a phosphate rock island, and its primary economic activity since 1907 has been the export of phosphate mined from the island. Nauru boasted the highest per-capita income enjoyed by any sovereign state in the world during the late 1960s and early 1970s. With the exhaustion of phosphate reserves, its environment severely degraded by mining, and the trust established to manage the island’s wealth significantly reduced in value, it briefly became a tax haven and money-laundering center to obtain income. Since 2001, in exchange for aid from the Australian government, Nauru housed a detention center for asylum seekers trying to enter Australia. The unemployment rate is estimated to be 90 percent, and of those who have jobs, the government employs 95 percent.

By measure of mean body mass index (BMI) Nauruans are the most overweight people in the world with 97 percent of men and 93 percent of women being overweight or obese. More than 40 percent of the population has type 2 diabetes, the world’s highest rate.

They are unable to grow fresh vegetables so the diet is limited. Almost all food in Nauru is imported, except for fish, coconut and a few other items. Spam and Corned Beef are popular and they also eat a lot of rice. I struggled to find an authentic recipe for Nauru, so I decided to challenge my culinary skills by experimenting! I cooked yellowfin tuna (which is available in Nauru’s waters) with coconut, chilli flakes & lime. I served it as a canape to our guests and they thoroughly enjoyed it!! If anyone has any traditional Nauruan recipes, I’ll happily cook Nauru again.

Rating: 8/10

Serves: 5 (as a canapé)

Prep time: 5 mins + 2 hours marinating time
Cook time: 7 mins + 10 mins resting time

2 yellowfin tuna steaks (about 400g)
1 small can coconut cream
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1 lime, zest & juice
Baguette

Place the tuna steaks in a bag with all the other ingredients and refridgerate for 2 hours.
Heat a medium size frying pan to medium-hot and place the tuna steaks in when it’s hot, without the marinating juice.
Cook on each side for 3 minutes, then put the marinating juices into the pan, turn up the heat for 1 minute then turn it off, put a lid on the pan and let it rest for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, warm the baguette a little in the oven.
Place the tuna in a bowl and mash it with a fork, then pour some of the juice over the tuna but don’t make it too wet.
Slice the baguette into small rounds and then put a teaspoon of the tuna on top.

Micronesia (FSM)

The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) are in the western Pacific Ocean and comprise of around 607 islands with a combined area of 271 sq miles. The FSM is made up of what is known as the Western and Eastern Caroline Islands. The islands are grouped into four states; Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae. It forms part of the Micronesia region encompassing the FSM, Palau, Kiribati, Marshall Islands and Nauru. FSM’s capital is Palikir, located on Pohnpei Island. Pohnpei reputedly is one of the wettest places on earth, with up to 330 inches of rain per year.

Pohnpei is notable for the prevalence of an extreme form of color blindness called Achromatopsia, and known locally as maskun (meaning ’no see’). Approximately 5% of the atoll’s 3000 inhabitants are afflicted. A person with complete achromatopsia would see only black, white and shades of grey. The neurologist Oliver Sacks wrote a book about it in 1997 called ‘The Island of the Colorblind’.

Economic activity in the FSM consists primarily of subsistence farming and fishing. The potential for a tourist industry exists, but the remoteness of the location and a lack of adequate facilities hinder development. Top things to see and do in FSM include The ‘Venice of Micronesia’, Phonpei’s ancient stone city Nan Madol, Yap’s large stone money banks, diving Chuuk’s underwater WWII ‘museum’ that’s hailed as one of the world’s ultimate aquatic experiences and Kosrae’s mangrove swamps and sandy beaches.

The main staple foods in the FSM are taro, yam, bread-fruit, banana, and coconuts. Crab, shellfish, pork and chicken are also popular. Recipes include Prawn Adobo in Coconut Milk, Coconut Chicken Curry and Breadfruit salad. I opted to cook Kelaguen Chicken (Marinated chicken with coconut, spring onion & chilli) served with toasted flatbreads. We had friends to dinner and they all thought it was unique and very flavoursome.

Rating: 10/10

Serves 4
Prep time: 30 mins + 6 – 24 hours marinating time
Cook: 15 mins

For chicken kelaguen
4 boneless chicken thighs (with skin)
1/2 lb fresh coconut, coarsely grated
3 spring onions with their stalks, finely chopped
2 red chillies, seeds removed
1 green chilli, seeds removed
1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice
Flatbreads, toasted under the grill

For finadene marinade
1 cup lemon juice
1 cup soy sauce
1 medium onion, finely slices
1 red chilli

Mix together all the marinade ingredients and marinate the chicken for at least 6 hours.
Grill the chicken thighs on the barbecue for 10 – 15 minutes.
Remove the skin and slice.
Mix with coconut, onions, lemon juice, and chilies.
Add salt and pepper.
Serve with toasted flatbreads.

 

Diving in Yap
Diving with Manta Rays in Yap
micronesia
Federated states of Micronesia
micronesia sunset
Micronesia sunset