Lesotho

Lesotho (pronounced le-soo-too) is a mountainous country surrounded by South Africa.  Originally called Basutoland, it was renamed the Kingdom of Lesotho upon independence from the UK in 1966.  “Lesotho” roughly translates to “the land of the people who speak Sesotho”.

80% of the country is greater than 1,800 m above sea level.

It’s principal exports are manufactures (clothing, footwear, road vehicles) wool & mohair.  Water is Lesotho’s major natural resource. Completion of a large hydropower plant in 1998 helps the economy expand through the sale of water to South Africa.
Some of the top things to do in Lesotho, according to trip advisor, include the AfriSki Ski and Mountain Resort in Buthe Buthe, Katse Dam in Maseru and the Maletsunyane Falls in Semonkong.
I struggled to find recipes that appealed to me, as I’m not a fan of porridge and ‘mealie pap’, a maize porridge is a very common dish in Lesotho.
They also have stews (oxtail) and curries.  However I came across a bread that they cook in the mountain regions of Lesotho called Borotho.  They cook it over a coal fire in a cast iron pot.  I opted to cook it in a copper pot in the oven.
Rating: 4/10.
The bottom of the buns were a bit too crunchy for our liking and the dough was quite dense.  Perhaps they’d be lighter if I’d used just strong white flour rather than a mix.
Prep time: 30 minutes + 1hr 30 minutes proving time
Cook time: 35 minutes
Makes: 12 buns
Ingredients
15g dried yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/2 pt tepid water
225g strong white flour
225g wholemeal bread flour
1 tsp salt
veg oil

Add the yeast & sugar to the water, stir and leave it to stand for 5 minutes.
Sift the flour & salt on to a clean worksurface or bowl.
Make a well in middle and add most of the liquid.
Gradually stir the flour into the liquid so you start forming a gluey paste and then a dough.
Knead the dough for 10 minutes and then place in a bowl with a tea towel over the top and put it in a warm place for at least 1 hour.
Remove the dough on to a lightly floured work surface and gently knead it for a couple of minutes.
Put it back in the bowl, covered with a tea towel and leave it to prove again for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200 c.
Put a tbsp of veg oil in a lidded oven proof dish (ideally copper or cast iron) and put in the oven to heat for 5 minutes.
Remove the dough from the bowl and make 12 round buns with your hands, placing them in a circle around the edge of the dish with a couple in the middle.  Leave a little bit of space around each one.
Put the lid on the dish and cook for 35 minutes.
Serve for breakfast with butter & jam or your preferred spread.

Norway

The land of Vikings, Skiing and Fjords.  Norway has the greatest length of any European country with almost one third of the country situated north of the Arctic Circle.  It has Europe’s deepest lake (Hornindalsvatnet – 514m), highest waterfall (Vinnufossen – 860m) and longest coastline at over 21,000km.  The Lærdal Tunnel, opened in 2000, is the longest road tunnel in the world (24.5 km).

Some interesting facts about Norway:

– Norway has won more Winter Olympic medals than any other country on Earth, with a grand total of 303 medals (including 107 gold medals) as of 2012, 50 more than the USA.
– The U.S. has more people of Norwegian descent than Norway.
– Norway will be the first country to turn off FM radio in 2017 and switch completely to digital.
– All prisoners in Norway have internet in their cells.
– Norway gets 98-99% of its electricity from hydroelectric power, more than any other country.

– The Vikings of Norway are well known, however they did not have helmets with horns. In fact, it is not clear if Vikings used helmets at all. While tens of thousands of Viking weapons have been uncovered, only one helmet from around the Viking period exists.

Norwegian cuisine is known for fish dishes; Smoked salmon Gravlaks, Rakfisk (fermented trout) and Mølje (poached fish, roe and liver).  Other dishes include Lapskaus (similar to Irish stew), Fårikål (mutton stew) and Smalahove (made from sheep’s head).  I was in the mood for something sweet, so I opted to cook the very simple Vannbakkels (choux buns) filled with vanilla cream.

Rating: 8/10

Makes 15 buns

Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 10 + 35 mins baking
Choux:
250ml water
125 g butter
125 g plain flour
4 eggsCream filling:
200ml double cream
1 tbsp icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla essencePlace the butter and water in a saucepan and bring to boil.
Remove from the heat and sieve in the flour slowly until all the flour is mixed in and it forms a smooth ball.

Preheat oven to 190c.
Let the batter cool slightly then beat in the eggs one at a time until mixed well.
Spoon tablespoons of batter onto a baking sheet lined with baking parchment and bake for 30- 35 minutes or until golden brown and well risen.
Once cooked pierce each bun open, just enough to let some steam out.
Leave to cool on a wire rack.
Whip the cream with the vanilla essence & icing sugar.
Once the vannbakkels are cooled, spoon or pipe in the cream filling.

Enjoy!

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Ingredients
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Vannbakkels (choux buns)
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Vannbakkels (cream filled choux buns)
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Norwegian fjord village
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Norway fjord

Madagascar

Madagascar lies in the Indian Ocean off the southeast coast of Africa opposite Mozambique.  It is the fourth largest island in the world.
A stunning diversity of plant and animal species evolved after the island broke away from the African continent millions of years ago.  Over 90% of its wildlife is found nowhere else on Earth.  From 1999 to 2010, scientists discovered 615 new species in Madagascar, including 41 mammals and 61 reptiles.  To help secure the future of lemurs, WWF and Malagasy conservationists are working together to establish and manage parks and protected areas in Madagascar.  Through the WWF you can adopt a ring tailed lemur for $25 – $100.

In 2012, the population of Madagascar was approximately 22 million people, 90% of them live on less than $2 per day.
Madagascar produces about two-thirds of the world’s vanilla. The vanilla bean (or pod) is the only edible fruit-bearing orchid. Each flower opens only one day a year and must be hand-pollinated to produce a pod, which is very labor intensive.

Recipes I came across include Saosisy sy Tsaramaso (beans & sausage) , Ro-mangazafy (beef broth) Ron-akoho (chicken and ginger broth).  I opted to cook the popular Mofo Gasy (Malagasy bread), which is actually more like a pancake.
Rating: 9/10

Makes 15
Prep time: 10 mins + 2-4 hours resting for batter
Cook time: 10 mins

1/2 cup plain flour
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp ground rice
1/2 tsp instant yeast
2 tbsp caster sugar
3/4 cup lukewarm water
1.5 tsp condensed milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Vegetable oil

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, ground rice, yeast, 1 tsp sugar and water.
Mix well, cover the bowl and set aside to rise for 2-4 hours.
Stir in the remaining sugar, condensed milk and vanilla extract. Mix to combine.
Cover and set aside until the mixture gets frothy, about 30~45 minutes.
Heat an aebleskiver pan on medium heat.
Put 1/4 tsp oil and pour about 1 tbsp batter in each well.
Cook for 1-2 minutes or until the bottoms get golden brown.
Using chopsticks, flip them over and cook on the other side until golden and the inside is cooked through.
Serve hot for breakfast.

Cameroon

Cameroon has been described as “Africa in miniature” because it exhibits all major climates and vegetation of the continent: coast, desert, mountains, rainforest, and savanna.  Cameroon is one of the wettest lands on the earth with annual rainfall of about 1,028cm.

The people are as diverse as its terrain; including ancient tribal kingdoms, forest-dwelling pygmies and Muslim pastoralists, making it one of the most culturally diverse countries on the African continent. One third of the population lives below the poverty line.

Mount Cameroon, an active volcano that last erupted in 2000,  is the highest mountain in West Africa at 4,085m. Cameroon is the first African country to have reached the quarter-final in the Football world cup.

Cuisine varies by region, but a large, one-course, evening meal is common throughout the country. A typical dish is based on cocoyams, maize, cassava, millet, plantains, potatoes, rice, or yams, often pounded into dough-like fufu (cous-cous).  I did also come across several recipes for Poulet DG (Poulet Directeur Général), which is served in up market Cameroon restaurants.

In honour of Shrove Tuesday coming up, I opted to go for Cameroon pancakes which the kids had for breakfast, and we saved for our dessert.

Pancakes have always been my nemesis, but this recipe seemed to be much easier to cook – Happy Pancake day!

Rating: 7/10

2 cups flour
1½ cup milk
⅔ cup sugar
6 eggs
¼ cup melted butter
¼- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
½ cup oil for frying

Sift together flour, sugar, nutmeg and salt; set aside.
In a large bowl, beat eggs and milk together with a mixer or by hand.
Mix in flour mixture until everything has been incoporated.
Finally stir in melted butter. Let the batter rest for about an hour or more in the refrigerator (overnight is fine)
Heat a skillet or a non stick frying pan then lightly coat the hot pan with vegetable oil, cooking spray, or clarified butter.
Then pour about a ½ cup of batter depending on your fry pan or skillet.
Tilt pan so the batter spreads across the bottom of the pan.
Cook the pancake for about 2 minutes, until the bottom is light brown. Lift with a spatula, turn and cook the other side.
Serve hot sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, powder sugar or syrup
(You only need to oil the pan for the first pancake)

Botswana

Botswana is located in southern Africa. It is mainly flat and almost 80% is made up of the Kalahari Desert. Botswana is bordered by South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe. It also meets Zambia at a single point but there is no border. The official language of Botswana is English although Setswana is the most spoken.

Botswana is the world’s largest producer of diamonds. Most Botswanan diamonds are mined by the Desbwana company – 50% owned by DeBeers and 50% owned by the government of Botswana. Diamond revenues enables every child in Botswana to receive free education up to the age of 13. The Jwaneng Diamond Mine in southern Botswana is the world’s richest diamond mine.

It is home to the Okavango Delta (the largest inland delta in the world), which became the 1000th inscribed site on the World Heritage List of Unesco in 2014. Chobe National Park has one of the most concentrated population of African elephants and was Botswana’s first national park in 1968. Almost 40% of it’s land is under some form of Wildlife protection. Botswana has been chosen by Lonely Planet as the top country to visit in 2016.

Botswana’s national dish is Seswaa, a salted stewed beef which is usually served with Morogo (a leafy green). One of the more unusual dishes is mophane worms. These are worms similar to caterpillars, that are picked off the mophane tree during summer. They are dried and can be eaten as a snack or rehydrated and cooked in a spicy tomato sauce. However, not being partial to eating worms, I decided to cook Phaphatas (flat dumplings). We had them for breakfast with bacon. Rating: 9/10 (Ellis rated them a 10!)

500g bread flour
8g dried yeast
2 tsps sugar
Half a teaspoon salt
About a cup or so of lukewarm water
Extra flour for kneading

Sift the flour and yeast into a bowl. Add the sugar and salt
Gradually add water and combine with your hands to form a dough. Only add enough water to form the dough.
Knead the dough for about 5 minutes till it’s soft and pliable.
Put aside in a bowl covered with a damp cloth and leave to rise for 30 minutes.
On a floured surface, roll out the dough to about half an inch thickness.
Using a round object like a plastic cup or cookie cutter, cut the dough into circles.
Dust the phaphathas liberally on both sides and place in a flat pan on medium heat with enough space between them to allow for rising.
The heat should not be too high or the phaphatha will burn before it fully cooks on the inside.
The phaphatha should rise while cooking. Keep an eye on them and when they’ve turned brown on the bottom, turn over to cook on the other side.  It took about 40 minutes in total.
Remove from heat when cooked through and enjoy while warm.

 

Andorra

Andorra is probably best known for its ski resorts.  Grandvalira is the largest ski area in the Pyrenees, with 210 km of ski slopes.  It was founded in 2003 when two of the oldest ski resorts Pas de la Casa-Grau Roig and Soldeu-El Tarter joined together.  This year it is hosting the Freeride Junior World Championship, the Speed Skiing World Cup trials and the seventh annual Skiers Cup.

Andorra is the only co principality in the world.  A principality is a place ruled by a prince, such as Monaco.  Andorra, however, is a co-principality, having two princes who jointly share the position, neither of whom are actually from Andorra!
Its population is about 84,000 and boasts the third highest life expectancy in the world. 
Tourism is its biggest industry, with 10.2m visitors every year, which is no doubt encouraged by its tax haven status and duty-free shopping.
Andorra la Vella is the highest capital in Europe at 1023 meters above sea level.
Apparently, by law the male head of each family in Andorra is required to own a gun in case of attack or emergency.
Its cuisine includes Escudella, which means ‘bowl’ (a stew containing more cholesterol than most people consume in a year!), Trinxat (cabbage & bacon potato cake), Brac de Gitano (cream roll)  and Cunillo (rabbit & tomato stew).  I decided to cook the simple but tasty Truites de Carreroles (mushroom omelette).
Rating: 7/10
 
Enough for a healthy breakfast for 2:
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
3 tbsps unsalted butter
1⁄2 tsp salt
1⁄4 tsp black pepper
1 1⁄2 cups portabella mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon (or 1 tsp. dried)
5 large eggs
1⁄2 cup coarsely grated gruyere cheese
 
Cook shallot in 2 tbsp butter with 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes.
Stir in mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in tarragon and transfer to a bowl.
Beat eggs with 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper until well combined.
Heat remaining butter in same skillet over medium-high heat until foam subsides, then add eggs and cook until underside is set, about 1 minute.
With a fork, pull set eggs to center, letting uncooked eggs run underneath.
Before eggs are completely set, add mushroom mixture and cheese to one half, on the side away from handle.
Fold other half of eggs over filling with a heatproof rubber spatula.
Tilt the pan as you roll the omelette onto a plate.
 

Kyrgyzstan

My first venture in to the ‘Stans’ and sadly found out that it is the second-poorest country in Asia.  The name Kyrgyz is said to derive from the Kyrgyz word for forty and it is a possibility that the people of Kyrgyzstan came from forty families or clans.  It has one of the world’s largest natural walnut forests.  Alcohol is very cheap, a bottle of vodka is priced at around 180 som (3.5 EUR) and beer costs 60 som (1.2 EUR).  A search in Expedia for a flight from London to Bishkek, the capital city, starts around £370 return if you stop at Istanbul on the way.  There are 36 hotels in Bishkek according to Trip advisor, Futuro Hotel being the highest ranked.  They eat a lot of horse meat and mutton, but not many vegetables.  Recipes include Beshbarmak (Boiled meat mixed with noodles & spicy onion sauce, eaten with the hands), Manty dumplings & Lepyoshka (flatbread).  To accompany our Panamanian breakfast doughnuts, I opted to cook Borsok (fried bread).
Rating: 9/10 – we thought these little breads were awesome and could be enjoyed equally with savoury dips or with honey, jam or chocolate spread.
2 cups of flour
½ tbsp salt
¼ tsp sugar
¼ tsp dried yeast
¼ cup milk
¼ cup warm water
1 egg
1/2 cup olive oil
Combine the flour, sugar, yeast and salt. In a separate bowl, beat the egg and stir in the milk. Combine the two mixtures, stir them together, and stir in warm water slowly until the mixture holds together but is not sticky.
Cover the mixture and place it in a warm part of the house.
After two hours, roll the dough until it is about ¼ inch thick. Cut the dough into 1 inch by 2 inch rectangles.
Pour ¼ cup oil into a saucepan and heat on medium high. Additional oil may be needed depending on the size of the saucepan. Make sure the oil completely covers the surface of the pan.
Once the oil is heated, fry the borsok in the pan. Depending on the size of the pan, you can fry 4-8 borsok at the same time-but be sure that they do not overlap.
Fry the borsok until it puffs up and is golden brown on the bottom.
Flip the borsok over to fry the other side until it is also golden brown.
Add additional oil as needed to keep a thin coat of oil on the surface of the pan.
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Panama

Panama is the only place in the world where you can see the sun rise on the Pacific and set on the Atlantic.  It has 5,637 kilometers of coastline and more than 1,518 islands so it boasts plenty of beaches.
The Panama Canal was built by the US Army Corps of Engineers between 1904 and 1914.  It is 44 miles long and there are 3 sets of locks of 33.5 metres (110 ft) width.  It generates one-third of Panama’s entire economy and serves passage to almost 14,000 ocean-going vessels per year.  The Panama Hat is actually made in Ecuador.
The Panamanian recipes I came across were Sancocho (local stew), Tamales (corn dough rolls) & Corvina (local sea bass).  There were also a fair few different breakfast recipes, namely Arepas (corn flatbread topped with egg), Bistek Picado (chopped beef) & Salchichas (sausages).  As it was the weekend and the kids were with us, I decided to cook these easy Hojaldras (doughnuts).
Rating: 8/10
2 cups of flour
1 tsp of baking powder
1 tsp of white sugar
1 tsp of salt
1 tbsp of oil
½ cup of water
Oil for frying
Mix the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.  Mound the ingredients and make an indentation in the middle.
Add the oil and one tablespoon of the water.
While kneading, add the water a tablespoon at a time, until the dough no longer sticks to your hands.
Form dough into a ball, cover bowl with a cloth, and let it rest for two hours.  (After the two hours, you can cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough until the following day, if desired.)
When ready to fry, heat a few inches of oil in a pot over medium heat.
Form the dough into small balls (a little goes a long way), and use your hands to stretch them thin and flat, like pizza dough.
Carefully add the stretched dough balls, one or two at a time, and fry until golden on one side, then flip and fry the other side.  (It helps to place a screen over the pot to prevent oil spatters.)
Remove dough, and allow to cool slightly.
Enjoy your hojaldras plain, or with powdered sugar, cinnamon, or even bacon
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