80% of the country is greater than 1,800 m above sea level.
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:
– 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.
Makes 15 buns
Cook time: 10 + 35 mins baking
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.
Let the batter cool slightly then beat in the eggs one at a time until mixed well.
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.
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.
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
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 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.
Pancakes have always been my nemesis, but this recipe seemed to be much easier to cook – Happy Pancake day!
2 cups flour
1½ cup milk
⅔ cup sugar
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 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 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.