My top 20 recipes

1. Taiwan – Taiwanese minced pork

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2. Chad – Kachumbari (Chadian tomato and onion salad)

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3. Switzerland – Fondue

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4. Mexico – Chicken Enchiladas

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Chicken enchiladas

5. Paraguay – Sopa Paraguaya (corn and cheese bread)

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Sopa Paraguaya (corn and cheese bread)

6. Italy – Risotto milanese

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Risotto alla Milanese (risotto with saffron)

7. Finland – Kalakeitto (fish stew)

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Kalakeitto (fish stew)

8. Luxembourg – Bouneschlupp (green bean soup with smoked bacon)

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Bouneschlupp (green bean soup with smoked bacon)

9. Spain – Tapas
Champinones al ajillo (garlic mushrooms)
Garbanzos con chorizo (chickpeas with chorizo)
Tortilla (Spanish omelette)
Croquetas de jamon (ham croquettes)
Padron peppers

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10. Sweden – Köttbulla (Swedish meatballs)

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11. South Korea – Bulgogi (grilled marinated beef)

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South Korea – Bulgogi (grilled marinated beef)

12. Honduras – Banana bread

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Honduran banana and coconut bread

13. Nicaragua – Tres leches (Three milks cake)

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14. Guyana – Roti (flatbread)

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Guyana – Rotis (flatbreads)

15. Guatemala – Chicharrónes (crispy pork skin)

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Chicharrones

16. China – Char Sui pork (“Fork roast” – Cantonese barbecued pork)

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Char Sui Pork (Cantonese BBQ pork)

17. Comoros – Poulet au Coco (Comorian coconut chicken)

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Poulet au Coco (Comorian coconut chicken)

18. France – Bœuf bourguignon (beef braised in red wine with onions and mushrooms)

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Bœuf bourguignon (beef braised in red wine with onions and mushrooms)

19. Micronesia – Kelaguen Chicken (Marinated chicken with coconut, spring onion & chilli)

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20. Solomon Islands – Fish curry with tomatoes

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Fish curry with tomatoes
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St Kitts and Nevis

The Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis is a dual island country in the West Indies known for cloud-shrouded mountains and beaches. It is the smallest country in the Caribbean (and indeed in the whole of the Americas), covering just 104 square miles, and is home to around 45,000 people. Both islands were discovered by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage to the New World in 1493.

Cricket is common in Saint Kitts and Nevis and was the smallest country to host 2007 Cricket World Cup matches at the capital, Basseterre’s stadium. Top players can be selected for the West Indies cricket team.

St. Kitts is dependent upon tourism to drive its economy. Tourism to the island has been expanding since 1978. In 2009 there were 587,479 arrivals to Saint Kitts compared to 379,473 in 2007, representing an increase of just under 40% in a two year period. The two biggest occasions in the social calendar are the St. Kitts Music Festival, held in June and now in its 20th year and the St. Kitts-Nevis National Carnival, also known as Sugar Mas, which takes place around Christmas and New Year.

St Kitts’ historical highlight, Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, became a Unesco World Heritage site in 1999 for being an exceptionally well-preserved example of 17th and 18th century military architecture. It was designed by British military engineers and built by African slave labour.

Local St Kitts and Nevis cooking is simple, spicy and makes use of the plentiful fresh fish, vegetables and fruit. Some specialities include Droppers (coconut dumplings), Stewed saltfish, Goat waterstew (goat and tomato based stew), Cook up or Pelau (chicken, pigtail, saltfish with rice and vegetables), Rikkita beef (fried beefsteak marinated in Champagne and hot peppers), Conkies (cornmeal savoury snack) and Coconut rum bread pudding. I decided to make Jam Cake, which was full of lovely spice and nuttiness.

Rating: 9/10

Serves: Makes 10 – 12 slices
Prep time: 45 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes

1-3/4 cups flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup seedless blackberry jam
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs

Caramel Icing (optional)
113g unsalted butter
300g brown sugar
3 fl oz double cream
200g icing sugar

Mix all ingredients (except the jam) together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle (or by hand with a wooden spoon).
Pour into 2 greased and floured 9-inch cake pans
Bake at 175 C for 35 minutes
Leave the cakes to cool then take them out of the pans on to a wire rack

To make the icing
Add the butter, cream and brown sugar to a pan and heat for 2 minutes, stirring to combine
Sift the icing sugar and beat into the mixture

Spread the blackberry jam over the top of one of the cakes and top with the other
Pour the icing over the top of the cake (you may have some left over which you can freeze)
Serve with tea and coffee

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Ingredients for Jam Cake
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Jam Cake
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Jam Cake
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Caramel sauce for Jam Cake
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Caramel sauce for Jam Cake
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Jam Cake
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Jam Cake
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Jam Cake
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Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park
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Basseterre, St Kitts and Nevis

Liberia

The Republic of Liberia, is a country on the West African coast. Liberia means “Land of the Free” in Latin. It began as a settlement of the American Colonisation Society (ACS), who believed blacks would face better chances for freedom in Africa than in the United States. On January 3, 1848 Joseph Jenkins Roberts, a wealthy, free-born black American from Virginia who settled in Liberia, was elected as Liberia’s first president after the people proclaimed independence. Liberia holds the record of the longest stable rule by a single political party from 1877 to 1980, by the quaintly named True Whig Party. Liberia has been independent since 1847, making it the oldest republic in Africa.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became Africa’s first elected female President in January 2006. Liberia’s government is hard at work trying to improve its electricity access, currently only 3% of the population are connected to grid power, one of the world’s lowest, after the civil war took out its entire grid.

Liberia is home to the rare and endangered Pygmy Hippopotamus. The World Conservation Union estimates that there are fewer than 3,000 pygmy hippos remaining in the wild. Liberia contains a significant portion of West Africa’s remaining rainforest, with about 43% of the Upper Guinean forest, an important forest that spans several West African nations. It hosts the last remaining viable populations of certain species including western chimpanzees, forest elephants and leopards.

The Liberian diet is centered on the consumption of rice and other starches, tropical fruits, vegetables, and local fish and meat. Liberia also has a tradition of baking imported from the United States that is unique in West Africa. Popular recipes include Liberian potato salad, Palava (stew), Chicken peanut stew, Eggplant fritters, Pineapple nut bread, Stewed mango with cloves, Jollof rice, Ginger cookies and Carrot cake. I opted to make Sweet potato pone, which I’ll be honest is one of the strangest foods I’ve tasted on this challenge. I don’t think I’ll be trying it again.

Rating: 2/10

Serves: 6 as a dessert
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes

750 ml grated raw sweet potato
250 ml dark syrup
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
85ml oil

Preheat the oven to 160c degrees
Place all the ingredients in a saucepan over a medium heat and cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly
Grease a 9 inch baking dish and pour in the mixture
Bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes for the first 20 minutes to ensure that the mixture is evenly combined
Smooth the top and cook until brown
Cut into squares and serve hot or cooled

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

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Ingredients for Tama (crispy sweet croquettes)
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Making Tama (crispy sweet croquettes)
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Tama (crispy sweet croquettes)
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Tama (crispy sweet croquettes)
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Divers in Palau
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Rock Islands, Palau

Netherlands

The Kingdom of the Netherlands is a small densely populated country in Western Europe with three Island territories in the Caribbean – Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba. The Netherlands consists of twelve provinces including North Holland and South Holland. In 2013, the United Nations World Happiness Report ranked the Netherlands as the fourth happiest country in the world, reflecting its high quality of life.

A few interesting facts:
More than a quarter of the Netherlands is below sea level, 50% of its land lies less than one metre above sea level
The Dutch are the biggest licorice eaters in the world consuming 32 million kilos every year
The Netherlands is the second largest beer exporter in the world, after Mexico, with an export value of $2.1 billion
Dutch men are the tallest in the world, with an average height of 184cm. Researchers say it’s down to their DNA, nutrition and welfare
KLM (Koninklijke Luchtvaartmaatschappij or “Royal Airline Company”), the Dutch national airline, is the oldest national airline in the world, founded in 1919
The Netherlands produces around 60% of the world’s supply of flower bulbs, and its trading companies account for 85% of the international trade

The Netherlands is known for a flat landscape of canals, tulip fields, windmills and cycling routes. The Vaalserberg is the highest point in the European part of the Netherlands, it’s only 322.7 meters high and is located in the province of Limburg. Amsterdam, the capital, is home to the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and the house where Jewish diarist Anne Frank hid during WWII. Canal side mansions and a trove of works from artists including Rembrandt and Vermeer remain from the city’s 17th-century “Golden Age”.

Popular Dutch recipes include Gehaktballen (meatballs), Draadjesvlees (slow braised beef), Hollandse Nieuwe (Dutch new herring served raw with onion & gherkins), Jachtschotel (“hunters dish” similar to shepherds pie), Bitterballen (breaded fried croquettes), Stroopwafels (syrup waffles), Duivekater (sweet festive bread) and Pruimenvlaai (plum tart). I opted to make Bossche bollen (chocolate puffs) which went down a treat!

Rating: 8/10

Makes 4 medium size (you can double or triple the quantity to make more) Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes

1/3 cup plain flour
1/3 cup water
2 tbsp butter
1 egg, beaten
pinch of salt
1/3 cup chocolate chips (dark or milk)
1 tbsp water
1/2 cup whipped cream
2 tbsp caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 190c
Heat the water and the butter in a saucepan over medium heat
Bring to a boil, then take off the heat and add the flour stirting until it all comes together in a ball
Add a pinch of salt, stir in the egg and continue to stir until the dough has absorbed all the egg and is fully blended together
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, divide the dough intp four balls and place it on top of the parchment
Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes or until puffy and golden
Remove and cool on a rack
In the meantime, beat the whipping cream and the sugar until stiff
Fill a pastry bag with small tip, cut a small hole through the bottom of the cooled balls and fill with whipped cream
Heat the chocolate chips and a tablespoon of water in the microwave (30 seconds on medium), stir until the chocolate has melted and the sauce has come together
Then carefully take the cream-filled Bossche bollen and dip, head first, into the chocolate
Or leave them on a rack and slowly pour the chocolate over the top, one spoonful at a time
Cool in the fridge for about 20 minutes or until the chocolate is solid and everything has had a chance to firm up

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Ingredients for Bossche bollen (chocolate puffs)
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Bossche bollen (chocolate puffs)
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Bossche bollen (chocolate puffs)
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Bossche bollen (chocolate puffs)
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Tulips
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Amsterdam
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Traditional windmill, Kinderdijk

Grenada

Grenada, the ‘Island of Spice’ is an island of volcanic origin in the Lesser Antilles chain, ninety miles north of Venezuela. It is a leading producer of several different spices – cinnamon, cloves, ginger, mace, allspice, orange/citrus peels, wild coffee and nutmeg, providing 20% of the world supply. It is also known for it’s dense rain forest, jagged coastline, picturesque beaches, and brilliant foliage.

Grand Anse is Grenada’s most famous beach and one of its most beautiful. Cruise ship visitors flock to this 3 km arc of golden sand and gentle surf. Tourism is concentrated in the southwest of the island, around St. George, Grand Anse, Lance Aux Epines, and Point Salines. Other tourists’ favourite points of interest are the waterfalls including the Annandale Waterfalls, Mt. Carmel, Concord, Seven Sisters and Tufton Hall.

Staples such as bread, rice and peas, fruits, and vegetables figure prominently in the diet. Fish is plentiful and affordable, as is chicken. Beef is scarce, pork is reserved for special occasions, while goat and lamb are eaten commonly. Recipes I came across include their national dish ‘Oil-Down’ (a one-pot meal of salted meat, chicken, dumplings, breadfruit, callaloo and vegetables cooked in coconut milk), Dal puri roti (spiced lentils in flatbread), callaloo soup, Grenadian roast pork, goat curry and sweet potato pudding. I decided to make Grenadian Spice cake which, despite it getting a little stuck to the tin, was simple and very tasty.

Rating: 8/10

Makes 8-10 slices
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 75 – 90 minutes

2 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup unsalted butter – chilled, cut into tablespoon-size pieces
1 1/2 tsp grated lime zest
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
3 eggs
1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 175 degrees C
Grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan or springform baking tin
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside
In a medium bowl, cream together the sugar and butter
Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the lime zest, nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice
Add the flour alternately with the milk, stirring after each addition
Pour batter into the prepared pan
Bake for 75 to 90 minutes in the preheated oven, until a skewer inserted comes out clean
Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto a rack to cool completely

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Ingredients for Grenadian Spice cake
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Mixing the Grenadian Spice cake
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Grenadian Spice cake
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Grenadian Spice cake
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Grenadian Spice cake
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Grand Anse beach, Grenada
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Fort George, Grenada
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Grenada sunset

Italy

Italy is one of my favourite places in the world! I’ve been lucky enough to visit many stunning places in Italy – Tuscany, Florence, Venice, Milan, Sardinia and of course, Rome. All distinctly different with their own style and features. My highlights would include driving the mountainous coast road in Sardinia, the amazing fresh produce in a local Tuscan village market, feasting on Risotto Milanese in the beautiful Locanda Del Gatto Rosso restaurant, Milan and lazing by the pool, basking in the Italian sunshine at the wonderful Aldrovandi Villa Borghese hotel, Rome.  Still on my bucket list are Sorrento, Verona, Palermo and Puglia.

Famed for pizza, pasta, ice cream, espresso, mad drivers, Renaissance art and ancient architecture. It definitely has something to offer everyone. It has the most Unesco World Heritage sites in the world with 51 sites and it has another 41 on the tentative list.

Some facts you may not know about Italy:
It has the eighth largest economy in the world
The Italian mafia accounts for 7% of Italy’s GDP
One third of Italians have never used the Internet
The average employee in Italy works just 20 hours per week, one of the lowest amount in Europe
The name Italy comes from the word italia, meaning “calf land,” perhaps because the bull was a symbol of the Southern Italian tribes
From 1861 to 1985, more than 26 million people left Italy (mostly from the overcrowded south) to seek a better life. Only one in four came home again

Italian cuisine is noted for its regional diversity, abundance of difference in taste, and is one of the most popular in the world. Italian cuisine is characterised by its simplicity, with many dishes having only four to eight ingredients. Italian cooks rely chiefly on the quality of the ingredients rather than on elaborate preparation. As you can imagine I was spoilt for choice in terms of recipes, making it extremely difficult to decide what to cook for this challenge. I considered Gnocchi, Pasta e fagioli (beans and pasta), Tortellini (filled pasta), Spaghetti Carbonara Ribollita (Tuscan soup with bread, beans and vegetables), Pizza alla napoletana (tomato, mozzarella & anchovy), Ossobucco (veal shanks braised with vegetables, white wine and broth), Arancini (deep-fried rice croquettes). However after our first visit to Milan in February this year and experiencing Risotto alla Milanese (risotto with saffron) – it had to be that! I also made my first ever Tiramisu, which even though I’m not known for my desserts, it was yum. We shared the evening with my sister and brother-in-law and we all loved the Risotto alla Milanese served in Parmesan baskets.

Rating: 10/10 for the Risotto & 9/10 for the Tiramisu

Risotto alla Milanese (served in Parmesan baskets)
Serves: 4
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
1 litre chicken stock
sea salt & ground black pepper
150g butter at room temperature
40g beef bone marrow or 2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium red onion, very finely chopped
300g risotto rice
1 tsp saffron threads soaked in a little stock
75ml extra dry white vermouth
175 Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Parmesan baskets
4 cups of grated parmesan cheese

Heat a non stick frying pan over a medium – high heat
When it’s hot, sprinkle 1 cup of parmesan evenly over the pan
After 3 minutes, check the sides to ensure it’s melted
Using a slice, very carefully flip the cheese over and cook for a further minutes
Then place a small bowl in the centre of the cheese and turn it out upside down
Leave it on top of the bowl for 10- 20 seconds, using a kitchen towel to shape it, then turn it out on to a kitchen towel
Continue making the remaining 3 in the same way

To make the risotto
Heat the stock in a saucepan gently and check for seasoning, don’t let it boil
Melt 75g of butter and the beef bone marrow in a large heavy bottomed pan
Gently fry the onion until soft, 15 – 20 minutes
Add the rice and remove it from the heat, stirring so the rice is fully coated, it only takes a minute
Return to the heat, add 2 ladlefuls of hot stock and simmer, stirring until all the liquid has been absorbed
Add the saffron
Continue to add the stock, a couple of ladlefuls at a time, until it is aborbed
Each grain should have a creamy coating and be just al dente
Add the remaining butter in small pieces, the vermouth and parmesan
Stir very gently and serve immediately in the parmesan baskets

Tiramisu
Serves: 6-8
Prep time: 30 minutes + at least 4 hours chilling

568ml pot double cream
250g tub mascarpone
75ml marsala
5 tbsp golden caster sugar
300ml strong coffee, made with 2 tbsp coffee granules and 300ml boiling water
175g pack sponge fingers
25g good quality dark chocolate, chopped quite roughly
2 tsp cocoa powder

Put the cream, mascarpone, Marsala and sugar in a large bowl and whisk until the cream and mascarpone have completely combined and have the consistency of thickly whipped cream
Get your serving dish ready
Put the coffee into a shallow dish and dip in a few sponge fingers at a time, turning for a few secs until they are nicely soaked, but not soggy
Layer these into your dish until you have used half the biscuits, then spread over half of the creamy mixture
Sprinkle over half of the chocolate
Repeat the layers (you should use up all the coffee), finishing with the creamy layer
Cover and chill for a few hrs or overnight
To serve, dust with cocoa powder and sprinkle over the remainder of the chocolate

 

Somalia

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

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

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

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

Rating: 0/10

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

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

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

Nicaragua

Officially the Republic of Nicaragua is the largest and most densely populated country in Central American. It is set between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea and is bordered by Honduras and Costa Rica. The capital Managua is the country’s largest city and third largest city in Central America. On the Pacific side of Nicaragua are the 2 largest fresh water lakes of Central America – Lake Managua and Lake Nicaragua.

The multi-ethnic population of 6 million includes indigenous people, Europeans, Africans and Asians. Spanish is the official language in Nicaragua, 95% of the population are Roman Catholic, and 5% are Protestant.

The Spanish Empire conquered the region in the 16th century. Nicaragua gained independence from Spain in 1821. Since its independence, Nicaragua has undergone periods of political unrest, dictatorship and fiscal crisis and are the most notable causes that led to the Nicaraguan revolution of the 1960’s and 1970’s.

In Nicaragua a mixture of cultural traditions has generated substantial diversity in art and literature, particularly the latter, given the literary contributions of Nicaraguan poets and writers including Ruben Dario, Pablo Antonio Cuadra and Ernesto Cardenal. “El Gueguense” also known as Macho Raton is a satirical drama, and was the first literary work of post-Columbian Nicaragua. It is regarded as one of Latin America’s most distinctive colonial-era expressions and Nicaragua’s signature folklore masterpieces combining music, dance and theatre.

Nicaraguan cuisine includes a mixture of the indigenous Miskito people, Spanish cuisine and Creole cuisine. Typical Nicaraguan dishes include Gallo pinto (rice & beans), Vigoron (snack food of vegetables and pork rind) , Ensalada Repollo (cabbage salad), Sopa de queso (cheese soup), Nacatamales (corn dough filled with pork, rice and tomatoes wrapped in plantain leaves) and Quesillo (cheese filled tortilla with onions & cream). I opted to bake the Tres leches (Three milks cake). It was a confectionery masterpiece!

Rating: 10/10

Makes 24 slices
Prep time: 40 minutes + cooling time and overnight refrigeration
Cook time: 30 minutes

1 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1⁄2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup white sugar
5 eggs
1 1⁄2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 can evaporated milk
1 1⁄2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 175 degrees C
Grease and flour one 9×13 inch baking pan
Sift flour and baking powder together and set aside
Cream butter and 1 cup sugar together until fluffy
Add eggs and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and beat well
Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture 2 tablespoons at a time and mix until well blended
Pour the batter into prepared pan
Bake for 30 minutes then pierce cake all over with a fork and let it cool
Combine the whole milk, condensed milk, and evaporated milk together
Pour over the top of the cooled cake
Place the cake in the fridge for one hour and let it soak up the milk
Whip the cream with the remaining cup of the sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract together until thick
Spread over the top of cake and refrigerate overnight
Garnish with strawberries and raspberries and enjoy!

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

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Ingredients for Banana cake
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Papua New Guinean Banana cake
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Family enjoying Papua New Guinean Banana cake
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Dancing warriors in Papua New Guinea
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Tribal resident of Papua New Guinea

Belize

Belize, formerly British Honduras, is a country on the eastern coast of Central America. With a population of around 368,000 it has the least population density in Central America. Mayan culture persists despite nearly 500 years of European domination. The area that is now Belize included three distinct Maya territories: Chetumal province, Dzuluinicob province and a southern territory controlled by the Manche Ch’ol Maya. Impressive Mayan archaeological ruins can be found in the forms of “El Castillo” at Xunantunich and “Caana” at Caracol.

Belize has the longest barrier reef system in the Western hemisphere. At 190 miles long it is the second longest in the world and home to 70 hard coral species, 36 soft coral species and 500 species of fish. 60% of Belize’s land surface is covered by forest and 37% of it’s territory falls under some form of official protection. The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is a nature reserve, founded in 1990 as the first wilderness sanctuary for the jaguar.

Popular recipes in Belizean cuisine include Stew chicken, Stewed Rice and Beans, Panades (corn dough stuffed with fish, chicken or beans), Chimole (‘black dinner’ or chicken soup), Sere (fish soup), Shrimp fritters and the rather unpleasantly named Bile up or boil up (boiled eggs, fish and/or pig tail, with cassava, sweet potatoes, plantains and tomato sauce). I opted to make Fry Jacks (deep fried dough) which are a traditional Belize breakfast food. The kids enjoyed them with icing sugar and chocolate spread. I had them with sausages and even though they were sweet, the combination of flavours was really good.

Rating: 8/10

Makes 14 – 16
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 15 – 20 minutes

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ – ¾ tsp salt
2 tbsp shortening/butter
1 tbsp sugar (optional)
¾ cup whole milk
Oil for deep-frying

In a large bowl mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add shortening
Then make a well then add milk, knead dough for about 30 seconds to 1 minute to form soft dough
Divide dough into 7-8 equal pieces and set aside for about 10 mins
Place each one piece on a heavily floured board and roll out dough into a rough circle
Divide the circles in half and then cut a slit through the middle of the rolled out dough
In a large saucepan pour vegetable oil, until it is at least 3 inches or use a deep fat fryer and heat until oil is 350 degrees
Fry until golden brown about 3-5 minutes depending on size
Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper napkin. Let them cool
Serve with your choice of spreads. They also go well with sausages and bacon.

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

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Ingredients for coconut scones
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Coconut scone mix
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Coconut scone mix
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Coconut scone mix
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Coconut scones
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Coconut scones
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Child from Vanuatu
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Map of Vanuatu
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Mt Yasur, Vanuatu

Germany

Germany is in Western and Central Europe and is the most populous European Union state, with about 82 million inhabitants. Its capital and largest city is Berlin, which incidentally has more bridges than Venice and is home to Europe’s largest inland water network. It also boasts Zoologischer Garten, the largest zoo in the world. Most of Germany has a temperate seasonal climate dominated by humid westerly winds. Winters are cool and summers tend to be warm.

Germany has the world’s fourth largest economy by GDP and so has a very high standard of living.  As a global leader in several industrial and technological sectors, it is both the world’s third largest exporter and importer of goods.

Germany is the seventh most visited country in the world, with over 30 million international tourists annually. More than 30% of Germans spend their holiday in their own country, with the biggest share going to Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in the north, where you will find a unique mixture of nature, culture and urban flair in towns varying from centuries-old tradition to innovative modernity.

German restaurants have become the world’s second most decorated after France. The Michelin Guide of 2015 awarded eleven restaurants in Germany three stars. German cuisine has evolved as a national cuisine through centuries of social and political change with variations from region to region. There are more than 1,500 different types of sausage. Popular dishes include Sauerkraut (fermented shredded cabbage), Sauerbraten (beef pot roast usually served with dumplings), Wurst (white sausage), Spätzle (German noodles), Kartoffelsalat (potato salad), Königsberger Klopse (meatballs in white sauce) and Semmelknödel (dumplings made with breadcrumbs). I opted to make Rhabarberkuchen (German rhubarb cake) which was delicious with a little drizzle of double cream!

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 10 slices
Prep time: 30 minutes + 2 hours chilling time
Cook time: 40 minutes

For the pastry
200g flour
100g unsalted butter
5 tbsp sugar
1 egg

For the filling
6-7 stalks rhubarb (500g)
3 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
125g ground almonds
3 egg whites
Icing sugar for dusting

Crumble the butter into the flour and sugar with your fingers until they have breadcrumb consistency
Add egg and work into a ball and knead on a lightly floured surface for a couple minutes until smooth
Wrap in foil or clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 2 hours
Preheat the oven to 190°C
Wash rhubarb, and cut into 1/2 in (1-2 cm) pieces
Grease a 9″” springform baking tin with butter
Roll out the dough into a large circle and line the pan with it, pressing the dough up the sides. If it falls apart in some parts, just press it in. Prick the pastry with a fork
Separate the egg yolks and egg whites into separate bowls. Beat the egg yolks with half of the sugar (50g or about 1/4 cup) until creamy. Gently mix in the ground almonds.
In a the other bowl, beat the egg whites until it forms stiff peaks like a meringue and then quickly beat in the rest of the sugar
Gently fold in the egg yolk and almond mixture
Put the rhubarb into the springform pan evenly accross the pastry
Pour over the egg mixture and even off the surface. Push down the sides of the dough if it’s too high up the pan.
Bake for 40 minutes. Remove, and let cool for 10 minutes in the pan before removing from the cake tin
Once completely cooled, sprinkle with icing sugar and enjoy with cream

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Ingredients for Rhabarberkuchen (German rhubarb cake)
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Pastry for Rhabarberkuchen (German rhubarb cake)
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Rhabarberkuchen (German rhubarb cake)
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Rhabarberkuchen (German rhubarb cake)
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Rhabarberkuchen (German rhubarb cake)
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Rhabarberkuchen (German rhubarb cake)
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Schwerin Castle, Mecklenburg-Vorpommer
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Berlin waterway
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Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

Kuwait

Kuwait, an Arab country on the Persian Gulf, shares borders with Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Kuwait has a population of 4.2 million people, of which 1.3 million are Kuwaitis and 2.9 million are expatriates. Kuwait City, the capital, is known for its modern architecture, ranging from skyscrapers to the striking Kuwait Water Towers, regarded as a landmark and symbol of modern Kuwait.

Oil reserves were discovered in 1938 and are now the world’s sixth largest. In the 1980s, Kuwait experienced a period of geopolitical instability and an economic crisis following the stock market crash. Petroleum accounts for half of GDP and 90% of government income. The Kuwaiti dinar is the highest valued currency in the world.

Kuwait is the only country in the world with no natural water supply from lakes or reservoirs. It uses wells and performs desalination of sea water for drinking and other purposes. It opened its first grass golf course in 2005, The Sahara Golf & Country Club.

Popular dishes in Kuwaiti cuisine include Firga’a (rice cooked with tomatoes, potatoes and aubergine), Jireesh (cooked spelt with chicken or lamb, tomatoes and spices), Mutabbaq samak (fish served over rice) and Balaleet (sweet saffron noodles). I made Gers ogaily (Kuwaiti perfume cake) which we weren’t too taken with. The ‘perfume’ factor created a bit of a strange taste. Mum and Dad thought it was quite nice.

Rating: 4/10

Serves:10 slices
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 40 – 50 minutes

2 cups plain flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
4 tbsp sesame seeds
½ tsp saffron
1 tbsp sugar
4 eggs
1 ½ cup caster sugar
½ cup (113 g) butter, melted and cooled
1 cup (250 ml) milk, room temperature
1 tsp cardamom powder
1 tsp rosewater

Preheat oven to 180°c
Butter and flour the sides and bottom of a 9” springform cake tin and set aside
In the mortar, crush the saffron threads with 1 tsp of sugar until it’s a powder
Add 2 tablespoons milk to saffron powder and leave to soak for at least 10 minutes
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and two tablespoons sesame seeds. Set aside
In the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the eggs and sugar until light and thick and frothy. The mixture should triple in the volume. About 10 – 12 minutes on medium to high speed
In a large measuring cup, combine the butter, milk, cardamom, rosewater and saffron mixture
Using a large slotted metal spoon (or a wooden spoon), gently fold in the dry and wet ingredients into the eggs, beginning and ending with flour. Fold from top to bottom until combined.
Pour into the prepared cake tin. Sprinkle with sesame seeds
Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle come out clean and the cake has shrunk from the sides of the tin
Cool completely on a wire rack and serve with tea or coffee

Bahamas

The Bahamas is an archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean consisting of more than 700 islands, cays, and islets. Its capital is Nassau on the island of New Providence. Grand Bahama and Paradise Island, home to many large scale hotels, are among the best known. Scuba diving and snorkelling sites include the massive Andros Barrier Reef, Thunderball Grotto (used in James Bond films) and the black-coral gardens off Bimini.

The Bahamas became a British Crown colony in 1718, when the British clamped down on piracy. After the American War of Independence, the Crown resettled thousands of American Loyalists in the Bahamas and they in turn brought their slaves with them establishing plantations on land grants. The Bahamas became a haven for freed African slaves. The Royal Navy resettled Africans here liberated from illegal slave ships, American slaves and Seminoles escaped here from Florida and the government freed American slaves from US domestic ships that had reached the Bahamas due to weather. Slavery in the Bahamas was abolished in 1834. Today the descendants of slaves and free Africans make up nearly 90% of the population. Issues related to the slavery years are part of society.

The Bahamas relies on tourism to generate most of its economic activity. It accounts for over 60% of the Bahamian GDP. The Bahamas attracted 5.8 million visitors in 2012, more than 70% of which were cruise visitors. A highlight for any visitor surely would be ‘Pig Beach’ on Big Major Cay where you can swim with approximately 20 pigs and piglets.

Popular ingredients in Bahamian cuisine are fish, seafood, pork, peas, potatoes and rice. Traditional recipes include peas and rice, macaroni cheese, conch chowder and rum cake. I made Bahamian Johnny cake which we had for breakfast with butter and jam. We enjoyed it very much.

Rating: 8/10

Serves: 10 slices
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes

3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup sugar
½ cup cold butter, cut into small cubes
⅔ cup milk

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl
Cut in butter using a pastry cutter or your hands, working the mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs
Add milk and combine until you have a soft dough consistency
Knead on a floured surface until smooth
Preheat the oven to 176c
Let the dough rest for 10 minutes, then transfer into a greased 9×9-inch tin
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the edges of the cake begin to turn a light golden brown
Let it cool on a wire rack before serving

East Timor

East Timor or Timor-Leste is in South East Asia, located approximately 640 km northwest of Darwin, Australia. It was a Portuguese colony until 1975, when it was invaded and occupied by Indonesia. It gained independence in 1999 and became the first new sovereign state of the 21st century. Despite internal tensions and rebel attacks in 2006 and 2008, the UN peacekeeping mission departed in 2012 and the government are intent on sustaining peace and stability.

East Timor’s highest point is Tatamailau at 9,721ft. Much of the country is mountainous and the Paitchau Mountain Range is located in East Timor’s first national park – the Nino Konis Santana National Park, named after a former commander of the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (FRETILIN).

After petroleum, the second largest export is coffee, which generates about $10 million a year. Starbucks is a major purchaser of East Timorese coffee. The agriculture sector employs 80% of the active population, with 67,000 households growing coffee and 11,000 growing mungbeans. According to a 2010 census, only 38.2% of households have electricity.

Relatively unexplored, East Timor offers a wealth of natural wonders for the adventurous visitor – don’t expect five star resorts or even decent roads! However what you can find are white sand beaches, mist shrouded mountains and historical landmarks.

The cuisine of East Timor has influences from Portugal and Southeast Asia. Staple foods include pork, fish, sweet potato, taro, cassava, rice and tropical fruit. A few dishes I came across were Batar Da’an (corn stew), Pepes Ikan (steamed fish in spices), K’u Yuk (steamed meat) and Tapai (fermented rice). I wasn’t overly taken by those options, so opted for a dessert (not my strong point I’ll hasten to add) – Pudim de Coco (Coconut Pudding). It was a disaster! The cream didn’t set and the caramel stuck to the bottom of the dish with all it’s might. All I can say is that desserts continue to elude me.

Rating: 2/10

Serves: 6 (arguably nobody if it’s inedible!)
Cook time: 30 minutes + 3 hours cooling time

1 can of coconut milk
1 can of milk (use the can from the coconut milk to measure the milk)
3 cups caster sugar
3 tbsp of cornflour
3 tbsp of coconut flakes

Heat 1 cup of sugar, slowly, in a heavy skillet until sugar melts
When the sugar turns a caramel colour, remove it from the heat and pour it into 6 ramekins and set aside
Put all the remaining ingredients in a pan and mix well
Let the mixture cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring it constantly until the mixture loosens from the bottom of the pan and it is thick like cream
Pour the cream in to each ramekin on top of the caramel and allow them to cool for 10 minutes
Put the ramekins in the fridge for a few hours
Once chilled place each ramekin upside down on to a plate (Good luck with this! We ended up trying to scrape the hardened caramel with teaspoons very little joy!)

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

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

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

Brazil

Brazil, the world’s fifth largest country and the largest in South America. With a coastline of 4,655 miles it borders all other South American countries except Ecuador and Chile.
The Amazon rain forest is the world’s largest, recognised as having the greatest biological diversity in the world, containing one-fifth of the world’s freshwater reserves and producing one-third of the earth’s oxygen. About sixty percent of the Amazon lies in Brazil.

Some interesting facts:
Brazil has been the largest producer of coffee for the last 150 years
92% of all new sold cars in Brazil use ethanol as fuel, which is produced from sugar cane
Voting is mandatory in Brazil
Brazil has the third largest prison population in the world behind China and the US
Brazil is the only country in the world that has the equator and the Tropic of Capricorn running through it
Rio de Janeiro was once the capital of Portugal
Sex change surgeries are free under Brazil’s public health system since 2008 and almost 20% of Rio de Janeiro’s males are gay or bisexual

Rio de Janeiro will be the first South American city to host the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. The 2016 Summer Olympics will take place from the 5th – 21st August. More than 10,500 athletes from 206 countries, including first timers Kosovo and South Sudan are due to take part. The games will feature 28 Olympic sports with 306 sets of medals, across 38 different venues.

Brazilian cuisine varies greatly by region, developed from indigenous, European, and African influences. Recipes I came across include Moqueca (seafood stew), Feijoada (black beans stewed with pork), Salgadinhos (salty snacks), Pastel (filled pastry), Pão de queijo (cheese puffs), Galinhada (chicken and rice stew) and Churrasco (barbequed meat) . Having not cooked many sweet dishes during this challenge, I opted to make Brigadeiros (Brazilian chocolate bonbons), the national truffle of Brazil. There were a fair few tasting volunteers for these little sweet treats!

Rating: 9/10

Serves: Makes 20 – 28 (depending on size)
Prep time: 25 mins
Cook time: 5 mins

1 (397g or 14oz) can sweet condensed milk
4 tbsp cocoa powder, sifted
30g butter, plus a little more for rolling balls
pinch of salt
Good quality chocolate sprinkles

In a small sauce pan mix the sweet condensed milk, the cocoa powder, the salt and the butter
Bring the sauce pan to the stove and heat it over medium-low heat
Cook it, mixing constantly (this is important, otherwise it will burn!) until it thickens, about 5 minutes
Run your wooden spoon (or spatula) through the middle of the mixture. If it takes a while for the mixture to move, then your brigadeiro is ready
Let it cool to room temperature
In a plate or bowl, spread your sprinkles
Once cool, grease your hands with butter and roll the brigadeiros into little balls. Use half a tablespoon as measurement, but you can make your balls as big or small as you’d like!
Roll the brigadeiro balls into the sprinkles and place them in paper/foil candy cups
Enjoy!

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Ingredients for Brigadeiros (Brazilian chocolate bonbons)
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Brigadeiros (Brazilian chocolate bonbons)
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Brigadeiros (Brazilian chocolate bonbons)
Rio De Janeiro2
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Amazon rainforest
Amazon rainforest
Sancho Bay in Fernando de Noronha Archipelago, Tripadvisor worlds' best beach in 2014
Sancho Bay in Fernando de Noronha Archipelago, TripAdvisor world’s best beach in 2014

 

Romania

Romania is most famous for Transylvania and Count Dracula but has many other interesting features. It is situated in South Eastern Europe, bordering the Black Sea, between Bulgaria and Ukraine. It’s terrain is distributed roughly equally between mountains, hills and plains and has one of the largest areas of undisturbed forest in Europe, covering almost 27% of the territory.

Some interesting facts you may not know about Romania
The meaning of the word “Transylvania” is the land beyond the forest
The world’s largest salt mine museum can be found inside the old Turda Salt Mines (Salina Turda) located in Transylvania
The 3500-year old Scarisoara glacier, located in the Bihor Mountains is the second largest underground glaciar in the world
The jet engine used by modern airplanes was invented by Bucharest born inventor Henri Coanda
Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci was the first to achieve a perfect routine and get the first score of 10.00 in the history of gymnastics
Top Gear shot one of its episodes on Transfagarasan in 2009, naming it “the best road in the world”

The food of Romania has been greatly influenced by Ottoman cuisine from imperial Istanbul. Some of the recipes I came across were Sarmale (stuffed cabbage rolls), Ciorba de perisoare (soup with meatballs), Mucenici (cake) Prajitură cu afine (blueberry cheesecake), mămăligă (polenta) and Tochitură (pork stew). I decided to make Crema de zahăr ars (caramelized vanilla pudding). In the words of my mum, desserts are not my strong point and unfortunately, she is absolutely correct. It was a disaster as the puddings didn’t set at all, despite following the recipe to the letter. On reflection though, my mistake was to use skimmed milk and medium sized eggs so I have adapted the recipe below to rectify where I went wrong. I will try to make this again in the coming months as I was looking forward to tasting it.

Rating 0/10 (as it wasn’t edible)

Serves: 4
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 1 1/2 hours

3 large eggs
150g sugar
500ml whole milk
dash of vanilla essence

Preheat the oven to 120 ℃
Put the milk in a pan and bring it to a simmer on very low heat
In the mean time, beat the eggs together with the vanilla essence.
Add the eggs to the milk and let it simmer for about 5 minutes while stirring.
In a pan, melt the sugar over a low to medium heat.
Pour the melted sugar into 4 ramekins, swirling it around so it covers the sides. Do this quickly or the sugar will harden. Pour the milk and egg mix on top of the sugar
Place the ramekins in a large metal baking dish filled with water (bain marie) and bake for about 1 ½ hours until the surface is golden brown.
Check with a toothpick to see if the cream is cooked all the way through.
Let it cool and then refrigerate for a few hours as this is to be served cool.
Place a small plate on top of the ramekin and turn out making sure that the plate is big enough for the caramelised liquid.