Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso, once named ‘Upper Volta’, was renamed “Burkina Faso” on 4 August 1984 by then President Thomas Sankara. The words “Burkina” and “Faso” both stem from different languages spoken in the country. “Burkina” comes from Mossi and means “honest” or “honest people”, while “Faso” comes from the Dyula language and means “fatherland”. The capital of Burkina Faso is Ouagadougou, it literally means “You are welcome here at home with us”.

Gold is Burkina Faso’s main export, followed by cotton and animal products. Together gold and cotton make up 70% of the country’s exports. It is Africa’s largest producer of cotton.
However it remains one of the poorest countries in the world, with around 44.5% of its population living below the poverty line and it ranks 183 out of 187 countries on the UNDP Human Development Index in 2014. The World Food Programme has several projects geared towards increasing food security in Burkina Faso.

According to Lonely Planet, highlights for visitors to Burkina Faso include:
Colourfully painted fortress like houses in Tiebélé
Mud-brick mosques of Bani
Gorom Gorom market
Fespaco – Ouagadougou’s film festival and
Moro-Naba ceremony, a throwback to the Mossi’s golden age.

Burkina Faso’s cuisine is based on staple foods of sorghum, millet, rice, maize, peanuts, potatoes, beans, yams and okra. The most common sources of animal protein are chicken and fresh water fish. Grilled meat is also common, particularly mutton, goat and beef. Recipes I came across included Tô or Saghbo (a dough-based meal of cooked millet, served with a sauce of vegetables and mutton), Ragout d’Igname (lamb and yam stew), Gombo (okra sauce), Maan Nezim Nzedo (fish stew) and Krakro (sweet potato fritters). I opted for Riz graz (“Fat rice” cooked with onions, tomatoes and meat), which had a pleasant spicy warmth and good flavour.

Rating: 8/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes

1 habanero or jalapeno chilli pepper
1-2 garlic cloves
1⁄2 onion, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1⁄4 cup oil
250g beef or chicken, cubed
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 cups water
1 maggi seasoning, cube (or chicken bouillon)
1 cup long grain white rice
salt and pepper

Put the chilli, garlic, tomatoes and onion into a food processor and pulse until you get a nice paste
Add the oil to a pan over medium heat and add the paste
Cook for 8 minutes, then remove from the heat and set asid
Use a little bit of water (about 1/2 cup) to rinse out your food processor, then put the water in a separate pot along with the meat
Bring the meat and water to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes
Add the meat to the pan containing the paste, along with the tomato puree remaining water and Maggi (or stock) cube and stir
Wash the rice under the tap until the water runs clear, then add it to the pot and bring to a boil
Reduce heat, cover and let simmer for 15 minutes
Check it, then cook for another 10 minutes or until the water has been absorbed
Season to taste and serve

Ingredients for Riz graz (“Fat rice” cooked with onions, tomatoes and meat)
Sauce for Riz graz (“Fat rice” cooked with onions, tomatoes and meat)
Riz graz (“Fat rice” cooked with onions, tomatoes and meat)
Riz graz (“Fat rice” cooked with onions, tomatoes and meat)
Riz graz (“Fat rice” cooked with onions, tomatoes and meat)
Gurunsi tribe houses in Tiebélé
Mud Mosque Bani


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

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


South Sudan

With a 97% vote for independence, South Sudan became the world’s newest country in July 2011. It should be a country full of hope five years after gaining independence. Instead, it is in the grip of a massive, man-made humanitarian crisis. The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, the ruling political party that originally led the way for independence, is now divided and fighting for power. Since the conflict began, 1 in 5 people in South Sudan have been displaced, more than 2.3 million citizens having been forced to flee their homes. Sudan, and what was then the semi-independent Southern Sudan, endured a brutal civil war for more than 25 years, which resulted in South Sudan’s independence in 2011. But the conflict in December 2013 reopened deeply-rooted political and ethnic tensions that hadn’t yet been reconciled.

South Sudan’s protected area of Bandingilo National Park hosts the second largest wildlife migration in the world. Established in 1992, it is situated in a wooded area near the White Nile River and is over 10,000 square kilometres. South Sudan’s forest reserves are home to hartebeest, kob, topi, buffalo, elephants, giraffes, lions, bongo, giant forest hogs, red river hogs, forest elephants, chimpanzees, and forest monkeys.

Recipes I came across for South Sudan include Kisra (flatbread), Goraasa be Dama (beef stew with flatbread), Fuul (stewed beans), Khodra mafroka (beef and spinach) and Tamia (deep fried chickpea balls). I opted to make Dama be Potaatas (beef stew with potatoes) which was a hearty stew with a pleasant flavour.

Rating: 7/10

Serves: 4
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes

1/3 cup oil
6 onions, chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 cups water
500g beef steak
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp cinnamon
4 tbsp tomato paste
3 cloves of crushed garlic

Heat the oil in a casserole pot over a medium heat and add the onions
Add 1 cup of water, cover and leave to cook on medium heat for around 10 minutes until the water is almost evaporated
Fry the potatoes in a separate pan until golden then set aside
Lightly blend onions and return them to the casserole pot with the tomatoes
Chop steak into small pieces and add to the pot along with the green pepper, salt, cardamom and cinnamon
Cover and cook for 3 minutes
Add tomato paste, stir, adding water until smooth and runny
Add potatoes, cover and leave to simmer for 10 minutes adding more water occasionally
Stir in crushed garlic and serve

Ingredients for Dama be Potaatas (beef stew with potatoes)
Dama be Potaatas (beef stew with potatoes)
South Sudan flag on map
Bandigalo National Park, South Sudan
Dama be Potaatas (beef stew with potatoes)
Dama be Potaatas (beef stew with potatoes)


Lao People’s Democratic Republic is the only landlocked country in South East Asia. I visited Laos in 2002 and found it to be a beautifully scenic, peaceful and relaxed country. However it’s had its fair share of trouble. Laos remains one of the most corrupt countries in the world and it ranks 29th hungriest nation out of the list of the 52 nations with the worst hunger situations in the world. Along with China, Cuba and Vietnam, it is one of the world’s four (or five – South Korea is disputed) remaining socialist states that openly espouse Communism. The government of Laos has been accused of committing genocide, human rights and religious freedom violations against the Hmong ethnic minority within its own borders.

Laos has been named the world’s most bombed country. Over two billion tons of bombs (i.e. more than all of the bombs dropped on Europe during WWII) were dropped in Laos by the USA during the Vietnam War. The highest point in Laos, the Phou Bia, is unfortunately not open to tourists because it is filled with un-exploded ammunition.

The tourism sector has grown rapidly, from 80,000 international visitors in 1990, to 1.87 million in 2010. The official tourism slogan is “Simply Beautiful”. The main attractions for tourists include Buddhist culture and colonial architecture in Luang Prabang, gastronomy and ancient temples in the capital of Vientiane, backpacking in Muang Ngoi Neua and Vang Vieng, ancient and modern culture and history in The Plain of Jars region. My highlights include the trip down the Mekong, white water rafting in Vang Vieng and the chilled out vibe in Luang Prabang.

Grin khao “Eat Rice”, the staple food of Lao people is steamed sticky rice, which is eaten by hand. In fact, the Lao eat more sticky rice than any other people in the world. Popular dishes include Som Tam (green papaya salad), Kaeng jeut (vegetable and pork soup), Mok pa (fish steamed in banana leaf), Khao phat (Lao fried rice), Kai Aw (Lao chicken stew) and Khanom maw kaeng (coconut custard cake). I decided to make a famous Lao dish – Larb (marinated meat salad). It was simple, fresh and completely delicious.

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 4 as a starter
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes

1/8 cup uncooked long grain white rice
450g skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1 tbsp groundnut oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp minced galangal
1 small red chilli peppers, seeded and finely chopped
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1/8 cup fish sauce
1/2 tbsp shrimp paste
1/2 tbsp white sugar
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
1/8 cup lime juice

Preheat an oven to 175c
Spread the rice onto a baking sheet
Bake the rice in the preheated oven until golden, about 15 minutes
Remove and allow to cool. Once cooled, grind into a fine powder with a spice grinder or pestle and mortar
Meanwhile, grind the chicken thigh meat in a food processor until finely ground and set aside (or get the butcher to do this for you as I did!)
Heat the oil in a wok or large skillet over medium heat
Fry the shallots over a medium heat for 3 minutes until golden, then set aside
Stir in the garlic, galangal, chilli peppers, spring onions and cook until the garlic softens, about 2 minutes
Add the ground chicken meat and cook, stirring constantly to break up lumps, until the meat is no longer pink, about 5 minutes
Season with fish sauce, shrimp paste, and sugar
Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until the excess liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes
Stir in the ground rice, mint, basil, and lime juice
Just before serving, stir in the fried shallots
Serve with lettuce leaves

Laos Monks
Mekong River, Laos
Luang Prabang, Laos
Patuxai Victory Monument, Vientiane, Laos


Brunei, officially the Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace is a sovereign state on the north coast of the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia.
According to legend, Brunei was founded by Awang Alak Betatar, later to be Sultan Muhammad Shah, in the late 14th century. Upon landing he exclaimed, Baru nah (loosely translated as “that’s it!” or “there”), from which the name “Brunei” was derived. He was the first Muslim ruler of Brunei.
Hassanal Bolkiah, the current Sultan of Brunei is the second richest royal in the world, he has a collection of more than 5,000 cars. He was once the richest man in the world before being overtaken by Bill Gates in the 1990s. The IMF have ranked Brunei fifth in the world by GDP per capita at purchasing power parity and Forbes also ranks Brunei as the fifth richest nation, based on its petroleum and natural gas fields.

Most of Brunei is within the Borneo lowland rain forests ecoregion, which covers most of the island. It’s known for its beaches and biodiverse rainforest. It has 161 km of coastline on the South China sea, and it shares a 381 km border with Malaysia. The total population of Brunei is approximately 430,000, of which around 240,000 live in the capital Bandar Seri Begawan, which is home to the opulent Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah mosque and its 29 golden domes. The Istana Nurul Iman palace, also in the capital, is the residence of the Sultan of Brunei.

The cuisine of Brunei is similar to, and heavily influenced by the cuisine of neighbouring Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia, with additional influences from India, China, Thailand, and Japan. Recipes I came across were Ambuyat (a sticky ball of starch dipped into a sour fruit sauce sometimes called ‘edible glue’), Daging Masak Lada Hitam (spicy slow cooked beef with potatoes and beans), Udang Sambal Serai Bersantan (chilli prawns with coconut milk) and Serondeng Pandag (Fried chicken with garlic wrapped in pandan leaves). I opted to make Bruneian Fish curry, which unfortunately didn’t turn out very well. The addition of whole spices towards the end of cooking was the recipe’s downfall and rendered it inedible. If you do feel the need to give this recipe a try, I would pound the spices with the chilli and garlic and add at the same time.

Rating: 2/10

Serves: 3
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes

500 grams white fish fillets (cut into 5cm pieces)
1½ cups coconut milk
1 tbsp tamarind pulp
¼ cup water
2 tablespoons ghee
3 onions (cut into wedges)
3 gloves garlic (pounded)
3-5 hot green chillies (pounded)
1 tbsp coriander seeds
2½ teaspoons cumin seeds
1½ cup chicken stock

Blend tamarind juice with ¼ cup coconut milk
Heat the oil in a pan, add the onions, garlic and chillies
Stir-fry till golden brown
Reduce heat, add remaining spices, stock and coconut milk
Boil gently till oil separates
Bring to rapid boil, add fish and tamarind mixture
Simmer 5 minutes, stirring carefully
Remove and serve hot with steamed rice


Tanzania is a large country in East Africa which includes the spice islands of Zanzibar, Pemba, and Mafia and also contains Africa’s highest point—Kilimanjaro, at 5,895 meters (19,340 feet).

A few facts
Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater is home to the world’s densest population of lions, wildebeest, elephants, hippopotamus, rhinoceros, zebra, leopards, and hyenas. There are approximately 25,000 animals in the crater of just 100 square miles
Lake Manyara National Park is home to the world’s only tree-climbing lions
The largest crab in the world – the coconut crab, can be found on Chumbe Island of Zanzibar
The world’s earliest human skull was found in the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania by Louis and Mary Leakey
Freddie Mercury was born in Stone Town, Zanzibar

The cuisine of Tanzania has been influenced by Portuguese as well as Indian cuisine. The national dish of Tanzania is the humble Ugali, a simple porridge made with either maize, millet, or sorghum flour. Other dishes include Mandazi (deep-fried doughnut-like cakes), Kashata (coconut bars), Mkate wa kumimina (Zanzibari rice bread), Vitumbua (rice patties), Wali wa Nazi (rice in coconut milk) and coconut bean soup. I opted to cook Mshikaki (marinated meat) which was quite tasty, thanks to the overnight marinating.

Rating: 6/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 15 minutes + overnight marinating
Cook time: 8 minutes

350g steak, cut into cubes
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
1 garlic clove, mashed
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
Black pepper & salt

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl and marinate meat overnight or for at least 4 hrs in the fridge
Skewer the meat on water soaked wooden skewers
Grill the meat skewers on an open coal BBQ, basting with marinate until cooked
Serve with pitta or wraps and salad leaves

Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Serengeti National Park
Elephants in the wild, Tanzania

Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea is a small country on the west coast of Africa comprising the Rio Muni mainland. It is bordered by Cameroon to the north, Gabon to the south and east, and 5 volcanic offshore islands. Malabo, the capital is located on the north coast of Bioko Island and has a population of 187,000 inhabitants. It is the oldest city in the country with Spanish colonial architecture and is a hub for the country’s prosperous oil industry. Oyala is a planned city currently under construction, designed to replace Malabo as the capital. The planned city’s location which was chosen for its easy access and benign climate, is located in Wele-Nzas Province, near the town of Mengomeyen.

Since the mid-1990s, Equatorial Guinea has become one of sub-Saharan Africa’s largest oil producers. It is the richest country per capita in Africa, and its GDP per capita ranks 69th in the world. However, the wealth is distributed very unevenly and few people have benefited from the oil riches. According to the UN less than half of the population has access to clean drinking water.

Equatorial Guinea is the only sovereign African state in which Spanish is an official language. The country gained independence in 1968 after 190 years of Spanish rule. Between 1968 and 1979, autocratic President Francisco Macias Nguema virtually destroyed all of the country’s political, economic, and social institutions before being deposed by his nephew Teodoro Obian Nguema Mbasogo in a coup. President Obiang has ruled since 1979 and was re-elected in 2016.

According to Trip Advisor, highlights for the visitor include Catedral de Santa Isabel in Malabo, Arena Blanca beach in Luba, Pico Basilé (the tallest mountain of Equatorial Guinea) and Mbini (a town in Rio Muni, lying at the mouth of the Benito River).

The cuisine of Equatorial Guinea is a blend of the cuisines of the native tribes along with Spanish influence. As the wealthiest nation in west Africa, its cuisine incorporates various meats include game. A few recipes I came across were chicken in peanut sauce with rice, meat or fish grilled with crushed pumpkin seeds served in leaves and Banana Coconut Bake. I opted to cook Guinea Fowl Paella which we enjoyed with my parents. It was very flavoursome although it was fairly time consuming boning the bird and making the stock.

Rating: 8/10

Serves: 4
Prep time: 30 minutes – 1 hr 30 minutes (depending on if you need to de-bone the guinea fowl!)
Cook time: 40 minutes

500g guinea fowl breast and leg meat, cut into 3 cm strips
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
650ml chicken stock or stock from the guinea fowl bones
200g long grain rice
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp pimenton or paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/8 tsp turmeric
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 red pepper, de-seeded and cut into strips
1/2 tin or 250 g cooked black beans

Heat the oil in a pan and cook the guinea fowl strips until they are almost done, then remove the meat and set aside
Fry the onion and garlic and cook until the onion has softened
Add the rice and fry for a few minutes before adding the stock, oregano, pimenton, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper and turmeric
Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes
Add the tinned tomatoes, red pepper and beans
Stir, cover, and simmer for 5 more minutes, until the rice is tender
Add the meat, cook for a few minutes to heat the meat then serve


Argentina occupies almost the whole of the southern part of the South American continent, sharing land borders with Chile across the Andes to the west, and extends from Bolivia to Cape Horn. It is the second largest country in South America, after Brazil, and boasts some of the Andes highest mountains. Areas such as San Miguel de Tucuman and Mendoza are subject to earthquakes and violent windstorms. Cerro Aconcagua is the Western Hemisphere’s tallest mountain, while Laguna del Carbon is the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere.

In 1816, the United Provinces of the Rio Plata declared their independence from Spain. After Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay went their separate ways, the area that remained became Argentina. The country’s population and culture were heavily shaped by immigrants from throughout Europe, with Italy and Spain providing the largest number of newcomers from 1860 to 1930. Up until the mid 20th century, much of Argentina’s history was dominated by periods of internal political conflict between Federalists and Unitarians and between civilian and military factions.

Juan Domingo Peron served as President from 1946-1955. He created a political movement known as Peronism where he nationalised strategic industries and services, improved wages and working conditions, paid the full external debt and achieved nearly full employment. The economy, however, began to decline in 1950 because of over expenditure. His highly popular wife, Eva Peron, played a central political role. She pushed congress to enact women’s suffrage in 1947, and developed an unprecedented social assistance to the most vulnerable sectors of society. However, her declining health did not allow her to run for vice-presidency in 1951, and she died of cancer the following year. Peron went into exile in 1955 for 18 years. In 1973 he won the election with his third wife Isabel as vice-president, he died in July 1974 and was succeeded by his wife.

Buenos Aires is the large cosmopolitan capital, with the Plaza de Mayor being the central area, lined with stately 19th-century buildings including Casa Rosada, the iconic balconied presidential palace. Iguazu National Park covers an area of subtropical rainforest in Argentina’s Misiones province, on the border with Brazil. The renowned Iguazu Falls encompass many separate cascades, including the iconic Garganta del Diablo or “Devils Throat”. The surrounding park features diverse wildlife including coatis, jaguars and toucans, plus trails and viewing platforms.

Tango is possibly Argentina’s greatest contribution to the outside world, a steamy dance that’s been described as making love in the vertical position! Football remains one of the most popular Argentinian sports, around 90% of the population would consider themselves as fans of a club. One of the most famous teams is La Boca whose home ground is in Buenos Aires, but there are several very good teams within the country. Tennis is also quite popular and Argentina has produced some of the best names in the sport – Guillermo Vilas in the 70’s and 80’s, Sabatini in the 90’s and today, the likes of David Nalbandian and Guillermo Coria, nicknamed El Mayo (The Magician in Spanish).

Steak is synonymous with Argentina and they are the fourth largest consumer of meat in the world, after Australia, the US and Israel. Asado is the name for the Argentine BBQ, meaning both the technique and the social event. An asado usually consists of beef alongside various other meats, which are cooked on a grill, called a parrilla, or an open fire. Some popular recipes I came across include Locro (meat, bean and vegetable stew), Choripán (chorizo sandwich), Empanadas (little pies), Sandwiches de miga (thin white bread with filling such as ham and cheese), Dulce de leche (their national spread used to fill cakes and pancakes) and Hojaldre (pastry covered with meringue). I made Asado de tira (BBQ short ribs) with chimichurri sauce, which we cooked on an open BBQ with hot coals. Despite buying the best ribs I could from the butchers, there were parts of the meat that were beautifully flavoured but other parts were a bit gristly.

Rating: 8/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 10-15 minutes

900g beef short ribs
Freshly ground pepper

Chimicurri sauce
1/2 cup fresh parsley
2 medium cloves garlic, peeled
1 tbsp dried oregano
25ml extra-virgin olive oil
12ml cup red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp chilli flakes

Take the beef ribs out of the fridge and bring them to room temperature
Light the coals on your BBQ (not gas) and leave them until they are covered with grey ash
Season the ribs very liberally all over with salt and freshly ground pepper
Place the ribs directly over coals and cook, turning frequently, until charred on all sides, about 8 to 10 minutes total.
Insert a thermometer into thickest part of steak and they’re done when they register 125°F
Transfer to a cutting board, tent with foil, and let rest for 5 minutes
Serve with the chimichurri sauce

Chimicurri sauce
Place parsley, garlic, and oregano in to a mini food processor and pulse until finely chopped
Transfer to a bowl and whisk in oil, vinegar, salt, and red pepper flakes

Ingredients for Asado de tira (BBQ short ribs)
Beef ribs
Cooking Asado de tira (BBQ short ribs)
sado de tira (BBQ short ribs) with chimichurri sauce
Ingredients for Chimichurri sauce
Chimichurri sauce
Iguazu Falls
Casa Rosada, Buenos Aires
Argentinian Tango dancers

Marshall Islands

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 7/10

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

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

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


China, the most populated country on the planet, with over 1.3 billion people is the world’s second largest country by land area. Despite its size, all of China is in one time zone. China had the largest economy in the world for much of the last 500 years but as of 2014, it is the world’s second largest economy by nominal GDP, after the US. It is the world’s largest exporter of goods.

A few random facts:
The PlayStation is illegal in China
Facebook, Twitter and The New York Times have been blocked in China since 2009, despite this there are still 95 million Facebook users in China
In China, you can major in Bra Studies
China has treatment camps for Internet addicts
China used more cement in 3 years (2011 to 2013) than the U.S. used in the entire 20th century
China is the world’s largest consumer of red wine
The first toilet paper reportedly was used by a Chinese emperor in 1391

China has the second highest volume of UNESCO world heritage sites in the world with 50 sites, behind Italy’s 51. With around 57 million international tourists each year, China is the fourth most visited country in the world after France, The US and Spain. The most popular tourist site is The Great Wall of China, with over 10 million visitors each year. It is the longest wall in the world and was continuously built from the 3rd century BC to the 17th century AD. Although the official length of the Great Wall is 8851.8 km, the length of all the Great Wall built over thousands of years is estimated at 21,196.18 km. The Northern West sections of the Great Wall are deteriorating so quickly due to demolishment by nature and human, it is believed that these sections may disappear within 20 years.

The history of Chinese cuisine stretches back for thousands of years. Each dynasty created new recipes and regional cuisine took off with the most influential being Cantonese, Shandong, Jiangsu (specifically Huaiyang cuisine) and Sichuan. Popular dishes include Tea eggs (egg boiled in tea), Suan La Tang (sour hot soup), Zhajiangmian (noodles with bean paste), Peking duck (roast crispy duck), Kung pao chicken (stir fry chicken with vegetables, chilli and peanuts), Dim Sum (bite size food steamed), Cha siu bao (steamed bun filled with pork), Har gow (shrimp dumplings), Phoenix claws (chicken feet) and Chao Fan (fried rice). I opted to make Char Sui pork (“Fork roast” – Cantonese barbecued pork) which you can use in Cha siu bao, Noodle soup, Chao Fan or indeed just gobble it up as it comes! The recipe is very simple and although marinating time is lengthy, it was totally worth the wait – utterly scrumptious!

Rating: 10/10

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

400g pork fillet
2 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped
2 tbsp ginger, freshly grated
50ml light soy sauce
50ml rice wine (shaoxing)
1/2 tsp chinese five spice powder
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp hoi sin sauce
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Salt and freshly ground Black pepper
30ml honey

Cut slashes into the sides of the pork fillet and place in a sealable bag
Add all the other ingredients, only using half the honey and marinate the pork at least overnight, 48 hours is even better
Preheat the oven to 180C
Line a baking tray with foil or baking/parchment paper and place a rack on top
Remove the pork from the marinade, reserving the marinade
Place the pork on the rack and tuck the thin end of the the tenderloin underneath so the whole piece is roughly the same thickness
Brush the pork with the remaining honey
Roast for 25 minutes or until the internal temperature is 145 – 160F/ 65 – 70C
Around halfway through roasting, baste generously with the reserved marinade (dab it on so you get as much marinade on the pork as possible – this is key for getting the glossy glaze)
When the pork is cooked, switch the oven to grill.
Baste the pork very generously with the remaining marinade (again, dab rather than brush it on)
Grill the pork until it is nicely charred and caramelised – around 2 to 3 minutes, basting at least twice during grilling
Allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing

Ingredients for Char Sui Pork (Cantonese BBQ pork)

Marinade for Char Sui Pork (Cantonese BBQ pork)

Char Sui Pork (Cantonese BBQ pork)

Char Sui Pork (Cantonese BBQ pork)

Char Sui Pork (Cantonese BBQ pork)

The Great Wall of China

Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor

Li River, Guilin, China

Sichuan Giant Panda sanctuary

Shanghai, China


The Republic of Turkey is a transcontinental nation, straddling eastern Europe and western Asia. It is a country with a long and very diverse cultural heritage. For more than 2000 years Istanbul was capital of three empires: Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman.

Some interesting facts:
Turkey has 13 sites on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites including the Rock Sites of Cappadocia, a Mesolithic temple (Göbekli Tepe), a Biblical city (Ephesus) and a WWI battlefield (Gallipoli)
Turkey hosts two of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World – the Mausoleum in Halicarnassus and the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus
Turkey is the sixth most visited tourist destination in the world with 37.8 million foreign visitors in 2013
97% of Turkey is in Asia
The Marmaray metro line, under the Bosphorus strait, opened in 2013 and enables you to travel between Europe and Asia underground
The tongue-twisting, 70-letter Muvaffakiyetsizleştiricileştiriveremeyebileceklerimizdenmişsinizcesine, or “as if you are from those we may not be able to easily make a maker of unsuccessful ones,” is thought to be the longest word in Turkish
Homer, Aesop and St. Paul the Apostle were all born in Turkey
The earliest coins recorded were made during the reign of King Gyges of Lydia, Turkey, c. 630 BC and consisted of electrum, a naturally occurring amalgam of gold and silver

Turkish cuisine is regarded as one of the most prominent in the world and the cuisine varies widely across the country. Although meat based foods such as kebabs are the mainstay in Turkish cuisine as presented in foreign countries, native Turkish meals largely center around rice, vegetables, and bread. Popular dishes include Lahmacun (Turkish pizza), Adana kebabi (Spiced lamb kebab), Simit (circular bread with sesame seeds), Akçaabat meatballs, Analı kızlı soup (meatball soup with bulgar & chickpeas), Toyga (yoghurt soup with herbs), Hünkar Beğendi (‘Sultan’s Delight’ – lamb with mashed aubergine), Kuzu kapama (spring lamb stewed) and Baklava (filo pastry filled with honey & nuts). I decided to make a type of Turkish kebab – Tavuk Sis Kebap (Chicken Shish Kebab), which were delicious with a lovely spicy tang.

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 25 minutes + marinating time 2 – 24 hours
Cook time: 8 minutes

2 chicken breasts
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp red pepper, powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 garlic clove, smashed with salt
1 tsp pomegranate paste
2 tbsp olive oil

Mix the yoghurt with the spices, salt, pepper and olive oil in a bag
Cut the chicken into small cubes and add to the bag
Mix your chicken thoroughly making sure it is well covered
Marinade in the fridge over night or for at least 2 hours
Put your chicken cubes on to skewers
Preheat the barbecue or grill
Grill the chicken for about 7-8 minutes, making sure to turn the skewers so that all sides are cooked equally
Every time you turn the chicken, brush with marinade
Serve with pitta bread, tomato, red onion and lettuce


Cambodia, officially known as the kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is 69,898 sq mi in area, and has a population of over 15 million. Bordered by Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, it has a 275 mile coastline along the gulf of Thailand. Phnom Penh is Cambodia’s capital and is home to the art deco central market, and situated on the riverfront are the glittering Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda and the National Museum.

Probably the most well known site in Cambodia is Angkor Wat situated in Siem Reap Province. The complex of temples make up the largest religious monument in the world, with the site measuring 162.6 hectares. Originally constructed as a Hindu Temple, it was gradually transformed to a Buddhist temple towards the end of the 12th century. As with most other ancient temples in Cambodia, Angkor Wat has faced extensive damage and deterioration by a combination of plant overgrowth, fungi, ground movements, war damage and theft.

The Vietnam war extended into the country with the US bombing of Cambodia from 1969-1973. Following the Cambodian coup of 1970, the deposed king gave his support to his former enemies, the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge emerged as a major power, taking Phnom Penh in 1975 and later carrying out the Cambodian Genocide from 1975 until 1979. Led by Pol Pot, they changed the official name of the country to Democratic Kampuchea. The new regime modelled itself on Maoist China during the Great Leap Forward, immediately evacuated the cities, and sent the entire population on forced marches to rural work projects. Estimates as to how many people were killed by the Khmer Rouge regime range from approximately one to three million; the most commonly cited figure is two million (about a quarter of the population).

Industry in Cambodia was badly disrupted by the war. Agriculture is the traditional mainstay of the Cambodian economy, however since the late 1990s, tourism is fast becoming Cambodia’s second largest industry. In 2015, there were just under 4.8 million tourists visits. The key attractions are Angkor, Tonlé Sap, Sihanoukville, Silver Pagoda and Siem Reap.

Recipes I came across during my research included Pleah (hot and sour beef salad), Amok Trey (fish curry), Bai Sach Chrouk (BBQ pork and rice), Kuy Teav (noodle soup), Chhnang Plerng (hot pot), Samlor Kako (soup made with spice paste, fish paste, meat, fish and vegetables) and Bai chha (fried rice). I decided to make Lok lak (stir fried marinated beef) served in lettuce leaves with rice. It was really enjoyable.

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 20 minutes + 1 hour marinating
Cook time: 20 minutes

300g sirloin steak, sliced (or you can use chicken if you prefer)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp crushed black pepper
2/3 tsp chilli sauce (optional, preferably vietnamese or chinese chili sauce)
2 tsp oil + extra for cooking
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 onion, chopped
A few lettuce leaves
Cooked rice
For the pepper sauce:
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp crushed back pepper
1 tsp crushed garlic
juice of a lime

Mix sugar, salt, pepper, oil, soy sauce, oyster sauce, ketchup and garlic in a sealable bag, add meat and coat thoroughly
Marinate in the fridge for 30 to 60 minutes
Mix salt, sugar, pepper and garlic in a bowl
Cook the rice
Add oil to a wok, fry the onion until brown and add steak and stir fry 5 minutes, until done (don’t over do it)
Mix in chili sauce as desired
Prepare a serving plate with a bed of lettuce and rice
Just before serving, squeeze the juice of 1/2 lime into the pepper sauce and stir lightly
Serve the steak over the rice and lettuce with pepper sauce on the side

Ingredients for Lok lak (stir fried marinated beef)
Lok lak (stir fried marinated beef)
Lok lak (stir fried marinated beef)
Lok lak (stir fried marinated beef)
Lok lak (stir fried marinated beef)
Lok lak (stir fried marinated beef)
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Royal Palace & Silver Pagoda, Phnom Penh
Kompong Phluk Kompong, Tonle Sap, Cambodia
Sihanoukville, Cambodia


Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa, is a country of dry shrublands, volcanic formations and Gulf of Aden beaches. It is a small country, occupying a total area of just 8,958 sq m. Djibouti is strategically located near some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, controlling access to the Red Sea and Indian Ocean, serving as a key refueling and transshipment centre. It is home to one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world, the low-lying Lake Assal, in the Danakil Desert. The Djibouti firm Salt Investment (SIS) began a large-scale operation to industrialise the lake, with an annual capacity of 4 million tons, the desalination project has lifted export revenues, created more job opportunities, and provided more fresh water for the area’s residents.

76% of the population live in the capital, Djibouti City, which is also the principal tourist destination for visitors. Places to explore in the city include Place Ménélik in the European Quarter, Place Mahmoud Harbi (Place Rimbaud) in the African Quarter, L’Escale marina, Église Éthiopienne Orthodoxe Tewahido St Gabriel du Soleil and Les Caisses Market.

Despite it’s small size, there are plenty more highlights for the visitor. From the ancient Juniper forests in the Day Forest National Park to snorkelling alongside whale sharks in the Gulf of Tadjoura, feeling the eerie atmosphere at Obock’s Ras Bir Lighthouse and the calmness of Moucha coral Island. It is a melting pot of weird landscapes.

Djiboutian cuisine consists of a mixture of Somali, Afar, Yemeni, and French cuisine, with some additional South Asian influences. Popular dishes include Sambusa (Samosas), Fah-Fah (Soupe Djiboutienne), Yetakelt W’et (Spiced Vegetable Stew), Lahoh (pancake like bread), Garoobey (porridge), Xalwo (halva confection) and Banana fritters. I made Djibouti’s national dish – Skoudehkaris (spiced lamb stew) which was very simple and full of interesting flavours.

Rating: 8/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour

300g lamb, cubed
1 onion, chopped
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp cumin
4 cloves
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 /214 oz can diced tomatoes
1 /2 cup water, plus extra as needed
1/4 cup long-grain rice
salt & pepper

Add the vegetable oil, onions, cumin, cloves, cardamom, cayenne, and cinnamon to a medium pan with lid and cook until soft and fragrant
Add the lamb and brown it a little
Add the tomatoes, 1/4 cup of water, salt & pepper
Cover and simmer for 45 minutes
Add the rice to pan and 1/4 cup of water
Cover and simmer for a further 15 – 20 minutes, until the rice is cooked


This challenge is about learning about different cuisines and expanding my cooking skills, however it’s difficult to ignore the pain and suffering that the people of Syria are experiencing. According to Mercy Corps, the Syrian civil war is the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. More than 250,000 Syrians have lost their lives in four and a half years of armed conflict, which began with anti-government protests before escalating into a full-scale civil war. Prior to the outbreak of the war in 2011, according to the U.S. government’s estimates, Syria’s population was 18 million. The UN estimates about 11 million Syrians have been displaced from their homes, including about 4.8 million refugees who have been forced to seek safety in neighbouring countries. During 2016, the U.N. predicts $7.7 billion is required to provide emergency support and stabilisation to families throughout the region.

Since approximately 10,000 BC, Syria was one of the centers of Neolithic culture (known as Pre-Pottery Neolithic A) where agriculture and cattle breeding appeared for the first time in the world. Archaeologists have demonstrated that civilisation in Syria was one of the most ancient on earth, perhaps preceded by only those of Mesopotamia. The earliest recorded indigenous civilisation in the region was the Kingdom of Ebla, near present-day Idlib, northern Syria, founded around 3500 BC.

Syria has 6 UNESCO world heritage sites:
Ancient City of Aleppo (1986)
Ancient City of Bosra (1980)
Ancient City of Damascus (1979)
Ancient Villages of Northern Syria (2011)
Crac des Chevaliers and Qal’at Salah El-Din (2006)
Site of Palmyra (1980)

They also hold a number of Guinness world records:
Longest marathon TV talk show by one team – 70 hr 5 min in Damascus (2014)
The largest copper bas-relief measures 122.5 m² (1,318.5 m²) in Qurdaha, Lattakia, Syria (2009)
The oldest surviving Christian church in the world is a converted house in Qal’at es Salihiye in eastern Syria, dating from AD232. In the 1930s, Yale archaeologists dismantled it and rebuilt it back in the United States.

Syrian recipes I came across include Yakhanit batata (potato and lamb stew), Sharhat Mtafay (Lemon garlic steak), Kufta kabab (lamb kebab), Dawood basha (Syrian meatballs), Kibbeh bil sanieh (kibbeh pie), Mujaddara (lentil pilaf), Fatti dajaj (chicken fatti – bread, rice and chicken in yoghurt and nut sauce), Muhammara (red pepper dip) and Makdous (Pickled stuffed eggplant in olive oil). I opted to cook Jag Bil Forin (chicken in the oven), which was a little oily but tasty nonetheless.

Rating: 7/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 55 minutes

4 chicken pieces on the bone
3-4 medium potatoes
1/2 head garlic, peeled and mashed with a little salt
1/4 cup olive oil
2 bay leaves
1/8 tsp pimenton
1/2 tsp dried coriander leaf
Salt & pepper

Rub the chicken pieces with the mashed garlic all over (reserve 1/2 tsp for the potatoes) and place in a casserole dish
Season the chicken with pimenton, salt & pepper
Peel the potatoes, cut them in half lengthways then cut each half into half cm slices and place on top of the chicken pieces
Season the potatoes with the remaining garlic, salt, pepper and dried coriander
Drizzle over the olive oil
Cover with foil and roast in the oven for 45 minutes, uncover and roast for a further 5 – 10 minutes to brown

Ingredients for Jag Bil Forin (chicken in the oven)
Mashing the garlic
Jag Bil Forin (chicken in the oven)
Jag Bil Forin (chicken in the oven)
Jag Bil Forin (chicken in the oven)
Jag Bil Forin (chicken in the oven)
Crac-des-chevaliers, Syria
Site of Palmyra, Syria
Bosra amphitheatre, Syria
Ancient city of Aleppo
Aleppo, Nov 2014


Thai food is one of my favourite cuisines in the world and I’ve been lucky enough to experience it first hand. In 2002, I spent 6 weeks travelling around Thailand, exploring the sprawling mass of Bangkok, visiting temples, elephant riding in Chiang Mai and of course lazing on white sand beaches. I also did a cookery class for the day in Chiang Mai and have used a recipe from the book I was given on the course for my challenge.

Thailand is the only country in South East Asia that hasn’t been colonised by Europeans. This has been ascribed to the long succession of able rulers in the past four centuries who exploited the rivalry and tension between French Indochina and the British Empire.

The Andaman Sea is a precious natural resource as it hosts the most popular and luxurious resorts in Asia. Phuket, Krabi, Ranong, Phang Nga and Trang, and their islands, all lay along the coasts of the Andaman Sea and, despite the 2004 tsunami, they are a tourist magnet for visitors from around the world. Tourism makes up about 6% of the economy and it was the most visited country in Southeast Asia in 2013.

Thai cuisine blends five fundamental tastes: sweet, spicy, sour, bitter, and salty. Common ingredients used in Thai cuisine include garlic, chillies, lime juice, lemon grass, coriander, galangal, palm sugar, and fish sauce (nam pla). The staple food is rice and Thais domestically consume over 100 kg of milled rice per person per year. Popular dishes include Yam Nuea (Thai Beef Salad), Nua Pad Prik (fried beef with chilli) , Tom Kong (hot and sour chicken and shallot soup), Grat Doo Moo Yang (BBQ spare ribs) , Gung pad nam man hoy (prawn with asparagus and oyster sauce) , Pla Moo (hot and sour pork salad) , Ped Yang (roast duck with cloves) , Gaeng Mussaman (Mussaman curry) , Tod Man Pla (fish cakes with kaffir lime leaves), Tom yam gung (hot and sour soup with prawn and lemongrass). It was tough trying to choose from all the delicious recipes, but it seemed only right to do the most famous Thai dish – Gaeng Key Au Waan Kai (Green curry chicken). I made the paste myself and I think I may have gone too light with the chillies as we didn’t think it had enough of a kick, but the flavour was yummy.

Rating: 8/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

2 boneless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
1 tbsp namphrik gaeng key au wan (green curry paste) – see below
3 tbsp groundnut oil
75g aubergine (small asian ones if you can get them), cut into cubes
1 tin coconut milk
2 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tbsp palm sugar
3 kaffir lime leaves
Fresh Thai basil or coriander

For the Namphrik gaeng key au wan (Green Curry Paste):
(you can increase the qty as it’ll store in the fridge for 4 months)
4 green finger chillies (use 6 if you want it more spicy)
1 tbsp asian shallots, finely chopped
1/3 tbsp garlic, minced
20g ginger, finely chopped
1/4 tbsp lemongrass, finely chopped
1/3 tsp garlic chive or fresh chives or spring onions
1/3 tsp shrimp paste
1/3 tsp salt
4 kaffir lime leaves
1/3 tsp coriander stems, chopped

For the Namphrik gaeng key au wan (Green Curry Paste)
Place all the ingredients in a large pestle and mortar (if you only have a small one, do it in small batches) and blend to a paste

Put the oil in a pan over a low heat
Add the green curry paste and bring to the boil, stirring continuously
Add the chicken over a high heat and stir well to coat with the paste
When the chicken is cooked, after about 5 minutes, add the coconut milk and kaffir lime leaves, cook for a few minutes
Add the aubergines and bring to the boil
Stir in the sugar and fish sauce
Taste and add more sugar if necessary
Remove from the heat, sprinkle with chopped basil or coriander
Serve with steamed rice


Finland, the most sparsely populated country in the European Union, is situated on a peninsula in the Baltic Sea. It is one of the world’s northernmost countries. Of world capitals, only Reykjavík lies more to the north than Helsinki. Known as ‘a country of thousand lakes’, it has the most of any country in the world, with around 188,000. A quarter of Finland’s territory lies within the Arctic Circle and the midnight sun can be experienced for more days the farther north one travels. At Finland’s northernmost point, the sun does not set for 73 consecutive days during summer, and does not rise at all for 51 days during winter.

A few interesting facts:
Finland’s press has been rated the freest in the world

In Finland, 9 out of 10 plastic bottles are returned for recycling and almost 100% of glass bottles are also recycled
In Finland traffic fines are calculated by the severity of the offence and the offending driver’s annual income
There are around 2.2 million saunas in Finland, 1 for every 2.5 people
At the ‘Wife Carrying World Championships’ in Finland, first prize is the wife’s weight in beer

If you’re planning a visit, Lonely Planet’s highlights include learning about the indigenous Sami people and their environment at the Siida museum, relaxing in the giant smoke sauna at Jätkänkämppä, cruising through the canals of Helsinki and trekking the Karhunkierros Trail in Oulanka National Park.

The Finns are passionate about their food and are fiercely loyal to their culinary roots. In 2000, when Helsinki celebrated its 450th anniversary as the European Capital of Culture the city initiated a project called the HelsinkiMenu. The aim of the project was to bring global awareness to Finnish cuisine. The HelsinkiMenu featured fish from the thousand lakes, berries, mushrooms and game from the forests as well as special produce from small farms. A few traditional Finnish recipes I came across; Lohikeitto (salmon soup) , Kalakukko (fish pie) , Perunarieska (potato flatbread) , Silakat (pickled fried herring), Korvapuusti (cinnamon and cardamon buns) , Ruisleipä (rye bread), Laskiaispulla (sweet buns filled with jam and cream) and Vispipuuro (whipped lingonberry porridge). I made Kalakeitto (fish stew) which was velvety smooth and had a beautiful flavour. Finishing it off with fresh dill is key, so a big thanks to my local The Rose and Crown for coming to the rescue.

Rating: 10/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes

2 good quality salmon fillets
1 tsp salt
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 tsp dried dill
2 cups water
1 fish stock pot/cube
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
3/4 cup whole milk or cream (I used cream which gave it an unctuous finish)
1 tbsp butter
Fresh dill for garnish

Cut the fish into 2 inch pieces and set aside
In a saucepan add salt, onion, dried dill, water, stock pot and potatoes
Bring to the boil and cook for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are just tender
Add the fish and cook until the fish just starts to flake, about 5 minutes, depending on the size of your fish chunks
Pour in the milk or cream and heat gently for 5 minutes
Add the butter and sprinkle with fresh dill

Ingredients for Kalakeitto (fish stew)
Kalakeitto (fish stew)
Kalakeitto (fish stew)
Kalakeitto (fish stew)
Kalakeitto (fish stew)
Wood houses in the city of Porvoo, Finland
Oulanka National Park


The volcanic island of Dominica is located in the eastern Caribbean Sea and is a sovereign Island country. Much of the island is blanketed by untamed rainforest. There are very few beaches, no flashy resorts and no direct international flights, which is probably the reason it has been spared mass tourism, with the exception of cruise ships, which dock in the capital, Roseau. This mountainous island has been nicknamed the “Nature Island of the Caribbean” for its unspoiled natural beauty. Dominica is home to many rare plants, animals and bird species. The Sisserou Parrot, the Island’s national bird, is found only in Dominica.

Morne Trois Pitons National Park is home to the world’s second largest hot lake, aptly named ‘Boiling Lake’. On 6 July 2007, adventure-film maker George Kourounis became the first person to ever cross the boiling lake from above, suspended by ropes over the most violently boiling section. One of the most impressive and photogenic waterfalls on the island, the Victoria Waterfall is also in Morne Trois Pitons National Park. It is formed by the White River cascading over a cliff into a warm pool below and minerals give the water a milky white color.

Music and dance are important facets of Dominica’s culture. Since 1997 there have been many Creole Festivals such as “Creole in the Park” and the “World Creole Music Festival” which is held annually over 3 days.

The cuisine is rooted in creole techniques with local produce flavoured by spices found on the island. Dishes include Domplines (Dominican-Style Dumplings), Sancocho (Meat stew), Mangú (Plantain Mash), Moro-Locrio (Rice with Pork and Black Beans), Queso Frito (Fried Cheese) and Suspiritos (Meringue Kisses). I decided to make the very simple, yet soothing Pollo Guisado (Braised chicken).

Rating: 7/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 20 minutes + 30 minutes marinating
Cook time: 45 minutes

2 chicken breasts on the bone, cut in half
1 lime
Pinch of oregano
1/2 small red onion chopped into fine strips or eighths
1/4 cup of chopped celery (optional)
1 tsp salt (more may be necessary)
½ tsp mashed garlic
1 tbsp oil (groundnut)
1/2 tsp granulated sugar
1 cup water
2 tomatoes cut into quarters
1 green pepper, roughly cut
1/2 cup chopped tomatos
Fresh coriander leaves
pinch freshly ground black pepper

Rub the chicken with the lime, getting lime juice into all the crevices
In a bag, add the chicken, oregano, onion, celery, salt and garlic and marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes
In a pot heat the oil over medium heat, add sugar and wait until it browns
Add the chicken (reserve all the other things in the marinade) and fry until the meat is light brown
Add 2 tablespoons of water, then cover and simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring and adding water by the tablespoon every 5 minutes
Add the remaining marinated vegetables along with the tomatoes and green pepper
Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, adding water by the tablespoon and stirring every 5 minutes
Add the chopped tomatos and half a cup of water, simmer over low heat for 15 minutes
Remove from the heat, sprinkle with fresh coriander and season with salt and pepper to taste
Serve with steamed rice or green salad


Hungary is a landlocked central European country founded in 897, making it one of the oldest countries in Europe. Hungary is home to the largest thermal water cave system, the second largest thermal lake in the world (Lake Hévíz), the largest lake in Central Europe (Lake Balaton), and the largest natural grasslands in Europe (the Hortobágy National Park). In 2014, 13.2 million tourists visited Hungary with the majority going to Budapest, Central Danube, Lake Balaton and the Western Transdanubia tourist regions.

A few facts
Budapest’s metro line is the second oldest in the world after London’s Tube, its Line 1 dates from 1896 and is a World Heritage Site
Hungarians are the most heavily taxed people in the world at an average 38.3% of their annual income
13 Hungarian scientists have received the Nobel Prize
Hungary has the third highest number of Olympic medals per capita and second highest number of gold medals per capita in the world
The Dohány Street Synagogue in Budapest is the second largest in the world (after one in New York City) and it seats up to 3,000 people
Hungary is the world’s second leading producer of foie gras (goose liver), after France

Traditional Hungarian dishes are primarily based on meats, seasonal vegetables, fruits, fresh bread, dairy products and cheese. Popular dishes include Paprikás (paprika stew with meat), Palacsinta (filled crepe), Húsleves (clear chicken soup), Rántott sajt (deep fried cheese croquette), Paprikás krumpli (paprika potato sausage stew) and Töltött káposzta (stuffed cabbage). There was only really one option for me to cook and that was Gulyás (Hungarian Goulash). It was everything we hoped for – comforting, fulfilling and incredibly tasty.

Rating: 9/10

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

450g rump steak, cubed
60g seasoned flour
3 tbsp veg oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
1 tsp paprika
3 tbsp tomato puree
pinch grated nutmeg
3 tsp mixed herbs
salt and pepper
300ml good quality beef stock (I used a tin of beef consommé)
200g tin of chopped tomatoes
200ml red wine
3 tbsp worcestershire sauce

Coat the meat in the seasoned flour
Heat the oil over a medium heat in a frying pan and add the meat in batches frying until browned, remove to a plate
Add a little more oil and fry the onion, garlic, carrot and celery for 5 minutes
Add the paprika, tomato puree, nutmeg, mixed herbs, salt and pepper and cook for a further 2 mins
Add the stock, chopped tomatoes, red wine and worcestershire sauce
Reduce to a low simmer, cover and cook for 2 hours, stirring every so often
Serve with crusty bread

Ingredients for Gulyás (Hungarian Goulash)
Gulyás (Hungarian Goulash)
Gulyás (Hungarian Goulash)
Gulyás (Hungarian Goulash)
Gulyás (Hungarian Goulash)
Budapest Parliamentary building
Lake Hévíz thermal spa
Lake Balaton
Budapest architecture


We spent New Year’s Eve 2015 on the beautiful island of Mauritius, gorging on delicious seafood, sipping champagne on the beach and dancing the night away with new found friends! The Republic of Mauritius is situated in the Indian Ocean and with a population of 1.2 million, it has the highest population density in Africa. It is known for its beaches, lagoons and reefs, as well as it’s mountainous interior featuring Black River Gorges National Park, rainforests, waterfalls, hiking trails and abundant wildlife. Mauritius was the only known habitat of the now extinct dodo bird and the dodo is prominently featured as a supporter of the national coat of arms of Mauritius.

Mauritius has been ruled by the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French and the British. It became an independent state in 1968, following the adoption of a new constitution. There isn’t an official language but English and French are generally used by government administration and business.

Mauritius received the world leading island destination award for the third time and world’s best beach at the World Travel Awards in January 2012. Around 1 million tourists visit each year. Lonely Planet’s highlights include Pointe d’Esny and Blue Bay, the capital – Port Louis, Chamarel, Rodrigues coastal walk and Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Gardens.

The cuisine of Mauritius is a blend of Chinese, European and Indian influences. French cuisine has also grown very popular. Recipes I came across included Gajak (deep fried snacks), Fish vindaye (spiced fish served with rice, lentils and chutneys), Gateau patat douce (sweet potato cakes), Dholl puris (fried thin bread stuffed with ground yellow split peas), Cari Mutton (Mauritian mutton curry) and Chicken daube (chicken stew). I decided to make Cari Poisson (fish curry) which was pleasantly flavoursome.

Rating: 7/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes

2 fish fillets
1/2 aubergine, cut into strips or batons
1/2 medium onion, sliced
1/2 tsp ginger and garlic paste, heaped
1/2 tbsp thyme leaves, fresh or dried
3 curry leaves, finely chopped
1 tomato, chopped
2 tbsp medium curry powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp coriander leaves, chopped
1 tbsp spring onions, finely chopped
vegetable oil, for frying the fish and for cooking
1 & 1/2 tbsp cornflour

Pat fish dry, season with salt and pepper then coat in your corn flour evenly and fry in a pan with vegetable oil on medium heat till they turn a golden brown colour
Drain the fried fish slices on a paper towel to remove all the excess oil and put aside
Season the aubergine with some salt and pepper then fry in the same oil, drain the fried aubergine on a paper towel and put aside
In the same pan, add more oil if needed, and on a medium heat add in your sliced onions, thyme leaves, curry leaves and stir fry for 2 minutes, then add in the garlic and ginger paste, give it a stir
Mix the curry powder, tumeric, cinnamon, cumin and coriander with a little warm water so that it forms a paste and add to the pan and stir well
Add the chopped tomato and 50ml of water to start cooking the sauce, cover and cook on medium heat till tomatoes are done Progressively add 50ml of water in intervals if the sauce starts to dry out
The sauce should be creamy in texture, add in the fried fish with the aubergine and add warm water to preferred consistency, take care not to move the fish around too much or it will break
Taste for seasoning and add salt as needed
Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with coriander leaves and spring onions
Serve with steamed basmati rice

Ingredients for Cari Poisson (fish curry)
Cari Poisson (fish curry)
Cari Poisson (fish curry)
Cari Poisson (fish curry)
Mauritius mountain
Mauritius beach
Chamarel waterfall

Vatican State City

The Vatican State City is a walled enclave of approximately 110 acres, within the city of Rome and is the smallest sovereign state in the world, by both area and population. It is ruled by the Bishop of Rome – The Pope. Since the return of the Popes from Avignon in 1377, they have generally resided at the Apostolic Palace within what is now the Vatican City. Almost all of the Vatican City’s 839 (as at 2013) citizens either live inside the Vatican’s walls or serve in the Holy See’s diplomatic service in embassies. “Vatican” is derived from the name of an Etruscan settlement, Vatica or Vaticum meaning garden. The Vatican Gardens account for more than half of it’s territory. They were established during the Renaissance and Baroque era and are decorated with fountains and sculptures.

A few interesting facts
Italians are allowed to donate 8% of their yearly taxes to the Vatican (instead of paying it to the Italian Government).
John Anglicus, born in Mainz, was recorded as being pope for two years, seven months and four days. It is is claimed that John was in fact female.
The Vatican’s postal service has been operating since 1929, with it’s own postage stamps and is described as one of the world’s best.
Italy has more UNESCO listings than any other country in the world (51 as at 2014). The Vatican City is the only entire country designated as a UNESCO site.
5 million people visit the Sistine chapel each year. With an entry fee of €16, the Vatican earns an annual revenue of around €80 million a year.

There is no specific cuisine for The Vatican City that I could find, the main food style is that of Rome. In 2014 a cookbook was published featuring the favourite dishes of the last few Popes with some delights from Argentina, Poland and of course Italy. I opted to make the simple but delicious Fettuccine alla Papalina (literally translated ‘Fettuccine to skullcap’). It was created specially for Pope Pius XII, who wore a skullcap.

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

250g fettuccine (ideally fresh) or tagliatelle
110g unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 slices prosciutto, cut in thin strips
4 eggs
3/4 cup cream
1/2 cup pecorrino
black pepper

In a large pan boil some salted water and cook the fettuccine according to the instructions
Meanwhile melt the butter on a low hear in a deep sided frying pan
Add onion and cook until soft, but not brown
Add prosciutto, stir and cook for a minute or two without browning
In the meantime, in a bowl, lightly beat the eggs with the cream and pecorrino
Toss the drained fettuccine in the pan with onion and prosciutto and mix well for a minute or two
Then turn heat off and pour the eggs, cream and pecorrino mixture into the pan and mix rapidly
Add some black pepper and a little salt
Mix again and serve immediately

View of St. Peter’s Square from the top of Michelangelo’s dome
In the Sistine Chapel – Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam