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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Spain

The Kingdom of Spain was the leading world power throughout the 16th and most of the 17th century, however continued wars and other problems eventually led to a diminished status. It maintained and enlarged its vast overseas empire, which remained intact until the beginning of the 19th century. When the Carthaginians arrived in Spain in 300 BCE they called it Ispania, which meant “land of the rabbits” which over time has changed to España.
I’ve visited Spain many many times and it is a truly wonderful place. My highlights include exploring the stunning Alhambra Palace in Granada, lazing on sun drenched beaches in the Balearics, sampling exquisite pintxos in San Sebastián, shopping in my favourite store – Massimo Dutti in Madrid, and dancing the night away in Barcelona’s W Hotel rooftop bar.
A few interesting facts:
Spain was the third most visited country in the world in 2015 with 68.1 million visitors
The Sagrada Familia church in Spain, has been under construction for over 130 years and it’s only expected to be complete by 2026
There are no laws against public nudity in Spain
The world’s oldest existing lighthouse is the Tower of Hercules, in Spain, erected in the first century and still operational
Spain produces 45% of all olive oil in the world and it accounts for 20% of the world’s olive oil consumption
Britain accidentally invaded Spain in 2002. About 20 Royal Marines disembarked in Spain instead of Gibraltar for 5 minutes until the error was recognised and they all withdrew
There’s a zipline connecting Spain and Portugal. It’s 2,365 ft (720 m) and 60 seconds long
The youngest king ever was Alfonso XIII of Spain, who became king the day he was born
There’s a direct descendant of Christopher Columbus alive today. His name is Cristóbal Colón de Carvajal y Gorosábel and he’s the 18th Duke of Veragua
The Eiffel Tower was originally intended for Barcelona, Spain, but the project was rejected as it was “too expensive and strange”
Real Madrid is the most valuable sports team in the world with annual revenues of $650m and a brand value of $3.3 billion

Spanish cuisine has humble origins and is the result of ingredients put together by poor peasants or farmers often using leftovers. Geography and climate, had great influence on cooking methods and available ingredients. One of the things that makes Spanish food so popular is the quality and variety of the ingredients. Jamon Iberico is considered the best and most expensive ham in the world. Some favourite Spanish dishes include Paella (Valencian rice dish), Esqueixada (salted cod salad with tomato and onion), Ajo blanco (almond soup), Gazpacho (cold soup made from raw vegetables), Polbo á feira (Galician octopus), Conejo en salmorejo (braised rabbit in paprika sauce), Cochinillo asado (roast suckling pig) and Crema catalana (burnt cream). I decided to make a selection of Tapas – Champinones al ajillo (garlic mushrooms), Garbanzos con chorizo (chickpeas with chorizo), Tortilla (Spanish omelette), Croquetas de jamon (ham croquettes) and Padron peppers. Although it was quite a lot of effort, it was absolutely worth it. They were all delicious, but the chickpeas were super scrumptious!

Rating: 10/10

Serves: 4
Prep time: 2-3 hours
Cook time: 2 hours

Champinones al ajillo (garlic mushrooms)

500 grams mushrooms
5 or 6 cloves of garlic cut in slices
1/3 cup (100 ml) olive oil
½ or more cup white wine
½ cup of pieces of jamon Serrano or cubes of deli ham (optional)
a generous pinch of salt
pepper to taste
1 tbsp. chopped parsley

First clean and slice your mushrooms and peel and slice the garlic
For cooking this dish you can use a clay casserole dish or a regular frying pan
Heat a generous amount of olive oil, just enough so that the garlic doesn’t burn but not so much that its completely swimming
After a couple minutes add the mushrooms and the white wine
Feel free to also add a bit more oil if you need to
The mushrooms will take about 10 minutes to cook and you can add the ham bits at any time
When they are cooked, and most of the juice has been cooked off, add salt, pepper and the chopped parsley

Garbanzos con chorizo (chickpeas with chorizo)

1 tin chickpeas
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 onion, chopped
1 carrots, chopped
200g spicy chorizo, sliced
150g dry-cured bacon, cubed
700ml chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 pinch sea salt
1 pinch fresh ground black pepper
1 handful flat-leaf parsley, freshly chopped

Heat the oil in a saucepan and lightly fry the chopped garlic, onions and carrots
When the vegetables are nicely golden, add the chorizo and bacon and fry until the bits are brown all over
Add the stock and the bay leaf and bring to the boil
Add the chickpeas and cook for about 1 hour (taste to check they’re cooked)
While they are cooking, skim off any foam or chorizo fat that comes to the surface
Once the chickpeas are soft but not mushy, season to taste
Add a little boiling water if you like a more soupy consistency
Drizzle a little olive oil over the top and scatter over the chopped parsley

Tortilla (Spanish omelette)

100ml olive oil for the potato
2 medium potatoes, finely sliced
1/2 onion, finely sliced
2 large free-range eggs
2 tbsp olive oil for the tortilla
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

In a saucepan, heat the oil over a medium heat. Add the potatoes and the onion and cook for around 10 minutes or until they are soft. Drain the oil.
In a bowl, beat the eggs and add the potato and onion mixture, combining well.
Heat the oil in a non-stick 15 cm frying pan. When the oil is hot, add the mixture. Swirl the pan over a high heat until the mixture starts to set around the edges, then reduce the heat and cook for 4–5 minutes until it just starts to set and the bottom and sides are golden, but it is still quite loose in the middle.
Cover the pan with a flat lid or board and turn the tortilla carefully onto it. Don’t worry that it is still quite runny – it will all come back together when you continue to cook it. Slide the tortilla back into the pan, then put the pan back on a low heat. Use a spatula to tuck the edges of the tortilla under to give it its characteristic curved look. Cook for a couple of minutes, then turn onto a board and keep warm.
The tortilla should still be lovely and juicy in the middle when you cut into them

Croquetas de jamon (ham croquettes)

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ small leek, diced as small as possible – 3mm pieces
70g Ibérico or other air-dried ham, diced very small
60g plain flour
75ml ham or vegetable stock
325ml whole milk
freshly grated nutmeg
sea salt and freshly ground
black pepper
75g plain flour
2 large eggs, beaten
25g manchego cheese, finely grated
75g breadcrumbs
oil, for frying

Heat the olive oil in a pan until it starts to shimmer, then add the leek and sauté until soft but not coloured
Stir in the ham, fry for another minute, then stir in the flour and fry over a medium heat until the mixture is golden but not burnt, this will take about 5 minutes. It is important that the flour is cooked properly otherwise the croquetas will taste of flour.
Combine the stock and milk in a small pan and heat until hot but not boiling. Season the liquid with a few scrapes of nutmeg. Gradually add the liquid to the roux, a few tablespoons at a time, stirring the mixture all the time. Once you have incorporated all the milk, continue to cook the sauce for about 5 minutes until it thickens and leaves the sides of the pan when you stir it. At this stage, add a couple of turns of the pepper mill, taste the roux and adjust the salt if necessary – the ham can be very salty to start with. The sauce is now done: it’s got to be really thick because you don’t want the croquetas to turn into pancakes! Smooth the sauce on to a baking tray (30cm x 20cm is fine) then cover with clingfilm to stop the mixture drying out. Leave it to cool before putting it in the fridge for an hour.
When you are ready for the next stage, line up three bowls: one with flour, the other with beaten egg, and the third with the breadcrumbs and grated cheese. Dust your hands with flour, take a ball and roll it between your palms. The size of the croquettes is up to you, but the easiest is a walnut-sized ball. Next, dunk the croqueta into the flour – you want more of dusting than a coat – followed by the egg and then the breadcrumbs. Put the croquetas on a tray and when you’ve used up all the mixture, put them all back in the fridge for 30 minutes.
If you have a deep fat fryer, heat the oil to 175°C/325°F and fry the croquetas for a couple of minutes. If not, heat the oil in a frying pan until it starts to shimmer, then add 3 or 4 croquetas at a time and fry until they are golden all over. You don’t want them to cook too quickly otherwise the centre won’t be hot enough.

Padron peppers

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces whole Padrón peppers
Sea salt flakes

Heat olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium high heat
Add the peppers to the pan in a single layer
Fry the peppers, moving constantly until the peppers begin to brown and blister, do not overcook
Remove from the oil and drain on a rack lined with paper towels
Sprinkle with sea salt and serve immediately

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Indulging in Spanish Tapas!
Parte Vieja. Old town. Donostia. San Sebastian. Basque Country. Spain.
Pintxos bars in San Sebastián
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Aguas Blancas beach, Ibiza
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Alhambra Palace, Granada
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Barcelona’s W Hotel rooftop bar
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Enjoying the Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid, Spain

Mozambique

Mozambique is a southern African nation whose coastline stretches 2,470 km and is dotted with popular beaches like Tofo, as well as offshore marine parks. Tanzania is to the north; Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe to the west, and South Africa and Swaziland to the south. The country is generally a low-lying plateau broken up by 25 sizeable rivers that flow into the Indian Ocean. The largest is the Zambezi which provides access to central Africa. Mozambique has several Indian Ocean Islands which attract tourists.

Mozambique was explored by Vasco de Gama in 1498 and first colonised by Portugal in 1505. The Portuguese had control of all of the former Arab sultanates on the east African coast. Guerilla activity began in 1963 and became so effective by 1973, that Portugal was forced to dispatch 40,000 troops to fight the rebels. A cease-fire was signed in September 1974 and after having been under Portuguese colonial rule for 470 years Mozambique became independent on 25 June 1975. The first President Samora Moises Machel, had been the head of the National Front for the liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) in its 10 year guerilla war for independence. He died in a plane crash in 1986, and was succeeded by his foreign minister Joaquim Chissano. In 2004 President Joaquim Chissano stepped down after 18 years in office, he was succeeded by Armando Guebuza.
Current Leader Filipe Nyusi, of the ruling party Frelimo party, was sworn in as president in January 2015. Two months later he succeeded former president Armando Guebuza as party leader, representing a change in Frelimo which has dominated politics in Mozambique since it won independence. During his election campaign, Mr Nyusi pledged to transform Mozambique, one of Africa’s poorest nations. He now presides over a country on the cusp of tapping newly discovered offshore gas fields, set to transform Mozambique’s economy. Despite recent economic growth, more than half of Mozambique’s 24 million people continue to live below the poverty line.

Maputo, known as Lourenco Marques before independence, is the capital and largest city of Mozambique. Today it is a port city with its economy centred on the harbour. It is known as the City of Acacias, in reference to acacia trees commonly found along its avenues. Highlights for the visitor include The Quirimbas Archipelago, Gorongosa National Park, Lake Niassa and the Chimanimani Mountains.

The cuisine of Mozambique has been deeply influenced by the Portuguese, who introduced new crops, flavourings, and cooking methods. The staple food for many Mozambicans is ncima, a thick porridge made from maize/corn flour. Other dishes I came across include Matata (clam and peanut stew), Xima (maize porridge), Frango a calrial (piri piri chicken over charcoal), Sandes de Queijo (Baked Cheese Sandwich), Chamusas (savoury triangular pastries), Ananas con vihno do porto (pineapple in port), Mozambican Peri-Peri Prawns and Malasadas (Doughnuts). I opted for a healthy dish of Salada Pera de Abacate (Tomato and Avocado Salad) which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 2 as a starter or light lunch

Prep time: 15 minutes
1/2 head iceberg lettuce or salad leaves
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 avocado, sliced
6 peach slices, chopped
Lemon Dressing:
4 tsp lemon juice
4 tsp olive oil
4 tsp syrup from peaches (you can use any fruit syrup or a teaspoon of honey)
salt & pepper
1/2 tsp dried herbs de Provence
1 tbsp fresh coriander leaves

Mix lemon juice with olive oil, syrup, salt, pepper and herbs
Cut the lettuce and lay out on a plate
Lay the avocado on top of the lettuce
Top with the tomatoes and peaches
Sprinkle the dressing over the salad

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Ingredients for Salada Pera de Abacate (Tomato and Avocado Salad)
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Salada Pera de Abacate (Tomato and Avocado Salad)
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Salada Pera de Abacate (Tomato and Avocado Salad)
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Northern Mozambique
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Gorongosa National Park
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Lake Niassa

Rwanda

Rwanda is a small landlocked country in Central East Africa. It is in the African Great Lakes region and its geography is dominated by mountains in the west and savanna to the east. The highest peaks are found in the Virunga volcano chain in the northwest including Mount Karisimbi, Rwanda’s highest point, at 4,507 metres. Volcanoes National Park is home to an estimated one third of the worldwide mountain gorilla population and it is one of only two countries where mountain gorillas can be visited safely.

A few facts
Rwanda has the world’s highest representation of women in parliament. 64% of Rwanda’s members of parliament are women
In 2007, Rwanda became the first country in the world to legislate an outright ban on plastic bags
Rwanda the most densely populated country in Africa with 445 inhabitants per square km
A dramatic improvement in healthcare delivery and health outcomes has seen life expectancy in Rwanda rise by 10 years in the last decade
Rwanda has two public holidays mourning the 1994 genocide. The national mourning period begins with Kwibuka, the national commemoration, on April 7 and concludes with Liberation Day on July 4

The cuisine of Rwanda is based on local staple foods produced by subsistence agriculture such as bananas, plantains, pulses, sweet potatoes, beans, and cassava. Recipes I came across during my research Rwandan Fruit Salad, Umutsima (a dish of cassava and corn), Isombe (cassava leaves with aubergine and spinach), Mizuzu (fried plantains), Rwandan Beef Stew, Ugali (African Cornmeal Mush) and Pinto Beans and Vegetables. I opted for Kachumbari (tomato, onion and avocado salad) which made a very tasty lunch.

Rating: 8/10

Serves: 1 as a starter or light lunch
Prep time: 15 minutes

1/2 onion, very thinly sliced
1 tomato, thinly sliced
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 baby avocado, sliced
1/2 red chilli, sliced
1/2 tbsp fresh coriander, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
juice of 1/2 lime
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Layer the tomatoes, chilli coriander, avocado and sliced onions in a dish
Mix together the lime juice and olive oil then season with salt and black pepper
Pour the dressing over the salad and serve

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Ingredients for Kachumbari (tomato, onion and avocado salad)
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Kachumbari (tomato, onion and avocado salad)
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Kachumbari (tomato, onion and avocado salad)
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Rwandan countryside
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Lake Kivu, Rwanda
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Traditional Rwandan intore dancers

Nepal

The Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked country in South Asia with a population of 26.4 million. The capital, Kathmandu is called the living cultural museum of the world, with 7 World Heritage Cultural sites within a radius of 15 km.

Nepal has 8 out of 10 of the world’s highest mountains, including the world highest – Mount Everest. It was named in honour of Colonel Sir George Everest, a Welsh geographer who was responsible for completing the section of the Great Trigonometric Survey of India along the meridian arc from southern India extending north to Nepal, a distance of about 2,400 km. Mount Everest is called Sagarmatha (“Forehead of the sky”) in Nepali and Chomolungma (“Goddess mother of the world”) by the local Sherpas and Tibetans.

Nepal is the only country with altitudinal variation that ranges from 59 meters to 8848 meters. Nepal holds some of the most extreme places on the earth such as the highest lake on the earth (Tilicho 4800 meters), the highest valley on earth (Arun valley), the deepest gorges (1200 meter) in Kaligandaki and the tallest grassland in the world in Chitwan.

Nepal was the last Hindu country in the world when it was declared secular by the parliament in 2006. Although many religions harmoniously co-exist in the country, 81.3 percent of the population in the country follows Hinduism and it still has the highest proportion of Hindus in the world.

Some popular dishes from Nepalese cuisine include Tarkari (vegetable curry), Farsi ko Achar (pumpkin pickle), Bhuteko bhat (fried rice), Alu Tareko (fried potatoes), Thukpa (noodle soup), Khasi Ko Masu (mutton curry), Kwati (bean stew), Gwaramari (Nepalese bread snack), Aaloo ko Achar (spicy potato salad) and Aloo masu chop (spiced beef and potato croquettes). I decided to make one of their main staples – Dal (spiced lentil soup). It was so simple and extremely tasty.

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 25 – 30 minutes

2 tbsp oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2″ piece ginger, grated
1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp red chilli powder
225g /1 cup red lentils
750ml/3 cups water
½-1 tsp-salt
2 tbsp coriander, chopped

Heat oil in a deep pan and and cook onion over medium heat for 5-7 minutes without browning too much
Turn heat to low and add garlic, ginger, crushed coriander seeds, turmeric and red chilli powder, stir to combine and cook for 3-5 minutes
Add washed red lentils and stir to coat them with the onion and spice mixture, cook them while stirring for 2-3 minutes. (This step helps the lentils to keep their shape and texture).
Add water, turn heat up and bring it to a boil, add salt, then turn it to a medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes
When the lentils are tender but still mostly hold their shape, stir in fresh chopped coriander and take it off the heat
Serve on their own or with steamed rice

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Ingredients for Dal (spiced lentil soup)
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Dal (spiced lentil soup)
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Dal (spiced lentil soup)
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Dal (spiced lentil soup)
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Dal (spiced lentil soup)
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Annapurna, Nepal
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Durbar square, Kathmandu
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Kathmandu
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Mount Everest

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

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

Paraguay

Paraguay is a landlocked country between Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia. Due to it’s central location, it is sometimes referred to as Corazón de Sudamérica, “Heart of South America”.

Some interesting facts:
In Paraguay, pistol duelling is still legal as long as both parties are registered blood donors
Paraguay is the only country in the world whose national flag has different emblems on each side. The country’s Coat of Arms is on the front and its Treasury Seal is on the back with its motto, ‘Paz y Justica’ (Peace and Justice)
Following the Paraguayan War (1864–1870), the country lost 60-70% of its population through war and disease, and about 140,000 square kilometers (a quarter of its territory), to Argentina and Brazil, including the popular tourist site – Iguazu Falls
Paraguay is home to the world’s largest rodent called the Capybara, which is basically a giant guinea pig

Staple foods in Paraguay are meat, corn, manioc, milk, cheese and fish. Common recipes include Chipa (Paraguayan cheese bread) which are found everywhere, Tapa de cuadril (Rump steak), Mbeju (starch cake), Guiso popó (stew made with chicken, rice, sweet peppers and garlic), Pira caldo (fish broth), Bori Bori (thick soup with dumplings, cheese, cornmeal and sometimes chicken) and Crema (custard dessert). I made Sopa Paraguaya (corn and cheese bread), which was delicious when we first had it and even better for second helpings a day later!

Rating: 10/10

Serves: Makes 6 large slices
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes

350 ml cottage cheese
1 cup of mature cheddar or a combination of your favorite kinds of cheese
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 eggs
1/8 cup of oil
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup white maiz flour (I used ‘Pan’ brand)

Preheat the oven to 190C
Combine all the ingredients and pour into a well greased round pan
Bake for 40-45 minutes
Serve warm or room temperature

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Ingredients for Sopa Paraguaya (corn and cheese bread)
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Making Sopa Paraguaya (corn and cheese bread)
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Sopa Paraguaya (corn and cheese bread)
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Sopa Paraguaya (corn and cheese bread)
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Sopa Paraguaya (corn and cheese bread)
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Rio Paraguay
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Capybara

Slovenia

Slovenia is a mountainous nation state in Central Europe. It is marked with significant biological diversity and is one of the most water-rich countries in Europe. Over half of the territory is covered by forest. Slovenia’s Karst Plateau is a limestone region of underground rivers, gorges, and caves, between Ljubljana and the Mediterranean. The best known caves are Postojna Cave and the UNESCO listed Škocjan Caves.

There are 24,000 animal species, among them marmots, Alpine ibex, chamois, deer, roe deer, boar, and hares. It is believed that Slovenia has one of the largest brown bear populations in Europe with around 400 bears. Among the 13 domestic animals native to Slovenia are the Karst Shepherd mountain dog, the Carniolan honeybee, and the Lipizzan horse, which is associated with the Spanish Riding School of Vienna, Austria.

Maribor, Slovenia’s second-largest city, is home to the oldest vine in the world. The grapevine of Žametovka is about 440 years old and still produce 25 litres of wine every year, however the wine is not available for public sale and has been described by the The Daily Telegraph as “virtually undrinkable”.

Ljubljana City Museum is home to the oldest wheel in the world. The Ljubljana Marshes Wheel is approximately 5,150 years old, has a radius of 70cm and is made of ash and oak.

Slovenian cuisine is a mixture of the Central European cuisine (especially Austrian and Hungarian), Mediterranean cuisine and Balkan cuisine. Recipes I came across include Jota (meat and vegetable hot pot), Ričet (Slovenian Barley soup), Idrija Žlikrofi (dumplings), Čompe s skuto (potatoes with cottage cheese), Prekmurska gibanica (layered cake), Potica (nut bread), baked mushroom with cheese and Kranjske Klobasa (sausages). I opted to make Belokranjska pogača (salted cake), which although quite doughy it was really tasty.

Rating: 9/10

Serves: Makes 28 small squares
Prep time: 45 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes

500g flour
1 tbsp salt
1/2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp oil
7g (1 pack) of dried yeast
Approx 300ml warm water
1 egg

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C
Mix all the ingredients and form a dough
Leave to rise for 30 minutes
Spread the dough evenly onto a baking tray, slice it into squares and glaze it with the beaten egg
Sprinkled with sea salt and bake for approximately 40 minutes
Let it cool on a rack before cutting

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Ingredients for Belokranjska pogača (salted cake)
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Belokranjska pogača (salted cake)
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Belokranjska pogača (salted cake)
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Belokranjska pogača (salted cake)
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Lake Bled, Slovenia
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Slovenian mountains
ljubljana-city-slovenia
Ljubljana City, Slovenia
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Belokranjska pogača (salted cake)

Fiji

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 8/10

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

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

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

Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is the world’s largest landlocked country, and the ninth largest in the world. It’s a huge place with a very small population of only 18 million people. The name Kazakhstan translates as “Land of the Wanderers” and with only 6 people per square mile, they have plenty of land to wander! The Kazakh Steppe (plain), with an area of around 310,600 sq mi, occupies a third of the country and is the world’s largest dry steppe region. The steppe is characterized by large areas of grasslands and sandy regions.

A few facts
It is believed that the first apple trees grew around Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan, as far back as 20 million years ago
There are 27,000 ancient monuments throughout Kazakhstan
It is home to the Baikonur Cosmodrome, the world’s oldest and largest operating space launch facility from where the first manned spaceflight with Yuri Gagarin took off into space in 1961

Highlights for visitors to Kazakhstan include the landmark buildings in Astana – Kazakhstan’s new capital, Aksu-Zhabagyly Nature Reserve, Almaty’s Central State Museum, enjoying the view from Kok-Tobe hill and Levoberezhny Park.

Traditional foods of Kazakh cuisine include mutton, horse meat and various milk products. Popular dishes are Beshbarmak (boiled horse or mutton meat eaten with pasta and broth, it also called “five fingers” as it is eaten with one’s hands), Zhauburek (kebab), Khazakh lemon chicken , Shelpek ( flatbread) Kylmai (sausage) and Baursaki (Fried Doughnuts). I made Pilaf (rice with meat and carrots) which was fairly simple to make and pleasantly tasty.

Rating: 7/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hr

350-400g of boneless lamb shoulder, cubed
1 onion, chopped
3-4 carrots, peeled and cut into strips
1 cup of rice
1 chicken or vegetable stock cube
1½ cups of water
1 tsp of salt
Black pepper

Fry the onions until brown on medium – high heat, then remove on to a plate
Using the same pan fry the meat on high heat until nicely browned and the juices has evaporated
Add the carrots and fry together with the meat for about 10 minutes
Add salt and pepper
Add the onions back into the pan
Slowly add your stock cube blended with the water and bring it to boil
Turn the heat down and simmer for 20 minutes
Meanwhile prepare your rice by rinsing it thoroughly in cold water until the water runs clear
Add the rice but don’t mix it in. Just let the rice sink into the liquid by spreading it carefully. The rice should be covered with water about 2 cm above it, so add more if necessary
Cover the pan and cook it on a gentle simmer until the rice has absorbed the liquid – about 15 minutes
At this point the top layer of rice is not cooked yet, so you need to flip the top layer and bring the sides to the center by covering the top layer at the same time
Make a few holes all the way through to the bottom, so that the steam can come through from the bottom of the pan to get all the rice properly cooked
Leave it to gently cook for another 8-10 minutes
Taste the rice to ensure its cooked. If the rice is ready, you can now mix the meat and carrots by bringing them from the underneath the rice to the top
Gently mix all together and serve

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Ingredients for Pilaf (rice with meat and carrots)
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Pilaf (rice with meat and carrots)
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Pilaf (rice with meat and carrots)
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Pilaf (rice with meat and carrots)
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Pilaf (rice with meat and carrots)
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Astana’s Concert Hall
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Almaty, Kazakhstan
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Baikonur Cosmodrome
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Shymkent Mountains, Kazakhstan

Israel

Israel is located in the Middle East, at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea and borders with Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine and Egypt. The state of Israel was declared in 1948 after Britain withdrew it’s mandate of Palestine. Since then Israel has fought several wars with neighbouring Arab states. Peace treaties between Israel and both Egypt and Jordan have now successfully been signed. Israel’s occupation of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem is the world’s longest military occupation in modern times.

Famed as ‘The Holy Land’, Israel has many significant sights including Jerusalem’s old city with the Western (wailing) Wall and Temple Mount, the Sea of Galilee (the lowest freshwater lake in the world), the City of David, the Dome of the Rock (from which it is said Mohammed began his ascension to heaven) and the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth.

A few other interesting facts about Israel:
They have won the Eurovision song contest 3 times, despite it is actually located in Asia.
The oldest living male, Israel Kristal, was born in Poland in 1903, moved to Israel in 1950 and is also the oldest Holocaust survivor, having been freed from Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Israel is one of only three democracies in the world without a codified constitution. The other two are New Zealand and Britain.
Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives is the world’s oldest continuously used cemetery.

Israeli cuisine has adopted various styles of Jewish cuisine and since the late 1970s an Israeli Jewish fusion cuisine has developed. Popular dishes include falafel, hummus, eggplant salad, ptitim (Israeli couscous), mangal (Israeli BBQ), Mujadara (rice and lentils) and Matzah balls (dumplings). I made Salat Yerakot (Israeli salad) which was pretty quick and easy to make and thoroughly enjoyable.

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 1
Prep time: 20 minutes

1 tomato
1/3 red onion
1/3 green pepper
1/4 cucumber
1/2 lemon – juice and zest
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp chopped mint
olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Remove the seeds from the tomatoes
Finely dice the onion, green pepper, cucumber and tomatoes (this is what makes it Israeli)
Put the ingredients in a bowl
Add the lemon juice, the chopped herbs, a good glug of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, mix well
Sprinkle the lemon zest over the top
Put in the fridge for 10 minutes and then serve

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Ingredients for Salat Yerakot (Israeli salad)
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Ingredients for Salat Yerakot (Israeli salad)
Sea of Galilee, Israel
Sea of Galilee, Israel
Jerusalem’s Western (wailing) Wall and Temple Mount
Jerusalem’s Western (wailing) Wall, Dome of the Rock and Temple Mount
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Salat Yerakot (Israeli salad)
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Salat Yerakot (Israeli salad)

Swaziland

Swaziland is a small landlocked country in Southern Africa. It has a wide variety of landscapes, from the mountains along the Mozambican border to savannas in the east and rain forest in the northwest. It is the only remaining absolute monarchy in Africa and the head of state is the king or Ngwenyama (meaning Lion), currently King Mswati III, who ascended to the throne in 1986 after the death of his father King Sobhuza II in 1982. By tradition, the king reigns along with his mother or a ritual substitute, the Ndlovukati (meaning She-Elephant).

It is home to many protected nature reserves and national parks, most notably Hlane Royal National Park, Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary and Mkhaya Game Reserve. The latter is known for its black and white rhino population. The Ngwenya Mine, situated northwest of Mbabane and near the north-western border of Swaziland is considered to be the world’s oldest, estimated to date back 43,000 years.

Staple foods in Swaziland include sorghum, maize, peanuts, rice and goat meat. Dishes include Umkhunsu (cooked and dried meat), Emasi lavutiwe (ground corn mixed with sour milk) , Sinkwa Sembila (corn bread) and Sishibo senkhukhu (chicken stew). I made Slaai (avocado & peanut salad) which looked promising, but I found the dressing and peanuts overpowered the flavour of the avocado.

Rating: 6/10

Serves: 4
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 0

3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-3 large ripe avocados, diced into ½ inch cubes
1/2 cup peanuts, crushed

Mix lemon juice, ginger and salt in a large bowl
Add the avocado and mix gently
Marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes
Sprinkle with crushed peanuts and serve

Bulgaria

Bulgaria, the country, not Great Uncle, is in southeastern Europe and is one of the oldest European countries, the only one that hasn’t changed its namе since it was founded in 681 AD. Great Uncle Bulgaria is named after the country and is the leader of the Wombles of Wimbledon.

Bulgaria is home to the Varna Necropolis treasure, the oldest gold treasure in the world with an approximate age of over 6,000 years. The site was accidentally discovered in October 1972 by excavator operator Raycho Marinov. The artifacts can be seen at the Varna Archaeological Museum and at the National Historical Museum in Sofia.

Bulgaria was the world’s second largest wine producer in 1980s, but the industry declined after the collapse of communism. However production is up and is now ranked 21st in the world with over 130,000 tonnes produced in 2013.

Bulgarian born Stefka Kostadinova has held the world record for the female high jump at 2.09m since the 1987 World Athletics Championships in Rome.

Bulgarian cuisine shares characteristics with other Balkans cuisines. Popular traditional dishes include Tarator (cold soup of cucumbers, garlic, yogurt and dill), Bob chorba (hot bean soup), Banitsa (breakfast filo pie), Kavarma (beef or pork stew), Pechen svinski but (roast leg of pork) and Lukanka (Bulgarian cold cuts). I made Shopska salad (tomato, onion, cucumber and cheese salad), which was simple, fresh and flavoursome.

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 4
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes

4 tomatoes
1/2 cucumber
2 red peppers, roasted and skin removed
1 small red onion, sliced thinly
250g feta cheese
2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
salt and pepper
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil

Char the red peppers on a BBQ or gas hob until black all over
Leave to cool for 5 minutes, then remove the skin by gently washing under the tap, remove the seeds
Cut the tomatoes, cucumber, peppers into cubes and place in a salad bowl
Add the onions, parsley, oil and seasoning
Crumble over the feta cheese and serve

Namibia

Namibia, “Land of the Brave” according to the national anthem, is situated in southern Africa between the Namib and the Kalahari deserts. The Namib (meaning “vast place”) coastal desert is one of the oldest in the world, it’s sand dunes are the highest in the world and they are a rich source of diamonds. The Sperrgebiet (meaning “Prohibited Area”) National Park, also known as Diamond Area 1, was created by the Germans in 1908, it was then taken over by the South Africans and De Beers had full ownership until the 1990s when the Namibian government bought a fifty percent stake, forming a partnership called the Namdeb Diamond Corporation. Namibian diamonds are the highest valued in the world and were worth $550 dollars per carat in 2012 vs Russian diamonds (the world’s largest producer) at $82 per carat.

A few other interesting facts:
Namibia is the second least densely populated country in the world after Mongolia
It has the largest number of cheetahs in the world
Namibia is one of only two countries in the world that has desert dwelling elephants
‘Hoba’, the world’s largest intact meteorite landed in Namibia weighing over 60 tonnes
It is the fifth largest producer of uranium in the world and is expected to become the second largest once the Husab mine reaches full production in 2017

Highlights for the tourist include the sand dunes at Sossusvlei, Spitzkoppe (the ‘Matterhorn of Africa’), the Skeleton Coast, Etosha National Park and the Fish River Canyon gorge. In 2010, Lonely Planet named Namibia the 5th best tourist destination in the world in terms of value.

Namibian cuisine varies by region but staple foods include pap (porridge), meat, game and fish. A few dishes I came across were Potjiekos (small pot stew), sheep’s tails, veldt bread and Namibian black eyed peas. However, I decided to have a go at ‘Kapana’ which is simply grilled meat, generally beef. It is a highly popular street food found in the Windhoek Katutura area. It can be served on its own, with spices or with vetkoeks (fat cakes). A special thanks to Chantel from the Namibian Chefs Association who gave me some advice to ensure it’s authenticity. Even though we have a fabulously large gas BBQ, I bought a disposable charcoal BBQ so it had the ‘real’ taste. We thought the vetkoeks were a little sweet and overpowered the meat, but were a very tasty treat for breakfast the next morning!

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 20 minutes + 1 – 2 hours proving time
Cook time: 15 minutes

For the kapana
2 ribeye steaks (choose chunky steaks with a good amount of fat)
coarse sea salt
fresh ground black pepper
groundnut oil
hot chilli sauce (optional)
disposable BBQ

For the vetkoeks (makes 4)
2 cups flour
7g instant dry yeast
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp oil
1 cup warm water
vegetable oil for deep frying

For the vetkoeks
Sieve flour and combine all the dry ingredients in a big bowl
Add the oil and then water bit by bit until you get the consistency of a soft bread dough. The mixture must still be quite sticky.
Place the dough on a floured surface and gently knead for 5-10 minutes
You may need to add a little more flour to the dough to prevent it sticking to your fingers
Place the dough in a clean bowl and cover with a cloth and set aside in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, about 1 – 2 hours
Divide the dough into 4 portions and mould into balls
Deep fry a few vetkoek at a time over a medium/low heat until golden brown, about 10 minutes

For the kapana
Light the disposable BBQ 20 minutes before you want to use it
Generously season the steaks and rub a little groundnut oil all over
Grill the steaks on the BBQ for 5 minutes on each side for medium rare steaks and then rest for 2 minutes
Serve with the vetkoeks and hot chilli sauce

Spitzkoppe Namibia
Spitzkoppe Namibia

Sossusvlei Namibia
Sossusvlei Namibia

Desert dwelling elephants Namibia
Desert dwelling elephants Namibia

Sperrgebiet National Park
Sperrgebiet National Park Namibia

Sudan

Sudan is dominated by the River Nile with the main tributaries, the Blue and the White Nile, merging at Sudan’s capital city, Khartoum. The Republic of Sudan was the largest country in Africa until 2011, when South Sudan separated to become the world’s newest independent country. Two rounds of north-south civil war have cost the lives of almost 2 million people, and continuing conflict in the western region of Darfur has driven two million people from their homes and killed more than 200,000.

There are more pyramids in Sudan than in Egypt. Approximately 255 pyramids were constructed at three sites in Nubia, Sudan over a period of a few hundred years to serve as tombs for the kings and queens of Napata and Meroë. The royal cemetery at Begrawiya is one of the most amazing sites in Sudan, where you’ll see two main groups of pyramids separated by several hundred metres of sandy desert. The archeological sites of Meroë were listed by Unesco as World Heritage Sites in 2011.

The merging of the Blue and White Niles are best seen from the White Nile bridge in Khartoum. You can actually see the different colours of each Nile flowing side by side before blending further downstream, although neither are blue or white.

Popular Sudanese cuisine includes Kissra (bread) , Tamia (fried chickpea balls), Gorraasa (flatbread) , Fuul (stewed beans) , Fasulia (haricot bean stew) Bamya (okra stew) and Taheena (sesame seed dip). As it was a sunny day and we were keen for something healthy, I opted to make Salata jibna (salad with cheese). It was simple yet delicious.

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 0 minutes

1/2 cup onions, cut into slivers or thin slices
1/2 cup cabbage, cut into slivers or thin slices
1/4 cup carrots, cut into very thin slices
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, diced
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp white vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
pinch black pepper
1 small clove garlic, minced
25g parmesan cheese, grated

In a salad bowl, combine onions, cabbage, carrots, and tomatoes
Mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper in a bowl
Pour dressing and parmesan over salad and toss well

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Ingredients for Salata jibna
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Salata jibna
Pyramids Sudan
Meroe pyramids Sudan
White Nile bridge, Khartoum Sudan
White Nile bridge, Khartoum, Sudan

Ecuador

Ecuador or “the Republic of the Equator” is in northwest South America and includes the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean, 500 miles west of the mainland. It is known for its rich ecology, hosting many endemic plants and animals. There are 18 main islands in the Galápagos home to many unique species, most famous are the giant tortoises after which the islands are named (‘galapago’ means tortoise in Spanish), the marine iguana lizard and the Galapagos penguin, one of the smallest penguins in the world.

A few other interesting facts:
According to the CIA factbook because the earth is not a perfect sphere and has an equatorial bulge, the highest point on the planet closest to the sun is Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador, not Mount Everest, which is merely the highest peak above sea level. It is 1.5 miles higher than Everest.
Quito is the highest capital on Earth at 2,850m above sea level
The Galapagos Islands and the city of Quito were the first 2 sites on the list of Unesco World Heritage sites
Ecuador is the leading exporter of Bananas accounting for approximately 29%
Oil accounts for over half of Ecuador’s export earnings

Some popular Ecuadorian dishes include Locro de Papas (potato soup), Llapingachos (Potato cakes served with eggs, avocado, chorizo), Seco de Chivo (goat stew), Hornado (roast pig), Encocado de Camarones (prawns in coconut milk) and Patacone (fried green plantains stuffed in pancake). I made Cebiche Guayaquileño (raw prawns cured with lemon) which had a wonderfully sweet and zingy flavour. Lovely on a hot summer’s day!

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes

200g raw prawns with shells and no heads
2 cups of water
1 bay leaf
1 clove of garlic
1 spring onion, roughly chopped
Pinch of salt and pepper
1 large tomato, deseeded and diced
1/2 small red onion, sliced in half moons
Juice of 1/2 lemon for the onions
Juice of 1 orange
Juice of 1& 1/2 lemons
1/3 cup of prawn stock (see below for preparation) or 1/2 fish stock cube
1/4 cup ketchup
fresh coriander, chopped

In a pan combine the water, bay leaf, garlic, spring onions and prawns. Turn the heat to medium and cook the prawns until you see them beginning to turn pink, about 3 minutes
Turn off the heat and remove the prawns from the water. Keep this water
Peel and devein the prawns saving the prawns shells.
(I used raw prawns that didn’t have shells on so I added 1/2 fish stock cube to the water instead of the shells)
Put the prawn shells back in the water and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and strain the prawn stock
In a small bowl, combine the onions with juice of 1/2 lemon and a pinch of salt. Marinate for 15 minutes
In medium bowl combine the diced tomatoes, prawns, onions, ketchup, lemon and orange juices and 1/3 cup of prawn stock
Mix all the ingredients and adjust seasonings as necessary. Add the chopped cilantro and stir it into the ceviche
Chill for about an hour in the fridge and serve

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Ingredients for Cebiche Guayaquileño
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Cebiche Guayaquileño
Quito Ecuador
Quito Ecuador
Chimborazo Ecuador
Chimborazo Ecuador
Sunset in the Galapagos
Sunset in the Galapagos
Marine iguana lizard Galapagos
Marine iguanas Galapagos
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Cebiche Guayaquileño

Ethiopia

Ethiopia is a landlocked country in the northeast African region known as the Horn of Africa. It is the only African nation that has never been colonised. It is the most populous landlocked country in the world and it’s population has grown from 33.5 million in 1983 to 87.9 million in 2014. The population is forecast to grow to over 210 million by 2060. According to WaterAid UK over 44 million people (more than half the population) do not have access to clean water.

Most Ethiopians are farmers and herders. Deforestation, drought, and soil degradation have caused crop failures and famine during the past few decades. At the beginning of the 20th century, around 35% of Ethiopia’s land was covered by trees, but research indicates that forest cover is now approximately 11.9% of the area. It produces more coffee than any other nation in Africa and remains it’s most important export.

With 9 altogether, Ethiopia has the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Africa. These include the ruins of the city of Aksum, dating from the 1st to the 13th century; the fortified historic town of Harar Jugol containing 82 mosques; the Lower Valley of the Awash, where the oldest fossil skeleton of a human was found (called Lucy) dated back to 3.2 million years ago and Lalibela, where there are 11 medieval cave churches from the 13th century.

Typical Ethiopian cuisine includes Injera (spongy flatbread), Wat (spicy stew), Tibs (fried meat with vegetables) and Kitfo (raw beef marinated in spice). Some other recipes I came across were Sambusa (fried & filled dough pastry), Yekik Alicha (yellow lentils with turmeric sauce) and Doro dabo (chicken bread). I made Misir Wot (spicy lentil stew) which contains 2 traditional Ethiopian ingredients – niter kibbeh (spiced butter) and berbere (spice blend). It it usually served with injera, but we had it on it’s own and thoroughly enjoyed it. We felt it would work equally well with some roast lamb.

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 1 or 2 as a side dish
Prep time: 40 mins
Cook time: 40 mins

1/2 cup red lentils
2 tbsp niter kibbeh or unsalted butter
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp berbere spice blend
1 small tomato, cored and chopped or a few cherry tomatoes, chopped
Salt, to taste

For the niter kibbeh
120g butter
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
seeds from 1 cardamom pod
1/4 cinnamon stick
pinch of ground nutmeg
1 small whole clove
1/2 small garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped

For the berbere spice blend
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/4 tsp black peppercorns
2 whole cloves
1/2 tsp crushed chillies
1 tsp ground coriander
pinch ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tbsp onion powder
1 heaped tbsp paprika
1/4 tbsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
pinch ground cinnamon

Rinse the lentils in a sieve under cold running water and set aside
Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat
Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 10 minutes
Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds
Add the reserved lentils, 1/2 tbsp of the berbere spice blend, tomato, and 2 cups water to the saucepan
Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and the lentils are tender, 25 – 30 minutes
Stir in the remaining berbere and season generously with salt
Serve immediately

For the niter kibbeh
Melt the butter and heat it until it foams. At this point add the other ingredients. Reduce the heat and simmer very gently for about 20 minutes. Do not stir. This will separate out the milk solids, leaving a clear butter mix on top
Cool the mixture, strain a few times through a sieve or muslin and discard the milk solids
You can store the spiced butter in the fridge in a sealed jar and use as desired.

For the berbere spice blend
Combine fenugreek seeds, peppercorns, and cloves in a small frying pan. Heat over medium high heat until fragrant and toasted, about 3 minutes. Do not burn. Set aside.
Grind the crushed chillies in a pestle and mortar. Add the toasted spices and grind until fine.
In a medium bowl, combine the ground toasted spice mixture with the remaining ingredients. Mix together until well blended.
Store in an airtight container.

 

Obelisk of Aksum Ethiopia
Obelisk at Aksum, Ethiopia
Lalibela Ethiopia
Lalibela, Ethiopia
Harar Jugol Ethiopia
Harar Jugol, Ethiopia
Ethiopian village children
Ethiopian village children

Kenya

I visited Kenya for a holiday over 20 years ago and was fortunate to enjoy a 2 day safari in Tsavo East National Park. It was my first experience of seeing elephants, giraffe and lions in their natural habitat and it took my breath away. I remember staying overnight in a little round hut on stilts in the middle of the park, listening to the intriguing sounds of the animals during the night. It was a truly wonderful experience.
Tsavo East is the oldest and largest of Kenya’s national parks, open since 1948. Famous for the Tsavo lions, a population of lions, where adult males often lack manes entirely.

Other highlights of Kenya include the annual migration of wildebeest across the Masai Mara, views of Mount Kenya, sipping a cold Tusker beer watching the sunset, beautiful beaches at Kikambala (where my mum has always wanted to go), Lamu and Watamu.

The Kenyan food staple is ugali (cornmeal paste) usually served with stewed meat and/or vegetables. There are different varieties of cuisine based on the region. In Central Kenya popular ingredients are ngwaci (sweet potatoes), ndũma (taro root, known in Kenya as arrowroot), ikwa (yams), and mianga (cassava). In the western area near Lake Victoria favourites are Gweno (chicken), Aliya (sun dried meat), Onyoso (a type of ant), and Dede (grasshoppers). Other recipes I came across include Ingoho (luhya-style chicken), Githeri (beans and corn), Sukuma Wiki (collard greens or kale) and Mutura (Kenyan sausage). I decided to cook Nyama Choma (grilled meat) which I served with Kachumbari (Tomatoes and Onions) as is tradition. It is a very popular dish across Kenya and it seems there is usually someone in the family who is ’the grill pro’ and is in charge of ensuring it doesn’t burn. We also had some roasted potatoes too. It went down a storm, particularly the Kachumbari, which I had made before for Chad so twice it has scored 10/10!

Rating overall: 9/10

Serves: 4 hungry people
Prep time: 30 – 40 minutes + 3 hours marinating
Cook time: 40 minutes

For the Nyama Choma
2 chicken breasts on the bone, cut in half
4 small chicken thighs on the bone
800g beef short ribs
juice of 1 large lemon – approx 100ml
100ml light soy sauce
150ml olive oil
1 inch fresh ginger, grated
2 large garlic cloves, bashed
A few fresh rosemary sprigs, roughly chopped
A few fresh thyme sprigs, roughly chopped

For the Kachumbari
20 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small red onion
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and black pepper
3 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
1 ripe avocado, sliced

For the Nyama Choma
Add the lemon juice, soy sauce, olive oil, fresh ginger, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper to a bowl and whisk until well blended
Put your chicken into a sealable bag and your beef ribs into a separate sealable bag
Divide the marinade equally between the chicken and the beef and place the sealed bags in the fridge for 3 hours
When ready to cook, light your bbq and cook the meat until it is gently charred but not black!! Approximately 5 – 10 minutes
Wrap the beef and chicken pieces in separate pieces of foil along with any marinade mix that’s left and leave them in the foil on the bbq for 25 minutes
Take them out of the foil and place them directly on the heat for a few minutes to give them a good colour
Let the meat rest for 5 minutes and then serve with the Kachumbari and roasted potatoes

For the Kachumbari
Slice the onions thinly and put them in a small bowl of salted water for 15 minutes, then rinse through with cold water
Put the onions into a salad bowl, along with the tomatoes, chilli and coriander
In a jug mix together the lime juice and olive oil with some salt and pepper
When ready to serve, garnish with the slice avocado and pour over the dressing

 

 

Zimbabwe

The Republic of Zimbabwe, is a landlocked sovereign state located in southern Africa, between the Zambezi and Limpopo Rivers. The country is mostly savannah, although the moist and mountainous eastern highlands support areas of tropical evergreen and hardwood forests. There are around 350 species of mammals that can be found in Zimbabwe. There are also many snakes and lizards, over 500 bird species, and 131 fish species.

The interestingly named Canaan Banana was the first President of Zimbabwe from 1980 until 1987, in a mostly ceremonial role. Robert Mugabe was the country’s first Prime Minister and Head of Government. In 1987, Mugabe succeeded Banana as President after he revised the Constitution to make himself Executive President. In 2008, Zimbabwe held a presidential election along with a parliamentary election. The results of this election were withheld for two weeks, after which it was generally acknowledged that the opposition party ‘Movement for Democratic Change’ – Tsvangirai (MDC-T) had achieved a majority of one seat in the lower house of parliament. However at the ZANU-PF congress in December 2014, President Robert Mugabe accidentally let slip that the opposition had in fact won the contentious 2008 polls by an astounding 73%. On 6th July, 2016 a national strike, named “stay-away day,” took place with thousands of Zimbabweans protesting government repression, poor public services, 85 percent unemployment, widespread corruption and delays in getting state salaries.

Since the downward spiral of the economy in 2000, tourism in Zimbabwe has steadily declined, however according to Lonely Planet it is back on the rise. It’s major tourist attractions include Victoria Falls on the Zambezi, Mount Nyangani and the Nyanga National Park, the Great Zimbabwe ruins in Masvingo, the ancient Matobo Hills and Lake Kariba on the Zambia-Zimbabwe border, the world’s largest reservoir by volume.

Some traditional Zimbabwean recipes include Covo neDovi (Greens in Peanut Butter sauce), Sadza (cooked cornmeal), Biltong (cured beef), Bota (breakfast porridge) and Mutakura (boiled corn, peanuts and beans). I opted to cook a favourite dish in Zimbabwe – Peanut butter rice, which was very simple to make. Although it is usually served with meat, vegetables and a thick gravy, I paired it with Poulet Coco from Comoros and we thought they complemented each other well.

Rating: 7/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 25 – 30 minutes

1 cup long grain rice or brown rice
1 1/2 cups water
Salt to taste
1 tbsp cooking oil
2 tbsp peanut butter

Put rice in a pan with the water, add salt and oil and bring to the boil, then simmer until all the water is absorbed (or you can cook the rice in the microwave as I usually do with a drizzle of oil and salt)
Fluff the rice with a fork
Add peanut butter and mix with a spoon. The rice should be a bit sticky in appearance
Add more peanut butter according to your taste as needed

IMG_0651
Ingredients for peanut butter rice
IMG_0673
Zimbabwean peanut butter rice
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Zimbabwean peanut butter rice with Comorian poulet au coco
Victoria falls2
Victoria Falls
Matobo Hills, Zimbabwe
Matobo Hills, Zimbabwe
Great Zimbabwe ruins, Masvingo
Great Zimbabwe ruins, Masvingo
Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe
Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe

Bahrain

Bahrain, meaning ‘two seas’ in Arabic, although which two seas originally intended remains in dispute! Today, the two seas are generally taken to mean either the bay east and west of the island, the seas north and south of the island or the salt and fresh water present above and below the ground. Bahrain is an archipelago of 84 islands and island groups situated in the Gulf of Bahrain between Qatar and Saudi Arabia. It is 92% desert and dust storms transported by northwesterly winds from Iraq and Saudi Arabia are the main natural hazard. The King Fahd Causeway, 15 miles long, linking Bahrain to Saudi Arabia was completed in 1986 at a cost of $1.2 billion.

It was the first emirate where oil was discovered in 1932. Bahrain’s economic activity, has centred on the production of crude oil and natural gas and on refining petroleum products, making the country sensitive to fluctuations in the world oil market. It has however been more successful than some other states in the gulf in developing manufacturing and commercial and financial services. Before the discovery of oil, pearling was the economic mainstay of Bahrain. The quality and the abundance of the pearls in Persian Gulf waters are unsurpassed anywhere.

Bahrain has 4 protected marine environments; Hawar Islands, Mashtan Island, Arad bay and Tubli Bay. The breeding colony of Socotra cormorant (aquatic birds) on Hawar Islands is the largest in the world. In 2003, Bahrain banned the capture of sea cows, marine turtles and dolphins within its territorial waters.

Millions of tourists visit Bahrain each year and the highlights include Qal’at Al Bahrain or the Bahrain fort, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Bahrain National Museum, home to artefacts dating back to the island’s first human inhabitants some 9000 years ago, Beit Al Quran, meaning ‘House of Qur’an’ is a museum that holds Islamic artefacts of the Qur’an and the Tree of Life, a 400-year-old tree that grows in the Sakhir desert with no nearby water and is visited by approximately 50,000 tourists every year.

The cuisine of Bahrain is a mix of Arabic, Persian, Indian, Balochi, African, Far East and European food. Popular dishes include nekheh, bajelah and loobah (trio of spicy bean soups), Qoozi (lamb with rice), Khabees (date dessert) and Muhammar (sweet rice). I opted to cook their national dish, Machboos (spicy chicken and rice). It was relatively simple and quite tasty.

Rating: 7/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 25 mins
Cook time: 1 hour 40 mins

1 medium onion, diced
1 tbsp ghee or unsalted butter
1 tbsp baharat (see below)
1/3 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp vegetable oil
400g chicken thighs, legs or breasts
1/2 hot green chilli, seeded and diced
1/2 tbsp fresh ginger, finely grated
2 large cloves or garlic, thinly sliced
5 cherry tomatoes, diced
2 green cardamom pods
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 tsp salt
1 cup chicken stock
3/4 cup basmati rice (soaked for at least 15 minutes, then rinsed and drained)
1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
Rosewater for sprinkling (optional, but recommended)

For the baharat
1/3 tbsp black peppercorns
1/3 tbsp cumin seeds
2/3 tsp coriander seeds
1/3 cinnamon stick (about 2 inches long)
1/3 tsp whole cloves
seeds from 3 green cardamom pods
1/3 tbsp paprika powder teaspoon ground pinch nutmeg

For the Baharat:
Set the paprika and nutmeg powders aside. Place all remaining ingredients (whole seeds, cinnamon stick and cloves) in a small frying pan and dry roast over medium-high heat, tossing regularly to prevent burning, for 2 minutes or until very fragrant
Transfer to a spice grinder or pestle and mortar and let cool
Add the paprika and nutmeg and grind all the ingredients to a fine powder

Heat the oil in a casserole dish over medium-high heat and fry the chicken pieces on both sides until the skin is brown and crispy
Transfer the chicken to a plate and leave the remaining oil in the casserole dish
Add the ghee (or butter), reduce the heat to medium, and fry the onions until starting to brown, about 8 – 10 minutes
Add the ginger, garlic, and green chilli and fry for another 2 minutes
Add the baharat and turmeric and cook for another minute
Return the chicken pieces to the casserole along with the tomatoes, cardamom pods, cinnamon and salt
Add the chicken stock and stir to combine. Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 40 minutes
Add the coriander, parsley and drained rice and stir to combine
Return it to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for another 15-20 minutes until the rice is done and has absorbed the liquid
Transfer the chicken and rice to a serving dish (either leave the chicken pieces tossed in with the rice, or place the chicken on top of the rice), and sprinkling with 1-2 tablespoons of rosewater (optional)
Serve with a green salad and yogurt raita

 

Bahrain
Bahrain
Hawar Islands, Bahrain
Hawar Island, Bahrain
Tree of Life Bahrain
The Tree of Life, Bahrain
Bahrain sunset
Sunset in Bahrain