My top 20 recipes

1. Taiwan – Taiwanese minced pork

img_84881

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

img_9170

3. Switzerland – Fondue

IMG_9588

4. Mexico – Chicken Enchiladas

IMG_0294
Chicken enchiladas

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

img_2937
Sopa Paraguaya (corn and cheese bread)

6. Italy – Risotto milanese

fullsizeoutput_1209
Risotto alla Milanese (risotto with saffron)

7. Finland – Kalakeitto (fish stew)

img_2422
Kalakeitto (fish stew)

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

img_3483
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

fullsizeoutput_136b

10. Sweden – Köttbulla (Swedish meatballs)

IMG_7141

11. South Korea – Bulgogi (grilled marinated beef)

IMG_9203
South Korea – Bulgogi (grilled marinated beef)

12. Honduras – Banana bread

IMG_0035
Honduran banana and coconut bread

13. Nicaragua – Tres leches (Three milks cake)

fullsizeoutput_10d7

14. Guyana – Roti (flatbread)

IMG_7813
Guyana – Rotis (flatbreads)

15. Guatemala – Chicharrónes (crispy pork skin)

IMG_0655
Chicharrones

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

img_2647
Char Sui Pork (Cantonese BBQ pork)

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

IMG_0672
Poulet au Coco (Comorian coconut chicken)

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

img_9027
Bœuf bourguignon (beef braised in red wine with onions and mushrooms)

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

IMG_9251

20. Solomon Islands – Fish curry with tomatoes

IMG_1502
Fish curry with tomatoes
Advertisements

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

fullsizeoutput_1377
Indulging in Spanish Tapas!
Parte Vieja. Old town. Donostia. San Sebastian. Basque Country. Spain.
Pintxos bars in San Sebastián
aguas-blancas-beach-ibiza
Aguas Blancas beach, Ibiza
alhambra-palace-granada
Alhambra Palace, Granada
img_3658
Barcelona’s W Hotel rooftop bar
img_9095
Enjoying the Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid, Spain

Palestine

The State of Palestine is a modern de-jure sovereign state in the Middle East recognised by 136 UN members and with non-member observer state status in the UN since 2012. The term “Palestine” has been associated with the geographical area that currently covers the State of Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Most of the areas claimed by the State of Palestine have been occupied by Israel since 1967, in the aftermath of the Six-Day War. Since ancient times Palestine has been a crossroads between Asia, Europe, and Africa.

Described as one of the most troubled corners of the planet, travelling in Palestine can be challenging. Ancient Jericho is believed to be the oldest inhabited city in the world with the oldest known protective wall in the world. Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of more than 20 successive settlements in Jericho, dating back to 9000 BC, almost to the very beginning of the Holocene epoch of the Earth’s history. The city of Bethlehem has more than two million visitors every year and The Church of the Nativity is one of the major tourist attractions. It stands in the Manger Square, over a grotto called the Holy Crypt, where Jesus is believed to have been born. Christmas is celebrated three times a year in Bethlehem:
Catholics and Western denominations celebrate Christmas on December 25, Greek Orthodox followers celebrate on January 6, and Armenians celebrate on January 18.

Palestinian cuisine is similar to other Levantine cuisines, including Lebanese, Syrian and Jordanian. It is a diffusion of the cultures of civilisations that settled in the region of Palestine, with strong influence from Turkish cuisine. Some recipes I came across include Kubbi balls (fried spiced minced meat croquettes), Adas (lentil soup), Manakish (pizza), Musakhan (roasted chicken baked with onions, sumac, allspice, saffron, and fried pine nuts), Mansaf (lamb cooked in yoghurt), Mujaddara (lentils with rice & onions) and Sumaghiyyeh (beef stew with beans, sumac and tahina). I decided to make Labneh (cheese made from yoghurt) with pistachios, parsley, lemon and sumac dip served with freshly made pitta bread. It is commonly served for breakfast among Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It had a similar taste and texture to cream cheese and we thought it was delicious, especially with the homemade pitta bread.

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 4 as a nibble
Prep time: 25 minutes + 5 – 7 days resting in the fridge (I left mine for 7 days)

500g greek yoghurt
Good pinch of salt
1/2 tbsp pistachios
1/2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 lemon zest, finely chopped
pinch sumac
1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 – 6 pitta bread
Sliced carrot, pepper and celery

Pitta bread
2 tsp active dry yeast
½ tsp sugar
35 g wholemeal flour (1/4 cup)
310 g plain flour (2 1/2 cups)
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil

To make the labneh:
Place sieve over a large bowl and line it with cheesecloth in a cross formation (so you have two layers of cheesecloth lining the bottom of the sieve)
Add a pinch of salt to yoghurt and stir through
Scoop yoghurt into the cheesecloth-lined sieve
Gather the edges of the cloth and tie with kitchen string to form a parcel
With the sieve resting over a large bowl, place in the fridge and let drain for 5 – 7 days. The longer the yoghurt drains, the thicker the labneh consistency will be. It should have the consistency of cream cheese
Gently squeeze out the excess liquid and remove labneh from cheesecloth and place in a bowl

To make the Pitta bread:
Put 1 cup lukewarm water in a large mixing bowl, add yeast and sugar
Stir to dissolve and add the wholemeal flour and 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and whisk together
Put bowl in a warm (not hot) place, uncovered, until mixture is frothy and bubbling, about 15 minutes
Add salt, olive oil and nearly all remaining all-purpose flour (reserve 1/2 cup)
With a wooden spoon or a pair of chopsticks, stir until mixture forms a shaggy mass
Dust with a little reserved flour, then knead in bowl for 1 minute, incorporating any stray bits of dry dough
Turn dough onto work surface and knead lightly for 2 minutes, until smooth
Cover and let rest 10 minutes, then knead again for 2 minutes
Try not to add too much reserved flour as the dough should be soft and a bit moist
Clean the mixing bowl and put dough back in it
Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap, then cover with a towel
Put bowl in a warm (not hot) place and leave until dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour
Pre heat oven to 240 c
On bottom shelf of oven, place a heavy-duty baking sheet or ceramic baking tile
Punch down dough and divide into 8 pieces of equal size
Form each piece into a little ball
Place dough balls on work surface, cover with a damp towel and leave for 10 minutes
Remove 1 ball (keeping others covered) and press into a flat disc with rolling pin
Roll to a 6-inch circle, then to an 8-inch diameter, about 1/8 inch thick, dusting with flour if necessary
Carefully lift the dough circle and place quickly on hot baking sheet and place in the oven
After 2 minutes the dough should be nicely puffed
Turn over with tongs and bake for 1 minute
The pitta should be pale, with only a few brown speckles
Transfer warm pitta to a napkin-lined basket and cover so bread stays soft
Repeat with the rest of the dough balls

When you’re ready to serve the labneh:
Toast the pistachios in a pan then chop into small pieces
Fill a small serving dish with labneh
Sprinkle pistachios, parsley, lemon zest and a pinch of sumac over the labneh. Drizzle the olive oil over everything
Serve with fresh pitta bread and crudités

img_3396
Ingredients for Labneh (cheese made from yoghurt) with pistachios, parsley, lemon and sumac dip
img_3398
Labneh (cheese made from yoghurt)
img_3576
Labneh (cheese made from yoghurt)
img_3578
Labneh (cheese made from yoghurt)
img_3582
Labneh (cheese made from yoghurt) with pistachios, parsley, lemon and sumac dip
img_3583
Pitta bread
img_3586
Pitta bread
img_3593
Labneh (cheese made from yoghurt) with pistachios, parsley, lemon and sumac dip with homemade pitta bread
palestine
Palestine
mosque-of-omar-jerusalem
Mosque of Omar, Jerusalem
abraham-path-jericho
Abraham path, Jericho
the-church-of-the-nativity-manger-square-bethlehem
The Church of the Nativity

Belgium

The Kingdom of Belgium is located in Western Europe and the capital, Brussels, is home to the headquarters of the European Union and NATO.

The Belgian coastal tram Kusttram is the longest tram line in the world at 68km long. It opened in 1885 and operates between De Panne and Knokke-Heist, from the French border to the Dutch border.

The Law Courts of Brussels is the largest court of justice in the world. It has a built land area of 26,000 m² at ground level, which makes it bigger than the Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome (21,000 m²).

Belgium has been producing chocolate for almost 400 years, with the first evidence of chocolate production dating back to 1635. Today Belgium produces over 220,000 tons of chocolate per year, and there are an estimated 2,000 chocolate shops.

Belgium holds the world record for the most lights lit simultaneously on a Christmas tree at 194,672 and was achieved by Kiwanis Malmedy / Haute Fagnes Belgium in Malmedy, Belgium, on 10 December 2010.

For the small country that Belgium is, there’s a surprising amount of regional diversity when it comes to the cuisine. Pork, beef, game, fish and seafood are staple items, often cooked with butter, cream and herbs, or sometimes beer which is Belgium’s national drink. Popular recipes include Carbonade flamande (steak and ale stew), Boulets à la liégeoise (rabbit meatballs in sweet sauce), Waterzooi (creamy fish or chicken stew with vegetables), Lapin à la gueuze (rabbit & beer stew), Chicon au gratin (ham and endive gratin), Flamiche (savoury tart), Waffles, Couque de Dinant (hard sweet biscuit) and Tarte au riz (rice pudding pie). I decided to make the Belgian classic dish – Moules frites (steamed mussels and chips) and it didn’t disappoint.

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 45 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes

1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 egg yolk
1 cup canola oil, plus more for frying
2 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1⁄2 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 lb old potatoes, peeled and cut into 1⁄4″thick sticks (use a mandolin if you have one)
2 1⁄2 lb mussels, debearded and scrubbed
2⁄3 cup dry white wine
2 tbsp unsalted butter, cubed
3 sticks celery, finely chopped
1 1⁄2 leeks, light green and white parts, cut into 1⁄4″thick slices
1⁄2 large yellow onion, finely chopped

To make the mayonnaise:
In a large bowl, whisk mustard and egg yolk
Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in oil in a thin stream until it begins to emulsify
Whisk in the vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and pepper
Set aside

To make the fries
Pour oil into a deep pan to a depth of 2″, and heat over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer reads 375°
Add potatoes and cook until tender, about 8 minutes
Using a slotted spoon, transfer fries to a rack set over a rimmed baking sheet; chill
Increase oil temperature to 385°.
Working in batches, add chilled potatoes and cook until golden brown and crisp, about 4 minutes
Using a slotted spoon, return fries to rack and season with salt

To make the mussels:
Heat a 12″ high-sided skillet over high heat
Add mussels, wine, butter, celery, leeks, and onions
Season with salt and pepper, and cover skillet
Cook, shaking occasionally, until all mussels are opened, about 5 minutes
Divide mussels between 2 large bowls
Serve with fries and mayonnaise

Palau

Palau is an archipelago of approximately 250 islands, part of the Micronesia region in the western Pacific Ocean. The total land area of Palau is 189 sq miles. Its most populous islands are Angaur, Babeldaob, Koror and Peleliu. About 70% of the population live on Koror. The population of Palau is approximately 21,000, of whom 70% are native Palauans of mixed Melanesian, and Austronesian descent.

Saltwater crocodiles are indigenous to Palau and occur in varying numbers throughout the various mangroves and parts of the beautiful rock islands. Although the species is generally considered extremely dangerous, there has only been one fatal human attack in Palau within modern history, and that was in the 1960s. The largest crocodile in Palau measured in at 4.5 metres (15 ft) long.

In September 2009, Palau announced that it would create the world’s first shark sanctuary. The sanctuary protects about 600,000 sq km of ocean. Palau is home to 135 endangered or vulnerable shark and ray species.

Several television programmes and films have been shot in Palau, including the reality show ‘Survivor: Palau’ in 2005 and the 1968 film ‘Hell in the Pacific’ starring Lee Marvin.

The cuisine includes local foods such as cassava, taro, yam, potato, fish and pork. A few Palaun recipes I came across include Taro rosti, Fruit bat soup, Tinola (chicken, papaya & ginger soup), Ulkoy (shrimp fritters) and Pichi Pichi (cassava and coconut dessert). I opted to make Tama (crispy sweet croquettes), which were similar to doughnuts.

Rating: 8/10

Makes 20
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes

Crisco oil (for deep frying)
2 eggs
88 ml milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 3/4 tbsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt

In a deep fryer or deep skillet, heat oil to 350 F or until hot
In a large bowl, beat eggs, milk, and vanilla
Sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a separate bowl, stir and add to egg mixture
Mix until dry ingredients are moistened and dough is smooth
Drop teaspoonfuls of dough into the hot oil, fry until golden brown and doughnuts rise to the surface
Drain on paper towel lined plates and serve hot, but they are also good cooled down

img_3348
Ingredients for Tama (crispy sweet croquettes)
fullsizeoutput_1280
Making Tama (crispy sweet croquettes)
img_3359
Tama (crispy sweet croquettes)
img_3365
Tama (crispy sweet croquettes)
divers-in-palau
Divers in Palau
rock-islands-palau
Rock Islands, Palau

Netherlands

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

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

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

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

Rating: 8/10

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

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

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

img_3287
Ingredients for Bossche bollen (chocolate puffs)
img_3297
Bossche bollen (chocolate puffs)
img_3300
Bossche bollen (chocolate puffs)
img_3303
Bossche bollen (chocolate puffs)
tulips
Tulips
amsterdam
Amsterdam
windmill-kinderdijk
Traditional windmill, Kinderdijk

United States of America

The United States of America is made up of 50 states, covering 3.8 million square miles with 9 time zones and a population of over 324 million people. It is home to the world’s largest immigration population at 46.6 million. The UK is 5th with 8.5 million.

Some interesting facts about America:
The current 50-star US flag was designed by a 17-year-old as a school project in 1958
The first inhabitants of North America migrated from Siberia by way of the Bering land bridge and arrived at least 15,000 years ago
The US purchased Alaska from Russia for just US$7.2 million in 1867
The average US employee stays at each of their jobs for 4.4 years
Christmas was illegal in the US until 1836 as it was considered an ancient Pagan Holiday
The first Friday of June is National Donut Day in the US
GPS is owned and controlled by the U.S. Government. It can be ‘switched off’ at any time
The US uses less water now than it did in 1970
It takes a single one-page form and about 4 minutes to apply to become an official presidential candidate in the US
By law, only dead people can appear on US currency

Nine of the world’s most visited tourist attractions are in the US. The Las Vegas Strip tops the charts with 40 million visitors each year. It is a 4.2 mile stretch of South Las Vegas Boulevard in Clark County, Nevada known for it’s casinos and hotels. Fourteen of the world’s 25 largest hotels by room count are on the Strip, with a total of over 62,000 rooms. Times Square is the world’s second most visited tourist attraction, drawing an estimated 39 million visitors each year. It was formerly known as Longacre Square, but was renamed in 1904 after The New York Times moved its headquarters to the newly erected Times Building.

One of my favourite films is Julie and Julia which, if you haven’t seen it, is about Julia Child, an American chef, author and tv personality and Julie Powell, who wrote a blog about her challenge to cook all 524 recipes in Child’s cookbook in 365 days. Julia Child is recognised for bringing French cuisine to the American public with her debut cookbook, ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’. In the present day 21st century, the modern cuisine of the United States is very much regional in nature. Some popular dishes include Cobb salad, New England clam chowder, Buffalo wings, Cheeseburger, Gumbo (meat or shellfish stew), Sloppy joe sandwich (ground beef with ketchup in a burger bun), Barbequed ribs, Pecan pie, Mississippi mud pie and Persimmon pudding (steamed pudding with crème anglaise). I decided to cook one of my all time favourites – Southern fried chicken. It was finger licking good!

Rating: 7/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 15 minutes + 8 hours marinating
Cook time: 12 minutes

300ml buttermilk
1 tsp salt
6 pieces of chicken (I used a mixture of breast qtrs and thighs on the bone)
150g plain flour
2 tsps salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
Vegetable oil, for frying

Combine the buttermilk and salt in a sealable bag, add the meat and mix it so the meat is fully coated
Cover and refrigerate for about 8 hours, allowing it to return to room temperature before cooking
Put the flour, salt and spices in a large, flat dish and whisk briefly to combine
Put 1.5cm of vegetable oil into a wide, straight-sided pan with a lid and heat until very hot: a cube of bread should brown almost immediately (about 170C)
Wipe as much buttermilk off the chicken pieces as possible then roll them in the seasoned flour until thoroughly coated
Put the chicken in one layer in the pan (you may need to do this in batches, depending on the size of the pan) and cover
Turn the heat right down and simmer for 6 minutes, then turn the chicken pieces over, cover again and cook for another 6 minutes
Prepare a rack to drain the chicken
Turn the heat up and fry the chicken until it’s a deep golden colour on all sides
Transfer to the rack and blot with kitchen paper
Allow to cool slightly before serving

img_3316
Ingredients for Southern Fried Chicken
img_3318
Southern Fried Chicken
img_3325
Southern Fried Chicken
img_3329
Southern Fried Chicken
img_3332
Southern Fried Chicken
us-flag
US Flag
yosemite-national-park-california
Yosemite National Park, California
times-square
Times Square, New York
las-vegas-strip
Las Vegas Strip

Uganda

Uganda is situated in East Africa and takes its name from the Buganda kingdom, which encompasses a large portion of the south of the country, including the capital Kampala.
Much of the south of the country is heavily influenced by Lake Nalubaale or Lake Victoria, which contains many islands. It is the source of the Nile and is the largest tropical lake in the world.

During his 1907 visit Winston Churchill said of Uganda “For magnificence, for variety of form and colour, for profusion of brilliant life — bird, insect, reptile, beast — for vast scale — Uganda is truly “the Pearl of Africa”. It gained independence from Britain in 1962 as a Commonwealth realm with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. In 1963, Uganda became a republic but maintained its membership in the Commonwealth of Nations.

Idi Amin ruled Uganda from 1971 until 1979. He carried out mass killings within the country and an estimated 300,000 Ugandans lost their lives during his regime. Amin’s rule was characterised by human rights abuses, political repression, ethnic persecution, extrajudicial killings, nepotism, corruption, and gross economic mismanagement.

Uganda is home to the endangered mountain gorillas. As of September 2016, the estimated number remaining is about 880 and they are found in Bwindi National Park in Uganda, Rwanda, and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Ugandan cuisine consists of traditional and modern cooking styles, practices, foods and dishes. Main dishes usually consist of a sauce or stew with groundnuts, beans or meat. Recipes I came across included Ugali (maize porridge), Matooke (mashed plantains), Luwombo (meat stew) and Nsenene (pan fried grasshoppers). I made Sim Sim Cookies (sesame seed biscuits) which were very sweet, but tasty.

Rating: 7/10

Makes 10 – 12
Cook time: 15 minutes
Cooling time: 2 hours

3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup sesame seeds

Heat together over a low temperature until the sugar liquefies. Keep an eye on it constantly and stir it gently to bring it together
Be careful not to let the mixture cook too long, or the cookies will be too brittle
Pour the hot mixture onto a flat, greased surface. Work quickly to pat or roll the hot mixture into a flat sheet, approximately 1/4 inch thick
Cool until warm to the touch, but not hot and slice into squares
Separate the square cookies and remove them to another surface to continue cooling

img_3286
Ingredients for Sim Sim cookies (sesame seed biscuits)
img_3288
Making Sim Sim cookies (sesame seed biscuits)
img_3295
Sim Sim cookies (sesame seed biscuits)
img_3307
Sim Sim cookies (sesame seed biscuits)
mountain-gorilla-uganda
Mountain Gorilla, Uganda
lake-victoria-uganda
Lake Victoria, Uganda

Niger

Named after the Niger River in West Africa, the Republic of Niger is a landlocked country located in Western Africa. At a length of 2,600 miles the Niger River is the third longest river in Africa, after the Nile and the Congo. It contains 36 families of freshwater fish and nearly 250 fish species, twenty of these are found nowhere else on the planet.

A few interesting facts
Uranium is Niger’s largest mineral export. The country is ranked fifth in Uranium production globally
Niger is one of the poorest nations on the earth. In 2014 it was ranked 188 in the world on the UN Human Development Index
Niger is home to the largest protected area in Africa, covering some 7.7 million ha. The Air and Tenere Natural Reserves is the refuge for animals like addax, Cheetah, Oryx and the gazelle
It is one of the hottest countries in the world and is famously nicknamed as ‘Frying Pan of the World’. It can get hot enough to make raindrops evaporate before they hit the ground
A dinosaur named Nigersaurus has been discovered in Niger. It had a long neck and a mouth like a hammerhead shark with up to six hundred teeth for grazing ferns. It lived during the middle Cretaceous period, about 115 to 105 million years ago

Typical Nigerien meals consist of a starch (rice being the most popular) paired with a sauce or stew. Some dishes I came across were Cecena (black-eyed pea and onion fritters), Fari masa (deep fried dough, served with stews), Beignet (savoury wheat pastry of French origin), Fufu (paste made from yam or manioc), Jollof rice (rice and tomato dish), Dodo (fried plantains), Gumbo stew (sticky stew with okra and beef), Tukasu (mutton stew with dumplings), Salad de mangue (green salad with mango) and Chakery (sweet dessert made with cous-cous, cream, fruit and spices). I opted to make Jo jo meat balls (made with beef, green pepper, potato and egg). They were a little disappointing as they lacked flavour and didn’t hold together particularly well, as I think there was too much moisture (I have adapted the recipe below to hopefully alleviate this).

Rating: 5/10

Serves: 4
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 15-20 minutes

500g ground beef
1 green pepper
1 onion
2 medium potatoes
2 eggs
Salt & pepper
Plain flour
Vegetable oil for frying
Jar of tomato sauce (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180c
Place the potatoes in a food processer until they are well chopped
Remove to a tea towel and leave for a few minutes, then wring out any moisture
Place the green pepper and onion in the food processer until well chopped
Put the beef in a mixing bowl and add the chopped potatoes, onion, green pepper and eggs
Season well with salt & pepper and mix together
Place some plain flour on a plate
Roll your mixture into medium sized balls, roll each one in a little flour
Heat the oil in a pan and fry the meatballs for 5 – 8 minutes until browned
Place the meatballs in a dish and cook in the oven for around 10 minutes
You can cover the meatballs with tomato sauce before you put them in the oven or leave them plain
Serve with rice

Bolivia

Bolivia is the largest landlocked country in the Americas with the Andean mountain range taking up one third of its territory. Bolivia is named after Simón Bolívar, a Venezuelan military and political leader who played a key role in the independence of Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Panama and Bolivia. He was also officially the first president of Bolivia. Bolivia wasn’t always a landlocked country. It lost 420 miles of Pacific Ocean coastline to Chile in the War of the Pacific and it still maintains a standing navy in preparation for the day it reclaims it back.

A few facts:
Bolivia is the main exporter of Brazil nuts, producing 70% of the world’s supply
La Paz, Bolivia, was the first South American city to get an electricity supply and it was powered by llama dung
North Yungas Road, Bolivia, also known as the “Road of Death”, built by Paraguayan prisoners in the 1930s, is often cited as the most dangerous road in the world and has claimed thousands of lives
At 3,650m above sea level, La Paz is unofficially the highest capital city in the world (the official capital is Sucre but the seat of government is in La Paz)
The Guembe Biocenter in Santa Cruz, Bolivia is home to the world’s largest butterfly sanctuary
One of Bolivia’s oldest silver mines Cerro Rico (Rich Hill), has claimed the lives of an estimated 8 million people in the past 500 years. It is known as the “Mountain that eats men” and is still mined with picks and shovels today.

The traditional staples of Bolivian cuisine are corn, potatoes, and beans. These ingredients have been combined with a number of staples brought by the Spanish, such as rice, wheat, beef, pork, and chicken. Some recipes I considered were Picante de pollo (Spicy Chicken), Silpancho (Thin Sliced Breaded Beef), Chanka de Pollo (Incan Chicken Soup), Arroz con Queso (Rice with Cheese), Mondongo (Pork or Beef Stew), Bunuelos (sweet or savoury fried pastry), Pastel de Choclo (Corn Quiche) and Choripan (chorizo sandwich). However I opted for a very popular snack in Bolivia – Salteñas (Baked savoury pastry). It was quite a tricky recipe with a number of steps, and unfortunately the liquid oozed out of the pastry during the cooking which made it rather soggy. Also we found the flavour a little too sweet for our savoury loving palates!

Rating: 5/10

Makes 3 large or 4 medium Salteñas
Prep time: 45 mins + cooling time
Cook time: 15 – 25 minutes

For the filling
150g cooked chicken, chopped
1 small potato
1 spring onion
1/2 onion
1/8 cup frozen peas
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp salt
Pepper to taste
1 tbsp sugar
dash vinegar
1/8 cup butter
1/2 tbsp chopped parsley
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 packet of gelatin

For the pastry
4 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup butter
about 1 cup of warm water

Dice the potato and add it to a pot of boiling water and cook for about 5 minutes, you don’t want the potatoes to be soft or they will fall apart in the broth, they will still cook a bit longer once they are added to the rest of the ingredients. After 5 minutes, drain the potatoes and set aside
Melt the butter in a pan, add the spices (cumin, oregano, salt and pepper) and cook for 5 minutes
Add the onion and spring onion and cook for a few minutes
Add the vinegar, sugar, parsley, potatoes and green peas and mix everything together well, add the chicken and the chicken broth as well and let it cook all together over medium heat for 5 minutes until the mixture is heated throughout
Add the gelatin to the mixture and then transfer to a large bowl and allow to cool completely in the fridge
Alternatively you can pour 3 individual portions in to plastic bags sat inside ramekins in the freezer, as this will make it easier to place into the pastry. Only remove them from the freezer once fully frozen

To make the pastry
In a large bowl mix together the flour, sugar and salt. In a separate bowl Lightly beat the egg and in a small saucepan melt the butter
Add all this to the flour mix with some warm water (approx 1 cup) and mix well until it forms a dough
Let the dough rest (covered in a towel so that it does not dry out) for about 10 minutes
Afterwards, divide the dough into smaller pieces and roll out, flouring as needed, into approximately 15cm diameter circles around a 1/4 cm thick
Take a frozen mold of saltena filling from the freezer or a large scoop of the gelatine set filling and place it in the middle of the dough
Wet the edges of the pastry and close together sealing the filling inside well, pinching and twisting the edges to ensure a strong seal. This is a very important step as how well you close the saltenas will determine whether or not they open in the oven later when you are baking them
Add the finished salteñas to a parchment lined baking sheet
Preheat your oven to 240C degrees, line a baking sheet with tinfoil, and grease with non stick spray
Once the oven is at its maximum temperature, add the saltenas to the baking sheet, brush with a beaten egg (for shine) and place in the oven until the salteñas are browned (approx 15 minutes) if the tops are browning too quickly, place another sheet of tinfoil overtop and continue cooking. You want to be sure that the filling is completely heated through
Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes before tucking in

img_3123
Ingredients for Salteñas
img_3127
Making the filling for Salteñas
img_3172
Salteñas
img_3199
Salteñas
img_3201
Salteñas
la-paz-bolivia
La Paz, Bolivia
lake-titicaca-bolivia
Lake Titicaca, Bolivia
north-yungas-road-bolivia
North Yungas Road, Bolivia

Grenada

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

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

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

Rating: 8/10

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

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

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

img_3121
Ingredients for Grenadian Spice cake
img_3132
Mixing the Grenadian Spice cake
fullsizeoutput_1247
Grenadian Spice cake
img_3154
Grenadian Spice cake
img_3160
Grenadian Spice cake
grand-anse-beach-grenada
Grand Anse beach, Grenada
fort-george-grenada
Fort George, Grenada
grenada-sunset
Grenada sunset

Mongolia

The country the world knows as Mongolia is actually the historic Outer Mongolia. Inner Mongolia is still an autonomous region of China. Mongolia is the 19th largest and the most sparsely populated fully sovereign country in the world, with a population of around 3 million people. It is also the world’s second-largest landlocked country behind Kazakhstan. With an average annual temperature of 1.3 °C/29.7 °F, Ulaanbaatar is the world’s coldest capital city.

A few ‘Horsey’ facts
In Mongolia there are 13 times more horses than humans, and sheep outnumber humans 35 to 1
The world’s tallest statue of a horse is the Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue at Tsonjin Boldog measuring 40 metres tall
Mongolian native horses are called takhi, the Mongol word for “spirit,”. They have 66 chromosomes, two more than the average horse and they are the last truly wild horses left on the planet
In a span of just 25 years, Genghis Khan and his horsemen conquered an area larger and greater in population than the Romans did in four centuries
There is a theory that Mongolian horseman may have invented ice cream, when they took cream in containers made from animal intestines as provisions on long journeys across the Gobi desert in winter. As they galloped, the cream was vigorously shaken, while the sub-zero temperature caused it to freeze
The world record for the largest horse parade took place in Ulaanbaatar, on 9 August 2013 and involved 11,125 horses and their riders ageing between 2 and 90

Mongolian cuisine refers to the local culinary traditions of Mongolia and Mongolian styled dishes. The extreme continental climate has affected the traditional diet, so the Mongolian cuisine primarily consists of dairy products, meat, and animal fats. Popular dishes include Guriltai shol (noodle soup), Khorkhog (mutton cooked over hot stones), Khuushuur (deep fried dumplings), Chanasan Makh (boiled meat with innards), Budaatai huurga (stew with rice, meat and vegetables), Gambir (pancakes) and Boortsog (deep fried butter cookies). I opted for what is considered the national dish – Buuz (steamed dumplings). I have to say that there were a little bland on their own, but with the addition of some ketchup or soy sauce they weren’t too bad.

Rating: 6/10

Makes 30
Prep time: 45 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

250 g plain flour
150 ml water
300 g minced mutton, lamb or beef (with at least 20% fat)
1 onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt
Pepper
1 tsp caraway seeds

Mix the flour and water together in a bowl and knead for 5 minutes until you have a pliable dough
Let it rest for 15 minutes
Mix together the meat, onion and garlic
Lightly bash the caraway seeds in a pestle and mortar
Add the caraway seeds, salt & pepper to the minced meat
Roll out the dough so it’s is no more than 3mm thick
With a pastry cutter, cut the the pastry into rounds and place the round in your hand, fill with a teaspoon of the mixture and then carefully bring the edges to the middle and twist it around. This recipe has some guidance on how to shape the buuz
Place them on some greaseproof paper whilst you continue to make the rest
Get a steamer ready and place the buuz in to the steamer ensuring they don’t touch each other (you will need to cook them in batches)
Cook each batch for 15 minutes
When you open the lid, using a chopping board to fan air over the top of the buuz to create a glossy top
Have them on their own or with ketchup or soy sauce

img_3129
Ingredients for Buuz (steamed dumplings)
fullsizeoutput_1248
Dough for Buuz (steamed dumplings)
img_3139
Making Buuz (steamed dumplings)
img_3140
Making Buuz (steamed dumplings)
img_3153
Buuz (steamed dumplings)
img_3151
Buuz (steamed dumplings)
mongolian-horsemen
Mongolian horsemen
gobi-desert-mongolia
Gobi desert, Mongolia

Laos

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
Laos Monks
mekong-river-laos
Mekong River, Laos
luang-prabang-laos
Luang Prabang, Laos
patuxai-victory-monument-vientiane-laos
Patuxai Victory Monument, Vientiane, Laos

Tanzania

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
Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
serengeti-national-park-tanzania
Serengeti National Park
zanzibar
Zanzibar
elephants-in-the-wild-tanzania
Elephants in the wild, Tanzania

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

img_2930
Ingredients for Sopa Paraguaya (corn and cheese bread)
img_2934
Making Sopa Paraguaya (corn and cheese bread)
img_2937
Sopa Paraguaya (corn and cheese bread)
img_2940
Sopa Paraguaya (corn and cheese bread)
img_2943
Sopa Paraguaya (corn and cheese bread)
rio-paraguay
Rio Paraguay
capybara
Capybara

China

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

img_2575
Ingredients for Char Sui Pork (Cantonese BBQ pork)

img_2577
Marinade for Char Sui Pork (Cantonese BBQ pork)

img_2579
Char Sui Pork (Cantonese BBQ pork)

img_2638
Char Sui Pork (Cantonese BBQ pork)

img_2647
Char Sui Pork (Cantonese BBQ pork)

the-great-wall-of-china
The Great Wall of China

mausoleum-of-the-first-qin-emperor
Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor

li-river-guilin-china
Li River, Guilin, China

sichuan-giant-panda-sanctuary
Sichuan Giant Panda sanctuary

shanghai-china
Shanghai, China

Turkey

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

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

img_2586
Ingredients for Belokranjska pogača (salted cake)
img_2587
Belokranjska pogača (salted cake)
img_2590
Belokranjska pogača (salted cake)
img_2592
Belokranjska pogača (salted cake)
lake-bled-slovenia
Lake Bled, Slovenia
slovenian-mountains
Slovenian mountains
ljubljana-city-slovenia
Ljubljana City, Slovenia
img_2595
Belokranjska pogača (salted cake)

Nicaragua

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 10/10

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

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

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

Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea is in the southwestern Pacific, encompasses the eastern half of New Guinea and its offshore Islands. The country is situated on the Pacific Ring of Fire, at the point of collision of several tectonic plates. There are a number of active Volcanoes and eruptions are frequent. Earthquakes are relatively common sometimes accompanied by Tsunamis. It is a country of immense cultural and biological diversity. It’s known for its beaches and coral reefs and is one of the world’s least explored countries both culturally and geographically.

Madang on the western coast was once dubbed the prettiest town in the Pacific, surrounded by azure waters sprinkled with picturesque islands. Madang was virtually destroyed during the Japanese occupation and subsequent fighting in world war II, so much of what you see today was built after the war.

Papua New Guinea has more languages than any other country – 852 languages are listed, of which 12 have no known living speakers. The most widely spoken indigenous language is Enga with about 200,000 speakers. English is the language of government and the education system but it is not spoken widely. The country established its sovereignty in 1975, following nearly 60 years of Australian administration. It became a separate Commonwealth realm with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state and became a member of the Commonwealth of Nations in its own right.

Sport is an important part of Papua New Guinea culture and Rugby League is by far the most popular sport. Other major sports which have a part in the countries sporting landscape are Australian rules Football, Association Football, rugby union and, in Eastern Papua cricket. The capital and largest city Port Moresby hosted the Pacific Games in 2015.

Popular recipes from Papua New Guinea include Kaukau (baked sweet potato) , Chicken and greens in coconut milk , Mumu (roasted pork with root vegetables, greens, fruit and coconut milk) , Chicken pot (chicken stew with coconut milk), Sago (sago palm is the starch used for making bread and puddings), Dia (sago and bananas cooked with coconut cream) and Yam patties. I opted to make Banana cake which was simple and quite tasty, although not overly sweet.

Rating: 8/10

Makes 10 – 12 slices
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 45 – 50 minutes

1⁄2 cup margarine or butter
1⁄2 cup of sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 large bananas (mashed)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 1⁄2 cup of self-raising flour
1/3 cup of milk (enough to give it a wet texture, but not runny)

Pre heat oven to 180 degrees
Beat butter, sugar and vanilla essence until creamy
Gradually beat in eggs and add mashed bananas
Mix milk and bicarbonate of soda and blend into banana mixture with flour (note – the amount of milk will vary depending on the mushiness of the bananas)
Pour the batter into a round greased 20 cm deep-sided cake pan
Bake for 45-50 minutes in a hot oven

img_2222
Ingredients for Banana cake
img_2235
Papua New Guinean Banana cake
img_2240
Family enjoying Papua New Guinean Banana cake
dancing-warriors-in-papua-new-guinea
Dancing warriors in Papua New Guinea
resident-of-papua-new-guinea
Tribal resident of Papua New Guinea