Malta is an archipelago in the central Mediterranean between Sicily and the North African coast and only the three largest islands – Malta (Malta), Gozo (Għawdex) and Comino (Kemmuna) are inhabited. Malta has a very long history dating back to 60 A.D. when St Paul the Apostle was shipwrecked on the island while on his way to Rome.

Until 1800 Malta depended on cotton, tobacco and its shipyards for exports. It is now classified as an advanced economy by the IMF. Film production is a growing contributor to the Maltese economy as the Maltese government introduced financial incentives for filmmakers in 2005.
It is also a popular tourist destination with 1.6 million tourists each year. There are three Unesco world heritage sites – Valetta, Hal Saflieni Hypogeum (underground temple) and Megalithic Temples. I visited Malta with my mum 8 years ago and my highlights would be the Mdina (the walled city in Valetta), St Julian’s Bay and the view from the Valetta waterfront. Having now read more about Malta I would love to go back to visit the historical sites, the Blue Lagoon at Comino, San Blas Bay and the harbour of Wied iż-Żurrieq. Valetta has been named as the Capital of Culture 2018 so maybe a trip is in order.

The cuisine of Malta takes influence from nearby Sicily as well as England, France and Spain. Traditional dishes include Fenkata (stewed or fried rabbit), Laħam fuq il-fwar (steamed slices of beef), Lampuka (fish) and Pastizz (savoury pastry). I made Maltese Ravjul (ravioli), which I filled with ricotta, as I couldn’t get hold of Gozitan cheeselets. It is quite time consuming making and filling fresh pasta, but I enjoyed it so it was worth the effort.

Rating: 8/10

Serves: 2 as a main course or 4 as a starter
Prep time: 1 – 1 ½ hours
Cook time: 20 mins

200 g semolina
200 g flour
1 egg
100 – 120ml water

25 g ricotta cheese
75g grated parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 tbsp chopped parsley
Salt and pepper

Tomato sauce:
1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, bashed unpeeled
200ml passata
Chicken (or vegetable) stock powder or cube
Black pepper

Sieve the flour, semolina and salt into a bowl, add the egg and stir with a knife. Gradually adding enough water to make a dough
Knead the dough for about 5 mins and then wrap in clingfilm and put in the fridge for a couple of hours
To make the sauce, put the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat, add the bashed garlic and cook for a few minutes, taking care not to let it burn. Remove the garlic and add the passata, stock and pepper. Simmer for 15 mins

Place greaseproof paper on 2 baking sheets and sprinkle with flour
When ready to make the ravioli, mix the filling ingredients together
Cut the dough into 4 and using a pasta machine (if you don’t have one use a rolling pin), roll out the dough into long thin strips (up to setting 6 on the pasta machine).
Place the rolled out dough strips on to a floured surface whilst you continue to roll out the rest
Place a tsp of filling on the pastry strip with intervals of about 4 cm/1 ½ inch
Brush the edges of the strip with water and then place a rolled out dough strip on top, pressng down gently to seal and remove any air
Use a round pastry cutter to make round raviolis or a knife to cut into squares
Put the raviolis on to the baking sheet, whilst you make the rest (approx 24 raviolis)
Put a large pan of salted water on to boil and cook the raviolis in 2 separate batches for 6 minutes each, drain and drizzle a little oil over the first batch so they don’t stick to each other
Serve with a few spoonfuls of sauce over the top, chopped parsley and parmesan


Jordan is situated in the heart of the Middle East, almost land locked but for a for a short coast on the Gulf of Aqaba. Officially The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan since independence from Britain in 1946. King Hussein ruled Jordan from 1953 until his death in 1999, when his son King Abdallah II assumed the throne. Since 1989, all elements of the Jordanian political system have been on a road to greater democracy, liberalisation and consensus building.

The population of Jordan is estimated at 9.5 million as of 2016. Jordan plays host to enormous numbers of refugees, with 2 million Palestinians, 1.4 million Syrians, 700,000 Iraqis and 15,000 Lebanese. Archaeological evidence shows that humans have lived in what is now Jordan for at least 90,000 years through the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods. It has been ruled by the Mongols, the Crusaders, the Ayyubids, the Mamluks and the Ottoman empire.

Tourism in Jordan is affected by regional turbulence but despite this it is still considered to be a major influence on the economy. The most popular tourist attractions are the historical cities of Petra and Jerash. Other highlights include Madaba’s Byzantine era mosaics, the Dana Biosphere Reserve, Wadi Rum, Al-Maghtas and the Dead Sea.

The cuisine of Jordan has developed over the centuries. Popular ingredients include olive oil (they are one of the largest olive producers in the world), herbs, garlic, lemon, tomato sauce and yoghurt. Mansaf is the national dish (lamb cooked in a sauce of fermented dried yogurt called Jameed). Other dishes I came across were Mujaddara (lentil and rice casserole), Freekeh (poultry or meat fried in oil and braised with water, salt, and cinnamon bark) and Kousa Mahshi (meat stuffed courgettes). We had friends visiting for the weekend so I decided to do Mezze, which is a highly popular style of eating in Jordan. I made Kefta (spiced ground meat), Falafel (fried chickpea balls), Tabbouleh (bulgar wheat salad) and Cucumber & mint yoghurt dip. I served it all with flatbreads and pitta breads. It divided the group a little, but overall we enjoyed it.

Rating: (a high) 7/10

Serves 4 with leftovers
Prep time: 3 hours
Cook time: 1 hour

½ kg tomatoes
½ cup olive oil
½ cup lemon joice
1 cup cooked bulgar wheat (follow instructions on pack)
2 large onions
3 ¾ cups of finely chopped parsley
3 ¾ cups finely chopped mint leaves
1 tbsp salt

Cucumber & mint yoghurt dip
½ cucumber
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
500g plain yoghurt
1 tbsp salt

Beef Keftas
750g ground beef
2 onions
2 tsp minced garlic cloves
1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
2 tsps salt
2 tsps black pepper
2 tsp ground allspice
1 tbsp oil
½ cup passata

2 cups dried chickpeas
1 cup dried broad beans
1 onion
3 cloves of garlic
½ cup of chopped parsley and/or coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander seeds
1 tsp black pepper
Salt to taste
2 tsp baking soda

Cook the bulgar wheat according to the pack instructions
Chop tomatoes very fine and sprinkle with salt
Chop onions very fine and add to tomatoes
Add parsley and mint leaves
Stir together with the bulgar wheat
Add lemon juice and olive oil and mix well

Cucumber & mint yoghurt dip
Dice the cucumbers
Crush the garlic with salt & mint; stir into yoghurt
Add cucumbers and serve with mint garnish

Preheat oven to 175c
Half the onion and cut about 1/4 of that half into thin slices, then the rest of the onion shred with a hand vegetable shredder OR chop, mince garlic and chop parsley, then add it to the meat
Add seasoning to the meat, salt, ground black pepper and allspice
Drizzle oil on top of the meat mixture and mix with your hands (you can put the mixture in a bag and massage it to avoid getting tpp messy).
Brush oil on the bottom of the baking pan, then press down the meat mixture, from one corner to the other until it is equally spread.
With two fingers, (index and middle) make little lines, from one end to the other. This will speed cooking process and in a way looks like boneless riblets.
Spoon over the passata, and spread equally on the top of the meat mixture, then place those thin onion slices on top, a sprinkle with salt and pepper and a little more parsley
Bake for about 20-25 minutes in the preheated oven. It will shrink from all the sides of the pan

Soak the chickpeas and fava beans for at least six hours or overnight
Blend the soaked chickpeas and fava beans, onion, garlic, and chopped parsley into the food processor until all the ingredients are combined into a nice, thick paste
Empty the mixture into a bowl, add the salt and spices, and mix them well with a spatula
Add baking soda to the mixture and mix well
Scoop the mixture with a spoon or your hands to form ball shapes and deep fry them in vegetable oil until they are a nice golden brown colour


St Vincent and The Grenadines

St Vincent and The Grenadines, or SVG, is a country in the Caribbean, not a music band, like I thought when I first pulled it out of the bag! Situated in the Lesser Antilles island arc, it is made up of St Vincent, the main island, along with the Grenadines, 32 smaller islands stretching south. There are 9 inhabited islands, one of which is Mustique, which has been visited by Queen Elizabeth II, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Sir Paul McCartney and Amy Winehouse. Pirates of the Caribbean I, II and III were all filmed on the islands. Natasha Mayers, born in St Vincent, won the Women’s 100m gold medal in the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

The highest point is La Soufriere, an active volcano on St Vincent, which last erupted in 1979. Many of St Vincent’s beaches are black volcanic sand, while the Grenadine beaches are fine white sand. Forest covers 69 per cent of the land area. In 2006 it was voted number 4 in the world on The Happy Planet Index (HPI) which is calculated from perceived well-being, life expectancy and ecological footprint. Homosexuality is illegal in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Much of the food eaten in SVG is grown or sourced locally. Popular dishes include bul jol (roasted breadfruit and saltfish), pumpkin soup, arrowroot cakes and curried goat. I made stuffed sweet potatoes, which we found a little bit too sweet with the filling, unfortunately the sweet potato and sweetcorn overpowered the chicken and bacon.

Rating: 5/10

Serves 3 as a main meal or 6 as a starter
Prep time: 30 mins
Cook time: 1 hr 15 mins

5-6 sweet potatoes
Vegetable oil
8 rashers of bacon
1 cup of any cooked diced meat
1 cup sweetcorn
1 large onion
2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tbsp margarine
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 200 C.
Scrub potatoes well. Dry and brush them with oil. Place on a baking sheet and cook for 1 hour.
Fry the onion with thyme leaves until it is soft and transparent, remove to a bowl.
Fry the bacon in the same pan until it is crisp and add to the onions.
Remove potatoes from oven, cut each in half and scoop out the flesh to a bowl. Mash the flesh.
Add the corn, chicken and margarine to the onion and bacon, add seasoning and mix well.
Put a spoonful of the filling mix into the potato shells, followed by a spoonful of the mashed potato and finally another spoonful of the filling mixture.
Place in the oven for 15 mins and serve hot.



Before this challenge, I’ll be honest and say that I thought of Turkmenistan as ‘just another stan’, how wrong could I possibly have been! Until it’s independence from the USSR in 1990 it was isolated from the rest of the world and it is still pretty weird today. Turkmenistan became famous for the strange dictatorship of the eccentric late president, Saparmyrat Niyazov, who ruled as ‘Turkmenbashi’ (Leader of the Turkmen).

A few facts
Turkmenbashi re-named the days of the week after himself and his mother and banned opera, ballet and the circus.
Turkmenistan ranks 3rd worst for press freedom conditions in the world, just before North Korea and Eritrea.
The current leader, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, has written several books, the latest one is called “Tea: Medicine and Inspiration”.
Turkmenistan has the world’s fourth largest reserves of natural gas resources and since 1993 citizens have received free of charge natural gas, electricity and water.
Ashgabat, the capital, meaning ‘the city of love’ has been rebuilt, after it was levelled by an earthquake in 1948, that killed more than 110,000 people (two-thirds of the then population). It now has the world’s highest concentration of white marble buildings and the largest indoor Ferris Wheel at 47.60 metres.

Many of the popular dishes in Turkmenistan today are from Soviet influence such as Pelmani (meat dumplings), Peroshki (rice, meat, or vegetables cooked in dough) and Borsch (beet soup). I also came across Borek (dumplings in soup), Plov (fried rice with lamb and carrots) , Gelin Budu – Bride’s Thighs (Rice Croquettes) and Palaw (Turkmen Pilaf). I decided to make Gutap (savoury filled dumplings) that are like a flattened pasty. They were somewhat fiddly to make and sadly, didn’t really hit the mark on flavour. The first couple I made were too big, so it’s easier the smaller you make them.

Rating: 5/10

Makes 6-8 gutaps (enough for a main meal for 2)
Prep time: 45 mins
Cook time: 30 mins

2 cups flour
½ tsp salt
200ml hand hot water
1 tbsp olive oil

450g ground beef
1 onion
½ red pepper
pinch cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
vegetable oil for frying

Mix the dough ingredients together in a bowl until it forms a smooth texture but not too wet (add more flour if necessary). Cover it with clingfilm and set aside.
In a food processor, chop the onions and red pepper.
Mix the chopped vegetables in a bowl with the meat, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper.
Heat 3 tbsp vegetable oil in skillet over medium high heat.
Divide the dough and roll it out thinly in small rounds (10cm max). Fill half the rounds with the filling, and cover with the other half, pressing down with a fork to seal them. Brush the gutaps with oil on both sides.
Cook them in a pan one by one, turning them once until they brown on both sides, add more oil to the pan if needed.

Serve hot.


Switzerland or officially the Swiss Confederation, is the best place to be born in the world, ranking number 1 in the EIU ‘where to be born’ index (previously known as quality of life index).
The Swiss Confederation was established on 1 August 1291, which is celebrated annually as the Swiss National Day. It has not been in a state of war internationally since 1815 and ranks number 5 in the Global Peace index.

Some random interesting facts
The Swiss eat more chocolate than any other nation in the world, 11.3 kg per year.
One is never more than 10 miles from a lake in Switzerland.
In Switzerland, it is illegal to keep just one guinea pig. They must be kept in pairs.
Albert Einstein came up with his theory of relativity and the formula E=MC2 in Bern, Switzerland.
The Sonnenberg tunnel in Lucerne is able to house up to 20,000 people for an extended period of time as a fallout shelter. It serves as the world’s largest nuclear bomb shelter.
The Dalai Lama owns the smallest vineyard in the world, which is located in Switzerland.
The most expensive hotel room in the world is The Royal Penthouse suite at Hotel President Wilson in Geneva. Bill Gates and Michael Douglas have both been residents. At $83,000 per night you can enjoy your own private elevator, gym, 12 bedrooms and 12 marble bathrooms, a Steinway Grand Piano, and a panoramic view of Lake Geneva.

Swiss cuisine shows many regional influences as well as French, German and Italian. Traditional dishes include Rosti (fried grated potato), Papet Vaudois (potatoes, leek with sausage) , Zürcher Geschnetzeltes (veal and mushroom in a cream sauce), Bűndnernusstorte (caramelised nut filled pastry) and Zopf (plaited loaf). Although I had a recommendation from Valerie who I had met on holiday, my friends and family well know that I am addicted to cheese, so there really was only one recipe for me to cook; it had to be Fondue! My sister and brother in law joined us for the evening and suffice to say, it was truly scrumptious.

Rating: 10/10

Serves: 4
Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 15-20 mins

2 French sticks (a day old), cut into cubes
1 clove of garlic
350ml dry white
2tsp cornstarch
400g Vacherin Fribourgeois, grated
400g Gruyere, grated
2 tsp of kirsch

Half the garlic and rub it around the fondue pot
Dissolve the cornstarch in the kirsch
Place the fondue pot on the stove over a low heat
Pour the wine into the fondue pot and bring it to a simmer
Gradually add the grated cheese, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon until it melts together.
Add the kirsch and the pepper.
Transfer to the serving stand, with the burner on a steady temperature.
Serve with the cubed bread.

Ingredients for Swiss fondue
Swiss fondue
Family enjoying Swiss fondue
Swiss fondue

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The Principality of Monaco is the second smallest country in the world with Prince Albert II as the head of state. The House of Grimaldi have ruled Monaco, with brief interruptions, since 1297. A treaty was agreed in 2002 that if the reigning Prince failed to leave dynastic offspring, then sovereignty over the Grimaldi realm would revert to France (no pressure there then Princes of Monaco!)

In 2014 it was noted about 30% of Monaco’s population was made up of millionaires and it is the third most expensive country in the world. From a brief internet search I managed to find a 4 bedroom villa for sale, overlooking the harbour for a nice sum of 45 million pounds. Well, we can all dream!!

Tourism and gambling drive the economy with millions flocking to Monaco each year for the luxurious beachfront hotels, the extensive yacht harbour and the famous Monte Carlo Casino. If money was no object, you could lunch at Louis XV, Monaco’s most prestigious dining address, spoil yourself with a gold dust bath at the Thermes Marin de Monte Carlo, take in a performance by the Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra or shop till you drop at the famous 5 Pavillions shopping area.

When it comes to the food, there are 237 restaurants in Monaco serving any and every type of cuisine you could wish for. Traditional Monegasque dishes include Brandamincium (salt cod pounded with garlic, oil & cream), Pan Bagnats (Monegasque sandwiches) and Socca (chickpea crepes). I opted to make Barbajuans (pastries filled with cheese and chard) and they were very tasty, a little fiddly to make, but worth the effort.

Rating: 8/10

Makes 12 – 14
Prep time: 25 mins + 1 hour chill time
Cook time: 20 mins

For the pastry
125g plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
50g water

For the filling
1 tbsp onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp leek, finely chopped
3 stems swiss chard leaves, stems removed, chopped
1 tbsp parmesan, freshly grated
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 egg beaten
1 1/2 tbsp ricotta
1/2 tbsp olive oil
Salt & pepper

Mix the flour with water (at room temperature) salt and extra virgin olive oil. Start mixing with a fork first, then with your hands until ingredients are perfectly blended.
Knead vigorously on a floured surface until smooth, around 8 – 10 minutes.
Form the dough into a ball and wrap it in cling film. Place in the fridge for 1 hour.

Heat olive oil in heavy medium skillet over medium heat.
Fry the onion and leek about 4 mins.
Add chard, oregano and fry for about 8 mins until tender.
Transfer to a small bowl and mix in cheeses.
Season with salt and pepper, mix in 1 tbsp egg.
Set aside to cool.

Roll out dough on floured surface to 1mm thickness and cut out 12 – 14 rounds using 2-2 ½”” cutter.
Place 1/2 tsp. of filling in center of each round.
Brush edges of rounds with egg.
Stretch the dough out and fold it over, forming half-circle, pressing the edges with a fork to seal.
Place pastries on baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper.

Pour vegetable oil into large skillet to depth of 1 ½”” and heat to 375°F.
Working in batches, fry pastries until brown and crisp, about 5 min.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer pastries to paper towel and drain. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Ingredients for Barbajuans
Dough for Barbajuans
Filling for Barbagiuans (savoury pastries)
Filling for Barbajuans
Making the Barbajuans
Making the Barbajuans
Frying the Barbajuans
Frying the Barbajuans
Barbadians (savoury filled pastries)
Port of Monaco
Port of Monaco
Monte Carlo Casino
Monte Carlo Casino



Nauru is the world’s smallest island nation, covering just 21 square kilometers and is the only republic in the world without an official capital.

Nauru is a phosphate rock island, and its primary economic activity since 1907 has been the export of phosphate mined from the island. Nauru boasted the highest per-capita income enjoyed by any sovereign state in the world during the late 1960s and early 1970s. With the exhaustion of phosphate reserves, its environment severely degraded by mining, and the trust established to manage the island’s wealth significantly reduced in value, it briefly became a tax haven and money-laundering center to obtain income. Since 2001, in exchange for aid from the Australian government, Nauru housed a detention center for asylum seekers trying to enter Australia. The unemployment rate is estimated to be 90 percent, and of those who have jobs, the government employs 95 percent.

By measure of mean body mass index (BMI) Nauruans are the most overweight people in the world with 97 percent of men and 93 percent of women being overweight or obese. More than 40 percent of the population has type 2 diabetes, the world’s highest rate.

They are unable to grow fresh vegetables so the diet is limited. Almost all food in Nauru is imported, except for fish, coconut and a few other items. Spam and Corned Beef are popular and they also eat a lot of rice. I struggled to find an authentic recipe for Nauru, so I decided to challenge my culinary skills by experimenting! I cooked yellowfin tuna (which is available in Nauru’s waters) with coconut, chilli flakes & lime. I served it as a canape to our guests and they thoroughly enjoyed it!! If anyone has any traditional Nauruan recipes, I’ll happily cook Nauru again.

Rating: 8/10

Serves: 5 (as a canapé)

Prep time: 5 mins + 2 hours marinating time
Cook time: 7 mins + 10 mins resting time

2 yellowfin tuna steaks (about 400g)
1 small can coconut cream
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1 lime, zest & juice

Place the tuna steaks in a bag with all the other ingredients and refridgerate for 2 hours.
Heat a medium size frying pan to medium-hot and place the tuna steaks in when it’s hot, without the marinating juice.
Cook on each side for 3 minutes, then put the marinating juices into the pan, turn up the heat for 1 minute then turn it off, put a lid on the pan and let it rest for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, warm the baguette a little in the oven.
Place the tuna in a bowl and mash it with a fork, then pour some of the juice over the tuna but don’t make it too wet.
Slice the baguette into small rounds and then put a teaspoon of the tuna on top.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), located in Central Africa is the second largest country in Africa and was previously named Zaire (from 1971 – 1997). It is slightly larger than the combined areas of Spain, France, Germany, Sweden, and Norway. The country has a tiny coast on the Atlantic Ocean, just enough to accommodate the mouth of the Congo River. It’s equatorial position gives it the highest frequency of thunderstorms in the world and it is home to the Congo Rainforest, the second largest rain forest in the world (after the Amazon). Five of the country’s national parks are listed as World Heritage Sites: the Garumba, Kahuzi-Biega, Salonga and Virunga National Parks, and the Okapi Wildlife Reserve.

The Congolese Civil Wars, which began in 1996, brought about the end of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko’s 32-year reign and devastated the country. The wars ultimately involved nine African nations and resulted in the deaths of 5.4 million people. Mobutu Sésé Seko (he renamed himself), roughly means “the all-conquering warrior, who goes from triumph to triumph”. Mobutu became notorious for corruption, nepotism and embezzlement. Mobutu allegedly stole as much as US$5 billion while in office. In July 2009, a Swiss court determined that the statute of limitations had run out on an international asset recovery case of about $6.7 million of deposits of Mobutu’s in a Swiss bank, and therefore the assets should be returned to Mobutu’s family. Under his rule the nation suffered from uncontrolled inflation, a large debt, and massive currency devaluations. Around 55% of people live below the poverty line, living on less than a dollar each day and less than a third of children in the DRC attend secondary school.

The DRC is the world’s largest producer of cobalt ore and a major producer of copper and diamonds. It is the second largest diamond-producing nation in the world, although a third of the DRC’s diamonds are believed to be smuggled, making quantifying production very difficult.

Although the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against non essential travel to the majority of the DRC, it has a lot to offer adventurous travellers. Highlights include the rare Mountain Gorillas, living in the Virunga Mountains, the Lola Ya Bonobo Sanctuary, Mt Nyiragongo volcano and taking a cruise down the Congo River.

Some of the recipes I came across were Poulet à la Moambé (chicken with a peanut sauce), Soso na Loso (chicken and rice), Ntaba or Ngulu yako tumba (grilled goat or pork), Liboke (fish stewed in manioc leaves). I opted to cook Kamundele (beef kebabs) which traditionally would be served with fried plantain (not that easy to find), so I served it in pitta bread with salad and grated cheese. It was very simple and pretty tasty.

Rating: 8/10

Serves 2 hungry people
Prep time: 10 mins + overnight marinating
Cook time: 6 mins

500g sirloin steak, trimmed of fat and cut into cubes
1 tsp ginger root, grated
2 tbsp mustard
1 oxo or maggi beef cube
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Juice of half a lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil

Place all the ingredients in a bag, except the olive oil and marinate in the fridge overnight.
Put the beef on to skewers.
Heat the griddle pan or BBQ and cook the beef kebabs for 3 minutes on each side.
Serve with pitta, salad & grated cheese.


Micronesia (FSM)

The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) are in the western Pacific Ocean and comprise of around 607 islands with a combined area of 271 sq miles. The FSM is made up of what is known as the Western and Eastern Caroline Islands. The islands are grouped into four states; Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae. It forms part of the Micronesia region encompassing the FSM, Palau, Kiribati, Marshall Islands and Nauru. FSM’s capital is Palikir, located on Pohnpei Island. Pohnpei reputedly is one of the wettest places on earth, with up to 330 inches of rain per year.

Pohnpei is notable for the prevalence of an extreme form of color blindness called Achromatopsia, and known locally as maskun (meaning ’no see’). Approximately 5% of the atoll’s 3000 inhabitants are afflicted. A person with complete achromatopsia would see only black, white and shades of grey. The neurologist Oliver Sacks wrote a book about it in 1997 called ‘The Island of the Colorblind’.

Economic activity in the FSM consists primarily of subsistence farming and fishing. The potential for a tourist industry exists, but the remoteness of the location and a lack of adequate facilities hinder development. Top things to see and do in FSM include The ‘Venice of Micronesia’, Phonpei’s ancient stone city Nan Madol, Yap’s large stone money banks, diving Chuuk’s underwater WWII ‘museum’ that’s hailed as one of the world’s ultimate aquatic experiences and Kosrae’s mangrove swamps and sandy beaches.

The main staple foods in the FSM are taro, yam, bread-fruit, banana, and coconuts. Crab, shellfish, pork and chicken are also popular. Recipes include Prawn Adobo in Coconut Milk, Coconut Chicken Curry and Breadfruit salad. I opted to cook Kelaguen Chicken (Marinated chicken with coconut, spring onion & chilli) served with toasted flatbreads. We had friends to dinner and they all thought it was unique and very flavoursome.

Rating: 10/10

Serves 4
Prep time: 30 mins + 6 – 24 hours marinating time
Cook: 15 mins

For chicken kelaguen
4 boneless chicken thighs (with skin)
1/2 lb fresh coconut, coarsely grated
3 spring onions with their stalks, finely chopped
2 red chillies, seeds removed
1 green chilli, seeds removed
1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice
Flatbreads, toasted under the grill

For finadene marinade
1 cup lemon juice
1 cup soy sauce
1 medium onion, finely slices
1 red chilli

Mix together all the marinade ingredients and marinate the chicken for at least 6 hours.
Grill the chicken thighs on the barbecue for 10 – 15 minutes.
Remove the skin and slice.
Mix with coconut, onions, lemon juice, and chilies.
Add salt and pepper.
Serve with toasted flatbreads.


Diving in Yap
Diving with Manta Rays in Yap
Federated states of Micronesia
micronesia sunset
Micronesia sunset


The Republic of Latvia was founded on 18 November 1918 but it was annexed by the USSR in 1940 – an action never recognized by the US and many other countries. Latvia reestablished its independence in 1991 following the breakup of the Soviet Union. It is situated in the Baltic region of Northern Europe and is one of the three Baltic states along with Estonia and Lithuania. Latvia became a member of the European Union in 2004. Most of Latvia’s territory is less than 100 metres above sea level and it has the 5th highest proportion of land covered by forests in the European Union. Latvia has a long tradition of conservation. Nationally protected areas account for around 20% of Latvia’s total land area. The 2012 Environmental Performance Index ranks Latvia second, after Switzerland, based on the environmental performance of the country’s policies.

Arvids Blumentāls aka the original Crocodile Dundee (he was the inspiration behind the Crocodile Dundee character played by Paul Hogan) was born in Latvia.

Riga, Latvia’s capital, was the European Capital of Culture 2014 and it’s historical centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is famous for notable wooden and art nouveau architecture, a vast Central Market and a medieval Old Town. Riga Cathedral was founded in 1211 and is the largest medieval church in the Baltic. Other Latvia highlights are emerald lakes and blueberry fields in Latgale Lakelands, Cape Kolka (desolate coastal villages) and Gauja National Park. The Venta Rapid, a waterfall on the Venta River in Kuldīga, is the widest waterfall in Europe at 249 metres and up to 270 metres during spring floods. Its height is 1.80–2.20 metres.

Latvian cuisine features meat in most main dishes. Pork and potatoes are common ingredients, along with cabbage, onions and eggs. It also offers plenty of varieties of bread and milk products, which are an important part of the Latvian cuisine. Some recipes I found include Rupjmaize (dark rye bread), Kāpostu tīteņi (cabbage rolls), Biezpiena sieriņš (pressed cottage cheese) and Skābeņu zupa (sorrel soup). I decided to make Pīrāgi (bacon pies), which I served as a snack to guests and they went down very well indeed.

Rating: 9/10

Makes 75
Prep time: 1.5 hour + 1.5 hours proving time
Cook time: 45 mins

For the dough
500ml milk
125ml cream
125g sugar
4 tsps dry yeast
125g butter, cubed
125g sour cream
1kg plain flour
1 egg, lightly whisked
1/4 cup milk
1 tbsp salt

For the filling
500g streaky bacon
1 small onion
salt and pepper
Extra flour for rolling
1 egg for egg wash

Put 385ml of milk and cream in a saucepan and add the sugar. Heat the mixture until it becomes blood warm. (Test by placing couple drops on your wrist, if the milk feels very hot, let it cool down a bit. Do not get the milk to the boiling point as it will kill the yeast.)
Place the yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar in a small bowl and add 115ml of milk. Combine well and set aside for 15 minutes.
In a large bowl, pour the heated milk mixture and add cubed butter, sour cream and the whisked egg, combine well.
Add the yeast, sifted flour and salt and mix until all is combined well to create the dough. Knead the dough until it becomes smooth and does not stick to the hands or the bowl (add a bit more flour if necessary).
Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and place in a warm spot for an hour or until the dough has doubled in size (about 1 to 1 1/2 hours).
Meanwhile, make the filling: finely cut the bacon and the onion, add a teaspoon of finely ground pepper and combine well.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Whisk the egg in a small bowl, add 1/4 cup of milk and set aside.
Sprinkle some flour on the rolling surface and place the dough on it. Cut it in quarters and work on each quarter at a time by rolling it until the dough is 5 mm thick.
Cut out circles about 6 cm in diameter. Place one teaspoon of filling on one side of the circle and fold over. Tightly press the dough together using your fingers, place pīrāgis seam side down and bend in a shape of a half moon.
Transfer pies on to the baking tray, spaced about 2 cm apart. Using a pastry brush, brush each pie with the egg wash.
Place the tray in the oven and bake for 15-17 minutes until golden brown.

Ingredients for Pīrāgi
Pīrāgi dough
Pīrāgi (space them further apart than shown in this picture)
Latvia old town
Riga old town
Riga art nouveau
Art nouveau, Riga


Chad is a landlocked nation in north central Africa. It is the fifth largest country in Africa in terms of area and the largest of Africa’s 16 landlocked countries. Lake Chad, after which the country is named, is the largest wetland in Chad and the second largest in Africa. Lake Chad occupied 130,000 sq mi of the Chad Basin 7,000 years ago, now it covers only 6,875 sq mi. Sadly it is falling victim to the Sahara and is receding northwards each year and may soon not even be in Chad.

Not long ago, geologically speaking – what is today the Sahara, was green savannah teeming with wildlife. During the African Humid Period, roughly 11,000 to 5,000 years ago, a vibrant animal community including elephants, giraffes, hippos, and antelope lived there. The last remnant of the “Green Sahara” exists in the Lakes of Ounianga in northern Chad, a series of 18 interconnected freshwater, saline, and hypersaline lakes now protected as a World Heritage site.

Extensive deforestation has resulted in loss of trees such as acacias, baobab, dates and palm trees. This has also caused loss of natural habitat for wild animals and lions, leopards and rhino have been almost decimated. Poaching is a serious problem in the country, particularly of elephants for the profitable ivory industry. Elephants are often massacred in herds in and around the parks by organised poaching. The problem is worsened by the fact that the parks are understaffed and that a number of wardens have been murdered by poachers.

Since independence from France in 1960, Chad has suffered instability stemming mostly from tension between the mainly Arab-Muslim north and the predominantly Christian and animist south. The only thing that unites the two is abject poverty. The United Nations’ Human Development Index ranks Chad as the seventh poorest country in the world, with 80% of the population living below the poverty line. In 2005, Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index named Chad (tied with Bangladesh) as the most corrupt country in the world.

Despite all this, Chad possesses a rich cultural heritage and the cuisine offers a variety of grains, vegetables, fruits and meats. Fish is abundant in northern Chad, including tilapia, perch, eel, carp and catfish. Some of the recipes I came across during my research include Jarret de Boeuf (slow cooked beef and vegetable stew), Broiled Fish (A recipe from the villages along the Chari River) , Kisser (sourdough crepe) , Fangasou (fried doughnuts made of millet or wheat flour) and Maharagwe (beans in coconut milk). I decided to make Kachumbari (Chadian Tomato & Onion Salad) which I enjoyed al fresco in my garden on a rare sunny day in the UK! Unbelievably simple and it tasted so zingy and fresh – I absolutely loved it.

Rating 10/10

Serves 1
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 0 mins

1/4 red onion, thinly sliced (or diced)
8 cherry tomatoes – red & yellow, halved (use ripe ones, ideally that have been on the window shelf for a while)
2 inches of cucumber, middle removed and diced
1/2 red chilli, seeds & placenta removed and sliced
Handful of fresh coriander, chopped
The juice of 1/2 lime

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and toss until well combined and serve immediately.

Ingredients for Kachumbari (Chadian tomato and onion salad)


Kachumbari (Chadian tomato and onion salad)

Kachumbari (Chadian tomato and onion salad)
chad sahara
Chad Sahara


I’m lucky enough to have been to Chile and it really is one of the most stunning countries in the world with a remarkable variety of climates and landscapes. It stretches for 4,000 km down the west coast of South America between the Andes to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, but averages only 175 km wide. Chilean territory also includes the Pacific islands of Juan Fernández, Salas y Gómez, Desventuradas, and Easter Island in Oceania. Chile claims about 1,250,000 square km of Antarctica, although all claims are suspended under the Antarctic Treaty. 80% of Chile is covered by mountains.
The diverse climate of Chile ranges from the world’s driest desert in the north—the Atacama Desert—through a Mediterranean climate in the centre, humid subtropical in Easter Island, to an oceanic climate, including alpine tundra and glaciers in the east and south.

Some facts about this extremely diverse nation:
The Atacama Desert is the driest place in the world. It witnessed the longest record of 40 years without rain.
The world’s southernmost city “Puerto Williams” is in Chile.
Chile has the second largest volcano chain in the world after Indonesia and Ojos del Salado Volcano, located on the border of Chile and Argentina, is the highest active volcano in the world.
Escondida is the largest copper mine in the world and Chile produces a third of the world’s copper.
It ranks 5th in the world for wine production, at 1,832,000 tonnes per annum.
Gabriela Mistral was the first Latin American to receive a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1945.
Chile’s national bird, the Andean condor is the largest flying bird in the world by combined measurement of weight and wingspan. It has a maximum wingspan of 3.3 m.
The largest bunch of grapes ever grown was by Bozzolo Y Perut Ltda of Santiago, Chile weighing 9.4 kg (20 lb 11½oz).

Having had first hand experience, there are so many attractions for the visitor. My highlights would include the breathtaking Torres del Paine National Park, meandering up the steep hills in Valparaiso, the peace and tranquility watching El Tatio Geysers in the Atacama desert at sun break and sipping wine whilst watching the beautiful sunset at La Serena beach.

Chilean cuisine takes influence from traditional Spanish, as well as the indigenous Mapuche culture. Recipes in Chile are notable for the variety of flavours and ingredients, with the country’s diverse geography and climate. There are many regional specialities including asado (barbequed meat) in the north, Pastel de choclo (layered pie with meat and corn) from the central valley and Mapuche chicken in the south. Other popular recipes include cazuela (stew with fish, meat or poultry), Chicharrón de papa (meat and fat from llama and lamb, boiled and then fried) and Leche asada (baked milk dessert with caramel). I decided to make empanadas, as I remember enjoying them very much when I was in Chile. They can be filled with a variety of ingredients, but traditionally they are filled with minced beef & onions. The recipe I found also included raisins, olives & hard boiled egg in the filling, which I’m not a fan of, so I opted to leave these out. The pastry was very simple to make and easy to work with. I will definitely be experimenting with different fillings.

Rating: 9/10

Makes 10 – 12
Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 1 hour 10 mins

For the dough:
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup warm water
2 tsp table salt
1 lb all-purpose flour
2 egg yolks
3 oz melted butter

For the beef filling:
2 tbsp of oil
2 lb good quality minced beef
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dry oregano
1 tsp salt
Pepper to taste
1/2 tsp of cumin
1/2 cup water
1 large onion chopped
1 tbsp all-purpose flour

Optional other filling ingredients:
20 black olives, chopped
40 raisins
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped

To make the dough:
Mix together the milk, water and salt and stir until salt is completely dissolved
In a large bowl combine the flour and egg yolks, and mix using a knife
Add butter and gradually add the milk & water mix to form a dough
Knead dough for about 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic
At this point you can put it in clingfilm in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.

To make the filling:
In a large frying pan, heat oil at medium to high heat
Fry the meat for 3 minutes without mixing
Turn over and brown for another couple of minutes
Add paprika, oregano, salt, pepper and cumin, and mix well
Add water and chopped onion
Cover and cook for 30 minutes on low heat
Add flour and mix well, modifying the seasoning if you like
Turn off heat, leave to cool and refrigerate

To assemble:
Preheat oven to 175c
Separate dough into 10 – 12 portions and cover with a clean kitchen cloth
Working each portion individually, shape into a ball and with a rolling pin smooth out the dough to about the size of a side plate (8 inches)
Fill each with 2 tablespoons of beef (you can also add a few raisins, chopped olives & chopped hard boiled egg if you like them)
Make sure to release trapped air before closing. Lightly brush the edges with milk, press firmly and fold. Brush the top of the empanadas with egg before putting them in the oven.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until browned, keeping a close eye on them. If they bubble up or swell, poke with a toothpick, so that they don’t come undone or open up.
Serve hot


Torres del Paine
El Tatio geysers, Atacama desert
Maoi statues, Easter Island


India, the seventh largest country by area and second largest by population with over 1.2 billion people.

India was once a continent. More than 100 million years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, most of what is now India was an island.  It had broken off from an ancient supercontinent, referred to as Gondwanaland by paleogeographers and was moving slowly northwards.  About 50 million years ago, the India continental plate collided with Asia, buckling the coastal area of both continents and creating the Himalayas.   Evidence of this ancient history is provided by fossilised sea shells that can still be found high in the mountains. The plate on which the subcontinent rests continues to press slowly northwards, and is the reason why the height of Mount Everest increases slightly every year.

India has three of the world’s top ten megacities – one more than China. According to the UN, Delhi is now the second-largest urban agglomeration in the world, with Mumbai ranked seventh and Calcutta tenth.  The population of Delhi and its immediate urban hinterland is now over 22.65 million, and is only surpassed by Tokyo.  The 486.6-million worker Indian labour force is the world’s second-largest, as of 2011.  The service sector makes up 55.6% of GDP, the industrial sector 26.3% and the agricultural sector 18.1%.

India’s telecommunication industry, the world’s fastest-growing, added 227 million subscribers during the period 2010–11, and after the first quarter of 2013, India surpassed Japan to become the third largest smartphone market in the world after China and the U.S.

There are more road deaths in India than any other country in the world.  Officially about 115,000 people die on Indian roads each year – though a recent British Medical Journal study suggests that the true number of fatalities is closer to 200,000.

India has the world’s largest film industry.  More than 1,100 movies are produced, on average, each year – that’s slightly ahead of Nigeria, twice as many as the American film industry and ten times as many as Britain produces.

Some interesting facts about the Taj Mahal:

– It took 22 years to build from 1631 to 1653.
– 20,000 workers and 1,000 elephants were involved in the build.
– Today’s value of the Taj Mahal is estimated to be around $10 billion dollars.
– It was built by Shah Jahan (Prince Khurram) for his wife – Mumtaz Mahal (Arjumand Bano Begum).
– Between 2 – 4 million people visit every year.

Indian cuisine is hugely diverse and is known the world over.  Indian food differs across the various regions and is also heavily influenced by religious and cultural choices and traditions.  Thankfully with a little help from my friend Aditi, I chose to cook 3 dishes – Murgh Punjabi (chicken curry from Punjab), Peas Pulao (peas with rice) and Chana Saag (chickpeas with spinach).

Overall rating: 8/10.  The chana saag was a little too watery, so I have adjusted the recipe below with reduced water.
For the Murgh Punjabi:

500g chicken with bones or boneless (based on preference)
2-3 medium sized onion
3 tomatoes on the vine
3 garlic cloves
1 tsp chopped ginger
2-3 tbsp oil
1 bay leaf
4 – 5 whole peppercorns
2-3 whole cloves
Half a cinnamon stick broken into smaller pieces
2-3 black cardamom
1/2 heaped tsp cumin seeds
Salt to taste
Red chilli powder – to taste
4-5 teaspoons chicken curry masala powder
Fresh coriander, chopped

Sauté chopped onions till dark brown in the oil

Add chopped tomatoes
Keep sautéing mixture till the tomatoes and onions are well cooked and start releasing the oil
This should take 15-20 mins
Wait for mixture to cool and grind to paste consistency in a mixer
In a deep bottom pan, take some oil, add chopped ginger and chopped garlic
Once golden brown add bay leaf, peppercorns, black cardamoms, cinnamon, cloves and the cumin seeds
Once the cumin seeds are sizzling, add the onion tomato paste that you made earlier
Let it all cool together for 2 mins and then add red chilly powder, chicken curry powder, freshly ground pepper and salt to taste
Sauté mixture for 3-4 minutes
Add washed chicken pieces to the pan now
Sauté for 7-8 minutes till all the pieces are nicely covered with the masala and are sealed
Now add water (half a cup of water if you want the curry to have a thick consistency and want to serve it with Indian bread or 2 cups of water (approx) if you want to serve it with rice and want it to be more liquids)
Now bring to boil and once it’s boiling, put a lid on and reduce the flame to low for the chicken to simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes.
Keep stirring occasionally to ensure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan16. Once cooked, garnish with chopped coriander and juliennes of ginger

For the Peas Pulao:

1 1/2 cups of basmati white rice
1/4 cup frozen peas
1 tsp cumin seeds
3 cups water (double the rice)
1 tbsp oil
Salt to taste
2 -3 pinches garam masala powder

In a deep bottom pan, heat the oil

Add the cumin seeds, once they start to sizzle, add the peas
Sauté for 2 minutes and add the rice
Add salt to taste and sauté the peas and rice to mix together
Add the water, bring to a boil
Let all the water get absorbed by the rice and peas and once you start to see holes in the rice, cover it with a lid and turn the flame off
Let it cook in its own steam for 7-10 mins, open the lid and spread the rice gently and turn it from top to bottom so that every rice particle can stand out separately and no lumps are formed
Put the lid again for another 4-5 mins
Your rice is ready, garnish with garam masala powder for aroma and flavour

For the Chana Saag:

250g spinach, washed
1/3 tsp cumin seeds
400g can of chickpeas
1/2 tsp dry ginger powder
3/4 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp tomato puree
400g can chopped tomatoes or passata
Salt to taste

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a tall stockpot.

Add the spinach leaves and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
Cook for about 5 minutes breaking down the spinach leaves until wilted and pulped but some liquid remains.
Remove to a separate bowl.
Heat 1 more tablespoon of olive oil in the same stockpot. Add the cumin seeds and fry for 1-2 minutes until they sizzle.
Add the chickpeas and 1 tsp salt.
Remove from heat and add the ground spices.
Return to heat and mix in the tomato puree and canned tomatoes.
Cook for 1-2 minutes and then add 1 cup water.
Cover and cook for about 10-15 minutes.
Add the spinach with its liquid and cook for another 5-10 minutes on low heat.
Taste and adjust salt and chili as needed.






Japan is a place I’ve always wanted to go to, but I haven’t quite made it yet.  A quote from Chris Rowthorn on the Lonely Planet website sums it up beautifully;
“I’ve spent most of my adult life in Japan and now it feels like home to me. I love the food: it’s incredibly varied and nourishing and there seems to be no end to the culinary discoveries one can make. I love the combination of a hike in the mountains followed by a long soak in an onsen. But, most of all, I love the meticulous and careful nature of the Japanese people, reflected in every aspect of Japanese life, from trains that run right on time to sublime works of art. Put it all together and you come away with a country that still intrigues me even after two decades of living there.”


Japan is a stratovolcanic archipelago of 6,852 islands. The four largest are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku, which make up about ninety-seven percent of Japan’s land area.  Over 70% of Japan is mountainous and there are over 100 active volcanoes.  The population of 126 million is the world’s tenth largest.  It has the world’s third-largest economy by nominal GDP and the world’s fourth-largest economy by purchasing power parity.  Japan has the highest life expectancy ranking in the world with an overall life expectancy of 84 (vs 81 in the UK, which is ranked no.20).


Some quick facts …
Coffee is very popular and Japan imports approximately 85% of Jamaica’s annual coffee production.
On average there are around 1,500 earthquakes every year in Japan.
Japan is the largest automobile producer in the world.
It is home to the world’s longest railroad tunnel at 54 kilometers (33 miles) – the Seikan Tunnel linking Honshu to Hokkaido.
As of 2011, Japan overtook France in the highest number of Michelin starred restaurants and has maintained the title since.


I received a few suggestions from friends for Japanese recipes including Shabu shabu (hotpot of meat & vegetables), Katsu curry (deep fried pork or chicken in curry sauce) and Okonomiyaki (savoury pancake).  Other traditional dishes include miso soup, soba or udon noodles, sashimi (raw fish), chahan (fried rice), tempura (deep fried fish or vegetables), gyoza (dumplings) and teriyaki (grilled meat, fish or vegetables).


As I was having a little get together with friends I decided to make Maki-zushi (sushi rolls) with salmon & avocado to serve as a nibble with drinks.  It seemed the jury is still out for some of my guests when it comes to raw fish.


Rating: 8/10

Makes 32 sushi rolls
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes

300g sushi rice
2 tbsp rice or white wine vinegar
1 tsp caster sugar
1 large avocado
juice ½ lemon
4 sheets nori seaweed
2 previously frozen salmon fillets thawed
1 bunch chives
Soy sauce & wasabi to serve

Put the rice in a small pan with 600ml water. Bring to the boil and cook for 10 mins until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender. Stir through the vinegar and sugar, cover and cool.
Skin, stone and slice the avocado. Put in a bowl and squeeze over the lemon juice, turning the avocado to ensure the pieces are covered.
Divide the rice between the nori sheets and spread it out evenly, leaving a 1cm border at the top and bottom. Lay the salmon over the rice, followed by the chives and finally position the avocado across the centre.
Fold the bottom edge of the seaweed over the filling, then roll it up firmly. Dampen the top border with a little water to help it seal the roll. Repeat to make 4 rolls. At this stage, the rolls can be wrapped individually in cling film and chilled until ready to serve.
Using a serrated knife, cut each roll into 8 rounds. Serve with sweet soy sauce for dipping.


Ukraine, the largest country in Europe (excluding Russia) is 603,628 square kilometres with a coastline of 2,782 kms.  It borders the Black Sea, Poland, Romania, and Moldova in the west and Russia in the east.  The geographic center of Europe is considered to be in a small Western Ukrainian town called Rahiv.  Ukraine’s population has been declining since the 1990s because of its high death rate and a low birth rate. The population is shrinking by over 150,000 annually since 1993.  Ukrainians are of Slavic origin. About 75% of the population is ethnic Ukrainian. The largest minority group is the Russians at about 20%.

The territory of modern Ukraine has been inhabited since 32,000 BC. During the Middle Ages, the area was a key centre of East Slavic culture, with the powerful state of Kievan Rus’ forming the basis of Ukrainian identity.  It has been ruled and divided by a variety of powers, including Lithuania, Poland, the Ottoman Empire, Austria-Hungary, and Russia.  It is currently in territorial dispute with Russia over the Crimean peninsula which Russia annexed in 2014 but which Ukraine and most of the international community recognise as Ukrainian.

Ukraine suffered the world’s worst recorded nuclear accident. On the morning of April 26, 1986, reactor No. 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, 80 miles north of Kiev, exploded, sending radioactive contaminants three miles up into the atmosphere and out over parts of Europe, Asia, and North America.

For the visitor it offers a diverse range of sights and activities namely; the Carpathian mountains and National Park, the 16th century Khan’s Palace, Yalta, the laid back beach resort, the quaint town of Lviv, a Unesco World heritage site and Kyiv, the capital with plenty of cultural points of interest.

The diet of Ukraine features chicken, pork, beef, fish and mushrooms.  Popular traditional dishes include varenyky (dumplings), nalysnyky (filled pancakes) and of course chicken kiev.  Some other recipes I came across were Kruchenyky (meat rolls), Pyrizhky (stuffed pastry buns) and Shynka (baked ham).  I opted to cook Mazuricks (turkey cutlets with cheese), which I served to a number of guests as a bit of a snack along with drinks and they went down extremely well!

Rating: 9/10

Serves: makes 34 bite size mazuricks
Prep time: 20 mins + 40 mins cooling

Cook time: 15 mins

750g turkey mince
112g finely grated cheddar cheese
75g butter
2 eggs
37ml milk
150g plain flour
75g breadcrumbs
2 tbsp vegetable oil
A few sprigs of thyme
2 garlic cloves bashed
Salt & pepper

Put the turkey mince into a mixing bowl. Melt the butter and add to the meat, stir well.
Add the eggs, milk, salt, pepper, flour and cheese to the meat. Stir well until fully combined.
Shape into balls, sausages or patties and roll in breadcrumbs.
Put them into bowl with a tightly fitted lid and store into fridge for 40 mins.
Heat the vegetable oil in frying pan, add thyme twigs and garlic.
Once garlic is browned, remove it from the oil along with thyme.
Fry the mazuricks on both sides in the flavoured oil, approximately 10 – 15 minutes (depending on the size).
I wasn’t serving them straight away, so I heated them up in the oven on 170c for 10 minutes before serving.


Belarus (meaning “White Russia”) is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe bordered by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Alexander Lukashenko has been the country’s president since 1994. Belarus has been labeled “”Europe’s last dictatorship”” by some Western journalists on account of Lukashenko’s self-described authoritarian style of government. Belarus is the only country in Europe which retains capital punishment in law and in practice.

About 40% of Belarus is covered by forests and it also has 11,000 lakes. About 70% of the radiation from neighboring Ukraine’s 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster entered Belarusian territory, and about a fifth of Belarusian land (principally farmland and forests in the southeastern regions) was affected by radiation fallout. Belarusians continue to suffer from high incidences of cancer and birth defects, and about 25 percent of the land is considered uninhabitable. The United Nations and other agencies have aimed to reduce the level of radiation in affected areas.

Most of the monuments in Belarus dedicated to Lenin. In every city there is a Lenin Street. Highlights for visitors to Belarus include Radziwill Palace Fortress, the Museum of the Great Patriotic War, the 16th century Mir Castle and the Chagall Museum (which houses some of Marc Chagall’s designs and lithographs but sadly there aren’t more Chagall paintings in Belarus because his work was banned by the Soviet government).
Belarus has four UNESCO-designated World Heritage Sites: the Mir Castle Complex, the Nesvizh Castle, the Belovezhskaya Pushcha (shared with Poland), and the Struve Geodetic Arc (shared with nine other countries).

Some of the recipes I came across for Belarus were Zrazy (stuffed meat rolls) , Mazurka (almond cake) , Machanka (pork stew) and Draniki (potato pancakes). I opted to cook Lazanki (Belarusian pasta). I served it with a mushroom, ham and cheese sauce. It was pretty simple and easy to make and tasted good. I would cook the pasta a bit less and make the sauce a bit looser next time! You could also add some saffron to the water before making the pasta in order to give it more of a pleasant colour, as it was a bit anaemic.

Rating: 7/10

Serves: 4
Prep time: 30 mins
Cook time: 7 mins

For the lazanki
1 egg
350g plain flour
5g salt

For the sauce
50g plain flour
70g butter
150ml milk
100g bacon or lardons
75g sliced mushrooms
50g grated cheddar

For the lazanki
Beat the egg.
Add 1/2 cup of water to the egg, add salt and flour (250 g) and then carry on adding flour in small quantities until the dough comes together.
Mix the dough with your hands and divide it into 3 equal parts.
Roll out all of the dough (use a pasta machine if you have one – keep flouring the dough as you put it through)
Cut the dough into small squares with a sharp knife.
Boil salted water, add the lazankis and cook for approximately 7 minutes (or 5 minutes if you like it a bit al dente).
Put lazankis onto the plates and pour over the sauce.

For the sauce
Put the flour & 50g of the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat and stir to a paste.
Add the milk slowly to form a sauce and keep stirring for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Meanwhile heat a small frying pan and fry the bacon until browned, about 5 minutes. Remove to a plate.
Add remaining butter to the pan and fry the sliced mushrooms for 5 minutes.
Heat the sauce on a low heat and add the cheese to the sauce, mix it in, then add the bacon and mushrooms and stir through.



Moldova is a landlocked nation located in eastern Europe, between Ukraine and Romania, although it is only a stone’s throw from the Black Sea. Most of Moldova was part of Romania before World War II, and two-thirds of Moldovans speak Romanian. It gained independence in 1991.

Moldova has a very vibrant wine industry dating back many many years. 67 Million bottles are exported every year. Vineyards planted in villages around the houses used to make home-made wine, or “vin de casa”. Many families have their own recipes and strands of grapes that have been passed down through the generations. Since 2013 Russia has imposed a ban on Moldovan wine being sold in the country, ever since Moldova signed a draft treaty with the European Union. This has damaged the wine industry of Moldova significantly.

According to Trip Advisor the top 3 things to do in Moldova are: 1. Stefan cel Mare Park in Central Chişinău (the capital). Formerly known as Pushkin Park, it is the oldest park in Moldova and spans about 7 hectares. – Victory Memorial and Eternal Flame is the national memorial commemorating the nameless Moldovan soldiers who fell during WWII. – Milestii Mici winery. Its underground wine city in limestone stretches for 250 km of which 120 km are currently in use. Milestii Mici cellar complex is recognized to be the largest in the world.

Recipes that I came across during my research include; Ciorba (sour soup) , Mititei (minced meat), Mamaliga (cornmeal mash) , Sarmale (stuffed cabbage rolls), Colțunași (dumplings). I opted to cook the popular dish Zeama (chicken noodle soup). It had a subtle flavour and felt like a healthy bowl of goodness! According to my husband a bit of chilli would’ve given it a nice zing!

Rating: 7/10

Serves: 2 hungry people
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 1.5 hours + 30 mins standing time

4 chicken thighs on the bone
800ml water
salt & black pepper
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/2 medium carrot, chopped
1/2 big fresh tomato, chopped
100g egg noodles (I used medium but fine would be better)
2 tbsps lemon juice
1 tbsp finely chopped medium celery stalk (reserve celery leaves, if any)
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh dill weed
3 fresh thyme sprigs

Saute the onion and carrots until soft in a deep stock pot. Add the chicken and water then bring to a boil.
Turn heat down to medium-low heat and simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour. Skim any froth.
Add a teaspoon of salt, black pepper, tomato and celery and cook for 5 minutes.
(The recipe didn’t say to do this, but I’m not a fan of chicken on the bone in a bowl of noodle soup so at this point I removed the chicken to a plate, removed the skin & bones, cut it up and then placed it back into the pot)
Add the egg noodles and lemon juice.
Continue cooking on medium-low for about 5 more minutes.
Add the fresh herbs (including celery leaves, if any).
Cover, remove from heat. Let stand for at least 30 minutes to let flavors blend.


North Korea

The world’s most secretive country is situated in the northern part of the Korean Peninsula.  Early European visitors to Korea remarked that the country resembled “a sea in a heavy gale” because of the many successive mountain ranges that crisscross the peninsula.


After the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II in 1945, Korea was divided into two zones by the United States and the Soviet Union, with the north occupied by the Soviets and the south by the Americans. Negotiations on reunification failed, and in 1948 two separate governments were formed: the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the north, and the Republic of Korea in the south. An invasion initiated by North Korea led to the Korean War (1950–53). Although the Korean Armistice Agreement brought about a ceasefire, no official peace treaty was ever signed.  Both states were accepted into the United Nations in 1991.
North Korea has the highest number of military and paramilitary personnel in the world, with a total of 9,495,000 active, reserve, and paramilitary personnel.


It isn’t impossible to visit North Korea, however it isn’t straightforward.  Koryo Group offer group or independent tours to North Korea from China.
You can expect to pay from €1,800 for a 3 night basic tour departing from Beijing, including round-trip tickets to Pyongyang on Air Koryo, accommodation, guide fee, private transport, meals, and entry fees.  You cannot travel alone at any time, you must always be accompanied by 2 state employed guides.


A few of the highlights according to Lonely Planet include Paekdu (the country’s highest mountain and an extinct volcano with a vast crater lake at its centre), Pyongyang’s Juche Tower and the Arirang Mass Games annual event in May.


Korea cuisine is based on rice, meat & vegetables. Some of the recipes I came across include Dae Ji Bool Gogi (spicy marinated pork) , Chap Chee or Japchae Noodles (mixed vegetables with noodles) , Bulgogi (Korean grilled meat on skewers) and Naengguk (cold soup).  I decided to cook Kalbi (BBQ short ribs).  The recipe called for short cooking time, although the beef short ribs I bought stated they should be slow cooked.  The marinade was really tasty but our palates would’ve preferred the meat to be slow cooked.


Rating: 6/10


Serves 2 – 3
Prep time: 10 minutes + 3 hours or overnight marinating
Cook time: 25 minutes


1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1 garlic clove, minced
2 spring onions, chopped
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
700g beef short ribs


In a bowl, stir together the soy sauce, brown sugar, water, garlic, green onions, and sesame oil until the sugar has dissolved.
Place the ribs in a large plastic zipper bag. Pour the marinade over the ribs, squeeze out all the air, and refrigerate the bag for 3 hours to overnight.
Preheat an outdoor grill to medium-high heat, and lightly oil the grate.
Remove the ribs from the bag, shake off the excess marinade, and discard the marinade.
Grill the ribs on the preheated grill until the meat is still pink but not bloody nearest the bone about 10 – 12 minutes per side.
Serve with boiled rice.



Taiwan, officially the Republic of China, is an island of approximately 36,000 square kilometers.  It is one of the most densely populated countries in the world with 649 people per km2.  The island was given the name “Formosa” (meaning “beautiful”) by the Portuguese in the 16th century.  The political situation of Taiwan is still up in the air and the question remains as to whether it should stay independent as territory of the Republic of China (ROC); become unified with the territories now governed by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) or formally declare independence and become the Republic of Taiwan.  In July 2009 the leaders of China and Taiwan exchanged direct messages for the first time in more than 60 years, albeit in their respective party functions, and not as national leaders.  In June 2010, the two countries signed an historic trade pact that was described by some analysts as the most significant agreement in 60 years of separation.


Taiwan blends scenic mountains, hidden waterfalls, historic temples and technology driven skyscrapers.  The five famous tourist magnets outside Taipei are the Taroko Gorge, Alishan (mountain resort), Sun Moon Lake, Lukang (urban township) and Kenting (national park known for its white-sand beaches, caves, coral reefs & northern mountains).  Taipei is Asia’s 2nd most richest city and features the 3rd tallest building in the world, the Taipei 101 tower.


Popular ingredients in Taiwanese cuisine are pork, seafood, chicken, rice & soy.  Some of the recipes I came across include Pork chops with noodle soup , Bah-Tzang (Taiwanese rice dumpling), Gu Bah Mi (beef noodle soup) and Cuttlefish geng (soup).  Chou Doufu ‘stinky tofu’ which is marinated in brine made from decomposing vegetables and shrimps wasn’t high of my choices to cook but is a popular street food.  I opted to cook Ló͘-bah-pn̄g (minced pork rice), which we thoroughly enjoyed.


Rating 10/10


Serves 3-4
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 45 mins


1 cup thinly sliced shallots
2 tbsp oil
500g organic minced pork
4 tbsp white wine
60ml soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar or honey
2 cups water
1 tsp black pepper
1 star anise
1 bay leaf
1 tsp five spice powder
salt to taste
2 spring onions


Heat a large cast iron skillet on medium heat with 1 tbsp of the oil.
Once the oil is hot add the shallots and fry until they turn light golden in color – about 5 minutes.
Remove the shallots from the pan, transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel and set aside.
In the same skillet add the remaining oil and the minced pork on a high heat.
Break up the mince and stir until the pork starts to brown.
Add the wine, soy sauce, sugar or honey, water, pepper, star anise, bay leaf, and five spice.
Stir to combine, bring the liquid to a boil and then reduce to a low heat.
Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.
While the pork is simmering, take the fried shallots and crush them with a mortar and pestle to a paste or blend them in a mini mixer.
After the pork has simmered for 30 minutes, stir in the crushed shallots and let everything simmer for another 10 minutes.
Salt to taste.
Remove from the heat, garnish with sliced spring onions and serve over boiled rice.
Ingredients for Taiwanese minced pork

In the same skillet add the remaining oil and the minced pork on a high heat.
Break up the mince and stir until the pork starts to brown.
Add the wine, soy sauce, sugar or honey, water, pepper, star anise, bay leaf, and five spice.
Stir to combine, bring the liquid to a boil and then reduce to a low heat.
Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.
While the pork is simmering, take the fried shallots and crush them with a mortar and pestle to a paste or blend them in a mini mixer.
After the pork has simmered for 30 minutes, stir in the crushed shallots and let everything simmer for another 10 minutes.
Salt to taste.
Remove from the heat, garnish with sliced spring onions and serve over boiled rice.

Taiwanese minced pork


Ló͘-bah-pn̄g (minced pork rice)


Taiwanese monk



Denmark is an archipelago made up of 406 islands and 7,314 miles of coastline, which is longer than the Great Wall of China.  No place in Denmark is more than 30 miles from the sea.


The Danish monarchy is the oldest continuing monarchy in the world and has existed for over 1,000 years.  Queen Margarethe II is the current head of state.


Denmark has more than twice the amount of bicycles (4.2 million) than cars (1.8 million). Copenhageners pedal more than 1.13 million km on their bicycles each day.


Salaries in Copenhagen are the third highest in the world – only surpassed by Zurich and Geneva.  The UN World Happiness Report has rated Danes as the happiest people on earth two years in a row.


With its palaces and gardens, Copenhagen hosts more visitors than any other Nordic city.  The name Lego® is an abbreviation of two Danish words leg godt, meaning “play well.” The company was started in 1932 by Ole Kirk Christiansen. Lego began producing its iconic bricks in 1958. For more than 60 years, over 320 billion Lego bricks have been sold worldwide—nearly 60 bricks for every human on the planet.


The Danes are certified foodies. They are the fifth largest exporter of food in the world, despite their small population.  Copenhagen has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city in Scandinavia.  Some of their traditional dishes include Æblekage, (apple charlotte) , Hakkebøf (ground beef steak), Stegt flæsk med persillesovs (pork slices with potato and bechamel sauce) and Klipfisk (dried cod).  I decided to cook Frikadeller (pan fried meatballs) with Danish brown gravy.
I was skiing in France when I cooked this dish for 18 people!! (I quadrupled the volume of ingredients).  It was generally well received, although some felt the gravy was a little too vinegary.
Rating overall 7/10


Serves 4 hungry people
Prep time: 45 minutes
Cook time: 15-25 minutes


For the Frikadeller:
275g ground pork
275g ground veal
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 large onion
2 tbsps flour
1 small egg


Chop the onion into fine pieces, and mix meat and onions together.
Add egg and mix again.
Add flour and remaining ingredients.
Form mix into 6-8 balls.
Melt butter in frying pan and cook for 10 min on each side over a medium heat.
(If you are doing this for a large volume of people you can brown the meatballs in the frying pan and then transfer to the oven for about 15 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through)


For the brown gravy:
4 tbsps Danish butter
4 tbsps flour
3 cups beef stock
3 tbsps white vinegar
Salt and pepper
3 tbsps sherry
Colouring to darken the gravy (optional)


Melt butter over low heat in a pot.
Add flour and stir until smooth.
Add half of the meat stock slowly while constantly stirring.
Add the rest of the stock with vinegar and boil slowly, while constantly stirring.
Add salt and pepper.
Add sherry at the very end, just before removing from heat.
Remove from heat, allow gravy to cool for 4-5 minutes while stirring constantly.


I served the dish with buttered tagliatelle.


Danish dinner for the skiers!!