My first soufflé

Having spent 12 months of my life cooking recipes from every country in the world, I am often frustrated by the restrictions I place on my own cooking approach. I hate waste, the thought of spending hours cooking something that doesn’t taste good and my overriding obsession with tidiness hold me back from throwing caution to the wind. So with a determined and unleashed frame of mind, I decided to tackle my first ever soufflé. I’ve watched countless masterchef episodes where they have failed and succeeded in equal measure. As my palate prefers savoury, I opted to try a cheese and herb version adapted from a Nigel Slater recipe. All up it took about 45 minutes to make and was much simpler than I anticipated. I was rewarded with not only a tasty lunch, but a small sense of overcoming some of my self inflicted shackles. I felt I cooked mine a tad too much so I’ve reduced the cooking time – it should still be creamy inside.

Comte and chervil soufflé
Serves 2

Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

a knob of butter
5 – 10g parmesan, grated
150ml milk
1 bay leaf
2 large eggs, separated
30g plain flour
30g butter
50g comte cheese, grated
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp dried chervil
salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees (fan)
Butter 2 ramekin dishes and then scatter each with grated parmesan shaking to cover all sides
Bring the milk and bay leaf to boil in a small pan, turn off the heat and set aside
Melt the butter in a pan and then add the flour, stirring continuously for a couple of minutes
Remove the bay leaf from the milk and add to the butter & flour, stirring to blend
Take it off the heat and let it rest for a minute or 2 before adding the egg yolks and stirring to a smooth consistency
Stir in the comte, mustard, chervil and seasoning
Whisk the egg whites until frothy but not stiff and then gently but thoroughly fold into the mixture
Pour into the ramekin dishes and tap to even out the surface
Cook in the preheated oven for 20 – 25 minutes, until golden brown on top

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My top 20 recipes

1. Taiwan – Taiwanese minced pork

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

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3. Switzerland – Fondue

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4. Mexico – Chicken Enchiladas

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Chicken enchiladas

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

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Sopa Paraguaya (corn and cheese bread)

6. Italy – Risotto milanese

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Risotto alla Milanese (risotto with saffron)

7. Finland – Kalakeitto (fish stew)

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Kalakeitto (fish stew)

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

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Bouneschlupp (green bean soup with smoked bacon)

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

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10. Sweden – Köttbulla (Swedish meatballs)

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11. South Korea – Bulgogi (grilled marinated beef)

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South Korea – Bulgogi (grilled marinated beef)

12. Honduras – Banana bread

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Honduran banana and coconut bread

13. Nicaragua – Tres leches (Three milks cake)

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14. Guyana – Roti (flatbread)

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Guyana – Rotis (flatbreads)

15. Guatemala – Chicharrónes (crispy pork skin)

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Chicharrones

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

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Char Sui Pork (Cantonese BBQ pork)

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

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Poulet au Coco (Comorian coconut chicken)

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

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

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

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20. Solomon Islands – Fish curry with tomatoes

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Fish curry with tomatoes

Spain

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

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

Rating: 10/10

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

Champinones al ajillo (garlic mushrooms)

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

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

Garbanzos con chorizo (chickpeas with chorizo)

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

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

Tortilla (Spanish omelette)

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

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

Croquetas de jamon (ham croquettes)

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

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

Padron peppers

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

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

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

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

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Ingredients for Labneh (cheese made from yoghurt) with pistachios, parsley, lemon and sumac dip
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Labneh (cheese made from yoghurt)
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Labneh (cheese made from yoghurt)
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Labneh (cheese made from yoghurt)
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Labneh (cheese made from yoghurt) with pistachios, parsley, lemon and sumac dip
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Pitta bread
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Pitta bread
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Labneh (cheese made from yoghurt) with pistachios, parsley, lemon and sumac dip with homemade pitta bread
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Palestine
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Mosque of Omar, Jerusalem
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Abraham path, Jericho
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The Church of the Nativity

Mozambique

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

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

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

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

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 2 as a starter or light lunch

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

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

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

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a Central American country known for its beaches, volcanoes and biodiversity. More than 25% of Costa Rican land is protected national parks and refuges. There are over 130 species of fish, 220 of reptiles, 1,000 butterflies (10% of the world’s butterflies), 9,000 plants, 20,000 species of spiders and 34,000 species of insects. Costa Rica has successfully managed to diminish deforestation from some of the worst rates in the world from 1973 to 1989, to almost zero by 2005. It was identified by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) as the greenest country in the world in 2009.

Costa Rica stands as the most visited nation in the Central American region, with 2.66 million foreign visitors in 2015. Since 1999, tourism earns more foreign exchange than bananas, pineapples and coffee exports combined. Elected in 2007 by Costa Ricans through an open contest in a leading newspaper, the 7 natural wonders of Costa Rica are:
1. Cocos Island
2. Arenal Volcano
3. Chirripo Mountain
4. Celeste River
5. Tortuguero Canals
6. Poás Volcano
7. Monteverde Reserve

Costa Rican fare is nutritionally well rounded, and nearly always cooked from scratch from fresh ingredients. Rice and black beans are a staple of most traditional Costa Rican meals. Recipes I came across included Olla de carne or “pot of beef” (beef stew with potatoes and vegetables), Casado (rice, black beans, plantains, salad served with tortilla and meat), Gallo pinto (spotted chicken with rice and beans), Patacones (fried plantains), Arroz con Pollo (chicken and fried rice), Sodas (savoury pastries), Ceviche (raw seafood salad) and Arepas (crepes). I made Sopa Negra (black bean soup) which was simple to make, healthy and flavoursome.

Rating: 7/10

Serves: 2 as a starter or light lunch
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 1.5 hours (if cooking the beans)

1 can of cooked black beans drained or 100g dried black beans
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup coriander, finely chopped
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup oil
350 ml water
1 hard boiled egg per portion (optional)

If using dried black beans, cook according to packet instructions
Fry the onion and coriander until onion is softened
Add the beans and the remaining ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth
Put it back in the pan and heat for 5 minutes but don’t boil
It is a hearty soup and can be served with a hard boiled egg in it

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Ingredients for Sopa Negra (black bean soup)
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Sopa Negra (black bean soup)
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Sopa Negra (black bean soup)
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Sopa Negra (black bean soup)
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Tortuguero Canals, Costa Rica
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Costa Rican beach sunset
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Poás Volcano, Costa Rica
costa-rican-red-eyed-tree-frog
Costa Rican Red-Eye tree frog

Rwanda

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

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

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

Rating: 8/10

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

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

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

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

Nepal

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 9/10

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

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

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

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

Armenia

Armenia is a sovereign state in the South Caucasus region of Eurasia in Western Asia. It has a population of approximately 3.2m, but there are more Armenians living abroad than in Armenia, estimated at around 5.6m.

A few interesting facts
Armenians have their own distinctive alphabet and language. The alphabet was invented in AD 405 by Mesrop Mashtots and consists of thirty nine letters
The Armenian capital, Yerevan, is one of the world’s oldest inhabited cities, constructed 29 years before Rome
It is home to the world’s longest non-stop double track cable car, the Tatev Aerial Tramway, which is 5,752 m (18,871ft) long
Chess is a compulsory subject in schools
It was the first nation to accept Christianity as a state religion, converting en masse in AD 301

Armenian cuisine belongs to the family of Caucasian cuisines, and has strong ties with Turkish cuisine, Georgian cuisine, Persian cuisine, and Levantine cuisine. The flavour of the food relies on the quality and freshness of the ingredients rather than on excessive use of spices. Typical dishes of Armenian cuisine include Khash (slow cooked beef or lamb feet), Harissa (porridge made with wheat and meat), Bozbash (mutton or lamb soup), Khorovats (grilled meat), Dzhash (meat and vegetable stew), Eetch (cracked wheat salad) and Yospov Apur (Lentil soup).
Soups are very popular so I decided to make Snkapur (mushroom soup), which was simple and had a good mushroomy taste!

Rating: 7/10

Serves: 4 as a starter
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes

100g dried mushrooms (porcini, ceps etc)
200g fresh mushrooms, chopped finely
2 small onion, quartered
3 potatoes, peeled & chopped into cubes
2 tbsp oil
800ml water
1 vegetable or chicken knorr stock pot
50g butter, cut into small pieces
Salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 190c
Roast the onion for 15 – 20 minutes
Soak the dried mushrooms in a little warm water for 10 minutes
Meanwhile heat the oil in a pan and fry the potatoes over a low heat for 15 minutes
Put the soaked mushrooms in a saucepan with the soaking liquid, remaining water, stock pot and bring to the boil then simmer for 10 minutes
Using a slotted spoon lift the out dried mushrooms and finely chop them
Add them back in the saucepan with the fresh mushrooms and season to taste
Chop the roasted onion and add to the pan with the potatoes and cook for 10 minutes
Add the butter, stir in and season again to taste
Remove from the heat and serve in hot bowls

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Ingredients for Snkapur (mushroom soup)
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Snkapur (mushroom soup)
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Snkapur (mushroom soup)
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Snkapur (mushroom soup)
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Family enjoying Snkapur (mushroom soup)
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Ruins of Zvartnots Temple, Armenia
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Khor Virap monastery, Ararat, Armenia
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Yerevan, Armenia

Israel

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

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

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

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

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 1
Prep time: 20 minutes

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

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

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

Swaziland

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

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

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

Rating: 6/10

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

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

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

Bulgaria

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 9/10

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

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

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

Sudan

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

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

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

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

Rating: 9/10

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

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

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

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

Ethiopia

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

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

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

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

Rating: 9/10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Qatar

The State of Qatar is the richest country in the world, thanks to it’s natural gas and oil reserves. It is surrounded by the Persian gulf and shares its only land border with Saudi Arabia. A bridge has been in the planning since 2008 to link Qatar and Bahrain, known as the Qatar Bahrain Friendship Bridge at a cost of $5 billion. Construction was due to start in 2009 but as of Jun 2015 work still hadn’t started and according to Bahrain’s foreign minister it is unlikely to complete much before Qatar host the 2022 Fifa World Cup, the first time it will be held in an Arab nation. Qatar’s football team has never qualified for the World Cup.

The legislation of Qatar is based on a mixture of civil law and Islamic Sharia Law. Blasphemy is punishable by up to seven years in prison, Homosexuality is a crime punishable by the death penalty and drinking alcohol in public may incur a sentence of between 40 and 100 lashes. In 2014 they launched a modesty campaign to remind tourists of the modest dress code. This could prove challenging for the western visitors to the World Cup in 2022.

With no income tax, Qatar’s unemployment rate as at Jun 2013 was 0.1% and approximately 14% of households are dollar millionaires. It relies heavily on foreign labour to grow the economy and 96% of the workforce are migrant workers. With annual tourist visits of 2.9m in 2015, the Qatar Tourism Authority has set an ambitious goal of 7.4 million by 2030. Lonely Planet’s highlights include the Museum of Islamic Art, Al Corniche waterfront promenade and Souq Waqif.

Popular Qatari dishes include Qashid (swordfish and rice), Margooga (vegetable stew), Mathrooba (stewed meat and beans), Machbous (rice with mutton or chicken), Om Ali or Umm Ali (bread and rice pudding) and Harees (whipped wheat). I opted to make Motabel (aubergine dip) which was pretty simple to make but I overdid it with the garlic and tahini. I’ve reduced the quantities in the recipe below.

Rating: 5/10

Serve: 2 as a snack
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 – 40 minutes

1 aubergine
1 level tbsp tahini
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small clove garlic mashed to a paste with a sprinkling of salt
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 green chilli pepper, seeds removed and chopped
Freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 200c and roast the aubergine for 30~40 minutes
Let the aubergine cool for 15 minutes, then remove the charred skin and chop or mash the flesh in a bowl
In a blender, combine the garlic, tahini and chilli and blend to a coarse paste
Add the mashed aubergine, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and blend until smooth
Stir in lemon juice and drizzle a little olive oil on top
Serve as dip with toasted pitta bread

Kenya

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

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

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

Rating overall: 9/10

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Zimbabwe

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

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

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

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

Rating: 7/10

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

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

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

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

Barbados

Barbados is situated in the Lesser Antilles. The west coast has white sandy beaches and calm waters and the east coast faces the Atlantic. Its location in the south east of the Caribbean region puts the country just outside the principal hurricane strike zone. On average, a major hurricane strikes about once every 26 years. The last significant hurricane to cause severe damage to Barbados was Hurricane Janet in 1955.

The Portuguese visited the island in 1536, but they left it unclaimed, with their only remnants being an introduction of wild hogs for a good supply of meat whenever the island was visited. Barbadians are extremely fond of pork.

Barbados has produced many great cricketers including Sir Garfield Sobers, Sir Frank Worrell and Sir Clyde Walcott. Also, Rihanna, the eight time Grammy Award winner was born here and in 2009 she was appointed as an Honorary Ambassador of youth and culture for Barbados by the late Prime Minister, David Thompson.

Barbados welcomes more than a million tourists including land based and cruise ship visitors annually. Highlights include Accra Beach, Barbados Wildlife reserve, Hunte’s Gardens, Harrison’s Cave and Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison, a Unesco world heritage site since 2011.

Popular dishes from Bajan cuisine include Pudding and Souse (pickled pork with spiced sweet potatoes) , the national dish of fried flying fish served with cou-cou (cornmeal and okra), Bajan black cake , Black Eye Peas and Rice and Samosas often made with Conch. I opted to cook a favourite of mine, Macaroni cheese, which they refer to as Macaroni pie. Whilst it had a good flavour, it was a little dry.

Rating: 6/10

Serves: 4 as a starter
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 40 mins

150g macaroni
1 and 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/3 cup water
1 tbsp ketchup
2 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 onion, sliced
pinch black pepper
2 tbsp double cream
Grated cheese for top

Bring some salted water to the boil, add macaroni and the onion to the boiling water and cook until the pasta is al dente
Preheat oven to 180c
Drain macaroni and onion quickly and put straight back into the pan, add 1 cup of cheese and put the lid on for 2 mins
Then add the evaporated milk, mustard, ketchup, pepper and cream and stir well to blend everything together
Transfer to 4 buttered ramekins and top each one with grated cheese
Bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown

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Ingredients for Barbados Macaroni pie
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Barbados Macaroni pie
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Barbados Macaroni pie
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Barbados Macaroni pie
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Barbados Macaroni pie
Barbados beach
Barbados beach
Bridgetown, Barbados
Bridgetown, Barbados
Barbados waterfall
Barbados waterfall

Tunisia

Tunisia is a North African nation bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. It contains the eastern end of the Atlas Mountains and the northern reaches of the Sahara desert.

Independent from France since 1956, the country’s first president, Habib Bourguiba, established a strict one-party state. He dominated the country for 31 years, repressing Islamic fundamentalism and establishing rights for women unmatched by any other Arab nation. In 1987, Bourguiba was removed from office and replaced by Zine el Abidine Ben Ali in a bloodless coup. Street protests followed over high unemployment, corruption, widespread poverty, and high food prices, culminating in rioting that led to hundreds of deaths. In January 2011 Ben Ali dismissed the government, fled the country, and a “national unity government” was formed.

A state of emergency is currently in effect in Tunisia, imposed after a suicide attack on a police bus on 24 November 2015. It has been extended a number of times. On 20 June it was extended for a further month to 21 July. Until recently tourism had provided jobs for 11.5% of the working population with 6.2 million tourist visitors in 2013. Some of the main attractions are the ancient ruins of Carthage, Jerba’s El-Ghriba synagogue, Sfax Medina and the Mosque of Sidi Mahres in Tunis.

Tunisian cuisine uses a variety of ingredients in many different ways. Unlike other North African cuisine, Tunisian food is quite spicy. Harissa, a hot red pepper sauce is commonly used. Cous cous or Kosksi as it’s known, is the national dish of Tunisia. Recipes I came across include Koucha (slow cooked lamb), Felfel Mehchi (stuffed peppers), Lablabi (a thick soup made with chickpeas and garlic), Brik (a fried Malsouka dough stuffed with tuna and an egg) and Marqa (slow cooked stew).  As I was cooking Morocco and Tunisia on the same day, I decided to make Tunisian vegetable cous cous to serve with the Moroccan Mshermel chicken tagine. It was quick and easy to make and very tasty.

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 4
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 30 mins

3 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 courgette, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
750ml vegetable stock
1 tbsp fresh coriander
1 tin chickpeas, drained
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 and 1/2 cups couscous

Heat oil in large pot over medium-low heat
Put the onion, courgette and carrot in a saucepan and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions begin to soften and turn translucent, about 15 minutes.
Stir in the red peppers and cook for 5 minutes
Pour in the vegetable stock and coriander
Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low for 5 minutes
Stir in chickpeas and tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes
Slowly pour in the couscous and stir
Remove from the heat and cover the pan immediately
Let it stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff the couscous with a fork
Serve at slightly warmer than room temperature

Malta

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

Dough:
200 g semolina
200 g flour
1 egg
100 – 120ml water
Salt

Filling:
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