Belize

Belize, formerly British Honduras, is a country on the eastern coast of Central America. With a population of around 368,000 it has the least population density in Central America. Mayan culture persists despite nearly 500 years of European domination. The area that is now Belize included three distinct Maya territories: Chetumal province, Dzuluinicob province and a southern territory controlled by the Manche Ch’ol Maya. Impressive Mayan archaeological ruins can be found in the forms of “El Castillo” at Xunantunich and “Caana” at Caracol.

Belize has the longest barrier reef system in the Western hemisphere. At 190 miles long it is the second longest in the world and home to 70 hard coral species, 36 soft coral species and 500 species of fish. 60% of Belize’s land surface is covered by forest and 37% of it’s territory falls under some form of official protection. The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is a nature reserve, founded in 1990 as the first wilderness sanctuary for the jaguar.

Popular recipes in Belizean cuisine include Stew chicken, Stewed Rice and Beans, Panades (corn dough stuffed with fish, chicken or beans), Chimole (‘black dinner’ or chicken soup), Sere (fish soup), Shrimp fritters and the rather unpleasantly named Bile up or boil up (boiled eggs, fish and/or pig tail, with cassava, sweet potatoes, plantains and tomato sauce). I opted to make Fry Jacks (deep fried dough) which are a traditional Belize breakfast food. The kids enjoyed them with icing sugar and chocolate spread. I had them with sausages and even though they were sweet, the combination of flavours was really good.

Rating: 8/10

Makes 14 – 16
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 15 – 20 minutes

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ – ¾ tsp salt
2 tbsp shortening/butter
1 tbsp sugar (optional)
¾ cup whole milk
Oil for deep-frying

In a large bowl mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add shortening
Then make a well then add milk, knead dough for about 30 seconds to 1 minute to form soft dough
Divide dough into 7-8 equal pieces and set aside for about 10 mins
Place each one piece on a heavily floured board and roll out dough into a rough circle
Divide the circles in half and then cut a slit through the middle of the rolled out dough
In a large saucepan pour vegetable oil, until it is at least 3 inches or use a deep fat fryer and heat until oil is 350 degrees
Fry until golden brown about 3-5 minutes depending on size
Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper napkin. Let them cool
Serve with your choice of spreads. They also go well with sausages and bacon.

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Bahamas

The Bahamas is an archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean consisting of more than 700 islands, cays, and islets. Its capital is Nassau on the island of New Providence. Grand Bahama and Paradise Island, home to many large scale hotels, are among the best known. Scuba diving and snorkelling sites include the massive Andros Barrier Reef, Thunderball Grotto (used in James Bond films) and the black-coral gardens off Bimini.

The Bahamas became a British Crown colony in 1718, when the British clamped down on piracy. After the American War of Independence, the Crown resettled thousands of American Loyalists in the Bahamas and they in turn brought their slaves with them establishing plantations on land grants. The Bahamas became a haven for freed African slaves. The Royal Navy resettled Africans here liberated from illegal slave ships, American slaves and Seminoles escaped here from Florida and the government freed American slaves from US domestic ships that had reached the Bahamas due to weather. Slavery in the Bahamas was abolished in 1834. Today the descendants of slaves and free Africans make up nearly 90% of the population. Issues related to the slavery years are part of society.

The Bahamas relies on tourism to generate most of its economic activity. It accounts for over 60% of the Bahamian GDP. The Bahamas attracted 5.8 million visitors in 2012, more than 70% of which were cruise visitors. A highlight for any visitor surely would be ‘Pig Beach’ on Big Major Cay where you can swim with approximately 20 pigs and piglets.

Popular ingredients in Bahamian cuisine are fish, seafood, pork, peas, potatoes and rice. Traditional recipes include peas and rice, macaroni cheese, conch chowder and rum cake. I made Bahamian Johnny cake which we had for breakfast with butter and jam. We enjoyed it very much.

Rating: 8/10

Serves: 10 slices
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes

3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup sugar
½ cup cold butter, cut into small cubes
⅔ cup milk

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl
Cut in butter using a pastry cutter or your hands, working the mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs
Add milk and combine until you have a soft dough consistency
Knead on a floured surface until smooth
Preheat the oven to 176c
Let the dough rest for 10 minutes, then transfer into a greased 9×9-inch tin
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the edges of the cake begin to turn a light golden brown
Let it cool on a wire rack before serving

Liechtenstein

Liechtenstein is a 25km long doubly landlocked principality situated between Austria and Switzerland. It is the smallest German-speaking country and the only German-speaking nation that doesn’t share a border with Germany. Liechtenstein is located in the Upper Rhine valley of the European Alps and the mountain slopes are well suited to winter sports. They have won a total of nine medals at the Winter Olympics, all for alpine skiing, but have never won a medal at the Summer Olympics and is the only country to have won Winter Olympic medals but not Summer Olympics. Liechtenstein has the world’s third highest per capita income behind Qatar and Luxembourg and has one of the world’s lowest unemployment rates at 1.5%. Liechtenstein is the largest producer of false teeth in the world.

Liechtensteiner cuisine has been influenced by the cuisine of nearby countries, particularly Switzerland and Austria. Their diet consists of dairy, potatoes, green vegetables, beef, chicken and pork. Traditional dishes include Käsknöpfle (pasta covered with cheese), Hafaläb (corn bread loaf), Ribel (cornmeal based dish) and Geschnetzelte Schweinsleber (sliced pork liver with green pepper). I decided to make Alperrosti (potato and bacon rosti with fried egg), which we had for breakfast. It was a flavoursome and fulfilling start to the day!

Rating: 8/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 25 – 30 minutes

300g potato
4 rashers streaky bacon
3 eggs
50g butter
50g gruyere
salt & pepper

Peel and grate the potatoes. Put them in a tea towel and squeeze all of the moisture out
Fry the bacon until crispy, pour the oil into a cup and reserve
Chop up the bacon into small peices
Mix the potato and bacon together, add salt and pepper and a whisked egg
Add half the butter and some of the bacon frying oil to the frying pan used for the bacon
Add half the potato mixture and flatten into a disk. Fry on a medium heat for about 5 minutes
Flip the rosti and cook for 12-15 mins on a lower heat
Remove the cooked rosti to a warmed plate and repeat with the remaining potato mix
Add grated gruyere to the top of each rosti and slide it onto a tray which can go under the grill
Whilst grilling the rosti, fry 2 eggs and place one on top of each of the rostis

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Ingredients for Alperrosti (potato and bacon rosti with fried egg)
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Cooking Alperrosti (potato and bacon rosti with fried egg)
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Alperrosti (potato and bacon rosti with fried egg)
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Alperrosti (potato and bacon rosti with fried egg)
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Alperrosti (potato and bacon rosti with fried egg)
Liechtenstein castle
Liechtenstein castle
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Liechtenstein

Saint Lucia

I visited Saint Lucia a few years ago and being entirely honest, I wasn’t as amazed as I’d hoped. The hotel was a little tired and we were there during rainy season. However, after doing research for the blog, I’d definitely like to go back and further explore what it has to offer.

Lying in the eastern Caribbean Sea and part of the Lesser Antilles, Saint Lucia is 27 miles long and 14 miles wide. It is more mountainous than most Caribbean islands. The French gave Saint Lucia it’s name, after Saint Lucy of Syracuse, as they were the first Europeans to colonise the island. Saint Lucia gained independence from Britain in 1979. It is a Commonwealth realm and Queen Elizabeth II is the Head of State.

Along with the picturesque beaches, tourists come to Saint Lucia to see The Pitons, majestic twin peaks called Gros Piton (797m) and Petit Piton (750m) soaring from the sea. They are the only two of its kind in the world and have recently attained world heritage site status. Other highlights include the rain forests, Pigeon Island National Park and the world’s only drive-in volcano at Sulphur Springs (Soufriere). Ranking no.1 on Trip Advisor, ‘the’ place to stay is The Inn On The Bay in Marigot Bay.

The cuisine of Saint Lucia is a blend of French, East Indian and British influences. Dishes include Banana fritters, Green figs and Salt fish (the national dish), Accras (fishcake), Souse (pork broth), Breadfruit (like potato but sweet) and Pouille Dudon (chicken stew with treacle and coconut). I made Hot bakes, which are a little like muffins. The recipe I followed didn’t advise how many I should make, so mine were larger than they should have been, however they went down a treat with the kids at breakfast. We had them with jam, treacle and chocolate spread, but I think they would work equally well with a poached egg.

Rating: 9/10

Makes 12 – 20 (depending on how big you make them!)
Prep time: 20 mins + 1 hour resting time
Cook time: 15 mins

3 1/2 cups plain flour
2 tbsp sugar
2 1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp butter
1/4 cup milk
oil for frying
1 cup water

Put the flour into a large bowl add sugar, baking powder, melted butter and salt. Mix thoroughly. Add the milk and just enough water to make a dough sticky to the touch.
Knead the dough for about 5 minutes. If it becomes too sticky, add a little flour to make it easier to handle.
When you are done kneading the dough, cover it and allow it to rise in a warm place for at least half an hour.
Preheat the oven to 160°C
Heat up a frying pan over low – medium heat and then add enough oil to cover the pan.
Divide the dough into small balls (I made 13 but they were probably too big, so I’d aim for 20).
Flatten the dough balls to about ½ inches thick.
When the oil is hot (not smoking), place the flattened balls of dough in your frying pan until one side turns golden brown, about 3-4 minutes and turn over to the other side for same results. Do them in batches if necessary.
Once their all browned, place them in the oven for 10 minutes.
Serve with preserves or poached egg.

Benin

Benin is a country in West Africa, bordered by Togo to the west, Nigeria to the east, and Burkina Faso and Niger to the north. About 42 African ethnic groups live in Benin, with most people living on its small southern coastline on the Bight of Benin.  It was formerly called Dahomey, a kingdom that rose to prominence in about 1600 and over the next two and half centuries became a regional power, largely based on its slave trade. Dahomey was also widely known for its corps of female soldiers known as the Dahomey Amazons.

Benin is widely seen as the birthplace of voodoo. They hold an annual Voodoo festival in Ouidah on Voodoo Day (January 10th), which is a public holiday. There is a national Voodoo museum.  Voodoo is more than a belief system, it is a complete way of life, including culture, philosophy, language, art, dance, music and medicine.

Oscar nominated Djimon Hounsou (of Gladiator and Blood Diamond) was born in Cotonou, Benin.

It offers the visitor many interesting sights including the Parc National de la Pendjari, which is one of the best wildlife parks in West Africa. Lions, cheetahs, leopards, elephants and hundreds of other species thrive here.  Other highlights are Grand Popo (palm fringed beaches), the colonial buildings of Porto Novo (the capital) and Grand Marche de Dantokpa (the large market in Cotonou).

Recipes I came across for Benin include Ago Glain (spicy crab, tomato and onion stew) , Akkra Funfun (white bean fritters) , Talé Talé (deep fried banana fritters).  I opted to make Yovo doko (Beninese sweet fritters) which I served for breakfast.  The kids enjoyed them with chocolate spread!

Rating: 8/10

Makes about 40 fritters
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 30 mins

Peanut oil
500g plain flour
170g caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla powder
15g yeast
500ml water
Salt

Put the flour, yeast, salt, sugar and water in a bowl and mix with your fingers until it is well blended.
In a large frying pan, heat the oil to low – medium.
Place spoonfuls of the mixture around the pan and fry for 6 minutes on each side and then 2 minutes again on the first side.
Drain on kitchen towel and serve with a dusting of icing sugar.

Malawi

Malawi lies landlocked in southeast Africa.  It was formerly known as Nyasaland.  The name Malawi comes from the Maravi, an old name of the Nyanja people that inhabit the area. The country is also nicknamed “The Warm Heart of Africa”.  Lake Malawi, which takes up a third of Malawi’s area is a huge freshwater lake, lined with excellent beaches and filled with colorful fish, as well as the occasional hippo and crocodile.   Lake Malawi was once called “The Lake of the Stars” by the famed Scottish explorer David Livingstone, because lantern lights he saw from the fishermen’s boats resembled the stars at night.

Malawi has been independent from Britain since 1964.  President Hastings Kamuzu Banda ruled for more than 25 years until democratic elections in 1994 brought in new leadership.

Apparently Malawi is the only country in the world that has a Carlsberg factory (with the exception, of course, of Denmark) – so Carlsberg beer is sold here at just about 35p!

Highlights for the visitor are aplenty with several wildlife national parks and reserves (Nyika, Nkhotakota, Lilongwe and Majete to name a few), the beaches of Likoma Island, Mt Mulanje and the impressive Manchewe Falls.

Popular cuisine of Malawi includes different types of fish, nsima (ground corn), kachumbari (tomato & onion salad) and kondowole (cassava flour & water). They also enjoy tea & coffee, so I opted to cook a dish called Mandasi (doughnuts) which are generally served with a hot drink.  We had some family visiting for the weekend so I served these for breakfast alongside Yovo Doko fritters from Benin and the kids really tucked in!!

Rating: 9/10

Makes 12 doughnuts
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 15 mins

2 cups plain flour
Pinch of salt
2 tsps of baking powder
2 tbsps of sugar
1 beaten egg
1 cup of milk
Vegetable oil for frying

Mix the flour, salt, baking power in a bowl. Add the sugar, egg, milk and beat until smooth.
Drop spoonfuls of the batter into a deep fat fryer with hot oil and fry until golden brown, turning once.
Drain on kitchen towel and serve with a dusting of icing sugar.

 

 

Lesotho

Lesotho (pronounced le-soo-too) is a mountainous country surrounded by South Africa.  Originally called Basutoland, it was renamed the Kingdom of Lesotho upon independence from the UK in 1966.  “Lesotho” roughly translates to “the land of the people who speak Sesotho”.

80% of the country is greater than 1,800 m above sea level.

It’s principal exports are manufactures (clothing, footwear, road vehicles) wool & mohair.  Water is Lesotho’s major natural resource. Completion of a large hydropower plant in 1998 helps the economy expand through the sale of water to South Africa.
Some of the top things to do in Lesotho, according to trip advisor, include the AfriSki Ski and Mountain Resort in Buthe Buthe, Katse Dam in Maseru and the Maletsunyane Falls in Semonkong.
I struggled to find recipes that appealed to me, as I’m not a fan of porridge and ‘mealie pap’, a maize porridge is a very common dish in Lesotho.
They also have stews (oxtail) and curries.  However I came across a bread that they cook in the mountain regions of Lesotho called Borotho.  They cook it over a coal fire in a cast iron pot.  I opted to cook it in a copper pot in the oven.
Rating: 4/10.
The bottom of the buns were a bit too crunchy for our liking and the dough was quite dense.  Perhaps they’d be lighter if I’d used just strong white flour rather than a mix.
Prep time: 30 minutes + 1hr 30 minutes proving time
Cook time: 35 minutes
Makes: 12 buns
Ingredients
15g dried yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/2 pt tepid water
225g strong white flour
225g wholemeal bread flour
1 tsp salt
veg oil

Add the yeast & sugar to the water, stir and leave it to stand for 5 minutes.
Sift the flour & salt on to a clean worksurface or bowl.
Make a well in middle and add most of the liquid.
Gradually stir the flour into the liquid so you start forming a gluey paste and then a dough.
Knead the dough for 10 minutes and then place in a bowl with a tea towel over the top and put it in a warm place for at least 1 hour.
Remove the dough on to a lightly floured work surface and gently knead it for a couple of minutes.
Put it back in the bowl, covered with a tea towel and leave it to prove again for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200 c.
Put a tbsp of veg oil in a lidded oven proof dish (ideally copper or cast iron) and put in the oven to heat for 5 minutes.
Remove the dough from the bowl and make 12 round buns with your hands, placing them in a circle around the edge of the dish with a couple in the middle.  Leave a little bit of space around each one.
Put the lid on the dish and cook for 35 minutes.
Serve for breakfast with butter & jam or your preferred spread.

Madagascar

Madagascar lies in the Indian Ocean off the southeast coast of Africa opposite Mozambique.  It is the fourth largest island in the world.
A stunning diversity of plant and animal species evolved after the island broke away from the African continent millions of years ago.  Over 90% of its wildlife is found nowhere else on Earth.  From 1999 to 2010, scientists discovered 615 new species in Madagascar, including 41 mammals and 61 reptiles.  To help secure the future of lemurs, WWF and Malagasy conservationists are working together to establish and manage parks and protected areas in Madagascar.  Through the WWF you can adopt a ring tailed lemur for $25 – $100.

In 2012, the population of Madagascar was approximately 22 million people, 90% of them live on less than $2 per day.
Madagascar produces about two-thirds of the world’s vanilla. The vanilla bean (or pod) is the only edible fruit-bearing orchid. Each flower opens only one day a year and must be hand-pollinated to produce a pod, which is very labor intensive.

Recipes I came across include Saosisy sy Tsaramaso (beans & sausage) , Ro-mangazafy (beef broth) Ron-akoho (chicken and ginger broth).  I opted to cook the popular Mofo Gasy (Malagasy bread), which is actually more like a pancake.
Rating: 9/10

Makes 15
Prep time: 10 mins + 2-4 hours resting for batter
Cook time: 10 mins

1/2 cup plain flour
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp ground rice
1/2 tsp instant yeast
2 tbsp caster sugar
3/4 cup lukewarm water
1.5 tsp condensed milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Vegetable oil

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, ground rice, yeast, 1 tsp sugar and water.
Mix well, cover the bowl and set aside to rise for 2-4 hours.
Stir in the remaining sugar, condensed milk and vanilla extract. Mix to combine.
Cover and set aside until the mixture gets frothy, about 30~45 minutes.
Heat an aebleskiver pan on medium heat.
Put 1/4 tsp oil and pour about 1 tbsp batter in each well.
Cook for 1-2 minutes or until the bottoms get golden brown.
Using chopsticks, flip them over and cook on the other side until golden and the inside is cooked through.
Serve hot for breakfast.