St Kitts and Nevis

The Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis is a dual island country in the West Indies known for cloud-shrouded mountains and beaches. It is the smallest country in the Caribbean (and indeed in the whole of the Americas), covering just 104 square miles, and is home to around 45,000 people. Both islands were discovered by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage to the New World in 1493.

Cricket is common in Saint Kitts and Nevis and was the smallest country to host 2007 Cricket World Cup matches at the capital, Basseterre’s stadium. Top players can be selected for the West Indies cricket team.

St. Kitts is dependent upon tourism to drive its economy. Tourism to the island has been expanding since 1978. In 2009 there were 587,479 arrivals to Saint Kitts compared to 379,473 in 2007, representing an increase of just under 40% in a two year period. The two biggest occasions in the social calendar are the St. Kitts Music Festival, held in June and now in its 20th year and the St. Kitts-Nevis National Carnival, also known as Sugar Mas, which takes place around Christmas and New Year.

St Kitts’ historical highlight, Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, became a Unesco World Heritage site in 1999 for being an exceptionally well-preserved example of 17th and 18th century military architecture. It was designed by British military engineers and built by African slave labour.

Local St Kitts and Nevis cooking is simple, spicy and makes use of the plentiful fresh fish, vegetables and fruit. Some specialities include Droppers (coconut dumplings), Stewed saltfish, Goat waterstew (goat and tomato based stew), Cook up or Pelau (chicken, pigtail, saltfish with rice and vegetables), Rikkita beef (fried beefsteak marinated in Champagne and hot peppers), Conkies (cornmeal savoury snack) and Coconut rum bread pudding. I decided to make Jam Cake, which was full of lovely spice and nuttiness.

Rating: 9/10

Serves: Makes 10 – 12 slices
Prep time: 45 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes

1-3/4 cups flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup seedless blackberry jam
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs

Caramel Icing (optional)
113g unsalted butter
300g brown sugar
3 fl oz double cream
200g icing sugar

Mix all ingredients (except the jam) together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle (or by hand with a wooden spoon).
Pour into 2 greased and floured 9-inch cake pans
Bake at 175 C for 35 minutes
Leave the cakes to cool then take them out of the pans on to a wire rack

To make the icing
Add the butter, cream and brown sugar to a pan and heat for 2 minutes, stirring to combine
Sift the icing sugar and beat into the mixture

Spread the blackberry jam over the top of one of the cakes and top with the other
Pour the icing over the top of the cake (you may have some left over which you can freeze)
Serve with tea and coffee

img_3458
Ingredients for Jam Cake
img_3459
Jam Cake
img_3462
Jam Cake
img_3464
Caramel sauce for Jam Cake
img_3468
Caramel sauce for Jam Cake
img_3478
Jam Cake
img_3479
Jam Cake
img_3570
Jam Cake
brimstone-hill-fortress-national-park-st-kitts-and-nevis
Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park
basseterre-st-kitts-and-nevis
Basseterre, St Kitts and Nevis
Advertisements

Nicaragua

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 10/10

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

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

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

Papua New Guinea

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 8/10

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

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

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

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

New Zealand

New Zealand was first explored by the Maori known as Kupe around 1,000 years ago. He came across the Pacific from his Polynesian homeland of Hawaiki. Then in 1642, Dutch explorer Abel Tasman sighted a ‘large high-lying land’ off the West Coast of the South Island and named it ‘Staten Landt’. It was later changed to New Zealand by Dutch mapmakers. Tasman never actually set foot on New Zealand and ended up settling in Indonesia.

Some interesting facts
Wellington is the southernmost capital in the world
The first commercial bungee jump was made by AJ Hackett in the Kawarau Bridge in Queenstown in 1988
Of all the population in New Zealand, only 5% are humans, the rest are animals, making it the highest animal to human ratio in the world
It has the 9th longest coastline in the world, with a length of 15,134 km
According to the Corruptions Perception Index, New Zealand is the least corrupt nation in the world (tied with Denmark)

I had the pleasure of spending 6 weeks travelling around New Zealand during my round the world trip. It has so much to offer the visitor. My highlights were sailing around the stunning Milford Sound, wine tasting in Havelock North, skiing in Queenstown, taking in the views from Waiheke Island and strolling along the beach in The Bay of Islands.

When it came to researching New Zealand recipes, I sought advice from my dear friend Pauline who had a plethora of options ranging from lamb, bacon and egg pie, afghan biscuits, lamingtons and apple and bran muffins. I opted to make Louise Cake, which I took to my sisters for her Macmillan Champagne evening. They were pretty well received, despite very good competition!!

Rating: 9/10

Makes 12 – 24 pieces
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes

Base:
75g butter, softened
55g caster sugar
2 egg yolks
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1¼ cups plain flour
½ tsp baking powder

Topping:
¼ cup raspberry, plum or blackcurrant jam
2 egg whites
½ cup caster sugar
½ cup fine desiccated coconut

Preheat the oven to 180ºC
Lightly grease a 20cm x 30cm shallow tin and line the base and sides with baking paper
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the egg yolks and mix thoroughly
Add the lemon juice and then sift in the flour and baking powder and mix to a firm dough
Press the dough evenly into the prepared tin, and spread over the jam. You don’t need a thick layer
Beat the egg whites until stiff then gently fold in the caster sugar and the coconut using a metal spoon. Spread carefully over the jam, again trying to keep an even thickness. Sprinkle with a little more coconut
Bake for about 25 minutes until the coconut is just turning golden brown
Remove from the oven, and cut into squares or fingers while it is still warm
Cool in the tin on a wire rack

Germany

Germany is in Western and Central Europe and is the most populous European Union state, with about 82 million inhabitants. Its capital and largest city is Berlin, which incidentally has more bridges than Venice and is home to Europe’s largest inland water network. It also boasts Zoologischer Garten, the largest zoo in the world. Most of Germany has a temperate seasonal climate dominated by humid westerly winds. Winters are cool and summers tend to be warm.

Germany has the world’s fourth largest economy by GDP and so has a very high standard of living.  As a global leader in several industrial and technological sectors, it is both the world’s third largest exporter and importer of goods.

Germany is the seventh most visited country in the world, with over 30 million international tourists annually. More than 30% of Germans spend their holiday in their own country, with the biggest share going to Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in the north, where you will find a unique mixture of nature, culture and urban flair in towns varying from centuries-old tradition to innovative modernity.

German restaurants have become the world’s second most decorated after France. The Michelin Guide of 2015 awarded eleven restaurants in Germany three stars. German cuisine has evolved as a national cuisine through centuries of social and political change with variations from region to region. There are more than 1,500 different types of sausage. Popular dishes include Sauerkraut (fermented shredded cabbage), Sauerbraten (beef pot roast usually served with dumplings), Wurst (white sausage), Spätzle (German noodles), Kartoffelsalat (potato salad), Königsberger Klopse (meatballs in white sauce) and Semmelknödel (dumplings made with breadcrumbs). I opted to make Rhabarberkuchen (German rhubarb cake) which was delicious with a little drizzle of double cream!

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 10 slices
Prep time: 30 minutes + 2 hours chilling time
Cook time: 40 minutes

For the pastry
200g flour
100g unsalted butter
5 tbsp sugar
1 egg

For the filling
6-7 stalks rhubarb (500g)
3 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
125g ground almonds
3 egg whites
Icing sugar for dusting

Crumble the butter into the flour and sugar with your fingers until they have breadcrumb consistency
Add egg and work into a ball and knead on a lightly floured surface for a couple minutes until smooth
Wrap in foil or clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 2 hours
Preheat the oven to 190°C
Wash rhubarb, and cut into 1/2 in (1-2 cm) pieces
Grease a 9″” springform baking tin with butter
Roll out the dough into a large circle and line the pan with it, pressing the dough up the sides. If it falls apart in some parts, just press it in. Prick the pastry with a fork
Separate the egg yolks and egg whites into separate bowls. Beat the egg yolks with half of the sugar (50g or about 1/4 cup) until creamy. Gently mix in the ground almonds.
In a the other bowl, beat the egg whites until it forms stiff peaks like a meringue and then quickly beat in the rest of the sugar
Gently fold in the egg yolk and almond mixture
Put the rhubarb into the springform pan evenly accross the pastry
Pour over the egg mixture and even off the surface. Push down the sides of the dough if it’s too high up the pan.
Bake for 40 minutes. Remove, and let cool for 10 minutes in the pan before removing from the cake tin
Once completely cooled, sprinkle with icing sugar and enjoy with cream

img_1857
Ingredients for Rhabarberkuchen (German rhubarb cake)
img_1885
Pastry for Rhabarberkuchen (German rhubarb cake)
img_1886
Rhabarberkuchen (German rhubarb cake)
img_1890
Rhabarberkuchen (German rhubarb cake)
img_1896
Rhabarberkuchen (German rhubarb cake)
img_1915
Rhabarberkuchen (German rhubarb cake)
schwerin-castle-mecklenburg-vorpommer
Schwerin Castle, Mecklenburg-Vorpommer
berlin-waterway
Berlin waterway
brandenburg-gate-berlin
Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

Kuwait

Kuwait, an Arab country on the Persian Gulf, shares borders with Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Kuwait has a population of 4.2 million people, of which 1.3 million are Kuwaitis and 2.9 million are expatriates. Kuwait City, the capital, is known for its modern architecture, ranging from skyscrapers to the striking Kuwait Water Towers, regarded as a landmark and symbol of modern Kuwait.

Oil reserves were discovered in 1938 and are now the world’s sixth largest. In the 1980s, Kuwait experienced a period of geopolitical instability and an economic crisis following the stock market crash. Petroleum accounts for half of GDP and 90% of government income. The Kuwaiti dinar is the highest valued currency in the world.

Kuwait is the only country in the world with no natural water supply from lakes or reservoirs. It uses wells and performs desalination of sea water for drinking and other purposes. It opened its first grass golf course in 2005, The Sahara Golf & Country Club.

Popular dishes in Kuwaiti cuisine include Firga’a (rice cooked with tomatoes, potatoes and aubergine), Jireesh (cooked spelt with chicken or lamb, tomatoes and spices), Mutabbaq samak (fish served over rice) and Balaleet (sweet saffron noodles). I made Gers ogaily (Kuwaiti perfume cake) which we weren’t too taken with. The ‘perfume’ factor created a bit of a strange taste. Mum and Dad thought it was quite nice.

Rating: 4/10

Serves:10 slices
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 40 – 50 minutes

2 cups plain flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
4 tbsp sesame seeds
½ tsp saffron
1 tbsp sugar
4 eggs
1 ½ cup caster sugar
½ cup (113 g) butter, melted and cooled
1 cup (250 ml) milk, room temperature
1 tsp cardamom powder
1 tsp rosewater

Preheat oven to 180°c
Butter and flour the sides and bottom of a 9” springform cake tin and set aside
In the mortar, crush the saffron threads with 1 tsp of sugar until it’s a powder
Add 2 tablespoons milk to saffron powder and leave to soak for at least 10 minutes
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and two tablespoons sesame seeds. Set aside
In the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the eggs and sugar until light and thick and frothy. The mixture should triple in the volume. About 10 – 12 minutes on medium to high speed
In a large measuring cup, combine the butter, milk, cardamom, rosewater and saffron mixture
Using a large slotted metal spoon (or a wooden spoon), gently fold in the dry and wet ingredients into the eggs, beginning and ending with flour. Fold from top to bottom until combined.
Pour into the prepared cake tin. Sprinkle with sesame seeds
Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle come out clean and the cake has shrunk from the sides of the tin
Cool completely on a wire rack and serve with tea or coffee

Honduras

The Republic of Honduras, is a mountainous country in Central America discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1502. Honduras was home to Maya culture, famed for their hieroglyphic script. 80% of the country’s territory is mountainous and there are 91 protected national areas. It has 2 Unesco world heritage sites; the Maya site of Copan and Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve.

Copán Ruins Archeological Site is the most studied Maya city in the world. Dating back nearly 2,000 years, the society that lived here was highly stratified, deeply symbolic, and focused on tradition. The site is famous for the stelae and altars that are scattered around the immense plaza, most of which were erected during the years 711 and 736. Other highlights include the Hieroglyphic Stairway, a unique temple, which holds the longest known Mayan text and the Acropolis featuring superb carved reliefs of the 16 kings of Copán.

Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve is one of the few remaining tropical rainforests in Central America, a massive swath of jungle along the Mosquito Coast. It boasts an extraordinary diversity of ecosystems and species including the endangered Mexican Spider Monkey, the endangered Central American Tapir, the near-threatened Guiana Crested Eagle, several species of poisonous snakes and 4 species of marine turtles (loggerhead, leatherback, green turtle and hawksbill turtle).

Honduras has struggled with social and political instability and has the world’s highest murder rate (5,936 murders in 2014). Honduras was declared one of the heavily indebted poor countries by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and became eligible for debt relief in 2005. In 2010, 50% of the population were living below the poverty line. About 83% of the population are literate and even though 94% enrol to primary education, only 40% complete.

Other than the Unesco sites, a major highlight is Islas de la Bahía, three Bay Islands – Roatán, Utila and Guanaja. Their reefs are part of the second largest barrier reef in the world, home to fish, coral, sponges, rays, sea turtles and whale sharks.

The cuisine of Honduras is a fusion of Spanish, Caribbean and African. Some of the dishes I found were Baleadas (flour tortillas with beans & cheese) , Sopa de Mondongo (tripe & vegetable soup) , Carneada (barbecued meat) and Tapado de Pescado (Baked fish with coconut milk and vegetables). Coconut and bananas are plentiful in Honduras, so I opted to make Banana and coconut bread.
It was really delicious.

Rating: 10/10

Serves: 8 – 10 slices
Prep time: 25 mins
Cook time: 1 hour

28g unsalted butter at room temperature
28g light cream cheese at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
⅛ tsp salt
2 large bananas, mashed
½ cup skimmed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup coconut, flaked or desiccated

Preheat oven to 175 degrees.
Rub a loaf tin with butter ensuring its covered and set aside.
Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed in mixer.
While beating add 1 cup sugar and egg.
Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl and stir until well-blended.
Combine banana, milk and vanilla in a separate bowl until well combined.
Add the flour mixture alternately with banana mixture to the butter and cream cheese mixture, mixing after each addition.
Stir in the coconut.
Pour batter into prepared tin and bake for 60 minutes.
Let it cool before enjoying with or without butter.

Burundi

Burundi is a landlocked country in the African Great Lakes region of East Africa. The Twa, Hutu and Tutsi peoples have lived in Burundi for at least 500 years. Burundi has been plagued by ethnic conflict between the majority Hutus and the Tutsis, who tend to dominate the government and army—but are only 14 percent of the population. A 2003 cease-fire and new government offered hope for peace, however this peace came to a shattering end in 2015 when President Nkurunziza decided to run for what many Burundians believed to be a constitution breaking third term in office. Violence broke out before the election, and has escalated since. The entire country is now considered a no go area for travellers.

Burundi is one of the most eroded and deforested countries in all of tropical Africa. The cutting of forests for fuel is uncontrolled despite legislation requiring permits. Only about 5.7% of Burundi’s total land area is protected.

Burundi is one of the world’s poorest countries, owing in part to its landlocked geography, poor legal system, lack of economic freedom, lack of access to education, and the proliferation of HIV/AIDS. The World Happiness Report 2016 update ranked Burundi as the world’s least happy nation.

Bujumbura’s Lake Tanganyika beaches are some of the best urban beaches of any landlocked country in Africa. A small spring at Kasumo, 115km southeast of Bujumbura might be the southernmost source of the River Nile. Drumming is an important part of Burundi’s cultural heritage. The world-famous Royal Drummers of Burundi have performed for over 40 years.

A typical Burundian meal consists of sweet potatoes, corn, and peas. Due to the expense, meat is eaten only a few times per month. Recipes I came across included Marahagwe (bean and vegetable stew), Ibiharage (fried beans) and the somewhat strange pairing of banana with beans. I opted to make date & banana loaf, which although it was a little dry, the flavour was pretty good.  Untraditionally, I did however serve it with clotted cream as I felt it was too dry on it’s own.

Rating: 6/10

Serves 8
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 30 mins

260g butter, melted
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
4 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 large or 2 small bananas
1 & 1/2 cup chopped dates
2 tbsp powdered sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 175c.
Beat 230g of the melted butter with the sugar until well blended.
Add the eggs one at a time mixing well before adding the second one.
Add the flour, salt and baking powder and mix well.
Line a loaf tin with parchment paper.
Spread half of the mix in the bottom of the tin and level the surface with your fingertips.
Add the sliced bananas.
Remove pits from dates, chop coarsely and pout on top of the bananas.
Cover with the remaining cake mix.
Bake for about 30 minutes until golden brown in an oven.
Remove from the oven and brush the top of the cake with the remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter.
Sprinkle the surface with a mixture of powdered sugar and cinnamon.