Andorra

Andorra is probably best known for its ski resorts.  Grandvalira is the largest ski area in the Pyrenees, with 210 km of ski slopes.  It was founded in 2003 when two of the oldest ski resorts Pas de la Casa-Grau Roig and Soldeu-El Tarter joined together.  This year it is hosting the Freeride Junior World Championship, the Speed Skiing World Cup trials and the seventh annual Skiers Cup.

Andorra is the only co principality in the world.  A principality is a place ruled by a prince, such as Monaco.  Andorra, however, is a co-principality, having two princes who jointly share the position, neither of whom are actually from Andorra!
Its population is about 84,000 and boasts the third highest life expectancy in the world. 
Tourism is its biggest industry, with 10.2m visitors every year, which is no doubt encouraged by its tax haven status and duty-free shopping.
Andorra la Vella is the highest capital in Europe at 1023 meters above sea level.
Apparently, by law the male head of each family in Andorra is required to own a gun in case of attack or emergency.
Its cuisine includes Escudella, which means ‘bowl’ (a stew containing more cholesterol than most people consume in a year!), Trinxat (cabbage & bacon potato cake), Brac de Gitano (cream roll)  and Cunillo (rabbit & tomato stew).  I decided to cook the simple but tasty Truites de Carreroles (mushroom omelette).
Rating: 7/10
 
Enough for a healthy breakfast for 2:
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
3 tbsps unsalted butter
1⁄2 tsp salt
1⁄4 tsp black pepper
1 1⁄2 cups portabella mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon (or 1 tsp. dried)
5 large eggs
1⁄2 cup coarsely grated gruyere cheese
 
Cook shallot in 2 tbsp butter with 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes.
Stir in mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in tarragon and transfer to a bowl.
Beat eggs with 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper until well combined.
Heat remaining butter in same skillet over medium-high heat until foam subsides, then add eggs and cook until underside is set, about 1 minute.
With a fork, pull set eggs to center, letting uncooked eggs run underneath.
Before eggs are completely set, add mushroom mixture and cheese to one half, on the side away from handle.
Fold other half of eggs over filling with a heatproof rubber spatula.
Tilt the pan as you roll the omelette onto a plate.
 
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Albania

Albania has had a wild history, like a lot of eastern Europe.  It’s little visited by tourists and is little developed.  Mother Teresa is probably Albania’s most famous citizen, having won a Nobel peace prize and well on her way to being a saint. Tirana International airport was named after her in 2001.
Skanderbeg is also another important name in Albania, for his freedom struggle. He successfully overthrew three Ottoman sieges and also led several anti-Ottoman agitations in Albania. Ahmet Bey Zogu became the first president of Albania in 1925 and in 1928 ascended the throne under the name Zog.  Having a King Zog is interesting enough, but he is also the only national leader in modern times to return fire during an assassination attempt.
Elvanagjata is the most popular artist of Albania .. and worth a google search 😉
Albanians nod their head up and down to mean ‘no’, and shake it from side to side for ‘yes’.
Its one of only 3 European capitals to be without a McDonalds.
Thank you to Mimoze for her tip on this dish 🙂
Rating: 9/10 .. lovely flavour
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tbsp olive oil
600g lamb shoulder cut into chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tbsp cup flour
50g long grain white rice
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1.5 tbsp finely chopped oregano
250g plain yoghurt
2 large eggs
Freshly grated nutmeg
Heat 1.5 tbsp. butter and the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat.
Season lamb with salt and pepper and toss with 1/2 tbsp flour.
Working in batches, cook lamb, turning as needed, until browned, 10–12 minutes.
Add rice, garlic, oregano, and 3/4 cup water; boil.
Heat oven to 375°
Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered, until rice is just tender, about 18 minutes. Add salt, and pepper and transfer to a baking dish
Melt remaining butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.
Whisk in remaining flour; cook until smooth
Remove from heat; whisk in yoghurt, nutmeg, eggs, salt, and pepper until smooth.
Pour yoghurt sauce evenly over lamb mixture.
Bake until golden and the lamb is tender, 45–60 minutes.
Serve with green beans & salad
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Haiti

The first time of sharing (inflicting one could say) my cooking challenge with anyone other than my generally thankful husband!! … Mum and Dad joined us this evening.
Haiti makes up one third of the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean, with the Dominican Republic making up the other two-thirds.
Native Haitians were pre-Columbian Amerindians called Taíno, “the good people.” The Taíno named their land “Ayiti,” meaning “Land of Mountains”—a term that evolved into “Haiti”
In the jungles of Haiti, one can find certain species that do not live naturally on any other part of the globe; some bat species native to Haiti include the Greater Bulldog bat, the Sooty Mustached bat and Waterhouse’s leaf-nosed bat.
There are some quite harsh facts associated with this Caribbean country:
– It has been ranked as one of the five most corrupt countries
– Because of both violence and AIDS, it has the highest percentage of orphans of any country in the Western Hemisphere. Before the 2010 earthquake, the United Nations estimated there were 430,000 orphans
– From 1804-1915, more than 70 dictators ruled Haiti
– It is estimated between 200,000 – 300,000 Haitians died and 1.5 million were left homeless in the devastating earthquake in January 2010.
– c.1% of Haiti’s population owns more than 50% of the nation’s wealth.

These were some of the recipes I found in my research; Diri kole ak pwa (rice and beans), Kribich nan sòs (Haitian Shrimp), Legim (thick vegetable stew), but as I knew I was entertaining, I chose the more popular Griyo or Griot (fried pork).  I found several recipes, all varied quite significantly in both method & ingredients.  This is how I made it:

Rating 7/10

Ingredients for 4 people
6 pork shoulder steaks, cut into 1” square chunks
1 large onion, sliced thinly
4 spring onions, sliced thinly
1 jalapeno chilli pepper, seeds removed and sliced thinly
1.5 tsp of thyme leaves
Juice of 2 limes
Juice of 1 orange
3 garlic cloves
500ml water
2 tbsp olive oil

Put the pork with all of the ingredients except the water and oil in a bowl, mix well, cover and refreigerate overnight
Take the pork out of the fridge an hour before you want to start cooking
Drain any liquid and reserve it.  Place the pork, onions & water in an oven proof covered dish
Preheat the oven to 190
Cook the pork for 1.5 hours.
Using a large colander, drain the liquid into a medium saucepan, reserving the pork & onion in the colander.
Put the oil in the same oven dish and place into the oven for 5 mins
Place the pork into the hot oil and cook for 25 mins
Meanwhile heat the remaining liquid in the saucepan with ½ cup of orange juice and reduce by half to make the sauce
When the pork is cooked, remove from the oven and pour the reduced sauce over the pork and serve with cooked boiled rice.

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Bhutan

A tiny Himalayan kingdom that is best known for things like being great at archery and having no stoplights.  Bhutan is the only country that measures GNH (Global National Happiness) alongside GDP.  There are only 4 airplanes in the entire country, and they all belong to the national airline, Druk Air. There are no private planes for the royals or elected officials.  One more interesting thing to note about Bhutan: there are a lot of penises painted on buildings!  The penis is a symbol of good luck and hospitality, and some people think it wards off evil spirits.
I found it quite tricky hunting down authentic Bhutanese recipes as I kept coming across Nepalese & Chinese influenced dishes.  Ema Datshi is the national dish and is a chilli & cheese stew.  I opted to cook Momos (dumplings).
Ingredients
For the dough:
3/4 cup flour
1 cup water
1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
For the filling:
125g minced chicken breast
1 tbsp chopped onion
1 small chopped garlic clove
1 small piece of chopped ginger
1 tbsp chopped coriander leaf
salt & pepper
For tomato sauce:
100g tomato passata
1 small chopped garlic clove
1 small piece of chopped ginger
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sugar
salt & pepper
For the dough, mix the flour and salt, then add oil and water and knead until it forms a ball
Cover and set aside for 30 minutes
Mix together all the filling ingredients in a small bowl
For the sauce, fry the garlic and ginger in oil over medium-low heat for about 3 minutes. Then add the tomato passata, salt, pepper & sugar and cook over low heat for 10 minutes
Use a pasta machine to roll out the dough thinly (up to setting 5 or 6) and then cut into 4-inch circles.
Place a teaspoon of filling in the middle of each circle and fold the circle in half, then pinch the edges to seal
Steam momos for 15-20 minutes in a bamboo steamer
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