Mauritius

We spent New Year’s Eve 2015 on the beautiful island of Mauritius, gorging on delicious seafood, sipping champagne on the beach and dancing the night away with new found friends! The Republic of Mauritius is situated in the Indian Ocean and with a population of 1.2 million, it has the highest population density in Africa. It is known for its beaches, lagoons and reefs, as well as it’s mountainous interior featuring Black River Gorges National Park, rainforests, waterfalls, hiking trails and abundant wildlife. Mauritius was the only known habitat of the now extinct dodo bird and the dodo is prominently featured as a supporter of the national coat of arms of Mauritius.

Mauritius has been ruled by the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French and the British. It became an independent state in 1968, following the adoption of a new constitution. There isn’t an official language but English and French are generally used by government administration and business.

Mauritius received the world leading island destination award for the third time and world’s best beach at the World Travel Awards in January 2012. Around 1 million tourists visit each year. Lonely Planet’s highlights include Pointe d’Esny and Blue Bay, the capital – Port Louis, Chamarel, Rodrigues coastal walk and Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Gardens.

The cuisine of Mauritius is a blend of Chinese, European and Indian influences. French cuisine has also grown very popular. Recipes I came across included Gajak (deep fried snacks), Fish vindaye (spiced fish served with rice, lentils and chutneys), Gateau patat douce (sweet potato cakes), Dholl puris (fried thin bread stuffed with ground yellow split peas), Cari Mutton (Mauritian mutton curry) and Chicken daube (chicken stew). I decided to make Cari Poisson (fish curry) which was pleasantly flavoursome.

Rating: 7/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes

2 fish fillets
1/2 aubergine, cut into strips or batons
1/2 medium onion, sliced
1/2 tsp ginger and garlic paste, heaped
1/2 tbsp thyme leaves, fresh or dried
3 curry leaves, finely chopped
1 tomato, chopped
2 tbsp medium curry powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp coriander leaves, chopped
1 tbsp spring onions, finely chopped
water
vegetable oil, for frying the fish and for cooking
1 & 1/2 tbsp cornflour

Pat fish dry, season with salt and pepper then coat in your corn flour evenly and fry in a pan with vegetable oil on medium heat till they turn a golden brown colour
Drain the fried fish slices on a paper towel to remove all the excess oil and put aside
Season the aubergine with some salt and pepper then fry in the same oil, drain the fried aubergine on a paper towel and put aside
In the same pan, add more oil if needed, and on a medium heat add in your sliced onions, thyme leaves, curry leaves and stir fry for 2 minutes, then add in the garlic and ginger paste, give it a stir
Mix the curry powder, tumeric, cinnamon, cumin and coriander with a little warm water so that it forms a paste and add to the pan and stir well
Add the chopped tomato and 50ml of water to start cooking the sauce, cover and cook on medium heat till tomatoes are done Progressively add 50ml of water in intervals if the sauce starts to dry out
The sauce should be creamy in texture, add in the fried fish with the aubergine and add warm water to preferred consistency, take care not to move the fish around too much or it will break
Taste for seasoning and add salt as needed
Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with coriander leaves and spring onions
Serve with steamed basmati rice

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Ingredients for Cari Poisson (fish curry)
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Cari Poisson (fish curry)
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Cari Poisson (fish curry)
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Cari Poisson (fish curry)
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Mauritius mountain
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Mauritius beach
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Chamarel waterfall
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Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) is an island nation south of India in the Indian Ocean.

Lonely planet describes Sri Lanka as endless beaches, timeless ruins, welcoming people, oodles of elephants, rolling surf, cheap prices, fun trains, famous tea and flavourful food.

Sri Lanka has eight UNESCO World Heritage sites, namely, the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, the ancient city of Sigiriya, the Golden Temple of Dambulla, the old town of Galle, the sacred cities of Anuradhapura and Kandy, Sinharaja Forest Reserve and the Central Highlands.

The most popular time to visit Sri Lanka is in its driest season during January to March.  May hosts the important religious celebration of Vesak, where the city comes alive in colours, lights and festivities.  Christmas is also well celebrated.

Sri Lankan cuisine has taken influence over history from the Dutch colonialists and Southern India. Staple ingredients are rice, coconut and spices. Recipes include Kottu (stir fry of bread and vegetables), Kool (seafood broth), Pol Sambola (coconut with rice and hoppers) and Pushnambu (rich cake made from coconut treacle). I opted to cook Kukul mas curry (Chicken curry) which had a lovely spicy flavour but was slightly dry.

Rating: 8/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 20 minutes + 1-3 hours marinating
Cook time: 35 – 40 minutes

2 chicken breasts
1 medium onion chopped
2 green chillies chopped
1 piece of lemon grass
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 inch piece of ginger
1-2 tsp chilli powder
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp mustard seed (crushed)
salt to taste
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp vinegar

Trim any excess fat from the chicken, then cut into chunks
Grind the ginger and garlic into a paste
Add the chilli powder, curry powder, turmeric, pepper, salt and the lemon grass into a plastic bag with the chicken and allow to marinate in the fridge for 1 – 3 hours
Fry the onion, green chillies and the ginger garlic paste in the oil over a low heat for about 5 minutes and then add mustard and cover
and simmer for about 3 minutes
Add the chicken, vinegar and a little more salt and stir
Cover and cook over a low heat for about 30-40 minutes or until the chicken is tender
Serve with steamed rice

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Ingredients for Kukul mas curry (Chicken curry)
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Marinating the chicken
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Kukul mas curry (Chicken curry)
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Kukul mas curry (Chicken curry)
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Sigiriya Rock, Sri Lanka
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Elephants in Sri Lanka
anuradhapura
Anuradhapura

Tuvalu

Tuvalu is the world’s fourth smallest nation. It is made up of 9 low lying atolls and reef islands in the South Pacific Ocean, with the highest point reaching only 4.6m above sea level. The name Tuvalu means “eight islands” and although there are nine islands comprising the country today, only eight were initially inhabited so the ninth is not included in its name. It previously formed part of the British colony of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands until 1975 when the Ellice Islands separated from the Gilbert Islands and it became Tuvalu.

The country is isolated, almost entirely dependent on imports, particularly of food and fuel, and vulnerable to climate change and rising sea levels, which pose significant challenges to development. At the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference, the Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Emele Sopoaga said “Tuvalu’s future at current warming, is already bleak, any further temperature increase will spell the total demise of Tuvalu…. For Small Island Developing States, Least Developed Countries and many others, setting a global temperature goal of below 1.5 degrees Celsius relative to pre-industrial levels is critical. I call on the people of Europe to think carefully about their obsession with 2 degrees. Surely, we must aim for the best future we can deliver and not a weak compromise. Let’s do it for Tuvalu. For if we save Tuvalu we save the world.”

The main staples of Tuvaluan cuisine are coconut, banana, taro and fish. Two popular traditional dishes are Palusami (taro leaf, onions and fish) and Laulu (taro leaf in coconut cream). Finding Tuvaluan recipes was quite a challenge however I came across a recipe for Tuvalu coconut tuna which was really simple and very tasty.

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

300g raw yellowfin tuna, cut into chunks
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 tbsp freshly grated ginger root
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 Scotch Bonnet hot chili peppers, seeds left in, and rough chopped
1/2 tbsp medium curry powder
tin coconut milk
2 spring onions, chopped
3 tbsp light soy sauce
Fresh coriander, chopped

In a large skillet or wok, heat up some vegetable oil over medium-high heat.
Fry the onions for a few minutes, until fragrant and translucent.
Add in the Scotch Bonnet pepper, curry powder, garlic and reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 5 minutes
Stir in the coconut milk, and the spring onions
Add the tuna and soy sauce and cook over a medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally
Finish off by adding the coriander and serve with steamed rice

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Tuvalu coconut tuna

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Ingredients for Tuvalu coconut tuna

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Tuvalu coconut tuna

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Tuvalu coconut tuna

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Tuvalu coconut tuna

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Tuvalu coconut tuna with steamed rice

Tuvalu beach
Tuvalu beach

Tuvalu
Tuvalu

Pakistan

The Indus Valley civilization, one of the oldest in the world and dating back at least 5,000 years, spreads over much of what now constitutes Pakistan, officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. It is the only muslim country to have been created in the name of Islam. Initially a dominion, Pakistan adopted a new constitution in 1956, becoming an Islamic republic.

Pakistan is home to the 2nd largest peak in the world, K2, also known as the Savage Mountain. It reaches 8,611 metres (28,251 ft) above sea level and is the highest point of the Karakoram mountain range. There have been around 300 successful summits and 80 fatalities, about one person dies on the mountain for every four who reach the summit. The first successful summit was an Italian expedition, led by Ardito Desio and the two climbers who actually reached the summit were Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni on 31 July 1954.

Often known as the ‘Eighth wonder of the world’ the Karakoram Highway, runs through the northern areas connecting Pakistan with China and is the world’s highest paved international road at an elevation of 4,693 metres (15,397 ft) and approximately 1,300 km in length. It was started in 1959 and was completed and opened to the public in 1979. About 810 Pakistanis and about 200 Chinese workers lost their lives, while building the highway, mostly in landslides and falls.

More than 50% of the world’s footballs are made in Pakistan. Around 60 milion hand-stitched footballs are produced by small firms in Sialkot, Pakistan. In 2014, 42 million official ‘Brazuca’ footballs were exported to Brazil for the FIFA World Cup. Even NASA tested the football and declared it the best football ever made.

The cuisine of Pakistan is similar to that of Northern India with influences from Central Asia and the Middle East. The food varies across the different regions from Pashtun, Punjab, Sindh and Karachi. Some of the recipes I found were Aloo gosht (lamb with potatoes in gravy), Seekh kebab (beef kebab), Matar pulao (rice with peas) and Sindhi biryani (rice & meat). I made Chicken Lahori curry, well actually I made Butter chicken, then realised that it’s not from Pakistan. So two for the price of one! Both were very delicious and got 9/10.

Rating: 9/10

Chicken Lahori curry
Serves: 2
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 25 – 35 mins

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 black cardamom pods
2 green cardamom pods
1/3 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 bay leaf
1 onion, chopped
1/2 tbsp fresh ginger & garlic pounded into a paste
1/2 tin chopped tomatoes
1 heaped tsp red chilli powder
1 tbsp ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 or 2 green chillies, chopped (depending on how hot you like)
400g chicken breast skinless and boneless cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
140ml chicken stock or water
1 tbsp finely chopped coriander
1/2 tsp garam masala (optional)
Salt

Heat the oil in a wok and fry the whole spices with the bay leaves until they crackle
Add the onions and fry for a few minutes, until lightly browned
Add the ginger-garlic paste and fry for a minute, stirring well, then add the ground spices (except the garam masala), the green chillies and tomatoes
Cook for 3 minutes, stirring to blend
Add the chicken pieces with the yogurt, stock and salt to taste, and stir well
Simmer gently for 20-25 minutes until the chicken is cooked
If the sauce is too thick, add more stock
Stir in the chopped coriander leaves and garam masala
Serve with steamed rice

 

Butter chicken
Serves: 2 hungry people
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 25 min

4 Tbsp oil
100g butter
2 tsp fresh ginger & garlic pounded into a paste
450g chicken, boneless cubes
300g tomatoes, blended
1 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1 1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp curry powder
Salt to taste
2 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves
300g fresh cream
1 piece ginger, julienne
2 tbsp green coriander, chopped

Heat oil in a wok
Add ginger-garlic paste and chicken
Fry till chicken changes colour to golden brown
Add butter to chicken in the pan and then add blended tomatoes
Cook for 2-3 minutes whilst stirring
Add red chilli powder, turmeric, curry powder, salt and stir lightly till oil separates
Add fenugreek leaves
Slowly add cream and stir
Add ginger juliennes and cover with lid and cook gently for few minutes
Garnish with coriander and serve with steamed rice

 

 

Samoa

The Independent State of Samoa made up from two entities; Independent Samoa (or Western Samoa) and the US territory of American Samoa. The two main islands are Savai’i and Upolu. The Samoan Islands share a history of being one of the strongest cultural forces in the Pacific and were the first small island country in the Pacific to become independent in 1962. Ongoing scientific research suggests that Samoa’s history dates back 3,000 years. It is located south of the equator, about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand.

At the end of December 2011, Samoa jumped forward by one day, omitting 30 December from the local calendar, when the nation moved to the west of the International Date Line. This aimed to help the nation boost its economy in doing business with Australia and New Zealand. Before this change, Samoa was 21 hours behind Sydney, they are now three hours ahead.

The famous Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson brought his family to live on Upolu in 1890 and built a large home in the foothills above the city of Apia, where he spent the last five years of his life. His home was destroyed in the cyclones of the early 1990s but was rebuilt and opened as a museum in 1994 on the centenary of his death.

Samoa has all the attributes of island paradise; white sand, blue lagoons and jade jungles, but without the glitz and flashiness of mega tourist resorts. With an average temperature of 26.5 degress, it is a very appealing destination for travellers seeking both serenity and adventure.

Popular food in Samoan cuisine are rice, fish, roasted chicken and pork, yams, taro, fresh fruit and coconut. Dishes I came across include umu (oven-pit-baked meat), sapasui (chop suey), puligi (pudding) and oka (raw fish in lime juice and coconut milk). I cooked Chicken Kale Moa (Samoan chicken curry) which had a subtle flavour but a little lacking in umph. I made 2 versions, one with potatoes, one without (as I’m not a big fan of potato in curry) and we preferred the one without potato. I would be inclined to use hot curry powder next time.

Rating: 6/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 40 mins

1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp curry powder (use hot curry powder if you like heat)
350g chicken breast, cubed
1 cup water
2 cups coconut milk
2 medium potatoes, chopped into cubes
1 large carrot, chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
1 tbsp cornflour mixed with 3 tbsp water
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, then fry the onion gently for 5 minutes until it is translucent
Add the garlic, ginger and curry powder and fry for about a minute stirring well.
Add the chicken, 1 cup of water and 2 cups of coconut milk. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer and cover.
Simmer for 10 – 15 minutes.
Add the vegetables and bring to a boil again. Turn down heat and cover again. Simmer for 20 minutes or until soft.
Add the cornflour mix and turn the heat up to medium, stirring until thickened.
Season well with salt and pepper.
Serve with boiled rice.

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Ingredients for chicken kale moa (Samoan chicken curry)
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Chicken kale moa (Samoan chicken curry
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Chicken kale moa (Samoan chicken curry
Samoa
Samoa
Harvesting coconuts in Samoa
Harvesting coconuts in Samoa
Samoan beach
Samoan beach

Bangladesh

Bangladesh is located at the apex of the Bay of Bengal and shares borders with India and Myanmar. It is the world’s eighth-most populous country. Three of Asia’s largest rivers, the Ganges, the Brahmaputra and the Meghna flow through Bangladesh forming the fertile Bengal delta, the largest delta in the world.  At 2,172,000 square kilometers, the Bay of Bengal is the largest bay in the world. Poverty is widespread with many Bangladeshis living on less than $1 a day, however, promisingly the poverty rate has reduced from 57% in 1990 to 25.6% in 2014.

The country is the world’s largest contributor to United Nations peacekeeping. In 2006, Bangladeshi Muhammad Yunus won the Nobel Prize in Peace “for efforts to create economic and social development from below”.

Bangladesh is home to much of the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other highlights include the Buddhist remains at Paharpur and the 15th-century mosques and mausoleums of Bagerhat, both of which are also Unesco World Heritage Sites. Cox’s Bazar is home to the world’s longest natural sea beaches, which are 75 miles long including mud flats. Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh is one of the world’s most populated cities, with a population of nearly 17 million people. It is known as the rickshaw capital of the world, with daily traffic of over 600,000 cycle rickshaws.

The Royal Bengal Tiger is Bangladesh’s national animal. This majestic creature has a roar that can be heard up to 3 kilometers away. Sadly, it is now an endangered species. Bangladesh has an abundance of wildlife including clouded leopards, saltwater crocodiles, black panthers and fishing cats. It also has one of the largest population of Irrawaddy dolphins and Ganges dolphins.

Rice is the main staple of Bangladesh cuisine and is served with a wide range of curries. There are regional differences in the cuisine, the Western region is known for authentic Bengali recipes while the Central region including Dhaka, favours fresh water fish. Dishes include Murgir Jhol (chicken curry), Chirer Polao (flattened rice with vegetables), Rui maacher kaalia (fish curry), Doi Maach (fish in yoghurt sauce), Sandesh Mishti (milk based sweet), Bandhakopir Torkari (Bengali Cabbage, Potato and Pea Curry) and Cholar daal (lentils). I opted to cook Dhaka Chicken Karahi (chicken curry) which was particularly spicy and tasty. I added lime juice and creme fraiche to tone it down a little.

Rating: 8/10 (although Bern said it was 9/10 with the additions I made to the dish!)

Serves 2
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 30 mins

2 tbsp oil
1 & 1/2 ginger & garlic paste
2 large chicken breasts cut into chunks
1 medium piece ginger, sliced
1/2 tbsp crushed cumin seeds
1/2 tbsp crushed coriander seeds
1 tbsp red chilli flakes
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup water
1 onion, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 green chillies
Fresh coriander
1/2 tsp all spice powder

Heat the oil in a pan to a medium heat and fry the ginger and garlic paste for a few seconds.
Add the chicken and stir well to coat.
When the chicken changes colour (after a few minutes), add sliced ginger, cumin, coriander, red chilli flakes and salt and mix.
Add the water, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add sliced green chillies, onions, tomatoes and fresh coriander, stir well and cook for 15 minutes. Add more water if it starts to dry out.
Add the all spice powder, stir well and cook for a minute.
Sprinkle with fresh coriander and serve with cooked basmati rice.

India

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some interesting facts about the Taj Mahal:

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

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

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

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

Sauté chopped onions till dark brown in the oil

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

For the Peas Pulao:

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

In a deep bottom pan, heat the oil

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

For the Chana Saag:

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

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a tall stockpot.

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

 

 

 

 

Burma / Myanmar

Well is it Burma or is it Myanmar?

That’s a tricky question … so we’ll start with the basics.  It is the largest country in mainland Southeast Asia, and the 40th-largest in the world.  It has a population of over 55,000 with the majority being Buddhist.  The capital is Yangon.

There has been a hell of a lot going on here so I’ve tried to do my best to summarise (very badly).  There’s a bit more info here than I would usually go into, which is at the request of one of my intellectual readers!

The country has been called “Burma” in English since the 18th century.
General Aung San, who was generally considered the father of independent Burma was assassinated in 1947.
Burma became independent from the UK in 1948.
In 1962, left-wing general Ne Win staged a coup, banned political opposition, suspended the constitution, and introduced the “Burmese way of socialism.”
In 1987, Ne Win suddenly cancelled certain currency notes which caused a great down-turn in the economy as it wiped out the savings of the vast majority of people. The main reason for the cancellation of these notes was superstition on Ne Win’s part, as he considered the number nine his lucky number—he only allowed 45 and 90 kyat notes, because these were divisible by nine.
After 25 years of economic hardship and repression, the Burmese people held massive demonstrations in 1987 and 1988. These were brutally quashed by the State Law and Order Council (SLORC).
In 1989, the military government officially changed the name of the country to Myanmar.  At the same time, they changed the name of Rangoon, the former capital, to Yangon.
Daughter of the assassinated general Aung San and leader of the opposition, Aung San Suu Kyi, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, which focused world attention on SLORC’s repressive policies.
In Nov 2005, the military junta, in a massive and secretive move, relocated the seat of government from the capital Yangon to a mountain compound called Pyinmanaa in Naypyidaw. The move perplexed many, and the junta was vague in its explanation, saying, “Due to changed circumstances, where Myanmar is trying to develop a modern nation, a more centrally located government seat has become a necessity.”
In May 2008, Cyclone Nargis ravaged the Irrawaddy Delta and Yangon, killing 22,500 people and leaving up to a million homeless. Another 41,000 people were reported missing and feared dead. Most of the death and destruction were caused by a 12-foot high tidal wave that formed during the storm.
Days after elections in Oct 2010, the country’s first elections in 20 years, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was freed after nearly 20 years under house arrest, she won a seat in parliament and took office in May.  Thousands of supporters gathered outside her home, where she gave a speech calling for a “peaceful revolution”.
The country’s first Parliament in 20 years convened in Jan. 2011 and elected Prime Minister Thein Sein as president. The military junta officially disbanded in March 2011. However, Parliament is civilian largely in name only. The military won about 60% of the seats in October 2010 elections, and another 25% are reserved for members of the military
In his first year as president, Thein Sein initiated stunning changes in political and economic philosophy that saw a loosening of the tight grip the authoritarian junta held on the country. He initiated talks with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, allowed her and her party, the NLD, to run in upcoming parliamentary elections, freed more than 800 political prisoners and signed a cease-fire with ethnic Karen rebels.
In Jan. 2012 the U.S. restored full diplomatic relations with Myanmar following a visit from Hilary Clinton, Secretary of State in Dec 2011.
In 2015, Aung San Suu Kyi announced that her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), would take part in the election after boycotting the previous one in 2010, which was condemned for irregularities by international organisations.
In Feb 2016 Aung San Suu Kyi won the election in a landslide victory, but she cannot become president due to the constitution, which among other things:
i) prevents leaders having foreign relatives, her two sons are both British citizens; and
ii) demands the president has military experience, of which she has none.
According to Transparency International, Burma ranked 157 out of 177 countries in terms of perceived corruption. The Corruption Perceptions Index ranks countries/territories based on how corrupt a country’s public sector is perceived to be. It is a composite index, drawing on corruption-related data from expert and business surveys carried out by a variety of independent and reputable institutions
And on to the cooking.  Through my research I came across Mohinga (rice vermicelli with fish soup), which is the traditional breakfast dish and Burma’s national dish, Sanwinmakin (Semonlina cake) and Laphet Thohk (pickled tea leaf salad).  Also popular are curries of many varieties.  I chose Kyetha hin (chicken curry).
Rating: 9/10
Prep time: 30 mins
Cook time: 40 mins
390g chicken breast cut into bite size
1/2 med onion, chopped roughly
1 large garlic clove, smashed
1 strip of lemon peel, sliced
1/2 tsp ginger, grated
Vegetable oil
3/4 tbsp salt
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp chilli powder
2 cups water
1 tbsp tomato puree
1/2 tbsp fish sauce
1/4 tsp tamarind paste or use tbsp lemon juice
Fresh coriander, chopped
Pinch ground cardamom
Blend the onion, garlic, lemon peel and ginger with a little oil to make a smooth paste.
Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan and when hot add the paste, salt, turmeric & chilli powder.
Fry over a med heat for a few minutes stirring regularly and add a few drops of water if it starts to stick to the pan.
Reduce to a low heat and simmer for 10 minutes until all the liquid has evaporated and its turned deep brown.
Add the chicken pieces, stirring well to coat with the paste.
Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. T
hen add the water, potato, tomato puree, fish sauce, tamarind or lemon juice and stir to mix well.
Cover and continue to simmer for another 20 – 25 minutes, until the potato is soft.
Turn the heat off, sprinkle over the coriander & cardamom.
Serve with boiled rice.