Fiji

A loud and enthusiastic ‘Bula’ (meaning Hello) was how all the Resort staff welcomed me when I visited Fiji a number of years ago. Famed for exquisite beaches, undersea marvels, lush interiors and fascinating culture, Fiji is an archipelago of more than 330 islands in Melanesia in the South Pacific Ocean. The two major islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, account for 87% of the population of almost 900,000. Viti Levu is home to the capital, Suva, a port city with British Colonial architecture.

Fiji became independent in 1970 after nearly a century as a British Colony. Fijian life revolves around the church, the village, the rugby field and the garden. While this may sound insular you would be hard pressed to find a more open and welcoming population. Though the realities of local life are less sunny than the country’s skies, many regions are poor and lack basic services. Fijians are famous for their hospitality and warmth.

Fiji has one of the most developed economies in the Pacific due to an abundance of forest, mineral, and fish resources. Today, the main sources of foreign exchange are its tourist industry and sugar exports. The country’s currency is Fijian dollar, the official languages are English, Fijian and Hindi.

Rugby Union is the most-popular sport played in Fiji. The Fiji national sevens side is one of the most popular and successful rugby sevens teams in the world, and has won the Hong Kong Sevens a record fifteen times, and they have also won the Rugby World Cup Sevens twice in 1997 and 2005. In 2016 they won Fiji’s first ever Olympic medal in the Rugby sevens at the Summer Olympics, winning gold by comprehensively defeating Great Britain 43-7 in the final.

Fijian food has traditionally been very healthy. Staple foods would include taro (a root crop similar to artichoke), coconut, cassava, seafood, breadfruit and rice. Recipes I came across include Palusami (Taro leaves filled with corned beef and onion), Lovo (marinated fish or meat wrapped in foil and cooked underground), Cassava cake and Coconut fish soup. I was recommended the dish Kokoda (raw fish salad), which is marinated fresh fish with coconut milk. I had it for my lunch and I really enjoyed the fresh zingy flavour. And with Fiji done, that means I’m 75% of the way through my challenge.

Rating: 8/10

Serves: 1
Prep time: 15 minutes + 6 hours marinating

1 fish fillet (I used red mullet but cod or halibut will work. Mahi Mahi is traditionally used)
Juice of 1 large lime
pinch salt
80ml coconut cream
1/4 red onion, very finely chopped or minced
1/2 green chilli pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
1 tomato, finely chopped
Salad leaves to serve

Cut the fish into bite-size pieces and place in a bag together with the lime juice and salt
Mix well, then refrigerate and leave to marinate for 6 hours
When ready to serve, remove from the refrigerator, add the coconut cream, chopped onion, and chilli and mix well
Place the salad leaves on a plate, top with the fish mixture and garnish with the chopped tomato

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

Afghanistan

Afghanistan has been devastated by war since 1978 and it continues today. The US war in Afghanistan (America’s longest war) officially ended on December 28, 2014. However, thousands of US-led NATO troops have remained in the country to train and advise Afghan government forces. Since 2001 there has been over 90,000 direct war-related deaths.

A few non war related facts
The world’s first oil paintings were drawn in the caves of Bamiyan, in the central highlands of Afghanistan around 650BC.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is the poster boy in many of the muscle building centers in Afghanistan, as they say he looks like an Afghan.
Afghanistan’s national game, buzkashi, or goat-grabbing is regarded as the world’s wildest game. It involves riders on horseback competing to grab a goat carcass, and gallop clear of the others to drop it in a chalked circle.
Kandahar airfield is the busiest single runway airstrip in the world.

Despite years of bloodshed, it remains a battered but beautiful and proud country with a rich culture, imposing ancient ruins, old cities and religious shrines.

Afghan cuisines reflects its ethnic and geographic diversity with staple crops of wheat, maize, barley, rice and dairy products. It is also known for high quality pomegranates, grapes and melons. Recipes I came across include Rhot (Afghan sweet bread), Nakhod e shor (spicy crunchy chickpeas), Quorma e Zardaloo (lemon apricot stew), Borani Banjan (layered aubergine), Kebab e murgh (chicken kebab), Mantu (meat dumplings), Mashawa (Afghan chilli) and the national dish of Kabuli Palau (rice with meat, carrots, raisins and pistachios). I decided to make a hearty and warming soup on a chilly September evening – Shorwa e gosht (Afghan bean and beef soup), which was tasty and comforting.

Rating: 8/10

Serves: 6
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 2 hours

900g beef steak cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large red onion, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
3 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp ground coriander
½ tbsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp sea salt
½ tsp black pepper
8 cups water
1 medium russet potato, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 can red kidney beans, rinsed
1 can chickpeas, rinsed
1 cup roughly chopped fresh coriander

Add oil to a large casserole dish and place over medium-high heat
Add the onion, brown for 5 minutes until soft, add the garlic and the meat
Mix well and cook for about 10 minutes until the meat is cooked through and a thick sauce forms
Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, coriander, turmeric, salt, pepper and the water, mix well
Bring to a boil and then reduce to a medium heat, cover and cook for 1 hour
Add the potatoes, chickpeas, kidney beans, and coriander to the soup
Bring to a gentle boil again, then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until the meat and potatoes are tender, approx 30 – 45 minutes
Serve immediately on it’s own or with pitta bread

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Ingredients forShorwa e gosht (Afghan bean and beef soup)
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Shorwa e gosht (Afghan bean and beef soup)

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Bamiyan caves, Afghanistan
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Buzkashi
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Military soldiers in Afghanistan mountains

Colombia

Colombia is situated at the northern tip of South America. With very diverse geography it boasts lush rainforests, Andean peaks, savannahs and coffee plantations. Colombia is the second most biodiverse country in the world, after Brazil which is approximately 7 times bigger. About 10% of the species of the Earth live in Colombia, including over 1,900 species of bird, 10% of the world’s mammals species and 14% of the amphibian species. The Malpelo fauna and flora sanctuary is a marine park off the coast of Colombia, a Unesco world heritage site since 2006, it is widely recognised as one of the best dive sites in the world with sightings of a wide variety of sharks.

After decades of civil war, Colombia has been making significant improvements to security which have made it more safely accessible for travellers. Bogota, the now vibrant and artistic capital, is experiencing a rebirth and Cartagena old town offers a taste of colonial life. For the more adventurous trek through rainforests and mountains to the ruins of Cuidad Perdida (lost city), go white water rafting in San Gil or take a mud bath inside the crater of Volcan de Lodo El Totumo.

The cuisine of Colombia takes influence from the indigenous ‘Chibcha’ people, along with Spanish, African, Arab and some Asian cuisines. Dishes include Arroz con coco (rice with coconut), Almojábana (bread rolls), Sudado de Pollo (chicken stew), Lechona Tolimense (whole pork stuffed with rice, peas, potatoes and spices), Arepas de Queso (corn cakes served with cheese) and Crema de Mazorca (corn soup). I decided to make Chuleta Valluna (breaded pork) from the Valle del Cauca region of Colombia, which we had with roasted potatoes. It had a crispy texture and nice flavour.

Rating: 8/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 15 minutes + 3 hours or overnight marinating
Cook time: 6 minutes

2 pork loin steaks without bone
Salt
Pepper
1 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp spring onions, finely chopped
3 tbsp onions, finely chopped
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tbsp paella seasoning
2 eggs
1/2 cup bread crumbs
3 tbsp vegetable oil

Put the pork steaks between sheets of clingfilm and pound them until each piece is about ¼” thick (or ask the butcher to do this for you!)
Place the pork steaks in a large plastic bag and add the onions, spring onions garlic and cumin powder, shaking the bag gently to be sure the meat is covered. Let pork marinate for at least 3 hours or overnight
Place flour, salt, pepper and paella seasoning on a plate and mix
Beat the eggs and put on a second plate
On a third plate place the bread crumbs
Remove the pork from the marinade and pat dry with kitchen towels
One at the time coat the pork with the flour mixture, dip in the eggs and coat with bread crumbs (you can double dip them in the egg and breadcrumbs for an extra crisp texture)
In a large non-stick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat, put the pork steaks in and fry about 3 minutes per side or until golden
Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen towels
Serve with your preferred type of potatoes and vegetables or salad

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Ingredients for Chuleta Valluna (breaded pork cutlets) (Although there is saffron in the photo, I used paella seasoning)

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Marinating the pork

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Making Chuleta Valluna (breaded pork cutlets)

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Chuleta Valluna (breaded pork cutlets)

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Chuleta Valluna (breaded pork cutlets)

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Chuleta Valluna (breaded pork cutlets)

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Chuleta Valluna (breaded pork cutlets) with roast potatoes

Catedral Primada on Plaza Bolívar, Bogota
Catedral Primada, Plaza Bolivar, Bogota

Cartagena street
Colonial street in Cartagena

Ciudad Perdida Colombia
Ciudad Perdida, Colombia

Taking a mud bath in Volcan de Lodo El Totumo, Colombia
Mud bath in Volcan de Lodo El Totumo

Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is the world’s largest landlocked country, and the ninth largest in the world. It’s a huge place with a very small population of only 18 million people. The name Kazakhstan translates as “Land of the Wanderers” and with only 6 people per square mile, they have plenty of land to wander! The Kazakh Steppe (plain), with an area of around 310,600 sq mi, occupies a third of the country and is the world’s largest dry steppe region. The steppe is characterized by large areas of grasslands and sandy regions.

A few facts
It is believed that the first apple trees grew around Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan, as far back as 20 million years ago
There are 27,000 ancient monuments throughout Kazakhstan
It is home to the Baikonur Cosmodrome, the world’s oldest and largest operating space launch facility from where the first manned spaceflight with Yuri Gagarin took off into space in 1961

Highlights for visitors to Kazakhstan include the landmark buildings in Astana – Kazakhstan’s new capital, Aksu-Zhabagyly Nature Reserve, Almaty’s Central State Museum, enjoying the view from Kok-Tobe hill and Levoberezhny Park.

Traditional foods of Kazakh cuisine include mutton, horse meat and various milk products. Popular dishes are Beshbarmak (boiled horse or mutton meat eaten with pasta and broth, it also called “five fingers” as it is eaten with one’s hands), Zhauburek (kebab), Khazakh lemon chicken , Shelpek ( flatbread) Kylmai (sausage) and Baursaki (Fried Doughnuts). I made Pilaf (rice with meat and carrots) which was fairly simple to make and pleasantly tasty.

Rating: 7/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hr

350-400g of boneless lamb shoulder, cubed
1 onion, chopped
3-4 carrots, peeled and cut into strips
1 cup of rice
1 chicken or vegetable stock cube
1½ cups of water
1 tsp of salt
Black pepper

Fry the onions until brown on medium – high heat, then remove on to a plate
Using the same pan fry the meat on high heat until nicely browned and the juices has evaporated
Add the carrots and fry together with the meat for about 10 minutes
Add salt and pepper
Add the onions back into the pan
Slowly add your stock cube blended with the water and bring it to boil
Turn the heat down and simmer for 20 minutes
Meanwhile prepare your rice by rinsing it thoroughly in cold water until the water runs clear
Add the rice but don’t mix it in. Just let the rice sink into the liquid by spreading it carefully. The rice should be covered with water about 2 cm above it, so add more if necessary
Cover the pan and cook it on a gentle simmer until the rice has absorbed the liquid – about 15 minutes
At this point the top layer of rice is not cooked yet, so you need to flip the top layer and bring the sides to the center by covering the top layer at the same time
Make a few holes all the way through to the bottom, so that the steam can come through from the bottom of the pan to get all the rice properly cooked
Leave it to gently cook for another 8-10 minutes
Taste the rice to ensure its cooked. If the rice is ready, you can now mix the meat and carrots by bringing them from the underneath the rice to the top
Gently mix all together and serve

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Ingredients for Pilaf (rice with meat and carrots)
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Pilaf (rice with meat and carrots)
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Pilaf (rice with meat and carrots)
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Pilaf (rice with meat and carrots)
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Pilaf (rice with meat and carrots)
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Astana’s Concert Hall
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Almaty, Kazakhstan
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Baikonur Cosmodrome
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Shymkent Mountains, Kazakhstan

Egypt

Egypt is a Mediterranean country linking North East Africa with the Middle East. It is the driest and sunniest country in the world and most of its land surface is desert.

Egypt’s northern coastline runs for 500 km along the mediterranean shores. One of the most popular places for visitors in the height of the summer, is the port city of Alexandria. Founded by Alexander the Great and once the seat of Queen Cleopatra. Its harbour entrance was once marked by the towering “Pharos Light House”, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and it’s great library was renowned as the ultimate archive of ancient knowledge.

Cairo, Egypt’s sprawling capital, is set on the Nile River. At the heart of Cairo is Tahrir Square and the vast Egyptian Museum. Nearby Giza Necropolis is the site of the iconic pyramids and Great Sphinx. The old saying that Egypt is the gift of the Nile still rings true, without the river there would be no fertile land, no food, no electricity. Ancient Egypt experienced some of the earliest developments of writing, agriculture, urbanisation, organised religion and central government.

The Suez Canal is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through the Isthmus of Suez. It was constructed by the Suez Canal Company between 1859-1869. At the Northern Gate, lies the city of Port Said, this is the third largest city in Egypt and was established in 1859 during the building of the Suez Canal.

Some traditional Egyptian recipes I came across were Ful Medami (stewed beans) , Molokeya (green soup with garlic and coriander) , Koshari (lentils, rice and macaroni, ) Eish Masri (pitta bread) and Basbousa (syrup cake). I opted to make Shawarma Lahme (chicken stuffed in pitta with tahina sauce) which we enjoyed as a tasty snack.

Rating: 8/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 5 minutes + 4 hours marinating
Cook time: 10 minutes

250g chicken breasts
1 large garlic clove
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp tomato paste
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp plain yoghurt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
Ground black pepper
Salt to taste
Pitta breads

Tahina sauce
2 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp warm water
1 garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper to taste

For the tahina sauce
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl

Cut your chicken breasts into long strips. Make sure they are thin
Put the chicken in a bag with lemon juice, garlic, tomato paste, olive oil, yoghurt, spices, salt and pepper and put in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight
Heat some oil in a pan and fry the chicken for 10 minutes
Serve with pitta, tahini and salad leaves

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Ingredients for Shawarma Lahme
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Cooking Shawarma Lahme
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Shawarma Lahme (chicken stuffed in pitta with tahina sauce)
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Shawarma Lahme (chicken stuffed in pitta with tahina sauce)
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Great Sphinx, Egypt
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The River Nile, Egypt
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Pyramids of Giza
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Alexandria, Egypt

Vanuatu

Vanuatu is situated between the Coral sea and the South Pacific sea, 2,500 km, northeast of Sydney, Australia. It is a Y shaped archipelago consisting of 82 islands of volcanic origin, 65 of which are inhabited. The islands are rugged with deserted beaches and rumbling active Volcanoes. Mt Yasur is popular with visitors as it is possible for 4×4 vehicles to get within 150m of the crater rim. The climate in Vanuatu is tropical and they have a long rainy season. In March 2015, Cyclone Pam devastated much of Vanuatu and caused extensive damage to all of the islands. Cyclone Pam is possibly the worst natural disaster to affect Vanuatu.

The mainstays of the economy are agriculture, tourism, offshore financial services and raising cattle. Copra, cocoa, kava and beef account for more than 60% of Vanuatu’s total exports. The roots of the kava plant are used to produce a drink with sedative, anesthetic, euphoriant, and entheogenic properties. It has been used to treat anxiety, stress and depression.

Vanuatu is widely recognised as one of the premier destinations in the South Pacific region for scuba divers wishing to explore coral reefs. A key attraction is the wreck of the US luxury cruise liner converted troop carrier “President Coolidge” on Espiritu Santo island, which sank during World War II and is one of the largest shipwrecks in the world, accessible for recreational diving.

Traditional staple foods of Vanatu cuisine include yam, taro, banana, coconut, sugarcane, tropical nuts, greens, pork, chicken, and seafood. I came across recipes for Lap Lap (root vegetable cake layered with coconut milk, meat or fish cooked in an underground pit), Nalot (boiled or roasted taro, and banana or breadfruit mixed with grated coconut and water) , Tuluk (tapioca dough filled with shredded pork) , Banana and Peanut Butter Biscuit, Sweet potato salad, Gato (doughnuts) and Tanna soup (chicken and coconut soup). I decided to make coconut scones, which had a very subtle coconut flavour and went well with butter and jam.

Rating: 6/10

Makes 12
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

4 tbsp coconut cream
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
2 teaspoon sugar
1 egg
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to 180c
Beat together the coconut cream, sugar, and egg
Add the dry coconut and baking powder and beat together well
Add flour gradually until it’s all added and blended well together. The dough should be slightly strong
Bring the mixture together with your hands and roll into a sausage shape.
Cut into 12 slices and place them on a greaseproof paper lined baking tray
Bake for 15 minutes, or until they are light brown

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Ingredients for coconut scones
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Coconut scone mix
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Coconut scone mix
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Coconut scone mix
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Coconut scones
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Coconut scones
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Child from Vanuatu
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Map of Vanuatu
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Mt Yasur, Vanuatu

Nigeria

Nigeria, the “Giant of Africa”, is the most populous country in Africa with approximately 184 million inhabitants and it is also Africa’s largest economy (overtaking South Africa in 2014). The key contributors to Nigeria’s economy are telecommunications, banking, and its film industry. ‘Nollywood’, as the film industry is known, is rated as the third most valuable film industry in the world based on its worth and revenues generated.

Nigeria has a few interesting world records, namely:
The largest Internet café is ChamsCity Digital Mall with facilities in Lagos and Abuja, Nigeria, each with 1,027 computer terminals.
The largest group of carol singers was 25,272 by Godswill Akpabio unity choir at the Uyo Township Stadium, Akwa Ibom, Nigeria in 2013.
The largest football shirt measures 73.55 m (241 ft 3 in) wide and 89.67 m (294 ft 2 in) long and was created by Guinness Nigeria Plc.

Highlights for visitors to Nigeria include Kano, West Africa’s oldest surviving city, Nike Art Gallery in Lagos, the walled city of Zaria, the sacred forest in Yoruba Oshogbo and Gashaka Gumpti National Park.

Spices, hot chilli peppers, palm oil and groundnut oil are common ingredients in Nigerian cuisine. Dishes I came across were Balangu (grilled meat), Banga soup (soup made from palm nuts), Afang (vegetable soup), Moimoi (steamed bean pudding), Funkaso (millet pancakes) and Groundnut chop (peanut stew). I cooked Suya (Nigerian chicken skewers) which were incredibly spicy, a little too much for me, Bern enjoyed them but didn’t really like the peanut flavour.

Rating: 6/10

Serves: 4
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 6 minutes

1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp cayenne powder
1 tbsp dried onion flakes
2 tbsp peanuts, finely minced
500g boneless skinless chicken breast
2 tbsp groundnut oil

Mix all the dry ingredients together
Slice the chicken into thin pieces. Sprinkle with the seasoning mix, and allow to marinate for 5 minutes
Thread the chicken onto skewers and brush with the oil
Grill or BBQ for 3 minutes on each side, or until chicken is cooked through
(if using wooden skewers, soak them for at least half an hour before using to avoid them burning)
Serve with salad in pitta bread, with rice or chips

Algeria

Algeria is a sovereign state in Northern Africa, sharing borders with Tunisia, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Mali and Niger. With an area of 919,595 sq mi it is the largest country on the Mediterranean coast, the tenth largest country in the world and Africa’s largest country. The capital, Algiers is located in the country’s far north and is the country’s most populous city, with a mix of colonial and modernist architecture. Around 80% of Algeria is covered by the Sahara, the world’s largest hot desert. The Saharan oasis of Tabelbala in Bechar has its own language called “Korandje”. The vast mountain ranges of Aures and Nememcha occupy the entire north eastern part of Algeria and it’s highest point is Mount Tahat (3,003.m).

Football is the most popular sport in Algeria. The Algerian National Football Team joined Fifa in 1964, a year and a half after gaining independence. They have qualified for four world cups; the first in 1982, when they were the first African team to defeat a European team (2-1 against West Germany). In 2014 Algeria became the first African team to score four goals in a world cup match.

The cuisine of Algeria is a fusion of Arab, Berber, Mediterranean and Ottoman cuisine, differing slightly from region to region. Common ingredients are lamb, potatoes, carrots, onions, courgette and tomatoes. Traditional dishes include Couscous, Shakshouka (eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers, and onions), Khabz (flatbread), Jwaz (vegetable stew), Merguez (spicy lamb sausage), Baghrir (Maghreb’s pancakes) and Sfenj (doughnuts). I decided to make Lahm Lhalou (Algerian Sweet Lamb) which is popular during the month of Ramadan. I served it with roasted vegetable couscous. It was indeed quite sweet and rich in flavour but very enjoyable.

Rating: 7/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour

350g lamb, boneless , cubed
1/2 cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp oil
2 tbsp orange juice
2 tbsp almonds, blanched
3/4 cup prunes, pitted
1/4 cup sugar

Sprinkle the lamb with salt and cook in a medium saucepan in oil until lightly browned
Remove the lamb and set aside
Add almonds, sugar, cinnamon to the same pan, stir well, then add water and orange juice
Bring to a boil, stirring constantly
Add lamb, cover and simmer 1 hour or until tender
Stir in prunes 15 minutes prior to the end of the cooking time
Remove cinnamon stick before serving
Serve with couscous flavoured with roasted vegetables

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
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Anuradhapura

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
SONY DSC
Liechtenstein

Venezuela

Venezuela, located in northern South America has a 1,700 mile coastline and is the 33rd largest country in the world. It is rich in natural resources such as petroleum, natural gas, iron ore and gold. Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world, surpassing Saudi Arabia with 297.6 billion barrels in 2013. More than 60% of Venezuela’s international reserves is in gold, most of which, is located in London.

A few facts
Venezuela has more Miss Universes and more Miss Worlds than any other country. Venezuelan beauties have won the Miss Universe title 7 times, Miss World 6 times, Miss International 6 times, and Miss Earth 2 times till date.
Venezuela’s name comes from the Italian word “Veneziola” that literally means “piccola Venezia” (little Venice)
Lake Maracaibo which is connected to the Gulf of Venezuela at the northern end is the largest lake in South America and one of the oldest on earth (20-40 million years old)
The Monument to the Virgen de la Paz en Trujillo, Venezuela is the world’s highest statue of the Virgin Mary
The Angel Falls or Kerepakupai Meru means “waterfall of the deepest place” and is the world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall, with a height of 979 metres (3,212 ft) and a plunge of 807 metres (2,648 ft).

Staple foods in Venezuela include corn, rice, plantain, yams, beans and several meats. Recipes I came across were Cachitos (ham croissants), Pabellón criollo (shredded beef with rice, beans and plantains) , Arepas (corn cakes) , Mandocas (corn fritters) , Pasticho (Venezuelan lasagne), Bien me sabe (coconut cake), Pisca Andina (chicken stew) and Tajadas (fried plantains). I opted to make Butter cookies which came out a little thinner than I’d hoped, but were tasty nonetheless.

Rating: 8/10

Makes 12
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

170g butter
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 cup plain flour
1/4 cup icing sugar
1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Clarify the butter by placing it in a small pan over low heat, until melted
Let it simmer until the foam goes to the top of the melted butter
Remove the pan from the heat and let stand for about 5 minutes
Skim the foam from the top and discard. Pour it into a bowl using a fine mesh strainer
With an electric mixer, beat the butter for about 3 minutes
Add the sugar, vanilla and beat until well blended
Add the flour, and continue beating for 2 minutes
Form the dough into a ball. Wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for 30 minutes (don’t leave it any longer or it will become too hard)
Preheat the oven to 350 F
Roll 2 tablespoons of dough between your palms into balls and place the balls on a large greased baking sheet about 1/2-inch apart
Slightly flatten the balls using your hands
Bake the cookies until golden on top, about 20 minutes
Let them cool for about 5 minutes on the baking sheet
Dust the cookies with icing sugar

Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago is a dual island Caribbean nation off the coast of northeastern Venezuela. They lie on the continental shelf of South America, and are thus geologically considered to lie entirely in South America. Until 10,000 years ago, Trinidad and Tobago were both part of the South American mainland. Arawak Indians inhabited what they knew as the “Land of the Hummingbird” before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1498, who called the island La Trinidad, or “The Trinity.” Tobago got its name from its shape resembling a tobacco pipe (tavaco) used by local natives. In 1962, Trinidad and Tobago became independent but retained membership in the British Commonwealth.

Famous for the capital, Port of Spain’s annual carnival which is held on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Traditionally, the festival is associated with calypso music, however, recently Soca music has replaced calypso as the most celebrated type of music.

Other highlights for the visitor include Fort King George, Pirate’s Bay, Botanical Gardens, Brasso Seco rainforest village and Pigeon Point. Splash out for a week at the Coco Reef Tobago or grab a bargain at The Coral Cove Marina hotel.

Trinidad and Tobago has one of the most diverse cuisines in the Caribbean and is known throughout the world. Popular dishes include Baigan Chokha (spicy baked aubergine), Callalo and curried pumpkin soup, Cassava and saltfish pie, Doubles (curried chickpea sandwich) , Macaroni pie , Curried crab and dumplings , Gyros (spit roasted meat in a wrap) and Pelau (rice with pigeon peas, chicken or beef). I opted to make Pineapple chow (pineapple with lime, garlic, coriander & chilli), which was very unusual. The combination of garlic and pineapple was a little troublesome for my palate, but it had a nice zingy flavour of lime, coriander and chilli with sweet pineapple.

Rating: 6/10

Serves: 4 as a small starter or snack
Prep time: 10 minutes + 20 minutes cooling time

1 ripe or almost ripe pineapple
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp finely chopped coriander
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 scotch bonnet pepper, finely chopped
Salt and black pepper

Remove the skin from the pineapple, slice the fruit into rings and then cut each ring into chunks (about 1 1/2 inches wide)
In a plastic bag or container combine the pineapple chunks with the garlic, coriander, half the lime juice, half the chopped pepper, and a liberal sprinkling of salt and black pepper then shake well
Taste and add more lime juice, hot pepper and/or salt to suit your taste
The chow should have a nice balance of hot, sweet, salty and sour, with noticeable punch from the garlic and pepper
Set aside for 20 minutes or so to allow the flavors to develop fully

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Ingredients for Pineapple chow
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Pineapple chow
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Pineapple chow
Pirate's Bay, Tobago
Pirate’s Bay, Tobago
Trinidad Carnival, Queens Park Savannah, Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago Carnival
Pigeon Point Tobago
Pigeon Point, Tobago

Iran

Iran, known as Persia until 1935, became an Islamic republic in 1979, after the ruling monarchy, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was overthrown and forced into exile. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who had previously been in exile, returned to form a new government and became the country’s Supreme Leader until his death in 1989. He was named Man of the Year in 1979 by American news magazine TIME for his international influence, however he remains a controversial figure and was criticised for human rights violations of Iranians.

Iran is one of the world’s most mountainous countries with ranges such as the Caucasus, Zagros and Alborz Mountains. The northern part of Iran is covered by dense rain forests called Shomal or the Jungles of Iran. One of the most famous members of Iranian wildlife is the critically endangered Asiatic cheetah, also known as the Iranian cheetah, whose numbers were greatly reduced after the 1979 Revolution.

Iran ranks seventh among countries in the world, in terms of the number of World Heritage Sites recognised by Unesco. These include the Persepolis ruins, Golestan Palace, The Persian Garden, Susa (Archaeological mounds) and Meidan Emam, Esfahan public square.

Popular dishes in Iranian cuisine include Luleh Kabob (lamb kebab), Chelo (plain rice), Āsh-e anār (soup made with split peas and pomegranate juice), Gormeh Sabzi (Green Herb Stew), Bademjan (Eggplant And Tomato Stew), Baghali Polo ba Morgh (chicken with fava bean and rice) and Sohān-e-Asali (honey toffee). I decided to cook Khoresht-e Karafs (lamb and celery stew) which I served with saffron infused rice. It had a sweet flavour and the lamb was really succulent.

Rating: 8/10

Serves: 4
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hr 15 minutes

500 g lamb or beef, cut into cubes
5 celery stalks
1 bunch fresh mint
1 bunch fresh parsley
3 medium onions
1 cup fresh lime juice
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup of cooking oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp black pepper

Peel and thinly slice onions
Fry in oil until slightly golden
Add the meat to the onions with turmeric and black pepper until color changes
Add 2-3 glasses of hot water and bring to boil
Cook over medium heat for about 45 minutes, adding more hot water during cooking if needed.
Wash celery and cut into 3 cm pieces
Finely chop mint and parsley and fry slightly in oil
Add celery, mint, parsley, salt to the meat and continue cooking for about 20 minutes (celery should not become too soft).
Add lime juice and sugar to taste and cook for another 3-4 minutes
Serve with saffron infused rice

Persepolis, Iran
Persepolis ruins, Iran
Golestan Palace
Golestan Palace, Iran
Mountains in Iran
Mountains in Iran
Iranian_Cheetah_roars
Asiatic cheetah

Iceland

Iceland, a land of beautiful landscapes and friendly charm. It is a Nordic Island nation with a population of just over 330,000. It is the second largest island in Europe after Great Britain.

When the Kárahnjúkar Hydropower Plant started operating, Iceland became the world’s largest electricity producer per capita and they expect to be energy-independent by 2050. The fishing industry is a major part of Iceland’s economy, accounting for 40% of the country’s export earnings with Cod being the most important species harvested. Whale watching has also become an important part of the economy since 1997. Iceland receives around 1.1 million visitors annually. Other than whale watching, visitors to Iceland can enjoy relaxing in Geysir and Strokkur hot springs, taking in the Jökulsárlón glaciar lagoon, the Laugavegurinn hike and of course witnessing the Northern Lights.

Staple foods of Icelandic cuisine include lamb, dairy and fish. Some dishes I came across were Lambakjot meth Graenmeti (Lamb Fricassee with Vegetables), Saltkjöt og baunir (split pea soup with salt lamb), Kartofluflatbrauth (Potato Flatbread), Steiktar Heilagfiski (Baked Halibut)  Sild meth Surum Rjoma og Graslauk (Herring in sour cream) and Sveskuterta (Prune Torte). I opted to make Plokkfiskur (fish stew) which was simple and very tasty.

Rating: 8/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes

1 tbsp butter
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalks, finely sliced
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1/2 cup white wine
250g small, waxy potatoes, cut into quarters
500ml chicken or vegetable stock
350g haddock, cod or other white fish, cube into 1 inch cubes
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 cup single cream
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp chives, finely chopped

In a heavy-bottomed pot, heavy butter over medium heat
Add onions, celery and carrots and sweat until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes
Add white wine, bring to a simmer and reduce by half, about 5 minutes
Add stock and potatoes, bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes or until vegetables are soft
Add cubed fish and chopped tomatoes; softly simmer for another 5 minutes
Turn heat down to low, add cream and salt and pepper to taste and heat until soup is piping hot but not boiling (otherwise the cream with curdle), about 7-8 minutes
Turn off heat, add chives and serve immediately

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)

Solomon Islands

The Solomon Islands is a nation of hundreds of islands in the South Pacific lying to the east of Papua New Guinea and northwest of Vanuatu. The major islands are Guadalcanal, Choiseul, Santa Isabel, New Georgia, Malaita and Makira (or San Cristobal). It is believed that Papuan-speaking settlers began to arrive around 30,000 BC and the first European to visit the islands was the Spanish navigator Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira, coming from Peru in 1568.

Some of the most intense fighting of WWII occurred in the Solomon Islands. Many ships were sunk in the sea off Honiara and there are many WWII relics beneath’s the ocean’s surface that are a real treat for divers.

The Marovo lagoon is allegedly the world’s largest saltwater lagoon. It contains hundreds of beautiful small islands, most of which are covered by coconut palms and rainforest and surrounded by coral. Other highlights include the Vilu War Museum, Skull Island, Lake Te’Nggano (the South Pacific’s largest expanse of fresh water), Mataniko Falls and the central market of Honiara.

The cuisine of the Solomon Islands features fish, coconuts, cassava, sweet potatoes, ulu (breadfruit) and a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Dishes I came across were curried coconut and lime gourd soup, cassava pudding and papaya chicken with coconut milk. I opted to make fish curry with tomatoes which I served with a green salad. It was so simple, fresh tasting and very delicious.

Rating: 10/10

Serves: 2

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

2 fish fillets (I used red mullet, but snapper, tuna or even cod would work)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp medium curry powder
2 tomatoes, chopped
Juice of 2 limes
Salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat
Stir in the curry powder and cook for a couple of minutes, keep stirring
Stir in the chopped tomatoes, lime juice, salt and pepper and cook for a minute
Add the fish to the mixture, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes or until fish is cooked
Serve with green salad or steamed rice

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Ingredients for fish curry with tomatoes
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Fish curry with tomatoes
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Fish curry with tomatoes
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Fish curry with tomatoes
Mataniko Falls, Soloman Islands
Mataniko Falls, Soloman Islands
Marovo Lagoon, Soloman Islands
Marovo Lagoon, Soloman Islands
Solomon Islands
Soloman Islands

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

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina, BiH for short, is located in Southeastern Europe on the Balkan Peninsula. It declared sovereignty in October 1991 and independence from the former Yugoslavia on 3 March 1992. The country’s name comes from the two regions Bosnia and Herzegovina, which have a very vaguely defined border between them. Bosnia occupies the northern areas which are roughly four-fifths of the entire country, while Herzegovina occupies the rest in the southern part of the country. The name “Bosnia” comes from an Indo-European word Bosana, which means water. (There are 7 major rivers and over 100 lakes).

The town of Međugorje located in the mountains near Mostar has been popular with Catholic pilgrims since 1981, when six local children claimed they had seen visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Over 1 million people make the pilgrimage each year. The name Međugorje literally means “between mountains”.

Perućica is one of the last remaining primeval forests in Europe, located near the border with Montenegro and part of the Sutjeska National Park. The tallest measured Norway Spruce (63 m) is located here.

According to the Guinness book of records the largest fish stew ever made, weighed 3,804 kg was by the Tourist Organisation of the Municipality of Prnjavor in Bosnia and Herzegovina on 19 August 2014. However in April 2015, a dozen Bosnian chefs from Sarajevo outperformed the record by making a traditional stew weighing 4,124 kg. It took 8 hours and served 15,000 portions. The record has not yet been verified by a Guinness World Records committee.

Some of the traditional Bosnian dishes I came across, other than enormous stews, included Zeljanica (spinach and feta pie), Begova Čorba (Bosnian soup), Grašak (pea stew), Sarma (meat and rice rolled in pickled cabbage leaves) and Krofna (filled doughnuts). I decided to make Ćevapi (meat kebabs) which were fairly simple but needed a good amount of seasoning which the recipe I followed had omitted to include, so ours were rather bland. I’ve adjusted the recipe below to include more seasoning.

Rating: 6/10

Serves: 4
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

1 tbsp butter
1⁄2 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
250g lean lamb mince
250g lean beef mince
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp salt
fresh ground pepper
2 tbsp onions, finely chopped
4-6 pitta breads

Melt the butter over medium heat, add the onions and fry until translucent
Add the garlic for a few minutes whilst stirring to prevent burning. Remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes
Mix the ground lamb, ground beef., the cooled onion/garlic mixture, egg white, paprika, salt and pepper and mix well.
Shape the meat into unappetizing looking little cylinders, which are the traditional shape
Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for at least one hour
Pan fry the cevapi in a little olive oil until nicely browned, about 8 – 10 minutes
To serve, toast the pitta, then cut in half and make a pocket in each one
Stuff a few finely chopped onions inside the pita, then add the cevapi and top with a few more of the onions

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Making the world’s largest stew in Sarajevo!
Međugorje_St.James_Church
St James Church, Međugorje
Stari Most bridge, Mostar
Stari Most Bridge, Mostar
Perucica, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Perućica, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Una River, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Ana River, Bosnia and Herzegovina