Finland

Finland, the most sparsely populated country in the European Union, is situated on a peninsula in the Baltic Sea. It is one of the world’s northernmost countries. Of world capitals, only Reykjavík lies more to the north than Helsinki. Known as ‘a country of thousand lakes’, it has the most of any country in the world, with around 188,000. A quarter of Finland’s territory lies within the Arctic Circle and the midnight sun can be experienced for more days the farther north one travels. At Finland’s northernmost point, the sun does not set for 73 consecutive days during summer, and does not rise at all for 51 days during winter.

A few interesting facts:
Finland’s press has been rated the freest in the world

In Finland, 9 out of 10 plastic bottles are returned for recycling and almost 100% of glass bottles are also recycled
In Finland traffic fines are calculated by the severity of the offence and the offending driver’s annual income
There are around 2.2 million saunas in Finland, 1 for every 2.5 people
At the ‘Wife Carrying World Championships’ in Finland, first prize is the wife’s weight in beer

If you’re planning a visit, Lonely Planet’s highlights include learning about the indigenous Sami people and their environment at the Siida museum, relaxing in the giant smoke sauna at Jätkänkämppä, cruising through the canals of Helsinki and trekking the Karhunkierros Trail in Oulanka National Park.

The Finns are passionate about their food and are fiercely loyal to their culinary roots. In 2000, when Helsinki celebrated its 450th anniversary as the European Capital of Culture the city initiated a project called the HelsinkiMenu. The aim of the project was to bring global awareness to Finnish cuisine. The HelsinkiMenu featured fish from the thousand lakes, berries, mushrooms and game from the forests as well as special produce from small farms. A few traditional Finnish recipes I came across; Lohikeitto (salmon soup) , Kalakukko (fish pie) , Perunarieska (potato flatbread) , Silakat (pickled fried herring), Korvapuusti (cinnamon and cardamon buns) , Ruisleipä (rye bread), Laskiaispulla (sweet buns filled with jam and cream) and Vispipuuro (whipped lingonberry porridge). I made Kalakeitto (fish stew) which was velvety smooth and had a beautiful flavour. Finishing it off with fresh dill is key, so a big thanks to my local The Rose and Crown for coming to the rescue.

Rating: 10/10

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

2 good quality salmon fillets
1 tsp salt
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 tsp dried dill
2 cups water
1 fish stock pot/cube
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
3/4 cup whole milk or cream (I used cream which gave it an unctuous finish)
1 tbsp butter
Fresh dill for garnish

Cut the fish into 2 inch pieces and set aside
In a saucepan add salt, onion, dried dill, water, stock pot and potatoes
Bring to the boil and cook for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are just tender
Add the fish and cook until the fish just starts to flake, about 5 minutes, depending on the size of your fish chunks
Pour in the milk or cream and heat gently for 5 minutes
Add the butter and sprinkle with fresh dill
Enjoy!

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Ingredients for Kalakeitto (fish stew)
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Kalakeitto (fish stew)
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Kalakeitto (fish stew)
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Kalakeitto (fish stew)
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Kalakeitto (fish stew)
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Wood houses in the city of Porvoo, Finland
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Oulanka National Park
helsinki
Helsinki
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Inspiration for the weekend

Struggling for inspiration on what to eat this weekend? … Why don’t you get in the kitchen and try out one of the a year cooking the world 10/10 picks?

Sweden – Köttbulla (Swedish meatballs)

South Korea – Bulgogi (grilled marinated beef)

Micronesia – Kelaguen Chicken (Marinated chicken with coconut, spring onion & chilli)

Taiwan – Ló͘-bah-pn̄g (minced pork rice)

Guyana – Rotis (flatbreads)

Chad – Kachumbari (Chadian Tomato & Onion Salad)

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South Korea – Bulgogi (grilled marinated beef)
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Micronesia – Kelaguen Chicken (Marinated chicken with coconut, spring onion & chilli)
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Taiwan – Ló͘-bah-pn̄g (minced pork rice)
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Guyana – Rotis (flatbreads)
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Chad – Kachumbari (Chadian Tomato & Onion Salad)

Botswana

Botswana is located in southern Africa. It is mainly flat and almost 80% is made up of the Kalahari Desert. Botswana is bordered by South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe. It also meets Zambia at a single point but there is no border. The official language of Botswana is English although Setswana is the most spoken.

Botswana is the world’s largest producer of diamonds. Most Botswanan diamonds are mined by the Desbwana company – 50% owned by DeBeers and 50% owned by the government of Botswana. Diamond revenues enables every child in Botswana to receive free education up to the age of 13. The Jwaneng Diamond Mine in southern Botswana is the world’s richest diamond mine.

It is home to the Okavango Delta (the largest inland delta in the world), which became the 1000th inscribed site on the World Heritage List of Unesco in 2014. Chobe National Park has one of the most concentrated population of African elephants and was Botswana’s first national park in 1968. Almost 40% of it’s land is under some form of Wildlife protection. Botswana has been chosen by Lonely Planet as the top country to visit in 2016.

Botswana’s national dish is Seswaa, a salted stewed beef which is usually served with Morogo (a leafy green). One of the more unusual dishes is mophane worms. These are worms similar to caterpillars, that are picked off the mophane tree during summer. They are dried and can be eaten as a snack or rehydrated and cooked in a spicy tomato sauce. However, not being partial to eating worms, I decided to cook Phaphatas (flat dumplings). We had them for breakfast with bacon. Rating: 9/10 (Ellis rated them a 10!)

500g bread flour
8g dried yeast
2 tsps sugar
Half a teaspoon salt
About a cup or so of lukewarm water
Extra flour for kneading

Sift the flour and yeast into a bowl. Add the sugar and salt
Gradually add water and combine with your hands to form a dough. Only add enough water to form the dough.
Knead the dough for about 5 minutes till it’s soft and pliable.
Put aside in a bowl covered with a damp cloth and leave to rise for 30 minutes.
On a floured surface, roll out the dough to about half an inch thickness.
Using a round object like a plastic cup or cookie cutter, cut the dough into circles.
Dust the phaphathas liberally on both sides and place in a flat pan on medium heat with enough space between them to allow for rising.
The heat should not be too high or the phaphatha will burn before it fully cooks on the inside.
The phaphatha should rise while cooking. Keep an eye on them and when they’ve turned brown on the bottom, turn over to cook on the other side.  It took about 40 minutes in total.
Remove from heat when cooked through and enjoy while warm.

 

Andorra

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

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