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)
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San Marino

San Marino is an enclaved microstate surrounded by Italy between the regions of Emilia Romagna and Marche and is the fifth smallest country in the world. It claims to be the world’s oldest republic, where it is said that Saint Marinus, a Christian stonemason from Croatia, built a church perched on top of a mountain and founded the republic in 301 AD. Their constitution, a series of six books written in Latin in the late 16th century is the oldest still in effect. It has a population of 33,000 and a land area of just 61 sq km. It is the only country in the world with more vehicles than people.

San Marino’s Historic Centre and Mount Titano became part of the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2008 and it is host to 2 million tourists each year. According to Lonely Planet the top things to see include the Palazzo Public (the town hall and official government building), the coastal panorama atop Castello della Cesta (the highest of San Marino’s three fortresses), horrific torture devices at the Museo della Tortura and the relics of Saint Marinus inside the Basilica del Santo.

Sammarinese cuisine is very similar to Italian. Some of the recipes I came across were Piadina (savoury filled pitta), Nidi di Rondine “Swallow’s Nests” (baked pasta with cheese & ham), Roast rabbit with fennel and Fagioli con le cotiche (bean and bacon soup). Sweet dishes include Torta Tre Monti (“Cake of the Three Towers”), a wafer layered cake covered in chocolate depicting the Three Towers of San Marino, Bustrengo (cake made with raisins) and Cacciatello (a dessert similar to crème caramel). I decided to make Steak San Marino which was slow cooked with vegetables and red wine. It was quite spicy and I would be tempted to add some bacon to give it a touch of sweetness. I served it with some Thyme roasted potatoes.

Rating: 7/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 5 hours

2 rump beef steaks
Plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tin chopped tomatoes
100ml red wine
1/2 medium onion
1 large carrot
1 stick celery
2 tsp dried mixed herbs
1 bay leaf
1/2 tbsp hot sauce

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees c
Peel and chop the onion and carrots into small chunks
Combine the flour and salt and pepper and coat the steaks with the flour mix
Coat the bottom of an oven proof pan with a little oil and place the steaks in the bottom
Mix the tomatoes, wine, carrots, onion, celery, mixed herbs, bay leaf and hot sauce in a mixing bowl and pour over the steaks
Cook in the oven for 5 hours
Once cooked, discard the bay leaf and remove the steaks to serving plates

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Ingredients for Steak San Marino
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Steak San Marino
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Steak San Marino
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Steak San Marino
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Steak San Marino
Mount Titano San Marino
Mount Titano, San Marino
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Palazzo Pubblico, San Marino

Morocco

I have visited Marrakesh in Morocco a couple of times and found it to be a heart warming and fascinating city. The central Djemaa el-Fna square is a sight to behold morning, noon and night with snake charmers, orange juice sellers and the general hustle and bustle.

The Kingdom of Morocco is situated in the north-western corner of Africa and is the only African country that is not a member of the African Union. It is surrounded by the Atlantic to the west, the Mediterranean to the north and the Sahara desert to the south. Almost the entire population are Sunni Muslims. Arabic is the official language but Berber (another dialect) and French are also spoken widely.

The snow topped Atlas mountains are a visible and dominant feature of Morocco’s geography. Highlights for the visitor include Fes, the oldest of Morocco’s imperial cities, the quiet mountain town of Chefchaouen, where every house is painted blue, camel trekking in the Western Sahara and the Dades Gorges. You can indulge yourself in a hamman (bath house) or haggle for souvenirs in the souqs.

Moroccan food is a mix of Mediterranean, Arabic, Andalusian and Berber cuisine and is extremely diverse. Some of the dishes I came across include Makouda (deep fried potato balls) , B’stilla (pigeon pie), Khobz (semolina flatbread) and Mechoui (roasted lamb). I decided to cook the traditional Moroccan dish Mshermel chicken tagine, which I served with a Tunisian vegetable cous cous. My family were a little divided by the taste but overall found it enjoyable.

Rating: 8/10

Serves: 4
Prep time: 40 mins
Cook time: 90 mins

3 chicken breasts, cut into 3 pieces
3 chicken thigh fillets, halved
1 Preserved lemon
Handful of coriander and parsley
2 large garlic cloves
1 tsp ground paprika
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp of pepper
4 tbsp of olive oil
2 onions, peeled and grated
A good pinch of saffron
Small tin of green olives
Salt

Finely chop the preserved lemon, garlic, cilantro, parsley and place in a bag with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, pepper, cumin, ginger, paprika
Place the chicken pieces into the bag and massage well. Marinade in the fridge for 6 hours
When ready to cook, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in your tagine pot
Add the onions and chicken and cook over low heat for 30 minutes
Soak the saffron threads in some warm water then add it to the tagine and cook for 30 minutes
Add the green olives and a teaspoon of salt and cook for a further 30 minutes
Serve with cous cous

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Ingredients for Mshermel chicken tagine
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Marinading the chicken
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Mshermel chicken tagine
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Mshermel chicken tagine
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Mshermel chicken tagine
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Mshermel chicken tagine served with Tunisian vegetable cous cous
View over Marrakesh
View over Marrakesh, Morocco
Fez Morocco
Fez, Morocco
Sahara Desert Morocco
Sahara Desert, Morocco

 

Malta

Malta is an archipelago in the central Mediterranean between Sicily and the North African coast and only the three largest islands – Malta (Malta), Gozo (Għawdex) and Comino (Kemmuna) are inhabited. Malta has a very long history dating back to 60 A.D. when St Paul the Apostle was shipwrecked on the island while on his way to Rome.

Until 1800 Malta depended on cotton, tobacco and its shipyards for exports. It is now classified as an advanced economy by the IMF. Film production is a growing contributor to the Maltese economy as the Maltese government introduced financial incentives for filmmakers in 2005.
It is also a popular tourist destination with 1.6 million tourists each year. There are three Unesco world heritage sites – Valetta, Hal Saflieni Hypogeum (underground temple) and Megalithic Temples. I visited Malta with my mum 8 years ago and my highlights would be the Mdina (the walled city in Valetta), St Julian’s Bay and the view from the Valetta waterfront. Having now read more about Malta I would love to go back to visit the historical sites, the Blue Lagoon at Comino, San Blas Bay and the harbour of Wied iż-Żurrieq. Valetta has been named as the Capital of Culture 2018 so maybe a trip is in order.

The cuisine of Malta takes influence from nearby Sicily as well as England, France and Spain. Traditional dishes include Fenkata (stewed or fried rabbit), Laħam fuq il-fwar (steamed slices of beef), Lampuka (fish) and Pastizz (savoury pastry). I made Maltese Ravjul (ravioli), which I filled with ricotta, as I couldn’t get hold of Gozitan cheeselets. It is quite time consuming making and filling fresh pasta, but I enjoyed it so it was worth the effort.

Rating: 8/10

Serves: 2 as a main course or 4 as a starter
Prep time: 1 – 1 ½ hours
Cook time: 20 mins

Dough:
200 g semolina
200 g flour
1 egg
100 – 120ml water
Salt

Filling:
25 g ricotta cheese
75g grated parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 tbsp chopped parsley
Salt and pepper

Tomato sauce:
1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, bashed unpeeled
200ml passata
Chicken (or vegetable) stock powder or cube
Black pepper

Sieve the flour, semolina and salt into a bowl, add the egg and stir with a knife. Gradually adding enough water to make a dough
Knead the dough for about 5 mins and then wrap in clingfilm and put in the fridge for a couple of hours
To make the sauce, put the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat, add the bashed garlic and cook for a few minutes, taking care not to let it burn. Remove the garlic and add the passata, stock and pepper. Simmer for 15 mins

Place greaseproof paper on 2 baking sheets and sprinkle with flour
When ready to make the ravioli, mix the filling ingredients together
Cut the dough into 4 and using a pasta machine (if you don’t have one use a rolling pin), roll out the dough into long thin strips (up to setting 6 on the pasta machine).
Place the rolled out dough strips on to a floured surface whilst you continue to roll out the rest
Place a tsp of filling on the pastry strip with intervals of about 4 cm/1 ½ inch
Brush the edges of the strip with water and then place a rolled out dough strip on top, pressng down gently to seal and remove any air
Use a round pastry cutter to make round raviolis or a knife to cut into squares
Put the raviolis on to the baking sheet, whilst you make the rest (approx 24 raviolis)
Put a large pan of salted water on to boil and cook the raviolis in 2 separate batches for 6 minutes each, drain and drizzle a little oil over the first batch so they don’t stick to each other
Serve with a few spoonfuls of sauce over the top, chopped parsley and parmesan

Jordan

Jordan is situated in the heart of the Middle East, almost land locked but for a for a short coast on the Gulf of Aqaba. Officially The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan since independence from Britain in 1946. King Hussein ruled Jordan from 1953 until his death in 1999, when his son King Abdallah II assumed the throne. Since 1989, all elements of the Jordanian political system have been on a road to greater democracy, liberalisation and consensus building.

The population of Jordan is estimated at 9.5 million as of 2016. Jordan plays host to enormous numbers of refugees, with 2 million Palestinians, 1.4 million Syrians, 700,000 Iraqis and 15,000 Lebanese. Archaeological evidence shows that humans have lived in what is now Jordan for at least 90,000 years through the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods. It has been ruled by the Mongols, the Crusaders, the Ayyubids, the Mamluks and the Ottoman empire.

Tourism in Jordan is affected by regional turbulence but despite this it is still considered to be a major influence on the economy. The most popular tourist attractions are the historical cities of Petra and Jerash. Other highlights include Madaba’s Byzantine era mosaics, the Dana Biosphere Reserve, Wadi Rum, Al-Maghtas and the Dead Sea.

The cuisine of Jordan has developed over the centuries. Popular ingredients include olive oil (they are one of the largest olive producers in the world), herbs, garlic, lemon, tomato sauce and yoghurt. Mansaf is the national dish (lamb cooked in a sauce of fermented dried yogurt called Jameed). Other dishes I came across were Mujaddara (lentil and rice casserole), Freekeh (poultry or meat fried in oil and braised with water, salt, and cinnamon bark) and Kousa Mahshi (meat stuffed courgettes). We had friends visiting for the weekend so I decided to do Mezze, which is a highly popular style of eating in Jordan. I made Kefta (spiced ground meat), Falafel (fried chickpea balls), Tabbouleh (bulgar wheat salad) and Cucumber & mint yoghurt dip. I served it all with flatbreads and pitta breads. It divided the group a little, but overall we enjoyed it.

Rating: (a high) 7/10

Serves 4 with leftovers
Prep time: 3 hours
Cook time: 1 hour

Tabbouleh
½ kg tomatoes
½ cup olive oil
½ cup lemon joice
1 cup cooked bulgar wheat (follow instructions on pack)
2 large onions
3 ¾ cups of finely chopped parsley
3 ¾ cups finely chopped mint leaves
1 tbsp salt

Cucumber & mint yoghurt dip
½ cucumber
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
500g plain yoghurt
1 tbsp salt

Beef Keftas
750g ground beef
2 onions
2 tsp minced garlic cloves
1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
2 tsps salt
2 tsps black pepper
2 tsp ground allspice
1 tbsp oil
½ cup passata

Falafel
2 cups dried chickpeas
1 cup dried broad beans
1 onion
3 cloves of garlic
½ cup of chopped parsley and/or coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander seeds
1 tsp black pepper
Salt to taste
2 tsp baking soda

Tabbouleh
Cook the bulgar wheat according to the pack instructions
Chop tomatoes very fine and sprinkle with salt
Chop onions very fine and add to tomatoes
Add parsley and mint leaves
Stir together with the bulgar wheat
Add lemon juice and olive oil and mix well

Cucumber & mint yoghurt dip
Dice the cucumbers
Crush the garlic with salt & mint; stir into yoghurt
Add cucumbers and serve with mint garnish

Keftas
Preheat oven to 175c
Half the onion and cut about 1/4 of that half into thin slices, then the rest of the onion shred with a hand vegetable shredder OR chop, mince garlic and chop parsley, then add it to the meat
Add seasoning to the meat, salt, ground black pepper and allspice
Drizzle oil on top of the meat mixture and mix with your hands (you can put the mixture in a bag and massage it to avoid getting tpp messy).
Brush oil on the bottom of the baking pan, then press down the meat mixture, from one corner to the other until it is equally spread.
With two fingers, (index and middle) make little lines, from one end to the other. This will speed cooking process and in a way looks like boneless riblets.
Spoon over the passata, and spread equally on the top of the meat mixture, then place those thin onion slices on top, a sprinkle with salt and pepper and a little more parsley
Bake for about 20-25 minutes in the preheated oven. It will shrink from all the sides of the pan

Falafel
Soak the chickpeas and fava beans for at least six hours or overnight
Blend the soaked chickpeas and fava beans, onion, garlic, and chopped parsley into the food processor until all the ingredients are combined into a nice, thick paste
Empty the mixture into a bowl, add the salt and spices, and mix them well with a spatula
Add baking soda to the mixture and mix well
Scoop the mixture with a spoon or your hands to form ball shapes and deep fry them in vegetable oil until they are a nice golden brown colour

 

Portugal

I’ve visited Portugal a few times and was looking forward to what the cuisine had in store for me. Piri Piri chicken is one of my favourites, so I was optimistic and fortunately not disappointed!
Portugal is situated on the Iberian Peninsula and was founded in 1139, making it one of the oldest nations in Europe. It is also the most westerly and it’s 754 mile long border with Spain is the longest in the EU.

Here are a few interesting facts I came across:
Portugal was the first county in the world to decriminalize the usage of all common drugs.
The biggest wave ever surfed, at 90ft (27.5m) was at Praia de Norte in Portugal by Hawaiian Garret McNamara.
The longest bridge in Europe, measuring 10.5 miles (17 kilometers) in length, is the Vasco da Gama bridge in Lisbon, completed in 1998 to celebrate the 500th year anniversary of the discovery of the sea route between Europe and India.
The largest community of Portuguese outside Portugal is in Paris.
There are 15 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Portugal and more than 13 million tourists visit the country each year.
The largest artificial underwater park in the world – The Ocean Revival Underwater Park is in Portugal.
The oldest director in the world, Manoel de Oliveira lived until he was 106 and continued to make films until his death on 2 April 2015.
Portugal is the largest producer of cork in the world, around 70% of total production.

Besides the obvious Piri Piri, there were plenty of tasty recipe options I found including Cataplana stew with Sausage and Clams , Cabidela (rice with chicken or rabbit), Caldeirada (fish stew) , Canja de galinha (chicken soup) , Espetada (chunks of beef rubbed in garlic and salt, skewered and barbequed), Queijada (a sweet made with cheese, milk, sugar & eggs) , Peixinhos da horta (deep fried green beans) and Camel’s drool (a portuguese sweet that recently featured on Master Chef, UK). I opted for Carne de Porco à Alentejana (pork and clams). It was relatively simple and tasted really good. I served it with Portuguese style fried potatoes, which were equally delicious.

Rating: A high 9/10!

Serves 2
Prep time: 30 mins + 10 – 24 hours marinating time
Cook time: 45 mins

450g pork fillet cut into 2″ thick slices
50 ml dry white wine
250 ml milk
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
100 ml vermouth
500g clams (fresh or frozen)
175 ml (3/4 cup) chicken stock
1 bunch thyme, tied with kitchen string
1 tbsp parsley, chopped

For the roast pepper paste
2 long red peppers
6 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt & pepper

To make roast pepper paste
Preheat oven to 200°C. Place peppers and garlic cloves in an oven tray with olive oil. Season well and roast for 35 – 40 minutes or until softened and slightly blackened. Transfer to a bowl, cool slightly, then remove the skins and seeds from the peppers and the garlic skins.
Blend the peppers and garlic in a food processor until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and cover with oil.

To make the Porco à Alentejana
Place pork in a bowl with white wine, milk, bay leaves, ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp white pepper. Cover and refrigerate for 10 – 24 hours.
Drain, discard liquid and pat dry with paper towel.
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Heat oil in a large ovenproof and lidded casserole dish over high heat and brown the pork for 3 minutes.
Remove the pork using a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl.
Add garlic and onions to the same pan and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes or until softened.
Stir in ¼ cup roast pepper paste, vermouth and pork.
Place the dish in the oven and bake, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until pork is tender.
Add clams, stock and thyme, cover the pan and bake for a further 10 minutes or until the clams have opened.
Remove the thyme sprig.
Season and sprinkle with parsley.
Serve with Portuguese style fried potatoes.

Belarus

Belarus (meaning “White Russia”) is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe bordered by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Alexander Lukashenko has been the country’s president since 1994. Belarus has been labeled “”Europe’s last dictatorship”” by some Western journalists on account of Lukashenko’s self-described authoritarian style of government. Belarus is the only country in Europe which retains capital punishment in law and in practice.

About 40% of Belarus is covered by forests and it also has 11,000 lakes. About 70% of the radiation from neighboring Ukraine’s 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster entered Belarusian territory, and about a fifth of Belarusian land (principally farmland and forests in the southeastern regions) was affected by radiation fallout. Belarusians continue to suffer from high incidences of cancer and birth defects, and about 25 percent of the land is considered uninhabitable. The United Nations and other agencies have aimed to reduce the level of radiation in affected areas.

Most of the monuments in Belarus dedicated to Lenin. In every city there is a Lenin Street. Highlights for visitors to Belarus include Radziwill Palace Fortress, the Museum of the Great Patriotic War, the 16th century Mir Castle and the Chagall Museum (which houses some of Marc Chagall’s designs and lithographs but sadly there aren’t more Chagall paintings in Belarus because his work was banned by the Soviet government).
Belarus has four UNESCO-designated World Heritage Sites: the Mir Castle Complex, the Nesvizh Castle, the Belovezhskaya Pushcha (shared with Poland), and the Struve Geodetic Arc (shared with nine other countries).

Some of the recipes I came across for Belarus were Zrazy (stuffed meat rolls) , Mazurka (almond cake) , Machanka (pork stew) and Draniki (potato pancakes). I opted to cook Lazanki (Belarusian pasta). I served it with a mushroom, ham and cheese sauce. It was pretty simple and easy to make and tasted good. I would cook the pasta a bit less and make the sauce a bit looser next time! You could also add some saffron to the water before making the pasta in order to give it more of a pleasant colour, as it was a bit anaemic.

Rating: 7/10

Serves: 4
Prep time: 30 mins
Cook time: 7 mins

For the lazanki
1 egg
350g plain flour
5g salt

For the sauce
50g plain flour
70g butter
150ml milk
100g bacon or lardons
75g sliced mushrooms
50g grated cheddar

For the lazanki
Beat the egg.
Add 1/2 cup of water to the egg, add salt and flour (250 g) and then carry on adding flour in small quantities until the dough comes together.
Mix the dough with your hands and divide it into 3 equal parts.
Roll out all of the dough (use a pasta machine if you have one – keep flouring the dough as you put it through)
Cut the dough into small squares with a sharp knife.
Boil salted water, add the lazankis and cook for approximately 7 minutes (or 5 minutes if you like it a bit al dente).
Put lazankis onto the plates and pour over the sauce.

For the sauce
Put the flour & 50g of the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat and stir to a paste.
Add the milk slowly to form a sauce and keep stirring for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Meanwhile heat a small frying pan and fry the bacon until browned, about 5 minutes. Remove to a plate.
Add remaining butter to the pan and fry the sliced mushrooms for 5 minutes.
Heat the sauce on a low heat and add the cheese to the sauce, mix it in, then add the bacon and mushrooms and stir through.

 

Serbia

Serbia is a land locked country situated in the central part of the Balkan Peninsula.  Bordered by 8 countries; Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Nearly half of Serbia is mountainous, with the Dinaric Alps on the western border, the North Albanian Alps (Prokletija) and the Sar Mountains in the south, and the Balkan Mountains along the southeast border.
Serbia had previously been a dominant state within Yugoslavia.  Serbia’s brutal war in the southern province of Kosovo, started in 1998, causing Montenegro to distance itself from Slobodan Milosevic and his Yugoslav government. On February 4, 2003, the name “Yugoslavia” passed into history, replaced by the union of “Serbia and Montenegro.”  Serbia became a stand-alone sovereign republic in the summer of 2006 after Montenegro voted in a referendum for independence from the Union of Serbia and Montenegro.  The two republics had been united in one form or another for nearly 90 years.
Some interesting facts:
Serbia is the largest exporter of raspberries in the world, contributing 30% to the international market.
‘Vampire’ is a Serbian word and is known the world over.
Serbia is ahead of the Swiss in clock making. They started this almost 600 years before the Swiss took over the industry.
Nikola Tesla was Serbian and there has been a museum in his name in Belgrade since 1952.
I came across many different meat dishes when researching Serbia namely; Ćufte u paradajz sosu (meatballs in tomato Sauce) , Đuveč (stewed vegetables and pork or chicken similar to pilaf) , Paprikaš (pork or chicken and pepper stew), Ćevapi u lepinji sa kajmakom (kebabs in flatbread with kaymak) and Podvarak (roast meat with Sauerkraut).  I decided to cook Pljeskavica (a ground beef/pork patty).
Rating: 6/10 – I felt there was too much paprika which overpowered the flavour for me.  I would halve the quantity if I made them again.
Serves 6
Prep time: 10 minutes + 8 hours fridge time
Cook time: 10 – 15 minutes
450g ground beef chuck
225g ground pork
225g ground lamb
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sweet or hot paprika (I would use half this amount)
Mix together all ingredients until thoroughly combined and refrigerate for several hours for flavours to meld and mixture to firm.
Heat griddle pan.
Using slightly dampened hands, divide meat mixture into 6 portions.
Form into thin patties, 20 cm x 1cm, or about the size of a small dinner plate.
Pan fry pljeskavica about 5 minutes per side.

Serve in a pitta bread with salad.

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Pljeskavica mix
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Pljeskavica
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Griddling the Pljeskavica
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Pljeskavica

 

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Serbian river
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Belgrade, Serbia

Ghana

Situated in West Africa on the Gulf of Guinea, covering an area of 92,100 square miles.  Home to the largest man made lake in the world – Lake Volta. The word Ghana is known to mean Warrior King, Ghana’s former name was “Gold Coast” after the large amount of gold that colonizers found in the country.  It’s biggest exports are cocoa (the world’s second largest producer) and gold.

Top of the things to see and do would include: searching for elephants in Mole National Park, strolling along the beach at Princess town and overlooking the Atlantic from the 18th Century castle of Elmina, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The travel operator, Viator, has a plethora of different tours to explore Ghana.  You can take an 3 day private tropical forest hike in Togo & Ghana from £277 or a 12 day wildlife & cultural tour of Northern Ghana from £1,400 (without flights).

Ghanaian cuisine highlights include; Fufu (pounded cassava), Groundnut stew, Omo tuo (rice balls served in fish or meat soup).  I opted to cook a couple of popular dishes – Jollof rice and Kyinkyinga (Pronounced chinchinga), a Ghanaian version of kebab.  Jamie Oliver cooked a Jollof rice recipe in Jun 2014, sparking reactions of outrage on social media from West Africans, who were not happy with his interpretation – #jollofgate!
Rating: 5/10.  Both dishes are quite dry and therefore I shouldn’t have served them together .. you live & learn.  The rice is very spicy!  We thought the kyinkyinga would’ve been better in a pitta bread with salad & mayo .. if we so dare to suggest.
Jollof rice
Serves 2
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 40 mins
3/4 cups basmati rice
2.5 tbsp olive oil
1/2 heaped tbsp tomato puree
1/2 onion chopped
1 medium sized onion
2 medium tomatoes
1 clove of garlic
A small piece of ginger
1 scotch bonnet chilies (reduce if you don’t like it spicy)
1 tsp chicken or vegetable stock powder
Dried mixed herbs
1 small bay leaf
Salt to tasteBlend the ginger, garlic, chilli, tomatoes and two onions and set aside for later.
Heat oil in a non-stick pan and fry the chopped onions till soft and golden brown, about 10 minutes, then add the tomato puree and cook for a further 3 minutes.
Add the blended tomato and onion mixture from earlier and leave to cook through till the tomato mixture has lost its raw taste and the oil is visible at the top.
Add the stock powder, bay leaf and a sprinkle of the mixed herbs. Leave to simmer for about 3 minutes while you rinse the rice to remove excess starch.
When rice is rinsed, add to the sauce stirring it to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom. Now add 1/2 cup of water to the rice and sauce mix and stir, add salt to taste and cook till the water is almost evaporated.
Then cover and simmer on a low heat till rice is fully cooked, stir occasionally to prevent it sticking an add a dash of water if necessary .

Kyinkyinga (chicken kebab)
Prep time: 20 mins + 1 hour marinating time
Cook time: 15-20 mins

250g chicken thigh fillet, cut into cubes
2 tbsp olive oil
2 fat cloves of garlic
2 tbsp grated ginger
1 small onion
1 heaped tsp chicken stock powder
1 red pepper cut in cubes
1 red onion cut in cubes

Suya spice
mix 1/4 cup grounded roasted peanuts (milled into powder with excess oil taken out so that it is very dry)
8g chili powder
8g cup paprika
8g cup of garlic salt
8g cup Onion powder
8g cup dried mixed herbs
1 tsp chicken stock powder
Salt to taste

Blend the ginger, garlic, onion, stock cube seasoning with the oil to form a smooth paste.
Add the paste to the chicken and marinate for about an hour.
Skewer the marinated chicken pieces alternating with the peppers and onions and set aside.
Combine all the ingredients for the suya seasoning and mix together.
Sprinkle some of the suya spice on the skewered chicken and grill till it is cooked and browned both sides.
Remove from the heat and sprinkle a bit more of the suya powder on it, then serve.
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Jollof rice ingredients
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Kyinkyinga ingredients
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Kyinkyinga kebabs
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Cooking the jollof rice
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Kyinkyinga & Jollof rice
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Fishermen in Ghana
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Castle of Elmina, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
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Ghanaian children enjoying the beach

Poland

“Cześć” … “Hello”
The world’s tallest statue of Jesus is found in the town of Swiebodzin in Poland.  The 167 foot tall statue (including its 55 foot pedestal) is called Christ The King and towers higher than Rio de Janeiro’s Christ The Redeemer which stands at a mere 125 feet.
It is also home to Wroclaw, Europe’s Capital of Culture 2016, which is often called The Venice of the North, due to it’s location on the Odra River, with its 12 islands, 130 bridges and riverside parks.
One of the world’s oldest salt mines is the Wieliczka Salt Mine which was built in the 13th century and produced table salt until 2007.   It is also referred to as “the Underground Salt Cathedral of Poland” due to its three chapels and an entire cathedral which was carved out of the rock salt by the miners and was placed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1978.
Many notable people hail from Poland including; Marie Curie, Chopin, Roman Polanski and Pope John Paul II.
Poland has been invaded or fought for freedom in insurrections 43 times from 1600 – 1945.
In September 1939, World War II started with the invasions of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union (as part of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact). More than six million Polish citizens died in the war.

Some popular Polish recipes include Bigos (hunters stew), Pierogi (dumplings),   On a wet and cold February evening however, we were in the mood for something relatively simple & quick, so I cooked Kotlet schabowy (breaded pork cutlet) and served it with little roasted rosemary spuds.
Rating: 7/10.  It could’ve benefited from a little more seasoning, so I have adapted the recipe slightly.

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 15 mins

2 boneless pork shoulder steaks (or 1 each for however many you want to feed!)
Salt and black pepper
1 tsp season all
Plain flour
1 large egg beaten with 1 tsp water
Panko breadcrumbs
Vegetable oil

Bash the pork between two pieces of clingfilm to 1/4-inch thickness.
Season both sides of the steaks with salt and pepper.
Put flour on a plate with 1 tsp of season all.
Dredge each steak in flour, then egg, then panko breadcrumbs.
Allow cutlets to dry for 10 minutes before frying.
Heat oil to a depth of 1/2 inch in a large skillet.
Fry the pork cutlets one at a time in the pan for 5 minutes per side until golden.
Put in the oven covered with foil to keep warm whilst you cook the other steak(s).
Serve with chips or little roasted potatoes.

Suriname

Suriname is the smallest country in South America, bordered by Guyana, French Guiana and Brazil.  It has a population of c.542,000, most of whom live on the country’s north coast, in and around the capital and largest city, Paramaribo. In 2002, the historic inner city of Paramaribo was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral in Paramaribo is the biggest wooden structure in the Western Hemisphere and is the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Paramaribo.  It is 59.1m long, 14.6m high, 16.5m wide and reaches 44m high in the tower up to the bronze cross.

Tropical rainforests make up about 80% of Suriname´s total landscape.  One of the top tourist attractions, from April to August, is watching the giant leatherback turtles lay their eggs on the beach at Galibi Nature Reserve.
Suriname is a member of the Carribbean Community (CARICOM), officially a Dutch speaking country and is the only territory outside Europe where Dutch is spoken by the majority of the population.
Through the services of ‘Cynthia rent a house’, a 4 star, 1 bed apartment within a luxury resort, 20 min drive from Paramaribo, will cost €500 per month for long term rental.

The current president Desi Bouterse is a controversial figure.  In 2007 he was put on trial for allegedly ordering the killing of 15 political opponents as military ruler in 1982.  The case was put on hold when parliament passed a law giving him & his co-defendents blanket immunity for human rights violations committed during military rule.  In 1999, he was convicted in the Netherlands to 11 years imprisonment for cocaine trafficking, but he remains free in Suriname.

The cuisine of Suriname is a combination of many international cuisines including East Indian, African, Indonesian, Chinese, Dutch, Jewish, Portuguese and Amerindian.  I came across Pastei (creole-style chicken pot pie), Bami goreng (fried noodles) & Roti (flat bread).  However, within the Surinamese community, in both Surinam and The Netherlands, Pom is the most popular and best known festive dish.  It was introduced by the Portuguese-Jewish plantation owners as the Portuguese potato (“pomme de terre”) oven dish. Because the potato did not grow in Suriname and had to be imported it was replaced with the root of the tayer plant – pomtajer.  I used potato in my ‘Pom’ as I didn’t fancy my chances of finding pomtayer in the supermarket and because Bern is obsessed with potatoes!  I found many variations of the recipe in my research so this is my take on ‘Pom’.
Rating: 8/10

 

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
For 2 people
3 med sized potatoes, peeled and grated (remove most of the excess water with a tea towel)
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 tbsp brown sugar 1
/2 tsp nutmeg
Pinch turmeric
Salt & ground white pepper
1 tsp chicken stock powder or cube
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp chopped parsley
250g chicken chopped in to bite size pieces
50g butter
1/2 onion, chopped
1 tin chopped tomatoes

 

Melt 30g of butter in a pan and saute the onion on a med-low heat for 5 minutes, then set aside.
Add a little oil to the pan and add the chicken on a med heat. After a few minutes, add a pinch of salt, white pepper, a pinch of nutmeg, tsp chicken stock powder, half the lime juice and cook for a further few mins.
Add the onion back into the pan and stir.
Add the chopped tomatoes, 1/2 cup water, mix well and let it simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, put the grated potato in a bowl with the rest of the lime juice, orange juice, sugar, parsley, a pinch of nutmeg and turmeric and mix well.
Preheat oven to 180c / 350f.
Butter 2 small oven proof dishes or 1 medium sized dish (enough for 2 large portions).
Spread each dish with a layer of the potato mix, using about half.
Let the chicken & tomato mix cool a little, then put a layer of chicken into each dish on top of the spuds.
Drain any excess liquid from the remaining potatoes and then spread the rest over the chicken.
Dot with the remaining butter and bake for 1 hour, until golden brown.

Sweden

Some interesting stats about Sweden:
86% of Swedes live in cities
There are 95,700 lakes in Sweden, making up approx 9% of its total area
The highest & lowest ever recorded temperatures are 38 degrees celsius (Jun) and -53 celsius (Feb)
Swedes are entitled to 480 days of paid parental leave, 90 of those days are reserved for the Dad
Students are paid $187 per month to attend high school
They’ve won 25 Oscars over the years – Ingrid Bergman won 3
Despite being a military power in the 17th century and one of the world’s largest producers of weapons, Sweden has not participated in any war for almost two centuries, including both world wars
With a tax rate of 51.4% of GDP, Swedes are one of the most highly taxed populations in the world. Ironically, they are generally happy to pay a high tax rate, and the Swedish word for tax is skatt, or “treasure.”
Between 300,000 and 400,000 moose (Alces alces) roam the Swedish woods. Over 100,000 are shot during the annual hunt, and about 250,000 people participate in the hunt. The moose is also considered the most dangerous animal in Sweden. Every year, they cause approximately 6,000 road accidents.

ABBA is the fourth-best selling music act in history, after Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and Michael Jackson. The group has sold over 375 million records worldwide. At one point, ABBA was second only to Volvo as Sweden’s biggest export earner.

And finally .. 1.8m Ikea meatballs are eaten on average every day worldwide!
When it comes to the food, I really was spoilt for choice.  Some of the mouthwatering temptations include Semlas (cream filled buns), Jansson’s temptation (a creamy potato and anchovy casserole), Västerbotten cheese pie & a huge array of fish & shellfish dishes.  However, I simply couldn’t resist the obvious. I cooked Köttbulla (Swedish meatballs) and they were absolutely delicious!
Rating: 10/10
45g fresh white bread, crusts removed and bread cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup milk
2.5 tbsps unsalted butter
1/2 medium onion, chopped finely
340g minced beef chuck (about 20% fat)
140g minced pork (about 25% fat)
2 tsp salt
1 large egg
1/8 tsp ground white pepper
Pinch ground allspice
Vegetable oil, for frying
1.5 tbsp flour
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 tsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp apple cider vinegar
Chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
In a medium bowl, combine bread with milk, tossing to coat. Let stand until bread is completely softened and most of the milk absorbed, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat.
Add half of the onion and cook, stirring, until onion is golden and tender, about 5-6 minutes.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a food processor, combine minced beef, minced pork, bread and any remaining milk, cooked onion, remaining raw onion, salt, egg, white pepper, and allspice.
Starting on low speed and increasing to medium-high, beat mixture until ingredients are thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Dipping your hands in water as needed to prevent meatball mixture from sticking, roll roughly 1-tablespoon-sized portions of meatball mixture into balls slightly smaller than golf-ball size.
Transfer to lined baking sheet.
Set a rack over a clean baking sheet and heat oven to 200°F. Heat about 1/2 inch of oil in a wide skillet to 350°F.
Working in batches, lower meatballs into oil and fry, turning until well browned all over, about 2 minutes. Transfer browned meatballs to the rack and keep warm in the oven.
In a medium saucepan, melt remaining 1.5 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat until foamy.
Whisk in flour and cook, whisking, until raw flour smell is gone, about 3 minutes.
Whisk in chicken stock, bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 3 minutes.
Whisk in soy sauce and cider vinegar. Season with salt and white pepper.
Add meatballs to gravy and stir to coat. Simmer until meatballs are heated through.
Serve with buttered mashed potatoes.

Tajikistan

Tajikistan, a landlocked former Soviet republic, covers an area of 142,000 sq km (55,000 sq miles). It borders Kyrgyzstan in the north, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south and Uzbekistan in the northwest. The capital is Dushanbe.
The area of Tajikistan has been inhabited since 4000 BC.
The Pamir mountains, topping 7,000 meters (23,000 feet) and known locally as the “Roof of the World”, make up more than 90 percent of its territory There are more than 900 rivers in Tajikistan and about 20 main lakes.
The legendary Silk Road passed through Tajikistan going from China to Europe. The Silk Road (or Silk Route) is an ancient network of trade routes that were central to cultural interaction through regions of the Asian continent connecting the West and East from China to the Med. The Silk Road derives its name from the lucrative trade in Chinese silk carried out along its length.
Tajikistan remains the poorest of the 15 post-Soviet nations.
According to wiki, part of the 1985 American comedy film, Spies Like Us, directed by John Landis starring Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd was set in Tajikstan. Although they didn’t actually do any filming there.
The cuisine of Tajikstan includes Plov (a rice dish fried with vegetables & meat), Qurutob (salted cheese) and Fatir (flaky flatbread). I decided to cook lamb kebabs with mint & star anise.  They were a very unusual (if not an acquired) taste.
Rating: 7/10

Kebabs:
400g ground lamb
1 large red onion
1 medium tomato
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground coriander
4 star anise corms, ground
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp fresh, chopped mint leaves
1 small bunch of coriander leaves, chopped (15-20 sprigs)
3 hot, dried, red chili peppers
1/4 cup flour (optional)
Stew:
2 large yellow onions, peeled, sliced and separated into crescents
3 tbsps unsalted butter
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 generous tbsp of garlic, peeled and chopped
3 hot, dried red chili peppers
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 small bunch of coriander leaves, chopped (15-20 sprigs)
1 cup beef stock
1/2 cup plain yogurt

1. In a food processor combine onion tomato and spices and blend lightly so that the vegetables are chopped but still have their form. Add meat, blend lightly again to mix. Let set in the refrigerator for several hours before rolling into kebabs.
2. Preheat grill on the highest setting. Remove meat mix from refrigerator and roll the kebabs into sausages or loaves about 3 inches long and 1½ inches wide. Flour very lightly, if desired, to help the meat hold together.
3. Place on a baking sheet that has been oiled or sprayed. Cook about 6 inches from the flame for 5 minutes on each side. If meat still feels soft to the touch, cook for another few minutes, but do not let the kebabs burn. When done, remove from heat and set aside as you make the stew.
4. Melt butter in a large saucepan or sauté pan. When hot, add onions and sauté briefly to coat the onions. Cook for a few minutes stirring often and then add the sugar and lower the heat to the lowest setting. Let onions cook and caramelize, stirring them only every 10 minutes or so. When they are light brown and very soft, add the garlic, chili peppers and coriander and stir well. Cook until garlic begins to brown.
5. Add the yogurt and the beef stock to the onions and garlic, stirring well. Add the lamb kebabs and, if necessary, add more beef stock. Cover and continue to cook over a low flame until the kebabs are hot. Serve the kebabs on a bed of rice or bulgur and spoon the onions and sauce over the kebabs for a bit of extra flavor.

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Seychelles

The Seychelles has been on my personal bucket list for quite some time.  Being a fan of relaxing in the sun and watching beautiful sunsets, the islands of the Seychelles look idyllic.  However, it has a lot more to offer visitors, than just beach paradise.  There are 115 islands, most of which are not permanently inhabited.  Almost half of the landmass of the country is made up of national parks and reserves.
Bird Island is home to the heaviest land tortoise living in the wild – Esmerelda, who weighs in at a whopping 670 pounds (47.8 stone).  A few of the more popular islands to visit include Mahe, La Digue, Fregate & Praslin.  One of Mahe’s highlights is Morne Seychellois National Park which contains coastal mangrove forests as well as the country’s highest peak, the Morne Seychellois (905m).
Seychelles is the right place to visit if you want to see unique endemic species. These include the paradise flycatcher, the warbler, the jelly fish tree and the female Coco de Mer, which is the world’s heaviest nut.
Until the opening of the international airport on Mahé in 1971, the Seychelles Islands were entirely dependent on the sea for their links with the rest of the world.  By 2004, there were 15 airports.  In 2013, 230,000 tourists visited the Seychelles, 12,500 came from the UK.
Seychellois cuisine has been influenced by African, British, French, Indian and Chinese cuisines.  Fish & seafood are very popular and spices play an integral part in flavouring dishes.
A big thanks to Rakesh Shah, who shared an authentic recipe from his uncle for Red Snapper.
Rating: 7/10
Red Snapper Seychelles style!

450g red snapper, cut into serving size pieces – 3/4″ thick
1/2 cup chopped shallots
1 clove garlic
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
2 medium tomatoes, sliced

Heat oven to 350ºF. Spray 8-inch square baking dish with nonstick vegetable cooking spray. Arrange snapper skin-down in dish. Set aside.
Combine shallots, garlic and oil in 10-inch nonstick skillet. Cook over medium for 3 to 4 minutes, or until shallots are tender-crisp, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Stir in juice, parsley, paprika, cumin and pepper. Pour shallot mixture over snapper.
Arrange tomato slices evenly over snapper.
Cover dish with foil and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until fish is firm and opaque and just begins to flake.
Serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a main.

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Indonesia

The fourth most populated country in the world with over 255m people and it has the fourth largest coastline.
It comprises of over 17,000 islands that lie between the Pacific Ocean & the Indian Ocean.  The most known islands are Sumatra, Bali & Java.  Java is the most populated island in the world.
Some of Lonely planet’s highlights include; catching waves at Ulu Watu, Bali’s surfing mecca; Java’s Borobudur temple; trekking to Dani villages in Papua’s Baliem Valley and the enigmatic orangutan in Tanjung Puting National Park.
There are 400 active volcanoes, more than any other country.  Krakatoa is the site of the largest volcanic eruption ever recorded. Occurring on August 27, 1883, it had a force equivalent to 2,000 Hiroshima bombs and resulted in the death of 36,000 people.
It is home to some pretty scary wildlife, namely, the Komodo dragon (the largest lizard on earth), Python Reticulates, (the longest snake in the world) and the largest volume of shark species, approx 150.
As for Indonesia’s cuisine, according to wiki it is one of the most vibrant and colourful in the world, full of intense flavour.  So hopefully we are in for a treat!  I was entertaining friends so I opted for 3 of the most popular dishes; Sate Ayam Madura (chicken satay with peanut sauce); Padang Style Beef Rendang (rich beef curry) and Nasi Goreng (fried rice).

Rating:  10/10 – Sate, 9/10 – Rendang Beef and 8/10 – Nasi Goreng.  Overall 9/10

Sate Ayam Madura
Peanut Sauce:
250g peanut, toasted/roasted
3 candlenuts (kemiri)
6 red chilies
4 tbsp palm sugar
2½ tsp salt
600 ml water
Satay:
600 gram chicken thigh meat, cut into ½ inch cubes
4 tablespoon sweet soy sauce (Kecap manis)
2 tsp oil Bamboo skewers (about 20)
Peanut Sauce: In a food processor, grind together peanut, candlenuts, and chilies. Transfer to a sauce pot along with the rest of the peanut sauce ingredients, and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to a simmer and continue cooking until the sauce thickens. Turn off heat.Satay: Place chicken, sweet soy sauce, oil, and 150 gram of peanut sauce in a mixing bowl. Mix together and marinate for 30 minutes. Skewer the marinated chicken with bamboo skewers. Grill until cooked and slightly charred, baste with marinating sauce as needed. Serve the satay with peanut sauce & lime wedges 

IMG_6851
Padang Style Beef Rendang
600g beef chuck steak, cut into 2 inch by 2 inch cubes
1 litre of water
150 ml thick coconut cream
3 kaffir lime leaves
3 bay leaves
1 lemon grass, gently bruised
1 inch galangal, peeled and gently bruised
1/2 tbsp tamarind pasteGrind the following into spice paste:
15 shallots
5 cloves garlic
50g red chilies
10 candlenuts (I used macadamia as I couldn’t find these)
1 inch fresh ginger
1 inch fresh turmeric
1 /2 tbsp pepper
1 /2 tbsp salt
Put all ingredients in a soup pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat a bit (still above simmering point) and leave the pot uncovered.
Cook until the liquid is reduced and thickened. Once the liquid has thickened, reduce the heat and simmer until all the liquid is almost gone and the beef looks a bit dark – this should take around 2 hours.
Remove from heat and serve hot or at room temperature.
Nasi Goreng
6 shallots
3 garlic cloves
5g shrimp paste
10 g red chilli
3 eggs
150 g chicken breast, deep-fried and shredded
1/4 cup cooking oil
600 g rice, cooked & cold
1 tsp pepper
3 tbsp sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 spring onion, chopped
4 shallots quick fried & left to dryGrind shallots, garlic, shrimp paste and chili to fine paste.
Heat cooking oil in a wok and stir-fry spice paste for 2 minutes on a medium heat, till brownish and fragrant.
Push spices to side of wok and pour egg into the wok. Quickly scramble the egg for a minute. Mix egg with spices, break them into smaller pieces.
Add rice, pepper, kecap manis, soy sauce & chicken.
Stir-fry everything quickly over high heat, for 6-7 minutes.
Sprinkle with the spring onion and fried shallots & serve 

Cameroon

Cameroon has been described as “Africa in miniature” because it exhibits all major climates and vegetation of the continent: coast, desert, mountains, rainforest, and savanna.  Cameroon is one of the wettest lands on the earth with annual rainfall of about 1,028cm.

The people are as diverse as its terrain; including ancient tribal kingdoms, forest-dwelling pygmies and Muslim pastoralists, making it one of the most culturally diverse countries on the African continent. One third of the population lives below the poverty line.

Mount Cameroon, an active volcano that last erupted in 2000,  is the highest mountain in West Africa at 4,085m. Cameroon is the first African country to have reached the quarter-final in the Football world cup.

Cuisine varies by region, but a large, one-course, evening meal is common throughout the country. A typical dish is based on cocoyams, maize, cassava, millet, plantains, potatoes, rice, or yams, often pounded into dough-like fufu (cous-cous).  I did also come across several recipes for Poulet DG (Poulet Directeur Général), which is served in up market Cameroon restaurants.

In honour of Shrove Tuesday coming up, I opted to go for Cameroon pancakes which the kids had for breakfast, and we saved for our dessert.

Pancakes have always been my nemesis, but this recipe seemed to be much easier to cook – Happy Pancake day!

Rating: 7/10

2 cups flour
1½ cup milk
⅔ cup sugar
6 eggs
¼ cup melted butter
¼- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
½ cup oil for frying

Sift together flour, sugar, nutmeg and salt; set aside.
In a large bowl, beat eggs and milk together with a mixer or by hand.
Mix in flour mixture until everything has been incoporated.
Finally stir in melted butter. Let the batter rest for about an hour or more in the refrigerator (overnight is fine)
Heat a skillet or a non stick frying pan then lightly coat the hot pan with vegetable oil, cooking spray, or clarified butter.
Then pour about a ½ cup of batter depending on your fry pan or skillet.
Tilt pan so the batter spreads across the bottom of the pan.
Cook the pancake for about 2 minutes, until the bottom is light brown. Lift with a spatula, turn and cook the other side.
Serve hot sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, powder sugar or syrup
(You only need to oil the pan for the first pancake)

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.
 

São Tomé and Príncipe

São Tomé and Príncipe, is Africa’s second smallest country in terms of population c. 194,000, after The Seychelles.  It is formed of 2 islands in the Gulf of Guinea, close to the equator and they are part of an extinct volcanic range featuring striking rock, coral formations, rainforests and beaches.  It is home to much wildlife including five species of turtle.
It is the smallest Portuguese speaking nation in the world, “Leve leve” (Easy, easy) it a mellow ‘hello’ and the motto of Sao Tome.
Cocoa is the main crop and it represents 95% of the country’s export.
It was on the island of Principe where the first experimental verification of Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity happened in an experiment by Arthur Stanley Eddington in 1919.
The cuisine is based on tropical root crops, plantains, and bananas, with fish as the most common source of protein. The vegetables that are eaten consist of gathered indigenous greens that are cooked in red palm oil.  They have a famous TV chef – João Carlos Silva, who presents “Na Roça com os Tachos” – In the Roça with the Pots.
Some recipes I came across include Fish Calulu (stew) , Chicken with coffee sauce and Rancho de terra (beans & rice).  I opted for Sonhos de Bananas (banana doughnuts) served with chocolate sauce.

Rating: 8/10

4 bananas, peeled
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
Sugar & 1/2 tsp cinnamon mix
Oil for frying

Mash the bananas with a fork and mix with the sugar and flour. Whisk together milk and egg then stir in the banana mixture to form a batter. Heat oil in a deep fryer or saucepan to 350 F. Pour batter a tablespoon at a time into hot oil and fry for about 5 minutes, turning halfway through cooking, until the doughnuts are golden brown. Drain on paper towels and serve dusted with the cinnamon sugar & chocolate sauce.

Albania

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