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

IMG_1715
Ingredients for Pineapple chow
IMG_1716
Pineapple chow
IMG_1739
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
Advertisements

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

IMG_1494
Ingredients for fish curry with tomatoes
IMG_1499
Fish curry with tomatoes
IMG_1502
Fish curry with tomatoes
IMG_1509
Fish curry with tomatoes
Mataniko Falls, Soloman Islands
Mataniko Falls, Soloman Islands
Marovo Lagoon, Soloman Islands
Marovo Lagoon, Soloman Islands
Solomon Islands
Soloman Islands

Chad

Chad is a landlocked nation in north central Africa. It is the fifth largest country in Africa in terms of area and the largest of Africa’s 16 landlocked countries. Lake Chad, after which the country is named, is the largest wetland in Chad and the second largest in Africa. Lake Chad occupied 130,000 sq mi of the Chad Basin 7,000 years ago, now it covers only 6,875 sq mi. Sadly it is falling victim to the Sahara and is receding northwards each year and may soon not even be in Chad.

Not long ago, geologically speaking – what is today the Sahara, was green savannah teeming with wildlife. During the African Humid Period, roughly 11,000 to 5,000 years ago, a vibrant animal community including elephants, giraffes, hippos, and antelope lived there. The last remnant of the “Green Sahara” exists in the Lakes of Ounianga in northern Chad, a series of 18 interconnected freshwater, saline, and hypersaline lakes now protected as a World Heritage site.

Extensive deforestation has resulted in loss of trees such as acacias, baobab, dates and palm trees. This has also caused loss of natural habitat for wild animals and lions, leopards and rhino have been almost decimated. Poaching is a serious problem in the country, particularly of elephants for the profitable ivory industry. Elephants are often massacred in herds in and around the parks by organised poaching. The problem is worsened by the fact that the parks are understaffed and that a number of wardens have been murdered by poachers.

Since independence from France in 1960, Chad has suffered instability stemming mostly from tension between the mainly Arab-Muslim north and the predominantly Christian and animist south. The only thing that unites the two is abject poverty. The United Nations’ Human Development Index ranks Chad as the seventh poorest country in the world, with 80% of the population living below the poverty line. In 2005, Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index named Chad (tied with Bangladesh) as the most corrupt country in the world.

Despite all this, Chad possesses a rich cultural heritage and the cuisine offers a variety of grains, vegetables, fruits and meats. Fish is abundant in northern Chad, including tilapia, perch, eel, carp and catfish. Some of the recipes I came across during my research include Jarret de Boeuf (slow cooked beef and vegetable stew), Broiled Fish (A recipe from the villages along the Chari River) , Kisser (sourdough crepe) , Fangasou (fried doughnuts made of millet or wheat flour) and Maharagwe (beans in coconut milk). I decided to make Kachumbari (Chadian Tomato & Onion Salad) which I enjoyed al fresco in my garden on a rare sunny day in the UK! Unbelievably simple and it tasted so zingy and fresh – I absolutely loved it.

Rating 10/10

Serves 1
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 0 mins

1/4 red onion, thinly sliced (or diced)
8 cherry tomatoes – red & yellow, halved (use ripe ones, ideally that have been on the window shelf for a while)
2 inches of cucumber, middle removed and diced
1/2 red chilli, seeds & placenta removed and sliced
Handful of fresh coriander, chopped
The juice of 1/2 lime

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and toss until well combined and serve immediately.

IMG_9158
Ingredients for Kachumbari (Chadian tomato and onion salad)

 

IMG_9170
Kachumbari (Chadian tomato and onion salad)

IMG_9161
Kachumbari (Chadian tomato and onion salad)
chad sahara
Chad Sahara