Togo

Togo is one of the smallest countries in Africa and is situated above the Gulf of Guinea, sharing borders with Ghana, Benin and Burkina Faso. It has a population of 7.5 million. Despite it being a small country, there are approximately 40 different ethnic groups and 40 indigenous languages, including the Gbe languages of Ewe, Mina and Aja, although French is the official language used in education, administration & commerce.

After leading a successful military coup d’état in 1967, Gnassingbé Eyadéma became president of Togo for 38 years. At the time of his death in 2005, he was the longest serving leader in Africa. During his rule he escaped several assassination attempts, one by a bodyguard and in 1974 he survived a plane crash. He claimed he was the only survivor, but he deliberately misrepresented the details of the accident to make himself look like a hero. He also claimed that the crash was not an accident and was in fact a conspiracy to kill him. He came to his demise in a plane whilst flying over Tunisia and the cause of death was a heart attack.

According to Lonely Planet, Togo’s highlights for the tourist include the Unesco world heritage listed area of Koutammakou, palm fringed boulevards of the capital, Lomé, hiking the picturesque mountains of Badou, watching the wildlife at Parc Sarakawa and swimming in Lac Togo.

Togolese cuisine’s staples include maize, rice, millet, cassava, yam, plantain and beans, with fish and poultry also being popular. Recipes I came across were Akume (maize porridge, also known as paté served with a light vegetable stew), Riz sauce d’arachide (rice with peanut sauce), Gbomo Dessi (Spicy beef and spinach stew), Djenkoume (Tomato cornmeal cakes) and Ablo (Cornmeal bread). I decided to make Togolese Grilled Chicken served with pitta breads and salad. It had a subtle flavour which I enjoyed, but Bern added some spicy sauce to his.

Rating: 7/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 15 minutes + overnight marinating
Cook time: 20 – 30 minutes

2 – 4 pieces of chicken (legs, thighs or breasts), bone in and skin on
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger root
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tbsp red palm oil (a must have ingredient, no other oil will give the unique flavour)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper (or more if you want it spicy)

In a bowl, mix together the salt, peppers, garlic, ginger, and red palm oil
Place the chicken pieces in a plastic bag, then pour the marinade over them and rub into the chicken pieces, making sure they are all well covered and refrigerate overnight
Grill the chicken over a medium to high heat, turning the pieces over once
Cook until the skins are a rich, deep golden (almost blackened) color, and the juices run clear – this takes about 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken pieces. (Note: if you are using breast meat, the cooking time will be less so don’t overcook, or the meat will be dry)
Let the chicken rest for a few minutes before serving with pitta bread and salad. You can also serve it with spicy sauce, grilled onions and tomatoes.

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Saudi Arabia

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932 by Ibn Saud, who is known within the Arab world as Abdul Aziz. As King, he presided over the discovery of petroleum in Saudi Arabia in 1938 and the beginning of large scale oil production after WWII. In accordance with the customs of his people, Abdul Aziz headed a polygamous household. He had 22 wives and almost a hundred children. Of his 45 sons, 6 went on to become king.
Saudi Arabia has since become the world’s largest oil producer and exporter, controlling the world’s second largest oil reserves. It relies on the oil industry for almost half of its GDP.

The percentage of Saudi Arabia’s population that is female is one of the lowest in the world. Women are not permitted to drive, open bank accounts, work, travel or go to school without the express permission of a male guardian. In December 2015, women were allowed to vote for the first time, and 979 women ran for office.

Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam and home to Islam’s two holiest shrines – Mecca (where the Prophet Muhammad received the word of Allah), and Medina (where Muhammad died in A.D. 632). One of the five pillars of Islam is performing Hajj, by traveling to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, at least once. Approximately two million people a year make the pilgrimage.

The cuisine of Saudi Arabia has been influenced by Turkish, Indian, Persian, and African food. Pork is not allowed due to Islamic dietary laws. Popular dishes include Khouzi (lamb stuffed with chicken that is stuffed with rice, nuts and sultanas), Shawarma (meat kebab), Kabsa (meat and vegetables with rice), Markook or Shrak (flatbread), Saleeg (white rice cooked in broth) and Murtabak (stuffed pancake). I opted to make the simple but tasty Dajaj Mashwi (Arabian grilled chicken) which I served with aioli and a mixed salad.

Rating: 8/10

Serves: 4
Prep time: 15 minutes + 1 hour marinating
Cook time: 20 minutes

4 boneless chicken breasts
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp mild chilli powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp olive oil

Quick aioli dip
4 garlic cloves, pressed
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Fresh ground black pepper

Using a mallet, flatten the chicken breasts and place them in a plastic bag
Add all the spice powders to the bag with the lime juice and olive oil
Let the chicken marinate in the fridge for about an hour
Place the chicken breasts in foil and wrap well
Cook them on a hot BBQ for 15 – 20 minutes, then remove from the foil and cook directly over the heat for 5 minutes to give them some colour
Serve hot, with aioli and mixed salad

Quick aioli dip
Mash garlic with 1/4 teaspoon salt in small bowl until paste forms
Whisk in mayonnaise, olive oil, and lemon juice
Season to taste with coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

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Ingredients for Dajaj Mashwi (Arabian grilled chicken)
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Dajaj Mashwi (Arabian grilled chicken)
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Dajaj Mashwi (Arabian grilled chicken)
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Dajaj Mashwi (Arabian grilled chicken)
Mecca Saudi Arabia
Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Medina Saudi Arabia
Medina, Saudi Arabia