Barbados

Barbados is situated in the Lesser Antilles. The west coast has white sandy beaches and calm waters and the east coast faces the Atlantic. Its location in the south east of the Caribbean region puts the country just outside the principal hurricane strike zone. On average, a major hurricane strikes about once every 26 years. The last significant hurricane to cause severe damage to Barbados was Hurricane Janet in 1955.

The Portuguese visited the island in 1536, but they left it unclaimed, with their only remnants being an introduction of wild hogs for a good supply of meat whenever the island was visited. Barbadians are extremely fond of pork.

Barbados has produced many great cricketers including Sir Garfield Sobers, Sir Frank Worrell and Sir Clyde Walcott. Also, Rihanna, the eight time Grammy Award winner was born here and in 2009 she was appointed as an Honorary Ambassador of youth and culture for Barbados by the late Prime Minister, David Thompson.

Barbados welcomes more than a million tourists including land based and cruise ship visitors annually. Highlights include Accra Beach, Barbados Wildlife reserve, Hunte’s Gardens, Harrison’s Cave and Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison, a Unesco world heritage site since 2011.

Popular dishes from Bajan cuisine include Pudding and Souse (pickled pork with spiced sweet potatoes) , the national dish of fried flying fish served with cou-cou (cornmeal and okra), Bajan black cake , Black Eye Peas and Rice and Samosas often made with Conch. I opted to cook a favourite of mine, Macaroni cheese, which they refer to as Macaroni pie. Whilst it had a good flavour, it was a little dry.

Rating: 6/10

Serves: 4 as a starter
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 40 mins

150g macaroni
1 and 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/3 cup water
1 tbsp ketchup
2 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 onion, sliced
pinch black pepper
2 tbsp double cream
Grated cheese for top

Bring some salted water to the boil, add macaroni and the onion to the boiling water and cook until the pasta is al dente
Preheat oven to 180c
Drain macaroni and onion quickly and put straight back into the pan, add 1 cup of cheese and put the lid on for 2 mins
Then add the evaporated milk, mustard, ketchup, pepper and cream and stir well to blend everything together
Transfer to 4 buttered ramekins and top each one with grated cheese
Bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown

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Ingredients for Barbados Macaroni pie
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Barbados Macaroni pie
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Barbados Macaroni pie
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Barbados Macaroni pie
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Barbados Macaroni pie
Barbados beach
Barbados beach
Bridgetown, Barbados
Bridgetown, Barbados
Barbados waterfall
Barbados waterfall
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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

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.