Panama

Panama is the only place in the world where you can see the sun rise on the Pacific and set on the Atlantic.  It has 5,637 kilometers of coastline and more than 1,518 islands so it boasts plenty of beaches.
The Panama Canal was built by the US Army Corps of Engineers between 1904 and 1914.  It is 44 miles long and there are 3 sets of locks of 33.5 metres (110 ft) width.  It generates one-third of Panama’s entire economy and serves passage to almost 14,000 ocean-going vessels per year.  The Panama Hat is actually made in Ecuador.
The Panamanian recipes I came across were Sancocho (local stew), Tamales (corn dough rolls) & Corvina (local sea bass).  There were also a fair few different breakfast recipes, namely Arepas (corn flatbread topped with egg), Bistek Picado (chopped beef) & Salchichas (sausages).  As it was the weekend and the kids were with us, I decided to cook these easy Hojaldras (doughnuts).
Rating: 8/10
2 cups of flour
1 tsp of baking powder
1 tsp of white sugar
1 tsp of salt
1 tbsp of oil
½ cup of water
Oil for frying
Mix the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.  Mound the ingredients and make an indentation in the middle.
Add the oil and one tablespoon of the water.
While kneading, add the water a tablespoon at a time, until the dough no longer sticks to your hands.
Form dough into a ball, cover bowl with a cloth, and let it rest for two hours.  (After the two hours, you can cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough until the following day, if desired.)
When ready to fry, heat a few inches of oil in a pot over medium heat.
Form the dough into small balls (a little goes a long way), and use your hands to stretch them thin and flat, like pizza dough.
Carefully add the stretched dough balls, one or two at a time, and fry until golden on one side, then flip and fry the other side.  (It helps to place a screen over the pot to prevent oil spatters.)
Remove dough, and allow to cool slightly.
Enjoy your hojaldras plain, or with powdered sugar, cinnamon, or even bacon
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Bhutan

A tiny Himalayan kingdom that is best known for things like being great at archery and having no stoplights.  Bhutan is the only country that measures GNH (Global National Happiness) alongside GDP.  There are only 4 airplanes in the entire country, and they all belong to the national airline, Druk Air. There are no private planes for the royals or elected officials.  One more interesting thing to note about Bhutan: there are a lot of penises painted on buildings!  The penis is a symbol of good luck and hospitality, and some people think it wards off evil spirits.
I found it quite tricky hunting down authentic Bhutanese recipes as I kept coming across Nepalese & Chinese influenced dishes.  Ema Datshi is the national dish and is a chilli & cheese stew.  I opted to cook Momos (dumplings).
Ingredients
For the dough:
3/4 cup flour
1 cup water
1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
For the filling:
125g minced chicken breast
1 tbsp chopped onion
1 small chopped garlic clove
1 small piece of chopped ginger
1 tbsp chopped coriander leaf
salt & pepper
For tomato sauce:
100g tomato passata
1 small chopped garlic clove
1 small piece of chopped ginger
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sugar
salt & pepper
For the dough, mix the flour and salt, then add oil and water and knead until it forms a ball
Cover and set aside for 30 minutes
Mix together all the filling ingredients in a small bowl
For the sauce, fry the garlic and ginger in oil over medium-low heat for about 3 minutes. Then add the tomato passata, salt, pepper & sugar and cook over low heat for 10 minutes
Use a pasta machine to roll out the dough thinly (up to setting 5 or 6) and then cut into 4-inch circles.
Place a teaspoon of filling in the middle of each circle and fold the circle in half, then pinch the edges to seal
Steam momos for 15-20 minutes in a bamboo steamer
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Central African Republic

Some facts about this landlocked country:
“Balao” is Hello in Sango. 
The minimum monthly wage for an office worker is $28. 
Basketball is the country’s most popular sport. 
Bananas are the second major food crop 
Diamonds are the largest Central African commodity export, sold either for jewelry (35%), or natural abrasives (35%). 
My light hearted cooking challenge is nothing when you consider that nearly half the population of the Central African Republic are now facing hunger, double the figure from a year ago.
Some traditional recipes include Kanda ti Nyma (Meatballs in Peanut Sauce) and Muamba de Galinha (chicken with palm oil and okra).  I cooked Benne Wafers (sesame biscuits).
Rating: 7/10
For 30 biscuits:
1 cup sesame seeds, toasted
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
Heat the oven to 190 degrees.
Meanwhile, toast your sesame seeds in a dry pan  over a med – low heat, stirring constantly until they start to turn a light shade of brown. Remove them from the heat and transfer to a small bowl.
Now mix all the rest of the ingredients together and add the sesame seeds.
Grease a baking sheet. Drop the mixture by half-teaspoons onto the sheet, making sure to keep some distance between each wafer. When baking, the wafers will spread out until they’re pretty much flat, so they need a lot of space.
Bake for 5-6 minutes, or until the edges of each wafer start to brown.
Remove from the oven and let sit for 2-3 minutes.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool (if you wait much longer they will start to stick to the pan).
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Guinea

My knowledge of Guinea before I started this challenge, I could have written on my smallest toenail!  I now know that its on the west coast of Africa and it’s capital is Conakry.   Guinea’s National Park of Upper Niger is inhabited by many species but most notably the Giant Pangolin, a scaly anteater, the meat of which is controversially consumed as a delicacy in China & Vietnam.  I also discovered that there are 30 restaurants in Guinea, according to Trip advisor, 7 of which serve pizza!!  My recipe research presented me with Kansiye (stew), Sauce feuille (spinach stew) and Soupou Gertö (chicken sauce with sweet potatoes), the latter is the recipe I decided to cook.
My rating: 5/10 – mainly because it was a little bit too spicy for me to enjoy it.  It might have been improved if we’d had rice with it.

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This is how I made it:
Ingredients for 2 people
600g chicken pieces (I used thighs & breast, skin on)
1 & 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
Salt, black pepper & chilli powder (according to taste)
1 & 1/2 cups water
2 small cloves of garlic
1 fresh tomato, roughly chopped
1 med onion, roughly chopped
2 spring onions, roughly chopped
1 chicken stock cube
250g sweet potatoes, peeled & cubed
150g butternut squash, peeled & cubed
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 bay leaf
1/3 scotch bonnet chilli pepper (optional) – I used a whole green jalapeno pepper as I couldn’t find a scotch bonnet
Vegetable oil
Place the chicken pieces in a bowl with the lemon juice, salt, pepper and chilli powder and let it marinate for 1 hour or more.
Place the spring onions, onions and garlic in a food processor with the tomatoes, crumbled stock cube, 1/2 cup water, salt and pepper and blend.
Heat the oil in a stock pot and cook the chicken pieces until browned on all sides.
Once the chicken is browned, add all the other ingredients to the pot and simmer over a medium heat for 25 minutes or until the squash and sweet potatoes are soft, serve either on its own or with rice.
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