Rwanda

Rwanda is a small landlocked country in Central East Africa. It is in the African Great Lakes region and its geography is dominated by mountains in the west and savanna to the east. The highest peaks are found in the Virunga volcano chain in the northwest including Mount Karisimbi, Rwanda’s highest point, at 4,507 metres. Volcanoes National Park is home to an estimated one third of the worldwide mountain gorilla population and it is one of only two countries where mountain gorillas can be visited safely.

A few facts
Rwanda has the world’s highest representation of women in parliament. 64% of Rwanda’s members of parliament are women
In 2007, Rwanda became the first country in the world to legislate an outright ban on plastic bags
Rwanda the most densely populated country in Africa with 445 inhabitants per square km
A dramatic improvement in healthcare delivery and health outcomes has seen life expectancy in Rwanda rise by 10 years in the last decade
Rwanda has two public holidays mourning the 1994 genocide. The national mourning period begins with Kwibuka, the national commemoration, on April 7 and concludes with Liberation Day on July 4

The cuisine of Rwanda is based on local staple foods produced by subsistence agriculture such as bananas, plantains, pulses, sweet potatoes, beans, and cassava. Recipes I came across during my research Rwandan Fruit Salad, Umutsima (a dish of cassava and corn), Isombe (cassava leaves with aubergine and spinach), Mizuzu (fried plantains), Rwandan Beef Stew, Ugali (African Cornmeal Mush) and Pinto Beans and Vegetables. I opted for Kachumbari (tomato, onion and avocado salad) which made a very tasty lunch.

Rating: 8/10

Serves: 1 as a starter or light lunch
Prep time: 15 minutes

1/2 onion, very thinly sliced
1 tomato, thinly sliced
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 baby avocado, sliced
1/2 red chilli, sliced
1/2 tbsp fresh coriander, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
juice of 1/2 lime
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Layer the tomatoes, chilli coriander, avocado and sliced onions in a dish
Mix together the lime juice and olive oil then season with salt and black pepper
Pour the dressing over the salad and serve

fullsizeoutput_1261
Ingredients for Kachumbari (tomato, onion and avocado salad)
fullsizeoutput_1260
Kachumbari (tomato, onion and avocado salad)
fullsizeoutput_1295
Kachumbari (tomato, onion and avocado salad)
rwandan-countryside
Rwandan countryside
lake-kivu-rwanda
Lake Kivu, Rwanda
traditional-rwandan-intore-dancers
Traditional Rwandan intore dancers
Advertisements

Fiji

A loud and enthusiastic ‘Bula’ (meaning Hello) was how all the Resort staff welcomed me when I visited Fiji a number of years ago. Famed for exquisite beaches, undersea marvels, lush interiors and fascinating culture, Fiji is an archipelago of more than 330 islands in Melanesia in the South Pacific Ocean. The two major islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, account for 87% of the population of almost 900,000. Viti Levu is home to the capital, Suva, a port city with British Colonial architecture.

Fiji became independent in 1970 after nearly a century as a British Colony. Fijian life revolves around the church, the village, the rugby field and the garden. While this may sound insular you would be hard pressed to find a more open and welcoming population. Though the realities of local life are less sunny than the country’s skies, many regions are poor and lack basic services. Fijians are famous for their hospitality and warmth.

Fiji has one of the most developed economies in the Pacific due to an abundance of forest, mineral, and fish resources. Today, the main sources of foreign exchange are its tourist industry and sugar exports. The country’s currency is Fijian dollar, the official languages are English, Fijian and Hindi.

Rugby Union is the most-popular sport played in Fiji. The Fiji national sevens side is one of the most popular and successful rugby sevens teams in the world, and has won the Hong Kong Sevens a record fifteen times, and they have also won the Rugby World Cup Sevens twice in 1997 and 2005. In 2016 they won Fiji’s first ever Olympic medal in the Rugby sevens at the Summer Olympics, winning gold by comprehensively defeating Great Britain 43-7 in the final.

Fijian food has traditionally been very healthy. Staple foods would include taro (a root crop similar to artichoke), coconut, cassava, seafood, breadfruit and rice. Recipes I came across include Palusami (Taro leaves filled with corned beef and onion), Lovo (marinated fish or meat wrapped in foil and cooked underground), Cassava cake and Coconut fish soup. I was recommended the dish Kokoda (raw fish salad), which is marinated fresh fish with coconut milk. I had it for my lunch and I really enjoyed the fresh zingy flavour. And with Fiji done, that means I’m 75% of the way through my challenge.

Rating: 8/10

Serves: 1
Prep time: 15 minutes + 6 hours marinating

1 fish fillet (I used red mullet but cod or halibut will work. Mahi Mahi is traditionally used)
Juice of 1 large lime
pinch salt
80ml coconut cream
1/4 red onion, very finely chopped or minced
1/2 green chilli pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
1 tomato, finely chopped
Salad leaves to serve

Cut the fish into bite-size pieces and place in a bag together with the lime juice and salt
Mix well, then refrigerate and leave to marinate for 6 hours
When ready to serve, remove from the refrigerator, add the coconut cream, chopped onion, and chilli and mix well
Place the salad leaves on a plate, top with the fish mixture and garnish with the chopped tomato

Israel

Israel is located in the Middle East, at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea and borders with Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine and Egypt. The state of Israel was declared in 1948 after Britain withdrew it’s mandate of Palestine. Since then Israel has fought several wars with neighbouring Arab states. Peace treaties between Israel and both Egypt and Jordan have now successfully been signed. Israel’s occupation of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem is the world’s longest military occupation in modern times.

Famed as ‘The Holy Land’, Israel has many significant sights including Jerusalem’s old city with the Western (wailing) Wall and Temple Mount, the Sea of Galilee (the lowest freshwater lake in the world), the City of David, the Dome of the Rock (from which it is said Mohammed began his ascension to heaven) and the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth.

A few other interesting facts about Israel:
They have won the Eurovision song contest 3 times, despite it is actually located in Asia.
The oldest living male, Israel Kristal, was born in Poland in 1903, moved to Israel in 1950 and is also the oldest Holocaust survivor, having been freed from Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Israel is one of only three democracies in the world without a codified constitution. The other two are New Zealand and Britain.
Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives is the world’s oldest continuously used cemetery.

Israeli cuisine has adopted various styles of Jewish cuisine and since the late 1970s an Israeli Jewish fusion cuisine has developed. Popular dishes include falafel, hummus, eggplant salad, ptitim (Israeli couscous), mangal (Israeli BBQ), Mujadara (rice and lentils) and Matzah balls (dumplings). I made Salat Yerakot (Israeli salad) which was pretty quick and easy to make and thoroughly enjoyable.

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 1
Prep time: 20 minutes

1 tomato
1/3 red onion
1/3 green pepper
1/4 cucumber
1/2 lemon – juice and zest
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp chopped mint
olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Remove the seeds from the tomatoes
Finely dice the onion, green pepper, cucumber and tomatoes (this is what makes it Israeli)
Put the ingredients in a bowl
Add the lemon juice, the chopped herbs, a good glug of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, mix well
Sprinkle the lemon zest over the top
Put in the fridge for 10 minutes and then serve

IMG_1540
Ingredients for Salat Yerakot (Israeli salad)
IMG_1542
Ingredients for Salat Yerakot (Israeli salad)
Sea of Galilee, Israel
Sea of Galilee, Israel
Jerusalem’s Western (wailing) Wall and Temple Mount
Jerusalem’s Western (wailing) Wall, Dome of the Rock and Temple Mount
IMG_1547
Salat Yerakot (Israeli salad)
IMG_1550
Salat Yerakot (Israeli salad)

Swaziland

Swaziland is a small landlocked country in Southern Africa. It has a wide variety of landscapes, from the mountains along the Mozambican border to savannas in the east and rain forest in the northwest. It is the only remaining absolute monarchy in Africa and the head of state is the king or Ngwenyama (meaning Lion), currently King Mswati III, who ascended to the throne in 1986 after the death of his father King Sobhuza II in 1982. By tradition, the king reigns along with his mother or a ritual substitute, the Ndlovukati (meaning She-Elephant).

It is home to many protected nature reserves and national parks, most notably Hlane Royal National Park, Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary and Mkhaya Game Reserve. The latter is known for its black and white rhino population. The Ngwenya Mine, situated northwest of Mbabane and near the north-western border of Swaziland is considered to be the world’s oldest, estimated to date back 43,000 years.

Staple foods in Swaziland include sorghum, maize, peanuts, rice and goat meat. Dishes include Umkhunsu (cooked and dried meat), Emasi lavutiwe (ground corn mixed with sour milk) , Sinkwa Sembila (corn bread) and Sishibo senkhukhu (chicken stew). I made Slaai (avocado & peanut salad) which looked promising, but I found the dressing and peanuts overpowered the flavour of the avocado.

Rating: 6/10

Serves: 4
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 0

3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-3 large ripe avocados, diced into ½ inch cubes
1/2 cup peanuts, crushed

Mix lemon juice, ginger and salt in a large bowl
Add the avocado and mix gently
Marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes
Sprinkle with crushed peanuts and serve

Bulgaria

Bulgaria, the country, not Great Uncle, is in southeastern Europe and is one of the oldest European countries, the only one that hasn’t changed its namе since it was founded in 681 AD. Great Uncle Bulgaria is named after the country and is the leader of the Wombles of Wimbledon.

Bulgaria is home to the Varna Necropolis treasure, the oldest gold treasure in the world with an approximate age of over 6,000 years. The site was accidentally discovered in October 1972 by excavator operator Raycho Marinov. The artifacts can be seen at the Varna Archaeological Museum and at the National Historical Museum in Sofia.

Bulgaria was the world’s second largest wine producer in 1980s, but the industry declined after the collapse of communism. However production is up and is now ranked 21st in the world with over 130,000 tonnes produced in 2013.

Bulgarian born Stefka Kostadinova has held the world record for the female high jump at 2.09m since the 1987 World Athletics Championships in Rome.

Bulgarian cuisine shares characteristics with other Balkans cuisines. Popular traditional dishes include Tarator (cold soup of cucumbers, garlic, yogurt and dill), Bob chorba (hot bean soup), Banitsa (breakfast filo pie), Kavarma (beef or pork stew), Pechen svinski but (roast leg of pork) and Lukanka (Bulgarian cold cuts). I made Shopska salad (tomato, onion, cucumber and cheese salad), which was simple, fresh and flavoursome.

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 4
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes

4 tomatoes
1/2 cucumber
2 red peppers, roasted and skin removed
1 small red onion, sliced thinly
250g feta cheese
2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
salt and pepper
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil

Char the red peppers on a BBQ or gas hob until black all over
Leave to cool for 5 minutes, then remove the skin by gently washing under the tap, remove the seeds
Cut the tomatoes, cucumber, peppers into cubes and place in a salad bowl
Add the onions, parsley, oil and seasoning
Crumble over the feta cheese and serve

Sudan

Sudan is dominated by the River Nile with the main tributaries, the Blue and the White Nile, merging at Sudan’s capital city, Khartoum. The Republic of Sudan was the largest country in Africa until 2011, when South Sudan separated to become the world’s newest independent country. Two rounds of north-south civil war have cost the lives of almost 2 million people, and continuing conflict in the western region of Darfur has driven two million people from their homes and killed more than 200,000.

There are more pyramids in Sudan than in Egypt. Approximately 255 pyramids were constructed at three sites in Nubia, Sudan over a period of a few hundred years to serve as tombs for the kings and queens of Napata and Meroë. The royal cemetery at Begrawiya is one of the most amazing sites in Sudan, where you’ll see two main groups of pyramids separated by several hundred metres of sandy desert. The archeological sites of Meroë were listed by Unesco as World Heritage Sites in 2011.

The merging of the Blue and White Niles are best seen from the White Nile bridge in Khartoum. You can actually see the different colours of each Nile flowing side by side before blending further downstream, although neither are blue or white.

Popular Sudanese cuisine includes Kissra (bread) , Tamia (fried chickpea balls), Gorraasa (flatbread) , Fuul (stewed beans) , Fasulia (haricot bean stew) Bamya (okra stew) and Taheena (sesame seed dip). As it was a sunny day and we were keen for something healthy, I opted to make Salata jibna (salad with cheese). It was simple yet delicious.

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 0 minutes

1/2 cup onions, cut into slivers or thin slices
1/2 cup cabbage, cut into slivers or thin slices
1/4 cup carrots, cut into very thin slices
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, diced
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp white vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
pinch black pepper
1 small clove garlic, minced
25g parmesan cheese, grated

In a salad bowl, combine onions, cabbage, carrots, and tomatoes
Mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper in a bowl
Pour dressing and parmesan over salad and toss well

IMG_1066
Ingredients for Salata jibna
IMG_1077
Salata jibna
Pyramids Sudan
Meroe pyramids Sudan
White Nile bridge, Khartoum Sudan
White Nile bridge, Khartoum, Sudan

Micronesia (FSM)

The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) are in the western Pacific Ocean and comprise of around 607 islands with a combined area of 271 sq miles. The FSM is made up of what is known as the Western and Eastern Caroline Islands. The islands are grouped into four states; Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae. It forms part of the Micronesia region encompassing the FSM, Palau, Kiribati, Marshall Islands and Nauru. FSM’s capital is Palikir, located on Pohnpei Island. Pohnpei reputedly is one of the wettest places on earth, with up to 330 inches of rain per year.

Pohnpei is notable for the prevalence of an extreme form of color blindness called Achromatopsia, and known locally as maskun (meaning ’no see’). Approximately 5% of the atoll’s 3000 inhabitants are afflicted. A person with complete achromatopsia would see only black, white and shades of grey. The neurologist Oliver Sacks wrote a book about it in 1997 called ‘The Island of the Colorblind’.

Economic activity in the FSM consists primarily of subsistence farming and fishing. The potential for a tourist industry exists, but the remoteness of the location and a lack of adequate facilities hinder development. Top things to see and do in FSM include The ‘Venice of Micronesia’, Phonpei’s ancient stone city Nan Madol, Yap’s large stone money banks, diving Chuuk’s underwater WWII ‘museum’ that’s hailed as one of the world’s ultimate aquatic experiences and Kosrae’s mangrove swamps and sandy beaches.

The main staple foods in the FSM are taro, yam, bread-fruit, banana, and coconuts. Crab, shellfish, pork and chicken are also popular. Recipes include Prawn Adobo in Coconut Milk, Coconut Chicken Curry and Breadfruit salad. I opted to cook Kelaguen Chicken (Marinated chicken with coconut, spring onion & chilli) served with toasted flatbreads. We had friends to dinner and they all thought it was unique and very flavoursome.

Rating: 10/10

Serves 4
Prep time: 30 mins + 6 – 24 hours marinating time
Cook: 15 mins

For chicken kelaguen
4 boneless chicken thighs (with skin)
1/2 lb fresh coconut, coarsely grated
3 spring onions with their stalks, finely chopped
2 red chillies, seeds removed
1 green chilli, seeds removed
1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice
Flatbreads, toasted under the grill

For finadene marinade
1 cup lemon juice
1 cup soy sauce
1 medium onion, finely slices
1 red chilli

Mix together all the marinade ingredients and marinate the chicken for at least 6 hours.
Grill the chicken thighs on the barbecue for 10 – 15 minutes.
Remove the skin and slice.
Mix with coconut, onions, lemon juice, and chilies.
Add salt and pepper.
Serve with toasted flatbreads.

 

Diving in Yap
Diving with Manta Rays in Yap
micronesia
Federated states of Micronesia
micronesia sunset
Micronesia sunset

Lebanon

Lebanon, officially the Lebanese Republic is a sovereign state in Asia.  It is bordered by Syria to the north and east and Israel to the south

The earliest evidence of civilisation in Lebanon dates back more than seven thousand years in Byblos, where it is said the first alphabet was created.  The country’s name is known to be the oldest in the world and has remained unchanged for over 4000 years.  There are 4.5 million Lebanese in Lebanon and around 18 million living outside Lebanon.

Lebanon’s recent history is one of conflict and suffering. In 1975 civil war broke out, lasting 16 years, eventually ended by a Syrian backed initiative. During the civil war, in 1982 Israel invaded following PLO attacks. Hezbollah (The Party of God), a pro-Syrian Shia military/political movement, with financial backing from Iran, was formed in the 80s to primarily harass the Israeli occupation. It has significantly grown in strength over the years.  Tensions still continue and Lebanon’s borders with Syria and Israel remain unresolved.

Despite the decades of civil war, invasions and terrorist attacks, it is a country that is home to stunning ancient ruins, beautiful mountain vistas and Mediterranean coastline beaches.  Top things to see according to Trip Advisor include the Temples of Baalbek, National Museum of Beirut and the Crusader Castle in Byblos.

The food of Lebanon is considered some of the Mediterranean’s best food – mezze (small dishes), kibbeh (spiced minced lamb in a fried bulgar wheat shell), dhourba bi kousa (courgette & milk soup), daoud Pasha (meatballs with pine nuts).  I decided to make one of their most famous dishes – tabbouleh (bulgar wheat salad).

Rating: 8/10
Prep time: 15 minutes + 40 min for bulgar to soak
Serves: 2-3

1/2 cup bulgar wheat
1 cup boiling water
220g tomatoes roughly chopped
1/2 medium onion finely sliced
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
3 tbsps olive oil
Juice of 1 large lemon
Salt & pepper
1/2 cup black or green olives (optional)

Put the bulgar wheat in a bowl with the boiling water and a little salt. Leave to soak for 40 minutes, then drain.
Take a salad bowl and add the bulgar wheat, tomatoes, onion, parsley & mint. Mix well.
In a separate bowl or jug, beat the oil with the lemon juice and season with salt & pepper.
Pour it over the salad & mix thoroughly.
Put the olives on top and then chill the salad in the fridge for 2 hours.
Add a sprinkling of parsley to garnish and serve.

img_7742
Ingredients for tabbouleh
img_7751
Tabbouleh
baalbeck-710599_1280
Temples of Baalbek
beirut-452164_1280
Beirut