Nigeria

Nigeria, the “Giant of Africa”, is the most populous country in Africa with approximately 184 million inhabitants and it is also Africa’s largest economy (overtaking South Africa in 2014). The key contributors to Nigeria’s economy are telecommunications, banking, and its film industry. ‘Nollywood’, as the film industry is known, is rated as the third most valuable film industry in the world based on its worth and revenues generated.

Nigeria has a few interesting world records, namely:
The largest Internet café is ChamsCity Digital Mall with facilities in Lagos and Abuja, Nigeria, each with 1,027 computer terminals.
The largest group of carol singers was 25,272 by Godswill Akpabio unity choir at the Uyo Township Stadium, Akwa Ibom, Nigeria in 2013.
The largest football shirt measures 73.55 m (241 ft 3 in) wide and 89.67 m (294 ft 2 in) long and was created by Guinness Nigeria Plc.

Highlights for visitors to Nigeria include Kano, West Africa’s oldest surviving city, Nike Art Gallery in Lagos, the walled city of Zaria, the sacred forest in Yoruba Oshogbo and Gashaka Gumpti National Park.

Spices, hot chilli peppers, palm oil and groundnut oil are common ingredients in Nigerian cuisine. Dishes I came across were Balangu (grilled meat), Banga soup (soup made from palm nuts), Afang (vegetable soup), Moimoi (steamed bean pudding), Funkaso (millet pancakes) and Groundnut chop (peanut stew). I cooked Suya (Nigerian chicken skewers) which were incredibly spicy, a little too much for me, Bern enjoyed them but didn’t really like the peanut flavour.

Rating: 6/10

Serves: 4
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 6 minutes

1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp cayenne powder
1 tbsp dried onion flakes
2 tbsp peanuts, finely minced
500g boneless skinless chicken breast
2 tbsp groundnut oil

Mix all the dry ingredients together
Slice the chicken into thin pieces. Sprinkle with the seasoning mix, and allow to marinate for 5 minutes
Thread the chicken onto skewers and brush with the oil
Grill or BBQ for 3 minutes on each side, or until chicken is cooked through
(if using wooden skewers, soak them for at least half an hour before using to avoid them burning)
Serve with salad in pitta bread, with rice or chips

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Ethiopia

Ethiopia is a landlocked country in the northeast African region known as the Horn of Africa. It is the only African nation that has never been colonised. It is the most populous landlocked country in the world and it’s population has grown from 33.5 million in 1983 to 87.9 million in 2014. The population is forecast to grow to over 210 million by 2060. According to WaterAid UK over 44 million people (more than half the population) do not have access to clean water.

Most Ethiopians are farmers and herders. Deforestation, drought, and soil degradation have caused crop failures and famine during the past few decades. At the beginning of the 20th century, around 35% of Ethiopia’s land was covered by trees, but research indicates that forest cover is now approximately 11.9% of the area. It produces more coffee than any other nation in Africa and remains it’s most important export.

With 9 altogether, Ethiopia has the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Africa. These include the ruins of the city of Aksum, dating from the 1st to the 13th century; the fortified historic town of Harar Jugol containing 82 mosques; the Lower Valley of the Awash, where the oldest fossil skeleton of a human was found (called Lucy) dated back to 3.2 million years ago and Lalibela, where there are 11 medieval cave churches from the 13th century.

Typical Ethiopian cuisine includes Injera (spongy flatbread), Wat (spicy stew), Tibs (fried meat with vegetables) and Kitfo (raw beef marinated in spice). Some other recipes I came across were Sambusa (fried & filled dough pastry), Yekik Alicha (yellow lentils with turmeric sauce) and Doro dabo (chicken bread). I made Misir Wot (spicy lentil stew) which contains 2 traditional Ethiopian ingredients – niter kibbeh (spiced butter) and berbere (spice blend). It it usually served with injera, but we had it on it’s own and thoroughly enjoyed it. We felt it would work equally well with some roast lamb.

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 1 or 2 as a side dish
Prep time: 40 mins
Cook time: 40 mins

1/2 cup red lentils
2 tbsp niter kibbeh or unsalted butter
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp berbere spice blend
1 small tomato, cored and chopped or a few cherry tomatoes, chopped
Salt, to taste

For the niter kibbeh
120g butter
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
seeds from 1 cardamom pod
1/4 cinnamon stick
pinch of ground nutmeg
1 small whole clove
1/2 small garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped

For the berbere spice blend
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/4 tsp black peppercorns
2 whole cloves
1/2 tsp crushed chillies
1 tsp ground coriander
pinch ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tbsp onion powder
1 heaped tbsp paprika
1/4 tbsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
pinch ground cinnamon

Rinse the lentils in a sieve under cold running water and set aside
Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat
Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 10 minutes
Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds
Add the reserved lentils, 1/2 tbsp of the berbere spice blend, tomato, and 2 cups water to the saucepan
Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and the lentils are tender, 25 – 30 minutes
Stir in the remaining berbere and season generously with salt
Serve immediately

For the niter kibbeh
Melt the butter and heat it until it foams. At this point add the other ingredients. Reduce the heat and simmer very gently for about 20 minutes. Do not stir. This will separate out the milk solids, leaving a clear butter mix on top
Cool the mixture, strain a few times through a sieve or muslin and discard the milk solids
You can store the spiced butter in the fridge in a sealed jar and use as desired.

For the berbere spice blend
Combine fenugreek seeds, peppercorns, and cloves in a small frying pan. Heat over medium high heat until fragrant and toasted, about 3 minutes. Do not burn. Set aside.
Grind the crushed chillies in a pestle and mortar. Add the toasted spices and grind until fine.
In a medium bowl, combine the ground toasted spice mixture with the remaining ingredients. Mix together until well blended.
Store in an airtight container.

 

Obelisk of Aksum Ethiopia
Obelisk at Aksum, Ethiopia
Lalibela Ethiopia
Lalibela, Ethiopia
Harar Jugol Ethiopia
Harar Jugol, Ethiopia
Ethiopian village children
Ethiopian village children

Malaysia

This is the 99th country I’ve cooked, so I’m officially half way through my challenge.

Malaysia is made up of Peninsula Malaysia and part of the island of Borneo, East Malaysia. Malaysia was formed in 1963 when the former British colonies of Singapore, as well as Sabah and Sarawak on the northern coast of Borneo, joined the Federation of Malaya. Singapore withdrew from the federation in 1965. The country is multi-ethnic and multi-cultural with half the population ethnically Malay and large minorities of Malaysian Chinese, Malaysian Indians, and indigenous people.

The Strait of Malacca, lying between Sumatra and Peninsular Malaysia, is one of the most important thoroughfares in global commerce, carrying 40 per cent of the world’s trade. Over 94,000 vessels pass through the strait each year. Piracy has been a problem with 25 attacks on vessels in 1994, 220 in 2000, and just over 150 in 2003 (a third of the global total). Regional navies stepped up their patrols of the area in July 2004 and attacks dropped to 79 in 2005 and 50 in 2006.

Sarawak contains the Mulu Caves, the largest cave system in the world, in the Gunung Mulu National Park. The Sarawak Chamber is 700 m (2,300 ft)) long, 396 m (1,299 ft) wide and at least 70 m (230 ft) high. It has been said that the chamber is so big that it could accommodate about 40 Boeing 747s, without overlapping their wings.

About two thirds of Malaysia is covered in forest, with some believed to be 130 million years old. The forests of East Malaysia are estimated to be the habitat of around 2,000 tree species, and are one of the most biodiverse areas in the world.

A few other interesting facts:
In 2015, Malaysia ranked in fourth position on the World’s Best Retirement Havens
The Borneo Island which is made up of Sabah and Sarawak, Brunei and Indonesia is the third largest island in the world, after Greenland and New Guinea
The largest roundabout in the world is located at Putrajaya, Malaysia and is 3.5km in diameter
According to a survey in 2010, Malaysians had the largest number of friends on Facebook, with an average of 233
The orang utans of Malaysia have arms that are unusually long, almost one and half times longer than their legs

Malaysian cuisine is a melange of traditions from its Malay, Chinese, Indian, Indonesian and ethnic Bornean citizens. Malaysia shares culinary ties with Singapore and Indonesia and versions of dishes such as laksa, satay and rendang are shared. These are a few recipes I came across from the huge array I researched; Asam laksa (spicy mackerel noodle soup), Char kuey teow (stir fried noodles), nasi lemak (fragrant rice), Bak Kut Teh (pork rib soup) and Kuih dadar (sweet crepe). I made Sambal Udang (Sambal Prawns) which were vibrant and flavoursome.

Rating: 8/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 5-7 minutes

For the belacan sambal paste
1 tsp shrimp paste (available at tesco)
2 red jalapeno chilli peppers, seeds removed and chopped
2 red birdseye chillies, seeds removed and chopped
Juice from 1 lime

For the sambal udang
16 peeled raw king prawns
2 tbsp groundnut oil
1 & 1/2 tbsp tamarind paste (available at tesco)
2 kaffir lime leaves
1 & 1/2 cups water
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp caster sugar

For the belacan sambal paste
Put the shrimp paste and chillies into a pestle and mortar and pound to a paste or you can use a mini food processor
Put the paste in a glass jar and squeeze in the lime juice and shake well.

Heat up the oil in a wok. Add the sambal paste and stir-fry until aromatic, about 2 minutes
Add the prawns and continue to stir-fry for about 2-3 minutes
Add in the water, tamarind paste and bring it to a quick boil
Add in the kaffir lime leaves, salt, and sugar and continue to cook for 2 minutes
Serve with steamed rice

IMG_0634
Ingredients for Sambal Udang (Sambal Prawns)
IMG_0636
Sambal paste
IMG_0638
Sambal Udang (Sambal Prawns)
IMG_0643
Sambal Udang (Sambal Prawns)
Malaysian orang utan
Malaysia orang utans
Malacca strait
Police patrolling the Malacca strait