Cambodia

Cambodia, officially known as the kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is 69,898 sq mi in area, and has a population of over 15 million. Bordered by Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, it has a 275 mile coastline along the gulf of Thailand. Phnom Penh is Cambodia’s capital and is home to the art deco central market, and situated on the riverfront are the glittering Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda and the National Museum.

Probably the most well known site in Cambodia is Angkor Wat situated in Siem Reap Province. The complex of temples make up the largest religious monument in the world, with the site measuring 162.6 hectares. Originally constructed as a Hindu Temple, it was gradually transformed to a Buddhist temple towards the end of the 12th century. As with most other ancient temples in Cambodia, Angkor Wat has faced extensive damage and deterioration by a combination of plant overgrowth, fungi, ground movements, war damage and theft.

The Vietnam war extended into the country with the US bombing of Cambodia from 1969-1973. Following the Cambodian coup of 1970, the deposed king gave his support to his former enemies, the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge emerged as a major power, taking Phnom Penh in 1975 and later carrying out the Cambodian Genocide from 1975 until 1979. Led by Pol Pot, they changed the official name of the country to Democratic Kampuchea. The new regime modelled itself on Maoist China during the Great Leap Forward, immediately evacuated the cities, and sent the entire population on forced marches to rural work projects. Estimates as to how many people were killed by the Khmer Rouge regime range from approximately one to three million; the most commonly cited figure is two million (about a quarter of the population).

Industry in Cambodia was badly disrupted by the war. Agriculture is the traditional mainstay of the Cambodian economy, however since the late 1990s, tourism is fast becoming Cambodia’s second largest industry. In 2015, there were just under 4.8 million tourists visits. The key attractions are Angkor, Tonlé Sap, Sihanoukville, Silver Pagoda and Siem Reap.

Recipes I came across during my research included Pleah (hot and sour beef salad), Amok Trey (fish curry), Bai Sach Chrouk (BBQ pork and rice), Kuy Teav (noodle soup), Chhnang Plerng (hot pot), Samlor Kako (soup made with spice paste, fish paste, meat, fish and vegetables) and Bai chha (fried rice). I decided to make Lok lak (stir fried marinated beef) served in lettuce leaves with rice. It was really enjoyable.

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 20 minutes + 1 hour marinating
Cook time: 20 minutes

300g sirloin steak, sliced (or you can use chicken if you prefer)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp crushed black pepper
2/3 tsp chilli sauce (optional, preferably vietnamese or chinese chili sauce)
2 tsp oil + extra for cooking
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 onion, chopped
A few lettuce leaves
Cooked rice
For the pepper sauce:
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp crushed back pepper
1 tsp crushed garlic
juice of a lime

Mix sugar, salt, pepper, oil, soy sauce, oyster sauce, ketchup and garlic in a sealable bag, add meat and coat thoroughly
Marinate in the fridge for 30 to 60 minutes
Mix salt, sugar, pepper and garlic in a bowl
Cook the rice
Add oil to a wok, fry the onion until brown and add steak and stir fry 5 minutes, until done (don’t over do it)
Mix in chili sauce as desired
Prepare a serving plate with a bed of lettuce and rice
Just before serving, squeeze the juice of 1/2 lime into the pepper sauce and stir lightly
Serve the steak over the rice and lettuce with pepper sauce on the side

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Ingredients for Lok lak (stir fried marinated beef)
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Lok lak (stir fried marinated beef)
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Lok lak (stir fried marinated beef)
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Lok lak (stir fried marinated beef)
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Lok lak (stir fried marinated beef)
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Lok lak (stir fried marinated beef)
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Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia
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Royal Palace & Silver Pagoda, Phnom Penh
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Kompong Phluk Kompong, Tonle Sap, Cambodia
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Sihanoukville, Cambodia
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Namibia

Namibia, “Land of the Brave” according to the national anthem, is situated in southern Africa between the Namib and the Kalahari deserts. The Namib (meaning “vast place”) coastal desert is one of the oldest in the world, it’s sand dunes are the highest in the world and they are a rich source of diamonds. The Sperrgebiet (meaning “Prohibited Area”) National Park, also known as Diamond Area 1, was created by the Germans in 1908, it was then taken over by the South Africans and De Beers had full ownership until the 1990s when the Namibian government bought a fifty percent stake, forming a partnership called the Namdeb Diamond Corporation. Namibian diamonds are the highest valued in the world and were worth $550 dollars per carat in 2012 vs Russian diamonds (the world’s largest producer) at $82 per carat.

A few other interesting facts:
Namibia is the second least densely populated country in the world after Mongolia
It has the largest number of cheetahs in the world
Namibia is one of only two countries in the world that has desert dwelling elephants
‘Hoba’, the world’s largest intact meteorite landed in Namibia weighing over 60 tonnes
It is the fifth largest producer of uranium in the world and is expected to become the second largest once the Husab mine reaches full production in 2017

Highlights for the tourist include the sand dunes at Sossusvlei, Spitzkoppe (the ‘Matterhorn of Africa’), the Skeleton Coast, Etosha National Park and the Fish River Canyon gorge. In 2010, Lonely Planet named Namibia the 5th best tourist destination in the world in terms of value.

Namibian cuisine varies by region but staple foods include pap (porridge), meat, game and fish. A few dishes I came across were Potjiekos (small pot stew), sheep’s tails, veldt bread and Namibian black eyed peas. However, I decided to have a go at ‘Kapana’ which is simply grilled meat, generally beef. It is a highly popular street food found in the Windhoek Katutura area. It can be served on its own, with spices or with vetkoeks (fat cakes). A special thanks to Chantel from the Namibian Chefs Association who gave me some advice to ensure it’s authenticity. Even though we have a fabulously large gas BBQ, I bought a disposable charcoal BBQ so it had the ‘real’ taste. We thought the vetkoeks were a little sweet and overpowered the meat, but were a very tasty treat for breakfast the next morning!

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 20 minutes + 1 – 2 hours proving time
Cook time: 15 minutes

For the kapana
2 ribeye steaks (choose chunky steaks with a good amount of fat)
coarse sea salt
fresh ground black pepper
groundnut oil
hot chilli sauce (optional)
disposable BBQ

For the vetkoeks (makes 4)
2 cups flour
7g instant dry yeast
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp oil
1 cup warm water
vegetable oil for deep frying

For the vetkoeks
Sieve flour and combine all the dry ingredients in a big bowl
Add the oil and then water bit by bit until you get the consistency of a soft bread dough. The mixture must still be quite sticky.
Place the dough on a floured surface and gently knead for 5-10 minutes
You may need to add a little more flour to the dough to prevent it sticking to your fingers
Place the dough in a clean bowl and cover with a cloth and set aside in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, about 1 – 2 hours
Divide the dough into 4 portions and mould into balls
Deep fry a few vetkoek at a time over a medium/low heat until golden brown, about 10 minutes

For the kapana
Light the disposable BBQ 20 minutes before you want to use it
Generously season the steaks and rub a little groundnut oil all over
Grill the steaks on the BBQ for 5 minutes on each side for medium rare steaks and then rest for 2 minutes
Serve with the vetkoeks and hot chilli sauce

Spitzkoppe Namibia
Spitzkoppe Namibia

Sossusvlei Namibia
Sossusvlei Namibia

Desert dwelling elephants Namibia
Desert dwelling elephants Namibia

Sperrgebiet National Park
Sperrgebiet National Park Namibia

San Marino

San Marino is an enclaved microstate surrounded by Italy between the regions of Emilia Romagna and Marche and is the fifth smallest country in the world. It claims to be the world’s oldest republic, where it is said that Saint Marinus, a Christian stonemason from Croatia, built a church perched on top of a mountain and founded the republic in 301 AD. Their constitution, a series of six books written in Latin in the late 16th century is the oldest still in effect. It has a population of 33,000 and a land area of just 61 sq km. It is the only country in the world with more vehicles than people.

San Marino’s Historic Centre and Mount Titano became part of the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2008 and it is host to 2 million tourists each year. According to Lonely Planet the top things to see include the Palazzo Public (the town hall and official government building), the coastal panorama atop Castello della Cesta (the highest of San Marino’s three fortresses), horrific torture devices at the Museo della Tortura and the relics of Saint Marinus inside the Basilica del Santo.

Sammarinese cuisine is very similar to Italian. Some of the recipes I came across were Piadina (savoury filled pitta), Nidi di Rondine “Swallow’s Nests” (baked pasta with cheese & ham), Roast rabbit with fennel and Fagioli con le cotiche (bean and bacon soup). Sweet dishes include Torta Tre Monti (“Cake of the Three Towers”), a wafer layered cake covered in chocolate depicting the Three Towers of San Marino, Bustrengo (cake made with raisins) and Cacciatello (a dessert similar to crème caramel). I decided to make Steak San Marino which was slow cooked with vegetables and red wine. It was quite spicy and I would be tempted to add some bacon to give it a touch of sweetness. I served it with some Thyme roasted potatoes.

Rating: 7/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 5 hours

2 rump beef steaks
Plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tin chopped tomatoes
100ml red wine
1/2 medium onion
1 large carrot
1 stick celery
2 tsp dried mixed herbs
1 bay leaf
1/2 tbsp hot sauce

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees c
Peel and chop the onion and carrots into small chunks
Combine the flour and salt and pepper and coat the steaks with the flour mix
Coat the bottom of an oven proof pan with a little oil and place the steaks in the bottom
Mix the tomatoes, wine, carrots, onion, celery, mixed herbs, bay leaf and hot sauce in a mixing bowl and pour over the steaks
Cook in the oven for 5 hours
Once cooked, discard the bay leaf and remove the steaks to serving plates

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Ingredients for Steak San Marino
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Steak San Marino
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Steak San Marino
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Steak San Marino
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Steak San Marino
Mount Titano San Marino
Mount Titano, San Marino
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Palazzo Pubblico, San Marino

Uruguay

Uruguay is situated on the east coast of South America, sharing borders with Brazil and Argentina.
Often called the Switzerland of South America for it’s stable democracy and social benefits such as free education.
Uruguay is ranked first in Latin America for democracy, peace, lack of corruption and quality of living.  It boasts one of the highest literacy rates in the world with 98.1% for adults.  The Economist named Uruguay “country of the year” in 2013.  It is regarded as one of the most liberal nations in the world and most socially developed.  In December 2013, Uruguay became the world’s first country to legalise the marijuana trade.
Uruguay is the only country that keeps track of 100 per cent of its cattle, of which, apparently there are 3 to every person!
The Uruguay national football team has won the FIFA World Cup on two occasions – at the inaugural tournament in 1930 and again in 1950.  It has also won gold for football at the 1924 and 1928 Olympics, which are the only gold medals they have ever won so far.
“Liberta o Murte” is Uruguay’s motto – “freedom or death”.
Thanks to it’s relatively temperate climate and stretches of beaches, it attracts many tourists each year.  Highlights include Montevideo, it’s culturally rich capital city, idyllic fishing villages such as Cabo Polonio, gaucho cowboys and tasty Parillas (steakhouses).
Beef is a major part of Uruguayan cuisine with Asado being very popular (a BBQ of different types of beef).  Also empanada (a meat filled turnover), Ñoquis (gnocchi which is traditionally eaten on the 29th of each month as years ago they only had flour & potatoes left at the end of the month!)

I opted to cook ‘Chivito’, Uruguay’s national sandwich!

Rating: 9/10.  It would’ve been a 10/10 if I had chosen a better bun like ciabatta.  It is important that you buy quality ingredients for this recipe.  Don’t scrimp on the steak, bacon or mozzarella!
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 10 mins
2 burger buns or ciabatta (or your preferred type of bread roll)
2 beef fillet steaks
2 pieces of bacon
2 slices of deli ham
2 tomato slices
2 slices of mozzarella cheese
2 eggs
1-2 tablespoons butter
Lettuce
Mayonnaise
Ketchup
Salt and pepper to taste

Place a large skillet over medium heat and cook the bacon slices until crispy. Set aside on paper towels to cool.
Drain the excess bacon fat out of the skillet.
Sprinkle each steak with coarse salt, and use a mallet to pound the steaks. Heat the skillet over medium high heat until hot, and place steaks on the skillet.
Cook for about 1 and a half minutes per side, or until desired doneness.
Set aside on paper towels to rest.
Wipe the skillet clean. Melt the butter over medium heat, and fry eggs sunnyside up until desired doneness.
Preheat the grill.
Assemble sandwiches: Spread the inside of buns with ketchup and mayonnaise.
Place lettuce slices over bottom half of buns.
Top with a slice of beef, 2 bacon slices, a slice of ham, a slice of tomato, and a slice of mozzarella.
Place sandwiches (uncovered) under the grill briefly (keeping a close eye on them) to melt the cheese.
Remove from the grill and add the fried egg over the cheese, then top with the other half of the bun.
Serve immediately.

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Ingredients
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Cooking the steak
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Seared steak
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Chivito
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Chivito
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Chivito
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Asador cooking Asado
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Uruguayan beach