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
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Tunisia

Tunisia is a North African nation bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. It contains the eastern end of the Atlas Mountains and the northern reaches of the Sahara desert.

Independent from France since 1956, the country’s first president, Habib Bourguiba, established a strict one-party state. He dominated the country for 31 years, repressing Islamic fundamentalism and establishing rights for women unmatched by any other Arab nation. In 1987, Bourguiba was removed from office and replaced by Zine el Abidine Ben Ali in a bloodless coup. Street protests followed over high unemployment, corruption, widespread poverty, and high food prices, culminating in rioting that led to hundreds of deaths. In January 2011 Ben Ali dismissed the government, fled the country, and a “national unity government” was formed.

A state of emergency is currently in effect in Tunisia, imposed after a suicide attack on a police bus on 24 November 2015. It has been extended a number of times. On 20 June it was extended for a further month to 21 July. Until recently tourism had provided jobs for 11.5% of the working population with 6.2 million tourist visitors in 2013. Some of the main attractions are the ancient ruins of Carthage, Jerba’s El-Ghriba synagogue, Sfax Medina and the Mosque of Sidi Mahres in Tunis.

Tunisian cuisine uses a variety of ingredients in many different ways. Unlike other North African cuisine, Tunisian food is quite spicy. Harissa, a hot red pepper sauce is commonly used. Cous cous or Kosksi as it’s known, is the national dish of Tunisia. Recipes I came across include Koucha (slow cooked lamb), Felfel Mehchi (stuffed peppers), Lablabi (a thick soup made with chickpeas and garlic), Brik (a fried Malsouka dough stuffed with tuna and an egg) and Marqa (slow cooked stew).  As I was cooking Morocco and Tunisia on the same day, I decided to make Tunisian vegetable cous cous to serve with the Moroccan Mshermel chicken tagine. It was quick and easy to make and very tasty.

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 4
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 30 mins

3 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 courgette, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
750ml vegetable stock
1 tbsp fresh coriander
1 tin chickpeas, drained
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 and 1/2 cups couscous

Heat oil in large pot over medium-low heat
Put the onion, courgette and carrot in a saucepan and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions begin to soften and turn translucent, about 15 minutes.
Stir in the red peppers and cook for 5 minutes
Pour in the vegetable stock and coriander
Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low for 5 minutes
Stir in chickpeas and tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes
Slowly pour in the couscous and stir
Remove from the heat and cover the pan immediately
Let it stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff the couscous with a fork
Serve at slightly warmer than room temperature