(126) Cameroon – Ndolé

Ekom Nkam Waterfall. Source: Wikipedia

Welcome back, for our 126th country we traveled to Cameroon. Cameroon is part of Central Africa and can be found bordering the South Atlantic Ocean, Nigeria, Chad, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and the Republic of the Congo. The country is well known for its’ native music, 200+ linguistic groups, and football (soccer) team. Another interesting thing about Cameroon is that the country is actually named after shrimp! The name comes from the Portuguese word camaroes due to the abundance of ghost shrimp in the Wouri River that runs through the country.

Cameroonian cuisine is a mix of several African cultures due to the many countries it borders. You can expect to see an array of fruits and vegetables on the menu along with maize, peanuts, and rice. The country’s cuisine has Portuguese, French, and German influence however it sticks to its roots with honoring cultural traditions. The dish made today features the crustacean the country was named after. You can find the recipe here.

Ndolé is the best known dish of Cameroon and very popular in the country. Shrimp of course is the star of the dish, but it can be made with stewed beef or fish. The ingredient list is relatively simple, however the recipe I had used didn’t have one of the classic ingredients- plantains. Cooking was easy and straight forward.

So we felt this Cameroon dish had a subtle nut flavor in the broth, however the taste in general was more on the bland side. We felt it could have been better with more garlic and ginger. Additionally we thought it could have had more elements to make the dish stand out. We felt underwhelmed and gave it 5/10- Cameroon has been added to the new recipe list!

Next we will share our experience of Algerian cuisine 🍽️

(115) Kenya Day 1 – Kenyan Beef Curry

Kenya, an African country known for its incredible wildlife -a safari hot spot. Nestled beside Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, and the Indian Ocean, this country is chalk-a-block full with national parks and wildlife reserves. The country is also well known for the world’s fastest runners, the great wildebeest migration, and Kitenge culture.

Source: kuoni.co.uk

Kenya is a big exporter of tea and coffee. Interestingly it is thought that Kenya has no “national dish.” Due to the 40+ native tribes there are several special dishes that are thought to represent these diverse communities. Common staples of the Kenyan diet consist of grain (maize, sorghum, and millet), rice, greens, grilled meats, fish (in coastal regions), and local vegetables. Stews are a very common meal to have on a regular basis along with ugali (maize polenta).

Today I made a traditional Kenyan curry with steak, it can also be made with chicken or goat. Similar to Kenyan stews, tomatoes, onions, and garlic are core ingredients.

I opted out of the the more authentic pairing of ugali because I have had unsuccessful attempts at making polenta/porridge that tasted good and naan bread is 👌Curries and stews traditional pair with ugali which is key to soaking up alllll the goodness! Cooking was a breeze, the slow cooking of the curry allows the flavors the develop.

Our first Kenyan meal was a power house dish full of pleasant spice and refreshing cilantro. The flat bread paired well with the dish and absorbed the curry which had a tomato dominant flavor. And if it couldn’t get better the meat was also very tender, perfect! We rated this one 9.5/10 🔥

Kenyan Beef Curry

Paige
This is comfort in a bowl with just the right about of spice!
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 40 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine African
Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 4 cups water
  • 2 lbs sirloin steak chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger grated
  • 2 tbsp oil for cooking
  • 2 medium red onions diced
  • 1 16oz can tomatoes diced
  • 2 tbsp paprika smoked for more depth of flavor!
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp curry powder or more 🌶️
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste
  • salt to taste
  • 1-2 fresh chilis/hot peppers sliced for garnish (I used jalapeno)
  • 1/2 cilantro bunch roughly chopped

Instructions
 

  • Add the 4 cups of water to a large pot and bring to a boil. Mix in the beef, garlic, and ginger allowing to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove pot from heat and drain liquid, reserve broth for later. Set beef aside as well. Add the pot back to the stove and add cooking oil changing temp to medium heat. Add in the onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
  • Add canned tomatoes to onions and cook for another 3-5 minutes until the tomatoes soften. Mix the beef back into the pot along with the remaining spices and tomato paste. Combine ingredients well.
  • Add the broth back into the pot and add any additional water needed to cover the beef completely. Bring mix to boil then turn down to a simmer for 1 hour. Make sure to stir frequently.
  • Once the beef is cooked through you can do your final taste test adding any additional seasoning you find necessary. Garnish with peppers and cilantro. Serve with rice, ugali, or naan bread.
Keyword African, Beef, Beef Curry, Curry, Kenya, Kenyan

(112) Tunisia – Shakshuka

Today’s meal is from Tunisia, not Greece as the above picture may convince you. Tunisia is apart of Northern Africa which borders the Mediterranean Sea, Algeria, and Libya. Here you can find a blend of Arab and Berber culture, 99% of the country being Arab. An interesting fact about Tunisia is that Star Wars A New Hope was filmed in several locations.

Sidi Bou Said – Source: The Japan Times

The local fare is greatly influenced by the countries culture and surrounding regions. Like other countries that border the Mediterranean Sea, olive oil, tomatoes, and seafood are commonly used in their meals. A trait that sets Tunisian cuisine apart from other Northern African countries is that most of their meals are spicy. These spices include cumin, caraway, chili peppers, paprika, coriander, and garlic.

The dish I found to represent Tunisia is called shakshuka. It is thought to have originated here, but is widely eaten as a breakfast dish throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa. Simply it is lightly poached eggs in a pepper and tomato sauce along with other fresh ingredients. This meal traditionally is vegetarian and the recipe I used can be found here.

After prepping all the veggies (or using canned) you end up combining all the ingredients in one pot and making wells for the eggs to sit while they cook. The recipe is fairly simple and quick to make.

We found this plate to be unique, but unfortunately underwhelming in flavor and textures. The flatbread pair well and was the perfect vessel to transport the meal to your mouth. I can’t see us trying this one again, it was rated 6/10.

Mexico Day 3 – Pozole Rojo

Disclaimer- I actually did not make traditional pozole rojo stew- could not find all the ingredients and modified it to a taco format. The meat was still cooked in the same way.

Today I bring you another dish that was first made by the native indigenous people, pozole rojo. This slow cooked stew was created by the Aztecs which is made up of hominy, pork, spices, and tomato. Hominy is dry corn kernels that are soaked in an alkali solution and are used in Mexican cuisine. This dish was traditionally made for special occasions and still is today. It can be prepared in several ways, but often is made with a red salsa. In Mexico it isn’t uncommon for pigs head to be used! The recipe I used today can be found here.

So here’s the dilemma.. I looked up what hominy since I had never heard of it. I saw that it was available at my local grocery store so I planned to buy it there however when I got there it was no place to be found. Tried a pick up order, but it wasn’t in stock! So I looked up a substitute which Google said was white beans. I got the beans, but reading up on the recipe (yes I know that’s a bit late Paige..) and did not feel it would work out. So I decided to make a pulled pork like taco with the same accoutrements.

So once the meat was complete I shredded it up, prepared the toppings and assembled this beauty. The radish definitely gave the dish a zing, but the avocado helped balance that. I used the beans as a side as well which was meh in my opinion. The meat was very tender and well seasoned. At the end of the day I was disappointed but at least it didn’t completely fail? 😅 We rated it 7.5/10

Italy Day 4 – Margherita Pizza

To close out our time in Italy I chose a classic known to most- the margherita pizza. This simple yet delicious masterpiece came to be on June 11th 1889 to honor the Queen consort of Italy-  Margherita of Savoy.  Raffaele Esposito created the pizza to represent the colors of the Italian flag by using basil for green, mozzarella for white, and tomato for red. Originally the pizza dough used was more of a flat bread compared to the sweeter, fuller crusts we are accustomed to most of the time.

Pizza dates back 7,000 years ago throughout Europe with various toppings placed on top of flatbreads and round breads. The pizza we know today dates back to the late 19th century when tomato and bread were being paired together.

We appreciated the simplicity that we only needed a few ingredients to have an amazing meal. Of course I used local basil Portland Pie Pizza Dough which just added to how yummy it was! As pretty as fresh basil looks on the pizza as you’re making it once it comes out of the oven it doesn’t have the same appeal. I would suggest added basil afterwards unless it is dried. We rated this dish 9.5/10 because it was just so good! How could you go wrong with pizza?

(67) Comoros – Mbawa Ya Tomati

Today I make up for my spacy posts and do have a double post day. We head back to Africa to an island country I had never heard of..

The old harbour of Moroni, Grand Comore, Comoros. Source: Lifestyle – Michael Runkel /Robert Harding World Imagery / Corbis

Comoros is a volcanic archipelago made up of three major islands and several smaller situated in the Indian Ocean superior to Madagascar. Like Madagascar, it is a large producer of vanilla production (coming in second) and also exports the most ylang-ylang in the world (which is often used in perfume essence). French, Arabic, and Comorian are the three primary languages spoken here. Mount Karthala is an active volcano on the largest island of Comoros, Grande Comore island. If you are interested in visiting Comoros you may want to try scuba diving and snorkeling since it has some of the biggest coral atolls and diverse marine wildlife.

The cuisine of this smaller African country consists of several local ingredients including coconut, mango, pineapple, cassava and plantains. Fresh seafood is more commonly used as the protein of their meals, however chicken and goat is used as well. Rice, beans, and other grains also accompany their meals. For Comoros I made a dish that is better known as a popular street food mbawa ya tomati or chicken wings with tomatos. If you wish to try this dish you can find the recipe here.

This was yet another recipe I found easy to follow and did not require fancy ingredients. I found it difficult to find a cooking pan/pot that would fit all of the chicken, the cast iron wok is what I ended up using. To break up the meat focused meal I added a side salad.

Comoros brought us another flavorful sauce which was well absorbed by the rice and coated the crisp chicken wings. The sauce (from the liquid smoke since we didn’t have smoked paprika) was very BBQ-esque. It was simple yet delicious, something we can’t get enough of- we rated it 8/10.

(66) Northern Macedonia – Tavče Gravče

Hello again, welcome back to The Messy Aprons! Today Ian and I traveled to the lesser known European country of Northern Macedonia (once known as Macedonia). You can find this beautiful Balkan country bordering Greece, Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, and Bulgaria.

Church of Saint John the Theologian. Source: TheCurrent

Mother Teresa was a Macedonian and was born in the country’s capital Skopje in 1910. Northern Macedonia is home to another well-known person as well- Alexander the Great. He was once the king of the former Kingdom of Macedonia, which at the time was the most dominating state in the world. Additionally it is home to one of the world’s oldest lakes clocking in at 4 million years old and has a staggering depth of 288 meters -that’s 864ft!

Macedonian cuisine is like its neighboring countries which reflect Balkan and Middle Eastern influence. Due to its mild, warm climate they are able to grow much of their own produce which shown in today’s dish, Tavče Gravče. This is Northern Macedonia’s national dish which consists of beans, pork (most of the time), peppers and onions, tomatoes, and spices/herbs. The name literally translates to “beans cooked in a pan” and has a lengthy prep time to prepare the beans for cooking, however I opted for canned beans to make things easier. The recipe I used had chorizo instead which we felt brought a nice mild kick to the dish, no complaints here!

Because I had opted for the canned beans the cook/prep time was a fraction of what it typically is. Although I followed the steps a little differently I was happy with its flavors and appreciated that I could easily make this during my hectic work week. To really do things in a work-week friendly manner I brought out my Instant Pot and allowed the dish to pressure cook which worked out well.

We loved this super savory bean and sausage dish. There was a subtle hint of herbs along with the mild kick of the sausage. The roux ended up mixing well with the tomato juices which ended up making a nice, thick sauce. As I stated earlier the spicy sausage definitely made a difference and would be preferable over the pork (no offense to the traditional way). We say this dish is a keeper and rated it 9/10.

(64) Turkmenistan – Dograma

The Capital of Turkmenistan, Ashgabat. Source: The Guardian (Photograph: Giles Clarke/Getty Images)

Greetings from Turkmenistan, a Central Asian country that can be found beside Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and the Caspian Sea. 70% of the country is made up of the Karakum desert- interestingly this same region was once underwater 30 million years ago! Partially due to the requirement of a specially obtained travel visa and inability to freely explore the country, Turkmenistan is one of the least visited countries in the world. Turkmenistan has one of the largest gas reserves in the world and you can find the attraction “The Door of Hell” (Darvaza Gas Crater) in the Darvaza region of this country. It is referred to hell because this methane gas field was set on fire in 1971 and has been burning ever since. Its capital, Ashgabat has broken several Guinness world records because of the large amount of marble buildings it contains… 543 to be exact!

The cuisine of Turkmenistan is similar to the surrounding countries, plov being the most common dish (which was made when we traveled to Uzbekistan). Melons are very popular in Turkmenistan, so popular that there is a holiday dedicated to them! Today I made a dish that is more traditional dish that is made during Gurbanlyk, which is a three day religious holiday that is celebrated by the Islamic community. Dograma is a dish consisting of torn flatbread, mutton/beef (I used beef), onions, tomatos, and a broth. A more simplistic meal.. or so I thought! The recipe is found here.

This dish gave me troubles and a lot of frustration. What I expected to be an hour-hour and a half of cooking quickly turned to 2.5 hours due to bread issues. I think part of the issue came form the conversion from grams to cups for the flour which led me to adding an additional 2 cups of flour for bread that didn’t bake as it should have. My parchment paper maxed out at 425 F and the correct conversion was 480 F which made for a longer baking time. Poor Ian came home to a grumpy Paige..

However after all the struggles it was surprisingly good. The bread absorbed the flavors of the broth and had decent flavor. If you let it sit too long it did get too mushy and unappetizing. I feel like the onions would have been better sautéed and would have added another layer of flavor. Although it was better than expected it still got an average rating of 6/10.

Greece Day 4 – Ian’s Gyro (Tzatziki recipe included)

For our final meal of the week we had a classic street foot of Greece- the Gyro. Pronounced like “yee-roh” (Greek for spin) this savory wrap is traditionally filled with a grilled meat (lamb or beef), tzatziki sauce, sliced tomato, and red onion wrapped inside pita bread. The sandwich did not become mass produced like it is now until the 1970s as American tourism quickly made it a fast food. It is now popular in the US especially in New York City.

It does originate from Greece, however it is believed to be very similar to the Turkish döner kebabs. The term gyro refers to the method the meat is traditionally cooked, rotating vertically on a spit. The Turkish kebabs are cooked in a similar fashion and alike ingredients. We were unable to achieve that, however we broke out our little Colman grill and got the job done. We used sirloin tips for our meat of choice, yum!

As for the tzatziki sauce it is a refreshing combination of Greek yogurt (make sure its plain!), shredded cucumber, lemon juice, and herbs. This sauce can be found in cuisine along the Balkans and the Middle East along with Greece with slightly different preparations. We were glad to use our nifty shredding attachment to make this step even more of a breeze!

This meal wasn’t new to us, but that wasn’t going to stop us from making it one of our four. We loved the tender meat with the cooling tzatziki and fresh vegetables. Our only downfall (slight) was the naan bread since I could not find pita bread anywhere! The naan made it VERY filling, but nonetheless it is one of our favorite dinners to make. With that said we rated it 9.5/10 (10/10 with pita). We hope you enjoy Ian’s recipes just as much as we do!