(129) Ethiopia – Berbere Chicken with Ethiopian Lentils

Here we are, one country over from Somalia! Ethiopia also sits beside Eritrea, Djibouti, Sudan, South Sudan, and Kenya. Other than its tasty coffee, Ethiopia is known for believing in 13 months are apart of the year, over half of the continents mountains are found here, and vegetarianism is very common.

Blue Nile Falls. Source: matadornetwork.com

Ethiopian cuisine as stated above can often leave have absence of meat. Injera, a fermented pancake-like flatbread is commonly used to scoop up the stews such as wat, a spicy meat stew. When meat is on the menu it is often full of heat that can pack a punch. Due to religious reasons pork and shellfish are less commonly found and consumed here.

The dish we made has a special seasoning called berbere, that is made up of several warming spices. The seasoning’s name comes from the Ethiopian word barbare meaning “hot” or “pepper” and was thought to have originated when Ethiopia controlled the Red Sea route on the Silk Road back in the 5th century. The lentils also share the berbere flavors making the entirety of the meal peppery, heated, and hearty.

I chose to use canned lentils which the original recipe had not called for. I would recommend using dried lentils so they could absorb the flavor and increase the depth of the meal. The food preparation and cooking is pretty simple with equal time of active and passive cooking.

I really enjoyed this dish savoring the heat and subtle sweetness. The chicken was very tender and had a crispy skin which so stinkin good! The flavors overall were unique and the vegetable blend was nice. We rated this one 7/10- Ian is not a lentil fan and would have rated higher if it was paired with rice.. something we will have to try!

(128) Somalia – Bariis Maraq (Somali Beef Stew with Spiced Rice)

A unique aerial view of the Somalin coast. Source: earth.com

Somalia brings us to 128, an East African country positioned in the Horn of Africa. It can be found abutting Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, and the Indian Ocean. I didn’t realize this very dry, arid country had such vast coastlines (over 2,000 miles)! Another fact about Somalia is this is where the dromedary camel was domesticated.

Somalia has several specialty dishes including today’s meal and has been influenced by many cultures. The civilizations that helped shape Somali cuisine include Turkish, Arab, Italian, East African, and Indian. As many here practice Islam religion you will not find pork in their cooking. Customary foods of Somalian cuisine include various flatbreads, fava beans, hummus, rice, an array of warming spices, and surprisingly spaghetti! Mutton, beef, chicken, and even camel are proteins used. After eating in a Somali home you will likely experience the burning of incense or frankincense which is common practice.

Bariis Maraq is the national dish of Somalia and like many national dishes is eaten at celebratory events and gatherings. It can be prepared with either chicken, camel, mutton, fish, or less commonly beef and has a distinctive spice blend known as xawaash which translates to “spices” in Somali.

I was able to process the spice mixture with my cute little mortar and pestle set. Spices I was unable to get whole I replaced it with the appropriate converted powdered amount. I always revel in the toasting of spices and how it not only can transport the flavors in a dish, but your kitchen as well! As weird as it may sound cinnamon and tomato are a match made in heaven🌤️ 😇

This beef stew had a unique blend of flavors with a nice intense spice that warmed the palate. The bananas, cilantro, and lime helped tame the heat and the meat was very hearty making the dish feel like a hug in a bowl. We enjoyed this one rating it 8/10.

Bariis Maraq (Somali Beef Stew with Spiced Rice)

This warming stew has a unique blend of spices sure to please a crowd. The leftover spice mixture can be used in various ways to bring your meal to the next level.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine African, Somalian
Servings 8

Ingredients
  

Xawaash Spice Mix

  • 1/2 cinnamon stick broken into 1/2 pieces
  • 1/4 cup coriander seeds
  • 1/4 cup cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 2 tsp cardamom pods
  • 1/2 tsp whole cloves
  • 1 tbsp ground turmeric

Stew & Rice

  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 6 tbsp olive oil divided
  • 2 sliced red onions divided
  • 6 finely chopped garlic cloves divided
  • 1 lb beef chuck cut into 3/4" pieces (about 3 cups)
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 7 cups water divided
  • 2 peeled russet potatoes cut into 1" cubes
  • 1 peeled medium carrot cut into 1/4" thick half moons
  • 1 sliced red bell pepper
  • 5 tsp kosher salt divided
  • 1 3" cinnamon stick
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 sliced medium tomato

For Serving

  • 2 sliced bananas
  • 2 limes cut into wedges
  • 1/4 bunch of cilantro roughly chopped
  • green or red Somali hot sauce optional

Instructions
 

Spice Mix

  • Toast spice whole ingredients in skillet at medium heat for 2-3 minutes until lightly browned and aromatic, remove from pan and set aside.
  • Once spices cooled transfer to mortar and pestle or grinder to mix spices well, add in turmeric after and transfer to air tight container.

Stew and Rice

  • Allow rice to soak in large bowl in cold water, set aside.
  • Heat 2 tbsp of oil in Dutch oven or large saucepan at medium heat. Add in half the garlic and onion stirring occasionally until just starting to soften and become translucent. Add 1 tbsp of the xawaash spice mix that was just made and cook for 1 minute.
  • Add beef and tomato paste mixing in well then add 3 cups water. Cover to cook until beef is cooked through at a simmer, about 30 minutes.
  • After 30 minutes add in carrots, potatoes, and peppers for about 15 minutes. Vegetables should be cooked and beef tender. Season with 1 tbsp salt. Thin water if needed.
  • Drain rice and heat up remaining oil (1/4 cup) in large saucepan at medium heat. Add the rest of the onions and cook until starting to become translucent. Add in the rest of the garlic along with aromatic spices cooking until aromatic for 1 minute. Add in tomato for 3 minutes (should start to break down). Add rice and cook for 5 minutes until lightly fried.
  • Bring 4 cups of water to boil in small saucepan then add water to rice along with 2 tbsp of xawaash spice mixture and 2 tsp of salt. Stir well and reduce heat to low to cook covered until rice is done and liquid absorbed (20 minutes.)
  • Remove rice from heat and lightly fluff with fork, divide rice serving stew over. Add in serving ingredients as desired and enjoy!
Keyword Africa, African, Beef, Beef Stew, Somalia

(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 🍽️

(117) Madagascar – Viande Hachée et Pomme de Terre à la Malgache (Minced Meat and Madagascan Potatoes)

Madagascar is an island of Africa found off the coast of Mozambique and is surrounded by smaller islands Comoros, Mayotte, Reunion, and Mauritius. Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world and has very diverse wildlife, a good portion of which can’t be found anywhere else in the world.

Source: wereldreis.net

Madagascan cuisine is a reflection of the cultures found on the island. There are 18 ethnic groups all of which have there own particular traditional foods and cooking styles. Their cuisine has three main influences: Chinese, French, and Indian. Traditionally rice is accompanied with every meal and seasoning is sparce, salt in particular is rarely used, us Americans couldn’t imagine.. Fresh sugar cane, fruits, vegetables (asparagus, tomatoes, carrots, green beans, and cabbage) and yams are grown on the island. Fish and beef is also consumed here.

To represent Madagascar I found this recipe for viande hachée et pomme de terre à la malgache which translates to “minced meat with Madagascan potatoes.” It is a specialty of Madagascar with a spicy tomato sauce and hearty mix of potatoes and beef. I had originally cooked this with another recipe that is similar but is no longer available, that is why you see the inconsistencies with the ingredients I used.

The ingredients are simple and relatively inexpensive. Cooking is easy and can be completed during the work week.

The meal was unfortunately underwhelming to us. The consistency was different and would probably be better with smaller potato pieces. There was a mild heat that we enjoyed but needed more salt and pepper for sure- 6.5/10 from us.

Kenya Day 4 – Garlic Kuku Kienyeji

Our final Kenyan recipe had a lot of promise. A homemade spice blend and a solid ingredient list made for an exciting cooking journey. The recipe can be found here.

Kuku Kienyeji translates to “free range chicken.” Unfortunately my chicken was a Hannaford special 😅, but nonetheless this recipe calls for a whole chicken that you cut into sections for cooking. This more natural chicken traditionally takes longer to prepare thus the boiling is the first step of the cooking process. In some preparation I found people would use other parts of the chicken including gizzards and liver. I did not partake with that!

At the time I had questioned some of the preparation and was sad to see the chicken cook down to the point it fell off the bone. For anyone using store bought whole chicken I think browning the chicken on all sides at a higher heat and cooking over half way through before adding it to the vegetable mixture could give that aesthetic the blog has. Other sources this meal was definitely had more of a stew appearance. It is a lengthy cooking process with a homemade seasoning which if you don’t have a spice grinder could seriously add on time.

To round out our Kenya food tour we were unfortunately underwhelmed once again! The clove was too powerful and made it less appetizing. We found the mix of veggies and chicken was nice and it was spicy without being “too spicy” of course minus the clove.. Also the chicken cooked so long it fell off the bone making the presentation a let down compared the the reference. This one ranked lower at 5/10. It probably is just cook error🙃

Switching gears, we will next visit Norfolk Island!

Kenya Day 3 – Maharagwe with Sukuma Wiki

I have a vegetarian and vegan option for you fellow foodies out there! Today’s meal consists of a bean dish (maharagwe) and a side of collard greens (sukuma wiki).

Maharagwe is a creamy bean stew that is found along the Eastern coast of Africa. Maharagwe means beans in Swahili and often refers to kidney-like beans that have a molted/speckled appearance. Coconut milk, spices, tomatoes, and diced peppers and onions are also found in the dish. You can find the recipe I referenced here.

As for the sukuma wiki (recipe), it is a simple side that is often found in African cooking due to the few ingredients which can be found locally and its versatility. With it being fewer ingredients it certainly doesn’t break the bank to make! The affordability of the meal is actually in the name- sukuma wiki meaning “stretch the week” in Swahili. There are variations on the dish but at its core is collard greens, oil, salt, tomatoes, and onions.

I opted for flatbread once again, but to keep it traditional you can take a swing at ugali. The entire meal was simple to make especially with the use of several canned ingredients it cut down the prep time. This was a nice option for the work week and also very affordable!

This hearty bean meal was well complimented by the cream coconut sauce. The bed of collard greens paired well. The flat bread was the perfect vessel to scoop everything up. Overall the flavor was found to be underwhelming so we rated this meal 6/10 average. Oh well!

Kenya Day 2 – Kenyan Pilau

Pilau is a festive and celebratory dish of Eastern Africa. Prepared with either beef or chicken, the dish has tons of seasoning. This rice dish is unlike its’ sister Indian pilau since it lacks curry powder making it less spicy.

The origins of pilau are rooted in Swahili culture. There is debate on weather pilau originated in the Middle East or Africa. However, with further research Indians/Middle Easterners likely brought this dish to Africa and it was then adapted by the locals with what ingredients were more readily available.

This stew-like meal was easy to follow along. I think I should have cooked the liquids down more to dry out the rice as it was intended. The aroma of the spices roasting in the skillet was very enticing.

We thought this meal had an awesome spice profile with cardamom being the stand out. There was a little more moisture (sorry to anyone who hates the word) than anticipated, but at least the meat was tender! 😅 We rated this Kenyan meal 8.5/10

Kenyan Pilau

A flavorful rice dish with beef and hearty vegetables. Recipe included for pilau masala spice blend
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Course Main Course
Cuisine African
Servings 6

Ingredients
  

Spice Mix (Pilau Masala)

  • 1 tsp clove
  • 2 tbsp cumin seed or 2 1/2 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tbsp black peppercorn seeds
  • 12 cardamom pods or 2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 cinnamon stick or 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Rice Pilau

  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 5 potatoes cubed
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 red onions thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tbsp ginger minced
  • 1 hot pepper finely chopped (I used jalapeno)
  • 1 tbsp pilau masala
  • 2 beef stock cubes see below
  • 4 cups water or beef stock
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro roughly chopped
  • 1lb beef sirloin cubed
  • 3 roma tomatoes diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt to taste

Instructions
 

Pilau Masala

  • Combine whole ingredients if using and place in pan on low heat. Allow to roast until fragrant.
  • Place all ingredients in a grinder and combine. You will likely have leftover seasoning- you may save this in an airtight container.

Rice Pilau

  • Heat a stock pot on medium-high heat. Add oil and allow to heat. Add onions and fry making sure to brown, but not burn them. This can take 10-15 minutes
  • Add in pepper, ginger, and garlic allowing to cook until fragrant. Then add beef, spice blend, beef stock cubes (if using), cilantro, bay, and salt. Mix well and cook until beef caramelizes. Make sure to stir often, cook 8-10 minutes.
  • Add in tomatoes and cook until their liquid has been released, about 4-5 minutes.
  • Stir in potatoes and water (or broth) bringing mixture to a boil. Stir in rice and cover reducing heat to low and allow to simmer for 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
  • Mix all ingredients well and serve!
Keyword Kenya, Kenyan, pilau, rice

(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.

(107) Eswatini/Swaziland – African Almond Stew with Ginger Cauliflower Rice

Source: Wep.it

Today we are in Eswatini which was previously known as Swaziland. 50 years after gaining independence the country changed its name to Eswatini which is the original ancient name prior to the British rule. You can find this landlocked, African country situated between South Africa and Mozambique. Like the surrounding countries it is known as a safari hot spot due to having all five of the large “game” animals (lions, buffalos, elephants, leopards, and rhinos).

Eswatini cuisine is centered around vegetables and grains. Meat dishes, also known as inyama is reserved for special occasions which could include goats or chickens. Without access to the sea, fish and other seafood is not common. “Mealie meal” which is a maize grain is a staple to Swazis which can be eaten alone or paired with a stew to soak up the savory flavors.

The meal I chose to represent Eswatini is vegetarian and includes ingredients that may be accessed on a more regular basis. This meal was inspired by someone who had volunteered for several months, a tomato based curry being a regular meal. The writer amped up the base of the meal and added Eswatini staples such as ginger and sweet potato to highlight the cuisine of the country. I also was happy to see I didn’t have to attempt another maize product as they seem to go wrong for me! You can check out the recipe here!

Cauliflower rice is something I am familiar with and is super simple, just makes a mess if you aren’t careful! The preparation and cooking was pretty straight forward. There wasn’t any arugula in the store so I got spinach instead. One way to save you time is get the canned version of the foods- there is no shame in that and it saves you on prep time. I used to always think fresher is better but with the grocery prices too.. this is the way (unless of course you can support a local farm stand!)

This one was really AMAZING- two words: almond butter! This dish had the perfect balance of sweetness and spice, the tomatoes were tangy, and the almonds brought a crisp crunch. We were blown away and plan to add this to our personal recipe collection! We rated it 9.75/10❤️

(98) São Tomé and Príncipe – Matata

Pico Cão Grande. Source: elevation.maplogs.com

Here we are with yet another African Island country, São Tomé and Príncipe. This nation made up of two islands, two atolls that’s found in the Gulf of Guinea near the equator along a volcanic chain. It was another country that was uninhabited until Portuguese explorers discovered it in the 15th century. The main crop of the country is cocoa and at one time of the world’s biggest producer. You can rest easy if you explore the rainforests of the island- the most predatory creature is a mosquito!

Cuisine of São Tomé and Príncipe include seafood and local crops such as bananas, plantains, pineapple, maize, and avocado. Coffee is frequently used not only as a wake me up drink but a seasoning for meals! The main influences of their cuisine is Portuguese and African. For São Tomé and Príncipe I found a recipe called “matata” which is a seafood dish with recipe that involves vegetables and clams cooking in port wine. This dish is also popular in Mozambique. You can find the recipe I used here.

I have to admit the aromas were not desirable compared to past dishes- definitely a strong seafood odor. If I had fresh clams I wonder if the experience would be any different. Prep and cooking was easy, not time consuming at all. I couldn’t buy pumpkin leaves so I substituted spinach.

It was better than what we were expecting- man was it smelly! The flavor was relatively bland, however the flavor of the wine came through. The peanuts did help the texture and surprisingly worked well with the rest of the dish giving an extra dose of saltiness. We weren’t super into it which warranted a rating of 4/10. Side note I am aware the plating is not the greatest- Ian let me know about it after the fact 😅