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❤️
Doesn’t Buddas of Bamiyan look like something out of Star Wars? Welcome to Afghanistan, a landlocked country situated between Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and China. It holds the title for the most flag changes out of any other country- a total of 26! This country is known for its extreme weather due to its large range of elevation of 23,734ft between its highest and lowest points and contrasting arid and mountainous terrains. The world’s oldest oil paintings have been found in Afghanistan and date back to 650 BC. Lastly did you know Afghans have been asking for their national game buzkashi or goat grabbing to become an Olympic sport? Wouldn’t that be interesting..
The cuisine of Afghanistan has influence from India, Persia, and Central Asia. Rice using usually found at the base of every meal accompanied by meat (lamb and chicken mostly), nuts, fruit, and vegetables. Tea like in many countries is a sign of hospitality and often shared between family and friends. The recipe I decided to make is called Kabuli Palau, also known as Qabili Palau which is Afghanistan’s national dish! This decadent dish was first made by the upper class Afghans, but over time as society became wealthier the dish was made all over the country despite status. The name then changed from Kabuli Palau to Qabili Palau. Its said that the ability of a Afghan woman to make this dish will effect her marriage prospects (dramatic eye roll)..
To help myself out I decided to cook the carrot, raisin, and almonds the night before so that I wasn’t so crunched on time during the week. The recipe was easy to follow and used basic cooking techniques. The chicken smelled so lovely while it cooked!
What a beautiful dish! I knew from the get go it was going to be delicious. The warmth from the seasoning for the rice and meat is well balanced with the caramelized carrots, almonds, and raisins. Overall it left me feeling completely satisfied! We have already made this meal again since it was originally made, it is now part of my repertoire. We rated it 8.75/10.
Afghan Kabuli Palau
This savory meal has layers of flavor including tender chicken, well seasoned rice, and a caramelized carrot, almond, and raisin topping. This meal is one of our favorites
Heat 4 tbsp oil in dutch oven/large pot on medium heat and cook onions until golden. Then add garlic cooking for 3 minutes or until fragrant.
Add the chicken to the onions and garlic allowing chicken to brown on all sides. While chicken is cooking add all the spices and salt and pepper.
Once chicken is browned add 1 1/2 cups water and cover. Allow chicken to cook for one hour at a simmer.
While the chicken is cooking prep your carrots and almonds. Heat pan at medium heat and toast almonds. Once slightly colored remove from pan. Fill pot with water and add 1 tbsp salt, get this boiling for the rice.
With the pan still at medium heat, add 1 tbsp olive oil the carrots sautéing until they are slightly colored. Next add the raisins and cook until raisins "plump up." Add the sugar to the pan and mix raisins and carrots together. Once everything is caramelized return this mixture to the almonds and set aside.
Once your water is boiling add the rice and cook about 6 minutes or until rice starts to soften (YOU DON'T WANT TO FULLY COOK RICE). Drain the water from rice.
When the chicken is finished remove from pot and reserve 1/2 cup of broth. Add rice to remaining broth and layer chicken in the rice making a few "holes" in the rice to allow steam through. Pour the reserved broth on top. Place pilaf mixture of carrots, raisins, and almonds in tin foil pouch and place on top of rice/chicken.
Allow rice to cook fully at medium heat with pot covered. Once rice is done it is time to assemble the meal! Layer chicken with rice then pilaf mix. Enjoy!
Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about the bonus recipe for France! I decided to find a recipe that originates from my ancestors are from- Nantes, France. Apparently this cake is very popular in this region and is where rum soaked cake became “a thing.”
To soften dried, hard biscuits the French decided to try soaking them in rum- sounds like a good two for one deal. Over time rum soaked cake was created and this recipe was born. I used this recipe and made my own ground almond into a mostly powdery substance, but chunks of almonds remained- I feel like this gave the cake a nice texture!
The cake doesn’t require a lot of ingredients and was pretty easy to make. I did have to bake my cake a little longer than what the recipe recommended, however I did use caution and tin foil the bottom of my spring form pan knowing it will leak butter once it gets hot enough.
Once you remove it from the oven you will want to brush the remaining rum syrup on the cake BUT NOT TOO MUCH as this makes the cake strong. 😬 When the cake is done cooling you can whip up the icing pretty quickly. Be gentle when icing the cake as it can easily crumble with too much pressure.
We thought the cake had a nice flavor, but the rum was not subtle.. If you like a boozy dessert or rum in general this would be up your alley. I’m contemplating eating more, however don’t want a cake hangover.
That concludes our week in France! We will be trying new flavors next week that don’t use quite as much butter as France does.