(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

(121) Myanmar – Shan Noodles

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is a Southeastern Asian country that is found beside Thailand, Laos, China, Bangladesh, The Bay of Bengal, and Andaman Sea. The country is well known for following the Buddhism religion and its vast collection of pagodas (pictured below), there are over a whopping 10,000 throughout the country. Lesser known about Myanmar is the 130 ethnic groups that reside here. The government has sorted these groups into 8 ‘races’, Bamar making up 70% of the population. With the numerous ethnic groups there are over 60 languages spoken.

Old Bagan, Myanmar. Source: Spraktidningen.se

Burmese cuisine is as diverse as its ethnic groups going back to the longstanding agricultural practices and trades with neighboring countries. Traditionally when in Myanmar you would eat sitting on a bamboo mat and food would be served on a low table known as a daunglan. Staples of a Burmese kitchen include rice and rice noodles, fish and soy sauces, tomato, a large variety of warming spices, fresh and dried seafood, meats (beef is less likely), ginger, and an array of fresh vegetables to name a few. A phrase used to describe the food of Myanmar is “chin ngan sat” which means sour, salty, and spicy.

The dish we made for Myanmar is called shan noodles, a meal of noodles as the name implies with chicken or pork with a tomato-based sauce. It originated in Shan state which is located in the eastern part of the country and is often served at breakfast time. Sometimes you will find this meal served over broth.

I enjoyed the simplicity of the recipe and the ingredients. We always have rice noodles in our pantry since Asian cuisine is common in our weekly rotation. I prepared my dish with more of a chopped approach were as the original recipe recommended finer preparation (i.e. the peanuts and onions). This was easily made during the week.

This dish is all about balance- sweet to spicy and textures. The peanuts brought a great salty crunch. The ginger gave the dish a nice kick and we found the tomato sauce very unique. I would be curious how this would have been with a chicken broth, let us know in the comments if you have tried it in soup form. We rated our Myanmar meal 8.5/10.

Shan Noodles

A well balanced sweet and spicy noodle dish that is easy enough to make in your week night rotation.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Asian, Burmese
Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 6 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 lb chicken or pork chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 10 oz dried shan noodles thicker rice noodles
  • 2 onions chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 1 inch piece of ginger peeled and finely chopped
  • 8 tomatoes chopped
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp chili powder optional but recommended
  • 8 tbsp peanuts chopped
  • 2 scallions chopped for garnish

Instructions
 

  • Place the dried noodles in a bowl of cold water, bring a large pot of water to a boil and place the noodles in. Turn off the heat.
  • Heat the vegetable oil up in a wok or large fry pan. Fry the garlic, ginger, and onions for 6-8 minutes on medium/low heat.
  • Add chili powder and mix well. Then add chicken/pork, tomatoes, and tomato paste stirring to combine. Then add the soy sauce and sugar increasing heat to medium. Allow to cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The tomatoes should be crushed and juices released.
  • Drain the noodles and serve a "handful" sized amount for each person. Top with chicken/pork mixture and garnish generously with peanuts and scallions. Enjoy!
Keyword Asia, Burmese, Myanmar, Noodles, Shan Noodles

(119) Israel – Falafel

Source: Commonwealthsource.org

Israel, apart of the Middle East is a country known for its religions and sacred Jerusalem. Israel borders the Mediterranean Sea, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. Israel is the only country to have revived a “dead” language and has made it their national language. This language is Hebrew. The Dead Sea, which borders Jordan and Israel, is the lowest point on Earth, nearly 420 m or 1377 ft below sea level and is 10x saltier which means there is no marine life hence “dead” sea.

The cuisine of Israel is a blend of Jewish, Middle Eastern, Arab, and Mediterranean cuisines. Like many other countries, the cuisine can differ depending on what region you are in. Holidays and celebrations of the Jewish and Arab cultures also have their special dishes for the occasion. It is said a meal without a salad is not a meal at all in Israel (oops I dropped the ball!). Common foods you can find throughout Israeli cuisine include chickpeas, couscous, fish, fresh vegetables, pita bread, and chicken to name a few components. Israel is thought to be a melting pot of cultures which brings a vast variety of foods and an ever growing cuisine!

For Israel I decided to attempt the beloved falafel, up until now I had never tried it before! Falafel is an unofficial national dish of Israel due to being the most popular street food, however it is also considered a national dish in several of the surrounding countries. Some believe that it was first created in Egypt over 1,000 years ago and brought to the Middle East and others claim India was the inventor of falafel 1,400 years ago. There is also talk that Egypt create falafel more recently in the late 19th century and originally was made using fava beans instead of chickpeas.

I didn’t cut any corners here, except for the use of my air fryer of course! I allowed my chickpeas to soak as the recipe warned it wouldn’t work otherwise. I followed the recipe but had difficulty getting them to stay in perfect ball shape. A lot of them would crumble with any pressure. This recipe also is VERY time consuming, just prepare ahead! Shaping every ball alone is time consuming. The recipe recommends frying in a pan which would allow more to cook at once but the air fryer decreased the grease. This could have lead to the falafel being on the dry side.

This meal had good flavors with roasted garlic being a highlight on our palettes. Hummus was key to balance the dryness of the dish and the fresh vegetables brought a refreshing crunch and more moisture to the meal. This was my first attempt at falafel and I think it was a decent go at it. We rated it 7.5/10.

(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 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

(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 😅

Italy Day 3 – Chicken Cacciatore

Welcome to day 3 in Italy! We are making the saucy chicken cacciatore today, a breaded chicken that bathes in a savory tomato-wine sauce. Cacciatore translates to hunter which were the first people to enjoy this dish. Because hunters first made this dish it was actually made with game instead of chicken. The dish was created sometime between the 14th and 16th century.

The dish is so popular it has its own holiday on the 15th of October! Although we know this dish to be adorned with tomato it was originally made without. Tomatoes were not introduced to Italy until later on!

I really appreciated that this meal took less than an hour to prepare (since the majority take longer). The sauce smelt ahhhmazing and picked up the flavors of the stewing veggies. The recipes I used can be found here.

I even made a caperse salad (although the chipmunk ate most of my basil!!)

In the end we were left with a beautiful Italian dinner. The chicken was coated with a nice thick and rich tomato sauce, but I could not tell it was breaded. The vegetables apart of the meal paired well and gave us stew vibes. The salad was nice and fresh and paired well with the hearty chicken. We really loved this dish and rated it 8.25/10!

To close out our week we will have a classic that is commonly seen American restaurants.

(77) Liberia – Liberian Chicken Gravy

Hey guys I’m back! Summer time brings a lot of outdoor adventures and less time at the computer and stove to bring you more content. Hope you are also enjoying your summer!

Pygmy hippopotamus, Source: Dinoanimals.com

Before we get to it, lets first learn a little bit about Liberia! Liberia is a West African country that borders the Atlantic Ocean, Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire, and Guinea. English is mostly spoken here, however there are 20 indigenous languages still spoken today. It is the oldest African republic and was the first to gain its independence in 1847; its name literally translating to “land of the free.” This beautiful country is home to incredible surfing, over 700 bird species, the endangered pygmy hippopotamus, and Sapo National Park (which contains a portion of West Africa’s primary rainforest).

Today we make a classic Liberian dish, chicken gravy. This meal consists of not only chicken but shrimp and fish steaks as well. I decided to omit the fried fish and use additional shrimp instead. At the heart of traditional African stews lies tomatoes, garlic, and herbs along with other complementary ingredients to increase the savory and heartiness. Liberian cuisine alike other West African countries include plantains, cassava, rice, yams, and other local fruits and vegetables. Local seafood and fish is the primary meat source of Liberians diet however poultry and other red meat can be eaten on occasion. You can find this recipe here.

Preparation and cooking was simple. This is another good option for a week night meal that can simmer while you cram in a 30 minute work out or finish up a blog post (maybe that’s just me..). I look back now and would have added more tomato paste to thicken up the sauce.

So we had never experienced chicken and shrimp together before and thought it was pretty good! The sauce as I said earlier should have been thicker, however the herbs and ginger really pulled through. It had unique elements, but was an easy meal with common ingredients. We thought it was tasty and rated it 6.5/10.

Next up we head to Zimbabwe for another tender chicken meal!