PAKISTAN

Pakistani Proverb: بھوکے کو سوکھی بھی چپڑی کے برابر – Nothing comes amiss to a hungry man

Alongside continuing internal conflict and political instability, Pakistan suffers frequently from natural disasters which affect vast numbers of it’s huge 199 million strong population.

In 2010 monsoon flooding led to 20 million people needing immediate humanitarian assistance. The affect of this and subsequent monsoons are ongoing. According to the World Food Programme almost 40% of Pakistanis live below the poverty line and spend more than 60% of their income on food.

In 2014 Action Against Hunger helped 728,150 people through their food security, nutrition and water sanitation programmes.

Donate here to support their work: https://www.justgiving.com/Sophia-Vassie

Nihari

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As with most country cuisines, Pakistani food differs from region to region. Often mistaken for Indian cuisine which features far less (or no) meat than it’s northern neighbour, Pakistani food is arguably among the most popular in the world. Rich, spicy and aromatic influenced by South Asian, Central Asian and Middle Eastern flavours, there’s hardly any chance that your mouth won’t start watering at the thought of an aloo gosht, korma or biriyani. The Pakistani love of meat and external influences of the cuisine are particularity recognisable in the national dish of rich slow cooked beef curry, Nihari.

The word Nihari comes from the Arabic ‘Nahar’ meaning day – and this dish is named so because traditionally the curry is made with beef shanks, slowly cooked all night and ready to eat at breakfast following the dawn prayers the next day (or Nahar). Nowadays Nihari is enjoyed at all times of day, though the best most deeply flavoursome variations are of course the ones left to cook for long periods of time.

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Ingredients 

Serves 4

  • 500g beef brisket (This is what I had but it would be even more delicious with short ribs or shanks)
  • 1 onion
  • 1 large piece of ginger
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 1 bunch of coriander
  • 1 teaspoon of each of the following: coriander seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, poppy seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of fenugreek powder
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • 3 teaspoons of chilli powder (or how ever hot you like it!)
  • 3 tablespoons of ghee
  • 2 cups of basmati rice

Method

Start by heating a pan up and toasting the whole spices until fragrant. Remove from heat and pound into a powder in a pestle and mortar, mixing in the other powder spices.

In a mini chopper blitz the onion, and add to a large pan with warm ghee and half a teaspoon of salt on a low heat. In the same chopper puree the ginger and garlic. When the onion has softened but not browned add the ginger and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes taking care not to let the garlic colour.

When the pot starts smelling good add the meat and brown on all sides then add the tomato paste and ground spices and keep frying on a low heat until the spices become fragrant.

Pour in water until just above the meat and add the chopped stalks of a whole bunch of coriander. Cover and cook on a very low heat for at least 5 hours or until the meat is tender and falling apart. The sauce will reduce quite a bit – if it reduces too much just add a little more water. Right towards the end add three quarters of the bunch of coriander leaves.

To make perfect rice every time follow this method:

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil and add rice making sure that you have boiled water already prepared. Fry the uncooked rice until white and then pour boiling water up to a centimetre above. Place a lid on for 10 minutes and turn right down- when you remove the lid the rice should be perfectly cooked and lovely and fluffy!

Top with fresh coriander and ginger and serve with cucumber raita and a tomato salad.

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Enjoy!

Remember to donate to Action Against Hunger by following this link:  https://www.justgiving.com/Sophia-Vassie

MYANMAR

Burmese Proverb: t utaee nham aamyoe a nwalko raynan lote mai mahote – One sesame seed won’t make oil

For almost half a century Myanmar, formally known as Burma, had been almost totally isolated from the rest of the world. In 2011 the military junta which had been controlling Myanmar for 49 years was dismantled and an ambitious governmental reform strategy has been in motion ever since. Myanmar is geographically the largest country in mainland South East Asia and has one of the most diversely ethnic (over 130 ethnic groups) and religious populations in the region. This diversity has been a critical factor for the long running local sectarian conflicts within the country, notably in the state of Rakhine between the Muslim minority, who are classed as stateless with no voting rights, and the hard-line Buddhists.

Despite having vast natural resources Myanmar ranks 149 out of 187 in the 2012 UNDP Human Development Index making it one of the least developed countries in the world. The World Food Programme indicates that 35% of children under five have stunted growth and malnutrition due to extremely poor access to food and a virtually non existent health system.

Since 2014 Action Against Hunger has helped 66,086 people by working towards improving access to treatment for acute malnutrition.

Donate here to support their work: https://www.justgiving.com/Sophia-Vassie

Mohinga with Baya Kyaw

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This dish will be the 8th that I have made for my fundraising challenge. I started this challenge thinking that I knew quite a lot about food, and was looking forward to learning a lot more about it and celebrate the beauty that it represents for different cultures around the world. After only 8 countries and with 39 more to go, I’ve already learnt so much that I didn’t know before. I’ve learnt that you can count on two hands the ingredients found in pretty much every cuisine in the world. I’ve learnt that the most delicious food a country can offer, so delicious that it becomes a national dish, can be made up of such a small amount of ingredients cooked in a certain way on opposite sides of the world, to make it recognisably a country’s own.

For the majority of the countries on this list most of the food that is consumed is grown by subsistence farming on peoples own land. In the UK we shop in supermarkets which present us with huge amounts of food that could never be eaten quickly enough. We buy vegetables which come packaged in bulk and use a fraction of what we’ve bought before getting bored, forgetting about it an moving on to something else. It’s not such a bad thing getting bored of eating the same thing more than once, especially when there is so much on offer. But we can eat lots of different things and still use the same ingredients as these national dishes show!

Over the last year I have been working on a separate blog idea called Left Over Lunches – I try to create lots of different dishes with the same ingredients to minimise on food waste. Thankfully I haven’t had to try hard to keep that up for this challenge as I have been able to easily reuse ingredients from dish to dish.

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Mohinga, traditionally served at breakfast, but routinely eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack times is the epitome of  an all day breakfast, and is widely acknowledged as the Myanmar’s national dish. As with many other national dishes, there are many regional adaptations of this well loved dish – soupier versions found in the south and more liberal use of fish sauce in the North. Aside from the regional differences, the composition of the dish means that there is a huge scope for creativity particularly with garnish so after creating the base flavour you can pretty much add or take out anything you like.

Unlike the cuisine of it’s neighbours India and Thailand, Burmese food is still relatively unknown in comparison. In fact the food of Myanmar can be described as a delicate union of the two, and this soup is a showcase of this. Indian style Lentil fritters are served alongside a beautiful fragrant lemongrassy soup to add density and protein to the dish. I love coriander and ginger so I added lots of those and I kept out the commonly used ground rice and gram flour as I prefer a broth over a thick soup.

Although the ingredient list for this is quite big, if you love Asian food like me then most of the ingredients are store cupboard staples that you can use again and again.

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Mohinga with Baya Kyaw

Fish Noodle Soup with Yellow Split Pea Fritters

Serves 4

Ingredients

Mohinga

  • 2 fillets of river cobbler/catfish – sustainable and authentic!
  • 70g prawns – I had some that needed using
  • 10g dried shrimps
  • 1 knob of fresh turmeric
  • 2 sticks of lemongrass
  • 5 kaffir lime leaves
  • 2 knobs of galangal or ginger or even better both
  • 1 pack of rice noodles
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 3 shallots
  • 1/2 bunch of fresh coriander – stalks included
  • 6 fresh chillis – reduce/increase with preference
  • 50g palm sugar
  • 2 limes
  • 1 portion fish stock
  • 2 tsp turmeric powder
  • Sesame oil
  • Vegetable oil

Baya Kyaw

  • 100g soaked yellow split pea lentils
  • 1/2 bunch of fresh coriander
  • 4 shallots
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 knob of ginger
  • 1 tbls dried chilli flakes
  • 2 tsp fenugreek powder
  • 1 egg
  • 150g gram Flour
  • Salt

Garnish

  • 4 hard boiled eggs
  • 20g monkey nuts
  • 1 tbls dried chilli flakes
  • 5g fried shrimp
  • 10g sugar
  • 5 shallots
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 50g gram flour
  • Salt
  • Vegetable oil
  • 3 spring onions
  • 3 fresh chilli
  • Handful fresh coriander
  • 1/2 knob fresh ginger
  • 1 lime

Method

  1. Start by making a simple paste of dried turmeric, sesame oil and lime juice – smear onto the fish and leave to marinate in the fridge.
  2. Slice shallots into rings and cover with milk – This helps to bring out the natural sweetness and cancel out the acid you get with onions.
  3. Move onto the soup base – e ther in a pestle and mortar or a mini chopper make a paste out of shallots, ginger, galangal, fresh turmeric, garlic, coriander stalks, fresh chilli, sugar and lime juice. – You’ve got to be really careful with the fresh turmeric, I’ve completely stained my fingers!
  4. In a heavy bottom saucepan add a stick of lemongrass broken in half to hot oil and cook gently until fragrance is released. Add the paste and cook on a medium heat making sure not to burn. Once heated add a quarter cup of water and simmer gently.
  5. Gently poach the fish in the liquid until just cooked then remove from pot and set aside. To the pot add dried shrimps, fish stock, lime juice and fish sauce. Turn the heat right down and leave to simmer for at least an hour.
  6. While this is simmering you can make the lentil fritters – blitz the soaked lentils with a very generous handful of coriander (with stalks), shallots, ginger and garlic. Transfer to the bowl, season and add gram flour and egg. Form into bowls and put in the fridge to chill.
  7. Next heat a pan with no oil and dry roast shelled monkey nuts with dried shrimp dried chilli flakes. Once roasted season with sugar and rock salt.
  8. Take your shallots that have been soaking in milk and drain. Add gram flour to a bowl and season.
  9. Coat your shallot rings in gram flour then deep fry. Rest on kitchen towel to remove excess oil.
  10. Prepare the rest of your garnish by chopping everything and laying on a plate with the halved hard boiled eggs, peanuts, crispy shallot rings for people to pick and mix.
  11. In bowls add uncooked rice noodles and a selection of all the garnishes. – The noodles will cook when the soup is spooned over them.
  12. Bring your lentil balls out of the fridge, roll in the gram flour you used for the shallot rings then deep fry. Once cooked rest on kitchen towel to remove excess oil.
  13. While your fritters are frying, return your fish to the broth and add whatever other seafood you have to use up.
  14. Once the fritters have cooked, spoon hot broth over the rice noodles immediately. Add extra of what ever you like the most to your bowl!

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Remember to donate to Action Against Hunger by following this link:  https://www.justgiving.com/Sophia-Vassie

Enjoy!

COTE D’IVOIRE

Ivorian Proverb: Deux saveurs confondent le palais – Two flavours confuse the palate

Following its independence from France in 1960, Cote D’Ivoire experienced some years of relative political stability and economic prosperity under Felix Houphouët-Boigny. During his rule, as well as being a forerunner in rubber, cashew nuts and palm oil production, the country became the world leader of cocoa export which it remains today. In 1999, some years after Houphouët-Boigny’s death, a military coup took place and in 2002, then again in 2010 the country was in civil war. Now at least 40% of the population of Cote D’Ivoire live below the poverty line.

Action Against Hunger’s main focus in Cote D’Ivoire is treating malnourished children. In 2014 the charity helped 1,937 people.

Donate here to support their work: https://www.justgiving.com/Sophia-Vassie

Cocoa

At least 60% of the export revenue in Cote D’Ivoir comes from the cocoa bean industry. Alongside other West African countries including Ghana it supplies almost two thirds of the world’s cocoa beans for chocolate production. In addition to Ivorian children sent by parents to contribute to the family income, it is estimated that nearly 2 million children from neighbouring countries have been trafficked, or kidnapped, into slavery to labour on cocoa farms. These children work more than 100 hours a week and receive no wage, no schooling, are regularly beaten and are extremely malnourished.

It is so so important to check your chocolate is Fairtrade to ensure that you are not contributing to the continuation of child slavery; please follow this link to find out which chocolate manufactures commit to Fairtrade: http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/en/buying-fairtrade/chocolate

You can also engage in activism by signing this petition calling for an end to child slavery:
Campaign to End Child Slavery in Cocoa Production

Dark Chocolate Tart with Pineapple and Ginger Frozen Yoghurt

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It’s UK Chocolate Week this week and as Cote D’Ivoire is the leading producer of cocoa, I’ve decided to do a chocolate recipe instead of a national dish. Actually it’s so far removed from being a national dish that I’ve even contradicted the proverb! Still the main ingredients are all products of Cote D’Ivoire.

Despite producing the most cocoa in the world Ivorians don’t eat chocolate! Instead the cocoa beans are farmed exclusively for export to be made into chocolate and consumed by people in the West. Cote D’Ivoire used to also be a leader in pineapple export but trade decreased following the 2002 Civil War. Pineapples are still enjoyed widely in Cote D’Ivoire and are eat fresh alongside mangoes and melon in fruit salad. Ginger was introduced to West Africa by the Portuguese in the mid 1500s and is used extensively in food and drinks.

I am personally not a huge fan of chocolate – I can cope with dark chocolate on special occasions but I didn’t really know much about the production or origins. Recently at work I took a group of people to attend a fantastic chocolate tasting workshop at the Chocolate Museum in Brixton. Until then, I hadn’t been aware that Cote D’Ivoire was the primary source of cocoa, or of the extent of child labour that goes in to making something that we all know and consume. Although I rarely buy chocolate I have been inspired by what I’ve learnt to rigorously check for Fairtrade approved products.

Ingredients

Dark Chocolate Tart

  • Shortcrust pastry
  • Double cream
  • 70% Fairtrade chocolate
  • Rice

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Pineapple and Ginger Frozen Yoghurt

  • Pineapple
  • Ginger
  • Lime juice
  • Sugar
  • Greek Yoghurt
  • Teeny bit of double cream

Method

Dark Chocolate Tart

  1. Roll out the shortcrust pastry and fit into greased tart cases.
  2. Place baking paper on top of the pastry and put uncooked rice on top to blind bake.
  3. Bake in a hot oven checking after 10-15 minutes till the edges are golden. Remove from oven and dispose of the rice and paper then put back in the oven to bake the middle. When golden throughout take out and set aside to cool.
  4. Fill a saucepan with boiling water and put a glass mixing bowl on top. Make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.
  5. Break chocolate into the bowl, when it begins to melt add double cream and stir until it’s all mixed through and shiny and smooth.
  6. Immediately spoon the chocolate into the cooled tart cases and leave the chocolate to set for at least three hours.
  7. To serve garnish with grated chocolate, lime zest or shredded ginger.

Pineapple and Ginger Frozen Yoghurt

  1. Prepare a fresh pineapple by cutting off the top and bottom, cutting in quarters then removing the core and skin.
  2. Chop the fruit into rough squares and add to a saucepan with plenty of sugar, lime juice and splash of water. Cook until the pineapple becomes syrupy and delicious. Take off the heat and blitz in a blender with a generous knob of fresh ginger.
  3. Transfer to a bowl and put in the fridge to chill.
  4. Once chilled, in a separate bowl fold together a pot of Greek yoghurt with a couple of tablespoons of double cream and then add the blended pineapple.
  5. When thoroughly mixed transfer to a container and put in the freezer. After every half an hour, for an hour, take it out and mix the frozen bits with the unset mixture, then leave to set for an hour – If you have an ice cream maker use it, it’s much easier!
  6. Once set cover and leave in the freezer – take it out at least 20 minutes before eating for a creamy scoop.

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Remember to donate to Action Against Hunger by following this link:  https://www.justgiving.com/Sophia-Vassie

Enjoy!