AFGHANISTAN

Afghani Proverb: Give graciously; even an onion 

With a population just over 33 million, there are 2.7 million Afghani refugees living in Pakistan, Iran and Bangladesh alone. Due to a number of civil wars in the 1970s and subsequent internationally led wars since, Afghanistan is now one of the least secure countries in the world with frequent internal violence and the third highest rate of child malnutrition. Taliban factions continue to terrorise many parts of the country, and life for women and children in particular is extremely difficult with poor access to health and education, as well as extreme limitations on their freedoms.

In 2014 Action Against Hunger helped 106,933 people by improving water sanitation and training people to care for children suffering from malnutrition.

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

Kabuli Palau and Bourani Banjan

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With evidence of civilisation since the neolithic period Afghanistan has a long, rich history; including it’s important part in the trade and presence on the ‘Silk Road’ not least because it was almost exactly half way between the ‘East’ and the ‘West’. Once an extremely wealthy country, in part because of it’s strategic geographical location on the Silk Road, and because of it’s rich agricultural (both crops and animals) and mineral abundance.

This abundance led to an equally impressive food culture, still centred around grand banquet dishes and the sharing of food with both friends and strangers. The national dish – Kabuli Palau is a classic example of this. In Afghanistan rice, is and was, considered to be the most important element of any meal and royal families would invest time and money to impress their guests with beautiful platters of the grain. The sultanas and nuts ( and sometimes pomegranate seeds, as can also be found in Iranian rice dishes) symbolise scattered jewels and the golden hue of the turmeric emulates the precious metal gold.

Ingredients 

Serves 6

Kabuli Palau

  • 1 medium onion (diced)
  • 6 medium carrots (grated)
  • 300g fatty lamb (chopped into chunks)
  • 1 mug of rice
  • 100g of nuts and sultanas
  • 2 tsps turmeric
  • 2 tsps fenugreek
  • 2 tsps red chilli flakes
  • 1/2 tsps celery salt
  • 1 tsps ground ginger
  • 2 tsps sugar
  • 4 shallots
  • Ghee or vegetable oil
  • Coriander stalks (chopped)
  • Salt & Pepper

Borani Banjan

  • 2 large aubergines (sliced length ways)
  • 1 medium onion (very finely diced)
  • 3 garlic cloves (finely diced)
  • 250g lamb mince
  • 1 tsps cinnamon
  • 1 tsps sugar
  • 2 tbls tomato puree
  • 250g natural yoghurt
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1/2 bunch fresh coriander
  • Salt & Pepper

Method

Kabuli Palau

Add the diced onions to a pan with ghee and sweat until soft and golden. Once the onions are cooked, add the lamb and brown followed by the chopped coriander stalks, turmeric, fenugreek, chilli flakes, celery salt and ground ginger. Once the mixture has become aromatic, add a little water and allow to simmer until the lamb is tender. Add the rice and seasoning then stir in boiled water until it covers about an inch above the rice. Transfer the covered pot into a hot (200 degrees C) oven.

While the rice is cooking (around 15 minutes) finely slice the shallots and crisp up in oil, sprinkling a bit of sugar over them to bring out their sweetness. Toast the nuts and sultanas then put both aside till the rice is cooked.

Once the palau is ready stir in the toasted nuts and sultanas and half of the fried shallots. Serve with the remainder of the fried shallots on top of the rice.

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Borani Banjan

Sprinkle a generous amount of salt over the sliced aubergines and leave to one side. To a medium hot pan with oil add the onions and leave to sweat until soft and golden. Once cooked, add the garlic and stir until golden then add the lamb mince, cinnamon and seasoning and simmer for around 10 minutes. Once cooked through stir in the tomato paste and sugar with a splash of water and leave to simmer on a very low heat.

Rinse the salt off the aubergines and pat dry. Fry on each side in  a little oil until browned and soft in the middle. remove from the heat and place on a serving dish. spoon the mincemeat sauce over the top of the aubergine slices and finish with yoghurt and fresh coriander.

Enjoy!

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

IRAQI KURDISTAN

Kurdish Proverb: A zikê birçî tune guhên – A hungry stomach has no ears  

Kurdistan is located in the North of Iraq and was officially formed in 1970 after years of ethnic violence between the Kurdish people and the Arab Iraqi government. Peace did not last and since mid 1970 Kurds have faced continuous attack from the dominant government. Genocides ordered by Saddam Hussein during both the Iran-Iraq war and in 1991 devastated the Kurdish population. Since the death of Saddam Hussein and the withdrawal of US troops, tensions between the Kurds and Arabs have remained. More recently Kurdistan has seen an influx of more than 2 million displaced Iraqi and Syrian refugees fleeing war and settling in the region.

In 2014 Action Against Hunger helped 297,082 with access to clean water and  providing women and children with mental health support.

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

Fasolia and Rice 

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As with many of the dishes from the Middle Eastern region, this dish really reminds me of the food I ate growing up. Kurdistan actually lies in between Iraq and Iran and the food in differs depending on the proximity to those two countries. Iraqi Kurdish food is very similar to the cuisines found in the gulf and this white bean stew is no exception. Dishes are usually served with vermicelli rice and various side salads.

Ingredients

Serves 4

  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 70g concentrated tomato paste
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tin berlotti beans
  • 1 tin butter beans
  • 2 tsps cumin
  • 3 tbls ghee or vegetable oil
  • 1 portion vegetable stock
  • 1 cup of rice
  • 1/2 cup of vermicelli
  • Salt & pepper

Method

In a pestle and mortar crush garlic with a little salt until smooth. Add crushed garlic to hot 1 tablespoon of hot ghee or oil and cook gently for 1 minute. Once golden add tomato paste and stir then add 3 cups of boiled water. Cook gently for 10 minutes before adding chopped tomatoes, stock and cumin then leave to simmer for 20 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, make rice. Fry vermicelli in one tablespoon of hot ghee or oil until brown then add rice and a pinch of salt. Once the rice has become white cover until a centimetre above with boiling water. Turn down the heat as far as possible, cover and leave to cook for 15 minutes. Once cooked, turn off the heat and leave the lid on –  the steam will keep the rice warm and prevent it from going claggy.

Your sauce should have reduced by now. Add the tinned beans (you can use soaked dried beans of course!) and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Serve with rice and fresh chopped parsley. I also had some pickled chillis and fresh radish on the side which is great!

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Enjoy!

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

 

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

NIGERIA

Nigerian Proverb: Fine words do not produce food

With over 170 million people, Nigeria is the post populated country in Africa – that’s nearly 2.5% of the world’s population. It is estimated that there are up to 500 ethnic groups in Nigeria, with the three main groups being Igbo, Hausa and Yuroba.

From the late 1960’s to 2000 Nigeria saw a number of civil wars and military coups, greatly affecting security and economy in the country. Now the economy is one of the fastest emerging in the world and GDP is ranked 30th in the world. Since 2000, Nigerians have taken part in democratic elections with the March 2015 election largely hailed as the fairest yet.

For over a decade terrorist group Boko Haram have been operating in Nigeria killing over 12,000 people, and committing large scale atrocities; including the mass kidnapping of 276 school girls  in 2014. Despite Nigeria having the second largest economy in Africa, malnutrition and poverty are strife. Action Against Hunger estimates that 1 in 4 Nigerian children suffer from acute malnutrition.

In 2014 Action Against Hunger helped 2,807,302 people through their Child Development Grant Programme.

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

Jollof Rice

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Jollof rice is probably the epitome of West African cuisine. Both Nigeria and Ghana claim it as their own and variations are found throughout the region. The name Jollof originally comes from the Wollof people of Senegal, whose version of this dish is known as Ceebu Jen (see my blog post on Senegal!), the dish spread throughout with travelling tribes and quickly secured it’s place as a favourite across the region.

Jollof rice is the ultimate party food – big, hearty sharing food. Here’s my version:

Ingredients

  • 6 chicken drumsticks
  • 4 cups of Egyptian rice (or any short grain rice)
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato puree
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 carrot
  • 3 scotch bonnets
  • 2 Maggi stockcubes
  • 4 tablespoons of palm oil

Method

  1. Blitz a whole onion, a couple of small carrots, scotch bonnets (as many as you like) and garlic in a mini chopper.
  2. Add the chicken to hot palm to brown then remove and add the onion, chilli, carrot and garlic mixture. Turn the heat right down to sweat.
  3. Once softened add tomato puree and cook slightly then add rice and cook for five minutes to ten minutes or once the grains become white.
  4. Return the chicken to the pan.
  5. Add chopped tomatoes and mix thoroughly. Crumble in 4 small cubes of maggi – seriously don’t skimp it’s traditional!
  6. Once mixed through top with boiled water to just above the rice and chicken.
  7. Simmer until chicken has cooked through and the rice has a little bite.
  8. Serve with extra hot sauce!

Enjoy!

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

SOUTH SUDAN

South Sudanese Proverb: Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fatted ox where there is hatred 

South Sudan is one of the world’s ‘youngest’ countries having gained independence from Sudan in 2011. Since 2013 South Sudan has faced violent civil conflict within it’s newly established borders leaving over 2 million of it’s population displaced as refugees, many of them in neighbouring countries. With a total population of only 11.56 million, 66% are affected by food scarcity and chronic malnutrition – the highest percentage of any population in the world. In 2014 Action Against Hunger have helped 447,217 people, predominantly in getting access to safe water.

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

Pasipasi kpedekpede na passio

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The food in Sudan is very similar to that of it’s Nile River neighbour Egypt and is heavily influenced by Arabic culture. The food in South Sudan however, more closely reflects the food of it’s neighbours in Kenya and DR Congo. Peanuts feature heavily as do sweet potatoes, yams and sorghum (a type of grain). Here I’ve made one of the most popular South Sudanese dishes – spinach, sweet potato and peanut stew which would normally be served with rice, couscous or sorghum. Due the price of meat, beef would normally only be added on special occasions – I had some left over beef short rib so this is a special occasion Pasipasi kpedekpede na passio.

Ingredients

Pasipasi kpedekpede na passio

  • Rice
  • Vegetable oil
  • Sweet potato
  • Garlic
  • Fresh tomato
  • Spinach
  • Tomato puree
  • Stock cubes – Maggi brand is the famous stock cube used in Africa – it’s very salty so it works as seasoning too!
  • Peanut butter
  • Palm oil
  • Peanuts
  • Beef (optional)

Tomato Salad with Peanut and Lime Dressing

  • Fresh Tomatoes
  • Parsley
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Chilli
  • Pepper
  • Peanut butter
  • Lime
  • Olive oil

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Method

Pasipasi kpedekpede na passio

  1. First put on some rice – heat some vegetable oil in a pan and boil the kettle. Add uncooked rice and salt to the oil and fry until the rice toasts and becomes white, once all the rice is equally toasted add boiled water to up to  cm and half above the top of the rice, cover and low the heat completely.
  2. Peel and cut sweet potatoes into chunks and add to a pan with palm oil, fry on all sides then add chopped garlic.
  3. In a bowl add boiled water to Maggi stock cubes to dissolve – add the whole thing to the pan with some fresh chopped tomatoes, tomato puree and let the mixture cook and the sweet potato braise.
  4. At this stage I added the meat from some left over beef short ribs and added a bone to the pan for flavour – if you don’t have cooked meat, brown some beef at the beginning before adding the other ingredients then just cook as before, alternatively don’t put any meat in at all!
  5. Turn off the rice but don’t remove the lid, the steam will finish the last bit of cooking.
  6. The liquid should now have reduced a little and have good flavour! Stir in quite a bit of peanut butter so that the sauce thickens.
  7. Once the sauce is a good consistency pop a pile of spinach on top – the steam from the stew will cook it down and you’ll be able to mix it in after about 30 seconds.
  8. Crush some peanuts and serve on top of your stew with rice.

Tomato Salad with Peanut and Lime Dressing

  1. Chop fresh tomatoes roughly and finely chop fresh parsley, mix together in a bowl an sprinkle a little sugar to bring out the flavour. – This also helps to release the juice from the tomato so it literally creates it’s own dressing anyway!
  2. In a separate bowl squeeze a lime and add a tablespoon of peanut butter to the juice with olive oil, finely chopped chilli, salt and pepper.
  3. When you’re ready to serve spoon some dressing over the salad.

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Enjoy!

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

SENEGAL

Senegalise Proverb: Sahha kënz lhayaat  – Health is the treasure of life

Senegal has a population of approximately 13.7 million. 47.6% of Senegalese people are failing to meet their basic food needs as a result of devastating natural disasters; including flooding and drought exacerbated by the effects of climate change. Because of this over half of the produce consumed in Senegal is imported which means that prices for basic provisions are severely inflated. In 2014 Action Against Hunger helped 18,443 people in Senegal by providing nutritional support to vulnerable families.

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

Ceebu Jen

Ceebu Jen

Ceebu Jen (rice and fish in the Wolof language) is the national dish of Senegal. Ceebu Jen is also known by it’s French transcription Thieboudienne. It’s widely acknowledged that this dish, and it’s Wolof roots, is the inspiration for the ubiquitous West African dish Jollof rice. Ceebu Jen is a festive, sharing dish centred around a large platter of tomatoey rice topped with fresh fish and vegetables – enjoy with a glass of hibiscus ice tea!

For this recipe I had all the ingredients I needed to create an adaptation of the dish therefore I have donated £5 – 100% of the estimated cost of the ingredients for the Senegalese national dish Ceebu Jen.

Ingredients

Fish Marinade (or stuffing if using a whole fish):

  • Fresh Parsley
  • Lemon or Lime Juice
  • Red Chilli Flakes
  • Minced Garlic
  • Spring Onion
  • Salt and Pepper

Ceebu Jen

  • White Fish
  • Rice
  • Fresh or Tinned Tomatoes
  • Tomato Puree
  • Harissa (cheat addition)
  • Scotch Bonnets
  • Fish or Vegetable Stock
  • Onion
  • Parsley
  • Pretty much any vegetable you have lying around (especially Cassava)
  • Tamarind Paste or Hibiscus Flowers (optional)
  • Fish Sauce
  • Oil
  • Sugar
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Lemon Wedges

Method

  1. Make a marinade for the fish – in a pestle and mortar make a paste of garlic, fresh parsley, chilli flakes, lemon juice and salt. Rub into fish and put in fridge to infuse.
  2. In a mini food processor (if you don’t have one just chop finely) blitz up onion, red pepper (keep two bits aside), half the parsley and all the parsley stalks. Heat some oil in a large saucepan and add – keep it low and let it ‘sweat’ so the mixture release liquid but doesn’t colour.
  3. In a little bowl with hot water mix two teaspoons of tomato paste and one teaspoon of harissa *I added for additional flavour – not strictly traditional*. Stir till diluted and add to the pan.
  4. I added 3 scotch bonnet chillis, you choose how hot you like it!
  5. In the same bowl with more hot water add fish or veg stock – two cubes, pots whatever you’re using – then add to the pan. The saucepan should be just over a quarter full of liquid.
  6. Some recipes call for tamarind paste, I didn’t have any so I soaked some hibiscus flowers in water and added to the pan. Hibiscus has a slightly bitter, lemony taste like tamarind and is actually native to Senegal where (like in Egypt) it’s drunk as a soft drink both hot and cold.
  7. Let it cook for a little bit while you shop up your vegetables. I only had courgettes so I only put courgettes. If you have carrots, turnips, butternut squash whatever put it in!
  8. Add rice to the liquid in the pan. I used Spanish which is more robust than Basmati and is less likely to go soggy. Turn down as low as possible and put a lid on. Set aside for about ten minutes.
  9. In the mean time I make ‘garnish’. That’s; chopped fresh parsley, small cubes of red pepper, small cubes of tomato or half cherry plum tomatoes and this time because I had courgette – ‘courgette ribbons’. I do this by turning a cheese grater flat on it’s side and using the wide section as though it was a mandolin!
  10. By now the rice should have soaked up most of the water in the pan. Give it a good mix then add the courgettes (and/or whatever veg you have) to the pan and put the lid on. The steam will cook the rest through.
  11. For the fish it’s traditional to steam the fish with the rice – I like different textures so I cooked mine on a griddle pan. Add oil to your marinated fish and get your pan really hot, you don’t need oil in the pan at all. Cook fish for approximately 3 minutes on each side or until you get a nice colour. It’s good to be a bit translucent inside as it will keep cooking when taken off the heat.
  12. Stir most of the parsley into the rice then spoon rice big serving dish – add fish – add garnish. Finish with the last of the chopped parsley and a couple of wedges of lemon.

Enjoy!

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