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

 

SPAIN

Spanish Proverb: Al hambre de siete dias, no hay pan duro – For a good appetite there is no hard bread

Action Against Hunger operates from 5 host countries; one of which is Spain. The charity works to tackle child malnutrition and provide access to safe water.

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

Baked Cod with Chickpeas and Saffron 

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Like all countries Spain’s cuisine differs greatly from region to region. Arabic influence is particularly prevalent in the south of the country with ingredients such as saffron and chickpeas brought over in the middle ages.

Ingredients

Serves 2

  • 2 fillets of cod (or any other sustainably sourced firm white fish)
  • 3 handfuls of baby plum tomatoes
  • 1 tin of chickpeas
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 4 shallots
  • 1 pinch of saffron
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper

Method

  1. Start by finely slicing shallots and adding to a pan with oil, cook till caramelised. Add sliced garlic, fresh rosemary and the baby plum tomatoes and cook down.
  2. Soak a pinch of saffron in hot water with a tiny bit of chicken stock.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes, chickpeas, sugar and seasoning to the pan and cook down before adding the saffron stock.
  4. Cook for 15 minutes until the sauce has reduced slightly and tastes good – add more seasoning if it needs it.
  5. Pour a little sauce into the bottom of an oven proof dish followed by the fish fillets and the rest of the sauce.
  6. Bake at 200°C for 10 minutes and serve with salad and warm bread.

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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

KENYA

Kenyan Proverb: Hakuna Matata – No Worries

Despite being one of the strongest economies in East Africa there is a huge divide between rich and poor and more than half of the 45 million Kenyans live under the poverty line and are chronically malnourished. Around 80% of Kenyans live in rural areas and their livelihoods depend on subsistence and pastoral farming. Although Kenya is diverse ecologically and has good ground for farming in some regions; unpredictable weather, droughts and flooding all contribute to poverty particularly for subsistence farmers in the northern territories bordering South Sudan. Grossly unequal distribution of wealth, corruption, a fast rising population and large numbers of refugees from Somalia and South Sudan all add to high poverty in the country. In 2014 Action Against Hunger helped 300,612 people through food security and nutritional support programmes.

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

Samaki wa Kupaka – Mchuzi wa Mbaazi – Kachumbari

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As with all nations, Kenya’s cuisine is very regional with a few dishes being attributed to the country as a whole. This includes kachumbari which actually has identical ingredients with Latin America’s pico de gallo. My chosen main is from the Indian Ocean coastal region where fish is number one! Similarly the coconut milk in the bean stew is an addition by the coastal region to a countrywide dish.

Ingredients 

Samaki wa Kupaka

Grilled Fish with Tamarind

  • Fish – I used seabass because that’s what I had in the freezer. Traditionally Tilapia is used and it’s cooked as a whole fish instead of fillets.
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Chilli
  • Coconut milk
  • Lime juice
  • Tamarind paste
  • Coriander
  • Coconut oil
  • Salt

Mchuzi wa Mbaazi

Kidney Beans in Coconut Milk

  • Kidney beans
  • Coconut milk
  • Shallot
  • Garlic
  • Chilli
  • Cumin seeds
  • Stock cube
  • Coconut oil

Kachumbari

Tomato and Onion Salad

  • Tomatoes
  • Spring onion – I HATE raw onion so I substituted red onion for spring onion
  • Coriander
  • Lime juice
  • Olive oil
  • Sugar
  • Salt & Pepper

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Method

Samaki wa Kupaka

Grilled Fish with Tamarind

  1. In a pestle and mortar make a paste of chilli, garlic and ginger – Putting a little salt in will make a smoother paste
  2. Slash the skin of the fish (on both sides if using a whole fish) and rub the the paste all over the fish and inside the the incisions. Cover the fish and place in the fridge to marinade for at least 1 hour.
  3. Just before cooking heat some coconut oil in a pan. Scrape excess paste from the fish and add to the oil, then once lightly fried pour over a small amount of coconut milk then stir in tamarind paste. the result should be a thick, slightly sticky consistency kind of like BBQ sauce.
  4. Add coconut oil to a hot grill pan, paste both sides of the fish with the tamarind sauce and immediately place skin side down in the very hot grill pan.
  5. Serve with rice, fresh coriander and a dollop of the tamarind sauce.

Mchuzi wa Mbaazi

Kidney Beans in Coconut Milk

  1. In a mini chopper whiz up a couple of shallots, garlic and chilli.
  2. Toast cumin seeds in coconut oil then add the shallot, garlic and chilli. Once cooked slightly add a tin of coconut milk and simmer at an low temperature.
  3. When the sauce is reduced slightly crumble in a stock cube, add a healthy amount of fresh coriander and a tin of kidney beans.
  4. Keep cooking on a low heat until you have a fragrant stew.

Kachumbari

Tomato and Onion Salad

  1. Roughly chop tomatoes, thinly slice spring onion and mix with coriander, a pinch of sugar, salt & pepper, olive oil and lime juice.

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

Enjoy!