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Around the World in Eaty Days - Countries 136-140

Papua New Guinea - Mumu

I really struggled with Papua New Guinea's Mumu. That is to say, that I just didn't enjoy it, and I can't quite put my finger on what it was that put me off it quite so much. It's a one pot dish, with a lot of different, competing flavours. Taro leaves are layered up with taro root, sweet potato, plantain, chicken (though apparently turtle is also a common ingredient!), pineapple, coconut milk, lime and curry powder, then wrapped up in banana leaves. This is then cooked for 3 hours on the maximum temperature in the oven! I found the dish far too sweet and overly starchy and was left confused by the coconut-y, pineapple-y jus that had permeated everything. I don't think I will be attempting this one again, but will make an effort to try it made by someone who understands how to make it significantly better than I do!

France - Pot au Feu

France is one of the gastronomic powerhouses of the world, churning out techniques, rigours and dishes replicated the world over. I was surprised to find out, then, that the national dish of the country is a simple winter beef stew, the dish name translating to "pot on the fire". The dish relies on a few, good quality ingredients: beef, onion, garlic, carrots, potatoes, tomato and bay leaves. I suppose that the simplicity of it is what makes the dish great, in that it just relies on the cooks skill in seasoning, and should allow the ingredients to speak for themselves. I think this is shown far better in other dishes though, and, in my personal opinion, I don't believe that this does do justice to its ingredients at all. Maybe this is just me being snobby though, as it is difficult for me to get excited by a food culture so similar to my own, as British cuisine is well known to be heavily influenced by France's.

Zambia - Nshima

Nshima. Zambia's word for pap, a thick maize porridge, prevalent across a lot of African nations' national dishes. As per usual, I have cooked a main dish to go with it. I found a lovely recipe for a Zambian fish curry, served with chinese cabbage, which is apparently a common vegetable to use. The fish is first boiled in curry powder infused water, before the other ingredients are added and the curry is cooked down. This is a simple base of chillies, tomatoes, onion, garlic and my "favourite mixed herb blend". As I have often found following these national dishes, I found the fish to be quite overdone (as is fairly evident in the above photo), but the flavours of the dish were spot on, and I really enjoyed the added texture that the fried chinese cabbage added to the meal.

Lebanon - Kibbeh

This is not the first batch of kibbeh I made, having previously made Syria's offering. Lebanon's kibbeh are very similar, deep-fried, rugby-ball shaped meat parcels. The kibbeh comprise of two distinct layers - a crispy outer layer of ground beef ground up with bulgur wheat, onion and red pepper, flavoured with marjoram and mint, and a filling of beef mixed with pine nuts and "seven spices", a typical lebanese mix of black pepper, allspice, fenugreek, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger. I served with houmous, extra virgin olive oil and some watercress, to add a little green to the plate. The kibbeh are surprisingly filling - I think I managed about 3 (for dinner) before giving up, though I think I may have made them a little large, as they are apparently regularly just eaten as a side dish.

United Arab Emirates - Kabsa

Similar to its surrounding countries, the United Arab Emirates' national dish consists of chicken and rice, with almonds and dried fruit. I have put significantly too much tomato into this, which is why the dish looks quite red, Most kabsa recipes will have a much less vivid colour, and the chicken will stand out a lot more against the rice. I think this is because I should have put the tomato in the sauce for the chicken, and not mixed it through the rice mixture as well. Taste-wise, though, the dish was excellent, with the sweetness of the fruit coming through really nicely in contrast to the salty chicken.


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