#7 South Africa: Save the Stormtroopers for Dessert

The first that we think about when we mull over the concept of South Africa is obviously apartheid. The fact that 9% of the population controlled the other 91% from 1948-1994 is an event that isn't easily overlooked. I guess it's just hard to forget an ugly face, and 46 years of ugly is a lot.

South Africa became such an important place for many reasons. It was a perfectly placed country to colonize during the height of maritime trading. Who wouldn't want to control Cape Town as your ships brought spices back from Asia to satisfy the previously bland European palate? It also happens to be fairly well naturally endowed, another selling point for colonial interests.

The flag of South Africa is actually quite interesting. The Wikipedia article describing it is well written, and full of interesting history and explanation.

It was initially created as a last-minute substitute before the inauguration of Nelson Mandela, and it eventually was widely accepted. It is the only flag with 6 colors not to have a seal. It is claimed that there was initially no symbolism for the colors on the flag.

That wouldn't stand, so some had to be made up. Some said that the colors of the flag represented two loyalties: green, black and gold of the African congress and the red, white and blue of the UK and Holland. Others claimed that the red was the blood spilled for equality, the blue for the sky, the green for the farm lands, the white and black for the two races of people and the yellow for the healthy material endowment of the land. Choose the symbolism that whets your appetite the most.

Creating national identity is a difficult task for a country that very recently went through such difficult periods with internal identity issues. This is why it is important to be able to have a unifying national anthem. Below is a very nice version of the South African national anthem. Please listen to it, and read the words.

The phrase "Lord Bless South Africa", and subsequent petitions to the Almighty, do ring a bit hollow, and thus may reflect the unsteady nature of the country as it moves forward. As Americans, we can reflect upon our national identity and conclude that we do not suffer from the same insecurities (though a bit of humility may be in the best interest of all parties involved).

Below is a patriotic song set to music. Lee Greenwood's God Bless America. Particularly look for the eagle at the 2.27 second mark as it invokes terror into the hearts of enemies. Also, note how softly and slowly the song begins: clearly a ruse to lull our the guard of our enemy into submission. Finally, take note that it is not a petition; Lee isn't asking for God to bless America.

Lee is stating fact: God Bless(ed) America.

So, with that diversion out of the way, we move onto our meal. We decided to keep our meal simple, but representative.

We start off with an African stew of potatoes and tomatoes. We then finished with a dessert called Outydse Stormjaers, or Stormtroopers, for a fond trip down colonial and apartheid memory lane.

We cooked under the influence of two South African wines, being careful not to mix the white and the red. We started with the white (being as historically accurate as possible), and then moved onto the red.


#6 Vietnam: Onward and Upward

Vietnam has been under the boot of many, and for that, the current economic boom taking place is just that much more sweet.

There is a song in Vietnamese with a lyric that roughly translates to: "1,000 years colonized by the Chinese, 100 years colonized by the West (read French), 30 years of civil war." Yes, the Vietnamese do know something about being oppressed.

That's why the recent economic good times have been so beautiful. From 1992-2002, Vietnam lifted 50% of its population out of poverty, and that's according to the World Bank. Read that again: it didn't lift 50% of its impoverished population out of poverty, but rather lifted 50% of its total population out of poverty. That's pretty incredible.

For this meal, we needed to create something old, something new, something from a colonizer and something with great symbolism. We made pho bo for our traditional dish. This dish is popular the world over, and can be found in any corner of the country. We then made mi bo xao kho qua, or, bitter gourd stir fried with beef and noodles. This was our highly symbolic dish. The word kho qua, when translated directly is composed of the word difficulty coupled with the word to pass. Thus representing the passing of the difficulty that Vietnam experienced over the past few hundred years.

Our new dish, the dish of the nouveau riche, is bo ne. This dish is laden with fat, meat and is served as a very hearty breakfast, lunch or dinner. The word ne means to lunge in order to avoid something, in this case, the flying fat. This dish could also be called Vietnamese fajitas, if one was so inclined, only because it is served on a scalding hot iron skillet.

Then, to cap off this meal, we provided a California white wine to symbolise America's involvement in the country. It was a mixture of a wide variety of grapes, thus symbolising America's melting pot more generally. However, viz. its relation to Vietnam, it had the wonderfully sweet nose of optimism and idealism, but finished dry, almost bitter. From the nose to the finish, we figured that it covered the 21 years of involvement of the US in Vietnam, from 1954-75.

Pho Bo

This recipe was taken and adapted from this recipe.


2 onions
Ginger the size of your big toe
Beef bones
3 star anise
Pinch of clove powder
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of salt
Four or five squirts of fish sauce
A small chunk (about the size of your big toe) of rock sugar
A bag of banh pho (pho noodles)
A chunk of beef
Bean sprouts
Hot chillies
Lots of fresh lime




Parboil the beef bones. Remove cloudy water, add new water, and start to make stock. Add ginger, onions, anise, cloves, salt, sugar and fish sauce. Let simmer for 3-4 hours.

When stock is ready, prepare beef by cutting very thinly. Place pho noodles in stock for about 15 seconds. Remove and place in bowl along with stock and beef.

Serve with lime, bean sprouts and chilies.

Mi Bo Xao Kho Qua


A bitter gourd
Soy sauce
Fish sauce
Red chilies




Prepare bitter gord by slicing it in half and cutting out the white pithy core. Bitter gourd is an bizarre warty phallus of a vegetable that is generally an acquired taste (it isn't called bitter gourd for nothing). However, it is very healthful vegetable and worthy of the acquisition. Slice the gourd into quarter inch "rainbows". Heat oil in wok. Add noodles and beef. Stir. Add soy sauce, fish sauce and bitter gord. Stir. Let cook. Add red chilies. Serve.

Bo Ne




Small, iron skillet. If possible, buy the traditional skillets shaped like steers.


Heat skillet. Add oil to skillet. Then, add butter, minced garlic, beef and egg. Serve immediately. Watch as your guests "ne" out of the way.


The pho bo should have been phobulous, and would have received 4.5 globes for sure, but I (Jonathan), made a mistake. Our beef slices were too large and didn't cook through all the way. This meant that I needed to reheat it, which released too much starch from the noodles, thus creating a general mess.

Because of my negligent cooking, the pho bo only receives 1.5 globes.

The mi bo xao kho qua was quite popular, though some of us didn't like the bitterness of the gourd. For that, and in the interest of "objectivity" (whatever that could possibly mean), the dish received 3 globes.

The bo ne was definitely the most successful dish and recieved 4 full globes. It is a beautiful dish, and not one to ne too far from.


# 5 Japan: Light, Simple, but Untrustworthy

Where to begin with a country as interesting and dynamic as Japan. Not many countries can claim that they attempted to dominate the Pacific rim, were bombed into oblivion and then grew into the world's second largest economy with the world's 10th largest population all in less than a century. Let's just say it hasn't been an entirely static place.

The earlier history of Japan is an interesting combination of isolation from and interaction with the outside world. Probably the most well known example of this was the 200 odd years in which Japan completely shut themselves off from the rest of the world but still heavily interacted with Dutch visitors, who offered the latest of European technology. The Japanese elite then decided whether or not this technology could be adopted and used by the population more broadly.

Japan continues to take what it wants from the Western world and leave what it doesn't. They are a democracy, but with one viable party. They have been called "the world's most successful communist country" by Wall Street Journal writer Walter Moss (as quoted in Friedman's "Lexus and the Olive Tree") but we embrace them as an Asian bastion of capitalism. They use vending machines to sell not only soda, but also used women's underthings (scroll down the page).

Culture, as it is transmitted through television, also is representative of this isolationism mixed with utilitarian tolerance of new technology. In the video clip below, we can see a clearly Japanese event being transmitted across a medium that was originally American. How they have made it their own!

Their food and cooking techniques are representative of this isolationist bent mixed in with pragmatic acceptance of outside influences. While ingredients used in Japan are used by many countries that find themselves in a similar climate, some of the cooking techniques are very unique. We explored these unique cooking techniques through the creation of a fairly standard Japanese meal.

Firstly, we made nori-wrapped, hand-wrapped and hand moulded sushi. Then we made a vegetable-shrimp tempura salad and we topped everything off with a cup of soup purchased from the local sushi shop.



Rice-vinegar, though we used white wine vinegar and it worked well
Soy sauce
Pickled ginger


Bamboo skewers
Makisu (rolling mat)


Firstly, you need to make the su-meshi, or vinegared rice for your sushi. This is quite a simple process, but it's important to get it right.

Fill your pot with as much rice and you would like. Make sure to just barely cover it with water and get it boiling. You can use a rice cooker or anything else, but that's cheating. Then, mix together in a small bowl your vinegar, salt, sugar and some water. Mix enough so that it's about the equivalent of 5% of the mass of your rice.

When your rice is finished, fold in the vinegar solution and let the rice cool.

Next, you want to prepare your shrimp. For hand-moulded sushi, the shrimp are flayed out and steamed. You want to peel them, flay them and put your bamboo skewer through the middle. This will keep them from curling up when you go to steam them.

Steam them.

Cut your tuna and vegetables into appropriate sizes for your sushi: thin and long.

Next, take your makisu and place a piece of nori on it. Get your hand wet, grab a handful of rice and place it in the center. Make a nice trough in the middle and fill with whatever combination of vegetables and fish you would like. Roll, wet the end, and seal. Cut this into cubes using a very sharp knife.

For hand-moulded sushi, wet your hand, grab a clump of rice and make a ball. Put something on top.

For hand-rolled sushi, cut the nori wrap into thirds or quarters and fill with rice, veggies and meat. Roll with your hand until it resembles the cone of an ice-cream cone.

Serve with soy sauce and a generous helping of wasabi and pickled ginger.

Tempura Vegetable/Shrimp


A box of tempura mixture
Anything else you would like to fry




Take the tempura box and follow the instructions. If it's good tempura, the instructions will be written in choppy, awkward English. Typically, it's just the tempura mixture mixed with water.

Take your goods to fry and dip them in the tempura mixture. Then, place them into a pan of oil that is sufficiently heated. Remove when cooked through.

This is to be served with a sauce made from stock, sake and salt, but seeing as how we were attempting to make a meal representative of Japan in one way or another, we took their technology and adapted it for our own use. We used a home-made cocktail sauce for our dipping. The heat of the wasabi and the horseradish have similar qualities.

Miso Soup




Google Earth


Using Google Earth, find a local sushi restaurant. Drive there and, using money or credit, purchase some miso soup. Take home, open lid, serve.


We loved the sushi and give it four globes. I'm glad Japan remained isolated for so long and developed these nifty cooking techniques.

We also loved the tempura vegetable/shrimp dish and give it four globes as well.

The miso soup was good, but not home made. You could taste that it had sat in a pot for a while. Three and a half globes.


#4 Namibia: Confluence of the Barren and the Frigid

Located in south-west Africa, Namibia is one of those countries with a younger-sibling complex. Much like the relationship between Niger and Nigeria, with the smaller Niger being heavily shaped by tribal relationships in Nigeria, Namibia has been heavily influenced by South Africa.

Namibia, in fact, did not receive true independence until 1990, and South Africa explicitly dictated domestic governance policy until 1988. South Africa exhibits all of those wonderful older-sibling characteristics: control, dominance, and, of course, the imposition of the thoughts of the dominant on the thoughts on the submissive.

Firstly, we looked at the flag. Any flag says something interesting about a country, and Namibia was no different.

At the top left, there is a sun. It is typically sunny and hot in Namibia. The sun rests over the blue ocean, located to the west of the country. The red area represents the desert. It is red-hot and flanked on either side with white, buffer-zones that serve as warnings to those who would attempt to traverse such a place. The green represents the north-eastern part of the country, which is lush in places.

Ok, none of that may be true, but it's a helpful device to remember a bit both about the country and the flag.

In looking to create a meal representative of Namibia, we stumbled through history, culture and demographic trends and did not find a clear narrative to build upon. Thus, we struck out to create one.

What we knew (or discovered) about Namibia:
1. It has one of the highest income inequalities of any country in the world
2. It was formerly colonized by the Germans
3. It was heavily dominated politically and culturally by South Africa
4. The largest tribe, or ethnic group, is the Ovambo, who live in the north of the country
5. The name of the country derives from the word "Namib", which means barren, or desert
6. The southern and western portions of the country are sparsely populated, mostly with nomads

So, we set off to make a meal that represented high income inequality, that had influences taken from Southern Africa, that in some way represented the desert and that was finished off with a lovely German desert. Oh, and it should really have a dish that is native to the Ovambo people.

We did not fully succeed in this task, but we came darn close. Firstly, we found an interesting website where some BBC folks traveled down to Namibia and cooked a meal with the Himba tribe. According to this language map of Namibia, the Himba live in area 5 and speak Herero. The Ovambo, however, speak the Bantu dialect and live further north. This may or may not be true, but this is what we went on.

So, we found two lovely recipes from these BBC Hairy Bikers. One was for Magic Lamb with Biblical Berries and the other was for Bobotie, a South African staple. The Magic Lamb with Biblical Berries would solve two of our requirements: firstly, it was cooked in the desert sand and secondly, it highlighted the efficiency of German colonialism. In researching Namibia, we found that a full 60% of the population identified themselves as Lutheran. For a bit, we could see the country as a Southern Hemispheric Minnesota, complete with their own Namibian Garrison Keillor.

"That's the news from Windhoek, where all the women are strong, the men are good looking and the children are excellent marksmen."

Now, to find something to represent the poor: For this, we made Oshifima, or a kind of stiff porridge that we found here. This is a simple porridge made from cornmeal and is used as an eating utensil, must like sticky rice is used as a utensil in Laos.

Then, to represent the German colonization, we topped it all off with a Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte, or a Black Forest Cherry Cake. Divine.


This recipe is adopted from this recipe.


An M&M size piece of tamarind reduction
Two shots of red wine
Two pounds of ground red animal meat
A small handful of almonds, crushed
A pinch of peppercorns
A bit of minced ginger
A small chili, minced
A pinch of marjoram
A pinch of coriander
A couple of garlic cloves minced
A part of a small onion, minced
A bit of lemon zest
A small handful of raisins
A shot of double cream
A piece of butter the size of a walnut
Salt and pepper to taste
Some bay leaves, preferably whole
One large glass of milk
A handful of eggs
Some curry powder
A bit of baking powder




Turn your oven on to about 350. Firstly, take the tamarind and mix it with the wine. Mix this thoroughly. Then, take the meat and put it in a bowl. Mix all the ingredients from the almonds to the raisins into the meat. Add wine/tamarind mixture to this meatloaf. Add the bay leaves to the loaf in any way you would like. They should be removed after cooking.

Then, bake the meatloaf until it has cooked through. Then, add the custard topping which is simply the milk, eggs, curry and baking powder. Pour this on top and cook until it has turned beautifully brown.

Magic Lamb with Biblical Berries

This recipe was adopted from this recipe.


Leg of Lamb
Pomegranate seeds
Peppercorn seeds
Olive oil
Salt and pepper


Aluminum foil


Go outside and dig a hole in your perfectly good yard. Get some wood and start a very nice fire. Get it going very good and strong, enough to make you slightly nervous as it is very close to your house, and then let it die.

Take the lamb and cut large slits into it. Cover the lamb with olive oil, salt and pepper. Fill the lamb slits with rosemary, anchovies, peppercorns and pomegranate seeds. Cover the lamb with about 5 layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil.

Place in fire and keep the fire fairly consistent in temperature. Let it cook for about an hour. Take the temperature of the lamb when you think you're almost finished.

Serve with vigor, as this is a very masculine dish.


This recipe was adopted from this recipe.






Heat the water in a pot. Gradually mix the cornmeal with the milk in a different pot until it forms a paste-like consistency. Merge the two pots and cook until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pot.

Remove from heat and knead it until it forms a uniform ball. Serve with lamb and bobotie, using the oshifima as a utensil.

Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte

This recipe was adopted from this recipe.


6 large eggs
1 cup Sugar
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped and melted
1 cup of sifted flour
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup softened unsalted butter
1 Egg yolk
2 tablespoons kirsch liquer
2 cups canned sour cherries
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 cup whipping cream
4 oz of bittersweet chocolate shaved


3 8 inch round cake pans
Lots of bowls


Pre-heat oven to 350. Mix the eggs and sugar and vanilla until the become light and fluffy; fold in the melted chocolate and flour gradually and in that order. Divide and pour batter into cake pans and bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

Combine softened butter, kirsch and 1 1/3 cup of powdered sugar into a butter frosting.

Whip cream with 2 tablespoon powdered sugar.

Assemble cake spreading frosting on the first layer of cake and sprinkling half the cherries on top. Repeat the process with the second layer. Place the final layer of cake on top and ice with whipped cream. Sprinkle with chocolate shavings and serve.


We give the Bobotie 1.5 globes because it was generally difficult to eat. It was, in our opinion, like playing consumption roulette: in one bite, there would be almonds and meat. In another bite, it would be savory and meat. In yet another bite, it would be spicy-hot and meat.

Also, the custard topping did not lend itself to meatloaf. Meatloaf and custard do not go together very well in our opinions. It may be, however, that we just didn't cook the thing correctly. If someone knows where we went wrong, please let us know.

We give the Magic Lamb with Biblical Berries 3.5 globes because it was tasty, but we overcooked it. The anchovies were a wonderful way to marinade this piece of meat and the completely melted away leaving a salty-tart flavor. The cooking in the hole in the back yard gets high marks from us as well for its novelty.

The other reason that this meal was especially interesting was that we cooked it in the middle of a snow-storm, quite the opposite weather conditions of a desert. We will post pictures later.

We give the Oshifima 3 globes because it didn't turn out as well as we would have liked either. We didn't let it reduce enough and it wasn't as thick as it should have been. That having been said, it did end up being quite a nice addition to the meat dishes that we served and it represented a very simple dish to make, serve and eat.

Finally, we gave the Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte a full 3.5 globes. It should have gotten higher marks because the flavors were excellent, but it fell short because the cake parts were not as light and fluffy as they should have been.

At the end of the day, we have to give this meal 3 globes, and this is not at all entirely the fault of Namibia. The evil spirit of poor cooking visited our house that evening and, for that, we all suffered.


#3 Cyprus: The Thin Green Line

Cyprus is a country with a rich history of being occupied and controlled by other powers for the last 3000 odd years. Empires ranging from the Persian, Ottoman, Roman, Byzantine , Egyptian, Assyrian, and many more have made their home on this asymmetrically shaped island. Historic power-grabs aside, this nation has been dealing with their own modern, internal divisions: those between the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots.

The Greek Cypriots are the majority and represent over three-fourths of the population. They occupy the southern portion of the island. The northern portion of the island is occupied by Turkish Cypriots. These groups of people are divided neatly through the capital Nicosia by the famous "Green Line". These two areas form de facto states, each with its own government, laws and, of course, cuisines.

The tensions and divisions between these two peoples have been attempted to be resolved through a flag. It happens to be the national flag of Cyprus, created by a Turkish Cypriot school teacher and adopted by the then president, Mikhaïl Khristodoulos Mouskos, in 1960.

This is the flag of Cyprus:

This flag, taken within the context of its creation, is a clear peace-map. Firstly, there are the clues taken from the background color: white. Typically, a white flag is the flag of truce, ceasefire and surrender. The creators of this flag were clearly signalling a ceasefire.

But where?

That next, logical question can be answered by looking at the center of the flag, where the observer can see a clear representation of the geographical outline of the island of Cyprus. The observer will note that there are no dividing lines, as the green one that split the country in two for years. But why is the country gold? Isn't that signaling to would-be instigators that there are material gains to be made by occupying such a country? Oh, no! The country is copper, and not gold. The word copper is one of the (disputed) origins of the word Cyprus, and the country is not awash in gold but was one of the original bearers of copper.

So, the flag calls for a ceasefire in Cyprus, but what about the final olive branches? Oh, yes! They are a final call for peace.

One can read the map of Cyprus as follows: Ceasefire in Cyprus with Peace!

So, drawing from the ameliorating attempts of the flag, we too decided that we would make a meal that drew from both the Turkish Cypriot and the Greek Cypriot populations, and that was generally eaten by both populations.

We start out with a Halloumi cheese dish that was originally Greek Cypriot, but that is now, as we understand it, generally enjoyed by people throughout the island. This dish is a wonderfully simple appetizer and is served with warm pita bread.

We then moved to the northern quarter of the island for some Turkish Cypriot influence. From there, we cooked a Yalanci Dolma, which is a rice dish wrapped in grape leaves and then boiled in water. The dolma dishes are typically filled with meat, but this dish is vegetarian. Thus the name Yalanci Dolma literally means "stuffed liar".

We then move on to a Greek Cypriot dish that is said to be enjoyed throughout the island. For this, we cooked a Cyprus Kleftiko. This is a slow-cooking leg-of-lamb dish that, according to some websites we found, originated when Greek resistance fighters stole legs of lamb from their Turkish foes. After stealing the lamb, they would have to cook it slowly in the ground to minimize smoke so that the Turkish forces would not find them. The militant origin of this dish has since been replaced by universal Cypriotic love for Kleftiko. There is also a thief version of this tale.

We end the meal with a potentially inflammatory drink selection, a Cypriot Brandy Sour, an alcoholic drink that would most likely not be enjoyed by the Muslim Turkish Cypriot population. However, we were assured by this website that it was the, "national drink of Cyprus". Just goes to show what a majority can do to a minority in a democracy.

Let's make peace through food!

Grilled Halloumi


A block of Halloumi cheese
A spritzing of olive oil
A sprinkling of salt
A bit of oregano A grilled lemon A number of pieces of pita bread


A broiler or a grill


Take the Halloumi cheese, which should be easily found at your local Greek super market, and cut it into a block that is approximately the size of a normally stuffed male wallet. Sprinkle with olive oil, salt and oregano and place it in the broiler/on the grill. While this is grilling/broiling, also place the pita bread and the lemon on the grill/in the broiler. Allow the cheese to grill until it turns generally soft, but not too soft. It should be soft enough that it doesn't slide down the cracks of the broiler/grill and that it can also be picked up using thongs. When everything has finished cooking, remove the lemon, halve it and sprinkle the juice over the cheese. Cut the Halloumi into small chunks, the pita bread into wedges and serve as a wonderful appetizer.

The original recipe can be found here.

Yalanci Dolma

Grape leaves, preferably fresh but probably canned
A handful of finely chopped onions
A handful of finely chopped scallions
A handful of olive oil
A handful of rice
A pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper
Half a handful of dill, finely chopped
A quarter handful of mint, finely chopped
Juice from a couple of lemons


A bowl
A large pan
A lid that fits within the large pan
A lid to cover the large pan


Take the onions, scallions, olive oil, rice, salt, pepper, dill and mint and combine in a bowl. Then, set up a place to roll the Dolma. Take the grape leaves with the stem-end pointing away from you. Place a sufficient clump of the rice mixture in the middle of the leaf. Roll the point closest to you over the clump of rice, then the two points of the leaf that are just to your left and right.

Take your pan and cover the bottom with leaves. This will prevent burning during the cooking process. Place your rolled Dolma around the outside of the pan in a circle with each roll pointing to the center of the pan in a tight spoke-like fashion. You should be able to cover the outside of a sufficiently large pan with Dolma. Then, place the lid or plate in the center of the pan so that it presses down the Dolma and prevents them from splitting. There should be enough room for you to cover the Dolma with water and the lemon juice.

Let cook until the rice is cooked through. This will probably take about 20 minutes (or more). Do not let the water boil too vigorously, as it could damage the grape leaves.

You can serve them warm or cold.

The original recipe was found here.

Cyprus Kleftiko


Enough lamb to feed the people you are serving. The following ingredients are proportioned for three lamb shanks.
One onion, quartered
Two tomatoes, halved
Two heads of garlic with skin on, left whole
Lots of fresh rosemary
Four potatoes, quartered
Three or four carrots cut into chunks
A mug of chicken stock
A mug of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste


One Le Creuset 4.5 qt oven pan, or anything else that can be covered and put in an oven
A knife


Find wonderful lamb. This can be difficult, but I suggest going to a Mediterranean market in an urban area and asking where they buy lamb. In our area, it happens to be an Iranian market on the outskirts of town. The original recipe called for a leg of lamb. Seeing as how we were not feeding a Cypriot army, we, instead, bought three lamb shanks.

Cut slits in the lamb that you have purchased and fill them with rosemary. Generously rub the lamb with salt and pepper. Then, fill your pot with the chicken stock and the olive oil. Place your lamb in the bottom of the pot and cover with potatoes, garlic, onions, tomatoes and carrots. Sprinkle the top of the vegetables with salt and pepper and any remaining rosemary.

Bake for a very long time at 320 degrees. Check after about 1.5 hours with a thermometer to see if you are finished. Check again every 20 minutes.

The original recipe can be found here.

Brandy Sour


Brandy, preferably Greek or Cypriot
Angostura bitters
Soda water




Find a nice, Greek or Cypriot brandy. For us, we found a Metaxa “Classic” at our local liquor store. Squeeze the lemons and fill the glass with two parts brandy, one part lemon and two parts soda. Top with angostura bitters, which were originally created by Dr. Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert, a Surgeon General in Simon Bolivar's army in Venezuela. The recipe remains a secret today.

Shake lightly and garnish with citrus.

The original recipe can be found here.


We give the Halloumi Grilled Cheese 4 globes because it was absolutely delicious, easy to make and, when served warm with grilled pita bread, simply melted in your mouth. We’ll definitely be making this simple appetizer again.

We give the Yalanci Dolma 3 and ½ globes out of five. There was some disagreement about what score this should have received by the group and we compromised. Some felt it deserved a four, and others a three. The higher scores were given because it was a refreshing, light snack that could be easily stored for later. The lower scores were given because it was a little heavy in olive oil, difficult to make, and may incorporate a bit too much dill. We didn't end up using mint in our Yalanci Dolma and future forays into dolma making will definitely include the mint and perhaps reduce the amoung of oil used.

We give the Cyprus Kleftiko a full 4 globes because it turned out beautifully. Due to the it was cooked for such a long time on such low heat, the rosemary flavor had a wonderful opportunity to incorporate itself with the lamb.

Additionally, some of us were quite skeptical that the potatoes, onions, tomatoes and carrots would be flavorful, as they were simply baked on top of stock and oil as opposed to in the stock and oil.

Our fears were unfounded. When served, the lamb took center stage on the plate and was surrounded by the vegetables. The gravy from the lamb, stock and oil was then poured over everything. This was just enough seasoning to make the dish irresistible. Finally, the garlic cloves that were left un-touched made a perfect, butter-like spread for some grilled pita bread served on the side.


#2 Argentina: Minimalist Dream

Representing Argentina in a meal could take place in a number of different ways. The history of the country vis-a-vis other Latin American countries is unique and fascinating. That great pendulum swing between liberal radicalism and conservative radicalism has occurred with regularity and could have served as an inspiration for an Argentine meal.

The heroic war to 'liberate' Las Malvinas (Falkland Islands) from the British could have been another thematic approach to the preparation of this meal, but was discarded; it would hardly be fair to limit our culinary exploration of the Argentine history and culture to a four month war in the early eighties (after all does anyone really want to be judged based on their behavior in the early 80s). On the other hand, it could be argued that odd sovereignty claims are very Argentinian in nature: they lay claim to about 20% of Antarctica, a territory that overlaps substantially with Chile and Britain (makes one wonder what it is about British territory that makes it so attractive).

Despite the great deal of historical material from which to draw a thematic focus, instead we wanted to concentrate on the incredible natural resources of the country and create a meal fit for a minimalist's dream.

Argentinian minimalism can be seen in the country’s rich cowboy, or gaucho, culture. These virile men roam the vast, wheat-filled plains dutifully watching herds of massive, grass-fed cattle under a gentle sun (it is not fully understood why the herd would be roaming through a wheat field or why the gaucho would allow this). They go home to their family, drink a bottle of red wine, eat a steak, and go to sleep. Ah, the simple life, unencumbered by nuance, free from the existential concerns of the modern lifestyle, this was the Argentina we wanted to represent.

This rugged simplicity (or at least as it exists in our imagination) is what lead us to the creation of our meal. The meal is simple, but delicious. It is even healthy, if approached with moderation.

T-Bone Asado


T-Bone Steak, well marbleized, the size of a book (moderation is in the eye of the beholder)
A small pinch of salt
A small pinch of pepper


A grill
Heat source


Take these beautiful pieces of meat and very lightly sprinkle them with some salt and pepper. This is not a rub, but a dusting.

Get the grill going and place the steaks on the grill. Cook until the steaks are rare to medium rare. Understand that, if cooking T-bones, the meat around the bone will be much less cooked than the meat on the outsides especially if cooking times are short and heat is high.

Remove from heat when perfect.

Ensalada Completa


Lettuce, one head worth, preferably butter lettuce (we have no clue if it is authentically Argentinian, but it is definitely tasty and has a great texture)
Two slicing tomatoes
One onion
Coarse salt
Olive Oil
Vinegar, preferably Balsamic


A bowl
A knife


Cut lettuce, tomatoes, onions. Place in bowl. Lightly toss with coarse salt. When ready to eat, toss with moderate amount of oil and vinegar.


We cooked under the influence of a light Malbec and highly suggest the same for anyone else attempting this meal. It was medium bodied, not too complex, and pleasantly fruity. We then drank with our meal an Argentinian Cabernet grown at a higher altitude. It was a robust, earthy but well balanced wine with good structure and a gentle nose. According to our local wine guru, grapes grown at higher altitudes produce a more structured wine because the contrast between day and night temperatures allow the grapes to retain their natural acidity. Whatever the reason, this is a wine that went very nicely with the steak.


*Note: Rachel did not participate in this review. She also took the camera to her friend's wedding not understanding the full importance of this food experiment.

We gave the T-Bone Asado 4.5 globes because it was generally delicious and tender. After making Nigerien kabobs with stew meat (the thought of which still makes my jaws cramp up) we went to the local butcher shop and got some really nice high class organic steaks and the results were well worth the extra money and effort. Using a really nice cut of beef made the most of our really simple preparation. Without any excessive seasoning, the natural flavor of the product really came through.

We gave the salad 4 globes because it was delicious, simple and refreshing. The gentle texture of the butter lettuce added to the diversity and enjoyability of this meal.

We gave the T-Bone Asado 4.5 globes because it was generally delicious and tender. After making Nigerien kabobs with stew meat (the thought of which still makes our jaws cramp up) we went to the local butcher shop and got some really nice high class organic steaks and the results were well worth the extra money and effort. Using a really nice cut of beef made the most of our really simple preparation. Without any excessive seasoning, the natural flavor of the product really came through.


#1 Niger: Finishing First in Something

Niger is one of those truly tragic countries. They rank dead last (pun intended) in the 2006 Human Development Index. Also, they remain anonymous to most Westerners, except Joe Wilson and his wife (what was her name?). If most Americans can’t pick Iraq out on a map, good luck having them identify where Niger is (hint: it’s above Nigeria). Niger, thus, has it tragic in two ways: it’s poor and divided on the one hand, and it doesn’t wield any of the star-country-power that the Sudan, Ethiopia or the DRC does.

The flag of Niger is, we believe, indicative of the country's understated nature.

Is it India? Is it Japan? Ireland maybe? No, it's Niger!

Physically, it is neatly landlocked in one of the poorest regions of the world and if that wasn’t enough, it was also blessed with a part of the Sahara desert and a part of the Sahel desert (remember, only one “s” in desert because you want it less than dessert!). This is a country that only the French could have created.

Like most of its neighbors, Niger is home to a wide range of ethnic groups slapped together during the colonial era. The Hausa are the largest ethnic group, representing more than half of the total population. The Djerma (also, Zerma, Zarma and a sub-grouping of the Sonhai) are the second largest ethnic group representing about a quarter of the total of the population. The remaining 25% are nomads or Arabs.

The dominant ethnic group in Niger, the Hausa, has a much larger representation in Nigeria (about four times as large). The Djerma, on the other hand, are most heavily represented in Niger, though they still remain the minority. Thus, one ethnic group, the Hausa, is the little brother to the Hausa in Nigeria, while the other ethnic group, the Djerma, is perpetually the minority.

Thus, the idea of “Niger” becomes problematic. It is hard to imagine any strong sense of nationalism emerging within the country, and even harder to imagine that nationalism being embodied in a national dish. There is no American apple pie, no Vietnamese pho bo, and no Scottish haggis. We are left with distinct ethnic identities and no national identity. We are left with the remnants of colonialism.

This identity-group potpourri made choosing dishes to cook from Niger simple: one Hausa, one Djerma and one nomadic (we chose the Tuareg). We made Hausa kabobs (Suya), Djerma stew and Tuareg sand-biscuits (they’re actually called taguella). To drink: the only thing to tie these three disparate identity groups together, a French Chateau Le Pey.

Oh, and for dessert: yellow-cake.

Hausa Suya

We found the Suya recipe in the online “Congo Cookbook” which notes that they are a delicacy in Nigeria. Attempting to represent Niger through food, this might have been a problem. However, because it is a recipe that is explicitly of the Hausa ethnic group, we believed it would be appropriate to adopt for our purposes.


A generous handful of roasted peanuts, crushed
A teabags worth of cayenne pepper
Half a teabag worth of powdered ginger
A thimble of salt
A couple of cloves of garlic
A pound and a half of meat cut into chunks the size of a walnut
A couple of plump, but firm tomatoes
One large yellow onion


Kabob sticks
A blunt object (or mortar and pestle)
Heat source


Taking any blunt and heavy object and crush the peanuts as finely as possible. We used a meat tenderizer which worked well. The meat tenderizer would have also been useful for the very tough stew meat that we used for these kabobs. We would highly suggest buying a better cut of meat (unless you are really into well defined jaw muscles). Mix the crushed peanuts with the dry spices and toss, roll, rub or otherwise coat the meat. Cut the tomatoes and onions into kabob-friendly chunks and alternate them with the meat on a set of skewers. We got the Suya on the grill just as the sun was setting (nothing like after dark grilling), but when they came off of the fire and into the light we discovered that many weren’t done. We ate those that were cooked well, and finished the rest under the broiler in the kitchen.

Djerma Stew

We owe our stew recipe to the fine work of the American missionary team working with the Djerma people in Niger. We’re sure it will be a comfort for them to know that even if they prove unable to bring the light of God to the Muslim Djerma, they have spread the palate of the heathen near and far through the power of the Internet tubes. It’s nice to know what those who are going to hell like to eat.


Half an onion, chopped
A small amount of oil
4 to 5 cloves of garlic, minced
A small jar of diced tomatoes
A couple of pinches of dried thyme
A palm full of curry powder
3 bullion cubes
A glob of peanut butter the size of a tea cup


A pot
A heat source
A spoon


Heat the oil in a pot, we used a heavy dutch oven. Cook the onions and garlic until translucent. Throw in the tomatoes, the thyme, the curry powder, the bullion cubes and enough water to give it a soupy consistency. This was originally a meat stew, but we discarded the meat, added chopped up carrots, potatoes and sweet potatoes and made it a vegetable dish. Once the veggies were tender we removed a cup of liquid from the stew and mixed in the peanut butter. This was then added to the stew and simmered until thick.

Serve hot in bowls. Serve accompanied with utensils.

Tuareg Sand-Biscuits (Taguella)

We did not approach looking for recipes from nomadic groups living within Niger with much hope. Actually, we believed the whole endeavor was hopeless. However, after fully underestimating the efficacy of our Public Broadcasting Service, we stumbled across a very hip looking website that provided detailed instructions as to how one could make Tuareg Taguella.

The website offers helpful tips for making sand-biscuits and offers this explanation of Tuareg eating habits:

Tuareg cuisine is as austere as its desert surroundings. Meat is a rarity. Milk and milk products from camels and goats are the norm. Camel’s milk with dried dates or a millet porridge with a butter sauce are typical dishes. Couscous is reserved for special occasions.

One of the most popular Tuareg foods is taguella, a thick crèpe eaten with a sauce of butter or dried tomatoes and onions. It is usually served with green tea.

Yum. A thick crèpe. We thought these nomads had a good thing and we were excited to begin our exploration into the Heart of Culinary Darkness.

The instructions from PBS continued:

2.2 lbs. of millet flour, coarsely sifted
Roughly 9 oz. of water
Large pinch of salt
Large enamel bowl

The webpage continues with instructions for how to create this desert crèpe, including such culinary mainstays as:

Dig a low, shallow hole in the desert. Build a low fire from wood and charcoal in the hole.

Scrape the surface with a plant stalk hot from the fire to keep the surface clean from sand.

To check the dough’s temperature, poke it with a stick.

To get rid of the sand, shake the bread or sprinkle it with water.

My favorite line was the one about the stick.

We generally followed the instructions provided by PBS, but altered them to suit a non-desert climate.


A 2 lb bag of millet flour.
A jar full of water
A large pinch of salt


A bowl
A shovel
Hard wood charcoal
A charcoal chimney
A stick
A flame source


We dug a hole in the back yard, just large enough to burry a number of small creatures side by side. It took about 5 shovels of dirt to make the hole adequately large. We then bought two bags of sand from the Home Despot Depot. Place both bags in the hole and dig out a space for burning charcoal.

You have now transformed a part of your back yard into the Sahel desert. Be sure to carry adequate water.

Next, get your hard wood charcoal burning, but don’t use any lighter fluid. We used a charcoal chimney, which works by starting a newspaper fire under the charcoal that eventually creates a lovely bed of burning embers.

Place the embers in your miniature Sahel desert. Let them burn for a bit. This is a good time to escape the rigors of the desert and step back inside your home to create the Taguella.

Place the millet flour into a bowl. Good luck finding millet flour. We live in a major US city and found only one store that carried the product. Mix the flour with the water and the salt until it forms dough. The consistency of the dough is much coarser than dough made with wheat flour. The millet dough also tends to tear and break apart easily.

Form the dough into disks the width of a large coaster and the height of the first two joints of your pinky. From our 2 lbs of dough, we formed five disks. Let these sit for a bit, as they tend to solidify slightly with time as water evaporates.

Leave the comfort of your home and venture back out into the desert. Once there, situate a stick above the fire so that it can get quite hot. Also, maneuver your embers so that they form a large, flat bed, with many embers on the side to pile on top of your sand-biscuits.

Once your stick is hot and your embers are ready, place your sand-biscuits on the embers. The PBS instructions said to scald the tops of the biscuits with the hot stick to keep sand from sticking to them. We did this with much success, though it seemed ridiculous at the time. After charring the tops of our biscuits with the stick, we covered them with the remaining embers.

Next, sit back and wait. They took about 15-20 minutes to cook and we followed the PBS instructions and poked them with a stick (the same stick) to see when they were adequately firm.

Remove them from the fire when they are firm and place them on a serving dish. Serve warm with stew, kabobs and French wine.


For desert, enjoy this simple Yellow-Cake recipe.


*Note: Rachel did not participate in this review. She also took the camera to her friend's wedding not understanding the full importance of this food experiment.

The kabobs were excellent and the rub was a culinary revelation. We would cook them again in a heartbeat using the same seasoning along with the tomatoes and onions. The only thing we would change would be the use of stew meat. While the meat was purchased with good intention, stew meat is not designed for barbequing and it was insufferably tough. Additionally, the cooking of the kabobs was not entirely consistent as it happened in complete darkness.

Score: 3.5 Globes
We give the kabobs 3.5 Globes, the lower score resulting from tough meat and inconsistent barbequing. This dish could easily merit a much higher score with a better cut of meat and better cooking.

The stew was also quite good. It was nicely creamy and the peanut flavor was not overpowering. Also, if seasoned correctly, the thyme, curry and cayenne created a savory/spicy blend that was very satisfying. It would be a bit boring as a stand-alone dish, but worked nicely alongside the spicy kabobs.

Score: 3 Globes
We give the stew 3 Globes. While it was unexciting, it did have a very nice, creamy texture and flavor that nicely complemented the kabobs.

The sand biscuits were appalling. We brought them inside when they were warm, just off the fire. They looked tolerable and we thought they might have too much of a smoky, charred flavor, but we were wrong. They had a very subtle smoky flavor which was tolerable, but the texture was simply awful. They tasted like a warm, slightly hardened mixture of baking powder and chalk. They crumbled into powder when you bit into them and it took a lot of effort to actually work up a sufficient amount of saliva to allow them to go down the hatch. I don’t know if we cooked them incorrectly or what, but the product that came out of our miniature version of the Sahel was just bad.

Surprisingly, if you look back at the PBS website, the dish was given a full 4 stars out of 5. We speculated that the 15 Tuareg members with computers and a wifi connection were spamming the site to artificially boost the rating.

Interestingly, the stick method for burning the tops of the biscuits was very effective.

Score: ½ Globe I give the Taureg Sand-Biscuits a ½ Globe because they were inedible. No wonder millet flour is so hard to find.

In the end, I believe that we did a good job of representing the country of Niger through food and drink. The Hausa, Djerma and Tuareg dishes were all nicely tied together by the French wine. Onto another country and a brief respite from West Africa.