Jordan, a little bit of slice of peaceful heaven in the middle of the conflict area of the Middle East. Jordan isn’t involved in any of it! They do however harbor a lot of refugees from the surrounding countries. Jordan has a tradition of welcoming visitors: camel caravans walked the legendary King’s Highway transporting frankincense in exchange for spices and Nabataean tradesmen, Roman legionnaires, Muslim armies, and Crusaders all passed through the land, leaving behind these impressive monuments. Things you didn’t know about Jordan:
- Aqaba is the Red Sea destination you probably haven’t considered. But as question marks continue to hang over Egypt’s coastal resorts – Sharm El Sheikh in particular – this little urban nugget at Jordan’s southern tip is a plausible alternative. It has a pleasant ambiance in its bars and cafes, hits the temperature sweet-spot of the upper Twenties Celsius during October
- It may be one of the oldest cities on the planet, in fact. Archaeological evidence suggests that what is now Amman witnessed human settlement as early as the 13th century BC. It was also established on the surface of our world so long ago that it features in the Bible (as Rabath Ammon).
- It is arguably the most memorable scene in the Indiana Jones movies – the moment at the climax of Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade when the Indy lays eyes on Al-Khazneh, the rock-carved Treasury building in the “lost” Nabatean city of Petra (which is masquerading on screen as the resting place of the Holy Grail).
- Sitting 1,200 meters above sea level, Ajloun Forest Reserve in northwest Jordan is five square miles of hills and valleys where you can camp among wildflowers or stay overnight in one of the log cabins, leaving the days wide open for wandering among oak, strawberry, carob, and wild pistachio forests.
The tahini sauce however simple it goes perfectly with the kofta!! I served it with couscous but a nice salad will do very well of course! I used fresh mint in the kofta because I have lot’s of it on my plant on the roof terrace, but you can just as well use dried mint.
Israel, it’s easily the most fought over piece of land in the world. To talk about it without pissing somebody if not everybody off is sort of an impossible task. So here goes nothing…
The people of modern day Israel share the same language and culture shaped by the Jewish heritage and religion passed through generations starting with the founding father Abraham (ca. 1800 BC). Jews have had continuous presence in the land of Israel for the past 3,300 years. After the exile by the Romans at 70 CE, the Jewish people migrated to Europe and North Africa. In the Diaspora (scattered outside of the Land of Israel), they established rich cultural and economic lives, and contributed greatly to the societies where they lived. Yet, they continued their national culture and prayed to return to Israel through centuries. In the first half of the 20th century there were major waves of immigration of Jews back to Israel from Arab countries and from Europe. During the British rule in Palestine, the Jewish people were subject to great violence and massacres directed by Arab civilians or forces of the neighboring Arab states. During World War II, the Nazi regime in Germany decimated about 6 million Jews creating the great tragedy of The Holocaust. In 1948, Jewish Community in Israel under the leadership of David Ben-Gurion reestablished sovereignty over their ancient homeland. Declaration of independence of the modern State of Israel was announced on the day that the last British forces left Israel (May 14, 1948). (I did not write this by myself but this is the briefest history that I could find of the history of the Israel http://www.science.co.il/israel-history/)
Things you didn’t know about Israel:
- Israel led the world by banning size Zero models before any other country.
- More Israelis graduate from college than any other country (per capita)
- Israel is the only country to revive an unspoken language, making Hebrew one of its two national languages (the other official language is Arabic).
- Israeli cows are milkier than any other cows in the world – producing nearly twice the yield of European cows.
- Starbucks succeeded in every country in the world…except for Israel.
Iran has been negatively in the news, which is so sad especially because the country is sooo beautiful, and the people are incredibly generous and friendly. And if you think Iran is a country made up entirely of dry desert plains, think again. Not only does it have plenty of mountains (and half a dozen volcanoes), head for the peaks of the Alborz Mountains – only a few hours from Tehran – and you’ll discover several ski resorts! Dizin is the largest and, at 8,700 ft, it’s higher than Europe’s highest resort. I would have never associated Iran with skiing! But apparently anything is possible
Things you didn’t know about Iran:
- If you get in a cab anywhere in Iran, chances are when you try to pay, your driver will refuse to take your money. Walk into a shop to buy something, the same happens. Baffled? The cultural practice of Taarof is Iran’s own personal brand of etiquette. You’re not really being given a freebie, it’s a form of civility and all you have to do is play along. It’s all about denying your will to please the other person – and it extends to pretty much every social situation.
- You should accept all offers of food and drink (but be sure to decline once or twice first!) and it is polite to try a bit of everything that is served.
- Believe it or not, Iran has the highest rate of nose surgery in the world per capita. The pursuit of the perfect nose certainly has a lot to do with the restrictions of the hijab dress code leading to a larger focus on the face but it’s about more than physical beauty. For Persian women (and some men), it’s also an indicator of wealth and social status.
- Iran is the largest exporter of the most expensive caviar in the world
- According to an old Persian proverb, “A Persian rug is perfectly imperfect, and precisely imprecise”. Why? It’s simple, really. A fine Persian rug will almost always include intentional imperfections to symbolize how only God can create perfection.
Jeweled Rice is mostly served at weddings and other joyful occasions. The fruitiness of the cranberries and raisins makes it special! A yummy side dish!
So Egypt, land of mummys, pyramids, pharaos and old legends. I have been to Egypt twice. Once with my parents and once with my entire family when my grandfather turned 80. Both times were very memorabele vacations, eventhough we spent most of oud time inside a resort. However we did take a daytrip to Luxor! I still was very young back then and i couldn’t understand everything the guide was talking about, but i remember thinking: How did they make al this by hand without machines, how did het those massive stones all the way up those pyramids? I was so impressed that when a few weeks after we tot back home and my teacher asked me to write an essay about a subject we would like to learn more about. I write a 10 page essay about my fascination with Egypt, pretty remarkable for a 10-year-old! My teacher gave me a bad grade because she thought I didn’t write all of it myself (really unfair because i really did).
- The title of longest ruling pharaoh goes to Pepi II (2246-2152 B.C.) After becoming king at only 6-years-old, he commanded the longest reign in history—94 years! Pepi II was also known to be flanked by naked slaves smeared in honey to attract flies away from him.
- Fashion now is, understandably, light-years away from fashion in ancient Egypt. Fly swatters made from giraffe tails, for example, were very popular back then. There’s not much chance of them appearing in Vogue, though. (Yeah I guess animal rights organisations would have a probleem with that nowadays!)
- Women had rights – Women in ancient Egypt had more rights and privileges than most other women in the ancient world and, in some cases, even more than in the modern world. Among their rights were the right to own property, the right to initiate business deals and the right to divorce. Some women – usually from wealthy families – could also become doctors or priestesses.
- They invented the calender – The ancient Egyptians were also exceedingly smart. They first people to have a year consisting of 365 days divided into 12 months – it helped them predict the annual flooding of the Nile. They also invented clocks
- The oldest known pregnancy test can also claim Egypt as its home. The Berlin Papyrus (c. 1800 B.C.) contains directions for a test involving wetting cereals with urine. If the cereals grew barley, it meant the woman was pregnant with a boy. If they grew wheat, she was pregnant with a girl. And if neither grew, the woman wouldn’t give birth.
Falafel the only time it comes in my mind to dat falafel is when i am hungry after a good night out! Such a shame because it’s delicious!
Ingredients: 1 cup or tin of white broad beans, 1 tin of chickpeas, 1 small onion, 3 garlic cloves, 1 leek stalk, 1 tea spoon of baking soda, 1 tea spoon of flour, 1 tea spoon of cumin, 1 tea spoon of cayenne pepper, 3 table spoons of sesame seeds, 5 sprigs of fresh coriander , 5 sprigs of fresh dill, 5 sprigs of fresh parsley, olive oil, 1 tea spoon of salt to taste
1. If using fresh beans, soak overnight in cold water. If using tinned beans, empty into a sieve and rinse thoroughly.
2. Chop the onions, garlic and leek and place in a mixing bowl.
3. Pull the leaves from the sprigs of dill, coriander and parsley and add to mixing bowl.
4. Add the flour, baking soda, cayenne pepper, cumin and salt to the bowl. Please note that if using tinned beans you will need to add less salt than if using fresh beans.
Recommend you add ½ a tea spoon initially and then add more as required to taste after blending.
5. Add the beans to the mixing bowl and blend into a green paste. Then gentle kneed. If two moist add a little flour, if too dry add a couple of spoons of water.
6. Heath the oil until it is bubbling.
7. With a wet spoon shape the mix into flat discs 4cm x 2 cm. Sprinkle lightly with sesame seeds and add to the hot oil. The falafel is ready when it has turned brown on the outside. If you find your falafel is breaking apart upon contact with the oil it is too moist. Add some flower and roll it in flower before placing in the oil.
8. Serve with hot pita bread, salad and hummus.
Bahrain is know as the island of one million palmtrees, ancient sights lead the eye to the modern skyline filled with skyscrapers nowadays. It is a land of contrast. The name Bahrain comes means 2 water probably because the sea around Bahrain is so special, fresh water bubbles up from underground springs straight into the sea. A lot of ancient legendes are about the mysterious water springs.
and the first country in the Middle East to discover oil in 1932.
Here are some more facts about Bahrain:
- Many people believe that Bahrain is the Garden of Eden from the Bible (You know the place where Adam & Eve lived)
- Four-fifths of the population lives in cities, the majority in Manama which is the capital and the largest urban center. That city stands on a seabed, parts of which were recently reclaimed from the water.
- Only 1 percent of the land is fertile, the country is unable to produce enough food for its population and relies almost entirely on import
- Political parties are prohibited, but there are several small underground leftist and Islamic fundamentalist groups.
- While arranged marriage is still common, the bride and groom often have a chance to meet before they marry. While it was traditional for girls to be married at twelve or thirteen years of age, they now tend to wait until they have finished their education and have a job. Upon marriage, a sum of money is paid to the bride by the groom’s family. (Well a least they are trying).
Ingredients: 2 large onions, 3 tablespoons of butter, 1 1/2 table spoon baharat (ingredients and recipe below), 1 tablespoon of turmeric, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, combination of chicken thighs, legs and breasts, 1 hot green chile, seeded and diced1 tablespoon fresh ginger minced, 5 large cloves or garlic thinly sliced, 2 large roma tomatoes diced, 2 or 3 limes sliced, 5 cardamon pods, ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves, 1 cinnamon stick, 2½ teaspoons salt, 2½ cups chicken stock, 2 cups basmati rice (soaked for at least 15 minutes, then rinsed and drained), 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro chopped, 2 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped
Ingredients Baharat (you can buy baharat in a jar, but I had everything so I just made it myself): 1 tablespoon black peppercorns, 1 tablespoon cumin seeds, 2 teaspoons coriander seeds, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 teaspoon whole cloves, ¼ teaspoon green cardamon seeds, 1 tablespoon paprika powder, ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Set the paprika and nutmeg powders aside. Place all remaining ingredients (whole seeds, cinnamon stick and cloves) in a small frying pan and dry roast over medium-high heat, tossing regularly to prevent scorching, for 3-4 minutes or until very fragrant. Transfer to a spicegrinder and let cool. Add the paprika and nutmeg and grind all the ingredients to a fine powder. Store left over baharat in an airtight jar.
Recipe Chicken Machboos
Heat the oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat and fry the chicken pieces on both sides until the skin is brown and crispy. Transfer the chicken to a plate and leave the remaining oil in the Dutch oven. Add the ghee (or butter), reduce the heat to medium, and fry the onions until starting to brown, about 10-12 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, and green chile pepper and saute for another 2 minutes. Add the baharat and turmeric and cook for another minute. Return the chicken pieces to the Dutch oven along with the tomatoes, limes, cardamom pods, cinnamon and cloves. Add the chicken stock and stir to combine. Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for one hour. Add the cilantro, parsley and drained rice and stir to combine. Return it to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for another 15-20 minutes until the rice is done and has absorbed the liquid. Transfer the chicken and rice to a serving dish (either leave the chicken pieces tossed in with the rice, or place the chicken on top of the rice)
1. Afghanistan: Rice Pilav with Lamb, Carrots, Raisins and Chicken kebabs with Cilanto Garlic Yoghurt Sauce
The first country mentioned in my book is Afghanistan. To be honest I don’t really know anything about Afghanistan except for the obvious things that show up on the news.
- So I looked up some fun facts about Afghanistan!
- Poetry is a big part of Afghans’culture and it has been for centuries. In the city of Herat, women, men and children gather on Thursday night to share verses from old and new poetry.
- Afghanistan’s national sport is Buzkashi (no idea how it is pronounced), or in other words, goat-grabbing. It’s a sport where the players in two teams try to catch a goat while riding on a horse. They have been playing it for centuries. Nowadays there even are sponsors involved.
- The main income of the local people in Afghanistan is from the agricultural sector. Many people plant their farm with rice, fruit, veggies and nuts. Some of their crops are exported too.
I had no idea what the Afghan kitchen entailed. My starting point was Google (obviously). It quickly became clear that Pilaf is their national dish but that everyone makes it in their own way, so I tried to combine all of them. I was at my parents house when I made this, and my family loved this dish. When I told them that I was going to cook Afghan food they were a little worried. But fortunately they were pleasantly surprised when this came to the table! If anyone has any suggestions, opinions, critisisms or maybe you make this dish in a different way (or maybe i’m doing it completly wrong) please let me know, because I want to learn how to do it the right way! I found all the recipes on!
Rice Pilaf with Lamb Carrots and Raisins (for 7 people) Ingredients:3 cups of basmati rice, 1 medium onion, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 5 cups of water, 2 large carrots, 1 1/2 pounds of boneless lamb shank cut into thumb size pieces, raisins to taste. Wash rice in several changes of cold water until the water becomes almost clear. Soak the rice in cold water for 1 hour, then drain well in a sieve. While the rice soaks, fry un onion in oil in a large casserole pan. Pat the lamb dry and sprinkle over 1 teaspoon of salt. Add to the onion and brown on all sides about 8 minutes total. Add 1 cup of water and bring to simmer. Cover pot and reduce heat to ,ow, then braise lamb stirring occasionally, until meat is tender about. 15 minutes. Stir in the drained rice, carrots, raisins and 2 teaspoons of salt. Add enough water to cover the mixture by 1 inch and bing to a boil, uncovered, over medium-high heat, until rice is tender and liquid about 20 minutes. Fluff rice with a fork and transfer pilaf to a large platter. Chicken Kebabs Ingredients: 1/4 cup of greek yoghurt, 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, 6 garlic cloves minced, 1 teaspoon turmeric, 3 chickenbreasts. Equipment: Metal skewers Whisk together yoghurt, lemon juice, garlic, turmeric and 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl, then add the chicken, stirring to coat. Marinate, covered and chilled at least 4 hours ( the recipe said 8, but I didn’t have the time, so I marinated them as long as possible). Thread pieces onto the skewers. and put them on BBQ or grill pan. Cilantro Garlic Yoghurt Sauce (for the chicken kebabs) Ingredients: 1 1/2 cups of greek yoghurt, 3/4 cup finely chopped cilantro, 4 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1 1/2 teaspoon of finely chopped garlic, 3/4 teaspoon of cayenne. Stir together all ingredients with 1 teaspoon of salt, then chill, covered at leaf 30 minutes (for flavors to blend)
Great movie about Afghanistan: The Kiterunner (2007)