When I think of Latvia I think cold and woods full of pine trees. Which is not wrong, but not the only things identifying Latvia. First of all it one of the least densely populated countries in the European Union with only 2 million inhabitants. (compared to where I live in the Netherlands, 18 million people!!!) Nearly half of the entire population lives in the capital Riga. The capital is an interesting mixture of somber Sojvet and ancient medieval buildings. Apart from the large forests, there are also beautiful beaches, During Soviet times they were zoned off as a high-security military base, strictly out of bounds to civilians. The region’s development was stunted and today the desolate coastal villages feel as though they’ve been locked away in a time capsule.
Things you didn’t know about Latvia:
- Over 50% of Latvia is covered by forest, and it’s one of the most environmentally friendly countries on the planet.
- Latvia has the highest rate of fashion models per capita in the world.
- A Latvian-Jewish tailor invented jeans (Levi Strauss backed him financially)
- The Latvian culture still retains many Baltic pagan traditions, such as the celebration of the summer solstice (sees picture above), when Latvians go to the countryside to get drunk, to dance, light huge bonfires and do something called seeking the fern flower (having sex in the forest)
- When Swedish Vikings were at the height of their power around 1187, ancient Latvian chiefdoms not only stopped them from conquering their country but sent a fleet of ships to the then Swedish capital Sigtuna and burned it to the ground.
This recipe was kind of a bummer to be really honest, i didn’t really like the potato pancakes, they were a bit boring for my taste. The kotletes on the other hand were perfect quick easy meal!
Kuwait is quite different from the other countries in the Gulf region. It is just as oil-rich as the other Arab countries but they choose not to express their wealth in the same way. Where the others are all about glitter and glamour, in Kuwait they made conscious decision not to sell its soul to the gods of commercialism. And Kuwait lies just far enough away from those Gulf mass tourism places to the south to mean that tourists and expats are fewer here. So it feels more authentic and less fake. That doesn’t mean that Kuwait is boring because it is most definitely not! Kuwait remains an oasis in a land of desert plains and has excellent museums, a fine souq, beaches and lively restaurants.
Things you didn’t know about Kuwait:
- Kuwait is the only country in the Gulf to have an elected parliament and a constitution.
- Kuwait National Day was celebrated on June 19th until 1962. In 1963, it was changed to February 25th in order to avoid the hot summer weather.
- Gas is cheaper than water. Petroleum and petroleum products make up nearly 85% of export revenues.
- The flag of Kuwait contains four colors: green, white, red, and black. They symbolize “our lands”, “our deeds”, “our swords”, and “our battles” respectively.
- Wives do not take on their husband’s name upon marriage. The name you are born with is your name from birth until death.
- They only make up a third of the population, a minority within their own country. The other 2/3 are composed of expats from all around the world. Kuwait has an interesting societal structure and the international community.
The ingredients sound a bit bland for someone who hasn’t tried the dish. But the overly sweet ﬂavor of the fresh dates paired with the nutty earthy ﬂavor of the ﬂour mixture topped with cinnamon and walnuts is divine.
Florence a city I have yet to visit but is on the top of my list ever since I read Inferno by Dan Brown. It’s been a year since I read it and it still haunts me almost every day… and please don’t go and watch the movie, please just read the flipping book… I love Tom Hanks just as much as the next girl, but Inferno… naaaah not his best work. Sorry people! Too bad because the story had so much potential to be one of the most influential movies of all time.
About Florence,… Florence brought forth so incredibly influential historical figures that it seemed strange to me not to choose Florence as one of the 4 areas I am discussing in Italy. Italian icons like Leonardo Davinci, Dante, The Medici family (who ruled over Florence for 200 years!), Botticelli, Donatello just to name a few… The height of Florence was during the Renaissance, actually, Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance!
Things you didn’t know about Florence:
- Between 1865 and 1870 Florence was made capital of the newly united kingdom of Italy.
- It was Hitler himself who rescued The Ponte Vecchio of Florence from being destroyed during the World War II. He thought it was beautiful…
- Florence was the birthplace of pavement! In 1339 so before Rome, Venice, the first paved streets have been invented.
- Stendhal Syndrome has been born in Florence and acquired the name of Florence It is the state of mind when someone becomes lightheaded or dizzy because of the outstanding art. As strange as it sounds it is really true.
- Florence is the birthplace of the Italian language. The famous Florentine – Dante Alighieri is said to create the standard Italian language that the whole country speaks nowadays.
Guinea has a very tough history! They’ve gone through many struggles over the centuries. Nonetheless they are a very brave nation. During their struggle for independence one of their slogans was: “We prefer poverty in liberty to riches in slavery!” and who can blame them. Freedom is one of the most important basic human rights! But when the French let them have their independence they immediately cut off all financial and physical support which let to a disastrous fall into poverty. After gaining independence from France, Guinea turned to the Sovjet Union for support. The first president introduced a socialist government. Thousands of people were killed or tortured during this time. Today, the country is trying to become a democracy, but the process is not easy. At this moment there is still no light on the horizon for Guinea. The most recent disaster was the Ebola virus which wiped out a chunk of Guinea’s the population.
- Guinea was a part of the Mali empire between the 13th and the 15th century.
- Guinea was the first country gaining independence from the French on October 2nd 1958
- The literacy rate of Guinea is very low.
- Guinea has a rich musical tradition like other West African countries.
For Guinea I made an African snack called puf puffs. You can compare them with beignets only there is onion in them which strongly seems to work perfectly!!!!
Ingredients: 2 cup of all-purpose flour,, 1 and ½ cup of warm water, 1 tbsp of dry yeast, ½ cup of sugar, 1 tsp of salt, ½ tsp of vanilla extract, 1 tbsp of finely grated onion (optional)
- Dissolve the yeast in the water and pour on the flour. Mix it really well .
- Add the sugar, salt, vanilla extract and onion. Cover with a napkin and let it rise for at least 2 hours
- Heat the oil and use your hand or a spoon to drop the mixture in the oil, fry until each side is brown.
- Tips: To get the puff puff right make sure that the batter is not too thick nor too thin. And the also the temperature of the oil is important. The oil should be hot enough but not too hot.
This week another isolated archipelago, The Faroe Islands. They are autonomous islands under the protection of Denmark. They are not part of the European Union and they speak their own language. A lot of Faroese would like to be independent. Half of the Faroese population lives in the capital Torshavn. The problem with the Faroe islands is that the young people all go to college in Denmark, most of them stay there. Despite being so far away from the rest of the world, the music, art and culture scene in the Faroe Islands is booming! They have a lot of music festivals.
Things you didn’t know about the Faroe Islands:
- Soccer is really popular the 1 in 20 men is semi soccer pro! The country’s football team won their first competitive match against Austria in September 1990, which prompted a massive Faroese party.
- The Faroe Islands are one of very few countries in Europe to have no McDonalds. You can, however, find a Burger King, in Torshavn if you’re in need of fast food.
- There are three traffic lights on the Faroe Islands. All are in the capital Torshavn and are very close to each other.
- The weather in the islands changes so quickly and frequently that a well-known Faroese saying is ‘If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes’.
- The Faroese drink in sheebeens, known as key clubs – set up in secret when alcohol was banned on the islands. These dens were so popular they stayed open when prohibition ended. There is an Irish pub called, imaginatively, ‘Irish Pub’. It is said to serve the best beer on the islands.
Wash and cut the washed rhubarb into fine slices. Cut about 1/2 inch cubes.
In a large pot add the rhubarb, water, sugar and a stick of cinnamon. Bring the mixture to a boil.
Reduce heat, put the lid on the pot and cook the mixture for about 5 minutes. Keep an eye on the rhubarb because you want the rhubarb tender but not mushy.
Next, combine the cornstarch with 1/4 water in a small bowl. This will be used to thicken the rhubarb porridge
After the rhubarb has cooked for 5 minutes, turn off the stove. Remove the cinnamon stick out of the rhubarb mixture.
Add and stir in the corn starch mixture. Add a little at a time and the rhubarb mixture will start to thicken.
Taste to see if it is sweet enough. If not, stir in a little more sugar.
Pour into a heatproof glass bowl to cool down. Sprinkle sugar to prevent a skin from forming. Cover and chill in the refrigerator.
Once ready to serve ladle into bowls and garnish with either milk or cream. Enjoy!
Estonia I had no feeling at all when I heard Estonia before researching it this week. For 50 years Estonia has been suppressed by the Sovjet Union. Estonia has a history of been suppressed by a lot of countries like Denmark, Russia and Scandinavia. Luckily the city of Tallin remained untouched in it’s medieval glory and is now put on the Unesco list. In 1991 Estonia finally became independent again, despite the suppression they managed to stick to their own culture. After the liberation of Estonia a lot of Russians stayed behind, in hope of a better future, since the economy in Russia was breaking down. Even now 40% of the population of Tallin consists of Russians. Together with Lithuania and Latvia they are called the Baltic States. Estonia is the smallest of Baltic states with only just over 1,5 million inhabitants.
Things you didn’t know about Estonia
- The Estonians are one of the most tech savvy nations on earth, for instance you can pay everything by phone and they invented Skype!
- Zero tolerance policy for drunk driving. The sale of take away alcoholic beverages in shops is prohibited after 10pm. After this time alcohol can only be purchased and consumed on the premises of restaurants and bars.
- Remember as a kid you used to try and swing over the bars and it never worked? That because the design of our swings. In Estonia however swings are designed differently. . Essentially they built a better frame, designed solely for the purpose of going all the way over the bars—and doing so is basically the entire point of the sport. It is extreme, insane, and incredibly cool. It’s called Kiiking
- Every single year, several European countries get together for a rather strange sport, called “wife-carrying.” The sport sounds pretty odd, and it is exactly as odd as it sounds. The idea is that the male contestants actually carry their wives or girlfriends, and try to get the best time possible on the course
I think this is one of the best things I have baked ever! Delicious and it looks spectucular! Like a pro made it! I made the filling extra rich because I was so enthusiastic.
Ingredients filling: chocolate covered pecan nuts (or chocolate chips and nuts), marzipan, cinnamon, sugar, butter (measurements of the filling is very personal! But I put in a lot!)
You start by preparing the dough. Put all the ingredients for the dough in a large bowl and knead until you have a soft compact cough. Make a ball and allow to rise for 1 hour in a warm dry place. After 1 hour it should have doubled in size. Tear up the marzipan by hand until you have tiny crumbs and sprinkle with cinnamon. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin to give a rectangular shape as regular as possible and scatter over the marzipan crumbs and the rest of your filling! Roll up de dough so it looks like a giant Swiss roll. Slice open in two your roll but leave one end whole. Twist the rolls around each other and then close the ends together. So you have a nice circle. Brush a little egg yolk on your beautiful creation and put in a preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes.
El Salvador, a small Central-American country squeezed in between: Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica. Glimpses of tropical paradise, national parks as you want them to be just astonishing untouched nature, colonial splendor astride pristine volcanic lakes, searing colors and a fierce creative vision sit quietly in the shadows of an indomitable local pride.That’s what El Salvador is all about. A place not many people go but when they do they can’t shut up about it until they convinced you to go there aswell Here you’ll find a stunning coastline with world-class waves, a cultural capital famed for its nightlifex and small-town charm by the plaza-load. Things you didn’t know about El Salvador
- The smallest country in Central America and the only one without a Caribbean coastline.
- El Salvador is the only Central American country that has no visible population of African descent. This is in part due to laws established during colonial and modern times prohibiting entrance to the country of people of African descent. (So far for super racist laws!)
- It is known as the “Land of the Volcanoes” because of the more than 20 volcanoes in the territory. Two of them are currently active.
- Salvadorans are known as “guanacos.”
- El Salvador went to war with Honduras after a soccer match; which was later known as the “Soccer War”.
Well pupasas they are a great tasty snack my only objection would be that they are quite heavy Ingredients the beans: 3⁄4 cup red beans (cooked), 1⁄8 small onion, 1⁄8 cup corn oil, 1⁄4 tablespoon salt, 1⁄4 cup water (I use cooking liquid from the beans)
Ingredients cheese: 3⁄4 lb mozzarella cheese(shredded), 1⁄8 green bell pepper (diced), 1 chile
Ingredients Masa: 1 cup masa corn flour (I use maseca brand), 1⁄2 cup warm water
- Heat the corn oil in a large soup pan on medium high heat. Once the oil is heated fry the onion until golden brown.
- While the onions are cooking, place half of the beans and 1/2 cup of the reserved bean liquid in a blender and blend for 1 minute.
- Once the onion is golden in color, about 4 minutes take the onion out with a slotted spoon.
- Carefully stir the beans from the blender into the hot oil. Turn your heat down to medium low.
- Next add the onion and the rest of the beans and reserved 1/2 cup cooking liquid into the blender and liquefy for a minute. Add the beans to the rest of the mixture that is already cooking.
- Carefully stir the beans until no oil appears in the beans, about 3 minutes. Cook on medium stirring about every 5 minutes until the beans have darkened about 3 shades and are the consistency of refried beans in a can.
- Place the shredded mozzarella, lorocco, and bell pepper in a food processor and process until the bell peppers and lorocco are chopped into tiny pieces and fully incorporated into the cheese.
- Next, place the cheese mixture into a plastic bowl and warm the mix in the microwave for no more than 20 seconds.
- Next — and yes this sounds gross, squeeze the cheese mixture with your hands until it becomes like a soft putty consistency.
- Set the cheese aside and get ready for the masa.
- Place the masa mix and water in a bowl and stir until fully mixed. The masa should be very sticky but should form an easy ball when rolled. If not, add water until it is sticky but easy to work with.
- Next, Place an egg size ball of masa in your hand (it helps to place a tiny bit of oil on your hands before doing this) and press the masa out in one hand to represent a small plate the size of your palm.
- Place about a tablespoon of cheese down onto the masa, then a tsp of beans. Pull the sides of the masa up around the beans and cheese and roll it into a ball. Next, flatten it a tiny bit with your palms to form a thick disc. Pat the disc turning it between your hands about 6 times to flatten it more but to keep it in a round shape.
- The pupusa should be a little less than 1/2 inch thick.
- Place the pupusa on a large oiled non stick surface and cook on medium high until each side is golden brown, around 3 minutes on each side.