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  • Ben Molyneux

Cooking my way around the world through lockdown

One of the pleasures in life we had missed most during lockdown was eating out. We have a few favorite restaurants and when we find ourselves on a weekend without the children we would often treat ourselves to a meal out. Sometimes it would be tied in with travelling to a different town or city which we often do. I usually take my camera and we wander through the streets taking photos and find a little café or restaurant and try something new. As I write this I am picturing a Japanese restaurant in Northampton, and Vietnamese restaurant in Bristol and a Turkish restaurant in Windsor which all delighted us with their quality and are now making my mouth water!


Libyan Potato Omelette


I picked up the Covid-19 virus just before lockdown but was unaware I had, it wasn’t until my health slowly started to go downhill that I realised those unusual prickles I had had a couple of weeks earlier were actually symptoms. Previously I had been cycling 10 kilometres a day on my exercise bike and each day I noticed I found it harder and harder until 1 kilometre took too much out of me. Soon I was unable to work in any form, which was a worry as I had just lost the vast majority of my regular income as my business had to stop operating due to the lockdown.


Slow cooked Iraqi chicken


After a difficult 2 to 3 months of recovery and relapse followed by recovery and relapse again, and again I noticed the strain I was putting on my partner, the worry it was causing her and also how she was struggling with the workload of trying to financially support us, home school her children and do all of the cooking and housework too. So I decided if I could do just one thing a day I would cook us a meal and I am so glad I did. As we were missing dining out and felt so isolated inside our walls I wanted to use the opportunity for us to find a way to get out and explore the world from the comfort and safety of our home. I set myself a challenge of cooking 3 new recipes from a country over 3 days and then moving on to a neighboring country. As well as the food we listened to music from each country whilst eating and asked the children to come to the dinner table with facts about the countries too, so we could learn a little about each one as well as discovering about their cuisine.


Egyptian Moussaka


I started with Greece as I love Greek food and we moved on to Turkey, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia and we are heading over to Brazil next. I have not only enjoyed cooking more than I can remember, I have learnt so much about the art. How each country uses a slightly different combination of spices to the one situated next to it. The food was delicious, all of the recipes have been recorded and when I finish the round the world trip, my cooking will never be the same again. I have double the size of our herb garden which is flourishing, with basil, oregano, parsley, dill, sage, chives, mint, rosemary, marjoram and a bay tree. I am using so many fresh herbs that I just can't get enough of them!


Tunisian Spicy Carrots


Not only have I had to increase our herb garden, we have been stocking on up different spices and other items too, like the dried limes used in Iranian food and preserved lemons used in North African cooking. We purchased a Dutch oven which is now being constantly used. I found myself becoming more and more adventurous. This week I was rolling home grown vine leaves and stuffing them with rice, pine nuts, tomatoes and packing them with fresh herbs.


Libyan Mafrum - Stuffed potatoes with minced beef


Going forward I am really excited to be exploring South American food, and looking forward to South Asian and Indian cuisine as well. The kids keep telling me to go to Italy and Spain.

Whilst working my way around the world in the kitchen I found myself getting fitter and fitter each day. It gave me and the family such a lift, and now I am pleased to say that I have made a full recovery from Covid -19 but the cooking still continues. It will be hard to take the cooking away from me now!

Egyptian Spinach Pie


Here are our favorite 10 dishes that we’ve discovered so far. My partner is lactose intolerant and cannot eat pulses so you’ll notice our dishes not containing dairy, beans, lentils and chickpeas.

Cauliflower stew with Lamb


Cauliflower Stew with Lamb - Syrian

Chicken Mafe - Mauritanian

Egyptian Spinach Pie

Moussaka with beef - Egypt

Benachin: Gambian one-pot rice pilaf

Senegalese Sweet Potato Shrimp Fritters

Yassa Chicken - Senegal

Arabic Fattoush Salad – Saudia Arabia

Iraqi slow cooked chicken

Traditional Iraqi Bethinjan (Aubergine Casserole)


All of the photographs are my own, I have enjoyed adding this dimension too, although many good photos have been missed as I am too eager to eat the food!

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Ben Molyneux Photography

01993 862781 or 07900890811

ben@oxfordshireproject.co.uk

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