Author Allan Karl wanted an adventure. So he got on his motorbike and took off. Five continents, 35 countries, 40 recipes, and three years later, he ended up with one book.
Forks: a Quest for Culture, Cuisine and Connection is his bound collection of the culture, cuisine, and experiences he found along the way. Here's a taste of Karl's journey packed with insight and even some recipes to inspire you to hit the road.
At the Great Pyramids of Giza south of Cairo, I contemplate my travels through the Sahara and think I might be better served on camel than motorcycle. The camel is not impressed by me nor my bike, and I'm sure feels the better way to travel the Sahara is on his back.
As I followed the Nile River from Aswan to Cairo and beyond, I traveled in the shadows of ancient kings and pharaohs, who according to legend, dined on fava beans, the main ingredient of the traditional Egyptian dish ful medames (see next slide). As I rode through the countryside, I passed mile after mile of bean fields. I had to try them when I arrived in Cairo. Always served with pita bread and sometimes with a fried egg on top, ful medames is how most Egyptians start their day—for breakfast, and always with tea. Enjoy it as a main or side dish to any meal.
Ful Medames - Slow-Cooked Fava Beans
1 pound fava beans, dried and peeled
1/2 cup lentils (optional)
1/2 large onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt to taste
Olive oil or melted butter for garnish
Fried or hard-boiled egg and pita to serve
1. Soak the fava beans overnight or for 8-12 hours
2. Drain the beans and place in a large saucepan with red lentils, onion, garlic, and cumin. Add enough water to cover ingredients by 2 inches. Bring to boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 1 hour or until beans are tender, occasionally skimming any foam or skins that float to the top.
3. Remove from heat, drain, and mash lightly with a potato masker or the back of a spoon. Stir in the lemon juice and salt.
4. Place the beans in a serving bowl and garnish with a drizzle of olive oil or melted butter and chopped green onions. Serve with fried or slice hard-boiled egg on top and with pita bread.
In a country where only 20 percent of the roads are paved, you never know what you may run into on the good ones. Check the back of this old Toyota, there are even more llamas crammed in there!
The flavors, climate, and cultural heritage of Bolivia are uniquely expressed in this Andean-inspired dish (see next slide). The climate and terrain of Bolivia range from verdant tropical lowlands and jungle to the remote, cold, and arid highlands of the Andes Mountains. Quinoa, the grain-like superfood that is increasingly popular in the United States and Europe, originated in the Andes, around Lake Titicaca in Bolivia and Peru, more than 5,000 years ago. Small wild tomatoes also originated in Bolivia and Peru in the high plains. And avocados are immensely abundant in markets throughout the lowlands. Taste the splendor of all that is Bolivia with this healthy and flavorful salad.
Quinoa and Black Bean Salad with Grilled Corn, Cherry Tomato, and Avocado
2 teaspoons grated lime zest 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup quinoa, red or white, rinsed
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 medium ears corn, grilled and kernels cut from cob
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
6 green onions, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 avocado, pitted, peeled and sliced
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, cook quinoa in a pot or rice cooker according to package directions, allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes, and fluff with a fork.
3. Add quinoa to bowl with dressing and toss until liquid is absorbed. Stir in black beans, corn, cherry tomatoes, green onions, and chopped cilantro. Add sliced avocado and season with salt and pepper to taste.
In the highlands of “the kingdom in the sky,” and despite the chilling rain, I found warmth and hospitality with a 105-year-old man and the many generations of his family that he introduced me to. Living in primitive round huts with equally primitive kitchens, many prepare their meals over simple stoves made of tin cans and heated by a wood burning fire.
This easy to prepare soup (see next slide) has the added touch of citrus—a reminder that the sun does shine here—which, like the people I met while traveling through Lesotho, warms the soul.
Spinach and Tangerine Soup
2/3 cup uncooked yellow split peas
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 spring onions, thinly sliced 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 tablespoons rice flour
1 cup cold water
6 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup freshly chopped Italian parsley
1 teaspoon salt
Grated zest of 1 orange
Grated zest of 3 tangerines
Juice of 4 tangerines
1 1/2 cups fresh spinach, finely chopped
3 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro, to serve
8 ounces creme fraîche, to serve.
1. Soak the split peas overnight in cold water to cover.
2. In a skillet, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the spring onions and sauté for about 5 minutes until softened. Add the turmeric and cook for another minute. Turn off heat, add rice flour and mix well. Stir in cold water until mixture is smooth and thickened.Transfer mixture to a bowl and set aside.
3. In a large pot, heat the vegetable broth until boiling. Drain the split peas, add to the broth, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the peas are tender.
4. Slowly stir the spring onion mixture into the pea and broth mixture. Once incorporated, stir in the parsley, salt, orange zest, tangerine zest and juice, and simmer for about 15 minutes, until flavors are well integrated.
5. Just before serving, add the spinach and cook until bright green and wilted, about 5 minutes.
6. Serve in bowls with the cilantro and a dollop of creme fraîche to garnish.
The road is sand as I head north from Khartoum to Wadi Halfa in Eastern Sudan, along the route of the Nile River. Thankfully Nubian locals on camels appear out of nowhere and help me pick up my bike—I hate riding in sand.
Just getting into Sudan was a test in patience and bureaucratic nonsense, but Sudan amazed me. Sudanese tamia are like the falafels you find elsewhere in the Middle East, best when made and enjoyed fresh.
Tamia - Falafel Pita with Veggies and Tahini
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
4 cloves garlic
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup freshly chopped cilantro
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
4 slices white or whole wheat bread
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame seeds
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon baking powder
Grapeseed or canola oil, for frying
Chopped romaine lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers
1/2 cup tahini or yogurt sauce
Pita or flat bread, for serving
1. Rinse and drain the beans and place in a food processor. Add the coriander, garlic, onion, bell pepper, and cilantro and pulse to coarsely grind until there are no whole garbanzo beans remaining, about 1 to 2 minutes.
2. Pour the lemon juice on a plate and soak each slice of bread in the juice, squeezing the bread to drain excess liquid, then crumble the bread into the food processor with the bean mixture.
3. Pulse again for a minute to combine, add flour and one teaspoon of sesame seeds. Scrape the sides of the processor periodically and push the mixture down. Pulse again until all ingredients are mixed but not pureed, about 2 to 3 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for 10 to 15 minutes.
4. Pour 2 to 3 inches of oil into a deep saucepan or heavy pot and heat to frying temperature, 375 degrees F.
5. Remove mixture from the refrigerator and stir in baking powder.
6. Set a baking pan or parchment paper on a work surface. With your hands, take small balls of the mixture and shape into semi-flat patties, about and inch thick and 1 1/2 to 2 inches across, and place on the pan or paper.
7. Sprinkle the remaining sesame seeds on the patties and carefully drop one at a time into the oil. Fry in batches for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until lightly browned. Remove and set on paper towels to drain and cool.
8. Cut the pita bread in half, carefully slit each half to make pockets, and put 2 or 3 falafel patties in each. Drizzle with tahini or yogurt sauce and top with lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Serve immediately.
For more recipes from the road, grab a copy of Allan Karl's Forks: a Quest for Culture, Cuisine and Connection.