Wonders of the World

Wonders of the World: the podcast that visits the great places on Earth to tell the story of our people, our civilization, and our planet.
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Feb 21, 2017

You would think that something as simple as melted cheese on toast would be fairly straightforward, but there are billions of recipes out there for welsh rarebit. Well, maybe not billions, but quite a lot.  Fortunately, Felicity Cloake of the Guardian has gone through virtually all of them ( and has found the perfect cheese and toast combo.  Read her whole article - it’s fantastic.  I’ve made it to serve four, and have switched the cheese to Cheddar, since getting Lancashire cheese can be dicey.  I also found a little extra Worcestershire and cayenne pepper added oomph. 

But seriously.  Eat this.  Cymru am byth!!!


  • 2 tsp English mustard powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 6 tbsp stout  (3/8 cup)
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • Worcestershire sauce, to taste but at least 2 tsp
  • 12 oz cheddar cheese, grated
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 slices bread



  1. Mix the mustard powder with a little stout in the bottom of a small pan to make a paste, then stir in the rest of the stout and add the butter and about 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce – you can always add more later if you like. Heat gently until the butter has melted.
  2. Tip in the cheese and stir to melt, but do not let the mixture boil. Once smooth, taste for seasoning, then take off the heat and allow to cool until just slightly warm, being careful it doesn't solidify.
  3. Set your oven to broil, and toast the bread on both sides. Beat the yolks into the warm cheese until smooth, and then spoon on to the toast and broil until bubbling and golden. Serve immediately.

NB:  Eat this all at once - the sauce does not reheat well.  Mine broke almost immediately when I tried to reheat it for Mrs. Wonders of the World. 


Feb 21, 2017

The most important piece of afternoon tea is the tea itself, but that is outside the scope of this episode.  So instead, let’s focus on the scone, the perfect little pastry at the center of the meal.

This recipe is adapted from Mark Bittman in the New York Times (  These are English scones, so why am I using an American recipe?  I don’t know - I guess because this was the one which seemed simplest, with ingredients which can be obtained anywhere.


  • 2 cups cake flour, more as needed
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 5 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 egg
  • ½ to ¾ cup heavy cream, more for brushing


  1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees F (230 C). Put the flour, salt, baking powder and 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal.  Using a food processor helps to incorporate the butter thoroughly; you could mix it by hand, but you’ll need to work your fingers in there to make sure the butter gets blended.
  2. Add the egg and just enough cream to form a slightly sticky dough. If it’s too sticky, add a little flour, but very little; it should still stick a little to your hands.
  3. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead once or twice, then press it into a 3/4-inch-thick circle and cut into 2-inch rounds with a biscuit cutter or glass. Put the rounds on an non-greased baking sheet. Gently reshape the leftover dough and cut again. Brush the top of each scone with a bit of cream and sprinkle with a little of the remaining sugar.
  4. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, or until the scones are a beautiful golden brown.
  5. Serve immediately, preferably with clotted cream (lightly salted, high fat butter will do if you don’t have the clotted cream).  Be sure to let the butter soften.  Then top with preserves: strawberry are traditional, but I had a vanilla chai jam that was outstanding, so do what feels good.


Picture courtesy of Ibán Yarza via Wikimedia commons

Feb 20, 2017

We go to Southwest England to see Stonehenge. We talk about the Neolithic revolution, Wales, Arthur and the Holy Grail, Bath, the Cotswolds, and clotted cream and scones. It's a lot! Thanks to Alexa Echlov and Rooksie Noorai for their help.

Feb 16, 2017

Bonus episode - An audio transcript of an interview of Ian, friend of the show and resident of the Northern Territory, in which he describes the heat, the snakes, the beer, and life in the far reaches of Australia's north.  Read by Drew.

Feb 7, 2017

Since I’m not allowed to cook kangaroo steaks, here’s a recipe for a completely different Australian masterpiece: the pie floater, South Australia’s gift to the culinary world.  Imagine if you will: flaky pie crust, filled with seasoned ground meat and vegetables like leeks, carrots, and celery.  So sort of like a beef or lamb pot pie.  This is then floated in a bowl of bright green pea soup and served with a dollop of tomato sauce on top.  Yep.  I don’t understand it either. 

But let’s try!  This is, without question, the best recipe I’ve found.  Mainly because it’s the only one that makes each part of the floater individually; many say "Pick up a meat pie at the butcher's" - a silly thing to say when you live in the 99% of countries who don't have meat pie-selling butchers.  It also doesn’t require mediocre tomato sauce, because why?  I’m translating this from the original Australian English.


Part I:

  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1⁄4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups beer (good beer - not Fosters)
  • 1 1⁄2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 teaspoons Vegemite (use Marmite if Vegemite not available)
  • 1⁄4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Part II:

  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1⁄2 yellow onion, extra, finely chopped
  • 1/4 lb potato, peeled, finely chopped
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 3 cups chicken stock

Part III:

  • 4 sheets frozen butter puff pastry, just thawed
  • 1 tablespoon creme fraiche


Part I:

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add onion. Cook for 5 minutes. Increase heat to high. Add ground beef. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until the ground beef starts to brown. Add tomato paste and flour. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add beer and stir. Add stock and Vegemite. Simmer for 30 minutes until thickened. Add parsley. Set aside to cool.

Part II:

While the ground meat mixture is simmering, heat remaining oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add extra onion. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add potato, peas, mint and stock. Simmer for 20 minutes or until potato is soft. Cool slightly. Blend with a hand blender.

Part III:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Preheat oven tray on lowest shelf. Use a pizza cutter to cut a disc from the corner of 4 pastry sheets. Ease remaining pastry into four 4-inch (10cm) diameter round springform pans. Divide ground beef mixture among pans. Top each with a pastry disc. Press to seal edges. Trim excess. Cut 2 slits on each pie top. Place on tray. Bake for 15 minutes. Transfer tray to top shelf. Cook for 15 minutes until golden. Return soup to medium-high heat. Add creme fraiche. Simmer until warmed though. Divide soup among 4 bowls. Top with pies.

Adapted from:


Feb 7, 2017

We go to the Northern Territory of Australia to see Uluru, aka Ayers Rock, the world's largest monolith.  We'll talk about Aboriginal Australians, snack on bush tucker, and somehow do an entire episode without mentioning AC/DC.

Jan 24, 2017

The national dish of Tanzania, if there is one, is ugali, which is basically a very simple form of polenta.  You add cornmeal to hot water, cook until it thickens into a solid dough, and then use it to eat with a vegetable stew. When sharing a meal, people will make one big bowl of ugali that everyone can grab pieces that they then dip into their own bowls.  To make ugali for four people, first boil 6 cups of water in a large saucepan.  Then, slowly pour in 4 cups of cornmeal (as finely ground as you can get), while stirring.  Keep stirring - you want it as thick as possible, like thicker than mashed potatoes.  Keep cooking and stirring for about 6 minutes.  Done.  I tried this at home, and I would recommend using the finest cornmeal you can find.  I used American corn meal, and it was fine, but I bet if you used masa harina, you will be happy.

Since ugali literally tastes like nothing, the key is to be able to eat it with something delicious. For that the Tanzanians give you mchicha, also known as amaranth, a green that’s a lot like spinach and cooked with garlic, onion and tomatoes, or with peanuts in a coconut curry sauce.   

This is simple stuff, and totally doable at home, if you’d like a taste before you go.  You’ll want to start with the mchicha, because it takes longer.  Since you likely can’t get actual mchicha at your fancy western grocery store, use spinach instead. 



2 lbs spinach (or other green)

1 1⁄2 ounces peanut butter (I used sunflower seed butter for allergy reasons)

1 tomato (It’s winter, so I used half a can)

1 onion

2 teaspoons curry powder

1 cup coconut milk

3 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon salt


Chop the onion and sauté it in the butter over medium heat.  Add the tomato and curry powder, stir and let it cook for five minutes or until the onion is soft.  Then add the peanut butter and coconut milk, stirring well to combine.  Make sure it’s all integrated. 

Bring back up to a boil and let it simmer, reducing until the sauce is on the thick side.  Then add your greens - they will cook down quickly.  Thicker greens will take longer.  I used baby spinach, and it was done before you could say Ngorongoro.  Next time, I'd try something more robust like chard or kale.  Season to taste and spoon over the ugali (or rice if you prefer).

A simple, healthy Tanzanian meal.  Just like our great great great great great …. you get the idea… grandfathers might have made.  Except that not really, since cornmeal comes from the Americas, but you get the idea.

Jan 24, 2017

We're off to Tanzania, to see Earth's largest unfilled caldera: Ngorongoro Crater. We'll also discuss nearby Oldupai Gorge and the evolution of man. Special guest Michelle Jones talks about her trip to Tanzania. We eat ugali and mchicha.

Jan 10, 2017

This episode, we visit Alexandria, Egypt, at its peak, as we check out the Lighthouse (or Pharos) and the Great Library. We'll enjoy some ful medames, and talk Ptolemy.  Plus science!

Dec 29, 2016

So what do you eat while you’re enjoying the sunshine, beaches, shopping, art and architecture of Rhodes?  That’s tricky, since Rhodes has all the great Greek masterpieces available, but one thing that is truly Rhodian is pitaroudia.  Pitaroudia are big, fluffy chickpea fritters.  Think falafel, but irregularly shaped, and mixed with tomatoes, mint, and onions, so a different flavor profile.  So while you have your fish and souvlaki and spanakopita and everything else, make sure to try Rhodes’ national dish.

Here’s how. 


2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups onions, very finely chopped
2 tomatoes, grated
1/4 cup mint, finely chopped
1 tsp cumin (optional)
salt and pepper
olive oil to fry (NOT extra virgin)

Most recipes will tell you to start with dried chickpeas, which you have to soak overnight and then boil for a couple of hours.  Look.  You’re busy.  And they make some very high quality canned chickpeas.  The foodies tell me there’s a difference, but honestly, with chickpeas, I can’t tell it.  So make it easy on yourself.  Start with two good cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained, and grind them in a food processor until they’re coarsely ground and kind of mealy. 

Then in a big bowl, mix them with 1 and 1/2 cups of very finely chopped onion, 2 medium grated tomatoes - yes grated.  It’s a mess, but you want flavor and texture without chunks - 1/4 cup finely chopped mint, and salt and pepper to taste. If you like (and I do), throw in a teaspoon of cumin as well.  Then add just enough flour to make a dough that will allow you to make patties that won’t fall apart, approximately 2-3 tablespoons.

Spread more flour onto a large plate and warm up about a quarter inch of oil in a large heavy skillet. This is frying, so don’t use extra-virgin olive oil.  Use a frying olive oil with a higher smoke point.  If you don’t have olive, use canola or vegetable, but the high smoke point is key.  Form a patty in your hands with about 2 tablespoons of the dough, dredge it lightly in flour and fry until golden, flipping once to cook on both sides. You can do a few at a time, but not too many - crowding the pan will lower the temperature of the oil and make them greasy.  Remove and drain on paper towels. If you need to add more oil, be sure to let it get fully hot before adding more patties.  Serve with a tzatziki dip.   Yum.

Adapted from:

Dec 27, 2016

It's big! It's bronze! This week, we'll head to the Greek island of Rhodes, and hear them undergo two separate sieges, one of which led to the mighty and short-lived Colossus. We'll also sample some classic Rhodian food with all the garlic that implies.

Dec 20, 2016

Bonus Episode!  Turns out there were two Artemisias.  In this bonus episode, we take a look at Artemisia the First of Halicarnassus, who was a naval commander in the Persian War at the Battle of Salamis.  I'll let our old pal Herodotus explain more.

Dec 13, 2016

Kiliç Şiş


Swordfish kabobs can be done with any meaty fish if you don’t have swordfish handy.  Tuna would work.  So would halibut or mahi mahi, probably.



1.25 lbs swordfish (or similar), cut in 1-inch cubes

24 Turkish bay leaves

2 lemons, cut into 8 wedges each, + 1/2 for juicing

2 red onions, quartered

2 tbs olive oil

1 tsp crushed Aleppo peppers

salt & fresh ground black pepper


Prepare a charcoal grill to high heat.


Mix the final three ingredients plus the juice of the half-lemon.  Let the fish marinate for 10-15 minutes.  While it’s marinating, let the bay leaves sit in warm water for 15 minutes to rehydrate.


Thread fish onto skewers, alternating with bay leaves and onion and lemon wedges.  Cook over high heat until the fish is cooked through and the onion and lemon get a little charred.


The key to doing this right is threefold: first, don’t overmarinate.  I do this way too often, but the acidity starts to “cook” the fish if you leave it too long.  So keep to to 15 minutes tops.  I’d use maybe a couple of tablespoons of good olive oil plus the juice of half a lemon, maybe a teaspoon of red pepper flakes - use aleppo peppers if you can get them, and some salt and pepper.  Really basic.  Slice your swordfish or mani or whatever into biggish chunks, marinate them, and thread them onto a skewer. 


Tip two: alternate the fish on the skewer with aromatics: onion slices, peppers, lemon wedges, and most importantly, rehydrated bay leaves.  This is huge.  Just soak some bay leaves in warm water for 15 minutes.  The flavor boost is intense.


The third tip is to grill over charcoal.  I’m a gas guy because I have kids and very little time to set a fire ahead of time, but if you want maximum flavor, you’re going to want to use charcoal.  The smoke helps boost the power of those aromatic veggies and bay leaves.  Oh, and use an extra skewer for more veggies: tomatoes, onions, peppers.


Unskewer them over a bed of rice pilaf and enjoy!


Here’s where I adapted this recipe from:


And here’s a recipe for awesome rice pilaf:

Dec 13, 2016

This episode, we're heading down the Turkish Coast to Bodrum, formerly called Halicarnassus and home of the long-lost Mausoleum, symbol of should-have-been-forbidden love.  We'll also check out the thermal springs at Pamukkale and eat swordfish kebabs!

Nov 30, 2016

This week, we sail to Turkey to visit the great temple of Artemis in Ephesus, which at its peak was one of the world's largest and richest cities.  Since the temple is gone, we'll tour the ruined city and eat a seafood feast.  

Nov 30, 2016

To start with, try the stuffed mussels, or midye dolma, which is our recipe of the week.   I found this recipe at


  • 25 - 30 large black mussels, cleaned and bearded
  • 2 medium to large onions, finely chopped
  • 1 oz. currants
  • 1 oz. pine nuts
  • ½ cup short grain rice
  • 1 tomato, very finely chopped
  • Handful (about ⅓ cup) finely chopped flat leaf parsley
  • Handful (about ⅓ cup) finely chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 – 2 tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp. red pepper flakes or chili flakes
  • 5 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup hot water
  • Salt to taste
  • Lemon wedges to serve


We start with the stuffing.  Soak the dried currants in warm water for 15 minutes to rehydrate them.  While they rest, rinse the short-grain rice under cold water, then drain and set aside.  Drain the currants and put them aside as well.

Sauté the onions in a 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium-high heat for 5 minutes.  Then add an ounce of pine nuts and stir frequently for 3 minutes.  After that, add the rice, the currants, a very finely chopped tomato, the tomato paste, freshly ground black pepper, cinnamon and salt to taste.  spices and season with salt to your taste. Pour in a cup of hot water and stir it all together. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, until all the liquid has been absorbed. At this point, the rice should still have a bit of a bite. Remove from heat and add a handful of chopped parsley and a handful of chopped dill.  You can make the rice a day ahead of time, which would help the flavors develop.

Now for the mussels.  Mussels seems really daunting, but they’re not that difficult. Put 25-30 large mussels in a big bowl and rinse under cold water. Scrub the shells clean, scraping off any dirt that may linger. I find at this point that soaking the mussels in warm water for 15 minutes helps relax them, which makes opening them easier.  Use the point of a thin knife to cut around the edges of the two halves of the shell.  Open them, but don’t separate the two halves. 

Pour the juice from each mussel to a bowl. Then, clean them by removing any beards or debris that is still attached. Any mussels that smell funny or are open before you start to clean them should be thrown away.  Once the mussels are cleaned and cut, scoop about 2 tsp. of stuffing into each mussel (trying not to overfill) and push the half shells together again.

Place the mussels side-by-side on a wide heavy pan, but do not layer them.  If you need another pan, that’s fine, but use a single layer of mussels only. 

Strain the mussel juice to remove any solids. Add the juice to enough water to fill one cup and pour this over the mussels.  It should only cover them about halfway.  Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove the mussels from the heat and leave to rest so the rice soaks up all the water.  These are traditionally served cold, but I like them warm.  If you like sweet, succulent, salty, savory, this is for you. 

Nov 18, 2016

This week, it's off to Greece's Peloponnese peninsula, to visit Olympia, home of the Statue of Zeus and the original Olympic Games. We'll also take a side trip to Sparta and seek out that most Greek of healthy fats: olive oil.

Nov 11, 2016

This is a recipe for tepsi, a layered baked casserole dish from Iraq, which I'm borrowing from someone who borrowed it from someone else.  Not overly spiced, but frying the components and baking the final dish gives the flavors a chance to intensify.



  • 2 large eggplants
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 1 large onion
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1kg ground beef
  • 2 medium potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • pepper
  • salt
  • corn oil



  1. Peel the eggplant in wide stripes and remove stems. Cut the eggplant into rounds about 1" thick.
  2. Peel and slice the potatoes into 1" thick round slices, set aside. Slice the onions the same way. Peel the garlic and crush it using one of those little garlic contraptions. Slice the tomatoes.
  3. Heat about 1/2 cup of oil in a non-stick pan and fry the eggplant slices until each piece is light golden. In the same oil, lightly fry the potatoes- they don't have to cook all the way through. Set aside. In the same pan, fry the onion, and set aside. Drain the fried pieces on some paper towels.
  4. Mix the ground beef, half of the crushed garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Make small meatballs and fry them. Set aside.
  5. Mix about 2 1/2 cups of water with 3 tablespoons of tomato paste, the remainder of the crushed garlic, salt (about 3 teaspoons), and pepper (preferably white pepper) and -- you guessed it -- set aside.
  6. In a baking dish, arrange the eggplant pieces so they slightly overlap (do 2nd layer if necessary.) On top of the eggplant, arrange the potato slices, then the onion, then the slices of tomato on the very top. Arrange the meatballs in between the tomato slices, spreading them evenly. Pour the tomato paste mixture on top of all of this. Arrange the meatballs in between the tomato slices, spreading them evenly.
  7. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 170-180 c, for 45-60 mins, be careful not to burn --
  8. This dish is served with Basmati rice or any other kind of rice -- we prefer Basmati or 'Ammbar'.


Nov 11, 2016

I found this recipe on the web, written by someone named Hans buried in the answers for a random Yahoo answers question.  That's all I know about him, but this seems the best I've found.  If you follow this, you'll have far more rice than you'll need, but that's OK, since you can use that for other purposes.  The paprika sauce burns very quickly, so be careful with that.


From Hans (

A typical Egyptian street Koshary dish is combined of 6 layers of ingredients served on top of each other in a deep plate not mixed. You then have the option to add two sauces that are served on the side, mix your plate..and DIG-IN

So in total we are talking about 8 components for an authentic Koshary meal, which you can mostly prepare the day before.
Please find some tips at the end to make your Koshary compete with the best restaurant in Egypt!!! Promise

From Bottom up, the 6 layers of the koshary dish are:

1 Pasta
2 Rice with Vermicelli noodles
3 Boiled lentils
4 Tomato Sauce with Garlic
5 Fried onions
6 Chickpeas

the two sauces served on the side are:

Hot Paprika Sauce
Garlic lemon sauce

Following is simple recipes for each of these components:

for 4 persons

PASTA 250 gms
Use the smallest "Penne" you can find for this recipe, the perfect pasta is called "Ditanlini", which is a short straight tube no longer than 1/4 inch. Boil the pasta, sieve it and mix it with 1 table spoon of oil and 1/2 tsp salt.

Rice (1 1/2 cup) with Vermicelli noodles(1/4 cup)
In a pot, stir fry the Vermicelli in 1 spoon of oil until dark brown, add the washed rice, stir for two minutes. Add 2 cups of boiling water, salt and paper. put on very low heat and cover for 20 minutes.

Boiled lentils (1 cup) -can be prepared the day before and heated in the microwave before serving.
Use Black or green whole lentils for this recipe. Boil the lentils in 4 cups of water, strain and season with salt and pepper.

Tomato Sauce with Garlic - can be prepared the day before and heated before serving
Stir-fry 1 minced onion with two garlic cloves in a pot with one spoon of oil. When yellow, add two cans of whole tomatoes or 1 KG of fresh ripe tomatoes cut to small pieces. Add a cup of water and simmer for 15 minutes. Blend the sauce until smooth and put back on heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Salt + pepper

Fried onions - can be prepared the day before.
This is the most annoying part of making a Koshary, because of the smell that fills the house when frying the onions. You may find in a Chinese Deli ready fried onions that can serve well for this recipe. just mix 1 cup of it with 1 spoon oil, 3 spoons water and 1/2 tsp salt. microwave for 2 minutes and here you go.
If you want to be authentic (recommended) cut two large onions very small, season with 1/2 tsp of salt and mix well to separate the onion. Fry in the widest pan you have in 1/4 cup of hot oil , keep stirring until very dark brown. Almost black. Pick the now fluffy and crunchy fried onions to absorbent paper. Don't get rid of the remaining oil - see my tips

Chickpeas - the easiest part of the recipe -
buy a can of chickpeas, open it and rinse it under running water!!!!

Hot paprika Sauce - can be prepared the day before no heating needed.
heat 3 spoons of oil in a small pan, remove from heat, mix two spoons of hot Paprika , add 3 spoons of tomato sauce which you already prepared. serve in a small bowl on the side

Garlic Lemon Sauce - again ..prepare the day before...
Mix 3 minced garlic cloves with 1/8 cup white vinegar, 1 big lemon juice, 1 tsp cumin powder and 1 tsp coriander powder.

Do not use Olive oil for this recipe, it will change the taste
Use the oil you used for frying the onions to mix with the Pasta.

Nov 11, 2016

We travel to Babylon in Iraq, to search for the elusive remains of Nebuchadnezzar's Hanging Gardens, which might have not have been his at all.  We'll also try masguf and tepsi, Iraqi specialties which have been enjoyed for centuries.

Nov 10, 2016

We start our trip around the world in Giza, Egypt, to see the Great Pyramid.  We'll talk about how pyramids came to be and how a prince used the Sphinx to build legitimacy, and we'll eat koshari, the veg-friendly national dish.

Nov 10, 2016

Welcome to the Wonders of the World!  In this podcast, we'll visit the Earth's great places to tell the story of our people, our civilization, and our planet.  From history to travel and even to food, we'll examine what makes us great and what makes us human.  This introductory episode covers where we'll go, why we'll go there, and what our plan will be.

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