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Celebrating the Commonwealth Games…

CN are delighted to welcome the Dietetic Team from University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust who, in celebration of the Commonwealth Games, have put together some fascinating country, cultural and dietary facts about a selection of some of the countries that have taken part in the recent Games.

Birmingham and the surrounding area of the West Midlands have just hosted a very successful Commonwealth Games and has given us the chance to promote the city. Everyone is aware of Birmingham’s industrial past and that it is the second largest city in the United Kingdom in terms of population, with 1.145 million residents, but are you also aware of these interesting facts?

  • Birmingham is the youngest city in Europe with almost 40% of the population being made up of under 25s
  • Birmingham is home to Europe’s largest urban park outside of London, and with over 8,000 acres of park and green space it is one of the UK’s greenest cities
  • Birmingham has the most Michelin star restaurants in the UK outside of London
  • Birmingham Hippodrome is the UK’s busiest theatre with over 520,000 visitors a year
  • The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings are based on places and people in an area called Moseley within the city, where Author JRR Tolkien lived
  • Tennis was invented on a lawn in Edgbaston in 1859
  • Perry Barr, where the commonwealth athletics stadium is, was home to the world’s first ever ODEON cinema in 1930.

The commonwealth games has given us the opportunity as a Dietetic Team at University Hospitals Birmingham to celebrate Birmingham and the cultural diversity we have within our team at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, promoting the culture and cuisine from various countries around the Commonwealth – here we share a taster!

Located on the other side of the world, Australia is the only country to span an entire continent. It is a warm, sunny and beautiful country home to the Great Barrier Reef, the outback and Uluru. It is also home to a unique ecosystem, many species only occur here, such as the platypus, koala and kangaroo. Australians are known for their easy going attitude and a passion for sports, including swimming, cricket, rugby, Australian Rules football and surfing.

It is an ethnically diverse nation. Nearly a quarter of people living in Australia were born in other countries, including the United Kingdom, Greece, Italy and other European countries, China, Vietnam, North Africa and the Middle East, and this diversity heavily influences the food. Popular foods in Australia include meat pies, chicken parmi, avocado toast, vegemite on toast, lamingtons, tim tams, pavlova, fairy bread and of course a barbeque.

Bordering India and Myanmar is Bangladesh; a small country which gained its independence in 1971. It is a renowned tea-producing country and home to the longest natural sea beach in the world, Cox’s Bazar, as well as the Royal Bengal Tiger!

Bangladeshis take pride in their hospitality and the love of food is central to the Bangladeshi culture. Rice, fish and lentils are the staples, although some dishes are uniquely Bangladeshi, such as kichuri which is a one-pot comfort dish made of rice and lentils, and pitha which is a type of rice cake. When it comes to fruits and vegetables Bangladeshis like to get creative: ‘borthas’ which are mashed vegetables with herbs and spices are part of the daily diet and when it comes to occasions creating fruit carvings becomes a competitive sport of its own!

Barbados is a coral island and the most easterly island in the Caribbean, with a population of about 287,000. The name Barbados is from the Portuguese term ‘os barbudos’ meaning ‘bearded ones’, referring to the long hanging roots of the bearded fig tree that is indigenous to the island. Barbados is approximately 20 miles long and 15 miles wide.

Grapefruit originated in Barbados – an accidental cross between an orange and a pomelo! The national dish of Barbados is Cou Cou (cornmeal and okras) and fried flying fish, and a popular drink is Mauby and, of course, Barbados is known as the rum island!

Cyprus is the island of the Greek goddess of Love, Aphrodite. It is located in the Eastern Mediterranean and became independent from Britain in 1960. With a long history, Cyprus has ample experiences to offer as a tourist hotspot, from sun, sea, rich culture and gastronomy.

With over 300 sunny days a year and over 60 Blue Flag beaches, it is the place to be! Beautiful landscapes of mountains with the highest peak named Olympus and golden beaches are complemented by a rich culture spanning 11,000 years. Hence, it is the home of several UNESCO world heritage sites!

Synonymous with Cypriot cuisine is the word Meze. Sharing deliciously fresh local cuisine is part of the island’s culture. A heart-healthy Mediterranean diet is accompanied by the world’s oldest wine, still in production Commandaria. Plus, Cyprus is the birthplace of Halloumi cheese.

England is a country that forms part of the United Kingdom and is comprised of 48 counties, including the West Midlands, home of the 2022 Commonwealth games. England is the founding nation of a multitude of Commonwealth sports including: football, rugby, cricket, netball and table tennis.

Birmingham and its neighbouring region of the Black Country were key areas during the industrial revolution and throughout history food has been integral to the Midlands. Famous Brummie brands include Typhoo Tea, Bird’s Custard and Cadbury chocolate, originally produced in the Bourneville area of Birmingham. Birmingham is very culturally diverse and is the culinary birthplace of ‘Balti’, a type of curry typically served in a metal dish. The Birmingham Balti, which doesn’t exist in India, originated in the city during the late 70s, when chefs made their dishes lighter and tomato based to suit Western palates. Other popular English foods available include Yorkshire Puddings, Spotted Dick, Eton Mess and Fish and Chips.

Jamaica is an island nation in the Caribbean; the lush landscape features mountains, rainforests and reef-lined beaches. The island was originally inhabited by the Taino people, who were American-Indians and migrated from South America. It was later colonised by Spain and Britain, who brought large numbers of West African slaves and indentured labourers from India.

Jamaica has an impressive global reputation for sport, notably in athletics and cricket, and music such as reggae, dub, ska and dancehall.

The food in Jamaica represents a mix of cultures. Some of the best known include jerk; Saturday soup, resulting from the African settlers’ home cuisines love of one-pots; and curry goat, the result of spices brought over from India. Ackee is the national fruit loaded with nutrients, including fibre, protein and vitamin C. Jamaica’s national dish is ‘ackee and salt fish.’

The North-East of the island of Ireland is Northern Ireland. Once infamous for ‘The Troubles’, a period of conflict ending with the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, Northern Ireland is now making more favourable headlines, most notably for being the backdrop to the fantasy TV series Game of Thrones.

Aside from whiskey & the ‘Black Stuff’ (Guinness, which is actually not black in colour but deep red, and some consider it a recommended source of iron!), potatoes are synonymous with Ireland. Colcannon, champ and boxty are all potato-based dishes, which would all be considered traditional Irish fayre. More recently, the cuisine in Ireland has become much more cosmopolitan, reflecting the diversity of its changing population.

India is a vast country with 28 states, each with its own unique language, culture, clothing and food. Indian cuisine evolved as a result of invasion by different countries, such as Portugal, Britain, and the Mughals Empire. In Ladakh, Chinese cuisine dominates; Goa is inspired by the Portuguese, Mumbai by the Persians, while South India has an African touch. Indian food consists of healthy spices and herbs originating over 3000 years ago from Ayurveda, which form the basis of home remedies used throughout India and beyond. Indian migration has spread its culinary traditions globally, adapting recipes to the tastes of locals, evidenced by ‘Britain’s National Dish’ – Chicken Tikka Masala.

Kenya is a beautiful country in East Africa, with its beautiful coral reefs, delightful award-winning white sandy beaches to the East, and Lake Victoria, the source of the River Nile, to the West. It hosts 43 tribes, including the fierce and fearless Maasai Warrior Tribe that lives in the savannah plains of the Rift Valley. Nairobi is the capital city of Kenya, the only capital city in the world with a game park in it.

Kenyan cooking reflects Arab and Indian influences. Common foods include ugali, a mush made from corn (maize), and it is often served with greens such as spinach and kale. Chapatti, a fried pita-like bread of Indian origin, is served with vegetables and stew. Rice is also popular. Seafood and freshwater fish are eaten in most parts of the country and many vegetable stews are flavoured with coconut, spices and chilies.

Mauritius is a small tropical island off the coast of East Africa, known for its idyllic beaches, lush forests and mountains. The people are of mixed heritage – Indian, African, Chinese and French, which makes Mauritian culture quite unique! The Sega, born from the traditional music of slaves, are folk songs sang in the native Creole (broken French) language. It involves men playing the ravanne (tambourine) and women – dressed in vibrant, colourful skirts – swaying their hips to the tune!

Mauritian food is very diverse, highly influenced by the sea and fresh tropical fruits and vegetables. Indian heritage makes the food rich in spices. African influence brings fresh tomato-based meals. Chinese influence has created unique Sino-Mauritian dishes! As for the French influence – French bakery/patisseries!

‘Pakistan, one of the South Asian countries, gained its independence in 1947’. Some of the biggest peaks on the planet are located here, including the Himalayas. The country enjoys a hot, desert climate in the south, with a more temperate climate in the northwest and, believe it or not, artic conditions in the north!

Pakistani cuisine is very much rich in culture and tradition, full of marvellous and diverse dishes. Biriyani is a dish best known of the bunch, either combined with chicken, mutton or beef blended with aromatic spices and herbs. ‘Basar’, known as our signature unique blend of spices, produces mouth-watering flavours for all-purpose cooking. Lassi – a well-known yoghurt drink – is consumed sweet at breakfast and salty during later meals. Tropical mango is known as Pakistan’s national fruit. The versatile sweet fruit can be served as chutney, partnered up with parathas (flat breads) or blended into an exotic mango lassi beverage.

Scotland is known for its amazing scenery, from its rugged coastlines, over 790 islands, stunning beaches to its hills and mountain ranges. Its landscape allows for some amazing food to be produced from juicy Aberdeen Angus steaks, to wild salmon, trout, scallops, muscles, oysters and langoustine, to the soft fruits like strawberries, blackberries and raspberries.

The Scots are famous throughout the world for their warm hospitality and love of a good ’get together’, whether that is having a ‘blether’ with friends with tea and shortbread or tablet, to large scale gatherings for Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) or Burn’s Night.

Scotland’s national dish is haggis, neeps (turnip) and tatties (potatoes). Haggis is the sheep liver, heart, lungs minced and mixed with beef or mutton suet, oatmeal and seasoned with onion, pepper and other spices, packed into a sheep’s stomach and boiled, served with a whisky sauce. Followed by a traditional dessert, such as Cranachan (raspberry, cream, honey and whisky).

Between Cape Agulhas (where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet) and the Tropic of Capricorn, you will find South Africa, the most southern country of Africa. Unique plant and animal life makes it a biodiversity hotspot where the Big Five roam. With many people of diverse origins, cultures, languages and religions inhabiting the country, it’s also known as the Rainbow Nation.

South Africa offers a vibrant cuisine, with dishes influenced by the indigenous population along with the Dutch, French and South Asian. The traditional dish Bobotie, is a flavoursome mixture of sweet curried meat and fruit with a creamy golden topping; garnished with bay leave, chutney and banana, and served with yellow rice.

A true South African get-together is a ‘braai’, or better known as a barbeque! It originated with the Dutch Settlers and has been adopted by all ethnic backgrounds. The ‘braai’ is complemented by ‘pap'(maize meal porridge) and chakalaka, a vegetable relish.

Sri Lanka is a beautiful forested island country lying in the Indian Ocean and is a land of great cultural diversity. Religion pervades many aspects of life and constitutes a basic element of this diversity. Buddhist and Hindu temples, as well as mosques and churches, with their own colourful rituals, are the most readily visible features of the cultural landscape.

Sri Lankan food offers a vivid array of flavour combinations: sweet caramelized onion relishes, bitter melon, spicy scraped coconut, and the burn of curry tamed by mild rice and palm sugar sweetened desserts. Sri Lankan food is not for the timid eater: the fiery curries, sweet caramelised onion in seeni sambal (onion relish), and sour lime pickle are all dominant, powerful flavours that startle and awake the senses. Rice is an ever-present antidote to these big flavours. A meal in Sri Lanka is called ‘rice and curry’—a term that’s almost synonymous with food in general.

Wales has a population of about 3.1 million and is approximately 130 miles and 90 miles wide. The name Wales derives from the Angle-Saxon term ‘wealas’ meaning ‘foreigner’. The Welsh name for Wales is Cymru. Popular dishes from Wales include bara brith (fruit loaf), cawl (broth of meat and vegetables) laverbread (seaweed and oatmeal) and Welsh rarebit. Wales is known for its pure water, glorious landscape and sheep!


Authors: Fazila Bibi – Dietetic Assistant, Nishat Chowdhury – Senior Dietitian, Susan Duff – Dietetic Clinical Lead, Elizabeth Hickman – Specialist NET Dietitian, Susan De Waal – Specialist Renal Dietitian, Zainab Mollabux – Specialist Renal Dietitian, Charlotte Wardzynski – Specialist Oncology Dietitian, Susan Price –Deputy Director (Inclusion, Health & Wellbeing, Social Cohesion), Marcos Gregoriou – Dietitian, Eleanor Cornes – Senior Dietitian, Nazia Hussain – Dietetic Assistant, Reena Mair – Senior Dietitian, Ruth Chinuck – Dietetic Clinical Lead, Reiss-Dante Douglas – Dietetic Assistant, Daisy Wasilwa – Dietitian, Rebekah Smith – Specialist Max Fax & ENT Dietitian & Sara Price – Professional Lead for Dietetics
Dietetics, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust

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