Once I started humanitarian mine clearance, and then strayed into the security business in Africa, my diet was often reduced to just dried fish and pulses. The lean diet, aided by the effects of persistent malaria, reduced my weight from 80 to 57kgs.
So, I decided that if I wanted to eat well, and avoid having to buy a complete new wardrobe, I had better teach myself to cook. Easier said than done when in a war zone. It is all very well getting the best cook books but all of them assume that the local delicatessen or well stocked supermarket is but a short drive away. So I stopped lugging the books around in my back-pack and started to look at the ingredients that were available around me. I then figured out the best way to turn, what were sometimes collectively quite an odd assortment, into a dish that would not only sustain me, but was a delight to eat. Well I wasn't always successful, my rats in Satay sauce were, quite frankly, gut churning but I was desperate at the time.
To my surprise, however, I found that cooking in the front line, so to speak, was an enjoyable experience. It took my mind off the horrors around me and the discomfort we all suffered. It brought me close to a surprising variety of people and I am sure that on more than one occasion, instead of being ambushed, the smell of cooking wafting through the bush encouraged my would be assailants to appear sheepishly out of the gloom, weapons pointing safely towards the ground, politely asking if there was any going spare.
What made cooking a joy for me was when I stopped slavishly following recipes and started to create using the ingredients that I could find. It means that many of my recipes vary significantly from traditional methods. All I can say is that all my dishes have been field tested, sometimes under fire.
The better recipes, the ones that my crew asked me to make time and time again, I have included here along with a few anecdotes about the place I happened to be when I first had a go at the dish. You, of course, should feel completely at liberty to modify away to your heart and palate's desire