Chile

Catch up post number four!  We were excited to have made it out of our stretch of so many African countries!  We also were determined to squeeze this into our schedule when we did, because our next country to cook was China, and we were about to go to China!  More on that later.

So I found a lot of tasty looking food for Chile, but the reoccurring theme was a casserole called pastel de choclo, which is essentially a casserole of empanada filling topped with a sweet cornbread-ish topping.  We made pebre salsa and sopaipillas (pumpkin sopaipillas!!!) for a side.  The Pebre salsa could be eaten with the casserole or as a savory topping for the sopaipillas.  The sopaipillas pasadas also involved an orange/cinnamon/clove/sugar syrup to serve them as a dessert.

Pastel de Choclo (recipe)

As I described above, this started with what is essentially empanada filling… very similar to what we made for Argentina.  Ground beef, garlic, onion, paprika, cumin, oregano, etc.  We went with some of the variations listed on this recipe that seemed to be standard in many of the recipes I looked at–adding chicken (we used part of a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken), hard boiled egg slices, and raisins.

This was topped with a cornbread type topping.  All of the recipes I looked at were a little different, and some other bloggers mentioned that this part is VERY sweet using American corn, which is allegedly more sweet than the average Chilean corn.  Since we were in the middle of Iowa sweet corn season, I obviously was going to make this recipe using fresh corn from the closest local farmer’s truck!  I ended up making a spreadsheet converting all the different corn topping recipes into common units (some used ears of corn, some used volume of corn kernels, and some used weight of corn kernels) and found some kind of happy medium.  According to my notes, I ended up using five ears of corn, three handfuls of cornmeal, and two splashes of milk.  And there was some chopped basil from our garden in there too.  Pretty scientific, I know.

After cooking, here’s what it looked like:

pastel_de_choclo

 

Pebre (recipe)

This was a nice and easy recipe.  I think we used mostly produce from the garden, too.  Just dice the fresh ingredients and mix it all together.  The red wine vinegar made this a little different from other salsas I have made.

Pebre_salsa

Sopaipillas Pasadas (sopaipilla recipe, sauce recipe)

As I mentioned above, these are not your ordinary sopaipillas… they had pumpkin!  I am a die hard, year round pumpkin lover.  So this recipe was a must when I read about it.

I made the dough using shortening, flour, baking powder, etc. and pureed pumpkin (from our garden!).  These were rolled into small circles than fried in an inch or two of oil.  They were done when the started to puff up and float.

sopaipillas_pasadas

We also made the sauce, which was sugar cooked in water for a looong time with orange rind, cloves, and a cinnamon stick.  Yum.

I don’t think it got as thick as it was supposed to be, so we ended up letting it boil more after dinner.

sopaipilla_pasadas_sauce

The final meal:

Chile_meal

sopaipillas_pasadas_dessert

Meal Review

This was another smashing success!!!  We absolutely loved the pastel de choclo casserole.  The corn topping was not too sweet as some warned it could be, and in fact it was just sweet enough to perfectly compliment the meat/filling.  The pebre salsa was a great accompaniment, and it was also good as a savory topping for the sopaipillas.  The sopaipillas and their sauce were delicious.  They didn’t hold up as well through reheating, but they were still delicious.  Definitely an all around winner, this was one of our favorite meals so far and earned the rare five star rating!

 

 

Chad

Another quick post as I play catch up…

I went with a very simple fried fish recipe for our main dish.  We made the creatively named “Chad salad” as a side and jus de fruit (AKA mango shakes) for dessert.

Chad Broiled Fish (recipe)

I don’t remember what type of fish we used anymore… I want to say it was mahi mahi?  We (Tyler) cut slits on the fish filets and stuffed in slices of garlic.

Chad_fish_before_cooking

Then they were dredged in flour and fried until golden brown.  They were topped with tomato slices and salt/pepper/chili powder, then covered and left to simmer for 40 minutes.

Chad_fish

Chad Salad (recipe)

Chad salad is one of the most bizarre recipes of unexpected ingredients that I have ever made.  One of the other global food bloggers made it and said it was pretty good, though, so we gave it a chance.  This salad consisted of lemon juice and zest, cooked rice, sliced cucumbers, sliced bananas, raisins, almonds, salt, coriander, cumin, cayenne pepper, and honey.  Yep.

It was served chilled and looked like this:

Chad_salad

 

Jus de Fruit (recipe)

This was essentially a mango shake… get out the blender and toss in a few ice cubes, mango, whole milk, sugar, and cardamom powder (!!):

Mango_shake

Meal Review

This meal was a smashing success!  That is not something we are accustomed to with our experiences of Africa so far.  The fish was done perfectly and had excellent flavor.  The salad was surprisingly delicious, considering the strange assortment of ingredients that it contained.  And the mango shake was absolutely delicious.  It was thick and creamy, and the mango and cardamom gave it excellent flavor.  I might not be quick to make the salad again, but I would definitely repeat the fish as an easy weeknight meal and the shake for a cool summer dessert.

Central African Republic

Central African Republic was number two of our three consecutive African countries, which I was a little worried about.  Once again, there weren’t an abundance of options to choose from.  We made this back in July too… still playing catch up with the blog posts.

We made a beef/peanut butter/okra stew called  kanda ti nyma, beignets de bananas (banana fritters), and a hibiscus tea called karkanji.

Kanda Ti Nyma (recipe)

This was a stew using several classic central African ingredients such as chili pepper, palm oil, okra, and peanut butter.  Several ingredients were mixed to make meatballs, then it was cooked with the okra and peanut butter sauce.  I added extra salt and chili powder at the recommendation of a comment on another international cooking blogger’s post.

kanda_ti_nyma_1

It was served over rice.

kanda_ti_nyma_2

Karakanji (recipe)

This seemed similar to the bissap that we made for Burkina Faso a while back.  The difference was that the hibiscus was steeped with ginger, and it used less sugar (and called for powdered sugar instead of granulated sugar).  As expected, it tasted similar but less sweet.

karakanji

Beignets de bananes (recipe)

These were basically bananas meet fair food.  Sliced and battered bananas were fried and topped with powdered sugar.  I had a hard time not burning them. 😦

beignets_de_bananes

Meal review

Overall, the beignets de bananas stole the show.  They were delicious… like I said above, they were pretty much sliced bananas marauding as fair food (think funnel cakes and deep fried snickers).  The only downside is that they did not hold up as leftovers, and we made a lot of them.  The kanda ti nyma was okay… I thought it was a decent, filling meal.  Tyler really didn’t care for it… so I ate most of the leftovers.  I, on the other hand, really didn’t care for the karakanji drink… I think if it had more sugar like the bissap we made, I would have liked it, but it was just too bitter or tart or something.

Cape Verde

So now that I’m five (soon to be six after we cook dinner in about an hour) countries behind, we are going to power through a few posts…

We cooked a meal from Cape Verde back in the middle of July.  This is another of those small countries about which I didn’t know much and for which I didn’t find a wealth of information and recipes.  We decided to make a large stew called catchupa, which is one of those recipes that every chef prepares differently and makes enough food to feed an army, a side dish (probably could have been a dessert) of avocados stuffed with dates and port), and a dessert of pudim de queijo or “cheese pudding.”

 

Catchupa (recipe)

The stew cooked for several hours with hominy corn, three types of beans, salt pork, sausage (I think I used kielbasa… sadly I couldn’t find chorizo with casing), cabbage, butternut squash, garlic, tomatoes, bay leaves, chicken bouillon, and olive oil.  Once it was done, the sausage was removed and sliced to be served separately.  Here’s what it looked like!

Catchupa

Avocado with Dates (recipe)

This one of those quick and simple recipes.  Cut the avocados in half, scoop out the contents, mix the contents with sugar, port, and chopped dates, then put that mixture back in the avocado skins/shells and refrigerate.

Cape_Verde_avodados_with_dates_3

 

Pudim de Queijo (cheese pudding) (recipe)

This closest thing I can liken this too is cheesecake, but it was more egg-y and liquidy (I don’t think it was supposed to be as liquidy as it was, actually).  It used goat cheese, sugar, water, and eggs.  The bottom was a caramelized sugar crust.  It looked like this (like I said, runnier than it probably should have been):

Pudim_de_quieijo_6

 

The finished meal (minus dessert):

Cape_verde_meal

The stew was not bad, but it was not fantastic, either.  It seemed like it needed more beans or meat and some starch (we added crackers to leftovers).  We made this on a weekend when we were working on finishing our porch ceiling, so the idea was to have a lot of food available that was quick and easy to reheat.  The stuffed avocados were good.  They seemed like an odd side dish to go with the soup, but I did enjoy them.  The pudim de queijo was also very good.  Probably not a dessert I would frequently come back to, but I did enjoy it.

Canada

We were very excited to get to Canada a few weeks ago!  We live just a few hundred miles from the Candian border, so, aside from the US, this will probably be the least exotic meal of the project.  Also, Tyler has been talking about making poutine, which is a Canadian pub food of gravy and cheese curds served over fries, for Canada since day one of this project!  He also has a coworker from Canada who gave the stamp of approval on making poutine, and according to the internet, it is one of the few dishes that is ubiquitous across Canada.  But it wasn’t a full meal.  So I also came up with a maple salmon recipe from CandianLiving.com… I figured salmon is big in coastal parts of Canada, and Canada is also pretty well known for maple syrup.  I also thought salmon would be light enough to help counteract the poutine and butter tarts we picked for dessert. 🙂

Poutine (recipe)

We hardly needed a recipe for this, as simple as it is, but we did follow a recipe for the sake of getting the correct ratio of fries, cheese curds, and gravy and to have a gravy recipe.  We felt like it was cheating too much to buy frozen fries and a jar of gravy, so we made our own.  Although we made our own fries for Belgium, we didn’t particularly enjoy the smell and smoke that filled the house while frying them.  So we turned to the internet and followed an alternate method of tossing the potato slices in oil and broiling them.  They weren’t the best fries I’ve had, but they were smothered in gravy and cheese, so they didn’t need to be!

uncooked_fries_for_poutine

cooked_fries_for_poutine

 

I made the gravy per the recipe, using half chicken and half beef stock.  That is apparently one of the most controversial topics of poutine… beef vs. chicken gravy.  A bit of each seemed like the safe option.

gravy_for_poutine

When it was time to eat, the fries were topped with cheese curds, then gravy.

poutine

 

Pepper Maple Salmon (recipe)

We first mixed together the pepper and maple syrup and rubbed it into the salmon filets.  This was supposed to be refrigerated for 30 minutes next.

uncooked_salmon_for_Canada

Since it was a nice evening, we decided to grill the salmon, rather than cook it on the stove.

Canada_maple_salmon

 

We also made a sauce that went with the salmon–white wine, whipping cream, stock (I think we used a combination of chicken and beef), more maple syrup, and more pepper.

maple_salmon_sauce

 

The sauce was drizzled over the salmon and garnished with parsley to serve.

 Butter Tarts (recipe)

Tyler made the dough for this ahead of time.  Nothing too unusual… butter, lard (we used shortening), salt, and flour, then vinegar, egg yolk, and ice water were added.  This was cut into small circles.

butter_tart_dough

These went in a standard sized muffin pan, then they were filled with pecans (I have read that currants or raisins are most traditional, but pecans are what we had and what I happen to like best of the options given in the recipe), and the filling.  The filling was a thick goop of corn syrup, brown sugar, egg, vanilla, butter, vinegar, and salt.

uncooked_butter_tarts

They baked for the recommended 12 minutes and came out looking great.

butter_tarts_in_pan

Yum.

butter_tarts

Canada_meal

Meal Review

As expected, this meal was great.  I’m really not sure where we could have gone wrong, though.  Grilled salmon with pepper and maple syrup, fries smothered in gravy and cheese curds, and gooey filled pastries… all good things.

The salmon was definitely something I would like to make again.  I felt that the poutine detracted from it a bit, though… it was hard to go between the two, and I thought the saltiness/greasiness of the poutine masked a lot of the flavor in the salmon.  That said, the poutine was fantastic.  Definitely not something I could eat a lot of without feeling sick, but I enjoyed it.  And the butter tarts were basically mini pecan pies, so obviously they were a winner.

Overall, this was one of those much needed “all around winner” meals that make this project worth it!  Going into a span of three African countries, it is exactly what we needed!

Cameroon

We have gotten pretty busy over the last few weeks, so although we have cooked three more countries, I haven’t blogged any of them yet.  For Cameroon, I came across many of the usual ingredients for Africa… palm oil, plantains, fish, peanuts, etc.  The most well known dish seems to be something called Ndole, which is a stew that is cooked with bitter greens.  I knew I would have to substitute a different green (probably collard greens, spinach, or kale), and it didn’t look all that appealing to me.  So I found an alternate recipe for fried fish in peanut sauce and a side dish called sese plantains.

Fried Fish in Peanut Sauce (recipe)

Like many African recipes, this started with heating some palm oil in a frying pan.  I then added the fish and cooked until it was done.  I interpreted “serving sized pieces” of fish to be bite sized, and in retrospect I decided that probably wasn’t the intent.  Oh well.  It had the usual distinct smell and color of palm oil coated food.

cameroon_fish_cooking

I set it aside when it was done.  It was kind of crumbly.

cameroon_fish_cooked

Next is where we made some modifications.  We ground up the coriander, ginger, nutmeg, salt, and pepper as directed, but we omitted the dried shrimp.  This is for three reasons.  1. The bag of dried shrimp we purchased turned out to be past its expiration date already (I suspect it is not a commonly purchased item and had been on the shelf for a while…), 2. We were warned that dried shrimp are VERY salty and worried about a repeat of our overly salty Cambodian fish curry, and 3. I got weirded out by the two little back eyes on each shrimp and wimped out.

We also didn’t save any fish heads to cook with the water and make a broth.  Instead we threw in some vegetable bouillon.  Sounds pretty equivalent, right?  Right.

So we marched through the rest of the steps… simmered the water, bouillon, and spices.   Browned the onions and garlic in peanut oil (usually I just sauté them until they’re soft, but I actually let them get brown and crispy for this).  Added a couple whole peppers.

cameroon_fish_cooking_3

 

Next the peanut butter and broth were mixed together/simmered, then poured over the fish.

cameroon_fish_cooking_4

It was extremely liquidy.  We were pretty concerned about this and let it reduce for a while, but it was already 8:45 PM, so eventually we just called it good.

Sese Plantains (recipe)

This was another simple recipe.  Started with chopped plantains, onions, tomatoes, and pepper.

sese_plantains_ingredients

Boil the plantains in water for 10 minutes.  I thought the 10 1/2 cups of water in the recipe seemed a little unreasonable, so I used a lot less.  It was probably 4 or 5 cups.  Then the tomatoes, onion, and pepper were added and cooked for another 10 minutes.

sese_plantains_cooking

 

Next was the vegetable bouillon and palm oil, followed by more simmering.

cameroon_fish_cooking_2

The finished meal.  We forgot the cashews that were supposed to be a topping on the sese plantains.  Oops.

Cameroon_meal

As my tone may have suggested, this meal was pretty lackluster.  Neither great, nor terrible.  I don’t regret excluding the dried shrimp and fish head, although I think the saltiness of the dried shrimp would have helped the fish in peanut sauce.  It seemed like it needed a little extra something.  I thought the sese plantains was okay, but Tyler really didn’t care for it.  Overall, it was an okay meal and we ate some of the leftovers, but after a week or two in the fridge we finally threw away the rest.  I guess we needed some solid mediocrity to balance out the awesomeness that was our Canadian meal the next week. 🙂

Cambodia

There is a lot to celebrate with this post!

  1. We made it through another letter and on to the Cs!!!
  2. We passed the 15% completion mark!
  3. After this post, I will officially be up to date on the blog for the first time in months!
  4. While fighting off a bit of a cold bug over the long holiday weekend, I had a LOT of time to sit and take it easy, so I now have recipes selected for the next FIVE countries.  Yeah.  Cameroon through Chad, here we come.

I found a wealth of information and recipe options for Cambodia.  A lot of them looked very good.  I ended up selecting what seems to be acknowledged as the national dish and what most of the “cook a meal from every country” blogging community picked: Cambodian Fish Amok.  This is a fish curry dish that is traditional steamed in banana leaves.  With the addition of an egg to the curry, it is supposed to get a mousse-like consistency after steaming.  I also made a green mango salad which, according to some sources, is a common accompaniment to the fish amok.  Since I had high expectations for this country and was feeling particularly motivated, I also selected an unusual looking dessert called banh januk (AKA glutinous rice balls in sweet ginger syrup and coconut milk).

As it turns out, this was definitely one of our most ambitious meals for a weeknight, which wasn’t such a good thing when Tyler got some kind of a cold or virus that left him pretty low on energy (the same thing that he kindly passed on to me later in the week…).  But we had fish in the refrigerator threatening to go bad, so we pressed on.  On the plus side, we got to use a plethora of new ingredients!  Split mung beans, glutinous rice flour, palm sugar/jaggery, chili paste, chili sauce, shrimp paste, and lemongrass.  If they had been available locally, we would have also experienced cooking with kaffir limes/leaves, galangal, dried shrimp, dried fish, and banana leaves.

Fish Amok (recipe)

This recipe sounded simple enough: make a curry, coat the fish and spinach in it, then steam it.  Since we couldn’t find banana leaves to use the traditional cooking method, all we had to do is mix it in a skillet and let it cook.

I should know by now that it is never that simple.  This meal started innocently enough, with a collection of lemongrass, shallots, garlic, lime zest (substitute for kaffir limes), and ginger (substituted for galangal).

Cambodian_fish_amok_curry_1

The recipe said to finely chop them before pounding them into a paste in the mortar and pestle.  I figured coarsely chopping them would be good enough.

Cambodian_fish_amok_curry_2

I figured wrong.  It was very difficult to get to a paste-like consistency, and the lemongrass was extremely fibrous.

Cambodian_fish_amok_curry_3

 

So I resorted to the food processor, which helped some.  I then pounded it in the mortar pestle some more, and eventually I transferred it to a cutting board and chopped it with a knife to try to break apart the lemongrass fibers.  Eventually I called it good.

Cambodian_fish_amok_curry_4

 

After working on the other recipes and coming back to this, I eventually realized that the the turmeric, brown sugar (I used palm sugar/jaggery since that is what most of the fish amok recipes I saw online used), salt, and chili paste were supposed to go in at this point.  So it went back to the food processor again, and the liquid in the chili paste definitely helped it get closer to the curry paste consistency I was looking for.

Cambodian_fish_amok_curry_5

Next this was fried momentarily in some oil, then mixed with the coconut milk, shrimp paste, sugar, and salt.  A quick note about shrimp paste: I had heard only bad things about shrimp paste and its potent smell from other bloggers and was not excited about purchasing it.  Thus, when I saw a small jar of shrimp paste with some other stuff (garlic, salt, etc.) added, we opted to buy it over the massive package of straight up shrimp paste with no additions that they also sold.  I think this was a mistake, but more on that later.  After letting this mixture simmer for a few minutes, I added the chopped fish (we used mahi mahi) and spinach.  It looked quite colorful and pleasant.

Cambodian_fish_amok_cooking

 

Next I whisked together the egg, fish sauce, and some of the curry sauce from this pan, then mixed it back into the pan.  I think the idea of whisking it together first was to make sure the egg got well distributed in the pan.  At this point, the mixture should have been placed in banana leaf baskets and steamed.  The particular recipe I selected actually claims that they tasted no significant difference when this is cooked in a pan vs. steamed in a banana leaf, so that’s good since we didn’t have banana leaves available.  The recipe wasn’t really clear on what to do after adding the egg, so I just turned down the heat to low and let it simmer for a while while we finished the other recipes.  It was supposed to get a mousse-like consistency.  I would say it solidified a bit, but I wouldn’t call it mousse-like.

Cambodian_fish_amok

 

The individual servings were later topped with julienned red bell pepper and lime zest (again, substituted for kaffir lime leaves since I couldn’t get those fresh around here).

Green Mango Salad (recipe)

This recipe was pretty self explanatory: chop and blend the dressing ingredients, chop the salad ingredients, then toss it all together.

The dressing used peppers, shallot, ginger (again substituted for galangal), and garlic that were pounded in the mortar and pestle.

Cambodian_mango_salad_sauce_1

 

Out of fear from the curry paste making struggles, I chopped these into small pieces first.

 

Cambodian_mango_salad_sauce_2

I didn’t get too fussy about pounding it into a fine paste, since they recommended using a food processor to add the liquids and other ingredients (chili sauce, palm sugar, fish sauce, and lime juice).

Cambodian_mango_salad_sauce_3

I was quite dismayed to learn that I only need 10 mL of this sauce.  We have a LOT left over.

For the salad I finely sliced the mango (by the way, I couldn’t find any green mangoes, so I used a reasonably firm yet decidedly ripe and colorful mango):

Cambodian_mango_salad_sauce_sliced_mango

 

…then mixed it together with the sauce, peanuts, tomato, onion, and herbs (I got to use Thai basil and mint out of our garden!).  I omitted the dried shrimp and fish since I didn’t have much luck in finding them and wasn’t particular thrilled about eating them anyway.

Cambodian_mango_salad_sauce_ingredients

 

After mixing:

Cambodian_mango_salad_sauce

 

The recipe didn’t really specify a serving temperature, so we left it on the counter and ate it around room temperature with dinner.

Banh Januk (recipe)

I left my poor, sick husband mostly in charge of this recipe, so I don’t have great notes or pictures.  He started with split mung beans.

mung_beans_for_Cambodia

These were soaked for an hour, cooked until soft, then mashed.

banh_januk_mashed_mung_beans

Then we got to work with the big chunk of palm sugar (AKA jaggery).  We used part of the block for the other two recipes and then scaled this recipe to 1/4 sized so that we could work with the amount of palm sugar we had left from the single block we purchased.

jaggery_palm_sugar

 

This was melted and cooked with water, ginger, and salt.

banh_januk_ginger_sauce

 

The coconut milk was cooked in a pan with the cornstarch and salt.  It didn’t look very exciting, so I didn’t take pictures.

Then the glutinous rice flour was mixed and kneaded with water.  It was pretty gloppy stuff for a while.

banh_januk_dough

Eventually it firmed up, and we worked on forming balls of the rice flour mixture that were stuffed with a small scoop of the mashed mung beans.  I ended up taking over responsibility for this task from Tyler.  As usual when making stuffed foods, we had a lot of the filling leftover.  I had to add extra flour to keep the dough workable.

banh_januk_pre_boiling

 

These balls were boiled in water until the floated:

Banh_januk_cooked

Then they were topped with the ginger sauce, coconut milk, and toasted sesame seeds.  It definitely didn’t look as pretty as the pictures in the recipe.

Banh_januk

 

The final meal (sans dessert):

Cambodian_meal

Meal review:

Whew, this was a lot of work, unfortunately not for a lot of results. 😦

The fish curry seemed like it had a lot of potential, but it tasted VERY salty.  As in… all I could taste was salt.  I found it to be slightly less salty the next day for leftovers and could kind of pick out the lemongrass and ginger flavors, but it was still predominantly salty.  My theory is that the alternate shrimp paste we purchased had more salt than your run of the mill shrimp paste, and that is what threw it off.  I’m not likely to remake this soon, so I guess we’ll never know.  Bummer.

The green mango salad was pretty good, although it was overshadowed by the extreme saltiness of the curry.  Sadly I think my opinion of the salad was tainted by the rest of the meal.  I think this salad could be very good with the right meal, though.

My opinion of the dessert was probably also tainted by my disappointment over the salt curry, but I wasn’t wildly impressed with it either.  It was okay, just not great.  I’m not sure the rice balls were cooked long enough (or maybe there was just too much dough?), since they were a little too chewy/doughy for me.  I liked the mung bean filling, though.  I think our ginger syrup was too thin, but it had a good flavor.  Overall, I can see where this had potential to be good, and like several of other other meals, we probably didn’t do it justice.  Again, bummer.

The world seems upside down with our last African meal (Burundi) being so successful and an Asian meal being less than stellar (I have generally really enjoyed the Asian meals so far)!  We’re back to Africa next time, then Canada, then three more African meals, so here’s hoping Burundi was a good omen of tasty African food to come!

Burundi

With Burundi we found ourselves back in Africa.  This is number two in our current stretch of six out of nine consecutive countries being in Africa.  Considering our mediocre track record with African food, we didn’t think this boded well for the next few weeks…

Researching Burundi did a good job of putting my life in perspective.  In additional to political instability, it is one of the poorest and most malnourished countries on our planet.  It wasn’t too surprising, then, that there also isn’t a wealth of information about Burundi and their cuisine on the internet, or that the recipes I found were pretty simple.  I did read about several homemade alcoholic beverages, such as banana beer, which one of my fellow international cooking bloggers did attempt to make here.  I wasn’t that adventurous.  The common theme I found in research is that Burundians eat red kidney beans with at least one meal every day.  So for one of my recipes I selected a basic vegetarian dish of beans and bananas (plantains).  I also decided to make another attempt at the starchy glop I’ve encountered throughout Africa and the Caribbean, known in Burundi as ugali.

Burundian Beans and Bananas (recipe)

We started by soaking the dry red kidney beans.  The recipes says to do this for at least three hours, but I think we started soaking them the night before.  With our history of unsuccessful African food, I wasn’t taking any chances with not having fully cooked beans.  Plus we were making it after work the next day, so starting it the night before was definitely the safest option.

We also got to use more of our red palm oil!  We have been keeping it in the refrigerator, since we weren’t sure if refrigeration is required of it.  Lesson learned: it solidifies in the refrigerator and is VERY difficult to get out of the bottle in this state.  Once we got about two tablespoons out, we fried the chopped onion in the palm oil.

Burundi_beans_and_bananas_1

Then the beans, sliced plantains, diced chili pepper, and salt were added.

Burundi_beans_and_bananas_2

 

We didn’t add the full 1 L of water that was recommended… it was probably about 1/2 to 2/3 of that volume.

Burundi_beans_and_bananas_3

After simmering and reducing, it was done!
Burundi_beans_and_bananas

 

Ugali (recipe)

Tyler was in charge of this recipe, and he said he followed advice in the comments of the recipe I linked to more than the recipe itself.  He used the proportions in the recipe (except the salt… we forgot to scale the salt back even though we scaled the rest of the recipe in half…oops.).  He gradually added cornmeal to the water, adding more only after he had stirred for several minutes and it was fully dissolved and mixed in the water.  Miraculously, when it was done it actually had the proper consistency!!!  He formed it into a large ball, and it was thick enough that it could be sliced or scooped into individual servings.  Success!!!

Burundi_ugali

 

Burundi

 

Meal review:

This meal was surprisingly delicious!!  The beans and plantains were fantastic.  The plantains took on the consistency of cooked potatoes, but they added much more flavor that you would get with potatoes.  The ugali was actually pretty good when prepared properly and served with a decent main course.  It was close enough to the proper consistency that I was able to eat it in what is apparently the traditional method of  pulling some out with your fingers and shaping it as a scoop, which is then used to scoop up the rest of the food (in this case the beans and plantains).  It was a messy affair, but we enjoyed eating it this way.

I’m definitely making a mental note of this as a quick meal we could easily throw together in the future (you could substitute canned beans to save time).  Most importantly, I was SO RELIEVED to have a good meal come out of Africa, and it gave me some hope for our upcoming four African countries!!!

 

Burma/Myanmar

I had a short dilemma with this country as I debated between making it with the Bs (old and now colloquial/unofficial name of Burma) or Ms (now official name of Myanmar).  But since I knew we had started down a long stretch of African countries (6 out of 9 consecutive countries are in Africa), I thought we could use the variety of an Asian country right now.

I selected two dishes for this country.  The first is called ohn noh kauk swe (there seem to be multiple spellings out there), which is best described as a South Asian version of chicken noodle soup with many toppings to mix in.  The second is a ginger and cabbage based salad called gin thoke.

Ohn Noh Kauk Swe (recipe)

This recipe started by frying onion, garlic, and ginger.  I followed the recommendations in the recipe notes to increase the quantity of spices (including the garlic and ginger) to get a more authentic flavor (I used roughly 1.5 times what the recipe specified).ohn_noh_kauk_swe_1

Then the chicken, turmeric, and chili powder were added and cooked.  Rather than adding the fish sauce and salt in this step, I followed the recommendation of several other recipes for this dish to marinate the chicken in the fish sauce and salt for a while (maybe 15 minutes?) before cooking in it.

ohn_noh_kauk_swe_2

At this point we realized we were going to run out of space and made the necessary transfer to the stock pot.  I didn’t take many photos, but we added in the chicken stock and chickpea flower (which had been soaking in water), then later the shallots, coconut milk, and more fish sauce.  From what I read, the risk of clumping is pretty high with the chickpea flower, so there was some pretty continuous stirring going on at this point.  You can’t tell in this picture, but there actually are chicken pieces in there.

ohn_noh_kauk_swe_3

 

The other part of this recipe was to chop all of the toppings!  Onions (we used sweet vidalia onions that are in season!), chow mein noodles, lemon and lime wedges, toasted red pepper flakes, cilantro (from the garden!!), green onions (not specified in this recipe but several others listed it), and hard boiled eggs.  We also had some leftover serrano pepper from the gin thoke, so I put that out as another topping.

ohn_noh_kauk_swe_toppings

 

We also made rice noodles to go with it!  I have never cooked rice noodles before, and I was pleasantly surprised by the short (~5 minute) cook time!  I know this recipe lists egg noodles, but I saw rice noodles in many of the other recipes for this dish and was curious to try them.

Rice_noodles

The final spread:

ohn_noh_kauk_swe

…definitely one of our more photogenic meals!

Gin Thoke (recipe)

This recipe was a lot of chopping, then it just had to be stirred together and left to chill and intermix the flavors in the fridge.  The worst part was thinly slicing ginger, since this recipe uses a LOT of ginger.  I’m guessing the “gin” in the name of this recipe is referring to ginger.  I started with a chunk of ginger this size:

whole_ginger_for_gin_thoke

And sliced it to get a half cup:

sliced_ginger_for_gin_thoke

The ginger marinated in lime juice for a few hours, which was supposed to take some of the bite out of it.

Other ingredients for this salad included chopped cabbage, diced tomato, ground peanuts, sesame seeds, chickpea flour, sliced garlic (first fried in peanut oil), soy sauce, and lime juice.  We weren’t sure if “white”/”low-sodium” soy sauce was a really special thing, but we ended up just using the regular soy sauce we had on hand.  These ingredients were all dumped together:

gin_thoke_ingredients

Then mixed together and topped with chopped chili pepper (we used serrano).

gin_thoke

We also made a pot of green tea to enjoy with the meal!

tea_for_Burma-Myanmar_meal

 

 

We enjoyed the meal during a nice summer day on the porch. 🙂

Burma-myanmar_dinner

 

Burma-Myanmar_meal

This meal was delicious.  The ohn noh kauk swe was really good.  The soup (if you can call it that) itself had a lot of flavor, and I thought the toppings all complemented the soup very well.  I found the raw onions to be surprisingly pleasant, which is unusual for me.  I also continued to push myself out of my comfort zone as I powered through three or four hard boiled egg slices in each servings.  I keep telling myself that if I keep eating small quantities of egg disguised with other delicious foods, I will one day get to a point where I can tolerate eating egg based dishes.  One day.  It would sure make going out to breakfast restaurants easier.  Anyway, this dish was a winner.  As an added bonus, the fish sauce flavor was very subdued… I was worried about this while cooking.  The worst part was that it was kind of difficult to eat without making a mess.  I ended up doing a shoveling maneuver between my fork and spoon for each bite.  Tyler used chopsticks.  The volume of food was also a little out of hand.  I counted 16 servings that we have gotten out of it (including 4 servings for family and friends that came over a couple night… thank goodness we had some help getting through the full stock pot of food), and we still have some in the fridge that is probably going to get thrown away eventually.  As much as I enjoyed this meal, I definitely reached a point where I was very tired of eating it.

The gin thoke salad was good, but not stunning.  It was so different from anything I have eaten that I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.  The ginger mellowed out over time, and I could see why it is considered an after dinner/palate cleanser dish.  I enjoyed trying it, but it isn’t something I’ll be in a hurry to make again.

 

 

Burkina Faso

I let myself get behind in blogging again!  We cooked our meal from Burkina Faso a couple weeks ago.  As with many of the African countries, there was a fairly limited selection of recipes.  I ended up with a big one pot meal of riz gras (which apparently translates to “fat rice”), Banfora cookies, and a hibiscus tea drink called bissap.

Riz Gras (recipe)

The best part of this dish is that it was the perfect excuse to use our new enameled cast iron Dutch oven!!!  The worst part was the high price tag for lamb meat.

We started by soaking the rice in water.  I think we used more rice from our seemingly bottomless bag of Basmati rice for this dish.  Then I chopped the onion, tomatoes, carrots, and cabbage.

riz_gras_veggies

The onion and tomato were fried with some oil, then the carrots, cabbage, tomato puree (I used tomato paste), and chicken bouillon were added.  The recipe didn’t really specify when to add the meat, so we put it in during this step as well.

riz_gras_1

 

After that came to a boil, the rice was added.

riz_gras_2

 

After half an hour or so, the rice was tender and the meat was cooked.  Done!

riz_gras_3

Bissap (recipe)

I found several recipes for this drink throughout the internet, and they all followed the same theme: steep dried hibiscus flowers in hot water, add sugar, then add some other stuff of your choosing.  I liked the recipe I am linking to because it listed several common options for additional mix-ins.  I read pineapple and lemon juice/lemonade as common additions on several other sites.

I was surprised to find dried hibiscus flowers readily available at our grocery store!  They went in the pot with hot water.

bissap_steeping

I believe we let it steep for fifteen minutes or so.  It turned a very deep red color.

bissap_steeped

 

We strained it into a pitcher through cheesecloth and let it cool the fridge.  We didn’t add any additional mix-ins at this point so that we could try a few different options.  After cooling, I added pineapple juice to my glass and Tyler added mint.  He couldn’t really taste the mint, so we think it should have gone in while the tea was still hot rather than added once it was cold.  He ended up removing the tea leaves and adding pineapple juice too.

bissap

Banfora (recipe)

I’m not convinced at how traditional/widely consumed these are in Burkina Faso, but I thought they looked quite good.  They are described as the Burkinabe version of Welshcakes, which I had not heard of before.

The dough was pretty simple to prepare… mix flour/salt/butter to get a breadcrumb texture, then mix in the remaining ingredients.  The most unique ingredient to this was chopped, dried pineapple.  The dried pineapple we found had sugar added, so the cookies were probably extra sweet because of this.

The dough was rolled out and cut into circles.

banfora_pre_cooking

Then it got interesting!  Rather than baking these cookies, they are cooked on the stovetop.  I didn’t get any pictures of that step, but it felt very similar to making pancakes.  I used a little bit of oil to cook them in, but not too much since we have a non-stick griddle.  The cookies were topped with a little powdered sugar and cinnamon immediately after being removed from the griddle.

banfora

Meal review

Unfortunately, the riz gras was not a big winner.  It was okay–somewhat reminiscent of a beef stew, especially with the carrots–but nothing spectacular.  And it made a LOT of food.  You’d think we would have learned to scale recipes by now.  I think the biggest problem for me was the texture.  The high concentration of cabbage wasn’t very pleasant to me.  I tried to offset the cabbage and enhance the flavors when we ate leftovers by adding fresh herbs from the garden for flavor and peanuts for crunch, but in the end, a lot of this food ended up in the garbage.  😦

The bissap drink was very good.  It was a little too sweet… almost Koolaid-ey, but that is probably from adding sweet pineapple juice in addition to the sugar.  I definitely enjoyed this as a cool, summery drink.  As an added bonus, the dried hibiscus flowers were surprisingly inexpensive!

The bandora cookies were also very good!!  They reminded me of a scone, and I enjoyed coming across the occasional piece of pineapple.  I’m sure they were terribly unhealthy with all of the butter/sugar and the fact that they are fried, but they were definitely worth it.  I was so glad to end the meal on a high point with these cookies, since the riz gras was not a big hit.