Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

As usual, we started getting nervous when we saw an African country approaching the top of our list.  We don’t have the best track record with African food, although it is slowly improving…

Our plan for Cote d’Ivoire was to make a stew called Kedjenou, attieke (which is, essentially, couscous made of cassava), and gâteau molleux à l’anabas et à la noir de coco (pineapple and coconut cake).  We couldn’t find attieke, so we ended up substituting standard issue couscous and following a similar cooking method to what we used for Algeria.

Kedjenou (recipe)

This was another easy recipe… the instructions are to dump everything in a big pot, then let it cook for a long time.  We used chicken (I think chicken thighs?), eggplant, onions, chili pepper, tomato, ginger, thyme, bay leaf, garlic, chicken stock, and peanut oil.  We turned it into a crockpot meal.

Before cooking (yes, we still had useable thyme in the garden in mid-October for this!):

Kedjenou_before_cooking

After cooking:

Kedjenou_after_cooking

 

Served on couscous:

Kedjenou_on_couscous

Gâteau Molleux à l’Ananas et à la Noix de Coco (recipe)

It had been a while since we made an international dessert, so we decided to make this cake.  It also seemed fitting to make a cake since it was close to my birthday!

The cake batter involved shredded coconut, butter, flour, sugar, eggs, baking powder, salt, and chopped fresh pineapple (yum!).  Other than the pieces of fruit, the batter and cakes looked pretty normal.  Perhaps slightly more done than I would have liked.

cote_d'ivoire_cake_1

 

However, the flipping onto a cooling rack step was not so successful (although this gave us a good excuse to sneak a taste of the cake, which got done before dinner was ready 🙂 ).

cote_d'ivoire_cake_2

But it still tasted good!

cote_d'ivoire_cake_3

 

This meal was better than we have come to expect from African food, although it wasn’t phenomenal.  There was a reasonable amount of flavor in the stew, but the chicken seemed dry to me.  The cake was also good, but it seemed like it was missing something.  I would rate this meal as average… not bad, not great.  Probably won’t be making it again.

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Comoros

Oh, The Comoros.

My first step was learning how to pronounce the name.  (The) Cah-muh-rohs seems to be the correct pronunciation.

My second step was researching recipes.  I came up with two contenders… a chicken curry dish that looked good but not too unusual or spectacular… or lobster with vanilla sauce.

My third step was working up the bravery for a memorable shopping trip.

Meet Frank.

Frank_the_lobster

 

…and the tail of “Frozen Frank.”

Frozen_Frank

Yep, that happened.

Langouste a la Vanille (recipe)

Fortunately, Tyler was braver than me… he handled Frank the lobster and diligently followed the recipe’s instructions to stab poor Frank between the eyes and sever his spinal cord from the brain.  It was a little traumatic.  Frank wasn’t happy.

Frank_mischief

After that traumatic experience and more clicking and scuttling sounds from the lobster box than I needed to hear, our lobster friends found their way to the oven…

Before:

lobster_pre_cooking

 

After:

lobster_post_cooking

I now understand why the Red Lobster restaurants have the name they do…

This yielded a surprisingly small amount of meat.

cooked_lobster

Meanwhile, on the less traumatic side of the kitchen, I was making the vanilla sauce.  Since we were already spending an arm and a leg on the darn lobsters, we figured we might as well spend another $12 for a vanilla bean and do this right.  I’ve never cooked with a vanilla bean before, and I was pretty amazed by the collection of itty bitty seeds inside it.

vanilla_bean

 

The sauce involved sautéing shallots in butter, then adding white wine and white wine vinegar.  Then more (!) butter and 1/2 of the vanilla bean seeds were added.  All said and done, this used a full stick of butter.  That is a LOT of butter.

vanilla_butter_sauce

The recipe suggested serving it with spinach and watercress withered in (more) butter.  I couldn’t find watercress, but I found a blend of spinach and two other types of leaves that were conveniently listed on the internet as reasonable substitutes for watercress.

Before:

greens_for_Comoros_raw

After:

greens_for_Comoros_cooked

Comoros_lobster_with_vanilla_sauce_on_greens

 

Ladu (recipe)

Since all that butter wasn’t enough unhealthiness for one meal, we also made a dessert called ladu.  This called for coarsely ground raw rice, and we did manage to find rice that I would define as coarsely ground (I was expecting to end up finding a way to grind up whole rice on our own)  This was cooked in butter on the stove… allegedly this was to be done until it was cooked, but the truth is that butter does not do much for softening rice.  Ladu_cooking

 

I’m not sure if we had the wrong kind of “coarsely ground raw rice” or if the recipe was incomplete, but much like the arepas for Colombia, I took matters into my own hands and started adding water.  I kept adding water and cooking it until it was soft enough to be edible.

Ladu_cooked

Then the cardamom was added, and after cooking the powdered sugar and pepper were added.  It was supposed to be shaped into “bricks.”  We must have done something wrong, because bricks were not going to happen with this consistency.

Ladu

The final meal:
Comoros_meal

The verdict?

Not as good as I was hoping for, considering the cost of lobster and vanilla beans…

Truthfully, I am not a fan of most seafood other than fish, and lobster is no exception.  The sauce was fantastic, but I really struggled with the texture of the lobster meat.  Tyler ate most of it.  And after the traumatic cooking experience, I didn’t have enough an appetite left to be disappointed by this.  On the plus side, we can now check off “cook a live lobster” from the list of life experiences we have completed!  I’m still glad we cooked this meal, and I probably couldn’t have been convinced to purchase and cook a live lobster under any other circumstances.

The dessert was decidedly safe and “normal” for me compared to the lobster, although the combination of cold oatmeal-y rice with pepper and cardamom was unlike anything I have experienced.  I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate in.  In general, I found it to be such a different food experience that I had a hard time wrapping my head around it to form a strong opinion.

Whew.  Our next country of Costa Rica looked pretty reassuringly normal after this.

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.

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. 🙂

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!!!

 

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.

Botswana

One more catch up post, then I will get to write about last night’s meal, Brazil. We had a very long hiatus from this project–24 days between Botswana and Brazil!  Since it has been 3-4 weeks since we cooked Botswana, this post will be only as long and detailed as my memory permits.

I didn’t find a vast amount of information on Botswanan food, and I selected a pretty simple meal.  We made a beef dish called seswaa, a cornmeal-based side dish called bogobe, and a vegetable-based side dish called morogo wa dinawa.  I found all of the recipes on the wonderful Celnet.org website, which has been a GREAT resource for international recipes in this project.

Seswaa (recipe)

Several descriptions I read for this recipe explained that is cooked by the men.  The men cook the meat and then pound it into a mush (described as being close to a mashed potato consistency).  So I put Tyler in charge of this while I worked on the sides. 🙂

This was a pretty simple recipe–put a 1 kg cut of beef, chopped onion, and ground pepper in a pan of boiling water and then let it cook for a few hours.  I’m convinced we should have just thrown it in the crock pot, but instead we attempted to cook it after work.  We gave it the recommended 150 minutes and then some, and it never got particularly tender.  Eventually we had to call it a day and pull it out.

seswaa_cooking   seswaa_pre_mashing

The next step is to pound it into submission with a stick.  Tyler used a wooden spoon.  It took heavy damage.

Seswaa_spoon_casualty

 

Despite our trimming efforts, we ended up with a lot of fat/gristle that wasn’t easy to deal with, and it only came somewhat close to the right “mashed-potato-like” consistency.

seswaa

Maize Meal Bogobe (recipe)

I was pretty nervous about this dish.  The last time we made one of these starch and hot water goop side dishes (funge for Angola), it was an epic fail.  The second time (cou cou for Barbados), it was tolerable.  Third try is a charm, right?

Like Barbados, this recipe used cornmeal.  I think the proportions and cooking time/temperature were a little different this time.  This was another simple dish… boil some water, with salt, pour in the cornmeal, cover, and let it simmer for 20 minutes.  The recipe said to pour the cornmeal into the middle of the pan so you get a cone.  My cone was sticking out of the water.  I don’t know if that’s what was supposed to happen, but I let it stay that way for the 20 minute cook time.  I figured since the lid was on, it would be cooked by the steam and ambient heat in or out of the water.

maize_bogobe_cooking

After stirring it several times with a fork to prevent sticking and cooking for another 15 minutes, it actually looked tolerable and somewhat similar to pictures I have seen!  Success!

maize_bogobe

Morogo Wa Dinawa (recipe)

I will preface this by saying we had to make a big substitution.  We don’t have African cow pea leaves in the middle of Iowa.  We have lots of cows, peas, and leaves, but not cow pea leaves.  So we used spinach instead.

I first made a recipe for the Botswanan barbecue spice mix.  Salt, pepper, paprika, cumin, oregano, etc.  I didn’t use the alligator pepper that it called for since we used a small amount of the spice mix, and I definitely wasn’t going to find alligator pepper locally.

Botswana_BBQ_spice_mix

 

Like so many recipes before, this started with frying onions in a pan with oil.  I should figure out how many of these international meals have started that way… I bet 80-90% of the countries have had at least one dish start with frying onions in a pan.

Anyway, green bell pepper and tomato were added to the onions and fried a bit longer.  As usual, lots of pretty colors!

Morogo_Wa_Dinawa_veggies

Then the water and bean leaves (spinach) were added and cooked for fifteen minutes.

Morogo_Wa_Dinawa_spinach

Finally, the spice mix was added.  I don’t remember how much of the spice mix we used, but I know we at least scaled the recipe by 1/4.

Morogo_Wa_Dinawa

The final meal:

Botswana_meal

Overall, I rated this meal with a resounding “meh.”  The parts of the seswaa meat that weren’t gristly had reasonably good flavor, but they were hard to come by.  The cornmeal based bogobe was actually decent.  I liked it much better than the similar funge or cou cou that we made in the past.  However, it was still a dry/bland side dish with a dry/bland main course… not a winning combination for me.  The greens were decent, but I haven’t really gotten on board with the pile of soggy/cooked greens thing yet.  At least the spice mix and other veggies added good flavor.  I might have been a bigger fan of this if it was more of a side dish and less of a “this has the most interesting flavor of the entire meal” thing.

Benin

We finally made our way back to an African country.  So far, we haven’t had good luck with this continent, so it was with great trepidation that we started on this meal…

Benin was one of the more difficult countries to find recipes for, but some common themes I found were peanuts, chili peppers, yams, smoked meat/fish, and snack foods that can be purchased at street vendors.  I decided pretty quickly to make yams with peanut sauce, and I was thinking of something called Akkra Funfun, which is a fried bean-based patty.  I had considered a recipe that used a whole smoked chicken, but I didn’t think I could find a whole smoked chicken and didn’t want to sign up for smoking one ourselves.  And then, out of the blue, Tyler announced that he felt like smoking a whole chicken one of these days.  Done.  So our other dish was moyo de poulet fume, which is smoked chicken cooked in a tomato based sauce.

 

Beninese Peanut Sauce (recipe)

I started with preparing the pepper paste.  The recipe calls for two teaspoons of mashed Scotch bonnet peppers.  We had habaneros on hand from a previous country, so we used those.  I started with two habaneros, which sounded like a lot of heat… and it was nowhere close to the two teaspoons.  I ended up mashing five habaneros to get close to two teaspoons.  That’s a lot of habanero.  I gathered the rest of the ingredients… tomato puree (I used tomato paste since we keep individual tablespoons of it in the freezer), onion, peanut butter (it called for unsweeted peanut butter, so we had to do some extra searching at the grocery store), salt, and beef bouillon.

Benin_peanut_sauce_ingredients

The recipe was pretty straightforward… cook all of the ingredients except the peanut butter in some oil:

Benin_peanut_sauce_step1

Then add the peanut butter after the onions are soft.

Benin_peanut_sauce_step3

Then it was left to simmer for fifteen minutes, during which it thickened a little bit.

Benin_peanut_sauce

 

Ingame–mashed sweet potatoes (recipe)

I always try to cook at least three new recipes for each country, and it definitely felt like I was cheating by counting this, since it just involved peeling some sweet potatoes, cutting them into several pieces, boiling them, and mashing them with some added water.  Easy.  I will note that this was a substitution–we didn’t find non-canned yams (apparently also known as ingame or eddoes) here in Iowa, so we instead used sweet potatoes.  They are not the same species, but the end result should be fairly similar.

Benin_sweet_potatoes_mashing   Benin_sweet_potatoes

 

Moyo de Poulet Fume (recipe)

We started this recipe a week earlier–Tyler smoked the whole chicken on the same day as our Belizean cooking disaster.  Yeah, on top of our other struggles that night, we also had a chicken in the smoker that refused to reach the fully cooked internal temperature until 9:30 PM or so.  Since we went out of town over Easter weekend, it went in the freezer until we got back.  Out of frustration the night we smoked it and negligence the night we cooked this meal, I never got a picture of the smoked chicken.

This was another recipe that was pretty straightforward.  I put the blanched/peeled/seeded/chopped tomatoes, chili peppers (more habaneros!), chicken stock, onions, soy sauce, and oil (I think we used sunflower oil) in a pan and brought them to a boil.  Then we dropped in the chicken pieces after Tyler carved the chicken.  Since the chicken was already fully cooked, this just needed to simmer for 20 minutes or so.

moyo_poulet_fume_veggies   moyo_poulet_fume_veggies_cooking   moyo_poulet_fume_cooked

 

Benin_meal

Thoughts on the meal:

We loved having an easy meal (although it helped that our struggles the night we smoked the chicken were distant memories at this point 🙂 )!  All of the recipes came together pretty quickly and easily.  The biggest downside was the heat!  That peanut sauce was pretty intense.  We loved the flavor of it, and it was surprisingly good on sweet potatoes, but I would definitely scale back the heat next time… I think I would limit it to three or four habaneros instead of five.

The chicken was good, although it was nothing special.  The smokiness of it was good, but the sauce was pretty unremarkable.  Not bad, just nothing really different or exciting.  However, it all ended up mixing up together on my plate and in the leftovers we took to work for lunch, so in the end the peanut sauce mixed with the chicken to kick it up a notch.

Overall, we were pretty happy with the meal, and VERY relieved to have A) a success after the last country, and B) a success after our track record with African countries.

Bhutan is next, and they are known for their love of chili peppers… which means more heat!