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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Brunei

We haven’t spent much time in southern Asia yet, so I was excited to get to Brunei, which is a small country bordered by Malaysia and the South China Sea.  That excitement turned to disappointment when I realized that this is one of those small countries with very little information posted on the internet.  I eventually resigned to the fact that anything I found would probably not be unique to Brunei but would instead be shared among Brunei, Malysia, and Indonesia.  The national dish of Brunei is something called ambuyat, which is a starchy mush that is twirled around a bamboo fork and dipped in sauces.  The consensus among several other international cooking blogs with a similar premise to mine is that this recipe was not a winner, especially with the tapioca starch that most of them had to substitute.  One post even had several comments from Bruneian people who confessed to having difficulty cooking ambuyat well.  So I scratched that off the list.

What I ended up selecting is a rice/curry/chicken dish called beriani.  From what I have read, many different countries and regions have variations of this dish, but this particular recipe is listed as a Bruneian version.  I also selected an interesting looking dessert called rujack or “spiced fruit salad.”

We used a lot of fresh produce for this meal!

Brunei_produce

Brunei Beriani (recipe)

This meal started by blending together the sauce/curry ingredients–ginger, cashews, almonds, poppy seeds, garlic, and chili peppers (we used one anaheim and one jalapeño).  The ingredient list’s inclusion of of 10 cashews and 10 almonds seemed oddly specific, but whatever.  This stuff smelled amazing after blending it, and it kind of looked like avocado/guacamole.

Brunei_biriani_curry_ingredients   Brunei_biriani_curry_ingredients_blended

 

Next the garlic, cloves, cinnamon, and shallots were heated in melted butter (no ghee here…we just use melted butter).

Brunei_beriani_onions_cooking

Then the chicken, sauce, curry powder, and salt were mixed together and cooked.  Again, this smelled so good.  Meanwhile, we started cooking the rice in the coconut milk (we used canned coconut milk instead of squeezing it out of a fresh coconut.  Call it cheating if you will, but I’m not sure we even could have found a whole coconut here).

Brunei_beriani_chicken_curry

Once the chicken was fully cooked and the rice had absorbed the liquid, the chicken mixture was plopped on top of the rice.  Then it simmered over low heat for a bit longer until the rice was fully cooked.

Brunei_beriani_chicken_in_rice   Brunei_beriani_in_pot

Brunei_beriani_serving

Bruneia Rujack–spiced fruit salad (recipe)

Like the sauce mix for the beriani, I just had to throw a bunch of ingredients in the food processor for this one.  The fruit dip/sauce used a very unexpected mix of foods… green banana (yes, it specifically asked for an un-ripe banana), brown sugar, chile peppers (we used the same combination of one anaheim and one jalapeño), and tamarind paste (the only tamarind product we were able to find was a can of nectar, so I poured a reasonable looking amount of it in), and ground peanuts.

Brunei_rujak_dip_ingredients

After blending, the dipping sauce was served with a selection of sliced fruits.  We chose several of the options listed by the recipe–star fruit (seriously, those things look awesome, and how often do you have an excuse to buy one??), “firm green” pear, tart apple, papaya, and cucumber.  From what I have read, the “modern” method is to mix the fruit slices with the sauce, and the “traditional” method is to serve the fruits and dip separately.  We went with the traditional method so that leftover fruit could be eaten if the sauce was a total bust and because it looked pretty to spread out the fruit and dip like this.

Brunei_rujack

 Meal Review

I loved that this meal was easy to prepare.  This definitely didn’t feel like more work than a typical non-international meal we would cook, which was a nice change.  The beriani was delicious.  It started to seem a little dry as leftovers, but the flavors were still amazing.  I could actually taste the coconut milk, which is unusual for me.  The yellow color and poppy seeds kept tricking my brain into thinking about lemon poppy seed muffins and tasting lemon.  I could also pick out the combination of ginger and chili peppers.  We have run into that combination a few times (Bhutan in particular), and it is really starting to grow on me.  Overall the beriani was a big hit and is definitely something we would make again.  I would consider using less rice and chicken or more sauce so it isn’t quite as dry next time.

The fruit salad and dip was okay.  I really went back and forth on my opinion of it.  I thought the dip smelled awful when I was making it.  It was better than expected, even pleasant, when I tried it with dinner.  I did really enjoy the light dessert of fresh fruit, and the flavors complimented each other surprisingly well.  After having leftovers a few times, my opinion is sinking back to somewhere between “meh” and unpleasant.  Maybe it’s just not as a good after a few days in the fridge.

All in all, not a bad meal!  Next up is Bulgaria!

Bahrain

Next on this list is Bahrain!  An archipelago of islands, it is located in the Persian Gulf off the coast of Saudi Arabia.  Dates, which are a native crop to Bahrain, play a large role in their cuisine, and there is generally a large influence from neighboring middle eastern countries.

I quickly found two recipes that I wanted to make–chicken machboos, which uses an abundance of spices and flavorful ingredients mixed with chicken and rice, and muhammar, which is a sweet rice that is often flavored with dates.  HOWEVER, I didn’t think I could handle two rice dishes in one meal…

We went with the chicken machboos, which just looked too delicious to pass up.  I saw several comments with recipes for chicken machboos that it is often served with a salad and with a warm sauce called daqqous.  The muhammar/sweet rice is going on my list of recipes to revisit sometime in the future.

Chicken Machboos (recipe)

Like with the curry for Antigua and Barbuda, we prepared a spice mix for this recipe.  This mix is called baharat, and it is a wonderful smelling mix of cloves, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, pepper, cardamom, paprika, and nutmeg.

Baharat_spices

Everything except the paprika and nutmeg was cooked in a pan for a few minutes–just until it became fragrant and started to smoke a bit.  As I expected, this smelled great.

Baharat_on_stove

After that cools, it is ground up with the nutmeg and paprika.  At this point, I had no doubt that this was going to be an awesome meal.

Baharat

Next, I prepared another set of ingredients.  One of which was new to me–loomi, also known as black limes.  These are limes that have been boiled in salt water and then set out to dry in the sun.  I was worried we would have to come up with a substitute, but the local international grocery store had them!

loomi

I set out the loomi, cardamom, ground cloves, cinnamon, garlic, pepper, onion, turmeric, baharat, ginger, onions, and tomatoes.  Seriously, with all of these delicious foods and spices going into it, how could this not be delicious?

machboos_chicken_ingredients

While I was doing this prep work, Tyler cooked the chicken pieces so they were golden brown on both sides, then set them aside until later.  We used about a 2 1/2 lb package of bone-in chicken pieces.

The onions were fried in butter, then the ginger, garlic, and peppers were added.  Then the turmeric and baharat.

machboos_chicken_satueed_veggies

Next, all of the above ingredients, plus chicken broth, were added to the pot and brought to a boil.  Then it simmered for an hour and filled the house with wonderful smells.

machboos_chicken_pre_cooking

We were worried about the chicken getting cooked all the way through, so I ended up adding water until the chicken was covered.

The Basmati rice, cilantro, and parsley were added for the last 20 minutes or so.  The rice absorbed all of the liquid during that time and came looking nice and yellow (thank you, turmeric!).  I sprinkled rose water on top before serving.

machboos_chicken

Daqqous (recipe below)

I read through several comments and descriptions of this sauce and decided to wing it.  I cooked two cloves of diced garlic in oil for a minute or two, then added 16 oz. of diced tomatoes, 2 Tbs. tomato paste,  some hot pepper (I used a half of a small Thai pepper, and I think I could have used more since I didn’t notice the kick), and salt.  I simmered this for 15-20 minutes, let it cool for a while, then pulsed it in a small blender to break up the bigger tomato chunks.

Daqqous

Middle Eastern Shirazi Salad (recipe below)

I merged several recipes and descriptions for this one too.  It is pretty straightforward–dice the tomatoes, onion, and cucumber into small pieces (I read somewhere that it is traditional/important to cut it into very small, evenly sized pieces).  Then I roughly chopped the parsley and fresh mint.  I mixed together some lemon juice, olive oil, and salt, and then tossed all of the ingredients together.

Bahrain_salad

Review

YUM.  The smells and piles of delicious looking ingredients and spices while cooking the chicken machboos had me convinced that this would be a winner right away, and it did not disappoint.  I was starting to get burned out on these rice based dishes, but this turned that around!  There was just so much flavor.  It was a very different set of flavors than I’m used to–especially the use of cinnamon in a savory dish.  But every time I ate the leftovers I noticed different flavors coming out.  The consistency was thick, creamy, and moist.  I would give this 5 out of 5 stars, and it definitely gets me excited to make more dishes from this region.  As an added bonus, we threw some of the extra baharat seasoning in a batch of chili the other day, and I thought it was a great addition.  It was a nice mellow contrast to the spiciness.

The daqqous was good, but nothing too unique or exciting.  I wasn’t thrilled with it when we first made this, but I found that it was a great addition to the machboos chicken throughout the week as we ate leftovers, since it counteracted the slight dryness from microwaving the rice.

The salad was also good.  I really enjoyed the cool and refreshing flavor–I’m still so surprised every time I see mint paired with things like tomato and lemon juice!  I’m not a big fan of cucumbers or raw onions, so the crunchy texture wasn’t as enjoyable to me.  Tyler, on the other hand, liked the texture but wasn’t crazy about the flavor.  So I guess that evened out somehow.  Overall, it was nice to have a light side salad with the chicken machboos.  I don’t think I would have had room left in my stomach for a dessert after eating all the rice and chicken.

We’re going to be out of town the rest of this week, so we’ll be back sometime next week with Bangladesh!  In the mean time, we will be reminding ourself what American food tastes like for the next few days…

Daqqous Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbs tomato paste
  • olive oil
  • hot pepper
  • water and salt as needed
Directions:
  1. Cooked the diced garlic in about 1 Tbs olive oil
  2. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, pepper, and salt to taste, then simmer for 10-20 minutes.
  3. Pulse in a blender to break up tomato chunks

Middle Eastern Shirazi Salad Recipe

Ingredients:
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 red onion
  • parsley
  • mint leaves
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 Tbs lemon juice
  • salt to taste
Directions:
  1. Chop the tomatoes, onion, and cucumber into small pieces.
  2. Roughly chop the parsley and mint.
  3. Mix the lemon juice, olive oil, and salt to taste.
  4. Toss all ingredients together.

Antigua and Barbuda: Curry Chicken with Roti

Our main dish for Antigua and Barbuda was curry chicken with roti.  I’m not sure it was the most authentic recipe out there, but we used this recipe from Emeril Lagasse.  It lined up with the photos and descriptions I saw for this dish in Antigua and Barbuda.  This recipe involved making our own curry powder, which was fun and smelled great.

My first step was to prepare the dough for the roti, as it was supposed to sit for 2 hours.  This was pretty straightforward… mix the flour and baking soda, then add water and oil, and then knead for five minutes.  My dough was very dry and crumbly, so I added a few extra tablespoons of water to get it to stick together.

Antigua&Barbuda_roti_dough

This was rolled into six balls of dough then left to sit for two hours.

Antigua&Barbuda_roti_dough_rolled_out

Meanwhile, I started getting out the spices for the curry powder!

Antigua&Barbuda_curry_ingredients

I loved seeing all the different colors and patterns mixed together.

Antigua&Barbuda_curry_spices

This went in a frying pan for a few minutes, until the spices were fragrant and starting to smoke.

Antigua&Barbuda_curry_spices_in_pan

Then the mixture was set out on a plate to cool.  It smelled wonderful.

Antigua&Barbuda_curry_cooling

Finally, we ground it in the mortar and pestle.

Antigua&Barbuda_curry_pre_grinding

Next we started on the chicken.  It was left to marinate for 20 minutes in curry powder, vegetable oil, and salt.

Antigua&Barbuda_marinating_chicken

Then this was browned in a large pan (we don’t own a dutch oven, so we used a deep skillet instead).

Antigua&Barbuda_cooking_chicken

The next ingredients are the onion, garlic, ginger, thyme, and pepper:

Antigua&Barbuda_veggies

This was all mixed together with the chicken, along with the chicken stock and coconut milk.

Antigua&Barbuda_chicken_in_sauce

Over the next hour and a half, the liquid reduced somewhat.  The recipe called for bone-in chicken pieces, but we just used four chicken breasts instead.  We shredded the chicken in our stand mixer, then mixed it back in with the liquid.

Antigua&Barbuda_curry_chicken

Meanwhile, we rolled out the roti dough and cooked it on the griddle for a little under a minute on each side.

Antigua&Barbuda_roti_frying

The finished product–curry chicken served in roti:

Antigua&Barbuda_curry_chicken_roti