Egypt- An ancient bread, kofta and pistachio dukkah

EGYPT –

Aish Baladi, Lamb Kofta and Pistachio Dukkah.

Ah Egypt! Who has not heard of this most fabled land? – cradle of civilization and still a place of mystery and wonder.  A tourist destination for centuries, even the ancient Greeks and imperial Romans marveled at its monuments and it has lost none of its amazing allure today.

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Ras Mohammed N.Park

From the seething ancient/modern cities of Cairo and Alexandria, the famed Great Pyramids of Giza and  the Valley of Kings, the magnificent ruins of Karnak, Abydos and Luxor. The Suez canal, the medieval Ottoman  town of Al-Qasr, cruising the picturesque Nile itself, palm fringed oasis where you can bathe in natural hot springs in Cleopatra’s Bath  and the stark beauty of the White Desert National Park, Sahra al-Beida….the Aladdin’s Cave of Cairo’s teeming markets, and everywhere you go in Egypt is stepping back in time into myth and legend.

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Dunes in Western Egypt

 

The Food

How extraordinary to make food that was eaten by ancient Egyptian workers building the pyramids! In fact the pyramid builders were paid with bread and onions!

Making any kind of bread I always think is a very atavistic process, there is something so elemental and satisfying about making bread, especially yeast risen breads,  which is a little bit of alchemy – a mysterious magic trick. The food of Egypt is based around breads, most commonly the pita bread aish baladi, whose very name means life or sustenance. Made from emmer wheat (hulled, as is the now popular spelt wheat )  it’s baked at very high temperatures so the bread puffs up to form a pocket, which is then used as a utensil to scoop up dips and vegetables and wrap around chunks of food like  kebab, dolma and falafel.

spices

Egyptian Spices & Dry Goods

The other great staple of the Egyptian diet is beans and lentils, in particular ful (fava beans or broad beans)  and brown lentils, these are some of the oldest known foods and have been found in Egyptian tombs. Still popular after centuries are such vegetables as eggplant, onions and garlic(used extensively) celery and squashes and leafy greens like lettuces, mallow and jute. A wide range of grains are the starchy staples, millet which is easily grown in dry conditions, barley also used to make the ubiquitous beer which together with bread and spring onions (scallions)  formed the basic diet.

Traditionally beef, lamb and goat was supplied from domestic animals along with game such as pigeon, duck and rabbit. Especially prized is brains and liver. Fish both fresh water and ocean and a wide range of seafood is very popular. The culinary heritage has been influenced by the robust Moroccan cuisine and of course the cuisines of the Eastern Mediterranean. Most noticeable in desserts which are very sweet and feature nuts, fruits like figs, dates, and melons, with honey, filo pastry and spices such as cinnamon.

Ancient Foods

Serving food on Temple 

Recently dukkah has been very popular (here in Aussie at least) and has found its way onto many trendy menus, especially on eggs, vegetable salads, and flat breads and in many different varieties including hazelnut and pistachio as well as the more common almond. My favourite brunch dish at the moment is a poached egg on sour-dough toast with avocado, diced tomato, showered with my own spicy dukkah. I really recommend this delicious condiment and it’s super easy to make with a spice grinder or food processor, if you try it, you’ll fall in love with it too!

The Recipes

Egyptian Flatbread – Aish Baladi

This recipe was taken from http://www.saveur.com and changed a little to suit home cooking better.When I made it, for some reason I cooked it in a fry pan on the stove top – which didn’t work very well! I suggest you follow the recipe and bake it in a very hot oven on a hot oven tray.

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
    1 tsp sugar
    1¼ cups warm water
    2½ cups wholemeal flour, plus extra for dusting, or can use wheat germ/bran
    1 tsp salt
    1 tbsp. vegetable oil, plus more for greasing
Method
  1. Dissolve sugar in water, in bowl of mixer if you have one. Mix in yeast and let stand until foamy, 10 minutes.
  2. Add rest of ingredients and mix with dough hook or by hand, knead 10 minutes, cover and let stand for 30 minutes.
  3. Let stand until doubled in size, about 1 12 hours.
  4. Place a baking stone on a rack in the oven and heat the oven to 500° for 30 minutes, or use a heavy oven tray and heat 15 minutes. Meanwhile, punch the dough down and divide into 8 equal pieces.
  5. Roll each piece into a ball and then flatten/roll into a 5-inch circle. Lightly sprinkle the bran or more flour and loosely cover with a kitchen towel.
  6. Let stand until slightly puffed, about 30 minutes
  7. Working in batches, place the dough circles on the hot baking stone, spaced 2 inches apart, and bake until puffed and lightly charred in spots, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool before serving.
Our Egyptian Meal

Egyptian Meal

Lamb Kefta

Ingredients
  •  500 gm lamb mince
  • 1/2 bunch finely chopped parsley
  • 1 finely chopped small onion
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 tb chopped oregano
  • 1 Tbs salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp nutmeg

Directions:

  1. Mix the onion and garlic with the spices and let it stand for 15 minutes
  2. Add the meat and rest of ingredients to the onion and mix well.  Shape the meat into kofta shapes.(long oval fingers)
  3. Lightly oil large heavy fry pan, heat the pan over medium high heat. When the pan is hot, add the koftas and pan fry on all sides.
  4.  Lower the heat and cover the pan. Cook for 5 minutes.  Then uncover the pan and let any liquid evaporate.

These kefteh need some sort of sauce to go with them, some hummus, baba ganoush, tzatziki, bean dip, a spicy tomato sauce or even greek  yogurt will all work and add moisture to an otherwise dry dish.

dukkah

Pistachio Dukkah

Pistachio Dukkah

Ingredients

  • 40g (1/4 cup) sesame seeds
  • 75g (1/2 cup) pistachio kernels, finely chopped
  • 3 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 3 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Method

  1. Toast the sesame seeds in a small dry pan, stirring until golden. Put aside to cool

  2. Toast pistachios for 1 minutes. Put aside in another bowl, then toast coriander, cumin and pepper for 1 minute or until aromatic. Stir in the salt and set aside to cool. Grind to fine powder

  3. Process nuts until very finely chopped. Mix in nuts and sesame seeds and mix well

  4. Store dukkah in an airtight container or jar, in a cool, dry place for up to 2 months.

This is a delicious sprinkle to add a flavourful punch to lots of things from steamed or roasted vegetables, poached eggs, grilled chicken, fish or dips like hummus. If you try nothing else – do try this – it’ll become your latest favourite thing!

Tasting notes: this meal was very similar to meals we often eat , the bread was a bit heavy – sadly I wasn’t able top get it to puff up to form a proper pocket. The kefteh were ok, we have had better – these were rather plain for our tastes…….but we loved the dukkah which lifted them into something quite special.

Overall Score: 7/10 for the whole meal,  9/10 for the dukkah on its own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An ancient bread : Injera from Eritrea and Zigni

ERITREA : Wholemeal Flatbread with Spicy Beef Stew

“Oh no” my son groaned – “not more African food!” Not much can be done about it, there just are an awful lot of African countries! So in our quest to cook from every country in the world, African food will feature a lot obviously.  However this meal was a surprise, very spicy (which we like) and the bread was delicious.

History

Eritrea wasn’t on the maps when I was growing up, then it was part of Ethiopia (which my mum called Abyssinia) but became a separate country in 1993. The modern name comes from early Greek meaning Red Sea, once part of the fabled Land of Punt in the horn of Africa. That’s the hook that sticks out into the Red Sea opposite Arabia.

Known as the cradle of (human) life, many ancient kingdoms have risen and fallen in and around this area. After 1869 and ‘the scramble for Africa’ Italy claimed this territory and it became Italian Eritrea in 1880.  A legacy of that time is the wonderful Italianate architecture in the capital city Asmara.

Danakil Depression Dallol

Now sadly Eritrea is a little visited place, due to on-going hostilities with Ethiopia (who may possibly want some of their coastline back)  and Djibouti. Eritrea has a long coastline, and in a world first in 2006, made the entire length an environmental protected zone.  Wildlife is protected and is rich and varied, with lots of large animals like lions, leopards, elephants, wild ass, oryx, jackals, gazelles and baboons.

Landscapes

Keren

Eritrea is a volcanic hot-spot, where three tectonic plates meet, giving the dramatic Martian landscapes of the Dankalia region with psychedelic sulphurous pools, and the impressive Danakil Depression, one of the hottest and lowest places on earth, with virtually no rain, Never-the-less it was where ‘Lucy’ the 3.2 million year old hominid the earliest ever. was discovered.

Sharing part of the Great Rift, there are awesome mountains in the south, and thick tropical jungle in the cooler fertile highlands.

Dahlak Islands

Coral Reef off Dahlak Islands

Cuisine

Obviously the traditional food of Eritrea is very similar to Ethiopia and Somalia, using lots of spices and tomatoes but less butter. A huge favourite is the herb and spice paste Berbere, which is eaten with just about everything. Basic foods are flat-breads (injera)  made from teff, sorghum, barley or wheat, and grains cooked like porridge (akelet) .

Legumes especially lentils and fava beans and vegetables are also key staples and the meats are beef, goat, lamb and near the coast, fish. Milk products like yogurt and fresh cheeses also feature and  spicy meat and vegetable stews known as sebhi are the main type of dish.

Drinks are a beer  brewed from corn and barley and flavoured with wild buckthorn (sowa) and mies a sweet wine made from  honey. Coffee preparation and serving has a very important ceremony and is drunk in enormous quantities.

Injera

INJERA

Ingredients

  • 125 gm wholemeal flour and 125 gm white flour
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 pinch baking soda
  • 2 cups warm water
  • ½ teaspoon of salt

Preparation

  1. Process all ingredients except salt for 1 minute
  2. Add salt and whizz again for 15 seconds.
  3. Let mix stand covered for 30 minutes in warm, or in fridge for 48 hours if possible to ferment slightly.
  4. Heat a nonstick frypan or griddle on medium high, add a dribble of oil. Pour a small ladle of batter for each injera and swirl mixture quickly with the back of a spoon to spread it out.
  5. Cook on one side for 1 minute 30 seconds to 2 minutes, turn to brown other side. Keep warm

Mimsey’s Zigni with Injera

ZIGNI: Spicy Beef Stew

Ingredients

  • 500 gm beef mince
  • 1 x 400 gm tin diced tomatoes in juice, not drained
  • 3 spring onions/scallions sliced
  • 1 red capsicum, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves,  chopped
  • 4 tablespoons berbere (recipe below)
  • 1 bunch coriander/cilantro, chopped
  • 5 tablespoons oil
  • Salt
  1. Heat oil in medium frypan or saute pan over medium-high heat. add the beef mince and brown.
  2. Add the onions, garlic and cook till softened. Add capsicum and cook 2 minutes.
  3. Add the berbere and mix well and cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Adding the tomatoes and their juice, season lightly, reduce heat and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.
  5. Five minutes before serving,mix in the chopped coriander.
Berbere

Berbere Spices

BERBERE

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 ½ tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 8 cardamom seeds
  • ½ teaspoon of white pepper
  • 2 cloves
  • ½ teaspoon ground fenugreek
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon

Method

  1. In a small heavy frypan, toast the whole spices on low for 2 minutes till fragrant.
  2. Allow to cool, grind to a fine powder
  3. In the pan, put all the ground spices and salt and toast on low heat for 1 minute.
  4. Add garlic, onion, salt and water, gradually, stirring constantly. Mix well.
  5. Add the ground spice mixture, stir thoroughly and cook over very low heat for 15 minutes, then blend to a smooth paste.

All this took quite a while to make, so my advice is to make the Berbere spice paste one day and the Injera dough if you want, and then make the beef stew the next day and cook the injera too. We were surprised how spicy this dish was, and it was very tasty, particularly with the flatbread which really was delicious. We liked it enough to have it again, a rare accolade indeed. Score: 7/10

Beef Peanut and Spinach Stew from South Sudan

WEEK 16 – SOUTH SUDAN

Beef Stew with peanuts, spinach and tomatoes

Hello everybody! sorry it’s been a while, school holidays and all –  went to the Snowy mountains and had a lovely time relaxing and enjoying the views of the Thredbo River and the Snow Gums on the slopes beyond. Needless to say ate lots of yummy food including a wonderful Cauliflower Risotto – a Jamie Oliver recipe that is so yummy won over my cauliflower averse family, and a divine Rhubarb, Apple and Berry Crumble! Requests taken – was so good others polished off the leftovers for breakfast before I even got up! (and with ice-cream too!) Hurrumph!

So back to our mission to cook from every country in the world – we started back in September last year. The idea is my 15 year old daughter Bunny and I pull a country out of a hat each week, and both cook a traditional dish from that country. We try to make things we would never normally, or have never had before. Sometimes it’s just a drink or a dessert, usually a main dish. We learn a little about unknown countries – who knows much about The Comoros or Kiribati for instance? and have fun scoring each dish out of 10.

So with time off for holidays, I am now up to country number 32 South Sudan, yet another African country – there are so many of them! Alas so many of these African countries have fairly similar basic cuisines based on a limited range of staples, peanuts, root vegetables, grains, pulses like dried broad beans (fava beans) and small amounts of protein like beef or goat or fish. Sigh.

South Sudan

A land locked East African country, South Sudan is the newest countries in the world – only gained independence from Sudan, (Africa’s biggest country until then) in 2011. Sadly this mostly rural agricultural country is plagued with the problems rising from continuing civil and ethnic wars since the 1950’s. Huge refugee population, human rights violations, break-down of infra-structure including water supply and more. Not a fun place and definitely not a tourist destination. Even the indefatigable Lonely Planet has extremely limited information about this little known country, and  there posts warnings  to all Commonwealth travellers to avoid this place. Some intrepid travellers still seem to be going, mainly to capital Juba and surrounds.

South Sudan is made up of 3 regions, the Sudd or Bahr el Ghazal – a vast swampy grassland formed by the White Nile, the Equatoria and the Greater Upper Nile. The huge Bandingilo National Park hosts the 2nd largest migration of wildlife in the world, there are tropical forests, savanna and dry bushland in this largely undeveloped country.

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Due to geographical isolation, much of the traditional indigenous culture has been retained and local tribal culture and ways of life are still predominant. Woven huts, colourful costume, scary scarification including on woman, dances and some outstanding wild life and national parks are what draws the brave visitor.

The Food

General Notes on Sudanese Food

At a cross roads for cuisines, South Sudan has influences from early Arab traders bringing garlic and spices like red pepper, Egypt and Ethiopia to the north and India and Yemen also. Breads such as Kissra are similar to Injera and starches in the form of porridges or gruel are made from the most often grown grains of sorghum, millet and wheat.

Soups and stews are the most common meat dish, as been easy to prepare with the minimum of ingredients, cooking time or preparation required. All of the protein is used including offal and vegetables include okra, yams, beans and peas, pulses, tomatoes and dates.

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The fava (dried broad bean) in the form of Ful, and the African Ground Nut AKA a peanut, rules here. I wanted to make some unusual felafel like dumplings with a meat stuffing, but couldn’t find dried broad beans. Settled for a typical beef, peanut and tomato stew with spinach. Was surprisingly tasty and I really liked it a lot, served on top of a spicy couscous – yeah I know, should have been a sorghum or possibly millet dish – but hey, that went in the ‘too hard’ box! Rest of family weren’t so keen, scoring it 6/10, I scored it 7/10, I was more than happy to eat the leftovers the next day for lunch.

This recipe comes from the most excellent SBS Food Safari series, TV Channel 28 in  Australia,  http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/by-cuisine

 Ingredients

    • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
    • 500g chuck steak, cut into 3 cm cubes
    • 2 onions, finely chopped
    • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
    • 1 tbsp tomato paste
    • 750 ml (3 cups) good-quality or salt-reduced beef stock
    • 1 orange sweet potato (kumara), cut into 4cm pieces
    • 2 bunches English spinach/1 bunch silver beet, washed & trimmed, and cut into ribbons
    • 2 tomatoes, cut into chunks
    • 100 g (⅓ cup) unsalted roasted peanuts, leave ¼ whole, grind rest to a paste
 Instructions
  1. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large, deep frying pan over medium–high heat. Brown beef and cook for 3 minutes, Remove and set aside.
  2. Add remaining 1 tbsp oil and onions, and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes or until golden brown. Add garlic and tomato paste, then cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant.
  3. Return the beef to the pan with stock and 500 ml (2 cups) water. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to low and cook for 1 hour or until beef is almost tender and the cooking liquid is reduced by one-third. Add sweet potato and whole peanuts, cook for 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook spinach, covered for 20 seconds or until wilted. Drain well, squeezing out excess water.
  5. Add spinach, tomatoes and ground peanuts to beef mixture and stir to combine. Cook for 5 minutes or until warmed through. Season with salt and pepper. Divide stew among plates and serve with couscous.

Rwandan kebabs and HOT hot sauce

Week 16 – Rwanda

Hi everybody sorry for the lack of posts recently,we have been away from home on holiday. This week I was determined to make a fabulous dish that we would all enjoy, something a bit different.

ABOUT RWANDA

Located in Central East Africa in the African Great Lakes region and is highly elevated; the country is covered in mountains in the west and savanna in the east, with numerous lakes all over the country. Three ethnic groups make up the population of Rwanda these are the: Hutu, Tutsi and Twa people. Rwanda was colonised twice in history; by the German’s first in the 19th century and then the Belgians during World War 1.

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Rwanda is one of only two countries in the world which mountain gorillas can be visited safely; gorilla tracking, in the Volcanoes National Park, attracts thousands of visitors per year, who pay high prices for permits.

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Other destinations which attract a lot of visitors include: Nyungwe Forest, home to chimpanzees, Ruwenzori colobus and other primates, the resorts of Lake Kivu, and Akagera, a small savanna reserve in the east of the country.

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Music and dance are very strong in Rwandan culture, drums are favoured and a highly choreographed intore dance. Traditional arts and crafts are produced throughout the country, including imigongo, a unique cow dung art.

RWANDAN CUISINE

Rwanda’s cuisine is based on staple foods that are produced by agriculture in local areas such as bananas, plantains, pulses, sweet potatoes, beans, and cassava. Living near a lake you have access to fish, tilapia is popular. Potatoes have been popular since German and Belgian colonialists brought them to Rwanda.

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Lunch is usually a buffet known as mélange, consisting of the staples mentioned above and sometimes meat. The most popular food when eating out in the evening is brochettes which are usually made from goat but sometimes tripe, beef, or fish. During some traditional rituals and ceremonies a traditional beer called urwagwa made from sorghum or bananas is drunk.

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 WHAT I MADE


Sadly the website we’ve been using to source a lot of recipes has shut down or something it not letting us access it at all, so I couldn’t get the recipe 😦 But I’ll tell you about it, the dish was spicy beef kebabs with hot hot sauce which I served with couscous salad (not exactly Rwandan whoops). The kebabs I marinated for a few hours were delicious and beautifully tender and had a lovely charry flavour, and the hot hot sauce was… HOT it had copious amounts of tabasco and finely chopped chilli, yum. For the couscous salad I used my favourite recipe by Jamie Oliver which I can link so if you love couscous salads click here → www.jamieoliver.com/turkish-style-couscous

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The kebabs were delicious and we all loved it and gave it a score of 9/10.

Congolese Peanut soup with African Spiced Flat bread

WEEK 14 – Democratic Republic of the Congo

So this week I got Congo out of the box and decided I really wanted to make something a bit different – what about a soup? I’ll give it a try!

About Congo:

Formerly known as Zaire, Congo is the 11th largest country in the world and the 2nd largest country in Africa.

Its capital city, Kinshasa, was originally called Léopoldville in honour of King Leopold II of Belgium who controlled the Congo in the 1800’s, is the second largest French speaking city (after Paris) in the world. All schools, newspapers, government, television, magazines and street signs are in French. The city is located on the southern side of the Congo river directly opposite to the capital of the Republic of Congo, Brazzaville. It is the only place in the world, where two countries capital cities, face each other and can see one another on opposite sides of a river.

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Satellite view of Malebo Pool of the Congo River with Kinshasa in the south and Brazzaville to the north

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Garamba National Park

 

The Congo has five World Heritage Sites within its borders, four being National Parks and the other a Wildlife Reserve. Stretching over most of the country is a tropical rainforest known as the Congo Rainforest, it is the second largest rainforest in the world after the Amazon.

Congolese Cuisine:

The Congolese cuisine heavily reflects the indigenous people of the country. Cassava is the staple food often cooked and eaten with other side dishes. . Meals typically consist of a starchy ingredient; cassava, sweet potato, taro, maize and plantain and rice, along with vegetables and meat in the form of a stew. Chicken with a Moambe sauce is considered the national dish of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. With less than 2% of the land able to be used for faming, Congo does not produce very much food on its home turf but imports quite a lot. The two most important crops for export are coffee and palm oil.

1200px-Culture_of_DRC_-_food1 congo-rdc-cd-e-01436

 

What I Made:

Having a look through some different recipes from the Congo I noticed we weren’t going to be able to get a lot of the ingredients needed to make some of the most commonly eaten dishes out so I looked further and found a recipe that sounded quite nice. Congolese Peanut Soup. At first I was going to serve it with the traditional bread staple Fu-Fu but decided to serve it with a nice dry-fried flat bread which Mimsey made. Recipe was sourced here: www.congocookbook.com

Recipe: Peanut Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 cups  chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons of oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped finely
  • 1 small green pepper/capsicum, chopped finely
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • salt, black pepper & cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 1 hot chilli, sliced thinly
  • 1 carrot, chopped fine
  • 1-2 tomatoes, chopped or  1 canned tomatoes
  • ¼ to ½ cup peanut butter (depends on how peanutty you want your soup)

Method:

  1. Fry onion and garlic in oil on a medium heat for a few minutes until soft and fragrant, then add chilli cook for another few minutes.
  2. Add capsicum and carrot, cook with lid on for 5 minutes until carrot is soft.
  3. Add tomatoes, seasoning and stock and stir to combine, cook with lid off for 15 minutes.
  4. Stir in peanut butter, at this point my soup was quite thick so I added another cup of chicken stock and stirred to combine.
  5. Place ¾ of soup in blender and blend until smooth, add to the rest of the soup, stir and serve immediately in warmed bowls.

Recipe: Spiced Wholemeal Flat Bread                                 Makes 8 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 cup wholemeal flour
  • 1 tsp salt + ½ tsp extra
  • 1 tb ghee/butter
  • ⅔ cup warm water
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds, freshly crushed in mortar if possible, or ground
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 2 tb oil warmed up with 1 clove garlic, crushed

Method:

  1. Place flours and salt in a food processor or mixer with a dough hook attached, and process 10 seconds to mix.
  2. While processing, add butter/ghee and process 10 seconds to mix, then pour water in slowly and mix until forms a ball, about a minute.
  3. Let rest covered for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Divide into 8 portions, roll each portion out on a floured bench into a 20cm/8″ circle. Cover to keep from drying out.
  5. Lightly grease a large, heavy frypan, heat on medium, fry chapati on one side, brushing the top with the garlic oil and sprinkling with extra salt & the spices before flipping to cook other side.
  6. Gently pat chapati around with an oily paper towel to encourage it to puff up, press high bubbles down gently.
  7. Keep warm while making rest. Serve warm and fresh.

This is a classic chapati recipe based on one from food.com/recipe/chapati-east-african-bread

Chapatis made fresh, as they always were, are so delicious! Particularly loved the thick Millet Chapatis we ate smeared with honey in a village out in the Thar Desert. Namaste!

The soup was interesting it had a tomatoey, peanutty flavour and was really nice with the flat bread. It scored a 6/10 from the family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Togolese Beef in Spicy Peanut and Tomato Sauce

WEEK 12 – Togo

Beef in Peanut Sauce

So searching for a recipe this week I used my favourite site for obscure cuisines, Celtnet and once again the site lived up to standards, providing three long lists of recipes for me to browse thorough. Scanning the lists I saw a lot of recipes based around seafood this is because Togo in the south borders the ocean.

Togo is one of Africa’s’ smallest countries and resides in West Africa along with other countries such as Ghana, Niger, Benin and several others, a few as small as Togo.

Some interesting things about Togo are : Togo means ‘House of Sea’ in the native Ewe language, For 200 years the coast was raided by Europeans in search of slaves and it was then known as the Slave Coast and the national language is French.

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I choose to make Beef in Peanut Sauce which I sourced from here www.celtnet the recipe is for 6-8 people so I halved the amount of meat and water but everything else I left the same.

Ingredients:

400g beef (I used 4 oyster steaks, which are known as butlers steaks in the UK and flat-iron steaks in the US) cut into bite-sized pieces

4 tbsp smooth peanut butter

1 onion, grated

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 carrots, cut into thick long sticks

 1 green capsicum, thickly sliced

1 fresh tomato, diced

250ml tomato purée

vegetable oil

1 vegetable or beef stock cube + 1 cup water

1 hot chilli

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

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Method:

  1. In a bowl, combine the grate onion and garlic. Season liberally with salt and black pepper then mix in the beef, cover and set aside to marinate for 20 minutes or longer if possible.
  2. Turn the beef mixture into a saucepan and add 35oml water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for about 45 minutes, or until the meat is tender. Drain the meat and reserve the broth.
  3. Add 2 tb of oil to a large wide saucepan (I used a large sauté pan) and fry the beef until nicely browned all over, you might need to do this in two batches as meat does not brown if touching. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  4. Add 2 tb more oil to the pan then stir in the tomato purée and cook for about 5 minutes, or until dark red in colour. Add the fresh tomato and crush with a wooden spoon. Stir in the peanut butter and the carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes more than add the reserved meat broth along with  the stock.
  5. Stir until smooth, bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes. At this point add the beef and chilli. Return to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes more. Serve hot, accompanied by plain white rice.

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We served this with white rice and some cooked vegetables. The beef and sauce were very nice and I would definitely eat this dish again, the same was said by the rest of the family. Scored: 8/10

Salmon we love you and a winner from the Seychelles!

Week 8 – Norway and the Seychelles

NORWAY – Salmon Steaks with Dill & Lemon Cream

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A few interesting facts about Norway

It’s spectacularly scenic, I mean take a look at this guys! Lonely Planet says “it’s one of the most beautiful countries on earth.” Also known as “The Land of the Midnight Sun” it’s called Norsk by Norwegians. I would love to visit this country.

Norway is home to the Saami people (or Lapplanders as I grew up calling them) and is a Constitutional Monarchy, the current King is Harald the 5th. The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in Norway.

Way to go Norway! The hard part this week would be how to choose from such a huge range of delicious options? I settled on salmon as we all love it, and it was a huge hit!

Now Norway is one of those countries up from England that form Scandinavia (along with Denmark) where the Vikings came from.  I always get these countries mixed up, what order they go in, but Norway is the one on the outside. See map.

Modern Norway ranks Number one in the world for quality of life and enjoys an extremely high standard of living. It is a very long wild fractured land, full of glaciers, fjords, jagged coastlines, 1000’s of islands and rugged mountains. It’s considerable length spanning so many latitudes makes it a huge biodiversity hotspot and wild life is abundant, both land and sea.

Some attractions are picturesque medieval towns and fantastical Stave churches, winter sports including dog-sledding, awesome scenery particularly the fjords, a World Heritage listed site, wildlife watching, Northern Lights watching and booming arts and cultural facilities. Not to mention the world’s most beautiful rail trip and ferry trip!

Moose, goose and reindeer

The cuisine has traditionally involved a lot of pickled, cured, smoked and preserved foods for the long cold dark winters obviously. Of course fish especially salmon and herring, but surprisingly not seafood, features heavily as does game such as moose, reindeer, goose and duck. There is a enormous variety of breads, dairy is very important and Norwegians are the second biggest coffee drinkers in the world.

To go with those coffees is a delicious array of cakes and baking. Cardamon, caraway and anise are popular flavours as are dill,  juniper berries and also the native Lingonberries and poetically named Cloudberries. Smorbrod, or open sandwiches as we may incorrectly call them are traditional and an art form in themselves.

Not to forget a wide variety of aquavit, distilled liquor, commonly flavoured with cumin, caraway, anise, citrus and fennel. Uniquely Norwegian Aquavit is often aged and transported in old oak sherry casks, which mellows and intensifies the flavours. Plus beers, mead and ciders.

To make this, I adapted a recipe from  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence

Salmon Steaks with Dill & Lemon Cream sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 tb olive oil
  • 4 salmon fillets, boned if possible (I always skin ours as we hate fish skin)
  • salt & fresh black pepper
  • 2 tsp butter
  • 1/2 bunch shallots/spring onions/scallions
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup pouring /lite cream
  • 1/4 cup sour cream mixed with 1/2 tsp plain flour
  • 1/3 bunch dill
  • 1 lemon, juice and grated rind
  • 1-2 tb horseradish cream
  • pinch chilli/red pepper flakes

Directions

  1. Heat large frypan with oil over medium heat. When hot, add the seasoned fillets, and fry to golden brown, about 3-5 minutes. Turn the fish over and cook for 3 minutes on the other side. Steaks should still be a little soft and springy to touch. Remove and keep warm.
  2. Heat butter in a small saucepan, saute onion 1 minute. Deglaze with wine.
  3. In a small bowl whisk together all remaining ingredients, pour into pan and cook until thickened & reduced a little and heated through.
  4. Serve over salmon.

I made red cabbage to go with the salmon, buttered boiled potatoes with chopped fresh herbs and green beans. It was a good dish to have on a cooler night, and felt very Nordic! We all absolutely loved this dish – it was really delicious! Bunny especially loves salmon, so I can see I might get a request on her birthday for this dish . We rated this dish our 2nd highest score, 8/10 ( I think Bunny said 9 or 10!).

Norway

Salmon with Dill & Lemon Sauce

Norwegian Apple Cake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feeling energetic I had also made a Norwegian Apple Cake flavoured with cardamon, but sadly we found this dry and a bit boring. It needed a lot more apples than I had on hand I think. Tasted nice but not great, even with vanilla ice-cream. Sadly disappointing. Ah well, that’s international cooking for you – you never know what you’ll end up with!

 

THE SEYCHELLES ISLANDS – Mandarine Chicken

First a few facts about the Seychelles

Shells and lots of ’em. Yeah sounds like seashells but actually is named after Jean Moreau de Sechelles, Finance Minister to Louis XV in 1750’s. Before that, Admiral Vasco da Gama named them The Admirantes Islands after himself. Colonised by the French and later the British, the Seychelles have the smallest population of any African country.

Location of Seychelles

 

 

 

 

 

This archipelago in the middle of the Indian Ocean, 1500km east of Africa, is renowned for fabulous beaches and stunning marine life. Unusually some of the 100 or so islands are made up of the worlds oldest and hardest granite (which makes for ultra clear water and fantastic beaches) the rest being more typical coral islands. Many are covered with luxuriant tropical rainforest and are uninhabited nature reserves.

Seychelles beach with granite boulders

 

 

 

 

 

To be found is strange and wonderful plant and animal life, like the jelly-fish tree, a pre-historic living fossil that, like the Wollemi Pine of Australia, exists in a genus all of it’s own. Not to forget the worlds’ heaviest seed pod, from the rare Coco de Mer Palm. Home to the largest sea-bird colony in the world, and the giant Aldabran Tortoise, the Seychelles are naturally fantastic for diving and snorkelling as well as bird watching. That’s if you can tear yourself away from dream beaches like this one!

Do you fancy Bat Curry? Seychellois cuisine 

As you can imagine fish and fabulous seafood play a huge part in the cuisine, as do tropical island crops such as coconut and breadfruit which along with rice are the staple starch. Using a wide range of fresh fruits and vegetables, like mangos, citrus fruits, papaya, sweet potato, pumpkin and avocado, Seychellois food is rich, hot and spicy. Blending the flavours of not just the French and British but African, Indian and Chinese and marrying them with local produce to make an exciting cuisine.

A couple of local delicacies to ponder on – Bat Curry and Shark chutney! a condiment made by pounding dried shark meat with fried onions, garlic, spices and chilli…… Hmmm! Has anyone been brave enough to try them? Love to hear what they were like, from anyone who is lucky enough to have been to the glorious Seychelles. The closest I’ll ever get (to the Seychelles) is eating the dish my daughter made which was –

Mandarine Chicken                               (Serves 4)

 Ingredients:

  • 600gm chicken thigh fillets
  • 3-4 / 350g fresh mandarin segments
  • 120 ml mandarin juice
  • 120 ml chicken stock/broth
  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 1 tbsp Korma/Seychelles curry paste (to make your own, see http://www.celtnet.org.uk)
  • 1/2 tsp g cinnamon
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme/ 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 3 tbsp mango chutney
  • 2 tbsp flaked/sliced almonds
  • salt and fresh black pepper to taste

Method: 

  1. Cut each chicken fillet into 2 -3 pieces, and place in a medium baking dish.
  2. Mix the chicken stock, orange juice, the chutney (chop the mango pieces if large). Add the curry paste, tamarind paste, cinnamon and thyme and pour over the chicken.
  3. Bake in oven at 200°C for 15 minutes. Scatter the mandarin segments and almonds over chicken, baste with the pan juices at this stage and add a little water if it becomes too dry.
  4. Bake for about a further 5 – 10 minutes until chicken is just cooked.
  5. Season with salt and pepper and serve with rice. 

Once again we used a recipe from the comprehensive site : http://www.celtnet.org.uk and adapted it a little to suit us. Unfortunately we don’t seem to have a photo for this one, but this is how it looked pretty much.

Mandarin Chicken

 

My husband who is not a fan of fruit with meat and my teenage son, thought using mandarin with chicken was a bit weird – but I reminded them of Duck A L’Orange. We found this dish unusual but very nice, the mandarin gave it a lovely freshness and lightness, it would make a good summer dish.  We enjoyed our Seychellois meal and would make this again, so do try it too. It earned a high score 8/10.

 

 

 

 

I’m a fan of lamb, Mongolian that is.

Week 7 – MONGOLIA AND NIGER

 

Weeks have passed and we have had quite a bit of time off this project, seemed to have had a lot on at the moment. Sometimes cooking and researching a foreign meal seems like such a lot of extra work and time. I’m working hard with the ‘Around the World ‘ meals we have previously made, only have two more weeks to catch up.

My home expresso machine comes home.

A cause to celebrate – I have my expresso machine back! It was away being fixed for two weeks,  oh boy I have so missed it! Normally only have 1 cup of coffee a day, at morning-tea time about 10.30-11am. First thing in the morning and in the afternoon I feel more like tea, but I really enjoy that coffee. Not having my expresso maker at home left me having to fall back on my old plunger pot. It’s not a bad coffee, but not nearly as good as the real thing. Filter coffee doesn’t produce much of a crema and to me that’s the best part of a good coffee.

Get this – this is so typical of our throw away consumer society, when I finally tracked down a repairer who could actually fix it – their first suggestion was…….just buy a new one!  So I thought,’oh well, it is old, and a light is broken’ so I went and looked at new ones. But the same model is now made of plastic, whereas mine is all metal,  and mine has an 18 bar pump made in Italy, while the new models are only 15 bar pumps and made in China. So I thought ‘no thanks, I’d rather keep my old one and get it fixed.’ Only cost $62 and it’s good as new, a new one was still over $200. But the guy in the repair shop (who were flat out I can tell you) said “most people can’t be bothered getting things fixed! “ Can’t be bothered! All they have to do is take it in for goodness sake.

Our throw away society

How did we become such a throw away society so quickly? My parents who grew up with the privations of the depression and the war, never threw anything away that could possibly be re-used – Mum even washed out plastic bags, and appliances were carefully maintained and used until they died of old age and couldn’t be fixed. Of course all these appliances cost a great deal more, being either made in NZ or imported from England, but they were made to last and they did. We had the same old refrigerator and washing machine my entire life, the idea of up-grading to the latest model hadn’t occurred back then. Then the emphasis was on frugality and making do, not gratuitous consumption and showing off.

MONGOLIA – Mongolian Lamb

Did you know? Some info about Mongolia.

I made this dish as it’s one of my husband’s favourites and he pleaded that he hadn’t had it in a long time! So I missed an opportunity to experiment with camel burgers or other interesting indigenous Mongolian food. So pretty sure everyone knows Mongolia is that huge country between China and Russia In fact Mongolia is the 19th largest country in the world and the 2nd biggest landlocked one, yet it’s also the most sparsely populated country. This vast emptiness is the place to go to escape “the maddening crowds.”

Gobi desert

Known as the “Land of the Eternal Blue Sky” and the “Land of the Horse”  it’s  most famous obviously for Genghis Khan, who with his swift Hordes, extended  the Mongolian Empire to cover more continuous land than any other empire  ever – from the Ukraine to Korea and from Siberia to Vietnam.

  The ancient capital is Ulan Bator once called Urga and was home to  hundreds  of Buddhist temples and 10,000 monks! The traditional homes are very  beautiful  and practical unusual domed tents called Yurts or Ger. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote in 450 BC that the notorious Scythian horseman of  Central Asia, lived in circular tents. And Marco Polo travelling along the Silk  Road, also noted the local nomad  houses made  of wood and felt which were moved on carts when needed.                                                                      

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Most of this country is open barren steppe with very little farm land, and bone dry, alternatively boiling hot or freezing cold. The Gobi which means ‘large and dry ”  in the local dialect, is Asia’s largest desert, made  up not so much of sand dunes  but gravel plains and barren rocky outcrops. In winter it snows and freezes. Wild Ass, Bactrian Camels and rare desert bears roam the wilderness.

Mongolian cuisine naturally owes a lot  to Russian or Chinese influences. Largely  nomadic, the tribal peoples ate what  was on hand, dairy, meat, and animal fats.  Availability meant traditionally little  use was made of vegetables or spicing,  barley is a staple crop.  Dumplings in all  forms, soups and noodles are popular.  Another time I’d like to have a go at  making Buuz, a steamed meat dumpling.

 

Mongolian Lamb Stir-fry                                                             ( Serves 4)

    • 650gm lamb leg steak, trimmed & thinly sliced across the grain
    • 2 tb (tablespoon) soy sauce
    • 2 tb black bean sauce
    • 1 tb rice wine vinegar
    • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
    • 1 tsp (teaspoon) finely grated fresh ginger
    • 1/2 – 1 tsp Chinese five spice powder
    •  2 tb peanut oil
    • 1/2 bunch spring onions, trimmed, thinly sliced crossways
    • 1/2 red capsicum or 1 long red chilli, sliced
    • 125ml (1/2) cup Beef Stock
    • 1 tb soy sauce, extra
    • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
    • 1 tsp cornflour
    • 1 tsp water
    • 4 green shallots, ends trimmed, thinly sliced diagonally
  1. Combine lamb, soy sauce, black bean sauce, rice wine vinegar, garlic, ginger and Chinese five spice in a large bowl. Cover & marinate 15 minutes – 2 hours if possible.

  2. Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in a wok or frying pan over high heat. Add one-quarter of the lamb mixture and stir-fry for 3 minutes or until brown. Transfer to a plate and cover to keep warm. Repeat with remaining lamb mixture, in 3 more batches, adding 1 teaspoon of oil and reheating wok between batches.

  3. Heat remaining oil in the wok. Add the spring onion and stir-fry for 2 minutes or until soft. Add lamb, stock, extra soy sauce and sesame oil. Bring to the boil.

  4. Combine the cornflour and water in a bowl. Add to the lamb mixture and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes or until sauce thickens slightly. Stir through half the shallots.

  5. Place in a serving bowl and sprinkle with remaining shallots. Serve with steamed rice.

Mongolia

Mongolia

This recipe is a good family favourite, I recommend if you haven’t tried it yet, it’s easy and tasty without being too full on.  There are heaps of recipes out there, but they’re all pretty much the same, this one came from a terrific Australian site I often use –   http://www.taste.com.au  Our family rated this meal 8/10.

  1. Heat the oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and chilli and fry gently for about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the onion is soft and translucent.

A Swiss cheese experiment, two breads and a surprise from Somalia

                   Week 4 Switzerland and Georgia 

SWITZERLAND – CHEESE FONDUE & POTATO ROSTI

‘My daughter was excited to have picked Switzerland as her country this week, and despite the recommendations of both parents, Bunny was eager to make a Cheese Fondue. What is the appeal of fondue? Why do people think it sounds so yummy? An iconic dinner party dish from the 70’s,  I always loved those cute little fondue sets with their wooden fork handles each a different colour. I never bought a set though, because having had cheese fondue once, and disliked it – I never wanted to have one again! And yes, we have had it out at a Swiss restaurant and we still didn’t like it at all.

The Mystery of the Fondue

Let’s face it, you can only be fond of fondue …….if you’re Swiss. It’s the kind of very plain subsistence (one could say peasant) type food that is born out of harsh necessity. Developed during long, cold winters in Switzerland when the food started to run out, cheese fondue is an exemplary example of making a warm and filling dish out of scraps, in this case  – hardened old cheese, stale bread and a splash of wine.

I’m sure fondue is dear to so many Swiss hearts because they grew up with it. And like so many dishes you grow up with,  it’s comfort food. It becomes very nostalgic and isn’t just a dish, but your childhood and all the happy memories associated with it.  For those of us non-Swiss peoples, it remains a culinary  siren,  sounds so alluring but in the end you wish you hadn’t.

Not all Recipes are Created Equal – A Sad Fact but True

Undeterred Bunny went to enormous lengths to obtain the correct cheeses to make her fondue, and used vast quantities of bacon making the accompanying Potato Rosti. Using a recipe from the internet, Bunny spent a very long time making this dish. Now my daughter is only a young teenager, and while she loves cooking, is still only learning. One lesson she finds very hard to accept is that just because a recipe is online or even published in a book, doesn’t mean it’s a good recipe or that it will work! Also being methodical, Bunny likes to follow a recipe to the letter, which is normally good practice –  but she lacks the experience to tell when a recipe is badly written, and needs to be adjusted.

Sadly this was the case in our Swiss experiment, the fondue made with vast amounts of expensive cheese was really ghastly – so strong and so overly cheesy that we could hardly eat it.  I gamely ploughed on eating because she had gone to so much trouble- but Hubby and son gave up quickly. And the Potato & Bacon Rosti, exactly following the recipe,  was really greasy and had way too much bacon – and I love bacon! What a shame! All that hard work, not to mention the cost of the ingredients, wasted on a meal we could hardly eat.

How to Choose Good Recipes

My advice to all you cooks out there, be careful in choosing your recipes. Use well-known cookbooks that have been properly tested, preferably three times. On the Internet, use recipes from sources such as magazine websites, TV shows or food companies where the recipes have been professionally developed and tasted. Use your own common sense, analyse the recipe – does it sound yummy? are the ingredients in proportion? does the method make sense? If in doubt, make small quantities as a test batch. And finally don’t stop experimenting – just be prepared for a few failures!

I found this recipe on another lovely local site – http://www.georgianrecipes.net. One thing about this around the world cooking thing we are doing, is that only a few years ago, before the Internet ( yes there was life before the Internet kids!! Hard as that may be to believe! ) this would have been almost impossible to do. It amazes me that no matter how remote and little known some of these countries are (half the people I asked had never heard of a country called Georgia, or Comoros or knew where Somalia was )  there is a web-site dedicated to the food and culture of these places! OMG the world is getting smaller all the time.

GEORGIA – KUBDARI – MEAT FILLED BREAD                             (Makes 4) 

 

OK, so Georgia. Hands up those who knew it’s part of the former Soviet Union?  Tbilisi is the capital city, and the whole country has had waves of foreign conquerors from the Romans, Persians, Ottomans, Mongols and finally the Russian Empire.  The infamous Joseph Stalin was born in Georgia and it was once called Colchis and Iberia. Colchis is famed as the place at the end of the world where Jason and his Argonauts travelled to steal the Golden Fleece.

Now it’s more well known for the Krubera Cave – the deepest in the world,  over 600 glaciers in the Caucasus Mountains, many hot springs and 4 World Heritage sites including the medieval monastery complex at Gelati. And of course food – Georgians take their food very seriously and have a special traditional Feast called a Supra, which is led by a Toastmaster.

This national dish, Kubdari is a delicious meat-filled pasty, very much like a Cornish Pasty. Ideal to take on picnics, it’s robust enough to stand up to carrying around and I imagine it made a hearty meal for hungry peasants toiling in the fields all day.

Georgia

Ingredients (filling): 500 grams of pork, 500 grams  beef, 1 medium sized onion, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 third tsp of ground caraway, 1 quarter tsp of finely chopped dill, 1 level tsp of ground coriander, 1/2 tsp of ground fenugreek, 1 tsp of paprika and salt to taste

Ingredients (dough): 900 grams of flour, 400 ml of warm water, 1 level tbs of yeast, 1 tsp of sugar, 1 tsp of salt, 1 egg (optional) and 200 grams of all-purpose flour for dusting and kneading. Butter for glazing.

Preparation (filling): Finely cube the beef and pork and add to a mixing bowl.

Finely chop the onion and garlic and add to the mixing bowl, together with 1 third tsp of powdered caraway, 1 quarter tsp of powdered dill, 1 level tsp of dried coriander, 1/2 tsp of blue fenugreek, 1 tsp of red pepper, and salt (amount dependent upon individual preference).

Use your hands to thoroughly mix and squash the ingredients. This helps to ensure that the pasty is juicy and the spices blend with the meat.

Preparation (dough): Kubdari requires a robust pastry.  To make it, add 400 ml of water (heated to 35 C) to a bowl and stir in the yeast.

Add 900 grams of flour to a mixing bowl and make a depression in the flour. Add the yeast water and a raw egg (optional). If you want the pastry to have a golden colour, add 1 tsp of sugar. The dough should be formed into a soft ball.

Cover the bowl with cling film and leave in a warm place for 2 hours for the dough to rise. Once the dough has risen, add 150 grams of flour and firmly knead the dough.

Cut the dough into 4 pieces. Shape into balls and the cover with cling film and leave for 10 minutes.

Roll out each ball  into large round, add 1/4 of the filling. Gather the dough together, pinching the top to seal it

Carefully roll the filled dough into a circular shape that is less than 20 cm diameter. Don’t flatten it too much. Bake on a flour dusted baking tray at 200 C until the dough becomes golden brown. The meat will cook inside in its own juices.

Serving: Brush each Kubdari with butter and serve hot.

With these pasties,  I served Georgian style red cabbage and buttered boiled potatoes with fresh herbs. My family all love pasties and pastries and this savoury stuffed Georgian bread was a hit. Simple but tasty, filling and moreish, definitely would make it again as it was quite easy to do and well worth it.

 

Week 5 Somalia and Belize

I was a little dismayed to have selected Somalia – wasn’t this an arid  war-torn and famine ridden country of little resources? What on earth do they eat in Somalia, that is, when there is any food available to eat? I imagined this could be another one of those countries where there is NO CUISINE just Food (if they’re lucky.)

The capital city is Mogadishu and Somalia is often thought to be the location of the fabled Land of Punt written about by ancient Egyptians. Famed for it’s gold, ebony and ivory, wild animals and the highly prized frankincense and myrrh so treasured by the Egyptians, it had a ‘golden age’ in the Middle Ages.

Map of Somalia

 

SOMALIA – LAMB SURBIYAAN with SOMALI FLATBREAD    (Serves 4)

I was greatly surprised by this traditional dish from Somalia, not that it was so delicious, but that it was so similar to the more familiar Biryani’s or Pilafs from India or the Middle-East. Given where Somalia is located, in the Horn of Africa just across the Gulf of Aden from Yemen, I guess that shouldn’t have been unexpected.

The spicing was more subtle than the rich Biryani’s I’m used to, but it was equally delicious. I enjoyed making these Somali dishes, the soft spongy pancake –  like bread, Lahooh,  was fun to make and eat and the shredded vegetables were sort of like a cooked coleslaw. I found all these recipes on a very informative site called http://www.mysomalifood.com.  We ranked this meal highly and put it on our – ‘Would make again’ list.

Ingredients

1/4 cup oil                                                1 onion, sliced,

1/3 cup raisins                                         1 teaspoon saffron threads

1/4 cup boiling water                              2 cups basmati rice

2 1/2 cups water                                       1 kg lamb leg or shoulder steak, cubed

1 small onion, chopped                            2 medium tomatoes, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped                           2 tablespoons coriander/cilantro leaves chopped

2 tsp coriander powder                           2 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp paprika                                               1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

5 cardamom pods cracked                       2 cinnamon sticks

2 tablespoons lemon juice                       1 tsp salt, black pepper

Method

  1. Heat 2 tb. oil over medium heat, add the onion and a pinch of salt, fry until golden brown. Add the raisins and cook until they puff up. Drain on kitchen paper.
  2. In a small bowl, soak the saffron in boiling water for 10-15minutes.

  3. Rinse the rice,  place in medium saucepan with the water & pinch salt. Bring to boil & cover, turn down heat & simmer on low 4 minutes till half cooked. Cool.
  4. Heat rest of oil in a large saute pan or frypan, saute the lamb until brown. Add onions saute until brown, then add the spices.  Stir 1 minute.
  5. Add lemon juice, garlic, tomatoes, and coriander. Mix this together then add 1/2 cup of water & cook for 3 minutes until fragrant.  Bring to the boil then let it simmer while covered on a low-medium heat for 15-20 min.
  6. Add the par-boiled rice,  flatten top, pour over the saffron & soaking liquid. Top with the caramelised onion and raisins.
  7. Cover, bring to boil again, reduce heat to low and simmer until  – take care NOT to BURN the bottom as all the liquid will be absorbed.  The rice should be fluffy and the meat tender.
Somalia

Somalia

 

LAHOOH – QUICK SOMALI FLATBREAD

1 cup plain flour                                   1/2 cup wholemeal flour

1/2 cup cornflour                                 2 cups milk

3 tsp baking powder                            1 tb sugar

1 egg                                                        1/2 tsp salt

  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend to a smooth batter, add little water if necessary.
  2. Heat a heavy frypan on medium,  then heat a few drops of oil,  pour in 1/4 cup of batter starting from centre and s spiralling out to evenly cover base.
  3. Cook till golden brown, can cover pancake to set top if you like.
  4. Keep warm on a covered plate while making the rest. Serve warm.

Traditionally these are eaten in Somalia for breakfast with honey, and I can see this would be delicious. They remind me of a Dosa, also a delicious pancake type flatbread.

BELIZE

My daughter Bunny had picked Belize out of the box, another country we knew little about, other than it was in Central America. It’s famous for the Blue Hole – a fantastic natural  wonder made famous by Jacques Cousteau, the second biggest Coral Reef in the world and it’s stunning biodiversity. Over 60% forest, Belize is home to rich array of flora and fauna, including a Jaguar reserve.

Once the epicentre of the Mayan world, it has their spectacular ruins. Formally a British colony, it’s still a Constitutional Monarchy, and English is the state language.

After a bit of research she came up with a typical Belize meal that sounded nice, a stewed chicken, rice and beans dish. Unfortunately we weren’t able to get the Recado or spiced Annatto paste that gives this dish it’s distinctive rich red colour and probably a lot more flavour. So it ended up OK, but nothing to write home about. I think it was a bit bland for us, we all like big strong flavours and this pleasant, mild dish just didn’t do it for us.

Oh well,  onward – next week another country, and another chance to try something new and exciting!

 

 

 

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