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

Amazing Hot Cross Bun recipe (for all of those people who don’t like raisins and sultanas, like me)

Happy Easter everybody hope your having a great day with your families! I thought I’d take some time out of my Easter Sunday to share with you the Hot Cross Bun recipe I made today because let me say one thing they were A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! Mimsey even said they were the best ones she’s ever had or made herself!

A hot cross bun is a spiced sweet bun made with currants or raisins and marked with a cross on the top, traditionally eaten on Good Friday in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, United States, India, and Canada. I guess I was a little late making them.

THE TRADITION

In many historically Christian countries, plain buns made without dairy products are traditionally eaten hot or toasted during Lent, beginning with the evening of Shrove Tuesday  to midday Good Friday. But saying that the Ancient Greeks also made cakes marked with crosses. And through the ages people like Elizabeth I of England and James I of England/James VI of Scotland have banned hot cross buns except for certain days of the year.

An 1884 advertisement announcing the sale of hot cross buns for Good Friday in a Hawaiian newspaper.

A 1884 advertisement announcing the sale of hot cross buns for Good Friday in a Hawaiian newspaper.

There are also many superstitions surrounding hot cross buns. Such as if you hang a hot cross bun in your kitchen will protect against fires and ensure all the bread you make will be perfect. Another one says that buns baked and served on Good Friday will not spoil or grow mouldy during the coming year. One superstition even thinks the hot cross buns are to be used for medicinal purposes. A piece of it given to someone ill is said to help them recover.

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A poem about Hot Cross Buns

Sharing a hot cross bun with friend is supposed to ensure friendship throughout the coming year, particularly if “Half for you and half for me, Between us two shall goodwill be” is said at the time. One of the most out the most peculiar superstitions is that if taken on a sea voyage, hot cross buns are said to protect against shipwreck.

Hot Cross Bun Seller in 18th century London

Hot Cross Bun Seller in 18th century London

THE FLAVOURS

Around the world new flavours of hot cross buns have been popping up for the last 10 years including: chocolate, choc chip, apple & cinnamon, orange & cranberry, coffee, toffee, sticky date, caramel, fruitless and many many more.

Most recently Heston Blumenthal has created a range for both Coles here in Australia and a range for England’s Waitrose with flavours including: Lemon Myrtle, Earl Grey and Mandarin, Ginger and Acacia Honey.

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APRICOT,CRANBERRY & CARDAMOM HOT CROSS BUNS

I found this recipe online searching for alternate hot cross buns. Recipe is from fellow blogger at The Culinary Life her website is here  → www.theculinarylife.com  and the link to the recipe for the hot cross buns is here → hot-cross-buns-recipe

RECIPE

Total Time: 2hr 15min       Makes: 12 buns

Ingredients: 

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup spelt flour (or use another cup of all purpose flour)
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/2 cup warm water, divided
  • 1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup golden cranberries (I just used normal cranberries)
  • 1/3 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup pastry flour
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 teaspoons apricot jam
  • Additional cardamom for wash
Instructions
  1. Combine all purpose flour, spelt flour, cinnamon, and cardamom in a bowl and mix well. Add water, milk, yeast, salt, sugar, beating just until combined. Add egg and butter, mixing until the dough is sticky. Add the cranberries, apricots and lemon zest. Knead dough until smooth – feel free to use a stand mixer or good, old fashioned elbow grease. Cover the bowl of dough loosely with a kitchen towel and leave in a warm area until doubled in size, between 60 and 70 minutes.
  2. Punch down the dough and divide in half. Divide each half in half, and then each lump of dough into thirds. You should have 12 equally-sized buns. Dust your hands with flour and lightly roll each bun into a ball. Set on a floured piece of parchment and cover loosely with a kitchen towel. Allow to double in size again, about 30 to 45 minutes, depending on how warm your kitchen is. While the buns are rising, preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).
  3. Once the buns have risen, arrange them on a parchment-covered baking sheet, leaving 3-inches of space between then. Gently make a 1/4-inch deep cross-shaped indentation in each bun with the back of a butter knife, making sure not to cut the surface of the dough.
  4. Make the icing for crosses: mix the pastry flour, powdered sugar, lemon juice, and water in a small bowl, then slowly trickle in the vegetable oil while beating quickly. You should have a spreadable but not runny consistency. Scoop the icing into a pastry bag and, using a flat, 1/4-inch wide tip, make a cross-shape on each bun, piping into the indentation you created with the butter knife. Wipe up any icing that falls on the parchment, where it will smoke and burn.
  5. Slide the baking sheet into the oven, baking the buns for 15 minutes. While they are baking, combine the apricot jam with an equal amount of very hot water and a pinch of cardamom, mixing until you have a thin wash. When the buns are done take them out of the oven and using a pastry brush, lightly brush a small amount of thinned jam onto the top of each bun while they are still hot, making sure not to smear the icing. Be judicious! No one likes soggy buns. Transfer buns to a cooling rack. Serve warm with butter and more jam, if you like.
Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

My hot cross buns! Think I did pretty good

My hot cross buns! Think I did pretty good

The Hot Cross buns were so yummy! I can’t believe how good they were; light and fluffy and full of fruit and spicy flavours. What more could you want from a Hot Cross bun.

A pie to die for – Timpana, like lasagna in pastry!

Week 16 – Malta

Timpana  – A Rustic Pasta Pie

How can you go wrong with a pie? Everyone loves pies! In this rustic but decorative version, pasta is baked with Bolognese style sauce further enriched with chicken livers and eggs, in a golden, flakey puff pastry case. Filling and tasty, it’s like lasagna in a pie!

 

Valetta

Malta  – the place

The Republic of Malta is several islands, part of a ridge once running from Africa to Europe, it’s closest to Sicily. Waves of invaders from the Phoenicians, The Romans, the Knights of St John, the Moors and more, have left it with a unique and varied history. Its strategic position has given it an importance much greater than it’s tiny 316km² size. In fact Malta is one of the worlds smallest and most densely populated countries and has the smallest capital in the European Union.

Despite it’s tiny size, it boasts nine UNESCO world heritage sites. Valetta, the ancient capital called The Fortress City, “a city built by a gentleman for gentlemen” named after it’s founder a Grand Master of the Order of St John with the magnificent Grand Harbour dating from Roman times, it’s one of the worlds most concentrated historic cities.

Other places include an underground temple or necropolis called the Hypogeum in Paola and 7 Megalithic structures which are among the oldest in the world, and plenty of really impressive cathedrals. Plus possibly the worlds best diving site, there are natural features of the stunning Blue Lagoon and Azure Window, an impressive limestone arch on the coast.

During the Second World War, Malta was besieged and endured the heaviest and most sustained bombardment in the entire war. Over 15,000 tons of bombs were dropped from over 3,500 unrelenting raids continuing every day for 154 days and nights. After the war, King George VI acknowledged this debt, awarding to the people of Malta collectively, the George Cross, Britain’s highest award for civilian bravery – “to bear witness to ……..(their) heroism”

Malta – the food

As expected there are many strong influences in Maltese cuisine, notably Sicily and Britain, as well as Spanish and Provençal. Traditionally the food is a hearty peasant style typical of the Mediterranean. Making the most of local seasonal produce, such as olives, cheeses, sausage, breads, seafood and rabbit, fresh vegetables especially tomatoes and garlic, with wild herbs like mint, thyme and oregano.

Sweets are often very sweet with Arabic influences in pastries and sweetmeats like nougat, macaroons and nut and especially citrus flavoured delicacies. Other desserts are more Italian such as Cassata, granita  or Kannoli. English classics like bread and butter pudding, trifle and apple pie are made with interesting versions and there is a huge range of biscuits to nibble on.

Locally produced wines from the limestone soils are robust reds and crisp dry whites and beer has been brewed here for centuries. Unusual liqueurs like Prickly Pear, Almond, Honey, Carob and Blood Orange are made and very popular too.

This recipe is adapted from http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/timpana Thanks SBS – we love you!

Timpana

Timpana – Pasta Pie                                Serves 8 -10

Ingredients

  • 3  tb butter
  • 2 onions, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 150 g bacon, finely diced
  • 150 g minced pork
  • 150 g minced beef
  • 150 g chicken livers, diced, (optional:substitute with 100g mushrooms sliced + 50g dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in boiling water 15min, then strained, keeping juice)
  • 250 ml chicken/ beef stock
  • 1x 4400g can tomatoes/400ml tomato puree
  • 2 tb tomato paste
  • 300 g macaroni or penne
  • 75 g parmesan, grated
  • 75 g tasty cheese, grated
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • salt and pepper
  •  3 x puff pastry sheets approx. 26cm²
  • 1 egg, beaten to glaze

Ingredients

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 350°F. Heat the butter in a large saucepan and add the onion and garlic. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add the bacon and pork, stirring well to separate, then add the beef and continue cooking for 10 minutes, stirring every so often.
  2. Add the chicken livers if using and cook for 5 minutes. (If using mushrooms, add them and juice from porcini now).
  3. Add the stock, the tomato paste and puree, and season. Simmer 20 minutes. Remove from the heat. Sauce needs to be quite thin and liquid as pasta will absorb a lot more liquid while cooking.
  4. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until little undercooked. Drain, then mix through the sauce. Stir in the cheeses and egg and check seasoning.
  5.  Line a buttered baking dish with the pastry, extending it up the sides. Spoon in the pasta and cover with another layer of pastry. Prick the timpana all over with a knife to let steam escape. Cut strips of extra pastry to decorate the top.
  6. Beat the egg and brush it over the timpana. Bake for 1–1¼ hours.
  7. Serve with a nice green salad to balance out the richness, some crusty bread and a glass or two of red! And as they say on Malta – L-Ikla it-tajba!

 

 

 

 

Brandied Cherry Berry Friands

Cherry Berry Friands                    Makes 10 – 12

Back when I was dieting I used to buy a friand as a treat occasionally thinking it was a low fat option – sadly I was very wrong! These delectable little treats are packed full of nuts, true – but they are also packed full of butter! Making them rich, moist and a very morish indulgent treat indeed. Traditionally a little French cake, they are extremely popular in Australia and found in most cafés.

To make a true friand, you really need the distinctive oval shaped pans, but you can make them in small patty pans  too. They are amazingly easy to make, doing nothing other than lightly whisking the egg whites. All the other ingredients are just stirred in and that’s it.

Originally I made these as my daughter had made lots of things with egg yolks and I had more leftover egg whites than I knew what to do with. Friands are a great way to use egg whites, quick and less trouble than meringues. So do try making some soon and impress your friends with a friand! 

Ingredients

  •  20 frozen pitted cherries
  • 2 tb brandy/kirsch
  • 125g pecans/hazelnuts
  • 6 egg whites
  • 155g/5oz butter, melted
  • 200g icing sugar
  • ½ cup plain flour
  • ¼ cup frozen mixed berries/raspberries

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C/ 180° fan forced, grease friand tins.
  2. Soak cherries in brandy for 30 minutes.
  3. Toast the nuts (can do this in a microwave) and grind finely.
  4. Place egg whites in a medium bowl, or mixer bowl and whisk just until light and frothy. Sift in the icing sugar and flour, and stir in with melted butter and ground nuts.
  5. Spoon into tins, fill ⅔ full, top each friand with two drained cherries and several frozen berries.
  6. Bake 20 minutes, stand 5 minutes in tins before turning out to cool on cake rack.

This recipe is based on one in The Australian Women’s Weekly cookbook ‘Bake’

There you have it, one of the easiest little cakes to make, yet people are always impressed! I think the richness of the butter and nuts makes them seem special and therefore somehow difficult. But trust me they are ridiculously quick and easy and very delicious. Alas.

A meal in your hand – Salteñas: Bolivian Empanandas

Week 15 – Bolivia 

Salteñas – Juicy Meat Filled Empanadas

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From Bolivia we say Buen Provecho! These little beauties are the Bolivian equivalent of a Cornish Pasty and like any good pasty are the perfect picnic/snack/street food. Now I’ve eaten a lot of street food from a lot of different places and I love ye olde traditional Cornish Pasty, (recently had the best one ever at the Sunday Market at Redcliffe, Brisbane. Made and baked on the spot by a true Cornishman)! so I was very keen to tyr this superior version out. The special ingredient that lifts these gems out of the ordinary is the inclusion of jellied meat broth that melts when cooked, providing meat, veggies and gravy all in one handy packet – fantastic!

Fact File: Bolivia

The correct  name is The Plurinational State of Bolivia, which acknowledges the multi-ethnic nature of the country’s population. Called Upper Peru by the Spanish, it has been home to wonderful civilisations located at two archaeological sites, Tiwanaku and Tiahuanaco and the world famous Lake Titicaca. Up in the mountains parts it was part of the Incan Empire.The new country gained independence in 1825 and was named after the political activist Simón Bolivar. Sadly surrounding countries took over attractive areas and today Bolivia is less than half the size it was then, losing even it’s coastline.

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But it still has South America’s most uniquely varied environments, and huge biodiversity. World famous for it’s spectacular scenery ranging from the vast other-worldly salt flats of Salar de Uyuni, the rain drenched lowland tropical rainforest, to the bone dry Altiplano, the colourful Lagune Verde (Green Lake) and dramatic soaring peaks laced with glaciers.

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The many indigenous ethnic cultures are rich in arts, music, literature and cuisine, and their colourful costumes make visiting this  country a photographers delight. It’s a wild country, very rewarding for the adventurous traveller.

The Food

Credited with being the origin of such useful plants as peppers, chillies, peanuts and the common bean, and over 4,000 different types of potato, Bolivian cuisine is as varied as it’s terrain. Could be called the original ‘meat and potatoes’ diet, the holy trinity of foods in Bolivia is beans, corn and potato.

Traditionally grains and starchy vegetables like potatoes or plantains make up the basis of the cuisine, with a variety of indigenous meats, such as guinea-pig (cuy) rabbit (conejo) and llama added to introduced chicken and beef. Along with a massive array of beautiful home-grown vegetables of all colours, shapes and sizes.

Frying and stewing are the most popular cooking methods, and in the cold mountainous west, hearty, spicy stews and soups are served daily. In the hot tropical north and east, more baked goods (horneadors) and fried foods (empanadas frites) are eaten with lots of salads and grains like quinoa.  

Although Bolivians aren’t really snackers as such, preferring to take a civilised Merienda with tea or coffee in the mid morning and Tecito in the afternoon (rather like our English morning and afternoon tea)  many of the accompanying foods are savoury treats like Salteñas and Humintas (corn tamales) we’d call snacks. Nor do Bolivians have a sweet tooth, although such sweet treats as Buñuelos con Miel (fried donuts with honey) are found in markets.

Drinks

Some very fine wines are made from the highest vineyards in the world and there are local beers. A traditional drink is a sourish brew made from fermented corn called Chicha, otherwise juices and shakes are popular and the ever present tea and coffee, thick and black or sweet and white with (condensed) milk called cafe con leche.

Salteñas                                                 Makes 8

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Ingredients:Filling

  • ¼ cup oil
  • 62gm butter/¼ cup, melted
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  •  2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1-2 tsp chilli powder
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • ¾ cup boiling water
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • ½ tsp beef stock powder +½ cup beef stock
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 large potato, cut into small dice
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • ¼ cup frozen peas
  • 350 gm beef steak, diced
  • 2 tsp gelatine dissolved in ¾ cup boiling water
  • 12 black olives, cut in half
  • handful raisins
  • 4 hard boiled eggs, sliced

Method

  1. Make filling the day before you want to bake Salteñas. Heat oil and butter in a small frypan, add onion, garlic, chilli, oregano and parsley and saute on low 10 minutes until soft.
  2. Add the cumin, salt, pepper and sugar and stir. Add meat and saute on medium heat 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile cook the diced vegetables in boiling water until just cooked, then drain.
  4. Add vinegar and stock to the meat and simmer 15 minutes.
  5. Mix in the cooked vegetables and gelatine, and put into fridge to chill(and set) overnight.

 Dough:

  • 3 cups plain flour
  • ¼ cup butter melted+1 tb extra to glaze
  • 2 small eggs
  • 1 tb sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp paprika

 

Method

  1. Put flour into food processor or mixer. melt butter and when sizzling add to flour and quickly whizz together. Let it cool for 5 minutes.
  2. Pre-heat oven to very hot, about 220-240º
  3. Add rest of ingredients and mix. Knead to form a stiff dough. Cover and rest 10 minutes.
  4. Divide dough into 8 balls. Roll each one into thin, ½cm x. 6″/15cm circles.
  5. Place sliced egg, raisins and olives in the middle, place a large spoon of chilled meat filling on top, leaving a space around the edges.
  6. Wet the edge of the dough, fold and bring together on top.. Pinch and roll the edges to seal well.
  7. Place on a greased baking tray with the seam facing up, brush with extra melted butter to glaze and bake 10-15 minutes till golden brown. Serve warm and watch out for the hot meaty juices!

Salteñas

 

We all enjoyed these Bolivian street food snacks as a meal, we ate them with a salsa and a salad. We gave this dish a 6/10 – was nice but we are very fond of spicy, and so for us they lacked the Wow factor. I understand there are spicier versions and these would be more to our liking.

 

 

Recipe was adapted from a number of sources including http://allrecipes.com/recipe/bolivian-saltenas  and www.boliviabella.com/recipes.html and  Lonely Planet “The World’s Best Street Food”
Do check out  http://dulceandsalado.com/2013/01/03/saltenas/ for all the most wonderful South American recipes and more. Buen Provecho!

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.

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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.