Samoan coconut buns

Week 21 – Samoa

Two main islands and eight small islets house pristine beaches with luscious green rainforests coming right down to the sand and in certain places spectacular rocky cliffs. With hundreds of scenic hiking trails you can traverse the country side enjoying waterfalls, secret grottos and wildlife galore. A strong proud culture with many traditions such as their ‘ava ceremony and siva (dancing) live here, welcome to Samoa.

Traditional ‘ava ceremony

Samoa is located in the Polynesian region of the Pacific Ocean it is halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii. The main islands are Upolu and Savai’i with Upolu home to 3/4 of the country’s population. All of the islands of Samoa have been produced by volcanoes, with Savai’i home to 3 active volcanoes (the last eruption was in the early 1900’s).

Samoa’s capital city and largest city is Apia which is situated on a natural harbour on the island of Upolu. The city’s clock tower which is also a war memorial is cited as the center of the city. Scattered there is still some early, wooden, colonial buildings most notably the old courthouse amongst other new infrastructure. Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson who wrote famous books such as Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde resided on the outskirts of town for his last four years of life and he was buried on top of the close mountain Mt. Vaea. The city’s harbour was also the location of a naval standoff in 1889. Seven ships from Germany, the US, and Britain refused to leave the harbor while a typhoon was approaching, all of the ships ended up sinking except one.

Historic old courthouse originally built in 1906 in Historism and Art Deco style.

Historic old courthouse originally built in 1906 in Historism and Art Deco style.

Samoan Cuisine

Samoa’s cuisine very heavily based on fresh produce normally catch or collected that day. Produce such as taro, bananas, papaya, coconut (freshly made coconut cream or milk is an ingredient in an multitude of recipes), fish and other seafood are the basis of most dishes. Most Samoan kitchens are outside and use a umu (earth oven of hot stones) to cook all food. No oil is used in any of their cooking as they wrap their meat or seafood in banana leaves and cook it straight over the hot stones. Some of the most loved dishes include palusami (young taro leaves baked in coconut cream) and oka, (raw fish in coconut cream).

Typical meal

Typical meal

What I Made

I decided to go sweet and chose Panipopo’s (sweet coconut buns) these buns are sold in bakeries all over Samoa. I sourced my recipe from → www.samoafood.com check it out for amazing Samoan recipes!

Recipe

Serves: 12

Ingredients

For Bread Dough:

  • 1 package (2 & ¼ teaspoon) of active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 ½ – 3 cups all purpose flour or bread flour

For Coconut Sauce:

  • ½ can (200ml) canned or freah coconut milk
  • 200ml water
  • ½ sugar

 Method

  1. Put yeast and water in a large bowl and cover, leave for 10 minutes,  your yeast should be frothy at the end of the time.
  2. Add the rest of the dough ingredients and mix to form a soft dough, this can be done with a wooden spoon or any type of automatic mixer.
  3. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 to 20 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  4. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and leave to double in size, about 1 hour depending on your kitchen’s temperature.
  5. Punch down the dough and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Shape into buns and place in an ungreased baking tin. Cover and leave to rise until almost doubled.
  6. While the buns are rising preheat oven  to 190°C/ 375°F. Make your coconut sauce by combing all ingredients and mixing well.
  7. When buns have doubled in size, pour the sauce over them. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until nicely golden. (wait half an hour till cutting them, as it gives time for the sauce to thicken)

The buns were not the most amazing thing I’ve ever had but they sweet and gooey so they hit the spot. I think it was it bread that let them down a bit, the bread seemed a little to savoury for the sweet sauce, I’d suggest finding a sweet bread recipe that you know good and swapping that one for this one. They were nice with a large cup of black tea and a good book. Score 6/10.

My coconut buns!

My coconut buns!

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.

640px-Rwandan_children_at_Volcans_National_Park   images-4

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.

imgres                            images-5

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.

Coconut fish parcels grilled in banana leaves

Marshall Islands marshall is stamp

 

Week 13  – Coconut Fish in Banana Leaves

Where are they? Somewhere in the Pacific? was the general response. Yes indeed the Marshall Islands are located in the middle of the vast North Pacific Ocean, north of the equator, and due north ( a long way) of Vanuatu. They are everybody’s  idea of the picture perfect tropical island. Very isolated,  the group of 29 atolls and 5 lone islands is split into the Ratak Chain to the east, poetically called the Sunrise lands and Ralik Chain to the west meaning the Sunset islands . These are formed by two groups of a strung out straggling collection of long low coral atolls or some volcano tops barely rising out of the sea.

In fact since at their highest point the Marshall Islands are only 10 metres above sea-level!! they are in great danger of disappearing altogether. Much to the dismay of the local inhabitants facing rising sea levels. These islands are so small, they only just managed to squeeze an airstrip on one.

There is no fresh water supply, islanders are still pretty much dependent on rain water. Native vegetation is limited to lush tropical island palms that can colonise islands, and wildlife to what ever flew there – so birds, bats, insects but of course fantastic marine life.

imgres

 

 

 

 

 

Inhabited by sea-faring Melanesians navigating using ingenious stick charts over 2,000 years ago, the islands came to the attention of Europe with the Spanish laying first claim, then sold to Germany in 1884. They received their name from British explorer John Marshall (1788). During WW2 the islands were invaded by the Japanese after which the USA conquered them.

They remained under US ‘protection” until independence in 1965. I qualify protection because the US government used the islands from 1946 to 1958 to test Nuclear bombs, 67 in total! Including the infamous Bikini Atoll and the testing of the first Hydrogen  bomb in the 1952 which blew Elugelab Atoll off the face of the earth! “Yes Karwowski – Kaboom!”

Marshall Island

Still mostly sustained by a big American presence, there is very little export or industry, some fishing, copra, some handicrafts and although tourism is increasing, it’s low because of it’s isolation .The world’s largest shark sanctuary was established there in 2011. But it’s an idyllic get away for those who like things laid back, and peaceful. Attractions revolve around the gorgeous ocean, diving, snorkelling, fishing or surfing and lolling around on pristine  white beaches overhung by coconut palms is about it.

The Food

Marshall Islands are another on of those countries where I would venture to say that traditionally they don’t have a cuisine – they have food. And much of that nowadays is imported from the USA. Sadly this means a great deal of processed food is consumed, high in salt, sugar and fat. Tinned meat such as Spam is hugely popular as little meat was traditionally available.

Like so many other Pacific Islands where soil quality is very poor, (see post on Kiribati) locally grown crops are scarce and mainly confined to a few starchy roots such as Sweet Potato, sago, cassava and tomatoes along with tropical island fruits like coconut, melons, and breadfruit.

Marshallese food makes the most of the fantastic local fish and seafood, and of course now most fresh food items are available in modern supermarkets- but apparently not always – maybe only after the supply ship has been. Traditional cooking methods are grilling, roasting over fires and ‘Hungi’ style (where food is cooked in a pit on hot rocks buried for many hours.)

Coconut is King

Here spicing and chillies are not common, recipes I found were very plain and simple, the natural goodness of the produce shines through. Since coconut is so vital in the Marshall Islands (not just for food) I paired it with fish, wrapped in banana leaves and topped with red onion and tomatoes. A side dish is sweet potatoes fried and tossed with brown sugar, red onions and some sambal – cos’ we like spicy food.

A simple salad of papaya seemed fairly authentic plus plain steamed rice, all served on banana leaves which gave us the tropical island spirit. Hubby loved the sweet potato which he normally won’t even eat – so a big win there! The fish parcels were delicious, I must confess to adding a bit of a fresh Malaysian style spice paste (or rempah) to jazz them up, but the combination of fish with fresh coconut was terrific. I loved it so much I gave it a 9/10, and hubby 8.5/10 a very high score from Mr Picky!

I hope you will make this as it’s really yummy and the banana wrapping can be substituted with baking paper and foil if you need. I have wild bananas growing down the back of the garden so I can just pick some leaves anytime. Do try to get them if you can as they do impart a special fragrance to the parcels as well as looking exotic.

Chargrilled Coconut Fish Parcels wrapped in Banana Leaves    serves 4

Ingredients for Rempah – spice paste

  • 1 fresh coconut
  • 1 fresh red chilli, chopped
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, peeled & cut into short lengths
  • salt & fresh ground white pepper
  • 4 firm white fish steaks/fillets e.g. snapper, ling, barramundi
  • 1 large tomato, sliced
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 2 large fresh banana leaves/ silicon paper & aluminium foil
  • toothpicks
  • Little oil for leaves

DSCN6971

Methods 

To open a fresh coconut: DON’T PUT IT IN THE OVEN! I know a lot of recipes where this is advised – this is so unnecessary and will only ruin the beautiful flavour of your fresh coconut.  It’s really simple, first pierce the eyes with a sharp knife point, let the coconut water drain through a sieve into a bowl.

(i) Cup the coconut in the palm of one hand, with the eyes at the top of your hand. With the back of a heavy chefs knife or a cleaver firmly hit the middle of the coconut. Go around the circumference of the coconut, hitting firmly. You will hear the shell cracking as you go – once it’s 3/4 done, just pull the rest apart. There you have it – so easy!

(ii) Use a small thick blade to prise the flesh out, it comes out quite easily in large chunks. Peel the brown skin off with a potato peeler, then rinse the coconut flesh and it’s now ready to use.

To make fresh coconut cream and milk: (i) Grate the chunks of fresh coconut in a food processor. Reserve 1/3 for Rempah. Place grated coconut in a blender with 1 cup of near boiling water. Blend on high until smooth. Let sit for 10 minutes.

(ii)  Pour into a wide jug or bowl lined with a clean damp tea towel or cheesecloth.  Tightly wring out the cloth, extracting as much liquid as possible. Put coconut back into blender and repeat process with another cup of water.

(iii) Leave the extract to sit 15 minutes, The thick cream will rise to the top, carefully spoon this off. What’s left is your delicious fresh coconut milk! OMG so much better than even the best of the tinned stuff.

(iv) The coconut solids can still be used, in place of desiccated coconut in cakes and desserts, or in curries etc. Can be toasted golden for a lovely topping to sprinkle on pancakes, cereal or yogurt.

  1. To make Rempah, blend chilli, lemongrass, chopped red onion, reserved grated coconut, salt and pepper together into a smooth paste with a little coconut milk to help blend.
  2. Cut banana leaves into 4 large squares, cutting either side of centre rib. Wash and carefully dip into boiling water to soften. Dry. Oil the centre of each leaf, place fish fillet on top, then top with spice paste.
  3. Lay slices of  red onion along fillet and top with sliced tomato. Spoon 1-2 TB of fresh coconut cream over fish.
  4. Fold leaf over to form a parcel, fold ends over, secure with toothpicks.
  5. Either grill, BBQ  or place on metal rack and cook base of parcels over a gas flame ( to get charred flavour) Turn carefully to cook other side on grill or finish cooking in oven if cooking over flame.  5-10 minutes depending on thickness of fillet.
  6. To serve, place each one on dinner plate and let diner open own parcel- ah the aroma! Will take you to the South Seas!

Overall Marshall Islands scored well, an average 8½ /10,  (7/10 from the kids, as they’re not so keen on fish).

DSCN6979

 

Sticky Sweet Potato        serves 4 

  • 1 large yellow sweet potato
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1 dsp sambal oelek (malaysian chilli paste) Subs: 1/2 tsp chilli flakes & 1 tb water
  • 1 tb. brown sugar
  • 1 dsp kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) Subs: normal soy sauce & add 1 tsp. extra brown sugar
  • 1 dsp vegetable oil
  1. Cut potato into finger thick slices (about 1.5cm)  Heat oil in large frypan on medium heat,  fry potato on both sides until golden brown.
  2. Add onion and fry till softened. Add chilli, sugar and soy sauce, toss well. Fry, adding a little water if necessary  3-5 minutes on low, until potato is tender.

Papaya Salad       serves 4 

  • 1/2 medium red papaya
  • 10 cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 red chilli (optional)
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • Salt & pepper
  1. Peel, seed and cube papaya and avocado. Cut tomatoes in half and thinly slice chilli.
  2. Put in a small bowl, season with salt & pepper, squeeze over lime juice and toss lightly.