Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ethiopia - Qinch'e

We were fortunate to find the very comprehensive Exotic Ethiopian Cooking by D.J. Mesfin, which had an entire section dedicated to breakfast. This book gave us several options, such as genfo, which is a porridge made with barley or wheat flour. Genfo frequently came up when we searched online and is probably the best known breakfast meal. But we decided against making this because we were afraid we would end up with glue if we messed it up.
We chose instead to make qinch'e (kinche), which is a cracked wheat porridge with spiced butter.  We had to substitute bulgur wheat for cracked wheat, as we were unable to find it, and one store manager told me that it was no longer available(!). Bulgur wheat is an appropriate substitute, since the only difference between the two is that bulgur wheat is steamed and toasted prior to the cracking.  This also makes it cook faster!
The flavor of the qinch'e came from the nit'ir qibe, which is a spiced butter. The recipe in the book is for twelve pounds of butter, and they ask you clarify the butter before you flavor it. We had about four ounces of ghee on hand, so we started with that and scaled down the spices.

Nit'ir Qibe (Micro Batch)
  • 4 oz of ghee (clarified butter)
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1 small clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1 small shallot, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 2 small cardamom pods
  • dash of turmeric
  1. Melt ghee at low heat.
  2. Add all the remaining ingredients and cook at low heat for 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. Strain the nit'ir qibe before using or storing.
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • pinch salt
  • 1 cup bulgur wheat
  • 4 oz nit'ir qibe
  1. Bring the water, milk, and salt to a boil, stirring to ensure they do not separate.
  2. Add bulgur wheat and strained nit'ir qibe; continue to stir frequently.
  3. The butter will separate and be on the surface at the beginning. As the wheat cooks the butter will suddenly be absorbed.
  4. Once the butter has been absorbed continue to cook the qinch'e until it reaches the desired consistency.
We also prepared coffee in the Ethiopian style. Coffee preparation in Ethiopia as an entire ceremony. The preparation method used involved boiling the coffee, which is about the exact opposite of most modern coffee experts' advice.  But the coffee turned out fine and the results were not much different than normal brewing. It would be worth trying in a drip maker to see if there is really a difference, but the boil method really isn't any more inconvenient and is more traditional.

Ethiopian-Style Coffee

  • 1 cup coffee beans (the original recipe asks you to roast your own)
  • 1/4 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 28 oz water
  1. Grind the coffee and spices to a fine powder.
  2. Bring the water to a boil, add the coffee, and continue to boil for five minutes.
  3. Strain coffee, and serve in small cups (such as Chinese teacups or demitasse cups).
Results and Discussion
This breakfast was very successful. The most complicated part was making the nit'ir qibe, which could easily be made in large quantities beforehand. It should be noted that making good nit'ir qibe is vital to this dish since it is most of the flavor. In our case it was a nice subtle flavor that was a little cheesy and buttery.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Vietnam - Cháo Bò

The two options for Vietnamese breakfast are pho and chao. Pho is a noodle soup that is served in Vietnamese restaurants. Chao is a simple rice soup. As I had never had chao I decided to make that for breakfast. Chao and pho have many variations and names depending on the meat. We made chao bo with is chao with thinly cut beef. The recipe for the chao bo was a chimera from two books: Into the Vietnamese Kitchen by Andrea Nguyen and Authentic Vietnamese Cooking by Corinne Trang. The major differences between the two dishes was there approach to the broth for the chao. Nguyen's approach required about 3 hours while Trang's recipe simply starts with water. I find it odd that Trang started with water given she writes wonderfully about the importance of broth in her introduction. We split the difference by using our own homemade broth.
We also made Ca Phe which is Vietnamese coffee for after the breakfast. Both books mention side dishes but neither list them so we had no side dishes.

Chao Bo
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 minced shallot
  • ¾ cup of jasmine rice
  • 8 cups of vegetable broth
  • 8 oz ground beef (80/20)
  • 2 scallions
  • 1 cup cilantro
  • ½ cup chopped peanuts
  • 1½ tbsp grated ginger
  • Fish sauce (nuoc mam)
  • Fresh ground pepper
  1. Cook shallots and rice in oil over medium heat for five minutes until the shallots become translucent.
  2. Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil.
  3. Simmer uncovered for 1½ hours.
  4. Add in ground beef making sure to break it into small bits so it cooks properly.
  5. Cook for 5 minutes.
  6. Ladle into bowls and garnish with peanuts, cilantro, ginger, fish sauce, and scallions.
Ca Phe
  • 1 heaping tbsp French roast coffee
  • 1 tbsp sweetened condensed milk
  1. Spoon the condensed milk into the bottom of a cup.
  2. Place coffee in brewer and set over cup.
  3. Pour 6 oz boiling water into the brewer, wait for it to filter through, and serve.
Results and Discussion
This breakfast was not one of our favorites to make. Most of the time is spent waiting for the rice porridge to thicken, getting hungry, and making some toast. The end product is not visually appealing without garnish. The garnish also gives the dish most of its flavor with the beef and rice giving it most of its substance. I would not make this meal again for breakfast given the long preparation time. It would make a nice part of dinner and then reheat well for breakfast.
We did not have the right equipment to make the ca phe. To do it properly it requires a specialized device that is a hybrid of a French press and a drip. I did not think the coffee using our method was bad but it was weaker than it was supposed to be.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Phillippines - Longsilog

The title of this week's breakfast is longsilog. The name comes from a portmanteau of the three main dishes: longganisa (sausage), sinangág (fried rice), and itlog (eggs). This method of naming meals is common in the Philippines. The fried rice recipe was found in The Food of the Philippines by Reynaldo G. Alejandro. The sausage recipe was found in Memories of Philippine Kitchens by Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan.

Longganisa (Sausage)
  • 1 ½ lbs ground pork
  • 1 tbsp annato coloring (powder, available at Latin markets)
  • 1 tbsp chili oil
  • 1 tbsp rice wine
  • ½ tbsp rice winegar
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp lime zest
  • ½ tbsp salt
  • ½ tsp fresh ground pepper
  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl, being careful not to pulverize the meat too much.
  2. Divide the mixture into 10 balls all of the same size.
  3. Shape these balls into sausages 3 inches long and about an inch in diameter.
  4. Refrigerate the sausages overnight to give the flavor time to blend and to make handling easier.
  5. Heat a frying pan to medium and put a thin layer of water in the pan. This helps to prevent sticking.
  6. The sausages cook in about 5-7 minutes.
  7. Place done sausages on a plate and keep warm in an oven.

Philippine Fried Rice
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • ¼ cup minced shallots
  • 4 cups of cooked medium-grain rice mashed lightly with ½ cup water
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  1. Cook garlic in oil until golden brown.
  2. Add all remaining ingredients and cook, stirring, for 10 minutes to ensure the rice is evenly heated.
  3. Serve hot.

Scrambled Eggs
Scramble eggs in some of the grease left over from the sausages, top with crushed red pepper.

Results and Discussion
The original recipe for the sausages called for wild boar meat and pork fatback. Clearly the sausages would have been much more awesome had they been made of wild boar meat. I am a city dweller and wild boar hunting season in Somerville city limits is not until the fall. We were left with the choice of lean ground pork. The lean option left the sausages with too little fat and they were a little dry. I would recommend adding some fat back to help prevent this problem.
We used short-grain sticky rice in the fried rice. The stickiness of the rice caused lumps to developed as we fried it. In future attempts at fried rice the medium-grain variety will be used with the hope of minimizing the stickiness.
This was a pretty simple breakfast except for some challenges in finding certain ingredients. The most difficult was the annatto oil called for in the original sausage recipe.  We only required a small amount and all of the recipes yielded 2 cups.  It is because of this that we used annato powder to give the sausages the correct color. I really enjoyed making sausages from scratch and hope to some day be in a position where I can grind my own meat. I hope that will line up with boar season.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Mexico - Tamales de Anis, Salsa de Cacahuate, Atole

Today's breakfast was brought to you by masa, corn flour, a staple of Mexican cooking. The main course of our breakfast were sweet anise-seed tamales with peanut and chipotle salsa. These recipes were taken from Culinary Mexico by Daniel Hoyer. Our drink was raspberry atole based on a recipe from Zarela's Veracruz by Zarela Martinez.

Tamales de Anis
  • 12 cornhusks
  • 1½ cups instant masa mix (e.g. Maseca)
  • 1½ cups warm water (110-130° F)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp lard
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp anise seeds, toasted
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup chopped prunes
  1. Cover corn husks with hot water and soak for 1 hour.  Drain and pat dry.
  2. Mix masa and warm water stir until you get a crumbly texture. The amount of water to achieve this texture varies so add water slowly.  Let sit for 30 minutes, then weigh out 12 ounces of this mixture (reserve the rest for atole).
  3. Whip butter and lard in a mixing bowl until they are fluffy.
  4. Gradually add masa alternating with the three tablespoons of water.
  5. Mix in anise seeds, salt, sugar, and prunes and beat for 2 minutes until smooth.
  6. Put 2 tbsp of the mixture on the edge of a corn husk and roll it up.
  7. Tie the ends with kitchen twine, trimming any excess.
  8. Steam for 1 hour and 15 minutes, making sure that the steamer does not go dry.
  9. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Salsa de Cacahuate
  • ½ cup unsalted dry roasted peanuts
  • 1 small onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 2 chipotles in adobo
  • 1½ tsp apple vinegar
  • 3 tbsp chopped cilantro
  1. Slice onions and tomatoes.
  2. Roast onions, tomatoes, and garlic under a broiler.
  3. Mix all ingredients, except cilantro, in a blender leaving a coarse texture.
  4. Stir in cilantro and salt to taste just before serving.

Raspberry Atole
  • 1 cup of raspberries
  • 4½ cups of water
  • ¼ cup masa left over from tamales (use more for thicker atole)
  • ¼ cup grated piloncillo sugar
  1. Boil 4 cups of water.
  2. Puree the raspberries and masa with the remaining ½ cup of water.
  3. Push the raspberry puree through a sieve into the boiling water (this removes the seeds).
  4. Add the piloncillo and stir.
  5. Maintain a low boil for 30 minutes as the drink thickens.

Results and Discussion
This breakfast easily took the longest of any of the others. Most of the time was spend making and steaming the tamales. The tamales were firm and moist with the plum providing a sweetness that was an excellent counter point to the heat of salsa. Roasting the vegetables prior to making the salsa provided additional flavor and really enhanced the taste. The recommendation of leaving the salsa "gritty" also gives an excellent texture to the salsa. The raspberry atole was a tasty drink and could be flavored with any berry of your choosing.
For advice on how to roll tamales we consulted How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman which has excellent illustration.
Cutting the piloncillo presented a special challenge. The block of sugar is very hard and it is impossible to break of parts. We resorted to using a serrated knife to shave off the sugar as needed. In Columbia a stone is common used to break the block apart but we live in an apartment.