Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ecuador - Quimbolitos and Coffee


Ecuador straddles the equator on the west coast of South America. Its major regions are the coastal lowlands, the Andes mountains, the Amazon, and the Galapagos Islands. The cuisine of the lowlands is heavier in seafood with lots of ceviche. The mountain regions tend to have more grains and farmed meats. The mountain regions are also known for eating guinea pig. Yuca is the major staple in the Amazon region.
We chose to make sweet tamales, called quimbolitos, which we found in The South American Table. They are served as snacks, desserts, or for breakfast with a cup of coffee. The recipe varies from region to region, most often in the proportion of cornmeal to wheat flour. The ratio of lard to butter also varies.  We decided to skip the raisins since we forgot to buy any Kitty doesn't really like them.
The exotic ingredient for this week is the banana leaf. We are using it a wrapper for the tamale dough. Banana leaves can be found in the produce or frozen section of most market that carry Latin foods. They are also used as serving dishes across tropical and equatorial regions. The leaves are very large!
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup + 2 tbsp sugar
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 6 oz chihuahua cheese, shredded
  • ½ cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • ½ tsp anise seeds
  • 2 tbsp brandy or anise liquor
  • banana leaves, thawed if frozen and cut into 10x14 inch rectangles
  1. Cream butter and ¾ cup of sugar.
  2. Add egg yolks one at a time, beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  3. Stir in cheese, cornmeal, flour, baking powder, zest, and anise.
  4. Mix egg whites with a pinch of salt.
  5. Beat the eggs until you have soft peaks, then add 2 tbsp of sugar and continue to beat until you get glossy, stiff peaks.
  6. Fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the butter and cheese mixture to lighten, then gently fold in the remaining egg whites.
  7. Spread ¾ cup of the mixture onto the middle of the banana leaf to a thickness of ¾ inch.
  8. Fold the long sides of the leaf together over the filling. Fold short ends under the leaf.
  9. If the leaves seem flimsy or have holes you can then wrap the packets again in aluminum foil. Otherwise tie them up using kitchen twine.
  10. Steam for about 20 minutes.

Results and Discussion
These turn out really well. A lump of butter, cheese, and flour goes into the banana leaf and very moist, puffy cake comes out. The shredded cheese adds texture and the lemon and anise give a really nice flavor. If you want to cook a lot of these at once a multi-level bamboo steamer basket might work very well.
The banana leaves are not eaten but we were trying to describe their smell. Kitty thought they smelled like tea. The smell reminded me of artichoke. In the end we decided they had the general vegetable-y leaf smell. They are not edible, probably because the leaves are so tough and fibrous.
You will probably have lots of leftover banana leaves as they are commonly sold in one pound bags. They can be used like a natural tinfoil to wrap things that you want to roast or steam, or as serving "dishes." If you leaves have not already been frozen you can also just freeze them, otherwise they last 1-3 weeks in the fridge.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Malawi - Nshima and Tea


Malawi is one of the poorest countries in southern Africa. The economy is largely agricultural and the population rural. The major crops are corn, tea, sugarcane, and sorghum. It was colonized by the British in the late 1800s and was known as Nyasaland until it gained independence in the 1960s. The country is also where Stanley presumed to find Dr. Livingston
My search for books on Malawi led me to two books in the Schlesinger Library, the The Malawi Cookbook and Nyasaland Cookery Book and Household Guide. Both books were written for missionaries and other foreigners living in the country. The Malawi Cookbook gives mostly recipes, and the Nyasaland Cookery Book also provides information about how to preserve foods, hire household staff, and avoid dangerous local insects. Neither book provided must information about what is eaten when, but the World Cookbook for Students gave us context.
Nshima is a thick white cornmeal porridge that is a staple of the cuisine. For breakfast they eat a more dilute version of nshima flavored with peanuts and butter (we decided it needed a bit of sugar and imagine we are not the first to add some). I give a recipe for roasting your own peanuts below, since this is the primary flavor, the extra time is worth it.
Tea is a major export of Malawi, and single-estate Malawi teas can be purchased from Upton Tea Imports.  We bought a sample of Mboma Estate BOP.

Roasted Peanuts
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F
  2. Spread the peanuts over an edged cookie sheet.
  3. Roast the nuts for 15 to 20 minutes until they are of the desired darkness. The color change doesn't really start until 15 minutes in.
  4. Let the peanuts cool and set aside until use. They will last several weeks on the shelf after roasting.
  • 1 cup ufa (white cornmeal)
  • 3 cups water
  1. Heat the water in a large sauce pan until it is lukewarm.
  2. Add ¼ cup of ufa and mix in well using a whisk to avoid lumps.
  3. Bring the water to a boil and stir in the remaining ufa avoiding lumps.
  4. Mix in some of the chopped peanuts and butter to taste.
  5. Garnish with chopped nuts and add sugar as desired.

Results and Discussion
Use a larger pan than you think will be required for the nshima, as the mixture starts to foam as it boils. I would also maybe start with an additional cup of water to get a more dilute porridge. I think our result was stiffer than the usual breakfast meal. I started with too small a pot and I was not able to dilute to the desired thickness.
It is very important to use a whisk and remove lumps from the porridge as an uncooked lump is a bit unpalatable.
Again, most of the flavor comes from the roasted peanuts, so I would make sure to get a really nice dark roast on them. A little bit of sugar enhances the taste a bit.
The tea had a simple, homey, classic tea taste. Kitty thought it was rather like Lipton yellow-box tea, only much better.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Kazakhstan - Nan, Baursaki, Sausage, & Tea


Kazakhstan is an ethnically diverse country in central Asia. Much of this diversity is a result of Stalin's prison camps and other forced migration policies of the Soviet Union. Kazakhs are traditionally nomadic and their cuisine reflects this with lots of preserved food and protein sources that range well. The prominent protein sources are horse and lamb, and much of the dairy is preserved or fermented. The only breakfast information I found online was that Russian influence have made kasha more prevalent. I looked for Kazakh restaurants in the Boston area to get some better information. I found Cafe Assorti in Washington D.C. They got back to me immediately with information and suggestions. So if you are in the D.C. Metro area please go eat there. We are looking forward to trying them the next time we are in the area.
According to our source, Kazakhs are tending towards a more western breakfast as they are less nomadic. Our contact at Cafe Assorti gave us a break down of what they would consider a traditional breakfast: an assortment of thinly sliced sausages made from lamb or horse meat, served with taba-nan and/or baursak (a flat bread and a fried dough respectively). The bread is eaten with a type of sour cream called kaymak. Kaymak is also used in a tea made with cardamom and fennel.
Taba-nan requires special equipment (two oven-proof frying pans), so we adapted an Uighur flatbread from nearby western China. We chose it because it the base of the recipe was quite simple and seemed to be a good approximation of a nonspecific central Asian flatbread. We found the original recipe in Flatbreads & Flavors. We got our baursak recipe from Food by Country (originally published in Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Foods & Recipes of the World). We made some substitutions to reduce the size of the recipe to something two people can eat.  The tea recipe is from The World Cookbook for Students.
Kaymak is not readily available in the United States, but can be made at home by steaming a mixture of milk and cream for eight hours. Kitty tried a homemade recipe but it did not work for us. Instead, we bought clotted cream as the closest available substitute.
Even setting aside any ethical concerns, horse meat was not an option as it is simply not available in the United States. The last horse slaughterhouse closed in 2007 and it existed mostly to provide zoos with meat. We decided to purchase beef or lamb sausage instead. One of the sausages is called shuzhuk, and given the histroical Turkish influence in the region, we assume it to be related sujuk. I got the sujuk from a local halal market and proceeded to pseudo-smoke it using a 200°F oven and waiting until it got to 150°F internally. I then refrigerated it overnight. I got the technique from a summer sausage recipe that can be found here.

Basic Nan (6 pieces)
  • 2 tsp dry yeast
  • 2 ½ cups warm water (105-115°F)
  • 5-6 cups white flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • Ceramic baking tile/pizza stone (optional)
  1. Place warm water in a mixing bowl and add yeast.
  2. Mix in 3 cups of flour one cup at a time.
  3. Stir the mixture 100 times in the same direction to develop the gluten.
  4. Add 2 teaspoons of salt, then continue to add flour until you cannot stir the dough.
  5. Flip the dough onto a floured surface and knead until it smooth and elastic.
  6. Lightly oil a bowl, put the dough in, and let it rise until it has doubled in size.
  7. Break the dough into 6 pieces. Roll out the pieces into 4-5 inch disks. Cover the disks and working one at a time roll them out into 10 inch disks (Note: Avoid making the dough too thin as it will easily burn. Think thin crust pizza for the correct thickness.)
  8. Let the disks rest for 10 minutes, then prick the dough with a fork (traditionally, a specialized bread stamp is used to apply a pricked design). Leave a two inch boundary unpricked around the edge of the dough.
  9. Place dough on a stone in a 500°F oven. Bake for 7 minutes or until golden brown on top. (Monitor it closely.) Let it cool for 5 minutes before serving.

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1½ tsp yeast
  • 2 tbsp water (105-115°F)
  • 2 tbsp yogurt
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 tsp butter
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • Oil for frying
  1. Mix water and yeast and wait for the yeast to bubble.
  2. Mix in the remaining ingredients, knead until it forms a dough.
  3. Let the dough rise for 30 minutes.
  4. Break off tablespoon sized pieces of dough and roll them into balls.
  5. Heat the oil in a deep skillet over high heat.
  6. Carefully add the balls and fry them until they are golden brown. Drain on a paper towel.
  7. Roll in sugar before serving, if desired.

Kazakh Tea
  • 4 cups water
  • 5 tsp black tea leaves
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 cups milk
  • Sugar/honey, salt, and cream to taste.
  1. Bring water to a simmer.
  2. Simmer tea and seeds for 3 minutes.
  3. Add milk and simmer for 2 minutes more.
  4. Remove from heat and strain tea.
  5. Add sugar or honey, salt, and cream as desired.

Results and Discussion
The bread had a nice crispy texture with very puffed outer crust. The puff comes from the fork pricks (or rather, the lack of them around the outer edges) and gives a pretty cool bread bowl effect. It might be fun to try this on pizza crust.
Fried dough continues to taste good. I am curious if there exists a civilization that practices agriculture that does not have some form of fried dough. This particular dough was not as fluffy as some of the recipes but it had a nice dense texture and felt more substantial. It was also a slightly drier dough which makes getting the dough from your fingers to the hot oil much safer.
The tea is basically chai with salt. I added more salt with each until I noticed its effect. I would estimate I topped out around 1/8 teaspoon with 1/2 teaspoon of sugar. As I drank it I realized the only drink I am used to tasting this much salt in is a sports drink. The clotted cream gave the tea a rich texture. (Clotted cream is nearly butter, very rich and creamy. It tastes great, but you can feel your arteries clogging.)
The suzhuk was nicely spiced with what tasted like garlic and black pepper which is matches my understanding of Kazakh version. The oven-smoking process gave decent results but it is no substitute for the flavor of a proper smoking.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Niger - Fari Masa and Tuareg Tea

Niger is the largest country in West Africa and takes its name from the Niger River running through its western region. Its population does not scale with its size because 80% of country is the Sahara Desert. Over half the population engages in agriculture, with the principal crops being millet, sorghum, and cassava.
(When searching for information on Niger it is important to get your adjective right or you find information about Nigeria. Things related to Niger are Nigerien and things from Nigeria are Nigerian.)
We are fortunate to have friends who spent a semester in Niger in college. Their recommendations included fari masa and an omelet sandwich, and they kindly offered to come to breakfast to demonstrate the preparation of traditional tuareg tea. We decided to try the fari masa, a leavened fried dough that is rolled in sugar or spices after frying. Lacking an authoritative recipe, we used a basic yeasted fried dough which met our friends' approval; those cooking at home can choose their own favorite.
Tuareg tea is made using green tea and has a strong social component attached to it. The tea is brewed three times, with the strength of the tea diminishing with each brewing. A saying about the tea goes "the first cup is bitter like death, the second is mild like life, and the third is sweet like love." The water is traditionally heated over coals in a wire brazier. We had the brazier but we could not get the coals lit so we used the stove instead.

Tuareg Tea
  1. Fill the tea pot with green tea leaves and cover it with water.
  2. Boil for several minutes. You can tell it is ready from the smell.
  3. Pour the tea into a cup and add a small cup of sugar.
  4. Pour the tea between two cups to mix the sugar, cool it, and reduce the smell. A little foam should develop on top.
  5. Pour the tea into small glasses and serve.
  6. Repeat the process two more times using the same leaves.

Results and Discussion
Fried dough is good and hard to mess up. You get a nice brown crispy outside and a spongy warm inside. Rolling them in sugar helps too! A non-stick pan makes flipping and moving the dough much easier. The dough puffs up a great deal as you cook it and you should account for this when filling the pan. As I went along I discovered flouring my hands and spoon made dropping the dough into the oil safer.
The first brewing of the tea was frighteningly strong. I had a sip best measured in micro-liters and it hit me very hard. It is very bitter and the sugar did not lessen the bitterness. The second brewing was a bit more mellow but still very strong and bitter. (I liked it well enough –Kitty) The third brewing was finally something I would consider good. The other two brewing were just way too strong for me. The third brewing is given to children which adequately describes my caffeine tolerance.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Burkina Faso - Lemon Porridge with Peanut Sauce

Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in West Africa with a predominantly agricultural economy. According to the World Cookbook for Students, the major foodstuffs are maize, sorghum, and millet, with chilies and peppers used as condiments. Meals are eaten in the morning and upon returning from work. Three meals a day is more common for wealthier families.
For breakfast we chose millet porridge flavored with lemon juice, from the World Cookbook for Students. The lemon juice substitutes for fermenting the millet flour, a process we have done before for corn-based porridges. The porridge is then cooled, sliced and topped with a thick sauce made of spinach and peanut butter, from the Holidays of the World Cookbook for Students.
Millet is a form of grass but it does not fit nicely into a single scientific grouping. Rather it is a functional category of crops made up of small seeded grains which are usually grown in drought-prone areas.

Lemon Porridge
  • 2 cups millet flour (may substitute fine white cornmeal)
  • 4 cups cold water
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup water, for cooking
  1. Mix the flour into the cold water using a whisk.
  2. Add the lemon juice and let the batter stand for 15 minutes.
  3. Bring the other cup of water to a boil.
  4. Stir in the batter using a wooden spoon, continuing to stir the porridge until it is smooth, thick, and stiff.
  5. Pour the porridge into a greased mold or loaf pan and let it rest for 30 minutes.

Africans Greens in Peanut Sauce
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tomato, finely chopped
  • 1 lb frozen spinach, thawed.
  • ¼ cup peanut butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Add peppers and onions, and cook until onions are soft.
  3. Add spinach and tomato, and cook until spinach is wilted (or heated through if frozen).
  4. Stir in peanut butter and serve.

Results and Discussion
The porridge had a strong lemon flavor. While fermenting gives a subtle sour taste that lingers in the background, the lemon juice brings the flavor to the front and dominates the dish. It is not necessarily a bad result, but it is a poor substitute for the flavor that comes form the fermentation process.
The peanut sauce had a nice flavor and its coarser texture goes well with the smoother porridge. The Holidays of the World Cookbook suggests serving it over rice which would make a nice lunch or dinner meal.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Chile - Chirimoya Alegre, Jam & Manjar Blanco on Toast

Breakfast in Chile is very low key and continental. Every description we read online said it was bread, jam, and coffee. Kitty found that a usual spread is manjar blanco. It is very like dulce de leche, a type of milk caramel very popular in Latin America. I also found a recipe in The South American Table for cherimoya marinated in orange juice and rum, which the author notes is served every day when the fruit is in season.
Cherimoya is native to the Chilean highlands and can grow in colder temperatures. It belongs to the family Annonceae which includes flowering plant shrubs and trees with a mostly tropical distribution. It was domesticated around 1000 BC and has seven varieties under cultivation.

Chirimoya Alegre
  • 2 ripe but firm cherimoyas
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • ½ cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
  • Sugar to taste (optional)
  • 2 tbsp rum (optional)
  1. Slice the cherimoyas in half, and scrape the flesh from the inside of the skin.
  2. Pick the out the large black seeds and cut the flesh into tiny pieces. (The act of picking out the seeds takes care of a lot of the shredding process.)
  3. Mix in the lemon juice, then add the orange juice, and sugar and rum to taste.
  4. Marinate until chilled and serve.

Results and Discussion
There did not seem to be much consensus on the type of jam, so we chose guava since they are also grown in Chile. But the jam was greatly overshadowed by the manjar. Though we had only dulce de leche available; from varying descriptions it is either a good substitute or exactly the same (our jar in fact had "manjar" amongst the various descriptions on the label). Either way the stuff is pure caramel goodness and delicious on toast. Our can of La Lechera brand dulce de leche also had a great recipe on the back for a flan-like desert.
The cherimoya was nice. Before we marinated it had a pulpy texture and it was slightly sweet. It also had a slight lemon flavor and a bit of a coconut aroma. But the marinade's flavor over powered the cherimoya. We had prepared it the night before and left it in the fridge until morning, which seems to be much too long. Some research into other recipes suggest a marinade time of around 2 hours. I will definitely try playing with this fruit in the future or just eat it plain. (Not so much, I don't think, they're about $5 apiece at Market Basket! –Kitty)

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Netherlands - Gouda and Salami on Rye

The Kingdom of the Netherlands is best known for having 25% of its land area below sea level. This technically makes the Netherlands one of the rare man-made structures visible from space!
The country's position on the North Sea and its rich pastureland make fish and dairy major parts of its cuisine. Major French influence on the cuisine started in the 16th century when it was part of the Holy Roman Empire. Their geographical location also led to the development of sea trading routes and a dominant role in the spice trade. An Edible History of Humanity describes some of the measures taken to protect this extremely valuable commerce, such as the use of ronin mercenaries from Japan in order to suppress the natives of the Spice Islands. The spice trade also sparked territorial disputes with Britain, which eventually ended with a famous exchange of territory: the Dutch got the Spice Islands and the British got some island in the middle of nowhere called Manhattan.

Dutch breakfast is continental. It consists of bread, butter, cheese, jam, cold cuts, spice cake, and tea or coffee. The book Dutch Cooking has great background information and lots of recipes.
The spice cake ontbijtkoek, literally breakfast cake, is a legacy of the spice trade as it uses cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, and cardamon. None of these are native to Europe and all of them are used in large quantities. While we were grinding the spices for the cake, the plastic main shaft of our grinder broke. Attempts to grind the spices using a mortar and pestle proved ineffective. We decided to give the cake a pass and go with the bread, cheese, cured meat, and coffee.
Outside of the spice cake, the breakfast is no work at all. I went to The Wine and Cheese Cask to get a delicious gouda, some rye bread with caraway seeds, and a nice piece of salami sliced very thin. (Salami, more international than you might think!) Other cheeses from the Netherlands that you might be able to find are edam and leyden.
Buying good bread, cheese, and meat make the meal. The salami and double-creamy gouda went really well together. We got great bread with a wonderfully hard crust and a really airy and soft interior.

Fun Bonus Fact
The Dutch province of Zeeland is the namesake for New Zealand, in case you ever wondered.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Cameroon - Akara with Corn Pap

Cameroon is a West African country and a former colony of Britain and France. Their major staples are corn, yams, rice, and cassava, and the major protein sources are fish, nuts, and beef
For this week's breakfast, I e-mailed my biology lab teaching assistant from my first semester in college. Chris is a native of Cameroon and is one the most genuine and nice people I have ever met. His enthusiasm and encouragement was a major reason I chose to major in biology. Chris and his wife provided us with a very detailed recipe for akara and corn pap. Akara are deep fried bean fritters made from black-eyed peas and flavored with onion and hot peppers. Corn pap is made with fermented corn starch (homemade from whole, dry corn kernels) and is used as a topping for the akara.

  • 1lb black-eyed peas, soaked overnight.
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, finely chopped (optional)
  • 3-4 cups of vegetable oil for frying
  1. Add beans to blender along with 1 cup of water.
  2. Chop beans for 30 seconds, then transfer to a large bowl of water.
  3. Remove the seed coats by agitating the beans with your hands, letting the skins float to the top. Pour off the water and skins. Repeat as necessary.
  4. Soak for the beans for 3 hours.
  5. Blend the beans with onion and jalapeno. You want a very thick paste. Add a small amount of water if needed to get the paste consistency.
  6. Mix in the salt with a fork or mixer. As you do this, keep in mind that you want to add air to the mixture so the akara are fluffy when you fry them.
  7. Heat oil in a deep pan until moderately hot.(350°F).
  8. Spoon paste by tablespoons into the hot oil. Allow enough room for movement, doing several batches if necessary.
  9. Fry, turning frequently until they are golden brown. Ours took about 4 minutes to cook.
  10. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels.

Corn Pap
Fermenting the cornstarch
  • 1 lb whole dried corn kernels (we had good results with a package of yellow samp)
  1. Wash and soak corn kernels in water for 2-3 days.
  2. Drain and grind into a very smooth paste.
  3. Add cold water to the paste, then filter through a fine sieve to remove the husk and larger bits.
  4. Let the starch solution settle overnight
  5. The starch can either be used right away or stored in the refrigerator. If you choose to store it in a refrigerator, change the water covering it on a weekly basis.

Making corn pap
  • 5 tbsp fermented cornstarch
  • 1 cup water
  • Sugar to taste
  1. Mix water and corn starch until they are smooth.
  2. Place over medium heat and stir constantly to lumps.
  3. When the mixture starts to boil, add sugar and simmer for 30 seconds.
  4. Serve with akara.

Results and Discussion
The akara have a nice crunchy exterior and we got a fluffy interior with a falafel-like texture. The corn pap makes a great dipping sauce. It is sweet and slightly sour.
In our first attempt at these last week, our mixture was much too wet because I soaked the skinless beans overnight and added too much water. The wet paste fell apart while frying. The key to making the paste is to error on the side of too dry. We also tried to shallow fry them on our first attempt and this led to lots of sticking and crumbling. Deep oil is needed to get a nice even brown, as it completely submerges them.
Making the corn pap and extracting the corn starch was fun. When you blend the corn kernels and filter them, you get a strainer full of stuff and a white liquid. The starch is in the white liquid and it will settle out overnight. We got about half a cup of starch from a pound of dry corn. I understand why people usually make five pounds at a time if they use lots of the stuff. The fermenting gives it a slightly sour taste. I would be curious to see if you start with normal cornstarch and ferment that (as we have done with some other cereals already), if you would get a similar result with less work.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Côte d'Ivoire - Foutou

Côte d'Ivoire is a West African country and a former French colony. After independence, the economy was built on cocoa and coffee. The society is still largely agrarian. Like most West African countries, they have a heavy reliance on grains and tubers.
My research for an Ivorian breakfast when down lots of weird paths, including lots of information on the current election turmoil and a BBC article of a French style breakfast on a military helicopter in the country. I eventually turned to The World Cookbook for Students. This is a five volume cookbook that gives a general overview of every country in the world. It had been given in the search results on many previous searches but I had never used it as resource before now. It described breakfast as a porridge made using either cassava or maize. The best recipe we could find that fits the porridge is foutou, which is a mash of cassava and plantains serves with a peanut sauce.
We have used cassava flour in previous meals but we have never started with a whole cassava. Cassava is a major source of carbohydrate throughout Africa. Its prevalence on the continent would make one assume it is indigenous, but cassava is native to South America and was brought to Africa by the Portuguese.

Peanut Sauce
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup hot chicken stock
  1. Beat peanut butter in a bowl.
  2. Slowly add add the chicken stock until you get a creamy, smooth sauce.

  • 1 ½ cups peeled and chopped cassava
  • 3 plantains, peeled and sliced
  • Salt to taste
  1. Cover the cassava and plantains in water.
  2. Boil for 20-25 minutes until the cassava is very soft. (Add more water if necessary.)
  3. Drain and reserve some cooking liquid.
  4. Beat the mixture using an electric mixer. Add more cooking liquid as needed. You want a consistency similar to mashed potatoes.
  5. Roll mixture into small balls and serve with peanut sauce.

Results and Discussion
The hardest part of this dish was making the peanut sauce. Getting the stock mixed in with the peanut butter took much longer than I anticipated and required quite a bit of work. Next time we will use the electric beaters. The foutou would benefit from the electric mixer as well; our original recipe suggested a blender, which we used only to get a rather sticky, gummy result. We expect the good old Kitchen-Aid will give this the same fluffy texture it lends to your mashed potatoes.
The foutou has a slightly sweet, banana-y flavor from the plantains. The slightly lumpy, very sticky texture made it easy to eat by hand (though the fluffier texture we expect from the electric beater method would make it neater). The peanut sauce is much smoother is a delicious, savory counter point.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Madagascar - Mofo Gasy

It is very appropriate that we follow Australia with Madagascar. Both islands are famous for having broken off from major landmasses and developing very unique fauna. Madagascar broke off from India around 80 million years ago, and did not see humans until around 2500 years ago. The first human settlers came from Borneo, which is not where one would suspect. Starting around 1000 years ago they were joined by African migrants, and even later by a wide variety of Asians and Europeans. The greatest of the European influencers were the French, who made it part of their empire in the late 19th century.
My first knowledge of Malagasy cuisine came from colleagues who had worked there collecting ants. The heart of the cuisine is rice. My sources tell me it didn't matter good a meal was, no one they worked with felt right until they had eaten rice. It then comes as no surprise the Malagasy eat the most rice per capita in the world.
I was unable to obtain a book on Malagasy cuisine, but the internet has some good resources, and searching in French gave even better results. The first option was a dish made of dried beef, cut into strips, broiled over coals, and served with a corn meal mush called kitoza. I also found the blog of an Iraqi going to school on the island, which mentioned a fritter called bemiraymofo. I could find no other mention of this dish anywhere. We decided to make a rice fritter called mofo gasy (pronounced muf gas). We got our recipe from lemurbaby on YouTube who demonstrates many Malagasy recipes.
The next challenge came in locating the correct pan. On Madagascar they have special aluminum molds. The recipe recommends using a Danish pan meant for cooking æbleskiver. These pans are very expensive and specialized, so we asked around for friends who might have one. A friend's Danish neighbor came through and we were in business.

Mofo Gasy (around 15 mofo gasy)
Yeast Starter Mix
  • ½ tsp yeast
  • ¼ cup hot water (100°C-110°C)
  • ½ tsp sugar
  1. Mix the above in a small bowl.
  2. Let it rest for around 5 minutes as the yeast activates.

Batter Mixture
  • ½ cup flour
  • ¼ cup + 2 tbsp rice semolina (Cream of Rice)
  • 4 tsp sugar
  • 9 tbsp (130 ml) hot water (100°C-110°C)
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
  • 1½ tsp sweetened condensed milk (optional)
  • 1½ tsp honey (optional)
  1. Mix the ingredients above in bowl.
  2. Mix in the yeast starter and place in a warm place for 4-8 hours.
  3. Heat your æbleskiver pan over medium heat and put a small quantity of oil in each well. Coat the sides of the wells with the oil, unless using a nonstick pan.
  4. Stir the batter.
  5. Quickly fill each well of the pan with the batter to just below the lip of each well.
  6. Let the batter cook for about a minute.
  7. Flip the cakes using thin implements such as chopsticks. (See the video at the end of this section for a visual of the technique.)
  8. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover and steam for 2 minutes.
  9. Remove mofo gasy from the pan.
  10. Eat with sweet chai tea or sweet coffee.

Results and Discussion
It will definitely take several more attempts before I get the hang of making these. I would also buy a non-stick pan if I were starting from scratch. The cast iron pan we had worked great but we a little bit of sticking. I made the mistake of filling a couple too high on the second batch and ruined a great photo of golden brown ones. I will err on the side of under-filling the wells in the future. When you flip them, any liquid batter will run, so you need to find a balance of temperature that solidifies the batter at the top of the well without burning the mofo gasy.
The outsides of the mofo gasy are slightly crisp and the insides are like thick hot cereal. They have a slightly sweet taste and a little bit of a sour smell. The texture is puffy and slightly chewy. We think you could pretty easily adapt this recipe to make it work for a wide variety of grains instead of just rice.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Australia - Vegemite plus some Other Stuff

Australian breakfast is pretty similar to English and American breakfast, which makes sense given cultural background. I emailed several friends who were Australian and a cousin who had lived there, and they confirmed this as well.
I looked for books online to supplement my research, and I found lots of books on Australian food, including one specifically dedicated to breakfast. Thanks to the World Catalog website I was able locate many of these books. They were all in Australia.
The basic menu is going to be the sausage we made a couple of weeks ago. In addition to that we are going to have fried mushrooms, tomatoes, poached eggs, and toast. On the toast we will have the ingredient that will mark is as Australian: Vegemite. Vegemite is a dark brown spread made from yeast extract left over from brewing beer.
My first experience with vegemite/marmite was in New Zealand. My sister told me it was really good and to pile it up my toast. I had no idea what it would taste like and it was really strong and I spit the toast out. I have been a little wary of the stuff ever since. Kitty's first experience was on a train with some Australians while touring in Asia. They told her to take a bite with the secret expectation she would find it gross. She liked it, to the great disappointment of her traveling companions. (Nothing grosses you out after sannakji. –Kitty)
The beverages are juice and coffee or tea. A drink called the flat white is a local variation on cafe latte that uses the microfoamed milk. Some people claim it is not any different from cafe latte and others that it was created in New Zealand. In any case, it was very hot the morning we had this breakfast and we decided to go for the juice.

Breakfast Fry
Like the English breakfast, grease management will be important here. We are fortunate to have a jar of bacon fat leftover from making homemade bacon. I will show how to cure bacon at a future date, but rest assured it is both awesome and easy.
  • Bacon grease
  • Sausage
  • Mushrooms
  • Tomatoes
  1. Heat a flat bottomed pan over medium low heat and add enough fat to thinly cover the bottom.
  2. Add the sausages to the middle of the pan.
  3. Add the mushrooms around the sausage.
  4. Let the mushrooms brown by letting them sit still and occasionally checking their color. Flip side when they have sufficiently browned.
  5. Turn the sausages regularly to brown all sides and let them cook evenly.
  6. When the mushrooms are done remove them from the pan.
  7. Remove the sausages, cut them lengthwise, and cook the inside part face-down in the pan. This gives them a nice color and looks good in presentation.
  8. Cut the tomato in half, remove the core and fry the halved cut-side-down in the greased pan. Add more grease to the pan if necessary.

Poached Eggs
  • Eggs
  • Salt
  • Silicone egg poacher (optional)
  1. Bring water to a boil in a pan large enough for the poachers to float freely.
  2. Crack each egg into an individual poacher, if using.
  3. Place the eggs/poachers into the boiling water, cover, and simmer for 7 minutes.
  4. Remove from molds and season with salt, pepper, and dill

Toast with Vegemite
  1. Spread a layer of soft butter onto your toast.
  2. Spread a thin layer of Vegemite over the butter.

Results and Discussion
The sausage was excellent. The the sage and ginger give it a light taste which is a great contrast to the dense sausage texture. The mushrooms and tomatoes came out really well. The bacon grease did a great job browning the mushrooms and cooking the tomatoes.
I found the Vegemite much more palatable this time. The major change is that there was much less of it. Vegemite has a very strong taste and is quite salty. I was trying to think of a taste to compare it to and I could not think of anything. Kitty pointed out that is probably closest to miso and I agree with her. The butter mellows the Vegemite a bit and rounds out the flavor. I am less scared of Vegemite now that I have had it in proper proportions.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sri Lanka - Idappan, Pol Sambol, and Kiri Hodi

Sri Lanka is located off the southeast coast of India and as a result its food is frequently misclassified as a subset of Indian Cuisine. I found a great resource for the cuisine, recipes, and history of the island in The Food of Sri Lanka. Rice and curries are foundations of the diet, with fish and chicken as the predominant proteins. Sinhalese (low country) and Kandy Sinhalese (upcountry) are the two major categories. Sinhalese uses more seafood and most meals are rice and curry. The regional “black” curry is made by roasting the spices to a brown color before cooking them. Kandian cuisine uses ingredients such as jackfruit, breadfruit, and turmeric flowers. They also tend to eat more deer and wild birds.
The Portuguese came looking for spices in order to bypass the Arab monopoly. They were displaced by the Dutch who eventually gave way to the English. Sri Lankans incorporated and changed many of aspects of those cuisines.
Information on breakfast quickly lead us to two types of hoppers (appa). Appa are three dimensional crepes made with a rice flour batter. The batter is poured into a specialized pan with a rounded bottom and steep sides similar to a very small wok. The result is nest shaped pancake and perfect for fillings. Eggs are frequently cook in the bottom and the end product looks quite cool. Appa pans are very specialized and we could not find a good substitute. We decided to move onto string hoppers (idappan).
Idappan are noodles made from rice flour dough, forced through a vermicelli press. The noodles are steamed on special trays (hopper mats) and served with a variety of toppings. Our first attempt involved a spaghetti pasta cutter. This worked very poorly, and cleaning the rice dough from the machine was annoying. We then tried a cookie press with a Christmas tree attachment that worked pretty well and the effect was probably similar to that of a traditional press. Before you attempt these at home you will need a similar device. We used parchment paper to substitute for the specialized stand. The amount of water to use while making the dough varies greatly from recipe to recipe. The important thing is to get a non-sticky, malleable dough in the end.
Toppings for idappan are pol sambol and kiri hodi. Sambol are fragrant side dishes made of a basic ingredient and then spiced up. Pol sambol is made with coconuts, lime, and dried chili. Kiri hodi is made of chicken stock, coconut milk, and a lot of spices, including “Maldive fish” which is dried, leathery tuna. It is not quite bento flakes and most internet resources say to substitute dried prawns.
This week's novel ingredients are fenugreek and curry leaves. Fenugreek is a legume that grows well in semi-arid environments, it is used as a spice. Curry leaves are a fundamental spices to South Asian cuisine. The plant is in the same family as oranges and lemons. The fresh leaves have a strong peppery smell and are used predominantly for their aromatic qualities.

Kiri Hodi
  • 1 tbsp fenugreek seeds
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 sprigs of curry leaves
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 4 cardamom pods, crushed
  • 2 green chile, deseeded and sliced thin
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp powdered Maldive fish
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • lemon juice and salt to taste
  1. Soak fenugreek in chicken stock 30 minutes.
  2. Add all the rest of the ingredients except the coconut milk and lemon juice.
  3. Bring to a boil and simmer until the onions are soft.
  4. Add the coconut milk and simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Add lemon juice and salt to taste.

Pol Sambol
  • 1 tsp chopped dried chili
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped onion.
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp Maldive fish (optional)
  • 2 cups grated coconut
  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • Salt to taste
  1. Grind together chili, onion, pepper, and Maldive fish.
  2. Add coconut, lime juice and mix well.
  3. It is recommended that this be made fresh.

Idappan (indi appa)
  • 3 cups (500g) rice floor
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • boiling water
  1. Toast the rice flour in a very low oven or sauce pan.
  2. Sieve it into a bowl.
  3. Add salt and slowly mix in just enough hot water to make a soft dough that is not sticky.
  4. Add the dough into your pressing device and press the dough out onto the parchment paper.
  5. Steam the noodles for 10 minutes.
  6. Serve hot with pol sambol and kiri hodi.

Results and Discussion
This breakfast required the most specialized equipment so far and we did a good job improvising. The cookie press was not ideal for pressing out the dough as the grip was poor. I would not do this again without a more mechanized device. The recipe also makes a lot of dough and I would make less in the future. Since you are making the dough to a consistency, it can be easily reduced.
The pol sambol has simple, classic flavors. The lime and coconut go great together, and the heat from the chilis is a nice addition. The texture of the coconut flakes is an interesting contrast when eaten with the soft noodle.
Kiri hodi smells great as you cook it. The dried prawns do have a slightly fishy smell, but they don't overpower the other ingredients. It is a great blend of spices and gives the noodles lots of flavor. We found ourselves with lots of leftover broth, which we later cooked some rice in and got something almost like biryani-risotto, very tasty.
I do want to find a pan that will let me cook appa; they look really cool and I still want to make them.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mozambique - Maguinha

Mozambique is located on the southeast coast of Africa. It was colonized by the Portuguese in the early 1500s, and did not gain independence until 1975. The economy is mostly agrarian, and Mozambique is one of the poorest nations in Africa. Portuguese colonization left a deep impact on the cuisine including the introduction of many new world grains.
The initial search for information gave very vague results. The best I could find was a sweet bread or fish/egg sandwiches. Attempts to find books on the cuisine gave no results. Kitty had the idea to start looking for information in Portuguese. Kitty found some blogs in Portuguese that talk about cassava porridge, and she found a cookbook, Hoje Temos, which we actually found in a local library. (Thanks, Google Translate! –Kitty)
The cassava porridge is called maguinha and is served with milk and brown sugar.

  • 125g cassava flour.
  • ½ liter boiling water in a kettle
  1. Add ½ cup of boiling water to a small sauce pan.
  2. Stir in half the cassava flour.
  3. Add more water as needed.
  4. Add the remaining cassava flour and add more water if needed. You want a very think consistency.
  5. Serve in a bowl with some milk and brown sugar.

Results and Discussion
This breakfast was very functional. It gives you calories to get through the day. The cassava has a solid consistency and slightly jelly like texture. The cassava alone is pretty bland by itself, so the sugar and milk give the dish its taste.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Syria - Ca'ak and String Cheese

Syria's strategic location in the Middle East made it a prime annexation target for numerous empires. In recent times this has been part of the Ottoman Empire, and then under French control until its independence after World War II. Syria is a predominantly Muslim country.
Wikipedia's article on Syrian cuisine simply notes that appetizers are eaten for breakfast, leaving a wide variety of options. A Taste of Syria focused our choices with a chapter on breakfast and by specializing on the cuisine of Aleppo, a city in the northwest of Syria near the Turkish border. The authors provide several menus. One option is sliced cucumber, lebaneh dip, cheese, olives and pita. Lebaneh is a yogurt mixed with dried mint and garnished with olive oil. Another menu is mamuneh'ya with cheese and pita. Mamuneh'ya is semolina porridge flavored with cinnamon. We chose to go with ca'ak served with Syrian cheese, fig jam, and honeydew melon. Ah'weh turkieh is Turkish coffee heavily sweetened with sugar.
The exotic ingredients for this meal are mahlab and semolina. Mahlab are black cherry pits. Semolina is the particles of wheat bran from durum wheat. It is also the only tetraploid wheat variety that is in broad use.
Syrian cheese is a string cheese is flavored with mahlab and caraway seeds. The cheese is made using goat or sheep's milk. It is often labeled "Armenian string cheese" in markets. It can be made at home but only in large quantities, so we bought it. The Armenian store we went to in Watertown was closed on Sunday, but fortunately we had the halal Al-Hoda Market near our house for the cheese and semolina.

We reduced our recipe by 1/3 and got about 18 pieces. The full recipe is given below and the book estimates a yield of around 8 dozen.
  • 1 packet yeast
  • 1¼ cups warm water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 cups semolina
  • 3 sticks salted butter (4 oz each)
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp mahlab (powdered)
  • 1 tbsp anise
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • ½ tbsp black caraway seeds (kalonji)
  1. Mix yeast, warm water, and sugar. Set the mixture aside.
  2. Put the remaining ingredients into a large bowl and mix.
  3. Add the yeast mixture and mix well.
  4. Cover the bowl with a cloth and keep in a warm place for 1 hour.
  5. Preheat the over to 350°F.
  6. Roll the dough into balls 1¼ inches in diameter. Start with 15 pieces and leave the rest of the dough covered to prevent drying.
  7. Roll the ball into a finger shape four inches long.
  8. Bring the ends together so they overlap and pinch them together.
  9. Places them ½ inch apart on a cookie sheet.
  10. Cook for 40 minutes until they are golden brown.
  11. When the cookies are done turn off the oven and leave the cookies in it for an hour to crisp.

We still do not have an apparatus for making Turkish coffee. We approximated it by brewing espresso and putting 2 teaspoons of sugar at the bottom of the cup. Pour the espresso over the sugar but do not stir it in.

Results and Discussion
The smell of the baking ca'ak is amazing. It was an act of will to let them finish cooking. The final cookie is very crisp and can be crumbly. The cherry flavor from the mahlab is not very noticeable when the ca'ak are warm but they develop the next day when they cool. Ca'ak are savory and the fig jelly complements them nicely. The fennel and anise hit your palate a little after the other flavors, similar to the cumin cookies we had for Nepal.
The mahlab was a nice surprise. The whole cherry pits have absolutely no smell, but when you grind them they have a pure clean cherry smell. I have a lot of it leftover seeds and I look forward to experimenting with it as a flavoring agent in ice cream.
The Syrian cheese is a string cheese flavored with kalonji and mahlab. Eating string cheese was a lot of fun and eating really long string cheese is even better. The cheese also peeled into much thinner strings than American string cheese. It goes especially well with the olives.
The coffee was very strong and very sweet. The book warned that most Americans would find the amount of sugar Syrians put into their coffee much too strong. The authors were right. Each sip was a shock to my rather delicate system. (Yeah, I knew what was up and skipped the sugar altogether. Both or none, IMO. –Kitty)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Romania - Mamaliga and Goat's Milk

Romanian cuisine is typical of eastern Europe with notable outside influences from the Ottoman empire. I quickly found a report on the subject of Romanian breakfast online from an environmental sustainability program in the European Union. The first breakfast mentioned is mamaliga as it is eaten by a character in Bram Stoker's Dracula on his way to be the Count's breakfast. Mamaliga is Romanian polenta. Balmos is mamaliga made with sheep's milk. Another interesting dish is called slanina. It is made of pork fat from the back or belly. The fat is sliced and pickled in salt liquor with garlic for 2-3 weeks. The fat is then smoked for 2-3 days. I am unable to to smoke for several days and I was unable to determine what salt liquor is.
I really wanted to make balmos, so I tried to get some sheep's milk. I was able to locate a Greek grocery store that makes its own sheep's milk yogurt. Unfortunately they are not allowed to sell me the raw milk and getting to New Hampshire for fresh milk was not viable. This left us with mamaliga.

Mamaliga is a staple in Romania so a wide variety of recipes exist. The two basic forms for breakfast can be broken into the categories porridge and cornbread. The cornbread variety comes in two basic forms. The first variety involves cooking the cornmeal mixture on the stove and then transferring it to a baking dish for baking. The second option involves cooking it longer on the stove and then turning the cornmeal out onto a cutting board and slice it using string. The porridge variety is made using various ratios of milk and water. Our source gave a porridge recipe so we are going with a porridge.
The mamaliga is served with farmer's cheese, lightly fried onion, sliced tomatoes, and fried eggs. Goat's milk is the beverage of choice so I get some variety of exotic milk.

Mamaliga cu lapte
  • 1 qt water
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  1. Boil water and salt in a pot of water.
  2. Whisk in the cornmeal and mix thoroughly.
  3. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Serve with sides mentioned above.
Results and Discussion
Mamaliga is pretty much polenta. The texture was not as porridge-like as I thought it would be. Less cornmeal is probably the solution to this. It was a little salty, but not too salty when served with other toppings; it is a nice base for the other flavors. The cheese was especially good because of the contrast of temperature and texture.
The goat's milk was very tasty. It has a subtle creaminess that is a bit richer than whole milk. (Meh. Tastes like milk, except milkier. Not a fan. –Kitty) I now need to find a use for the rest of it; I plan on making pancakes with some of it and probably just drinking the rest.

Monday, April 25, 2011

North Korea - We have No Idea, so here is some Breakfast Sausage instead

How hard do you think it is to research food habits in North Korea?
Answer: very hard. There is not much at all in English, and though Kitty's Korean skills are nowhere near up to this task, there didn't seem to be much useful information in that language either. What little information we could find suggested that it was either very similar to the South Korean breakfast, or nothing at all (probably much dependent on whether you are in the army or an otherwised privileged member of society).
In light of our research fail, we present instead a sample of Whit's other food project, sausage-making. Kim Jong-il probably has sausage for breakfast every day anyway...

Breakfast Sausage with Sage and Ginger
The following is an overview of the sausage making intended to make the process less intimidating with the hope that the reader will be inspired to give it a go. For an amazing book on sausage making and other meat-related topics with much more detail get Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn.

  • Meat grinder or grinder attachment for a stand mixer
  • Meat funnels
  • Ruler
  • Kitchen scale
  • 5 lbs boneless pork shoulder, diced
  • 40g kosher salt
  • 50g peeled ginger, finely chopped (or 8g ground dried ginger)
  • 18g minced ginger
  • 6g black or white pepper
  • 1 cup chilled water
  • 10 ft hog casings
Soak the hog casings in room-temperature water for at least 30 minutes prior to stuffing. Place your grinder and any bowls you plan on using in the refrigerator or freezer prior to starting. Keeping the ingredients cool prevents the fat and meat from separating and improves the texture.

Mix all the ingredients into a cold bowl, excluding the water. Grind the mixture using the fine grind/small die plate into chilled bowl.

The Primary Bind
This step makes the ground meat stick together and ensures a more uniform texture.  Add the water and mix well for 1 minute. The paddle attachment and the metal bowl of a Kitchen Aid mixer are excellent for this step. Place the bound mixture back into the refrigerator until it is needed.

Stuffing the Sausages
  1. Put the bound sausage filling into the stuffing machine or back into the grinder.
  2. Fill the casing (use any leftover fillings to make patties)
  3. Twist the casing into links of the desired length
  4. Roast or saute the sausages (wrap any uncooked sausages in freezer paper and save them for later or give them away to friends in order to be showy)
Homemade sausage differs greatly from what is found in most grocery stores. The texture and flavor are amazing. There is a freshness one is not accustomed to in most sausages. The natural casings have an excellent snap and aroma as they brown on the outside.
The start up costs of making sausages are not too bad. The Kitchen Aid grinding and stuffing attachments are less then $100 and the grinder has uses beyond sausage making. However, stuffing with the grinder is not optimal. It is slow and you encounter problems with air pockets when loading the grinder. Stuffing machines are rather expensive and only do one thing. (But they do this one thing very well, and I look at pictures of them in catalogs and covet because they are so much faster.)
A video on the process can be found here, and a video of the process starting with an entire pig can be found here.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Yemen - Fasoolia and Malooga

Yemen is located on the southern coast of the Arabian Pennisula, making it a key port in the spice trade. Most sources credit the Ottoman Empire as the only outside influence on the cuisine, but they do not give any specifics. The major protein sources are chicken, lamb, and beans. Dairy is not common in the diet except for ghee.
We didn't have much trouble finding out what dishes are served at breakfast, but finding recipes proved difficult as spellings are not standardized. The only book I found on Yemeni cuisine focused specifically on a small Jewish community in the country. Looking online, there are several recipes available for fasoolia, a bean and tomato dish. It is traditionally eaten with a massive piece of flat bread called malooga. The bread is made by folding semn into the dough. Semn is a darkened ghee and is easily made at home.
It is served with sweet tea flavored with cardamom.

We went online for our recipes this week. The same fasoolia recipe is found all over the internet and can be found here.
Using the masher did not break up the beans very well and I would use a stick blender in future attempts.

The malooga and semn instruction can be found here.
1 stick of butter gives you a little more than 1/3 cup of useful semn while keeping the burned pieces on the bottom.
The recipe made one piece according to the measurements suggested; we did not divide it into smaller parts as directed. When baking the malooga, be sure to use an edged cookie sheet: the semn is very lubricating, and the higher oven temperature may cause your baking sheet to warp and your malooga to slide off!

Results and Discussion
The fasoolia was a really nice dish and comes together very quickly. The combination of cumin, tomato, and cilantro is classic. It is also very warm and filling.
The real treat for this breakfast was the malooga. Most of our previous flat breads are pretty simple and created as almost an after though. The malooga was much more involved than previous flat breads. Not rolling the dough after each fold, and then making a ball leads to the creation of irregular layers. They flake off very nicely for dipping and scooping. The bread keeps well over night. I would like to use this recipe for pizza dough. (I am sure Yemenis do this already and call it something else! –Kitty)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Taiwan - Baozi

Taiwan has only been separate from mainland China for a little over 60 years. It's cuisine is greatly influenced by middle China. Japanese influence is also prevalent as it was a Japanese possession for the first half of the 20th century.
Our research for Taiwan was a little backwards. I started by emailing my former Wing Chun instructor and asked him what he ate when he lived there. His response was you tiao served with hot soy milk. You tiao are deep-fried dough, very similar to a cruller in appearance. Unfortunately they require real deep-frying and we lack the equipment to that as safely as we would like. We then had the idea of dim sum, which seemed to be backed up by the general blogosphere, so we began looking for dim sum dishes specific to Taiwan. This search yielded no results, but we found several general books on dim sum. We decided to use Dim Sum: The Art of the Chinese Tea Lunch for our recipes and techniques about refrigeration and reheating. In the end we decided to make two different styles of steamed buns, known as baozi. The first bun is filled with ground pork, onion, and spinach. The second bun is filled with adzuki bean paste.
Adzuki is our novel ingredient for this breakfast. It is a legume that is grown through out eastern Asia. It is usually sweetened before it is eaten, and canned sweetened adzuki bean paste can be purchased ready-to-use from Asian groceries.
The process of making the bao dough takes at least 2 hours of rising and we determined that length of time to be prohibitive for starting from scratch in the morning. We decided to make and steam the buns the night before and reheat them in the morning.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Ghana - Kenkey

Ghanian cuisine consists of a lot of stews with cassava, yam, and corn as major starches. The protein sources are lots of smoked and dried fish. Spicy condiments are very popular. Ghana has over 100 ethnic groups so a diversity of cuisines is expected.
I found two choices for our breakfast. The first dish option was ampesi, a mixture of boiled starchy vegetables served with boiled onions and fish. The second choice was a dish made of fermented cornmeal called kenkey. I was able to find two recipes for both dishes in A West African Cookbook and A Good Soup Attracts Chairs. My initial leaning was towards the ampesi because the kenkey seemed a little too close to ugali. After getting my hands on the recipes for both, one factor in the kenkey recipe from two different sources jumped at me. The instructions tell you to remove any mold that might have grown on the dough during the fermentation process. This warning was slightly scary. Kitty then reminded me that part of this project was to try the slightly scarier things. We went with the kenkey.
As we did further research online looking into the appropriate sauce to serve with kenkey. Ga Kenkey, also called komi, is eaten in the coastal areas. It is fermented for 2-3 days and steamed in corn husks. The name is taken from the Ga-Adangbe people who inhabit the south east coast. Fanti kenkey is fermented for 5-6 days and is steamed in a plantain leaf. This version takes its name from the Fanti people who live on the southwestern coast. We chose to make ga kenkey because we really did not have enough fermentation time (or ambition) for the other.
Our next step was tracking down a recipe for the a chili sauce called shito. Shito is essentially the ketchup or the barbeque sauce of Ghana. It is made from tomatoes, dried shrimp and fish, oil and chili powder. More of the recipes describe how the fish smell fills the house and one recipe involving a slow cooker recommends doing it all outside. The scale of these recipes were also huge. We decided to make a spicy tomato sauce with onion, chili powder, and fish sauces to approximate shito.
We also chose to use a pressure cooker in order to speed up the cooking time. Traditionally kenkey is steamed and takes 60 to 90 minutes. We based on timing for this on pressure cooker recipes for vegetarian tamales. We include both pressure and steaming directions in the recipe below.

  • 3 cups white stone-ground cornmeal (not de-germinated)
  • 1 tbsp corn starch
  • 3 cups warm water (105-115°F)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • dry corn husks
  1. Put cornmeal and cornstarch into a bowl.
  2. Add the warm water and stir until you get a smooth batter/dough.
  3. Loosely cover the bowl the bowl with a cloth or wax paper and set in a warm out of the way place for 2 days.
  4. When you are ready to use the dough start by scraping off and discarding any mold that might have formed. *see note in discussion
  5. Divide the dough in half.
  6. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in large sauce pan. Once the water is boiling, add the salt and reduce to medium heat.
  7. Add half the dough to the water and mix it in. Let it cook for 10 minutes and stir to prevent scorching.
  8. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the remaining dough, and mix thoroughly.
  9. Divide the dough into 3 or 4 large portions and put them onto corn husks.
  10. Shape the dough into balls.
  11. Wrap the corn husk around the ball tying it at the top.
  12. Steam or pressure cook as follows:
    1. Steaming
      1. Pour hot water into a steamer pot and put a rack on top of it.
      2. Put the wrapped kenkey on the rack and bring the water to a boil using high heat.
      3. Reduce to low heat and steam for around 90 minutes.
    2. Pressure Cooking
      1. Put the wrappers into the pressure cooker, elevated on a rack.
      2. Add enough water to the pressure cooker to meet the minimum safe level given by the manufacturer.
      3. Cook for 20 minutes at 15 psi.
      4. Quick release the pressure, then open the pressure cooker so the steam releases way from your face.
  13. Let them cool for ten minutes.
  14. Serve with shito and lightly cooked sardines.
Results and Discussion
A quick summary of this meal is expressed mathematically as Kenkey > Ugali. The fermentation process gives the kenkey its own flavor. The finished kenkey is a large spongy unit very similar to a tamale. Our ersatz shito was a very nice sauce that provides some additional moisture and lots of taste. I see why various websites describe it as the ketchup or BBQ sauce of Ghana.
The fermentation process was pretty interesting to watch. The mixture starts as cornmeal suspended in water. The book described it as a dough after the mixing step. I mixed for several minutes but I never got beyond a runny batter. I covered the batter and put into a cooled oven. That evening I checked on it and saw a water with the cornmeal settled out. I put my hand in the batter and felt that a dough-ish substance had formed below the water. A day later it looked the same. On the morning we made the breakfast I pulled away the cloth and found that a dough had formed. (We didn't get any mold, by the way. Frankly, I would be pretty leery of eating anything soft that had mold on it, mycotoxins can be pretty evil. —Kitty)
I proceeded to divide the dough and found that lots of water was beneath it. I think that the gas released by the fermentation caused the dough beneath the surface to fracture allowing the water to drain to the bottom. A sour smell had started to develop. I though the dough might be too watery as I added it to the boiling water. The dough quickly thickened and the problem went away.
When wrapping the dough we tried a mix of corn husks and aluminum foil. Tying off the corn husks and finding husks large enough were difficult. Wrapping the dough in aluminum foil was really easy. Kenkey was much easier to remove from the husks. In the future we decided that we would go with a double wrap using corn husks on the inside and foil on the outside.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Malaysia - Bak Kut Teh

Modern Malaysia is a fairly new country, having come into its modern form with the creation of the Federation of Malaysia in 1963, joining with the territorries of Sabah, Sarawak, and the city of Singapore. Singapore left the federation in 1965, so we will get back to them in the future. Malaysia occupies the lower bulge of the Malay peninsula and the northern coast of the island of Borneo. As a result of this distance the two parts of the countries have very distinct histories and culture.
The peninsular part of the country has a long standing history as a trade center. Buminputra is the catch all term for Muslims on the peninsula. The non-Muslim groups are the Chinese, Indian, Portuguese and the indigenous Orang Asli. Islam's influence was brought to the island via Indian traders. Indian communities did not establish large communities until the mid 19th century during British rule. Chinese set up long term trading out posts and began intermarrying in the 15th century. Portuguese settlements were established in the 16th century with rapid intermarriage as well.
The Borneo have a wide diversity of indigenous tribes. The coastal tribes have diets consisting of fish and while the hill tribes tend to subsist on roots and game.
The Lonely Planet Food Guide to Malaysia and Singapore is a concise and excellent resource. Finding information on on breakfast was pretty easy for Malaysia. Nasi lemak consists of steamed rice with coconut mist eaten with anchovies, peanuts, cucumbers, and chili sauce. Idli are black lentil and rice patties. Roti bread served with various topping are also common breakfast dishes. Bak kut teh is a broth made with chopped pork ribs and spices and served with rice. The name translates as pork rib tea and this name along with my general love of pork ribs made me choose this one. A chicken version called chik kuh teh is eaten by the Muslim population.
The tea has many novel spices and roots used in its preparation. White pepper is the exact same seed as black pepper except the pepper fruit's skin is removed before before the drying process. Star anise is the seed of an evergreen tree found in the southwest of China. It gets its name from its close taste to regular anise but the actual plants are very different. Several components of the dish are meant for taste and medicine. Dang Gui (angelica root) is considered the female ginseng and is in the same family as coriander and celery. Yok Chok (Solomon's seal rhizome) is a starchy root. Kei Chee (boxthorne berry) are members of the new world nightshade family. I was only able to locate the Yok Chok in a 2 pound bag so I decided to omit the medicinal herbs from the recipe we made. I include the proportion below if you are able to find and use them.
The chopped pork ribs can be purchased at a Chinese market ready to use. If buying whole ribs make sure you are fully awake before going to work with your cleaver, or chop them up the night before.

Bak Kut Teh
  • 1 lb chopped pork ribs, 1 ½ inches in length
  • 2 heads of garlic, separated, with the skins intact
  • 2 red chillies
  • Dark soy sauce
  • Salt
  • Spice pouch
    • 2 cinnamon sticks
    • 6 cloves
    • 1 tsp black peppercorns
    • 1 tsp white peppercorns
    • ½ tsp coriander seeds
    • ½ tsp fennel seeds
  • Herb mixture (optional)
    • 5 slices dang gui (angelica root)
    • 5 slice yok chok (Solomon's seal rhizome)
    • 1 tbsp kei chee (boxthorn berries)
  1. Put spices and herbs into a muslin pouch or into cheese cloth.
  2. Place ribs and unpeeled garlic at the bottom of a sauce pan.
  3. Nest the muslin pouch in the middle of the ribs.
  4. Add 5 cups of water.
  5. Bring the water to a boil over medium heat.
  6. Simmer until the meat is tender. (Our meat took about 45 minutes to be done.)
  7. Add soy sauce and salt to taste.
  8. Remove the spice pouch and serve in large bowls with short grain rice on the sides.
  9. Thinly slice the chilies and place them in a shallow dish. Cover them with a shallow layer of soy sauce and use this for dipping the ribs.
Results and Discussion
This breakfast was not nearly as complicated as it might appear. Once the ingredients are together you can just let it simmer while you take care of other things.
The broth was very surprising. The first surprise was that it was not completely over powered by garlic. I think keeping the garlic unpeeled kept the flavor from overwhelming the broth. The pepper seeds and spices blend into a nice background. The star anise has a nice licorice flavor that hovers over the rest of the flavors. The pork ribs provide the broth with a rich texture, but it is not too heavy.
The chili soy sauce gave the ribs some heat and a nice flavor, but eating them with chopsticks is a bit of a challenge!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Venezuela - Arepas de Queso

Like most South American countries, Venezuelan cuisine is a blend of Native and European cuisines. The predominant European influences are Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Italian.
We had several options for breakfast. Mandoca are doughnuts made from cornmeal, eaten with butter and cheese. Caraotas is a spicy black bean dish. Perico is a scrambled egg dish with vegetables. Arepas are cornmeal pancakes which go back to pre-Colombian times. We decided to make the arepas as they were easiest to find a recipe for, plus we could compare to the Columbian arepas we made before.
We found our recipe in The South American Table, but when we got the book from the library we found the pages on arepas missing! Fortunately this section was available via Google books and contains lots of information comparing Colombian and Venezuelan arepas. The major contrast between the two is that the Venezuelan version has a softer center and is sometimes used to wrap around fillings. The recipes offered by the book were one with cheese and the other with a pork and beef filling. We chose the arepas de queso as we were making several for guests and it would be easier than stuffing the dough.
A point of interest brought up by the book was the different cornmeals used for making arepas. The book specifically mentions that one should use masarepa (another type of cornflour) instead of the masa harina we used for Colombia. A discussion of the differences in uses and preparations can be found here. Masarepa can be purchased at stores selling Goya products.

Basic Arepa Dough
  • 1 cup masarepa
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1½ cups hot water
  1. Combine flour and salt in a bowl
  2. Add water and mix until you have a soft dough
  3. Cover and let it stand for 5 minutes.
  4. Knead for an additional 3 minutes until it is smooth.
  5. Add and little more water and continue kneading if the dough is too dry.

Arepas de Queso
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 oz chihuahua or mozzarella cheese, shredded
  1. Knead the dough with the egg yolk, butter, and cheese.
  2. Shape into disks 4 inches in diameter and ¼ inch thick.
  3. Grease a skillet or pan with oil and bring to a medium heat.
  4. Slowly cook on both sides until a crust forms flipping them several times.
  5. Transfer the arepas to an ungreased baking sheet and bake for at 350 for 15 minutes.
  6. A hollow sound when tapped means they are done. Serve with butter, cream cheese, or goat cheese.

Results and Discussion
These arepas are quite good. The outside is crispy and the inside is similar to grits. The cheese and butter keep the inside moist while giving a good color on the outside. The slightly sour taste of the goat cheese goes very nicely and provides a contrast of texture.
The major difference between Venezuela and Colombia was amount of moisture in the finished arepas. The Colombian version was a bit drier on the inside and not quite a creamy.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Uzbekistan - Shirkovok

Uzbekistan is located in central Asia and has been a territorial football for several thousand years. Its ethnic diversity and location has naturally given it a wide diversity of cuisine. China greatly influenced its cooking, while India was more influential in terms of cooking utensils. I did not expect to find Korean influence, because the countries are over 3,000 miles apart, but a large Korean population was relocated there by Stalin in 1938.
Research for this meal turned out to be easier than I expected. I found a blog dedicated to Uzbek cuisine that listed several breakfast options.
Gu'shtli quymoq is an omelette containing meat, vegetables, and coriander. Tuhum dolma is a hard boiled egg served with cheese and cream cheese. Sutil ugra is a noodle dish with browned onions and milk. Shirguruch is a cream of rice dish. Shirkovok is a pumpkin soup with rice and butter. We were able to find a recipe for Shirkovok in The Art of Uzbek Cooking. We substituted butternut squash for the pumpkins since they are hard to find this time of year.

Pumpkin and Rice Milk Soup (Shirkovok)
  • 4 cups water
  • 2/3 cup long grain rice
  • 1 ½ cups diced pumpkin or butternut squash
  • 4 cups milk (NOT skim milk)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • Salt
  1. Bring the salted water to a boil.
  2. Add the rice and pumpkin.
  3. Simmer on low heat for 20 minutes.
  4. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid and drain the rest.
  5. Add back the reserved cooking liquid and the milk.
  6. Slowly warm over medium heat, taking care to avoid boiling.
  7. Salt to taste and add 1 tbsp of butter.
  8. Serve with sour cream.
Results and Discussion
This breakfast was a nice and simple. Most of the time is spent cooking the rice which can be done largely unattended. The taste was not anything spectacular but it was wonderful piece of comfort food for a winter morning. The squash gives some substance to what would otherwise be a pretty mushy meal. The milk base and the sour cream gives you lots of richness. The dish is also very white with white garnish—the small flecks of orange are the only real color in the dish.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Afghanistan - Roht, Yogurt, Apricots, and Pistachios

As is typical of old countries with steep terrain, Afghanistan has a wide number of ethnic groups. Its history of being along the silk road has brought in many outside spices and influences in the urban centers. Afghan breakfast, though, is very simple: roht (bread), apricots, pistachios, and yogurt. It is accompanied with tea flavored with cardamon. Roht is a sweet flat bread made chapati flour sprinkled with sesame and kalonji seeds. Kalonji is a seed from a south Asian flower. It is in the same family as buttercups, and is also called black onion seed or black cumin seed. It is not closely related to onion or cumin. We got out roht recipe from Afghan Food and Cookery.

  • 8 oz chapati flour
  • 2 oz sugar
  • 2 tsp yogurt
  • 2 fl oz milk
  • 2 oz butter
  • 2½ g dry active yeast
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • sesame seeds
  • kalonji seeds
  • 1 egg, beaten
  1. Melt the butter.
  2. Mix the flour, sugar, yogurt, milk, butter, yeast, and baking powder in a bowl.
  3. Mix in half the egg. Reserve the rest for glazing the bread for baking.
  4. Knead the mixture until you get a doughy consistency. Add more flour to prevent sticking.
  5. Let the dough rise for 1 hour in a warm place.
  6. Preheat the oven to 500°F.
  7. Roll the dough into a loaf shape 1-2 cm thick.
  8. Brush the dough with the remaining egg and sprinkle with seeds.
  9. Place the dough on a lightly oiled baking sheet.
  10. Bake for 5 minutes at 500°F to brown the bread.
  11. Reduce oven to 250°F and bake until it is done, about 10-15 minutes.
Eat with the yogurt, lightly chopped pistachios, and apricots.

Results and Discussion
Preparation was very simple and quick other than the bread. The roht has a crumbly, cakey quality with a slightly sweet taste. I think our yeast might have been dead as the bread did not rise as much as we expected. I think it would be fluffier and more cakelike if the rise had worked as planned. Still, it was very tasty. It could easily be served as a light desert or a snack at a coffee shop.
We used straned yogurt (often labeled Greek yogurt), which is thick, creamy and not as sour as the lebna. It serves as a nice base for the sweetness of the apricots and the salt of the pistachios.