Tunisia

July 17, 2011 at 9:52 pm | Posted in Northern, Middle & Eastern Africa | Leave a comment

Tunisia is the northernmost country in Africa and right next door to Algeria and Morocco and – as we’ll see – shares much of the gorgeous food of the region.  Jammed right up against the Mediterranean Sea, it’s cuisine reflects a rich history of trading and invasion from a range of different cultures.  However, one particularly important aspect that  I think is under-reflected in Wikipedia is that most of Raiders of The Lost Ark was shot on location in Tunisia.    So, clearly a fantastic country.

Tunisia is also the source of the seed of the Arab Spring, a series of revolutions currently sweeping through the Middle East.  The Tunisians kicked out a corrupt dictator who’s most notable feature seems to be to have a wife with her own personal state-sponsored shopping Boeing (for visiting Milan, Paris, etc.).   Let’s hope they turn the home of Indiana Jones (as it will forever be known to me) into a better place.

The Plan

Tunisia’s national dish is couscous, and we’ll use a recipe I found from The Kitchen Witch.

Tunisian Couscous with Chicken
Ingredients

  • 500g chicken, cubed
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1½ tsp. cumin
  • 1½ tsp. cinnamon
  • 1½ tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 100g tomato paste
  • 2 cups water or more if needed
  • 2 tbsp. harissa (or more to taste)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into 3″ pieces, then halved if large
  • 4 cups cubed butternut pumpkin
  • 2 zucchini sliced 1/2 ” thick then quartered
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 200g plain couscous, uncooked
  • A bunch of coriander

Method

  1. Add oil to a pan and brown the chicken in batches, remove from the pan as cooked. You need to do this in batched to prevent the chicken from cooling the pan and broiling instead of browning.
  2. Add the diced onion and all the spices and fry briskly for 1-2 minutes, add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Return the chicken to the pan.
  3. Add the tomato paste and 1 cup of water to deglaze the pan. Add just enough water to cover the chicken.
  4. Simmer for 30 minutes.
  5. Add more water if necessary and add the carrots. Simmer for another 15 minutes
  6. Add the pumpkin and harissa sauce, simmer for another 10 minutes
  7. Add the zucchini, chickpeas and raisons and simmer for another 10 minutes.
  8. While the chickpeas are cooking, make the couscous according to the instructions on the packet.
  9. Stir in the coriander into the chicken and turn off the heat.
  10. Add a scoop of couscous to each plate, making a well in the middle. Ladle the stew into the middle.

The Event

Pressed for time, I skipped step 4 and just bunged in all the vegies then. I also made *far* too much couscous (reduced quantities now in the recipe above) and used too much salt. The rest of the process was a doddle. I left out the harissa and cayenne pepper as the kids are chilli wimps.

The Outcome

Liam: “This is really great Dad”

Chris: “Yum, this a good one! Very similar to the Moroccan beef”

Jacq: “Still hate pumpkin but I like the rest of it”

Me: This was a big favourite for me. I think the butternut pumpkin is an excellent ingredient but the cinnamon-paprika-cumin combination is excellent. + 1

Ethiopia

June 19, 2011 at 8:59 pm | Posted in Northern, Middle & Eastern Africa | Leave a comment

Ethiopia is often one thinks of the absence of food given the terribly tragedy of the mid 80s. I am of course talking about the circumstances that lead to Band Aid.

Some of the things I didn’t know about Ethiopia:

  • Ethiopia was one of only two countries to retain its independence when European countries divided the rest of Africa between them.
  • The last Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, is the source of worship for the Rastafari movement who see him as the returned Messiah. His title was “His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and Elect of God” 
  • Today Ethiopia is one of the strongest economies in East Africa
  • Ethiopia – the dust bowl we saw in the 80s – is the source of 85% of the water that makes into the Nile.
  • It is generally considered the site of the emergence of the first humans.

As it turns out, the famine that killed nearly 1,000,000 people in Ethiopia in 1984 (and lead to many of us considering Ethiopia perpetually hungry) was caused an horrific drought, but was also exacerbated by a horrendously incompetent Marxist government that spend 46% of its GDP in the year that 9m of its people were famine affected. Thankfully the government and drought eventually disappeared and today Ethiopia is a vibrant country with, as it turns out, excellent food.

The Plan

The Ethiopians have a traditional meal that involves serving a variety of stews on a large piece of flat bread, injera. In many ways, the bread is the tablecloth, and that the meal is only complete when the tablecloth is eaten.

Taken from a few sources, this dish is a Chicken Wat with garlic spinach, yoghurt and flat bread.

CHICKEN WAT
Serves 4

  • 450g/1lb boneless, skinned chicken breast, diced
  • 50g of butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 onion, diced.
  • 1 tablespoon berbere
    • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
    • 1 teaspoon paprika
    • ½ teaspoon cumin
    • ¼ teaspoon salt
    • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ inch cube root ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 lugs of olive oil
  • 2 chicken stock cubes
  • 1 can of tomatoes
  • 1 green capsicum, sliced
  • Half a glass of red wine
  1. Fry the onions and ginger until the onions are quite well done.
  2. Add the spice mix and fry for 60 seconds, stirring vigorously.
  3. Add the chicken and the oil. Once the chicken is browned, add the capsicum, stock cubes, wine and tomatoes.
  4. Simmer for 30 minutes. The stew needs to be quite thick – add a tablespoon of flour if necessary.

Make a side dish of garlic & salted silverbeet.

Injera

Makes 5 9-inch pancakes

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup water
  1. Mix together to make a batter
  2. Fry the batter into a number of pancakes. Flip when the pancakes are bubbling.

To serve: cover the table with foil. Spread the pancakes over the foil, one in front of everyone but overlapping if possible. Add a scoop of chicken wat, wilted silverbeet, and a dollup of natural yoghurt.

The Event

This was a lot of fun, except the pancakes were a disaster – a shortage of eggs and possibly plain flour isn’t as good as the correct Ethiopian Tef flour. Still, overall a lot of success – the stew needs to be thick or it will seep through the pancakes. I also cheated and had some rice on hand.

Serving was excellent – just dolling out piles of food haphazardly across the table. Also, one is supposed to use just your fingers but we reached for the utensils…

The Outcome

Chris: “I like the chicken, but the bread goes cold quickly. Good though! We’ll take forks if we got to Ethiopia”

Jacq:  “What is this I’m eating? Wat is this I’m eating!”

Liam: “What? Never mind – no-one leave till they’ve eaten the tablecloth″

Me: This was much better than expected. Lots of fun to make and to eat.

Morocco

June 11, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Posted in Northern, Middle & Eastern Africa | Leave a comment

Morocco is one of the most exotic countries in Africa, holding a place of both old world mystery as well as a  relatively modern and contemporary one.     Morocco also holds a place quite close to France, having been casually occupied by France in the 19th century during The Scramble For Africa  (where European imperialist  nations spent much of that era carving up Africa).   In fact, some people blame the tussle over Morocco between France and Germany to be one of the sparks that started the First World War.   (I still blame Franz Ferdinand’s driver failing to ask for directions…) Oddly enough, despite Morocco’s closeness to the oil rich lands of the Middle East, 75% of their energy comes from coal.  Morocco is also the home of Casablanca, which is actually not the capital (Rabat).

The Plan

Morocco is one of the great food melting pots on the planet, mixing European, African and Middle Eastern flavours.   The flavours are rich and blend exotic spices with fruit and rich meats.   Thus, we’re going for Moroccan Beef Stew borrowed from Mike’s Table.

MOROCCAN BEEF STEW

  • 1 kg chuck steak
  • Ras el Hanout – a dry spice mixture, some example flavours to include in no particular amount:
    • smoked + Hungarian/sweet paprika
    • pepper
    • salt
    • cayenne
    • cinnamon
    • coriander
    • nutmeg
    • cumin
    • cloves
    • allspice
    • turmeric
  • 1 cup of fresh coriander stalks
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • 1 sweet potato, diced into large chunks
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tbsp of fresh ginger
  • 1 440ml can whole tomatoes and juices
  • 1.33 cups beef stock
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • fennel seeds
  • 6 cardamom pods
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 preserved lemon
  • 1 440ml can chickpeas
  • 16 dates, diced
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • pinch of saffron strands
  • ~1/4 cup parsley
  • ~1/4 cup coriander leaves
  1. The first thing is to make a good Ras el Hanout. This literally means “top of the shop” and is a mixture of common spices. I didn’t write down the precise measurements but used only a little cinnamon and cumin and lots of the rest.
  2. Dice the meat into largish chunks. Roll the meat into the spices until liberally covered.
  3. Chop the garlic and coriander stalks roughly, mix in the lemon juice and blend into a paste. Pour over the meat.
  4. Cover the meat and let sit for at least an hour, possibly 8 or even longer
  5. Heat a pan and brown the meat chunk in batches, shaking off excess spice mixture.. Crowding the pan will steam the meat, so don’t do that! While this is cooking, crank the oven to 160C Remove all the meat, but the pan should be really messy with all the spices and juices that have come off the meat.
  6. In this gloriously messy pan, add some more oil and fry off the onions and add the garlic, ginger, carrot and sweet potato. Saute for 5 minutes or until the sweet potato really starts to soften.Add the stock & red wine, deglazing the pan. Pour in the tomatoes and remaining dry spices.
  7. Return the meat to the pot, and simmer for 5 minutes. If there’s any leftover marinate, chuck it in to the pot. The liquid should only barely cover the meat.
  8. Put the pot (or transfer to a casserole dish – you’ll need a big one) into the oven and cook for 1 ½ hours. The pot needs to be covered to not lose any liquidRemove from the oven and add all remaining ingredients except the coriander leaves. Return to the oven for 30 minutes, with the lid slightly ajar.
  9. Remove from oven, and stir in the diced coriander leaves.

Serve over rice.

The Event

The smells this makes while cooking are suburb. For a large list of ingredients, it’s actually pretty straightforward to cook.

The Outcome

Chris: “This is nice, do this one again”

Liam: “more!”

Jacq: “Awesome! I love Mrrocco”

This felt a bit of a “throw-everything-you-have-at-it” dish, but it was surprisingly good while retaining all the complex flavours. We do a lot of hearty

Egypt

February 13, 2011 at 6:40 pm | Posted in Northern, Middle & Eastern Africa | Leave a comment

Egypt, land of pyramids, chickpeas, desert and tabouli.   For us, Egypt is the next stop, and topical at the moment as the people have just tossed out Hosni Mubarak as leader and joyfully celebrated that the army is now in charge.   It has to get pretty bad before an organisation with the sole purpose of waging war is the best option for running your country.

The Plan

As I write this I cannot believe I overlooked the idea of doing falafels!  Instead, we’re doing something that blends chicken (which I have handy) with chickpeas, a key stable in the region.  This dish was adapted from Tour Egypt.

  • 500g chicken breast, slices into bite sized pieces
  • 2 small onions, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 2 tablespoons coriander
  • 1 teaspoon all spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1 vegetable or chicken stock cube
  • 1 can of chickpeas
  • 1-2 cups of water
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tomato, sliced.
  1. Stir fry the onions until translucent.  Add the garlic and coriander and fry for one minute.  Remove from the pan
  2. Stir fry the chicken pieces until they are half cooked.   Return the onion, garlic and coriander to the pan and mix well.
  3. Add the all spice and chilli.  Fry for one minute
  4. Add the tomato paste and chick peas, mixing in well.   Add the water and stock cube and bring to a gentle simmer.
  5. Simmer for 30 minutes – ideally this will simmer down to a slightly thickened sauce.
  6. Just before serving, stir in the tomato slices and turn off the heat.

Serve with boiled rice.

The Event

This was simple bowl food.  Not much to report.

The Outcome

Chris: “Yes, you can make this one again!”

Jacq:  “Good!”

Liam: “Great!”

Me:   This doesn’t sound particularly special but it turned out a treat.   One to do again.

Tanzania

January 4, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Posted in Northern, Middle & Eastern Africa | Leave a comment

Tanzania is one of those places of ancient Africa that occupied my mind in childhood – there was a picture with a poem that mentioned Timbuktu and Zanzibar.     Tonight we dine in Zanibar, a semi-autonomous archipelago on the eastern coast of Tanzania.

The Plan

I’m drawn to a dish from Zanzibar partly by the name alone:  M’CHUZI WA NYAMA, a beef curry.

  • 1 cup onions, finely chopped.
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon tumeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1-2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 2-4 tablespoons oil
  • 1/2  kg of chuck steak, cut into medium sized cubes
  • 1 cup of water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup of rice
  • 1 cup beef stock

For the relishes

  • 1/2 cup bananas cut in 1/4-inch dice dribbled with lemon juice.
  • 1 cup fried onion slices
  • 1/2 cup mango chutney
  • 2 cups grated coconut
  • 1 orange cut into sections
  • 1/2 cup cucumber, diced.
  1. In a medium  saucepan, saute the onions in the oil.  Once soft, add the garlic, salt and spices and fry for one minute.
  2. Add the beef, but don’t allow to brown
  3. Add the water and lemon juice.  Cover tightly and simmer for one hour
  4. Cook the rice in beef stock

Place the rice in a large bowl and pour the curry over it.  Serve with the relishes.

 

The Event

This was really just another curry – nothing particularly challenging in this regard.  The hardest part was getting the relishes done.

 

The Outcome

Chris:  “Yeah, doesn’t do much for me”

Liam:  “Ok”

Jacq:  “Ok”

Me:  Yeah.  Just Ok.

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