Ghana

August 8, 2010 at 8:38 pm | Posted in Western & Southern Africa | Leave a comment

Ghana is our last stop in Western and Southern Africa.   This time we have something entirely not stew-ish at all, and not an ounce of peanut butter.   However, first a bit on a Ghana.

Ghana is the origin of  the other Gold Coast, known for actual gold (as opposed to just real estate profits).    Ghana can be  proud to say they the 53rd  least failed state in the world – which, in African terms places them second from the top.    Coups are down in Ghana and last year they proudly proved they were a democracy with the second successful transition of power from one legitimately elected leader to another.    Coups are down in Ghana.

Ghana’s also the home of Kofi Annan, former secretary-general of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Prize winner.   They also produce lots of gold and cocoa.

The  Plan

I found a dish from the Congo Cookbook called Ashanti chicken, named after the capital.  This a de-boned chicken, stuffed with minced chicken.  Yes, I think we have found the origin of the turducken!

There’s no way I’m competent or time-rich enough to debone a chicken, so I bought one pre-de-boned.

Ingredients

  • one whole chicken, 1-1.5kg, de-boned
  • one pound  potatoes, or sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 500g chicken meat, white or dark (no bones)
  • cooking oil for frying chicken
  • one small onion, chopped
  • one tomato, chopped (or a spoonful of tomato paste or tomato sauce)
  • a handful of parsley, chopped
  • a few mint leaves, chopped
  • salt and black pepper, to taste

Method

  1. Boil the  potatoes (or sweet potatoes) until soft. Remove from water and mash.
  2. While potatos are cooking, fry the chicken meat (not the whole chicken) in a few tablespoons of oil. When nearly done add the onion and tomato. Reduce heat and simmer until chicken is fully cooked.
  3. Add the chicken-onion-tomato mixture to the mashed potato. Add parsley, mint, salt, and pepper. Mix well.
  4. Stuff the de-boned chicken with the yam-chicken mixture. Sew the chicken closed with a needle and cooking string. Rub with butter or oil, salt and pepper.
  5. Bake the stuffed chicken in an oven or in an outdoor grill until it is browned, then wrap it in foil to allow it to continue to cook until fully done. Either way, be sure to use a meat thermometer to check for doneness. Make sure to check the temperature of both the whole chicken and the stuffing

Serve with baked potatos, carrots and pumpkin

Serves 4 (easily).

The  Event

Sewing up a chicken is easy!  However, make sure you sew up the head cavity first:  if you make that tight, you can stuff the chicken really well.      With a pre-de-boned chicken, this isn’t that hard to prepare.

The chicken needed wrapping in foil after an hour or so to stop the legs burning.

The  Outcome

Jacqueline:  “I love it!”

Liam:  “Yum!”

Chris:  “More stuffing please”

Me:  This was Ok.   At the end of the day, it was meat stuffed with more meat, so somewhat indulgent.   I have to perfect the carving as it very quickly becomes a big mess of chicken.  Oh, and sweet potato would work better than plain old mash, and don’t skimp on the spices and herbs.

Sierra Leone

July 5, 2010 at 9:52 pm | Posted in Western & Southern Africa | Leave a comment

If you search Wikipedia’s page for Sierra Leone for the word “coup”, there are 17 references.    It’s also positioned 3rd last on the Human Development Index.  So, not an entirely happy country, which is seems to a sad and relatively consistent story for mot of the locations we’ve tried for  Western African cuisine.

Thankfully, in addition to being bestowed with a rich source of gold, bauxite, diamonds and, er, coups, they have also have managed to export a handful of recipes.  This one I suspect originates from the altogether quite common groundnut stew of the region, but more than worth a try.

The Plan

It was hard to track down a recipe from Sierra Leone – I stumbled across Chicken Stew From Sierra Leone on, of all things, an Indian web site. I made some modifications based on an excess of spinach in the fridge (so, er, added spinach).

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 whole chicken, deboned and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 onion, chopped
1 large potato, diced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried crushed chillies
1 teaspoon salt

A big bunch of spinach

250ml water
100g  unsweetened natural-style peanut butter
400g chickpeas
1. In a large frying pan with a tight-fitting lid, heat oil over medium high heat. Add chicken and brown quickly. Remove chicken from pan. Reduce heat to medium low and add garlic, onion and potato to the pan; sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Season with cumin, coriander, black pepper, chillies and salt. Do not let garlic brown.
2. Mix in water and browned chicken, and any accumulated juices. Place lid on frying pan and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes.
3. Remove lid and stir in the peanut butter and chickpeas. Ensure the peanut butter is blended in. Replace lid to simmer for 10 more minutes or until chicken is cooked through and potatoes are tender. Remove from heat, adjust seasoning and serve.

The Event

This was very easy to cook.  I used palm oil which makes the chicken a very nice reddish colour.   The dish does need a lot of salt – it’s quite bland with out it.    The spinach was an excellent decorative effect at the end – a splash of green – as the peanut sauce really overwhelmed everything else.

The Outcome

Jacqueline:  ”It could use more peanut butter”

Liam:  “I need seconds.  Oh, and Jacqueline’s nickname should be Miss Peanut Butter”

Christina: “PB for short.   Yeah, this is a keeper.  Lose the potatos though – or cook them properly!”

Me:   No brainer, easy, flat out filling bowl food.  <tick>

Namibia

July 4, 2010 at 8:02 pm | Posted in Western & Southern Africa | Leave a comment

Namibia is a giant nation, cuddling up to Bostwana and South Africa to share that unique microclimate, the Kalahari desert.     While it’s a vast country (with second lowest population density in the world), it’s the Kalahari that captured my imagination when I was a child.   The Kalahari bushman must have been a school assignment for just about every child of the 80s.

It occurred to me that the kids haven’t seen The Gods Must Be Crazy.   Testament to just how long lived that film has been (released 1980) is that a) the video store still has it stocked, b) they have two copies and c) both were out!     We’re on the waiting list….

(Oh, it is also worth noting two other facts about The Gods Must be Crazy:  there have been no fewer than *six* sequels, and the lead character Xi was played by Nǃxau.    His name has an alveolar click  in it (as opposed to a palatal, dental, lateral or bilabial;  |, ||, ʘ and ǂ respectively.   Oh, to be able to swear in a Khoisan language… !mʘfʘǂ)

The Plan

The Kalahari bushmen live on worms, catapillars, ostrich eggs and whatever plants they can find.  We’ll settle for a ‘traditional’ Nambibian dish sourced from Celtnet..    It calls for ostrich and crocodile, which I’ve replaced with Kangaroo and Chicken.

400g kangaroo
400g chicken.
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
1 garic clove, crushed
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
110g cashew nuts, roasted and crushed
juice of 1 lime
200ml coconut milk
4 fresh chillies, chopped (or to taste)
1/2 tsp soy sauce
palm sugar (or light golden caster sugar), to taste
salt and freshly-ground black pepper

1.  Slice the meat into 1-2cm cubes and dust with salt and pepper.  Marinate in the garlic, soy sauce and lemon and olive oil for at least 2 hours.

2.  Thread the meat onto bamboo skewers.  The skewers should be soaked in water for a least 15 minutes first to prevent them from catching fire.

3.  Melt the peanut butter in a fry pan, and mix in the coconut milk. Add the lime and sugar and stir for 5 minutes.   Brush over the skewers

4.  BBQ the skewers for a few minutes each side.  Serve with boiled rice.

The Event

This turned into an impromptu BBQ picnic with Andy and Claire and Sophie.  That then turned into a long lazy afternoon in the sun, a firepit, rampant fire-bug behaviour…and then dinner.

Oh, and Andy screwed up the satay with way too much lemon.  Straight down the sink with that, and subbed in a plain old jar of marinade.

The Outcomes

Jacq: <shrug>

Liam: “I’ve had three!”  (there wasn’t enough to go around)

Chris:  “Alright.  Kind of like….er…satay sticks.”

Andy:  “Nice”

Claire:  “They’re nice.”

Me:  At the end of the day, they were just satay sticks.   I think making a lot more and not worrying much beyond the basic marinade would have been enough.

Bonus:  during the afternoon we discovered that Claire had not previously learned of the giant sabre-toothed kangaroo that roams the interior, menacing chicken owners and taking their young in the night.  Tis good to wind up immigrants.

Côte d’Ivoire

June 27, 2010 at 8:16 am | Posted in Western & Southern Africa | Leave a comment

The Ivory coast sounds like an exotic place.   However, as it turns out, fairly ordinary food.

The Plan

Pete suggested we’d find inspiration across Africa to be difficult.  He’s been proven right.   Looking for inspiration in African cuisine seems a bit like the search for stable government.

I decided on a Halibut Ivory Coast.   And really, really wish I hadn’t.  It pains me to consider ever again reproducing this vile abomination, even in print.  In fact, while you can go search for this on the net, I implore you not to make this.   This was described by the potential consumers as “urgh”, “looks and tastes like prison food”, and “look, the dog won’t even eat it!”

To mitigate the risk of anyone else eating this, I will instead produce the backup recipe:  if not from Côte d’Ivoire, inspired by.

Cauliflower & Spinach soup

Ingredients

  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 3 onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • a thumb of ginger
  • 1 head of cauliflower, broken into florets
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1 potato, diced
  • 1 litre of chicken stock
  • 2 chicken stock cubes
  • water
  • nutmeg
  • Coriander powder
  • Salt, Pepper
  • Big bunch of English spinach

1.  Melt the butter & oil in the pan and fry the onions for two minutes on moderate heat.  Add the garlic and ginger and fry for two more.

2.  Add the cauliflower florets, carrot, potato.

3.  Pour in stock, add the stock cubes and enough water to just lip the top of the vegetables.

4.  Add the garam masala and nutmeg.  Simmer for 30 minutes.

5.  Add the spinach.  It’ll wilt very quickly.  Add the coriander and stew for 5 more minutes.

6.  Blend.   It’ll go the most vibrant kid-repelling green you could imagine.

The Outcome

Liam: “Awesome!”

Jacqueline:  ”It’s green, I won’t try it, I won’t try it, I want toast, I can’t try it, yuck, ok one taste….ok, that’s yum. ”

Chris:  ”This looks terrible – but it’s excellent

Me: Fantastic.   Shame it’s not technically from Côte d’Ivoire, but I’m sure they have plants roughly this colour green.

South Africa

June 26, 2010 at 9:30 am | Posted in Western & Southern Africa | Leave a comment

Ah, South Africa.  A country that’s had a very busy and interesting history.   A rich archealogical source of the oldest fossilised humans.   Vast mineral wealth, with nearly half the worlds diamonds originating from The Diamond Fields.   The rise of the Zulu people and their epic battles with the British.  The weird development of the Afrikaans language (take 12,000 Dutchmen, leave them in the desert for 60 years, stir). The somewhat unusual choice to develop nuclear weapons (for war with who exactly?).   South Africa also founded & governed over one of  ugliest socio-political structures ever forged, giving rise to the incredible story of Nelson Mandela, his long term incarceration and eventual ascendancy to president.

But now, for the average Gen-Y, South Africa is now best known as home of the soothing, peculiarly seductive tone of the vuvuzela.  Yours now to own on CD.

The Plan

Given the country’s huge game history, lots of meat dishs are up for grabs in South Africa, but as the local Woolworth’s doesn’t stock antelope, giraffe or elephant, I went with Bobotie followed by Soetkoekies:  mostly on name alone.

Bobotie

Ingredients

  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 apple, peeled, diced
  • 1kg beef mince
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbs mild curry powder
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 2 tbs toasted slivered almonds
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) milk
  • 6 bay leaves

1.  Pre heat oven to 170C.

2.  Heat oil and butter in a pan over medium heat, add onion and cook for 2-3 minutes or until soft. Add apple and cook for 2 minutes. Add mince and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes until meat is browned. Stir in 1 egg, breadcrumbs, curry powder, raisins, almonds and lemon juice. Season, pour into a 20 x 30cm baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes.

3. Beat together remaining egg, turmeric and milk. Remove dish from oven, discard foil, and pour egg mixture over top. Lay bay leaves down centre and bake for a further 15 minutes or until golden.

Soetkoekies

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 4 ounces chopped almonds
  • 1/2 cup chilled butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup port or sherry
  • 1 egg white, beaten

Combine the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, ground cloves, brown sugar, and almonds in a large bowl. Add the butter and cut into the flour mixture. Add the beaten eggs and red wine and mix dough together vigorously until it can be formed into a ball.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a rough circle about 1/4″ thick. With a cookie cutter, cut the dough into 2″ rounds. Arrange the rounds about 1″ apart on a buttered cookie sheet. Continue cutting cookies, then brush each gently with the egg white. Bake for 15 minutes – until golden brown. Remove to a rack to cool completely.

The Event

Meh.  This basically turned out to be sweetish meat loaf with an interesting crust.

Biscuits were…well, big chunky biscuits.

The Outcome

Liam: “Nah, not good”

Jacqueline:  ”Nah”

Chris:  “meh”

Me: “Meh”.

Not a winner.

Nigeria

June 13, 2010 at 8:04 am | Posted in Western & Southern Africa | 1 Comment

Nigeria’s our third stop in Africa, and there’s a few non-culinery points of interest.   Firstly, unlike some of the stops, it’s typified by abundance.   It’s a rich source of people, oil, scams and coups (and oddly, twins).   Nigeria is the most populous nations in Africa, and the 8th most populous country on earth with 150m people.   It’s also wealthy-ish:  it  has the 11th largest  oil reserve in the world, and supplies the US with a 5th of it’s oil.    But of course, it’s most famous for it’s 419 scams, pulling hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

(They’re my favourite type of scam, particularly when they pull several millions dollars from a wealthy university professor  a) because if you’ve already got many millions why are you reaching out for more, b)  the story generally involves participating in 3rd world corruption, so scammies is typically have no moral fibre, and c) university professors really ought to know better.)

Searching for other trivia, I found the following Nigeria proverbs:

  • The frog does not jump in the daytime without reason.
  • A tiger does not have to proclaim its tigritude.

I so hope these are true.

The Plan

While I was sorely tempted to try FuFu on it’s name alone, I couldn’t source cassava.   So, instead we went for Jollof Rice.  The Congo Cookbook was again my friend

Ingredients

  • cooking oil
  • 2-3 cups of beef stock
  • 2-3 cups of water
  • 800 g of blade steak
  • two  onions, chopped
  • cayenne pepper
  • two cloves garlic, minced
  • bay leaf
  • chopped capsicum
  • chopped tomato
  • handful of green beans, chopped
  • can of roma tomatos
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • 2-3 cups of rice

1.  Cube  the meat and brown in a large frying pan.   Once done, transfer to a large pot, add the stock and bring to a gentle boil

2.  In the same frying pan, fry the onions, garlic and bay leaf.  Once the onions are translucent, add to the main pot

3.  In the same pan, fry the capsicum, tomatoes and beans.   Transfer to the main pot

4.  In the same pan, add the rice and the tomato paste.   Fry and stir until the rice has gone a reddish colour.

5.  Add the rice to the main pot, and a little bit more water.  Cook on low heat for half an hour or so, adding water as required as the rice absorbes it.   It should have the consistency of risotto by the end.

The Event

This is an easy dish:  fry in one pan, drop into another.  The tomato paste really didn’t mix easily with the rice without adding a bit of water.

The Outcome

Liam: “Good!  I think it’s pretty good”

Jacqueline:  ”I liked it, but there was just a little too much spice”

Christina: “Yeah, good.”

Me:  This was just plain old more-ish bowl food.   Heartier than a risotto, lighter than a casserole.   All round good.

Gambia

April 10, 2010 at 8:42 pm | Posted in Western & Southern Africa | Leave a comment

Gambia is our second stop in Western & Southern Africa.  It’s another country with an impoverished people, has a coup count of 2 but is currently a more-or-less free nation.

Oddly, it’s actually utterly ringfenced by Senegal, and just hugs a meandering river.   It’s no more than 40km across at it’s wides point.

In terms of food, the country doesn’t have too much.  However, the Congo Cookbook (and many other Google references) pointed to a Domoda, the Gambian peanut stew, which looks great.

The Plan

This is basically a beef “and bushmeat” stew.   While bushmeat is roughly equivilent with game (or any wild animal), I fear bushmeat in Gambia may refer to chimps  – rather than whip down to Taronga Zoo I put my own Australian flair by using roo.

Ingredients

  • cooking oil
  • 200g of kangaroo, 200g of steak
  • one onion, chopped
  • one clove garlic, minced (optional)
  • two cans of  tomatoes
  • beef stock cube
  • sweet potato, cubed
  • one to two cups peanut butter (natural and unsweetened) or homemade peanut paste
  • salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper or red pepper (to taste)

1.  Brown the meat in the oil and add the onions.  Fry until the onions are transluscent

2.  Add everything else except the peanut butter. Simmer for a half hour

3.  Add the peanut butter.

4.  When the peanut butter has completely melted and the oil has started to separate, it’s done

5.  Serve with white rice

The Event

This started out just too easy – in fact, it looked kind of boring (meat, onions, tomato). However, the peanut butter transformed.

Two cups of peanut butter seemed like a lot.   It was.  Should have stuck to one.

The Outcome

Liam: “More! More! More!”

Jacqueline:  ”More! More! More!”

Christina: “This is excellent.”   Five minutes later:  “Um, way too much peanut butter”

Me:  This was surprisingly good, particularly when it didn’t have really any spice outside of peanut butter.  By adding a healthly dollup of cayenne pepper to mine, it went from good to great.

Senegal

April 4, 2010 at 7:14 pm | Posted in Western & Southern Africa | Leave a comment

We’re now onto a new continent, picking  eight meals from our first African region:  Western & Southern Africa.   Pete suggested we’d struggle to find a lot of recipes in this region – and after a bit of googling, I fear he’s right.  A lot of our candidate countries have been riven by famine, dictatorship after dictatorship, genocide & downright poverty.   Plus the poor buggers all speak French.

We’re starting with Senegal, which is actually one of the countries with a happier history – it’s despot count  is extremely low, it’s been continuously democratic for ages and there’s only ever been one coup (which turned out to be more a nasty rumour than an actual attempt to seize power).

The Plan

Senegal has a famous dish called Yassa chicken.  The chickens in the country are tough, tough birds – the Senegalese marinate them in lemon juice & onions to soften them.  I got this from What’sForEats

Yassa Chicken

Ingredients

  • Chicken, cut into serving pieces — 2-3 pounds
  • Onions, thinly sliced — 4-6
  • Hot chile pepper, minced — 1-3
  • Lemons, juice only — 4-5
  • Dijon mustard (optional) — 2 tablespoons
  • Peanut or vegetable oil — 1/4 cup
  • Salt and pepper — to season
  • Oil — 2-3 tablespoons
  • Freshly cooked rice

1.  Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl and leave for at least 4 hours.

2.  Fish out the chicken and fry it until browned

3.  Remove the chicken, and saute the onions.  When soft, add the rest of the marinade and chicken pieces and simmer for 30 minutes

The Event

They clearly have an excess of onions in Senegal, or really small ones.  This recipe had a bucket load of onions, more than possibly could fit in a reasonably sized bowl or even pan.     Halve the onions next time.

This actually turned out to be a rushed job due to daylight savings ending early, a lifejacket incident and a catastrophically sea-sick child.    In the end, we eventually got home and Chris had cooked this up, but the spectre of a vomiting Liam overshadowed the event.

The Outcome

Liam:  “Bleeeurrrgh.  Is this seasickness or a bug?”

Jacqueline:  “<shrug>  I guess it’s OK”

Christina: “Waaaaay too many onions”

Mum & Dad:  “It’s nice!  Just not something I’d write home about”

Me:  I will do this again but I will use mustard & chilli (both skipped for the kids’ sake).   Oh, and less onions.

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