Breakfast from Chad

September 5, 2016 § Leave a comment

The latest in our Breakfasts of the World Project series. It’s been a while but I think the muse is back…

The Republic of Chad is a landlocked country in Northern Central Africa named after the great freshwater lake on its Western border. It is a huge country in terms of land area (the fifth largest in Africa) but with a relatively small population of some 14 million.

It was part of French Equatorial Africa until 1960 when the country declared independence from France. The capital city is N’Djamena and French and Arabic are the official languages. Confusingly, Chad’s flag of vertical blue, yellow and red stripes is identical to that of Rumania, a source of low level diplomatic tension unlikely to be resolved any time soon.

Chad has experienced vast numbers of refugees flooding across its border with Sudan since 2003 as a result of the Darfur conflict. More recently there have been further waves of refugees crossing its Western border fleeing civil war in the Central African Republic.

The UNHCR publishes copious detailed reports of its work with refugees in Chad that are probably not as widely read as they should be. Looking at these reports, I was struck by the pictures of refugees eking out a meagre living selling street food. My Chadian breakfast took inspiration from these resilient street food vendors and comprised sweet millet fritters plus the ubiquitous “jus de fruit” which is in fact a simple mango smoothie. The helpful Chad information website where I found both recipes says that many small businesses have started up throughout Chad based on selling this one popular drink.

Millet is a staple grain from this part of Africa and grows successfully in hot arid conditions but is relatively unknown in more temperate climates except as bird seed. The grains are like tiny creamy seed pearls and grind down to a yellowish, mild, slightly nutty tasting flour. It’s naturally gluten free and perhaps as a consequence quite hard to handle and my millet fritters were something of a disaster. This is what the first deep-fried batch looked like after cooking:

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I had to abandon the deep fat fryer and ended up shaping my millet dough into shortbread-style fingers before oven baking. Perhaps these would have turned out better if I’d been able to use freshly ground local millet flour as the recipe specifies rather than a bag of Bob’s Red Mill US grown millet flour.

It’s also possible that my proportions were wrong as I used US cups i.e. 8 fl oz measures whereas the measure used in the original recipe was a “verre” i.e. a glass. Who knows what that might be but I suspect it may be smaller than 8 fl oz.

At least the mango smoothie turned out well – I’d happily drink this for breakfast anytime and the addition of the powdered cardamom adds an extra flavour dimension.

Jus de fruit – Mango smoothie from Chad

Adapted from a recipe from http://www.tchad.org/research/cook.html

Ingredients

1 medium-size ripe mango, peeled, stone removed and cut into chunks
2 cups whole milk (fresh tastes good but powdered milk would probably be used in Chad)
Caster sugar to taste
6 ice cubes
1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder

Crush the ice in the blender
. Peel and cut up the mango and put the fruit chunks into a mixer.
 Blend the mango in the mixer.
 Add the milk, sugar and cardamom to the mixer and blend well.
 Serve immediately.

Millet fritters from the Ouaddaï

Adapted from a recipe from http://www.tchad.org/research/cook.html

Ingredients

2 cups millet flour ground the day you prepare the fritters
1 cup wheat flour
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 egg

Peanut oil to fry

Mix the millet and wheat flours together. Heat the cup of vegetable oil to hand-hot and pour it over the flour mixture. Mix roughly. Whisk together lightly with a fork the sugar and egg and pour over the dough. Knead the dough for 5 minutes until it becomes firm and smooth.

Roll the dough to a thickness of 5 millimetres on a lightly floured board and cut into ribbons.

Fry to a golden brown in the peanut oil at about 150 degrees C. Drain the fritters on kitchen paper and serve hot, warm or cold.

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Central African Republic breakfast

January 30, 2014 § 2 Comments

The latest in our Breakfasts of the World Project series.

I’ve been well and truly caught out by events. When I began investigating the Central African Republic (“CAR”), it seemed to me to be one of the world’s most anonymous nations but has since been catapulted into the headlines following the outbreak of civil war.

The country’s population is estimated to be some 4.5 million in a country comparable in size to France, coincidentally the former colonial power. Much of the country is taken up by the Ubangi and Chari river basins. The capital city, Bangui, is on the banks of the mighty Ubangi river that flows south to Congo and defines the border between the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo for much of its length.

Since gaining independence in 1960 the CAR seems to have suffered more of its fair share of misfortunes. The notorious Jean-Bédel Bokassa 1 was crowned “emperor” 1977 in a lavish ceremony watched by the world’s media. Since then, coup has followed coup more or less to the present day. Michel Djotodia, leader of the Séléka rebel alliance seized power March 2013 deposing President François Bozizé. The country has since descended into anarchy with the Christian anti-balaka militia (balaka means machete) retaliating against the mainly Muslim Séléka rebel group. Djotodia has now stepped down leaving a peacekeeping force of 1,600 French and 4,600 African troops vainly trying to control the violence. One can only hope that the new interim civilian government can deliver on its pledges to halt the violence and to organise elections by February 2015.

From this country of diamonds, timber, virgin rainforest and fertile river basins comes a recipe for the freshwater fish Nile Perch cooked in banana leaves. It seems somewhat frivolous to say so but is nevertheless true that this is a very attractive way of cooking and presenting any white fish fillets (I give the recipe below).

Given the circumstances, this was a somewhat sombre breakfast.

Somewhat to my surprise, I was able to source authentic Nile perch from online specialist retailer The Fish Society and found banana leaves in one of the specialist food shops in Manchester’s Chinatown.

Steamed Nile Perch in banana leaves

Serves 4. Recipe adapted from various internet sources.

Ingredients

4 fillets of Nile perch (capitaine in French)
4 banana leaves, halved
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
handful flatleaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
3 small tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and sliced
salt and pepper to taste

Mix thoroughly together in a small bowl the chopped onion, garlic, parsley and chilli.

Arrange four pairs of halved banana leaves into rough cross shapes.

Put a quarter of the onion mixture in the centre of each pair of leaves then sit a fish fillet on top, followed by another spoonful of the onion mixture. Top with the tomato slices then wrap the banana leaves over the top to form a parcel and tie each one securely with string.

Place the banana leaf parcels on a rack set over a deep roasting dish half-filled with water.

Carefully transfer to an oven pre-heated to 200°C and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the fish is tender. Serve directly from the parcels and accompanied with fried plantains and/or boiled rice.

Cape Verdean breakfast

August 16, 2013 § Leave a comment

“Imagine unspoilt castaway islands. With bone-white beaches that you can bag all to yourself. And a unique blend of African, Portuguese and Brazilian cultures. No wonder summer holidays to Cape Verde are the hottest buzzword in travel right now. Marooned off the west coast of Africa, they sit serenely and modestly – almost as if they’re hoping to shirk the limelight.”

So says the blurb on the Thomson holidays website which is a pretty good introduction to the Cape Verde archipelago. This group of 10 main islands and 5 smaller islets, most of which are mountainous but with some fertile land, was uninhabited until its discovery by Portuguese explorers in 1456. Just for the record, the largest island is Santiago, the capital city is Praia and the islands gained independence from Portugal in 1975.

The strategic location of the islands lying in the Atlantic off the coast of West Africa meant that they became an important staging post in both the slave and whaling trades. Interestingly, there are more Cape Verdeans and their descendants living abroad than there are on the islands themselves having left the islands during various waves of emigration. Music and football are clearly important elements of the Cape Verdean culture. Famous musicians of Cape Verdean descent include Lena Horne and the Tavares Brothers – Ralph, Pooch, Chubby, Butch and Tiny – perhaps most famous for their rendition of “More Than A Woman” on the seminal Saturday Night Fever soundtrack from the seventies. Well known footballers of Cape Verdean descent include Nani, Henrik Larsson, Gelson Fernandes and Patrice Evra.

The food of the islands is very much a reflection of its history and geography – a fusion of Portuguese, South American and African ingredients. Nowhere is this more true than in Cachupa, the islands’ national dish, a hearty stew of hominy corn, red kidney beans, spicy linguiça sausage, salt pork, sweet potato, potato, tomatoes, onion and cabbage. Fortunately for me, Cachupa refogada, left over cachupa reheated and fried with plenty of softened onion is a typical breakfast dish so it had to go on the menu.

The recipe I used for Cachupa is adapted from this one http://www.mistress-of-spices.com/2011/03/cachupa-national-dish-of-cape-verde.html

I decided to add another typical Cape Verdean dish, cuscus, to round off my breakfast menu. I found a video recipe here presented by the charming but oddly named Ideally Ilca on her Island Cuisine channel. White cornmeal is mixed with water to form little pellets. The resulting cuscus is steamed in a cake shape then served as a breakfast cereal flavoured with sugar and powdered cinnamon and eaten with cold milk. I followed Ms Ilca’s instructions to the letter and ended up with a successful plateful of Cape Verdean comfort food, agreeably soothing after the spicy Cachupa refogada:

Finding the recipes was the easy part: somewhat more of a challenge was tracking down authentic ingredients. Let’s start with hominy corn. I didn’t even know precisely what it was until I consulted Harold McGee. His encyclopaedic “On Food and Cooking” explains succinctly that “hominy consists of whole corn kernels…cooked for 20-40 minutes in a solution of lime or lye then washed of their hulls and excess alkaline solution.” The process is known as nixtamalization from an Aztec word and though it sounds a bit yucky and chemical-infused in fact produces a tasty, chewy and nutritious end result.

I tracked my hominy corn plus white cornmeal for my Cape Verdean cuscus down from ever-reliable Mexican food specialists The Cool Chile company. I sourced my linguiça sausage, plus a few extra Portuguese goodies, from the straightforwardly named www.portuguesefood.co.uk.

I packed up my specialist ingredients and headed for the coast to prepare and cook my Cape Verdean breakfast – nowhere exotic, just the good old British seaside. We were joined for a long weekend by friends Mike, Theo and Christopher who tucked in manfully (though I suspect they were hoping for a full English…)

Pass the piri piri sauce please. Did someone say it’s just like Nando’s?

Recipe for Cachupa Rica

Adapted from a recipe on “Mistress of Spices” blog.

Serves 8-12 depending on appetite.

500g dried hominy corn
250g dried red kidney beans
8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 litre water
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
250g linguiça (or chorizo) cut into 1cm dice
500g thick piece of unsmoked bacon into 1cm dice
1 tablespoon chilli powder
4 small waxy potatoes scrubbed and quartered
1 sweet potato, peeled and quartered
1/4 white cabbage, sliced
2 carrots, chopped
2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped

Rinse the corn and the beans. Drain and set aside.

Heat 4 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large lidded saucepan or stockpot. Add half of the chopped onion and one bay leaf. Sauté until the onions are translucent. Add the corn and the beans. Stir well and add the water. Bring to the boil, then cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 2 hours. Add the stock and continue simmering until the corn and beans are soft and cooked through (this may take a further 2 hours ie 4 hours in total).

In a second large lidded pot, heat the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the remaining chopped onion, garlic and one bay leaf. Stir well and sauté until the onions are translucent.

Add the linguiça, bacon and chili powder. Stir gently over a low heat until cooked through, about 15-20 minutes.

Add the cooked corn and beans and their cooking liquid to the meat mixture. Then add the potatoes and cabbage, mix well, add tomatoes and cook until the vegetables are tender and the liquid reduced, about 15-20 minutes.

Taste and correct seasoning. Cachupa tastes even better the next day sautéed with some chopped onion for breakfast, called Cachupa refogada.

Recipe for Cape Verdean Cuscus

From the Island Cuisine channel on Youtube.

3 cups finely ground white cornmeal
Sugar to taste
Cinnamon
1 cup water

Add the water to the cornmeal very slowly. Mix with your hands to form a clumpy mix. Put in double boiler (I used a steamer set over a pan of boiling water). Sprinkle with plenty of powdered cinnamon.

Steam for 25 mins. It will form a sliceable cake. Serve with cold milk, honey, butter and coffee.

Supplier details

http://www.coolchile.co.uk/ Supplier of hominy corn and authentic Mexican ingredients

www.portuguesefood.co.uk Supplier of Portuguese sausages, hams, wine and other goodies.

Canadian breakfast

May 4, 2013 § Leave a comment

The latest in our Breakfasts of the World Project series.

We cheated ever so slightly on this one, eating it out of synch with the rest of the series to coincide with visiting family and friends the morning after a certain Big Birthday late last year (my husband Tim’s not mine I hasten to add).

Here are various family members and friends tucking into classic breakfast pancakes, back bacon and, of course, lashings of maple syrup.

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We can buy maple syrup pretty readily here in the UK – you can see in the picture below two different grades of syrup – No 1 and No 2 Amber (I’ve not yet found the elusive Grade 3 Dark syrup on supermarket shelves here). It was also time to bring out the prized bottle of rare Nova Scotia maple syrup, a gift from cousin Paul and family who live in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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I delved briefly into the details of maple syrup production and it seems that the Canadian province of Québec is responsible for some 75% of the world’s output of maple syrup. Anything calling itself Canadian maple syrup must be made exclusively from the concentrated sap of predominantly three types of maple tree – the sugar, red and black maples. It can take up to 50 litres of raw sap to be boiled down and concentrated into 1 litre of syrup.

Also on the menu were muffins (English muffins though we call them just muffins in England much as Canadian bacon is known as such anywhere but Canada) and delicious wild Pacific smoked salmon. If I’d felt more perky that morning, I might have conjured this into a Vancouver-style take on Eggs Benedict but we had to make do with just cream cheese on our muffins to accompany the salmon.

There are lots of fascinating Canadian breakfast dishes I could have tried – fellow breakfast blogger Shawna has alerted me to cretons, a Québecquois take on French rillettes (small pieces of pork and onion gently cooked in the fat rendered from the meat to form a pâté-like mixture)served on toast as part of a traditional breakfast.

Browsing through my recipe book “Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens” by Marie Nightingale, I see we’ve missed out too on the “Old-Fashioned Lunenburg Breakfast or Supper Dish” of cooked apples and onions baked with onions and cream. Then there’s my Blomidon Inn bread recipe from Wolfville, Nova Scotia for a loaf flavoured with oats, cornmeal and molasses…I’ll have to return to Canadian breakfasts some time soon.

Recipe for breakfast pancakes

These are a perennial favourite at home and the recipe comes from my trusty and ancient Good Housekeeping Cookery Book where these pancakes are referred to as Scotch Pancakes or Drop Scones.

Makes 10-12 small pancakes.

Ingredients

100g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
30g golden caster sugar (about 2 tablespoons)
1 egg, lightly beaten with a fork
Milk to mix – about 150ml
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or ground cinnamon (optional)

Mix together the flour, sugar and baking powder in a medium mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the egg and a little of the milk. Stir with a balloon whisk, bringing in the flour from the edges of the well and gradually adding more milk as you do so. When the batter reaches the consistency of thick custard. Beat with the whisk for 10-20 seconds until any remaining lumps have gone. Whisk in some more milk until you have a thickish smooth batter the consistency of extra-thick single cream that will drop from a spoon. Whisk in the vanilla extract or ground cinnamon if using.

Drop the mixture in large spoonfuls (I use a small ladle) onto a hot lightly greased non-stick frying pan. Keep the pan at a steady heat and when bubbles start to rise to the surface of the pancakes (after about 2 minutes, maybe earlier), flip them over using a small crank-handled palette knife and cook for a minute or so on the other side until golden brown and cooked through. Store in a folded clean linen teatowel as you make them to keep them warm and soft.

Serve with maple syrup and bacon or butter and jam. They’re pretty good cold with butter and jam if ever you find you have some left over.

Cameroon breakfast

March 30, 2013 § 2 Comments

The latest in our Breakfasts of the World Project series.

Until the recent kidnapping of a French family in the far north of the country, football had been the only reason Cameroon hit the international headlines. The national team “Les Lions Indomptables” in their red, green and yellow strip echoing the national flag, has the best World Cup track record of any African nation. Cameroonian player Samuel Eto’o is reputedly football’s highest paid player under his contract with far-flung FC Anzhi Makhachkala (Russian Premier League).

Irregularly-shaped Cameroon is situated on Africa’s West coast between Nigeria to the North and West and Equatorial Guinea and Gabon to the South. The country’s name derives from Rio dos Camarões – river of shrimps – the name Portuguese explorers gave to the region. Cameroon first became a German colony but was divided between France and Britain post First World War. Independence and the merging of the two parts of the country occurred between 1960 and 1961 with Yaoundé as capital city.

Our chosen menu was beignets, also known as Puff-Puffs – a simple deep-fried yeasted doughnut, and also bouilli d’arachides, a peanut-butter enriched version of sweetened maize porridge.

Inspiration for the menu came from Californian aid worker and blogger Mara’s post here and also the clear and eminently readable Cameroonian and African food blog Ma Cocote. Reading through these posts you immediately gain a snapshot of this incredibly varied country. The food names – bouilli and beignets are French words, a legacy of the country’s colonial past. Mara talks about the bouilli being the evening meal breaking the Ramadan daylong fast. Although Christianity is nominally the dominant religion, a significant minority of the population (about 20%) are Muslim. Cameroon extends north to the fringes of the Sahara desert with its Extrême Nord province bordering on Lake Chad. In contrast, the south east of the country is equatorial rain forest territory, home to the Baka people (formerly referred to as pygmies).

Mara gives a sketchy recipe for bouilli so rather than following her instructions to the letter I did my own thing. I used a quick-cook polenta made up according to the packet instructions but with half milk and water instead of water alone. I then added sugar to taste and finally a big dollop of peanut butter plus an extra drizzle of milk.

The resulting mush was pronounced “OK” by the family – a bit bland perhaps but a soothing easy-to-eat breakfast that, with the addition of peanut butter, really packs in the calories.

The Puff Puff doughnuts were a different story altogether. These disappeared in seconds! I give below the recipe I adapted from the Ma Cocote blog. It’s a simple yeast-raised batter made with just milk, water, flour, salt, sugar and instant yeast which, after proving, is dropped into your deep-fat fryer. For authenticity I fried the doughnuts in peanut oil which gives a very good non-greasy and nicely flavoured result (I find sunflower oil has an unpleasant greasy taste). To achieve a perfectly spherical Puff Puff the recommended technique is to get in with your hands and extrude the batter from your partially clenched fist. I wasn’t brave enough to try this in the frying-station I’d set up in our garage but I think the spoon-shaped ones were pretty creditable for a first attempt.

Recipe for Beignets (Puff-Puffs) – Cameroonian doughnuts

Adapted from a recipe in Cameroonian food blog http://www.macocote.com

Makes about 20.

Ingredients

175g strong plain flour
175g ordinary plain flour
5g fast action dried yeast (the type that can be mixed straight into the flour without the need for prior activation)
75 golden caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
300ml milk and water mixed at room temperature (no need to warm)

MIx the dry ingredients together thoroughly in a large mixing bowl.Add the milk and water mixture and stir well to combine into a thick batter. Cover and leave to prove until the batter has become very bubbly and puffed-up. This is likely to take at least an hour, maybe two and will happen more quickly if the bowl is left in a warm place.

Drop tablespoons of the mixture into a deep-fat fryer ideally using peanut oil. Fry at 190 degrees C for about 7 minutes, turning the doughnuts over halfway through the cooking time. They are ready when they are a deep golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper, sprinkle with caster sugar and serve immediately.

Cambodian breakfast

February 4, 2013 § 4 Comments

The latest in our Breakfasts of the World Project series.

New Year, new letter of the alphabet – we’re finally onto the letter C! – new country.

In preparation for our Cambodian breakfast I watched Roland Joffé’s “Killing Fields” on DVD documenting the friendship between New York Times reporter Sydney Schanberg and his Cambodian colleague Dith Pran. The Vietnam war spills over the border into neighbouring Cambodia and the Communist Khmer Rouge take control of Cambodia’s capital city Phnom Penh in 1975. Schanberg gets away unscathed but Pran, as an urban intellectual, is taken prisoner by the Khmer Rouge and made to work in harsh labour camps and witnesses Pol Pot’s in the killing fields.

How things have changed in the last 30 odd years. Cambodia is now very much on the modern-day Grand Tour with the holy city of Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor Wat a must-see destination. And a tourist website gives the following cursory directions to another top tourist attraction:

“The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek are 15 km from Central Phnom Penh. To get there, take Monireth Blvd south-westward out of the city from the Dang Kor Market bus depot.”

So what to eat for our Cambodian breakfast? The opening scenes of “The Killing Fields” feature Schanberg and colleague Al Rockoff (memorably played by John Malkovich) ordering café complet and aspirin at Phnom Penh’s Café Central but I was after something altogether more authentic. Fortunately, travel blogs are almost unanimous in identifying Nom Banh Chok – bowls of rice noodles with fish curry ladled over – as the ubiquitous breakfast dish in Cambodia.

You can read about the extremely laborious process of making Nom Banh Chok rice noodles by hand here, a link to the fascinating and beautifully photographed Eating Asia blog.

The list of ingredients required to make Num/Nom Banh Chok (spellings transliterated from the Cambodian language are many and various). I succeeded in tracking down an authentic recipe which comes from another West/Eastern duo – not Schanberg and Pran this time but Austrian and Cambodian chefs Gustav Auer and Sok Chhong who co-authored the cookbook “From spiders to water lilies” containing recipes from their Phnom Penh restaurant Romdeng (Cambodian for the key flavouring ingredient galangal).

Having tracked down an authentic recipe I wanted to do my best to use authentic ingredients. Whereas most large supermarkets now stock lemongrass, Thai basil, Kaffir lime leaves, Thai fish sauce and coconut cream and milk (and you can get hold of Kaffir limes from the Natoora range carried by online supermarket delivery service Ocado), some of the ingredients listed necessitated a special expedition to Manchester’s Chinatown.

I was delighted to be able to track down galangal, fresh turmeric and something close to the recipe’s specified “Cambodian rhizome” at Kim’s Thai Food Store. What I bought was Boesenbergia Pandurata aka Kaempferia pandurata, Chinese Keys, lesser galangal (though this name is probably incorrect), krachai (Thai), kcheay (Khmer) and kunci (Indonesian).

The aromatics were chopped then blitzed in the food processor to produce 15 tablespoons of precious yellow curry paste:

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To complete the curry, a whole new batch of ingredients were needed. Coconut cream, fish sauce and coconut milk are now readily available in supermarkets. I had no idea at the time what type of fish to use, or even if it should be sea or freshwater fish so I chose a fresh and healthy looking Anglesey farmed seabass from my local fishmonger who expertly converted it into fillets. It was a shame to carefully poach and skin it and then pulp it into oblivion as the recipe specifies!

I’ve since read about Cambodia’s enormous inland Tonlé Sap lake which apparently supplies 70% of the protein consumed in Cambodia, including not only fish but shrimps, crabs, snails, frogs and snakes.

The only ingredient I couldn’t get hold of was the Cambodian fish paste called prahok. According to the helpful Cambodian food leaflet “Cambodia on A Plate”, prahok is “a grey paste of preserved fish…(that is) probably the most distinctive flavour in all Cambodian cooking”. I had to make do with a Thai shrimp paste instead (on reflection the UK anchovy paste we call “Gentlemen’s Relish” might have made a good substitute too).

Curry complete, all that was left to do was prepare the all-important rice noodles, accompanying salad and Thai basil and red chilli garnish. Yet another long list of ingredients, some, such as the cucumber and beansprouts easy to obtain, others, such as banana flower (?) and water lily root (??) a little trickier. I was delighted to find a fresh banana flower in Chinatown but the water lily root request defeated both the Chinese and Thai shop assistants. In the end I went for the helpful suggestion of a lotus root which is apparently used raw in salads in some Thai recipes.

The resulting plate of salad was a thing of beauty:

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And finally, after about 6 hours spread over 2 days of shopping, chopping, pounding and boiling, we sat down to breakfast:

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Contact details

For Oriental vegetables in Manchester:

Hang Won Hong
Connaught Buildings
58-60 George Street
Manchester M1 4HF

Telephone 0161 228 6182

For Thai (and Cambodian) specialities in Manchester:

46 George Street
Manchester M1 4HF

Telephone 0161 228 6263

For the UK’s only Cambodian restaurant

Lemongrass
243 Royal College Street
London NW1 9LT

Telephone 0207 284 1116

http://www.cambodianlemongrass.co.uk/

Recipe for Num Banh Chok – yellow fish and coconut curry with rice noodles and raw Cambodian vegetables

This recipe is adapted from one in the book “From Spiders to Water Lilies” by Gustav Auer and Sok Chhong published as a fundraising project by the Friends International organisation.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

For the lemongrass paste

200 g young lemongrass stalks (about 15-16 stalks) trimmed and sliced
2cm cube of peeled and roughly chopped galangal
3cm cube peeled and chopped fresh turmeric
4 kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, halved
Peel of half a kaffir lime, chopped
2cm cube peeled and chopped Cambodian rhizome

For the curry

300 g fish fillets, poached
3 tablespoons lemongrass paste
2 tablespoons roasted chopped peanuts
500 ml fish stock

250 ml coconut milk
250 ml coconut cream
1 teaspoon prahok (Cambodian fermented fish paste)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
salt to taste
1 tablespoon palm sugar

To accompany the curry

400 g dried weight thin rice noodles, cooked al dente
2 small cucumbers, cut into matchsticks
half a banana flower, soaked in cold water acidulated with kaffir lime juice then thinly sliced just before serving
200 g bean sprouts
2 pieces of water lily root, peeled and thinly sliced

To garnish

red chillies
few Thai basil leaves

First, prepare the lemongrass paste. Using a food processor, blitz the chopped lemongrass into a paste. Add the remaining ingredients and 4-6 tablespoons cold water and blitz again until well combined. According to the original recipe, this paste will keep refrigerated for one day only, so take what you need for the recipe and freeze the rest in individual containers. This quantity of ingredients produced 12 tablespoons of neon-yellow paste which I froze in 3 tablespoon portions.

Next, poach the fish in the stock until just cooked – for thin fish fillets this will take just 2 or 3 minutes. Leave to cool a little then drain off and reserve the stock to add to the curry and skin the fish fillets making sure no small bones remain in the flesh as you do so. Set aside.

Prepare the raw vegetable accompaniments and garnish, leaving the banana flower pieces in iced acidulated water until the last minute as they discolour very quickly.

Weigh, measure and set out all the curry ingredients and necessary kitchen equipment so you can complete the curry quickly without overcooking the rice noodles and fish.

About 20 minutes before you plan to serve the curry, take the banana flower from the iced acidulated water, dry it and shred finely. Add to your serving platter of accompanying raw vegetables.

Next, soak the dried rice noodles in hot water for about 15 minutes until they soften to just al dente. Keep an eye on them as overcooked rice noodles have an unpleasant mushy texture.

You are now ready to complete the curry. Place the cooled cooked and de-skinned fish fillets with the 3 tablespoons lemongrass paste and peanuts into the bowl of a food processor. Blitz to a coarse paste. Set aside. Put 500ml fish stock, the coconut milk, coconut cream and prahok into a medium saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring frequently to mix. Add the reserved fish paste, fish sauce, salt and palm sugar, and simmer for 5 more minutes, mixing to incorporate.

To serve, put a large handful of vegetables into each person’s bowl. Add a portion of cooked rice noodles then ladle the fish curry over the top. Garnish with finely sliced deseeded red chillies and a scattering of Thai basil leaves.

Burundi breakfast

December 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

The latest in our Breakfasts of the World Project series.

It’s not long since we breakfasted Burkina Faso style. That was an impoverished landlocked West African country whereas Burundi is an impoverished landlocked East African one. Over to the BBC weather website for some basic facts about the country:

“This small country in central Africa is about the size of Wales or Israel and is densely populated. It lies between 2° and 4°S and is bordered by Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the east, Lake Tanganyika to the southwest, and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the west. It is a hilly and mountainous country, with its highest point rising to over 4,600 m/15,000 ft.”

I was taken aback by the existence of a 4,600m peak in central Africa that I’d never heard of before – sadly this seems to be a factual error – shame on you BBC!- as other more reliable sources show that the highest peak in Burundi is the whimsically named Mount Heha clocking in at just 2,670m.

Over to another BBC site – a world news one this time – for more facts. This was a depressing roll call of colonial oppression (first the Germans then the Belgians who are presumably responsible for Burundi’s official language being French), Hutu and Tutse civil war, genocide, mass refugee emigration and a shattered economy. Amidst the depressing fatcs I did find this striking image (courtesy of Getty Images) there of a Burundi man on a bicycyle transporting a LOT of green bananas:

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Information on Burundian food is hard to come by but the meagre information sources available seem to agree that green bananas or plantains and beans are part of the staple diet. So over to the Celtnet website for a basic red kidney bean and plantain stew which is there described as a main course accompaniment.

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I’ve adapted the Celtnet recipe to make it simpler to concoct in my Western kitchen and I give my recipe below. Served with toast and a poached egg plus a cafetière of aromatic East African coffee (coffee is one of Burundi’s principal exports) this made a pretty decent breakfast, the kind of breakfast to set you up for facing the legendary man-eating crocodile Gustave said to inhabit the waters of Lake Tanganyika just off Burundi’s capital city, Bujumbura.

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And we’ve reached the end of countries beginning with the letter B just in time to end the year!

Recipe for Burundian bean and plantain stew

Adapted from a Celtnet.org recipe.

Serves 4

Ingredients

14oz can red kidney beans
2 plantains
1 small onion
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
pinch dried chilli flakes
salt and pepper to taste
300ml water

First prepare the vegetables. Drain and rinse the kidney beans in a colander. Peel and slice the plantain into chunks about 1cm thick. Peel and thinly slice the onion.

In a medium lidded saucepan heat the vegetable oil over a medium heat and add the sliced onions. Fry for 5 or so minutes until soft and translucent. Add the plantain slices and fry for 10 minutes more, turning the chunks occasionally so that they don’t burn. Once the plantain has coloured a little, add the drained kidney beans, seasonings and 300ml water. Bring to the the boil, turn the heat down to a simmer, partially cover with the pan lid and cook for about 20 minutes. The stew is ready when the plantain is soft and the liquid has reduced by a half.

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