August 30, 2012 § 1 Comment
The latest in our Breakfasts of the World Project series.
Breakfasts in Brazil are many and various depending on where you are in this vast country. I chose to prepare Açaí na Tigela, a breakfast dish popular on Brazil’s beaches, from Caraivo in the north to Florianópolis in the south as the Brazilian breakfast date coincided with our family beach holiday to Southwold in Suffolk.
OK so both Southwold and Florianópolis are both on the coast but that’s where the similarities end. Southwold is famous for its pastel-coloured beach huts and sedate way-of-life whereas Florianópolis is known as one of Brazil’s hippest cities with “dental floss” bikinis rather than Cath Kidston florals being the beachwear of choice.
Let’s compare and contrast some other features of these two towns/cities :
1) Population: Southwold – 1,458 (compared to a national population of 62,641,000); Florianópolis – 427,298 (compared to a national population of 196,655,014)
2) Administration: Southwold – within Waveney district council in Suffolk in the east of England; Florianópolis – capital and second largest city of Santa Catarina province in the south of Brazil
3) Distance from capital city: Southwold 154km from London (but looks a long way on the map of our crowded little island); Florianópolis – 1,673 km from Brasilia (but looks quite close on the map because of the vastness of the country)
4) Climate: Southwold – temperate (really?!); Florianópolis – sub-tropical
5) Number of beaches: Southwold – 1; Florianópolis – 42
6) Main educational establishment: Southwold – Sailors’ reading room; Florianópolis – Santa Catarina University
I needed more for this breakfast than just the Açaí na Tigela. Brazilians love their coffee so this was a must, made from Brazilian beans, naturally. Finally, rather than ordinary white rolls I made a batch of cheese rolls, Pão de queijo, which are made from tapioca starch so perfect for anyone on a gluten-free diet.
Here’s the whole spread:
Back to the Açaí na Tigela, literally “bowl of açai berries”. This turns out to be a smoothie the main ingredients of which are super-trendy (and, over here, superexpensive) açai berries and banana, topped with granola and, optionally, more banana slices. I read about it here and instantly wanted to try one.
The smoothie was quickly whizzed up with a stick blender and I added a spoonful each of ginseng, guarana and maca powders to the whole fruit and juices to give it an extra Brazilian lift. It certainly gave my 90 year old father-in-law Lawrie an extra gear in his wheelchair travels that day.
I poured the smoothie into individual serving bowls:
and topped it with a spoonful of homemade granola:
Yes of course you can buy granola readily these days but it’s quite satisfying to make your own now and again. I discovered this particular granola at a friend’s house a couple of years ago, asked for the recipe and was told I already had it as it’s in Nigella Lawson’s “Feast”. She in turn attributes the recipe to Andy Rolleri of The Pantry deli in Fairfield, Connecticut. It’s a cinch to make – the only remotely tricky bits are making sure you’ve bought all the items on the lengthy ingredients list and getting the correct bake – not underdone and not burnt. A long and slow toasting is what you’re aiming for, not a quick char. Be warned, it’s addictive stuff and you’ll find yourself eating it by the handful rather than rationing it just for breakfast.
I found my pão de queijo recipe on this website in 2008 but can’t remember now why I was trying to find a Brazilian cheese bread recipe back then. The list of ingredients sounds surprising – what, tapioca, the stuff that school dinner nightmares are made of? Yes , that’s right, but look for tapioca flour rather than the tapioca processed to make school dinner puddings. You can find it at specialist health food stores – mine came from Chorlton’s fantastic Unicorn deli. It’s a starch made from the cassava root and you might find it sold as manioc flour – all rather confusing. I have once made a batch using pudding tapioca which I tried to grind down to a flour in my liquidiser. It didn’t work as the stuff is rock hard. I made the recipe with it anyway and it was OK but there were occasional lumps, so do make every effort to find the right flour.
The recipe requires you to make a choux-type paste by throwing the tapioca starch into boiling water and then beating like crazy to make a smooth paste. Beaten eggs are then added before the soft dough is blobbed onto lined trays for baking.
Miraculously, these blobby balls transform when baked into light and fluffy rolls:
Recipe for granola
Adapted from a recipe in Nigella Lawson’s “Feast”.
450g rolled oats
120g sunflower seeds
120g white sesame seeds
175g apple compote (a little bought jar is fine)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
120g brown rice syrup (from health food shops or the healthy eating aisle of your supermarket)
4 tablespoons runny honey
100g light brown sugar
250g whole unskinned almonds
1 teaspoon Maldon salt
2 tbsp sunflower oil
Mix everything except the raisins together very well in a large mixing bowl using 2 curved spatulas.
Spread the mixture out on 2 baking tins and bake at 170 degrees C for about 40 minutes. Keep an eye on the mixture and turn it over with a big spoon after about 20 minutes. It may need longer than 40 minutes in total. You need to achieve an even golden colour without overbaking or burning. Once cool, mix with the raisins and store in an airtight tin.
Recipe for Brazilian cheese bread (Pao de queijo)
From the website “sonia-portuguese.com”. Makes about 70 individual rolls.
1 cup water
1 cup milk
½ cup oil
1 teaspoon salt
450g tapioca starch
2 to 3 eggs
200g grated parmesan cheese
Bring to a boil in a big pan the water, milk, oil and salt. Remove the pan from the heat and add the tapioca starch. Mix well with a wooden spoon and allow to cool down. Put the mixture in a bowl, add the eggs and knead well. Add the grated cheese and keep kneading until the dough is smooth.
Roll into small balls (each ball requiring 1 tbsp mixture). Oil rather than flour your hands.
Place the balls on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake at 180 degrees C for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.
August 7, 2012 § Leave a comment
The latest in our Breakfasts of the World Project series.
I chose to learn about Botswana via the gentle medium of Alexander McCall-Smith’s bestseller “The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” featuring the “traditionally built” heroine Mma Ramotswe. I was also helped by Stuart Brown’s “Mma Ramotswe’s Cookbook”, almost a companion volume to the series and a browsable mix of cookbook, travel guide and introduction to Botswanan geography and culture.
Thanks to both books I finally got to grips with the various confusingly similar words Batswana, Motswana, Setswana and Tswana. Batswana is the name for the people of Botswana; Motswana the singular form of the same word; Setswana, also Tswana, the name both for the main language of Botswana and the population group speaking this language living in Botswana, South Africa and Namibia.
Botswana, formerly Bechuanaland, gained independence from Britain in 1966. Its capital city is Gaborone, newly established when the country gained independence. Botswana has since grown to become an African success story, relatively prosperous and with a strong tradition of democracy.
It’s a large but sparsely populated country as much of its land area is taken up by the Kalahari desert. Despite being landlocked, Botswana can lay claim to the spectacular Okovango delta, formed where the Okovango river spreads out across a tectonic trough. The water in this inland delta never reaches the sea, being lost through transpiration and evaporation.
On to the breakfast. Deciding what to drink was easy – the first thing Mma Ramotswe and her able assistant Mma Makutsi do on their first morning at work in the Detective Agency is to drink a cup of bush tea, Mma Ramotswe’s favourite, with just a little condensed milk. And they go on to drink bush tea throughout the rest of the book. We followed suit:
The bush in question is of course the Rooibus or Redbush (Latin name Aspalathus linearis), a shrub from the Western Cape of southern Africa whose needle-like leaves turn red once dried in the sun and fermented. The resulting fragrant brew has a slightly medicinal quality, a beautiful red colour and is eminently drinkable with or without milk.
On to the food. Whilst there are plenty of food references in the No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series books, I didn’t find a definitive Setswana breakfast. I read with some trepidation about mopane worms, chipolata-sized moth caterpillars preserved by drying in the sun. Fortunately these seem to be eaten as snacks or made into a main-meal stew rather than being eaten for breakfast.
One blogger writing about a trip earlier this year to a “Sons of the Soil” festival in Botswana describes one possible breakfast option:
“On the breakfast menu was chicken necks with fat cakes cooked the very traditional way.”
Fat cakes are Botswana’s answer to the doughnut, a deep-fried yeast-raised wheatflour dough. My fryer needed cleaning and an oil-change before it could be used and I wasn’t sure how to get hold of chicken necks so I decided to focus my efforts on getting hold of some sorghum meal to make the thin soft sorghum porridge, Motogo, another traditional breakfast staple.
Sorghum is relatively unknown here in the UK but is a staple grain crop in large parts of Africa and the Indian subcontinent thanks to its nutritious qualities and ability to withstand drought. It’s known as Mabele in the Setswana language and as Jowar in Gujarati (useful to know if you’re shopping in one of the many ethnic Indian foodstores over here in the UK). I bought myself a distinctly unauthentic pack of American sorghum flour from an Amazon marketplace supplier:
I had to buy in bulk so am busy giving away my remaining packs of sorghum flour to gluten-free friends. Marian, one of my remaining packs has your name on it!
I was a little concerned that my sorghum flour rather than a coarser sorghum meal would not make an acceptable porridge. I needn’t have worried as mixed with water and a little milk and cooked gently over a low heat for 10 minutes or so, the sorghum produced a perfectly acceptable porridge, albeit lacking a little in terms of texture:
May 13, 2012 § Leave a comment
The latest in our Breakfasts of the World Project series.
Looking at the map of Bosnia and Herzegovina, I was taken aback by how familiar the names some of the larger towns were – Banja Luka once known for its tree-lined boulevards, Mostar similarly for its iconic bridge and the cultured and elegant capital city of Sarajevo. An unfortunate legacy of the Bosnian war of the 1990s is that all these cities are now best known for the war atrocities committed there.
April 2012 was the 20th anniversary of the start of the Siege of Sarajevo which lasted from 1992 until almost 4 years later, 29 February 1996, the longest siege of a capital city in modern warfare. This added a certain resonance to our breakfast.
On the menu was the ultimate Bosnian street food, burek, written about most engagingly here http://horinca.blogspot.co.uk/2009/06/burek-bosnias-gift-to-breakfast.html
Burek, a savoury filling encased in paper thin pastry is known across Eastern Europe and around the Mediterranean under various names – börek, bourek, böregi, bouréki, a legacy of the Ottoman empire. The Turks occupied Bosnia for more than 400 years (1463-1878) and their legacy remains many ways including their food.
Emigré Bosnians yearn for a dollop of kajmak a Balkan version of clotted cream cheese to serve alongside their burek. If you fancy having a go, the instructions here http://saltandfat.com/post/9168043369/kajmak look admirably detailed. We cheated and ate our burek with a spoonful of thick plain yoghurt instead.
I give the full burek recipe below though I chose not to make my own filo/strudel pastry on this occasion.
Preparing the meat filling is a simple job if you use a food processor. It comprises minced beef, onion, a liberal quantity of paprika and beaten egg to hold it all together.
Making the burek is a little bit like creating an enormous sausage roll:
The next step is coiling up the roll ready to bake:
One baked the burek are best cooled on a rack to avoid a soggy bottom:
Finally the burek is sliced and ready to eat.
Recipe for Bosanski burek
Adapted from this recipe http://www.whats4eats.com/meats/bosanski-burek-recipe
I chose not to make my own filo/strudel pastry as the original recipe suggests. Instead I bought a pack of ready made filo. Jus-rol brand is readily available in UK shops and a pack of pastry contains 6 sheets and weighs 270g.
The recipe makes 3 medium sized burek rolls like the ones in my pictures above.
6 sheets filo pastry, 2 per burek, fully defrosted if using frozen pastry
approx. 50g melted butter
For the filling
600g lean minced beef
2 medium onions, chopped
1 large egg, beaten
1 and 1/2 tablespoons paprika (mild)
salt and pepper
Begin by making the simple filling. Put all the filling ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until combined and the mixture is very finely chopped but not reduced to a mulch with no texture. If you prefer not to use a food processor, make sure the onions are very finely chopped or even grated and mix all the ingredients together thoroughly in a large bowl using a wooden spoon or your hands. Set the prepared filling aside.
Next, get everything ready to shape and bake the bureks. Make sure your melted butter has cooled a little and that you have a pastry brush to hand. Lay out your pastry and workboard and have either a clean damp teatowel or some clingfilm to hand to cover the filo you’re not working with. Line three baking sheets with baking parchment, one for each burek. Finally, preheat your oven to 170 degrees C (fan). You need to be organised before you begin as the filos sheets are so thin that they dry out very quickly and crack and become difficult to roll up unless you keep them covered.
Spread one filo sheet onto your pastry board, long side facing you ie landscape rather than portrait orientation. Brush it liberally with melted butter. Lay a second sheet the same way partly overlapping first one by about one third. Brush this one with melted butter too.
Take one third of the filling and, leaving a 7cm border at the top and a 3cm border at each end, spread it out in a long rough sausage shape. Fold over the top border and continue rolling up into a long sausage roll shape. Pinch the ends to seal, brush the roll with melted butter and coil it into a rough spiral. Lift gently and place on the prepared baking sheet.
Complete the other two bureks in the same way.
Bake in the preheated oven for 35 to 45 minutes until golden brown and cooked through.
March 16, 2012 § Leave a comment
The latest in our Breakfasts of the World Project series.
Unusually this time our breakfast comes from a country that one of us (my husband Tim) has actually visited. This was a climbing trip to the Andes hooking up with various members of the Oxford University Mountaineering Club. Three of the team are pictured below, from L to R Simon Beaufoy, Mike,and Doré. Simon has gone on to become well known for his screenplays so I thought it might be fun to try and shoehorn into this post the titles of all Simon’s screenplay titles. I’ll stick them in capitals so you’ll know why this post might sound a little stilted. I hope the guys don’t BURN-UP taking in all that high altitude sunshine and it looks as if Doré at least found time for a BLOW DRY.
Husband Tim, not pictured AMONG GIANTS above, is in this photo, looking rather younger than he is now, a bit of a SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE with the designer sunglasses and “I’ve not shaved for 127 HOURS” designer stubble.
Here’s one of the team again (maybe Alex whom I’ve not yet mentioned?), not SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN but using his RUNNING TIME to stride purposefully towards a herd of a llamas in a high Andean glaciated valley. The objective was the ascent of Ancohuma, at 6,427m Bolivia’s third highest peak located in the Cordillera Real range of the Bolivian Andes.
Tim’s recollections of what they ate for breakfast during the expedition were hardly clear (more 10×10 than 20×20). He muttered vaguely about living dangerously by carrying fresh eggs in his backpack and the joys of homemade chapatis at base camp. So it was over to me to research a traditional Bolivian breakfast. Two dishes took my fancy, the first, Api Morada, something halfway between a drink and a porridge made with purple corn flour:
and the second, Bolivia’s answer to the Cornish pasty, the juicy beef-filled salteña, its YELLOW colour coming from an egg and paprika glaze. Truthfully, the one in the bottom right corner caught in the oven just a tad so its colour might best be described as THE DARKEST LIGHT.
The Api Morada turned out like a Spanish hot chocolate, thick, spiced and velvety with a curious grapey flavour no doubt attributable to the naturally occurring anthocyanins which give the corn its vivid purple colour.
It’s pretty straightforward to make, the only hard part being the sourcing of the purple corn flour. Fortunately, small supplier “Detox Your World” trading on Amazon came up trumps:
The salteñas are more often eaten as a mid-morning snack with coffee rather then being a true breakfast dish but were too good to miss out. The filling in the recipe I’ve chosen is minced beef livened up with peas, spices, raisins, olives and chopped hardboiled egg. The masterstroke is the thickening of the meat juices with a judicious amount of gelatine. This means you can spoon a generous heap of cold set filling into the pastry and end up with plenty of lovely gravy when the pasties are baked – one of the features setting a salteña apart from any other South American empanada is the juices running down your arm as you bite into it.
The other distinctive feature of the salteña is the braided seam (repulgue in Spanish) which looks very much like a Cornish pasty crimp. By rights, this should run across the top of the pasty, but as a beginner, I went for a slightly easier side seam. This was my first attempt at braiding the repulgue achieved following the instructions I found here. It’s trickier than it looks and I’ve a way to go before I can emulate the flying fingers of a Bolivian cook. The seams did the trick though and didn’t burst during baking.
The pastry for this recipe breaks all the rules (keep everything cool, don’t overwork etc) as after rubbing the butter into the flour, the pastry is mixed with practically boiling water straight from the kettle and is then given a thorough knead for 3 minutes or more. The end result is a structural pastry that contains the juicy filling but is nevertheless crisp and delicious. Much better than a true shortcrust would be and I’m going to be using it again for pasties.
A breakfast to ensure that EVERYONE’S HAPPY.
I managed to shoehorn in a whopping twelve of Simon Beaufoy’s screenplays but these three defeated me: “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day”, “Yasmin” and “This is Not a Love Song”. Frankly these would challenge anybody and his two listed projects in development “Sharp Teeth” and “Catching Fire” would have been a doddle to incorporate. Must try harder… anyway, here are the all-important recipes:
Recipe for Salteñas
Adapted from a recipe contributed by “happymommyx4” which I found on Allrecipes.com.
I’ve adjusted the quantity of filling as I found the original recipe gave too much filling for the pastry. I’ve converted all the US measurements into European ones, simplified a couple of steps and have tinkered with the seasoning to up the flavour as my first attempt was a little bland for my taste.
Makes 8 good-sized pasties
For the filling
2 sheets leaf gelatine (approx 3g)
1 tablespoon light olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
250g good quality beef mince
2 medium waxy potatoes, boiled in their skins,cooled,peeled and coarsely grated
150g frozen peas, defrosted
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
tabasco to taste (optional)
150ml cold water
3 large hardboiled eggs, shelled and chopped
50g stoned black olives, sliced
50g raisins plumped-up in hot water and left to soak for half an hour, drained
For the pastry
400g plain flour
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
110g butter, cubed
150ml hot water (a little more may be necessary to obtain a workable pastry)
beaten egg whisked with a teaspoon each of paprika and salt to seal and glaze
Begin by making the filling.
Set the sheets of gelatine in cold water.
Heat the olive oil in a large frying or sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent but not coloured, about 5 minutes. Turn up the heat and add the minced beef and cook for a further 10 minutes reducing the heat if necessary. Spoon off any excess fat.
Stir in the grated potatoes, peas, parsley, sugar, seasoning and water, stir together and simmer for a minute or so. Remove from the heat. Push the filling to one side of the pan leaving a pool of free liquid. Add the soaked gelatine sheets to this liquid and stir until dissolved. Stir everything together and set aside to cool completely. Once cool, mix in the olives, raisins and chopped hard-boiled egg.
Next make the pastry. Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl and stir well. Rub in the cubed butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. So far, so normal. Now for the unconventional bit. Slowly add the hot water, mixing with a knife. You may need a little more water than the 150ml suggested. On a lightly floured surface knead the pastry for about 3 minutes until smooth. Divide the pastry into eight balls, either by eye or by weight if you want them all to be evenly sized. Cover the pastry balls with cling film and keep them warm while you work with the first pastry ball.
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C.
On a lightly floured board, roll the pastry ball into a circle approximately 1/8 inch thick. Don’t make the pastry too thin as it will allow the filling to break through while it bakes. Brush egg wash carefully around the rim of the pastry circle. Place approximately 2 tablespoons of the meat filling on one half of the pastry circle and carefully fold over the free half of the pastry and press gently to seal. Crimp the pressed border either by pressing the tines of a fork around the edge or, more authentically, by braiding the edge scallop-fashion to form The Repulgue as it’s known in Spanish.
Place the salteña on a baking sheet lined with parchment.
Continue with the remaining pieces of pastry until you have 8 salteñas. Glaze with the egg wash and bake in an oven preheated to 220 degrees C for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.
Enjoy warm or cold.
Recipe for Api Morado – purple corn drink
Adapted from a recipe from http://www.boliviabella.com
100g pack of purple corn flour
720 ml cold water for soaking
additional 1 litre water to complete the drink
6 tablespoons sugar or more to taste
1 stick cinnamon
2 whole cloves
2 strips peel from an orange removed using a vegetable peeler
a little chopped pineapple (fresh or canned) and additional orange zest to serve
Soak the purple corn flour in 720ml cold water for at least 2 hours, or oevrnight if you’re preparing it for breakfast.
While the corn flour soaks, bring the additional litre of water to the boil in a medium saucepan, throw in the cinnamon, cloves and orange peel, remove from the heat, cover and leave to infuse.
When you are ready to complete the drink, add the soaked corn flour and its soaking liquid to the litre of flavoured water along with the sugar and bring to the boil stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Taste and add more sugar if you like.
To serve, ladle into drinking bowls and top with the chopped pineapple and a little orange zest.
October 6, 2011 § Leave a comment
The latest in our Breakfasts of the World Project series.
The appointed day for our Bhutanese breakfast fell on my birthday this year. It’s become a bit of a family joke that my lovely husband Tim always buys me items of technical outdoor wear for birthdays and Christmas rather than more frivolous items. He was true to form this year and I am now the proud owner of my own very warm down jacket. Perfect to model while eating a breakfast from the Himalayan mountain kingdom of Bhutan:
Landlocked Bhutan lies at the eastern end of the Himalayas between Tibetan China to the north and India to the south, west and east. The delightfully named young king Wangchuck ascended the throne in the capital Thimphu as recently as 2008. The official religion is Buddhism and the country’s policy of measuring Gross National Happiness (GNH) in addition to the more usual and mundane Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has raised its profile internationally.
Our menu was a slightly simplified version of this delicious sounding description of breakfast from Bhutan’s exclusive Uma Paro hotel. Lying in a verdant valley, Paro is a centre for tourism and the precipitously sited Tiger’s Nest monastery lies just to the north of the city. To quote the website blurb:
“For a fresh start to the day, try our rosewater lassi. And before a challenging mountain trek, consider a Bhutanese breakfast: pork and red rice porridge with egg crepe, hogay salad and ezay”
Rosewater lassi was straightforward enough to whip up and was a rather gorgeous birthday breakfast treat:
Based on what I’ve read elsewhere, red rice porridge, minus the pork, is clearly a Bhutanese staple. As Bhutan is a mountainous country, the main concern of the indigenous population seems to be the consumption of sufficient calories to survive in a cold climate. One way to achieve this is to add copious quantities of butter and cheese to pretty much every dish. Thus tea is drunk with salted butter rather than milk and rice porridge is enriched with both butter and cheese.
After an extended debate with the dozy local depot of courier firm DHL, I was thrilled to take delivery of a single precious pack of authentic red rice imported from Bhutan via a circuitous trade route involving a Californian wholefoods supplier:
Once I’d got hold of the rice, making the porridge was a straightforward, if lengthy affair. I give the recipe I used below.
I decided that an egg crepe sounded rather like an international omelette so that didn’t make the breakfast cut. Hogay and ezay are both in the salsa/relish/salad category and are pepped up with copious quantities of chilli, the favourite condiment of Bhutan. I tossed a coin and decided to make an ezay to accompany the porridge:
What did it taste like? Well, a bit like risotto with a dollop of cheesy salsa on top, a weird Italian/Mexican/Asian fusion.
Would I eat it again? Realistically, probably not as, let’s face it, it would be hard to improve on well made risotto milanese, and if I wanted salsa I’d rather roll it up in a burrito.
Recipe for Bhutanese red rice porridge
Adapted from a recipe I found on Mark T’s life in Bhutan blog. Here is the link and thank you to Mark for making the recipe available – it works! http://eyeamempty.blogspot.com/2010/01/doing-porridge-for-dad.html
250g Bhutanese red rice (having tried the Bhutanese rice I think Camargue red rice which is more readily available here in the UK would be just fine here)
Enough water to cover the rice by about 5 cm
3 tablespoons butter
200g block of feta cheese, roughly crumbled
a pinch of chilli powder, or more, to taste
1 1 inch piece of peeled fresh ginger root, grated (best achieved with a Microplane type grater)
Salt and pepper
In Bhutan, a pressure cooker would be used to boil the rice until soft (5 whistles!) – essential at high altitudes. I brought the rice to the boil then covered and simmered for 25 minutes until the rice was cooked.
Take the lid off and check for consistency. Add more water if needed, continuing to cook with the lid off, stirring frequently. My porridge took about 45 minutes from start to finish, so another 20 minutes after the rice had softened.
When the rice has cooked down to a thick porridge like consistency, add the butter, cheese, and seasoning ingredients. Stir, taste, check seasonings, then serve accompanied by ezay (see next recipe).
Recipe for ezay – Bhutanese salsa
Serves 4-6 as an accompaniment
My own version of this dish after reading several recipes. I’ve substantially reduced the chilli to take account of our low western chilli heat threshold and have substituted cherry tomatoes for the hard to obtain Himalayan tree tomatilloes and feta for yak’s milk cheese.
Small bunch of coriander, washed, dried and coarsely chopped
6 spring onions, cleaned and coarsely chopped
2 red chilli peppers, medium heat, halved, deseeded and finely sliced
about 10 cherry tomatoes
juice of a lime
salt and freshly ground black pepper (or toasted and ground szechuan pepper if you can get hold of it)
100g feta cheese, crumbled
Combine all the ingredients except the feta in a bowl. Stir to mix and set aside in the fridge for half an hour to let the flavours combine. Sprinkle over the crumbled feta cheese when you’re ready to serve.
Recipe for rosewater lassi
Again, my own recipe after experimenting a little with proportions. I think you need a liquidiser with a chunky motor rather than a food processor to cope with crushing the ice and getting a good froth on the lassi.
1 450g tub thick plain wholemilk yoghurt (I used a “Greek style” variety which worked well – a true Greek yoghurt might have been too thick here)
1 teaspoon pure rosewater (from Asian shops or larger supermarkets)
4 tbsp icing sugar
1 generous cup of ice cubes (approx same volume as the yoghurt pot)
approx 200 ml cold water
a few fragrant rose petals to garnish
Put all the ingredients except the rose petals into the goblet of your scrupulously clean liquidiser and, with a firm hand over the lid in case the ice cubes are a bit rough, whizz for about 20 seconds or until the ice cubes are broken down and the mixture is frothy. Taste and add a little more sugar or rosewater if you like, whizz again, then pour into tall chilled glasses. Scatter over the rose petals and serve.
September 26, 2011 § 1 Comment
The latest in our Breakfasts of the World Project series.
This post could more properly be titled “Petit dejeuner Béninois” as this relatively small West African country is a former French colony. Its national tagline is not the highminded Liberté, Egalité and Fraternité of the mother country but the rather more down-to-earth “Fraternité, Justice, Travail”. Perhaps this is a nod to the country’s history of slavery as the former Kingdom of Dahomey used to be known as the Slave Coast from the king’s unedifying habit of selling his war captives into slavery.
Benin lies adjacent to its larger and better known neighbour Nigeria and most of its population lives close to the coast on the Gulf of Benin. Within this coastal strip lies the country’s capital, Porto Novo and its largest city, Cotonou.
Perhaps because of its ability to trade from coastal ports, and perhaps because of the historical importance of the former Kingdom of Dahomey, or maybe it’s the French legacy, the country’s cuisine is known for its exotic ingredients and well-flavoured dishes.
I began with a little research and found Kathy Curnow’s 5 page summary of the food of Benin succinctly useful http://www.conceptvessel.net/iyare/downloads/Iyare_Food_and_Cooking_in_Benin.pdf
along with an authentic and comprehensive recipe for the classic West African dish akara (black-eyed bean fritters) from http://www.congocookbook.com/snack_recipes/akara.html
I decided that akara would be the star of our breakfast show but also included baked yams as I felt something plain and starchy was required which could be smothered with the tomato and peanut sauces I planned to make. Another breakfast speciality was to be an omelette stuffed with plantain, and finally, sliced tropical fruit (mango and papaya) enlivened with a squeeze of lime.
Here’s how it all looked:
The akara were crisply moreish but took an absolute age to prepare. You need to get going 48 hours before you plan to eat them. After soaking the beans overnight in cold water, the next labour-intensive step is to rub-off the skins from the beans with your bare hands.
I sat outside in the sunshine to do this trying to get into the West African mood. This is one of those slow, gentle chores which might be soothing or even fun if there were a whole bunch of you rubbing away at your beans but as I was toute seule it soon became rather tedious.
The next step was to pulverise the soaked raw beans and combine them with flavouring ingredients. I’m sure that traditionally this would be done in a pestle and mortar but in my case this was a job for my trusty Magimix. I soon had the beans pulverised into submission.
The bean paste rests overnight to develop the flavour fully before frying off for breakfast the following morning.
I love this intense description of frying akara from Nigerian author Wolé Soyinka’s memoir “Aké: the years of childhood”
“In the market we stood and gazed on the deftly cupped fingers of the old women and their trainee wards scooping out the white bean-paste from a mortar in carefully gauged quantities, into the wide-rimmed, shallow pots of frying oil. The lump sank immediately in the oil but no deeper than an inch or two, bobbed instantly to the surface and turned pinkish in the oil. It spurted fat globules upwards and sometimes beyond the rim of the pot if the mix had too much water. Then, slowly forming, the outer crust of crisp, gritty light brownness which masked the inner core of baked bean paste, filled with green and red peppers, ground crayfish or chopped.”
Pretty accurate I would say though I used my thermostat controlled deep-fat fryer which made the process a doddle. I kept the fat temperature at a medium heat – 150 degrees C which meant that the akara were ready in about 8 to 10 minutes and were thoroughly cooked in the middle. The resulting crispy fritter was similar to falafel and was just perfect smothered with sauce – my preference was for the densely calorific peanut sauce though the fresh tomato sauce was pretty good too.
The other dishes (baked yam, plantain omelette and sliced tropical fruit) were straightforward in terms of preparation. The only potential difficulty was in sourcing the raw ingredients. My regular supplier for tropical fruit and veg is the Strawberry Garden stall, a little gem in Manchester’s claustrophobic and unappealing indoor Arndale market. Here are my prized purchases ready to be prepped:
All in all, a cheerful-looking and flavoursome breakfast on the strength of which I’d definitely put Benin on any West African trip itinerary.
Recipe for akara – black-eyed bean fritters
Adapted from a recipe on the http://www.congocookbook.com site.
250g dried black-eyed beans
one small onion, finely chopped
pinch of salt
one finely chopped deseeded fresh chilli pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated peeled ginger root
vegetable oil for deep frying (ideally peanut oil)
Soak the black eyed beans in cold water in the fridge overnight. The next day, rub them together between your hands to remove the skins. This is a time consuming process and you will need to rinse the beans frequently to wash away the skins.
Drain the water off the beans then whizz them in a food processor to form a thick, coarse paste. Add the onion, ginger and salt and sufficient water to form a thick paste of a batter that will drop stiffly from a spoon.
Allow the batter to stand for a few hours or even overnight in the fridge. When you’re ready to cook, heat the oil in your pan or deep fat fryer. While the oil is heating, beat the batter with a wire whisk or wooden spoon for a few minutes.
Drop big spoonfuls of batter formed into a rough quenelle shape into the hot oil and deep fry the until they are golden brown. Turn them frequently while frying.
Mine took 10-12 minutes at 160-170 degrees C to cook.
Serve with a sauce (such as spicy tomato or peanut) or simply sprinkled with salt, as a snack, starter or accompaniment.
July 25, 2011 § Leave a comment
The latest in our Breakfasts of the World Project series.
Belize is a tiny little country just 180 miles long situated in Central America. Mexico lies to the North, Guatemala to the South and West and the Caribbean Sea to the East. The colony formerly known as British Honduras is now a hot tourist destination and a must-see place on the gap-year ecotourism trail according to my niece Lucy. It does sound rather idyllic – coral atolls, Mayan ruins, tropical rain forest… Maybe it’s not just for the low tax régime that Belize’s most famous resident Michael Ashcroft chooses to make his home here.
Because of the thriving tourism industry, descriptions of Belizean hospitality and specifically its breakfasts are not hard to come by on the web. I found this entry http://www.travellious.com/breakfast_in_belize pretty helpful in setting out what constitutes breakfast in Belize: refried beans, scrambled eggs, salsa, fry-jacks, and above all Marie Sharp’s hot sauce.
Here’s my version cooked up at home last Sunday morning. There’s one further addition to the Travellious list which is some greens quickly stir-fried with garlic. They’d use amaranth greens in Belize, sometimes referred to as callaloo, but I had to be content with some less exotic baby spinach:
The Marie Sharp’s hot sauce was impressively easy to obtain – a couple of mouse clicks and it arrived by post the next day. It’s a fiery red Tabasco type sauce but made authentically in Belize, and yes there really is a person called Marie Sharp who runs the company, it’s not just a marketing man’s fantasy à la Betty Crocker.
OK so menu and sauce sorted, this breakfast was beginning to take shape. Scrambled eggs, stir-fried greens and fresh salsa would be easy enough to whip-up, but what about the refried beans and those intriguingly named fry jacks?
My starting point for authentic refried beans was a recipe from the website of the rather lovely looking Chaa Creek ecolodge. Their recipe was a little sketchy so I’ve added my own tips for preparing refried beans. Despite the name, the beans are fried just once. I think I read somewhere that it’s more mellifluous in Spanish to refer to frijoles refritos rather than the uncomfortably alliterative frijoles fritos.
The soaked black beans look a dramatic inky deep purple colour as they go into the pot with the flavouring ingredients:
This softens when you come to fry and mash the beans to more of a sludgy grey. They may not look that pretty, but they do taste good:
Now for the fryjacks. I found an authentic recipe from fascinating blog Rice and Beans A Belizean in the USA which I’ve adapted and given below. My fry jacks tasted good – a bit like a savoury doughnut but didn’t puff up quite as much as expected.
First step was to make the dough and divide it into little balls:
Next, the dough balls are flattened and cut into quarters:
Finally, when you’re ready to eat, the quarters are dropped into hot deep fat to fry:
In keeping with the tropical vibe, I set up the deep fat fryer in the garage with the intention of eating our breakfast on the terrace outside. Great for containing cooking smells and conjuring up the beach shack atmosphere but unfortunately a Mancunian tropical downpour sent us scurrying back inside to eat.
Recipe for refried beans
Adapted from a recipe on the award winning Belizean eco-lodge Chaa Creek’s website.
To cook the beans
1 lb dried black or red beans
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
2 cloves garlic, unpeeled but lightly crushed
1 sprig thyme
salt to taste
To fry the beans
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
a little powdered cumin (optional)
handful chopped coriander (optional)
Soak the beans overnight in cold water. Next morning, drain the beans in a colander, rinse them and tip them into a deep lidded pot. Add enough fresh cold water to cover the beans adding an additional 1cm of water on top.
Add the flavouring ingredients except the salt and bring the beans to the boil leaving the lid off the pan as otherwise it will boil over. Skim off the scum, turn down to a very gentle simmer and cover the pan. Check the beans after 30 minutes – add salt as soon as the beans are nearly cooked through. Simmer until the beans are nice and soft but not too mushy. This might take anywhere between 30 minutes and an hour or longer depending on your batch of beans and how long they’ve soaked for. Don’t taste the beans until they gave boiled for at least 20 minutes as they are mildly toxic until cooked through. Remove the flavouring ingredients using a slotted spoon and leave the beans in their cooking liquid until you’re ready to fry. You can fry the beans straightaway or, once cooled, store them covered in their liquid in the fridge for a couple of days.
When you’re ready to fry, choose a heavy based deep wide sauté or frying pan and heat the vegetable oil until medium hot. Add the chopped onions and cook until soft and just turning golden. Throw in the garlic and cook for a minute or so more until just beginning to brown but not burn. Add a couple of ladlefuls of beans and their cooking liquid to the frying pan, turn down the heat to low and cook the beans and associated liquid mashing them into the base of a pan with your wooden spoon or a potato masher. Once each ladleful of beans is mashed and heated, add the next. Add more bean cooking liquid as required to form a thick paste. It won’t look too pretty – a thick, grey sludgy paste, but it will taste good. Taste and season with salt and pepper and, if using, ground cumin. Scatter over the optional chopped coriander and serve.
Recipe for Belizean fry jacks
Adapted from an authentic fry jacks recipe from the blog “Rice and Beans A Belizean in the USA”
1/2 cup wholewheat flour
1 and 1/2 cups white flour
1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
about 3/4 cup of water
Mix together the flour, salt and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Add the vegetable oil and, using your hands, work the oil into the flour until you have little pebbles of oil saturated dough evenly distributed throughout the flour.
Make a well in the mixture and pour in the water a little at a time, using your other hand to stir the flour into the water in the centre of your pile. Keep adding the water and mixing it in a little at a time until you have formed the entire pile of flour into a rough ball of slightly sticky dough. You may need a little less water than specified in the list of ingredients.
Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead for about 5 minutes until it is smooth and stretchy. Then roll it out into a snake shape and cut it into 8 equal sized pieces. Take each piece and roll it into a ball. Cover and leave the balls to rest on a lightly floured surface for at least 30 minutes.
Next, prepare to deep fry the fry jacks. I used an electric deep fat fryer and my chosen cooking oil was rapeseed (canola). Heat the oil until really hot. To test if the oil is hot enough, drop in a small scrap of dough. If it sizzles but doesn’t smoke, the oil is the right temperature.
Take one of the dough balls and roll or pat it out into a circle, about 6 inches across. Take a knife or pizza cutter and cut the circle into four pieces. Once your oil is hot, drop several fry jacks into the pan. I managed to cook four at once without overcrowding. The fry jacks first sink then quickly rise to the surface of the oil. After 20-30 seconds, check to see if the sides in the oil have browned. If so, flip the fry jacks over with a pair of tongs fork and let the other side cook. Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Eat immediately.
July 10, 2011 § Leave a comment
The latest in our series of international breakfasts making up the Breakfasts of the World Project.
Unlike most of the far-flung destinations whose breakfasts we’ve tried to recreate at home, hopping over to Belgium is relatively straighforward for us in the UK so we were able to do some serious research on a recent family trip based in Bruges. This combined a little education (First World War graves, Ypres, Flemish painting and architecture) with gastronomic sight-seeing.
I know that Venice has the edge when it comes to a romantic weekend away à deux, but if you’re travelling en famille, as we were, a city which combines gorgeous architecture with chips, chocolate and waffles takes the biscuit (or should that be the speculoos…?).
We stayed in the charming canalside Ter Duinen hotel which these days would probably be called a boutique hotel as this sounds more desirable than “small hotel”. They laid on an impressive breakfast spread and if you were prepared to leap out of bed early, you could grab one of the coveted window seats with gorgeous reflected light from the canal:
This is how we attempted to recreate the experience at home. Not quite as beautiful as the Ter Duinen breakfast I know. I don’t run to white damask in our kitchen but I made an effort with some Flemish inspired tulips.
As you might expect from a country which has been fought over between the France and the Netherlands for aeons, its breakfast is a hybrid between the French influenced café au lait with croissants and the more Northern European influenced hearty brown bread with ham and sliced cheese. You get both at breakfast together with Belgium’s particular contribution to the breakfast universe, a host of tasty packaged treats, the legacy of its industrial and colonial past perhaps?
Belgium may not be known as a cheese producer, but here’s some prepacked slices of Bruges’ finest:
There were little squares of chocolate too – one of the reasons Belgium is world famous. Oddly, I can’t find a decent definition of what Belgian chocolate is – Côte d’Or with its familiar Elephant logo is the indigenous mass-market producer. Côte d’Or or Gold Coast is of course the old name for Ghana which is a former British rather than Belgian colony so how does that work? Maybe Belgian chocolates just refer to the delicious filled pralines sold by Neuhaus, Godiva and Leonidas and many more small artisan producers. A clear and comprehensive definition of Belgian chocolate remains elusive for the time being.
Popping into the Bruges branch of Delhaize (one of the big Belgian supermarket chains) to stock up on Belgian breakfast products I was thrilled to find family sized jars of two types of breakfast spread which we’d sampled only in indiviual portion packs at Ter Duinen.
On the right is an Ovomaltine spread based on the popular continental malted chocolate drink – imagine Nutella with the goodness of hazelnuts removed and replaced with nuggets of crunchy malty sugary stuff.
But wait for it, on the left is a jar of Speculoos spread based on the national biscuit of Belgium – a thin crisp ginger-spiced biscuit. Speculoos have a sort of mediaeval feel about them and were no doubt originally hand-made in elaborately decorated wooden moulds. They are most often found now individually wrapped in cellophane, branded Rombouts or most often Lotus, and served as a complimentary sweet nibble with a cup of coffee.
The idea of turning this small spicy biscuit into a spread is as preposterous an idea as a spread made from our own indigenous McVities’ ginger nuts.
Both jars were packed with unsuitable ingredients with a high E number count but nevertheless both have made it onto my not-so-secret list of guilty pleasures. All the family were secretly taking spoonfuls from the jar. I was amused to read recently the similar reaction to Speculoos spread of Paris-based food writer David Lebovitz (http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2010/05/speculoos-a-tartiner-gingersnap-paste/)
Grab a jar if you dare!
Ter Duinen Hotel
Tel: 00 32 50 33 04 37
Fax: 00 32 50 34 42 16
June 28, 2011 § 2 Comments
The latest in the series making up our Breakfasts of the World project.
What an anonymous and grim-sounding place Belarus is. It’s a landlocked country nestling between Poland and Russia which declared independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991. The landscape is largely flat, marshy and forested and thanks to this and the Soviet legacy its economy is dominated by agriculture and manufacturing.
Whilst researching Belarus and its food I was amused to come across Alby’s travel blog documenting the all-action Italian’s trip there in 2005:
“It’s difficult to give impressions about Belarus. From a certain point of view travelling here it’s nice: no hassle with the policemen and it’s quite safe, but on the opposite the landscape is monotonous and there’re not highlights enough to justify the trip. In addition the food doesn’t help, since it really sucks, but what can push you there is the possibility of a off-of-the-beaten-track travel in a country almost under a dictator that today turns out the most isolated in Europe.”
The dictator he refers to is Alexander Lukashenko who has held the presidency since 1994. Although not at the forefront of news stories, various European countries have imposed economic sanctions as a response to Mr Lukashenko’s authoritarian rule. Things may be changing – there are very recent BBC news reports of protestors defying the ban on public demonstrations in Minsk and making silent, peaceful protests. Something to watch as well as the higher news profile Arab Spring/Summer stories.
Perhaps understandably given travel blogger Alby’s view of the food he ate on his trip, descriptions of Belarusian food are few and far between on the web or from other sources. I did come across this little snippet from an unknown author on http://www.mapsofworld.com/belarus/society-and-culture/
“Belarusian cuisine mostly comprises of meats, vegetables and breads. The staple food of Belarus includes pork, potatoes, cabbages and bread. The diet of a typical Belarusian includes a very light breakfast with two heavy meals and the dinner becomes the largest meal of the day. Both wheat and rye breads are consumed in Belarus society and culture. Drinks are also a very popular part of the culture and society of Belarus.”
So, not much to go on. I decided a light breakfast might mean a cup of tea and a piece of rye bread. So far so good as, thanks to last year’s baking course at Welbeck, homemade 100% rye sourdough is now a regular feature of the breakfast table. It doesn’t appeal to everyone but I enjoy its dense, dark sourness. Rye bread takes well to the addition of fruit and,on a whim, I threw a handful of dried apricots into this particular loaf:
Surely that can’t be it though? I had another hunt around for Belarusian recipes and came up with Draniki, a fried potato pancake which is the de facto national dish of Belarus. I don’t know if draniki are eaten for breakfast in Belarus but that’s how we chose to eat them, with the addition of sour cream and smoked salmon as an atypical decadent touch:
The Draniki turned out pretty well and reminded me of Jewish latkes:
In fact, looking through a few recipes for latkes now, I see that the list of ingredients and the method are practically identical. In common with many simple, traditional recipes, it seems that each person has there own way of making draniki. Some say no flour, some say a little; some grate the potato very finely almost to a purée, some have more distinct potato pieces. The draniki recipe I give below is the one that I used having looked at a number of different Belarusian recipes. What’s important is to get the grated potato as dry as you can by draining off the excess water.
If emerging Belarusian tennis star Victoria Azarenka breakfasts like this today she’ll certainly power through her match to make it the Wimbledon semi finals – I’ll be watching later…
Recipe for draniki
Makes 8-10 individual pancakes serving 4 people in a modest way
6 medium potatoes
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons flour
flavourless vegetable oil for frying
Grate the potatoes finely into a bowl. Drain off excess water, pressing with kitchen roll to absorb more liquid if necessary. Finely chop the onion and add to the bowl. Add the beaten egg, flour and seasoning to the bowl and stir together vigorously with a wooden spoon to make a thick batter.
Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a non-stick frying pan until hot but not smoking. Drop in spoonfuls of batter which will form thick round pancakes. Fry until golden brown then flip over and fry on the other side. Drain on kitchen paper to absorb excess oil and serve.
Recipe for rye bread
You can find this in a previous post here