Bajan breakfast

June 15, 2011 § 3 Comments

Bajan being the correct adjective to describe something from Barbados, this was the latest in our series of breakfasts of the world.

At 431 square kilometres, Barbados is a tiny country, approximately one third of the size of my own UK county, Greater Manchester which clocks in at 1,276 square kilometres. It was one of the earliest British colonies with settlers arriving in 1627. The British heritage is evident in the island’s organisation and placenames – it’s divided into parishes each named after a saint. The capital and main city, the very British sounding Bridgetown is in the parish of St Michaels.

Barbados may be a small country but it’s a familiar one. That Desmond Dekker song, sugar, rum, cricket and of course the larger-than-life Rihanna all come immediately to mind. That’s not all that’s larger than life as Barbados can put on a big breakfast. The Bajan breakfast option priced at $22 on the menu from Simply Gigi’s, a hotel restaurant which looks out over Barbados’ Dover Beach reads “Flying Fish, Bakes, Eggs, Onions, Peppers, Plantain”. Much more adventurous sounding than the Full English or bog-standard American options. After a little research and judicious cheating, this is the colourful plate of food I came up with:

First find your flying fish, the favourite fish and symbol of Barbados. This is not as easy as it sounds. I did track down a UK wholesale supplier of frozen flying fish fillets but couldn’t face ordering the industrial-sized minimum order quantity.

Next step was a trip to the cornucopic fish stall on Manchester’s Arndale Market which goes by the very mundane name of “Direct Fisheries”. They had all sorts of exotic species on offer as you can see:

but sadly, flying fish wasn’t one of them – it’s occasionally requested, said the fishmonger, but a bit pricey for most people so they’ve stopped selling it. I opted for a couple of seabass instead. No idea whether it’s like flying fish but it’s a very adaptable fish which works with all sorts of flavours.

The recipe involves a brief period in which the fish fillets are first marinaded/infused with aromatic flavourings (herbs, green pepper and lime juice), then, top side only, lightly coated in egg and breadcrumbs and quickly shallow fried.

Far from being just a regional curiosity, this is a handy little recipe which I’ll definitely be trying again. The marinading period gives the fish zingy flavours and the crispy golden crust gives a bit of fast food type appeal.

Next step was to find out what Bakes were. This is by no means a selection of bread rolls on the side but a little doughy Bajan treat which paradoxically is shallow-fried rather than baked. Bajan chef John Hazzard’s (pronounced Has-Ard rather than as in traffic obstruction, moral or Dukes of) little videoclip on was helpful in showing exactly how to whip up a batch of bakes.

I had planned to put in here the link to John’s handy little video which I found on a site called but sadly the site appears to have been suspended. You’ll just have to take my word for it that he had a great relaxed manner and his lilting accent was rather lovely to listen to as well.

I followed Chef Hazzard’s instructions to the letter and he end result was rather good – a cross between a Scotch pancake and a doughnut. The brown sugar and spices provide flavour and the cornmeal a pleasing chewy crunch. I can see why the islanders get so passionate about bakes.

Sugar has been the mainstay of the Barbadian (or should that be Bajan?) economy for centuries so it seemed fitting to round off breakfast with something sweet. My choice was Bajan sweet bread, not a true bread but a coconut cake baked in a loaf tin. This beauty is made with refined sugar rather than what we know now as Barbados or Muscovado sugar, it’s studded with garish glacé cherries and raisins and has extra sugar and coconut strip concealed within the cake like so:

With all that refined sugar, coconut and artificially coloured dried fruit it could almost be a Scottish delicacy couldn’t it?

The end result looked impressive in a bulky golden brown homespun kind of way but sadly it was a bit disappointing. It was a bit dry and oversweet, it crumbled rather than slicing neatly, the coconut stuffing fell out rather than maintaining structural integrity and it went stale within 24 hours. For that reason I’m not going to painstakingly copy out the recipe here. If you’re interested, here’s where I found my recipe, a Paul Hollywood (not so) special – he’s the sleek silver haired judge on last year’s BBC programme “Great British Bake Off” you may recall.

Recipe for fried flying fish fillets

I found this recipe in a Barbados travel blog so thank you to blog author Linda Thompkins.

Works well for other medium to large fillets of firm white fish such as seabass.

Serves 4 (generous portions)


8 flying fish fillets
1 small onion
1 small green pepper, chopped
1 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves
t tablespoon chopped parsley
salt and pepper
juice of a lime
1 egg, beaten
dry natural breadcrumbs
oil for frying
to serve, lime wedges

Mix the seasoning ingredients together and spread over the meaty side of the fish. Leave for about 1 hour. Remove the fish from the seasoning mix, pat it dry it on kitchen paper. Dip the meaty side of the fish fish into the beaten egg and then into the breadcrumbs. Fry gently in a little oil for 3-4 minutes on each side until cooked through and crumbed surface is crisp and golden. Serve with lime wedges.

Recipe for Bajan bakes

Bajan chef John Hazzard’s recipe. John has twice been awarded the title “Caribbean Chef of the Year” so he should know what he’s talking about.


1 cup of plain flour
4 oz cornmeal (polenta)
3 oz brown sugar (I used demerara)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch allspice
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
6 oz water
to fry, 2 tablespoons flavourless vegetable oil

Combine the first 7 ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add most but not all of the water and mix well with a spoon to form a batter with a stiff dropping consistency. Add the reserved water if required to achieve the right consistency.

Heat the oil in a frying plan until it reaches 300 degrees Fahrenheit (what I would call a medium heat)

Drop generous spoonfuls of the mixture into the frying pan and cook for a few minutes on each side until golden brown.

Drain on kitchen paper and serve.

Bahrain breakfast

March 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

When I started researching this breakfast, Bahrain was just a small Gulf State backwater brought to international prominence by its oil industry. It’s an archipelago of 33 islands close to Saudi Arabia in the western Persian Gulf. The largest, the 34 mile long Bahrain Island, is linked to Saudi Arabia via the King Fahd Causeway which is the 16th longest bridgest in the world.

A chance encounter with Lucy Caldwell’s new novel “The Meeting Point”, courtesy of BBC Radio 4’s Book At Bedtime in February 2011 put some flesh on the bones of the life of the substantial ex-pat community in Bahrain – more than 20% of the population of 1.2m are foreign nationals. And the web is littered with references to “Aramco Brats” – children of the original Arabian-American Oil Company employees who were based in Saudi and Bahrain following the discovery of oil in Bahrain in 1932.

Then Bahrain became one of the countries of the 2011 “Arab Spring” currently sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa. There had been early intimations of trouble – another Radio 4 Programme, “Crossing Continents” presciently reported in December 2010 on the heavy-handed repression, torture even, of opponents to the ruling al-Khalifa family. So far, demonstrations in Bahrain have been stopped in their tracks with the aid of troops from neighbouring Saudi. It remains to be seen what will happen.

A lot to think about over one small breakfast.

This breakfast’s menu came to us thanks to a helpful video entitled “Friday Breakfast” shot by Mahmood from Bahrain back in 2006. His Friday breakfast looks to be the equivalent of our Western Saturday or Sunday breakfast when we might make or buy something special.

Thanks to Mahmood, I decided that the menu would be khubz (Arabic flat bread, aka pitta), samboosas (which look to be similar to Indian samosas), fried tomatoes with spices, and scrambled eggs.

Making the pitta bread was straightforward enough – those little pockets appear as if by magic as long as there’s enough heat on the top surface of the bread. Very satisfying and deliciously fresh.

The samosas were, on the other hand, a complete faff. Making the filling of potatoes, peas herbs and spiceswas straightforward enough but forming the samosas was another matter…

I pride myself on having nimble fingers and being reasonably proficient with pastry, but shaping these wretched little tricorn parcels, coaxing them to stay open in order to push in the filling, then attempt to seal the whole thing up was the most technically challenging piece of cooking I’ve attempted in the last 2 years (and beyond that my memory fails me). I don’t often find myself saying this, but if you fancy a samosa, pop to your local Indian grocer and buy one.

Recipe for Khubz (pitta bread)

From Claudia Roden’s “A New Book of Middle Eastern Food” with occasional minor wording changes. Based on my recent breadmaking experience, I didn’t bother with warming the liquids, letting the yeast froth or oiling the baking sheets as specified in the recipe. The end result was just fine so by all means do the same if you are a confident breadmaker.

15g fresh yeast or 7g dried yeast
300 ml tepid water (approximate)
pinch of sugar
500g strong white flour
3g salt (1/2 teaspoon)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (optional) plus a little extra for greasing

Dissolve the yeast in 100ml of the total amount of tepid water. Add the pinch of sugar and leave in a warm place for about 10 minutes, or until it becomes frothy and bubbly.

Sift the flour and salt into a warmed mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeast mixture. Knead well by hand, adding enough of the remaining water to make a firm, soft dough. Knead the dough vigorously in the bowl, or on a floured board for about 15 minutes, until it is smooth and elastic, and no longer sticks to your fingers. Knead in 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil for a softer bread. Sprinkle the bottom of the bowl with a little oil and roll the ball of dough round to grease it all over. This will prevent the surface from becoming dry and crusty. Cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place free of draughts for at least 2 hours, until nearly doubled in size.

Punch the dough down and knead again for a few minutes. Take lumps of dough the size of a large potato or smaller (according to the size of bread you wish to have). Flatten them on a lightly floured board with a dry rolling pin sprinkled with flour, or with the palm of your hand, until about 1/2 cm thick. Dust with flour and lay the rounds on a cloth sprinkled with flour. Place them a good distance apart so that they do not touch as they grow considerably. Cover with another lightly floured cloth, and allow to rise again in a warm place.

Preheat the oven set at the maximum temperature (240 degrees C?) for at least 20 minutes, and leave the oiled baking sheets in it for the last 10 minutes to make them as hot as possible. Take care that the oil does not burn.

When the bread has risen again, slip the rounds onto the hot baking sheets, dampen them slightly with cold water to prevent them from browning, and bake for 6-10 minutes, by which time the strong yeasty aroma escaping from the oven will be replaced by the rich, earthy aroma characteristic of baking bread – a sign that it is nearly ready.

Do not open the oven during this time.

Remove from the baking sheets as soon as the bread comes out of the oven and cool on wire racks. The bread should be soft and white with a pouch inside.

If your oven does not get hot enough to make a good pouch, make the bread under the grill: put it low enough underneath so that it does not touch the grill (and burn) when it puffs up. Turn as soon as it does and leave only a minute longer.

Put the breads, while still warm, in a plastic bag to keep them soft and pliable until ready to serve.

Recipe for Vegetable Samosas

From Madhur Jaffrey’s “Indian Cookery” with a few minor wording changes of mine

Makes 16


For the pastry

1/2 lb (225g) plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 tablespoons water

For the stuffing

1lb 10 oz (725g) waxy potatoes boiled in their skins and allowed to cool
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
6 oz (175g) peas fresh or frozen (defrost first if using frozen peas)
1 tablespoon peeled and finely grated fresh ginger
1 fresh hot green chilli, finely chopped
3 tablespoons very finely chopped fresh coriander
3 tablespoons water
1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt – or to taste
1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground roast cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Vegetable oil for deep frying

Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Add the 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil and rub it in with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Slowly add 4 tablespoons of water – or a tiny bit more – and gather the dough into a stiff ball.

Empty the ball out on to a clean work surface. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes or until it is smooth. Make a ball. Rub the ball with about 1/4 teaspoon of oil and slip it into a polythene bag. Set it aside for 30 minutes or longer.

Make the stuffing. Peel the potatoes and cut them into 5mm dice. Heat 4 tablespoons oil in a large frying pan over a medium flame. When hot, put in the onions. Stir and fry them until they begin to turn brown at the edges. Add the peas, ginger, green chilli, fresh coriander, and 3 tablespoons water. Cover, lower heat and simmer until peas are cooked. Stir every now and then and add a little more water if the frying pan seems to dry out.

Add the diced potatoes, salt, coriander, garam masala, roast cumin, cayenne, and lemon juice. Stir to mix. Cook on low heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring gently as you do so. Check balance of salt and lemon juice. You may want more of both. Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool.

Knead the pastry dough again and divide it into 8 balls (I did this with scales – each ball weighs 43-44g). Keep 7 covered while you work with the eighth. Roll this ball out into an 18cm round. Cut it in half with a sharp, pointed knife. Pick up one half and form a cone, making a 5mm overlapping seam. Glue this seam together with a little water. Fill the cone with about 2 and 1/2 tablespoons of the stuffing. Close the top of the cone by sticking the open edges together with a little water. Again, your seam should be about 5mm wide. Press the top seam down with the prongs of a fork or flute it with your fingers.

Make 15 more samosas.

Deep fry the samosas in small batches until they are golden brown and crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

Who threw away all my grits? Bahamian breakfast

December 18, 2010 § 6 Comments

Tucking into our breakfast from the Bahamas – corned beef, grits and johnny cake felt like eating a plateful of history. That’s a big thing to be doing at 6.30 am on a dark and cold December Tuesday morning before work and school. Here’s younger son Arthur enjoying his corned beef sauté and grits, liberally sprinkled with Tabasco:

This was the latest in our series of breakfasts of the world (in alphabetical order) and after more than a year at this occasional project it feels good to be hitting the letter B for the Bahamas!

The Commonwealth of the Bahamas is an island chain close to Florida and north of Cuba. Andros is the largest island but capital Nassau is on the smaller island of New Providence. Columbus first made landfall on one of the islands of the Bahamas in 1492 but the islands were not settled by Europeans until English Puritans arrived via Bermuda in 1648. These first settlers survived by salvaging goods from wrecks. The islands became known for piracy and the infamous Edward Teach aka Blackbeard was based here.

Following the American War of Independence (1775-1783) the islands were settled by Loyalists (American colonists remaining loyal to British rule) and their slaves who established plantations on the islands. Britain abolished the slave trade in 1807 and thousands of Africans from slave ships subsequently made their home on the island.

On the menu was corned beef sauté (made from my own home-cured corned beef though the tinned variety may be more authentic) then grits – cornmeal porridge – in fact I used a quick cook polenta though I believe Bahamians prefer harder to obtain white grits. The hash was followed by a traditional Bahamian johnny cake, a simple baking powder raised scone/soda bread thing, quickly prepared then cooked in a skillet or sturdy frying pan:

Grits were the staple food of the slaves who worked on the plantations. They were a cheap carbohydrate and slave owners would give their slaves a weekly ration of cornmeal grits to boil up with water.

Corned beef reflects the British history of the islands. During the colonial period, Great Britain was the Bahamas’ major trading partner. Beef preserved in brine was shipped out in large quantities, another dietary staple for slaves and the poor. The native Bahamians made it their own, adding spices and vegetables to turn the corned beef into dishes like the sauté given below.

The name johnny cake is thought to derive from the name journey cake, so-called because it was quick and easy to make while travelling. Traditionally it’s cooked on the stove top but I opted for baking mine in the oven.

Here’s the home cured beef cubed and ready to be turned into hash:

It’s wonderful stuff and very easy to do but you do need to start thinking about it 2-3 weeks before you want to eat it. This deserves to be the subject of another post sometime soon.

Here’s the freshly baked johnny cake just out of the oven:

and here it is sliced while warm ready to be thickly spread with butter and ready to be eaten Bahamian style with lots of sweet milky tea or coffee:

Definitely a breakfast to set you up for the day though in our case not for hard manual labour on plantations. And now the word of the Beach Boys’ Sloop John B (originally a folk son from the Bahamas) finally make sense. “The poor cook he got the fits, and threw away all my grits, and then he took and he ate up all of my corn”.

Recipe for corned beef sauté

Serves 4

From website which in turn credits the recipe to “Many Tastes Of The Bahamas & Culinary Influences of the Caribbean”

1 can (12 oz) corned beef
1 tsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp chopped onion
1-2 tsp dried thyme leaves
2 tsp tomato paste
Hot pepper to taste
A few tbsp of water

Place the corned beef into a medium-sized bowl and break up with a fork in preparation for cooking. Sprinkle with lime juice.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the corned beef with the onion and thyme for five to six mins. Stir in the tomato paste and crushed hot peppers to taste.

Add one to three tbsp of water for desired consistency and continue to cook, stirring.

Cover, reduce heat and cook for about 10 min.

Serve with grits or toast.

Recipe for Bahamian Johnny Cake


Makes one 7-8 inch round serving 4 comfortably

3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1⁄2 cup Crisco or other shortening (such as Trex in the UK but I used butter as I’m not an avid consumer of hydrogenated fats)
2/3 cup milk

Combine dry ingredients then cut in (rub in) shortening until the size of rice grains. Add milk gradually, just enough to make dough soft. Knead dough until smooth then let it rest for about 10 minutes.

Place dough in greased 8 or 9 inch round or square pan. Pierce top of dough with a fork. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until golden.

Remove from oven and baste top of bread with milk. Return to oven and allow to bake for 5 more minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool a few minutes.

Breakfast from Azerbaijan, Land of Jam

November 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

So says the Azerbaijani tourism and information site, informing us that “Azerbaijanis make jam from almost anything – walnuts, watermelon and even rose petals…the most popular jams are made from plums, raspberries, mulberries, pears, peaches, melons, figs, strawberries and cherries…grapes, pumpkin and pomegranates…even eggplants can be used as base for jam…If you visit an Azerbaijani home, undoubtedly you’ll be served homemade jam along with black tea. When tea is served, you’ll discover it’s rare in the Republic to be offered sugar. Instead, they’re more likely to offer jam. Azerbaijanis put a small spoonful of jam in their mouths and sip the tea through the jam.”

So, with their predilection for jam, Azerbaijanis are the Billy Bunters of the steppes (greedy fictional schoolboy Bunter liked nothing better than to raid his friends’ tuck parcels and devour jam straight from the jar).

I decided to make jam the centrepiece of the Azerbaijani breakfast (the latest in our A-Z series of international breakfasts). This was a cheaper and easier option than trying to get hold of my first idea which was caviar. After all, Azerbaijan, nestling between Russia, Iran, Armenia and Georgia has a border on the West side of the Caspian sea, home to the sturgeon which produce the coveted caviar.

Muslim Azerbaijan (in contrast with its largely Christian neighbour Armenia) was under Soviet control until it declared independence in 1991 under the Gorbachev glasnost era. Oil is a major earner for the country with activity centred around the capital city of Baku. You may recall that the 1990s Bond Film “The World is Not Enough” with its convoluted oil industry plot featured scenes set and filmed in Azerbaijan.

Enough of background and onto breakfast. This was the prepared table:

On the menu was of course my prize jam collection (including a weird watermelon rind jam which was my only homemade contribution), also Azeri flatbread, sheeps-milk cheese, fresh fruit (including of course the flesh of the watermelon the rind of which went into the jam).

All this was washed down with small glasses of black tea drunk Azeri style with yet more jam.

Here is my completed jar of watermelon rind jam looking distinctly pondlike:

Was the jam worth the effort? No. The resulting jam is dense, sticky and with a taste a bit like cooked marrow – ie vegetal, ever so slightly bitter and not particularly pronounced. The recipe came from the improbably specific website There is an alternative recipe on the Azerbaijan 24 site I referenced earlier but that recipe makes use of a rather scary sodium hydroxide solution to crisp up the rind before cooking. Not only is this stuff hard to obtain but it’s also toxic so I thought I’d give it a miss.

Much more to my safe Western taste is the following recipe for Azeri flatbread from the comprehensive and appealing site My bread, pictured below, is a little more rustic than the photo on the AZ Cookbook site but in my book rustic is good and the toasted sesame seeds tasted delicious:

Recipe for Azeri flatbread

With thanks to


1 package (1/4 oz / 7g) dry yeast
1 ½ cups (12 fl oz/375 ml) warm water
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups bread flour, plus extra for kneading
1 beaten egg for brushing (or just the yolk for a really golden colour)
1 teaspoon poppy or sesame seeds

1. In a small bowl, mix yeast with water until the yeast is dissolved.
2. Sift flour into a large bowl. Add salt and mix well. Gradually add the yeast-water mixture and stir in using your hand until a rough ball forms.
3. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Press any loose dough pieces into the ball and knead the dough, punching it down with your fists, folding it over and turning. Knead for about 8-10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic.
4. Shape the dough into a ball and put it back into the large bowl. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel or a plastic wrap.
5. Leave the dough to rise in a warm spot for about 1 ½ hours, or until doubled in bulk. The dough should look puffy and be soft when poked with a finger.
6. Punch down the dough, then transfer it onto a lightly floured surface.
7. Shape the dough into a ball, and with your hands flatten slightly and stretch it lengthwise. Using a rolling pin, start rolling the dough beginning at one end until you obtain a long flat bread about ½ inch thick (1.27cm), 14 inches long (35cm) and 8 inches (20cm) wide.
8. Carefully transfer the bread onto a non-stick baking sheet, fixing the shape as necessary. Leave the dough to rest on the sheet for another 15 minutes before baking.
9. Preheat the oven to 400?F (200?C).
10. Using a knife, make shallow crosshatching slashes on the bread, 4 from right to left and 4 the opposite way, each at a slight angle. Brush the bread evenly with the egg/egg yolk and sprinkle with seeds.
11. Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven and bake the bread for 20-25 minutes, or until it is golden on top and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Recipe for watermelon rind jam


Recipe taken from the very specific website I can’t say I recommend the finished article but here’s the recipe to satisfy your curiosity.

1lb watermelon rind cut into 1cm cubes
water to cover
3 cardamom pods
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 cups white granulated or preserving sugar
1 strip lemon peel

Place the watermelon rind in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for half an hour until the rind is tender and translucent. Drain, reserving 1 and a half cups of cooking liquid. Add the cooked rind, reserved cooking liquid, lemon peel and sugar to your preserving pan. Bring to the boil and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, cool, cover and leave overnight.

The next day, add the cardamom pods bring the mixture back to the boil. Cook for approximately 15 minutes until a thick syrup has formed. Remove from the heat, stir in the lemon juice and pot in the usual way.

I’m going to conclude my post Azeri style by wishing you NUSH OLSUN

…and the good news is we’re through all the countries beginning with the letter A so next stop, the Bahamas!

Buenos Dias Buenos Aires! Breakfast from Argentina

May 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

It’s been a while since we had our last international breakfast (see Breakfasts of the World category in the sidebar). The plan is to work through every country in the world in alphabetical order and it must be at least a month since Antigua.

I was pretty excited about the prospect of an Argentinian breakfast. Surely there would be mounds of barbecued steak? Sadly not. I was amused by one travel blog which recorded with disappointment that breakfast in Argentina comprises a croissant (known as medialuna), a coffee and a glass of water. The beef for which Argentina is justly famous is strictly a main meal affair.

So our breakfast was indeed medialunas (bought not made), café con leche and of course, lashings of wonderful dulce de leche. Sadly the Merchant Gourmet dulce de leche, authentically Argentinian from the evocatively named La Esmeralda farm seems to have disappeared from our local supermarket shelves and I had to make do with a Bonne Maman Confiture de Lait, a similar sweet milk caramel idea but from France and not quite as thick and unctuous.

If you too are suffering from dulce de leche withdrawal symptoms, here’s the Merchant Gourmet website dulce de leche page – you can buy it online now with free delivery if you buy in bulk.

I also noticed that the San Ignacio brand of dulce de leche has its own UK website now which gives some useful background info on what it is and how it’s made and a singularly unuseful list of retail stockists. They are listed in alphabetical order of shop name so you have to scan the whole list by eye to find a shop near you. I came up with Harvey Nichols in Manchester and a deli in Frodsham, Cheshire as possibilities for me.

I digress. Back to the proper business of breakfast. A bought croissant, a cup of coffee and a jar of caramel was OK but didn’t quite hit the spot. I had to get beef into the breakfast somehow so I trawled the internet until I found a reference to eating beef empanadas (pasties to you and me) for breakfast. I’d struck gold at last!

I found a recipe for beef empanadas in “South American Food and Cooking” by Jenni Fleetwood and Marina Filipelli – essentially a minced beef and potato stuffing encased in dinky shortcrust pastry rounds folded over to make mini pasties.

Here are the pastry circles and filling:

And here is the complete breakfast with the empanadas fresh out of the oven. I made a quick salsa with tomato, pepper, avocado, coriander and plenty of lime juice and seasoning to serve with the pasties:

Recipe for beef empanadas

I simplified the recipe I found in “South American Food and Cooking” by Fleetwood and Filipelli. I’ve halved the filling quantity which was way too much for the specified pastry quantity. I used minced beef rather than shredding it finely and baked the pasties rather than deep frying them for a lighter result. This worked well.


1 lb (450g) shortcrust pastry (bought or make your own with 8 oz (225g) flour; 4 oz (90g) fat)
l lb (450g) minced beef (use shin or leg if mincing your own)
4 tablespoons oil
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1 crushed garlic clove
2 tsp paprika
8 fl oz (250 ml) light stock
1lb (450g) waxy potatoes scrubbed (no need to peel) and finely diced
3 chopped canned tomatoes (or fresh ones skinned)
3 spring onions finely sliced
salt and pepper

Make the filling. Heat the oil in a heavy large frying pan. When hot, add the beef and sauté until lightly browned. Push the beef to the side of the pan and add the cumin, garlic and paprika. Reduce the heat and cook gently for about 2 minutes until the spices release their aroma.

Stir in the stock and bring to the boil. Cover and cook for 30 minutes. Stir in the potatoes, tomatoes and onions and cook for 15 minutes more until the potatoes are tender. Keep an eye on the cooking liquid adding a little more water if necessary or alternatively reducing if there is too much. You are aiming for quite a dry mixture. Season and allow to cool completely.

Roll out the pastry very thinly on a floured board. Using a pastry cutter cut out 2 and 1/2 inch (6cm) circles. Spoon about 1 and 1/2 tsp filling into the centre of each pastry circle. Brush the edges of the pastry with water. Fold the pastry over to form a half moon. Turn the edges over and press together firmly to form a good seal. Bake at 200 degrees C until the pasties are golden brown.

Serve with your favourite fresh salsa.

Enjoy your Argentian breakfast! Carlos Tevez, if you happen to read this please do drop me a line with your breakfast thoughts…

Breakfast in Afghanistan

July 28, 2009 § 1 Comment

Breakfast is a big event in our household but lately the house breakfast of bacon, fried egg, Mediterranean fried bread and baked beans has seemed a little staid and over familiar.  Earlier this summer we (me, husband Tim and sons George and Arthur) hit upon the idea of eating our way through breakfasts of the world beginning with A for Afghanistan and working our way through all 100 and odd countries on George’s flag poster right through to Z for Zambia.

What do Afghans eat for breakfast?  First stop Amazon whence Helen Saberi’s helpful and concise book “Afghan Food & Cookery” published by Hippocrene was swiftly despatched.

The national drink is tea, chai, and Ms Saberi says “it is consumed in great quantities and I must say both the green and black tea are excellent”.  I was tempted by the extraordinary sounding recipe for qymaq chai tea with clotted cream but in the end opted for a green tea flavoured with cardamon, with added sugar and milk.

NeverthelessI can’t resist quoting a paragraph on qymaq chai which is “a special tea prepared for formal occasions, such as engagements or weddings.  It is made with green tea and by the process of aeration and the addition of baking soda the tea turns dark red.  Milk is added (and sugar too) and it becomes a purply-pink colour.  It has a strong rich taste.  Qymaq, the luxury cream-like product is floated on the top.  My husband, who is very poetic and very homesick, likens the color of the tea to the rosy-hued glow of the mountains in Afghanistan as the sun rises or sets.  The qymaq represents the white snowcapped peaks.”

How’s that for a weird sounding brew and a great bit of purple prose!

With our standard Afghan tea we ate Roht, a round sweet flat bread which Ms Saberi says is often eaten for breakfast with tea or hot milk.  The recipe is given below.  Some apricots (Ms Saberi notes that the Panjshir valley is particularly noted for its apricot trees), pistachio nuts (for which the region of Herat is famous) and thick plain yoghurt completed the meal.

The end result was a fragrant and unusual breakfast and as a result I am tempted by many of the other recipes in Ms Saberi’s book, for example aush pasta with yogurt, chickpeas, kidney beans and minced meat on page 82 and the intriguing-sounding abrayshum or silk kebab on page 256.

Next stop for breakfast Albania – can’t wait!

Recipe for Roht – Afghan sweet flatbread

This recipe comes from Helen Saberi’s “Afghan Food & Cooking”.  Ms Saberi attributes the recipe in turn to her friend Aziza Ashraf.  I learned something new about the nigella seeds or sia dona which I quote: “These small black seeds, which can be bought under the name kalonji in an Asian grocery, are a confusing item because some people call them black onion seeds although they have nothing to do with onions.  They are also confused with caraway seeds.  Another mistake is to call them black cumin seeds, as true cumin seeds come from a different plant.  Sia dona come from the plant Nigella sativa and are sometimes called nigella seeds.”


1 and 1/2 pounds (5 and 1/4 cups) all purpose flour
2 level teaspoons of baking powder
1 pack quick rise yeast
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 and 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup warm water
1 egg, beaten
1 level tablespoon yoghurt
sia dona (nigella seeds)
sesame seeds

Mix together the flour, baking powder, yeast and cardamom.  Warm the oil in a small pan, then add to the flour and rub together for a few minutes.  Add the sugar to the warm water and gradually add to the flour, mixing well.  Now add the egg (reserving a little for glazing) and the yogurt.  Mix well and knead into a quite soft dough for about 5 minutes.  Cover with a cloth and leave in a warm place for about an hour or so.

Meanwhile preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Divide the dough into two and roll out each on a floured surface into a round of about 1/2-inch thickness.  Prick all over with a fork, glaze with the reserved egg and sprinkle the top with the sia dona and sesame seeds according to your fancy.

Place on a slightly oiled or greased baking tray and bake in the hot oven for about 15 minutes until risen, golden brown and cooked through.  (If the top is browning too quickly, turn down the heat and cook on the lower heat for a little longer.)

Remove from the oven and place in a warm tea towel or plastic bag to stop the bread drying out too much.

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