Thursday, January 7, 2010

The African Palate

It is darn cold here in the tundra of Minnesota and if the forecasters are right by tomorrow morning we will have another dusting of snow and it will be 20 degrees below zero with the wind chill. Quite frankly I can't wait to leave! Under normal circumstances Tina and I would be spending the month in Naples, Florida, which I understand is under their own wind chill warning. Don't get me wrong, I am sympathetic but really, when we are facing subzero conditions it isn't easy. Tina is teaching in Budapest for the month of January so next week I leave for a whirlwind trip with stop in London, Budapest and Paris. Northern Europe is also under cold advisories, in fact the frigid weather in Paris caused a major Calamity on the Eurostar Train under the Chunnel last month, shutting it down for over a week. It is in the mid 30's in London, Paris and Budapest which will be a welcomed warm up for me! In the mean time, I miss Tina desperately but there is a silver lining during her absence which is total free reign in the kitchen.

I adore ethnic food, especially Indian food but Tina's palate simply doesn't! So when she is away I have at it which is great fun for me. Recently, based on a review from Shauna at Gluten Free Girl, I got a copy of The Soul of A New Cuisine by Marcus Samuelsson. I am not going to review this book other than to say it is one of the most remarkable and beautiful books I have ever held! The photographs are captivating and the narrative takes you far away. And who ever thought Archbishop Desmond Tutu would write a forward to a cookbook. Need I say more?

I have an endless supply of eager friends who would love an invitation to an African dinner. Last night was reserved for two of my most favorite people in the world. My niece Megan, who just returned from a semester of studying in Budapest and my niece Katie who we simply adore! Both have very adventuresome palates.

I made three different dishes, Yellow Rice which is a common East and Southern African dish, Chicken-Peanut Stew which is a West African dish and Black-Eyed Peas another West African dish that hales from Ghana. I have never seen my niece Katie help her self to seconds, but last night she sure did. The meal was simply over the top, colorful and full of flavor. Labor intensive for sure but worth a days work. We enjoyed Coconut Bliss with hot fudge for desert, not too African but a nice end to the meal. We all loved the entire meal and I would make all of it again, but everyone agreed the Black-Eyed Peas were the highlight!

Black-Eyed Peas
Adapted from The Soul Of A New Cuisine by Marcus Samuelsson

About 3 cups of cooked black-eyed peas. I used two pint size jars from beans I canned this fall
1/2 cup of Spiced Butter, or 4 tablespoons unsalted butter*
1 medium red onion
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 scotch bonnet chili seeds and ribs removed and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves chopped
one 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
2 teaspoons Berbere or chili powder*
1 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
several tablespoons Cilantro, chopped
1 scallion sliced

Melt butter in a deep pot over medium heat. Add the onion, tomatoes and chili, sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, Berbere and coconut milk. Bring to a simmer. Stir in chicken stock and turmeric, return to a simmer and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer, uncovered until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. Add the black-eyed peas and salt and simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Stir in cilantro and scallion and serve.

*Berbere and Spiced Butter

Berbere is an Ethiopian blend, a universal seasoning with varying degrees of heat and spiciness. I am sure you could purchase it somewhere but I made my own. Spiced butter is a spiced mixture also known as nit'ri qibe which starts with clarified butter. I made the spiced butter and found it essential to the dish, I am not sure it would be the same without it, but you sure could use standard butter or ghee.

Spiced Butter
From The Soul of A New Cuisine by Marcus Sammeulson

1 pound unsalted butter
1/2 medium red onion, coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove minced
one 3 inch piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon cardamon seeds
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
8 basil leaves

Clarify your butter! Add everything else and continue to cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand until the spices settle. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Store in the fridge in a covered container for up to a month.


GF Gidget said...

yuuuummmmmmmmmm!!!!!!!!!!! African food is one of the most underrated cuisines out there!

Anonymous said...

Nice blog..................................................

上課 said...

Never put off till tomorrow what may be done today..........................