Month: June 2010


Spiced Crab Custard from Benin | Crabe Beninoise

Serves 4 This crab dish contains a classic Beninese combination: onion, pepper, and tomato. Please use fresh tomatoes… I only had canned and the flavor of the can totally takes over (in a bad way). I know, I know. I should have my blog taken away from me for doing it, but I forgot to buy fresh at the store. Just proof that I’m human 🙂 Ingredients: 1-2 garlic cloves, minced 1/2 cup onion, minced 1/2 cup diced tomato (I didn’t have fresh on hand so I had to use canned. I just chopped them a little finer) 1/2 serrano chili, minced (1 Tbsp of more mild jalepeno or even milder poblano can be substituted) 1/2 lb fresh lump crabmeat 3 medium eggs salt & pepper about 1/2 cup bread crumbs or gari Method: 1. Preheat oven to 350F. Add garlic, onion, tomato, chili pepper, crabmeat, egg, salt, and pepper to a medium bowl. 2. Spoon into 4 ramekins (these hold 3/4 cup ) (or clean crab shells, if you have access to them). 3. Sprinkle evenly with bread …

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Baby Bananas in Orange Sauce

Serves 2 Bananas in orange sauce is a fresh, summery way to use bananas as a dessert topping. When we made the Baked Brown Sugar Bananas for Antigua and Barbuda (made with brown sugar, rum and butter) I didn’t think they could be beat, but these west African bananas are totally different and just as yummy!! Ingredients: 1/2 cup orange juice 1/2 cup brown sugar 1 Tbsp lemon juice (optional) 2 slightly under-ripe bananas NOTE: We used red bananas which are about 4 inches long, you can also use baby bananas or regular bananas. Method: 1. Heat orange juice, brown sugar, and lemon juice in a skillet for about 15 minutes on low (there should be small bubbles breaking the surface, but not quite a simmer). The orange juice will reduce and thicken into a syrup. 2. Peel bananas and add to syrup. Cook for a few minutes per side, making sure to warm through. 3. Serve immediately with ice cream, pound cake, or plain. Votes: 0 Rating: 0 You: Rate this recipe! Print Recipe …

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Coconut Rice

Serves 2-4 Found both in the Caribbean and parts of Africa, coconut rice is rich and fragrant. The strong flavor goes particularly well with grilled meats and spicy sauces. We even used some leftovers in an asian-style salad with spicy peanut dressing. NOTE: Wondering how to make plain rice? The technique is the same, just substitute water for coconut milk. Ingredients: 1 cup coconut milk 1 cup water 1 cup white rice salt & pepper Method: 1. Heat coconut milk and water and bring to boil over medium heat. 2. Add rice and seasoning. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for about 16 minutes. 3. Uncover and let rest 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Serve immediately. Votes: 0 Rating: 0 You: Rate this recipe! Print Recipe Found both in the Caribbean and parts of Africa, coconut rice is rich and fragrant. The strong flavor goes particularly well with grilled meats and spicy sauces. We even used some leftovers in an Asian-style salad with spicy peanut dressing.Coconut Rice Lifestyle5-ingredients or less, Vegan, Vegetarian Food TypeRice Servings …

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Listen to a complicated love song from Benin

The first three and a half minutes of this video tell the story of a couple who are engaged. In the story the man’s friend makes a pass on the woman. She refuses his advances and tells her fiancé what happened. The fiance then goes to confront him, but the friend says that he was just testing the woman’s fidelity. The singer says for us to judge for ourselves. Then the chorus says that the friendship is true. After 3’30 the people start dancing a really interesting local dance.

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Eating Out in Benin (with poll)

Because there is a shortage of information on Benin, I had to dig really deep to find some fun facts. In my search I happened upon a lovely blog by a young woman named Jen. Jen is an American who spent 2 years in Benin for the Peace Corps. I enjoyed reading through her experiences (although I am sad to report that they end mid-trip, suddenly and without explanation). First, I want to share a picture I found of her cooking class in Benin. You will see the lengths Jen and the other students are going to to get the food mashed and ready to eat. Makes you appreciate blenders, food processors, immersion blenders, and power gadgets in general. AND it makes me not feel so bad for having to peel 1,000,000 beans the other day. Upon reading some more of Jen’s blog, I learned that food service is typically very slow (in this entry she was visiting an area called Grand Po Po). In fact, some restaurants take 1-2 hours to prepare the food. Why, you …

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Technique Thursday: Peeling Beans

I spent the better part of a day peeling beans for our Benin Global Table. This is partially because it takes an eternity to peel beans and partially because my husband became incapacitated by kidney stones. All day we ran around to the doctor, the lab, and the prescription house. I didn’t take my beans with me which, of course, set me back several hours – but prevented me from looking like a crazy woman. Here’s how to peel beans: First things first. Soak 2 cups of beans overnight. 2 cups seems like a small, petty, insignificant amount of beans. Think to yourself, “Surely this paltry pile of beans will take no time at all to peel.” The next day wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to tackle the job. Stare in disbelief as you realize 2 cups of beans is now 6 cups of beans. Otherwise known as 1,000,000 beans that need peeling. Grab 2 bowls, 1 for the discarded skins, 1 for the clean beans. Begin the work of peeling the beans. Some beans …

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Menu: Benin

Although Benin is an impoverished country with many people living off a simple diet of fufu, yam, rice, and beans, the cuisine also offers upscale, global flavors, most notably influenced by French flavors and techniques.  For example, this menu features crab, an commonly fished for in the south of Benin, prepared in a simplified French manner with eggs and vegetables. Crabs from Benin [Recipe] Lump crabmeat baked with egg, onion, garlic, tomato, and hot chili peppers Pureed Black-eyed Peas [Recipe] Steaming hot black-eyed peas are pureed and beaten with butter Coconut Rice [Recipe] White rice simmered in rich coconut milk Green Baby Bananas in Orange Sauce [Recipe] Bananas baked in orange juice and brown sugar. Serve hot as is, over plain cake, or with ice cream.

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About the food of Benin

Tall, thin, and irregular, Benin juts deep into the African continent, resembling a smoked turkey leg (which just happens to be my favorite fair food here in Oklahoma). Thanks to this unusual geography there is a notable difference between the food in the semi-arid north and the tropical south. Traditional Cuisine: Corn is the starch of choice in the more fertile south, whereas yams are more popular in the dry north. In both cases, the starch is cooked down into a mush-like consistency and eaten with the fingers. This traditional preparation is called fufu. The entire country also eats white rice cooked in rich, fatty coconut milk, when affordable. This tradition spread to the Caribbean where it remains popular. Peanuts are also traditional and are used many ways in Benin, the most prevalent of which is called kuli kuli. Kuli kuli are ground peanuts bound together to create balls which are then deep-fried. This rich treat is essentially deep-fried peanut butter. Mmm, sounds heart-stoppingly good. Culinary Favorites: Spicy peanut sauce is the ketchup of Benin. …

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Monday Meal Review: Belize

I just did a big kitchen clean-up to get rid of the cluster of stuff I thought I had to have. One big item I got rid of was my bread machine. Although I use it all the time to mix and keep my dough warm, I have never once baked in it. Seems silly, really.  I have a beautiful standing mixer that can mix bread dough just fine (even better, actually), so I’m taking my precious counter space back and tossing the bread machine! (giving it to a friend, actually) I’m generally a fan of the simple life. This Belizean saying underscores what happens when you try to “keep up with the Joneses” and the latest fashions: “Falla-fashin monkey cahn buy good soup guh dung a gully go eat dutty soup” Translation: “Follow-fashion monkey cannot buy good soup, so he goes down to the gully to eat dirty soup.” I’d much rather have good soup than dirty soup, so I guess I’ll never be a fashion monkey! Speaking of which, we had some mighty good …

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Stew Chicken from Belize

Serves 2-4 Although there are many variations on Stew Chicken, most traditional recipes keep it simple – just chicken, red recado, onion, and water. I added bell pepper, Habanero, and lime juice because this variation seems a little more lively. Ingredients: 2 lbs chicken (I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs because I didn’t want all the work of a whole chicken this time) 1/2 cup red recado (see recipe) 1 bell pepper, chopped 1 onion, chopped 1 Habanero, optional a splash fresh lime juice or vinegar to taste Method: 1. Marinate chicken in red recado overnight (or for at least 1 hour) 2. Heat up oil in a pot over medium. Add chicken and brown in batches as necessary. 3. Remove chicken and add bell pepper and onion and cook until soft. 4. Return chicken to the pot. Toss in optional Habanero (whole for mild spice, or cut up for an intense heat). Cover chicken with water. 5. Stew chicken until meat is falling apart (or off the bones, if you use bone-in meat).  Add …

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Fried Plantains

One plantain serves 1-2 Fried plantains can be on the table in less than 5 minutes. This easy, delicious side dish goes well with any Caribbean or African food. In particular, the slightly sweet flavor helps contrast with both region’s spicy dishes. Ingredients: 1 plantain vegetable oil salt or brown sugar Method: 1. Heat a thin layer of vegetable oil in a frying pan. Meanwhile, cut plantains into long, oblong slices. NOTE: Choose plantains that are yellow to black in color, not green. The green plantain in the photo was still under ripe and inedible. Green plantains behave like green bananas, after a few days the bland astringency gives way to a mildly sweet flavor. 2. Fry in the oil on both sides until browned. NOTE: How browned you like them is a matter of taste. I like my fried plantains pretty dark 🙂 3. Sprinkle immediately with salt or brown sugar. Serve hot. The first time I made plantains – oops crispy. Although they are a bit charred, they are still uber tasty. When I …

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Johnny Cakes

Makes about 8 Johnny Cakes are like dense biscuits with a mild coconut flavor. In Belize they are often enjoyed in the morning with a slice of melted cheese, eggs, and sausage. They are also wonderful served under Stew Chicken where they wick up the delicious broth. Ingredients: 5 Tbsp melted butter 2 cups flour 2 1/2 tsp baking powder 1/2 tsp salt 1/2 cup coconut milk Method: 1. Mix flour salt and baking powder together. 2. Add butter and milk. Mix to combine. Knead briefly to bring dough together. 3. Divide into 8 portions. Shape into balls and flatten into discs. Pardon mine looking so “homemade”… I was in a hurry. Ava wanted to play! They still baked up fine 🙂 4. Preheat oven to 400F. Prick with a fork and let rest 15 minutes. 5. Brush with milk or butter and bake for 15 minutes. Votes: 0 Rating: 0 You: Rate this recipe! Print Recipe Johnny Cakes are like dense biscuits with a mild coconut flavor. In Belize they are often enjoyed in the …

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