Month: March 2013

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Monday Meal Review: South Africa

 “Almost doesn’t fill a bowl” Zulu Proverb I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: a good friend makes for a great companion in the kitchen. Through the crackle and sizzle, conversation and laughter keep love flowing… right on into the meal… So, I was thrilled when my friend Janine said she’d help me figure out the food of South Africa. She’s South African, so I knew I was in good hands. But then things got a little wonky. Because she’s vegan, I offered to make the meal entirely vegan so she could share it with us. I never expected her to decline. But she did. Here’s the deal: she wasn’t just being polite. Janine insisted, with her smooth slightly British-sounding accent, that we could not eat South Africa without trying their true, traditional dishes. She says they “love their meat,” like Bobotie. Even if she couldn’t eat the food, she thought I might as well go all out and experience the real South Africa… after all, “Almost doesn’t fill a bowl,” as the …

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South Africa’s Yellow Rice | Geelrys

During the week, I’m always looking for a way to get beyond ordinary b-b-boring boiled rice. Hello. Cue our friends of South Africa… they have the answer with “Geelrys,” which literally translates to “yellow rice.” Imagine a pot of turmeric and raisin bejeweled rice… a simple side dish as flavorful as it is gorgeous. Geelrys tastes like a sunrise on the most beautiful morning of your life.   Or, like happy a hug from a good friend. Or, maybe it just tastes like really, really good rice. While you can make Geelrys with any kind of rice you like, I prefer it with Basmati, as does my South African friend, Janine. The cooking time for Basmati is longer than standard white rice, but much gentler; the end result is tantalizingly delicate. There’s really nothing to it… Yellow Rice is definitely weeknight friendly.   P.S. This is a great dish for picky eaters – one to help to broaden their horizons without going too crazy with spices. Serves 6 Ingredients: 2 cups basmati rice, rinsed & drained …

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South African Amarula Coffee

There’s nothing like a drunk elephant to get my attention. Whoa, whoa, whoa. It’ s a little early for that kind of talk. Let me back up a moment. Amarula Coffee is a South African favorite – a breezy concoction that includes your favorite coffee, some brown sugar (the sweetener of choice in South Africa), a shot or two of Amarula, and whipped cream. It’s very much like an Irish Coffee. Why? The Amarula. You can find this creamy concoction at most liquor stores in the United States, next to the Bailey’s. The flavors are quite similar, which makes this drink the perfect nod to Saint Patrick’s Day, South Africa-style. Amaurula is made from Marula fruit. Which brings me full circle, back to the drunk elephants. I’m not sure I can do it justice… so watch for yourself what happens when the elephants (and other animals) feast on the fruit of this treat. Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. (The hungover orangutan is too funny) Ingredients: 3 parts brewed coffee 1 part Amarula brown sugar, to taste …

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South Africa’s Bobotie

Are you ready for a big bite of everything, ever? South Africa’s Bobotie (ba-boor-tea) reminds me of when I was a little girl, playing in the kitchen next to mom. I’d dump every possible ingredient into my little inventions, hoping they’d come out amazing. While chopped apples and pickles didn’t pan out when I was a kid, bobotie most decidedly does. But don’t worry – there’s no apple or pickle in it. So what is in it? Some people call Bobotie South African Moussaka, but I’m not convinced that gives the dish enough credit. My friend Janine says Bobotie is from the Cape Malay region and belies much more Indian influence. At her most basic, Bobotie is a spiced meat casserole topped with egg custard and a few bay leaves. Inside, you’ll find everything from rich curry power, to garlic, ginger, lemon juice, raisins, and almonds. There’s even a scoop of chutney. While this all sounds incredibly overwhelming, the ingredients mellow as they cook. Still not sure? Trust years of history: there’s a reason South Africans love this …

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Menu: South Africa

There’s an old South African saying which goes: “We begin with the meal before the water is boiling.” – South African Proverb Wow. There is truth to these words. Mighty truth. Sure, preparation goes into everything we do, this South African menu is no exception. But that’s not what this proverb is really about. This simple line draws attention to the work that goes into our meals before we ever set out to cook. Yes, we must go to the market. But even before that, someone had to grow our food and get it to the market. Heck, the Amarula in this week’s menu comes straight from South Africa, but can be found in most any liquor store. So when my hand touches that bottle, my hand touches South Africa. Little things like this bring me the most pleasure. And gratitude. Have you felt gratitude today? All recipes and meal review will be available throughout the week. Bobotie [Recipe] A traditional Cape Malay dish casserole… made with a festival of ingredients. There’s beef, curry, raisins, almonds, …

Landscape scenery in Kruger National Park, South Africa. Photo by Nicolas Raymond.

About the food of South Africa

Ah, South Africa. Almost since the beginning of this Adventure I’ve been looking forward to our week in South Africa. I’m not sure why – certainly the fairy tale mountains that tower above the white-capped ocean is one part of it. As is the bustling city centers and even the dry interior.   But another is that my dear friend Janine is from South Africa. Whenever Janine speaks of her homeland, she gets a dreamy, lost sort of look about her face. She only goes back every 5-10 years, so South Africa remains a palatable slice of her childhood… representing her former youth and vigor, all wrapped up in memory… often more dream than reality. Janine tells me the food is heavy on the meats, especially grilled meats. Considering she’s a vegan, I was surprised when she asserted that I couldn’t “visit” South Africa without having tried some form of their meat. She said “they love their meat” and that almost every meal includes some, particularly in the cities. The funny thing is, while they certainly love their kabobs …

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Monday Meal Review: Somalia

Keith falls asleep quicker than I can slip under the comforter and lay my head on the pillow. Most nights, I find myself staring out the window – watching the moon arc across the sky – while Keith snores next to me. I don’t know how he does it. My mind rarely clicks off… each night my head hosts a cluttered, clamoring PARTY of thoughts. Just as with the most ruckus of house guests, I’m lucky if I can control one out of ten of these thoughts. There’s no peace in my mind. There is just swirling, swirling, swirling. Worry, insecurity, negativity, hope, joy… it’s all bundled up in their, tied up and tangled in the confetti of my life. And yet, the Somali people say: This beautiful proverb made me question what I am doing at night to keep myself from this kind of soul-satisfying slumber. I asked myself: What is my personal roadblock to attaining inner peace? I sat with this question for a long time. I thought about it while dicing vegetables for the …

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Coconut Curried Corn | Galey iyo Qumbo

When I was a little girl, I’d sit on the back porch and shuck long ears of corn, the silk wrapping around my fingers, clinging to my dress, and falling onto my shoes. Similar scenes can be found throughout southern Somalia, where men, women, and children pull together to harvest their corn. To shuck the corn. And, eventually, to grind it in wide, stone bowls, to make porridge. If the kernels don’t get ground, the whole cobs might be dressed up in curried coconut milk in a dish called Galey iyo Qumbo. It seemed to me, with the edge of winter still upon us, that whole corn, richly coated in spiced coconut milk, would be just the trick to get our family out of our vegetable slump. There’s just not that much that looks good at the market – the brussel sprouts are on their way out and the artichokes don’t quite look right. Not yet. So corn. With coconut milk. From Somalia. In this recipe, ears of corn simmer in a bubbling mixture of salted coconut …

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Beef Suqaar

Sometimes we need a meal that can fill every corner of our heart, one that can bump out those rough and tumble emotions that bog us down… the ones that keep us from being happy. Carefree. Enter Suqaar, from Somalia. Suqaar (pronounced sooh-car) is one of Somalia’s most beloved dishes and can be made with any meat, from lamb, to chicken, to beef. Generally the meat is cut into very small pieces, about 1/2″ cube or smaller. The meal is then rounded out with an assortment of veggies – usually carrots, bell pepper, onion, and -sometimes – potato. There are no complex spices. There are no convoluted cooking techniques. Just good food, hot and happy. While some like to add cumin, most recipes omit any spice but salt. The flavors are simple and reflect the Italian influence on Somali food (hello, garlic and onion!). The meat and vegetable juices reduce to form a luscious gravy … and a delicate, controlled flurry of cilantro adds the finishing touch. Suqaar can be scooped up with flatbreads, but it …

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Menu: Somalia

Somalia quite the melting pot, and this week’s menu shows it. The food is peppered with a little bit of Italy (hello, tomato sauce & garlic!), a lot of east Africa (howdy, stewed meat with veggies!) and a smidgen of India (hey there, yellow, yellow turmeric!). I made this menu while Ava was home from school, so I purposefully chose recipes that were easy to make. That way I’d have more time to wiggle and spin my way through a toddler dance party. Priorities. Even with such simplicity, I think you’ll be pleasantly be surprised by these recipes. They’re just unusual enough for a dinner party, but easy enough for a week night. My kind of food. All recipes and the meal review will be posted throughout the week. Beef Suqaar [Recipe] If there was ever any comfort to be found in slowly simmered meat, this is it. A cozy combination of beef, carrots, peppers, onions, and potatoes. The flavor comes from the very Italian addition of garlic and onion. If you want to spice things up, a …

Boats on the beach in Merca, Somalia. -tahir turk

About the food of Somalia

On the easternmost edge of Africa, next to the Indian Ocean, lies Somalia. This long, lean country is shaped rather fortuitously like the lucky number 7. Or a boomerang. The arid land is a haven for wanderers –  rugged nomads who trace trails through the shifting sands and savannas until they can find a suitable spot to set up home for yet another night. Date-dotted mountains line the northern reaches of Somalia, while the south is known for farming treats like corn, sugar cane, sorghum, citrus, and bananas. Thanks to her lengthy coastline, fishing is a major source of food and income. The food reminds me both of our Ethiopian Global Table and our Djiboutian Global Table (her immediate neighbors), where spongy flat breads like lahooh start the day off right, perhaps with a drizzle of honey, or a soaking of tea, or even some egg and cheese… (see the Djiboutian recipe called laxoox).  Other breads include chapati [recipe]  and muufo (a bread baked in a clay oven). The chapati is a mainstay from the days Somalia was the center of trade between countries to the …

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Monday Meal Review: Solomon Islands

Ava’s been saying something disturbing lately. If a toy breaks, she says “let’s buy a new one.” If fruit sits too long in the basket and gets mushy, she says “let’s go to the grocery store.” She says these things, even with a father who shows her how to build and repair her toys in the garage … Even with a mother who teaches her how to make apple pies with bruised apples. Maybe she says it less than some children, but I’m still concerned, and I’m at a loss with how to handle it. Our week cooking the Solomon Islands brought the issue into clear relief. In the Solomon Islands, food is incredibly difficult to grow. There’s mountains. Monsoons.  On the remote islands, locals might have to row to another island just to get to the grocery store. You get the drift. Food is not to be wasted. Families must make due with what they have. This includes eating green papaya and grated cassava, wrapped up in banana leaves, some of the rare indigenous foods. So, …