Month: April 2013

Monday Meal Review: South Sudan

What is a celebrity? One definition is someone who commands “public fascination.” Could this be the profile of one such person? This week we shared our meal with a very special guest; someone who has actually traveled to South Sudan, slept in their huts, hunted in their forests, and enjoyed feasts while sitting at the right hand of the village Chief.  I’d tell you when all this happened, but I’ve been sworn to secrecy. I’ve wanted to invite this man to our table for a long time, partly because he is so passionate about the cultures of the world, but also because anywhere he goes, he comes back with stories. Enough to fill a 450 page book, actually. Say ‘hello’ to Brian Schwartz. You might recognize him from his lengthy, insightful comments… He’s been sharing them from the very beginning of this blog. Without him, my adventures into Africa and parts of Asia would have been much quieter, but his memories (and music!) have livened up our stovetop travels … making me (and I’m sure …

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Peanut Stew with Beef & Spinach | Combo

Combo. It’s one of South Sudan’s most popular dishes – a thick, wet combination of spinach, peanut butter, tomatoes, and (sometimes) meat. Peanut butter is a common meal component throughout Africa (like Ghana’s Groundnut Soup, Sierra Leone’s Gluten-free Peanut Bites, Senegal’s Cinq Centimes Cookies, and Malawi’s Peanut Balls), but Combo stands out as one of the more rustic dishes I’ve come across. Even still, South Sudanese no longer living in South Sudan make Combo to bring themselves back. That’s how they taste home again. Combo first came to my attention thanks to Brian Schwartz who kindly phoned the South Sudanese embassy to ask about popular dishes. Thanks Brian! You can have it with or without beef (or perhaps goat is more to your fancy?). I’ve even seen it with sweet potatoes in the mix. No matter what you do, just be sure to include the essentials: spinach and peanut butter. Adapted from the South Sudanese Cookbook. Ingredients: 1 1/4 lb beef, cubed vegetable oil 2 onions, chopped 4 garlic cloves, crushed 3 cups beef stock …

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South Sudanese Tomato Salad

The South Sudanese love a good, chopped tomato salad on the side of their meals. Often, it’s no more than tomato, onion, and hot, green chili peppers… perhaps a spot of parsley… But other times, a bit of peanut butter and lime juice makes for a grand dressing… and tastes just like home, if you happen to be from South Sudan. When I was deciding which of the two recipes to try, the choice was clear: if peanut butter is involved, the answer is yes. Most definitely, yes. You can make this vegan recipe as spicy as you’d like by adding more (or less) chili peppers. I thought two Thai birds made a nice, mild/medium heat (bordering on hot if someone bit directly into a piece of pepper). For little ones, you can always leave the chili peppers out. In the end, the lime juice makes the salad tangy and bright, while the peanuts give it that African flair. I call a recipe like this, all kinds of wonderful. And so does Ava. Inspired by this …

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Sudanese Kisra | Sorghum Crepes

I never thought I’d need a cow’s brain and a credit card for this lil’ ol’ Global Table Adventure of ours. The thing is, if I were to make Kisra in the most authentic way – the South Sudanese way –  that’s exactly what I’d need. Locals would use the cow’s brain,  which is naturally quite fatty, to grease the pan. I got the tip on good authority; from this amazing South Sudanese food post on Green Shakes in Sudan. There you’ll find photos of local women rubbing brain renderings on their flat griddle-like pan. According to The World Cookbook for Students, unroasted sesame oil works fine as well… and gives the wholesome crepe a clean sort of flavor and makes them entirely vegan. I know what I chose…. what would you choose? Now, let’s talk credit cards. I read several passages that indicate locals spread out the kisra batter with credit cards. I had a small plastic scraper that worked just fine… but the credit card would definitely add a touch of excitement (will it or …

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Menu: South Sudan

“A man without money goes fast through the market.” South Sudanese Proverb This week we’re digging into a menu that shows off South Sudan’s love of peanuts, sorghum, and spinach. These three staples can be found in many forms throughout the tropical country, although we’ve used them in traditional recipes that will be accessible to most home cooks. And while we’re talking about spinach, can we talk about spring for a second? What on earth is happening? No, really. Tulsa is all kinds of crazy. I keep heading outside to plant my tomatoes and Mother Nature’s like “Just kidding. It’s still winter.”* At this rate, the farmer’s market will be my only hope for awesome produce. All recipes and the meal review will be posted throughout the week. Sudanese Tomato Salad [Recipe] Fresh tomatoes, green onion, and parsley, tossed with a spicy peanut lime dressing. Vegan. Peanut Stew with Beef & Spinach | Combo [Recipe] A hearty mixture of browned beef, spinach, and peanut sauce. This one will comfort even the bristliest of folk, on the …

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South Sudanese children. Photo by Photo Credit: Karl Grobl, Education Development Center Inc.

About the Food of South Sudan

It is a rare thing to bite into a new country; so often we think of our geopolitical landscape as static. But countries are no more static than the mountains which shift and crack, and spew forth anew from the earth’s molten core. There are surges and separations, and somehow, from the same old earth, something new emerges. Which brings me to this week. South Sudan. The world’s newest country (as of July 9, 2011). She’s hot, tropical, and bursting with jungle and swampland. She’s been there all along, of course, but now she has both boundaries and acknowledgement. Villagers sink into her heat with abandon, removed from the flicker of tourists, pressed together in the common interest of survival. The food is simple, based on porridge made from millet (“wala-wala” or “awal-wala”), although more densely populated areas will also offer cassava fritters and sorghum flatbread (kisra) [Recipe]. Meat like goat, beef or chicken, might be grilled and served along with these starches, or it might be cooked down in a peanut and spinach leaf …

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Monday Meal Review: North Sudan

If you could taste life, it would be salt of the earth, spice of the heavens. It would leave you thirsty, and yet it would quench you. When I see people sweat through complicated recipes to impress each other, rather that for fun, I wonder if they taste life… if they really drink it in. Because I’ve seen it. I’ve seen her. That girl who’s crying before a dinner party because she’s taken on a recipe that’s much too complicated. Or because she’s just splattered oil on her favorite blouse. Or she answers the door with flour on her face and doesn’t realize it until a glass of wine and two hours later. While her friends fill the walls of her home with effervescent laughter, her insides are writhe with stress, fear, insecurity. She’s wondering if everyone’s doing okay, without taking a moment to breathe for herself. To live. To take it all in. To taste life. I know, because I’ve been that girl. I recently read a cookbook review that claimed the author wasn’t sharing true “recipes” …

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Sudanese Flatbread | Gorraasa

Gorraasa is a soft, doughy bread enjoyed in the Sudan that tastes like a really thick tortilla. The texture is a bit more spongy, however, and when I pulled mine into pieces, I was delighted to find the slight elasticity at once addicting and good for picking up food. Which is exactly how the Sudanese use Gorraasa. They place a round of Gorraasa under stewed meats or other entrees, then tear off bits of the bread to pick up the food instead of using utensils. It can also be enjoyed on its own… as Ava demonstrates here: I first learned about Gorraasa from Mark Tanner who spent quite a bit of time traveling through Sudan, though I found his recipe needed adjusting to work in my kitchen. Namely, more baking powder was needed to obtain the open holes (and if the batter happened to be too wet, the holes would pop before they set). Also, I found that, though he suggested flipping the Gorraasa while cooking, when I did so, the results no longer matched the photo …

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Cucumber Yogurt Salad | Salatet Zabady bil ajur

A cucumber salad is a thing of beauty. It cools, it refreshes, and it provides important nutrition thanks to a happy scoop of yogurt and tons of fiber from the cucumber (not to mention garlic’s anti-vampire qualities). While cucumber salads span the globe in one form or another, this version is popular through the Middle East, western Asia, and even parts of Europe (with minor variations). In Sudan, this salad can be enjoyed on it’s own, as a dip* or on the side of spiced meats, like grilled kofta [recipe]. All you need is a love for yogurt and garlic, and you’ll be on your way. Serves 4 Ingredients: 2 cucumbers, peeled & cubed 1 1/2 cups yogurt 2 cloves garlic, crushed salt & pepper Method: Mix cucumbers, yogurt, garlic, and seasonings. Plenty of salt and pepper really make this salad shine. *In Sudan cucumber salads are traditionally served as a dip with lettuce leaves and even sliced vegetables (like peppers). If you go this route, consider dicing the cucumber smaller, to make it easier …

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Sudanese Cinnamon Tea

Under the pulsing noonday sun, Tea Ladies line the streets of Sudan. They soak up what little shade they can find. Water simmers over charcoal stoves. They swirl a mishmash of ingredients through the steam, into the pot. You can pick your combination. Will it be mint? Or what about ginger? The most popular option for many patrons is cinnamon tea, a blend of black tea steeped with cinnamon sticks. Many patrons like to hold a sugar cube between the teeth while drinking to sweeten the brew. When business is good, men sit and talk at the edge of their Tea Lady’s makeshift stall. They sip her healing brews on metal chairs, a wooden box, or on their haunches. They don’t rush. They soak in the warmth. The might nibble some Zalabya, a.k.a. sugar dumplings, to go with it. Others rush by and drink on the run. When their too busy at home to make tea, this is their version of Starbucks or perhaps Dunkin Donuts. Makes 3 cups Ingredients: 3 cinnamon sticks 3 cups …

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Menu: North Sudan

“Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fatted ox where there is hatred.” Sudanese Proverb I’m taking this proverb to heart. This week happens to be a simple week. We’re breathing easy with vegetables, grain, and tea. We’re making room for love in a busy, busy time.  The end result? This is a quick menu, something that can be made on a weeknight… without stress or strain. Thankfully, North Sudan accommodated us easily (and I felt guilt-free about going so simple since we’ve made so many of her other favorite recipes during other Global Tables (for a list of them see our post from yesterday… you can click through to the recipes and try them whenever you like). All recipes and the meal review will be available throughout the week. Cucumber Salad | Salatet Zabady bil Ajur [Recipe] An easy, refreshing blend of cucumber, yogurt, and crushed garlic. Goraasa [Recipe] Soft, doughy flatbread leaved with baking powder.  (vegan) Cinnamon Tea [Recipe] Find out why the Tea Ladies of Sudan call this their best-seller. P.S. I’m curious.. Do …

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Market in Darfur courtesy of COSV.

About the food of North Sudan

If you wander through the deserts and hot winds of Sudan, you’ll be rewarded with a collection of richly spiced and lemon-laced foods, and even cooling cucumber and yogurt salads [Recipe]. You’ll recognize many dishes traditionally enjoyed by the Sudanese from our previous Global Table meals, such as ful medames (also enjoyed in Egypt), kofta, and basboosa (beloved throughout the Middle East). That basboosa cake? It’s soaked with lemon and rosewater syrup. I could eat that every day for the rest of my life and be a very happy woman. Like Ethiopia, flatbreads are incredibly popular in Sudan. Diners enjoy their meals with a wide range, including injera, sorghum crepes (kisra), and Gorraasa (simple flour and water flatbreads) [Recipe]. When you’re done eating, you might trouble one of the Tea Women for a spot of cinnamon tea [Recipe]. They sell it right on the side of the road… so don’t hesitate! Just be sure to keep an eye out for an impending haboob… otherwise known as a sandstorm of such intensity that it can blot out the sun. Phew. …

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