Recipes from the French Southern and Antarctic Lands (TAAF)


So I'm afraid I'm sort of limping onto the screen with this entry, because I had very little joy researching recipes for the French Southern and Antarctic Lands. Because unlike the mainland of Antarctica, where I encountered several friendly people who were more than happy to share recipes, and places like Bouvet Island (also in the same general area) and Europa Island, I could not find a single person associated with the TAAF who could even be bothered to respond to my emails. One blogger even proclaimed, "I promise to respond within 24 hours." Ha! Snark.

I really don't know if you're supposed to photograph a lobster belly side up.

So after many weeks of an empty email box—well, empty except of course for all that spam—I finally took matters into my own hands. I spent hours, yes literally hours, researching recipes from the French Southern and Antarctic Lands. I think I visited every single English and French website that had any mention of Kerguelen, St. Paul and Amsterdam Islands, Crozet Islands, Adélie Land or the Scattered Islands. I also searched for Terres australes et antarctiques françaises (TAAF) all with, of course, "recettes," which is the French word for "recipes."

Penguins on Adelie Land. Photo Credit: AntarcticBoy

First of all let me tell you about the TAAF, known by us English-speakers as the French Southern and Antarctic Lands. It is one of the few sad remnants of the French colonial empire, which includes the aforementioned islands and a handful of temporary residents, mostly from the scientific community. The TAAF has a few meteorological and geophysical research stations, some extinct volcanoes, a small merchant marine fleet and penguins. But not really any recipes.

So here is what I was reduced to, a single recipe that I know to be from the TAAF, which was posted on a blog entitled Full of Stuff and Recipes, at least according to Google Translate. The poster writes that this recipe was prepared for her husband and his colleagues while they were stationed on the TAAF, so it is therefore the only one of the following three recipes that I can say for sure came from this region. Here it is:

Buns of TAAF
  • 6 tbsp warm milk
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 8 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp of salt
  • 2 2/3 cup sugar
  • 12 whole eggs
  • 2 2/3 cup butter
  • 1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tbsp water
Now let it be known that I don't think mine came out right. It was good, but I suspect that it wasn't exactly right. Anyway …

I gather from what I read, which was every single webpage currently available on the subject, that they eat a lot of lobster in the TAAF. Lobster is very available there, because it is one of the area's primary fishing resources. So with that in mind, I chose this recipe:

Lobster tails à la Plancha

For the lobster:
  • 2 to 4 lobster tails
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Lime butter
For the marinade:
  • 1/2 cup virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 oz whole star anise
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 sprigs basil, chopped
  • 3 sprigs lemon thyme, leaves only
  • Juice of 1 lime, freshly squeezed
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Now here's the thing about this recipe, it came from a chef whose father was stationed for five years on the TAAF. But I could find nothing claiming that this recipe had ever been eaten on the TAAF. I suspect not, but it's as close as I could come.

Next:

Leek Pie and Blue
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 4 leeks, white and light green parts only
  • 4 oz good quality blue cheese
  • 4 eggs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 2 sheets puff pastry
  • 1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tbsp water
Now here's the other thing--this recipe came from a website that called itself an Adelie Land wiki, and included a section with a few recipes. Now, were these Adelie Land recipes, or were they just random recipes that someone associated with the site happens to like? No idea, because the website didn't actually say so. So there you go.

And that was my menu. Do leek pie and lobster go together? Hmm. At this point I really didn't care.

Anyway here's how to make: First make the marinade for the lobster, since you are advised to let the tails marinate overnight. Of course I didn't, because I don't have that kind of capacity for planning.
 
Crush the star anise with a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder. Mine didn't get very powdery and actually looked like it had little wood chips in it, which I didn't think would be very pleasant to eat. So I poured the lime juice and olive oil in with the anise and let it soak for about 15 minutes, then I strained it and added the other ingredients. I got plenty of flavor this way, without having to eat bark.

Anyway do as I did or simply add the anise to the garlic, thyme and basil and pour the olive oil and lime over. (If you don't have lemon thyme, use regular thyme with a little bit of lemon zest added.) Now pour over the bellies of the lobster tails and let marinate over night.

When ready to cook, remove the lobsters from the fridge and cook in at 465 degrees for 5 to 8 minutes, or until an internal thermometer reads 140 degrees. Serve with melted lime butter for dipping.

 Hmm, not one of my better photos.
Now for the Buns of TAAF, which have an admittedly awesome name even if it is because Google Translate is not really very good at translating. (The other day I found a French recipe that listed "chipmunks" as one of the ingredients. Yay, Google Translate!)

First dissolve the sugar in the warm milk, then add the yeast and let stand until frothy. Mix together the rest of the ingredients and add the yeast mixture. Knead until you get a nice soft dough. (Here's where I went wrong: mine was really sticky. I kept adding flour until the texture was more dough-like, since the recipe didn't say it should be sticky. I don't know, though, maybe it was supposed to be, and adding all that flour turned it into something else. Your call.)

Let the dough rise for an hour or so. (Mine didn't rise--another problem. My milk might have been too warm when I added the yeast.)

Punch down, then divide into two equal sized pans. Let rise again until doubled in size. Brush tops with the egg wash, then bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden.

This was really more scone-like than bread-like.

And the pie:

Melt the butter in a pan and saute the leeks until soft.

In a small bowl, beat the eggs together with the salt and pepper and cream.

Line a casserole dish with a sheet of puff pastry. Spread the blue cheese on top, then add the leeks.

Pour the egg mixture over and cover with another sheet of puff pastry. Brush with the egg wash and bake at 435 degrees for 25 minutes.

Done! So here's what we thought:

Naturally I did not feed lobster to my children. Because that would be stupid. So Martin and I ate this meal alone.

The lobster was yummy but probably would have been even yummier if it had, you know, marinated overnight. But I did like that anise marinade a lot, especially my non-woody version. Lobster tails, though, as they are sold at Safeway anyway are ridiculously small. I got maybe two bites out of mine and then it was over.

I liked the leek pie; Martin thought it was too doughy. I guess I could have baked the bottom half of the pie first so it would puff up more, but I didn't bother. It certainly would have improved the pie but I didn't think it was bad the way it was. Because you really can't go wrong with blue cheese, can you?

We really liked the buns of TAAF, but the way I made them they were really more like scones. They would have been nice with some strawberry jam and clotted cream. I served them as a dessert, and the kids got pieces in their lunches for a couple of days. Yum!

So that's another non-country checked off my list. Now I will sit back and hope that someone who has actually lived on the TAAF reads my blog and finds it in his/her heart to send me actual recipes from the region.

Next week: The Gambia

For printable versions of this week's recipes:



Recipes from Gabon


In my pre-Travel by Stove days, bananas were something you sliced up on cereal, or ate as a snack or with ice cream, or made banana bread out of when they started to turn a yucky color. That was pretty much my whole banana repertoire.

Then I discovered boiled green bananas and loco. Bananas can be a side dish! Who knew?

Now with this entry, my banana repertoire gets even more interesting. Because this week's entry features a seriously yummy banana dessert that goes way beyond mere banana splits and banana cream pie.

This week we're in Gabon, which is another one of those small African nations with limited recipe availability. I'll pause here so you can sigh over my broken-recordness.


The first people to live in Gabon were Congo Pygmies, who were eventually replaced (or maybe just absorbed) by the Bantu tribes. All of whom, of course, were minding their own business when the French came along and wrecked everything. French rule eventually led to great political upset, military coups and general repression of most kinds of freedom. Fortunately for the Gabonese, after much turmoil things did eventually get better, and today Gabon has a mostly-functioning democracy. It also has the highest Human Development Index in Sub-Saharan Africa, which means the Gabonese are pretty fortunate since a lot of African nations rank very low on that particular scale.

Pointe Denis, Gabon. Photo Credit: carlosoliveirareis.

Gabon is close to The Democratic Republic of the Congo, and our main course this week is actually pretty similar to the one I did for that nation. Normally I don't like to cook recipes that are too similar to ones I've already done, but in this case I didn't have too many alternatives. I do take comfort in the fact that this one is a chicken dish, while the other was beef. Anyway here it is:

Poulet au Gnemboue (Chicken in Nuts)
(From The World Cookbook for Students)
  • 6 ounces palm base* (or substitute palm nuts, almonds or hazelnuts)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 3 green onions, sliced thinly
  • 1 2-lb chicken, cut into pieces
* Palm base, as you may remember, is hideously difficult to find in the US. If you have an African market in your area, check there first. Otherwise you may have to find some very obscure online grocer to order it from for exorbitant shipping costs, which is what I did. Fortunately, I ordered some extra which is why I actually had some on hand for this recipe.

No side dishes, because I couldn't find any. I just served it with rice and called it "done." But for dessert:

Baked Bananas Gabon
(From The African Studies Center at the University of Pennsylvania)
  • 8 yellow bananas, not overripe
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp sour cream
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
OK here we go:

To make the chicken, put the palm base in a large saucepan over medium heat. If you're using nuts instead of palm base, process the nuts in a food processor with the water until you get a paste, the transfer to the aforementioned saucepan.

Add the peppers, salt, garlic and green onions and stir to combine.

Now add the chicken to the saucepan. Cover and reduce heat to low.

Let simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until tender, adding water if necessary. Serve over rice.

And the bananas:

Slice each banana up into three equal-sized pieces. In a small bowl, beat the egg together with the orange juice.

Dip each banana piece in the egg mixture, then roll in the breadcrumbs. Repeat until all the pieces are coated.

Heat the oil over a medium flame and fry each banana on all sides until they start to turn a golden color.

Transfer to a cookie sheet and bake for 5 minutes.

Serve topped with a dollop of sour cream sprinkled with a little brown sugar.

I did like the chicken but found it a bit underwhelming, which is how I tend to find most food from this particular part of the world. I like it, it's good, basic food but it doesn't really wow me.

The bananas, on the other hand, oh yum. And really they were also quite basic, though I can think of a million different ways to make them: maybe add a little cinnamon to the breadcrumbs, or some sugar, and top them with some chocolate syrup. But just as they were with the sour cream and brown sugar on top (which I actually thought was weird until my friend Liz told me that's how she likes to eat strawberries) they were really delicious. Anything else would be a variation and not necessarily an improvement.

One question I did have about them was why you would bother to bake them for only five minutes since they were already pretty much done in the frying pan. Maybe so you can call them "baked" bananas. After all, baked bananas have a lot fewer calories than fried ones, right? Right?

Anyway my kids ate those bananas and loved them. The chicken, not so much. But you already knew that because my kids are predictable.

Next week: The French Southern and Antarctic Lands (I bet you thought I was going to skip that one! Well, I almost did …)

For printable versions of this week's recipes:



Recipes from Fujian, China


Martin, who as you know is British, used to complain bitterly about American Chinese food. "That sweet sticky sauce," he claimed, "isn't in the Chinese food we get in England. It's a totally American invention."

Being American, of course (and never having actually visited China), I know nothing but Chinese food with sweet sticky sauce. General Tso's chicken, broccoli beef, orange chicken, yeah I love it. It's the Chinese food I grew up with.

Meal from Fujian, China
Of course that's nothing like Chinese food is in, you know, China. Real Chinese food is probably a lot closer to the stuff Martin used to get in England. Less sweet, less sticky, and less bland. None of which sounds particularly unappealing to me, just different. But that's what makes Travel by Stove so much fun—I get to discover new things about food … not just food I don't know but food I used to think I knew.

Anyway China is a big place with a lot of different cuisines, so it's one of those countries I decided a while ago I would tackle by region instead of trying to do justice to the whole nation  in one meal. Which brings us to this week's menu, which is from the Fujian province of China.

Fujian is on the southeastern coast of China, just across the straight from Taiwan. It has the distinction of being the most forested province in China, with 62.96% forest coverage as of 2009. Like other coastal provinces in China, Fujian is pretty prosperous and has a lot of industry, which includes tea and, yes, textile factories. This is one of those places in China where the big multi-national firms like to set up shop: Boeing, GE, Dell and Panasonic all have operations there.


Wuyi Mountain, Fujian, China. Photo by Flickr user zzchen.

As you might have already guessed, coastal Fujian has a lot of seafood in its cuisine. Its most famous dish is called "Buddha jumps over the wall," and oh did I want to make it until I discovered that it contains up to 30 different ingredients (including the very illegal shark fin and the very soon to be illegal sea cucumber) and takes two to three days to prepare. So alas, here is what I chose instead:

Drunk Ribs
(from Chinese Recipe)
  • 1 1/2 lbs pork ribs (I used boneless country-style, probably not authentic but more husband-friendly)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup Shaoxing wine
  • 1/2 cup sweet potato flour (more if needed)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh chives
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • Splash of sesame oil
  • 1 tsp powdered chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp Shaoxing wine
Fujian Fried Rice
(from DayDayCook)

For the rice:
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 3 oz small shrimp
  • 2-3 broccoli rabe or Chinese broccoli stems, diced*
  • 1-2 Chinese dried scallops, soaked in water overnight, diced (optional)
  • 2-3 shitake mushrooms, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 2 eggs, beaten
For the marinade:
  • 1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
  • Ground white pepper to taste
  • Dash of salt
For the sauce:
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp corn starch
  • 2 tbsp water
* If you can't find broccoli rabe or Chinese broccoli, substitute broccolini, which is an American/Chinese broccoli hybrid.

Green Vegetables with Mushrooms
(from Travel China Guide)
  • 5 oz bok choy
  • 3 1/2 oz shitake mushrooms
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
Let's be straightforward this week and start with the ribs:

Rub the meat all over with salt and pepper and then pour the wine over. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Now dredge each rib in sweet potato flour. Heat some cooking oil over a high flame and brown the ribs on all sides. Remove when golden.

Mix the garlic and chives with the dark and light soy sauces, sugar, vinegar, white pepper, sesame oil, chicken stock powder and the rest of the wine. Pour the sauce over the ribs and let cook for a few more minutes. Done!

And the rice:

Devein the shrimp and either chop them up or leave them whole (I left mine whole). Mix the wine with the salt and white pepper and pour over the shrimp. Cover and let marinate in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Now heat some cooking oil over a high flame. Add the garlic and mushrooms and saute for one or two minutes, taking care not to burn the garlic. Add the vegetables and the shrimp and keep cooking until the vegetables begin to soften and the shrimp is cooked through.

To make the sauce, put the chicken stock and soy sauce together in a small pot and bring to a simmer. Let cook for two minutes. Dissolve the cornstarch in the water and pour into the sauce. Reduce to low heat.

In a large frying pan or wok, add the beaten eggs and cook over high heat until they are about halfway set. Now add the rice and stir until combined.

Keep stirring until the eggs are done and add salt to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl and pour the sauce over.

And finally the vegetables:

Trim and quarter the bok choy. Cut the mushrooms into chunks.

Heat some cooking oil in a wok over a high flame. Add the garlic and let cook for a few seconds (it's really easy to burn at this temperature), then add the bok choy. Keep stirring until the bok choy starts to shrink, which should only take a minute or so. Add the salt and turn off the heat. Arrange the bok choy on a serving platter.

Now add a little more oil to the wok and heat over a high flame. Add the mushrooms and cook for one minute, then add about 1/3 cup of water. Reduce the heat and let the mushrooms cook for about five minutes. Increase heat to medium and add the salt, soy sauce and the cornstarch mixture. Stir until combined and then remove from heat. Pour the mushrooms and sauce over the bok choy and serve.

What we thought:

It's hard to know what is traditional and what has been dumbed-down for the American palette, so it could be that an angry person from Fujian will eventually post a message on this entry telling me that my recipes were all wrong. Of course he or she won't actually send the correct recipe to help me fix my error, because he or she never does. But anyway, if this is indeed an accurate representation of Fujian cuisine then I am a fan.

The ribs were really good with a delicious sauce that was just a little bit sweet but without that overpowering American-Chinese sweetness. Now I do think that the ribs could have benefited from being slow-cooked to make them more tender, but their chewiness didn't detract from their good flavor.

I liked the rice a lot—of course I don't think I ever met a fried rice I didn't like. The sauce made it really different from the stuff I usually think of as fried rice, which doesn't typically include sauce at all unless you count straight soy sauce.

And the vegetables—I didn't know I liked shitake mushrooms. I usually find them a little too earthy for my taste. But cooked this way they were really good. I also didn't know that I don't like bok choy. Up until now I've just had it cut up in slivers and added to main courses, but all by itself it's a little too bitter for me.

As for Martin, he approved. This was more like the Chinese food he knows in England. The kids, on the other hand, well I'm sure you can guess. They picked at the pork. They ignored the rice. And the vegetables were met with an overwhelming "ew." But that's just kids.

Next week: Gabon

For printable versions of this week's recipes:



Recipes from French Wallis and Futuna


It is 103 degrees and I am sitting on my deck watching my kids swim, thinking of blowing off this entry in favor of a dip in the pool. I am pretty sure I can hear sizzling every time I move one of my feet out from under the shade of my patio umbrella.

Now aside from when I lived in Chico, land of 115 degree Augusts, this is the worst heat wave I've ever seen. So thank god I'm not cooking something stodgy and wintery this week from, say, Iceland or Norway. I think that might actually create a rift in the space-time continuum.

 
Instead, this week we are on a nice, refreshing tropical island with cool breezes blowing in from that inviting blue sea. When we are finished eating, we'll jump into that gorgeous, flower-enveloped swimming hole flanked by the tumbling waters of a 15 foot waterfall. Huh? Oh, sorry, I blacked out there for a second.


Lake Lalolalo on ʻUvea, French Wallis and Futuna

French Wallis and Futuna: I have no idea if they have actual 15 foot waterfalls pouring into lovely little secluded swimming holes, but they do have beaches. And probably much better air conditioning than me. Anyway this is another one of those archipelagos in the same general vicinity as French Polynesia and American Samoa. The recorded history of this place begins, of course, with the French showing up and converting everyone to Catholicism, which is the same basic way all these island histories begin. Wallis and Futuna got to keep their king, though--in fact they still have a king today even though they are officially a territory of France.

 
Despite all of my dreams of tropical beaches and those coconut shell cocktails with little umbrellas sticking out of them, Wallis and Futuna doesn't get a whole lot of revenue from tourism. Instead they depend on subsistence agriculture, fishing and lumber. This is not a wealthy place (so much for my theory about their air conditioning, but that's kind of where my brain is), but they do have good food.

As for the recipes, small places always equal slim pickings, but I was very happy with the recipes I did find, all of which came from the French language website Easy Cook. Here they are:

Spicy Fried Fish
  • 2 lbs fish fillets (I used barramundi, which is fished there locally)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 tsp to 1 tbsp curry powder (I used a hot madras variety)
  • 1 ½ cups coconut milk
  • Oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
Sweet Potatoes
(Google Translate gave the title as "softness kumala," with "kumala" being an Oceanic variety of sweet potato and "softness" being a second translation of the French word for "sweet," so I gather that the name of this recipe is really just "sweet potatoes")
  • 5 or 6 sweet potatoes
  • 1 large onion (or 5 small green onions), sliced
  • 1 clove garlic,
  • 1 to 2 tsp chopped ginger
  • 3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1 cup coconut milk
Stuffed Bananas
  • 6 green bananas
  • 9 oz ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and pepper
This is a really easy meal to make, which believe me is what you want on a hot day.

 
Start by mixing the flour with the curry powder, salt and pepper. Now rinse the fish and cut it up into bite sized pieces. Dip them in the coconut milk and dredge in the flour mixture.

 
Now pan fry them in a splash of oil until golden.


 
Pour in the rest of the coconut milk and simmer over a low flame until cooked through. Sprinkle with a little lemon juice and serve.


 
And the potatoes:

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into chunks. Boil for 15 or 20 minutes or until easily pierced by a fork, but not over-soft. Drain and set aside.

Now Sauté the onions with the garlic in a little oil. Add the coconut milk, sweet potatoes and boiled eggs.

 
Meanwhile, make the bananas:

Brown the meat and set aside. In a small bowl, beat the egg.

Slice the bananas in half lengthwise and remove the flesh, taking care not to damage the peels. Mash with a potato masher and then mix in the meat, egg and onion.

 
Stuff the banana peels with the mixture and wrap up in banana leaves. Bake for 45 minutes.


Once again, my kids were left out ... But Martin and I enjoyed these recipes. It might have been a little too much coconut milk for one meal, but like I said; slim pickens. The fish was very flavorful and tropical in character and so were the potatoes, which made for a very natural tasting combination with the coconut milk. The bananas were a bit odd, and I usually like cooked green bananas. I didn't finish mine, but mostly because I found it bland, not because I thought it was unpleasant. With a little more spice I think it would have been quite good.

So that's it, tropical food for a sweltering heat. Now I believe I will go melt into an unhappy puddle.

Oh, and happy Fourth of July!

Next week: Fujian, China


For printable versions of this week's recipes:





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