Where is Malaysia?


My arch nemesis showed up again this week, you remember him, right? That's right, shrimp paste. 
Shrimp paste is awesome in its smelly disgustingness and it's ability to make my children lose their freaking minds. I love shrimp paste, because I hate it so, so much, which makes it one of the world's most entertaining ingredients.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Photo by  Luke Zeme Photography.
For details about the latest battle in my war against smelly things that people like to eat, you'll have to come back in a few days. Today, I'm mainly just going to talk about the nation that helped to perpetuate the obscenity of shrimp paste in my life (this week): Malaysia.
In terms of population density, Malaysia is a good-sized nation in Southeast Asia, the 44th most populous country in the world, in fact, with more than 30 million shrimp paste eating people residing there (sorry, I'll stop now). It shares a land border with Thailand and maritime borders with Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines. The southernmost point of continental Eurasia is in Malaysia, though the southernmost point of Eurasia overall (including islands) is actually in Indonesia.
Some cool facts about Malaysia: it's one of only 17 designated "megadiverse" nations in the world, which means that it is one of only a few countries that harbor that majority of Earth's species, kind of like how only a few people harbor the majority of the world's wealth, you know. That fact is made somewhat less cool when you learn that the US is also one of the world's 17 megadiverse nations, or maybe more cool depending on your perspective. I guess I don't really think of the US as being particularly megadiverse since the same five species keep showing up on my trail cam every week.
Malaysia is a pretty forward thinking place: the state religion is Islam, but non-Muslims have the freedom to practice, too. The government is a lot like the British government except that the king is an elected official (chosen from a pool of the hereditary monarchs that rule each of nine Malaysian states, which sadly means that regular people can't "run for king.") Like England, Malaysia also has a prime minister.
There are three major ethnic groups in Malaysia: Malays, Chinese and Indians, which means that the cuisine is heavily influenced by all three traditions. There's also influence from Indonesia, Thailand, Portugal and Britain, which really makes the food pretty wonderfully diverse and interesting.

Of course, there's the shrimp paste thing, too. Check back for details. 



Recipes from Malawi


I must have been in the mood for simple food this week, because I did enjoy our culinary journey into the little nation of Malawi. Now I say "simple" but these recipes weren't simple in taste--yes, the ingredients were basic, but they were still a nice combination of flavors.

Fish is really important to Malawian cuisine--remember from my last post that 1/3rd of Malawi's area is occupied by a lake. But I just didn't find a whole lot of fish options online (I know there have to be some out there, but I didn't have any luck) and with only one exception my kids hate fish anyway, so I settled on a chicken dish and, just because I did need some small way to torture my children, that cornmeal porridge stuff that everyone hates.

Here are the recipes I chose:
Nkhuku Ya Sabola. Spiced chicken curry made with tomatoes and potatoes.
Nsima.  A polenta-like porridge made from cornmeal and butter.
Banana fritters. Yes, something deep fried. Because I really needed the calories.


Recipes from Malawi: Nkhuku Ya Sabola (Spiced Chicken Curry)


So let's face it, any recipe with the word "curry" in the title is going to be tasty by default, because, you know, curry. Of course the funny thing about Indian curry is it almost never has actual curry powder in it--or if it does, it's really a mixture of spices you put together in your own kitchen, which sort of fall under a generic umbrella of "curry" spices. Lots of other nations, though, make curries that get most of their flavor from a pre-mixed commercial curry powder, which is true for this Malawian chicken.

Like many African recipes, this one is simple to make and has only a handful of ingredients (recipe below).
First, season the chicken with salt and fry in oil over medium heat until browned on all sides. Remove from the heat and transfer to a large pot.

If there's any excess oil, pour it off and then use the remaining oil to saute the the onions.
When the onions are translucent, add the tomatoes, chili pepper, thyme and curry powder.
Cook the spices until fragrant, then add the water and stock. Bring to a boil, then transfer to the pot with the chicken. Let simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Add the potato cubes and cook for another 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Season with a little more salt and pepper and serve.

I enjoyed this recipe, though my kids of course were ho-hum as they always are about anything that contains, you know, actual vegetables. So they spent a lot of time removing each individual little bit of onion, tomato and potato and then picked at the rest and asked me when dessert would be ready. That's OK, I'm used to it. At least Martin and I enjoyed our meals.


Nkhuku Ya Sabola (Spiced Chicken Curry)

from Ayileche


Ingredients

  • 1 lb chicken, skin on
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 to 5 tbsp oil
  • 3 onions, chopped
  • 5 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tbsp curry
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, chopped fine
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. First, season the chicken with salt and fry in oil over medium heat until browned on all sides. Remove from the heat and add to a large pot.
  2. If there's any excess oil, pour it off and then use the remaining oil to saute the the onions. When the onions are translucent, add the tomatoes, chili pepper, thyme and curry powder.
  3. Cook the spices until fragrant, then add the water and stock. Bring to a boil, then transfer to the pot with the chicken. Let simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Add the potato cubes and cook for another 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Season with a little more salt and pepper and serve.



Recipes from Malawi: Nsima


So I know I've made something like this before, in fact I distinctly recall the looks on my kids' faces when they realized I expected them to eat it. And I can also recall a box of it sitting in my kitchen cabinet for like, years, because I kept thinking that I'd need it for another blog night. And then I'm pretty sure I recall pitching it because I realized that I probably should try hard not to need it for another blog night, because that's how much everyone hated it.

Of course, I can't find any reference to it in any of my old posts, so it must have had some other name. Anyway, here we are again, and yes I'm making this very similar (though not exactly the same) stuff because I really just didn't feel that the meal would be authentic without it.

So the good news is, there's really nothing simpler to cook than this stuff. It's just cornmeal, water and butter. Here's how to do it:

Heat the water until it's just lukewarm. Then add a little bit of the cornmeal and stir until any lumps dissolve.

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Sprinkle the rest of the cornmeal over the simmering water, stirring constantly so it doesn't get lumpy. It's going to get pretty thick, so keep stirring until it's smooth and has an almost dough-like consistency. Add the butter and stir it in.


So I actually did not hate this stuff as much as I remember hating it. The main dish had a lot of liquid in it, so it was really just a stand-in for rice. It was really good at mopping up all the juices. Of course, my kids took one look at it and didn't want anything to do with it, but really, that was to be expected. It was quite heavy so I didn't eat all of it, but the butter made it somewhat less than bland, and as I said, it was great at mopping up the liquidy part of the chicken curry.

Here's the complete recipe:



Ingredients

  • 1 lb chicken, skin on
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 to 5 tbsp oil
  • 3 onions, chopped
  • 5 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tbsp curry
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, chopped fine
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Heat the water until it's just lukewarm. Then add a little bit of the cornmeal and stir until any lumps dissolve.
  2. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Sprinkle the rest of the cornmeal over the simmering water, stirring constantly so it doesn't get lumpy. It's going to get pretty thick, so keep stirring until it's smooth and has an almost dough-like consistency. Add the butter and stir it in.



Recipes from Malawi: Banana Fritters


So after all the child torture (I'm just kidding, they didn't hate it that much), I decided to give everyone a treat. I actually knew pretty well in advance that these banana fritters would be a treat, because "banana" and because "deep fried." I don't see how you could get that combination wrong, unless you deep fried your bananas in motor oil or something.

And these are easy, too, though I don't recommend them for every day. They are super-greasy, and obviously not a part of a healthy eating plan. But if you want to make your kids feel better about that nsima, well, you can't go wrong with some banana fritters.

First, mash up the bananas with some sugar and salt. Hopefully you have a super-cute helper to add the sugar for you.
Now stir in the cornmeal and mix until you have a nice dough.
Heat some cooking oil (something with no flavor of its own, like canola) until bubbles rise around the non-stirring end of a wooden spoon.

Fry until golden. Mine were a little on the overdone side, but no one cared.

Dust with powdered sugar and serve.

Everyone loved these. What's not to love? Crispy, banana, deep fried, dusted with powdered sugar. Of course my sugar-loving older daughter thought that there wasn't enough sugar:

Her dentist worries about her.


Here's the recipe:





Ingredients

  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • Oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Mash the bananas up with the sugar and salt.
  2. Stir in the cornmeal.
  3. Heat the cooking oil until bubbles rise around the non-stirring end of a wooden spoon.
  4. Drop spoonfulls of batter into the hot oil and fry on both sides until golden.
  5. Drain on paper towels and dust with powdered sugar.



Where is Malawi?



So as you might recall from like a thousand years ago, which is when I was last actually active on this blog, I don't really love African food. That's not really a fair thing to say, really, because African food is a product of its environment--it includes a lot of root vegetables, not a whole lot of meat or seasoning, and that cornmeal stuff that is like polenta, which I actually don't really like either. But the meal I did from Malawi really was pretty good, despite the fact that Malawi itself is one of the poorest nations in Africa. That just goes to show you that simple food can be pretty satisfying, as long as it's prepared well.

Photo by Neil Palmer (CIAT)
Malawi is a landlocked nation in southeast Africa. It was once known as Nyasaland, which probably means about as much to you as it does to me. Its closest neighbors are Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique, and it's kind of hidden there in between them all. Malawi is one of the smallest countries in Africa, and is actually even smaller than it first appears since a whole third of it is occupied by a lake (also called Malawi).


There are a lot of undeveloped countries in Africa, and Malawi is one of the least developed of all of them--in fact, it is one of the least-developed countries in the world. It's economy is based on agriculture and there is an appallingly high rate of infant mortality there, plus a low life expectancy of around 50 years. HIV/AIDS is common, and a lot of people die from it, so many that the country currently has a half million AIDS orphans.

So that's depressing, and now let's talk about the cuisine. Because the country has an agricultural economy, there is a decent variety of foods grown there including sugar, coffee, corn and potatoes. Cattle and goats provide meat, and Lake Malawi is a source of fish. And the staple is that cornmeal thing I mentioned earlier, which is basically a stand-in for bread or rice and does a good job soaking up the juices of whatever is served with it. Yes, I did make some of that with my Malawian meal, so stay tuned to find out how we liked it (I bet you can guess!)


Happy Friday


I was just sitting here getting ready to eat a bowl of chili when I thought maybe I ought to post something, because, you know, the last time I disappeared for a week or two I didn't actually come back again for more than a year. I've been on a blogcation because we had a guest staying with us, and blog meals take up way too much time we could be spending on other fun things. Plus, my guest is a vegetarian, so cooking her a greasy, meaty, traditional meal from some exotic land wouldn't have actually been very polite. Yeah I know, I could have looked for some vegetarian options ... but I liked the idea of playing in the snow more than sitting down with my laptop looking for recipe ideas.

I will say also that there was a bunch of eating out this week, and I'm kind of scared to get on the scale now.

Anyway, I'll get some real stuff up later this week. See you then!


Recipes from Maharashtra, India


So I kind of had to squeeze this blog meal in on a weekday, because of various factors including a power outage, a roast beef dinner and my baby boy's 7th birthday. Happily, the meal I chose wasn't terribly complicated, so no one had to go to bed late. Not that late, anyway.

There were just two recipes, much to my older daughter's dismay, since she believes very strongly that no blog meal is complete without desert. And also, she hates curry. So it really wasn't her night.

Here are the two dishes I chose:


Kolhapuri Chicken, which are super spicy drumsticks.


Alu Paratha, a flatbread stuffed with spicy mashed potatoes.

I will admit that I had to actually make two separate versions of each one of these recipes. While my older son (he's now 11) is so macho about spicy food that he says things like, "I can't believe you actually think this is spicy, Mom," even while his face is turning bright red, my other children don't appreciate spicy food at all. So I left out the super spicy chili powder from the drumsticks and excluded the red chili powder from the mashed potatoes. But just to keep it authentic, I did serve the complete recipe, fire and all, to me and Martin.





Recipes from Maharashtra, India: Kolhapuri Chicken


I have always loved spicy food, so I loved this super-spicy drumstick recipe from Maharashtra. It reminded me of Tandoori chicken, but much less kind. I do suggest if you're going to make it that you
test-drive the primary spicy ingredient before adding it--it's called "Degi Mirch," and it's a special blend of super-spicy Indian chili powder. I thought it was going to be hard to find, but I actually located it in 30 seconds or less on Amazon Prime (here's the link).

If you can get past the mouth on fire thing, this is a tasty recipe. Here's how to make it:

First, you marinade the drumsticks. Take the skin off, mix together the maranade ingredients and then rub all over the chicken. Put it in the fridge and let it sit for 30 minutes or so.

Now you have to mix up a bunch of whole garam masala ingredients: bay leaf, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, star anise and garlic.


Fry the seeds until they start to smell delicious, then add some sliced onion and dry coconut to the pan. Keep stirring until the onions start to brown.


Next, put the onion mix in a blender with some tomatoes and water and pulse to make a paste. Transfer back to the pan and cook in a little oil with the Degi Mirch and garam masala.


Now add the chicken to the pot, mix, cover and cook over medium low for  20 minutes, or until a meat thermometer reads 175 degrees. Now give it to your family and laugh as their faces turn red and they all dive for a glass of water.

Actually as I said, I didn't give my kids the spicy version, at least not deliberately. My super-macho 11-year-old helped himself to some sauce and then sat there sweating while simultaneously complaining that it wasn't spicy enough. Haha, I am so on to you, dude. My husband liked the flavor, spices and all, but of course complained that it wasn't a boneless, skinless chicken breast. You know, the most flavorless cut on the chicken. Sigh. You can't please everyone.




Kolhapuri Chicken

from Madhuras Recipe
Kolhapuri Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 lb chicken drumsticks

  • For the marinade
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp red chili powder
  • 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp Garam Masala

  • For the sauce:
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 2 tbsp garlic, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • 2 to 3 whole cloves
  • 4 to 5 peppercorns
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 3 tbsp dry, shredded coconut (unsweetened)
  • 1 tbsp Degi Mirch powder*
*Degi Mirch is a spicy red Indian chili powder blend. I got mine on Amazon.com

Instructions

  1. First pull the skin off the drumsticks. 
  2. Mix together the marinade ingredients and rub all over the drumsticks. Let sit in the fridge for 30 minutes or so.
  3. Now heat up the oil and add all the various seeds and the chopped garlic. Keep stirring until fragrant. 
  4. Add the coconut and onion and keep cooking until the onions starts to brown.
  5. Now transfer the onion mixture to a blender with the chopped tomatoes. Add just enough water to make a paste.
  6. Now heat some more oil and add the paste, along with the  Degi Mirch and garam masala. Cook for 5 minutes or so.
  7. Drop in the chicken pieces and add a little water to make a nice sauce. Cover and cook on medium low for 20 minutes, or until a meat thermometer reads 175 degrees.



Recipes from Maharashtra, India: Alu Paratha


So this is a pretty simple flatbread, no yeast or bread machine required. It's just whole wheat flour, water, salt and olive oil. The trick is stuffing it, and then getting the stuffing to stay inside while you roll it flat. It's actually not as hard as it sounds, you just can't have a heavy hand with the rolling pin. Here's how it's done:

First mix up all the dough ingredients, then roll flat. I used a teacup saucer to cut circles out of the dough.

Make sure the dough is pretty thin--think tortilla rather than naan bread.

Now you mix up the filling, and then put a lump of it in the middle of the bread.


Pull up the corners to make a packet, like so:


Then roll flat again. Just be gentle--you want the bread to be pretty flat but you don't want any of the potato filling to come out.


Now brush the tops with some melted ghee. The original recipe said to roast it on tawa, but if you have no idea what that means I think baking is a fine substitute. There were no times given but mine took about 15 minutes--you want it to start browning a little on top, then it's time to take out.

This bread was spicy, but not too spicy--you can certainly adjust the amount of red chili powder you use according to your own personal tastes. For all my kids except the oldest, that meant just not using any chili powder, of course, they still didn't like it because that's how they are. Even though they like flatbread and they like mashed potatoes but oh no, you just can't put the two together. Whatever.

Anyway here is the printable, pinable version:



Alu Paratha

from Simple Indian Recipes
Alu Paratha, flatbread stuffed with spicy potatoes

Ingredients

    For the dough
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 cup hot water (more if necessary)

  • For the filling
  • 3 to 4 potatoes, peeled, boiled and mashed
  • 2 tsp red chili powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp mango powder
  • Cilantro to taste
  • Bread crumbs

Instructions

  1. Mix together the ingredients for the dough and knead.
  2. Now combine all the filling ingredients together.
  3. Roll the dough out into tea saucer sized circles.
  4. Place a lump of filling in the center of each circle, then pull up the edges to form a packet.
  5. Roll the packet out flat, taking care not to expose the filling.
  6. Brush the top of each flatbread with a little melted ghee, then bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes
Approximate time: 30 minutes Serves 6.



Where is Maharashtra, India?


So on Sunday afternoon I was just getting ready to embark on the next leg of my culinary travels, when there was a clap of thunder, followed by a lightening bolt, followed by a blackout. Well, I have actually been known to cook in the dark because I have a gas stove, but I wouldn't have been able to manage taking photos in the dark,so I elected to postpone my blog meal in favor of Chinese takeout. I can't say that I wasn't secretly a little grateful to have a night off.

Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), Mumbai, India.
Photo by sandeepachetan.
Anyway this was our week of student conferences, plus all the usual Kung Fu lessons, gymnastics classes etc., and then Martin tells me he's invited people over for roast beef on Saturday, and Sunday is my baby boy's seventh birthday ... so squeezing a blog meal in this week was a challenge. I did it, but not in time to get a recipe post online before next week. So for a start, I'll just tell you where we're going next, and you can look for the actual recipes after the weekend.

This week we're in Maharashtra, India, which based on the recipes Martin actually correctly guessed to be in central India. Leave it to a Brit to be able to pinpoint a whole region of India based entirely on the curry.

Anyway, Maharashtra is on the west side of India, bordering the Arabian Sea. It is the wealthiest state in India, contributing nearly one quarter of the nation's GDP and attracting migrants from all over India who come there in search of a higher standard of living. Its capitol is Mumbai, which is the most populous city in India and the ninth most populous urban agglomeration (which is the area encompassing both a city and the populated areas surrounding it) in the world. Mumbai is also home to the world's largest university (by number of graduates).

Maharashtra's cuisine can be mild or spicy, though the recipes I chose were notably on the spicy end of the spectrum. Most meals are served with rice and a flatbread such as chapati, and dal (lentils) are often served alongside. Of course, when I cooked my Maharashtrian meal I tried to cram it in on a weekday and I didn't have time to do dal ... and I also didn't have any rice, so it was lacking a bit in authenticity. Of course, I can't complain too much because it would have been a carb fest if I'd added both those elements, and you know I'm trying to stay away from carb fests because I love them and they're bad for me. But in case you want to do it more correctly than I did ... basmati rice and plain dal are easy accompaniments to help round out the meal.

As it was, I chose two recipes--a spicy chicken dish and a chapati stuffed with curried potatoes. It was tasty, but I had to make a no-heat version for my kids and a spicy version for us adults, so it was some extra work. It was good though, and I might make it again but would not be allowed to use drumstricks because my husband hates having to work for his food, haha.

See you in a few days.




Recipes from Madagascar


So Madagascar was OK. I think it really just suffered from the whole "not enough resources online" problem that a lot of African countries tend to have. I found a scattering of options but nothing that really sounded thrilling, and a lot of it actually sounded like stuff I've already made for other countries.

The main dish I chose, for example, was a coconut chicken. It sounded good because I like coconut chicken--I've had both Indian and Thai versions of it and I'm fairly sure I've done at least one coconut chicken for this blog in the past. I really did want to find something a little bit different, something that wasn't so familiar, but I did not have any luck. So if you are from Madagascar, you know, drop me a comment with your favorite recipe. I am very sure that out there somewhere is a Malagasy recipe that I will find really wowing. It just wasn't this one.

So here you go, all three recipes. Before you eagerly jump into making that dessert, which I'm sure you won't based on the hideous photo, make sure you scroll down all the way so you can read my notes. :)

Malagasy Coconut Chicken.  A pretty basic chicken recipe made with coconut milk, garlic and ginger.

Kabaro au Carry (Curried Beans).  Lima beans cooked in a rich tomato sauce.

Malagasy Cake. Scrambled eggs and bananas. No, I'm not kidding.


Recipes from Madagascar - Coconut Chicken


So there was nothing wrong with this recipe. It was good--flavorful and easy to make. It just wasn't that different--I've already tried a lot of recipes for chicken in a coconut milk sauce. Most of them have some additional feature besides just coconut milk, like a curry paste or garam masala. This recipe was really just coconut milk. There was some garlic and ginger as well, but other than that it was a little plain.

Malagasy Coconut Chicken
Now, I will say that it's really unfair to criticize international recipes for being plain. Sometimes they are plain just based on necessity--not every country has ready access to spices or even standard ingredients we in the west take for granted, like salt. So there's really nothing wrong with "plain." I would have settled for "different," though. But I can't really complain because as blog recipes go, this one was pretty fast and easy to make. Here's how:

Instead of roasting or pan frying your chicken, you boil it. You just put the whole chicken in a pot of boiling water and cook it until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 175 degrees (note: it's safe to eat at 165, but I find the texture of dark meat to be not quite right until it gets to 175).

When the chicken is done cooking, knock the meat off the bones and set aside. Reserve 2 cups of broth.
Now grate the ginger and garlic:


In a large frying pan (you'll need a large pan because in a minute you're going to be adding a whole chicken to it), heat the oil over a medium flame and add the onions. Cook until translucent, then add the ginger and garlic. Keep cooking until fragrant (one or two minutes). 
Add the chicken to the pan, along with 1 to 2 cups of the chicken broth and the coconut milk. Let simmer for 30 to 40 minutes (you can add a little extra broth if the sauce is too thick). Serve over rice.
And here's the printable, pinnable version:




Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 1-2 cups reserved chicken broth
  • 1-2 tbsp oil
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/4-1/2 cup ginger, grated
  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 15 oz can coconut milk

Instructions

  1. Fill up a big pot with water and add the whole chicken. Boil until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh reads 175 degrees F.
  2. Remove the meat from the bones and reserve the broth.
  3. In a large frying pan, heat the oil over a medium flame and add the onions. Saute until the onions are translucent.
  4. Add the garlic and ginger and keep stirring until fragrant.
  5. Now add the chicken, 1 to 2 cups of the broth and the coconut milk. Simmer for between 30 and 40 minutes. You can add a little more broth if the sauce is too thick.
  6. Serve over rice.
Approximate time: . Serves 8.



Recipes from Madagascar - Kabaro au Carry (Curried Beans)


No matter how many times I've cooked dried beans, I never get used to the whole "you have to soak them first" thing. Or more accurately, I just never remember to do it.

Kabaro au Carry (Lima beans in tomato sauce)
Now, a few weeks ago I bought myself a new pressure cooker. You might remember that for a long time I was using my grandma's old pressure cooker, circa 1965, and there was that one time that it launched the little wobbly thing on top into the air like the space shuttle, which was mildly terrifying. And also those old pressure cookers sometimes explode, so yeah, it was time to get another one.

So anyway, when I bought my pressure cooker I was thinking, "Yay I don't have to soak beans anymore" (of course, it's not like I ever actually did soak beans ... but that's what I was thinking). But the cookbook that came with my pressure cooker was all, "You still have to soak the beans," and I was all, "What the what now?" So apparently buying the pressure cooker does not solve the whole bean soaking problem.

So I forgot to soak the beans, and then I tried to modify this recipe for the pressure cooker even though the beans were not pre-soaked, and although the whole thing wasn't a disaster or anything I'm not sure that the finished product was anywhere near what it would have been if I'd just followed the recipe.

So having said all that, here's the recipe, I'm going to tell you the proper way to do it and just pretend that that's how I did it.

So ideally, you want to rinse the beans and then soak them overnight. The next day, heat up the olive oil over a medium flame, then add the onion and cook until translucent.

Here's where I would normally add a picture, but I was too busy stressing out about the whole how-much-liquid-do-I-add-to-my-pressure-cooker-and-do-I-put-the-tomatoes-in-now-or-later thing and I forgot to take any.

Next, add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes or so and then stir in the garlic and spices.

Drain the lima beans, and then add them to the pot with a fresh four cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the beans are tender (between 60 and 90 minutes). The sauce should be fairly thick, but add water if it gets a little clumpy.

Martin liked these more than I did. In the pressure cooker, the sauce cooked way down and I didn't actually think to add a little water to it, So it was almost like beans in straight tomato paste. Of course, Martin loves that really thick tomato flavor so he really liked them, but I found it overwhelming. Of course, I think it was my poor pressure cooker conversion that made the recipe turn out the way it did, so there's no way that can be a criticism. Anyway, here's the printable recipe:




Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cup dried lima beans
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 28 oz can crushed or diced tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp curry powder
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 4 cups water

Instructions

  1. Rinse the beans in cold water and soak overnight.
  2. Heat the olive oil over a medium flame, then add the onion and cook until translucent
  3. Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Let cook for 10 minutes or so, then stir in the garlic and spices.
  4. Add the lima beans and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the beans are tender (between 60 and 90 minutes). The sauce should be fairly thick, but add water if it gets a little clumpy.
Approximate time: . Serves 6.



Recipes from Madagascar: Malagasy Cake


Banana flavored scrambled eggs, anyone? 

OK so clearly something went very, very wrong with this recipe. Because, check out the photo of this cake on this page:

Afro Tourism

If it looks like an omelette, that's because it's an omelette
Now check out the photo of my cake, to the left. Same ingredients, same instructions. But WTF?? This dessert was so awful my kids didn't even want to eat it. And I'm sure it was because something went wrong with my interpretation, I'm sure it isn't supposed to look/taste like it looked/tasted when I made it.

Looking around, there are some recipes for Malagasy cakes that call for cassava flour, so I'm wondering if maybe whoever transcribed the recipe accidentally left it out. Or maybe I just needed to mix it more, with an electric mixer or something? Though I'm not sure how that would have solved the texture problem. Because it was a texture problem, not necessarily a flavor problem. It needed something to give it body.

Now, I've made flourless cakes before and they've been fabulous, and they had a lot of egg in them too. So I'm feeling like if it really wasn't supposed to have flour in it, then the instructions were leaving out a critical step or just assuming that I know something I obviously don't know.

Anyway, I can't imagine you would actually want to make this after that less-than-glowing recommendation, but just in case you do, here's how:

First cut a slit in your vanilla pod. The recipe didn't actually say to do this, but it's what I've seen Food Network chefs do--otherwise all the flavor just stays inside the pod.

Now put the pod in the milk with the sugar, nutmeg and clove. Bring just to a boil, then remove from the heat.

Add the tapioca and return to the stove over low heat. Cook 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Meanwhile, heat your oven to 350 degrees and butter a round cake pan.

Remove the vanilla pod from the milk and add the cream and mashed bananas.

Now add the eggs one at a time. I guess. Mix well and pour into the cake pan. Bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Now, it said cook for 15 minutes, but it took more like an hour in my oven, which is why I think that this recipe must have been missing an ingredient. If it had flour in it I think it would have baked up a lot more quickly, just like any cake.

Anyway, it was awful. Not the flavor, the flavor was actually fine, like a really sweet banana bread. But the texture was like scrambled eggs, so it really wasn't very pleasant. Again, I'm sure the fault was mine, unless an ingredient got left out of the recipe--which does seem a little likely.













Ingredients

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 vanilla pod, split
  • 4 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 pinch nutmeg, grated
  • 1 pinch clove, crushed
  • 5 tbsp tapioca
  • 2 tbsp cream
  • 4 ripe bananas, smashed
  • 1/2 oz butter
  • 4 eggs

Instructions

  1. Put the milk in a pot with the vanilla pod, sugar, nutmeg and clove. Bring just to a boil, then remove from heat.
  2. Add the tapioca and then put back on the stove over a low flame. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. Heat your oven to 350 degrees and butter a round cake pan.
  4. Remove the vanilla pod and add the cream. Stir in the bananas.
  5. Now add the eggs, one at a time, until everything is well mixed. Pour into the cake pan and bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
 Approximate time: . Serves 8.





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