Recipes from Marche, Italy

For this entry, I made two recipes. Neither of them were especially good, but I don't blame the people who posted the original recipes or any of the traditions they came from, I blame myself and my propensity for Googling things that might kill me.

Recipes from Marche, Italy: Brodetto

A seafood stew with mussels and clams, minus the Vibrio.

Recipes from Marche, Italy: Filone Casereccio

An Italian bread that will come out much better than mine did if you use fresh brewer's yeast and steam.

Recipes from Malta

This is actually the third time I’ve cooked a meal from Malta. The first time, I cooked the meal and then just did not write the blog post. Years went by.

Recipes from Malta: Imqarrun

Imquarrum (also called Imqarrun il-forn) is descended from a dish served in Sicily, but the Maltese have adopted it as a traditional staple. The key to making this dish is to be patient.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Recipes from Fiji

I just have two words to say about this week's meal: coconut bread. And I can just end the entry there. Because Fijian coconut bread is so delicious, I don't really need to say anything else.

Oh, you probably want the recipe though. I guess I'll have to finish the entry.
You probably know something about Fiji already. At the very least, you know it is one of those tropical paradises that everyone wants to go to. I'm sure that's because of the food. Well, maybe the beaches and the weather also have something to do with it, but mainly I'm guessing it's because of the food.

Meal from Fiji
Fiji is an archipelago of 332+ volcanically-formed islands, located in the South Pacific Ocean about 1,300 miles northeast of New Zealand. Most of the population live on the two largest islands—Viti Levu and Vanua Levu—with the remainder living on any one of 110 other smaller islands.

Scene from Fiji
Photo Credit: Flickr user flip.01.

The majority of Fijians live on the coast since the inland regions are mountainous and overgrown with thick tropical forests. While not very habitable, those inland regions are rich in forest and mineral resources—and the coastal regions, of course, are rich in ocean resources. Together all those resources help make Fiji one of the most economically developed nations in the Pacific island region. The very active tourism industry doesn't hurt, either.

So I was on Wikipedia looking for some basic background on Fijian cuisine when I received firsthand confirmation of one of Wikipedia's major flaws—letting just anyone come in and make edits. Because among traditional Fijian meats Wikipedia lists "wild pig, human, and various birds." OK so yes, I know that Fiji has a history of cannibalism but really, Wikipedia, don't you think if you're going to mention it under the heading "Fijian Cuisine" you need to include just the teensiest bit more explanation? 

Anyway I will just say that modern Fijian cuisine as I understand it depends heavily on seafood, typical tropical-type root vegetables such as taro and cassava, lots of coconut and probably not very much human.

On to the menu:

Ginger Fish
(from The Fijian Kitchen)
  • 2-3 lbs firm white fish (I used cod)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup corn oil
  • 3/4 cups white wine
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 tsp ginger root, grated
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • Parsley, coriander or slivered ginger root (for garnish)
And on the side:

Baked Pineapple and Sweet Potato
(from The World Cookbook for Students)
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, boiled until just tender and thickly sliced
  • 1 fresh pineapple, peeled, cored and sliced thin
  • 4 tbsp freshly grated coconut
  • 4 tbsp green onions, chopped
  • Grated cheese (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
And for dessert:


Cocount Bread
(from The Fijian Food Safari)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk
  • 1 cup grated fresh coconut
Most of this meal comes together quickly, so I'll just list the directions in the order I listed the recipes.

First the fish:

Rinse and pat dry the fish. Rub the lemon juice all over the fillets and refrigerate for about an hour. Then brush on the vegetable oil and place in a shallow casserole dish.

Put the soy sauce, corn oil, wine, garlic, sugar and ginger into a blender and pulse. Pour over the fish.

Bake at 350 degrees, basting frequently, for 40 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork (you can also use a meat thermometer and bake to an internal temperature of 145 degrees). Garnish and serve.

And now for the potatoes:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. 

Grease a casserole dish and put the sweet potatoes into it. Season with salt and pepper. Add a layer of pineapple and more salt and pepper.

Top with the coconut, even more salt and pepper and finally with the green onions.

Grate a little bit of cheese on top (if using) but don't go overboard. Bake for 30 minutes.

And now for that wonderful bread:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, toast the grated coconut in a dry pan until golden.

Sift the flour together with the baking powder and salt. Gently stir in the coconut.
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with an electric mixer until frothy. Stir in the coconut milk and vanilla extract.

Make a hole in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the liquid. Fold gently or until just combined. Don't overdo it or you will lose all that air you got from beating the eggs.

Now pour into a greased loaf pan and bake for one hour, or until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

So you already know what I thought about the coconut bread, but seriously, this whole meal was delicious. The fish had a nice, tropical flavor that was enough to make Martin declare his new-found love for cod, which is really something coming from a guy who is usually pretty ho-hum about fish.

I really, really liked the sweet potatoes and pineapple. Not just because pineapple is hands-down my favorite fresh fruit, but also because it was a very unusual combination of flavors that tasted delicious together. (Once upon a time I would not have expected pineapple/cheese to be a good combo but I actually suspected I would like this recipe based on how much I enjoyed that combo back on Bouvet Island.)

And the coconut bread, ah, yes, the coconut bread. Martin said, "So how many times a week will you be making this?" Happily—I mean, sadly—my children did not enjoy the coconut bread. So Martin and I were forced kicking and screaming to devour the whole loaf. Did I mention how much we loved it?

Anyway that was Fiji. Another gem, and it was a particularly happy day because that gem was also easy to prepare.

Next week: Finland

For printable versions of this week's recipes:

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Recipes from the Faroe Islands

A few months ago I stumbled upon an account of what might actually be the world's grossest food. It's called "hákarl," and I can't actually figure out if it's an Icelandic delicacy, or merely the Icelandic people's way of making fun of tourists.

I know we're nowhere near Iceland yet, but I have to tell you about hákarl. It's made by cleaning and beheading a Greenland shark (this particular shark, by the way, can't be eaten fresh since its flesh is full of neurotoxins), which is then placed into a shallow hole in coarse sand. The dead shark is then covered with more sand and gravel and topped with heavy stones, which presses the fluids out of the meat. The shark rots—I mean ferments—in this hole for six to 12 weeks, then it is cut into strips and hung up to dry for a few more months. The preparers then scrape off the brown crust that forms on the meat and cut it up into chunks. Then they give it to unsuspecting tourists and have a good laugh about it. I am told that hákarl tastes like ammonia and spoiled fish. I am prepared to accept that account, since I will not ever be tasting it myself.

Why am I telling you this? Because this week we are in the Faroe Islands, where they also have a taste for fermented meat. On the Faroe Islands they eat a kind of fermented sheep, known as skærpekød. Skærpekød is made from cured, wind-dried mutton which is left to ferment in a shed for five to nine months. When it's done it tastes something like mutton smothered in blue cheese but is about a million times stronger than any blue cheese you've ever had. Or so I've heard. Because like hákarl, skærpekød is not something I would ever try. I am adventurous, but I am also not afraid to admit my limitations.

This is not Skærpekød. Or hákarl.

So this week I did not make skærpekød. Sorry. And I had a bear of a time finding other recipes, too.

Mykinesbygd, Vága, Faroe Islands. Photo Credit: Alessio Mesiano

There is of course more to the Faroes than its skærpekød. Located about halfway between Norway and Iceland (which is probably where they got the idea for skærpekød), the Faroe Islands are a self-governing country under the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Denmark. The islands were originally settled by Norse Vikings in about 800 AD, though there may have been people there much earlier than that. The modern parliament of this little nation actually dates all the way back to the Viking times and is probably one of the oldest parliaments in the world.

Today there are about 50,000 people living on the Faroes. Eating skærpekød. And, thankfully, fresh seafood. Also whale meat, puffin, blubber and something called garnatálg, which is similar to Scottish haggis (no, thank you). Slim pickins for someone like me, who can get neither whale meat nor puffin and won't be going anywhere near anything that is similar to Scottish haggis.

The Faroe Islands also have their own language, which is sadly not included in any of the online translation services. So I couldn't translate Faroese recipes, either, and instead had to settle on the sole main dish I could locate in English:

Sunfrid Jacobsen’s Fish Casserole
  • 2 lbs cod
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup prepared mustard
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp white vinegar

Now this really isn't a fish casserole—it is just fish baked in a creamy sauce. It is also very easy to prepare, which is always a plus for me.

I also made a rye bread, which I admit is a bit of a stretch. I did find a recipe for a Faroese rye bread but of course it was in Faroese, which I could not translate. So I settled on this Icelandic recipe, which I'm betting is similar to the one they make on the Faroes, but someone please correct me if I'm wrong:

Rúgbrauð (Dark Rye Bread)

(From the Whole Food Diary)
  • 1 1/2 cups milk or skimmed milk
  • 1/4 cups golden syrup*
  • 2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 2 1/2 tbsp water
  • 2/3 tsp salt
  • 3 1/4 cup rye flour
  • 1 1/8 cup whole grain flour
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

* Golden syrup can be found in the British foods section of your local grocery store. Don't try to substitute corn syrup or maple, it's not the same thing.

And then I found this dessert recipe in a book called "A World of Cake:"

Hazelnut Oatcake

For the cake:
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
  • A small handful of whole hazelnuts
  • A small handful of whole raspberries

For the vanilla sauce:
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
And that was all. It was an easy meal, I'll give it that. But I do hate it when I come up so short for ideas and this is the second week in a row I've had to sort of settle for the only stuff that seems to be out there. So on the very unlikely chance that someone from the Faroe Islands reads this ... please send recipes (remembering of course that I'm in California and my access to some ingredients is limited).

OK here goes:

First bake the bread:

Put the milk and the syrup into a pot and heat over a low flame. Do not boil, just heat it to about the temperature of hot chocolate.

Dissolve the yeast in the water, then add the salt and stir. Let sit for a few minutes. Meanwhile, put the flours in a large bowl and gradually add the milk mixture and the water. Combine until you get a dough. Knead on a floured surface then transfer to a greased loaf pan and let rise  until doubled in size. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 to 2 hours or until the top is golden (this only took about 45 minutes in my oven).

Then make the cake.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. While it's warming up, grease a 9-inch cake pan with butter. Line the pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Now boil the water and pour it over the oats. Let sit while you mix the flour together with the cardamom, caraway seeds, baking powder and salt. In yet another bowl, combine the sugars and the melted butter. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until well incorporated, then gradually add the flower and spice mix.

Finally, stir in the oats and the chopped hazelnuts.

Transfer the batter the the pan and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until a skewer comes out clean. Let cool then remove from parchment.
While the cake is baking, make the vanilla sauce. In a heavy saucepan, combine the brown sugar, flour and cinnamon with the egg, melted butter, whole milk and salt. Heat over a medium flame, whisking constantly. Don't let it boil because it will get grainy (sadly, that's what happened to mine). When the sauce has thickened (10 to 12 minutes later), add the vanilla extract.

Spread the vanilla sauce over the top of the cooled cake, then top with the raspberries and whole hazelnuts.

Now for the fish:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Rinse the cod and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to an ovenproof baking dish.

In a bowl, combine the oil, cream, mustard, ketchup, curry powder and vinegar. Pour over the fish.

Bake for 45 minutes or until fish flakes easily and sauce is bubby. Serve with boiled potatoes.

So I only made this for me and Martin, as you probably guessed, since my kids have that fish problem. We liked it, though there really wasn't anything terribly unusual about it. It was simple and hearty. The fish had a lot of flavor and went nicely with the potatoes. The bread was heavy but really good fresh-baked and still warm. The cake was also really heavy—Martin liked it more than I did, but I think part of what I didn't like was the overcooked vanilla sauce.

So that was it. Honestly, all that stuff about the skærpekød was more interesting than the meal itself, but there you go.

Next week: Fiji

For printable versions of this week's recipes:

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Recipes from the Falkland Islands

I got a lot of great help with last week's entry, Europa Island, so I suppose I was due for a tough one. I tried and tried to come up with a decent menu for the next place on my list, and unfortunately I ended up disappointed.

First a little bit about our destination: The Falkland Islands is an an archipelago consisting of 778 separate islands located 310 miles east of the Patagonian coast. The British have claimed it since 1833, though there is controversy as to who actually got there first. Despite 150 years of British rule, Argentina still calls the Falklands their own, which of course pisses off the British, which in turn pisses off the Argentinians.

If you grew up in the 80s you probably remember something about the Falkland Islands. There was a major conflict there in 1982, when Argentina invaded the islands in an effort to oust the British. A short war followed, which ended when British forces took the high ground surrounding the capitol city, leading to the surrender of the Argentinians.

Fitzroy Settlement, East Falkland. Photo by Flickr user k1rsch

Now I'm married to a Brit, so I'm not going to take sides. I will say, though, that I'm not terribly impressed with the friendliness of the British Falkland Islanders I tried to contact for this entry. I was hoping one of the hotels over there would be willing to share a recipe or two for Travel by Stove, but my inquiries were met with total, utter and complete silence. And there just weren't any other resources, unless you count this 1994 booklet I found a reference to entitled "Cooking the Falkland Islands Way," which would have seemed like a good investment except that I read somewhere that it is mostly full of impractical ingredients (mutton) made with impractical preparation techniques. Now I don't really know this for sure and in retrospect I probably should have given it a shot, given that I didn't find much else.

So eventually I had to turn to Argentinian recipes, even though the Falklands as they are now are really British in character. I did a Spanish language search for recetas Islas Malvinas (Falkland Island recipes) and was rewarded with a handful of recipes I thought would work. I didn't have to narrow it down very far, though, and here's the final menu:

The appetizer:

Lettuce Soup
(Yes, it is as strange as it sounds)
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 12 oz lettuce leaves
  • a small onion
  • 1 tbsp of flour
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
The main course:

Rack of Lamb with Honey
  • 1 rack of lamb
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp chopped mint
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • salt and pepper
  • lemon zest (optional).
Side dish number one:

Salad for Center Table
From cocinadelmundo
  • 3 kinds of lettuce
  • 10 walnuts
  • 3 tbsp pine nuts
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 can of anchovies in olive oil
  • 7 oz goat cheese, diced
  • 6 radishes
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 1 medium onion, sliced fine
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • salt to taste
Side dish number two:

"Scalloped" Potatoes
From Tierra de Fuegos
(Note: "scalloped" is a mistranslation, either by Google or by the website where this recipe came from. These potatoes are twice-baked, not scalloped.)
  • 6 large potatoes, washed, unpeeled
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 or 4 green onions
  • 2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
OK, the lettuce soup:

First melt the butter in a large stock pot over medium heat and add the onion. When the onions are starting to brown, put the lettuce leaves into the pan and saute, stirring continuously, until they start to wilt.

Wilted lettuce. Yum.

Whisk the flour into the chicken broth and pour into the pan. Let simmer gently for 30 minutes, then transfer in batches to a food processor. Puree and then return to the stockpot. Add the milk and seasonings and bring back to a simmer. Serve hot.

Now the instructions for the lamb seemed a little vague. They implied that the whole rack should just be pan fried, which seemed tricky for a rack of lamb since it's shape makes it difficult to cook evenly in a pan. So here's what I did:

Brown the ribs in a small amount of oil and transfer to a oven-proof dish.

Meanwhile mix the honey with the mint and lemon zest, then brush over the rack of lamb.

Roast at 350 degrees until an internal thermometer reads 145 degrees (this will give you medium-rare lamb, cook for longer if you like your meat a little more well-done). Baste with the pan juices before serving.

Meanwhile, make the salad:

Sprinkle the diced avocado with a little bit of lemon juice to prevent browning. Cut the lettuce up into bite-sized pieces and arrange in the bottom of your bowl. Top with the walnuts, pine nuts, avocado, carrots, cheese, anchovies and red onion.

Cut the radishes into flower shapes. Laugh at your inability to do so. Then top the salad with your little mutilated radishes.

Whisk the oil together with the lemon juice and vinegar. Add the salt and pour over the salad.

Now for those potatoes:

These are supposed to be cooked in a fire pit. But if I tried to make a fire pit I would burn down my neighborhood, so I wisely did these in my oven. Here's my interpretation:

Rub the potato skins with olive oil (this will make them crispy) and add salt, rubbing all over to cover. Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes or until the skins are crispy and the flesh is tender. Remove from the oven and let cool until you can handle them, then cut them in half lengthwise. Scoop out the insides and transfer to a large bowl.

Add the oil, green onions, salt and pepper. Return the potato mixture to the potato skins and top with the cheese.

Put the potatoes back in the oven and continue to cook until the cheese is melted and just beginning to turn a golden color.

OK so the verdict: my lamb came out perfectly. If you like lamb, this is a really good way to prepare it because the flavor of the meat isn't overwhelmed by a lot of spices. The honey and mint compliment it nicely all by themselves.

If you don't love lamb, as Martin does not, you probably won't enjoy this recipe because there's nothing to temper that very strong flavor that lamb has. I liked it, personally, though I think I do prefer to eat lamb in a spicy sauce like a curry.

The potatoes were good but quite frankly I like my usual twice-baked potatoes recipe a lot more than this one, so it really wasn't anything special. The salad was good, too, but the anchovies frightened everyone. I'm not crazy about anchovies myself so I picked them out. Other than that, I personally like a stronger dressing on my salad but this was a nice mix of ingredients I don't usually put in the salads I make for day-to-day dinners.

And as for the soup. Well. It tasted like hot lettuce. Hot, wilted lettuce. I took two bites and poured the rest of it away. Fortunately, it wasn't a pricey soup. But not really my tastes.

Sadly, that's where the Falklands ended. I would dearly love if someone from those islands contacted me with some different recipes to try, because I'm really quite sure I didn't do it justice.

Next week: The Faroe Islands

For printable versions of this week's recipes:

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Recipes from Europa Island

I am often asked why I leave these little places on my list, and I hope this week's entry will answer that question. Because I have to admit, I have the most fun doing recipes from tiny, uninhabited places in the middle of nowhere. That's where all the best stories come from.

Europa Island is one of those places--a small tropical island in the Mozambique Channel. It is located between Madagascar and Mozambique and is roughly 60 miles from Bassas da India, another one of those little places that made it onto my list. By small I mean that it has just 1.36 miles of coastline, an airstrip and a weather station.

Europa Island is a French territory, so the only people who "live" there are part of a small French military garrison. The island is of particular scientific interest, however, because of its diverse population of seabirds and because it is a nesting site for green sea turtles. So it is also home to the occasional scientific expedition.

I'm always a little bit stumped on where to begin my research for these little places, but since I'd read early on about the research that had been done on Europa Island, I decided to see if I could find any details about recent scientific expeditions. It actually didn't take long to find a document describing a 2008 expedition to the island. The document included the names of two scientists, and a quick Google search helped me locate the email address for Dr. James Russell, who is now working at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. I contacted Dr. Russell and he was kind enough to quickly get back to me with a great story and three recipes to go with it:
A jet black race of Portuguese goats were introduced to Europa Island in 1860 with the original French colonists. The colonists perished but the goats survived, well adapted to the dry environment. The goats today have a significant negative impact on rare plants on the island, such as the native Euphorbe arborescente.

Today, Europa Island is guarded by a detachment of French military stationed there for 30-60 days at a time. Each cycle, the military are usually granted permission to fire up to 3 bullets in order to kill one goat for a celebration BBQ. Typically, the military aim for the oldest goat with the poorest meat but best horns, however, during our visit, the military marksman missed on all 3 occasions!

Alas we thought we were without goat meat, until a cyclone struck and we came across a mother and billy freshly dead. I prepared both the animals using my scientific dissection skills, and then my esteemed research colleague Fabien Jan cooked them over an open flame following a traditional Reunionnais recipe adapted to the local island – “Massala cabri.”

We were quite proud of ourselves only the French military were so embarrassed that we had successfully got a goat that they refused to eat any of the fine curry, which treated the old tough meat perfectly. Especially chagrined was the lieutenant who sported his “Swiss Alps Hunters t-shirt.”

Account provided by Dr. James Russell and Fabien Jan
For information about the impact of introduced mammal species on native seabirds, visit this page. There are also photos from Dr. Russell's Europa Island trip online at the University of Auckland.

Here is the recipe!

Massala Cabri
  • 1 1/2 lbs goat meat
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped onions
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1 1/2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 1 1/2 tsp Masalé Réunionaise*
  • 2 tsp dried curry leaves
  • 1 tomato, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups water
* Recipe below

Note: The recipe sent to me by Dr. Russell did not include measurements/amounts, so I've just noted the measurements I used when I made the recipe. You can change/adjust amounts according to your personal tastes.

Now I have to interject some of my own personal goat-meat buying experience into this story. If you follow my blog you know I've already searched for and failed to locate a good source for goat meat in my local area. Shortly after I last wrote about this on Travel by Stove, I did find an Indian grocery in Sacramento that has been hailed by several reviewers as "the best source for goat meat in Sacramento." So I went down there to buy some goat meat and lo, the damned power was out.

I didn't know that that was really a huge problem as long as it hadn't been out for hours, thus spoiling all the goat meat, but I guess I really had no way of knowing that for sure. At any rate I went to the meat counter and asked if I could get boneless goat meat, because you know my husband would just die if he ever had to pick meat off of a bone. The butcher said "yes," but I'm not really sure we breached the language barrier because when I told him I wanted a pound of boneless goat meat he said, "The power is out, so how would I cut it?" And I was thinking, "Um, with a knife?" but I didn't say that out loud because I figured I had to be missing something. So after that exchange I left without any goat meat.

Fortunately another desperate Google search turned up a second Sacramento butcher that carried goat meat, so I went there and bought four pounds of it. That butcher's English was a little better than the first, and it was that point that I learned that goat for curries is usually sold on the bone, cut into chunks with a bone saw which, of course, is electric. If you eat at Indian restaurants you may have had lamb curries like this; goat is treated pretty much the same way. I suppose you could get it boneless if you knew where to go, but at this point I was just happy to have some meat.

Here it is, hard fought and won. Goat meat.

It wasn't until later of course that I learned that April is the worst month to buy goat, because they don't start slaughtering the kids until May. If you buy goat meat in April you're getting older goat, and as it ages goat becomes tough and kind of muttony in the same way that sheep does. But since Dr. Russell's goat was also kind of old and tough, I figure we got the more authentic experience this way.

So here is the Masalé Réunionaise recipe:

(This recipe came from Celtnet; Fabien Jan's goat curry recipe simply said that they had used a masala powder sourced from Reunion Island, which would have been similar to this blend.)
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tbsp fenugreek seeds
  • 2 tbsp black mustard seeds
  • 2 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp ground turmeric
  • 4 tsp cloves
And a side dish:

Pois du Cap
  • 8 oz lima beans
  • 1/2 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, mashed
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme
Garnished with:

Rougail Citron

  • 1 small lemon
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 fresh chili pepper (I used a jalapeno)
  • 1 tbsp oil

Except for the Masalé Réunionaise recipe, all of the above recipes came from Fabien Jan and were cooked on the island during the 2008 expedition.

First let's make the Masalé Réunionaise, since you need it for the curry:

Put all the spices except the turmeric in a dry pan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant. Then transfer to a grinder or a mortar and pestle, and process until you get a fine powder. Add the turmeric and mix well. That's it!

Now for the curry:

Heat the oil over a medium flame and brown the goat pieces. Add the salt and pepper, onions, garlic and ginger. Let cook for a few minutes to incorporate the flavors.

Now add the Masalé Réunionaise and stir. Dilute the tamarind paste with a little bit of water. Mix in the dried curry leaves, diluted tamarind paste and the tomato.

Finally, add enough water to cover the goat pieces. Cover and let simmer until the meat is done (the longer you cook this curry, the more tender the meat will be, so keep that in mind if your meat is from an older animal). Serve with rice.

And the beans:

Boil the lima beans in water until they soften, then drain. Transfer to a pan and add the onion, garlic and thyme. Cook, stirring, until the onions are translucent.

Finally, the Rougail Citron. Now, I didn't really know what to do with this so I improvised. Fabien Jan's recipe described this like a chutney, so I figured it needed to be cooked. So I chopped the onions and jalapeno and added them to a small pot, then I zested and juiced the lemon and put that into the pot with the oil.

I cooked it on low until the onions softened a little, but I didn't let them get too soft because it was only then that I found a recipe for Rougail Citron online. This one did not mention cooking at all, and seemed to imply that you should put strips of lemon into the Rougail Citron rather than zest/juice. It was a Google translation, though, so I can't really be sure what it was asking me to do. Anyway I don't know how correct my version was, but it did taste pretty good.

Here's what we thought: yes, Martin just about died because he had to pick meat off the bone. And yes, the meat was pretty tough and chewy. But the overall flavor of the curry was really quite delicious. This was my first experience with goat and I was pleasantly surprised, especially since Martin once told me that goat meat tastes like a male goat smells (have you ever smelled a male goat? Ew.) At the very least I expected it to have a kind of funky flavor the way lamb does, but I didn't detect that at all, nor (happily) did it taste anything like the smell of a male goat. It was beefier than lamb and other than the toughness of the meat had a really nice flavor.

The lima beans also scared me, primarily because the lima bean has sort of a reputation as being the bane of childhood culinary experiences. I never ate them as a kid because it wasn't one of those things that my mom liked to torture me with (for her it was salmon loaf, which did not contain any actual salmon, and cream tuna peas on toast which looked like someone threw up on a slice of bread). But I feared lima beans as all children do, and I guess that followed me into adulthood. So this was my first experience as an adult with lima beans, and I have to say that I rather liked them. They tasted really good with the rougail citron.

So this was another one of those fun nowhere-land meals that I am so, so glad I pursued, and I will continue to keep these weird, uninhabited, remote places on my list in hopes that they will all turn up unique and interesting stories and recipes. And a big thank you to Dr. James Russell and Fabien Jan for being kind enough to share the recipes with me. I hope you'll check out their links.

Next week: The Falkland Islands

For printable versions of this week's recipes:

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Recipes from Ethiopia

Not long after we met, Martin and I went out to eat at an Ethiopian restaurant in my old San Jose neighborhood. I'm not going to name names, because I don't have nice things to say and that was 15 years ago … so for all I know things have changed there. I don't want to give the place a bad rap based on a 15 year old memory.

It was not a good memory, though. The food was gritty. I can't think what may have caused this, maybe the spices were very coarsely ground or just added too late in the cooking process, but whatever the reason it was like eating sand. But the main thing I disliked about my Ethiopian restaurant experience was what I forever remembered as "that bread." It was both spongy and gelatinous all at the same time. It was wet and tasteless. It was inedible.

So I felt dread when I began to plan my Ethiopian menu. Because every single recipe said "serve with injera," which it turns out is the proper name for "that bread." But you know, I try to do things the right way, so I resolved to make "that bread."

First a little bit about Ethiopia. With 86,000,000 inhabitants, it is the most populous landlocked country in the world. It is also the cradle of humanity—Homo sapiens emerged there 400,000 years ago and from there migrated to the Middle East and beyond. Ethiopia has a long history stretching back to the 2nd millennium BC, and was once—many centuries ago—one of the world's great powers.

If you grew up in the 80s, as I did, you probably remember Ethiopia as a place of famine. Between 1984 and 1985, about 8 million people in Ethiopia were under threat of starvation, and 1 million of those people actually died. Fortunately, Ethiopia has recovered from those dark times, and it is now the largest economy by GDP in central and eastern Africa. It still has some problems, though, not the least of which is its system of marriage: marriage by abduction is by far the most popular form of courtship and engagement in the country, with up to 92% of marriages beginning this way in some parts of the nation.

Photo Credit: Stefan Gara

Traditional Ethiopian cuisine centers around "wat," a thick, spicy stew made from either meat or vegetables and served with injera, otherwise known as "that bread." So it actually wasn't too hard to pick this menu though I'm afraid I chose the easy way out with this recipe:

Doro Wat
(this particular version came from, a company that sells imported Ethiopian spices)
  • 5-8  pounds of chicken drumsticks and thighs, skin removed
  • 8 large onions, chopped fine
  • 2 cups vegetable oil
  • 5 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 tsp minced ginger
  • 1/2 cup berbere
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 2 tsp black cardamom
  • 2 tsp wot kimem
  • 2 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1-3 cup water
Why was this the easy way out? Because doro wat is Ethiopia's national dish, so it was the obvious choice. I picked it more because it sounded good than anything, though.

Here's the recipe for the wat kimem (a spice blend):
Yes, this is all weird stuff that you will have to special order.

I also chose a lentil dish:

Missir Wat
(from The Berbere Diaries)
  • 3 onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2-3 tbsp. berbere
  • 7 oz canned, diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups water (more if needed)
  • 2 cups split red lentils, rinsed
  • 1 tbsp ginger, minced
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • salt to taste
And yes, "that bread:"

  • 2 cups teff flour
  • 2 cups water (more if needed)
  • 1 tbsp active dry yeast (if needed)
OK I have about a million different things to say about this injera recipe. First of all, it took me forever to settle on one. The Internet is full of people talking about different/the best ways to make injera. There are a lot of different opinions and techniques, and lots of problems. I read many forum posts complaining about injera's tendency to stick to the pan, so I zeroed in on a recipe that had quite a few success stories attached to it. It also turned out to be the simplest of the recipes I found. It came from a forum post on The Fresh Loaf.

Second, you don't have to use teff flour if you can't find it. I got mine at the co-op in Grass Valley, so if I can get it out here in Hodunk Hippieland you can probably find it, too. But if you can't, don't go out of your way. Teff isn't used exclusively for injera even in Ethiopa, because it grows only in middle elevations and places that have decent rainfall, which means it's expensive for most of the people living in Ethiopia. For this reason wheat, barley, corn or rice flour is often used instead of teff. I've seen a lot of recipes that just use all-purpose flour, and some that use barley or finely-ground corn flour.

So I'm going to start this entry with the injera, because you have to start making it a couple of days before meal day.

Now I've tried to make sourdough starter at home and have had absolutely zero luck, so I didn't have a whole lot of faith in the whole injera fermentation process. But here's what you are supposed to do:

Three days before meal day, mix the teff with the water and put a dry clean towel over the bowl. Let it stand until it starts to smell sour and get a little bit bubbly. That means it has fermented correctly.

Surprisingly, when I did this my teff mixture did actually look and smell the way it was supposed to 48 hours later. Except for the large spots of green mold on top. So I poured mine away and did it again, but I was only able to let it sit for a day. It didn't smell very sour or look very bubbly at the end of that 24 hours, so as I started to prepare my meal I added a tablespoon of active dry yeast to help the mixture rise while cooking. (Disclaimer: the recipe I used said to use 1/2 cup of a sourdough starter, which I did not have, but you would get a truer sour flavor in your bread if you did this. Ideally, though, you would not get any mold in your batter and you would not need to use any kind of leavening agent at all.)

You may need to add some water after your teff batter has been sitting out for a while. It should not be thick, but should resemble the batter you would use for making crepes. Add enough lukewarm water to get it to this thin consistency and then add yeast, if using.

Heat a high-quality nonstick pan and spray it with a plain-oil cooking spray just in case. Pour the batter into the pan and swirl it around until it covers the entire bottom of the pan, just as you would if you were making a crepe.

Wait until you see bubbles come to the surface, about 1 or 2 minutes later (just like making pancakes). Now cover the pan and let the injera steam for another 2 or 3 minutes. Do not flip it over! Just slide it from the pan when the top is firm.

Of course you want to do the actual cooking of the injera towards the end, after your other two dishes are finished. Here's how to make the rest of the meal:

First make the wot kimem—just put all the spices together in a grinder or mortar and pestle and process until fine.

Now, when you are done making the wot kimem you will note that it does not smell like anything you would actually want to eat. It smells like how I would imagine an old-timey apothecary would smell. Like chemicals. I was almost afraid to put it in my food, but as they say at my kids' charter school, I persevered. On to the doro wat:

In a large pot, heat the oil over a medium flame and add the onion, garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring, until the onions start to brown. Now add the berbere and the paprika and turn the heat down to low. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Add a little bit of water as necessary to prevent sticking.

Now add the chicken, stirring to coat. Keep adding water in small amounts—you want the sauce to stay pretty thick.

When the chicken is fully cooked (175 degrees for thighs and drumsticks), add the salt, black cardamom (which also smells like medicine) and the wot kimem. Let it simmer for a few more minutes to incorporate the flavors, then serve.

Meanwhile, make the lentils. Red lentils don't have to be soaked so this dish comes together pretty quickly.

In a large pot, heat the oil over a medium flame and then cook the onions until they are translucent. Add the berbere and let simmer for five minutes or so. Add the tomatoes with a few spoonfuls of the juice and stir to combine. The add the water and bring to a boil.

Put the lentils in the pot and mix well, then reduce heat to low. Simmer until the lentils start to soften, adding more water if needed. Now add the ginger and garlic, and continue to simmer until the lentils are tender.

I'm sure you are dying to know if this experience at all resembled that horrible restaurant meal from 15 years ago, and I am happy to report that I am a much better cook than whoever it was that made that particular meal back in San Jose, haha.

I absolutely loved this meal, and so did Martin, even though the chicken was on the bone which is usually a deal-killer for him. I even loved "that bread." It was nothing like that gelatinous, horrible mess we had back in San Jose. It was spongy, yes, but it was also firm and nutty and tasted wonderful with the other two dishes. I don't know if I got the texture right but I sure did enjoy the results.

Even with the weirdness of the wot kimem, the doro wat was heavenly. Yes, heavenly. I'm glad to say that it was not the gritty schlop of my memory but a rich, delicious stew with a complex blend of flavors. And the missir wat rounded out the meal perfectly. It was flavorful but less complex than the doro wat, which turns out to be exactly what was needed to make this a perfect meal.

My kids of course moaned and complained and ate nothing. But who cares. I'm going to make this again, and often (though I will probably use boneless chicken next time, just to make my husband happy). It was delicious, and definitely lands on my list of my favorite meals of the year, and quite possibly is also one of my top five meals in TbS history. I am really glad that my blog led me back to Ethiopia after that awful experience in San Jose, because I doubt otherwise that I would have ever tried Ethiopian food again. Now I think it might be one of my favorite cuisines.

Next week: Europa Island

For printable versions of this week's recipes:

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