Wednesday, July 3, 2013

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  ĽUvea, 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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