Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Zambian Meal

What I really liked about Zambian cuisine is the use of corn, the staple, to create a very unique bread n'shima. It is neither rolled nor baked but cooked as a thick porridge in water. It is used as the spoon to scoop up the sides that flavor it.

The beans are the most popular side to the n'shima. They are not made with an elaborate gravy loaded with spices but cooked along with tomatoes and onions with sparingly used spices. I made tomato gravy in case we felt the need for something with liquid in it. Golabjamoun for dessert was my biggest surprise. Though it looks like the Indian gulab jamoon it is nothing like it. This golabjamoun is made with sweet potato. It is normally deep fried but I cooked it in my aebleskiver pan to avoid the fat and keep the flavor.

I did not use any new ingredients for this meal. I used known ingredients in a different way. The corn meal used in Zambia is not available locally so I used Mexican masa, it is coarse but it gives the n'shima a yellowish hue which you would not see if you were eating n'shima in Zambia.

Here are the recipes for the dishes on the menu
And for dessert

This is my entry for the letter Z for BM #44 for the theme Around the world in 30 Days. Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#44.

Golabjamoun (Zambian Sweet Potato Dessert)

Golabjamoun is known to me as a delicious dessert made with milk, flour and sugar. I was very surprised to find a very different recipe called by the same name. These golabjamoun are similar in appearance to the ones I know in that they are round, sweet and deep fried. The similarity ends there.

I found these when I made a Zambian meal. They are made with sweet potato boiled in milk with sugar, formed into a dough and then deep fried. If you have read my blog then you probably know I don't deep fry anything. Instead I used my trusty aebleskiver or appe pan to cook them. They were crispy on the outside and soft on the side.

If you are fond of dessert that is not too sweet then you will like this recipe.

You will need
2 sweet potatoes
1 cup milk
2 tbsp. sugar (adjust according to the sweetness of the sweet potato)
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
oil for the pan

Wash and peel the sweet potato. Cut it into 1 inch cubes. Put it in a pan with the milk and sugar and bring it to a boil.

Lower the heat and simmer until the sweet potatoes are cooked and the milk is incorporated. Mash the sweet potato as it cooks. You will have a thick paste.

Mix the flour in the paste to form dough. Heat the aebleskiver or appe pan and add a couple drops of oil into each of the holes. Turn down heat to medium and drop a spoonful of batter in each of the holes.

Give it a few minutes to cook then turn it over. Once it is brown on all sides it is done.

Golabjamoun is ready.

They taste best when hot but can be reheated.

Zambian Beans

Unlike their spicy Asian cousins beans in Zambia are not cooked in spices. They are very mildly spiced and the onions, tomatoes and bean cooked together in a pot. I made these beans as part of a Zambian meal. We ate them with n'shima or corn porridge. It was a very different mild flavored meal.

If you are fond of spicy food then this version of beans is not for you.

Recipe adapted from here
You will need
1 cup beans (I used red kidney beans)
1 onion, diced
1 large tomato, diced
1 tbsp. green pepper, minced
salt to taste
1 tbsp. oil

Soak the beans overnight. Next day discard the water. Add 1 cup of fresh water and pressure cook the beans until tender. In my pressure cooker that is 10 minutes with the pressure on or 3 whistles in pressure cookers that whistle.

Place the beans in a pan and heat through. Add the onion, tomato and salt. Let it cook for about 5-10 minutes. Add a tablespoon of vegetable oil. Cook another few minutes. Turn off heat.

Zambian Tomato Gravy

Tomato gravy works great to add a little liquid to the n'shima or corn porridge. I made this dish as part of a Zambian meal.

The most interesting part of the recipe was grating a tomato instead of chopping or running it through the blender. The gravy is thick and adds flavor to the dishes it is paired with.

You will need
2 large tomato
1 tbsp. onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. cumin powder
1 tsp. flour
1/2 cup water

Grate one tomato into a pan and set the pan on medium heat along with a little water. When it starts to boil add the onion, garlic, paprika and cumin powder.

Allow it to thicken. Dice the second tomato and add it to the pan. Let the mixture cook until the diced tomato is mushy. Dissolve the flour in the water and add it to the pan. Mix well and allow the gravy to thicken. Turn off heat.

The tomato gravy is ready.

N'shima (Zambian Corn Porridge)

N'shima is a thick corn porridge that can be used as a scoop to eat the other dishes on the plate. N'shima does not have much taste to it. It is the base on which the flavors from the side dishes are built up. I found a very well written write up on n'shima and food culture here. It has a lot of additional information that makes it a very interesting read.

N'shima is made with Zambian corn meal called mealy meal. This finely ground corn is made from a variety of maiza that is different from that used in the US. I used masa, corn meal from the Mexican cuisine, to make n'shima. That gave the n'shima is yellowish hue.

You will need
1 cup mealy meal (I used masa)
2 cups water

Heat the water in a pan but do not let it boil. Add the cornmeal a little at a time stirring vigorously with each addition to prevent lumps. When all the cornmeal has been added continue to cook it, stirring with a wooden spoon.

As it cooks the mixture will thicken and the smell of raw cornmeal will go away. When it is lumpy, almost dry and well cooked n'shima is ready.

N'shima is eaten with sides like Zambian beans or tomato gravy.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Yemeni Meal

Yemeni meals are not really vegetarian but like other recipes from the Middle East, Yemeni recipes can be converted fairly easily given the large number of ingredients. I made a one dish meal with dessert. The two dishes made a scrumptious meal. I usually make 4-6 dishes when planning a full meal but my husband was travelling when I cooked this meal so I had to keep the quantity down. :)

Boreck is a one dish meal. It is very filling with 10 layers of thinly rolled dough placed one on top of the other with the stuffing in between. When in a hurry it may seem like a lot of work. You should plan this dish when you have time. Then the rolling out of the dough to a paper thin disc will seem calming. For dessert I made halawat gajur. It is a delicious baked version of the gajar halwa as we know it.

I started cooking this meal right after lunch. I made the dessert and planned on starting the Boreck at 3 pm. Then I got carried away chatting with my father and before I knew it it was 5 pm. I debated over whether I would be able to finish but not having planned any back up I had to keep going. I finished well after 7 pm. Luckily it was a very sunny and clear day so the light did not fade allowing me to get good pictures.

Here are the recipes for the dishes on the menu
And for dessert

This is my entry for the letter Y for BM #44 for the theme Around the world in 30 Days. Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#44.

Halawat Gajur

Gajar halwa is common in south west Asia. But this version in my opinion takes the cake. Literally. It is baked into a cake. This will be my go to halwa recipe from now on. We all liked it very much. My daughter who is not really into sweets chose to pass on it but anyone who likes sweet dishes would love it.

I made a small portion with just two carrots because I did not want too much leftover. The last few days I seem to be trying new things all the time and making them in tiny portions has worked out well. Especially of something as delicious as this halwa, that I love. It was an effort to have a small piece for dessert after dinner and leave the rest for another day. The only tiny pan I had on hand was heart shaped, so the cake is in the shape of a heart.

You will need
2 carrots
2 tbsp. sugar
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp. heavy cream
1 tbsp. ghee

Wash and peel the carrots and shred them. Heat the ghee in a pan and add the shredded carrots. 

Saute on medium heat until the carrots are cooked and browned slightly. You will see the quantity drop as the carrots cook.

Add the sugar and mix well. The sugar will melt and coat the carrots. Continue to saute the carrots for couple more minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Add the 1/4 cup of cream and let the mixture cook until the cream is incorporated in the carrots to form a paste.

Transfer to an oven proof mold. Spread the tablespoon of cream over the top. 

Bake for 15-20 minutes until the top and sides are brown. Let it cool on the kitchen counter. 

Refrigerate for a couple hours. 

Best eaten chilled.

Yemeni Boreck or Borek

Boreck or Borek literally means layers and is a recipe of Turkish origins that spread to other regions during the reign of the Ottoman Empire. This version is from Yemen and I found it here in my attempt to find a one dish meal. I used paneer to make this dish vegetarian.

I made 10 layers of dough rolled thin enough to read through. Five layers are above the filling and five are below it. The surprise ingredient is cinnamon powder. I added it with a huge dose of skepticism but I was pleasantly surprised. The pastry was flaky and crispy. The filling was delicious. Everyone loved it and we all agreed this was a keeper, something I would make again.

I used a spring-foam pan to bake the borek to make it easy on myself to take the pie out. My spring-foam pans are over 15 years old of a quality you don't see anywhere anymore. The pie was perfectly baked.

You will need
For the filling
7 oz. paneer
1 small onion, minced
1 tsp. coriander cumin powder
1 tsp. paprika
salt to taste
1 tbsp. olive oil

Other filling ingredients
1 tsp. cinnamon powder
4-5 springs cilantro, minced
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 tsp. nigella seeds
oil or butter as needed between layers

For the dough
3 cups whole wheat flour (I used chapati flour)
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. sugar
1 egg
2 tbsp. oil, divided
~ 1/2 cup water

Make the filling first. Heat oil in a pan and add the onions. Saute on medium heat until tender and slightly browned. Add the coriander cumin powder, paprika and mix well. Add crumbled paneer and salt to taste. Let it cook until paneer starts to brown a little. Keep aside to cool.

To make the dough sift the flour in mixing bowl. Add the sugar and salt. Beat the egg in a separate bowl and add it along with one tablespoon of oil to the flour. Combine to form a crumbly mixture. Add the water a little at a time to form a soft dough. You may not need all the water. The dough should not be sticky. Using the remaining oil knead the dough well until it soft and smooth. Cover and keep aside for 10-15 minutes. In the meantime prepare a pan by applying butter or oil to the bottom and sides. Keep aside.

Divide the dough into 10 portions. Adjust the size of the dough portions according to the size of your pan. If your pan is wide you want bigger portions. I made small lime size portions for my 7" pan. Take one portion on a floured work surface and roll it out as far as you can go. It should be as thin as possible. Place it on the bottom of the pan. Brush a liitle oil around the layer. Sprinkle some nigella seeds over the top.

Repeat the process of rolling with 4 more layers and place them on top of the first layer with a sprinkling of oil in between layers. You do not need nigella seeds in between each layers. Save the remaining seeds for the top. Now you are ready to add the filling. Sprinkle the cinnamon powder over the layer.

Next add the paneer filling and spread it evenly. As you can see I started adding the cilantro before I realized I should take a picture.

Next add the cilantro over the top.

Last of all add the feta cheese.

Continue working the remaining layers as before with a hint of oil in between. When the last layer is done sprinkle the remaining nigella seeds. You could add some melted butter over the last layer if you wish.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Let the borek rest on the kitchen counter until the oven heats up. Before placing the pan in the oven cut the borek into wedges. Do not score. Make sure you cut through all layers. This allows steam to escape and makes the layers flaky.

Bake for 15 minutes or until the top is brown.

Take it out of the pan and let it rest a couple minutes.

Borek is best eaten hot out of the oven.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Xinjiang (Chinese) Meal

As there are no country names with the letter X this meal comes from a province with that letter. Xinjiang is a western province of China adjoining the middle east. The food here is influenced largely by the middle east. The ethnic people of this region are the Uyghur or Hui.

For my the meal I was looking for noodles as the main dish. I found a very detailed laghman noodles recipe with embedded videos to help make them. Then I found a really nice pulao (pilaf) recipe. The Uyghur polo is not vegetarian but could be easily converted using paneer. I will make the noodles some day but for this meal my main dish is Uyghur (ee-gur) polo. I read here that samsa, a street food similar to the Indian samosa, is served with polo. So samsa served as the side dish. For dessert I made a sweet rice called mifirfan. 'Fan' is rice in the local language. In this dish the rice is sweetened with apricots and raisins along with a little sugar.

I did not use any new ingredients in this meal. This meal was not spicy at all. If you like spicy food you could add a whole range of spices to the polo as well as the filling for the samsa. We do not eat spicy food in our house so we enjoyed the original recipes.

Here are the recipes for the dishes on the menu
And for dessert

This is my entry for the letter X for BM #44 for the theme Around the world in 30 Days. Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#44.

Mifirfan (Chinese Sticky Rice Dessert)

Mifirfan is a dessert from the Xinjiang province of China. It is a mildly sweet dessert that reminded me of narali bhaat. It is made of rice that is sweetened with apricots and raisins.

Mifirfan is a simple and quick dessert. It is made with Chinese sticky white rice. I got a handful of this rice from the bulk section at Whole Foods. The process is very simple, cook the rice with apricots, raisins and a little sugar.

You will need
a handful white sticky rice
10-12 dried apricots
1/4 cup raisins
2 tbsp. sugar
1 cup water

Wash the rice and soak it for half an hour. Chop the apricots and keep aside. These are the apricots I used.

Drain the water from the soaking rice and add the rice to a pan. Add a cup of fresh water to the pan and bring it to a boil. Add the apricots, raisins and sugar.

Let the rice cook in the boiling water.

When the water level drops below the rice, lower heat, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and let it sit for another 10 minutes.

Mifirfan is ready. It is best eaten the day it is cooked. As it is made with rice day old mifirfan tastes a lot like stale rice.