Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Day 168! Sri Lanka - Beef Curry with Pol Sambol (Coconut), Up Next, Sudan

The inspiration and recipe for tonight's meal comes directly from my Maldivian friend who goes by the moniker  Simply Me. She was kind enough to take the time to send me a few of her favorite recipes, which just so happen to be Sri Lankan. And, while I cannot promise that mine come close to replicating anything she would make, I did feel I had the most excellent consultant guiding me through the process! Over the past few weeks, we have been corresponding via email, talking about our families, life and of course, food. Every time I make a new friend and connection through this blog, I am amazed anew, and so grateful to connect with those I'd likely never otherwise meet. Thank you for your generosity and friendship, Simply Me. And please, check out her beautiful blog!

Located off the southern coast of the Indian Subcontinent, Sri Lanka's rich history dates back some 3,000 years. Known as Ceylon until 1972, Sri Lanka is a South Asian island nation that is surrounded by the Indian Ocean, Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Straight. Nearby are India and Maldives. An important country in the silk road economy, Sri Lanka traded (and continues to export) tea, coffee, coconuts, rubber and cinnamon.  Known for it's lush tropical climate and bio-diversity, the country boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Historically, Sri Lanka is at the center of Buddhist religion and culture, having some of the oldest remaining Buddhist relics and temples. The country's ethnic majority are Sinhalese, with Tamils being the largest minority population. Moors, Burghers, Kattirs, Malays and aboriginal Vedda make up the remaining peoples.

Owing to the Sri Lanka's lush tropical climate, fruits such mangoes, papaya, bannanas, jack fruit and durian are plentiful along with a variety of vegetables. Curried boiled rice and curried vegetables are considered the staple, and are generally hot and sprinkled with spices. Small dishes with vegetables, meat, fish, chicken, beef and mutton are typical. Red lentil dahl (parripu), stir fried mullung leaves, sambol (grated coconut, chilli and spices) are also staples dishes in the Sri Lankan diet which accompany many meals.

Basic ingredients for beef curry

Grind garlic and ginger

Season meet and let marinate for about 20 minutes

Cook til browned, then add tomato sauce - add coconut milk at the end, but do not boil

Sambol ingredients

Grind everything except coconut, which gets added at the end

This stuff is so good, I ate it straight up with a spoon!

A little side dish of sambol for the beef curry - indescribable awesomeness

Beef Curry - (Recipe adapted from - Asian Spicy Recipes)

3 lbs. stewing beef, cut into pieces
3-4 Tbsp. vinegar
1 inch ginger root
6 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. ground black pepper
1/2 Tbsp. roasted curry powder
4 dried red chilis
2 cardamom pods
8 cloves
4 pieces curry leaves
2 pieces lemon grass, chopped
1 inch rampe
1 stick cinnamon
3 Tbsp. onion, sliced to medium thickness
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 cup tomato paste or sauce
2 tsp. thick coconut mil
Salt to taste
  1. Crush together ginger root and garlic.
  2. Cut beef into pieces.
  3. Add vinegar, crushed ginger and garlic, salt, black pepper curry powder and red chilli.
  4. Coat the beef pieces well with the spices and set aside for about 1/2 hour.
  5. Heat the oil in a saucepan.
  6. Fry curry leaves and rampe.
  7. Add onions and fry until soft.
  8. Add the beef and stir until combined.
  9. Add cinnamon, lemon grass, cardamom, cloves and stir until well mixed
  10. Add tomato paste (or sauce) and stir until all pieces are well coated
  11. If the curry is too dry and sticks to the saucepan, add 1-2 cups water & stir
  12. Close with a lid and allow the beef to cook on slow heat
  13. Add the thick coconut milk (or fresh milk) and bring to a boil without covering
  14. Add salt
Pol Sambol (Coconut Sambol) (recipe courtesy of Sri Lankan Value)

2 cups grated fresh coconut
2 small pearl onions or shallots, sliced
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 small green chili, sliced.
1-2 tsp. hot red chili powder
1 tsp. salt
1 medium lime
  1. Grind or chop all ingredients in a grinder or chopper (except coconut) 
  2. Add the coconut once all ingredients are crushed and mixed thoroughly
  3. Now grin all ingredients until the coconut turns evenly red and all ingredients are well mixed. Squeeze in half a lime. Mix well.
  4. Taste and adjust salt and lime according to your preference.
  5. Serve with rice and curried beef or bread.
Final Assessment: First of all, my kitchen smells heavenly - garlic, chili peppers, lime, ginger, coconut - need I go on? Secondly, the final dish is not only easy to make, but delicious. It's full of flavor - and heat, that's offset by the addition of tomatoes, coconut and lime. I served the beef with basmati rice, the sambol and nan bread, as I didn't have roti. This meal was gone in 60 seconds :)

© 2010-2011, What's Cooking in Your World? Sarah Commerford/All Rights Reserved

Friday, October 21, 2011

Day 167! Spain - Artichokes with Clams (Alcachofas con Almejas) Up Next, Sri Lanka

Many years ago, so many I don't remember, except that it was b.c. marriage and children, my Mom spontaneously decided to take my sister, Anna, and me to Spain. My adventurous Mom is a world class traveler who speaks fluent French, Haitian Creole and near fluent Spanish, as does my sister. I speak French, but Spanish? Sólo un poco, thank you, Google Translate. So off we went. We landed in Madrid on a rainy afternoon, rented a tiny tin Fiat and hit the highway, where we immediately learned that one does NOT drive the speed limit if one wants to stay alive on Spanish roadways. After a slight detour into a way sketchy road-side bar due to engine trouble, we were on our way. We drove up the southern coast of this beautiful country, stopping at little family-owned restaurants, b&b's and small hotels where we were warmly greeted and fed like queens, and visited Granada, Barcelona and Valencia (the best oranges I've ever had). We spent the night at an ancient paradores (an old monastery), in central Spain, the land of Don Quixote, where we immediately went to a local bar for tapas and wine. Later, we checked into our our room which was said to be haunted. It was in that paradores that we had the most delicious roasted chicken, platter of grilled artichoke hearts and crispy fries I'd ever had then or since. Oh, and several bottles of earthy Spanish.

Officially the Kingdom of Spain, Spain is situated in south west Europe on the Iberian Penninsula. Bordered by the Mediteranean Sea, a small land boundary with the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar, as well as France, Andorra, the Bay of Biscay, Atlantic Ocean, Portugal and a number of smaller islands. Said to date back to 12,000 BC based on human remains found in caves, the earliest humans to arrive in Spain came from Africa. Numerous Stone Age hunters also included Greeks, Romans, Visigoths and other Europeans. Berber tribes from Morocco and Phoenicians, Jews and Arabs from the Middle East also inhabited Spain. Spain became a unified country in the 15 century, and has grown to be a global empire with over 500 million Spanish speakers. The country is ademocracy that operates under a constitutional monarchy. Smaller than France and slightly bigger than California, Spain claims the 3rd largest Volcanic peak in the world, The Teide.

Cuisine in Spain varies depending on region and climate. In the Mediterranean section of the country, seafood, gazpacho, paella and arroz negro are common. Inner Spain leans toward hot, thick soups and stews, salted, cured hams and heavenly olive oil. On the Atlantic side of the country, vegetables, fish, stews, lightly cured hams, cod, albacore, anchovy and octopus based dishes are common. I can't say enough great things about food in this beautiful, warm country.

Scrubbed little neck clams

Roasted and plain artichoke hearts

White wine, vegetable stock, garlic and basis (for garnish)

Cook until clams open - discard any that remain closed

Serve up as an appetizer, or as a meal along side a salad and bread to mop up the sauce!

Artichokes with Clams - Recipe adapted from spain.recipes.com

20 preserved artichokes hearts (I used a combination of roasted and plain)
2 finely chopped garlic cloves
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup vegetable or fish stock (I used vegetable)
1 Tbsp. flour
2 Tbsp. dry, white wine
24 clean clams (I used little necks)

Drain the artichoke hearts. Brown the garlic cloves in the hot oil in a deep frying pan or earthenware dish. Add the flour then mix in the white wine and stock. Add the clams and cook until they are open, discarding any that remain closed. Then add the artichoke hearts and cook for a few minutes before serving.

Final Assessment: This dish could hardly be easier. If I'd been able to find baby artichoke hearts, I would have used them, instead I used a combination of roasted and plain, because that's what was in my pantry. This makes a wonderful appetizer, served with chilled white wine. To enjoy as a meal, serve along side a green salad and good crusty bread to mop up the sauce, which is just slightly thickened with flour. A+

© 2010-2011, What's Cooking in Your World? Sarah Commerford/All Rights Reserved

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Day 166! Somalia Maraq Bilaash (Cherry Tomato Sauce) and Muufo Baraawe (Somali Bread) - Up Next, Spain

Tonight's meal comes from a Somali cookbook, Somali Cuisine.  All of the recipes in the book are authentic and have been passed orally through generations of women. Some of the cooking methods have been modified for today's modern kitchens, but the dishes remain representative of traditional Somali cuisine. And, while it seems a little ironic to be cooking in my well stocked kitchen given that Somalia is currently experiencing a drought and cholera epidemic so extreme that 4 million people, roughly 1/2 the population, are starving or sick, this simple meal reflects the country's diverse warm culture, culinary influences and customs.

Officially the Somali Republic, Somalia lies in the eastern most part of Africa. Bordered by Djibouti, Kenya, the Gulf of Alden, Yemen, the Indian Ocean and Ethiopia. With the longest coast-line on the continent, the country's terrain is primarily one of plateaus, plains and highlands. The climate is hot all year long except for a distinctive monsoon season. Once the center of commerce, powerful Somali empires dominated trade. In the 19th century, British and Italians took over control of parts of Somalia's coast, while other parts of the country were controlled by various powers. In 1991, Somalia's government collapsed, and civil war erupted.  In 2006, an insurgency led by the Al Ahabaad Islamist group took control of the southern part of the country, while the Transitional Federal Government maintained control of parts of the capital and some territories. It is hoped that the elections in 2012 will restore peace and stability to the country.

Somalia's culinary influences vary greatly by region, blending indigenous, Ethiopian, Yemini, Persian, Turkish, Indian and Italian traditions. Rice, beef, chicken, fish, beans, bananas, okra, tomatoes, pasta and bread are all commonly eaten, with cumin, garlic, hot peppers and cardamom flavoring many dishes. Canjeero, a spongy bread, is a staple and accompanies many dishes. During Ramadan, dinner is generally eaten late after Tarawith prayers have been said.

Local cherry tomatoes...the last of the season. And, one very hot jalapeno!

Frozen okra - I couldn't find fresh in the grocery store today

Onions and garlic for the sauce

Cherry tomatoes and okra make the sauce sweet, and jalapeno gives it heat

Semolina flour for the Muufo bread

Salt, sugar, yeast and minced onion flavor the bread

Maraq Bilassh (Cherry Tomato Sauce) - Recipe Courtesy of somalitreats.com

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium size onion, chopped
4 cups cherry tomatoes, whole
1 jalapeno, cut into medium size
3-4 small okra, cut or whole
Salt to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. lemon juice
5 basil leaves

Heat the oil; add the onions and saute. Add the cherry tomatoes (whole), jalapeno and okra, and cook over medium heat. When the tomatoes being to wrinkle, stir delicately and cook 10-20 minutes more. When the tomato skins start to crack, add the salt, garlic and lemon juice, then mash the contents with a wood spoon. Add the basil leaves and cover for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and serve with bread, muufo, anjeero, crackers or bagels.

Muufo Baraawe (Somali Bread) - Recipe Courtesy of somalitreats.com

2 cups of white semolina or farina flour
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 Tbsp. sugar (optional)
1 tsp. onion powder
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
1-1/4 cup lukewarm water
Salt to taste

Combine all the ingredients (except water) together and mix them well in a bowl. Add the water and knead to make to dough. Cover the bowl tightly, put in a warm place (such as the kitchen) for several hours or until the dough doubles in bulk; then work the dough gently with your hands. Cover and let it rise again. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. When the dough has risen a second time, pick about half a handful with wet fingers and drop them on an oiled baking pan,, spacing them 2-3 inches apart. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and put it in the lower rack of the oven for about 15 minutes or until the bottom side of the muufo is golden color. When done, the top of the muufo will stay white. If you want the top side to be golden, flip the muffo over and bake for 3-4 minutes more. Serve with Maraq Bilaash.

Final Assessment: Delicious! I love a simple tomato sauce, and the addition of okra and jalapeno gave the sauce such great texture and zip. We dipped the chewy muufo bread in the sauce and lapped it up. This is a lovely vegetarian meal!

© 2010-2011, What's Cooking in Your World? Sarah Commerford/All Rights Reserved

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Day 165! Solomon Islands - Papaya Chicken and Coconut Milk - Up Next, Somalia

Just a few days left until we move to our temporary digs while the entire second floor of our house is gutted to the studs and rebuilt thanks to massive ice dam and water damage last winter. I'll still have use of my kitchen, but I'm not quite sure how consistently I'll be able to cook over the next few weeks. That said, I'm going to do my best to continue to cooking in the scheduled countries on my list, since aside from this project being my obsession, it most definitely helps keep me sane when life lobs me a steady stream of curve balls. Thanks a lot, life - I'm all set now.

Located in Oceania, east of Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands is a sovereign state that encompasses 1,000 islands. Descendants are made up of Oceania's 3 main cultural groups, Melanesia, Polynesia and Micronesia. Settled between 4,000-5000 years ago by people from South East Asia, this beautiful island nation was discovered by Europeans during the 16th century. Initially sighted by Spanish explorer, Alvaro de Mendana in 1568, he thought he'd discovered King Solomon's wealth when he discovered gold and so named the island, after King Solomon. Following the Spaniards, the islands were explored by the Dutch, French, Germans and British. Many of the islands became a British protectorate between 1893-1900. During WWII, the islands were caught in the cross fire of war, leaving the pristine islands littered with war wrecks. In 1978, Solomon Islands gained independence from Britain, but in 1998, tribal rivalries erupted on Guadalcanal which prompted Australia and other Pacific neighbors to intervene on its behalf, ultimately restoring the islands to peace in 2003.

Cuisine in the Solomon Islands is characteristic of food in the Pacific Islands, but also has some Spanish influences, as well as Asian and Indian spices, fruits and vegetables. Coconut, cassava, sweet potatoes, fruits, taro, bread fruit, beef and fish are all commonly eaten. Poi, which is taro pounded to a paste then mixed with water is eaten with many meals as well.

Peel, seed and slice ripe papaya in thin slices

Sweet potatoes and plantains

Fry plantain in canola or peanut oil

Saute chicken, onions and papaya, then add coconut milk

Papaya Chicken and Coconut Milk (Recipe adapted from foodbycountry.com)
Serves 4

8 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 3/4-inch cubes ( used thighs)
1 papaya, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced
1-3/4 cup coconut milk (canned, bottled or fresh)
1 onion, chopped
Olive oil for frying

In a frying pan, heat the olive oil and cook chicken cubes over high heat until they are almost cooked (about 5 minutes).
Add the chopped onion and cook until the onion becomes clear, about 5 minutes.
Add the papaya slices and cook for 5 more minutes.
Remove mixture from heat and add the coconut milk.
Serve alongside mashed sweet potatoes and fried plantains.

Final Assessment:  This is a lovely, mild, slightly sweet dish, owing to the combination of papaya and coconut milk. I served the dish with mashed sweet potatoes and fried plantains. Very easy and very tasty!

© 2010-2011, What's Cooking in Your World? Sarah Commerford/All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Day 164.5 Orange Sherbet with Amaretto

About a week ago I received an offer to sample and review a cookbook. Now, I'm over-the-top busy with work, not to mention that we have to temporarily move out of our house to have renovations done (thank you, New England winter, for the ice dams that sent water pouring into every bedroom). But when I saw the title of the cookbook, I couldn't pass up the opportunity: Ice Cream Happy Hour - 50 Boozy Treats You Spike, Freeze and Serve, by Valerie Lum and Jenise Addison. I mean really, what better way to relieve stress than to sit down with a beautiful bowl of boozy ice cream? Yes, please.

The brain children of this book are two New York City women who started experimenting with spiking ice cream  in their tiny Brooklyn kitchens. Valerie Lum, is the baker at Bierkraft in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where she specializes in baking brownies, blondies and cookies. Her partner in this wonderful endeavor is Jenise Addison, who grew up in Queens, graduated from the French Culinary Institute and now spends her time brining, curing, butchering and fermenting at Bierkraft. After months of experimenting with various formulations and spirits, the two hit on the ideal ice cream-to-booze ratio and perfected the chemistry. They figured out that they could fit as much as an entire cup of 80 proof alcohol into 1-quart of ice cream to achieve ideal consistency and flavor. That's some beautiful alchemy. Needless to say, this is decidedly grown-up ice cream and is not meant to be dished up to your eager toddler...or curious teenagers.

Ice Cream Happy Hour is organized by tantalizing categories: Boozy Ice Creams, 80-Proof Specialties, Cocktails in a Cone, Tropical Treats by the Scoop, Spiked Sorbets and Sherbets, Tipsy Sundaes and Floats. Following a lively introduction, the book gives simple, easy step-by-step directions (including photographs) on how to make and spike, temper, thicken and chill the custard; dissolve the gelatin (the thickening agent that counteracts the alcohol's thinning properties) and churn the ice cream. Once you understand the process, the authors suggest you boldly go where no other has gone and experiment with your own combinations, of which there are so many, they couldn't all be included in their book.

I chose the Orange Sherbet with Amaretto recipe because I love sherbet as it's such a nice, creamy cross between ice cream and sorbet. Plus, I dig anything with amaretto in it. Lastly, this recipe is very easy, requiring no cooking.  I must admit to taste-testing this sherbet more than once as it was churning. It's reminiscent of an orange cream-cycle with a just right dose of almondy amaretto - absolutely bowl-licking delicious!  Once the construction crews are out of my house, I fully intend to try the following more complex recipes from Ice Cream Happy Hour: Caramel with Spiced Rum, Fig with Barley Wine, Ginger with Dark Rum, White Russian and Cosmopolitan. The boozy possibilities as positively endless!

Lemon juice, orange juice and sugar form the syrup

Whisk it all together until completely blended

Add milk - now you've got yourself a cream-cycle!

Dissolve gelatine

Icy cold amaretto...mmm

Whisk in gelatine and amaretto, then immediately pour into ice cream maker and churn

Orange Sherbet with Amaretto (Recipe reprinted with permission from Ice Cream Happy Hour, authors and Ulysses Press)
Makes 1 quart

1 cup sugar
2 cups fresh orange juice
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice.
1-1/2 cups milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract or almond extract
1 packet (1 Tbsp.) gelatin
1/3 cup cold water
3/4 cup cold (refrigerated) amaretto

Make the syrup: In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar, orange juice, and lemon juice together until the sugar is completely dissolved.
Whisk in the milk and vanilla or almond extract.
Cover and chill the syrup for at least 4 hours.
Once the syrup is completely cold...
Dissolve the gelatin: Pour water into a small saucepan and evenly sprinkle the gelatin on top.
Allow to sit until the gelatin appears to have absorbed as much water as it can, about 2 minutes. This is called blooming.
Gently warm over low heat and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved in the liquid, about 3 minutes.
Spike the syrup with the cold amaretto and gelatin mixture: Refrigerate the alcohol until completely cold (do not try to speed up the process by putting it in the freezer, which may make the gelatin set up too much before added to the syrup.
Pour the gelatin into a medium bowl and whisk the cold alcohol until combined. Do not attempt to kip this step by pouring the alcohol directly into the saucepan with the gelatin.
Pour the cold orange syrup into a large bowl. Stream the alcohol and gelatin mixture through a fine mesh strainer into the syrup and whisk until thoroughly blended.
Churn the sherbet: Pour the cold mixture immediately into the ice cream maker and churn for at least 20 minutes. Due to the alcohol content, you may wish to churn it longer to get the desired thickness. If you don't want to serve the sherbet immediately, or you want a firmer texture, transfer it to a freezer-proof container and freeze for several hours before serving.

© 2010-2011, What's Cooking in Your World? Sarah Commerford/All Rights Reserved