Culinary travels: cote d'ivoire and west africa

Culinary travels finally took us to west africa. Shane was longing since long time to go there but my deficient knowledge of the african kitchen detained me.
Internet research tough me that fufu is the thing one eats in west africa.
For a start we went shopping to the local african food store timezone. Timezone was a nice discovery for me too, I have passed that shop plenty of times but it looks like a hair extension shop from the outside, I the back hidden from the street is a food corner with several huge fridges filled with fresh smoked fish. The smell in the shop is incredibly ( fishy ) definitely nothing for wimps. Next to some root vegetables and plantains they have also a huge selection of dried fish and shrimps :-)

We had a good look at everything bought some plantains, fufu flour, palm juice for kevin and plantain chips. Before leaving we asked the african lady to explain us how to cook fufu, and of we went.

Back home we did some more research:



Our menu we agreed on would be fufu with peanut soup ( recipe from the internet ), and fried plantains.



We all had no clue what to expect and were really pleased with the result - I think it's not the last time we had fufu and next time we gonna do it the real way!

Here's the recipe from the congocookbook:

Peanut Soup

Various peanut soups are common throughout Africa. Some are very simple, others more elaborate. They are often eaten as a main course along with Rice, or one of the Fufu-like staples: Baton de Manioc, Fufu, or Ugali.

What you need

two or three cups chicken broth or chicken stock
one small onion, minced
one small sweet green pepper (or bell pepper), minced
one clove of garlic, crushed (optional)
salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper or red pepper (to taste)
one hot chile pepper, minced (optional)
one carrot, chopped fine or one sweet potato or yams, boiled and mashed (optional)
one or two tomatoes, chopped or canned tomatoes (optional)
one cup natural unsweetened peanut butter (or make your own peanut paste, see the simple peanut soup recipe below)
What you do

If using homemade peanut paste, simmer it with the broth for fifteen minutes, then add all other ingredients and simmer over low heat until everything is thoroughly cooked. Stir often. Soup should be thick and smooth.
If using peanut butter: Combine all ingredients except the peanut butter and simmer over medium heat until everything is tender. Reduce heat, add the peanut butter and simmer for a few minutes more. Stir often. Soup should be thick and smooth.

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Refreshing Spicy Summer Dish

Vietnamese or Thai food is ideal for hot summer days. Here's a recipe that serves as a basis for all kinds of dishes. We usually use it with shrimps and / or fish, but it works just as well with veg. We never tried meat, but I don't see why that shouldn't work also.

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Thai Basil

Ingredients (serves 2-3 people):

  • 3-5 cloves of garlic
  • 1-3 fresh small thai chili
  • 1 tablespoon cane sugar
  • 1 fresh ginger root (roughly sized 60 x 30 mm)
  • 1 fresh lime
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 5 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • 3 teaspoons thai or malaysian curry or spice mixture
  • 20 - 50 leaves of fresh thai basil (depending on the size...)
  • 10 - 20 leaves of fresh mint (again, depending on the size)
  • 1 handful of unsalted peanuts
  • Your choice of fish, shrimps, other seafood or alternatively vegetables

Preparations:

  1. Peel and chop the garlic cloves into small bits.
  2. Chop the chili into thin slices, don't throw away the seeds, - use them. Wash your hands thoroughly after this!!!
  3. If you have large basil and mint leaves, rip them up into smaller bits and put them in a bowl to have them at hand when needed.
  4. roast the peanuts in a pan just like that, no oil or fat needed for this. Keep stirring until nicely brown. Put them to the side and have them ready for later.
  5. Chop your fish or vegetables into dices (maybe 30 x 30 mm) or make sure your shrimps are unfrozen and ready to go in the pan.

Cooking:

  1. Put the oil in the pan and turn on the heat (1 notch below maximum)
  2. While the oil heats up, you can already add the garlic, chili, cane sugar, salt and the curry or spice. Let it sizzle while stirring until the garlic starts to turn brown.
  3. Throw fish and / or seafood or alternatively vegetables in the pan - cook for about 10 minutes (depending on your choice). Depending what type of fish you chose, it may crumble into tiny bits - that's just fine, especially when using fish alongside shrimps.
  4. Put what you've cooked into the bowls you will serve the food in, add thai basil, mint and peanuts to the servings, squeeze lime over it and mix it up a bit. Remember that you're using the basil and the mint more like a salad than a herb in terms of quantity, so give each serving plenty of it. Enjoy!

Tip: Goes well with the "Sensational Soup" as starters and a green papaya salad alongside.

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Financiers

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I have a queue of things I want to do that lasts to Afrika. On the list is lot's of weeding but also planting as important things as soybeans, imagine picking your own edamame in your garden! Then comes lot's of cooking and baking I have some new cookbooks I haven't even touched. And then there's less interesting things like washing our down jackets or cleaning the cellar.
There's a week of holidays coming up and eventually I manage to make a few of these things.
The start make these little fellows - Financiers. A chocolate pastry perfect for tea time.
I always buy them from sprüngli in Zürich.

I came across this recipe in Pierre Hermé's cookbook "Chocolate Desserts" . There's plenty of other nice things I crave to try in the book but most of them way more complicated than these sweeties.

100 gr bittersweet chocolate ( 70% or more )finely chopped
3 large eggs at room temperature
125 gr sugar
100 gr finely ground almond powder
125 gr soft butter
100 gr tepid water
50 all- purpose flower

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Melt the chocolate in a bow over simmering water (without touching the water). Let it cool down a little bit. Meanwhile  mix the almonds, eggs and sugar on medium speed until the color of the mixture tunes pale. Add the butter and mix an low speed. Add the chocolate and mix to blend. Add the water and mix on medium speed till incorporated. Fold in the flour.
Grease and dust the boat shaped financier molds. ( Size: The should hold approx. 3 tbs water ) Bake in the preheated oven 180° for 17 min. Let them cool on a rack for 3 minutes, then run a knife around the edges and carefully take out the financiers.

Related Entries:
Very chewy and lovely caramel flavoured chocolate chip cookies
Millefeuille poire chocolat
Truffes
Chocolate - Chestnut - Parfait
Little chocolate cakes
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Spring vegetable stew with fregola sardo

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An other veggie day today. Again adapted from jamies italian cookbook. A stew of fave beans, peas, spinach, leek and artichokes.
Cook you artichokes, preferably small violet ones, take off the outer leaves cut into half's and take out thin white "hair".  Blanch your fave beans in salted water for 1 minutes, then blanch the leek for 3-4 minutes, and then the spinach. You can do this in the same boiling water, using a big spoon. Boil the peas in broth for ten minutes.
MIx all together and cook on low heat for 10minutes. Add a good handful of chopped parsley and fresh mint. Season with salt, pepper and a dash of good olive oil.

Eventually you can add some lemon zest or smokes ham or tuna, that could be nice too.

Serve mixed with fresh pasta.

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Related Entries:
Comfort dinner: Spinach and cheddar muffins
Spaghetti with fave and barba di fratte
Fish pie "irish craving"
Risotto with fresh peas
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Melanzane parmiggiana oven dish

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In Sardinia again, she is not eating fish, I'm not eating meat it seems this is unintended vegetarian holiday.
At least till the weather is good enough to start the grill.
In summer we don't get much nice veggies here but it's spring now we can buy things like artichokes, asparagus and most of all fave - my all time favorite vegetable.
Yesterday we tried this very nice Melanzane parmiggiana oven dish from jamies italian cookbook.

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3 eggplants
Olivoil
1 onion peeled and cut
1 garlic glove finely sliced
1 tsp dried oregano
800 gr ripe tomatoes deseeded and skinned or tinned ones
sea salt and black pepper
Little wine vinegar
1 handful fresh basil
4 handful fresh grated parmigiano
2 handful bread crumbs mixed with a little fresh oregano

Slice the eggplants (1cm slices). Make a tomato sauce with the onion, oregano, garlic and the tomatoes and let it simmer for 10 - 20 minutes.
Grill the eggplants, preferably on a grill or a grill pan without using olive oil.

In a ovenproof dish layer the ingredients starting with the tomato sauce, followed by little parmigiano, and then the eggplants. Continue in this order. Finish with a good handful of parmigiano and the bread crumbs.

Cook for 30min in the preheated oven ( 190° ).

Jamies italy is an inspiring cookbook. Quite a few simple and fast dishes that can be done , even if one, once again,  comes home to late from the beach or the playground or the garden or... What I always like with jamies recipes that they give you a basic idea with which you can play around and make your own dish.

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Marrons Cuits

Thanks to a recipe by Christophe Champagnac of the Restaurant Les Arums I realized how beautifully anise goes with chestnuts. The original recipe was ' cappucino of chestnuts with star aniseed, pan fired foie gras, balsamic caramel ' (...). Now I don't eat meat and I had no star aniseed in the house, so I went about the recipe as follows:

  • Sweat finely chopped onions in butter, quench with Pernod/Pastis
  • Throw in 300g cooked chestnuts
  • Add 2dl of vegetable stock, - preferably yesterdays home made vegetable soup, simmer for 25 minutes
  • Add 100ml fresh cream, salt (if needed) and freshly ground black pepper

Heat 50g sugar in a pan until it turns brown, add 100ml balsamico vinegar, add this to your ready dish (drizzle on top or stir in lightly).

Serve with potato mash, some bitter veg like warm treviso (with pernot, garlic, lemon juice) or whatever suits you.

Marrons Cuits

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Pear and Roquefort pie

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I work way to much at the moment, it's buying season and instead of trying new recipes from my lovely new cookbooks I run from one fair to the other.  Hotel breakfast and the junk food one usually eats  during the day don't make me feel too good either. In the evening we usually eat out but tis time I was to late with reserving tables so all the new restaurants I wanted to try were already fully booked.
Anyway I have a weekend at home and was full of ideas of things to do and to cook. Sadly I realized very quickly ( friday evening this means) that I am way to exhausted. And that instead of cooking great dinners, sewing this new pants I intended and blog a lot I should go for a walk in the wintery landscape and sleep a lot.
At this state I wish I would know more fast but yummy dinner recipe. Usually I do THIS but this involved too much different pans and plates, means to much cleaning up afterwards ...

This is probably the simplest  dinner I know and while it's baking one can take a hot bath, read a book or watch some telly.

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Recipe:

you need:

6-7 pears
puff pastry
roquefort cheese

Roll out the dough, wash the pears cut into quarters and lay out on the dough.
Bake on 200° for 20- 30 minutes. Take the pie out sprinkle over the the roquefort cheese and put back into the oven and bake for another 10 minutes on 150°.
Serve with green salad or maybe a light soup.
Bon app!

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Mixed green salad leaves with luke warm beetroot and roquefort

I'm about to discover the beetroot. Thanks to nigel slaters new cook book "tender" . So far I was almost clueless what to do with a beetroot. I like them raw. I occasionally mad a raw beetroot salad with sesame. I tried soup once but wasn't satisfied.
Nigel has a lovely recipe for a salad whit beetroot and goats cheese which opened my mind.

Here a different approach to the theme:

This salad is really easy. Mixed green leaves, lukewarm beetroot, roquefort cheese. Depending on what else is on the menu garnish with walnuts.

4 small to medium beetroots skin on
mixed green salad leaves
roquefort cheese to garnish
walnut oil
olive oil
dijon mustard
red wine vinegar
salt and pepper

Bring a pan of water to boil ad the beetroot and let the beetroots simmer  for approximately 1 hour or until tender. I like them al dente. Let them cool till you can handle them. Take of the skin and cut into slices.

Make a dressing with the walnut oil, olive oil, dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper.
Mix the salad leaves and the beetroot toss in the sauce and garnish with roquefort cheese and walnuts.

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Profiteroles

Profiteroles are amongst my favorite desserts. I always order them in the restaurant if they are on the menu, but there are huge differences in the preparation and not all of them are equally nice. What you want is dark bitter chocolate over cold and creamy vanilla ice. To often one get puff pastry soaked in something like mousse au chocolat.

We had our annual coeur de sel xmas dinner this saturday and I decided to try to make profiteroles. ( as you already now I always need chocolate in my desserts ). It looks as if I'm into Pastry bags these days. For every other recipe I try you need one. Must be because of fannys lovely pastry blog.

The thought of making puff pastry made me a bit nervous. I remember years ago I tried to make a gateau saint Honoré which turned out horrible in the first attempt because of the puffs. I started with looking for a recipe. I found several in my cookbook collection. Every one of them was completely different concerning the puff pastry. Some used milk others only water and the quantities were totally different in each one of them - which made me think of julian barns book "Pedant in the kitchen" . A very funny book indeed. A must for everybody who likes cookbooks.

The puffs turned out quite nice in the end. Really funny it got when I tried to make the chocolate sauce. My recipe said I should make the sauce with 250 gr unsweetened cocoa powder, 100 gr sugar and 200ml water and 2 tbs starch. I tried. It's like spitting into sand. The tiny bit of cocoa who got moist stuck to the wooden spoon like it would be afraid of drowning the big rest dusted all over the place, also on the hot stove. At this point I decided not to use any starch and added lot more water. I ended up with a lovely chocolate sauce, enough for a whole army though.
Next time I'll use just plain dark chocolate.

ready for the ovenfilled with vanilla ice
say hi to the chocolatehere you go

Cream Puff Shells:
1 cup (250 ml) water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
6 tablespoons (90 grams) unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
1 cup (135 gram) flour
4 large eggs, at room temperature
Glaze: 1 egg yolk whisked with 1 teaspoon milk
Place 1 cup water, butter and salt in saucepan. Bring to boil. As soon as butter has melted, stir in 1 cup flour and continue stirring vigorously with wooden spoon until mixture has pulled away from sides of pan and formed a ball. Let the dough cool for five minutes, then briskly beat in the eggs, one at a time, until the dough is smooth and shiny. [At this point you can cover the pot and chill it in the fridge for up to a day.]
Using a pastry bag or 2 teaspoons, make small 1-inch mounds of dough on a baking sheet. Bake (on 220° ) the cream puffs for 20 to 35 minutes, or until puffed and well-bronzed.
Chocolate sauce:
200 gr dark chocolate
20 gr butter
3 tbs water
Melt the chocolate, butter and water In a water bath.
Let the puffs cool down cut them into half an fill with vanilla ice. Douse with the chocolate sauce and serve.

Related Entries:
Very chewy and lovely caramel flavoured chocolate chip cookies
Millefeuille poire chocolat
Truffes
Chocolate - Chestnut - Parfait
Little chocolate cakes
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Tarte Tatin

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Certainly one of my favorite desserts, warm apples a hint of caramel and double cream.... yummy.
But somehow I never mange to make it. Often I make the dough but then I am busy cooking dinner and have not time to cook the apples and after dinner when everyone wants a dessert it would just takes to long to cook and bake the cake....
I suggest it's better to make tarte tatin for afternoon tea and not as a dessert after a whole menu when you have guests.
Anyway, it's definitely worth making especially now that it's cold and grey outside.

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Pastry :
200gr plain flour
50 gr icing sugar
125 gr Butter chilled and cubed
1 medium egg yolk

Begin by making the pastry. Stir the flour and icing sugar into a large mixing bowl or food processor. Add the butter. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour or pulse the ingredients in the processor until the mixture resembles brad crumbs. Mix the egg yolk with 2 tbs water, then using a blunt knife, stir just enough of this mixture into the dough to make it come together. Wrap the pastry into cling film, pat it down into a flat disc so that it will be easier to roll out later and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill.

Topping
50 gr Butter softened
125 gr caster sugar
6 large dessert apples
1 lemon finely grated zest

To make the filling spread the butter over the cold oven proof frying pan and sprinkle the sugar over the top. Place the apples around the edge, round side down. Tilt them slightly, allowing them to overlap, as they will shrink later. Place over low flame and cook for 10 minutes so the sugar dissolves slowly. Once it has dissolved, turn up the heat to a medium high flame and cook for 15 - 20 minutes, occasionally giving the pan a light shake to prevent the apples burning. The juices will start to turn a glorious rich, amber colour. Be brave you want the apples to hold their shape, but you also want the juices to darken to a colour that will give the tart that rich caramel flavor with a slight hint of burnt sugar.
Like Mahogany .
Take the frying pan off the heat, scatter with the lemon zest - a must to stop it from being too sickly - and allow it to cool for 10 minutes so the pastry doesn't melt.

Preheat the oven to 200°. Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out to a thickness of 3 mm - make it the size of your frying pan.  Place it over the apples. Patch together any cracks that appear. Place it on a backing sheet, to catch any drips - and cook for 25  -  30 minutes until the pastry is golden and dry.

Remove from the oven with proper oven gloves, the sugar will be dangerously hot and let it sit for 10 minutes.
Run a knife around it. Place a large plate over the top and flip over . If any apples are left in the pan simply scoop them out and replace them on the tart. Serve it as it is or with double cream or vanilla ice.

The perfect cake to be eaten after a long walk through winter landscapes or  a foggy autumn afternoon.

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