Thursday, February 24, 2011

Week 4: Cajun/Creole Cooking and Personal Training? This doesn't mix.

Cajun Blackened Fish Steaks

As we go into week four of the World Cuisine Cooking Challenge,  I have a few thoughts.

1)  Cooking is fun.  Cooking is EASY.

I have said before...Until 2008,  I could barely boil water.  I remember on one of my early dates with The Tester* (*more original name likely never coming),  I basically got my roommate to cook dinner for me to pass off as mine.  It was spaghetti.  I couldn't even make spaghetti.  By the way,  Thanks Cara ;).  I still owe you for that.

2)  Cooking means lots of food to try.

I am amazed at how comfortable I am in a grocery store now.  I see things on recipes and I think,  "I will never be able to find that."  I take a few laps and breathe until I locate what I'm looking for on that trip. (Back story:  I used to have high anxiety in grocery stores...there is SO MUCH STUFF...and if I didn't know EXACTLY what I was there to get and where to find it...forget it,  I freaked out".)  I also have tried so many new things and I love that!  I am learning what spices go with what sort of cuisine I'm cooking which makes throwing stuff together so much more easy!

3)  Cooking means you eat a you "can" put on weight if you eat too much!

This is what brings me to the "trainer" part of the title.  My gym has given me 3 personal training sessions and I'm so thankful.  All of this food is amazing but all of this food is adding on the LB's!!!!  I'm being dramatic....for the 7 months I have been in London,  I have fluctuated up and down 8 lbs. ...I can live with that.  As long as I feel good about myself and get some exercise to balance out all of this culinary goodness,  I'm A-Okay!!  My trainer, Jason,  has been kicking my butt and I think it was much needed as I realize what poor toning shape I'm in and that makes me angry so I'm DETERMINED to get back in great shape! I have put it out there so now I'm accountable!!!

4)  You learn from your mistakes....

Beautiful inside of a sweet potato.
This brings us to Cajun/Creole week.  I went straight to the heart of it and attempted a Spicy Meat Gumbo on Monday night.  It is becoming a pattern....I used Jamie Oliver again and his New Orleans chapter of "America".  The mistake I made on this dish was in the initial frying of the chicken.  I was instructed to drop the chicken into my dutch oven with a "little bit" of oil.  Now, I'm from the South in the United States and when you say "FRY" and "CHICKEN" in the same sentence...that equals what did I do?  I added about 3/4 cup of oil.  What I forgot to do was note all of the other ingredients that would be frying at the same time.....BACON......CHORIZO.

Ooops.  Mucho OIL!
(Small note about is amazing.  Before I ate meat,  I used to make my cooking mentor, Andrew, use turkey chorizo or some other imitation in his WORLD FAMOUS FABULOUS DELICIOUS PAELLA.  I owe him a public apology here as I NEVER knew how I was insulting him or the dish by not allowing the REAL DEAL!!!!!  IT IS AMAZE AMAZE!!!!  FABULOUS).

Okay,  meanwhile,  so now I have 3/4 cup of oil,  chicken and two meats who will release oil on their own as they are fried....the result...a one way ticket to OILVILLE!!!  I added all of the other ingredients and, once finished,  I had a soup looking thing that was mostly,  you guessed it,  OIL.  The dish was good after I put it through a strainer to get rid of the evidence.  The tester* loved it and so did I after these adjustments.  I couldn't find Jamie Oliver's recipe online but, again,  it can be found in his "America" book.  Order it here:

Fish Flip = FAIL
Last night,  I went for Jamie's Cajun Blackened Fish Steaks...also from the New Orleans Chapter in "Jamie's America".  I used Haddock from the store and felt really confident after applying the delicious spicy rub to the fillets.  What I learned while cooking is that I'm not the fabulous chef that I sometimes I think I am.  When I went to flip the fish,  they crumbled on me and came apart...those are delicate little suckers.  The fish was amazing and I also came out learning a little bit about buying fish after watching a video on the topic.

1)  FISH SHOULD NOT STINK.  When you buy it,  it should smell fresh and like a beautiful ocean day on the beach...NOT FISHY.

2)  The eyes of a fish (if getting from a market) should be clear and not clouded over.  If they are clouded,  keep on isn't fresh.

3)  If you press your finger on the scales and they don't rebound,  that fish ain't FRESH.

Keep that stuff in mind and don't be afraid of making fish at home.  I have come a long way since my high school salmon cooking days.  Let's just DID smell fishy  ALL OVER our two story house...GROSS!!!!  The above dishes and mistakes made in preparing them...will help me grow and be even better on my next attempt at a Cajun  feast ;)!

Last night I made Shrimp Po Boy sandwiches (see gaining weight bit above)...OMG,  so good (and did a bit of real frying!!) but I'll write more about that later on...

In other news,  the blog has reached almost 3,000 hits!  I think people might actually be stopping by to read it!  If you have any comments, thoughts, recipes, tips, personal stories or comments below!  I would love to hear from people!!!!

Finally,  tonight's blog is sponsored by the beautiful tulips that The Tester* got me.  I had to photograph them as I had never seen any like the light pink ones photographed in detail below.  They were beautiful.   Until next time,  keep experimenting in the kitchen and in life...Have fun!

Beautiful?  Am I the only one who has never seen this?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Week 3 of World Cooking Challenge ends on a high note!

I decided that all wasn't lost with Asia week after having a nice dinner out with some neighborhood friends.  The stars were aligned as they chose a noodle house in our hood.     It was a bit of a dive but the main purpose of this little gem is that it is quick, cheap, good Chinese food and it is also open LATE.  This is a rare thing in London (as opposed to New York where things are open 24/ can get Mexican food at 4:00am if you want it...sushi at 2:00am...ANYTHING).  

I have to say I was a little intimidated by the menu.  I really don't know what it is about this style of food that freaks me out.  I think it is that I don't know the ingredients...therefore,  I don't know what my dish will taste like...anxiety ensues.  

I know what will calm me down...a nice cold brew.  When is a better time to try out the beer of China then this night...Saturday night!!!!  I ordered Tsingtao,  a beer from the brewery of the same name that is the largest in China.  Sound familiar?  That's because Clint Eastwood can be seen sipping on this brew in his 2008 film, "Grand Torino" while partying at the neighbors house with the kids.

For our appetizer,  we ordered Aromatic Duck.  If you have never had this and see it on a menu....ORDER IT!  It is a dish consisting of specially spiced duck (primarily the crispy skin),  spring onions and a sweet bean sauce that gets wrapped in a thin pancake...FANTASTIC!!!!  

Chicken Satay
After some direction from my friend,  I selected the Chicken Satay with thick noodles.  It was spicy (as I tend to like my dishes) and tasty.  After the delicious Peking Aromatic Duck appetizer, however, I was pretty full so I didn't have too much.  Overall,  this was our best meal of the week and I think we got out only spending about 14 pounds each ($22.50).  Who says you have to spend a fortune to have a nice meal with 2 beers to boot !!!

So, for this week (Week 4),  I have decided to stick to my alphabetical order World Challenge cuisine challenge.  To do an Oscar film theme,  I figured I would need to a) see all of the films and b) spend a fortune on a bunch of stuff we wouldn't eat/buy otherwise...gave it a pass.  Last night,  I tried Spicy Meat Gumbo and tonight is Cajun Blackened Fish Steaks!!!  Stay tuned.

If you have any Cajun, Creole or Central and South American recipe ideas I should try,  please send them my way!!!  I will get back to my cooking ways this week...after my disappointing crack at Asia ;)!

Have a great week everyone!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

World Cuisine Challenge Week 3...Fail let's just say that I wasn't as into preparing Asian cuisine as I was America and Africa.  I ended up only cooking one night and that meal was not good.  This is partly because we had a friend in town so we were out more but ....I just think we have to give Asia a fail.  Luckily,  a few of the countries in Asia are also covered in the World cuisine challenge.  For instance,  there is a full week of Chinese, Indian, Japanese and Korean so I think I will have another chance.  

I have to thank Ralph Lauren as he saved me on Wednesday.  He showed his collection for New York Fashion Week and his inspiration!??!!  ASIA!!!!  Instead of a meal,  here are some of my favorite looks from his show.  

I love how Ralph can take a completely new angle with his concept but still keep the authenticity of his aesthetic.  The collection overall was beautiful and saved my tail on Wednesday...Asia was covered that day even if it wasn't in the kitchen!!!

Thursday,  I faced the beast...I attempted a dish that originates, according to Jamie Oliver's "America" book,  in the western Szechuan province of China.  Now you ask,  "How can you get an Asian recipe from a book about American cuisine?".  Jamie Oliver traveled to Chinatown in New York and learned from the chefs to make authentic Chinese dishes.  The dish is called Fiery Dan Dan Noodles.  Things I learned while making this dish:

1)  Szechuan Pepper is way too strong if you use the whole MUST be ground...and your new hand held blender won't do the job.
2)  Mix the meat in Southern Stump!  A noodle dish is no good if you drizzle the ground meat over the noodles.  I should have definitely incorporated them directly into the dish.

Overall,  this just...sadly...didn't taste good.  The pepper was way too strong and the flavors just didn't mesh like I had hoped.  I have to admit that I cheated by buying an egg roll and some prawn crackers from the Chinese takeaway down the street.  I guess I should have just known that my heart wasn't in this style of cooking.  I like Asian food but realize that I don't like cooking it.    Here is the recipe for the fiery Dan Dan Noodles if anyone wants to take a crack at it....hopefully you will have better luck.

Next week is Creole/Cajun but I'm thinking of doing an OSCARS menu week instead!  Each night around one of the films nominated for best picture.  I have a few ideas and also have the help of many cooking websites...I think that would be fun. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

World Cuisine Challenge Week to a rocky start :-/

Alright,  now that I'm on your good side with my oooober creative photos from the week thus far,  I hope I can get off the hook for phoning it in with Asia week thus far.   Monday night the Tester** made dinner as I was working on something and needed to give 100% of my time to it.  He made a mish mash of pasta, chicken and veg.  He added an Indian Curry sauce to it so we technically would be within our Asia requirements.  It was pretty good to be thrown together.  I love that about the Tester**.  He can really just throw stuff together where...I need a recipeMonday was Valentines day...we did nothing too fancy...that is where Tuesday comes in.  We decided to go out to celebrate our "because the calendar says we have to make it official today" love.   I make fun of it but I do love Valentines day.   We both wanted to go to a Japanese restaurant so we, again, would be staying within our Asian requirements for the week.  Our decision was Roka in Canary Wharf.  I'm attaching some pictures.  The food was AMAZING and it reminded me of Woo Lae Oak in New York (aside from the whole 'Korea is not Japan' thing).  The sashimi and sushi was so fresh and I may have had the most amazing lamb kebabs of my life!  DELISH!!!!    Enjoy the photos and link to the restaurant.   I hope to have some exciting stuff for you later in the week!!!  (I have no idea why that whole group of sentences became a link to the meal that The tester made on Monday...random)

Salmon and Yellowtail Sashimi

RiDONKulous Spicy Tuna Role 

Best Asian infused Lamb EVER!
Creme Brulee and Chocolate Pudding.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

World Cuisine Challenge: Week 2, Days 4 and 5

The world cooking challenge is going GREAT!  I was spending sometime with my UK fam last night and I found myself lighting up while talking about hamburgers and braising!  I'm amazed more and more everyday at how easy cooking is if you just, like most things...PRACTICE!  I am loving the change in cuisine each week as it teaches me about lots of different flavors and dishes.  A fashion mentor of mine in New York once said that he loved learning something new everyday and I never really appreciated it.  Now, with this new hobby (or cutting edge skill as I like to put it)...I DO learn something new everyday and it excites me!  Okay...let's close out week 2 and AMERICA.

MAAAAA....CAN WE GET SOME MEATLOAF?  -Will Ferrell in "Wedding Crashers".

In middleschool growing up,  meatloaf was a dinner I LOVED.   My mom's (and yes I'm biased)  is one of the best around!  If I'm correct,  I think she put Cheddar cheese in it and anytime it was on the table,  I was a happy girl.  Now that I think of it,  I think she sometimes served my dish from Tuesday as a side..MAC-n-CHEESE with crumbled saltines on top!!!  YUMMMMM!!!!
There is a meatloaf under that bacon!

I have gotten used to using Jamie Oliver now and his dishes have not disappointed me yet so I thought I would give his Meatloaf a try.  Instead of going through the entire process...I'll point out the things I learned.

1)  Crumbled Crackers are GREAT in burgers and Meatloaves!!!
2)  When you ball up your meatloaf prior to cooking,  it looks like a brain (I think).
3)  The secret to making your meatloaf (or anything) better.............BACON.

The Tester** is not here now but I'm pleased to announce that this meatloaf was HANDS DOWN his favorite and the AMERICA WEEK WINNER for best dish.  He LOVED IT and had it for breakfast the next morning too.

Below is the recipe for this delight of a dish.  For all of my American peeps,  this is in the USA Imperial measurements so not need to convert from grams to cups :)!   I have to once again shout out Jamie's book "America".  It is FANTASTIC and I highly recommend it.  I can't wait to continue using it throughout the challenge as America has many cultures covered in the book that will work as I make my way around the culinary world!


Finally....Friday/ Day Five and a dish that I avoided all week as I knew it was never going to be as good as those I had in North Carolina.....Chicken-n-Dumplings.

My mothers close friend used to make me Chicken-n-Dumplings whenever I came home from college, New York or wherever I was in the country that week.  They were, hands down, one of the best things I have ever eaten.  I knew I had to take this recipe seriously and go to a chef who I knew would not let me down.  It had to be Paula Dean.

For those who don't know,  Paula Dean is a Southern Gal who has built a cooking empire with a foundation of butter and good ole Southern charm.   The Tester** and I had the privilege of going to her restaurant in Savannah, Georgia in 2009 and I will never forget the height of the puff pastry on my Chicken pot pie that night...AMAZING!

I had been nervous about preparing dumplings from scratch but Paula's recipe only called for flour, salt and ice tough can it be!?!?!?  While my chicken was cooking in the stock,  I decided to go for the dumpling assembly!!!  It really was quite easy once I got over the fact that the flour wasn't going to fully mix in.  I realized when she said "Spread some flour on a clean surface and roll out your dough"...that there was naturally going to be flour there you go.  Other things I learned while making this dish....

1)  If you cook chicken legs, wings and thighs in liquid and then let them cool,  the meat will FALL OFF the bone.  It is really quite beautiful how moist the meat is as opposed to cooking chicken breast in a grill pan as I always have up to this point.

2)  Dumplings will cook...they WILL.  You don't have to panic when you drop them into your soup.  I had these food poisoning visions but...I left them in the broth for about 10 minutes and they cooked just fine.

Overall,  I was slightly disappointed with these dumplings.  I thought for sure Paula Dean's version would have the best recipe in all the land.  They were good...but not the best I had ever had and I thought those dumplings that I overcame...were a little bland and too dense.  The tester** seemed to like them but he was still going on about the meatloaf so I think his critiquing was biased at this point.    Here is the recipe if you want to give it a go yourself:

Paula Dean's Chicken-n-Dumplings:

Next week is Asia and I'm quite nervous as it is a whole new culinary world for me.  I have traveled there before and definitely have areas where I enjoyed the food more than others so this should be interesting.  I also always let the tester** cook when we have any kind of stir fry.  I'm not sure why it intimidates me so much.  Stay tuned......

I hope you enjoyed this week of recipes and hope that you will try them for yourself.  If anyone has recipes that you think I should try,  please send them my way!!  I would love to include them in the challenge or make them on a weekend when I'm not under a regional/country/continent theme.

Oh yeah, there is one thing I forgot that I learned about those Chicken-n-Dumplings...NONE will EVER be as good as my mothers friend made back in North Carolina.  

Thursday, February 10, 2011

World Cuisine Challenge: Week 2/Day 3: AMERICA Beer Butt Chicken


This will be brief as my attention span is quite short tonight and "2 Weeks Notice" is on...a very sad excuse given that it isn't a great film.

Tonight I tackled a meal that I first had while out in California staying with my oldest brother (circa 2003ish).  He had been raving about his new book that included a "Beer Can Chicken".  There are few meals that you remember but I distinctly recall having this amazing grilled chicken along with grilled asparagus.  I looked at him with wonder as if he was Bobby Flay...only he was my brother!  At the time,  I ate Raman Noodles and pasta with cheese in heavy roation as it was all I could make.   My other brother is also quite a cook so this experiment is a great way for me to get some skills so I can hang with them in the kitchen.  It doesn't hurt either I should to add....that I have no job at present and have a TON of time on my hands!!!  

For the American challenge version,  I go back to who is becoming one of my favorite chefs...Jamie Oliver.  I have those who I like but the proof is in the simplicity of the flavors with Mr. Oliver.  He is also providing me with a crash course in British/USA conversions when following his recipes!  This comes from his "America" book.

"Hello Bird,  I'm beer."
I started prepping my rub for the bird and thought of something that I wonder if others can relate to...Am I the only one who can eat brown sugar by the handful?  I know that is random but is it not the most amazing thing EVER!!!!!  Anytime it is in front of me...since I was 4 years old helping my mom make cookies...I have insisted on eating at least a tablespoon of the brown sugary goodness!!!  I guess you can guess that the rub for the chicken had...........can you guess?......BROWN SUGAR!
I'll leave you two alone.

I rubbed my bird and then introduced it to the Budweiser beer I was using.  I left the two of them alone for a few minutes so they could break the ice before getting VERY intimate prior to oven entry.  You will see from the picture what I mean.  I joined them together and away they went into the heat (va va VOOM!)!!!   

On the side I made Jamie Oliver's Grilled California Antipasti.  This, as a throwback to my memorable meal with my brother in CA,  and consisted of grilled asparagus!  I grilled the veg and then threw it into a dressing made of lemon juice, olive oil and fresh dill.....DELIGHTFUL!!!!!  

Overall,  I think the chicken was good.  I have to say that it didn't blow me away like I thought it would and for the next time I make it...I will add more rub so the flavors come out in a larger way.  I will also have a plan for when I remove the chicken from the oven...tonight,  I didn't have enough foil so I tried laying it on its side causing the budweiser to spill all over the place...not cute.

The Tester digs into his dinner.  Note the mac-n-cheese leftovers also.

Let's get The Tester**'s thoughts:

"Uhhhhhh.   It looked like a lot of fun in the oven when I first saw the Chicken.  It is really unique and a neat way to cook Chicken.  I have never had it before.  Uhhhhh.  I thought I might be able to taste the beer more uhhhh...but I could taste it in the skin and the meat stayed REALLY nice and dryness at all.  I loved the way you (that's me, Southern Stump) did the veg.  It was massive effort to make them different but they, uh,  but it was good to try something new...nice and lemony.  For novelty value,  I give this dish a 9 (This is the first night he is rating...w/no prompting).  For taste,  I give the dish 8  (These are all criteria he is just coming up with now.)  It's unfair...but dessert wins...Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream 10 out of 10."

Oh yeah,  I got him some Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream to rep San Fran.  He also didn't mention...but I think he enjoyed the Missouri produced Budweiser that he got to drink w/his meal!

If you want to try this recipe,  It can be found in Jamie Oliver's "America Cookbook", Follow this link to order a copy!!!:

If you want to try it but don't want the book just yet, here is another recipe w/the same concept:

The side grilled veggies are also found in the book at the link above.  I guess he can't give it all away for free ;)!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

World Cuisine Challenge (WCC) Week 2/Day 2: Mac-n-Cheese MIRACLE!

I was humbled tonight by my horrible prep. and cooking skills and then blown away by the AMAZING result (I'll explain).  Since we had extra burgers from last night,  we had those and I tackled MAC-N-CHEESE for an ALL AMERICAN side dish!

I went again to Jamie Oliver's "America" book and,  let me tell you, this recipe could change your life.  It was one of the best things I have ever made (in my opinion...The Tester** will chime in also).  I have to give full credit to the amazing flavors used...among them Thyme, Garlic, Cheese (duh), Worcestershire sauce and nutmeg?...YEP...NUTMEG!

Noodles, Tomatoes, in the ROUX
The big "new" tonight was the making of the ROUX.  It seemed so intimidating to me but it came together easily (It's just melted butter and flour...who knew!?!?!?).  I was quickly reminded that I have a lot to learn, however,  when I brought it to a boil and it overflowed all over my stove top....just to keep it real and call myself out when needed ...rookie mistake.  Jamie Oliver would be shaking his head in disgust I have a feeling!

Heart cookies from powder!
Have a look at the recipe and give it a shot!:

Keeping w/my American theme,  I also made some Dunkin Hines Chocolate Chip Cookies from a bag.  I love that the recipe calls for powder in bag and 2 tablespoons of water...poof...cookie dough!  An American necessity...Dunkin Hines and Betty Crocker!!!

The Tester*** enjoyed the breadcrumb topping! words tonight will do this mac-n-cheese dish justice so I INSIST that you try it out for yourself.  Enjoy the photos!!!  Here are The Tester**'s thoughts.

"The Burgers gave me a sense of Deja Vu.  I was sad to see the mac-n-cheese look so so good because there was no way the substance could match up to the style."

(He is taking this him).

"uhhhhhhhh.  uhhhhhh"

(I think he is thinking here)

"But wait,  could it be?  The crispy breadcrumb top and the chunky tomato chunks just added uhhhh....just added.  No, uhhhhhh just added....just CONFOUNDED my expectations and lo did the mac-n-cheese taste as good as it looked....and the cookies were good too."  

I think that means he liked it and I love how he is getting into his role as "The Tester**"

**The tester is working on a catchier name for himself.  I am starting to like "The Tester" and fear it has stuck.

I was going to do Chicken tonight...but think I'll aim for that tomorrow!  I am loving a week of American cooking!!!!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Week 2 World Cuisine Challenge: America....Burgers Anyone?

I have decided that I'll document my dishes in the "Southern Stump World Cuisine Challenge" a little more frequently so I'm not throwing too many recipes and dishes to you at once.

Tonight I started my 2nd week of the world cuisine challenge with a staple in America...a good ole fashioned burger served with fries and a salad.  I decided to try Jamie Oliver's recipe from his amazing cookbook "America".  He makes the great point that burgers get a bad reputation because of our fast (junk) food culture but when made at home with great ingredients,  they are amazing...he was right!

He calls for a lot of stuff thrown into the minced burger meat including crushed crackers, an egg, cooked red onions and Parmesan cheese (yum).  I grilled these while also cooking streaky bacon in the pan at the same time...the flavors just blended perfectly and don't get me going about bacon.  I can't believe I didn't eat red meat or pork for 15 years....what was I thinking?  In moderation,  it is AMAZING!  Finally,  Jamie has a recipe for spicy mayo sauce that is super super easy and compliments the burger perfectly.

To go on top?...Lettuce, Tomatoes, and sliced gherkins?????  "What is a gherkin?" I wondered at the grocery store today.  London's skyline has a funky shaped building called the gherkin so I started there in my unsolved culinary mystery.  While looking for pickles (which I thought it strange were NOT included in the recipe)...I stumbled on little mini me pickles......GHERKINS!!!!  Now I know.  They are basically pickle babies!

Check out the recipe for this FANTASTIC burger below and also surf the site....that Jamie Oliver guy is quite good :)!


Slice em up and bake into fries!
I also made some fries but did them from scratch peeling potatoes,  boiling them briefly and then baking them in the oven.  I was pleasantly surprised by the crisp factor on this lighter variation of what is typically a very unhealthy side dish.

I got the recipe for these on epicurious.  See below:

"The Tester**" had a few thoughts also "The burgers were delicious and I liked the baked chips (fries) for a healthier alternative.  The burgers, because of all of the different things inside,  were very complex.  It wasn't too heavy on the meat.  It wasn't too over the top.  A big thumbs up for the American cooking!"

**The Tester will be coming up with a more catchy name.  Stay tuned.

 Tomorrow night I'm either going to do Chicken 'n Dumplings or Beer Can Chicken....we'll see.  Stay tuned and please comment or let me know if you try any of these and what you think!!!!!  Share my blog with all of your fellow foodies!  I have added a link just below where you can upload the blog directly to your facebook page or twitter feed.   Have a great week!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

World Cooking Challenge: AFRICA

I have decided to take on the project of cooking cuisines from all over the world with the focus being on any given region, country or continent over the course of a week's meals.  I have my resident partner in crime "The Tester**" who will sample all of the dishes and select his favorite at the end of the week.   I started my journey with a cuisine that intimidated me a bit as I have never really cooked (or eaten) it before.  It is spicy.  It is fresh.  It is....AFRICAN.

**The Tester is working on coming up with a more catchy name for himself.

Africa is the 2nd largest and 2nd most populated continent in the world just behind Asia. It's food is known for being almost completely organic and packed with fiber and nutrients given that the hot climate makes for fresh vegetables all year round. 

Gustavus Vassa was one of the earliest black African writers in the United Kingdom during the mid 1700's.  He once said in his narrative, that the traditional African food is free from "refinements in cookery which debauch the taste".  In other words,  African food is simple good fresh ingredients which produce tasty meals :)!

Let's look at my menu for the week.  All recipes came from my Epicurious App. for the iphone:

Monday:  Moroccan Chicken with Green Olives and Lemon
Tuesday: African Curried Coconut Soup with Chickpeas
Wednesday:  Charmoula Lamb Burgers
Thursday:  Burgers at Byron in Canary Wharf (Okay, fine...I didn't do a meal EVERY NIGHT!)
Friday:  A Chicken Pot Pie from Marks and Spencers (I KNOW I KNOW.  It was my first week and my brain was mush by the end!  I did a good 3 meals though :)!!!)


Not only was this my first go at an African dish,  but my first time braising a chicken.  I was anxious to see how the finished meat would taste after being primarily cooked in liquid.  I was fascinated by how the spices that go into these African dishes were quite similar to Indian cuisine with the exception that African food also includes a hint of sweetness.  In this particular meal it was the cinnamon and ginger that gave it more character.  I also made a side of Moroccan Style Carrots.  Again, spicy and sweet...delish.  Take a look at the recipe here and try it out...super easy and THE TESTER** chose this dish as his FAVORITE OF THE WEEK!!!!

Moroccan Chicken

Moroccan Carrots


African Curried Coconut Soup with Chickpeas

secret weapon
I know the tester chose the Monday dish as his favorite but I think this may have been mine.  I got about halfway through and was a bit let down that it seemed like many other stews I had made before....Tomato based with the kick of spice.  I realized that I needed to respect the cuisine after I added the coconut milk.  I was AMAZED at what it did for the flavor.  It was hot but then followed up by a sweet finish...absolutely amazing.  This is a vegetarian stew and you can make it even lighter without the rice but I recommend keeping it as it gives more texture and also makes your belly more full at the end ;)!  Again,  (and I'm finding this a lot now...) super easy.  We heated it up the following night to go with the lamb burgers and I even added the final chicken not eaten from Monday...all flavors blended beautifully and it was even better the next day!  I would recommend making this on a Sunday or Monday and enjoying it for a few days after (for all my busy peeps out there).

Curried Coconut Soup with Chickpeas:


I'm officially hardcore with this beauty!!!
Finally, and's only Wednesday...I technically failed at doing a FULL WEEK of dishes but I'm a work in progress......  we have the Charmoula Lamb Burgers.  According to my research, Charmoula is a marinade used mostly in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.  I used cumin, coriander, sweet paprika, cinnamon, cayenne and cilantro in my mixture that was added to the ground lamb.  On the side,  I made an olive tapenade which is much more difficult to make with out a food processor...take it from me!  I have never chopped olives so furiously in my life!  It was well worth the effort as the lemon mixed with the garlic and olives were absolutely delicious.  I think I might be starting to get this cooking thing!  The big story from this night was my burn I got while preparing plates for The TESTER** and myself.  I have included a photo here and am excited to think that I have earned a certain level of street cred and hardcore factor with this wound!!!!  If you know me,  you know that I love a good scar (I should...I have many of them...they are like my tattoos) so I'm hoping this can be my cooking scar!!!!  Anyway,  the burgers were finished off with sliced tomatoes tucked into grilled pitas.  They were wonderful also.

Charmian Lamb Burgers:

Next week,  I tackle AMERICA.  I wonder if McDonalds delivers ;).