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 ;).

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