Chicken and Groundnut Stew

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It’s already the first week of 2017, and as I didn’t get to eat any black eyed peas or collard greens at New Year I’ll have to make my own luck.

This week – recipe-wise – I’m taking a swing by Jamaica, via West Africa.

For this recipe post I’m ‘cooking the book’ and adapting a recipe from the cookbook ‘Jamaican cooking: 140 roadside and homestyle recipes’ (1997) by Lucinda Scala Quinn.

If you have a peanut allergy of any type then sadly this recipe isn’t for you.

Groundnut stew is common in much of West Africa. It originates from the Mandinka and Bambara people of Mali. In Wolof it’s called Maafe.

Recipes for the stew vary, but can include chicken, tomato, onion, garlic, cabbage, and leaf or root vegetables. Other versions include okra, corn, carrots, cinnamon, hot peppers, paprika, black pepper, turmeric, cumin, and other spices. Maafe is traditionally served with white rice, fonio or millet porridge in Mali, couscous, or fufu and sweet potatoes.

The African continent is the home of many ingredients now widely available in the African diaspora — from peanuts to yam, corn and pumpkin.

The use of peanuts in Jamaican cooking comes from a West African tradition. Most Jamaicans are familiar with the word pinda from a line in a children’s game, “Pop-si kai-si go pinda (peanut) shell.” 

You can add diced sweet potato instead of green beans to this recipe while the stew is cooking, or serve the chicken with a side of mixed greens, salad, and/or rice.

Although this recipe uses supermarket products – peanut butter and ketchup – those flavours blend together beautifully into a rich, semi-sweet sauce.

If you like you can use a whole chicken and cut it into 8 pieces yourself, but I’ve chosen to to adapt the original recipe and make the meal prep faster so I used pre-cut chicken thigh fillets and I’ve simplified the cooking style.

Chicken and Groundnut (Peanut) Stew

Makes 4 servings

6 chicken thigh fillets, skinless, each cut in half
1 small white onion, peeled, and diced
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped finely
2 1/2 cups water
2 T peanut oil
3/4 cup tomato sauce (ketchup)
2/3 cup crunchy peanut butter 
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or preferably, 1/2 a Scotch bonnet chilli seeded and minced – I couldn’t locate any scotch bonnet chillies, which add a sweet smokey heat, so I instead I used half a red habanero chilli. Be careful using fresh hot chillis and don’t touch your eyes!
A good handful of green beans, cut into pieces 

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the thigh fillet pieces (keep them loosely rolled up) and cook until lightly browned on each side.

Add the chopped onion, and ginger, and stirring, for about 3 minutes. Add tomato sauce and cook 3 mins more. Blend in the peanut butter, and stir in the water, salt and chilli pieces (or cayenne pepper).

Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, and cook uncovered until the chicken for 15-20 mins, or until the chicken pieces are tender and cooked through.

If using green beans, add them half way through the cooking time.

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Serve your Groundnut stew with a side of steamed rice, vegetables, or salad.

This stew can be cooked in advance and gently reheated with a little water.

Recipe adapted from ‘Jamaican cooking: 140 roadside and homestyle recipes’ (1997) by Lucinda Scala Quinn.

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Thanksgiving Pumpkin Ice Cream

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Had. To. Try. It.  In time for Thanksgiving!

With only 80gm of sugar in the whole recipe, what’s not to like?

How does it taste? The flavour of this Ice Cream is a sweet, subtle pumpkin flavour, with a very creamy, dense texture.

Don’t try making this with canned butternut pumpkin – I know you wouldn’t – it must be fresh! Did you know that the orange flesh of butternut pumpkin is naturally sweet? So there’s no need to kill the flavour with excessive amounts of sugar.

If you’re worried any recipe for Pumpkin Ice Cream for Thanksgiving is full of ‘pumpkin spice’ because you are so over that flavour, relax! The only ingredients in this recipe are cream, milk, sugar, and pumpkin. If you want to add a touch of spice I suggest grating half a teaspoon of fresh nutmeg into the pumpkin puree mixture. Trust me, forget the cinnamon and just grate in the nutmeg, to taste.

You’ll need an electric ice-cream maker to make this. Mine is a clunky older style but works fine. Check the ice cream maker specification and quantities for yours against this recipe before starting as my recipe uses more cream than milk.

Let’s get started…

PUMPKIN ICE CREAM

Yields: approx. 3 cups
Serve with pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie, pudding, waffles, pancakes, or in ice cream cones.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups cooked butternut pumpkin
1 cup (8 oz.) of thick pouring cream
½ cup (2.5 oz.) of cold full cream milk
Orange Americolor food colouring gel – I used ½ teaspoon, or personal preference

3 egg yolks (use the leftover egg whites to make meringue – they stay fresh for 2-3 days)
1/3 cup of superfine white sugar
1 level Tblspn light brown sugar

7 oz. thick pouring cream

How to make Pumpkin Ice Cream

Step 1

Dice enough butternut pumpkin to fill 1 ½ cups, and steam in a medium saucepan until soft.

Take off the heat, and put aside to cool. When cool, transfer pumpkin into a small bowl and put into the fridge for 15-30 minutes until completely cold.

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Step 2

Take the pumpkin mixture out of the fridge and spoon it into a food processor. Pour in the cup of cream and half a cup of milk, and puree until there are no lumps in the mixture. Then add the orange food colour to the pumpkin puree, and pulse again until completely mixed through. Set aside.

Step 3

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the egg yolks and sugar until fluffy and thoroughly mixed.

Stir in the pumpkin puree and mix through thoroughly.

Step 4

In another medium sized bowl, use an electric mixer to whip the remaining cream until stiff peaks form.

Fold the cream into the egg and pumpkin mixture, and whisk briefly until well combined.

Switch on your ice cream machine and pour in the mixture. Start churning the ice cream, to the manufacturer’s instructions.

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Pimp My Plate #27 – Cambridge, MA

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This month PIMP MY PLATE visits the USA to see if Boston can pimp my plate. With AUD$19 currently equivalent to USD$14.50 excluding tips and taxes there’s no set budget in my search for flavour.

‘Soul food made with 100% love’

The Coast Cafe

I don’t have a bucket list as such. My plan is to munch my way around the world, leaving a stack of empty plates behind me.

Some of those plates would have been heaped with soul food – collard greens, wing tips, BBQ, cornbread…

And if you live in Australia like I do, it requires a passport to achieve this particular soul food goal.

I’m so dedicated to this concept that in 2013 I wrote a book about soul food, Soulicious, after eating my way through as many soul food restaurants in the USA as I could waddle into.

I remember my first taste of collard greens – my Collard Greens Initiation – at Brown Sugar in Oakland.  I remember munching my last plate of greens in 2015 so it’s been a long time between greens!

Before flying to Boston, I sat in wintery Sydney reading Korsha Wilson’s article about Tony Brooks’ COAST CAFÉ. For twelve years this iconic soul food café has been serving Southern dishes to hungry northerners from its tiny storefront in River Street.

In the article, Brooks explains that the recipes originally came from his mother, who grew up in Mississippi, and his father, who was from Connecticut. These days he adds his own tweaks to recipes.

I add THE COAST CAFÉ to my Boston ‘To Do’ List.

*  *  *

I finally arrive in Boston on a Sunday, after 27 hours travelling time.
THE COAST CAFÉ is only open Wednesday to Saturday so I’ll have to wait.

*  *  *

‘Taxi!’

As we drove across the Charles River, my taxi driver informed me that we were now in Cambridge, not ‘Boston’.

As we neared THE COAST CAFÉ signage and pulled over at 233 River Street, I was suddenly VERY HUNGRY.

Starters.
Sandwiches.
Sides.
Special side orders.
Combo plates.
Coffee.

After my collard greens drought, my choice of two sides is easy – collards, and mac’n’cheese.

BBQ Pork and Beef Ribs (USD$15.49) are on the blackboard menu but then I see CATFISH (USD$16.59).

Back home, Australians are big on BBQ but we don’t eat catfish. There’s catfish in some of our waterways, but it’s not on our menus.

Barramundi is our rock star fish as any tourist knows. It can live in freshwater or saltwater – in streams, rivers, lakes, billabongs, estuaries and coastal waters. We also eat a wide range of saltwater fish that includes snapper and bream, and river fish like rainbow trout.

Pretty much everything except catfish, so I seize the opportunity.

There’s a choice of BBQ Wings or Coast Wings (USD$10.59). When I ask the difference between the two I’m told the Coast Wings aren’t rolled in a layer of flour before frying, so I order them. There’s homemade BBQ or Jerk sauce for the wings – I order Jerk Sauce.

That covers the entrée, sides, and main. What’s missing? Dessert.
It’s been a long while since I last ate Banana Pudding

I take a seat and check my phone messages, IMs, emails, Facebook, and flight times.

A black box with plastic cutlery arrives with cornbread and coleslaw.
I flip it open and dive in…

It’s the best Catfish I’ve ever eaten – super fresh, perfectly crumbed and perfectly cooked.

And that first mouth full of collard greens is Oh-So-Good after oh so long!

There’s no satisfactory substitute for collard greens. Not mustard greens. Not spinach. Not turnip tops. Just …. no.

As soon as the Coast Wings arrive in their red striped box, I crack open the container of Jerk sauce and start dipping. Oh. My. Yes!

When the banana pudding arrives there’s no meringue topping  – ok I am disappointed – but the custard is studded with fresh banana slices and Nilla Wafer pieces.

We do have banana pudding in Australia, but we don’t have Nilla Wafer biscuits and we do it differently – no vanilla wafers.

No collards, no catfish, no Nilla Wafers – now do you understand why I mainline soul food at every opportunity?

Soul food is feel good food. And I feel good.

Looking around I notice a number of soulful messages pinned up on the walls of the café, and I’m sure there’s a backstory to each of them.

However, the owner, Tony Brooks, takes me by surprise by suddenly appearing from the kitchen to say hello! It’s really nice to meet the man on the t-shirt and have a chat. I tell him I’ve travelled all the way from Australia to eat at his café, and that’s no lie.

It’s also no secret that Tony has plans to expand to other locations soon. I suggest he opens a store in Australia as well, Sydney perhaps?

He seems to think it’s a good idea, but I better not hold my breath. But why not plant the seed, right?

Wherever they do open next I envy their customers because COAST CAFÉ serves some of the most mouth friendly soul food I’ve eaten. It’s not fancy, it’s simply delicious.

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RATED: Pimped!  FOOD: 4/5
VALUE: 4/5   ATMOS: 4/5   VIBE:  Feel Good & Good eating
THE COAST CAFÉ – 233 River St, Cambridge, MA 02139

Visit me on facebook at Awia’s Kitchen or twitter: @pimpmyplate  

 

 

Pimp My Plate #19 – Burrawang, NSW

PIMP MY PLATE is my weekly series of reviews of cafés and restaurants in city and regional areas. My food challenge to have my lunch-or-brunch plate pimped for $19 or less.

‘Come on baby, light my fire’

Burrawang General Store Cafe

Burrawang is a small village in the Southern Highlands popular with day trippers and weekenders. A city getaway, it oozes with charm – pretty cottages, large trees, and rolling hills dotted with dairy cattle.

It truly is a breath of fresh country air. Breathe deeply and you’ll recalibrate your senses.

Depending on which route you take it’s less than a 2 hr drive from Sydney, mostly by freeway. Take some of the back roads though, and you’ll drive past farmhouses with sprawling acreage dotted with dairy cattle, and the occasional slumbering grey donkey.

It’s likely you’ll drive through the town of Robertson enroute to Burrawang. With its rich volcanic soil this is potato growing country, and Robertson is still famous for its potatoes. And if you had any doubts, look out for the iconic giant potato photo stop on the main street.

On my last visit to the Southern Highlands I stopped at a roadside stall to buy paper bags full of spuds – Purple Sapphires, Dutch Crème, and Kestrels.

My friends moved to the Southern Highlands from Sydney for more space and a different pace. They suggested we eat at the Burrawang Village Hotel but the kitchen had closed early for a special event. The beer garden behind the hotel has sweeping views of the countryside, but today it was too cold to sit outdoors. A more popular spot was a bar stool next to the open fireplace. Primal and sensible!

Further up the street we noticed the green roof, and red and yellow façade of the Burrawang General Store Café, nestled inside an 1860’s heritage building. The stone steps leading up to the front door are original, and well-trodden.

It was nice to step out of the chilly air into a cosy, busy space, with a glowing fireplace.

The tables were full of food and chatter and above our heads, the vaulted wooden ceiling looked like an enormous upturned boat, varnished the colour of hot buttered toast.

It was a public holiday weekend so I decided to stretch the Pimp My Plate budget to $29.

On such a wintery day our appetites screamed ‘soul food!’ We ordered Three-way Meatloaf (a mixture of pork, beef, lamb) served with charred broccoli + potato mash; Lobster Macaroni Cheese and one of the Specials – Lamb Shank Shepherd’s Pie.  So special there were barely two plates of it left.

The Southern Highlands is dotted with boutique wineries, and the café menu includes several local selections.

We scrutinised the dessert menu before we would let the waiter leave our table …. Red Velvet Brownie, Homemade Scones with butter (without the jam, curd, and cream on offer), and the oh-so-naughty-but-who-cares-order-it-anyway Eton Mess. Yes!

The meals were hearty winter fare – warming and satisfying. It being ‘potato country’ I expected more potato on my Shepherd’s Pie – maybe even too much – but that’s a minor glitch, and more about my eyeing the potato mash on my friend’s plate of meatloaf.

The standout dessert – notice how I rushed ahead (?) – was the Red Velvet Brownie served with ice cream. There is an exponential curve in relation to increased cold weather and increased sugar consumption, at least at our table.

Now I know there are two camps when it comes to ‘team brownie’. One group likes them fudgy and gooey, the other group (me) prefers them dense and cake-like. This dark red-brown version ticked all my boxes – if only I hadn’t agreed to ‘share’.

Burrawang General Store Café has the rustic charm of an old general store, with shelves of bric-a-brac, and vintage games like Pirates Push Puppets, and dominoes, and even packs of family card games, as well as essential oils and botannicals.

On a grey rainy day I can easily imagine spending quite a few hours here, shuffling through ‘family’ card games, chatting, and sipping mugs of hot chocolate or a glass of the local vintage.

It’s June, so take a day trip up here soon before it gets really cold, and be sure visit some of the wineries and produce stalls.

I bought my potatoes at a roadside but Highland Gourmet Potatoes sells a huge variety: http://highlandgourmetpotatoes.com.au/varieties/

RATED: PIMPED!  FOOD: 4/5
VALUE: 3.5/5   ATMOS: 5/5   VIBE: A cosy winter oasis, do we really have to leave?
BURRAWANG GENERAL STORE – 11 Hoddle St, Burrawang, NSW (02 4886 4496)

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Pimp My Plate #1 – AVALON

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Introducing PIMP MY PLATE – my weekly series of reviews of cafés and restaurants in city and regional areas – I pop up all over over the place. My foodie challenge to find a good meal – lunch or brunch – with a limited budget of $18 or less for for the main plate.

nourish Café

Grey sky, brisk wind, hey let’s go to the beach! Avalon Beach was closed but the brisk waves drew boardriders and the cafés were open, and cockatoos munched on Nature’s green stuff. Nourish cafe offers a lot of healthy juices, smoothies, paleo food bars, yummy healthy cakes, and freshly assembled brunch and lunch bites. The Corn Fritters pimped my plate with freshness, and offered brunch value for $17 but needed a bit more flavour – spices or chilli would have kicked these pancake-fritters into the stratosphere. The paleo nut slice ($6) was fridge cold but I did a ‘take out’ and warmed to room temperature, it offered a chewy fusion of walnuts, green pistachios, cranberries (not too many, yey!) and was YUM. The mango-beetroot smoothy failed my mouth test with it’s slushy crushed ice consistency so shall remain anonymous.

Rated: Pimped by good value and freshness!  Food: 4/5
Atmosphere: 3/5 Vibe: All ages, chillaxed
nourish café – 17 Avalon Parade, Avalon Beach

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All images © Awia Markey

Rose petal shortbread

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From the moment I saw a large jar of dark pink rose petals on the counter of my local delicatessen, I’ve wanted to cook with them.

I decided Rose Petals would taste nice in shortbread.

Awia’s Rose-flavoured Shortbread Biscuits
(Makes 24 cookies)

2 tablespoons of dried Rose petals*
4 teaspoons rosewater* & 1 teaspoon water
115 g (4 oz) unsalted butter, diced, at room temperature
10 g (half oz) coconut sugar
45 g (1 ½ oz) caster sugar
180g (6 oz) plain flour, sifted
Baking paper to line cookie tray
(*available from Middle Eastern and select delicatessens)

Preheat your oven to 160 o C (3250F)

Put half the quantity of rose petals into a cup, and using a small pair of scissors, snip into finer pieces. Mix in the remaining petals, and pour the rosewater-water mixture over and stir through. Leave to sit for half an hour until the petals have absorbed all the rosewater and are soft.

In a medium sized bowl cream the butter and coconut and caster sugars until smooth. It’s a small quantity of dough to work with, so I find it easier to just use a knife and wooden spoon to cut the butter into the sugar and beat together. Then mix the rose petals through using a fork.

Gradually work the flour into the dough mix. Then roll the dough into a ball in your hands, and place onto a floured board. Rather than using a rolling pin, I use the heel of my hand and work from the centre outwards, flattening out the dough until it is 0.5 cm (1/4 inch) thick.

Line a baking sheet with baking paper and rub with butter.
Use a 5cm (2 in) round cutter to cut out the cookie shapes, and a butter knife to gently lift them off the board and onto a baking tray. You can snip off any over-hanging petals, or leave them on for a more rustic effect.
Carefully place the cookies onto the baking sheet and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the shortbread biscuits are just changing colour, don’t overcook them. Cool the biscuits on a wire rack then store in an air-tight cake tin.

Visit me on facebook at  Awia’s Kitchen  for what’s happening now
All images © Awia Markey