My Global Food Challenge

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bahrain-flagBahārāt, the plural of bahār (meaning spice in Arabic), is a great spice blend usually found in Middle Eastern cuisine, the components of which differ regionally and culturally. I have used this mix before, for both Iraq and Syria (click on Syria for my take on the spice blend recipe, which moves more toward the savory than the sweet), and I have come to appreciate the aromas and flavors of these various global seasonings (see Spice Blends).

Additions/Omissions: I only used baharat spice blend and omitted the khaliji mixed spice (Gulf Spices – Ibzar).

Taste Test: As you probably can tell, I really like the baharat spice blends.

Zip Facts about Bahrain:

  • In 2002, a new Constitution was created which stipulated an elected Parliament and gave women the right to vote for the first time in Bahrain
  • “Bahrain” in Arabic means two sources of water (the dual form of “bahr” or sea), salt water from the seas and sweet water from the springs
  • Standing alone in the Desert of Bahrain is the “Tree of Life”, a 400 year-old Mesquite tree, the water source of which is unknown
  • According to some scholars, the area surrounding Bahrain was the ancient land of Dilmun, which bears some semblance to the “Garden of Eden”
  • Generally, greetings are lengthy and everyone stands when someone enters the room. After shaking hands, touching one’s hand to the heart is a sign of affection.  Men and women may shake hands but only if initiated by the woman

Bahrain Yousif A4-221Nasser Al-Yousif (1940 – 2006), “Hope” 1978

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232px-Bahrain_2008_Nursing_b (1)

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Bosnia and Herzegovina

bosnia-flagI have learned a few things about cooking with wine and other alcohols by exploring these global recipes and by watching some of my favorite chefs on the Food Network, the Cooking Channel, or Create.   I have known for many years that the first rule in cooking with wine is to choose one that you like to drink and not a “cooking wine,” although I have to admit that I do have a bottle or two of “good” cooking wines in my pantry for “emergency” situations.   You need to consider the extra salts and additives, if you elect to use them and certainly do so sparingly.  A few more tips:  use wine for marinating vegetables and meats (or use at room temperature to tenderize), use for basting with melted butter or oil, and make sure to reduce wine slowly over low heat in pan or pot to evaporate alcohol (1/2 cup of wine down to 2 tablespoons reduction).

Additions/Omissions: used beef and veal and a really good Sauvignon Blanc for stew.  I did change the cooking method, as I sometimes do, either using a crock pot or Dutch oven for soups and stews.  For this stew, which requires layering of flavors, I used a Dutch oven which I started on medium heat on the stovetop and finished in a preheated 350oC oven for about an hour.

Taste Test: very good

Zip Facts about Bosnia and Herzegovina:

  • When the XIV Olympic Winter Games were held in 1984 in Sarajevo, the capital city, it was the first Winter Olympics to be held in a communist country, then Yugoslavia. Bosnia and Herzegovina gained their independence from Yugoslavia in 1992
  • The official currency, the Bosnian Convertible Mark (BAM), cannot be bought or exchanged outside of the country
  • The difference between a Bosnian and a Herzegovinian is not an ethnic distinction, but a regional one
  • “Celebratory gunfire” is still shot into the air before and after big events such as weddings and birth receptions
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina boasts the world’s tenth highest coffee consumption per capital. Rakija, Bosnian plum brandy, generally thought to have “health” benefits, is consumed and offered to guests with abandon

Bosnia MicaMica Todorović (1900-1984) – called “the first lady of Bosnian and Herzegovinian painting”

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bhutan-flagKewa Datshi (potatoes with chillies and cheese) is a favorite Bhutanese dish, made with sun dried red and green chillies and local semi-dry cottage cheese.  The recipe I chose called for chili powder, which I used, but I am sure it would even be better with red and green chillies. There are other “Datshi” dishes you might also like to try: Ema Datshi, which are just the chilies with cheese, or add mushrooms to the basic recipe for Shamu Datshi.

Additions/Omissions:   I used equal parts of swiss and gruyere for the Kewa Datshi.

Taste Test: The chicken and cucumber dishes were also good.

Zip Facts about Bhutan:

  • Bhutan is a landlocked country and is considered one of the most isolated nations in the world, not only because of its geography but also intentionally to preserve its identity, traditional culture, and its environment
  • Business Week named Bhutan the happiest country in Asia and eight on the list of the happiest nations in the world
  • Bhutan is the only country in the world where tobacco sales are banned. Television and internet access were also banned until 1999
  • Colors denote social class and status in Bhutan’s mandatory dress code, traditional dress is knee-length for men and ankle-length for women
  • Polygamy is legal in Bhutan, but not very common. Marrying foreigners is not permissible

Bhutan IMG_1483Phurba Namgay, “Dragon Has Nice Tail”

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botswana-flagThis recipe reminds me of how much I don’t know about making pastry, even the savory kind.  I did have some issues with rolling and folding the dough.  I could tell that my pastry was a bit too thick when I cut out the 6-inch circles.  I tried to roll it thinner, but the pastry did not hold up to the filling.

Additions/Omissions:   I followed this recipe exactly, no modifications.

Taste Test:  The filling by itself was incredibly moist and flavorful.

Zip Facts about Botswana:

  • Botswana is one of the “Four Corners of Africa”, the only place in the world where four countries meet, joining Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe
  • It probably does not rain money in Botswana, but the national currency is “Pula”, which means “rain”
  • Batswana (the plural form of people from Botswana) sometimes refer to foreigners as “lekgoa”, which could be translated as “spat out by the sea”
  • Botswana is the world’s largest producer of valued diamonds
  • Despite the fact that Botswana has the largest elephant population in Africa, the national animal is the zebra

Botswana - GolliferAnn Gollifer, “What am I Doing Here? Ke Dirang Ha?” exhibition

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Burkina Faso

burkina faso-flagGinger confit? Not having any formal training and learning as I go, I have heard about, but never made, duck confit. But ginger confit, was this a condiment or a method of cooking?

Confit comes from the French “confire” (to preserve), and was originally a way to slow cook foods like meats, fruits, and vegetables, and store in the sugary or fatty liquid to to form a barrier to bacterial growth. I recently learned that there is a big difference between barbecue and grilling (I probably watch a little too much “Chopped” on Food Network), and I believe the same analogy had been made between confit and deep frying, a matter of time and temperature. Low and slow, with the fat temperature between 190 and 200 degrees F.

So maybe it is just semantics, preparing a ginger “confit” to confit the chicken.

Additions/Omissions:  Always on the lookout for good substitutions for fish sauce (see link below for recipe)

Taste Test:  Very good

Zip Facts about Burkina Faso:

  • Formerly Upper Volta, named for the headwaters of three waterways, the Black, White, and Red Volta Rivers, Burkina Faso gained independence from France in 1960
  • Burkina Faso is second to South Africa in its production of GMO crops. As a landlocked country south of the Sahara Desert, drought is a major concern
  • In the Moore language, the country’s name means “Land of Incorruptible (or Honorable Men”)
  • Fertility rates in Burkina Faso are very high, Burkinake women average six children which has increased the population drastically in the last century
  • Africa’s most prominent film festival, the biennial Fespaco is held in Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso HarounaHarouna Ouédraogo

Link to Recipe:

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benin-flagI found recipes for chicken, with peanuts and red palm oil.  This is the first time I have come across red palm oil in cooking, despite the fact that I have done scientific research on isolated and purified vitamin constituents, particularly vitamin E tocotrienols, like those found in red palm oil.  I wasn’t sure of the taste, but the health benefits are well documented.

I wanted to translate those ingredients and flavors into a pretty tasty meatball.  I generally come up with a meatball recipe whenever I am craving a pasta dinner, especially when I am searching for recipes from a country that does not normally cook or eat pasta.  The trick is to balance the taste and texture when adding different ingredients.   Sometimes with ground chicken it is a little more difficult than ground beef, pork, or lamb to maintain the proper consistency as meatballs.

Additions/Omissions:  My recipe

Taste Test:  Good flavor and texture

Zip Facts about Benin:

  • From 1960 to 1975, the Republic of Benin was known as Dahomey. The name Benin comes from the Bight of Benin, a bay in the Gulf of Guinea
  • The magical religion Voodoo, still practiced in parts of Benin, derives its name from the word “vodun” which, in the Fon language of the Beninese, means “god” or “spirit”
  • ‘A rose by any other name…’ the capital city of Benin is known as the “City with Three Names”: Porto-Novo, Adjatche, and Hogbonou
  • When greeting, men shake with their right hands, and deference is given to the eldest person
  • For the Beninese, the main economic activity was farming and because many hands were needed on the family farms, the incidences of polygamy increased

Benin RafiyRafiy Okefolahan, “Children At Play”

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VIP Cooking Demo

What a wonderful opportunity to take a night off from my kitchen last evening with an invitation to a cooking demo with Executive Sous Chef Matt Heisel from Dan Rooney’s at Empire City Casino in Yonkers, NY.  The menu was an early St. Patrick’s day feast, starting with an Buffalo chicken terrine on a blue cheese mixed green salad.  It was followed by the entree, Corned, bone in beef ribs (fit for the Flintstones) with a special honey-Guinness glaze, scalloped potatoes with fresh rosemary and thyme, and a simple and bright green jalapeno coleslaw.  I was accompanied by my future son-in-law who shares my love of good food preparation.  I wasn’t planning to eat a full meal, and was happy to have one or two bites to taste.  Until it came to the corned beef, one or two bites lead to three or ten. Not so amazingly but very deliciously, after 5 days of brining, 4 hours of smoking, and 4 hours of roastng, the ample meat practically leapt off the bone with just a touch of the fork.  If that wasn’t enough, the meal finished with a Bailey’s chocolate mousse pie.  Need I say more.

While it was a bit more eating than demo, I did pick up a few tips and will probably make the green jalapeno slaw, and the Bailey’s chocolate mousse pie, if I can get the recipe from Chef Heisel.  Dan Rooney’s at Empire City is a fun sports bar/restaurant, so if you are in the area at game time, stop by and give it a try.