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Posts Tagged ‘dairy-free’

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It seems the right time of year for this sentimental series, but here in the UK I am at a loss for the island’s most distinctive proteins. I know that I am not going to find seal meat, just forget it. Faux-moose stew made with beef is really just beef stew; ditto caribou. I have eaten farm-raised rabbit before, and it bears not a lick of resemblance to the wild version at home. In a restaurant in Italy last year, a waiter brought me rabbit and I tried to send it back because I thought he had mistakenly brought me chicken. But even though my fishmonger has no fresh cod tongue today, any immigrant grocer catering to ex-pats from the West Indies, northern Spain or coastal India will carry salted cod fillet on his shelf. The salting of North-Atlantic cod was a major occupation for generations of Newfoundlanders, up until electricity and thereby refrigeration became commonplace on land and at sea, and many traditional dishes use salted cod, often with ingredients like potatoes and pork fat.

This is the kind of simple recipe one employs to make away with leftovers. I love mashed-potato-bound cakes fried in hot oil because they achieve a browned-crispiness on their faces while retaining the creaminess of mashed potato inside. For these cod cakes I used last night’s mashed potatoes straight out of the refrigerator without even warming them up, and although I had to be gentle, the cakes held together admirably. When I mash potatoes, I use a medium- or high-starch variety, mashing them while still hot, first with butter and then with whole milk, which does make them smoother and stickier. Suprisingly, these salt-cod cakes are not particularly salty after soaking the fillets overnight. The most delicate issue when dealing with salt cod is the odour: it stinks, particularly during the initial boiling (once cooked and bound with potato the smell all but disappears). In summertime, open the window. In winter, simmer a splash of vanilla essence in a small saucepan of water. A Belarusian visitor who stopped by recently to look at my babka and reminisce about his childhood got me thinking about scruncheons, the crisped skin of a pork belly (you may know them as cracklins or scratchings) and salt-cod. I have some pink-veined pig skin here right now (having removed it from the riblets that I am presently salt-curing in the hopes of a Jiggs’ Dinner on Christmas Day), so I made my salt-cod cakes with rendered pork fat and garnished them with crispy scruncheons. (Disclaimer: scruncheons are very bad for you and you shouldn’t be eating them).

I think your choice of beverage depends upon your accompaniments here. If you go creamy, like a (gluten-free) parsely bechamel, then an un-oaked chardonnay would be nice, but with lemon squeezes a Loire muscadet would be better. Or go Basque with a manzanilla sherry and a mayonnaise-based sauce. Of course, if the salt-cod cakes are for breakfast, you’ll already be having a cup of sweet tea made milky with a tin of Carnation, won’t you?

Newfoundland Salt-cod Cakes

40 minutes after an overnight soak, including 20 minutes boiling; serves 4.

1 lb salted cod fillets
4 cups left-over mashed potato (medium- to high-starch variety, like Yukon Gold, Maris Piper, or Russet)
2 Tbsp pork fat rendered from scruncheons (or sunflower oil or corn oil)

1. Cover the salt cod in an excess of fresh water and let it soak overnight on the counter.
2. Remove the cod and immerse it in fresh water in a saucepan. Boil for twenty minutes.
3. Drain the cod, skin it, and remove any bones. Flake your fish.
4. Mix the cod with the potato. No need for salt. Shape into twelve balls and then flatten into cakes about 3/4″ thick.
5. In a heavy frying pan (cast-iron is excellent) over medium heat gently fry your handful of scrucheons until crisp, then remove them. Alternatively, heat your vegetable oil to near smoking.
6. Over medium heat fry the cakes, in batches if necessary, to crisp them on the outside and heat them through. Perhaps six minutes on the first side, then flipped gingerly for four minutes on the second, depending on your pan and heat source. Serve hot.

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Kisiel (or kissel) is a pan-Slavic dessert, served either warm or chilled, the texture of which typically falls between a soup and a pudding. A traditional kisiel is made of a sour fruit, and Belarusians have a well-developed appreciation for the sour (eg. rye bread, soured cream, saurkraut). For the holidays, here is the simplest cranberry pudding, quick and easily made the day before if you like. The balanced sweet-sourness of a kisiel is a refreshing change from all those creamy holiday desserts, as it concentrates on the tart flavour of cranberries, the quintessential holiday berry. That said, this kisiel would love some sour cream or creme fraiche stirred into it, and perhaps a pinch of powdered cinammon dusted over, too.

There is very little to say about this pudding, technically. As it cools the percieved sweetness will change, so if it seems too sweet when warm rest assured that this will dull with chilling. Conversly, if you’d like to serve your kisiel warm you might like to reduce the sugar, too. What will change much less with cooling is its thickness. A classical kisiel has a rather fluid set, more fluid than western-European puddings, and I suspect that the incredible pectin level of the cranberries does as much of the setting as the potato starch (it is also true that available pectin levels change as fruits ripen, so any particular batch may give results that are a little more or less firm). But on any occasion what you see hot in the saucepan is essentially what you’ll get: the kisiel will thicken some more as it cools, but not much. If you would like it thicker, heat it back to a simmer add another 1/2 Tbsp of starch slurry in water, and see if you like that better. This recipe is for a simple naked cranberry pudding, so use the best ones you can find. To jazz-it-up, the aforementioned creams and cinammon would be nice, and a contribution from an orange would be lovely, too.

Belarusian Cranberry Pudding (Kisiel)

20 Minutes; serves four

hot water
3/4 lb fresh cranberries
3/4 cup cup sugar
1 Tbsp potato starch (may substitute 1 1/2 Tbsp corn or tapioca starch)
1 tsp sugar

1. Put the kettle on the boil. Don an apron; cranberry stains are stubborn.
2. Pick through your cranberries for rotten ones and give the cleaned bunch a rinse. Place them in a small saucepan with 3/4 cup water, bring to the boil, and simmer for ten minutes to pop them all open.
3. Mash the cranberries with a potato masher in the saucepan. Strain through a sieve, pushing the pulp around with a spoon. When it has mostly drained, rinse the pulp with 1/2 cup of hot water. Repeat. Scrape off the underside of the sieve.
4. Return the strained juice to the saucepan and heat to dissolve 3/4 cup of sugar in it. Stir as you heat to a simmer.
5. Make a slurry of the potato starch with 1 Tbsp room-temperature water. Stir the slurry into the cranberries and keep stirring as you heat to thicken.
6. Grind the 1 teaspoon of sugar in a mortar. Pour your pudding into serving vessels (via a funnel, perhaps) and sprinkle the sugar lightly on top to foil its attempt to skin-over. Chill and serve.

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Traditional Belarusian cookery makes much of buckwheat, a plant that grows better than wheat (no relation) under Belarus’ climatic and soil conditions. This example of a buckwheat pilaf is made with hulled wholegrain buckwheat seeds, whole seeds not yet cracked into the groats used for kasha. The seasonings are classic Belarus: bay leaf and black pepper to “beef-up” the vegetable stock (or enhance a meat stock), and finely-diced mushroom for an earthy flavour top complement the nuttiness of buckwheat. In Belarus a buckwheat pilaf might be eaten on its own, or with a sour cream garnish, or placed inside a roasting dusk or goose, a coincidentally gluten-free stuffing for your Holidays. Without the bird, this moist and flavourful pilaf would be a great substitute for holiday stuffing, served as a garnish beside your goose or turkey but without all the saturated fat. Serve or stuff, it’s up to you.

The single most important thing when making this pilaf is to purchase hulled wholegrain buckwheat seeds in their curvy-pyramidal entirety, not the cracked or ground version of same. The wholegrain seed will hold its shape better while remaining more distinct in the pilaf; cracked kasha, which is the Slavic term for porridge, tends to become just that. The instructions on my bag of grains, plain-old Tesco house brand, read to boil for half an hour, a cooking time that presumably would have given me porridge. Pilaf tenderness was arrived at in ten minutes. Many buckwheat pilaf recipes toast egg-smeared groats or seeds in order to keep them distinct, but this is not strictly necessary with uncracked seeds. Whole hulled grains that are well-toasted alone, simmered gently and not overcooked hold their shape well. It is important that the pilaf be reasonably dry at the end if it is to be fluffy, so it’s a good idea to knock it around a little on a large plate to let it steam-off. The onion and mushrooms are chopped very finely for uniformity, and the mushrooms are added late so that they retain their moisture. The amount made here should stuff a chicken easily, but to stuff a big turkey (or an astoundingly hollow goose) you would obviously need to make more. At worst, have some left over for a healthy side, or to use in the next day’s soup.

hotm150.jpgBy reading Dianne’s and Ilva’s blogs, I learned about the Heart of the Matter (HotM) Event Number 9: Holiday Food, which draws attention to heart-healthy eating and is coordinated this month by The Accidental Scientist. In my home I cook for multiple food allergies, some transient and some permanent, and I have a great deal of sympathy for anyone struggling to accomodate yet one more dietary need. So, in my first-ever entry into anything of the kind, I’m submitting this post to the HotM9 Event, as a gluten-free heart-healthy holiday food. In particular, I would like to dedicate this recipe to Dianne’s husband, and wish him a steady recovery from heart attack.

By my back-of-the-napkin calculations, I believe that each serving of pilaf (made with a low sodium vegetable broth, knowing nothing of that roast, and with no additional salt) contains: 275 kcal; 5g total fat; 1g saturated fat; 0g trans fat; 0mg cholesterol; 75mg sodium; 50g total carbohydrate; 3g fibre; 5g sugar; 9g protien. Pardon my sig digs.

Belarusian Buckwheat Mushroom Pilaf (or Stuffing)

Twenty minutes; serves four

2 cups vegetable broth (may substitute chicken or beef broth)
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
1 cup wholegrain hulled buckwheat
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely diced almost as small as the dry buckwheat
4 oz mushrooms, finely diced almost as small as the dry buckwheat
cracked black pepper
salt, as you wish

1. In a medium saucepan heat the broth to a boil with the bay leaf and black pepper.
2. In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet dry-toast the buckwheat over medium-low heat. Keep stirring and shaking and moving them around for a few minutes as they lose their green tint and turn a nut-brown.
3. Add the buckwheat to the broth, cover, and keep over the lowest heat until just tender, about ten minutes.
4. Heat the olive oil in the skillet and sautee the onion until golden, about eight minutes. Add the mushrooms and stir them around to heat and coat. In about a minute when they will start to lose their moisture take them off heat. Season with black pepper.
5. When the buckwheat is tender, turn it onto a large plate and gently fluff the grains with a fork to separate them and remove some excess moisture. Fold in the mushroom and onion, and season with salt to taste.

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burficapp.jpgWe have come upon the Hindu, Sikh and Jain festival of Deepavali (or Diwali, or Divali), the Festival of Lights, and that means candies! Most Asian traditions do not normally close meals with dessert, but rather sweets and puddings are reserved as feastday treats. Burfi (or barfi or barfee) is a type of fudge popular throughout India, made of a sugar syrup, nuts and/or a flour, perhaps with a dairy enrichment, and seasoned with local spices. Coconut burfi (called thengai burfi in Tamil), both vegan and dairy, is popular in the south, and is typically seasoned with cardamon or saffron, sometimes thick with cashews or pistachios (lovely green colour). Here I provide two nut-free recipes, the first vegan and the second with dairy. The dairy-free burfi is sweetly crystaline with spicy, lemony cardamon. The milk fudge is buttery and floral with saffron. Neither is for diabetics.

Most burfi recipes written by Indians insist on fresh coconut, and I’m sure that is the more authentic ingredient, but I’ve tried both fresh and dessicated for each of these recipes, and I recommend dessicated for both. The cardamon recipe as written below only works well with dessicated coconut because I use the simple sugar syrup technique familiar to Western candymakers. Without getting too technical, the late addition of fresh coconut will dilute the sugar syrup too much with its moisture and inhibits its ability to set properly. Some similar recipes that I’ve read do start by driving the moisture off of the freshly grated coconut on the stovetop, but this still introduces an uncertainty, and in a way just brings us back to the dessicated coconut in the bag. And while there is more subtlety and avocado-like flavour in fresh coconut, I think that subtlety is lost in the end when making highly seasoned burfis like these, with lots of cardamon and lots of saffron. The biggest difference in my experience is texture: the fresh coconut makes a chewy fudge and the dessicated a flaky one. So while the saffron burfi recipe is more intuitve and does not require a candy thermometer (although it is more efficient to use one), I still don’t think that it is necessary to kill a live coconut for it. Personally, I need a very good reason to undertake the extraction of meat from that hairy little rock; it is even less fun than killing artichokes.

These recipes each make a very small batch of fudge. By “serves four,” I mean that four adults have a piece or two and then it’s gone, not sitting on the counter the next day tempting people away from their best intentions. I made mine in a ceramic loaf pan, and the long rectangular shape helped me to cut them in the traditional diamond shape, although it did leave a lot of little half-pieces, too. I really do recommend seeking out cardamon and saffron, but if you can’t find them, I might suggest allspice and (1/8 – 1/4 tsp) nutmeg, respectively. Happy Deepavali!

Crystalline Cardamon Coconut Fudge (Thengai Burfi)

Twenty minutes plus two hours setting; serves four

butter for greasing
1 cup water
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 cup dessicated shredded coconut (fresh is too wet)
1/2 tsp cardamon (seeds from about 6 green pods, ground in a mortar)

1. Butter a bread loaf pan, as if you were making a short loaf. Place it in the freezer.
2. In a small saucepan over medium flame heat the sugar in water and stir to dissolve it. Clamp on your candy thermometer and keep heating until the thread stage when the temperature reads 112-115C, about ten minutes. Feel free to stir.
3. Stir in the coconut and the cardamon. Turn it all into the loaf pan.
4. Leave the candy to cool and set on the counter. Cut with a buttered steak knife before it is completely cool.

Creamy Saffron Coconut Fudge (Thengai Burfi)

Twenty minutes plus two hours setting; serves four

butter for greasing
1/2 tsp saffron threads (a big pinch)
1 Tbsp warm milk
1/2 cup milk
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup shredded coconut (fresh or dessicated)
2 Tbsp butter
1 tsp milk

1. Butter a bread loaf pan, as if you were making a short loaf. Place it in the freezer.
2. Put the saffron to steep in the tablespoon of warm milk in a little cup or pan, and keep them warm if you can.
3. In a small saucepan over medium flame heat the sugar in the milk and stir to dissolve it. Stir as bubbles come, then become so numerous the height of the syrup is doubled, keep stirring until it becomes nice and thick. This description is fairly imprecise, but you are not yet at any critical juncture, so don’t stress. However, if you have a candy thermometer, then go just to the softball stage, about 115C.
4. Once the temperature is attained, or you feel the syrup is pretty sticky, stir in the coconut, and when it is well-combined melt in the butter.
5. Keep stirring, scaping away all over, as this mixture thickens. It will start to pull away from the sides – keep stirring. When it starts to pull away from the bottom, too, and the coconut shreds start to look distinct in the syrup, turn off the heat and stir in the warm saffron milk. Quickly rinse out your little cup or pan with the teaspoon of milk to get all the goodness out, and stir that in, too.
6. Turn it all into the loaf pan.
7. Leave the candy to cool and set on the counter. Cut with a buttered steak knife before it is completely cool.

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In the south of India it is customary to pour a soup called a rasam over your rice toward the end of a large meal. The Tamil community in India resides largely in the very south and they are great drinkers of these soups, which are usually hot and spicy and made slightly tart with tamarind, tomato, lemon, or lime. Not all rasams are made thick, but when they are it is usually through the very gentle disentegration of toor dal, red lentil. Unlike lentils of other hues, red lentils fall apart entirely in tens of minutes of cooking, giving the soup a consistency something between that of broth and that of curry. Like most common soups, a family’s rasam will be some hybrid of a chefs specialty and whatever is on hand that day. Variations can be broad; in a curious cross-cultural adventure, rasam managed to spawn the not-very-similar English mulligatawny soup.

Anyone familiar with the cuisine of India knows that when it comes to spices the cook is spoilt for choice. The rasam that I have choosen to make features three distinct flavourings that are very common to cooking in the south. The first is asafoetida, a plant resin with a yellow colour and (when used sparingly) a sulfurous odor similar to allium. (Be warned that while asafoetida is usually sold ground with rice flour it can be mixed with wheat flour instead, so if it matters, read your labels and choose your brands.) The second spice is slightly bitter brown mustard seed, which is great fun: rather than grinding them, one heats them in a little oil until the seeds go pop, pop, pop! Finally, a handful of dried curry leaves (so hard to describe, nothing else tastes like the gentle warmth of curry leaves) go into the final seasoning. It is for the sake of the curry leaves that I go easy on the souring tamarind in this recipe, as I find that too much sourness somehow cancels-out the curry leaves. If unavailable one could substitute lemon juice for tamarind and add it off-heat at the end, but all of these flavourings can be found in an Indian grocer’s, especially if his or her custom is from the south.

This soup would be plenty tasty served the occidental way, alone in a bowl at noon. For a more traditional approach, serve over rice and perhaps a dab of melted ghee, in the company of the usual suspects: curries, chutneys, yogurts, popadums. We like it with a hard English apple cider (the hotter our meal, the sweeter our cider).

Tamil Red Lentil Soup (Rasam)

40 minutes; serves four

1 cup red lentils, washed
4 cups water
three whole cloves garlic
1/4 tsp asafoetida powder
1/4 tsp tumeric
3 dried bird’s eye chilies
12 black peppercorns
2 tsp whole cumin seeds
2 Tbsp dried coconut
3/4 cup good canned tomatoes
1 Tbsp tamarind paste
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sunflower or canola oil
1 1/2 tsp whole brown mustard seeds
handful of dried curry leaves (maybe 18 or so)
salt

1. In a large saucepan place the lentils and water and heat to a boil. Skim the scum. Toss in the garlic cloves, asafoetida, and tumeric and simmer until the lentils have fallen apart, about 25 minutes.
2. In the meantime, place the chilies, peppercorns, cumin and coconut in a small heavy frying pan and toast them over low heat with stirring until the coconut turns brown. Remove to let cool.
3. Dice the tomatoes. If your tamarind is still on the stone, soak it off with some agitation (fingers are best) in a little water.
4. Once the lentils have collapsed, fish out the garlic cloves and add the tomatoes, tamarind and salt. Grind the toasted spices in a grinder or a mortar and add them, too. If the soup is too thick for you, add a little water. Too thin, simmer a little longer.
5. In that little frying pan add oil and mustard seeds and heat gently. When the seeds start to pop add the curry leaves and swirl them around for a minute to extract some of their flavour into the oil. Add this final seasoning (it’s called a tarka, by the way) to the soup. Taste for salt.

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indio.jpgIndio Viejo, the “old Indian” is a rather politically-incorrect name for a dish, but, then again, so is moros y cristianos, the name of the Cuban black-bean version of indio viejo’s accompaniment. For an outsider, indio viejo is full of contrasts and surprises: the beefiest cut of beef served with the bright acidity and sweetness of fruit, a dish that has a great deal in common with warm sweet polenta yet it is full of fresh bright green mint. The first time I made it, my husband asked me how much pineapple was involved; the combination of orange juice and mint had somehow created between them the scent of pineapple.

This version of indio viejo concentrates on these contrasts and surprises. I use no tomato because I think there’s already plenty of acid and sweetness here, although most recipes either include tomato or give instructions for a sweet salsa topping. I use no cumin because it is the mint that fascinates me here, but other cooks may disagree. All the recipes I found did agree that the beef must be treated with a long simmer in liquid, but some recipes went a step further and called for simmering in orange juice, infusing the meat with orange flavour and providing acid to help it tenderize. I have found that this works well, but the orange does dull somewhat in the broth, so an economical way to return a bright orange flavour to the dish is to finish with the juice of one good orange, freshly squeezed. This stew may be thickened with water-softened corn tortilla (a good way to use older ones) or with cornmeal, which I use because it is more likely to be in the cupboard. I also specify coarse rather than fine cornmeal, because my attempt with a finer grind was a pasty gluey mess, whereas the coarser grind thickened like a polenta, was easier to work with and to me had a more pleasing texture in the end. I add mint off heat in order to maintain its brightness. As an final additon the mint will not soften at all, so I do chop the leaves very finely.

Serve with an earthy gallo pinto and perhaps a mild salsa, a good sour cream, and a California chardonnay.

Nicaraguan Beef with Orange and Mint (Indio Viejo)

2 hours 30 minutes, including 2 hours simmering; serves four

1 lb flank or skirt steak
2 onions
4 garlic cloves
2 cups orange juice
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup coarse cornmeal
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 green pepper
1 juicy orange
a small bunch of fresh mint (a half-dozen sprigs or so)
salt

1. Quarter one of the onions and toss it into a saucepan with two of the garlic cloves, and the flank steak. Add the orange juice and then add water to cover. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer until the steak is fork-tender, about two hours.
2. Strain the meat, onion and garlic, reserving the broth. Remove the meat from the onion and garlic and leave it to the side to cool a little.
3. Dice the other onion and chop the green pepper. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and sautee the onion over medium heat until soft. Add the pepper and continue to sautee a few minutes more. Mince the two remaining garlic cloves and add them as well.
4. Shred the steak (fingers are most efficient). Add it to the frying pan.
4. Mix the cornmeal with 1 cup of the reserved broth in a bowl, and stir to remove any lumps. Add it to the frying pan and stir as it thickens to prevent it from sticking to the pan.
5. As the cornmeal thickens (like polenta) add the rest of the broth in small amounts to establish a thin-to-medium porridge. It will take about fifteen minutes of constant stirring to cook the rawness out of the cornmeal. If the broth is gone before that point use water. Taste for salt.
6. Remove the mint leaves from the stem and chop them very finely. Squeeze the orange for its juice.
7. Off heat stir in the juice and the mint. Taste for salt agian.

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egusi.jpgEgusi is the name of both a substantial hot soup from Nigeria and the melon seed with which that soup is thickened. The seeds themselves are small and pale, and with their internal oils they grind to a paste more so than a powder. West-African stores carry shelled melon seeds, and Indian grocers often do as well. Where the packets disclose details, they tend to call the seeds that of the “white” or “red” melon, which I take to be some undisclosed varities of that African native, the watermelon. Sadly, I have not been able to find a package without a shared-equipment warning for nut-allergy sufferers. But where melon seeds cannot be found many recipes recommend the substitution of pumpkin seeds, which one may come across in situ in the month of October. Shelling would take some time, I fear. Perhaps your local Latin American store, or your local hippie healthy food store, carries safely processed pumpkin seeds, or pepitas.

Some Nigerian recipes for egusi soup call for frying the seed paste, presumably to enhance flavour. In my own kitchen I have found that frying decreases thickening ability, much like a brown roux thickens broth less well than a white one, and left me with a creamy but thin broth. Furthermore, I found that what enhancement of flavour frying this mild paste brought was lost amid the heat of the chilies, so frying the paste is a step that I decline, choosing instead to make a soup that is almost a stew. The meat should be carmelized with high heat, and while the traditional oil of choice is high-smoking palm oil, palm oil is unfamiliar to many cooks, and very high in saturated fat. I substitute sunflower or canola oil, recognizing that some authentic flavour will be lost through this concession. I also suggest frying the beef in a cast-iron pan for good browning and then moving to a saucepan to simmer, but I doubt that anyone cooking on a three-legged pot over an open fire would bother with such foolishness. Many egusi soups recipes use some form of seafood for enhanced flavour, and if fishstock or shrimp are in your diet you might like to include them, but this recipe is fish-free. The tomatoes in this soup do not produce a sauce base here (that is the job of the melon seed) but work as a complementary vegetable to the okra, and provide some acid for the palate. Whole okra cooked until just tender is deliciously vegetal and not at all slimy, again the thickening is provided by the seed paste rather than the okra. Choose the smallest fresh okra you can find this season, or substitute tender young spinach leaves stirred-in at the end instead.

Serve with white rice or Nigerian eba. And if you have a sorghum beer in your fridge, this is the food for it!

Nigerian Melon Seed Soup (Egusi)

90 minutes, including one hour simmering; serves four

2 Tbsp sunflower or canola oil (palm oil for purists)
1 lb stewing beef in 1/2″ cubes
1 onion, finely diced
6 stemmed fresh bird’s eye or scotch bonnet chilies (or other very hot chili)
1 tsp salt
1 cup shelled melon seeds (may substitute pumpkin)
7 fl oz canned tomatoes, diced
1 lb whole okra

1. Heat the oil to smoking in a heavy fry pan (like cast iron) while you dry the beef cubes with kitchen towel. Brown the cubes over high heat without letting them burn. Remove the meat to a waiting saucepan and add three cups of water to it.
2. Add the diced onion to the saucepan of soup and bring to a simmer. Dice the chilies with their seeds and add to the soup. Add the salt. Cover and simmer until the beef is tender, about one hour.
3. Grind the melon seeds in a clean coffee grinder until smooth. Add to the broth. Add water if you feel the soup is too thick.
4. Add the diced tomato. Top and tail the okra and add them, too. Replace the cover and simmer ten minutes more. Taste for salt.

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