Thanksgiving in Djibouti with Mukbasa or Yemenite poisson

My French teacher is from Djibouti, a tiny country in Africa near Ethiopia that has an important port and was once colonized by the French. His French is très bien but I was intrigued to learn about his native cuisine.

After hearing about Mukbasa (also called Yemenite poisson), I was able to get a rough recipe for it and found a few hints online. It seems to be a whole fish that resembles a tilapia, grilled in a wood fire pit. It is served with an assortment of sides including tomato dipping sauce and a thin flatbread like Indian chapati mashed with bananas, sometimes with honey or dates also.

I decided this would be a fun and challenging dish for Thanksgiving dinner, slightly modified to our taste – we don’t like that much sweet in a savory dish. The first challenge was the fish, after visiting 4 grocery stores looking for a whole white fish similar to the ones found in Djibouti, we settled on rockfish fillets.

Ingredients:

  • 2 whole fish or fillets of firm, non-oily white fish
  • 2 tablespoons each of coriander (seeds that you grind yourself recommended), red pepper flakes and black pepper
  • 2 pieces of cheese cloth (optional)
  • 1 lemon (not traditional, you could skip)
  • 4-5 tablespoons walnut or other oil
  • 2-4 flat bread such as Indian chapati
  • 1-2 plantains (or ripe bananas if you want it sweeter and more traditional)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Prepare the grill early enough to get it hot, this takes about an hour for me with natural charcoal and hickory chips
  2. Meanwhile, grind the coriander and pepper, if they are seeds
  3. Place the fish on a plate or in bowl and squeeze half a lemon over each, and a tablespoon of oil
  4. Place the cheese cloth over the fish (this ensures the biggest bits aren’t left on the fish)
  5. Sprinkle a tablespoon or so of the 3 spices mixed together
  6. Marinate for at least 30 minutes if you can
  7. If using fillets, wrap in tinfoil and remove cheesecloth, then put in covered grill for ~10 minutes (tinfoil to prevent it flaking apart)
  8. If using a whole fish, butterfly it and place on the grill directly or in tinfoil, remove cheesecloth and cook for 10-20 minutes or until firm
  9. Peel and cut the plaintains into 1 inch pieces crosswise, fry in oil for 4-5 minutes until golden brown on each side, and soft-ish to a fork
  10. Place the chapatis in a warm oven to maintain heat
  11. When all items are done, place a chapati or two on the plate, put the fish and plantains on it, salt the fish to taste

      

Enjoy!

Chocolate swirl bread

A delicious, almost cakey bread that smells intoxicatingly of chocolate. The recipe is slightly complex and was translated from a Japanese website where the photos look even nicer. I’m copying it here just in case the original link goes down but it is certainly not my invention.

For the chocolate paste

  • 20gm or 1 oz. cake flour
  • 50gm or 4 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 egg white
  • 80gm or 3 oz. milk (warmed)
  • 25gm or 1 oz. cocoa powder
  • 10gm or 1 tsp. butter

For dough

  • 300gm or 1 1/3 cups bread flour
  • 12gm or 2 1/5 tsp. milk powder
  • 5gm or 1 tsp. dry yeast
  • 5gm or 1 tsp. salt
  • 24gm or 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Water (water + egg yolk = 210gm or 7 1/2 oz.)
  • 18gm or 1 1/2 tbsp. butter

What to do
For chocolate paste

  • Mix sugar and cake flour into the egg white until smooth. (no need to beat)
    Add coca powder into warm milk and sitr till powder is incorporated into milk.
  • Add egg white mixture into the warm milk (using a small pot) and stir over low fire till thicken (paste like). Then add in butter and mix till incorporated.
  • Leave paste to cool and then roll into a 14x14cm square (using plastic wrap).
  • Keep in fridge.

For dough

  • Mix all the dough ingredients tog. Knead for 8 mins and add the butter. Knead until you get a smooth dough. Leave to poof at room temperature until 1.5 times size and then place dough in the fridge for 1 hour.
  • Take out dough after 1 hour, roll it out to 25×25 square. Place the 14x14cm rolled out chocolate paste in the middle of the dough. Fold in 4 sides of the dough to cover the chocolate and seal the seams tight.
  • Roll out dough to 45x21cm. Make 3 folds (like folding a letter) and place dough in the fridge for 1 hour.
  • Take dough out from the fridge and repeat the step above (roll out and then 3 folds). Rest it for 10 mins.
  • Finally, roll dough to 14x30cm. Make a cut in the middle (along the 30cm side) but do not cut through, leave about 3cm uncut at top end, then twist and plait the dough.
  • Place plaited dough into the bread mould and let it proof at room temperature until dough expands to 80% of the mould.
  • Bake at 190C or 375 degrees for 35-40mins in a preheated oven. (preheat oven at 200C, 400 degrees)

 

 

Bon appétit!

 

If guacamole had been invented by the French…

My lazy attempt at making Green Goddess dressing was a success more as a dip than as a salad dressing. First off, I didn’t have quite all the ingredients called for and secondly, I was not in a mood to haul out the blender and then wash it afterward.

But I stand behind the word “success”… a tangy, fresh-tasting creamy guacamole-like dip as I imagine it to be interpreted by the French.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 3 tablespoons yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh chopped tarragon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 fine chopped garlic clove (I used half a clove and then added a pinch of garlic powder)
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon agave or other syrup
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Ideally, use a blender or food processor.
  2. If you’re doing it manually, add the ingredients to a bowl and whisk them to a creamy consistency.

Enjoy!

Mile high lemon meringue pie

The mile high lemon meringue really is mile high when you make it from Cook’s Magazine, a great magazine that not only tests recipes but details what they tried and the results.

You’ll need 1 (9-inch) pie shell, fully baked and cooled.

Lemon Filling Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup of lemon juice (from 6 lemons)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 8 large egg yolks (reserve 4 whites for meringue later)
  • 2 tbsp. grated lemon zest
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened and cut into pieces

Meringue Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 egg whites
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Filling directions:

  1. Whisk sugar, lemon juice, water, cornstarch and salt together in a large non-reactive saucepan until cornstarch is dissolved. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, whisking occasionally until mixture is translucent and begins to thicken, about 5 minutes.
  2. Whisk in yolks until combined. Stir in zest and butter. Bring to a simmer and stir constantly until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 2 minutes.
  3. Strain through fine mesh strainer into the baked and cooled pie shell and scrape off filling from the bottom of strainer. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the filling and refrigerate until set and well chilled, at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

Meringue:

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Combine water and sugar in saucepan. Bring to a vigorous boil over medium high heat. Once syrup comes to a rolling boil, cook for 4 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and set aside while beating egg whites.
  4. With electric mixer beat whites in large bowl at medium low speed until frothy, about 1 minute. Add salt and cream of tartar and beat gradually increasing speed to medium high, until whites hold soft peaks, about 2 minutes.
  5. With mixer running, slowly pour hot syrup into the whites. Add vanilla and beat until meringue has cooled and becomes shiny and thick, 5-9 minutes.
  6. Using a rubber spatula, mound meringue over filling making sure meringue touches the edges of the crust.
  7. Use spatula to create peaks all over the pie.
  8. Bake until peaks turn golden brown about 6 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature and serve.

Recipe copied from http://www.recipelink.com/mf/0/85775.

Chocolate hazelnut drops

In my quest for delicious cookies, I’ve found that eggs are often present. While I salute the egg cookies, I wanted a naturally egg-free recipe. As opposed to one where I’d wrangled with the cookie until it wearily submitted a less tasty version of itself.

Imagine my delight to open the pages of Homemade by Clodagh McKenna to find an egg free cookie. The first opportunity to make these arrived today. The ingredients seem pretty similar to scones.

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks of butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup superfine sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup good-quality dark chocolate drops
  • 1/2 cup raw hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon milk (optional)

Directions:

  1. Cream together butter and sugar until pale and paste-like.
  2. Mix in flour and baking powder.
  3. Add nuts and chocolate, and mix to form dough.
  4. If the dough is too crumbly, add a tablespoon of milk.
  5. Form cookies on a cookie sheet and cook for 13-15 minutes until browned on top.

Next time I would try to skip the milk and deal with the crumble factor, but these tasted great and I will be making them again soon.

Tuna salad

I’m a big fan of tuna salad but most contain a lot of mayo that I can’t eat and often this makes them overly gooey. I prefer some texture and tantalizing flavors that tell me I’m eating real food instead of tuna flavored paste.

The tuna that you use will make a big difference in this recipe because the tuna is front and center. I use a delicious tuna ventresca that is more expensive but worth it when you want to taste the tuna.

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon dried dill (substitute with another herb if you don’t like dill)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried onion
  • Pinch of garlic powder and salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons yogurt (I used goat and it was delicious)
  • 6-7 oz. tuna

Just drain the tuna and mix the ingredients together in a small bowl. I paired it with fresh parsley and lettuce on a mini french baguette, alongside a small salad.

It was very nice with a slight hint of creaminess. If you want it a little more creamy, add more 1-2 more teaspoons of yogurt.

Salut!