Cooked Monday 23 May 2011
After 2 failed attempts to visit the now-defunct Ana’n’Gola in Forest Gate, we gave up and did it ourselves at Steve’s flat in Streatham. Joe’s starter was a portmanteau involving various typical Angolan ingredients; Steve’s main some kind of stew plus gunk called Funge; Sophie’s dessert was sweet and coconutty.
I feel that before I can write anything about forays to London restaurants I had better explain the origins of the ‘Restaurants of the world in London’ challenge.
The challenge was first concocted by my friend Steve who told myself and the Writer about his plan approximately two years ago at which point we thought it was such a brilliant idea that we would jump onboard. The basic concept is to eat the cuisine of every sovereign state of the world at a London restaurant in alphabetical order. For a list of all 193 internationally-recognised sovereign states you can check the internationally-recognised knowledge source known as wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sovereign_states
So far we have eaten the cuisines of Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria and Andorra. As you can see at an average of one restaurant every 6 months it really will be a challenge to complete Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria and Azerbaijan in just 18.
Since embarking on this culinary journey we have come across a number of obstacles, not least with our latest country – Angola. The quest for an Angolan restaurant has been a long one ending last week. Just before Christmas Steve managed to track down a restaurant called Ana’N’Gola in Forest Gate. Having failed to get through to the restaurant on their stated phone number – it appeared to have been disconnected – he managed to speak to the lady working at the launderette next door who assured us that the restaurant was still there but had unfixed opening hours but, she said, it is almost always open in the evening on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Having endured a tedious and extensive tube and train journey to reach the outskirts of Forest Gate we arrived one fateful Thursday evening. We strolled down the main Forest Gate road past Club ‘Dhoom’ and about ten African supermarkets until we reached the garish orange sign of Ana’N’Gola, firmly shuttered and definitely closed. At this stage we were tired and incredibly hungry not to say downhearted. We decided that we would have to eat something in Forest Gate and having retraced our steps to the station we entered Spice whose billboard declared they served ‘Indian food with a Moroccan twist’. We munched our way through some fairly average Indian fare surrounded by the Moroccan twist – low carved tables, lanterns and leather pouffes. Whilst eating our meal we became aware of some mysterious comings and goings between the street and the back room of the restaurant. Intrigued by the completely unrelated cuisine and decore and the clientele disappearing through the back entrance, we inquired of the waiter the back-story of the restaurant. After explaining that they had found Moroccan food did not go down well with the locals due to the language barrier with their Moroccan Berber-speaking chef he seemed to have decided we were an alright set of customers and clearly not undercover cops. Looking around him he asked if we would like to see the rest of the decore which was in the room round the back. Slightly fearing for our safety we agreed and passing through a narrow curtained doorway we entered a smoke filled room packed with locals smoking Shisha and watching music videos on a large screen TV. And that was our first attempt to eat Angolan food.
Our second venture down to Forest Gate two months later also ended in tragedy. This time having passed Club Dhoom and arrived at the spot where Ana’N’Gola stood we witnessed the garish orange sign being lowered down to the ground by a man on a step-ladder and replaced by one declaring the opening of a new Ghanain restaurant. At least we’ll know where to go when we get to G.
Having twice failed miserably to eat Angolan food after an overlong journey we settled on the next best thing – making it ourselves. For a starter the Writer made us a modern take on Angolan ingredients, creating a scallop, prawn and peanut stack with a clementine creme-fraiche, using the main Angolan food exports.
Steve made a main course of Chicken Muamba, a hearty stew using squash, okra and traditional palm oil. I made the classic Angolan dessert Cocada Amarela, a Portuguese inspired coconutty custard. If you fancy trying either of these Angolan delicacies try out the recipes below.
Whilst Angola has been the most difficult cuisine to track down it has definitely been the most exciting and if you ever find yourself in Forest Gate don’t forget to check out the back room at Spice for the Moroccan twist.
Make a marinade of 4 crushed garlic cloves, 1 tsp chilli flakes, 1 tbsp lemon juice and some salt and pepper. Marinade 4 large chicken legs for at least an hour. Heat palm oil in a large, deep pan. (Deep is important because the oil spits and is bright orange!) Brown the chicken pieces on all sides and remove. Soften 2 chopped onions and 4 cloves of garlic in the oil, then add 1 tin of tomatoes, chilli flakes to taste, seasoning and cook a little longer. Replace the chicken and add 1 small cubed butternut squash and 14 okra, tops cut off. Add 250ml water and bring to the boil. Turn down heat and simmer for 45 minutes (or cook in oven at 180C for same time). Serve with white rice seasoned with ground cumin and coriander.
Combine the 2 cups sugar, 4 cloves and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Continue boiling until syrup reaches 110°C on a candy thermometer. Reduce heat to low, remove the cloves and add 3 cups grated coconut. Mix thoroughly and cook for 10 minutes on a low heat. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Place 12 egg yolks in a deep bowl and beat for 1 minute with an electric mixer. Stir in 1 cup of the coconut mixture and then pour the egg mixture into the saucepan with the rest of the coconut mix. Cook for a further 10 minutes on a medium heat. Pour into individual dessert dishes and sprinkle with cinnamon. Refrigerate for 2 hours before serving.