Djibouti

Joe and Sophie’s flat, Deptford

19 October 2016

Little Djibouti, a population of 900K tucked into a corner between Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia, is a former French colony which derives its cuisine from the main Afar and Issa ethnic groups (from Ethiopia and Somalia respectively). This means some very interesting flavours come together, making for a promising menu.

Most of the evening was set to the sound of Afar music, traditional and pop, plus the Djibouti national anthem which proved to be a very versatile piece: in one full-on version it sounded like “the sound of an evil nation crushing the world”, but in another it was “really nice, like something from a Wild West movie.”

Steve’s starter was a small yetakelt w’et, a vegetable stew made from beans and root veg cooked in tomatoes and flavoured with berbere. This was really good: strong, hot flavours from the berbere, perfectly cooked vegetables.

Yetakelt w'et

Yetakelt w’et

Sophie’s main of Skoudehkaris was then also great, but in a different way: subtler flavours from the cardamom and cloves, and a delicious contrast of texture and taste between the dry, baked aubergine and the rice cooked into the stew.

Skoudehkaris

Skoudehkaris

Finally, Joe’s dessert was canjeero – essentially pancakes, but perfect pancakes, thick and spongy, forming a perfect base for the bananas and honey we shovelled on top of them.

Canjeero

Canjeero

Djibouti delivered three superb courses that were straightforward to make, interestingly different and thoroughly delicious. And they have a good flag too.

Scores

Food: 4/5

Recipes

Yetakelt W’et

100g Niter Kebbeh (or ghee or just butter)
100g Green beans, cut in thirds
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tb Berbere (see below)
250ml Marigold bouillon
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, sliced
8 small tomatoes, chopped
2 new potatoes, cubed
long squeeze tomato paste
handful chopped fresh parsley

Based on the BigOven recipe: Saute the onions, garlic, berbere, and paprika in the niter kebbeh for 2 minutes. Add the beans, carrots, and potatoes and continue to saute for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes, or until all of the vegetables are tender. Mix in the parsley (optional).

Serve with injera and yogurt or cottage cheese. (We didn’t.)

Berbere

You can get this in Waitrose, apparently, but I made my own, following Helen Graves’ recipe as far as possible. (I didn’t have any fenugreek, cinammon or the crunchy dried onions, but I did put in some nigella seeds.) Toast the whole seeds below, then put them along with everything else into a spice grinder.

2 tsp chili flakes
2 tablespoons paprika
4 cloves
6 black peppercorns
3 allspice berries
Seeds from 6 cardamom pods
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon nigella seeds
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Djibouti Rice (Skoudehkaris)

from: http://www.healthy-life.narod.ru/wor_ek57.htm

250 g lamb shoulder, diced
250 g rice
1 tbsp oil
250 g fresh tomatoes, blanched, peeled and chopped
1 large onion chopped
salt and black pepper to taste
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp ground cardamom seeds
1/2 tsp chopped red chilliFry the chopped onions in the oil until softened. Add the meat and cook until browned then add the tomatoes and allow to cook for a few minutes. Add all the spices, cover with water and allow to simmer gently for 45 minutes. When the meat is tender add the rice and 500 ml water, bring to the boil reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, or until the rice is done. Cook for a few more minutes to dry the mixture immediately and serve immediately.
Djibouti Canjeero or Lahooh (Flat bread)

From: http://www.internationalcuisine.com/djibouti-canjeero/

Starter mixture:
½ cup sorghum, millet or teff flour (or, in our case, just flour)
1 cup white corn meal
1 tbsp instant dry yeast
1 cup water (lukewarm)

Add the starter to the following:
4 cups self-rising flour
¼ cup sugar
4¼ cups water (lukewarm)

Step 1: Prepare the starter mixture

Combine the sorghum, millet or teff flour, white corn meal, yeast, and lukewarm water. Mix well then let the yeast activate and the mixture soak for one hour.

Step 2: Prepare the canjeero batter

Combine the starter mixture with the self-rising flour, sugar and water. If you mix by hand, add the water in stages to avoid lumps. You can also use a blender, food processor, or handheld electric mixer. After mixing the batter very well, let it ferment for at least two hours overnight is best. Fermentation is essential for an authentic canjeero taste.

Cooking the canjeero

You don’t need a special pan to cook canjeero. Any non-stick pan would do. In between batches wipe the pan with a paper towel dipped in a little oil.

Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat. Using a ladle, scoop the canjeero batter into the pan. The quantity scooped will depend on the size of the pan and the size of the canjeero you want to make. Using a swirling motion, spread the batter over the pan, as if drawing a spiral with the ladle.

Cook the canjeero until brown on the bottom and the spongy top side is cooked through. You do not flip it, it is only cooked on one side. Enjoy!

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Cyprus

Taste of Cyprus, 145 Croydon Road, Beckenham, BR3 3RB

27 July 2016

Taste of Cyprus is the 2nd-best restaurant in Beckenham, according to TripAdvisor, and has a palindromic postcode to boot, so we arrive expecting great things. Or rather, Joe and Sophie arrive, while Steve gets on the wrong train and ends up the wrong side of Orpington.

When he finally turns up, we contemplate an aperitif. We have heard of Zivania, a grappa-like drink but our jolly waiter instead suggests Filfar, an excellent orange liqueur similar to Cointreau. Drink in hand, we contemplate the surroundings, which certainly look the part: Half-columns stand in the corners, draped in foliage; the Venus de Milo is also here, presumably lost; bouzouki music plays throughout our visit. In the gents we find a big map of Cyprus on the wall, where we learn that Troodos, the name of the Cypriot red wine we’ve ordered, is also the name of the mountain range in the centre of Cyprus.

Taste of Cyprus

Taste of Cyprus

Steve and Joe share the Meat Meze, which provides a range of Cypriot delights for starters and main. To begin we have hummus, tzatziki, taramosalata, garlic Mushrooms, beetroot, courgettes with
sundried tomatoes, feta & spinach filo pie, prawns in Marie Rose sauce, and pitta on the side. Sophie helps herself to all this and to make up for it the boys get extra calamari. It’s all very good.

The for main course, Joe & Steve’s Meze continues with a meat bombardment: Lamb keftedes (meatballs), loundza (traditional Cypriot smoked bacon), loukanika (smoked pork sausages marinated in wine), grilled halloumi, chicken kebabs and lamb cutlets. This abattoir’s worth is served with rice and greek salad, and it’s all great. Meanwhile Sophie, about to move into vegetarianism in a big way, has a last meaty hurrah with a serving of kleftiko, lamb on the bone cooked in red wine, which she declares excellent.

Meat Meze

Meat Meze

It’s all very good; not world-beating, but plucky Cyprus has acquitted itself very well with very good food and a great atmosphere. Let’s hope the #1 restaurant in Beckenham is also going to turn up on our list.

Scores

Food: 4/5

Atmosphere: 4/5

Costa Rica

Steve’s house.

17 March 2016.

Initial searches for a suitable restaurant looked promising as we discovered RomeroJo’s, the sole authentic Costa Rican establishment to be found here in the UK. Unfortunately, it lies somewhat outside the M25 – Whitby, to be exact. “Let’s go to Whitby!” says Steve. “I mean, I know we’re supposed to do this in London, but we did do  Woking that one time”. Joe’s down. “Let’s do it” he says, nodding, raising thumbs. Before they can high-five, Sophie shuts it down. No, we’re not going all the way up there, it’s against the rules, and besides it’s ridiculous.

So here we are at Steve’s house, trying to cook it ourselves, trying to rebuild our shattered confidence after the debacle that was Republic of Congo. Sophie kicks things off with her starter, Picayillo de Choyote. This is an exciting start as it features a new ingredient (for us), the choyote or “vegetable pear”. Imagine if a pear was a vegetable. That’s what a choyote looks like. Sophie combines it with sweetcorn and red peppers, and makes homemade corn tortillas which we use to create mini-wraps with the choyote mix. It’s interestingly bland – the choyote isn’t unpleasant but there’s not much too it. The overall dish is quite good though, and you can feel the self-belief returning.

Picayillo de Choyote

Picayillo de Choyote

Next it’s time for Joe’s attempt at Costa Rica’s national dish, Gallo Pinto. (The ‘spotted rooster’ – a traditional breakfast dish, in fact.) This is most definitely comfort food – basically rice and black beans, which is common throughout the Caribbean. What really lifts this dish though, is the side order of Picadillo de plantano verde. A very traditional Costa Rica dish, it brings out the best of the plantain – in fact we vote it “best use of plantain in a foods of the world dish”.

Gallo Pinto con Picadillo de Platano Verde

Gallo Pinto con Picadillo de Platano Verde

Steve finishes off with a traditional Costariccense dessert, the Atol de naranja (Orange pudding). The recipe is in Spanish, and becomes hilarious when passed through Google Translate, but working back and forth between the original text and the translation you can work out what’s going on. The result is delicious, a sort of fruity soup (we didn’t have time to set it properly), topped off with cinnamon, cherries and mint. Unusual and delicious.

Atol de Naranja

Atol de Naranja

As digestif we sample some agua dulce or  ‘honey milk’ – which does not actually have honey in it, but brown sugar. The real thing is made from a form of sugar moulded into little conical sections (see Costa Rica’s answer to brown sugar); we just used muscovado. It was quite drinkable, though not something I would necessarily drink again.

Musically, Costa Rica fares quite well. Their national anthem is really quite bad – it feels like a token effort from the composer – but we also find a rich seam of Costa Rican ska that keeps us amused for a good hour. Later, we switch to more traditional CR music, which is very relaxing and evokes a forest ambience that makes for a pleasant end to the evening.

Scores

Food: 3.5/5

Picadillo de Chayote

From http://costarica.com/recipes/picadillo-de-chayote-minced-vegetable-pear/

6 vegetable pears (chayotes), rinsed, peeled, and cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1 cup fresh or thawed corn kernels or 3 corn on the cob
2 1/4 cups milk
4 1/2 oz butter
1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup onion, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat butter, peppers, and onions in a saucepan over medium low until lightly brown. Add vegetable pear and milk. Cook until vegetable pears are cooked (20 minutes). Add corn, salt, and pepper. Simmer for 5 more minutes. Serve on tortillas.

Soft corn tortillas

Makes 10 -12.

250g masa harina (maize flour)
330ml hot water

Combine the flour and hot water to form a dough. Cover for 15 mins. Knead in more water if necessary – the texture should be clay-like but not sticky. Divide dough into 10-12 balls. Heat a dry pan. Roll out dough balls between non-stick surfaces or plastic wrap, until c. 3mm deep. Cook tortillas in the pan one at at time, for 15 seconds, then turn and cook for another 30 seconds. Turn once more, allow the tortilla to puff up, then remove from the pan and keep warm in a tea towel while coking the rest of the batch.

Gallo Pinto

Adapted from http://costarica.com/recipes/gallo-pinto-rice-and-beans/

1 cup cooked rice
1 cup cooked red or black beans
3 tablespoons red bell peppers, chopped
3 tablespoons onion, chopped
2 tablespoons celery, chopped
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
4 scrambled eggs
Lardons to taste

Lightly fry the onion, bell pepper, and celery in 1 tsp of oil.
When they are crispy add the lardons.
Add the rice and fry all ingredients together; allow flavours to mix.
Add the beans.
Cover and let them rest for a while so the rice becomes somewhat liquid. Add scrambled eggs. Serve immediately.

Picadillo de Platano Verde

From http://costarica.com/recipes/picadillo-de-platano-verde-minced-green-plantain/

6 green plantains, washed and peeled and cut into three equal parts
1 cup coriander leaves, finely chopped
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 cup onion, finely chopped
2 gloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons vegetable or olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring water to a boil in a saucepan. Add green plantain. Boil until plantains are soft.
Keep liquid and transfer plantains to a cutting board. Chop plantains in 1/4 inch cubes.
Heat oil in a saucepan over medium high. Add cilantro, parsley, red bell peppers, onions, garlic, and plantains. Stir thoroughly until green plantains are golden brown.

Atol de Naranja

Adapted from http://recetasdecostarica.blogspot.co.uk/2009/07/atol-de-naranja.html

Para preparar unas 6 porciones, se parten naranjas a la mitad y se extrae el jugo hasta obtener unas 2 tazas, se le añade 1/2 taza de azúcar y se coloca al fuego hasta que hierva.

Aparte en una taza se disuelve 2 cucharadas de fécula de maíz (maicena) con 2/3 taza de leche y se añaden 2 yemas de huevo, una a una y se mezcla bien. Se retira del fuego el jugo de la naranja y le mezcla poco a poco la maicena diluida, NO se hace de una sola vez pues se corta y se forman grumos o pelotas. Se lleva de nuevo a la cocina a fuego medio hasta que espese. Se retira del fuego y se mantiene en refrigeración mientras se preparan las cáscaras.

Obvio estaremos usando las mismas de donde se extrajo el jugo. Por lo que debían haber estado bien lavadas previamente. Se les retira la membrana blanca con cuidado, es mejor hacerlo con los dedos para evitar que se rompan. Una vez listas se rellenan con el atol y se vuelve llevar a refrigeración unas horas hasta que corte. Si no puede esperar por ansiedad, disfrútelo así calientito que también es una buena opción.

(I also topped each orange half with cherries, mint leaves and ground cinnamon, based on other recipes for this on the Web).

Comoros

Comoros

Steve’s house

2 October 2015

Comoros is a little archipelago off the northern coast of Madagascar, and until 1975 was a French colony, which boded well for its cuisine.

IMG_58092Steve’s starter was a miniature version of Langouste à la vanille, the national dish of Comoros. Not that you’d know that if you were to read the “Vanilla and shellfish” entry in Niki Segnit’s Flavour Thesaurus, where she credits Alain Senderens, the French pioneer of nouvelle cuisine, with its invention. The poor Comorians, who have been eating this stuff for centuries, have been royally shafted by this arriviste, nay, impérialiste. Although in his defence, his dish is Homard à la vanille, whereas the Comoros version is Langouste à la vanille, the humble langouste being, as you know, not the true large-clawed lobster, but the spiny rock lobster immortalised by the B52s. Please do not waste my time by talking about the langoustine at this point, because I am not interested and indeed may give you the back of my head. The langoustine, or should I say Norwegian lobster, is neither a true lobster nor a rock lobster, and if you insist on putting that in vanilla butter then that’s your affair.

Anyway, Joe declares it “delicious” and Sophie and Steve declare it “all right”. Pairing it with spinach gave it an unexpected sweetness and depth. Steve had hoped that fish and vanilla was going to prove a revelation, but it wasn’t really that revelatory.

IMG_5825For the main course, Sophie prepared Island Rice (Riz des Iles). Joe slams it: an underwhelming kedgeree, he claims, providing sustenance but not deliciousnance. Sophie and Steve declare it “all right”. It was a bit strange to combine rice with mashed potato. Seemed a bit unnecessary.

And for dessert, Joe’s recipe for Karara is outlandish, even compared to a Celtnet recipe, calling for a full 5kg of flour. He divides all the quantities by 10 and hopes for the best. The result is like a super-sweet fritter or blini, not unpleasant by any means, but we can only manage a couple before it’s too much already.

IMG_5829

Scores

Food: 2.5/5

Recipes

Langoustes au beurre vanillé (v.o.)

– 3 langoustes (ou lotte de mer), d’environ 150 g
– 15 cl de vin blanc sec
– 5 cl de vinaigre de vin blanc
– 100 g de beurre
– 1 cuillères à soupe d’huile
– 1 gousses de vanille
– 1 citrons vert
– sel et poivre
– (épinards)

Versez le vin blanc et le vinaigre dans une casserole. Laissez-les réduire, sur feu moyen, pour obtenir 2 cuillères à soupe de liquide. Réservez.

Aplatissez les gousses de vanille. Fendez-les en deux dans la longueur, puis grattez la pulpe avec le couteau. Posez-la sur une petite assiette. Coupez le beurre en cubes.

Coupez les langoustes en deux dans la longueur. Préchauffez le four à 270°C (thermostat 9).

Faites chauffer l’huile dans un grand plat à rôtir. Disposez les moitiés de langouste côté chair vers le fond. Enfournez-les pendant 5-6 min. en les retournant à mi-cuisson, puis salez et poivrez-les, laissez-les se détendre à l’entrée du four éteint.

Faites réchauffer sur feu doux la réduction de vin. Incorporez-lui, en fouettant vivement les cubes de beurre. Salez, poivrez, ajoutez la pulpe de vanille et donnez un dernier coup de fouet.

Au moment de servir, dressez les demi-langoustes sur des assiettes chaudes, carapaces en dessous. Nappez-les d’un peu de beurre blanc. Servez le reste en saucière. Décorez de demi-rondelles de citron vert. (Et servez avec la tombée épinards.)

Riz des Iles (Island rice)

500 g white rice, cooked
100 g fresh fish
100 g chopped shallots
50 g chopped coriander
Kernels from 1 cob of corn
100 g mashed potatoes
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tbsp curry powder
2 garlic cloves, mashed
1/2 tsp coffee powder
Salt to taste

Cut the fish in steaks then fry in oil until coloured. Add the garlic, mashed potatoes and shallots and fry for 5 minutes before adding the spices and 300ml water. Mix with a spoon to form a stew and continue simmering gently. Add the cooked rice and sweetcorn and stir vigorously for 2 minutes. Add the coriander and stir in then allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

Karara

You might want to divide these quantities by 10.

500g of flour
2/3 can coconut milk
220g of sugar
1 tsp baking soda
water
salt
oil

Sift flour into a bowl. Add some salt and baking soda. Pour the coconut milk into the bowl and mix it with the flour. Work the dough well. Allow it to sit in a plastic bag for 5 minutes.
Roll some dough into a ball, flatten slightly and place it on a pastry board.  Roll out the dough. Pinch the dough into pleats with your fingertips. Sprinkle with flour.
Fry the cakes in hot oil for 6 or 7 minutes, then remove and put them in a bowl.
Put sugar and water in a pot and reduce to a syrup. Cover the cakes in syrup and serve.

Colombia

Donde Carlos, 143 Goldhawk Rd, London W12 8EN

10 September 2015

Donde Carlos (presumably named for the Colombian version of Where’s Wally?) certainly looks the part when we first arrive: a menu packed with exotic sounding dishes, Latin American music playing on the PA, sport on a big telly in the corner, basic furniture and a conservatory-style frontage (not unlike the earlier Bolivian example). Initial excitement is suppressed a little when we realise that availability is very much dependent on the day of the week. There’s a whole tapas menu that is only served on a Friday, and several other dishes that are only available on Saturday or Sunday. In addition, there’s no Colombian beer available, forcing Steve to drink Corona. And they’ve run out of soup. However, none of this really matters since there’s plenty else on offer, and Joe & Sophie go straight for the Rafejo, a sort of fruity shandy made from beer mixed with a fizzy pop not unlike Irn Bru.

We start with a couple of beef empanadas – and all are agreed that these are the best examples of their type that we have ever tasted. Delicious shredded beef filling in a wonderfully crispy fried pastry case, served with a fabulous herb & chilli salsa. Things are off to a world-beating start already.

The Best Empanada

The Best Empanada

For main, Joe and Steve both go for the Bandeja Paisa, a combination of all the Colombian foods in one massive meal. This was also available in a “mini” version, which would have definitely been more than enough food, and we knew it. But no, we had to go for the full-sized version, which neither of us were then able to finish. It was good though – a big mess of fried kidney beans, rice with a fried egg on top, pork belly strips, great sheets of fried beef fillet, Colombian chorizo and fried plantain.

Chuleta de cerdo (front), Bandeja paisa (back), Joe (further back)

Sophie, meanwhile had a more sensible Chuleta de Cerdo: pork escalopes fried in breadcrumbs, served with chips, rice and plantain. The chuletas seemed to have the salsa cooked into the breadcrumb coating, making them particularly delicious.

For pudding, we shared two dishes – black figs steeped in a syrup and served stuffed with dulce de leche, and a sort of dry curd cheese, also served with dulce de leche. The figs were amazing, not really in need of any help from the dulce, while the cheese was a bit weird, with a texture not unlike white bread and not really helped by its sweet companion.

Figs with dulce de leche

Figs with dulce de leche

Pretty good food overall, and it all felt thoroughly authentic throughout. When we phoned to book a table, they answered in Spanish, and there were small-ads in Spanish and advertisements for currency exchange pinned to the walls. This sort of place is really what the Foods of the World exercise is all about.

Scores

Atmosphere 4/5; Food 3.5/5

Central African Republic

Steve’s house

22 April 2015

I can’t pretend that we were looking forward to this one. The menu didn’t look promising at first, with the dreaded fufu (tasteless dough made from cassava flour and water) poised to take centre stage. However, lowering our expectations to rock bottom paid off with pleasant surprises all round.

IMG_3929

Joe started with Ragout d’epinards aux arachides, a stew of spinach and peanut butter that worked out nicely, the butter part forming a rich sauce around the spinach, cut through with chili and tomato.

IMG_3932Then came Steve’s Kanda, meatballs in a tomato chilli sauce, but no ordinary meatballs. These were formed of almost as much ground pumpkin seed as meat, which created a surprisingly light and moist consistency. Normally they would be served with fufu, but we saw no reason to ruin it.

IMG_3935Finally, Sophie deep-fried her delicate banana fritters in a lime-tinged batter, which were light and crisp outside with meltingly sweet interiors.

An impressive performance across the board. We should be slower to judge (and avoid fufu if at all possible).

Scores

Food: 3.5/5

Recipes

Ragout d’epinards aux arachides

400g spinach
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper
1 red chili, chopped
1 tbsp peanut butter
80ml water
1 medium tomato
salt and pepper

Fry onion on low heat for 5 mins. Add pepper & tomato & fry for 1 minute. Add chili & spinach. Cover to wilt. Add water and peanut butter and mix into sauce. Cover and simmer for 15 mins until thick.

Kanda

350g steak mince
350ml pumpkin seeds
1 onion, 1/2 chopped and 1/2 sliced
3.5 cloves of garlic, mashed
2 large fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1 red chili
1 small bunch of parsley
50ml iced water for the meatballs
175ml water for the sauce
50ml groundnut oil
salt & pepper

Slightly roast pumpkin seeds in a pan, then grind to a powder. Put mince into a food processor and add pumpkin seed, garlic and chopped onion and mix up. Season with salt and pepper.

Stir in the iced water and knead well for 3 minutes. Refrigerate for 30 mins.

Fry onion slices in oil for 2 minutes over medium heat in a large pot. Add the tomatoes and chili and cook for 5 minutes.

Pour in rest of water and bring to a boil, then simmer. Meanwhile, make meatballs, each about the size of a golf ball. Turn up the heat and place each meatball in the sauce very carefully.

Cook over high heat for 10 minutes, then on medium heat for 20 minutes, and finally simmer for 30 minutes. Serve with plain rice.

Beignets de banane

3 ripe bananas
6 tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg, separated
finely-grated zest of 1 lime
100ml milk
1 tsp water
1l oil, for frying
icing sugar, for dusting
Sift together the flour, sugar and salt into a large bowl. Form a well in the centre and add the egg yolk. Stir to combine then add the milk and water. Beat until the batter is smooth. Add the egg white to a clean and dry bowl, then beat until stiff. Gently fold into the batter along with the lime zest. Cover and set aside to rest in a cool place for at least 60 minutes.
Peel the bananas and cut into slices. Heat the oil in a pan and when hot, dip the banana slices in the batter and immediately drop into the hot oil. Fry until nicely browned and heated through. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper as you cook the next batch. Serve hot, dusted with icing sugar.

Cape Verde

Joe & Sophie’s flat, Deptford

23 January 2015

Steve's 'Calamar a modo ze de lino'

Calamar a modo ze de lino – a twist on a Cape Verdean classic

The wonderfully free Cape Verde looks and sounds like a lovely place. An archipelago of volcanic islands, quite far off the coast of Senegal, it was colonised by Portuguese explorers in the 15th Century, and gained its independence from Portugal in 1975. We focussed our search for a restaurant on the South Lambeth area, reasoning that Cabo Verdeans in London might gravitate towards the Portuguese-speaking community there, but we failed to find anything serving food specifically from the island nation. So it was onto the Internet, to find a fairly encouraging range and quality of recipes, and over to Deptford to cook them, with our special dinner guest Bish in attendance.

Cachupa rica - a revelation

Cachupa rica – a revelation

Steve’s starter should have been Polvo a modo ze de lino (an octopus stew), but failing to find any octopus, this became Calamar a modo ze de lino. This was tasty and hot with chilli, and a good appetiser for the heavier main course, Sophie’s Cachupa rica. This is Cape Verde’s national dish, a hearty stew of beans, polenta and chorizo with a big black pudding stuck in the middle. It was delicious, most of us going back for seconds.

Pudim de Queijo - better than you'd think

Pudim de Queijo – better than you’d think

Finally, Joe’s baked pudding was Pudim de Queijo, which was like a cross between baked cheesecake, creme caramel and pannacotta, refreshingly simple to make and also delicious.

So, even our inexpert take on Cabo Verdean food turned out well, which suggests that the real thing must be even better. Definitely somewhere to consider for our next holiday.

Scores

Food: 4/5

Calamar a modo ze de lino

Ingredients

  • 8 baby squid
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 vine tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tsp tomato paste
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 shallots
  • 1 green chilli, chopped finely

Instructions

  1. Wash squid, pull off tentacles and slice bodies
  2. Put squid in saucepan with the bay leaf and oil and cook on a medium heat for 5-10 mins
  3. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic, shallots and chilli and cook down until stew-like.

Cachupa Rica

Ingredients:
1 cup polenta
1 tin sweetcorn
1/2  tin kidney beans
1/2 tin lima beans
1/2 cup shell beans
half a chorizo sausage, sliced
1 blood sausage (ideally morcella but blood pudding works)
pack of bacon or pancetta, sliced
1/2 a cabbage, chopped
1/2 squash, peeled and sliced
4 sweet potatoes, peeled and chunked
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 bay leaves
1 tablespoon chopped coriander

Instructions:
1) Add two tablespoons of olive oil, onion, garlic and bay leaf to a pan and fry until soft.
2) Heat six cups of water. Bring it to a boil and add the sweetcorn, polenta and beans. Simmer until the corn and beans are almost tender.
3) In a separate large saucepan, cook all the vegetables, except for the cabbage, together with the chorizo, and bacon.
4) Add the cooked vegetables and meats into the large saucepan on top of the sweetcorn and beans. Add in the whole blood sausage. Cook on low heat for approximately one hour.
5) Add the sliced cabbage and cook for a further 10 minutes.
6) Turn off heat and let sit in the covered pot for at least one half hour.
7) Place on a large platter, cover with the coriander, and serve.

Pudim de Queijo

Ingredients (serves 6-8)

  • 250g of smooth cheese, such as mild goat’s cheese or ricotta (or a combination of the two)
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 5 eggs, beaten
  • 250ml of double cream
  • 8tsp liquid caramel or runny honey

To finish (optional): crème fraiche, fresh fruit

Instructions

  • Preheat fan oven to 160°C. Mix all of the ingredients (either in a food processor or by hand) until they are well combined and form a smooth, custard-like liquid.
  • Grease individual pudding moulds/ramekins – or, for a more traditional shape, a single large bundt tin – with butter. Pour a small amount of cool liquid caramel or runny honey into each mould, so that it just covers the base.
  • Fill the moulds with the Pudim mixture, no deeper than 1cm from the top. Stand the moulds in a baking tray full of water (ideally deep enough to cover the lower half of the moulds), and bake in the oven until golden brown on top – approximately one hour.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool before turning out. Serve with crème fraiche and fresh fruit if desired.

Canada

Stacks Poutine, at Birthdays, 33-35 Stoke Newington Road, London N16 8BJ

31 October 2014

For Canadian food, the obvious venue is the Maple Leaf on Maiden Lane, but a look at the menu was not very encouraging, since the Canadian credentials of the dishes is largely achieved by sticking the names of Canadian cities onto the front of bog-standard pub food. Fortunately, we have got to this part of the world at the same time as the hipster food meme that is Poutine. Poutine is a French-Canadian dish comprising chips in gravy, topped with curds, and is surprisingly good. The current trend for Poutine means a few places serving it have popped up in east London, so we headed for Stacks in Dalston.

inevitable

Pulled pork poutine: inevitable

For aperetifs we tried the local specialities of Cocovino (coke and red wine; weird) and Lagerita (lager with tequila; good). Then for the poutines themselves, which came with a range of toppings. There was a kimchee option, which Steve considered but eventually bottled out of, choosing instead the pulled pork (making its inevitable appearance on a Dalston menu). Sophie and Joe chose the Coq au vin and Bacon and sour cream toppings respectively.

And it was all pretty good. The restaurant itself is just a ‘cool’ bar, so not much in the way of Canadian atmosphere.

Scores

Food: 4/5

Atmosphere: 2/5

Cameroon

Le Maestro, 45 Deptford Broadway, London, Deptford, UK SE8 4PH 9 October 2014 This was a combined “foods of the world” and “2D film club” meeting, where we would eat the food of Cameroon while discussing the film club film, which was The Draughtsman’s Contract. Poor turn out from the rest of film club, but Jamie did join us. The restaurant was empty apart from us and a couple of guys drinking on the other side of the restaurant. The walls were painted bright orange, and the tables simply laid out with starched white tablecloths. On the walls, large TV screens showed French sport TV, and a picture of national icon Samuel Eto’o hung near the toilets. A mix of African (and less African) music was playing (except when England-San Marino game came on, and they switched to that with the sound right up). It all felt pretty authentic – I imagine a restaurant in Yaoundé might be just like this.

IMG_2359

There’s a fish in there, and he’s not happy

We skipped starters (other than pints of Heineken) and went straight to mains, Joe opting for Poisson à l’arachide (fish in peanut sauce), which was rich, thick and sweet, with a pleasant tang of tomato. Jamie went for Viande à l’arachide, and Sophie for the Poulet roti (with plantain).

 

Ndole

Ndole

Steve went for the characteristic dish of Cameroon, Ndole. This was prawns and lamb chunks in a morass of oily green vegetable, spinach-like in consistency but more bitter. This was interesting at first, but the bitterness became too much eventually, and there was an awful lot of it. In fact, portions were very large all round.

Fungee tentacles: different shape, same old problem

Fungee tentacles: different shape, same old problem

With eyes bigger than our bellies, we also ordered side dishes of fried plantain and fungee sausages, which looked – and tasted – like something out of Alien: thick, cloying and sticky. It could be sliced into rubbery coins but, left on the plate as it ultimately was, it no doubt reassembled itself and went in search of another unsuspecting diner.

The waitress was very pleasant, as was another chap who may have been the owner, but service was very slow indeed.

Scores

Food: 2.5/5 Atmosphere:3.5/5

Cambodia

Lemongrass, 243 Royal College Street, London NW1 9LT

18 September 2014 (day of the Scottish independence referendum)

Unfortunately, we have few memories of this, and no notes. The menu claims that the secrets of Cambodian cuisine were lost in the 70s during the Khmer Rogue purges, and the cuisine offered here is a new Cambodian food based on the chef’s memories of his childhood meals.

We do remember that the experience felt a bit like eating on garden furniture in someone’s front room, and I seem to remember the windows being very steamy. I think we had the set menu, with some buddhist cabbage on the side. Overall, I suspect the food was “OK”.

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Buddhist Cabbage

Mixed starters

Mixed starters

Lok luk fillet steak

Lok luk fillet steak

Flambe!

Scores

Food: 3/5

Atmosphere: 3/5