# 10 Samoa: Palusami (Coconut creamed spinach with tofu)

Palusami 250px-Flag_of_Samoa.svg

Think Samoa and I think of beautiful pacific beaches and rugby, but I really had no idea about its cuisine before embarking on this next recipe.  Turns out, perhaps not surprisingly, that coconut figures prominently in many dishes; so I decided to give this coconut-based Palusami a go.

A more authentic version of this recipe would use taro leaves, but spinach is deemed to be a good substitute if that is not an ingredient that is readily available to you.  Also the recipe I adapted this from featured corned beef, but I have replaced this with tofu.  If you want to get a feel for what a really authentic Palusami looks like, then check out this video on YouTube where coconut is wrapped in leaf pouches and baked underground.  I wanna cook outside like that!!!

I enjoyed cooking and eating this dish, although it was a little on the sweet side for me.  In researching this recipe I also stumbled across some really tempting Samoan desserts which I might have to try out now!

Ingredients (serves 4-5)

  • 400g pack of tofu
  • 200g baby leaf spinach
  • 2 medium onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Prepare the tofu pieces: press out the excess water; cut into cm square pieces; and gently stir fry in a little olive oil for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  3. Alternately layer a casserole dish, with spinach leaves, onion and tofu pieces, until the dish is full to the top.
  4. Add the coconut milk, topping up with a little water if necessary, so that the liquid covers the other layered ingredients.
  5. Cover and bake for 55 minutes. Season to taste and then serve.

Acknowledgement: I adapted this recipe from one I found on Sasha Martin’s ‘Global Table Adventure’ blog.

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#9 Nigeria: Itiakiet stew (kidney bean stew with a peanut sauce)

Itiakiet stew

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The whole purpose of this blog is really about giving me a reason to try cooking and eating some new things. This red kidney bean stew from Nigeria, served with fried plantain, green beans and rice provided a couple of firsts for me: the first time I’ve used peanut butter as a cooking ingredient (I am much more used to spreading it on toast!); and the first time I’ve cooked plantain. Result!

This is quite a hot dish – the bird’s eye chilies make sure of that – but if you’re ok with that then this is a great recipe to try. The peanut sauce blends well with the other ingredients, to create a distinctive nutty taste, but one which doesn’t override the other flavours.  This is absolutely delicious and I am really glad that I decided to give it a try.

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

  • 2 cans red kidney beans
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 8 green bird’s eye chilies, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 5 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 cans chopped tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp peanut butter

Method 

  1. Fry the onion, garlic, chilies and green pepper in a pot using groundnut oil if you have it (I used vegetable oil instead) until the onions become clear.
  2. Add the cumin and cayenne pepper and fry for a couple more minutes. Then add the chopped tomatoes and lemon juice. Stir the mix well and then bring to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
  3. While the tomato mixture is simmering, put the peanut butter in a small bowl. Add the liquid from one of the cans of kidney beans and mix together to make the peanut sauce.
  4. Next add the peanut sauce and kidney beans to the pot, stir, cover and simmer for a further 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Serve with basmati rice, fried plantain and green beans.

Acknowledgement: I came across this recipe on Maninas: Food Matters blog, which had been adapted from one published in Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian.

#8 Lebanon: Maghmour

maghmour

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With both time and money in short supply at the moment, the choice of this latest recipe was very much dictated by needing something that was going to be quick, easy and not expensive in terms of buying new ingredients. Happily I stumbled across this Lebanese aubergine and chickpea stew, or Maghmour to give it its proper name, which ticked all of those boxes.

As hopefully conveyed by the photo, this is a cracking little dish. In my opinion there are few things that can match the taste of melt-in-the-mouth aubergine – just make sure you give this one long enough to allow the aubergine pieces to reach that sweet point of tenderness and you really can’t go wrong. I will definitely be making this again!!

Ingredients

  • 2 medium aubergines
  • 2 onions, roughly chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley + a little extra to garnish
  • Ground pepper
  • 2 tins chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tins chickpeas
  • 200ml vegetable stock

Method

  1. Chop the aubergine into chunks of about an inch-square and gently fry in olive oil for 10 minutes, until the flesh starts to brown. Then remove from pan and leave to one side for now.
  2. Add some more oil to the pan and sautée the onions and crushed garlic for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the parsley and season generously with pepper. Fry for a further 3-5 minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes, vegetable stock and chickpeas to the pan and return the aubergine to the mix.
  5. Cover and cook on a low heat for 40-50 minutes or until the aubergine is tender.
  6. Garnish with parsley leaves and serve with pitta bread and houmous.

This recipe is adapted from several different ones that I looked up online. While the basics are the same in different recipes there is quite a lot of variation in the balance of ingredients suggested… so I have gone with what seemed ‘right’ to my taste buds!

#7 Russia: Borsch

borsch

russia

With the cold November nights drawing in, I fancied making a dish that would be more of a ‘winter warmer’ and this Russian borsch certainly is that.  Perhaps it was just the unfamiliarity of this dish to me, or the preparation time, or the fact that I was up and cooking at silly-o-clock in the morning, but making this felt a bit like tackling an epic by Tolstoy or Dostoevsky.  But it was most definitely worth it.

This visually arresting dish, with its deep red hue from the beetroot, is actually dead easy to make.  I ended up making it in the morning, leaving the flavours to infuse during the day, and then heating it up for supper.  I think this was a good move, because the taste was only so-so when I left it to cool this morning, but was absolutely delicious by the time I returned home from work.  I also learned from this dish that I am not much of a fan of sour cream, and will eat the remainder of the borsch without, which is fine because it is full of flavour as it is.  The quantities below will make the proverbial ‘shed load’ of the stuff, but I am not complaining because this is a really great soup.

(And, yes, I know that I possibly could/should have attributed this dish to Ukraine, which seems to be where it originated from, but it does also seem to be an established part of Russian and other Eastern European cuisines).

Ingredients

  • 3 litres water
  • 1 ½ tbsp vegetable stock
  • 4 medium beetroots
  • ½ head of white cabbage
  • 4 medium potatoes
  • 2 large carrots
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 onion
  • 3-5 cloves garlic
  • 1 ½ cups of passata
  • 1-2 tsp sugar
  • Sour cream
  • Fresh dill

Method

  1. Put the water into a large saucepan, add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil, before covering and simmering on a low heat.
  2. Peel the raw beetroot, cut it into thin strips and stew in the pot for 30 minutes.
  3. Dice the potatoes and add to the pot together with the bay leaves and continue to cook gently on a low heat for a further 10 minutes.
  4. In a frying pan, fry the onion, garlic and carrots (chopped into thin strips like the beetroot) in a little olive oil for 5 minutes.  Add the passata and sugar, mix well, and continue to fry for a further 5 minutes.  Add the mix from the frying pan to the saucepan.
  5. Next shred the cabbage finely and add to the borsch, and continue to simmer for a further 5 to 10 minutes.
  6. Turn off the heat and allow the borsch to stand to allow the flavours to infuse (I left mine for most of the day, but I’m sure a few hours will suffice).
  7. Re-heat and then serve with sour cream and dill.

Acknowledgement: Recipe adapted from one I found on masterrussian.com.

#6 New Zealand: Kumara and rice patties

NZ

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Whilst listening on the radio to the All Blacks beating England at rugby, I kept with the New Zealand theme and had a go at this recipe from Down Under which makes for a nice little starter.  At first I thought this dish required a vegetable that was completely unheard of to me, until I discovered that ‘Kumara’ is in fact the Maori name for sweet potato.

As with any patty or rosti-type recipe, where you need your ingredients to bind together, you have to use your own judgement to get the balance of ingredients right to get a texture that will hold when you fry your patties.  Mine did, thankfully… but only just!  I’d be tempted to add more breadcrumbs next time, as the mashed sweet potato is quite sticky.  But the brief ‘will-it, won’t-it hold together?’ anxiety as I carefully turned the patties in the frying pan was worth it for the end result: a light and satisfying starter in which the clean and simple flavours come through in a way that works really well.  It’s just a shame that the final score from Twickenham wasn’t equally as satisfying!

Ingredients (makes 10 patties)

  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 1-2 large sweet potatoes (500g)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup diced courgette
  • 1/3 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley

Method

  1. Cook the basmati rice.
  2. Chop the sweet potato into chunks and then steam or boil until tender.  Mash the cooked sweet potato in a large bowl until almost smooth.
  3. Dice the courgette into small pieces and add these to the mashed sweet potato.
  4. Add the rice, frozen peas, breadcrumbs, cumin, garlic, egg and parsley to the mix, stir well, and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Spoon equal portions of the mix into a round pastry cutter for an even patty shape, and then transfer your patties and cook in a lightly-oiled frying pan, turning as required, until golden brown on both sides.
  6. Place on a paper towel and use to remove any excess oil, before serving each patty on a bed of baby leaf salad drizzled with a chili dressing.

Acknowledgement: This recipe is based on one I found on Food.com.

#5 Mexico: Mexican quinoa

Quinoa

2000px-Flag_of_Mexico.svgFresh from visiting the amazing Dia de los Muertos exhibition in London at the weekend, there was really only one place I was going to pick for my next dish for this blog.  With Mexican food being so popular, I was really spoilt for choice for recipes.  I ended up going for this quinoa-based dish, simply because it is a little bit different to the more familiar enchiladas, burritos, quesadillas and nachos that I could have picked.

Although I am a little unsure how authentic this dish actually is, it certainly makes great use of that combination of sharp, fresh ingredients – jalapenos, garlic, tomatoes, lime juice, avocado, coriander – that is instantly recognizable as Mexican (which is good enough for me!).  Quinoa gets rave reviews for its properties as a ‘super-food’, but I have sometimes been disappointed with quinoa recipes in the past.  Not this time!  This one is really delicious and the quinoa works perfectly as the base for the dish, combining well with the black beans (a new favourite of mine after trying Brazilian vegetarian feijoada recently) and sweetcorn.  This recipe is also ridiculously easy to prepare – and it’s very healthy to boot. What’s not to like?!

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 jalapeno chili, chopped
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 380g carton black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup frozen sweetcorn
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 avocado, peeled and diced
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

Method

  1. In a large pot, gently fry the garlic and jalapeno in oil for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add in the quinoa, vegetable stock, black beans, tomatoes, sweetcorn, chili flakes and cumin, stirring well.
  3. Bring to the boil and then cover, simmering on a low heat for about 20 minutes until the quinoa is cooked through and has absorbed most of the liquid.
  4. Add in the chopped avocado, lime juice and coriander, and stir through, before serving.

Acknowledgement: This recipe is adapted from one I found on the Damn Delicious blog.