Sunday, April 7, 2013

Surinaamse Pindasoep

This article and recipes were first published in Dutch, the mag.

The city of Amsterdam is known for many things, and not in the least for its multicultural society. It is said that every nationality is represented in this city. And with each nationality comes food, often glorious, exciting and flavorful food!  

For several years I lived in an outside neighborhood of Amsterdam, on the one-a-last subway stop. It was close to the Bijlmermeer, an area known for the large concentration of Surinamese people.  Many moved to The Netherlands after Suriname achieved independence from the Dutch in 1975, and brought with them a colorful culture, and a vast array of culinary treasures.  Amsterdam alone counts over 200 Surinamese eateries, where one can enjoy these exciting dishes. Almost one in six inhabitants of the city has Suriname heritage and there are almost as many Surinamese people living in The Netherlands as there are in Suriname.

The Dutch first arrived in Suriname, a country on the east coast of South America, in the early 1600s. They traded New Amsterdam with the British for this fairly new and booming location with its rich soil and started plantations. These plantations relied on African slaves to grow the sugar cane, coffee, cotton and coffee. After slavery was abolished in 1863, and most slaves left the plantations, the Dutch brought in workers from other colonies and areas like Indonesia, India and in smaller amounts from China and the Middle East. The variety of cultural backgrounds that each brought with them, and a preference for certain foods, influenced the local cuisine heavily. The Surinamese cuisine nowadays is a beautiful and exciting melting pot.

The recipes in the following weeks are a representation of the different cultures that encompass the Surinamese population: we're starting off the mini-series with pinda bravoe, a Surinamese peanut soup. It is reminiscent of West African dishes where the groundnut was an available and affordable source of energy, and it was quite possibly a dish introduced by the African slaves who worked on the plantations. In the next couple of weeks we'll be covering pom, of Jewish origin, a dish that is often attributed to the Creole population of Suriname. Roti, the curried chicken and potato dish that is served with braised yard long beans and a side of flatbread, has seemingly Indian influences. The baka bana reminds us of the pisang goreng from Java and the bara, a savory and spiced fried snack made with urad dal has a distinct Hindu background.  

All in all, the Surinamese kitchen is a rich one, with a large variety of flavors and backgrounds, and worth giving a try! Njang Swietie! (Eet smakelijk!)

Pinda Bravoe with tom tom
½ teaspoon butter
½ cup onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small tomato, chopped
6 ounces chicken meat
2 ounces corned beef brisket*
4 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
4 whole allspice berries
1 sprig of celery leaves
10 ounces peanut butter, natural
1 Madame Jeanette pepper**
1 plantain
Salt

Melt the butter in a small stockpot and sauté the chopped onion until they are translucent. Add the minced garlic, then add the tomatoes. Carefully stir for a couple of minutes or until the tomatoes have softened. Add the chicken meat and the corned beef and give it a couple of stirs, then add the chicken stock, the bay leaf, the 4 allspice berries and the sprig of celery.

Simmer for thirty minutes. Remove the bay leaf and the allspice berries, and discard them. Take the meat out and set it aside. Purée the soup.  In a separate bowl, mix the peanut butter and one cup of soup until it’s smooth. Add it in to the rest of the soup. Stir until the soup is homogenous, and return the meat to the soup. Add the Madame Jeanette pepper to the soup, whole, and let it simmer for another ten  minutes. Make sure the pepper does not break or rip, as the soup will be too hot to eat: we’re trying to get the pepper to add flavor but no heat.

Discard the pepper after ten minutes: taste the soup and adjust with salt and pepper. If you’d like some spice, try to add a little bit of chili sauce.

To make the tom tom, peel the plantain and boil it until soft. Remove it from the water and mash it with a fork. Add a pinch of salt, and roll into small balls, the size of a marble. Add one or two into each soup portion.




* This is your regular St Patrick's day corned beef brisket, not the canned variety. 
** Can be easily replaced by Scotch Bonnet peppers or habaneros. Watch the heat!!

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