Friday, April 26, 2013

Baka Bana


This recipe was first published in Dutch, the mag We finish our colonial cuisine journey with another traditional dish, of course, and one that takes hardly any time to make. Fried plantains are traditional in the Surinamese as well as the Indonesian kitchen, where they are called pisang goreng. Bananas and plantains are a staple for the population and because of its abundance, it flavors many desserts, baked goods or shines by itself as a delicious after-dinner treat.

This yellow fruit however can also be served as part of the dinner, especially if you present them with a peanut sauce dressing. It's different but equally tasty!

If you prefer to skip the peanut sauce and just go for the fried banana, you may serve them either by themselves and a dusting of powdered sugar, or with a scoop of ice cream.

Baka bana
2 ripe bananas or plantains
½ cup flour
Pinch of salt
½ cup carbonated clear soda beverage such as Sprite or 7-up
Oil

Slice the bananas in half, lengthwise. Mix the flour and the soda into a batter, add the salt. Heat the oil, dip the bananas into the batter and fry them golden on both sides. Make enough because, as you fry them, there always tends to be someone in the kitchen who wants to "sample". Before you know it, they're gone!



Optional: stir ¼ cup of peanut butter with two tablespoons of warm water. Mix in two teaspoons of sweet soy sauce. Pour it over the baked bananas. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Bara


 This recipe was first published in Dutch, the mag.

We've been on a little discovery trip through the Surinamese kitchen. One of the many things we've embraced from foreign cultures is the food. We love to eat, and we love to discover new flavors, new foods and new challenges. The Indonesian cuisine, as a colonial treasure, has been fully integrated into the Dutch culinary panorama, and for the last decade, if not more, so have the flavors of Suriname.

Baras, a deep fried savory snack with Hindustan roots, have found its way into our eating habits and into the many Surinamese food shops around the country, one wonderful bite at a time. Made from soaked urad dal (also known as split black lentils) and spices, and served with a sweet and tangy chutney, the addictive nature of this delectable donut is hard to resist.

Bara
1 cup urad dal
2 teaspoons cumin seed
2 tablespoons chopped green leaves*
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup self rising flour
Oil

Wash and soak the urad dal in two or three cups of water, and let it soak overnight. Pour off the water, rinse the lentils one more time and purée them into a smooth paste. Toast the cumin seeds in a dry skillet until the first one pops, and then add them to the paste. Add in the chopped leaves, garlic, onion powder and the yeast and knead it all together with the flour. If the dough is too stiff, add in a tablespoon of warm water at a time.

Put the dough in a bowl, cover and let it rise for three to four hours. Heat oil to 375F. Lightly wet both hands and roll a bit of dough into a ball. Pat it flat and poke a hole in the middle. Let the bara donut slide into the hot oil and quickly fry until puffy and golden brown. Fry the rest of the baras.

This snack is best served hot. Serve with chutney.


* This is traditionally made with tayer leaves but can be substituted by fresh spinach.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Pom


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

Last week, we started a new culinary mini-series. Previously, we covered Indonesia, with an overview and several recipes for a rijsttafel. This time, we're cooking dishes from a newer influx of tropical tastes, the country of Suriname. The Dutch kitchen landscape has always been one of embracing other cultures, and our colonial past introduced many exciting and flavorful new dishes to the spectrum. Some of those dishes would be adapted based on whatever ingredients were available.


Such is the case with pom for example, a celebratory dish that is ubiquitous during Surinamese holidays, birthdays, wedding and funerals, and which is not seldom proclaimed as being Suriname’s favorite dish . Even better, it is often said that there is no celebration without pom present!

Pom traditionally appears to be a Jewish recipe, and was made with chicken, orange juice and potatoes. But potatoes were scarce in Suriname. A readily available substitute was pomtajer, a root vegetable, which has been used since.  As the culture is so diverse, one can find many recipe variations on this dish.
Pom, either served over rice or on a breadroll, is nowadays such a popular food item in The Netherlands that not only Surinam food cafés and restaurants serve it, but it has found its way onto the menus of Dutch cafetarias and even delivery pizza restaurants, just to meet popular demand.

The open markets in the Bijlmermeer are known to cater to its predominantly Surinam customer base, and many that live outside the area will travel to the Bijlmer in order to purchase those specialty foods. Market days therefore are a hustle and bustle of bright colored clothing, lots of laughing, exciting new discoveries, meeting new and old friends, and wonderful, enticing smells from the restaurants and food trucks in the direct vicinity. And news travels fast: if a particular market stall displays a difficult to find food item, or if so-and-so has a new batch of freshly baked pom. You have to be quick or it will be gone!

Pom
6 medium sized potatoes*
Juice of 1 lime
½ cup orange juice
1 tablespoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon turmeric
¼ cup parsley
2 lbs chicken meat (either breast or thigh)
4 ounces corned beef brisket
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup chopped onion
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon nutmeg
Salt
Pepper
2 chicken bouillon cubes
Butter

Shred the potatoes and mix them with half of the lime juice and all of the orange juice. Season with brown sugar, the turmeric, a pinch of salt and pepper, a pinch of nutmeg and the parsley.

Cut the meat into bite size pieces. Melt the butter, sauté the onion and the tomatoes and add the chicken. Season with the rest of the nutmeg, salt and pepper, and the rest of the lime juice. Add four cups of water, the two chicken bouillon cubes, the corned beef and the tomato paste. Simmer for fifteen minutes, then set aside.

Butter an oven dish. Divide the shredded potatoes in two: layer the bottom of the dish with one half. Scoop the meat out of the pan and spread it over the potatoes, then cover with the rest of the potatoes.

Sprinkle some of the juices from the pan over the potatoes, and dot them with butter. Heat the oven to 350F and bake for an hour or until deep golden.



*Choose a mealy potato for this purpose. I personally prefer to shred the potatoes so there's still a bit of texture to it. Another version suggests boiling and mashing the potatoes first, and then adding in the juices and seasonings. Either way works great!

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!!