Sunday, April 15, 2012

ANGOLA: THE FOOD


This meal went over WAY better, surprisingly, than some of the past meals (even though I’ve enjoyed all of them, the other members of my family have had some varying opinions on various dishes). And I do have to say myself, that this was one of my favorites.

My daughter helping stir the batter. And, yes, those are cat ears. 
First of all, we turned on the soulful sounds of Paulo Flores, an Angolan musician I forgot to mention in my previous post about music (how did I forget about him!?). We started off, as usual, with the bread: a corn and rice bread. It was a lot less complicated than other breads I’ve made. You mixed all the dry ingredients, and then mixed all the wet ingredients separately, which included me making rice before I got started.  I usually use basmati rice, but this time I used jasmine rice. It was a little stickier than the basmati, at least the way I made it I guess. It did call for coconut oil, which I actually did find. The organic version was $8 and the regular version was $6, but it came in such a huge container, I couldn't justify buying it if I couldn't guarantee I would be using much of it again. Instead, I mixed melted butter, a little sugar, and some pure vanilla (I didn't want to go back out of coconut flavor). After that, you pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir it really well. I wanted to use a loaf pan, but the one I had seemed really small. I’m not always the best foreseer of what’ll fit into a space, but for once, I listened to that small voice of reason: I used the larger round pan instead. It didn’t brown that much, and the consistency was denser than regular cornbread, but the flavor was slightly lighter. It’s definitely a dipping and sopping bread. 

The bread as it came out of the oven. Just about perfect.  
Next came the stew. It starts out with its base: onions, garlic, and ginger. Then some added chopped jalapeño. I tasted some of it, and it really didn’t seem all that hot to me, which was good if I had any chance of my kids eating it. After that I added the chicken, spices and vegetables. I actually used the stalks of the Swiss chard I used with the Andorran food from a couple weeks ago to add some color.  I used water instead of broth (I was too tired to go to the store).  After it’s simmered for a while, you add the peanut butter and some sugar and have it simmer some more. The recipe called for optional lemon or lime juice: I squeezed half a lime into the soup while it simmered. I went with lime, since it always seems to be a garnish whenever I order anything with Thai peanut sauce on it. The smell was amazing, and the taste was even more so. Definitely a favorite in our household.

The stew just prior to serving. Don't worry, I didn't drool into it. But I came really close. 
 The third thing on the menu was the prawns with raw sauce. I used cocktail shrimp since 1) I already had it in the fridge, and 2) it’s practically the same thing.  The raw sauce basically consisted of chopping green onions, garlic, white wine vinegar, water, and some spices. It called for the shrimp to be grilled, but not only did I forget to buy new charcoal and lighter fluid, but the grill needed to be cleaned since we hadn’t used it since last summer/fall. And that’s a job for my husband to do. So, I placed the skewers on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven. It was still good. So good in fact, my kids ate them all up. Every single last one of them.

Grilled prawns that are neither grilled nor prawns. But the raw sauce was right on. 
 I would have to say that this meal was an enormous hit, as enormous as the Angolan sky itself. It was a meal that stuck to your ribs, that requires stories to be told over it, and shared amongst friends and family. I mean, even my 3-year-old ate part of it, mostly shrimp though. It still embodied the complexity that we encountered in African food when we did the food from Algeria. I remember when I was in college, we had a dinner where we had to bring something from the country we live in, and there was a woman from Africa who made a dish with chicken and peanut butter. I forget which country she was from exactly – I’m thinking she was from Ghana. But she said how amazed she was at how cheap peanut butter is in the United States, because it was a lot more expensive where she was from in Africa. Dishes made with peanut butter were served for special occasions and holidays. I don’t know the price of peanut butter in Angola, but it made me think that certain ingredients in one place may be so common, it becomes a euphemism for cheap items (as in “you have a caviar taste, but a peanut butter budget”), while in other places it’s a coveted item. (I wonder if they use it in euphemisms too?) It makes you think about your own community a little differently. We’re close yet so far away, and vice versa.

The finished product! Kudos to me for making bread that looks like Spongebob. 

Up next: Antigua and Barbuda

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