This was a culmination of some of my favorites: island food and African food. We’ve been having some really hot weather here in the Midwest, our first 90 degree days of the summer, so I think it was appropriate for this meal. Actually, it’s been warmer here than it has been in Comoros. If there's one running theme in Comorian cuisine that I noticed is the heavy use of coconut milk.
There are couple of other blogs out there that are generally doing the same thing that I am. I usually take a look and see which dishes they chose, and for the most part, I try to do something different. Just so readers can get a more rounded look at the cuisine and culture. However, I couldn’t find any true bread recipes for Comoros. I thought I finally hit a roadblock. I did run across both of these other blogs, and realized I think they both used the same bread: mkatra foutra. So, I broke my own unwritten made-up rules and used this recipe too. It’s a yeast-based bread, which uses coconut milk as the liquid in this. It does call for it to rest for an hour, but it was still a really sticky dough. I had to use a lot more flour in it to work with it at all. My hands were truly a mess, a preschool kid’s dream. After the dough rests, I made a patty-like shape out of the dough and put it in the skillet with melted butter until it turns a golden color. When I first laid it in the skillet, I then sprinkled sesame seeds on it and again when I turned it. These were very good, and they were even better with a little caramel syrup on them!
|Lightly fried bread, sweetened with coconut milk, complimented with toasted sesame seeds. Goes perfect with coffee.|
The main dish I made was Comorian chicken curry, or poulet à l’Indienne. Much of Comorian cuisine is influenced by Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines as well as other pan-African cuisines. This starts with browning the chicken then removing it from the skillet. In the same skillet, I sautéed onions, a poblano pepper (in lieu of chilies), and minced garlic, and then added cardamom and cloves. The recipe actually called for whole cloves and cardamom pods, but I didn’t get them since I had the ground spices at home already. (After a $2300 repair bill for my transmission and rental car expenses, I’m trying to save as much as I can where I can.) Then I added the chicken back in and a can of diced tomatoes. While that was simmering, I mixed some cumin and saffron into some Greek yogurt and layered it on top of the chicken mix in the skillet. Adding a final touch of salt and pepper, I let it simmer for an hour. Most of the time, people think of curry as being spicy, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be spicy, as much as it’s spice-ful (if that’s a word). The smell was absolutely wonderful, a spicy and sweet aroma that filled every corner of my kitchen. My husband complained that it was a little “too bold” but I have no idea what he was talking about. I just nod and smile when I don’t understand him.
To go with this, I made riz au lait de coco de Comores, or what I call Comorian coconut rice. It was fairly easy to make; it’s essentially the same way I make steamed rice, but instead of water, I used coconut milk. But I think using the coconut milk makes it a little harder. It boiled a lot faster than I imagined, and I think it didn’t take nearly as long as the recipe called for. I think it may have contributed to the fact that the rice got a little scorched on the bottom of the pan. But it still went well with the chicken curry.
To go with all of this, I made a drink for myself. All of the island countries have some of the best drinks. I found a recipe for a drink called Punch Coco. (I’m sure Coco Chanel might have suggested a different name.) It sounded wonderful, mixing coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk, lime juice, white rum (I used a vanilla rum), with a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg as garnish. Well, it called to mix all of this in a shaker with ice then add the garnish (and a vanilla pod, but I didn’t feel like paying $7 for just two pods). I don’t have a shaker (I should get one though), so I just mixed it in a glass and stirred. It wasn’t quite the same: the lime juice caused the coconut milk to break up, and it became clumpy. What I should’ve done was put it in my blender to break up the ice and mix it lightly. It tasted good at first, but I found that mixing the vanilla rum in pre-made mocha iced coffee was a far better drink.
For a country that I knew very little about, and most people I know haven’t even heard of, this turned out to be a very interesting country. And it falls into the category of countries that I wish were more stable so that I could go visit them (assuming I ever have a time when my kids aren’t sucking every last dime out of me). Tourism in this country is still struggling because of the instability of the government, but I’m hoping that they will gain some governmental and economic stability in the future, not only for its own citizens, but for people who want to visit this tiny gem in the Indian Ocean. I liked the music and the food, and it sort of prides me that I now know some random facts about a place most people didn’t realize exist. Who knew this small group of islands had so much to offer?
Up next: Congo