Sunday, August 4, 2013


Well, it’s back to school time. Indianapolis Public Schools are on that balanced schedule, which I like a lot, but I would’ve never thought that we’d be going back to school on August 5. At least for this year, we have all of her school supplies and some new uniforms before the first day. I think we’re ready for 2nd grade. And so, on this final day of summer break, I can’t think of a better way to end the summer and get ready for the new school year than by being in the kitchen all day.
Aww, she's growing up. She's learning to cut butter into the flour. And complaining that it feels gross.
So, I was somewhat at a loss when it came to looking for a bread recipe. Whenever I can’t find a type of bread, I start expanding my searches to include pastries as well.  I did manage to find a tart called Tarte Banane Congolaise, or Congolese Banana Tart. I had never made a tart before, or really even made my own pie crust before. So, I thought maybe it would be good for me to learn. AND, I realized at the last minute that I don’t have a tart pan – and all I could find was some pie tins at the grocery store. So, pie tins it is. The dough for the crust starts out with cutting butter into the flour, something I taught my daughter how to do today (after listening to her complain how gross it felt). Then we added the sugar, an egg, and just enough milk to bring it all together. After that, we had to cover it in saran wrap (or a large plastic baggie since I didn’t know we were out of saran wrap) and chill in the refrigerator for an hour. Even afterwards, the dough was still SUPER sticky; I had to add another half-ton of flour just to work with it. But I did manage to form it to the pie tin that I had. After I baked the crust for about 15 minutes, I added the sliced bananas (and I couldn’t resist topping it with some ground cinnamon), and baked it for another 10 minutes. The edges were browned, and I was worried about burning it. It seems a little weird that there wasn’t any sauce or anything, or that the bananas weren’t smashed. There were parts of the recipe where I wondered if there were some typos in it (like when it mentioned to put it in the oven at 1900 degrees C. Pretty sure they meant 190, unless burning my house down was in the plan.)  But it looks amazing regardless. And it was a hit with the kids and me.  Would’ve been better a la mode.
Again, I'm thinking this may be my breakfast. Someone needs to buy me some ice cream. 
The main meal for this is called mwamba.  It’s basically a stew of various meats (I chose chicken and lamb), tomatoes, chilies (I just used a can of green chilies), and onions. Everything is sautéed in a skillet for about 45 minutes. A note on the recipe said that mwamba that is made with chicken is almost always served with rice, and that mwamba made with lamb and other meats are almost served with a side of fried plantains. So, I suppose it’s rice and plantains for us then!  This style of one-pot cooking is pretty common in a lot of African recipes that I’ve seen.  And it’s pretty common in my house too. It’s always our “the days before payday” kind of meal, where we throw whatever little bits of vegetables and meat together and put it over rice. You really can’t go wrong there. 
Mwamba on rice surrounded by fried plantains. 

And who doesn’t love fried plantains, really? I’ve had them plenty of times but have never made them myself. This recipe called to dip the sliced plantains in a mixture of ground ginger, salt, and pepper, then fry it in a skillet of hot oil.  The ground ginger was what did it.  Some batches had different amount of sauce on it, so I have some that look more “burnt” than others, but they were all so tasty.  This is the second time I’ve worked with plantains, and I’m always amazed that I think they smell like cucumbers. 
Fried plantains: the ginger must be the secret ingredient. 
This was a good meal. And I’m glad that my daughter helped some. And as I’m sitting here completely full and can barely move, I can’t help but be thankful for that feeling. There are a lot of people out there who don’t get enough to eat in their day, especially in countries such as Congo-Brazzaville – and yes, and in our own communities as well. What I’ve learned from these countries is how to make big meals from ingredients that you can find for fairly cheap (minus that lamb that I bought at the grocery store yesterday). My family and I are certainly better off than many people, but in this country, we’re probably closer to the bottom than middle. But I’ve realized to eat a good meal with family is one of the things that binds all of us, no matter where your place is in the world, economically and geographically.

Up next: Costa Rica

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