Sunday, December 8, 2013


Today in Indianapolis, it feels like 18 degrees.  We’ve had our first real snowfall of the year, and we’re bracing for some Arctic air this week.  However, in Djibouti, the high is around 85, and it’s sunny.  Yeah, I miss those days…

Today’s menu was pretty low-key.  Except that I forgot I should’ve made the batter for the laxoox last night. Well, I hope science can do its thing in a few hours what should’ve happened in twelve.  I’m sure it’ll be fine.  The laxoox (pronounced "la-hoh") is a Djiboutian type of flat bread, somewhat similar to injera, which is also popular in the Horn of Africa.  The batter is somewhat similar in texture to a pancake batter and is made of all-purpose flour, wheat flour, and millet flour (for which I substituted quinoa flour that I already had – a side effect of this blog is that I now have six different kinds of flour in my cabinet at any given time).  Then I added a yeast packet, a little salt and sugar, and some water. I put the cover on my bowl and put it in the refrigerator.  To cook it, I heated up some oil on my griddle, and ladled out some into the heated griddle and spread it out with the back of my ladle until it’s about a ¼” thick or less. Unlike pancakes where you flip it once to cook the other side, you don’t flip these. Since it’s thin, bubbles will form and create holes in the dough as it cooks.  It’s really important to watch your heat because it can be easy to burn.  These can be spread with butter and honey, or they can be used to dip in the stew that I also made. I ate mine with my soup (even though I thought that the ¼ cup of quinoa flour overpowered the other flours), but later I tried it with the butter and honey, and it was really good.

I still call them my unflipped pancakes.   
I picked a recipe called fah-fah, which I’ve also seen called soupe djiboutienne.  The recipe I chose called for 2 lbs of goat meat, but another similar recipe calls for lamb.  So, guess what I chose? (If you chose lamb, you’re right. I tried curry goat once, and I thought the goat meat was kind of gamey.  I should probably try it again, since that was about a decade ago.)  I probably should’ve put the meat on the bottom, but I didn’t.  I picked a couple of lamb shoulder chops and also threw a bunch of lamb neck pieces in there as well.  The recipe also calls for potatoes, cabbage, leeks, tomatoes, garlic, green chili, onion, some salt and pepper, and some cilantro.  I actually let it simmer for 20 minutes before putting the cilantro in, and then let it simmer for another 40 minutes or more.  The amazing thing about this soup is that it is perfect for warm climates or cold climates.

Like the Sound of Music, these are a few of my favorite things.   
I think the best part of this was the soup.  Of course, I added a liberal amount of cayenne pepper on top, but I’m sure Djiboutians won’t mind.  I’ve read through several of their recipes. Spice is what they do.  I could easily do the soup with slightly less expensive cuts of meat (stew beef, for example).  It’s funny how a recipe from someplace completely different from where I am can become one that I can remake and create variations from. I’m sure that’s how recipes move and merge and spread across regions, forming variations based on what grows locally and personal taste.  Most people here think food from North Africa is pretty exotic and that I have to buy a lot of specialty ingredients for this, but this is a great example of the opposite.  All of these ingredients were rather easy to buy at any grocery store. For a country that I didn’t know much about (except that we use it as a nickname for my son, Jabari), I found it quite interesting. Perhaps once day, I’ll stop by and visit. But until then, I can just eat their soup in homage.

So, I guess this is what exotic North African food looks like, huh?

Up next: Dominica 

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