Saturday, February 16, 2013

Culture up: African Groundnut Porridge with Yellow Plum and Kashata

ChefSteps Week 5 Challenge:  Cook something from a different culture with a modern twist. 

Most people consider me to be sans culture, so this seemed to be a wide open challenge.  I wanted to make something that I was completely unfamiliar with. I ruled out Asian and European cuisines since I go to those culinary locales regularly.  In the Americas, US, Canada and Mexico were out.  I considered the Caribbean or South America but ultimately decided that Africa seemed like a destination worth exploring.  I've had some African stews and one of my favorite dishes is the Inner Warmth Peanut Stew.  However, my creative cooking time this week was scheduled for Saturday morning, so I wanted something that could work for breakfast, which meant stews were out.  I will confess I know almost nothing about this dish and little about the culture of the specific region, other than what I was able to glean from the internet for this challenge. So, I apologize if I get anything wrong, but this is my interpretation. Anyway, enough preface.

My dish this week is Groudnut Porridge with Yellow Plum and Kashata. The porridge is a dish from the Central African Republic, though I expect it may travel farther than that. I'm not entirely sure of the proper name for the porridge. I've seen it referred to as Bambara, though I believe that is actually the name for the specific groundnut, not the porridge itself. I chose yellow plum because the wild plum is indigeneous to Africa and I couldn't find any horned melon which was my first choice. The Kashata is a cookie/candy of Swahili origin.

Groundnut Porridge with Yellow Plum and Kashata

For the porridge, I used sushi rice that I cooked until it had absorbed about 75% of the water. Then I added Peanut Butter (unsalted) and Sugar and finished cooking. I was happy with the texture of the porridge. Using the sushi rice made it stickier than a long grain rice (which I believe is more typical of African cuisines) would have.

The plums were sliced and cooked sous vide with a little bit of honey at 63C just until they started to soften up a bit.

The Kashata was made with sugar melted in the skillet until it was nice and caramelized, then added roasted peanuts, coconut, cinnamon and salt.  I poured it out onto a silpat and let harden to a brickle.

I plated the porridge with an improvised ring mold (mason jar ring) topped with the plum and a dusting of sugar. I did a light brulee over the top and presented with a piece of Kashata. I did 2 different takes on the plating, and was actually pleased with the final result for once. Anyway, I hope I did justice to the dish.
Plating Variant 1: Groundnut Porridge with Yellow Plum and Kashata

Plating Variant 2: Groundnut Porridge with Yellow Plum and Kashata

I'm not so sure about the combination of plum with the peanut. Jamie thought it worked, or so she said.  I thought everything tasted good on it's own, but not necessarily a 1+1=3 situation. I think apples would go well, or certainly banana, but I wanted to try to stick to ingredients that were native to Africa, and I don't think those qualify.  The final plating really matched what I visualized last night, which is a rarity. I'm really happy with the appearance of this dish, though perhaps less so with the overall flavor.  That said, I think it could be refined with a different fruit into something really nice.

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