Feed the world.
The anniversary of the charter of the UN is October 24, so to celebrate—and to raise money for their trip to The Hague—my daughter's Model UN team had an International Food Day. I wanted to bring something from Africa, the continent that right now seems to need the U.N. the most.
A look through my cookbooks didn't provide much other than inspiration. I wanted to include the root vegetables in my bin, and I wanted something that might appeal to teenagers. Or at least their teachers. But I didn't see anything that fit the bill, so I decided to wing it.
I've cooked African food before, from Morocco as well as Ethiopia. I love Ethiopian food, especially the injera bread, which serves as both a platter and a utensil. My first attempt at making it was a disaster—I used real teff, the tiny grain native to Ethiopia, and the bread never really firmed up in the pan. But I found a few recipes that use wheat flour and soda water, and don't require a three day waiting period.
It actually turned out more like the injera served in Ethiopian restaurants than the authentic recipe using teff, with one noticeable difference: the sour flavor was missing, since the dough hadn't had a chance to sour over three days. My daughter didn't mind; she never liked that part anyway, but I'd like to try for real sour injera one day. This version, however, was quick, and relatively easy once I got the mixture to the right consistency. (More details below)
The stew sent a lovely, spicy aroma through the house. For the most part I used spices that were in my spice drawer, easily found at most supermarkets, except for possibly smoked paprika. Ever since I found it at Tesco the other day it's been finding its way into many ethnically diverse dishes. Try to find it if you can; it adds a smoky, spicy flavor to whatever you toss it in.
After a trial run on Friday, I made the dish again yesterday, doubling the recipe. The team raised some money, and we fed some hungry teachers and their students. Now if only it were that easy for the real U.N. to feed the rest of the world.
African Root Vegetable Stew
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 onion, chopped
1-inch knob of ginger, grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, chopped
2 parsnips, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 medium potato, cut into ¾ inch chunks (or use a sweet potato)
1 tablespoon paprika (smoked, if possible)
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon cayenne (or more)
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cardamom
1 can diced tomatoes
salt, to taste
In a large skillet or dutch oven, sauté onion in canola oil over medium heat, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and ginger; stir. Add carrots, parsnip and potatoes; stir. Move the vegetables to the side and add the spices to the center of the pan: paprika, turmeric. cinnamon, allspice, cayenne, nutmeg, and cardamom. Saute for a minute to toast the spices and bring out the flavor. (This is the part that makes your kitchen smell heavenly.) You may need to add more oil to prevent the spices from scorching.
Stir to coat the vegetables with the spices. Add tomatoes, and a cup or so of water. Cover and reduce heat to low. Let simmer until vegetables are soft, about 30 minutes. Check frequently; you may have to add more water to prevent scorching. Add salt as needed.
Serve over rice or millet, or with injera bread.
Note: This recipe serves 3 comfortably.
Quick Injera Bread
The original recipe made too many pieces for one meals, so I've cut it in half, as well as adjusted the amount of soda water. But if you're afraid you'll mess up the first few pieces (I did), go ahead and double the recipe. This should make about 5-6 pieces, depending on the size of your skillet.
2 cups self-rising flour
1/2 cup wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups (at least) carbonated water (club soda or sparkling water)
Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk in the carbonated water, adding more until the consistency is like crepe batter, or thin pancake batter. It should be thin enough to pour easily from a spoon.
Heat a large skillet. Don't spray the pan with oil; the bread won't stick to a non-stick pan.
Pour batter quickly onto the pan, sliding the pan back and forth until it covers the surface. Depending on the size of your skillet, you'll use about 3/4 cup to 1 cup of batter. Cook over medium-low heat until bubbles form and then dry out, about 3-4 minutes. Do not turn the bread over; only cook on one side.
When the top of the bread is dry, it's done. Flip out the bread, cover the bread with a towel, and make more.
To eat, place a piece of bread on a plate, scoop servings of the other dishes in piles here and there. Tear pieces of bread and scoop up the food.