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I love this vibrant salad from its bright colours to its burst of herbal flavours. It’s light enough to enjoy on a hot summer day, yet with the rice and beans, hearty enough to be the star of a meal.   And the jalapeno pepper adds a nice kick.

This recipe comes from Bonnie Stern’s Simply HeartSmart cookbook. It’s a family favourite at the cottage and in the middle of winter, when I need something that reminds me of the freshness of spring, it’s a go-to recipe.

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Black Bean, Corn, and Rice Salad

(Makes 8 servings)

 

Ingredients

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup basmati rice

2 cups cooked corn niblets, either frozen or canned

2 sweet red peppers, diced

1 jalapeno, finely diced

1 bunch arugula or watercress, trimmed and chopped

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/3 cup chopped fresh basil

2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives or green onions

 

3 Tbsp red wine vinegar

3 Tbsp olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions

Cook rice until tender as per package directions. Cool by spreading on plate and placing in freezer for ~15 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine cooled rice with black beans, corn, red pepper, jalapenos, arugula, cilantro, basil, mint, and chives to salad.

To make dressing, whisk together vinegar, pepper, garlic, and salt. Whisk in olive oil.

Toss dressing with salad. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

 

Bon appetit!

– Catherine

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Having another home in West Africa means I have added a whole new repertoire of recipes, West-African style, to my cooking – and I’m really excited to share them on gourm(eh).

Cooking in Gambia is a totally different story than here. Imagine cooking mostly one-pot meals over an open fire, or if you are fortunate enough, an improved cookstove. It a communal experience, and the saying ‘many hands make for lighter work’ is fitting as the work is hard, and most often done in groups.

I found it interesting that my taste buds actually adjusted while living there: a dish I did not like at first became one of my favourites by the end – and this was actually the case with a number of dishes. Domoda, however, was always at the top of my list from the beginning!

Domoda is a rich groundnut (peanut)-based stew, a favourite of mine from Gambia and Senegal.

Ingredients – Dinner for 6
2 purple (spanish) onions, diced
1.5 lb cubed stewing beef or 6 chicken pieces
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp (heaping) tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, germ removed
2 bouillon cubes (I like to use chicken)
1 tsp peppercorns
2 cups just peanut smooth peanutbutter
Juice from one lemon
1 scotch bonnet pepper (very spicy) or 1 jalapeno pepper
3 carrots, peeled and then cut into thirds or quarters
1 eggplant, washed and quartered
1 cup squash cubes (any kind – butternut or acorn for example, peeled)
salt to taste
water
1.5 cups uncooked rice, medium grain

Directions
In a heavy-bottomed pan with a lid, heat oil over medium-medium high heat. Brown the beef, reduce the heat, and add the onions until they are translucent. Then add the tomato paste and stir. Cook for another 3 minutes stirring occasionally. If you have a mortar and pestle, pound the peppercorns and then add the garlic and the bouillon cubes until you get a smooth paste. If you don have a mortar and pestle, just chop everything finely and mix by hand.

Add the seasoning mix to the meat, stir, and then add the vegetables and the whole (washed) hot pepper. Cover with water, stirring well to incorporate all the tomato onion mixture. Increase the heat and bring to a simmer. Once it simmers reduce heat to medium low and let simmer for 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove a cup of hot liquid and pour into a large bowl with the peanutbutter. Stir well with a fork until the peanutbutter is all incorporated. Stir this into the pan with everything else, and stir well so everything is evenly mixed. Add the lemon juice. Let the mixture simmer uncovered until you have a stew-like consistency. If you find the vegetables still need more time but there is little sauce left, just cover the pot.

When it is almost ready, cook rice according to package instructions.

To serve, ladle stew over rice. You can squeeze the hot pepper on your spoon a tiny bit to get spicy juices out thereby tailoring how spicy your own plate is – and then share the hot pepper with the others. Just remember scotch bonnets are VERY spicy!

Alright, bonne appétit.
-Sitelle (Alias Ya Ndey)

Pumpkin

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As I write this, mango pollen and flowers are falling from above me and are lodging themselves in my keyboard. And I will begin with a warning that this is a long, long post! I promise, though, that there is a true Gambian recipe waiting for you at the end, and before it, the story of a Canadian who has attempted to cook it.

As I learn the Gambian way of life, I must admit that I have found it difficult to cook. Hence the lack of posts on Gambian food so far. That is not because cooking here is difficult – most dishes are one-pot dishes or two-pot dishes – so they are not too complicated. Cooking here is difficult because the women don’t believe that I can cook. This is aggravated by their love of repetition… and if a dish is not cooked exactly as they do it or they know it – then they don’t like it. After two months living here though, I decided to push all help out of the way and cook a meal all by myself. Oh boy, it was not easy! All throughout my cooking women would come in and tell me different things about how I should be doing it… but I kept on saying ‘today I am cooking, and you will eat’. So I guess before I give you the recipe, I will tell you the story of how this meal was created. The way I made it was a fusion of Gambian Benachin and Senegalese Chebu Gen, because I learned to cook it in Dakar as well as in Gambia.

It started off with a deal with a friend of mine, P., who told me that he didn’t think I could cook because every time I say I cook I end up watching more than anything else because the women take over.

Mid-morning I headed to the market with my friend F. who helped me with the transactions so that I would not be nailed with Toubab prices. My basket was soon filling up with fresh fish, sea snail, salt-dried fish, carrots, tomatoes, bitter tomatoes, garlic, squash, niambi, cabbage, egg plant, onions, rice, preserved tamarind, hot peppers, salt, seasoning, pepper corns, peanut oil, and charcoal.

On my way home, several men told me jokingly, ‘I look forward to you bringing my lunch!’. Every time I go to the market and return with food, the next time I pass, men (who I don’t know) ask me ‘where is my lunch?’. Here, people like to joke jovially a lot.

Back home, I started by cleaning the fish to fry it right away, because even though I was going to cook dinner, I had to cook the fish right away so it didn’t spoil since there is no refrigeration. I lit the charcoal, and began to heat the oil to fry the fish. As the oil heated up, fish scales were flying everywhere as I cleaned it. I hauled buckets of water to the back of my house, and washed the fish three times. Then I drizzled it in lemon and salt.

After frying it, I put it in a bowl and let it stand in the shade all afternoon while I visited a friend.

That evening, I returned to cook around 5pm. First, I started by cleaning all the vegetables, and lighting the charcoal again. That is easier said than done, and took a lot of blowing and fanning in order for the charcoal to be fully lit. The women kept on coming over to watch and tell me what to do (all the time different instructions). I had to shoo them away every time. The kids would then come and ask to help me. That day, there were 5 women at the house, so I got 5 different sets of instructions. It was exhausting!

Finally, when I got to the stage of picking through the rice to clean it and then wash it, I was relieved. I was also worried that the pot was too small for the 7 cups of rice I was about to cook… It just fit. Barely. Now, I will try to estimate quantities for you to make this – but I definitely did not have any measurements as to the amount of water to use with the rice – just a lucky guess!

Anyway, after an exhausting but nonetheless fun cooking session, I had two big bowls of food prepared for the family. When I came to Gambia I was given a Gambian name, Yandé, which means ‘everyone’s mother’ – after the mother of the Director of the Agricultural Centre where I work. So all of her children call me ‘my mother’ and their children call me ‘Grandmother’. I was very happy that I could share this meal with 4 of ‘my children’, their spouses, and many, many grandchildren. Despite the fact that the recipe was not exactly like they usually have it (I made a slightly healthier version than normal… with less oil and no palm oil and lot of vegetables), they all said they loved it and said, Yandé, you can cook!’.

So there you have it, the story of the first truly Gambian dish I have cooked entirely on my own. Sorry for the long story! Bisimilah – that means ‘bon appétit’, among many things.

Ingredients – for a full meal for approximately 6 – 8 people

-3 cups of medium or long-grain (not basmati) rice
-2 onions
-6 cloves garlic
-5 kani chili peppers (scotch bonnet – you can alter the amount based on how spicy you like your food)
-1 Tbsp black pepper corns

-3 firm-fleshed whole fish
-1 piece of sea snail (substitute some smoked oysters or dried fish from an Asian food store)
-1/2 a salted dried fish
-4 lemons
-1 tbsp coarse sea salt

-1 cup peanut oil
-2 cups water (plus more)

-2 cubes vegetable stock

-4 carrots
-2 pieces of squash
-2 bitter tomatoes (not sure if there is any substitute for this in Canada – maybe just add more of something else)
-4 pieces of niambi or cassava root
-1/2 a medium cabbage, cut into two pieces
-1 sweet potato, cut into 4 pieces
-4-6 medium tomatoes
-8 cups water approximately

-Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Clean, gut, and scale the fish. Cut in half, and cut slits onto each side. Drizzle with the juice of two lemons, and salt with the coarse sea salt. Make sure there is plenty of lemon juice in covering the fish and in the slits.

In another bowl, wash the salt-dried fish and snail thoroughly three times.

Pound the pepper corns, and then the garlic. Once it is a smooth paste (you can use a food processor for the garlic with ground pepper instead of pepper corns if you don’t have large enough a mortar and pestle). Add the hot peppers, and pound until smooth. Then chop the onions and add them and continue pounding until it is a relatively uniform paste. Transfer to a bowl and cover until it will be used.

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over high heat. Once the oil is very hot, fry the fish pieces one-by-one until it is fully cooked and golden. Remove from oil and let drain on paper towel (I didn’t do this here… but I think it is a good idea if there is paper towel available!).

Set fish aside. While the oil is still hot, fry the snail and the salt-dried fish. Once they are in the pot, they should never leave it until it is time to eat! Fry them until they are golden brown.

After this, crush or crumble one cube of stock and carefully stir into the hot oil. Stir well so no clumps form. Add the pounded garlic, hot pepper, and onion mixture. Traditionally, you would add the tomatoes and pound them with the garlic but I like them separate.

Stir the pounded mixture in well, then fry in the oil for two minutes while stirring often until everything becomes fragrant. Then add two cups of water and the remaining stock cube, and bring to a boil. When it boils, add the hard vegetables. Add more water until the vegetables are fully covered. Boil them until tender, approximately 30 minutes. After 20 minutes, add the whole tomatoes, the two remaining hot peppers, and the egg plant (and any other soft veggies you might want).

Put the preserved tamarind in a bowl with a lid, with the juice of one lemon. When the veggies are cooked, remove them with a slotted spoon and put them in the bowl on top of the tamarind, and cover.

Replace fish in the pot, and cook for 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and put in with the vegetables.

Add more water until it makes approximately 8 cups of stock and bring to a boil (instead of measuring, I use the following technique to guess the volume necessary: there should be approximately 2-3 fingers-thick of water above the rice in the pot). Taste the broth and add salt accordingly. Pick through the rice and remove any rocks and other seeds. Wash the rice three times until clean. Add rice to boiling stock and cover. Once it boils, reduce the heat (for me, this meant removing charcoal…). Cook for 10 minutes more or so and then stir and remove from heat.

Place rice in a big bowl. Spread vegetables on top, with fish. Serve with juice and tamarind from the bowl where veggies were reserved. Slice a lemon and juice it on top of everything, and a dusting of minced parsley if you like.

If you want to eat Gambian-style, use your right hand and make a ball of rice with small amounts of veggies and fish for each mouthful, and everyone eats out of the same bowl!

Bisimilah!

-Sitelle (alias: Yandé)

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To continue with the squash theme of the season, I’m posting this recipe for this very delicious risotto that I invented with my roommate during a dinner party earlier this week. I found that using delicata squash in this risotto actually avoided the need for parmesan, making this recipe an easy one for those looking for dairy-free recipes, and a delicious option for those who just simply don’t have any in their fridges (as in my case).

With the autumn changing to winter, I find myself craving the warmth of dishes like this one. The key to making risotto ultra creamy is to stir it constantly while it cooks. It may feel tedious at the time, but it sure pays off in the end!

Ingredients – 6 servings

-1 onion, diced
-1 Tbsp butter or oil + extra for roasting squash
-1 1/2 cups arborio rice
-3 cups vegetable broth
-1 cup water + more if necessary
-1 cup dry white wine
-1 whole medium-large delicada squash, seeds removed and cut into quarters
-dash of salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 400F. Clean and quarter the squash, then cover with a light coating of oil and a dash of salt. Place in a pyrex dish and bake, uncovered, approximately 30-35 minutes or until very soft and the edges begin to brown.

Place the broth and water in a covered pan and bring to a boil. Heat butter or oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan. Cook onions in pan for 2-3 minutes, until translucent. Add arborio rice and stir. Cook for 4-5 minutes, until grains become lightly toasted. Add in wine and stir. Once most of the wine is absorbed, add a cup of broth, and continue stirring. Repeat once liquid is absorbed. Mash the delicata squash and add into rice. Stir. Continue adding broth all the way until it has been fully absorbed. Keep broth simmering while you are adding it. If you run out of broth before your rice is fully cooked, just add a bit more bouillon or water that you have preheated. By the end, all that stirring will result in an unbelievably smooth risotto.

If you like, keep a few pieces of squash separate untili the end to garnish the risotto with. You can add a pinch of parmesan or crushed hazelnuts to top this delicious meal off. Bon appétit!

-Sitelle

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This year, like every year, I crave warm, rich food at the beginning of October. Since I live with a few new people here in Montréal, it’s fun to see their reaction to my daily cooking adventures. If one person’s reaction is a good indicator, then I was in luck with this recipe. Her eyes bulged after tasting this – “what did you put in this? it’s so good!”. What made me laugh is that she sounded so surprised – she’s the sort of person that always knows best. And with all the cooking I do, I’m bound to get some flavours right just from trial-and-error!

So, I will leave it at that, and hope you enjoy it as much, or more (if that’s possible), than we did here!

Ingredients – serves 4

Lentil Curry

-1 medium onion, finely chopped
-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
-1 tsp mustard seeds
-1 tsp (or less to taste) hot red pepper flakes
-2 Tbsp olive or canola oil
-1 cup red lentils
-1.5 tsp ground cumin
-1.5 tsp garam masala
-1 tsp paprika
-2 tsp curry powder
-3 cardamom pods, whole
-1 cup coconut milk
-1/4 cup tomato paste
-1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
-1 tsp honey
-2-2 1/2 cups water (depending on how thick you like your curry)
-1 1/2 cup roasted squash, mashed or diced
– 2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

Cardamom-infused rice

-1 cup basmati rice
-2 cardamom pods, whole
-1 1/3 cups water

Directions

Lentil curry

In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add mustard seeds, and let them heat up and infuse the oil. If using olive oil, don’t let them heat too much; but if you’re using canola oil you can wait for the seeds to begin to pop. Add the diced onion, and cook for 3-4 minutes, until they are translucent. Add garlic, stir, and cook for another minute or so.

Then add the spices, and the lentils. Stir to coat the lentils with the spice-onion mixture. Pour in water and coconut milk, and raise the heat to medium high and bring to a simmer. Add the tomato paste and honey, and mix until it is well dissolved.

Simmer for 20-30 minutes, until lentils are tender. Add the squash 10-15 minutes before the end.

This curry tastes even better on day 2 – and that’s saying a lot since normally I’m not a big left-over fan.

Cardamom-infused rice

Rince rice. In a small pot with a tight-fitting lid, place rice, water, and cardamom pods. Cover and bring to a boil, quickly reducing the heat to minimum as soon as it boils. Then let cook for 10 minutes, remove from heat and fluff, and let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Remove cardamom pods before serving.

Garnish curry with some cilantro, and serve over rice. I hope you like it!

-Sitelle

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