"Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time." Marthe Troly-Curtin

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Nigerian Pepper Soup
Pepper Soup or Peppersoup—which is especially popular in the English-speaking countries of Western Africa: Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria—doesn't have any more pepper than many other African soups. It is usually made with goat meat, but can also be made with beef, chicken, or mutton. There are many ways this soup can be seasoned. One Nigerian company makes "Peppersoup cubes" (for "easy, tasty, convenient peppersoup in double quick time"), which may be available in import grocery stores.

What you need
two pounds goat meat, lamb or mutton (beef for stew can also be used); cut into bite-sized pieces
one or two onions, quartered
two or three hot chile peppers, cleaned and chopped
peppersoup seasoning (see below)
four cups meat broth or stock
two tablespoons ground dried shrimp
one small bunch fresh mint leaves, chopped
one tablespoon fresh or dried utazi leaves (or bitterleaf) (see below)
salt and black pepper to taste
What you do
In a deep pot or dutch oven, combine meat, onions, chile peppers, and a cup of water. Bring to a boil and cook until meat is done, twenty to thirty minutes, adding water as necessary to keep pot from becoming dry.
Add peppersoup seasoning and the broth or stock (or water) and simmer over low heat for ten to twenty minutes.
Add the dried shrimp, mint leaves, and utazi leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer until soup is to be served.
Packaged peppersoup seasoning mix, usually imported from Nigeria, may be found in African grocery stores. The traditional spices used in pepper soup are little known outside of Africa.
Jessica B. Harris and others report that expatriate Nigerians make a substitute peppersoup seasoning mix from allspice, anise pepper, anise seeds, cloves, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, dried ginger, fennel seeds, and tamarind pulp.
Some cooks also use thyme, Maggi® cubes, curry powder, cayenne pepper or red pepper, and tomato paste.
Utazi leaves and bitterleaf may also be found in African grocery stores. If they cannot be obtained, any bitter green can be substituted.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Velvet Elvis Pie Gesine Bullock-Prado's

Gesine Bullock-Prado, author of "Pie It Forward," whips up this delicious dessert fit for a king!
Makes 1 9-inch pie
For the crust
Quick Puff Pastry 1/2 batch
Puff pastry is called puff because it puffs! It's true. The procedure of folding the butter in "turns," a process known as lamination, creates alternating layers of butter encased in flour. When touched by the heat of your oven, these become puffed layers of infinite flakiness. The resulting pastry is glorious and unruly-and perfect with custards, which, at their heart, are astoundingly rich and sweet. The Quick Puff crust, with its insane buttery crispness, puts what could otherwise be over-the-top sugary creaminess in its place.
This version is called "quick" (or "blitz") because you cut the butter into the dough instead of going through a proper lamination, as you do with traditional puff pastry. You also make all the folds and turns at once instead of resting in between, as in the traditional method.
Makes approximately 4 pounds 11 ounces of dough
2 pounds (71⁄2 cups) all-purpose flour, cold
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
2 pounds unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
11⁄4 cups cold water
1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and butter.
2. Massage the butter into the flour with the tips of your fingers until the butter pieces are a bit smaller, about the size of a dime. Add the water and smoosh everything around with a wooden spoon or with your hands, coating the mixture with water (this gets terribly messy and sticky). Gently knead until the whole mess looks like it's just barely holding together. Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and form it into a loose square.
3. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest for 10 minutes on the counter, where the flour will continue to absorb moisture from the water and the butter. Then roll it out gently, sprinkling flour on your work surface and your rolling pin to keep everything from sticking.
4. Roll the dough into a rough 12-by-20-inch rectangle. Make a single fold by bringing one short edge of the dough to the midline of the rectangle, then fold the other side over on top of the first fold -- just like folding a letter (that's why this process is also called a letter fold)!
Turn the dough 90 degrees, roll the dough out again to the same size rectangle, and make another letter fold. Do this twice more, to make 4 folds and turns in total. This is a holy mess until you get to the last turn. Bits are going to plop off willy-nilly. Don't worry. Just be patient. Shove the errant dough chunks back into the whole and persevere.
5. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and allow to rest in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes before using.

Delicate crusts like quick puff often slough down around the edges during blind baking. Here's a trick to prevent this from happening: Lay a sheet of parchment on top of your chilled dough in the pie plate; then, instead of weighing down with pie weights, stack another like-size pie plate on top. Flip the two sandwiched pie plates over onto a sheet pan and bake the crust, upside down, for 20 minutes.

For the filling
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
4 ripe (but not overly ripe) bananas
4 eggs
For the assembly
1 cup heavy cream
1 (7 ounce) bar high-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, at room temperature, for making chocolate curls
1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a 9-inch pie plate with the dough, dock it, and freeze for 20 minutes.
2. Line the crust with parchment, fill it with pie weights or dried beans, and bake it for 20 minutes. Remove the parchment and pie weights and bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes more, or until the bottom is golden brown and baked through. Set it aside to cool completely.
Method for the filling
1. Remove the label from the can of condensed milk. Poke 2 vent holes in the top of the can with a can opener and place it in a deep saucepan. Fill the saucepan with water until it reaches three-quarters of the way up the side of the can. Place the saucepan over medium heat, bring the water to a simmer, and let it cook for 2 hours, keeping an eye on the water level in the saucepan. Never let the water fall to less than halfway down the can. (We're technically making dulce de leche, if you must know.)
2. Let the can cool enough that you can handle it, open it completely, and scrape the contents into a clean saucepan. Add the butter, brown sugar, peanut butter, salt, and vanilla and stir over low heat until the butter has completely melted and the mixture comes to a boil. Stir constantly for a few minutes. The resulting toffee mixture should get a little more brown, but do not let it burn.
3. Preheat the oven to 325F. Cut the bananas in 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices and arrange them in an even layer on the bottom of the crust. It's okay to overlap the slices.
4. Whisk the eggs, then slowly pour the warm toffee mixture into them, whisking until the filling is smooth. Pour the toffee mixture on top of the sliced bananas and into the crust and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, just until the pie has set. Allow to cool completely.
Whip the cream to stiff peaks and swirl it on top of the custard with the back of a spoon or a small offset spatula. Make sure your chocolate is at room temperature or slightly warmer (not to the point of melting; you just want it to grate easily and into lovely little swirls). Using a vegetable peeler, shave chocolate curls onto the top of the pie to taste. Refrigerate or serve immediately.
Fry 3 strips of bacon until very crispy. Crumble and sprinkle the bacon over pie just before serving.
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