Moroccan Caraway Soup
Red Lentil and Rice Soup
Chickpea Fritters with Berbere Sauce
Spicy Ethiopian Beef Stew
Seasoned Fish in Banana Leaf
Chicken Tagine with Honey and Apricots
Chicken in Coconut Milk
Berbere-spiced Rack of Lamb
Vegetables and Starches
Fava Beans and Tomatoes
Carrot Salad with Oranges and Walnuts
Today we did all of Africa, and it certainly had a much different feel to it than all the other countries we have done thus far. Usually we are taught their traditions with food, religious aspects, and desires for fresh ingredients. However, today was not about plentiful dishes 3 times a day. It was about Africa’s utilization of anything they can get their hands on, for their soil does not contain the nutrients it needs to grow crops. Almost all of Africa is considered to be third world countries because of wars, aids, diseases, and lack of food. Spices are used in great quantity, not just for flavor, but to literally hide some of the foul flavors that comes off of the food they desperately need. It always makes me sick how much food in the kitchen is tossed in class. Not just the scraps, but steaks, lobsters, whole chicken breasts, legs, everything.
Today was my practical exam and I was assigned the fish wrapped in banana leaf. A practical exam is basically my “cooking final”. Day 9 is always the written final for labs, but the grade always entails your practical exam grade. You are pretty much on your own, nobody can help you, but every chef I have ever had will answer questions, as long as it is not something like, “Is it done yet?”.
Moving on, banana leaves:
As you can see, they came frozen so I had to blanch them in boiling water and put them right back into an ice bath. They are huge though!
Banana leaves can be used to barbecue, bake, or steam food. Although they are INedible, they have an amazingly fresh, earthy, smell and infuses its flavor into the food that is wrapped inside. I found myself constantly taking a whiff, and realized it greatly reminded me of the way it smells outside after a summer shower. I loved it. As far as my fish, which turned out to be Grouper, was concerned, I first portioned and marinaded them in lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, cardamom, crushed red pepper, paprika, salt, pepper, and onions:
After about 30 minutes, I got the rest of my mise en place ready, including okra and concasse tomatoes (roma tomatoes boiled in water until the skin starts to peel away, put in an ice bath, skins removed, chopped). Then, I got wrapping:
Then it is rolled exactly the way a burrito would be:
Then I trimmed off the end, and tied. (My chef explained how the end of the banana leaf has a fibrous membrane that can be used to tie and looks a lot more pretty and rustic. Of course, though, after I already finished 4 with kitchen string. :))
Banana Leaf membrane:
After the fish came to an internal temperature of 145 degrees it was time to take them out for dinner service. I thought they really looked beautiful.
Wait…did you just say fava beans? What in the world is a fava bean?! According to Bonny Wolf in her article entitled “Fava Beans: A Little Spring on Your Plate”, fava beans are one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world. I was a little bit too distracted with my practical to get to explore Jill and her fava-bean-making, but after a little research it seems to be a very labor intensive project to cook properly. The first step, I did discover today, was that they had to first be washed and peeled:
Not only, though, do you have to remove the other layer from the bean. You then have to parboil them in order to remove the waxy coating on the outside. Intense! I wonder how many fava-bean-haters it took to realize these steps had to be done. I will not lie, I did not get a chance to try them this morning, but I definitely would if they were on my plate. They certainly look nutritious!
I would also like to show a picture of the salad because I thought it looked and tasted great! Great job Jordan!!
Well, I supposed that is all for today. Tomorrow we are doing Italy, and I am the Chef of the Day! I’ll explain all of that tomorrow. Have a great monday!
LAST MONDAY OF LAB YAY!!!!!