#6 Date selected: 26/2/16 Date completed: 27/2/16
Country selected: Somalia
Dining Selection: Cooked Own
What was on the menu:
- Date, Cardamom and Banana Smoothie
- Baked Beef Sambusa
Saturday 27th February 2016, 12.29pm
When I think of Somalia, I of famine. I think starving babies, World Vision, extreme poverty. In fact Somalia was the setting for one of the most devastating famines that has ever occurred in Africa – and it happened only recently. Almost 5% of Somalia’s population died from famine between 2010-2012. Over half of them where aged under the age of 6. This is after the already devastating effects of another famine in the early 1990s which claimed around 300,000 lives.
With this background I suppose it’s not surprising that I do not think of Somalia as a place to find recipes to delightfully exotic dishes. I am completely open to being proven wrong however and certainly hope that I am.
The other thing that I notice quickly during my Google search is that there is a travel warning on the Australian Government’s ‘Smart Traveller’ website. It advises that Australians Do Not Travel to the country after a recent explosion on a commercial flight and terrorist attack at a beachside restaurant in Mogadishu. Clearly the country has its problems.
For some reason I found myself a little surprised at the fact that most of the Somali people are Arabic, but it makes complete sense when you look at a map. Somalia is situated on the ‘horn’ of Africa on the East Coast. It’s right across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen in the Middle East and only a couple of borders away from Oman. Once again the running theme of picking a random country close to one that I’ve recently done rears its head!
A look through the history and background of Somalia shows that, before spreading to Egypt & North Africa, the camel is believed to been domesticated in the African Horn area somewhere between the 3rd & 2nd millennium BCE.
Wiki states that (unsurprisingly with it’s Muslim influences) all Somali cuisine served is halal. Looks like there’s not going to be another cocktail on the menu this time around! There is an exotic mixture of culinary influences as a result of the county’s tradition of trade and commerce however. Apparently lunch (Qaddo) is often an elaborate affair and dinner can be served as late as 9pm.
Saturday 27th February 2016, 8.49pm
I decided a pastry was in order for this challenge. I haven’t really tried anything along these lines yet so I thought it would make a nice change. Baked Beef Sambusa seemed to fit the bill quite nicely. Sambusa are little triangular pastry pockets filled with a minced beef stuffing.
Unlike a lot of pastries, this recipe didn’t call for any kind of yeast, which was probably a good thing given my previous experience with it! Let’s just say that previous attempts at using dried yeast have been less than successful.
The methodology of the dish is actually pretty simple. You make a dough. Leave it for 20 mins. Roll it out. You make the stuffing, wrap the pastry around it, glaze it, bake it in the oven and you’re done. There are a couple of tricky elements to the recipe that I used however.
Firstly, there is butter/olive oil mentioned in the pastry ingredients, but it’s not mentioned in the instructions. I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be added to the dough or used to fry off the filling, but I decided to do the former and add it to the pastry mixture. I’m fairly sure this is correct as it gave the pastry a nice smooth consistency (I used olive oil rather than butter) and helped it crisp up nicely in the oven.
The other confusing thing I found with the recipe is there is no mention of how the filling is put together and jumps straight into spooning it onto the rolled pastry. Should the filling be cooked prior to being added to the pastry or go in raw? If it’s cooked, how? Perplexing.
I took to zooming in on the photographs on the website that I got the recipe from on my phone. The meat looked quite dark and cooked in the ‘how to’ pictures so I decided to go with that. I fried off the beef in a little oil, added the onions and capsicum then threw in the cilantro/coriander at the very end. I then left it to cool slightly before making the triangles.
The third issue I had with the cooking of the Sambusa had nothing to do with the recipe. It had to do with not having a rolling pin. I do actually own a rolling pin, however most of my kitchen stuff is currently packed in boxes and stored in my mother’s garage at the moment. I was not going to waste the day digging through mountains of stuff in search of it so I made do with what I had. And what I had was a glass jar.
Now, I certainly wouldn’t recommend substituting a glass jar for a rolling pin if it can be avoided. It’s clumsy and at one point the jar slipped off the bench and almost smashed on the hard kitchen floor tiles. It does do the trick if you’re in a bind however, and I think did a fairly reasonable job.
The finished product turned out quite well in the end I think. The pastry is thin and crispy and doesn’t weigh the dish down too much which I feared it might. The filling is simple but tasty. I could see these going down well with some kind of spicy chutney or relish with maybe a salad of some kind as a side. I could see myself eating this for lunch or as a snack of some kind.
In my previous challenge, I had made a cocktail and I quite enjoyed the concept of a beverage component. I think it says as much about a country as the food and there seemed to be quite a few Somali options available so I did not one, but two drinks to accompany this challenge.
The first was Qahwe – a Somali version of coffee. I’m a bit of a fan of good coffee and I know it is popular in several African countries so this was a no-brainer for me.
Instead of being brewed with water, the coffee is added to boiled milk along with sugar, cardamom and cinnamon and steeped for several minutes. The result is a sweet, pungent coffee that’s rich and quite comforting. The recipe says that the drink goes well with dates and I could certainly see the two complimenting each other well. This would be a delicious drink for a cold winter’s morning.
A word of warning though. If you don’t like bits floating in your coffee, this may not be for you. I got around this by pouring the freshly brewed coffee into a plunger/French press. I imagine you could also use some kind of sieve to catch the bits before serving if you wanted to also.
The second drink I made was a date, cardamom and banana smoothie. I’m fairly certain that it’s much less traditional than the Qahwe, but it intrigued me and I liked the fact that it had both African and Middle Eastern influences to it.
I’m a little odd in that I like banana flavours, but I don’t like eating bananas fresh. This is something I find with a lot of fruit for some reason and I suspect it has something to do with the texture. I can say though that I really do enjoy a banana smoothie.
This one was particularly nice in that it wasn’t too sweet. It did have a sweetness to it from the dates, but it wasn’t as obvious as if you’d put honey or something similar into it. I used low fat milk but I could also see it going well with yoghurt or soy milk.
I enjoyed this so much that I think I may even make another batch up tomorrow morning and have it for my breakfast.
Overall, I quite enjoyed my Somalian challenge. It was bitsy – a little bit of a few things, but enjoyable and very tasty. I’m also having fun trying different methods and types of cooking. Who knows what I’ll discover next?
Speaking of which, time to pick another challenge…..
Looks like we’re off to Europe next folks!