#45 Date selected: 26/2/17 Date completed: 3/6/17
Country selected: Djibouti
Dining Selection: Cooked Own
What was on the menu/Recipe address:
- Djibouti Rice (Skoudehkaris)
Djibouti is a tiny country located in the Horn of Africa. It’s surrounded by Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea with coastal borders along the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. It also has an awesome sounding name. I’m often swayed by anything with a funky sounding name and I was excited to find that in antiquity the territory was a part of what is known as “The Land of Punt” which to me sounds like something out of a Monty Python sketch. A.M.A.Z.I.N.G! I will try my best not to use any bad puns for the rest of this challenge log but please be mindful throughout that my desire to use phases such as “Djibouti-licious” is incredibly high!
I have to admit that I had never really heard of Djibouti when I made this selection but it turns out that there’s quite a lot of information out there (including quite a lot in the way of recipes). It’s a predominantly Islamic country with Arabic and French making up the two official languages with Somali and Afar also recognised as national languages.
The country is located near some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and as such, it serves as a key refuelling and transhipment centre. It also is the site of various foreign military bases. It’s actually been in the news just in the last couple of weeks with China opening a new military base in Djibouti.
Djibouti has a multiethnic population and the cuisine also reflect this. It’s a mixture of Afar, Somali, Yemeni and French cuisine with some additional culinary influences coming from South Asia (especially India). Middle Eastern spices such as saffron and cinnamon are commonly used and many variations of spicy dishes are found widely. Meals are typically halal. Homes are traditionally perfumed using incense or frankincense after meals.
I struggled in settling on a dish for this challenge but in the end went for a very popular Djiboutian dish called Skoudehkaris (Djibouti Rice). It’s an easy and hearty lamb and rice dish, flavoured with cardamom and other spices.
To make, you fry off some onions and diced lamb shoulder, add some fresh blanched tomatoes, cumin, cloves, garlic, cardamom and red chilli. The mixture is covered with water and simmered for around 45 minutes. When the meat is tender, rice is added and the whole lot cooked into one big casserole.
The resulting dish is tasty, filling and full of flavour. The piece of meat I used was a little fatty and you might want to trim this back a bit if you are adverse to fatty food. Keep some however, as the fat helps with the texture and taste of the dish. Also ensure that the cardamom is ground finely. Mine was still a little coarse and gave the meal an occasionally gritty texture. Still delicious however and would be great for mid-winter.
I also decided to make a flatbread to serve with the rice. Laxoox is the local variety and it’s again, very simple to make. Simply make a thin yeast-based batter by throwing everything into a bowl and leaving several hours until it’s bubbly. You spread a thin layer of batter across an oiled pan and cook it gently until bubbles form and the surface dries out. The trick is not to flip it so the resulting bread has a lovely honeycomb type texture across its surface.
It takes a few tries to get the cooking right. I experimented with putting a lid over the top of the pan to try and regulate the heat a little but this tends to steam the bread a bit too much and closes up the holes. Using a good pan and finding the right heat are, I think, keys to the perfect laxoox.
The bread itself has a nice chew to it and is perfectly suited to roll up and mop up the juices from whatever stew or casserole you happen to be eating. Yum!
Next challenge in our cooking adventures…..