Country #1 – Liberia

Monday 15th February 2016.  1.30am.

The First Challenge.

Ready to pick my first country – wish me luck!

Liberia.  Fuck.

001 Country tag

Just Googled Liberia.  Apparently it’s on the West African Coast and was settled by the Americans.  At this point I’m imagining it as the African version of The Philippines.  Wikipedia states that approx. 85% of the population live below the poverty line after decades of civil war.  It also seems they have a female president (hooray!) and practice polygamy (……).  Apparently men are allowed to have up to four wives.

Cuisine is described as follows:

“Liberian cuisine heavily incorporates rice, the country’s staple food. Other ingredients include cassava, fish, bananas, citrus fruit, plantains, coconut, okra and sweet potatoes. Heavy stews spiced with habanero and scotch bonnet chillies are popular and eaten with fufu. Liberia also has a tradition of baking imported from the United States that is unique in West Africa.”

Sounds ok so far and wiki has a picture of a beachside BBQ which sounds pretty great.  Have no idea what fufu is.

Just looked up fufu. Apparently it’s some kind of dough type stuff made from cassava flour.  Still a bit unsure about it.  Maybe I’ll just leave that one for now as it sounds common to a range of countries in the region.

Well just checked online and found a great forum with some recipes on it.  Have copied a few for consideration tomorrow.  There was a beef stew listed but apparently Liberians like to mix both meat and fish in their stews.  Apart from the fact that I’m not a big fan of fish, I’m just not sure I’ll be able to find salted preserved cod easily so going to try one of the other recipes that look a bit more user friendly I think!

But now, bedtime.  More to ponder tomorrow…..

Tuesday 16th February 2016

 Challenge Log:

Country #1           Date selected: 15/2/16                  Date completed:  16/2/16

Country selected:   Liberia

Dining Selection:

  • COOKED OWN

What was on the menu:

  • Chicken Peanut Soup
  • Jollof Rice
  • Liberian Cake

Restaurant/Recipe address:  http://www.liberianforum.com/recipe.htm

 Notes:

Well that was more complicated than expected!

I managed to find some Liberian recipes that interested me rather quickly.  There were a few that sparked my interest so I decided to go all out and do a 3 course extravaganza seeing that it was going to be the first country that I’ll tick off my list.

As it could be eaten cold, I decided to start with the Liberian Cake.  I was a little concerned at first as I had forgotten that the door of the oven had broken.   The stupid thing has dodgy hinges and one had come loose.  It meant the door hangs at a weird angle and doesn’t create a firm seal when ‘closed.’

In comes the trusty broom!  Wedging the stick of the broom under the oven door handle gives enough tension to keep it sealed.  It’s by no means a solid solution but we’ve done this before when the oven’s been broken and I’ll be damned if I’m cutting something from my menu on the very first challenge!

001 Oven
Handy broom fix. Works better than you’d image it would.

I manage to get the cake batter made, put it in the oven and manoeuvre the broom handle into place to keep the door closed.  I then turn my brain into ‘entrée mode’ and start preparing the Chicken Peanut Soup.

For some reason my entrée brain is convinced that I need thyme for the soup.  Even though I read the recipe several times and the thyme is actually required for the main, somehow I become convinced that I need thyme…..right now.

Usually this is an easy task.  My mother grows thyme in the backyard – there’s masses of it.  I grab a pair of scissors, walk round to the back corner where the thyme grows…….only to discover my mother has apparently decided to rip out all of the thyme.  There’s not a sprig left!

This quickly escalates into The Great Thyme hunt of 2016.  I check every inch of both the front and back gardens, all the pot plants.  Nothing.  I start hunting through the pantry looking for dried herbs.  Nada.  Finally I remember that I had a small stash of Indigenous Australian herbs that I’d purchased online (I like to experiment with these from time to time).   Luckily I had purchased myself some wild thyme.  It’s very similar to normal thyme but has a unique taste to it.  It’s difficult to describe but the savoury flavour almost has a eucalyptus note to it. Looks like my Liberian meal is getting a hint of Aussie-ness to it!

It’s as I start preparing the soup that I realise that I don’t actually need thyme until I start preparing the main.

It’s then I notice the shredded coconut sitting on the bench that I’d bought at the supermarket to put in the cake.  The packet is still sealed and it is sitting next to the raisins that I also forgot to put in the cake.

Shit.

At this point the meal is a shambles but I finish the soup and the cake comes out beautifully.  I’m already full by the time I have a bowl of soup and a taste of cake and my feet are hurting terribly.

Side note:  I have flat feet.  Like really flat.  I’ve had them all my life and have been to all kinds of specialists about them.  You know you have an optimistic outlook when your orthopaedic surgeon looks at your feet and simply shakes his head in bewilderment.  I’m actually in the process of getting new orthotics for my feet made but they have been playing up quite badly lately and the long periods of standing on the hard tiles of the kitchen take their toll.

001a - Chicken Peanut Soup
Chicken Peanut Soup. Thinner than I thought it would be but quite tasty.

 

I have resigned myself to the fact that I will need to make the cake again.  As nice as the end result turned out, I couldn’t give myself a passing grade for this one.  It was like making a steak sandwich and forgetting to put in the meat. It would need to be re-done.

001b Liberian Cake 1st attempt
Liberian cake – 1st attempt sans coconut and raisins. Still very tasty and a little reminiscent of gingerbread.

 

I decided that I would wait until the following day to re-make the cake and to do the main course.  Not the way I had seen things panning out, but at least I would have a clearer head after a night’s sleep.

The next was MUCH better!  I managed to whip up the cake no time – this time remembering to add ALL of the ingredients.

001c Liberian Cake 2nd attempt
Liberian Cake – Attempt #2. Quite different to first attempt. Still very tasty.

 

The Jollof Rice was also successful.  Again, the sauce was thinner than what I would use and I wasn’t entirely sure of what option to use when the recipe called for crushed red pepper.  We have different terminology in Australia but I assumed it meant chilli of some description.  I had several different options at my disposal and in the end decided to try some dried cayenne pepper.  It was delicious and gave the dish a really nice kick.

001d Jollof Rice
Jollof Rice cooked with chicken and bacon. Much thinner than I expected and definitely rice-heavy. Lovely spicy tomato flavour.

 

Having never seen a finished product of any of these dishes, I have no idea what they are supposed to look like but they were very tasty and I am happy enough with the result to give myself a passing grade.

First challenge complete!