Sunday, March 11, 2012

Congo, Republic of the

History: Former French region of Middle Congo that gained independence in 1960
Government: First democratically elected government took office in 1992
Location: Central Africa bordering the South Atlantic Ocean
Area: Almost 350,000 sq km; 64th largest in the world
         Slightly smaller than Montana
Noun: Congolese
Official Language: French
Religion: 48% "animalist"
Population: over 4.2 million; 127th largest in the world
Capital: Brazzaville
Cities: About 70% of the population lives in Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire, or along the railroad between them
Budget surplus: 7.7% of GDP; 8th highest in the world
Source: CIA Factbook

As we covered a little bit last time, the DRC vs Republic of the Congo cuisine was causing me some issues.  They both refer to themselves as the Congolese, and most sites just refer to it as Congolese cuisine.  In fact, there is only one Wikipedia article for both: Congolese Cuisine.  Most other sites are no exception.  So I got the recipe for this time from the same place I got the recipe from DRC.  Maybe this is valid?  Maybe not?  I don't really know.

This is the recipe I chose.  There are some new ingredients that I have been seeing around other recipes but never actually found/gotten to use.  The palm oil was obviously used last time, but I also added some palm soup base this time.

This recipe follows a pretty simple set of directions.  Mix things together.  Cook.  Mix some more in.  Cook.  Repeat.  The first set of mixing was meat, lemon juice, salt, and cayenne pepper.
Kevin's grandmother got me something to help me juice lemons for Christmas, which will be very helpful.  It makes it a lot simpler than doing it by hand.

It is a little hard to tell from here, but the lemon is all squished.  I still got a little bit out by hand afterward, but not too much.
I halved the recipe, but there was still a lot to chop.  Tomatoes.  Ugh.
Didn't blanche them.  Take that, good ideas!
Palm oil!
I was supposed to add the tomatoes with a "few cups of water."  I tried to make it soup-like.  Things certainly smelled good here.  I tried to put in more cayenne pepper than normal.  The biggest goal I had was to avoid bland!

Palm nut sauce was hard to find in the store, but luckily the helpful lady who owns it could point me to what I needed.  The cans looked a little...beat up.  I went with it anyway.

Clearly the picture it a little difficult to interpret, but it was very...grainy.  And fairly solid.  I expected something a little more like a stock, but I was mistaken.  I also don't know how to describe the smell.  Not too strong, but it existed.  I suppose it smelled like palm nuts?

I avoided the peanut butter, but did decide to use some kale for the greens.  Gotta get some of those good nutrients!

Simmer until meat is tender: that I can do.  I also made a side of Oven Roasted Red Potatoes.  Super-easy to make and pretty tasty.  Probably not the best for you, but...

After the soup has simmered, and the potatoes come out you're done!  Really not difficult, once you find the ingredients you need.  But the real test is always eating it, no?

This was not my favorite.  In fact, I would rank it as one of my least favorites.  Something about it just was not settling well with me.  I didn't like the taste, and I had a hard time getting a lot of it down.  There could be a number of reasons for this.  I was uncomfortable and unfamiliar with the palm soup base.  Maybe it is just a flavor I am not accustomed to?  The meat wasn't the greatest cut, either.

Overall, it definitely wasn't as bland as some of the other dishes we have made.  The meat itself, mixed with the lemon and pepper and such, left something to be desired.  It didn't seem to retain any of that.  And I'm not entirely sure where it went...  The potatoes were good, though.

Harumph.  I guess my quest for a delicious central African dish will have to continue.  Not next time though, because we are going to travel to another continent.

Next time: Costa Rica

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