Sunday, 1 February 2015

W for Western Sahara

Dee:  “This was one of the most difficult cuisines to research and prepare a menu from.  There were only about four recipes that I could find; a beef tagine being the one not included here. 
I was surprised that the recipes lacked any spices, but the simplicity of the food and the great taste of particularly the Mreifisa made for a good meal.  We enjoyed a few small cups of sweetened mint tea with the food.  We didn’t make it as sweet as it is in Western Sahara, and we were too nervous to pour it into the glasses from a high enough distance to form a frothy head, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.”

Starter:  Stuffed Potatoes
Dee:  “At first glance at the ingredients and recipe for this dish, it didn’t remind me of the Sahara at all.  Perhaps it was developed when the region was under Spanish rule, or perhaps it was served to hotel or restaurant guests.  Whatever its origin, we pressed ahead with it.  We altered the recipe slightly by including the potato flesh in with the beef, tomato and sour cream as we didn’t want to waste it and didn’t know what else to do with it.  Unfortunately this turned out to have been an error of judgment on our part.  The potato suffocated the other ingredients and made for far too bland a taste, even after we increased the quantity of sour cream and seasoning.  It was also quite filling for a starter.  If we make this again we'll follow the recipe more closely and then see what, if anything, needs amending.”

Main:  Mreifisa
Dee:  “This was a real revelation.  Traditionally, camel meat is used, but we made it with lamb instead, which was described as an acceptable substitute in the recipe.  We went for a shoulder of lamb, some on the bone and some off, which was slow cooked with onion, garlic water and salt, then served on a flatbread, which soaked up the sauce.  It was simple to prepare but needed plenty of time to cook, and we found that turning the shoulder at regular intervals helped it along.  When it was finished, most of the liquid had reduced down and the meat was easy to scrape off the bones.  The taste was deliciously meaty with a soft texture and slight sweetness from the onions.  It worked perfectly with the bread, so much so that I don’t think any other pairing would be able to cope with it.”

Dessert:  Wafer Crepes
Dee:  “This is another recipe that we tweaked slightly.  With this one, we thinned the batter out and made it into pancakes rather than crepes.  The only reason was that we don’t have one of those things that you flatten out crepe batter with.  Not sure what they are called.  The finished pancakes were enjoyable and not as sweet as I was expecting.  We enjoyed them with some lemon juice and vanilla sugar.”

Soundtrack:  Aziza Brahim - Soutak
Dee:  “We both enjoyed this album very much.  It was released in 2013, and contains gentle percussive rhythms, acoustic guitar and female vocal.  The majority of the songs seem to merge traditional North West African sounds with a Spanish feel, due to the acoustic guitar, and a subtle jazzy-bluesy element.  The stripped-down ‘Aradana’ is an interesting track, featuring just vocals and drums, but my favourite on the album is the haunting ‘Julud’.  A nice album to listen to in a tent in the desert or watching waves lapping a beach at sunset.  And also of course, while enjoying Mint Tea and Mreifisa.”

Dee:  “We knew the letter X was going to need some consideration, so we started thinking about it a couple of weeks ago.  As there are no countries beginning with X, we’re covering instead the cuisine of a region:  Xinjiang in North Western China.”

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