Bright African sun defeats grey days of autumn
Book club savours dishes inspired by novel
Although cooking is my passion as well as my vocation, it takes a good novel, rather than a cookbook, to satisfy my soul. Half of a Yellow Sun by the brilliant, young Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, is the story of Biafra’s heartbreaking struggle to establish an independent republic in southeastern Nigeria in the late 1960s. She was the guest author at a recent book club meeting we hold at my cooking school each month. The menu we created for the dinner part of the evening featured foods that reflected the image of the yellow sun or foods that were mentioned in the book. For dessert, we made individual lemon cakes with raspberry coulis sunrays. Here’s a selection.
HARRISON’S DEVILLED EGGS WITH HARISSA
Richard, an English journalist in the novel, has a Britishtrained houseboy, Harrison, who always makes devilled eggs for guests, who are amused. Harissa is a North African condiment made with hot chilies. Belazu is our favourite brand. 12 eggs ¼ cup (50mL) mayonnaise 1 tbsp (15mL) Dijon mustard 1 tsp (5mL) salt 1 tbsp (15mL) harissa 1. Place eggs gently in a large saucepan of boiling salted water. Bring to a boil, cover and turn off heat. Let eggs sit in the water for 14 minutes. 2. Drain eggs and shake pan gently to crack the shells. Chill in cold water. Gently remove shells. 3. Cut eggs in half crosswise and scoop out yolks. Place whites, cut side up, on a tray, trimming ends if necessary so they can stand up. 4. Mash yolks with mayonnaise, mustard and salt. Add a bit of harissa if you want the filling spicy. Pipe or spoon into the egg whites. Dot each with harissa. Makes 24 pieces.
CURRIED PUMPKIN AND PEANUT SOUP
We garnished this soup with a horizontal line of coconut milk and chopped peanuts above the line. 2 heads whole garlic 2 tbsp (25mL) olive oil 2 lbs (1kg) peeled butternut squash, cut into chunks 1 onion, peeled and quartered 1 tbsp (15mL) curry paste (Thai or Indian)
4 cups (1L) vegetable stock or water or more if necessary
¾ cup (175mL) canned coconut milk, divided ¼ cup (50mL) peanut butter salt and pepper to taste ¼ cup (50mL) roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped 1. Cut top quarter off garlic, drizzle with a bit of olive oil and wrap in foil. Toss squash and onion with remaining olive oil and spread on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Roast garlic and vegetables in a preheated 400F/200C oven for 35 to 45 minutes until very tender. 2. Squeeze roasted garlic into food processor. Add squash, onion and curry paste. Purée, adding a bit of stock if necessary. Transfer to a saucepan and add stock to the consistency you wish. Bring to a boil and simmer gently 10 minutes. 3. Add ½ cup/125mL coconut milk and cook 5 minutes longer. Thin peanut butter with some of the soup and then whisk back into soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 4. Serve soup drizzled with remaining coconut milk and sprinkled with nuts. Makes 8 servings.
Jollof rice traditionally is a little like a paella or jambalaya with chopped chicken pieces and tomatoes. We cooked the chicken separately to keep it tender and added turmeric to the rice for a sunshine colour. 2 cups (500mL) basmati rice ¼ cup (50mL) vegetable oil 1 tsp (5mL) cumin seeds 1 cinnamon stick 2 onions, sliced 3 cloves garlic, minced 1 jalapeño, halved, seeded and chopped
1 yellow pepper, peeled and diced 1 tsp (5mL) ground turmeric 1 tsp (5mL) ground coriander 2½ cups (625mL) boiling water 1 tsp (5mL) salt 1 cup (250mL) corn niblets, fresh or frozen 1 cup (250mL) frozen peas 3 green onions, sliced 1. Wash rice in several changes of water. Drain. 2. Heat oil in a large saucepan and add cumin seeds and cinnamon. When spices begin to pop, add onions, garlic, jalapeño and yellow peppers. Cook over medium heat 5 minutes until tender and fragrant. 3. Add turmeric and coriander. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently about a minute until fragrant. Add rice and stir well. Add water and salt and bring to a boil. 4. Cover pan, reduce heat and simmer 12 to 15 minutes or until rice is tender. Add corn, peas and green onions. Cover and let sit 5 minutes. Stir gently. Season to taste. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Curried pumpkin and peanut soup.