Monday, August 31, 2009

Spicy Indian Peanuts

I know, you are asking yourself just what the heck does an Indian recipe have to do with Polynesia? Well, lots. Really.

This recipe comes from Fiji. Yes, I know that *technically* Fiji is Melanesia, not Polynesia. But if you look at the boundaries of Mela- and Polynesia, you'll see that geographically Fiji should be Poly. I quite understand the classification of Fiji as it is not only linguistically based but also based upon settling/migration waves.

But there has been so much Poly influence on the Fijians over the last few hundred years that their foods nowadays have a much more Polynesian tone to them than Melanesian. Especially during all their wars with Tonga in which prisoners from both sides would be taken as slaves and servants which vastly influenced the food.

But dave, what do the Indians have to do with all this?

Good question. It deserves a good answer!

In the late 1800's and early 1900's over 60,000 Indians (60,533 to be exact) came over to Fiji to escape economic bad times bad in India. The worked in the sugar cane fields and in the sugar refineries.

Needless to say, they've rather flourished lately and there are now more Indians than Native Fijians living in Fiji. They've also brought a lot of their cuisine with them. I think this'll be the only Indian/Fijian recipe I'll put up, all the other Fijian recipes will be much more traditional island goodies.

Oh, I do know that peanuts are not nuts. They are beans. Buuuuuuut since we all know them as nuts, I'm keeping them as nuts. Aw, nuts.

Spicy Indian Peanuts from Fiji

What you need:
1 pound of shelled, roasted peanuts --you know, the kind you buy in the store, ready to eat
1 tbsp ghee (clarified butter) OR coconut oil OR peanut oil OR olive oil --I use olive oil
2 crushed garlic cloves
2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp to 2 tsp chili powder --just how hot do you want them?
sea salt

What you do:
This is pretty simple... Heat the oil or ghee in a frypan, then fry the garlic, curry powder and chilli powder for 30 to 45 seconds (DON'T BURN THE GARLIC!!!). Add the peanuts, turn the heat way down, toss to coat the nuts, and fry (while shaking those nuts) for a minute or two.

Put em in a bowl, sprinkle with your sea salt and enjoy with a crisp lager.

A note to all you Barkeeps, Taverners, Hoteliers, Publicans, etc. Make these nuts and also my spicy almonds in a large batches, keep em on the counter. You will be GUARANTEED to sell boatloads of cheap beer at highly inflated prices!

BTW; Barkeeps, Taverners, Hoteliers, Publicans translates to bloke or blokette who owns a bar, tavern, hotel, or pub.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Maori Fried Mussels

And we all know how the Kiwis love their mussels! Heck, just look at the All-Black Rugby team! Ok, just a little humour there...

There are probably about as many different ways to fry mussels as there are chef's in this world so these are definitely NOT the end-all, be-all of mussel frying. BUT (and it's a huge butt) there is one key thing here: fresh ingredients and minimal seasonings.

Why? Cus that's the Polynesian way of cooking, and New Zealand is part of Polynesia.

I'm going to give you 3 "methods" of frying them, no real recipes, just the basics of how to do it.

Oh, if you can't get fresh mussels, then you can use the jarred ones for this, but it won't be as tasty. But you won't have to go through the prep work so it all evens out.

A quick way to de-beard mussels: hold the mussel in one hand with the hinge of the shell towards you. Grab the beard with your other hand and give a quick pull towards you; the shell, as it approaches the hinge, will neatly slice off the beard. If you have a LOT of mussels this is much quicker than using scissors or a knife, AND you always get the entire beard.

1st method:

De-beard the mussels and put them in a pan with enough water to just cover them. Heat em up and take them out of the water as soon as they open. It is important you take them out right when they start to open.

Take the mussels out of their shells and slice or cutaway the tough outer ring around the front edge. Lightly dust them with flour, dip into egg/milk mixture (1 to 1, so about 1/4 cup of milk for each egg), dredge through breadcrumbs, and fry in hot butter until lightly golden brown.

2nd method:

Same as the first, but once you've got them out of the shells and cut away the tough ring you give em a quick rinse in cold water. Then dust with a mix of flour, salt and pepper. Dip in egg wash (all eggs, NO milk), dredge through breadcrumbs, and fry in very hot oil.

3rd method:

De-bread the mussels and pry them shells open (this can be, ummmm, fun!), cut off the outer ring, dust with flour, dip in 100% egg mix and then fry immediately in hot butter. This method produces the MOST succulent fried mussels EVER! But it is also a bit of work gettin' them suckers open without lightly steaming them first.

Any of those methods can be used with jarred mussels, no worries. Oh, and if you can get New Zealand Green-Lipped Mussels... not only are they tasty but have some wonderful pharmacuetical properties too (I'll leave the googling for you).

If you do use a dipping sauce, DON'T use a strong flavoured sauce and DON'T use a lot of it.

A nice, crisp lager goes well with these, BTW.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Polynesian Fried Sweet Potatoes

I'm going to post some Polynesian type recipes for a while. Of course there'll be some times when I have to post something besides that, so the posts won't be 100% Polynesian --I'll (obviously) tell you when it's not.

This, however, is one of those times when the post IS about Polynesian food. I think the title would have given a clue, eh?

Did y'all know that New Zealand is officially part of Polynesia? Tonga is but Fiji (very close by Tonga) is not. However I will be including Fijian recipes. Also one or two from Papau New Guinea even though it's not Polynesian.

Why? Cus this is my food blog! Harumph. Grumble.

One of the hallmarks of South Pacific Island food is the freshness of the ingredients, the way it's cooked, and not overly seasoned. The taste of the fresh food really comes through.

This method for frying the sweet potatoes is a more traditional way than the modern way. The modern way is basically exactly how the Belgians cook Pome Frites. That's chips to the English and french fries to US'ns.

Fried sweet potatoes and fried taro are found all throughout the South Pacific, this recipe isn't from any one particular Island.

Authentic Polynesian Fried Sweet Potato

What you need:
One or two big ole sweet potatoes
Big pot with water
Something for frying (you'll need an inch of oil, I use a wok)
Oil for deep frying --I use sunflower oil.

What you do:
Scrub the sweet potatoes well. You don't need to peel them, no worries. Hack (I like to use my cleaver for this part --fun too!) the sweet potatoes into halves and toss them into a pot of boiling water. If you have a pot large enough then you won't have to chop them in half.

You may have noticed that raw sweet potatoes are much denser and tougher than other spuds. This means you can boil them for 20 mins and although they'll be well-softened they won't be totally cooked through.

Take them out of the water (don't forget to turn the heat off on your stovetop!), let them cool 10 minutes. Slice them into disks 5mm to 10mm thick (around 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick).

Heat up an inch of oil in a wok (or whatever you use for deep frying) and, ummm, deep fry them disks! Obviously, the longer you leave them in the oil, the crispier they'll get. I like to fry mine for about 2 minutes in hot oil (just before the oil starts to smoke), this makes the outer rim crispy and the center soft and SWEET.

Drain on paper towels, lightly (very lightly) salt, and fry the next batch.

This process really brings the sweet, sugary flavour out of the sweet potato.

You may want to fry one disk at a time (with a timer) and then test it for your tastebuds to determine whether you'd like to fry them longer or not.

Once you've made them once, you'll know exactly how long to fry them for your taste and then you can make them at the "drop of a hot". Very tasty, very sweet, very easy.