Monday, February 1, 2010

Guyana

Guyana is a country that many people mistakenly think is located in Africa. If you happen to be one of those people, let me assure you it is not an African country. It just so happens that it's geographic location is at the northern end of South America. Culturally speaking, however, Guyana is a Caribbean nation composed of a wonderful mess of world cultures that has resulted from a very complicated colonial past involving multiple European powers; the most recent being the British Empire. Today Guyana's population is split between East Indians and Black Africans with significant native Arawak, White European, and East Asian minorities. The food is a perfect fusion of these cultures. Strong flavors and lots of spices are the dominant characteristics of the cuisine.

Today Guyana is not well known for very much. That shouldn't be too surprising. After all, their national population is smaller than the total population of Indianapolis. But I did manage to uncover a few fascinating tidbits from Wikipedia. Apparently British actor, Michael Caine, has been happily married for nearly forty years to Shakira Caine: the former runner up for Miss Guyana 1967. She continues to be a foxy old lady. And Eddy Grant (better known as that guy who did the song 'Electric Avenue' in 1983) is a native of Guyana although he was raised in England. We played a whole album of his during the meal.

Fortunately for us, Northwestern University (the place I work at) has an obscure Guyanese cookbook in their library that I have used off and on for the past few years. Also, the Guyanese take great pride in their food and have peppered the internet with many of their favorite recipes. The most thorough listing I came across was at this web forum. Amy and I were pleasantly shocked to find there was such a wealth of recipes for this tiny nation.

Roti Guyana


Roti is among the more famous flat breads of India, although it's still not as popular here in the states as na'an. In Guyana it reigns supreme due to the large East Indian population and is apparently served with just about everything. It is super easy to make and involves the most basic of pantry ingredients. Even my sister could make this from what she keeps around the house! It's similar in texture to a flour tortilla and is great for wrapping up whatever it's served with. For this meal we served the roti with garlic pork.

4 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp lard or butter brought to room temperature
1.75 cups water


1. Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt together and add enough water to form a stiff dough.
2. Knead the mixture on a floured surface or in a mixer for about 8 minutes or until the dough forms a very smooth and elastic ball. Make sure it is not sticky at the end of this.
3. Cover and let the dough rest for 30 minutes in a warm spot of the kitchen.
4. Roll the dough out into a 9-10 inch circle less than a centimeter thick and smear the top with lard.
5. Make a cut from the edge of the circle to the center and starting from this point tightly roll the dough into a cone shape.
6. Punch the top of the cone into the center of the dough and form into a smooth ball and flatten.
7. Divide this ball into twelve separate portions. Roll each portion into a ball with your hands and set aside another 10 minutes.
8. With a rolling pin roll each ball of dough into an extremely thin circle and cook on a hot cast iron skillet or griddle less than a minute each side.
9. The final product should look similar to a flour tortilla. Serve immediately or gently reheat in the oven before serving.

Cilantro Chutney

I've loved this green and spicy sauce ever since my first trip to an Indian restaurant as a child. Sour, spicy, and savory notes make it go great with anything starchy or fried. I used it with the roti and fritters. Feel free to use mint and yogurt in the recipe as well. I'm sure this will turn up in some other form on the blog later on.

1 bunch cilantro
1 chile serrano
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup lime juice
1 clove garlic
1/2 medium onion
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper ground
1/2 cup water or more for thinning sauce

1. Combine everything except the water in a food processor or blender and grind to a smooth paste.
2. Add enough water to thin the mixture into a pourable but still somewhat thick sauce.
3. Serve with roti and pork.

Curry Mayonnaise

1 egg plus one egg yolk
1 cup corn oil
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp salt
2 tsp curry powder

1. In a food processor mix everything except the oil.
2. With the motor running slowly pour in the cup of oil in a thin stream until the mixture thickens into a stiff consistency.
3. Serve with roti and pork or whatever you like.

Spinach Fritters

In case you haven't noticed, we use spinach a lot. Fortunately a lot of countries love Popeye's source of strength. This method of frying spinach is very similar to the Indian fried vegetable dish pakora. Serve it with a chutney alongside everything else.

1 10 oz bag fresh spinach blanched
1/2 onion sliced thinly
1 roma tomato diced
1 tbsp butter1 cup flour
1 tsp salt or more taste
1 tbsp baking powder
1 egg
Oil for frying

1. In a skillet melt the butter and cook the onion and tomato for five minutes over medium heat.
2. Add the blanched spinach and salt and cook over low heat for a further five minutes. Set aside to cool and drain well.
3. When the mixture is room temperature add the egg, flour, and baking powder and mix well.
4. Shortly before serving heat the oil in a wok over high heat and drop 1 tbsp portions of the mixture into the oil and fry them until browned on each side. I found it best to cook in batches of four fritters.
5. Drain fritters on wire racks and serve.

West African Rice

I'm pretty sure they don't cook rice this way in West Africa, but the influence seems clear especially with all the okra that is incorporated into the dish. The top layer of cheese should make it a favorite at any Mid Western table in the states.

2 cups long grain rice (we used Jasmine)
1/2 stick butter
4 cups chicken stock
2 tsp salt
2 large red onions chopped
1 serrano chile minced
1 bunch scallions thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic
1 lb okra cut into 1 cm rings
1 red pepper cut into strips
3 large tomatoes thinly sliced
1 cup grated white cheddar

1. In a large pot melt butter and add onions, garlic, and rice and gently cook for five minutes.
2. Add the stock and salt and simmer covered for 30 minutes over low flame.
3. Add the serrano, okra, soy sauce, and pepper and cook a further ten minutes over medium heat. Add extra liquid to the pot if the mixture begins sticking.
4. Pour the rice mixture into a casserole dish large enough to hold it. Arrange tomato slices over the top and cover it all with grated cheese.
5. Bake under the oven broiler from 5-10 minutes or until the cheese has browned.
6. Serve.

Garlic Pork

Supposedly this dish has its roots in the Portuguese population of Guyana. Generally its served during the Christmas season. The original recipe I read called for 1 lb of mashed garlic but I scaled it back for the more tender palates at my table to something less overwhelming. Still this pork is really garlicky. Don't eat this before going to work.

3 pounds pork shoulder cut into 1 inch cubes
1.5 cups vinegar
1 cup water
Cloves from 2 heads of garlic pealed
1 tsp ground pepper
1 tbsp salt
Oil for frying

1. 3 days before cooking grind the garlic, vinegar, water, and pepper into a smooth mixture. Cover the pork with the mixture and let it pickle in the fridge for the next three days.
2. Take the pork and 1 cup of the pickling fluid and simmer in a deep pot for 40 minutes covered. Set aside until 10 minutes before serving.
3. When you are nearly ready to serve heat a wok with enough oil for deep frying and fry the pork in batches for about a minute each or just enough to brown the meat.
4. Serve on fresh rotis with lettuce and the two sauces described above.

Pumpkin Pone

These came out completely dry. I'm guessing they needed more eggs, sugar, and butter. Still a good start to something that I'm sure if made right can be delicious. Below I give the original recipe and my theories in parentheses for making it better. Let me know if anybody has any success.

1 lb grated pumpkin flesh
1/2 lb grated coconut flakes
1 cup cornmeal (maybe 1/2 cup all purpose flour and 1/2 cup corn meal)
1/2 stick butter (perhaps 1 stick softened)(2 eggs maybe)
1/4 cup sugar (I'd go for 2/3)
1 cup water
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt

1. Mix everything and pour into a greased baking pan or make individual muffins in a tin.
2. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until crisp and brown on top.
3. Serve and hopefully yours won't be dry.

Conclusion:

Despite being a small country, Guyana was a big hit. The garlic pork was a bit strong for some, but most of the crowd savored the meaty goodness. We intended the meal to be small, but it snowballed into a larger feast as Friday approached. Amy's favorite part of the meal was the spinach fritters, and I tend to agree for ease and tastiness. All around the meal went very well. Norway is next! Cheers!



3 comments:

  1. seriously, this one looks pretty amazing. guyana. who knew?

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  3. .Guyanese have been on the back burner for years. We offer culture and diversity in our cooking. The younger generation is aware of the recipes but sometimes need a helping hand to accomplish the feat. My aunt has taught me a great deal of Guyanese cooking but it is hard to cook like her. Our food has represented all the cultures that Guyanese represent. From cookup rice to dhal puri and do not forget the famous black cake. Black cake is baked with fruits that are infused with rum and wine. The fruits are soaked in advance and baked into the cake to offer a cake out of this world. Black cake is a demand at all weddings; they cut it into tiny pieces and put in the wedding box. The price on this cake can vary, depends how big it is. However, the price is worth the product. Holidays are spend with black cake, garlic pork, pepper pot and goat, duck curry.

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