HAITI

Haitian Proverb: Sonje lapli ki leve mayi ou – Remember the rain that made your corn grow

Haiti is situated directly in the middle of a hurricane belt and experiences frequent natural disasters with catastrophic consequences.  In 2010 Haiti suffered the biggest earthquake seen in the country for over 200 years. Of the population of 10.5 million; between 200,000 to 300,000 people lost their lives, many more injured and over 1 and a half million left homeless.

Five years on Haiti is still recovering from the devastation of the earthquake. In 2014 Action Against Hunger helped 310,051 people primarily with health care and access to clean water.

Donate here to support their work: https://www.justgiving.com/Sophia-Vassie

Soup Joumou

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On the 1st January 1804 Haiti declared independence from the French colonisers. The Haitian Revolution is known to be the only uprising that successfully led to the overthrowing of the slave owners and a republic ruled by the former slaves. Amongst many other things, the slave owners put bans on what Haitians could and couldn’t eat, including pumpkin which the French considered a particular delicacy.

Traditionally eaten on New Years Day, this soup became a symbol of independence and freedom with Haitians no longer having to abide by the dietary restrictions the slave owners had placed on them.

And an unrelated interesting fact: the barbecue originated in Haiti!

Ingredients

Serves 4

  • 1 large butternut squash or medium sized pumpkin
  • 1 large leek
  • 1 celery stick
  • 2 small potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 scotch bonnet chillis
  • 1 small bunch of parsley
  • 1 handful of fresh sage and thyme
  • Chicken stock
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper

Method

Start by cutting butternut squash rubbing with oil, sage, thyme and seasoning then roasting until  caramelised.

In a saucepan sweat chopped leeks, garlic, onion, celery and parsley stalks with the remaining sage and thyme. Once softened add the the chilli (add more than two if you like it spicy!) potatoes and roasted butternut squash to the pan and cover with chicken stock.

Meanwhile make a parsley oil by very finely chopping parsley and mixing with olive oil.

Once the vegetables have all cooked through turn off the heat and blitz everything in a blender. Pass through a sieve for an even smoother consistency. Check seasoning and serve with drizzled parsley oil.

In Haiti Soup Joumou is traditionally served with chunks of braised beef, this is a vegetarian version but the meaty original can be easily made in exactly the same way, remembering to remove the meat before blitzing. It’s also popular to put thin pasta in with it for extra body!

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Today on 1 January 2016 I can very proudly say that together we have raised an amazing £560 for Action Against Hunger so far. Let’s match it and more this year!

Here’s to a fantastic 2016 🙂

Enjoy!

Remember to donate to Action Against Hunger by following this link:  https://www.justgiving.com/Sophia-Vassie

REFUGEE’S CRISIS

This is a slightly different post to the others. This time I dedicate the dishes and my donation to the people currently seeking refuge in Europe. Not a specific country but to the millions of displaced people currently trying to bring their family’s to safety.

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) there are over 20 million registered refugees in the world and over 60 million people who have been forcibly displaced. UNHCR calculated that in 2014 42,500 people had to leave their homes, often in other countries to find safety – every single day.

It is reported that this year approximately 400,000 people have travelled to Europe to seek refuge from their home countries due to conflict and persecution.

Developing countries are host to 86% of the world’s refugees. Last year the UK took in 400 Syrian refugees, Turkey took in 1.6 million. So why do we keep hearing about ‘the refugee crisis’. The construction of the sentence suggests a negative situation brought on by refugees – the intention of the sentence does too. We should be saying ‘the refugee’s crisis’. This is certainly a crisis, but not for Europeans. For the people who, often running, having left everything and everyone behind them with no opportunity to turn their heads and look back. For the children who make up 51% of Syrian refugees, the crisis is that their homes have burned and they are now not only ‘someone else’s problem’ but that someone else is saying that their existence and their struggle, will create problems for the very people with whom they seek refuge.

People talking about ‘protecting our freedom from the threat of terrorism’ have clearly not thought about the fact that without exception all the refugees fleeing to Europe are doing so not from the ‘threat of terrorism’ but from real, physical terrorism which has murdered, plundered and destroyed their beloved lands, cultures and histories. The people making these ignorant comments have no concept of what freedom is having never had to lose or struggle or pine or die for it.

There is no refugee crisis, only the refugee’s crisis. This world is not anyone’s, it’s everyone’s and where there is ground to stand on all humans should be entitled to stand regardless of whether they were born on that spot or not.

For this post as well as donating to Action Against Hunger, I have donated to the charity CalAid who are supporting refugees in Calais. In addition to fundraising online: https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/CalAid they are also hosting drop off days for people to donate clothes, tents and bedding – check out their website for dates and locations near you.

I will also be attending the Solidarity with Refugees march on Saturday 12th September, starting in Park Lane and ending up outside Downing Street.

Join me there and show your support.

مجموعة مختارة من الأطباق      
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For this post I had initially decided to cook Lebanon – that is I had decided to cook what most people think of as ‘Lebanese’ food. It’s not that it’s not Lebanese food, it’s just that it also happens to be the food I grew up with from my Egyptian mum and the food which has variations of the same dishes all over North Africa and the Levant; stuffed vine leaves and vegetables, dips, salads and all the other delicious things everybody recognises and loves. So when I was deciding which country on the list to attribute these foods to I narrowed it down to Lebanon because of that and because I knew exactly what I was doing for Syria and Palestine. I have a very personal, emotional and cultural attachment to the food, people and region so I also knew that these blog posts would be more than just facts with a recipe attached. I don’t have to research any recipes or learn about the reasons why Action Against Hunger have a presence there. These are universal recipes which represent more than just one country – I will resume the challenge country by country and pick a Lebanese specific recipe to replace this post.

When I started this challenge I had the idea that I didn’t want the blog to be too personal, I wanted it to be about facts and food. I just wanted to state the reason why I was doing it, where the donations where going and why and the recipe – my opinion didn’t have to come in to it. But actually I’ve realised that I can’t do that so here are some facts, my opinion and some recipes, which while clearly Arabic, are for everyone no matter where they are from.

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Ingredients

Hummous

  • Chickpeas
  • Tahini
  • Garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon Juice
  • Paprika
  • Salt & Pepper

Mahshi Warak ‘Inab (Egyptian Style)

  • Grape vine leaves
  • Egyptian Rice
  • Onion
  • Stock
  • Garlic
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Dill
  • Coriander
  • Parsley
  • Potato
  • Cumin
  • Salt & Pepper

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Tabbouleh (Lebanese Style with a touch of Palestine)

  • Bulgur wheat or Freekeh
  • Tomato
  • Parsley
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Zaa’tar
  • Cucumber
  • Mint
  • Radish
  • Cumin
  • Sumac
  • Salt & Pepper

Muhammara

  • Red pepper
  • Walnuts
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Harissa
  • Salt & Pepper

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Kofta 

  • Lamb mince
  • Onion
  • Toasted Bulgar wheat or Freekeh
  • Cumin
  • Zaa’tar
  • All spice
  • Parlsey
  • Salt & Pepper

Baba Ghanoush

  • Aubergine
  • Lemon juice
  • Tahini
  • Sumac
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Rose petals

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Spinach & Feta and Lamb Borek

  • Cumin
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Mint
  • Feta cheese
  • Spinach
  • —-
  • Lamb mince
  • Onion
  • Pine nuts
  • Cinnamon
  • Cumin
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Olive oil
  • —-
  • Filo pastry
  • Clarified or melted butter

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Method

Hummous

  1. Take a tin of chickpeas and add some of the water from the tin into a food processor. Drain the rest of the chickpeas and leave a handful aside – add the rest to the food processor.
  2. Add a clove or two of garlic, olive oil, a couple of tables spoons of tahini, lemon juice and salt and pepper then blend until smooth.
  3. Taste and add any more of anything if needed.
  4. Put aside until ready to eat – just before serving garnish with extra olive oil, the whole chickpeas and paprika.

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Mahshi Warak ‘Inab (Egyptian Style)

  1. Soak brined vine leaves in water – leave them soaking while you complete following steps.
  2. Using who bunches, remove the stalks from the parsley and dill. Chop the end of the stalks of the coriander – Coriander stalks carry a lot of flavour and are very good to use in cooking!
  3. In a mini chopper (or with great knife skills) blend or finely dice an onion, garlic and the herbs.
  4. In a hot pan with oil cook off the rice slightly so it’s no longer translucent but white all the way through – I do this every time I cook rice for a fail safe way to avoid ‘stodge’.
  5. Once the rice is white add the onion and herb mixture, sweat off for a bit then add a small tin of chopped tomatoes,cumin and salt & pepper.
  6. Take the pan off the heat and transfer the rice into a bowl.
  7. Without peeling, slice a potato into thin circles and place at the bottom of the same pan. This will prevent the Mahshi from sticking to the bottom and burning.
  8. Drain the soaked vine leaves and rinse off with cold water. One by one you can begin to stuff the vine leaves with the rice mixture. – It is important to cut away the tiny bit at the bottom of the leaf where the stalk would attach to the plant – this makes it easier to roll.
  9. Put some of the rice mixture in the the centre of the vine leaf. Roll up from the bottom then fold in the sides and continue rolling till you have a sausage shape which is closed on all side. It’s ok if there are some which don’t close on the sides, every leaf is different!
  10. As you roll add the mahshi to the pan placing tightly together so there are no gaps – you should get several stacks on top of one another.
  11. Once you have finished filling the saucepan add stock to just above the mahshi. Simmer on a low heat until the rice is cooked.

N.B. This rice mixture can be used to stuff LITERALLY any vegetable you can make a hole in. 

Tabbouleh (Lebanese Style with a touch of Palestine)

  1. First of all bring a pan to high heat without any oil, add the bulgur wheat or Palestinian freekeh and toast until they smell lovely and nutty. Once toasted take off the heat and transfer into a bowl to cool.
  2. Chop cucumbers, radishes and tomatoes into small cubes – I use only the flesh of the cucumber and tomato to stop the salad going soggy. You can use the juicy bit of the tomato in your mahshi and if you add the juicy bit of the cucumber to water you get a drink that’s a million times better than Lucazade with the same effect!
  3. Take a lot of mint and parsley and remove the leaves from the stalks, chop very finely and add to the chopped veg. By now your wheat should have cooled and you can mix that in too.
  4. In a separate bowl make a dressing of olive oil, zaa’tar, lemon juice, cumin, sumac, salt & pepper – I also like to add a pinch of sugar to bring out the sweetness of the tomato.
  5. Mix well with the salad and serve with an extra wedge of lemon.

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Muhammara

  1. Chop red peppers into large chunks. Add olive oil and salt & pepper and cook in a hot oven.
  2. They are ready when they are soft and slightly charred on the outside.
  3. Put the peppers in a mini chopper with a generous amount of walnuts, Also add lemon juice, olive oil, harissa and salt & pepper, then blend.
  4. Set aside until ready. When ready garnish with olive oil and lightly crushed and whole walnuts.

Kofta 

  1. In a mini chopper blend onion, parsley, lamb mince, a little bulgar or freekeh, cumin, zaa’tar, all spice and salt & pepper until smooth. Roll into egg shapes and put in the fridge.
  2. When ready to cook just drop the eggs into hot vegetable oil to deep fry. Serve immediately.

Baba Ghanoush

  1. Poke holes in an aubergine and put into a hot oven covered in foil. Do other things will this cooks.
  2. Just before removing the aubergine from the oven, juice two lemons.
  3. Once it’s cooked, you can tell because when you poke it it’s soft, remove from the heat an let cool for a about a minute.
  4. Cut open the aubergine and scrape the flesh into a mini chopper. Immediately add the lemon juice – this stops the aubergine from oxidising and turning browny/grey.
  5. Add tahini, sumac olive oil and salt & pepper then blend until smooth. It doesn’t have to be a paste though!
  6. Set aside until ready to serve. When ready garnish with olive oil, sumac and dried rose petals.

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Borek

  1. Dry toast pine nuts in a frying pan, removed to one side. In the same pan add finely diced onion to olive oil and sweat.
  2. Once softened add lamb mince, cumin, cinnamon, salt & pepper. once the mixture is cooked through remove from the pan and set to one side.
  3. In a separate bowl add crumbled feta, olive oil, fresh spinach, cumin, chopped mint and salt & pepper. Mix well.
  4. Lay out a pack of filo pastry and cut in half – one half will be for lamb and the other for spinach. Split the two halves into equal parts of leaves to make individual cigars.
  5. Taking a pastry brush, brush either clarified butter or melted butter on to each individual layer of filo pastry. Once done add some filling and roll up brushing with butter as you go – this will prevent it from unravelling. Place on a baking tray.
  6. Do this until both bowls of mixture are finished. Put the rolled borek in the oven and cook until the pastry is golden. Serve immediately.

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https://www.justgiving.com/Sophia-Vassie

PERU

Peruvian Proveb: Poco a poco se anda lejos – Little by little one walks far

Economic growth in the last ten years has dramatically increased the country’s GDP and Peru’s capital, Lima, is relatively wealthy. However with a population of 30.8 million there is extreme inequality between the rich and poor particularly in the rural Andes were 40% of people live below the poverty line and 38% are chronically malnourished. Since 2007 Action Against Hunger has helped 18,380 people through it’s nutrition support and water hygiene programmes

Donate here to support their work: https://www.justgiving.com/Sophia-Vassie

Ceviche – Papa a la Huancaína – Yucas Fritas

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With a strong, historic fishing culture it is no surprise that the national dish of Peru is Ceviche; fish, usually seabass, ‘cooked’ in lime juice. Dating back nearly 2000 years this simple dish is still the most popular in Peru and has spread across Latin America. Although Ceviche is the national dish, the national ingredient has to be the potato and that is the main ingredient of the second national dish Papa a la Huanciana. Potatoes are indigenous to Peru and were brought to Europe by the Spanish in the 16th century – of the 5000 varieties of potato known today 3800 are found in Peru.

Ingredients

Papa a la Haunciana

  • Potato
  • Feta cheese
  • Evaporated milk
  • Peruvian Aji Amarillo or yellow scotch bonnets or yellow habenero
  • Lime Juice
  • Garlic
  • Eggs
  • Olive

Yuca Fritas

  • Yuca or Cassava
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Cumin

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Peruvian Pickled Onions

  • Red Onion
  • Coriander
  • Malt vinegar
  • Sugar

Ceviche 

  • Freshest Seabass from a fish monger
  • Lime juice
  • Red onion
  • Peruvian Aji Amarillo or yellow scotch bonnet or yellow habenero
  • Red chilli
  • Sweet potato
  • Corn
  • Avocado
  • Coriander
  • Salt

Method

Papa a la Haunciana

  1. Peel potatoes, chop into equalish sizes and put in boiling water.
  2. In a food processor blend together Feta cheese, evaporated milk, chilli and lime juice – It sounds very strange and I was apprehensive but the Peruvians know what they’re doing and it actually tastes really good! 
  3. Boil a couple of eggs – I used quail but any will do! Peel and cut in half.
  4. When cooked through drain the potato leave to cool slightly then put on a plate and pour the sauce over.
  5. Add sliced boiled eggs and a couple of olives.
  6. Finish off with chopped parsley for colour.

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Yuca Fritas

  1. Cut yuca into large chips and par boil.
  2. Drain and cool then deep fry.
  3. Season with salt pepper and cumin and serve with Haunciana sauce.

Peruvian Pickled Onions

  1. Slice red onion thinly and add to a bowl with vinegar, lots of sugar and coriander.
  2. Leave to pickle till you need it!

Ceviche

  1. Make ‘Leche de Tigre’ – juice 6 limes, thinly slice red onion, julienne (thinly slice) both types of chilli and add a pinch of salt.
  2. Take your very fresh fish and either cube or cut into thin slivers. The fishmonger will have already removed all the bones for you. Add the slices to the Leche de Tigre to ‘cook’ – the lime juice will denature the fish and give the appearance of being cooked, however it is still technically raw which is why it is so important to use the freshest fish possible and from a fish monger not a packet.
  3. Cube sweet potato, season and roast in the oven.
  4. Boil corn then remove the kernels from them cob. Dry toast in a pan the put to one side.
  5. Cube avocado and put to one side.
  6. Give your fish a stir, you should notice that is has become white instead of translucent.
  7. Remove sweet potato from oven and set to one side.
  8. Put the marinated fish slivers on a plate and add cubed avocado, sweet potato and toasted corn.
  9. Spoon over some of the Leche de Tiger.
  10. Finish off with coriander leaves and optional edible flowers! – I used pansies which I got at Borough Market and the flowers off my chilli plant at home! 

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Enjoy!

Remember to donate to Action Against Hunger by following this link:  https://www.justgiving.com/Sophia-Vassie