Borani Esfanaj

My brother had stayed with me for a week after my mastectomy.  It seemed really soon for him to have to leave, probably because I was out for at least 2 days of his visit.  It ended up being way more comforting than I expected.  My friend Issac volunteered to stay with me after my brother left.  I was still struggling to do some minor things, like picking up, cooking, taking out the trash, so having the help was still needed.  The surprising thing for me was how hard it was to put on clothes.  My arms just have limited movement and stretching the arms up over my head and to put on a shirt hurts.  The doctors recommended button down shirts, which I found useful for the doctors appointments, but buttoning the buttons was no fun.  I got some loose fitting dresses and this is now what I wear.  They really are fancy muumuu’s.  Never really saw myself wearing them, but it works.  Also helps with people coming over and not just being in my pajamas.

Equally as hard is finding Bahrain recipes.  A lot of things I found online seems to be middle eastern dishes rather than specific Bahrain dishes.  With a lot of time spent researching I find a cookbook called “multicultural cookbook of life-cyle celebrations”.  It basically has recipes from all over the world.  It has a recipe for a spinach salad called Borani Esfanaj.  The book describes how it is common on feast and wedding days that a whole baby goat is served and this is a common salad to accompany it.  I’m not feeding a family, so don’t go for the whole goat recipe but want to make this salad.

When reading the Borani Esfanaj recipe it seems to be much more of appetizer or more specifically a dip than a salad.  I was thinking of this as a side dish.  What goes well with a creamy spinach dip?  BREAD!  Well as I am cooking Bahrain I start to look into what is a common bread and find that they typically eat khubz.  Which is like a pita, so I am going to make this as well and serve with the “salad”.

The khbuz is a yeast dough.  Following instructions I add yeast to water and let it sit.

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Mix the dough and let it rest.

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Then split the dough into small balls and let it rest.

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I roll out the dough into the circle.  Yeah, my skills are of rolling dough is getting better!

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Then you bake it in the oven.  While it cooks the dough puffs up.

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Then broil till brown.

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Once it is done the air in the middle forms a pocket like a pita would.

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The “salad” is straightforward to make.  Boil spinach in water and then cook with onion and garlic.  Cool a bit and mix with yogurt.

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Then top with nuts and mint.

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The result is good.  The “salad” is like a dip.  It is like a spinach dip with a bit more unique flavors.  The mint is refreshing bite with the yogurt.  The bread is like a pita not particularly flavorful, but I’m shocked at how crisp the outside and soft the inside is.  The two pair together well, this may not be how they ate it in Bahrain, but works in my imagination.


Recipes

Borani Esfanaj

The original Recipe can be found here

  • 1 lb fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons roasted walnuts, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, chopped
  1. Boil water and add spinach.  Cook for 10 minutes.
  2. Drain spinach.
  3. In large sauce pan heat olive oil over medium-high heat.
  4. Add onion and garlic.  Saute for 5 minutes
  5. Add spinach and cook for 5 minutes
  6. Transfer to bowl and let cool for at least 5 minutes.
  7. Add yogurt, salt and pepper.
  8. Serve with walnuts and mint sprinkled on top.

Khubz

Original recipe can be found here

  • 1 ½ cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 (1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast
  1. In a large bowl, pour in the warm water and add in the yeast, stir until the yeast is dissolved.
  2. Add in the salt.
  3. Start gradually adding in the flour and oil while kneading.
  4. Knead the dough for 8 minutes.
  5. Put the dough into a large greased bowl and turn dough to grease all sides.
  6. Cover with a dry tea towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size about 1 ½ hours.
  7. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  8. Punch dough gently.
  9. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions and shape them into smooth balls.
  10. Place on a floured work surface and dust tops lightly with flour.
  11. Cover with a dry tea towel and let rest for 15 minutes.
  12. Roll out each ball into a 6-inch diameter circle.
  13. Place in oven and bake for 5 minutes, until puffy.
  14. Then broil for 2 minutes to brown.
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Butter Bread

In researching Antiguan cuisine I find that there  is a bakery in Miami that is known for its Antiguan butter bread. I did some research and the caribbean they have sweet and unsweet butter breads. I looked for recipes for Antiguan butter bread but can’t really find one. However, in the search I find a recipe for browned butter cheese bread. It looks delicious and with so few things I want to make from Antigua, I ignore the fact that it seems to be really from the US Virgin islands. Also that isn’t really a sovereign nation, so here is my chance to make this.

 

The recipe is a yeast bread. Having gotten more confident with bread and baking I find this to be fairly straight forward. My only challenge is getting the dough to be in a reasonable shape of a rectangle.

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I spread Jack cheese on the bread.

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Roll the bread

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Then bake. It is an odd shape.

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The result is that it tastes like bread. The bread consistency comes out, but I’m not getting a strong butter flaover. I also find the choice of Jack cheese to be subtle. I think a sharp cheddar would have been better. There are a lot of gaps in the bread, I probably need to have rolled it tighter. Oh well, it is a decent bread recipe.

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Recipe

Browned Butter Cheese bread

The original recipe can be found here

 

  • 1 1/3 Cup Warm Water
  • 2 Tablespoons Active Dry Yeast
  • 2 Eggs
  • 5 Tablespoons Melted but Cooled Brown Butter
  • 2 Teaspoons Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 5 Cups Bread Flour
  • 1 1/2 Cup sharp cheddar cheese
  1. In a mixing bowl place warm water, yeast and sugar. Stir to dissolve.
  2. Mix in half of the flour.
  3. Put the flour mixture in a warm dry place for about an hour.
  4. Add the slightly beaten eggs to the flour mixture along with the cooled, melted brown butter.
  5. Add the salt
  6. Add the remaining flour and knead dough for 10 minutes.
  7. Put the dough mixture back in the warm dry area and let it rise for another 50 minutes or until it doubles in size.
  8. Divide the dough into two halves.
  9. Take one of the halves and, using your hand, stretch it out into a rectangular shape about 9-10 inches long.
  10. Leaving a one inch border around the rectangle, fill the space with the shredded cheese.
  11. Take one edge of the loaf and pull it over the cheese. You will have the beginning of a roll here. Then just continue rolling the dough until you get to the end. Pinch the seams closed.
  12. Place in a standard Loaf Pan (about 8×4) lined with Parchment Paper seam-side down.
  13. Lightly slash the top of the bread in three places to allow the bread to properly expand while baking.
  14. Let it rest for 20 minutes under a dish cloth
  15. Brush on a light coating of room temperature water on the top of the loaf.
  16. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  17. Let rest for another 20 minutes.
  18. Bake for about 40 minutes until done.

Antigua and Barbuda

Antigua and Barbuda are two different islands in the Caribbean and along with a few other smaller islands it  forms their nation, known as the “Land of 265 beaches” . The largest port and the capitol city is St. John’s.

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Antigua was first settled by hunters and gathers known as Siboney. The carbon dating placed the first remains in 3100 BC.  This tribe was taken over by the Arawak, which introduced agriculture. Raising produce such as the Antiguan black pineapple, sweet potatoes, guava, and chillies. The Arawaks also called the island of Antigua Wa’ladli, which is similar to what the locals today call it: Wadadli. By 1100 AD most Arawak had left the island, which allowed the Caribs to take over.

The English settled on Antigua in 1632 and in Barbuda in 1684. Slavery was established to run sugar plantations and was abolished in 1834. The British ruled from 1632 to 1981, with a brief moment of french rule in 1666. The islands became an independent state within the Commonwealth of Nations in 1981. There culture is still influenced by the british rule.

The cuisine of Antigua and Barbuda is caribbean. With common ingredients of  sweet potatoes, plantains, beans, coconut, and black pineapple. Unfortunately this is pretty much every ingredient I don’t want to eat. So I have a really hard time picking dishes that I want to make. I finally find a cookbook from various chiefs from the islands. The recipes have taken the flavor profile and local ingredients and make some amazing meals. So I will be making:

Corn and Rice bread

In researching Angolan cuisine I came across a recipe for corn and rice bread. I don’t find much history or information about the dish, however it sounds interesting to mix cornmeal and cooked rice. So I give this dish a try.

The dish requires coconut oil. I’ve never heard of it and it is an extract from the meat of the  coconut.  It is high in saturated fat content so it can be stored for up to two years. Finding a bottle turns out not to be too difficult.

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The recipe calls for rice, but being a bit of a rice connoisseur, which kind of rice? Long grain rice, Brown long rice, Basmati, Jasmine, Sushi rice, Bomba, Arborio, short grain brown, or wild rice? I can’t find which grain is common to find in Angola so I look at some portuguese recipes and they all call for long grain rice, so I go with that.

The recipe is straight forward: mix the ingredients together and put it into a pan. The consistency reminds me of corn bread with a little rice mixed in.

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The result is good. It is an unsweetened cornbread with a hint of coconut. I don’t really get anything from the rice in consistency. However the coconut oil seems to be the star ingredient and seems like it would be amazing with a seafood curry.

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Recipe


 

Corn and Rice bread

Original recipe can be found here

  • 2 1/2 cups ground white cornmeal (400 g)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cooked long grained  rice
  • 12 1/4 ounces whole milk (360 ml)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil ( extra virgin if you can get it)

 

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees (190°C)
  2. Sift all the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl
  3. In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs then mix in the palm oil, milk and rice.
  4. Mix wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and combine well.
  5. Pour the mixture into a well-oiled baking pan, place in pre-heated oven and bake for 30 minutes.
  6. Take out of the oven, allow to cool a little then tip from the tin and allow to cool completely before cutting and serving.

 

Khobz Dar

Khobz Dar in Arabic means bread. Dar means home so this translates to house bread, or homemade bread. With my kitchen aid I feel confident that I’m ready to tackle a yeast dough.

The dough goes smoothly until the last step, where I need to add a cup of water. The recipe does warn that you may not need it all depending on the flour. I add some water and it is getting wet. I go to half of cup and it looks really wet. I start to realize that I must have been too cocky with all these new tools that this is gonna be a mess. I don’t have any more semolina to make another batch! I really don’t want to go to the store again, so I decided to stop at the 1/2 cup and go into kneading dough step and see what happens maybe I can add more flour to fix it. After 20 minutes of needing it looks like a dough and not so wet. So I don’t change anything. 2 hours later the dough has risen and ready to roll out and shape. Phew!

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I need to split it into four 6 inch disks.  The first dough ball I roll isn’t quite a circle…I really don’t have the hang of this circle thing. I think I need to get my friend’s mat.

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Second attempt not so bad, maybe I don’t need the mat.

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Third try…what shape is that!

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4th try is no better. So I’m going onto Amazon and going to get me that mat.

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I have to roll my malformed disks into 12 inch sticks. I have no idea what 12 inches is, which if I had the mat with the ruler I would know.  I just go with the size of my cookie sheet.

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The sticks don’t come out bad, so next step is to braid. I thought this would be hard and is like braiding really larger hair. It looks pretty good for my first try.

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I let the dough rest again. I do I see in the rising some of the braid broke.

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Decorate with sesame seeds. It is a bit messy.

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Pop it into the oven and fingers crossed. 30 minutes later and it comes out!  The top is crisp and the inside soft. The fennel seed is a nice flavor; there is a slight sweetness to the bread. It is perfect and yup this is totally going to my head. I think I can now tackle cakes!!!

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Recipes

Khobz Dar

original recipe can be found here

  • 3 Cups  fine semolina flour
  • 1/2 Cup canola oil
  • 1-1/2 Tsp. instant yeast
  • 1 Tsp. sugar
  • 1 Tsp. salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 Cup. warm 2 % milk
  • 1/2 Cup warm water
  • 3/4 Tsp fennel Seeds
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 Tsp water
  • Sesame  seeds
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the semolina and salt. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the oil. Mix on low-speed for one minute. Add the yeast, sugar, milk, fennel seeds and beaten egg and mix until fully incorporated.
  2. With the mixer still on low-speed, gently add the water. You might need more or less water than suggested. It really depends on the semolina and the weather, but it is preferable to have a sticky dough then a dry dough.
  3. Keep mixing until you get a shaggy but cohesive dough. At this point, remove the paddle attachment and attach the dough hook.
  4. Knead on medium-speed until a shiny, elastic dough forms about 20 minutes. It will still be a bit sticky!
  5. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turn once to coat, and cover with plastic food wrap and a kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.
  6. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat and set aside. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface.
To shape into a four-strand braided loaf
  1. Divide the dough into four equal parts
  2. Take one of the portions and flatten it into a six-inch disk. Roll the disk like a jelly roll.
  3. Using both hands roll it back and forth into a 12-inch strand. Keep even pressure on the dough as you roll so that no air pockets collect in the strand. Gently transfer the strand to the prepared cookie sheet. Repeat with the rest of the portioned dough and lay the strands side-by-side.
  4. Take the strand furthest to the right and weave it towards the left through the other strands using an over, under, over pattern. Repeat the exact same steps until you’ve braided the entire loaf.
  5. Gather all the loose strands and pinch them together. Gently tuck them underneath the braided loaf.
  6. Cover the loaf with some plastic food wrap and let it rest and rise for about 1 -1/2 hours.
  7. Preheat the oven to 350 °F.
  8. Prepare the egg wash by beating 1 whole egg with 1 Tsp water. With a pastry brush, brush a thin layer of the egg wash on the risen loaf and decorate it with sesame seeds.
  9. Bake the bread for about 25 to 30 minutes.
  10. If you can resist the temptation, it would be preferable to let it cool completely before serving.