Rice cooked with meat and vegetables is eaten all around the world. Pilaf, or rice cooked in broth, is believed to have originated in Persia around 500 BC. By the time it reached Africa, it had become a blend of rice, warm African spices with various meats mixed in. In Kenya it became Pilau, a rice and meat dish with a familiar spice blend. Details
Fun fact: a large number of small Indian restaurants in the United States of America are actually run by Nepali immigrant chefs. Several serve Indian food along with (if one were to look at the fine print on the menu) some dishes that are of Nepali or Himalayan origin. But, repeat after me and loudly: Nepali cuisine is not Indian cuisine (our Nepali friends will appreciate us remembering this). Nepal, through its geographical and historical association with India and Tibet, has influences of both in its cuisine. However, the flavor profile is different. Nepali dishes use fewer spices and aromatics and less heat. Also, Nepali cuisine has a preponderance of vegetarian dishes. Second fun fact: “vegetarian” in Nepal can mean different things. It could mean “not meat and eggs” (dairy products such as milk and cheese are consumed, however) but it could also mean “not beef” (but include poultry and mutton). The latter is tied to the sanctity of cows in the Hindu faith. Details
A recurring theme I find as I research cuisine from different parts of the world is one of interconnectedness and of the different ways in which we are similar. The history of human settlement is a story of migration, a movement not just of people, but also of their food, culture, and customs. It is a story of assimilation and amalgamation and nowhere is this more evident than in the food we eat. Details
“Mucho gusto!” (Nice to meet you!) from a familiar voice in a new setting. This is Vinola, your writer of “Customs and Cuisines” bringing you the Proven Platter for March 2020. And as the greeting hinted, this month we dine to benefit women and children in the Spanish-speaking country, Guatemala. Details
This month we are celebrating Malawi which is in southeastern Africa. Although Malawi is landlocked, a third of its territory is covered by Lake Malawi. Lake Malawi National park is a UNESCO World Heritage site for being of “global importance for biodiversity conservation due particularly to its fish diversity.” The cuisine of Malawi is reflective of the abundance of fish in the area as well as the fruit and vegetables grown there. Details
While working on the recipe for this month’s Featured Grantee’s country, I took a moment to reflect on how much I have enjoyed being on the recipe team at Dining for Women. It has sparked the return of a world map to the wall of my kitchen, so I know where each country is geographically. It has also deepened my appreciation for the women of the world who manage to prepare delicious, nutritious meals for their loved ones no matter how scarce the resources at hand. Details
We travel back to the eastern part of Africa this month – to Kenya, the country of origin of December’s featured grantee. Jacaranda Health offers Kenya’s first nurse mentor training center, which trains top nurses from Kenya’s public hospitals to mentor hundreds of peer nurses and sustainably improve maternal outcomes for mothers and babies. That sounds like a cause to celebrate! So, this month I tried to think of a recipe that could accompany celebrations of all kinds, including the holidays. Guess what it is? Details
In doing research about Swaziland, the country of origin of Young Heroes Foundation, November’s featured grantee, I learned about a dish called sidvudvu. It’s a thick, nutritious porridge made of mashed cornmeal and pumpkin. In other words, corn and winter squash. That particular combination of ingredients seems not unlike something that could be served at a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner. So I had those ideas in mind as I tried to come up with a recipe for this month’s Proven Platter. Details
September’s featured grantee, Edu-Girls, Inc., is located in India, a vast country with so many distinct culinary regions. If I spent the rest of my life cooking only the foods of India, I’d still have a lot to learn about the foods of India. One thing I definitely know is that cooking and eating the flavorful vegan and vegetarian dishes of India have a positive impact on my taste buds, my food budget, and my health. Details
The country of Uganda is where this month’s featured grantee, Brick by Brick Partners, is located. There are lots of fabulous Ugandan recipes on the Dining for Women website. A peek there will yield all kinds of mouthwatering dishes that represent the wonderful cuisine of East Africa. I highly recommend making some of them. Yum! Details
Pakistan is the home to this month’s featured grantee, Irqa Fund. Just imagine the culinary possibilities of a country that’s bordered by China, Iran, Afghanistan, and India. Wow! From a cooking perspective, the recipe options seem so exciting, so full of creative possibilities. Truthfully, it would be entirely possible for me to go totally overboard. Details
“Meat ‘n’ three.” That’s the colloquial expression used to describe a particular type of restaurant in the South. The concept is easy enough: choose a meat from what’s available on a particular day, and then load up on all the sides – a couple of vegetables, some rice or potatoes, a biscuit or corn muffin, etc. Details
It is impossible to think of Afghanistan and not think of war – multiple decades of war. It’s also impossible to think of the shape-shifting role the United States has played during the last 40 years of Afghanistan’s continuous conflict and not consider how impossibly complex the world is. What’s painfully easy to understand? That such protracted political and economic instability has drastically impacted the lives of Afghanistan’s women and girls. Thank goodness for Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation, May’s featured grantee. Details
We travel back to the western part of Africa this month: to Mauritania, south of Algeria and Morocco, with miles of coastline along the Atlantic Ocean.
I absolutely love the name of April’s featured grantee: Mindleaps! It makes me think of exactly what my mind was doing – all while developing a recipe that was inspired by thieboudienne, the national dish of Mauritania. Here’s what I mean: Lots of sources indicate thieboudienne is a “coastal dish of fish and rice, usually made with tomatoes.” Seems easy enough. But, even a simple-sounding, tomato-based dish of seafood and rice can send my thoughts bouncing around like they’re in a sort of competitive-recipe ping-pong match. Details
It’s such wonderful serendipity that the countries of origin for March’s featured grantee (Her Future Coalition, in India) and sustained grantee (African People and Wildlife, in Tanzania) are inexorably linked by geography and ancient trade routes—and, by extension, food. Details
It just dawned on me: The very first thing I consult when I think about the cuisine of a country other than the one I’m from isn’t a cookbook – it’s a map! The country of origin of this month’s featured grantee is Tanzania. One brief peek at the tattered world atlas that’s taped to the back of a door in my home office is all it took to set my culinary imagination about this East African country on fire. The mouthwatering geographical cues? The mainland of Tanzania has miles of coastline along the Indian Ocean and is home to Zanzibar – the entry point to East Africa used by spice traders and merchants as early as the 8th century. Not surprisingly, the flavors of India and the Arabian Peninsula are especially prominent in the dishes of this part of Africa. Details
Happy New Year!
Starting this month, we’ll not only share recipes from the country of origin of our featured grantee, but also from our designated sustained grantee. The potential culinary mashups in 2019 at Dining for Women meetings are certainly very exciting! Details
I can’t believe it’s December already! We’re taking on India this month!
Usually, I like to do an “Around the World Appetizer Party” for my last post in December. I think we need to keep things simple in December since we’re all so busy. It feels right for appetizers instead of a full meal. I’ve got some ideas for you, but I also think it’s a great time for you to try out any new appetizer ideas on your friends and get great feedback before the holidays. Details
This month we are traveling to Afghanistan. Naan, a type of flatbread, is the most widely consumed bread in Afghanistan. But for something more interesting I discovered the Afghan “bolani,” or filled turnover. The most common filling includes mashed potatoes and lots and lots of green onions. For a very earthy flavor, try a Swiss chard filling. Fried or baked, cut into wedges, they make a delicious appetizer. Details
This month our good works take us to Malawi. I think we’ve been there a few times before! I picked up one of my go-to African cookbooks, “Zainabu’s African Cookbook,” for inspiration this month. I found a recipe for Beef with Butternut Squash that sounded promising. When I read the recipe, I realized it is very similar to something I’ve made in the past that I’ve really enjoyed. Details
This month we are arm chair traveling to El Salvador. Right off the bat I knew what I wanted to make—Pupusas! I’ve had them many times from the local pupuseria, but I’ve never made them myself. I got busy doing some research on how to make them and also found a great tutorial on YouTube to share with you. Details
It’s July, and we’re visiting Kenya this month! Usually when I think of Kenyan food, it’s some kind of stew, but it is summertime and I wanted something to serve that is light and refreshing. I came up with a twist on a traditional Kenyan corn and bean stew called “Githeri” by turning it into a salad. Details
We’re going to Haiti this month. Can you say “pork griot” (gree-oh)? It is one of the most popular dishes you will find there. Chunks of pork are marinated, then simmered until tender and succulent, then fried until caramelized and crispy. You’ll always find it accompanied by “pikliz” (pik-lees), a spicy, vinegared cabbage and carrot relish. The spicy relish makes the perfect complement to the rich and fatty pork. Details
This month we are traveling to Benin (Beh-NEEN). It is just a tiny slip of a country in West Africa. It runs the long way south to north, and it is surrounded by Togo, Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria. The official language is French; however, many indigenous languages are still spoken.
Peanut- and tomato-based sauces are commonly prepared and served over couscous, rice and beans. Yams are a main staple in the north; meats such as beef and pork are used sparingly. In the south, the most common ingredient used is corn, with fish and chicken being the most commonly consumed meats. Details
My choice for the Proven Platter recipe this month has a very fancy name: Rolex – but it’s not what you think. Although it’s called a “rolex” we know we wouldn’t eat a watch. Of course not! In Uganda, a rolex refers to a rolled breakfast omelet. 🙂 Details
I am pretty excited about what I’ve got planned for you this month. The country of Guatemala is on the docket. We’ll start out with some guacamole and chips, Guatemalan style, just to whet our appetites. Then it’s on to the main course, Fiambre Rojo. Think of an enormous Italian antipasto platter and you’ll get the idea of what fiambre is all about. And for dessert, how about some dark chocolate crepes filled with a dreamy dulce de leche filling? Yes, please! Details
We’re visiting India this month. We’ve been there many times and sampled the cuisine of many different areas of India. This time we’ll be focused on Uttar Pradesh in the northern part of India. Details
The Republic of Chad, located in northern Central Africa, is the subject of our focus and our dining destination this month.
Okra is one of the most commonly consumed vegetables there. It is used both to thicken sauces and as a vegetable used in preparation of soups and stews. I suppose you either love okra or hate it, but as it happens, I love it! And since I’ve yet to post a recipe calling for okra, I think okra’s time in the spotlight has come. Details
I’ve got lots of good recipes coming your way this month. I thought I’d share with you a tradition that we have started with my group. Every year in either November or December, depending on what month we are meeting, we plan what we call our “holiday appetizer party.” Initially the idea was to bring a favorite appetizer, or bring an appetizer that you were thinking of trying out for the holidays. There is no better audience for feedback than our enthusiastic DFW members!
It has proved to be really successful and fun. There’s less emphasis on planning a meal and the meeting is a little more casual. We pretty much snack and talk and discuss the whole evening.
Of course, you can bring any type of appetizer you like. But I thought it would be fun, and in keeping with our world mission to plan an “Around the World Appetizer Party!” Details
We are off to Mali this month, located in West Africa, in support of the Tandana Foundation. Their Women LEAP program provides literacy and numeracy training, as well as democratic governance and leadership skills.
Often, the program we are supporting will send us recipes that are rooted in their culture. This month we received a very detailed recipe called “Recipe for Toh, (Oro Dja), Traditional Food of the Dogon People,” by Jemima Tembiné. She started learning to cook when she was about 10 years old and has been preparing Toh since she was 15 years old. Near as I can tell, Toh is a dish of millet dough that has been pounded, and served along with different sauces made out of various leaves, dried fish and dried vegetables. Details
This month we get to travel somewhere new, Cochabamba, Bolivia. And we are making one of Bolivia’s most beloved dishes, “Pique Macho.”
Bolivians consider Pique Macho the world’s greatest expression of meat and potatoes!
The dish is a sultry combination of perfectly seasoned beef cubes and sliced hotdogs. It is served over a bed of crispy potato fries and finished with julienned vegetables and multiple garnishes. Hot sauce is an integral part of this dish. Bolivians use a fiery hot sauce that they make from their local locoto peppers, but you can use your own favorite hot sauce. Details
Welcome to India. We’ve traveled there before. Flavors from exotic spices perfume every dish. Garlic, ginger and chiles add heat. If you love Indian food but are intimidated by long lists of ingredients and techniques, well, I’ve got your back. I’ve taken my inspiration for our recipes this month from “Madhur Jaffrey’s Quick & Easy Indian Cooking” and “Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking.” Both of these books are devoted to recipes in the under 30 minutes or less category. You’ll need to purchase some spices (the bulk spice aisle is your friend here), but other than that most of the ingredients are commonly found. Details
We’re off to Tanzania this month. “Prawns in Coconut Sauce” and “Pilau Masala” are headlining the menu. These recipes have been graciously shared with us by Miriam Kinunda, the author of the blog “Taste of Tanzania.” I’ve tested both recipes and I give them the thumbs up. You’ll find many other recipes to choose from on her site, as well as some very good ones on our own Dining for Women recipe site.
We are off to Kathmandu this month. I’ve always wanted to go there. Since I’m stuck in Seattle in front of my computer though, I will have to find another way to experience Nepal. That’s one of the great benefits about being a Dining for Women member: armchair travel, through our monthly grantees and exploring the cuisine of different countries feels like I’m there – almost. So let’s go! Details
Let’s try something new this month! Yuca (pronounced YOO-ka) is also known as manioc or cassava. Although you will often see this plant referred to in the US as “yucca,” that is incorrect. Yucca is a totally unrelated desert plant in the agave family. Details
This month our culinary journey takes us to India, specifically the Maharashtra state in Western India. I got a little ambitious this month though, and rather than present you with one “proven platter” dish, I constructed an entire thali platter just for you! I had a lot of fun working on this project, and even more fun eating the leftovers for days!
Our culinary travel this month of December finds us in the Himalayas, specifically Nepal.
Originally, I had it in mind to come up with an interesting twist on the “momo”, a Nepalese steamed dumpling with a meat or vegetable filling, wildly popular and sold on the streets. What about a sweet dumpling filling and call it dessert? My first attempt at this idea was a complete failure, but I still liked the idea and decided I’d work on this for the next time we visit Nepal in April 2016. So I’ve got time to get this right!
This month we visit the small West African country of Togo. Sandwiched between Ghana on the west and Benin on the east, the southern end of Togo sits at the Gulf of Guinea, where plenty of access to fresh fish helps to round out the cuisine. While fish is an important source of protein, bush meat is also often consumed. The most well-liked bush meat is the giant rat. I think we’ll skip that and make a delicious beef stew instead!
We get to explore a new cuisine this month, Peruvian food! My sister-in-law, Maria Chisholm, grew up in Lima, Peru, and she was only too happy to share with me her food memories and the things she still likes to cook. I’m really excited to share them with you. Here’s what she had to say.
This month we travel to Guatemala. Oh how I love the food of Central America! While Guatemala does not seem to have a national dish, tamales are very popular. I hesitate to share a recipe with you because they’re pretty labor intensive. Instead, how about something simple, refreshing and different, like a Cabbage and Beet Tostada?