Sunday, September 27, 2009

Polynesian Hibiscus Water

Yes, we are staying in the South Pacific. Why? Cus I like the region, that's why.


I'm assuming everyone knows that the flower petals and stamens are edible, and tasty too. If you don't know what an hibiscus flower looks like, just think of any movie set in the South Pacific with the island girls (scantily or unscantily clad) having flower blossoms in their hair. Those flowers are hibiscus. Depending on which island you are on you're supposed to wear the flower over a certain ear during certain times doing certain things. Not many white fellers know that, btw.

There are probably as many different ways to make this as there are islands in Oceania, so don't think this is "The" way.

Oh, it's also made in parts of the Carribean and in the Bajio region of Mexico where it's called Agua de Jamaica. Jamaica flowers are known as hibiscus flowers elsewhere.

Some recipes call for dried flowers, others for fresh; some with dark red flowers only, others with pink. There is no hard and fast rule so feel free to experiment.

Oh, a note or two about the flowers. After you snip them make sure you rinse them well, otherwise you'll have tiny black ants floating in your beverage. Ants are one of the main pollinators of hibiscus. Also make sure you carefully remove the green calyx at the base of the flower.

If your hibiscus bush or tree is flowering profusely now, then harvest a boatload of flowers and put them in your food dryer so you can make this and serve it to your friends in the middle of winter. Lunchtime is an ideal time to start making the drink to serve with dinner.

Here's how I make mine...

Hibiscus Water

What you knead:
20 fresh, clean hibiscus flowers (any colour) OR 10 dried ones
1 to 2 cups of raw sugar --this is to taste
2 quarts --8 cups or 1.892 litres-- of water
2 tbsp grated ginger
juice from 2 limes (1/2 to 3/4 cup) --this is added at the end so it's also "to taste"

What you due:
Put the water, sugar and ginger in a pot. Heat it to boiling (a stovetop works well to boil the water) and then cover and bring it down to a simmer for 10 minutes. Turn the heat off and toss in the hibiscus flowers. Give it a little stir so the flowers don't float on the top and then replace the cover.

Let it sit for a while till it comes down to room temp. Add PART of the lime juice and then give it a taste, add more lime juice (or sugar --just stir it in well) for your taste.

Let it stand for an hour.

Strain the liquid through a cheesecloth (give the bundle a good squeeze to get all the flavourful liquid).

Next... Serve it up and drink it!

This makes a nice mixer with rum or vodka if you are so inclined.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Polynesian Pork Roast

Yes, this is one you've been waiting for on our gastronomical tour of Polynesia! Polynesians have been roasting pork on every island since the first outriggers landed, and let me tell ya, they KNOW how to roast pork!

First, you'll need a shovel to dig the hole in your backyard. This will become your oven. And you'll need some decent sized rocks for lining it too. And you need to live in an area that has banana trees.

Oh, wait... There *is* an easier way.

I do wrap mine in banana leaves (very handy having that tree out front), but I'll describe the procedure using aluminium foil instead. Cuz I'm nice. We're also going to marinate the roast in a large, ziplock, freezer bag so you don't have to make a few quarts of marinade.

This recipe doesn't really come from any particular island since they all cook this way. And I use a mix of spices, sauces, and seasonings from all over. But if you had to pick one... let's say The South Sandwich Isles.

Here's what you need:
1 pork shoulder roast (or forequarter or any kind of pork roast) around 3 pounds

1 tsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
3 crushed garlic cloves
2 tsp grated ginger root
small handful finely minced onion
1 tbsp pineapple juice
1 or 2 tbsp water

5 or 6 rings of sliced pineapple
1/2 of a small onion, thickly sliced
small handful fresh spinach leaves
a few large cabbage leaves (large kale leaves work too)
aluminium foil

What you do:

Leave the fat on the pork roast, but score it before marinating.

Mix the next 7 ingredients in a bowl. Put the roast in your plastic, zipperlock freezer bag and then add the marinade (that would be those 7 ingredients you just mixed together). Seal the bag --whilst evacuating as much of the air as is possible-- and then rub the marinade all over the roast (it's all in a sealed bag with no air, you'll figure it out as it really is easy... just hard to describe).

Once the marinade is rubbed into the roast in the sealed bag, pop it in the fridge for a few hours to marinate.





When a couple of hours are up, you then get to make a faux banana leaf wrap! Put a baking tray on the counter, spread 2 or 3 sheets of foil over it. Make sure you leave enough overlap for the foil to cover the top of the roast with extra left for crimping! Then lay your cabbage or kale leaves over the foil, next is a layer of the spinach leaves. Try to concentrate the spinach leaves in the middle, BTW.

Take the roast out of the bag and put it (the roast, not the bag) in the center of the spinach leaves with the fat side UP. That is important as the fat drips down into the meat while slow cooking and the meat is oh so tender and juicy!

Now comes the fun part. Wrap the roast in the foil till the leaves and the foil are about halfway up the side of the roast (once you do this you'll see how easy it is). Then wedge the pineapple slices between the leaves and the pork, and lay the onion slices on top. Pour whatever marinade is left from the plastic bag evenly over the top. Finish wrapping the whole bundle in the foil and crimp the top to make a tight seal.

Oh, the pineapple and onion slices won't really be tasty after it's cooked, but they infuse the meat with some really nice flavours.

4 hours of cooking time at around 300 F should do the trick. Check it after 2 hours: if too much steam is escaping from the top of the foil then re-crimp.

When it's done and you take it out of the oven, let it sit for 10 mins or so. Unwrap the bundle and you'll find the most tenderest, tastiest pork roast ever! Remove the pineapple and onion slices, and then carefully (it should be close to falling apart) transfer the roast to a large platter for serving. Pour whatever juices are left on the baking tray and in the foil on top of the roast.

Place the platter in the middle of the table with hungry folks all around and tell everyone to dig in!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pineapple Sherbet & Pineapple Topping from Samoa (updated)

Yea! We're back in the South Pacific. Western Samoa to be exact. Don't wanna go over to American Samoa since they don't have good, traditional, Polynesian type food over there. Besides, those two islands are sooooooo tiny compared to the Savai'i and Upolu islands of Western Samoa.

These two recipes go together very well. Why, you ask? Cus you need one pineapple for both recipes and the goodies from each are served in each hollowed out pineapple half. It really does make sense to do make these together.

Credit for these two is given to Gwen Skinner from one of her wonderful books The Cuisine of the South Pacific. The book is almost 30 years old and was researched in the 70's as she sailed around Oceania.

I've used several cooking techniques and tips from her book (and many other books from other authors) for many of my own recipes --and modified some that I found in it-- but these two are ones that I don't mess with. For two reasons: Not only are they PERFECT, but I always make them during the holidays. If you've looked at any of my holiday menus (or this one too) --or perhaps this one-- you'll know that I'm pretty darned busy so if I don't have to experiment with something new, all the better.

Oops! I've got to go shred some lamb I just roasted up this morning for tomorrow night's souvlaki. Stay here, I'll be right back.

I'm back! Didja y'all miss me? And I even remembered to wash my hands before and after shredding the lamb.

Ok, pineapple sherbet and pineapple topping.

What you need for the pineapple topping:

1 pineapple
1/2 CUP (oops, forgot the unit first post) unsweetened pineapple juice
1 beaten egg yolk
1 cup sugar
2 tsp butter
2 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch is the same thing, just depends what country you are in)
3 tbsp H2O --this would be water.

What you do for the pineapple topping:

Cut the pineapple in half lengthwise. Cut out the fruit from both halves of the shell (I use a very thin, curved, fish filleting knife) so that you've left about 1/4 inch of pineapple fruit in the shell --this is so none of the goodies leak out. Mince the fruit finely --I use a cleaver for this, goes right through any tough parts of the fruit-- and try to keep as much of the juice as possible.

Toss the minced fruit with it's juice, 1/2 cup pineapple juice also, the egg yolk, sugar and butter into a saucepan and boil it up. Mix the cornflour & water, whisk it into the saucepan and keep on low heat till the whole mess thickens a bit --should take less than a minute.

Let it cool to room temp and then pour/scrape/spoon it into one of the pineapple halves. Refridgerate overnight. Then use it. There are a great many uses for it as it goes quite well with many things --including cornchips! Ice cream topping... Mmmmmmmm!

Next up, the pineapple sherbet

What you need for the pineapple sherbet:

Hollowed out pineapple half from above recipe
2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
2 tbsp melted butter
1/2 cup pineapple juice
2 tbsp lemon juice
pinch of salt
1 cup crushed pineapple (just use the canned stuff)
2 egg whites --beaten till stiff

What you do for the pineapple sherbet:

Mix the condensed milk and the butter very thoroughly. Then add everything EXCEPT the egg whites. Stir it very well. Chill well for a few hours and then fold the beaten egg whites into the chilled mixture.

Put it into the freezer till it's about half frozen, then scrape the mix into a large bowl. Beat it with a large spoon till it's smoothed out but not melted. Then pour the mix into the hollowed out pineapple half and put it into the freezer.

The next day, serve it up!