So here we are ending 2018 and four of my favorite holidays are all happening back to back! Now you might be saying to yourself four holidays back to back what is CheFarmer talking about? December has Diwali, Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa are all ending or happening around or about to happen and they all have some amazing foods that I love to eat! Now you may be asking yourself how did CheFarmer come to love these holidays so much?
I had an amazing friend when I was in culinary school named Swati and she made some of the most amazing dishes from India. Swati would have us all in the kitchen helping and she would tell of stories of how she was raised in India and the amazing foods and markets she would go to and how spices where picked and masala was made. Swati made the most amazing aloo tiki which is a fried potato patty topped with tamarind chutney. During Diwali (India’s Festival of Lights), the smells of curry, mint yogurt, roasted onion and garlic would permeate the halls of the dorm and have us all salivating at the thought of our family meal that was to come.
Also, while in culinary school I was the President of the Black Culinary Club and one of the things I had an opportunity to do was join the Jewish Culture Club where we exchanged recipes and talked about how food was such a uniting factor bring family and friends together for both of our cultures; this is where I made my first Kugel and made an Overnight Brisket that’s was so succulent and herbaceous Hanukkah came to mean a lot to me because of this aspect of cooking and festivities as Hanukkah ended.
Now everyone knows about Christmas and the oh so yummy sweet treats that come out especially if you weren’t naughty (LOL). However, I am not a big sweet eater but one of my favorite things to eat for Christmas is a Ginger Molasses Cookie. I believe why I like this so much is in November my Great-Uncle Horace with the watchful eye of my Great-Grand Mother Florine would have to press sugar cane (using the sugar cane press that has been at Gilliard Farms since 1919) and they would use a giant cast iron cauldron to cook the sugar cane juice down to an amazing blackstrap molasses! Oh my, I can almost smell the juice cooking and bubbling up while I am typing - wait, wait, wait that’s the Bacon Jam I have cooking—ok snapping my self back!
Well that cane juice would be cooked down and that blackstrap molasses would be amazing and bottled up for the coming year to be eatin’ with sweet cream biscuits or pancakes and to make my favorite Ginger Molasses Cookies. Now Kwanzaa, it is a holiday that started not as a religious holiday but as a African American Cultural Holiday observed by many in the African diaspora throughout the Americas. The name Kwanzaa comes from the Swahili phrase "matunda ya kwanza," which means "first fruits of the harvest. Two of my favorite dishes are West African Jollof Rice and Groundnut Soup aka Peanut Soup (yes I am a Georgia Boy).
Here are a few recipes to try this Holiday Season! (all have been adjusted to feed 12 people)
Aloo Tikki adapted- from My Saffron Kitchen
6 yukon gold potatoes, peeled, and cut into large dice
2 tablespoon kosher salt
2 cups frozen peas (uncooked)
1 large sweet onion, medium diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 habanero or green chili pepper, minced
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 tablespoon ginger powder
4 tablespoons rice flour
2 bunches cilantro leaves, rough chopped
4 tablespoons Ghee
1 pint plain yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
A pinch of pink salt and cracked black pepper
Additional Sauces (purchase at local Indian Market)
Kuchela (pickled mango)
Take the potatoes and cover with cold water in a large pot, add salt place on stove and bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer. Cook potatoes until knife tender ( insert the blade of a knife into one of the diced potatoes and if the potatoes slips off with ease they are ready. Note - DO NOT overlook the potatoes.
While waiting for the potatoes to cook make the mint yogurt by combining all the ingredients in a blender and pulsing 3 to 4 times. Adjust taste with a pinch of salt and cracked black pepper.
Strain the potatoes and allow to cool and dry for about 15 minutes. In a large bowl put the potatoes and the next 8 ingredients and stir until combined with a wooden spoon.
Using a 1/4 cup scoop out aloo and start forming small patties.
Heat ghee over medium-high heat once you see small whisps of smoke start frying the aloo tikki. It should take about 2 minutes on each side for it to get that golden crispy brown. Using a slotted spatula remove and place on paper towels to drain.
Serve with the tamarind chutney, kuchela and mint yogurt as condiments.
10-12 lb. beef brisket
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons fresh cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1/8 cup of olive oil
4 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
15 garlic cloves
8 beef steak tomatoes, rough chopped or 16 Roma tomatoes, rough chopped
4 thyme sprigs
2 sprigs of sage
3 cups beef broth
1 cup red table wine
1/2 cup aged balsamic vinegar
3 medium fennel bulbs thinly sliced
8 large potatoes, medium dice
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.
Mix together the salt, pepper and smoked paprika. Take seasoning mix and rub all over the brisket and sat aside at room temperature for 1 hour.
In a large Dutch Oven add the olive oil over a medium-high heat. Now sear the brisket on both sides about 5 minutes on each side. Remove brisket and set on a large plate.
Now add the onions and garlic and sauté until they start to caramelize. Once that happens add the tomatoes, thyme, sage, broth, wine and vinegar let come up to a simmer.
Add fennel and brisket then place the potatoes on top of the brisket cover and place into oven. Let cook overnight or for 6 hours.
Remove from the oven and take the brisket out of the liquid and place on a large platter for 20 minutes allowing it to rest before slicing against the grain.
Slice brisket, and garnish with the potatoes and fennel. Put that scrumptious liquid in a gravy boat and enjoy.
Ginger Molasses Cookies adapted from Betties Classic Ginger Bread Cut Out
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 1/4 cups molasses
8 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons allspice
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
3/4 + 1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon baking soda
2 tablespoons pink Himalayan salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Cream together butter and brown sugar. Add molasses and mix well.
Mix spices with 1 cup of the flour and add. Add the rest of flour about 1/2 cup at a time, alternating adding water and flour. Combine baking soda and final 1/4 cup water and add last.
Cover and chill dough for at least an hour before rolling out. (you can also freeze the dough for up to a month. If you freeze ensure you thaw completely before rolling out)
On a well-floured surface, roll out dough to desired thickness (approx. 1/4 inch thick makes a nice soft yet cookie) and us cookie cutter. Arrange cookies on a parchment or silicone lined baking sheet and sprinkle with pink Himalayan salt.
Bake cookies for approximately 10-12 minutes or more (longer cooking times will yield a stiffer cookie). Allow to cool a few minutes on cookie sheets, then transfer to cooling racks and cool completely.
Ground Nut Soup adapted from
6 large yellow onions, medium diced
15 cloves of garlic
3 quarts chicken broth
1 small can tomato paste
6 ounces fresh ginger
1 small can tomato paste
6 pounds chicken legs
4 habanero or jalapeño, split in half and seeds removed
8 bay leaves
32 ounces peanut butter
1/4 cup smoked paprika
84 ounces of canned plum tomatoes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Hot cooked white rice or fufu, to serve (see note) cup butter
In a blender, purée 1/2 the onions, 1/2 the garlic and ginger with 1 quart chicken broth and tomato paste. In a large Dutch oven combine chicken legs with onion & garlic purée, and remaining garlic cloves, along with peppers and place int the refrigerator for 1 hour.
After 1 hour place Dutch Oven on the stove on a medium heat and add remaining onion, garlic cloves, and 1 quart of chicken broth. Bring to a low simmer, cover and let cook for 25 minutes.
Remove diced onions, garlic cloves and hot peppers and place in a blender with 1/2 the peanut butter, half the tomatoes with juice and 1/2 quart of chicken broth and purée until smooth. Pour the purée through a fine mesh strainer into the chicken. Now add the second half of the peanut butter, tomatoes, and chicken broth to the blender and purée until smooth. Without straining pour over the chicken and stir to incorporate and add bay leaves.
Increase heat to medium high and bring to a simmer, then lower heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, for 40 minutes until chicken is tender and a internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Skim the oil from the surface as the stew starts to thicken.
Discard the bay leaves and serve with a large pot of rice.