Saturday, 24 October 2015

Central African Republic - home cooking

After a nice run of restaurant visits, it was time to go back into the kitchen for a dish from the Central African Republic. Before even looking at recipes, I already had an idea of what to expect. Meat. Peanut butter. I didn't approach the recipe research with this in mind, but I ended up settling on a dish called kanda ti nyma. Which was meat with peanut butter.

Kanda signifies meatballs, and is a meal in its own right. Kanda ti nyma is the aforementioned meatballs in an okra and peanut sauce. Although not a massive fan of peanut butter in a dinner, this seemed to be the more authentic, common option of the two.

The recipe is quite simple, in all honestly, although I've been known to make a complete balls up - no pun intended - of meatballs, which just end up being mince and onions again.

For this meal I used 750g of minced beef, 2 large onions, 1 1/2 eggs, 2 chilles, 3 cloves of garlic, 9 okra and 5 tablespoons of unsweetened peanut butter.

First stage was to make the meatballs. As expected, this was done by combining the minced beef, 1 chopped onion, chopped chilli and chopped garlic along with 1 1/2 beaten eggs. Once this was well mixed together, it was time to form the meatballs which I moulded to be just bigger than golf ball size. I ended up getting 18 meatballs out of the ingredients.

Next up, the sauce. I fried the other chopped onion until it started to turn translucent, then added the chopped okra and fried for another minute or two until the mixture started to combine. Then set aside.

At this point the meatballs were browned on all sides in another pan. I didn't have a pan big enough so I had to do this in two batches.

The next stage was to mix 360ml of water with the peanut butter, add this to the onion and okra mix, and simmer for a minute or so. Then it was time to gently place the meatballs into the pot. It was a bit tight for space, but I managed to fit all 18 meatballs into the base of what essentially is a soup pot. The sauce came up to just over halfway up the meatballs, but I was quite confident they were going to cook well, especially turning them round halfway through cooking.

After 25 minutes, they were done.

The meat and sauce were served on a bed of rice. I served 6 meatballs topped with sauce for the main dish, and left the rest to the side for later.

The verdict. The meatballs themselves were fantastic.Of any of the previous times I've actually successfully made meatballs which stayed ball shaped, they haven't ever really been particularly flavoursome. This wasn't the case this time. There was a really nice kick from the chilli. The garlic and onion came through fantastically, and the meat itself was perfectly done. 

As for the sauce, the peanut flavour was definitely in evidence. Certainly not overpowering, but definitely there. This ended up being an issue for Elle, who isn't a peanut fan generally anyway. She actually did quite well considering, finishing the meal but leaving the extras.

I cooked okra once before, and it was an absolute disaster. It was like eating little pieces of hard plastic. I have no idea what I did wrong then, but this - the second time I've cooked with okra - was much more successful, and there was no doubt it plays a role in bringing the sauce together and giving it substance. A good bit of onion in the sauce helped to make the sauce quite familiar and probably helped counter the peanut taste.

All in all, a very filling, satisfying and surprisingly tasty meal, even if the individual tastes don't suit everyone's palate. 


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