Monday, August 6, 2012

Cooking Around the World: Fiji

We kicked off our 'F' countries - in this cooking around the world adventure of ours - with an easy Friday foray into Fijian cooking.

Fiji is comprised of 300 mountainous islands populated with a multi-cultural society formed by people from Polynesia, India, Melanesia, China and several European countries. And the complex cuisine of Fiji reflects the culinary influence of different cultures.

The Dutch introduced the local population to the sea cucumbers. The British brought cattle and some exotic fruits from Africa and the Americas. Indian cuisine developed in this country because of the Indian slaves that the British brought here to work on the sugar plantations.

Present day Fiji cuisine is a great mixture of Polynesian, Indian, Melanesian, Chinese and Western cuisine. Some of the most used ingredients in Fiji cuisine are yam, breadfruit, cassava, taro root (dalo) and leaves (rourou). Beef, poultry, pork and seafood are an integral part of Fijian food.

 Shrimp in Coconut Cream

3 T butter
2 bay leaves
1 3-inch piece cinnamon
5 cardamom pods, crushed
1-1/2 pounds large uncooked shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 one-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 T white whole wheat flour
3 T ground almonds
2 C coconut cream (not coconut milk)
salt to taste
1 tbsp fresh lemon or lime juice

Heat the butter in a large, flat-bottom pan. Add the shrimp and cook for 2 minutes over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove the shrimp and set aside. Add the ginger, onion, and garlic, and saute until the onion is softened. Add the flour and almonds and cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the coconut cream and simmer for 10 minutes. Return the shrimp to the curry, add salt to taste, and simmer for about 8 minutes. Add the lemon or lime juice, stir, and remove from the heat. Remove the bay leaves and the cinnamon. Serve over rice garnished with the cilantro leaves and sliced almonds. 
Coconut-Cassava Cake
adapted from The Polynesian Kitchen here
I liked the idea of this Fijian cassava cake that has nothing more than cassava, coconut, coconut milk, butter, and sugar; the Filipino cassava cake is far too sticky sweet with sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and sugar, sugar, and more sugar. I am not a fan, needless to say. But since the recipe from the Polynesian kitchen didn't include any proportions, I was winging it. It wasn't my favorite, but I did succeed in making a less sweet cassava cake, so that was a triumph.
1 packet grated cassava (in the frozen section of the Filipino store), thawed
1 packet of young coconut (in the frozen section of the Filipino store), thawed
1/2 C organic granulated sugar
1 can coconut milk
1 egg
Mix all of the ingredients together in a mixing bowl until you have a well-blended batter. Pour into a buttered baking dish and bake - at 350 degrees - until the cake is set. Serve as is or with a light dusting of powdered sugar.
This Global Table Ambassador is signing off for now. We're headed to Finland next.

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