18 May 2010

Sandra's Congri

On Sunday, I finished reading a book called Hungry Planet: What the World Eats by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio. I loved it. As soon as I read about it (and saw some of the photos from it), I wanted a copy. Almost immediately I found one at a children's consignment sale for $6.00! (Not really sure what it was doing there, but I'll take it!)

It is a large coffee-table-type book of photos of 30 families around the world with one week's worth of food. (Here are some of the photos.) It also has other photos of the families, some of the authors' observations and remembrances, statistics on each country featured, and a detailed breakdown of the food and how much it costs. The photos are clear and gorgeous. It's amazing how much variety there is in the types of foods people eat, what kind of houses they live in, and what they can afford. The book features families ranging from a single mother of 5 living in a refugee camp in Chad (who spends $1.23USD per week on food), to a family of 4 in Germany (who spend $500USD).

Each chapter also features a family recipe from each family. This really caught my fancy. Many of the recipes contain ingredients I wouldn't be able to obtain, or seafood/fish, or both, so I won't make every recipe in the book, but I intend to make the ones I can, or the ones I think I might enjoy. I started with the recipe from Cuba:

Sandra's Congri (rice and beans)

1/2 lb red beans
2 aji (yellow hot peppers)
5 cups water
1/4 t cumin, ground

1/4 t oregano, ground

1/2 lb pork, cut into 1" pieces

2-4 T lard

1/2 lb onion, diced
3 cloves garlic

4 T salt (or to taste)

1 lb rice
2 oz bacon

Rinse and soak beans with 1 hot pepper for a few hours or overnight.

I bought one jalapeno, instead of two aji. I soaked the beans, starting in the morning, with half of the jalapeno.

Cook beans over medium-low heat in soaking water until soft. Drain beans, saving 3 cups of the liquid.

I started cooking the beans before sitting down for Lucy's nap, so they got a little mushy. But hey, when the baby sleeps, you let her sleep, potentially mushy beans be damned!

Lightly toast cumin and oregano in a pan, stirring constantly, until fragrant.

I actually did this. It seemed rather pointless to me, but by gosh, I did it.

Starting with 2 T lard, saute pork over medium heat until it releases liquid. Add onion, garlic, and remaining pepper and saute until onion is translucent; if pan gets dry, add 1-2 T more lard.

I don't have a source for good lard, but I did have some chicken fat I saved from the last time we made cracklings. Worked like a charm. I left out the other jalapeno after tasting the beans. We're just not used to the spiciness!

Add beans, saved cooking liquid, oregano, cumin, and salt; bring mixture to a boil.

I actually added the beans and the liquid to the rice in the next step -- there wasn't enough room in my skillet. Oh, and I forgot the salt, which explains why the finished product needed salt. Ha.

Meanwhile, wash rice and fry uncooked over medium heat with 1 oz bacon.

I should have chopped the bacon, but I was too lazy. Frying uncooked rice with two whole strips of bacon is awkward. I had to add chicken fat.

When bean mixture begins to boil, add rice and bacon. Cover and cook over medium heat until rice is soft.

I was going to leave the beans out of this so they wouldn't get even mushier, but I decided to throw them in anyway. It worked out fine.

Saute remaining bacon; coarsely chop and use for garnish.

I skipped this, again, out of laziness.

[And instead, took a break to eat a slice of my fresh-baked bread machine bread with copious amounts of butter.]

Variation: prepare as above, substituting black beans and fried crumbled pork rinds for red beans and bacon.

There you have it! Quite an adventure, using techniques I'd never heard of before, and preparing a recipe with no cooking times. That was scary. The rice took a surprisingly short amount of time to soften. Yay!

The final verdict?

PS - The same authors have another, older book called Material World, in which they photograph 30 families from around the world outside their homes with all their belongings. Sweet! (I suppose there's something you should know about me -- I'm endlessly curious and nosy. I take great pleasure in seeing what other people have in their grocery carts at the store, and in being able to see the insides of people's houses at night as I ride by them in a car. Hopefully my tendencies will not escalate. But if I were you, I'd close my blinds.)

PPS - Through reading this book, I was reminded that I would like to see India before I die, and discovered for the first time that I would like to see Cuba before I die. Hm. Who knew?

PPPS - I gave some to Lucy because I want her to try and be used to all kinds of flavors. I should have remembered that she often rubs her eyes. She did it after eating some of this, and oh my -- that poor baby! The wailing! This stuff was seriously spicy hot, even with half a jalapeno instead of two aji, and it did her eyes no favors.

1 comment:

Brigid said...

I'm pretty sure we had Material World in my 7th grade class. I remember being fascinated by it.