Saturday, December 18, 2010

Coconut cake

By panipopos

I wish this dense, subtely-flavoured coconut cake was a real Samoan recipe. But it's not. Still, anything that uses leftover coconut milk, and is easy to make deserves to be in the "Samoan-inspired" file.

Coconut Cake
makes an 8 inch (20cm) square cake or 9 inch (22cm) round cake
2 eggs
cup (160g) coconut milk (divided)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon coconut essence (optional)
1¾ cup (200g) flour
1 cup (200g) sugar
2½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 stick (100g) butter, very soft but not melted

Line your baking tin with parchment/baking paper and preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).
Whisk the eggs, a third (50g) of the coconut milk, and the essences together.

Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into another bowl and mix together. Add the butter and the rest of the coconut milk.
With an electric beater, mix on the lowest setting until you can't see any more dry ingredients. Then turn your mixer on high and beat for 3 minutes. The mixture will be very thick, so scrape down occassionally with a spatula.

Take your egg mixture and add it in three parts to the flour mixture, beating on high for 1 minute after each addition.
After all the ingredients are added, your cake batter should be creamy and light, but thick.

Pour the batter into your lined cake tin.
Spread to fill the corners and smooth the surface with a spatula.
Bake for 35-40 minutes until a wooden skewer comes out clean. Dry crumbs on the skewer are fine. What you don't want is wet batter.

Leave the cake in the pan for about 10 minutes before turning it out. Although the baked cake comes out pretty well-risen, it will shrink on cooling.

Peel off the paper and leave to cool.

Serve plain or with a dusting of powdered sugar.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Paifala - Samoan half-moon pies (modern recipe)

By panipopos

A couple of months ago, I made paifala using a traditional recipe with coconut milk and cornstarch. Here are some delicious paifala from a fellow blogger, Lotus, at Whymsicallotus, that also used that recipe. When I made it, I noticed that quite some filling leaks out during baking, and the crust on that paifala is very much like Masi Samoa.

So this is Paifala II - with a shortcrust pastry, a custard filling and without coconut milk. It's flavour is not better or worse than the traditional recipe, just different. In terms of structure, however, this modern take on paifala has minimal leakage and the crust can hold even more filling than the traditional recipe.

Paifala (makes 5)
1 cup (240ml) milk
4 tablespoons custard powder
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 cups (500g) crushed pineapple, drained
½ cup (100g) sugar*
½ teaspoon nutmeg (optional)

* If you have a sweet tooth, increase to 3/4 cup (150g) sugar.

Put the custard powder, milk, vanilla essence and sugar in a saucepan and mix until smooth. Put this over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the custard thickens. Finally, turn the heat off and add your pineapple and nutmeg (if using). Mix until well-combined, then set aside to cool to room temperature.


3½ cups (400g) flour
4 teaspoons baking powder

pinch of salt
cup (70g) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
4 tablespoons (60ml) milk
¾ cup (150g) butter, room temperature

Sift the flour and baking powder and salt into a bowl. Mix together. Then add the rest of the crust ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon until everything just comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead together into a smooth ball. Try not to handle the dough too much because you don't want to melt the butter. Also, don't add too much flour, or you'll get a tough dough. If you find the dough is too sticky to handle, then refrigerate for half an hour, and try working with it again.

Assembling the paifala
Cut your dough into 5 equal pieces. Roll each piece out into an 8” (20cm) circle. Put some of your cooled pineapple filling into the centre. Lightly wet the edges of the piecrust with water, and then fold one half of the pie over the other. Press the edges together with a fork. See the paifala video if you want visuals.

Pierce the top of the pie several times (steam vents) then bake at 350°F (180°C) for 25-30 minutes until light golden. Remove from the oven and cool. Be careful not to overbake these or the crust will be too crumbly.

My pie was stuffed till crammed with filling, but this is the only leak I had:

In the big picture, this leak was next to nothing.

Enjoy warm or cold, with a hot drink.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Kale moa video

By panipopos

There are several ways you can adjust the kale moa recipe:
* As written in the last post, you can substitute up to half the liquid with coconut milk for a very rich kale.
* You can also substitute the water for chicken broth or vegetable broth.
* Season with worcestershire sauce or soy sauce.
* Add tomatoes or tomato paste - tomato is a very nice base for kale.
* Add turmeric with the curry powder for yellower curry.
* Add garam masala at the end of cooking for deeper flavour.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Kale Moa - Samoan Chicken Curry

By panipopos

I had an email request for kale mamoe (lamb curry) but unfortunately, I can't get mamoe (lamb) here where I am. But since that email (all of five days ago), I've had kale (curry) on the brain.

One might ask, that with such a wide range of curries available the world over, what's so special about Samoan curry? Because it's not an overtly spicy dish, nor does it incorporate any unique Samoan ingredients. I mean, really, kale just wouldn't make the grade in a "Best International Curry" competition.

The truth is, kale is special because it's taste is so unspecial. That is, it's a mild dish, so no "Fire in the Hole!" warnings needed. It's non-intrusive, so it blends in well with other Samoan dishes, such as sapasui and fa'alifu. And it's undistinctive taste lends itself well to practically any meat or vege combo your heart desires.

Don't get me wrong. I think kale is absolutely delicious, but if you start telling people that's it's "curry" then they have these preconceived notions of what it should taste like. Spicy, piquant, exotic, aromatic, tangy...and Samoan kale is none of those things.

Think of it more like a light curry-flavoured sauce, a kind of mildly spiced gravy, or a masala-laced stew.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Mika's Coconut Fish

By panipopos

So far on this blog I've done a lot of traditional stuff. Today we're doing something slightly different, just to mix things up. This recipe falls under the heading of 'Samoan-inspired' (see up there, in the title of my blog?). So I didn't grow up eating this, nor do I know anyone else that regularly does. But it comes from a chef working in the islands, so I thought I'd give it a go.

You can find the original recipe here, but as there are few measurements, I'll specify what I used.

Start off with an egg with a tablespoon of milk.

Beat them together and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. 

In another dish, combine half a cup of breadcrumbs and a tablespoon or two of shredded coconut.

Take your fish fillets (I used flounder/flatfish) and dip them in the egg mixture, then the breadcrumb mixture.

By the way, I used panko, but regular breadcrumbs would be just as good.

Melt two tablespoons of butter over low/medium heat, then gently fry your fish until golden brown.

While the fish is cooking, put half a cup of crushed pineapple with syrup, half a cup of coconut milk, and two tablespoons of honey in a saucepan. Cook this over medium heat until it thickens.

Once the fish is cooked, pour your thickened sauce over it and serve.

To be honest, the sauce was a little sweet for my tastes. The colour was not the most appetising either - grey from the coconut milk with yellow pineapple.

However, the fish was divine - succulent and tender, with a nice crunchy crust. Next time I would just skip the sauce altogether and make a nice gravy or simple white sauce.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Panikeke Lapotopoto Video

By panipopos

They sell panikeke lapotopoto at the fresh food market in Apia. They're made fresh every day, and are popular with schoolkids and tourists.

One of Samoa's top kitchen talents, Chef Michael Meredith, grew up watching his mother make panikeke for her stall in the Apia markets. From those humble beginnings he has since won numerous cooking awards and scholarships, studied at the CIA (the Culinary Institute, guys, not the Intelligence Agency) and he has recently opened his own high-class restaurant, Merediths.

The moral is: if you watch someone make panikeke, you will have great success in life.

Panikeke power.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Panikeke Lapotopoto - Round Pancakes

By panipopos

Samoans make two kinds of pancakes - flat round ones and round round ones. Both recipes are so simple that they are unwritten and measured by the eye. Both use ingredients that are probably already in your pantry, and both can be mixed and ready to eat within half an hour.

My favourite are the panikeke lapotopoto - the round round ones - which commonly come in two flavours: plain and banana. Though I've also had them with pineapple and even raisins too.

Now, you shouldn't think that panikeke are exclusively Samoan, because Tongans make them, as well as Fijians. Heck, even the Okinawans have something similar.

Interestingly, some people squeeze the dough out from their fists, a sort of human pastry bag, if you will. They claim that the fried product is rounder and better shaped than those that enter the frier via spoon.

I reckon it's just a clever way to make sure the cook doesn't pop every third panikeke into their mouth. Think about it. If one hand is squeezing the dough in, and the other hand is taking the cooked panikeke out (with a utensil, obviously), then there are no idle hands to stuff your face with.

So the following recipe makes a baker's dozen, that's 13 pieces. But don't count how many are in the photo ok? Because it's the cook's right, even their duty, to eat a panikeke or two. How else will we know if the oil is hot enough?

Panikeke (makes 12, shhh)
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
oil for frying

Heat up your oil over medium heat, then as soon as it starts to get shimmery, turn the heat down low. If you have anything as fancy as a thermometre in your kitchen, heat the oil to somewhere between 320°F and 356°F (160°C to 180°C).

You don't have to wait for your oil to get to temperature before mixing your batter. It'll take you less than five minutes, so go ahead and sift the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Add the egg and milk, then mix everything up with enough water to form a thick batter. You know, I want to call this a batter because we're making pancakes, but it's actually more like a wet dough. See the video if you're not sure what consistency it should be.

Fry tablespoonfuls in the oil for 3-5 minutes until they're dark golden brown. If your oil is too high, the panikeke will be uncooked on the inside. If your oil is too low you'll have greasy panikeke. So every couple of batches, break one open to make sure it's cooked through, and eat it if you really must.

Eat hot or cold, though these usually don't get a chance to cool down before they're snatched up.

* You can substitute self-raising flour for the flour and baking powder.

* This recipe can be, and probably should be, doubled, tripled, quadrupled. Just make sure you don’t add too much liquid.

* Add a dash of vanilla to the mix if you like.

* Feel free to squeeze the panikeke from your hands, but two spoons work just as well. If you mixed a good dough, and the oil is the right temperature, then the panikeke will round themselves out, no matter what shape you drop in the oil. And if your panikeke have little 'horns' on them, well man, grab those horns! They´re crunchy and delicious!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Laumoli Lautipolo - Citrus leaves

By panipopos

lau = leaf
moli = orange
tipolo/kipolo = lemon

Samoans are one of the few populations to use citrus leaves in the kitchen. I mean, lots of people drink tea made from lemon leaves, but not many use the leaves to actually cook with. The Thai people famously use kaffir lime leaves in their curries and the Vietnamese fry lemon leaves up with grubs. And a few Mediterranean populations use citrus leaves for wrapping food and in marinades.

Well, Samoans don't use citrus leaves for curry. And although I've heard of people eating coconut grubs, I don't know many Samoans that do. We don't wrap food in citrus leaves either. Are you kidding? We have taro and banana leaves for that. They hold waaaay more food.

What we do use orange or lemon leaves for is very simple - to impart a subtle citrus fragrance to sweet dishes such as koko araisa (cocoa rice) and sua araisa (milky rice).

Take your orange or lemon leaf from a tree that hasn't been treated with chemicals. You want to choose leaves that are dark green, not the young lighter coloured ones, because the darker, more mature leaves have got more citrus oils (eg. flavour) in them. Throw your leaf in the simmering dish, but like a bayleaf, it's not to be eaten. The leaf will leave a hint of orange or lemon flavour, but the dish won't be overwhelmed by it.

If you can't get your hands on fresh citrus leaves, then try substituting with the fruit zest or essence. But citrus leaves are never an essential ingredient, so you can always leave them out. For instance, I like lautipolo in sua araisa, but not in koko araisa. It's just a matter of taste.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Koko Araisa video

By panipopos

As soon as you add Koko Samoa to boiling water, a chocolatier-than-chocolate smell fills the room. It's a smell that takes you back home to when you were a little kid lapping up your bowl of koko araisa, and running back to the kitchen for more. It's a warm smell, reminiscent of cosy family nights in, or weekend breakfasts, or afternoon tea at church. Even the smell of cold koko araisa brings back memories of after school snacks, leftovers at a cousins house, or just those times when I would sneak in a cup before everyone else woke up. You know what Koko Samoa smells like? It smells like home.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Koko Araisa - Cocoa rice

By panipopos

Koko = Samoan cocoa
Araisa/Alaisa = Rice

Most Samoan kids grow up eating this. It's a treat for breakfast or any time of the day. You can eat this hot or cold, out of a bowl or a mug, lightened with coconut milk or cow's milk - the ingredients are completely variable according to taste.

* You can use any white rice - long, medium or short-grain - but the consistency will vary per rice type. Long-grain will give you clearly separated grains that sink to the bottom of the bowl. Short-grain produces the thickest consistency, like chocolate rice pudding.

* Laumoli is a leaf from an orange tree. Just pick the leaf, rinse it under water and throw it whole in the pot. I guess you could substitute grated orange rind or orange essence.

By the way, the laumoli is just for flavour. Don't eat it.

* There are no hard and fast rules about when to add the Koko Samoa. My mother throws in a whole lump of koko at the beginning and by the time the rice is cooked, the koko is softened and distributed evenly throughout the pan. You can also cook the rice up first with the water, then add the koko near the end. The important thing is to give the koko time in the hot water to release it's flavours and oils and yummy goodness.

If you don't have Koko Samoa, you can substitute any high-quality unsweetened cocoa powder.

* In place of the coconut milk, you can use normal milk.

* And finally, don't judge me ok? But koko araisa tastes really good with thick slices of generously buttered white bread.