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.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

From the blogging world

By panipopos

I was surfing the net looking for photos from Samoa of koko, and came across Elizabeth's blog. She has kindly allowed me to use her photos, taken in Samoa, of koko beans being roasted and pounded the traditional way. Here you can see the beans being sorted. The burnt ones are no good.

The beans are shelled.
Then they're pounded by a happy person.

You can find more photos from Elizabeth's time in Samoa on her blog Dispatches from the South Seas.

Also check out La Cocinera Loca and their delicious panipopo. The buns look so scrumptious, they inspired me to make two batches for the weekend. I love seeing photos of how other people are making Samoan food. Just gotta be careful not to drool all over the keyboard. The cool thing here is that this blogger has translated our panipopo recipe into French(!), so now even more people can enjoy the wonderfulness that is Samoan cuisine.