Tuesday, February 25, 2014

More thoughts on snacking on toasted corn

The consensus was that  the crunchy version of toasted corn from yesterday's posting was a bit hard to chew. Since there was no dried hominy corn available,  I decided to experiment with canned white hominy today. After draining off the water, I dry roasted it in a
heavy cast iron frying pan on a low heat, stirring regularly. After half an hour, even though the water had cooked away, the corn did not look toasted, so I added a little bit of oil (no more than a teaspoon) to a second pan, turned the heat to medium, and put half the corn from the dry frying pan into the second pan. Almost immediately the corn began to sizzle and jump around, and I needed to put a lid on it. I shook the pan on medium heat for about 15 minutes, lifting the lid occasionally to let the steam escape, then uncovered it and turned off the heat.

The result of both batches was tasty, though pretty far removed from the Ghanaian version: the corn was chewy, with the version cooked in a little oil (on the left above ) a bit more crispy and browned. Both were much easier on the teeth.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Ghana-style snack: toasted corn and peanuts

In Ghana, people snack on nuts (as in tiger nuts, groundnuts [peanuts], cashews, etc. ) often combined with something else, such as fresh coconut or corn. While corn is sometimes popped and eaten alone or with peanuts, it is also toasted. (Think African corn nuts.)

Toasted corn is an African snack food that I have been hesitant to prepare because I have been unable to easily locate the correct type of corn. I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago to some farmer neighbors  and they brought me a huge bucket of hard, field (sometimes called "Indian") corn to experiment with (thank you Micah and Bethany). While it is yellow corn rather than the white corn more common in Ghana, it provided me with the raw materials I needed.

I tried 3 variations:

1) Soaking the corn for 24 hours and then draining it, stirring in a couple of tablespoons of  canola oil  for a couple of cups of corn and  and roasting it in a hot (400 degree F) oven  on a greased cookie sheet, planning to stir every 5 minutes. Whoops! After 5 minutes I stirred it and before 5 more minutes were up, the corn started jumping off of the cookie sheet into the oven. It wasn't popping exactly, more the way sesame seeds pop when you put them into a pan to heat them. I had to turn off the oven and remove the cookie sheets after the oven cooled. I then drained the corn on paper towels and salted it.

2) While the corn was cooking in the oven, I also used a heavy frying pan on the stove top with a little oil (a tablespoon or so) to toast a cup of the soaked corn on a medium heat, stirring regularly. After about 7 minutes I had to put a lid on the pan, too, to keep the corn from jumping out.

3) The traditional way they do in Ghana: toasting the corn dry over a low heat (on my stovetop), then pouring the toasted corn into a pan of cold salt water to soak for an hour, then drying the corn in the same heavy cast iron frying pan I used to toast it originally.

I'd recommend #2 or #3 as providing the most successful result. Certainly, if I'd been able to
easily locate Goya's giant white corn or dried hominy corn, I'd have liked to have tried that.

This makes a nice crunchy snack, but not one to be recommended for small children.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Tiger Nuts: Another African food discovered by US health food enthusiasts

Tiger nuts (aka "chufa," or technically, Cyperus Esculentas), are included in the 1996 initial book in the Lost Crops of Africa series (Grains, Vol. 1), published by the National Academy Press.

In Ghana people delight in eating tiger nuts raw as a snack food, kind of like peanuts (though one spits out the fibrous coating after  chewing them to extract all the sweet milky juice.) 

Back in 2009 I posted a recipe for "atadwe milkye" or tigernut pudding. At that time I had to import the tigernuts from Spain, and they required a long soaking before grinding them to make the pudding.

While preparing to have some recipe testers try their hands at making this wonderful gluten-free pudding, I began searching for a source closer to home. 

Lo and behold: the health foods community has discovered tiger nuts! Two British-born men, Jack Sims and Jim McNulty, teamed up in 2013 to begin making this product available to the U.S. market via Tigernuts USA. They are also taking things one step further by providing the option of purchasing them with some of the outer husk removed (the part that we strained out repeatedly through silk cloth in Ghana after grinding the rice and tigernuts together). And soon, they are going to have tigernut flour available! There are all sorts of possibilities for simplifying the process of making the pudding.

My first order just arrived and I'll begin trying their nuts out soon.

Also, I want to thank all the folks who have volunteered to help out with the recipe testing. We can always use more! Just fill in the form and forward it to me. Also, the first couple of volunteers have emailed the results of their efforts and you can see their photos at the pinterest site. It is very encouraging and helpful to hear from all of you, and will definitely improve the final book.