Oct 19, 2008

Foods of our heritage

JAMAICA Jamaica Gleaner - Kingston, 19 Oct. 2008

Cassava bread or bammy was a favourite staple of theirs. They also discovered how to tenderise meat by wrapping it in papaya leaves. ...

Heather Little-White, Contributor

Jamaican foods have an interesting origin and can be, for the most part, healthy and filling.

Zeta Powell and Iris Poyser, sisters of Springfield, St Elizabeth, are more than 95 years old and attribute their longevity to heritage foods, such as arrowroot and hominy corn porridge, and eating corned pork with ground provisions like dasheen, coco and breadfruit.

Jamaicans have retained a strong sense of their culture reflected in the diversity of local cuisine. With the promotion of healthy lifestyles, Jamaicans are encouraged to limit the use of fatty and salty foods associated with heritage foods.

It is still possible to enjoy healthy Jamaican fare with lavish amounts of complex carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

First Jamaicans' cuisine

We know that the first Jamaicans, the Tainos, feasted on a variety of fish. Cassava bread or bammy was a favourite staple of theirs. They also discovered how to tenderise meat by wrapping it in papaya leaves. Today, the tenderiser papain is extracted from papaya.

The diversity of Jamaican cuisine was also influenced by the transatlantic slave trade. Slave ship cargoes brought crops directly from the motherland for enslaved Africans to consume.

The cuisine of Jamaica is diverse and the influence of the cultures has left dominant meal patterns, providing variety, good nutrition and meals for the entire family to enjoy.

Heather Little-White, PhD, is a nutrition and lifestyle consultant in the Corporate Area. Send comments to editor@gleanerjm.com or fax 922-6223.

Arrowroot is heritage food that has many medicinal properties. Plus, it is a great ingredient for soups, sauces and porridge.

Soya sauce and roti
The Chinese, who came as indentured labourers, were without their basic native ingredients which would not have survived the heat of the journey. However, they were eventually able to access soya sauce, dried noodles and five-spice powder, items still popular today.

The East Indians, who also came as indentured labourers, introduced roti, eggplant and ginger. Dahl roti and double rotis are excellent accompaniments to curry dishes, popular to our cuisine.

In North Africa, cuisine reflected the Islamic traditions of the region, with stews and curries cooked in cone-shaped clay pots, laden with grains, legumes and spices like cumin, caraway, cloves and cinnamon. Islam does not permit the eating of pork or any associated products. Breakfast usually consists of porridges made from millet or chickpea flour.

In West Africa, there is variation in the consumption of staples. Rice is predominant in some places and root crops, such as yam and cassava, prevail along the coast. Plantain, a variety of the banana, is abundant in West Africa, with the ripe ones fried and the green ones boiled or pounded into fufu (turn cornmeal). Fruits like dates, melons, guavas, cashews, mangoes, jackfruit, passion fruit and oranges were common in West Africa.

Coconut-based stews
East Africa had as its main staples, potatoes, rice, mashed plantains and maize cooked into a thick porridge. Spicy and coconut-based stews were common in the coastal area as is today in the Horn of Africa, which includes Somalia and Ethiopia. The traditional meal in South Africa centres on a staple crop such as maize or rice and is served with a stew.

The most common dish is mealie meal, or pap, made from cornmeal. Poured over the cornmeal is a stew made from boiled vegetables, such as cabbage, spinach or turnip. On more special occasions, fish, beans or chicken is added.

What are the influences of other ethnic groups on our cuisine today? The Spanish brought with them sweet oranges, sour oranges, limes, tamarind, coconut, bananas, sugar cane, ginger, pomegranate and plantains. The popular escoveitched fish is of Spanish origin and they also left us the popular sweet ending, the gizzada. In later years, they brought with them cattle, goats, pigs, horses and lard from pork fat.

It was the British who introduced the breadfruit, otaheiti apple, ackee, mangoes, rose apples, turmeric and black pepper. The popular Easter bun, spongecakes and pies remained with us from the Brits. Breakfast bacon and eggs and corned and salted beef are still enjoyed today.

Corned pork and beef
These are relished by connoisseurs of Jamaican foods. What is the secret to the corning technique? It is a process in which brine is injected into the arteries of beef or pork. Among kits of salt fish, sides of bacon and sacks of beans and potatoes in storehouses were barrels of corned pork and beef.

Making your own corned pork can be a satisfying experience and boiling pork after corning makes a tasty entree.

My grandmother, Ethel Falconer, would source a fresh leg of pork from the local pig farmer. After cleaning, she rubbed the pork leg with plenty salt and set aside for two days. Falconer had a special pot for boiling the pork in water enough to cover and skimming frequently while cooking.

When the meat was almost done, she added cabbage quarters to the pot. The pork came out tender and tasty and Grandma added mustard and cayenne pepper to the outside before serving. The cabbage was drained and served as an accompaniment to the corned pork.

Black-eyed peas
Stews utilised black-eyed peas, sesame (benne), eggplant sorghum (a grain that produces sweet syrup and different types of flour), watermelon and peanuts. African kitchens commonly had a pot of stew sitting on three stones arranged around a fire. Meals were eaten with the hands. To supplement their diets, slaves often hunted, fished or grew vegetables in their own gardens.

Ground provisions
Ground provisions were expected to supplement the salted meat or fish given once a year. This led to the creation of dishes like mackerel run-dung or dip-and-fall-back and salt-fish fritters or stamp-and-go.

Jerking was introduced by the Africans and can be traced back to the Coromantee hunters of West Africa. Pork was frequently roasted over hot coals in earthen pots covered with green pimento branches. Boston in Portland is the home of jerk today as this is the area where some of the hunters made home.

A taste for cassava bread

By Will Ross

UK- BBC News, near Accra

The workers on Motherwell Farms, north of the capital, Accra, are struggling with the heat and the two-metre tall cassava plants.

The name suggests Scotland but the weather is definitely not.

Bread and biscuits made with cassava flour taste as good as wheat versions
In the stifling Ghanaian heat, it takes some huffing and heaving to uproot the green-leaved stem to reveal the earth-coloured tubers underground.

A little larger than a potato, these tubers are one weapon in the government's efforts to tackle the food crisis.

Ghana imports all of its wheat mostly from the US and Canada.

Earlier this year the importers' bill increased from around $500 (£289; 372 euros) a tonne to $900 and the cost of a loaf of bread also shot up by as much as 70%.

At the Food Research Institute in Pokuasi, half a dozen women wielding sharp knives are peeling the cassava at speed.

This drought-resistant root vegetable is a staple food in Africa and a popular accompaniment to a variety of fiery Ghanaian soups.

But these particular white tubers are being washed, grated, pressed, dried and milled to produce cassava flour.

Bread and soup

"We have been trying to promote the high quality cassava flour for 10 years," says Nanam Dziedzoave, of Ghana's Food Research Institute.

"But, with increasing world food prices, this is an opportune time to promote the incorporation of high quality cassava flour into wheat.

"It is not only going to reduce food prices, it is also going to improve the livelihoods of farmers as well as save on foreign exchange," Mr Dziedzoave says as he checks the quality of the freshly milled cassava flour, sifting it through his fingers.

Adding 10% cassava flour to 90% wheat flour may sound like a small step but, in a country that imports hundreds of thousands of tonnes of wheat each year, it could have a significant impact.
There is demand for cassava flour - but not enough supply

In Accra's Chantan suburb a dozen bakers are mixing the two types of flour and producing an array of breads, pastries and biscuits.

"Those that have tasted our bread can't tell the difference between the normal wheat one and they like it," says Lydianne Antwi of Lyanco Catering Services.

For biscuits, the cassava flour ratio can reach 50%. But there is a problem - supply. Even though Lydianne and her colleagues are calling out for the cassava flour, which is up to three times cheaper than wheat flour, they can not find it.

"The ministry is negotiating with the flour mills and supporting some high quality cassava flour producers to boost the supply for the bakers," says Paulina Addy of Ghana's Ministry of Food and Agriculture.

Ghana is making efforts to cut down on wheat imports and use cassava to make flour

"The problem is we only want high quality flour and that needs very good equipment and we depend on gas or electricity to dry the cassava so it is capital intensive," she adds.

The Ghanaian government wants to make it compulsory for all flour to contain 10% cassava flour.

Critical to achieving this aim will be getting the country's four major millers on board, and they seem nervous.

"We do not want to get involved with re-tooling our factory because we are not sure of the sustainability of the supply of cassava," says Reggie Sackey-Addo, General Manager of Irani Brothers which has so far this year imported 139,000 metric tonnes of wheat for its mill in Tema - most of it from the US and Canada.

Boosting production is going to require a mammoth effort.

Adding value

Financial assistance has come from the University of Greenwich's Natural Resources Institute, which received $13.1 million dollars from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to assist cassava projects in five African countries - Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania and Malawi.

Mr Dziedzoave of the Food Research Institute is also the country manager of C:AVA - Cassava: Adding Value For Africa, which is receiving Ghana's share of the Gates' dollars.

"We are working with 20,000 cassava farmers and we hope by the end of the three year project the income per household will increase by $190 dollars per year," he says.

As with all donor projects, the millions of dollars do not seem to go very far.

By the time management and other costs have been taken out in the UK and in the five African countries, the $13 million has shrunk to $6.7 million. That leaves around $75 to invest per farmer.

Despite the fact that wheat prices have fallen recently, the cassava flour project makes a great deal of sense as it would help cushion the country against future price increases.

The bread and biscuits taste good - I have tried them. But in Ghana there will need to be a huge effort to ensure that the bakers like Lydianne are not left wondering why they could not get their hands on the cassava flour.

Servers need to earn their wings

By KIM HARWELL / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News
dining@dallasnews.com Kim Harwell is a Dallas food writer.

USA- KVUE - Austin,TX Oct, 19, 2008

Phoulorie and doubles are popular Trini street foods; the former are fried dumplings made of split-pea flour (similar to hush puppies), while the latter are sandwiches made with two pieces of fried flat bread flanking curried chickpeas. Cassava pone is a dense cake made with grated yuca root and coconut. None of this was known by our apologetic waitress, who frequently went to the kitchen in search of answers only to return with erroneous or muddled information.

ADDISON – For a diner in landlocked Dallas, unfamiliarity with the cuisine of the Caribbean is understandable. For someone working in a Caribbean restaurant, it's not nearly as excusable. Thus, the first major problem I experienced on a recent lunch visit to Scarlet Ibis.

The menu has an emphasis on specialties from Trinidad, the West Indian island whose national bird is, not coincidentally, the scarlet ibis. Among more common Caribbean dishes such as jerk chicken and Jamaican beef patties are several regional specialties mostly unrecognizable to the uninitiated, including phoulorie, doubles and cassava pone.

Phoulorie and doubles are popular Trini street foods; the former are fried dumplings made of split-pea flour (similar to hush puppies), while the latter are sandwiches made with two pieces of fried flat bread flanking curried chickpeas. Cassava pone is a dense cake made with grated yuca root and coconut. None of this was known by our apologetic waitress, who frequently went to the kitchen in search of answers only to return with erroneous or muddled information.

We were the fortunate ones. Armed with a passing knowledge of Carib fare and a previous dinner visit when we were attended to by a server much more in the know, we were able to navigate

the menu despite our waitress's shortcomings. It was a good thing, as I would have hated to miss out on the phoulorie, light and pillowy nuggets of airy, golden dough served with a sweet-tart tamarind dipping sauce.

Doubles were another matter altogether. Our first attempt to try the beloved snack food ended in disaster: The thick fried bread patties (called bara) surrounding the chickpea filling were completely raw inside. We sent the dish back for a redo, but its replacement wasn't much more edible. Though cooked through this time, the turmeric-

tinted bara was hard, tough and nearly impossible to eat, half-inch-thick pucks of impenetrable crust rather than the fluffy bread we expected. The curried chickpeas, called channa, were OK but

a little bland. You can jazz up the dish with a touch of hot pepper sauce, but

use a very light touch: The intense yellow-orange condiment is made with scorching Scotch bonnet peppers, and

it means business.

Stewed oxtail was a highlight. The bone-in chunks of beef were rich and full of flavor. The long cooking time resulted in wonderfully tender meat that fell into languid bites. A side of curried potatoes made for down-home perfect island comfort food in a velvety-smooth curry sauce laced with a deceptive heat that grew bite by bite. Mixed vegetables were a fresh medley of squash, zucchini and the like, well-prepared but a little boring compared with their plate mates.

Curried goat was also a winner,

with fork-tender meat bathed in a moderately spicy gravy infused with cumin, turmeric, coriander and a touch of cayenne pepper. The goat was lean and so clean-tasting as to be a bit of a drawback; I would have preferred it to have held a little of its characteristic gaminess so as to have better stood up to the robust curry. A side of rice and peas made a nice starchy complement, a good choice to help soak up any leftover sauce. Plantains were cut into large chunks and cooked until dark brown and lightly caramelized outside.

Jerk chicken was surprisingly timid. The boneless fillet, served sliced in strips with a choice of two sides, could have used a bit more of the spicy rub. The edges boasted a compelling mix of char and fiery jerk seasoning crust, but the interior slices were tame and lifeless.

Grilled salmon is one of the more Americanized offerings. The slightly smoky fish was mild-tasting and a little dry; I found it overcooked, but my companion, a woman who never met a steak too well-done for her tastes, had no quarrel.

Dessert time is another arena where instruction can be helpful, so we turned to the chef for explanation when our waitress proved once again unreliable. Currant and coconut rolls resemble strudel. The flaky, fruit-filled pastry was fine, but the bread pudding packed much more of a wallop, thanks to an intense bourbon sauce, sticky sweet and noticeably smoky from its whiskey base. Less complex was the sugar cake, a haystack of pink- or yellow-tinted shredded coconut held together with sugar syrup. Hard and crumbly, the sugar cake was also tooth-achingly sweet. At the other end of the spectrum was the cassava pone. The flat, dense square tasted more like a health-food-

store meal-replacement bar than dessert. We quickly put this one in the acquired-taste category and dug back into the bread pudding.

The restaurant doesn't serve alcohol yet: BYOB is allowed until the license comes through. Until then, there's a great selection of exotic Caribbean drinks, including coconut water; a wildly fruity, floral sorrel tea; an intense, nonalcoholic ginger beer; and Peardrax, a light, carbonated, pear-flavored soft drink that worked well to cut the heat of the spicier dishes.

The Scarlet Ibis is a reincarnation of sorts of the old Caribbean Pan, which closed in January. The new space is tucked away behind a handful of more- visible restaurants (the nearly hidden side strip also houses longtime steakhouse fave Stone Trail), and its vibe is slightly disjointed. The signage, the pressed black tablecloths, the understated chandeliers and stylish pendant lights hanging from the ceiling lend an upscale touch that is belied by the utilitarian banquet-style red-and-black chairs. Perhaps they were chosen because their color scheme harkens to the bird that gives the restaurant its name, but neither their garish functionality nor the clueless lunch service does any favors to a place with so much promise.

Kim Harwell is a Dallas food writer.

World food crisis: How is Katine coping?

Liz Ford

UK, guardian.co.uk - 19 Oct. 2008

Cassava, one of the staple foods of the Teso region, has more than doubled in price since the beginning of the year. In January, a bowl of dried cassava bought from Katine market would have cost around 4,000 shillings ($2.50), it now it stands at 10,000.

A report published today by Oxfam concluded that escalating food and fuel prices were "inflicting great suffering" on developing countries and called on the international community to invest more to avert a humanitarian crisis in some parts of the world.

The report, published to coincide with World Food Day today, claims that consistently misguided policies on agriculture, trade and domestic markets, made by politicians, and promoted and backed by international financial institutions and donor countries, has meant poor farmers, who should be reaping the benefits of rising prices for their goods, are instead facing further poverty.

According to figures from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, in Uganda, the cost of maize, a staple crop, rose by 65% between January 2007 and April 2008.

The price of rice, sugar and beans, which used to be one of the cheapest foods in the country, have almost trebled, and the cost of oxen has more than doubled because of rising fuel prices, and their knock-on affect on transport and shipping costs, and increased demand.

Government ministers are trying to stabilise the price of oxen, which will at least be some good news for members of the Ojemorun Farmers United Group in Katine, a rural sub-county in north east Uganda, that is being supported by the Guardian and the work of the African Medical and Research Foundation and Farm-Africa.

The group claims the price of oxen has doubled in just six months, from 300,000 Ugandan shillings ($172) to 700,000 shillings.

The cost of rice in Soroti has also increased, and the local price of fuel is hugely inflated due to increased oil prices.

Cassava, one of the staple foods of the Teso region, has more than doubled in price since the beginning of the year. In January, a bowl of dried cassava bought from Katine market would have cost around 4,000 shillings ($2.50), it now it stands at 10,000.

In August, Katine's agricultural officer, James Odienyi, told farmers at a two-day training course on growing and managing new high-yielding varieties of cassava, the price of the crop is a major indicator of the state of food security in the region as it is used to feed households, as well as being a major source of income.

One of the five components of the Katine project is to improve people's livelihoods, and part of this process is growing groundnuts and new varieties of cassava. The approved varieties have been recommended by the National Agricultural Research Organisation as they are more resistant to disease and drought, and take less time to grow.

Otim Julius Moses, a member of the Ojemorun farmers group, said today that members were already seeing the benefits of the work.

"We have been trained on how to grow improved cassava, using disease free planting materials. We have also been given planting materials of an improved cassava variety, which is growing better than our old varieties," he said.

But while successful growth of these new varieties will provide some cushioning in the current economic climate, those without the money to store the crop until local prices increase will have difficulties.

At the moment, local produce is not commanding a high price in the market, as traders are seeking to buy as cheaply as possible.

The Village Savings and Loans Associations, which are being established across Katine, could help weather the storm, although there are borrowing limits and loans are usually short-term and come with high interest rates.

According to the Oxfam report, the Ugandan government recently increased its spending on agriculture to more than 10% of its national budget, but Katine is a region that has received little central investment. Ultimately, how well the sub-county, and others like it in Uganda, come through this crisis could come down to how the international community responds to the call for more investment and whether money filters down from government to the villages.

Gloria’s Shock Exit From ‘Hottest Host’

Story by Gloria Dzifa Kpodo

GHANA. Graphic Online - Accra, 17 Oct, 2008

For those who knew cassava is used for fufu, starch and gari only, they had a lot to add to their knowledge. Dedei took viewers and studio audience through ...

If nice comments from the judges on GAMA-TV3’s Hottest Host were all it took to remain in the reality show, then Gloria would have still been in the competition to have a feel of next weeks’ show.

Gloria had a nice try with the news report she did on an orphanage last Friday and as always the judges did not have much to say except for the fact that her research work is paying off. However, inspite of all the nice comments from the judges, Gloria had the lowest number of votes at the end of the show thus she had to leave.

Her exit brings to seven the number of contestants who have been evicted from Hottest Host.

It seems that with time, the contestants of Hottest Host who are gradually finding their feet and their presenting skills in areas such as entertainment, sports and news anchoring are taking shape.

On last Friday’s show, the contestants treated studio audience and viewers to different shades of presenting. For those who knew cassava is used for fufu, starch and gari only, they had a lot to add to their knowledge.

Dedei took viewers and studio audience through an interesting documentary that featured other uses of cassava.

She did a good job presenting an educative and informative session which won her good comments from the judges. Judge Abeiku who said that he felt very much educated asked her to enrich her vocabulary and add style to her voice in order to separate her ordinary voice from her professional voice as a reporter.

The only remaining male contestant, Collins did sports and had a pleasant performance which was nice to watch as well as listen to. He had a good interview with his guest who made his show lively with adequate update on the performance of the Black Stars.

Collins’ personality is gradually coming out as someone cut for sports but as said by Judge Abeiku, he looks too serious and needs to smile once a while.

Joan readily comes to mind when entertainment is mentioned on Hottest Host. She hosted a fashion show segment which showcased some interesting designs. Judge KKD asked her to do away with long ‘intros’. But for some of the designs that were interesting, her long ‘intros’ would have made her session boring.

Nana also continued the story on the career planning programme she started two Fridays ago. She did well but did not listen to her guest to enable her follow up on her questions. She was also asked by Abeiku to do away with long introductions since that was boring.

At this time of the election year when most Ghanaians are crying for peace, Odelia seized the opportunity to host a show to talk about the role of the media in maintaining a peaceful atmosphere for the forth-coming elections in December.

She however did not get ‘peaceful’ comments from the judges. She was too serious and asked too many questions at a time. But she had a good guest who is a news anchor and a host himself so he was able to sail her through safely as if he was running the show.

Cassava - Google News