And now we arrive at Chad. And again my childish sense of humor takes over. I can’t say Chad without picturing some prep school kid wearing plaid pants and a pink Izod. I don’t know how I got this association. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve never known a person named Chad, nor do I know any prep school guys who would even consider wearing plaid pants, but that’s where my mind goes. But really, this has nothing to do with anything and we should really focus on the country of Chad.
Chad is a country in central Africa – yes, another central African country. It is landlocked and bordered by Libya, Sudan, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Nigeria and Niger. Like its neighbors, it’s a relatively poor country and most of the population makes its living subsistence farming and livestock raising. But poverty isn’t the biggest challenge in Chad, the biggest challenge is civil unrest – polite phrasing for “people keep killing each other there.” The CIA World Factbook lists the median age for the population as 16.8 years, for males it goes down to 15.6! Chad has the 7thhighest death rate in the world. Add to this an influx of refugees from Darfur and Central African Republic, then sprinkle in ethnic tension and human trafficking and you get a general sense of the issues facing the over 10.5 million people currently living in Chad.
In terms of food, southern Chad has a great climate for growing things and they grow a variety of fruits and vegetables. They also raise livestock in Chad, and, while the most commonly eaten meat is goat, they also raise cattle, so I chose to stick with beef for this burger – cause I like beef. This recipe would work well with a veggie burger or with chicken. To bring in the local flavors, I tried a variation on stewed vegetables and made it into a ketchup of sorts. The trick here was to cook everything down and give time for the flavors to develop. The result was a rich vegetable spread with very little heat but strong flavors of sweet carrots and onions with the tang of the kale leaves and exotic undertones of the red palm oil. Chadians would probably use okra to thicken the sauce, but I just cooked it down and cooked out most of the liquid, so it didn’t need thickening. Besides, I know that many of you really dislike okra – we’ll agree to disagree on that one.
The veggies were perfect but I needed a little more spice to add some zing. Zucchini happens to grow well in Chad and it’s also in season here, so I marinated some zucchini in red pepper flakes and vinegar and WOW, nice pop of heat. They are super spicy on their own, but when combined with the vegetable ragout, they work perfectly. The more observant of you may be saying “now wait just one minute, I don’t see any zucchini in that photo,” and you would be correct. I make my photo burger the day after we try the recipe (saves me from having to get one that looks perfect while I’m also trying to feed a hungry crew, and allows me to do my photos in the afternoon when the light is better, and also keeps me from wasting time photographing something that tastes bad), and I have a 5 year old and a 16 month old who are really distracting when you are trying to make visually perfect (or at least really nice) food. So, I got distracted, forgot the zucchini and had already cleaned up all of my ingredients before I noticed. I was hoping you would all forgive me and accept the photo as is, we don’t want to lose time going backward at this point.
The last element was the “bread”. This was a bit of a challenge as we’ve done a lot of the starch options already, and I am hoping not to repeat myself. Millet is the dominant grain in Chad and I found some recipes that made a kind of starchy bready like item using millet and wheat flour, so I adapted and created a cornbread like round using millet instead of corn meal. I loved the way this turned out and I’m thinking I would rather use millet than corn meal any day. I think the nutty flavor of millet is just much more interesting than the flavor you get from corn meal and the texture is very similar.
We topped it all off with a sprinkling of chopped peanuts and the result was a savory hearty burger that we all enjoyed. (My dad would have preferred a plain burger, but he ate this one, which is, in my book, a good sign). This burger doesn’t really have any direct comparison to dishes in Chad; it is back to more of the “inspired by” model. Chadians enjoy a vegetable stew similar to the one I made, but it would be spicier and they would usually have peanut butter in the stew. They make lots of things out of millet, but I didn’t see anything that looked or sounded like corn bread in my research. One of the most important ingredients to the recipe is red palm oil – don’t forget, this stuff is very red and it stains anything it touches, so don’t wear white when you’re cooking this burger. It is hard to find red palm oil in a regular grocery store – my local Whole Foods stopped carrying it – but there are several online retailers that sell it.
1 pound ground beef
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
4 Millet Round (recipe below)
Vegetable Ragout (recipe below)
Spicy Zucchini (recipe below)
Season ground beef with salt and pepper. Divide into four portions and form patties. Cook in cast iron skillet to desired temperature. Place each patty on top of a Millet Round, then a slice of tomato, 2-3 slices Spicy Zucchini, spoon Vegetable Ragout on each then top chopped peanuts and scallions.
Grind millet in a spice grinder until the texture of cornmeal. In a medium bowl, combine millet, flour, red palm oil and salt. Heat peanut oil in a cast iron skillet until very hot. Form the millet mixture into burger sized patties and place carefully in the hot skillet. Flatten the patties as much as possible then cook until golden (about 2 minutes). Flip them and cook until the other side is also golden (another 2 minutes). Place on paper towel until ready to use. They are good warm but can also be used at room temperature.
2 Tablespoons red palm oil
1 small eggplant chopped (about 2 cups)
1 cup onion chopped
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 carrots diced (about 1 cup)
¼ teaspoon ground cayenne
½ cup zucchini diced
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
3 Tablespoons tomato paste
4 cups chopped kale
1 cup water
In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium high heat until shimmering. Add eggplant and stir, coating all of the eggplant in the oil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for about 3-5 minutes until eggplant is starting to soften. Add onions and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Season with salt and add carrots, cook for 5 minutes stirring often. Add cayenne and zucchini and cook for 5 minutes.
Add pepper and tomato paste and stir until combined. Add kale and water and cover for about 2 minutes until kale has started to wilt.
Stir all of the ingredients together then cover, turn heat down to low and simmer for 1 hour. Adjust seasoning as desired. Let mixture cool slightly then put in a food processor and pulse until you get a relatively smooth paste. This sauce is best used when warm.
In a small glass bowl, combine all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before using. Use these cold from the refrigerator. Note: these zucchini sat overnight and got a bit of a pink color, if you use them same day, they shouldn’t get so pink. They still taste good pink, just even more spicy and tart.
©Copyright 2011 Linda Monach