Red Palm and Spice burger with Fried Okra and Spicy Pepper Relish served on Yucca cake
Our next stop on this culinary journey is Angola. The Republic of Angola is a beautiful country located in South Western Africa. It’s bordered by the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia and Namibia. The West Coast of the country is on the Atlantic Ocean.
With it’s mild weather and fertile soil, Angola is a natural food producer and once had a thriving agricultural industry. Unfortunately, the story of Angola doesn’t stop there. Civil war ravaged the country from 1975-2002. Land that was used for farming and livestock is now riddled with land mines and unusable and Angola has become a net importer of food. The country is slowly recovering from the decades of war and the economy is growing. Clean up efforts are underway to recapture the land and free it of mines. You can learn more about Angola on their embassy website http://www.angola.org/.
Because Angola was ruled by Portugal from the 16th century through to 1975, there is a strong Portuguese influence in the culture and the food. The food of Angola is SPICY, recipes I found included Habanero peppers and Scotch Bonnet peppers as well as generous use of Jalapenos and Cayenne. Because of this, the recipe below is pretty spicy – you’ll want to taste as you go (especially the relish) and adjust to your own spice preference. Overall, what I’ve given you is probably on the mild side to be completely authentic but hot enough to make my husband break a sweat.
One note on working with chili peppers – I firmly believe that you should always taste your pepper before you throw it into any dish. My experience with Jalapenos in particular is that there is a ton a variation in heat from one individual pepper to the next, so I always taste before I use a pepper. It’s important to taste from the middle of the pepper as the tip is sometimes milder than the rest of the pepper.
So, we know we need spice, but what about the starch? In Angola, the primary starch is Cassava or Yucca Root. This is not an ingredient I had ever worked with before and it is tough. Yucca flour (or Manioc Flour or Tapioca Flour – all the same thing), can be found in either the Gluten Free section of a specialty grocer or near the corn starch in the baking section. It’s got the consistency of corn starch. Here’s where my confidence was crushed – I tried a lot of options to get the starch for this dish, went through an entire Yucca root and a full box of Tapioca flour. Finally I combined the Tapioca flour with some corn flour and made a pancake that was yummy and moist without being gummy. The next time I tried finely ground corn meal instead of corn flour and that worked well too.
The last flavor that is a must for Angola is Red Palm Oil. Again, you can find this at Whole Foods or other specialty markets – or you can get it online. Its melting point is right near room temperature, so, depending on how warm your store and house are, it can be a solid, semi-solid or a liquid. It’s also RED – very red, stains everything it touches red, so be careful and don’t wear white when preparing this dish. The flavor is distinctive and gives a rich base to this whole dish. I can’t think of a substitute, so please, try one jar, it’s an exotic flavor that is easy to combine with other basic flavors.
This burger is unusual and delicious, the flavors are tangy and spicy and even my father, who was dubious, enjoyed it. I hope you do to. It’s not hard to make, if you don’t want to tackle the yucca cake, you can just use a non-sweet cornbread and slice it thin, grill it with the red palm oil and it will be tasty.
1 pound ground beef (80% lean)
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon kosher Salt
1 Tablespoon red palm oil
4 Yucca Cakes (recipe below)
Fried Okra (recipe below)
Spicy Pepper Relish (recipe below)
Mix ground beef, cayenne and salt together in a bowl. Form four patties. Heat red palm oil on a grill pan until shimmering. Add patties and cook to desired temperature.
Place Yucca Cakes on four plates, add beef patties, place Fried Okra on top of each patty and top with Spicy Pepper Relish (about a Tablespoon for each burger, more if you like it hot!).
You can substitute ground chicken for the meat in this recipe, the only change then is that I add 4 teaspoons of red palm oil to the meat itself to give it extra moistness.
Spicy Pepper Relish
2 Tablespoons red palm oil
1 small yellow onion, finely minced
1 large jalapeno, finely minced
6 oz tomato paste
⅓ cup cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar (packed)
¼ cup water
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Kosher salt (to taste)
Heat red palm oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and jalapenos and sauté until just soft (about 3 minutes). Add all other ingredients, bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low and cook for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature before using.
10-12 fresh okra
½ cup tapioca flour
1 teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon kosher salt
4 Tablespoons coconut oil
Don’t be afraid of okra – it doesn’t have to be slimy, try it this once and your fears will be conquered. Don’t wash the okra, water is your enemy, just slice the ends of and slice the okra lengthwise into long strips. Combine four, cayenne and salt in a bowl. Dredge okra slices in flour mixture. Heat oil in a medium sauté pan until shimmering (you want about ¼ inch of hot oil in bottom of pan). Add okra slices (Note: cook these in batches, if you put all of the okra in at once, the oil will cool too much and everything will be mushy – you’ll need to do about four batches to get it right – add more coconut oil if level gets low) to oil and cook until lightly browned (about 2 minutes). Drain on paper towel and use while hot.
½ cup tapioca flour
½ cup corn flour (or fine ground corn meal)
½ cup cold water
3 Tablespoons red palm oil (melted)
¾ teaspoon baking powder
⅛ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon cider vinegar
¼ cup Greek yogurt
Combine all ingredients in a bowl to make a smooth batter. Heat an additional 2 teaspoons of red palm oil in a frying pan over medium high heat. Pour batter into pan using a ½ cup measure and forming rounds. Cook each round until it is firm on the bottom and bubbly on top (this is like making pancakes, you want to get it cooked through before turning or you’ll end up with a mess). Turn and cook the other side until golden.
These are great warm, but also worked cooled, so don’t think you have to time everything to be ready at exactly the same time.
©Copyright 2011 Linda Monach