We are still catching up with recipes, and finally got round to making these date balls from Sierra Leone, thanks to Natalie :)
Well, this was not the easiest dish! The recipe Ricardo sent us calls for Lussua leaves (and the recipe is named after them) - we'd never heard of this, but thankfully, Ricardo supplied Latin names for us. It turns out that Solanum Americanum is Nightshade...which we had heard of, but not in an edible context. Because we couldn't find it - and because it sounded like it shouldn't be the kind of vegetable you just grab from a random bush without knowing its toxicity, we played it safe and went for spinach, as suggested by Ricardo, instead. Now, on to our tamarillo search....maybe tamarillos are plentiful where you live, but we searched for months (not full-time!) - in the end, luck would have it that they were found in a supermarket in Malta, and carried home. Finally, we could make the recipe...except we hadn't planned on getting the tamarillos, and therefore hadn't considered where to get breadfruit from! So, in the end, we decided on potatoes...and the whole family cleared their plates. :)
We have to confess that nobody suggested this recipe - to be honest, we aren't quite sure how we found it. We think it might be because of the recipe from the Dominican Republic, which had plantains in it, and Toby wanted to know about plantains. Then we read that it was a staple in lots of recipes from Africa, as well as Central and South America, and so we stumbled across Matoke. We made this in our slow cooker, and it was delicious - but we learnt that the plantains need to be fully covered in sauce - otherwise, they dry out and aren't nearly as nice!.
Toby's letter is still on its way to Steven in Mauritius, but he shared this recipe with us, anyway. Judging from the way Toby polished it all off, we'll be having it several times more before Steven's letter gets back to us! We can thoroughly recommend it! Thank you for sharing, Steven.
We know that people eat different things everywhere all over the world, and often, we can get these things in our shops, too. But yesterday, we had the chance to explore a type of food that we never tasted before (not even Mummy) - bugs! We went to a talk by a food futurologist, who explained lots of things about food, and how what we eat depends on whether it's "fashionable", like clothes! For example, 200 years ago, lobster was seen as food for poor people, and now it's very posh and super-expensive. The food futurologist explained that, because there are more and more people living in the world, we need to change what we eat, because there isn't enough space to have cows and pigs and chickens to feed all carnivore people for ever. So she said we might end up eating insects, like lots of cultures already do. We got to taste salted mealworms, BBQ mealworms, silkworm pupae, weaver ants, bamboo worms, salted grasshoppers and salted crickets.
Then, we asked on the Facebook page whether people ate insects, and quite a few people did. We got messages from people who had tried insects in Uganda, the Sahara and Japan. Kung sent us a link to a video about insects in Thailand (see below).
Several people told us they are vegetarian, too, and that is probably the best way forward to make sure that we have enough space to feed everybody.
Toby says: We bought this book when Nelson Mandela died, but it took us a while to read it. I didn't like how people weren't all treated the same, because that isn't right. Naledi and Tiro were very brave to go travelling all by themselves.
Mummy says: We'll probably re-read this one in a couple of years, there are so many undercurrents in this book that we'll keep returning to it many times, I'm sure!
Toby says: "I really enjoyed The Little Prince. It was all about a person who could draw boa constrictors, and he went on a plane, and he crashed in the Sahara desert. He saw a little prince there. He told him the story of how he got to planet Earth. It's about if you see an ugly person, but you know he's really nice, then in your heart you'll see a beautiful person, so what your heart sees is more important than what your eyes see. But this didn't happen in the story, but there were lots of examples about what's really important in life, like people and friends and living and love and being happy."
Mummy says: "I think Toby said it all on this one :) "
We found a book in the library with recipes from ancient Egypt, and wanted to try these date balls. Apparently, the recipe was found on an ostraca, a shard of pottery used for writing by scribes, and dates back (no pun intended) to 1600BC.
200g pitted dates
100g ground walnuts
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tbsp honey
small bowl full of ground almonds
Warm the honey (don't boil it) and put to one side. Mash the dates and add a bit of water, until you have a thick paste (we think we added a bit too much water, it was hard to get to a "paste" stage). Add cinnamon and walnuts, then shape into small balls. Coat each ball in warm honey and then roll in ground almonds. Serve immediately.
We didn't think in advance to build a suitably "ancient Egyptian" background for the photo, sorry! But these are very yummy, and both Toby and Mummy love them.
The great thing about Toby's project is that it doesn't (always) end with a one-off letter exchange. Yesterday, Toby walked in on the news, in particular, an item about the floods in Karthoum. "We've written to Karthoum!", he says, "Are they okay?" Thankfully, although we rely on letters for Toby's part of the exchange, arranging the contacts has meant that we do have email addresses for many of Toby's writing partners, and so, this morning, I could tell him the following:
"Many people lost their homes and their possessions. The great thing in Khartoum is that people help each other a lot. Even if you have very little space families will make space for their relatives and they will be given food. In comparison to England perhaps because the government isn't always very organised, people are quite a lot better at helping each other."
Yes, of course we could Google, but for us, every country in the world will forever have a personal name attached to it, somebody at the other end of the letter - I hadn't anticipated this when Toby started the project. Every country he hears about, Toby asks "who did we write to there? Were they close to x [insert disaster/celebration]?" And, more often than not "can we write to somebody else there?" I'm beginning to think this project will never end...and I'm not complaining!
[Photo taken from "Nafeer Sudan" on Flickr, under Creatve Commons: http://www.flickr.com/photos/99881011@N08/]
This blog is mainly a way to keep track of our recipes - for day to day updates, please check out Toby's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/writingtotheworld