Friday 2 January 2009

Cook's Alphabet 'X' — Xarém Soup

Cook's Alphabet 'X'

This is the twenty-fourth in my series of 28 postings going through the entire alphabet, as it relates to cooks and cooking. As you can see, today I'm dealing with the letter 'X'.

The letter 'X' is, of course the twenty-fourth letter in the English alphabet and is generally accepted as the most difficult letter of the alphabet to attain recipes for. Of course, the classic X-named recipe is Italian Xavier Suppeand there is also Xarém (or Xérem), the Portuguese for coarse-ground yellow maize meal, which is known and used throughout the Portuguese-speaking world. Here I present a classic Portuguese Xarém soup:

Xarém Recipe

1kg fresh white clams
100g smoked bacon, sliced into strips
100g hot sausage, sliced
100g ham, sliced into strips
200g coarse-ground yellow maize meal
100ml white wine
salt and black pepper, to taste

Wash the clams thoroughly then leave in a large pan of salted water for at least 2 hours to clean. Mix the maize meal with 250ml water and set aside.

Add a little butter to a pan and use to cook the bacon, sausage and ham for a few minutes. Add half the wine and continue cooking until the wine has evaporated then take off the heat and set aside.

In the meantime, drain the clams and add to a second pan along with the remaining wine and a little water. Cover and steam the clams for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until opened. Remove the clams and extract the meat from the shells (discard any unopened clams). Strain the cooking liquid and retain.

Add the clam meat and cooking liquid to a pan and bring to a simmer. Stir-in the soaked maize meal (with the soaking water) and bring to a simmer. Continue cooking, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the maize meal has swelled and is cooked thr0ugh (the consistency should be that of a thick porridge). Season liberally with black pepper.

Transfer to a serving dish, scatter the fried sausage and bacon mix over the top and serve.

(This recipe reproduced, with permission, from the Celtnet Xarém Recipe page, which is presented as part of the site's Portuguese recipes collection. )

Today's cooking term is Xavier Soup: Xavier Soup is a classic Italian soup amed after Francisco de Xavier (7 April 1506 to 2 December 1552), a pioneering Roman Catholic Christian missionary and co-founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuit Order) who is sometimes called 'The Patron Saint of the East'. The soup itself is based on a Velouté and is a Consommé thickened with arrowroot and rice flour and garnished with diced chicken.

Today's spice is Xylopia aethiopica: Xylopia aethiopica (also known as Sénégal Pepper, Negro Pepper, Grains of Selim, African Grains of Selim, Moor Pepper, Kili, Congo Pepper, Kani Pepper, Country Pepper, Selim Kili Pepper and Poivre de Sénégal) represents the dried fruit pods of Xylopia aethiopica a member of the Annonacea (custard apple) family. X aethiopica is a smaller and thinner pod that is typically sold dried and either ground for use as a rub or is tied in bundles to be used as a flavouring in soups and stews.

As a spice Sénégal Pepper should always be used whole and ground, as the hull of the fruit lends the spice its aromatic notes whilst the seeds within lend pungency and bitterness to the flavour. Before use you should always, therefore, grind the spice in a coffee grinder or pestle and mortar. The taste is often described as a mixture of cubeb pepper and nutmeg, with a note of resin. It has a very sharp, aromatic, pungent taste with a slightly bitter aftertaste.

Below is a recipe for a classic African Fusion dish of lamb served with a Sénégal Pepper Emulsion:

Rack of Lamb with Sénégal Pepper Emulsion Recipe


For the Lamb:
2 racks of lamb, cut in half
olive oil
2 tbsp black pepper
6 cloves garlic
4 Sénégal Pepper pods beaten to a powder in a pestle an mortar
2 sprigs rosemary, chopped
4 sprigs thyme
4 mint leaves finely chopped

For the Emulsion:
1 small onion, finely diced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 bramley apple, peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp hot curry powder
6 Sénégal Pepper pods tied into a bouquet garni
1 large tomato, seeded and diced
450ml chicken stock
6 mint leaves, finely chopped
2 tbsp crème fraîche

Marinate the lamb in the olive oil, black pepper, cloves, Sénégal pepper, rosemary, thyme and mint. Learve for at least six hours in the refrigerator. At the end of this time pan fry the lamb until coloured and finish in an oven set to 160°C for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the Sénégal Pepper emulsion by sautéeing the onions in the olive oil until just translucent, adding salt and black pepper at the last minute to taste. Add the apples and garlic and cook for a further five minutes. At this point add the curry powder, Sénégal pepper, and tomato and cook for a further fifteen minutes. Add the chicken stock and simmer for fifteen minutes. Strain the mixture and pass through a fine sieve before folding-in the crème fraîche and the mint.

Serve the lamb with sweet potato mash, steamed kale or spinach and drizzle the emulsion over the top.

(This recipe reproduced, with permission, from the Celtnet Rack of Lamb with Sénégal Pepper Emulsion Recipe page. This is presented as part of the site's Fusion recipes collection. )

For more information on cookery-associated terms and information beginning with the letter 'X' here are various links that may well be of interest:

Recipes beginning with 'X'
Spices beginning with 'X'
Herbs beginning with 'X'
Wild foods beginning with 'X'
Cook's glossary 'X'

For more African Recipes, see the Celtnet Recipes Blog African Recipes page.

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