This Easter my family and I dyed fifty eggs of many colors. Some were blue, green, yellow, and orange. We used natural dyes that my Grandma used when she was young: yellow onion skins for orange, beets for red, and spinach for green. We also tried some new dyes: turmeric (yellow), red cabbage (blue), oak galls (black), dandelion leaves (green) and paprika (rusty, light red).

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To  make the dyes we added the ingredients to a pot with vinegar and boiled them for a while. You have to do each one by itself and then, if you want, you can mix them later to make new colors. We boiled some of the eggs as we made the dyes and for others we boiled them separately and then put them in mason jars with the dyes. We learned a few cool tricks.

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The trick for red, orange is to cover the eggs in the onion skins. With these eggs I used cheesecloth and made patterns. I picked leaves, put them on the egg and then wrapped them in the cheesecloth and tied it with an elastic. Afterwards we dipped q-tips in vinegar and rubbed it on the eggs to take of the dye and draw designs.

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The red cabbage eggs started out purple and the longer I left them in the dye the more blue they got. Some of them were really, really blue!

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My favorite were the vibrant yellow eggs that I made by mixing turmeric with mustard powder. When I left the eggs in for 30 minutes after they were boiled they came out really bright. Leaving them in longer made them a deeper yellow.

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I also used oak galls to make black eggs. We mashed the galls, ground them in a grinder, mixed this with water to make it like a really strong tea. We sifted this and let the eggs sit in it overnight. At the same time we soaked steel wool in vinegar. In the morning the eggs were brown. We dipped the eggs in the vinegar from the steel wool and then let them dry. The reaction with the vinegar turned them from brown to black!

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I’ve put all of the eggs in a basket and can’t wait to see where the Easter Bunny hides them this year. Happy Easter!

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In February my family and I went to Senegal. We stayed at The Little Baobab in the small fishing village of Abene near the border of Gambia. The Little Baobab was very nice. We felt very much at home with the delicious African food and comfortable accommodations provided by our hosts Simon & Khadi.

In anticipation of our trip, we had planned a few adventures, one of them was a fishing trip in the mangroves along the Casamance River delta. Fishing turned out to be one of my favorite days. It was perfect in every way, rolling out in typical African style with a few adventures and challenges along the way.

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On the morning of the trip we were ready at 7AM but were not able to leave the house until 9AM. On the way to the mangroves we stopped at the market to buy lunch and our car needed some emergency repairs. Finally we got to the mangroves at 10AM but did not leave the boat launch until 11AM because of problems with the outboard motor. In Africa things usually go wrong but somehow they always seem to work out. And if they don’t one just needs to move on. By the time we started fishing the tide was low and the sun was straight overhead. At first we thought we were not going to catch anything. Then the fish started biting and everything was well again. In a couple of hours we caught 4 big barracuda (up to 4 feet long) and missed many more vicious strikes. The lures were getting hit hard and ripped up with the razor sharp teeth.

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When we arrived starving and sunbaked but very happy back at the dock Khadi and Yama prepared a delicious lunch from our catch. We shared it African style with our guides, Mam and Musa, and our driver and trip organizer,Omar, sitting on the ground and eating from common bowls. The fresh fish was delicious! Barracuda meat is white, firm and almost boneless. We ate them for a couple more meals later and my favorite preparation was with Yassa sauce.

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After all the frustration of the morning delays the day turned out to be just perfect. For me, visiting Africa was a life changing experience and I will always remember this trip. The Little Baobab has a big garden and my friend Fakebba showed us all the fruits and plants as well as some fruit bats. If you go to Senegal make sure to visit Little Baobab in Casamance, and bring some big lures for the large barracuda

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Chicken Yassa Recipe
(www.congocookbook.com)

What you need

  • one-half cup peanut oil (or any cooking oil)
  • one chicken, cut into serving-sized pieces
  • four (or six, or more!) onions, cut up
  • eight tablespoons lemon juice
  • eight tablespoons vinegar (cider vinegar is good)
  • one bay leaf
  • four cloves minced garlic
  • two tablespoons Dijon mustard (optional)
  • one or two tablespoons Arome Maggi® sauce (or Maggi® cubes and water), or soy sauce (optional)
  • chile pepper, cleaned and finely chopped (optional)
  • cayenne pepper or red pepper, black pepper, salt (to taste)
  • a small cabbage, cut into chunks (optional)
  • a few carrots, cut into chunks (optional)

 What you do

  • Mix all ingredients (except the optional vegetables), the more onions the better, and allow chicken to marinate in a glass dish in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. Remove chicken from the marinade, but save the marinade. Cook according to one of the following methods.
    • Cooking method 1: Grill chicken over a charcoal fire (or bake it in a hot oven) until chicken is lightly browned but not done.
    • Cooking method 2: Sauté chicken for a few minutes on each side in hot oil in a frypan.
  • While chicken is browning: Remove onions from marinade and sauté them in a large saucepan for a few minutes. Add remaining marinade and the optional vegetables and bring to a slow boil and cook at a boil for ten minutes. Cook the marinade into a sauce. Reduce heat.
  • Add chicken to the sauce, cover and simmer until chicken is done. Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness.
  • Serve with Rice or Couscous (couscous with chickpeas and raisins is very good).
  • Serve ginger beer or green tea with mint with or after the meal

Two years ago our neighbor Mark planted a Fuyu persimmon tree between our properties. This year it bore fruit for the first time. We decided to make persimmon chutney to share with our friends. We picked all the persimmons. There were exactly 50 and we saved 6 to eat.

Persimmon Chutney

  • 44 persimmons
  • 6 cups water
  • 6 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 ½ cups lemon juice
  • 5 tablespoons minced ginger
  • 4 tablespoons toasted and crushed cumin and mustard seeds
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 5 tablespoons jalapeno

First we chopped the persimmons – some quite fine others not as fine. Then we put the them in water in the biggest pot we had and, while it came to a boil, we kept adding the ingredients until we liked the taste. We let it cook until it was soft. Then we blended some of it, mixed it back together and canned it. It made exactly 40 - 4 ounce jars that we shared with our friends for Thanksgiving. Mark and Bea got the first jar.

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Yesterday in the afternoon was as minus tide. My dad, brother and I met our friend Lloyd to fish for monkey faced eel. We tried for a while but my brother and I stopped fishing and played in the tide pools instead. We caught a rock crab and collected some mussels. On the way home we bought 3 dungeness crabs fresh off the boat and cooked them all together in a big pot. When the crabs were done we cooked the mussels in the same pot and served them in a sauce made with the last tomatoes from our garden. We had the crab with a buttery sauce called beurre blanc and some fresh bread. The little rock crab had a much stronger taste. It tasted a little bit like the beach. I liked the dungeness crab better.

Crab

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First fill the biggest pot you have with water, add some salt and bring it to a boil. When it is boiling put the crab in the pot, cover with a lid and cook it for twenty minutes. Then take the crab out and let it cool off.

Beurre blanc

Add some finely chopped shallot and one minced garlic clove to ¼ cup white wine and juice from ½ lemon. Let it boil until it has mostly evaporated. Stir in 1 stick butter about a spoon at a time whisking it all the time. The sauce will turn white. Season with salt and pepper and serve with the crab for dipping.

Mussels

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Scrub the mussels under running water and pull out their “beards”. Put them in boiling water and cook them for a few minutes until they open. Put them the open shells in a bowl and pour the sauce over them.

Tomato sauce for mussels

Saute minced garlic and finely chopped onion in a little olive oil. Add ¼ cup white wine, 5 chopped tomatoes, finely chopped basil and other herbs from the garden. Let it simmer for a few minutes and pour over the cooked mussels.