Brazilian Moqueca Nikolina’s Style

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I would think twice before I convict Brazilian cuisine as being not laudable, like many New Age yogis, monks, foodies, healthies & Co. would do. Indeed, Brazilian cuisine is based on meet, beans, rice and manioca flour and these ingredients are not exactly the first choice for modern, healthy nourishing habits that avoid meet, carbs and fat. But before we start to roll our eyes when someone offers us deep fried beans pastry (btw. method of frying is invented in Europe, not in America) or we pull a (judgmental) face in front of a pot with feijoada complete, we have to become aware why we rather choose this globalized and over-expensive green kale smoothie with barley powder and spirulina.

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We are rich. We (at least we on the western part of this planet) live in an abundance. We are full. And we have never been hungry. Yes, we know what appetite is, but we don’t have a clue, how it feels when an empty stomach starts to hurt, when you start to hallucinate from hunger and when this same hunger transforms you back into something you have been before- an animal. Italian cultural historians like Piero Camporesi narrate many dark and sad reports about cruel epochs in European history, when hunger destroyed hundreds of thousands of lives. But hunger is not only the history that we’ve forgotten, it is also our present: Bangladesh, India, Argentina, Africa…

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Differently than 100-200-300 years ago, when voluptuous bodies were an sign for wealth and hard work formed muscular bodies of poor people, today we have the reversed situation: fat belongs to poor people, who either don’t have a job, or have one that is computer-based and/or bad paid, so they can afford only unhealthy and high-calorie food. (But remember! Hunger doesn’t ask for a vitamin Z. Food is food.) On the other side, rich people fast surrounded by abundance. We badly want to destroy this fat that reminds us about everything we don’t want to be: poor, ugly, greedy, sick… So we practice pilates in the morning, yoga in the evening, we drink water and lemon for breakfast, take some vegan sausage for lunch and skip dinner, if we can. If not, we drink another glas of water, warm, with fresh mint leaves this time. Anorexia, Bulimia and various eating disorders collect their victims who don’t only want to be pretty, pure and healthy (or even immortal), but also a better human. We can call Bahians (a quote) “Fleisschfresser” (which means meet-gluttons) and we feel like better humans than they are. But we are not.

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Yoga teaches us (among other wonderful things) how to practice ahimsa or non-violence in every segment of our lives, wich also includes food. In order to have a peaceful and harmonic communication with our environment, yoga suggests to eat in a way that doesn’t harm us, others and the whole nature. I truly believe that practicing (or at least trying to practice) a non-violence is an answer we should shout out loud. At the same time I can’t ignore a fact that already the old indian Vedas and their scripts, that are much older than yoga-sutras, saw in the process of eating itself something unharmonious, violent, but also something  we can’t skip in order to survive. Like every process that destroys a part of the world, eating (and no matter if we eat plants, animals or people, we have to kill them first) was for Vedas a kind of a metaphysical evil. And this evil was omnipresent for their world understanding, that is different from now where we try to limit the evil only on intentional acts. Because of that, at least for me, a question about non-violent eating is a contradiction in itself. To keep the world order in balance, Vedas invented various rituals. We, on the other hand, developed ourselves far away from any cult, so it became very difficult for us to believe in those kind of rituals. Instead we started to kill unconsciously, to produce massively and we forgot to sacrifice.  The question is: how should look like a modern eating ritual that supports a harmless communication between us and our environment? How can we stop manipulating and developing the power we have over our food?

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My choice for today is this moqueca. (If you can’t go to Brazil, bring Brazil to you). Moqueca is Brazilian stew, slowly cooked in terra cotta or simple skillet. Originally, the recipe is based on fish, tomatoes, onions, garlic and coriander. Moqueca is served with cooked rice and farofa (roasted manioc flour combined with some butter). I adapted my recipe to Berlin, winter and vegetarians. Why moqueca? Because it is perfect example of how you can adapt a traditional dish to your modern taste, needs and wishes. For example: Instead of tropical fruits, vegetables and fish I used winter vegetables, mostly roots. As I didn’t have manioc flour I replaced it with wheat brans that bring very similar taste and texture like farofa has. Because I couldn’t find in Berlin bananas for cooking, I added cranberries to the recipe. To boost everything with some more vitamins, I took sunflower and hemp seeds and some fresh sprouts. Moqueca is mixture of Native Brazilian and Portuguese cuisine that CAN be made even in Berlin. It represents an endless transformation power of food from it we can learn a lot! There is no their food and my food. There is only food. And there is only we.

I served this moqueca to my family and friends. We were nourished and satisfied. And I was filled with gratefulness.

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Brazilian moqueca Nikolina’s style

Ingredients (serves 4):

1/2 Hokaido pumpkin, chopped into 2 sm wide cubes
3 medium sweet potatoes, chopped into 2 cm wide cubes
6 carrots (I found carrots with different colors, but use anything you have), chopped into 1,5 cm wide coins
3 onions, chopped into quarters
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 small can of coconut milk (250 ml)
3 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
3 Tsp sunflower seeds
3 Tsp dried cranberries
a knob of coconut fat/ oil
salt and pepper to your taste

Garnish with:

2 Tsp hemp seeds
handful of coriander leaves
handful of fresh sprouts (I used radish sprouts)

Serve with:

400 g cooked whole grain brown rice
avocado slices
wheat brans
and drizzle with lime juice

Directions:

1. Prepare the vegetables. Wash and chop them like described above. Don’t chop the vegetables into too small pieces. In a large and deep skillet heat the knob of ghee or coconut fat/oil. Add garlic and turmeric, cumin and coriander powder. Starr to fry for about 1 minute. Add the vegetables into the skillet and stir to combine with spices. Add 100 ml water,cover the skillet with a lid and cook on the medium-high heat for about 10 minutes. Add some more water, if necessary.
2. Remove the lid from the skillet and pour vegetables with coconut milk. Gently stir, add some salt, cranberries and sunflower seeds. Reduce the temperature and cook on the low heat until the vegetables are tender, but still firm when bitten (5 min.).
3. Remove the skillet from the heat and cover everything with some fresh sprouts, hemp seeds and bunch of coriander leaves. Serve with cooked whole grain brown rice, wheat brans, avocado slices and some lime juice drops.

 

 

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Immigrant vs. Regional (Food). Holiday Cookies with Tahini and Orange

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Writing a post and recipe for holiday cookies to me seems to be pretty much out of space, considering the current situation in Berlin. For two days I’m working on this article now and through writing I try to understand and come to terms with my emotions and thoughts about this dark incident and its consequences. I had written a lot. But, I didn’t click on ‘publish’. I became too personal. And although I know and see everywhere around me how personal stories  (fights in relationship, family problems, details about personal sexual intercourse, naked- but arty- photos etc.)  are nowadays the visa stamp for facebook prominence, I decided rather to drink two Hemingway Sours and listen to Tom Waits with my dearest friend. So, please forgive me, if I spare you from my current desperation and if I don’t offer you a diary note that will make you cry, just like a movie you watched another day and have already forgotten its title. I’ll leave a simple food comment, because food is what I can speak best – with a little help of the ingredients list which I used in this cookies recipe:

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1. The cookies we traditionally bake for Christmas don’t come from Europe, United States or England. They probably come from Persia.

2. Tahini, or sesame butter, I used for this recipe comes from Arab culinary tradition.

3. First types of spelt (and spelt flour) have been discovered in West-Georgia (close to Russia).

4. Chocolate into which I dipped the cookies comes from Mexico.

5. First paintings with roses motives are 4000 years old and were discovered in Sumer caves in southern Mesopotamia.

6. Pistachio trees grow in Turkey, Greece, California and Guatemala.

7. Olives came to Greece probably from Syria.

8. Orange was born in China.

9. Botanic homeland of coconut (sugar) are Sunda Islands.

10. Author and recipe developer of this food blog was born in Bosnia and lives in Berlin. She is an immigrant. And she doesn’t give a fuck about political borders. Just like food doesn’t.

Sorry if I screwed your very personal tradition! But, as you can see, immigrants are not our problem! Happy holidays!

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Chocolate dipped cookies with tahini and orange

Ingredients (makes aprox. 25 pieces à 5 cm radius):

150 g spelt flour (or white, wholegrain flour)
100 g coconut sugar (or refined brown sugar)
200 g tahini
2 Tsp melted butter, or coconut oil
Juice of 1 orange
Zest of 1 orange
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp natron
2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
20 g pistachio, finely chopped
10 g dried rose petals, finely chopped

Chocolate dip:

100 g dark chocolate
1-2 tsp olive or coconut oil

Directions:

1. In a large mixing bowl, rub together the orange zest and sugar. Add orange juice, melted butter (or coconut oil) and tahini, stirring to combine. You will get a thick mixture.
2. In a separate medium mixing bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, natron, salt and cinnamon. Add the flour mixture to the nut mixture and knead everything together with your hands to combine. If your texture is to dry or crumbly add a little bit more of butter or coconut oil. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
3. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.
4. Form the dough into 25 balls, roughly a level tablespoon’s worth. When all the balls have been made, take a flat-bottomed drinking glass and press the dough into rounds about 5cm across. Bake for 5-7 minutes until just starting to brown on the bottom.
5. Remove cookies from the oven. They will still feel squishy to touch on top, but they solidify as they cool. Let rest out of the oven for about 10 minutes before dipping in chocolate. Dip each cookie half-way in the chocolate, then set back on the cookie sheet to cool. Sprinkle the chocolate half with pistachio and roses. Eat immediately or set the cookies in the fridge or freezer for 15 minutes to solidify the chocolate.

Chocolate dip

1. Set a double boiler (or a glass bowl over a pan filled with water) over low eat. Add the coconut oil. Once the coconut oil is melted stir in the chocolate. Cut off the heat and set aside for 5 minutes. Stir the chocolate and coconut oil together until combined. Done!

 

 

 

 

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Kitchen Levitations and Creamy Polenta with Brussel Sprouts

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St. Teresa of Ávila who lived in XVI century was a very unusual women. At the highpoint of European colonization and Luther’s reformation, this women was oscillating between several identities: she was a mystic, writer, reformer, and saint. Her biography is truly interesting, but voluminous, so I’ll skip all details – you can read about her online – and focus on a delicious detail, which I found while reading one of many books written about this famous lady:

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The story about St. Teresa’s levitation was confirmed by many witnesses and it is the story that fascinated me most. One day, while she was floating in the church, Teresa has become hungry. She decided to go home to cook something.  While she was in her kitchen preparing food, she started floating again. Although she was hungry she couldn’t get down, so she furiously kept floating over a pot with a boiling soup. Even if Teresa had qualities that made her sacred, she would have give them up for a full belly. Food is a crossroad where spirit meets nature.

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Dreaming to fly is a phantasy I play with since my childhood. First I was a bird, than Aladdin, superwoman and currently a Tao-monk. But not only on my yoga mat I can sometimes feel a meditative lightness caused by balanced flow between the movement and breath. Those special moments also surprise me regularly in my kitchen, while carefully decorating a cake, kneading a bread with devotion or just waiting for water to boil… From my university teacher I have learned that fly and flight (escape) have the same etymology. So I can’t but ask myself, what does this childhood dream and my attachment to practice of meditation want to tell me? Do I only want to fly or simple… fly away?

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St. Teresa was not only to me fascinating, but to many other persons. In 2009 Marina Abramovic, the most famous performance artist, inspired by lovely and important memories on her grandmother’s kitchen and the amusing story about St. Teresa’s levitation, made together with Italian photographer Marco Anelli a row of videos and photographs, taken in a former Spanisch orphanage and she called this project The KitchenHomage To Saint Therese: “My entire childhood was about going around the kitchen. The kitchen was the centre of my world. The kitchen was the place where I would tell my grandmother my dreams. The kitchen was the place where she would tell me stories, and the kitchen was the place where all the secrets were told. It was a kind of place where the spiritual world and the daily world met and mixed.”

abramovic2(photo source: http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/5849/1/marina-abramovics-kitchen)

Creamy Polenta with Roasted Brussel Sprouts 

First prepare vegetables:

*I roasted these brussel sprouts in a sea buckthorn syrup I bought at the market place few days ago. It happened to be an amazing combination! If you are not able to find it, roast the brussels in honey, maple syrup, or try it with another fruit syrup- like apple syrup.

Ingredients (serves 2 persons): 

300 g brussel sprouts
1 chilli pepper, finely chopped
1 dl sea buckthorn syrup (or honey, maple syrup, or try it with another fruit syrup)
1 tsp fine sea salt
pinch of black pepper
zest of 1 lemon

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 220ºC.
2. Trim and halve the brussels sprouts, then place on a large baking tray. Add the lemon zest, chill pepper, sea buckthorn syrup, then sprinkle a pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Mix with your hands to coat.
3. Roast in the oven for 20- 30 minutes until the sprouts are tender.
While brussels are in oven, make polenta:

Ingredients: 

2 l water
150 g organic cornmeal
1 tsp. nutmeg
70 g grated parmesan (optional, but tasty)

Directions:

  1. In one medium sized pot bring 2 l water to boil. Reduce the temperature to a simmer and carefully add the cornmeal while constantly stirring. Stir and stir until all lumps are gone (Add more water or more meal if necessary) and polenta reached a perfect creamy consistence. It takes about 30min.
  2. Serve it warm. Put a couple of spoons of polenta on the plate    first and spread vegetables on the top. Garnish with some parmesan crumbles, squeeze some lemon juice and pour a bit native olive oil over it. Enjoy!

 

 

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