Guava Banana Coconut Bread

guava banana coconut bread and fresh guavas

It’s been a month and half since I was on the streets and in the markets in Hanoi. The fruit vendor’s bamboo baskets have changed but maintain a similar shade of green from the unripe mangoes in June to the granny smith green guavas of early August.

Yesterday was the last day of summer holidays and Ms. Ten Year Old wanted to bake something for her snack for the first day of Grade 5. The abundance of guavas sprang to mind and I thought about adapting our carrot bread recipe but could not find any large, apple-sized guavas and had to settle for the plum-sized ones instead. Since the smaller guavas could not easily be grated without including some of the populous seeds I turned to a banana coconut bread recipe in Naomi Duguid’s Homebaking that requires 3 cups of pureed bananas for inspiration.

The variety of guavas I used are unripe/semi ripe and are to be eaten that way, like an apple. So I needed to first make a puree before continuing with the remainder of the recipe. I’m also a sucker for a crunchy crumb topping on my quick breads or muffins and had some leftover in the freezer from a large batch baking session back before I left. That topping had oats instead of the coconut I have suggested in the recipe below.

Guava Banana Coconut Bread
Serves: makes 2 loaves
 
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds (1 kg.) green unripe/ semi-ripe guavas
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups whole-wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 or 3 ripe bananas (depending on size), mashed to make 1 cup of puree
  • ½ pound (225 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unsweetened grated coconut

Crumb Topping:
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup unsweetened grated coconut
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F/180C. Grease and flour two 9 X 5 inch loaf pans.
  2. Peel and roughly chop the guava. Place in a medium sized pot with 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, cover, lower the heat to medium low and cook for about 15 minutes. Check to see that all of the water has not evaporated (if it has add another ⅓ cup) and give a good stir to make sure that some of the guava has not stuck to the bottom of the pot. Recover and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes. The guava should now be soft. Transfer the guava to a blender and blend for about a minute until you have a puree.
  3. Set a fine mesh strainer over a bowl. Working in stages pour a third of the mixture into the strainer and use a spatula to press the puree through the strainer leaving the seeds behind. Repeat with the rest of the puree. Measure out 2 cups of puree into a medium sized bowl - this should be all of it; if you have more keep to make a nice smoothie; if you have a little less top up with some banana puree. Mix in 1 cup of banana puree and set aside
  4. As the guava is cooking prepare the crumb topping. In a small bowl use a fork to combine the sugar, flour and coconut. Add the butter in chunks and mix with back of fork or fingertips until coarse crumbs are formed. Set aside.
  5. In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon.
  6. Using a mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add and mix in the eggs and vanilla extract. Beginning with the fruit puree, alternating with the flour mixture, stir in about one cup mixing until evenly combined. Once the puree and flour mixture have both been combined the batter should be smooth and evenly combined. Stir in the coconut.
  7. Spoon the batter into the greased loaf pans. Sprinkle each loaf with half of the topping.
  8. Place the pans on a baking sheet on a rack in the centre of the oven and bake for about 45 minutes or until the tops are golden and a cake tester/ toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Transfer the loaves to a cooling rack removing from the pans about 30 minutes later. Allow to cool completely before wrapping tightly in plastic wrap.

 

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Green Mango Mint Cooler: aka ‘Aam Panna’

A glass of green mango mint cooler, aam panna.During the summer months when the mango, ripe or otherwise, is king Indians transform the fruit numerous ways. One of the most refreshing results is a cooling aam panna, literally mango water, a lightly spiced celadon green concoction. Some homemade recipes add spices such as roasted cumin or black salt. I have decided to omit the spices as I didn’t expect my kids to like them and simply added some fresh mint. For a late afternoon adult version a shot of dark rum brings a welcomed zing.

The hard unripe mangoes need to be cooked, either boiled or roasted. Roasting is preferred as the flavour is more intense and they become a bit sweeter, evidenced by the slight caramel residue left on the baking sheet by the natural juices.

You may feel that cooking 1kg of green mango may be too much but it is worthwhile as it will save time when you want to make a quick drink. Once the fruit is cooked, puree the flesh on its own and put half of it in a container in the freezer for future use. Then simply follow the half recipe at the end.

Green Mango Mint Cooler: aka ‘Aam Panna’
Serves: Makes 6 cups
 
Ingredients
  • 1 kg green mangoes (about 3 mangoes)
  • ½ cup mint leaves (1 or 2 bunches depending on size)
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 litre cold water
  • 1 cup ice
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F/ 180C.
  2. Place the green mangoes on a baking sheet and into the oven.
  3. Roast the mangoes for 15 minutes and then turn them over and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes or until a dull green colour and fully soft when touched. Remove from the oven and cool to the touch.
  4. Alternatively, place the green mangoes in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the mangoes are fully soft when touched. Using a large spoon or tongs remove from water to a plate and let cool.
  5. Cut the mangoes in half and use a spoon to scoop out all of the flesh off the skin and the pit.
  6. Place the flesh in a blender along with the rest of the other ingredients. Blend for 1 to 2 minutes depending on how well your machine blends.
  7. Use a spoon to check to see if the mix is fibrous or not. If it is still somewhat fibrous pass it through a fine mesh strainer that has been placed over a larger bowl.
  8. Pour into a pitcher and chill in the fridge. Keeps for several days refrigerated.
Notes
Half Recipe
1 ¼ cup cooked, pureed green mango pulp
¼ cup mint leaves
3 tablespoons water
2 cups cold water
½ cup ice

 

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Hanoi Social Supper Club Does the Tango

Last autumn I had a diner who was interested in attending one of the supper clubs but sadly by the time she enquired about availability the dinner was fully booked. Not wanting to disappoint friends and guests I then decided that the first person to be on the waitlist was guaranteed two places at the next supper club. In talking with this person, now my new friend Natalia, I learned that she was from Argentina and I suggested that we should do an Argentinian themed night. After a few months of finding a mutually available date we organized the latest installment of the Hanoi Social Supper Club featuring the cuisine of Argentina.

Hanoi Social Supper Club Argentina Dinner Invitation

Natalia and I met to discuss the menu with me already having some ideas in mind based on some research online and my regular visits to the wet market to see what is in season. Having never been to Argentina I felt it was important to have Natalia’s culinary and cultural input. We decided upon a menu theme of an informal family Sunday lunch or visit to a bodegon or neighbourhood bistro. A few years back reading the 2009 Saveur 100 issue the image of the dish matambre, or ‘hunger killer’, a browned, then braised flank steak rolled around cooked carrots, spinach and hard boiled eggs caught my eye and has remained on my never ending list of dishes I would like to make. Last year I was reminded of this dish, while enjoying another Saveur article by fellow Canadian David Sax, about his lunch experiences in Buenos Aires. Natalia was happy with my initial ideas and shared some necessary suggestions to ensure the right Argentinian flavours. Our menu for the evening was:

Chicken, Potato, Olive Empanadas

Roasted Mushrooms stuffed with Chorizo and Smoked Cheese

Chimichurri Sauce

Matambre

Russian Salad

Roast Beetroot, Arugula, Goat Cheese Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

 

Caramel Flan with Dulce De Leche

Fresh Tropical Fruits

As the appetizers were handed out Natalia shared with the supper club how Argentinian food was heavily influenced from Italian and Spanish immigrants yet adapted with the products available in Argentina. As we were ensconced on the second floor of a café in the middle of Hanoi we needed something to transport us to gorgeous landscapes of Argentina. So we projected the film Caballos Salvajes on the wall during the meal.

The folks at The Perennial Plate, Mirra and Daniel, produce fantastic short videos about the culture of food based on their interactions with chefs, farmers, such as these Argentinian cattle ranchers, and producers around the world. Just as I was searching for stories or videos to share with my guests they released a couple of videos about food in Argentina. Keep watch on their site as I believe they are editing a few more.

Natalia and her latina friends were extremely happy with how the meal looked and tasted joking that I must have had an Argentinian grandmother providing me guidance in the kitchen.

A Few Notes On Making Matambre

Rolled, cooked and sliced matambreIf you’re interested in trying the matambre recipe the Saveur recipe link above is worth using as a template, as I did. Below are some additional tips based on my experience.

Since it is hard to get a nice cut of flank steak here in Vietnam I ended up purchasing a whole rump/ top butt and then butchering it in to smaller sized roasts. I then gradually cut it on an angle, rolling it out to be relatively flat. Pounding the meat, no matter, what cut is a must to get it thinner.

cooked spinach and onions layered over pounded meat for Argentinian matambreIngredients for matambre, rolled Argentinian beef dish

Braise the Vegetables to Enhance Their Flavour

Instead of simply boiling the vegetables, I decided to braise them slowly in some butter and water. First the whole carrots until tender enough to cut with a spoon. I followed this with some leeks, as the ones at the markets here are about the thickness of a thumb – so a perfect addition to the dish. If you want to do this with larger leeks, first braise the entire leek first, you probably will have to cut the length of the leek down. Once cooked tender cut the leek in half lengthwise to make it more manageable for the dish. I also decided to braise some peeled garlic cloves (say one or two whole bulbs worth for the Saveur recipe).  All of the recipes I consulted indicated to add the spinach raw. Instead, I briefly boiled the spinach, refreshed it and then squeezed out all of the water and roughly chopped it. I thinly sliced an onion and then sautéed it for about 5 minutes before mixing it with the spinach.

Rolled and tied matambreBrowned matambre in braising pan

Tie It Tight

As the recipe says, it is important to tie the kitchen twine at 1-inch intervals to keep the roll together during the searing and cooking.

Great Picnic Fare

Lastly, instead of serving this hot or warm, I let it cool down and served it at room temperature, primarily since the days and nights are getting hot and humid in Hanoi and I thought it would be a nice change to start eating this way.

If you try making the matambre let me know how it turned out or feel free to ask any questions before attempting the recipe.

 

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Green Mango Mulberry Crisp

Green Mangoes and bicycle in Hanoi

At this time of year in Hanoi, green mangoes are everywhere. Not that I want to escape them but it seems that I can’t go two hundred feet without coming across a woman from the country side standing beside her bicycle with a bamboo basket full of green mangoes. Each green mango laden bicycle I pass prompts me to mull over potential recipes and flavor combinations. Should it be a spicy, Thai inspired salad, always a favourite or a small batch of sweet sour Indian green mango chutney equally good for an Indian meal or as an accompaniment for some good cheese or grilled meat?

Last week my wife had informed me that we were off to our friend’s house for dinner and that we needed to take dessert. That day was already quite packed and so I needed something quick and easy to make. Coming back from the market on my trusty red Vespa I spotted a basket of the elusive burgundy, scarlet and claret berries for which I had been keeping my eye out. The beginning of green mango season coincides with the very short mulberry season and so upon spotting the more difficult to find berries I immediately knew what I was going to make.

Mulberries in springtime

I bought a few handfuls of the mulberries and 3 green mangoes from another vendor just a few yards away and I was set. Keeping in mind that the dish would need to be child friendly, I decided to add a couple of apples to the mix. I had tricked my kids earlier in the week by serving them a green mango mint cooler, aam pudina panna, by leaving out the ‘green’ in the name but I wasn’t sure that they were going to want to eat this dessert if there wasn’t something in the title that they were familiar. Plus, I wanted something slightly sweet to counter the tartness from the green mangoes and the mulberries. The apples would also add some needed pectin to the dish. To the crust I added some freshly grated coconut to bring a tropical nuttiness to the dish.

In the end the older kids, ages 8, 10 and early 40s devoured the dessert but the two 5 year olds weren’t so interested. Don’t make the mistake I did which was forgetting some vanilla ice cream to disguise fact that there were some fruits the younger kids weren’t fully comfortable with. If you are living outside of Asia for the next few months you should be able to find some green mangoes at your local Asian shops. As different berries, or even rhubarb, come in season you can easily substitute them for the mulberries.

Green Mango Mulberry Crisp
Serves: 8
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups mulberries
  • 2 pounds (1 kg.) or 3 whole green mangoes
  • 2 sweet apples
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons instant or pearl tapioca (or substitute same amount of tapioca flour or regular flour)
Crisp Topping
  • ⅓ cup oats
  • ½ cup grated coconut, unsweetened
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup cold unsalted butter
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375F/ 190C.
  2. Cut off any small twigs, if any, from the mulberries. Fill a large bowl with water, add the berries and swish them around gently with your hands to loosen any dirt. Wait a minute for the dirt particles to sink to the bottom and using a slotted spoon, spider or your hands remove the mulberries to a waiting dish. Drain the water, rinsing away any settled dirt and wash the mulberries one more time. Drain well and set the mulberries in a large bowl.
  3. Peel the green mangoes and cut around the large flat pit to get two halves plus a few other smaller pieces. Cut the halves and other pieces into 1 ½ inch cubes. Place over the mulberries in the large bowl.
  4. Peel and core the apples and cut the apples into 1 inch cubes. (Note: the mango chunks should be larger than the apples so that the more tender mango pieces do not overcook by the time the apple pieces are soft and tender) Add to bowl of cut fruit.
  5. Sprinkle the sugar and tapioca pearls, or flour if using, over the fruit and gently toss to mix well. Transfer the mixture to an 8 by 11 inch baking dish (or one that holds the 8 cups of cut fruit).
  6. In a medium bowl, toss the oats with the coconut, flour, white and brown sugars, and cinnamon. Grate the butter, using the large holes of a grater, over the flour mixture. Alternatively you can cut the butter into ½ inch cubes and toss into the flour mixture. Using your fingertips, mix the butter until the topping has pea-sized crumbs. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the fruit.
  7. Place the filled baking dish onto a tray and into the middle level of the preheated oven. Bake for about 35 to 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the fruit is starting to bubble around the edges of the dish.
  8. Let the crisp cool for 30 minutes before serving. Serve with ice cream (vanilla or ginger) or whipped cream.

 

 

 

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Fenugreek Chickpea Fries with Tamarind Chutney

Spiced Fenugreek Chickpea fries with tamarind chutneyJust about the same time as I started chefs school my father led a bunch of visiting farmers on a trip to different farms throughout Saskatchewan and Alberta. He shared with me how they had visited a couple of chickpea (aka garbanzo bean) farms and was surprised to learn how versatile and delicious they were. He was served them as dips, in soups, salads, and side dishes. His experience shows that if you are unfamiliar with an ingredient, you get to the source, have people who know how to prepare it properly you can gain an appreciation for it and add it to the list of foods you eat.

A number of years later I had moved to Delhi and spent a couple of mornings wandering through the spice market and pulse vendors in Old Delhi. I was amazed to learn that a lot of the chickpeas, specifically the larger cream coloured kabuli and the smaller darker desi varieties, and lentils on display were grown in Canada and imported to South Asia. I was also told that the desi variety is often milled into flour, also known as besan in the Indian pantry.

I was familiar that chickpea flour was used in pakoras, rotis and chapattis but it wasn’t until I had my first tastes of Punjabi kadhi and the Gujarati snack khandvi that I fell back in love with it. I would also occasionally prepare savoury chickpea crepes or even try my hand at replicating an Italian inspired farinata that I tasted on the streets of Turin. A guy operating a wood-fired oven poured his chickpea batter into a greased round pan, topped it with roughly chopped rosemary and a light drizzle of olive oil. Using a long wooden pizza peel he slide the pan into the oven and cooked it for about 4-5 minutes. When it came out he sprinkled some coarse sea salt over it, cut it up into pizza like slices placing it on waxed butcher paper and passed it to me. It was simple cooking at it’s best. I’ve always felt mine fall short and blame it on not having a wood-fired oven.

Now living in Vietnam preparing recipes with chickpea flour, where is it not part of the cuisine, is not on my radar as much but I did recently see some in a specialty grocer. I purchased some, hummed and hawed over what to make before deciding upon making panisses, a French dish originating from Nice. However you may just want to call them chickpea fries based on their look and shape, and especially if you want to try to serve them to your kids.

I decided to give them an Indian accent by adding some fennel seeds, coriander seeds and dried fenugreek leaves (methi) and serving them with a tamarind chutney. If you want to stay with southern French flavours omit the spices, add a couple tablespoons of chopped Mediterranean herbs like thyme and/or rosemary and serve them with a garlicky aioli.

I’ve adapted Daniel Boulud’s recipe which uses milk as the cooking liquid giving the inside of the fries a creamier consistency but you can just use water or even vegetable stock if you like. Don’t skip the sifting of the chickpea flour as I once did which resulted in a lumpy mixture. The mixture needs to be cooled and refrigerated for a couple of hours before slicing so best to plan ahead.

Fenugreek Chickpea Fries with Tamarind Chutney
Serves: Makes about 45-50
 
Ingredients
  • 4 cups (1 litre) milk
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon crushed coriander seeds
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 2 ¼ cups chickpea flour, sifted
  • 4 tablespoons, crushed dried fenugreek leaves (not seeds!)
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil, for frying
  • Sea salt for sprinkling
  • Tamarind chutney for dipping
Instructions
  1. Lightly grease a 9 X 9 inch square baking pan. (I used a silicone baking mould).
  2. Put the milk, olive oil, seeds and salt in a medium sized saucepan and heat over medium high heat. When the milk begins to simmer reduce the heat to low and slowly add the chickpea/fenugreek mixture in 4 or 5 separate additions. (If you dump the chickpea flour in one or two additions it tends to remain lumpy and will not smooth out during cooking). Use a whisk to incorporate the chickpea mixture and to make it smooth.
  3. When the chickpea flour is all incorporated switch from using a whisk to a wooden spoon. Cook the mixture, regularly stirring for about 10 minutes, to thoroughly cook the flour. Make sure to scrap the bottom and sides of the pan.
  4. Pour the thickened mixture into the prepared pan trying to spread it out evenly. I have found the pressing the top with lightly oiled hands or with a sheet of parchment paper or plastic helps to smoothen the top. If the top is not smooth don’t worry about it as the fries will still look and taste great.
  5. Cover with the parchment paper or plastic directly on the mixture and place the pan in the fridge for 2-3 hours or overnight to chill.
  6. Remove the pan from the fridge and carefully turn out the chilled solid mixture onto a cutting board and cut into French fry like batons about 3 inches long by ½ inch wide or roughly the length and width of your index finger.
  7. Heat ¾ cup of vegetable oil in a 10-inch frying or sauté pan over medium high heat.
  8. Line a large plate with some paper towel.
  9. After about 45 seconds the oil should be hot enough to carefully add in one baton. If there is a slight sizzle the oil is ready; if there is no sizzle wait another 15 seconds or so. Fry the batons in batches. I find 10-12 can be fried comfortably at one time. After 2 minutes you should see some of the edges becoming golden brown. Use some tongs to turn each baton and cook for another 2 minutes or until they are evenly golden brown and crisp. Remove to the paper-lined plate and sprinkle with some salt.
  10. Serve immediately with some tamarind chutney.
Notes
You can prepare these a little bit in advance and then gently reheat them in a 300F/ 150C oven for 5-10 minutes.

 

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