African Nkyemire (Yams with Mushrooms)

nkyemire

Here we will unfold the mystery behind true yams, American “yams” and sweet potatoes, while partaking in the delightful African yam dish nkyemire.

Background of My Using This African Recipe

This recipe came to me in the early 1980’s, while catering and teaching cooking classes in Billings, MT.  I employed it in a African repast that included bobotie (a lamb dish baked in a curry-custard) and chin-chin (Nigerian wedding pastries), which will be my next two posts.  These outstanding dishes from Africa were among other native delicacies in this colorful dinner, which was one of my most popular classes.

What Are True Yams?

Today’s nkyemire receipt calls for African yams, which differ from what Americans call yams.  Yams, Dioscorea, are a tuber that originated in Africa and Asia, but now  also are commonly found in the Caribbean and Latin America, with 95% being grown in Africa.  Sweet potatoes, Ipomoea batatas, on the other hand, are a starchy root vegetable or tuber, which originated in Central or South America.   1

Columbus introduced the sweet potato to Europe; subsequently it was established in China and the Philippines by the end of the 15th century.  It has now become the second most important vegetable worldwide.  2

True yams differ from sweet potatoes primarily in size and color, for they can grow very large-up to 5 feet and 132 lbs.  These are cylindrical in shape with brown, rough, scaly-textured skin, and their flesh can be white, yellow, purple, or pink.  Their taste is less sweet and much more starchy and dry than sweet potatoes.  3

Sweet Potatoes and “Yams” in America

Sweet potatoes are related to the morning glory family, with an orange flesh, and a white, yellow, purple or orange skin.  This vegetable is sometimes shaped like a potato, though it may be longer and tapered at both ends.  Yams in America differ from true yams, like those found in Africa.  What we call yams here are actually orange-colored sweet potatoes-except those found in certain international food markets.  4

The orange-fleshed variety of sweet potato was introduced to the U.S. in 1930s marketing campaigns.  5  At that time, Americans were only used to the white variety of sweet potato; thus, to distinguish the orange-fleshed potato from this white variety, producers and shippers chose to use an English form of the African name nyami , meaning “to eat”; thus, our word “yam” was adopted.  These yams, however, are vastly different from the true yam, as originated in Africa and Asia.  Yams, as Americans call them, are sweet potatoes in actuality.  6

Importance of Tending to our Memories

One of my catered, African-themed events was a law firm’s employee-appreciation-gathering in Billings, during the summer of 1984; they had imbibed in South African wines and started throwing people in the swimming pool, at which point I gracefully exited the party-my check in hand.

Exposures to food become etched in our minds, as do certain life experiences, such as the one above.  We must be careful as to what we allow our minds to dwell on, as memories surface.  We can override poorer impressions left on our hearts, through purposeful practice, much like we can train ourselves to banish certain distastes, for ailments that were initially displeasing.  All must be properly tended to with diligence.

In this way, we can habituate our beings to let go of unpleasant, reoccurring thoughts, about either ailments or activities.  Indeed, we are responsible to hush these tendencies to recall negative, experiential occurrences created by either food or life.  Note: perhaps this can only done with the mighty help of God; thus, we ask for his gracious, omnipotent assistance.

Enjoy this simple receipt made with American “yams”-sweet potatoes.  If desired, go to an international market to get true yams and thus experience the accurate taste of this native dish.  For other sweet potato recipes, go to Sweet Potato Pie and Sprouted Quinoa and Yam Salad.

 

 

References:

  1. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/sweet-potatoes-vs-yams
  2. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 304.
  3. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/sweet-potatoes-vs-yams#section3
  4. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/ask-a-health-expert/yam-vs-sweet-potato-which-ones-healthier-and-whats-the-difference/article4102306/
  5. Harold McGee, On Food and History  (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 304
  6. https://ncsweetpotatoes.com/sweet-potatoes-101/difference-between-yam-and-sweet-potato/

yam slices cooked to a golden brown

African Nykemire (Yams with Mushrooms)  Yields: 6 servings.  Total prep time: 1 hr,  plus 1 1/4 hr ahead of time for baking yams.  Note: if refrigerating yams baked ahead, bring to room temperature several hours before preparing recipe.

3 med/lg yams, or sweet potatoes, about 2 1/2 lbs  (A 5-lb-bag of organic yams is available for $4.95 at Trader Joe’s, or 3 lbs/$3.95.)

2 tbsp lemon juice  (Organic lemons are only $1.69 for 4-6 lemons-1 lb-at Trader’s.)

1 bunch green onions, finely chopped, including green part  (Organic is only slightly more expensive.)

1 small green bell pepper, seeded and diced fine  (Organic is important, as peppers absorb pesticides readily.)

10 oz mushrooms  (A 10-oz-package of small, white mushrooms is available at Trader Joe’s for $1.79.)

6 tbsp ghee or butter  (Ghee will give the best health benefits and flavor; for easy recipe, see Ukrainian Spinach with Noodles.)

Salt and pepper to taste  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco for $4.95 for 5 lbs.

  1. wrapping yams so juices don’t spill out

    This step may be done ahead of time.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare yams as follows.

  2. Spray yams with a vegetable spray (for an inexpensive, effective spray, combine 97% white distilled vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide); let sit three minutes and rinse well.  Wrap in tin foil, carefully gathering the foil at the top, so all the ends point upward; this insures that the juices don’t spill on your oven (see photo above).
  3. Bake yams for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours; watch carefully so yams are rather soft, but not mushy!  Remove from oven and cool.
  4. Peel and cut cooled yams in 1″-thick slices.
  5. Squeeze lemon juice, set aside.
  6. Chop bell pepper and onions-including green part-into small pieces.  Set aside together in a bowl.
  7. cleaning mushrooms with mushroom brush

    Clean mushrooms, by brushing with a mushroom brush (see photo).

  8. Heat 4 tbsp butter, or better yet ghee, in a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Quickly cook mushrooms, after distributing oils evenly throughout; stir frequently and cook just until they are becoming tender.  Remove to a bowl, with a slotted spoon.
  9. Add onions and green pepper to hot liquid, cook for 2-3 minutes, or until limp.  Remove pan from heat.
  10. In another skillet, heat 2 tbsp butter or ghee.  Place yam slices in hot fat, salt and pepper to taste, and cook on both sides, until golden brown (see photo at top of recipe).
  11. Meanwhile, return mushrooms to pan of onions and peppers and add 2 tbsp lemon juice.  Place over medium heat, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste, and heat thoroughly.
  12. Put browned yams on a plate and cover with hot mushroom mixture, see photo at top of entry. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Ukrainian Spinach with Noodles

Ukrainian spinach with noodles

Let’s explore the benefits of alternative pastas, as well as the history of semolina.  This dynamite recipe for Ukrainian Spinach and Noodles often graced my buffet tables in the 1980’s and 90’s, when I was catering historical meals.  Being so health conscious now, I have altered it to included important ghee and gluten-free pasta, both of which are optional.

Here I employ organic red lentil sedanini from Trader Joe’s, in place of wheat semolina pasta.   Based on a serving of 3/4-cup-dry, this alternative pasta is high in both protein-13grams-and fiber-12% of the RDI.  These two factors allow the sedanini’s carbohydrates-11% of the RDI -to be absorbed more slowly than that of semolina pasta; thus, it has a different impact on blood sugar.  In addition, it is believed that fiber and protein may aid in weight loss, and high fiber also improves digestion.  1

Sedanini is a superb source of iron, with its 15% of the daily requirement.  This helps with anemia, especially when eaten with foods rich in vitamin C, to increase the absorption of the non-heme iron found here-this is a plant iron, rather than iron derived from meats.  3

My Ukrainian noodles provide all these health benefits found in red lentil sendanini, plus those of powerful ghee (for information on ghee see balsamic eggs).

There is always the big question: did pasta originate in China or Italy?  The popular story is that Marco Polo found it in China, but Reay Tannahill points out in Food in History that what Polo ‘discovered’ has been taken to be something new, when actually he discovered that the Chinese had pasta ‘which are like ours’.  4

Macaroni was its common name in Italy.  It is claimed that its use goes back to Etruscan times-the time of this pre-Roman country Estruria in west-central Italy.  Therefore, it would pre-date the Chinese noodle by about 500 years.  This, however, is speculative, as it is not known if the knitting-needle-shaped objects found in tombs were indeed meant for rolling dough around.  It is verified, however, that Apicius (the first century Roman gourmet, who provided the exceptional treatise on cookery of antiquity), had recipes using lasagna in it, which allows us to see that boiled flatbread, as opposed to baked flatbread, was being used at this time.  5

From at least around 1200 A.D. , Indians and Arabs were consuming pasta.  Both had names for it meaning ‘thread’: Indians called it sevika, while Arabs used Persian rishta.  Italians made a larger noodle and named it spaghetti, derived from spago, or string.  It is attested that Italians had stuffed shapes such as ravioli and tortellini by the middle of this century, with parallels elsewhere.  Russia had pel’meni, China-won ton, Tibet-momo, and the Jewish kitchen-kreplachs.  These stuffed pasta shapes may well have originated in the Near East and then been transmitted in an arc from there.  6

Despite all these varieties, the most common Italian name for pasta seems to have been macaroni, which was flat, rather than the round shape found today.  In the English Forme of Cury, circa 1390, there is a receipt for ‘macrows’ (an anglicized plural), with butter and cheese, which is believed to not  have been accepted as a very high-class food.  7

As an aside, in its 1859 American receipt for macaroni, The Young Housekeeper’s Friend directs cooks to watch for ever-present insects in the pasta and to hold a shovel full of red-hot coals over the finished product for browning.  8

I tend to make old favorites into new recipes that meet my present needs for health, substituting high quality ingredients for those that were marginal, or even damaging, as found in the original.

It’s quite easy to stock our refrigerators with delicious, power-packed food, when we discover what our particular needs actually are.  It takes some concentrated effort at first to discover our body’s unique requirements, then we need strength to put into practice these new steps.  When we approach this endeavor with courage and perseverance, we rise above hindrances brought on by old detrimental habits, which is true in both eating and life at large.

In this way we can live more freely in every respect, promoting vibrant bodies, minds, and spirits-all of which we purpose to guard with diligence.  Enjoy this delicious dish, which increases vitality and brings immense pleasure.

References:

  1. https://www.today.com/food/best-healthy-pasta-alternative-might-be-made-lentils-t149072 and  https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323529.php
  2. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/semolina
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/pasta
  4. Reay Tannahill, Food in History (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1988, 1973), p. 234.
  5. Ibid., p. 234.
  6. Ibid.., pp. 235, 236.
  7. Ibid., p. 236, 237.
  8. Facsimile of Mrs. Cornelius, The Young Housekeeper’s Friend  (Boston: Brown, Taggard and Chase, 1859), p.. 176..

Ukranian Spinach with Noodles  Yields: 8 entee servings.  Total prep time: 30 min (42 min, if making homemade ghee).

2 c (8 oz) dried pasta  (I used  the alternative, organic, red lentil sedanini from Trader Joe’s)

8 tbsp ghee or butter  (I prefer ghee-recipe below-made from grass-fed Kerry butter, which is available most reasonably at our local Winco; Costco also carries this inexpensively-often with great sales.)

1 lg onion, chopped small

24 oz fresh spinach leaves  (Packages of organic are available at Trader Joe’s for $2.29/ 6oz.)

1 1/2 c (6 oz) Gruyere cheese, grated  (Also available reasonably at Trader’s.)

Salt and pepper to taste  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco for $4.95 for 5 lbs.)

  1. first rise of whey solids

    If substituting butter for ghee, go directly to step 6.  To prepare health-giving ghee, which takes about 12 minutes, first prep a coffee-filter-lined strainer, over a heat-proof dish, and set aside.  Using only a heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt 8 oz unsalted butter-preferably Irish, grass-fed, Kerry butter from Costco-over medium heat, shaking pan to speed up melting.  Note: there is less wastage using only half a pound of butter, compared to doubling recipe with a pound.

  2. first breaking of milk solids

    When melted, cook until an even layer of white whey proteins forms on top (see photo above).

  3. second rising of whey proteins

    Continue cooking until milk solids break apart, and foam subsides, temperature will be about 190 degrees (a thermometer isn’t required); see photo.  At this stage you have clarified butter.  Note: if foam is starting to brown deeply and quickly, your pan is not heavy enough to make ghee; thus, remove from heat and immediately strain this clarified butter in a coffee-filter-lined strainer.

  4. ghee finished with golden color showing at edge

    To proceed with ghee, cook butterfat until second foam rises-it will begin to build in pan, as is seen in photo.  This will take 2-3 more minutes, and temperature will reach 250 degrees.  The foam will rise in pan, and there will be a hint of golden color forming at the edge of foam (see photo).  Watch carefully as dry casein particles, settled on bottom of pan, will brown quickly.

  5. Immediately, gently strain butterfat through a coffee filter, into a heat-proof dish.  Cool and transfer into an airtight container to keep out moisture.  This lasts for many weeks, at room temperature, and up to six months, when stored in the refrigerator.
  6. In a covered stock pot, over medium heat, bring to a boil: 4 qt water, 1 tbsp oil, and 2 tsp salt.
  7. Grate cheese and set aside.
  8. Melt 8 tbsp (4 oz) of ghee, or butter, in a large sauté pan over medium heat; add chopped onion and sweat-cook until translucent.
  9. the cooking down of fresh spinach

    When onion is cooked, add part of the spinach to pan and cook, adding more spinach as the first becomes limp (see photo).  Meanwhile, go to next step.

  10. When water is boiling, add pasta to pot and cook for 5-6 minutes, until desired tenderness; stir occasionally.  Remove from heat and drain.
  11. Add cooked pasta to pan of onions/spinach; stir gently until heated through.
  12. Toss with grated cheese; season with salt and pepper to taste.  See photo at top of recipe.
  13. This is an incredible taste treat!

Vichy Carrots

Vichy carrots

Learn the intriguing facts surrounding the benefits of distilled water, over all other waters, with this famous recipe for Vichy carrots; its history takes us back to Vichy, France (for more on Vichy, see last week’s entry Vichysoisse).

This town, which was in collaboration with the Nazis during WWII, is highly regarded for its healing waters, rich in minerals and bi-carbonate, which are employed in this famous receipt.  Here, however, I make these carrots with health-promoting distilled water; to learn more about its powerful properties, read on.

Some say that up to four centuries ago, patrons of this spa town, were partaking in the then popular vegetable carrots, for they were considered part of the over-all cure.  Therefore this recipe evolved, incorporating the slightly carbonated Vichy waters, for it was held that the carbonation, as well as the carrots, helped with digestion; much like today, we remedy an upset stomach with soda crackers-saltines made with baking soda (bi-carbonate).  1

I discovered Vichy carrots in my copy of Joy of Cooking, printed in 1964; this cook book played a part in the beginning of my journey with food, which started in my junior year of college in the early 1970’s.  2

This recipe’s vitality is enhanced, by the optional incorporating of Monkfruit sweetener in place of sugar (for details see Date/Apricot Bars, 2019/06/12) and powerful ghee instead of butter (see Balsamic Eggs, 2019/05/07).  A pinch of baking soda is added to my choice of distilled water, to replace the Vichy mineral water.

Recently I got a H20 Lab water distiller, for I am convinced that distilled water is the answer to many health problems.  Dr. Allen E. Bank, in The Choice is Clear, illuminates how this one vital element can bring us vibrant health or rob us of it.  There are nine types of water: hard water, soft water, raw water, boiled water, rain water, snow water, filtered water, de-ionized water, and distilled water.  I am convinced that only distilled water is good for our bodies.  3

Bank describes how the possible cause of nearly all our aging diseases lies in inorganic minerals, which are in the air and ground; all water, except for distilled, contains these inorganic minerals (including Vichy water).  There are 106 different chemicals and minerals found in water; the process of purifying does not remove these, just distilling does.  4

Our bodies can only utilize organic minerals, which must come from plants, for plants convert the inorganic minerals carried to them by water, into their organic counterparts.  But through our water, we take in these inorganic minerals (such as calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, silicon), and we are not able to assimilate these nutrients efficiently-only through food can we receive these.  Thus, nature stores them in our joints as arthritis, our intestinal walls as constipation, our kidneys and livers as stones, and they harden the arteries of our hearts.  5

Distilled water not only prevents disease from coming to us, but it reverses the damage we have accumulated from the past; it literally heals us!  Water naturally attracts inorganic minerals: rain collects them from the air, well water is heavy in minerals found in the ground, and so on.  Water, however, does not attract the organic minerals we take in with our food.

The miracle of distilling is that it eliminates all minerals and chemicals, leaving pure water; in turn, when this enters our bodies, it now draws-picks up-mineral deposits accumulated in the arteries, joints, etc. and begins to carry them out.  Distilled water literally reverses the previous damage done to us; therefore, I am much convinced about the importance of distilled water for our over-all health.  6

Enjoy this extremely easy recipe, in which you may use distilled water, with a pinch of baking soda, to mimic Vichy water.

References:

  1. https://www.cooksinfo.com/vichy-carrots and https://urbnspice.com/my-recipes/urbnspice-series/inspiration-of-urbnspice-series/vichy-carrots/
  2. Irma S Rombauer & Marion Rombauer Becker, The Joy of Cooking (New York: A Signet Special, New American Library, 1931, 1936, 1941, 1942, 1946, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1962, 1963, 1964), p, 270.
  3. Dr. Allen E. Banks, The Choice is Clear (Austin, Texas: Acres USA, 1971, 1975, 1989), p. 12.
  4. Ibid., pp. 13, 31.
  5. Ibid., pp. 13, 14.
  6. Ibid., pp. 14, 15.

finished product

Vichy Carrots  Yields: 8 servings.  Prep time: 30 min (or 45 min if making optional ghee).  This is adapted from a recipe in my copy of Joy of Cooking, by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker, which was printed in 1964.

2 lb carrots, scraped, and thinly sliced diagonally  (Trader Joe’s has a 2 lb bag of organic, multi-colored carrots for $1.99.)

4 tbsp ghee, or butter  (For the simple ghee recipe see steps 1-5.)

2 tsp Monkfruit, cane sugar, or coconut sugar  (Lakanto  Monkfruit Sweetener is available at Costco.)

1 tsp salt, or to taste  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco for $4.95/lb.)

1/2 c water, with 2 pinches of baking soda (bicarbonate)

Chopped curly parsley for optional garnish

  1. first foam

    Proceed to step 6, if using butter instead of ghee.  To prepare health-giving ghee, which takes about 15 minutes, use only a heavy-bottomed saucepan.  In it, melt 8 oz unsalted butter-preferably Irish, grass-fed, Kerry butter from Costco-over medium heat, shaking pan to speed up melting.  Note: there is less wastage using only half a pound of butter, compared to doubling recipe with a pound.

  2. When melted, cook until an even layer of white whey proteins forms on top (see photo above).
  3. first foam breaking

    Continue cooking until milk solids break apart, and foam subsides, temperature will be about 190 degrees (a thermometer isn’t required).  At this stage you have clarified butter.  Note: if foam is starting to brown deeply and quickly, your pan is not heavy enough to make ghee; thus, remove from heat and immediately strain this clarified butter in a coffee-filter-lined strainer.  See photo.

  4. second foam risen, ghee finished

    To proceed with ghee, however, cook butterfat until a second foam rises, and it is golden in color.  This will take 2-3 more minutes, and temperature will reach 250 degrees.  Watch carefully as dry casein particles, settled on bottom of pan, will brown quickly.  See photo.

  5. Immediately, gently strain butterfat through a coffee filter, into a heat-proof dish.  Cool and transfer into an airtight container to keep out moisture.  This lasts for many weeks, at room temperature, and for up to six months, when stored in the refrigerator.
  6. scraping carrots in bag hung over nozzle of sink

    Wash and scrape carrots with a sharp knife; this preserves the vitamins just below the skin.  For cleanliness, scrape into a plastic garbage bag, which is hung over nozzle in kitchen sink; change bag as needed.  Place scraped carrots in another plastic bag.  See photo.

  7. Cut carrots in thin slices, at a diagonal; set aside.
  8. In a large, heavy-bottomed sauté pan, place 4 tbsp of ghee, or butter, Monkfruit, or sugar, salt, and water, to which you’ve added two pinches of baking soda (bicarbonate).  Melt over medium heat; add carrots, coating them well; then, cover closely and cook until barely tender, stirring occasionally.  Check for water periodically, adding a small amount more, if your pan isn’t heavy-bottom, and it starts to become dry.
  9. When carrots are desired tenderness, uncover pan and glaze carrots in remaining butter sauce, until all the water is evaporated, stirring frequently (see photo at top of recipe).
  10. Garnish with optional chopped curly parsley; serve hot.