Kitchen Capers goes on ‘African safari’

Photo by Chandler Holland / Times-News correspondent

By Chandler Holland
Times-News correspondent

   Since last winter, Kitchen Caper’s young chefs have “traveled” all over the globe, from Mexico to the Far East, to Italy’s sunny shores. To kick off a new year of culinary exploration, this month we are traveling south again, but this time one continent over, following drumbeats to the shores of eastern Africa.
Kitchen Capers is led by my mother, Susan, and I. We both love food — the science, nutrition, ethics and presentation — and most of all, cooking delicious meals together. My mother is an “instinctive” cook, and my training was a bit more formal. While I have C’est si Bon! Cooking School camps under my belt; I’ve also been known to be very spontaneous in the kitchen.
The next Kitchen Capers will be from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Alamance Arts, 213 S. Main St., Graham. Cost is $30 for Alamance Arts members and $35 for nonmembers. The event is for children 9 to 14 years old; no prior experience is required. Each young chef will go home with recipes, a shopping list, and the skills to prepare the in-class creation. In addition to technique, food safety and cleanup are taught.
Registration is required and can be made by calling (336) 226-4495; deadline to register is 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Africa is a large continent, with many diverse cultures. For this class we are focusing on Kenya’s rich culinary cuisine, which means our menu will be hearty, healthy and flavorful. Following is an example of just one of the recipes we’ll be making in this class.

 Rice Pilau with Vegetables

The word pilau (or pulao) comes from the Persian word pilav, which is the origin of pilaf — the technique of first sautéing then boiling rice. It is often cooked with seasoned broth and with different vegetables and meats. There are hundreds of variations of this rice cooking technique that are found throughout India and the Middle East, and were spread across Africa by both the Arabs and Indians. From there enslaved Africans brought it to our shores, which is why it is popular in the Caribbean and southern United States.

 1½ tablespoons oil
¼ teaspoon cinnamon, ground
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon turmeric, ground
1/8 teaspoon ginger, ground
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cardamom, ground
Pinch of ground cloves
Pinch of ground cumin
1 sweet onion, peeled and chopped
1½ cups white Basmati rice (uncooked)
3 cups chicken stock (room temperature)
2 large bell peppers, chopped
½ cup raisins
1 cooking apple, cored and chopped

   Using a large saucepan or shallow stockpot that has a tight fitting lid, warm the oil over a medium heat. Add spices to the hot oil. Stir well for 30 seconds to “open” their flavors, then add onion. Stir well and sauté until the onion is translucent.
Add rice and stir thoroughly until each grain is coated with the oil and heated throughout. Add the chicken stock, along with remaining vegetables and fruits, stir well, and bring to a boil. Boil for 3 to 5 minutes. Cover pan with a tightly fitting lid, reduce heat to low, and let simmer for 25 minutes. Remove from heat (keeping the pan covered) and let rest for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff with a fork. The rice should have absorbed all the liquid. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Cook’s note: This recipe is the perfect accompaniment to any African vegetable, meat, fish, or poultry dish. If you are missing a spice or two, go ahead and make the dish without them; it’s forgiving. You may even choose to add spices, like saffron. You may also substitute other vegetables (peas, chopped carrots, green beans, etc.) for the peppers and the dish can be made without the fruit. If you stick to the basic ratio of 1 part rice to 2 parts liquid, you can experiment and be as creative as you want with different variations. If gluten-free rice and stock are used, this dish is naturally gluten-free.

 Chandler Holland is a junior home-schooler and a Teens & Twenties writer. She is a lead intern at C’est si Bon! Cooking School, and co-teaches the Kitchen Capers kid’s cooking classes at Alamance Arts.


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