Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Equatorial Guinea - Pick A Pepper Soup

Equatorial Guinea might not be a place you’ll want to visit unless you’re the real adventurous type. If you do go, I hope you like it hot, hot on your palate that is. For our Equatorial Guinean meal I cooked a dish called “Pick a Pepper Soup.” It had peppers, all right, and I know that the soup I made didn’t match up to what the soup should have tasted like. But I’ve got kids to cook for so I had to be careful not to make it too spicy. The pepper I refused to put in was the habanero chili. This pepper is the hottest on earth.

I’ve always thought of myself as someone who can take the heat. I grew up eating spicy food. Kevin didn’t. He grew up eating that bland Iowan food. But his palate adjusted, it had to when he visited my parents in China when we were dating. My parents had a Chinese cook and instructed him not to hold back on the spice, and he didn’t. It took Kevin time to build up immunity, if you will. But still, the hottest pepper on earth? I’m not sure I could handle it, though I’d be willing to give it a try, if I could take a very small bite.

If you travel to Equatorial Guinea you may have to take the heat in another way, from corrupt officials who may want a bribe or from a military officer who wants to check all your papers. The former Spanish colony may be small but now is rich in newly discovered oil and has one of the world’s fastest growing economies. But you may not see evidence of this wealth throughout most of its population where many don’t even have access to clean drinking water. It’s the ordinary people of Equatorial Guinea who shouldn’t have to feel the heat.

Pick A Pepper Soup

1 1/2 cups water
450g red snapper fillets (or any firm white fish)
3 medium onions, peeled and sliced
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 red bell pepper, deseeded, chopped
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 habanero chili, deseeded and pounded to a paste
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground guinea pepper (it is also Ashanti pepper – closely related to the cubeb pepper) I used cubeb pepper which I found at Whole Foods.
Pinch of dried rosemary
1 TBSP lemon juice
1/2 tsp vegetable oil
Bring the water to a boil in a large pot and add all the ingredients except the vegetable oil. Cover the pot and allow to simmer gently for 1 hour, stirring occasionally (add more water if the mixture becomes too dry). After the hour is up add the oil and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and serve on a bed of rice.

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