Mesoamerican Blackbean Tamales with Chili Sauce

Spicy. Simple. Delicious.

To accompany the Mesoamerican section of episode 3 of the History of Food, we’re making authentic ancient tamales in the earth oven, just like would have been done in pre-urban Mexico and Guatemala.

These tamales are a little plain, and lack the fat and leavening agents that help make modern tamales so delicious. We’re making ours with only the ingredients the ancient Mesoamericans had, that is with corn, lime, and water.

But that’s okay, we’ve got some other authentic ingredients to help the flavor along.  Black beans for filling, and chili sauce for garnish, and roasted squash as a side are going to give us flavor and depth, even if the tamale itself is bare bones.

Sweetcorn or Popcorn won’t work. You need plain field corn for this, which in some areas can be hard to come by.  You can find it in many Mexican markets, almost any tortilleria, or if you’re truly lucky, a farmer.

For the tamales:
400g Plain Field corn (NOT sweet or popcorn)
6g Cal (pickling lime)
5 cups water
Dried corn husks for wrapping the tamales

For the Black bean filling:
3/4 cup dry black beans

5 cups water
1 fresh chile
1 medium onion

For the Chili sauce:
6-7 fresh chiles
Seeds from 1 squash or pumpkin
water

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20171031_100404.jpg Continue reading “Mesoamerican Blackbean Tamales with Chili Sauce”

HOF Episode 3: Early Farming Around the World

Come travel around the world and follow the Neolithic cultures that spread across it, including very early farmers of Egypt, China, and Old Europe. Then come across the oceans to Mesoamerica, one of two places in the world civilization was invented from scratch, a whole society built on what became the number one crop of all time: corn.

At last, the third episode of the History of Food is here!

Come travel around the world and follow the Neolithic cultures that spread across it, including very early farmers of Egypt, China, and Old Europe. Then come across the oceans to Mesoamerica, one of two places in the world civilization was invented from scratch, a whole society built on what became the number one crop of all time: corn.

An, ahem, “ancient” poem about it:

Three beans for the Mayan Kings, under the sky
Seven squash for the Olmec lords, with their heads of stone

Nine avocados for Aztec men, doomed to die.
And one for the corn lord on his corn throne.

One crop to rule them all
One crop to find them
One crop to bring them all,
And in the milpa bind them.

Theme music by the incredible Michael Levy of Ancient Lyre. This rendition of the Hurian Hymn, the oldest known piece of sheet music, and the whole album “An Ancient Lyre” and much more is available from all major digital music stores and streaming sites.

AVAILABLE ON SOUNDCLOUD AND ITUNES.
Please leave a review to help spread the word!

Continue reading “HOF Episode 3: Early Farming Around the World”

The Best Lentil Soup

Lentil soup has become a punchline, a shorthand meat eaters use to make fun of how boring the vegetarian diet supposedly is.  But this is WRONG! Lentils are amazing, and lentil soup can be one of the most simple and transcendent things you ever cook if you do it right.

The ancients of the Near East sure knew how to use lentils, and other pulses similar to it.  For most of antiquity, lentils were considered a poor man’s food.  Common folk could not usually afford meat, but lentils and chickpeas would have been a great protein substitute.
This supposed peasant food is nutritious, satisfying, and quite packs a lot of flavor with a few simple ingredients. Using modern versions of the ingredients available since the Neolithic on is enough to make a creamy, hearty, and healthy soup.

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1 cup red lentils (But you can substitute other colors too)
4-5 cups water
1 large onion, diced
1 fat carrot, diced
3-5 cloves fresh garlic, mashed
1/2 cup Tahini water (see recipe)
Crushed coriander, cumin, and mustard seeds (or just use Garam Masala spice)
1 cup Yogurt (leave out for vegan version)
1/2 bunch Coriander (cilantro) or Parsley leaves chopped

(Makes 3-4 bowls)

  1. Coat the bottom of a stockpot with sesame oil (or butter) over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and carrot. Season with salt and the ground spices. Saute until the onion is starting to soften, but not fully cooked.
  2. To make tahini water, take an empty Jar of tahini and fill with quarter cup of water, closing and shaking vigorously to clean the jar and make a liquid. (Or simply whisk the water into 2 tablespoons of tahini in a bowl.)
  3. Add the lentils and lightly toast for about 2 minutes. Then add water plus tahini water. Turn up the head to high and bring to a boil.  When boiling, immediately turn down to a simmer.
  4. Simmer for 1-2 hours,  stirring the bottom occasionally. Use the back of your spoon to mash some of the fully cooked lentils against the side of the pot for a creamy consistency.  Add water if desired to adjust consistency.
  5. Mix the chopped herbs and Yogurt together. Add half to the soup and stir in, and reserve the other half for garnish at the end.  Ladle the soup into bowls and then add a dollop of the herb yogurt to serve.

Continue reading “The Best Lentil Soup”

Simple Lamb and Barley Stew

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Lamb is seared and then cooked with barley and vegetables, that are authentic in name, but are modern and more substantial domestic versions of very different ancient ingredients.

This is a very simple, but delicious dish that means to simulate the kinds of things the earliest farmers along the Euphrates River and the East Mediterranean Coast might have eaten. Continue reading “Simple Lamb and Barley Stew”

Easy Homemade Yogurt

Half gallon  fresh, or at least non homogenized milk
4 tbsp. Yogurt with culture or sour cream
2 tbsp. Buttermilk

1- In a pot, heat your milk to 100-110 Fahrenheit, stirring constantly. Set aside 10-20 minutes or until 95 degrees.
2- Meanwhile, whisk together Yogurt and buttermilk until combined and thinner.
3- Ladle cooled milk into culture mixture, a little at a time, whisking constantly.
4-Transfer to a new container, covered and wrapped in towels, set in a warmish, dark place for 24-48 hours, depending on desired sourness flavor.

Did you know that most references we have in ancient texts to “milk” were probably referring to fermented milk.  The hot climate of the Near East meant that fresh milk would be spoiled quickly unless converted into a more stable dairy product. So, when you hear about the lands of milk and honey, that’s really the lands of yogurt and honey.

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Yogurt was first developed by newly lactose tolerant herders in the mountains of Central and West Asia. They stored their fresh milk in bags made from animal stomachs, which just happen to contain the bacteria cultures necessary to ferment milk. A little time in the warm climate, and the herder would have opened their milk bag to find it had curdled into possibly cheese, but more likely at first: Yogurt!

That’s because Yogurt is so simple to make.  You truly just need milk, cultures, and time. Continue reading “Easy Homemade Yogurt”

HOF Episode 2: Gardeners of the Neolithic

The second episode of our History of Food concerns the greatest turning point in human history since the taming of fire. The New Stone Age, when farming was invented and our species forever changed.  What were our lives like, what were we eating, and how those two questions are interconnected.

 

Theme music by the incredible Michael Levy of Ancient Lyre. This rendition of the Hurian Hymn, the oldest known piece of sheet music, and the whole album “An Ancient Lyre” and much more is available from all major digital music stores and streaming sites.

AVAILABLE ON SOUNDCLOUD AND ITUNES.
Please leave a review to help spread the word! Continue reading “HOF Episode 2: Gardeners of the Neolithic”

FORAGER’S PESTO

 

1/4 cup seeds (pictured sesame seeds)
2 tbsp. nuts (pictures pine and walnuts)
2 tbsp. water
1 bunch wild onions (spring onions or scallions work fine)
1 bunch herbs leafy herbs (pictured carrot tops)

5 oz. greens (pictured Arugula)
1/4 cup ripe berries (pictured raspberries)

Before fire, before homo sapiens even, there was a primitive form of cooking that required no heat or fuel but that of the human body.

The oldest known mortar and pestle goes back almost 40,000 years ago, but we know mashing food goes back to some of our earliest human ancestors, who likely smashed bones to access their delicious marrow.  They turned what whole meat they could scavenge into something like steak tartare. This high calorie, high in protein meat played a big role in growing our brains closer to their modern size.

Human foragers of the past had a vast knowledge of plants, animals, and ecology that would put most of us “civilized” people to shame.  Modern foraging people studied by anthropologists are like nature encyclopedias for their territory.

“Wild” greens, onions, and berries from my territory

Continue reading “FORAGER’S PESTO”