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”

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”

Fastest Fresh Goat Cheese

1 qt milk (goat or cow works too)
4 tbsp. vinegar
2 tsp. salt

-Put the milk on a large pot and heat over medium high heat to 180 fahrenheit (simmering but not quite boiling), stirring constantly to prevent scalding. Switch to a spoon and stir in the vinegar. When you’ve stirred enough to fully mix the vinegar, add the salt and turn off the heat .
-Let stand for 15 minutes, or until curds have separated and whey is almost clear.  Place two layers of cheesecloth in a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl, and ladle in the curds. —Gently lift the ends of the cheese cloth and the lump of curds. Tie it to your faucet, or two a spoon hanging over a bowl. Let hang for 1 hour, unwrap and turn out into a bowl. 

You knew this was coming. After butter and yogurt, here is Anthrochef’s first of many future cheese recipes.

It’s also the simplest, easiest, and quickest way to practice this ancient phenomena of separating moisture from milk fat. Half an hour of work and an hour of waiting time and you can have homemade goat cheese. This is not Chevre. This is a mild and crumbly cheese, comparable to Indian Paneer, making it very versatile in application but not with a lot of personality of its own. Salt is very important to not end up with a bland product.

The only ingredients are milk, vinegar, and salt. And look! I found some fresh, unpasteurized goat’s milk!

20171018_170452.jpg Continue reading “Fastest Fresh Goat Cheese”

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”

HOMEMADE BUTTER (the primitive way)

-1 pint heavy cream
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-Quart sized sealable jar

Pour cream into jar, not more than halfway full, and seal.  Shake vigorously for 10-15 minutes (or whip in a stand mixer) until the fat separates and butter is former. Remove butter, pressing out excess buttermilk and rinsing with ice water. Fold in salt, form into shape, and serve immediately (or later if you can stand the wait)

 

Next week, Episode 2 of the Anthrochef podcast, Gardeners of the Neolithic, will be released.  To learn more about the first villagers and settlers who planted the seeds of modern civilization, you will have to tune in on October 9.

But what I can tell you for now is that this is the era where we see the birth of domestic farm animals, and the beginning of human’s love affair with dairy.  Lactose tolerance is one of very few ways we are NOT identical to ancient humans.  Like most animals, humans used to drink breast milk as babies, then lost the ability to digest dairy as they get older.

But as people began putting pens around wild goats and cattle, and the first herding societies took off around 10,000 years ago, that all began to change.  Genes mutated, human evolution continued, and soon enough, many Neolithic people could drink milk into adulthood, and things would never be the same.

Soon enough, we will be taking on fermented milk (yogurt) and cheese, but today we’re going to keep things more basic, with a simple recipe for milk-fat, aka butter!

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Butter is just the solid fat of milk separated out.  It was very useful to ancient people because it could be stored long term, a great way to extend the life of very perishable milk. All you need to make it is a jar with a lid, ten minutes, and some muscles.

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Continue reading “HOMEMADE BUTTER (the primitive way)”

ROASTED MARROW BONES

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Beef Femur bone (kept whole and split length wise, or cut in “rings” as shown here)
2-3  large garlic cloves
Olive oil and salt
Salad or Bread to eat with it (optional)

Preheat oven to 400F. Lay out marrow bones on foiled baking sheet, coating with olive oil and salt to taste. Peel and smash garlic cloves, rubbing them onto marrow and leaving in place for roasting.
Cook in the oven for 15-20 mins, until the marrow is bubbly not so long that it liquefies and falls out of the bone. Let cool 5 minutes, then scoop out and enjoy with bread or salad.

Today we’re talking bone marrow, our last pre-Neolithic inspired recipe for a while before we dive into bread, beer, cheese, and settled life.

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If you listened to the first episode of the Anthrochef podcast, you know that eating meat played a big role in growing the brains of our earliest ancestors.  Remember though, that we did not start out as hunters, but rather as scavengers.  DNA evidence shows that the earliest humans ate with the dogs and picked clean carcasses some other predator had already killed.

But most of the good meat was already gone by the time these upright apes could get to it. What was left besides a few meager scraps?

Bone marrow, the spongy, flexible interior of most animal bones.   Continue reading “ROASTED MARROW BONES”