Boiled Boar Dinner and Lentil Salad

Simple and hearty today. We’re going back for a taste of the  ancient Near East.

Thanks to the famous Greek historian Herodotus, most anthropologists believed that Egyptians avoided pork either for religion or out of disgust, but evidence has shown that first wild boar, and then domesticated pig as well as their fat as a cooking medium  were consumed regularly up until the New Kingdom. In this late period, when a rising sort of middle class could afford to eat pork, the elites may have shunned it to distinguish themselves. After that, pigs were considered a lower class food.

We’re tracing Egypt from the very beginning, so for this dish I’m gonna say pigs are not yet domesticated. Luckily, I’ve got the shoulder of a wild boar. Boar is interesting. It cooks like pig but will remind you more of beef than of pork.

Why boil it all? Well first off, it’ll really be more of a heavy simmer. But the long cook time needed to make pork shoulder tender will work well with a lot of liquid, keeping the meat nice and juicy and forming a flavorful broth in the process.  Secondly, pottery changed cooking in the Neolithic. Pottage, or soups and stews, were very popular all over the Near East.  Even though we’re using this recipe to kick off History of Food’s Egypt episode, this is a dish you could probably find all over the fertile crescent and beyond.  Anywhere there was wild boar to be domesticated, and pots invented to cook it in.

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Corn and Quinoa Salad with Salsa Aguacate

We’re leaving the Peruvian coasts and traveling upwards. Inland to the east, the land immediately rises into the Andes Mountains, where a more diverse array of crops could be grown, among them avocados and chili peppers.  Travel even higher, and you encounter the pseudo-grains, most prolifically quinoa, which was grown together with maize in the same field.

So I put all those ingredients in a salad. This quinoa and corn was actually purchased in Cusco, Peru.

For Salad:
1/2 cup quinoa
1/4 cup dent corn (hard field corn)
1 bunch spring onions or scallions, whites included

For Salsa
1 Avocado
3-4 dried chilies (pictured serranos and habeneros)

To make the quinoa, combine with 1 cup  of water and bring to a heavy boil.  Stir, cover with lid, and turn down to lowest possible flame, or just a pilot.  Quinoa should be tender but with a little al dente bite left in it. About 20 minutes.

The corn takes much longer. Boil on high for 3-4 hours until cooked through. It won’t ever be soft and juicy like sweet corn, but it shouldn’t be crunchy either.  Feel free to substitute regular frozen corn if you’re not interested in cooking or can’t obtain hard corn.

Combine ingredients warm with the onions. Season with salt.

To make the salsa, remove the stems from your chilis cut them into smaller pieces. In a mortar and pestel, grind into a coarse powder, then add a few tablespoons of water to make it into a paste.  Add the avocado and mash in, then slowly add 1/2-1 cup of water and some salt to get to desired consistency.

You may want to wet your finger and test your chili powder before mixing in the rest.  If unbearably spicy, remove some to tone it down, but keep in mind that the avocado will cool everything down a bit.

If you want to leave Ancient Andean territory and turn this into modern Peruvian cuisine, add some sour cream to make this an even more complex and delicious salsa.

Add about 1 cup of the salsa to the quinoa salad, combine and adjust seasoning.  Top with extra salsa if desired and voila.

A nice side dish to go with some roast alpaca or cuy (that’s guinea pig).

Perhaps I’ll try making that one, ah… next time.