Broken Yolk

Broken Yolk
Play with your Food!

Sunday, 27 March 2011

'Less Criminal Forms of Sin' : Sweet Potato and Coca-cola

Mark Twain once said, "New Orleans food is as delicious as the less criminal forms of sin."

And so there I was tethering on the precipice of leaving behind the grey skies of England, like so many other immigrants, for the unending sky of America. The youngest land in the world seemed to me the perfect place to escape the inevitable responsibility of adulthood – maybe I would get lost amongst the consumerist riffraff and emerge valueless and institutionali’z’ed by Capitalism. Ready for the amoral jobs that came a-knocking. Instead I found myself paralyzed in the ‘unbearable lightness of being’ that Nietzsche is always banging on about. The super-sized faces that looked down on me from a sea of billboards were all more photo-shopped than Cameron’s election poster. These strange, smooth, faultless, inhuman faces all wore the same ‘sell’ face. Smiling diligently without any emotion, wanting only to make you buy their product so that they could buy the products they want.

And in America ‘you get what you want,’ whether it’s a gift hand wrapped by a haggard speed freak with a nametag or another mortgage for a car. No one ever says no. Unless they want to. In this flux of free radicals I felt ungrounded, unsubstantial. Surrounded as I was by hot air, an infinity of meaningless images and booming voices pelting you with words like candy-coloured stones. I could not help but miss the gritty realism of England, where from the depths of recession has emerged those indefinable English attributes of having a ‘stiff upper lip’ while you ‘keep calm and carry on’. Rather than the American ethos of buying to make you happy, and if that doesn’t work, or you have no money, then drowning your sorrows in crystal meth. You only have to drive just outside LA to see the houses where they are doing a different type of cooking. Even worse for your teeth than sugar.

But America does have some soul, the illegitimate heir born before consumerism, procreated by unshakable spirit of America’s Black underbelly. You can find it down the drab streets in the parts of LA people tell you not to go to, the places where every glass surface is pock-marked with bullet holes but there’s a din inside, not coming from the TV. These are the homes where Soul Food is cooked and shared; comfort without a shiny price tag and a mind-numbing jingle. I escaped the desolate wasteland of calorie-free chemical-based non-food that rich America loves and ate unconscionable ribs, glistening in meaty juices and full to the barbequed brim with flavour, golden hush puppies and waffles & chicken. Whilst guys with impressive Afros complimented my funny accent and huge matriarchs bellowed orders in the kitchen. 

I have to agree with Mark Twain. The soul food was deep-fried, salty and mouth-wateringly rich but a hell of a lot less sinful than a Macdonald’s burger and Starbuck’s frappe with a side of exploitation.

Sweet Potato Jambalaya 

And so, here is my version of Jambalaya. A bastion of soul food and perfect for filling up on after a long day of dodging turbaned old men on skateboards, size 0 ghouls, obese MacDonald-mountains and ‘beautiful’ but vacuous people, made bug-eyed by their designer glasses.

Using sweet potato for the sauce rather than the usual tomato gives the dish additional richness and sweetness and balances out the salty chorizo perfectly. The celery also adds a aniseed note the compliments the prawns, and makes the dish taste beautifully fresh.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium cloves garlic, peeled
1 large green bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
6 celery stalks, diced
3 tbsp fresh Italian parsley
400g chorizo sausage, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
500g boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced
1 large bay leaf
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp of Cajun spices
A couple of glugs of Tabasco
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes
1 sweet potato, boiled and blended until a smooth puree
300g cup brown rice, uncooked
150g prawns

1. Add oil to a large saucepan. Over medium heat, sauté onion, garlic, bell pepper and celery until onion is translucent.
2. Add the parsley, chorizo, chicken, bay leaf, and cayenne pepper. Stir often for 5 minutes.
3. Add tomatoes (with juice) and 2 cups cold water.
4. Add the rice and gently bring mixture to a boil.
5. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, 45 minutes or until rice is cooked and absorbs most of the liquid.
7. Stir in the sweet potato puree and then add the prawns and cook 5 minutes more. Remove bay leaf. Season to taste with Tabasco and salt.

Coca-cola Chocolate Cake

In America no one ever does anything by half’s, which is something I’m inclined to agree with when it comes to food. If you’re going to have chocolate cake have the richest, moistest chocolate cake you can, not a diluted healthy version - eewh! With added coco-cola this cake is devilishly sweet and tangy. Why not try it the American way just once?

I also discovered the American way of measurement in baking using Cups. It’s such a good way of cutting out the scales as middleman and saving on washing up. If you don’t have some measuring cups you can just used a regular sized cup and it shouldn’t upset the ratio too much. Just add more flour if the mixture ends up too wet or some more Coco Cola if its too dry.

2 cups self-rising flour
2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup Coca-Cola
1 cup butter
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup butter
1 tablespoon cocoa
6 tablespoons Coca-Cola
1 small box icing sugar,
1/2 cup chopped pecans

1. Grease and flour a large cake tin and set aside.
2. In a large bowl combine flour and sugar. In a saucepan combine the cocoa, Coca-Cola, and butter, bring to a boil. Combine the boiled mixture with the flour and sugar mixture.
3. In a separate bowl mix eggs, buttermilk, baking soda, and vanilla; add to the other mixture.
4. Pour into prepared pan and bake at 180 degrees for about 35 minutes, until firm in the middle.
5. Then make the frosting: In a saucepan, bring butter, cocoa, and Coca-Cola to a boil. Stir in the sugar and mix well. Stir in nuts.
6. Finally spread over the cake and serve with fresh oranges.