While reading the title, if you went “which islands?”, you are not alone. I gawked the same way when this month’s assignment from MENA Cooking Club came along. After Algeria and Bahrain, the third country is Comoros Islands – a tiny country of three islands situated in the Indian Ocean. If you go through Google searches, it is said that the country was under France rule during the age of colonialism, before it finally got freedom in 1975. Since then, it has been affected by unstable governance and is one of the poorest countries in the world. Since we are talking about food, let’s move into that then…
Due to the long years of colonialism, the cuisine of Comoros Islands has influences of European, Arab and Indian food. Their main staple is rice and meat. The island is quite known for its exports of vanilla, in fact the second largest exporter in the world, and this explains why lobster in vanilla sauce (Lobster a la Vanille) happens to be their “national dish”. Most of their cooking is very close to African cooking, with the high use of coconut, plantains, meat, etc. This time we were given the liberty of choosing a recipe of our choice for the country and there were plenty of options available online – green peas soup, pilao, a hot sauce called “poutou”, pigeon peas curry, “M’tsolola” – green plaintains with fish in coconut milk, a dessert called “laadu” made of ground rice, etc. But the catch was that we had to add “espresso” or “coffee” as our secret ingredient into the recipe that we choose and therefore I decided to settle down for the easiest one I could find – Mkatra Foutra…
Mkatra Foutra is a yeasted leavened bread, sprinkled with sesame seeds. I tried going through the links I could find but most of the recipes were confusing. There was nothing confusing about this point though – that the base is coconut milk! The batter also includes eggs, but I decided to make it without any eggs. The eggs would definitely make a fluffier dough, but since I can’t have them, I skipped them. The dough is mixed up with the yeast and coconut milk and allowed to double for an hour. Then it is cooked on a griddle, with or without oil on both sides. It looks like it is served along with any spicy non-vegetarian curry, however, we had it with honey along with our cup of tea for breakfast, and it was delicious!
The consistency of the dough was a cause of confusion. Some recipes said to pour but with the quantities mentioned in the ingredients, it looks no closer to a pourable batter! The batter I got was of scoop-able consistency, so using a ladle, I scooped up a portion, dropped it on the griddle and shaped with the back of a spoon. It kept sticking on the spoon, and you can see I couldn’t get any shape as such. Since the taste matters, the shape didn’t matter and thankfully most of the pictures online had uneven shapes, much to my relief! 😉 Off to the way I made it…
PST: That plate belongs to the loot that my sister lunged along in her luggage all the way from the US of A, when she came in July. This is just one of them, but definitely the one I loved the most! JazakAllah Khair for selecting some awesome ones for me… 🙂
Mkatra Foutra ~ Yeasted Bread from Comoros Islands
- 2 tsp instant yeast
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 cup wholewheat flour
- 1 can 400 ml coconut milk
- A pinch of salt
- 1 tsp instant coffee granules optional
- Butter/ oil to pan cook
- Sesame seeds as needed
- Combine the yeast, water and sugar and mix well. Allow to froth for 5 minutes.
- Add in the remaining ingredients and fold well till all the flour is moist. The batter will thick - neither like cake nor like dough.
- Set aside covered for an hour till the batter doubles.
- Heat your pan and spread some oil/ butter. Scoop out the thick dough and plop onto the surface.
- Flatten to shape with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle some sesame seeds on the top and press.
- Cook for two minutes and then flip. Cook the other side on low flame for around 5 minutes till done.
- Keep warm till the time of serving. Makes 6 breads.