Presidia Recipes from Asia and Oceania

17 Aug 2012

Today we suggest two recipes to introduce you to traditional products that you will be able to find in the Asia and Oceania space: Dehraduni Basmati Rice and Lifou Island Taro and Yam.

Dehraduni Basmati Presidia (India)
The almost 400 farmers of the Dehraduni Basmati Presidia use only traditional methods: all phases of cultivation are done by hand (from the planting of the seed to the harvest) and simple tools are used: sickles, ploughs and
 width= wooden harrows dragged by oxen. The rice is cultivated in rotation with peas, pulses, millets and wheat, or with mustard and wheat. The past use of pesticides in these remote Himalayan valleys has caused environmental damage and contributed to the emergence of chemical-resistant pests. In response to these problems, the producers of the Presidium, were given technical assistance by Navdanya for cultivation of this fragrant and delicious delicacy of the region, the Dehraduni Basmati rice without pesticides. There are various plants traditionally used for pest control in the paddies, as well as natural anti-parasitic substances such as ash and cow urine.

Basmati rice can range in color from pale white to clear yellow or even deep dark brown, with scents as diverse as jasmine and sandalwood. In Dehradun cuisine, Basmati is prized for its unique fragrance and delicious taste. For example, khichdi, a local dish for festivities, is made of Basmati and black gram beans seasoned with cardamom, garam masala and spiked with cashew nuts. Khichdi is traditionally served at the harvest festival Maker Sankranti, where the combination of rice and pulses symbolizes plenty and prosperity. Kheer, a sweet milky rice pudding, is a very auspicious dish, made in Dehradun during all festive occasions as an offering to the gods and guests. Kheer prepared with Basmati is very creamy and is seasoned with cardamom, slivers of almonds, and raisins. When preparing these and other dishes from Dehraduni Basmati, such as the famed India Pilaffs – it is common to add a few cloves to the boiling water of the rice steamer to heighten flavor and aroma.

Peas with Dehraduni Basmati Rice
 width=Serves 4
1 cup Dehraduni basmati rice
2 tbsps cooking oil
1 small cinnamon stick
2 green cardamom pods
2 cloves
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 onion, thinly sliced
½ cup peas
2 cups water
Preparation and cooking time: 30 minutes

Put the rice in a bowl and cover with water. Leave to soak for around 20 minutes. Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and cumin, stirring constantly for about a minute. Add the onion and sauté until golden, then add the peas. Drain the rice and add to the pan. Cook, stirring constantly, for a few minutes, until the grains have become translucent. Add 2 cups of water and salt, and bring to the boil. Cover the pan and turn the heat down as low as possible. Cook without stirring for 10-15 minutes, until the water is absorbed and the rice is cooked through (add a little more water if extra cooking time is needed). Remove and discard the cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon. Let rest for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork before serving.
For rise lovers we suggest the Taste Workshop Terra Madre Network: Traditional Rices of Asia

Lifou Island Taro and Yam Presida (New Caledonie)
The taro and yam are two tubers that have always been a part of the staple diet in New Caledonia, and their
 width= cultivation has played a central role in Kanak society. However colonization and globalization of food habits have gradually eroded their long-standing position. Many varieties of taro and yam are no longer grown or are almost impossible to find; in their place people eat rice, potatoes, bread and even pasta. The consequences of this development are serious: obesity and diabetes are spreading and native gastronomic culture is increasingly relegated to a minor role. The yam is a symbol of Lifou (Drehu in the local language), the largest island in the Loyalty Islands. Here, traditions and customs still remain strong and yams continue to be exchanged during the rituals marking Kanak social life.The situation is different for everyday meals. Taro and yam are no longer served in school canteens: instead, the children are offered a “French” style of diet.

Bougna is a Melanesian feast eaten particularly during times of sharing, such as during tribal festivals or weddings. It combines many traditional foods into one meal – yam, taro, sweet potato (or cassava) and banana, with pieces of chicken, crab, fish or other meat and coconut cream – and is typically baked or steamed on hot coals, or in an earth oven.

Serves 4
banana leaves
300 g (10½ oz) chicken or fish
200 g (7 oz) taro and yam, chopped into chunks
2 plantain bananas, chopped into chunks 1 glass of coconut milk
Preparation and cooking time: 2 hours 15 minutes

Choose young banana leaves with a central rib that is not too thick. Hold the banana leaves over a naked flame, rotating several times so that it softens up as it browns. Cut the chicken or fish into pieces and lay them on the leaves with the taro, yam and plantain. Pour over the coconut milk and fold the leaves into a parcel and tie it securely. Bake in a medium oven for 2 hours and serve hot on the banana leaves.
Note: The taro and the yam can be replaced by potatoes and pumpkin.

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