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We feasted and we drank plenty.

Zobo punch

My back ached but I was thankful in spite of it.


Many, many thanks for  your kind wishes on that front…or back!

In return, I offer two recipes from our ‘Thanksgiving Dinner’: Zobo Punch and An Apple-Cucumber-Green Pepper-Cilantro Salad.

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I’ve had never had Zobo when I first began to draft this post, many moons ago. Not on the streets, in my back garden or at a restaurant.

Zobo is a refreshing drink made from a variety of dried, wild hibiscus plants.

Hibiscus is a bushy annual plant. Parts of the flower are used to make a popular drink in Egypt called Karkade. Various parts of the plant are also used to make jams, spices, soups, and sauces. The flowers are used to make medicine.

Hibiscus is used for treating loss of appetite, colds, heart and nerve diseases, upper respiratory tract pain and swelling (inflammation), fluid retention, stomach irritation, and disorders of circulation; for dissolving phlegm; as a gentle laxative; and as a diuretic to increase urine output.

In foods and beverages, hibiscus is used as a flavoring. It is also used to improve the odor, flavor, or appearance of tea mixtures.

It has a tangy, slightly sour taste that is refreshing at midday, with the sun high in the clouds.

Months ago, I’d never had it.

Yet I knew it then. Like I know my name.

And what I knew, I liked.

Now what I know, I like as well.

And therein lies the beauty of loving food & drink.

I like the fact that I can make drinks I’ve never drunk before. That I can put my pineapple peels to good (and an alternative) use. That I can sit in my living room and feel kinship not only with Northern Nigerians where this is a staple, but I can connect with Ethiopians who love their Bissap. I can smile at Caribbeans who know their red sorrel and I can ‘chin chin up’ with my Thai friends.

Other names of Hibiscus Sabdariffa: Ambashthaki, Bissap, Gongura, Groseille de Guinée, Guinea Sorrel, Hibisco, Hibiscus Calyx, Hibiscus sabdariffa, Jamaica Sorrel, Karkade, Karkadé, Oseille de Guinée, Oseille Rouge, Pulicha Keerai, Red Sorrel, Red Tea, Rosa de Jamaica, Roselle, Sour Tea, Sudanese Tea, Thé Rose d’Abyssinie, Thé Rouge, Zobo, Zobo Tea.

Most of all, I can discover that there’s more to it than lapping it up. Thanks to Deepa, I have discovered its other character attribute – as jelly/jam and as gongura pachadi, its green leaves cooked into condiment.

Most of all, I like that I can say that though our geographies differ, today we’re one, connected by hibiscus ties that bind!

The Hibiscus pairs well with fruity flavours like pineapple and mangos, can be enhanced by citrus notes – lemons, limes, oranges and also with herby ones like mint, lemon grass.

The first time I made it, I used dried hibiscus I’d bought in the US. I absolutely loved serving it at a baby shower with thin slices of cucumber and lemons. The cucumbers, not known for their flavour added a clean, refreshing taste. Like they do in Chapman.

I have the grand idea that with the leftover pods, I’ll make hibiscus sugar. And hibiscus essence. Because I love making flavoured sugars and extracts. But I haven’t gotten there yet!

The roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is a species of Hibiscus native to the Old World tropics, used for the production of bast fibre and as an infusion. It is an annual or perennial herb or woody-based subshrub, growing to 2–2.5 m (7–8 ft) tall. The leaves are deeply three- to five-lobed, 8–15 cm (3–6 in) long, arranged alternately on the stems.

Recipe #1 – Zobo Punch

Since the very first batch of Zobo over a year ago, I’ve tried all sorts of variations, with pineapple and without. With lots of ginger, and with a little. With sugar, with sugar cane. Cooking it without any sweeteners and adding them later.

DSC_0559

A basin full of zobo flowers, Rumuomasi Market

It is an incredibly simple recipe – very little can go wrong.

My biggest learning is that adding sugar to the infusion reduces the shelf life!

The sugars cause rapid fermentation…….even when refrigerated.

Best practice: make the infusion, refrigerate then sweeten as needed!

Ingredients
 3 – 4  cups Zobo flowers
 7  - 8 cups of water
3 one-inch pieces of dried ginger, (or fresh, bruised) – the dried ginger brings a depth of flavour and heat, incomparable with the fresh
6 – 10 cloves
Zest in strips of one orange
Fresh pineapple peel (optional)
Sugar cane chunks
Other flavourings if you like – vanilla, orange, Cola
 
Sweeteners, to taste
Ice, to serve
Citrus fruits to serve – lemon & lime slices; orange supremes
Cucumbers, halved or quartered and sliced
Alcohol, (optional) – Beer, Red wine, Rum, Campari, etc
 
DSC_0601

Directions

I get my Zobo flowers from the market, where they are dust- and sun-kissed everyday. So I do 2 things before I even begin the journey – I spread them out on a tray and pick out any unidentified inedible objects.

Once that’s done, I proceed to give the flowers a brief, cold water steep in the sink. Making sure I swirl them in the water. This way, the layers of dust are shed and the flowers are rinsed. The ‘bleeding’ begins immediately – these flowers have depths of rich colour in them.

I rinse them twice, and they go into a pot, with everything else that’s going in, sans sugar or sweetener. Except when experimenting with using sugar cane for the sweetener. Lets just say the sugarcane did nothing to enhance the taste, as it was in chunks. Maybe if I had juiced it….

Ingredients for Zobo (Hibiscus) Into the pot, I add the pineapple peel, the cloves, any citrus I’m using which varies between a few slices of lemon, lime or orange.

Ingredients for Zobo

I top it up with water in as large a pot as I can manage, and bring it to the boil. Once it comes to the boil, I turn it down to simmer, with a total cooking time of 15 – 20 minutes.

'Brewing' Zobo (Hibiscus) drink

I let it cool down for a couple of hours, strain and decant into bottles which get stored in the fridge.

To make the punch, I put crushed ice into a jug, followed by lemon and lime slices, which I squeeze onto the ‘rocks’. When I have cucumbers, I use them.

The beginning, Zobo Punch

I also like to add supremes of oranges. Both the supremes and the orange zest go into my jug!

Orange skins

Some days I use agave. Some evenings, I have soooo much time, I can cook up a sugar syrup, let it cool and then serve it with dinner. Some nights this happens…just not very often! What’s most common is just stirring sugar into water till the sugar dissolves and that goes in.

The ratios are best done to taste so you have free reign. I won’t be upset with you for changing this already versatile recipe!

Sometimes, I add more water to dilute it, even with the ice for it makes a strong concentrate.

Zobo punch

Finally, it makes its way to the table.

This is the time to add your ‘alcohol’ if you so desire, tasting and adjusting till you get the ‘punch’ you like!

Zobo Punch

Great accompaniment to Friday night pizza.

Just the right balance of sweetness and tart. Refreshing. Fragrant with all the citrus oils….and cucumbers. I really enjoy it as do my kids. Surprising, the first time they tried it, they hated it….now they can’t get enough!

Zobo punch

Recipe #2 – Apple, Cucumber, Green Bell Pepper Salad, with Cilantro

SAlad

Recipe #2 is easy as pie. A salad that’s easy to rustle up, requires no special ingredients or equipment……..

One that is terrific for everything, from week night dinners to festive occasions!

Apples, cucumbers and green pepper salad with cilantro

It begins with simple ingredients – the key is to cut them more or less into small dice of roughly the same size, about 1cm.

Ingredients for apple-cuke-greenpepper-cilantro salald

The lineup: Apples, Cucumbers, Green Pepper, Cilantro

Pickling the cucumber: Begin by peeling the cucumber – I find the skin too tough in this salad. Scoop the seeds and soft centre out by running a spoon down the length. Cut the cucumber into strips, lengthways and then into dice.

Chopped cucumbers

To this cucumber dice, add a sprinkling of a teaspoon or salt – less if you’re using kosher salt.  Sprinkle some sugar too, about a teaspoon and a half, some dried red chilli for a bit of bite, and 1 – 2 tablespoons of Rice Vinegar. Toss so everything is combined then set aside and work on the other ingredients.

I like to incorporate the pickling juices into the salad, so I don’t strain out the liquid before serving!

Pickling with rice vinegar

Chop the apples. Reserve the cores for making pectin. For your jams and Zobo Jelly :-)! Then add to the pickling cukes.

Apples and cucumbers

Its the turn of the green peppers to be chopped up…into  small dice. Then add to the bowl!

Apples, cucumbers and green pepper

Grab a fistful of cilantro. I-can’t-live-without-you-Cilantro. Slice the leaves finely.

Cilantro

Add them to the apple mixture….

Combine. By stirring. With spoon or fork.

Cilantro in salad

And voila, your salad is ready to be devoured!

Apples, cucumbers and green pepper salad with cilantro

You could add radishes to it, or spring onions, mint……….but I try not to steer too far from this ‘win’!

Here they are – two (2) recipes from Thanksgiving.

Stay well and enjoy the weekend.

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