Thursday, July 31, 2008

A recipe for mango chutney

There was a mango glut in the garden. Nextdoor's mango tree overhangs three gardens, and we were all competing with the fruitbats to get some fresh mango action. In the end, they fell faster than we could eat them, juice them, or give them away - so some ended up in this mango chutney.

I scoured the web for recipes, and there are a lot of different recipes. I took a few of the most reliable looking and simplified them into this one. It should result in a nice thick chutney.

Ingredients: (Enough to fill two small jam jars)
2 large mangos, not overripe.
2 small apples
A fat clove of garlic (two if you like it garlicky)
A piece of root ginger - enough for a tablespoon of ginger.
500ml of white vinegar (white wine vinegar will do)
25ml of tarragon infused vinegar (not essential)
1 heaped tablespoon of Coleman's mustard powder
1 heaped tablespoon of Paprika
400g sugar

Some sources recommend drying the mangoes slightly before hand. This might lead to marginally better results. To do this, skin and cut up the mango into your preferred chutney consistency, then either:
  • Cover them in salt, leaving overnight in the fridge. Drain off the juices in the morning, rinse, and pat dry with kitchen paper
  • Spread the chopped mango on a large chopping board and get Mrs Jiffler to stand over them with a hairdryer
  • Don't bother, just use the mangoes as they are.
Peel and cut the ginger into short matchsticks.

Push the garlic through a garlic press.
Peel and cut the apple into small 1cm cubes.

Add the apples, vinegar, garlic, ginger, mustard and paprika to a large pan. Bring to the boil while stirring in and dissolving the sugar.

Once the mixture is boiling and all the sugar has dissolved, add the pieces of mango and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes (it may take longer) until you have the desired consistency. Keep stirring from time to time towards the end so it doesn't stick and burn on the pan.

While the chutney is simmering, sterilize two empty jam jars by boiling on the stove (or heating in the oven, or using nasty chemicals, or whatever).

Once the chutney is the right consistency, take it off the heat and leave to cool. Once it has cooled, spoon it into the jars, seal, and keep in the fridge.

Bring the jars to room temperature before serving (with curry, or on a cheese sandwich).

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Dakar Restaurant Reviews

Dakar Restaurant Reviews is now online.

The first post features a few of my local eateries, all within staggering distance of the new Chez Jiffler in Point E. There is more to come though - with posts on Plateau, Yoff-Ngor-Almadies, cafes and patisseries, Goree Island, St Louis and Saly coming soon.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

La Fourchette

La Fourchette, Rue Parent, Plateau, Dakar.

Its anniversary time Chez Jiffler, so a slap-up meal at somewhere fancy is in order. Mrs Jiffler and I scrub up well, despite having to get dressed for the evening in the dark thanks to the useless so called 'electricity company'. I've started enjoying wearing nice suits these days as well. Perhaps its a sign of growing up.

La Fourchette (The Fork) is one of the classier joints in Dakar. Putting the bland chain hotel dining rooms aside, there are only a handful of properly upmarket places to go in town; notably Le Lodge, Farid, Cosi, Sokhomon, and the surreal, yet ultimately disappointing Lagon II. La Forchette is the one with the real reputation for fine dining though, and I've heard good things about it here and there.

Front of house is smart enough, and we're shown to a decent table. The bar area looks like the sort of place I could knock back a bit of rum, and the restaurant is stylishly decorated (thankfully they didn't go with a forchette theme). Its something of a windowless box though, and although the A/C keeps us cool enough, the place quickly fills up with smoke as the French pile in with their Gitanes. More of the Frenchies later.

The menu is a little bit overwhelming as there appear to be multiple-personalities at work in the kitchen. You have a range of French-style starters and mains to get through, plus a selection of Mexican dishes, Japanese sushi and tempura, Italian platters, and the daily specials. The wine list is more trim, mostly French with a couple of Moroccan, New World and Spanish plonks thrown in to keep the prices down.

Mrs Jiffler recommends the sushi, and so we opt for a 'pirogue' of mixed sashimi to share as a starter. It comes presented on a wooden pirogue (Mrs Jiffler likes this kind of novelty) and looks quite smart. Capitaine and tuna are fresh and flavoursome, but the salmon is a cold tasteless lump. Wasabi is fresh and zingy and soya sauce is decent quality, but the rice just falls to bits in our chopsticks. Messy. I spot a few other more conventional sashimi options coming out of the kitchen, which in fairness look better held together than the pirogue, perhaps the boat was a touch too experimental.

Mains then, and the t-bone I ordered from the specials is unavailable. The waitress is gracious and witty about her error and recommends the Entrecote. This comes rare, as requested and tastes like a steak that has been left to hang for a while, unusual in Dakar. Unfortunately its a bit of a stringy cut, and I have to wrestle the knobbly bits out of my teeth. Vegetable sides are nicely al dente and carefully presented. Mrs Jiffler's Pork comes in an oriental style, with the odd surprising nugget of chilli. Her bucketload of rice could have been cut with a few veg to keep things interesting though.

So far, so inconsistent.

Its a treat, so we decide to squeeze in some puds. La Fourchette is famous for its puds, and I've been watching plate after plate of Roti au Chocolat coming out of the kitchen to the obvious delight of assorted French ladies. Mrs Jiffler leaps at the chance to try one, while I attempt the Creme Brulee en Coque, mainly to find out what they mean by en coque. After a few minutes our plates arrive, and the inconsistencies earlier in the meal are immediately forgiven. The baked chocolate is sublime, coming with a scoop of dreamy vanilla ice cream and a little smudge of marmalade. "En Coque" means your creme brulee comes served in three neatly opened egg shells (making the most of leftovers I see). Normally I not so impressed with this kind of gimick, but I concede it has some wit, and the creme brulee is outstanding. A neat crunch, followed by more of that lovely vanilla kick, the custard so smooth that I have the childish urge to lick the shells out.

During the course of the meal We chug through a good bottle of Beaujolais, a half bottle of OK Cote De Rhone, and some fizzy water. The final bill comes to something in the region of UK restaurant prices, which is becoming less of a surprise in this town. For a treat in Dakar, its worthwhile now and again, despite the inconsistencies. Certainly its popular with the French and Lebanese of all ages, who pack out the restaurant, with virtually no Senegalese in sight. I wonder if the lack of Senegalese customers is because, or in spite of this. Maybe La Fourchette is no longer fashionable with the Dakar glitterati, or perhaps even the Dakar-riche are feeling the crunch.

New Jiffling Website

Some repainting on Jifflings, and look: a handsome photo of the Jiffler (check out that steak). I'll work out how to put a photo in the title bar one of these days as well. Then it will look smart.

But the "news" is that I've spawned the first spin off in the jiffling empire: Kigali Restaurant Reviews now has its own site. It was my most popular posting, with some interest from expats and visiting tourists alike. With its own standalone site it will be easier to maintain. Please keep me updated if things change in Kigali - I'm always interested in new openings and the ups and downs of various establishments. I'm due to return to the city shortly, so will hopefully cover a handful of places that I have missed.

Coming soon I hope to publish a new site: Dakar Restaurant Reviews. A few people have mentionned that such a resource would come in handy, particularly an English language one. So why not eh? I'm halfway through the write up now, but this one may take some time. In the meantime I've written a review of La Fourchette, which I will post shortly.

Plans are also afoot to prepare a guide to the curry cafes of Manchester, some more resto reviews from Zanzibar, and Anglesey reviews. I'd like to encourage readers to help me put these together by offering their recommendations and highlights.

I'll also be developing the site a little, providing links to other foodie blogs of note, as well as food websites and producers. Again - I'd like to invite reader contributions to help with this.

Jifflings will remain much the same, with reviews and recipes and opinion pieces, but will be supplemented by the "satellite" blogs. Apologies for being a bit weak on recipes this year - I've been staying at a lot of hotels, and eating out a lot. Should have a couple of recipes up by the end of the week though.

Monday, July 14, 2008


A bit a Experimental Reformatting going on... do not adjust your set.

Something of an announcement soon. Will shake the blogosphere I'm sure.

More soon...

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Back in Dakar...

Moving house is a ball-ache in the UK, but here in Dakar it involves the co-ordination of landlords, carpenters, electricians, the power company, plumbers, and a bunch of cretins with a van and a passion for scratching, denting, and otherwise mutilating furniture.

As far as I was concerned my only possessions comprised:
  • 1 Swiss Watch
  • 1 Red wine coloured Gibson Les Paul guitar
  • A large box of CDs
  • Assorted quality kitchen utensils (pride of which being a beautiful bright red retro-style enameled colander).
  • 2 Laptops (thats a business thing though, so doesn't count)

It seems that living in Dakar I'm now (part) owner of an assortment of heavy handmade furniture, an awkwardly shaped sofa, and enough plastic buckets to fill an olympic swimming pool. There is also an oven, otherwise known as "the fucking oven", and a pre-WWII fridge freezer which has been "customised" by local fridge repairman Malik "Frigo".

Anyway, its done now, sort of. There are still a few things that need fixing, but whatever, manyana.

During the move (which lasted 40 days and 40 nights, or thereabouts), we were forced to eat various things excavated from the bowels of the freezer, or visit our new local bakery, Les Ambassades. We faced some serious moral dilemmas, such as how to dispose of 18 months worth of accumulated wine bottles when you live opposite the mosque in a dry quartier... Oh, and I have become addicted to Orangina.

Unfortunately the oven survived the move.

We're a bit nearer to things now anyway. Nearer to restaurants at least. Although the Sabura (Guinean and Portuguese grub, and a nice bar with music) over the road has chosen this week to close and start renovating. We're within staggering distance of a nice Thai, a supposedly miserable Korean place, two bakery/diners, and a couple of unexplored venues. There is a bit of overpriced fastfood at Colonel Gaddafi's petrol station as well, but I'm intimidated by all the Lebanese kids in fake Gucci sunglasses and too much gold, who hang around there pouting and looking like proper bell-ends.

A fond farewell to our previous regular haunts; Hong Kong 2 (Vietnamese Cuisine of course, never did find Hong Kong 1 though), where we will miss the miserable elderly proprietor, and the prawns in ginger. Also Sao Brazil (which I'm sure we'll visit again, just not with such frequency), which has my two favourite waiters in Dakar, one about seven feet tall, young and cheerful, the other about 5'6", older, and very serious looking. I had a quartre saisons there on Friday night for old time's sake.

New haunt seems to be the aforementioned Les Ambassades, where one can find Orangina in both bottles and cans, and they do a half decent croque-madame for 1400 CFA. Bargainous.

A disastrous chicken dinner on Sunday which even the use of the new meat thermometer couldn't save, what with all the juices burning and making a mess of the pyrex. A side of roasted butternut squash cubes was soggy and forlorn.

I wish I'd taken a photograph of the squash though, as it was the size of two footballs, and enough to make industrial quantities of soup (a variation on the Pumpkin and Red pepper soup from jiffler November 2006), for eating and freezing for later. The soup is more of a success than the chicken at least, and crispy fried slices of a chorizo I picked up Lisbon float temptingly on the terracotta surface.