No potatoes, no fresh vegetables, no fruit – all of those fresh things were treats right after a market trip, but as time went on, they were consumed.
Then you had to be creative. And that is when you felt like a champion when you produced a good meal for your family using only flour, sugar, milk, and some sort of meat (sometimes that was a can of tuna). My favorite phrase to say before grace was, “Another miracle!”
If you are interested, here are a few of my more regularly used substitutions:
1 apple = 1 green mango
1 chocolate square = 1 tablespoon cocoa + 1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch = 2 tablespoons flour
Corn syrup = 1 ¼ cup sugar + 1/3 cup water, boiled until sugar is dissolved and syrupy
Whipped cream = 1/3 cup very cold evaporated milk, whipped
1 egg = 1-3 tablespoons oil + 1 tablespoon baking powder
Margarine or butter = 7/8 cup oil
Brown sugar = 1 cup white sugar + 2 tablespoons molasses
Good luck! Some recipes work okay, some would be a disaster. You’ve just got to try.
Times have changed and a lot of this probably isn’t even necessary anymore! I have changed a bit also. Living in a foreign country offers great opportunities to try and use foods and ingredients you have never seen or tasted. Don’t be reluctant to try what the locals use.
When my friend, Mrs. Dreisbach, was telling me about ketchup made from bananas, I made a face. She said, “Have you ever tried it?”
I said, “Well, no.”
“Then don’t judge,” she said.
So okay, let’s substitute, but let’s also be willing to try new ingredients, new methods, and new tastes.
Hey, just the other day, I signed up for a cooking class in my new city! Really!
Speaking of Mrs. Dreisbach, try out this recipe she gave me years ago. It’s very African and very good.
NORTH AFRICAN COUSCOUS by Bettie Dreisbach
2-3 tablespoons oil
2-4 cups chicken or beef, cubed
1 small onion, cut up
1 teaspoon quatre epices (just add a pinch of each: white pepper, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger) OR make your own quatre epices here.
1 teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon caraway seed
¼ – ½ teaspoon cloves
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
2 heaping teaspoons paprika
Salt/pepper to taste
1 bay leaf (optional)
2-3 Maggi cubes
½ cup tomato paste (4 oz.)
6 cups water
Vegetables, any combination: carrots, turnips, potato chunks, pumpkin, garbanzo beans, or zucchini
Pour 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet or pan and turn burner on to medium heat. When the oil is hot, add meat and cook till the beef or chicken is no longer pink. Then, add onions and spices and cook till onions are clear. Pour in about 6 cups of water and whisk in the tomato paste. Add the Maggi cubes. Finally, add any combination of these vegetables, cut into cubes: carrots, turnips, potato chunks, pumpkin, garbanzo beans, and zucchini. Add more water if needed.
Cook until vegetables (and meat, if it is tough to begin with) are tender. Around 45 minutes or longer if necessary.
Serve over couscous.