Wednesday, September 30, 2015

African Steak with Monkey Gland Sauce (Fruit Chutney)

Oh my goodness - today, I got my boards score and I'm so relieved/happy! It's such a huge weight off my shoulders; I definitely had reservations about studying for such a major exam rotating in Africa. It was stressful with its many challenges (like no electricity!), but I'm so glad I went anyway and everything turned out well.

To celebrate, today I'm sharing a unique African dish with an awesome name - Steak with Monkey Gland Sauce!
What is Monkey Gland sauce? Before you run away, hear me out. This is a mix of chutney with tomato sauce / sugar / garlic served with meat. South Africa's braai (BBQ) culture is huge, and Monkey Gland sauce is a popular condiment.

The history of this sauce is vague - originating in South Africa vs in London (and then brought to / made popular in South Africa). Various legends range from French chefs mixing up the concoction to spite the South Africans (which became an unexpected hit) to being inspired by the popular trend of grafting monkey testicles to men maintain virility.
I promise there are no testes in this dish and it's 100% delicious.
I have a million African animal pictures (which I still have yet to edit). On my one side trip, I visited Kasane in Northern Botswana, near Chobe National Park, and at my lodge animals ran amok.  Literally, people driving at night get into car accidents with elephants crossing the road, so it's quite dangerous.

On the safaris in Kasane, I have never seen a large density of animals in one area - particularly elephants, giraffes, impalas, and wildebeests. There's also hippos, crocodiles, kudu, warthogs, and too many types of primates and birds to count.
Sadly, I didn't get to see zebras, the national animal of Botswana, or lions, so that's for another time.

On a random aside, there's an amazing book by my Stanford professor Robert Sapolsky - Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers - which talks about the impact of constant stress in today's society on our health. I was lucky enough to actually take his course during college (and alongside with all the neurotic type A premeds in the class, realized his research was totally about us), but his lectures are also available on TED talks, National Geographic, and itunes.

I definitely felt a lot unhealthier with the stress of studying for medical boards, so that side trip to Kasane where my brain took a few days off was a much needed break.
There were so many mischievous monkeys and baboons around our lodge, so those were my favorite pictures. On my last day, I spent an hour just photographing a large group of monkeys tackling each other on the lawn chairs, lounging on the docked river boats (like a boss), and stealing food from the restaurants.  

One fellow snatched a jar of orange marmalade and struggled with opening it for the next hour, but he succeeded! Some poor chef tonight can't make his monkey gland sauce! Recipe adapted from Pick-n-Pay (a large South African grocery).

South African Steak with Monkey Gland Marinade

2-3 steaks
salt and pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons apricot chutney (any fruit is fine)
6 tablespoons tomato sauce or ketchup
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons red wine / red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced

Rub the steaks with the salt and pepper, cumin, and cinnamon.

Mix remaining ingredients for the monkey gland marinade in a large bowl. Pour half the marinade over the steak and reserve the rest. Marinate at least an hour, better overnight.

Place steaks on a grill on medium or pan sear in cast iron skillet or pan on stovetop, and cook to desired doneness while basting with the reserved marinade. Enjoy!
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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Banana Walnut Bread with Oat Streusel

So, since my last post, I took yet another US medical licensing exam (Step 2 CS) AND applied to internal medicine residency. How's that for a busy week!?

Hopefully all the big hurdles are over, and assuming I passed everything *fingers crossed,* I don't have to take any more boards during medical school! Yay!

With all that's been going on as a 4th year, I've been behind on posts; I baked this banana walnut bread waaay back in July! I was on my medicine subinternship where I act as an intern resident - carrying my own patients, calling consults, writing orders, admitting and discharging, and I wanted to bring food for my first night call.

All I have to say is night call is bad for your waistline.  Especially if, like me, you eat to stay awake.
Although a lot of work, sub-i's are definitely an awesome experience - nothing like responsibility to your sick patients forces you learn fast!

I was talking to a fellow classmate, who commented that somehow over transition from 3rd to 4th year, everyone definitely matured and became so much more responsible. Although the M.D. was always a distant light at the end of the tunnel, it suddenly seems a lot closer once starting the final year!
The past few months - especially the last 3 weeks - have been really tough, and I've built up quite a sleep debt. I've applied to various residency programs and, like thousands of neurotic med students, wait eagerly for interviews.

Right now's the calm before the storm (of interview season), so I'll catch up on some Z's (and baking) while I can!
Not only is this banana bread super delicious / gorgeous with that streusel topping, the texture is as fluffy as a pillow! I confess, I kept poking the top because it was so springy. 

Since this was the night call snack/ breakfast for my medicine sub-i team, I kept with a classic banana bread recipe (adapted from Food Network) - generally, I try not to substitute many "healthy" ingredients when serving a crowd, especially if the majority is male, haha. So this is an easy and foolproof quickbread recipe, using ingredients you probably already have. Enjoy!

Banana Walnut Bread with Oat Streusel

2/3 cup granulated sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon butter, cut
2 tablespoons oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 325F. Butter a loaf pan.

With a mixer, cream the sugar and butter in a large bowl. Beat in the eggs, then mix in the mashed bananas and milk. In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, mixing by hand until just combined (do not overmix).

Pour batter into loaf pan. Combine all the streusal ingredients then sprinkle on top the the batter in the pan.

Bake for 1 hour-1 hour 10 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely before slicing. Enjoy!

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Saturday, September 12, 2015

Iced Coffee: Coffee Ice Cubes and Milk

I'm still alive post medical licensing boards (Step 2 CK) - another 9 hour exam complete! Thanks to all who wished me good luck! 

Given the need for caffeine in any medical exam preparation, I wanted to share this iced coffee, although with a bit of twist - instead of regular ice that waters down your coffee with time, coffee ice makes this better as you keep drinking it. 
I admit, studying for this exam was ... chaotic. Our (frequent) internet and electricity outages meant I couldn't use my online question bank, or even read a book unless I read by flashlight. There were days not just my flat, but the city ran out of electricity.
Painfully I didn't have time to explore more of Botswana, as it was crunch time for this huge test I couldn't ignore. And oh yes, I had to work on online residency applications too, which barely loaded on my internet. Luckily, we always had running water, unlike some unfortunate colleagues from other medical schools, who were furious about the inability to shower.

Still, these are all first world problems. I was grumpy about having to do thousands of questions on various diseases, but everyday when I saw a sick patient, some in the process of dying, it was a good reality check.
While in Africa, we had lots of coffee in our flat, left behind by prior rotating medical students and resident. Although people in Botswana aren't big on coffee, nor do they produce it, I'm giving it a slight African twist with Amarula, a delicious cream liquor made from the fruit of the marula tree, which famously makes elephants drunk.
Coffee snobs will say one must use cold brew for iced coffee to avoid oxidation, but in my flat, I just used instant coffee brewed on our stove to quickness. In Botswana, people don't drink low fat or skim milk, so I literally drank whole milk the entire month - something I hadn't done since a toddler! I do admit, the sweet creaminess is delicious.

I also have to confess, since I rarely drink coffee, I'm exquisitely sensitive to its caffeine. Drinking one tiny glass gave me serious palpitations the entire rest of the day.
The whole time change back to the US, starting my Ob-Gyn rotation, and taking my licensing exam within a week has been exhausting, but caffeine always resets the clock. Enjoy and study hard / work hard / play hard with this central nervous system stimulating "black magic that is coffee" as B calls it.

Iced Coffee: Coffee Ice Cubes and Milk

1/3 cup ground coffee or coffee beans
3/4 - 1 cup cold water
1 cup whole milk (any milk)
optional: splash of Amarula liquor (can substitute Bailey's)

The proper way: In a small pitcher or jar, combine together coffee beans and cold water or stir ground coffee and cold water until combined. Cover tightly and refrigerate 5 hours or overnight (if using whole beans, up to 24 hours). Strain the coffee through a coffee filter-lined strainer set over a tall glass, pushing it through with a spatula.

The shortcut way: Brew instant coffee until desired strength.

The coffee should be very strong. Pour coffee into ice cube tray and freeze. Once frozen, put ice cubes in your milk. Add amarula or any cream liquor if desired. Enjoy!
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