Cocada Amarela (Angolan Coconut Custard): A Lesson on Custard

Angolan Coconut Custard

Cocada Amarela (Angolan Coconut Custard) is a dessert from Angola that was greatly influenced by Portuguese influence. Water, sugar, eggs, and coconut mix together to create a (VERY) sweet custard.

Let’s Make Some Custard!

Custard is deceiving. It looks easy, right? Boil some water, add some sugar, pour in egg yolk… voila!

Really, though, custard is a challenging dessert to make. There’s quite a bit of technique necessary for this recipe. If it’s not done perfectly, your custard won’t come out as that perfect, smooth, sweet heaven that we all know and love.

Don’t let this scare you, though, because I’ve already done the hard work for us! I attempted this recipe a couple of times, but it took me until the third try to proclaim that I was proud of my result. I’ve made the mistakes; now YOU can learn from them.

Most recipes called for 3 cups of water for this dish, but after two very watery custards, I reduced it down to two. This allows the custard a better chance at setting properly. However, when you add the sugar into the water and bring it to a boil, make sure that you keep the water temperature below 220 degrees fahrenheit. If the water temperature increases much higher, the sugar will begin to crystallize into a candy, and the custard will harden into a dense texture as it cools.

There is one step in this process, though, that is necessary before all others: adding the egg yolks.

Think about this scenario…

You’re cooking eggs in the morning for breakfast. You wake up and put the pan on the stove to warm up. In the meantime, you crack two eggs into a separate bowl and whisk them to combine. Once the pan on the stove is hot, you pour your eggs into the pan and begin to stir them with a spatula. As the heat warms the eggs, they begin to curdle, and soon enough… yay! Scrambled eggs!

Now Think about Making Custard…

You have a pot on the stove filled with boiling water and sugar mixed together. In a separate bowl, you crack a few eggs and whisk them together. Then, when the liquid has reached an acceptably hot temperature, you pour the eggs into the warm pot and start stirring. You look in bewilderment at your pot because… are you seeing that right? This isn’t turning into a beautifully combined custard… there are scrambled eggs floating in your water!

I kept burning my fingers every time I tried to measure the temperature of my liquid, so I had to find a creative way to hold the thermometer

How Do I Avoid Making Scrambled Eggs Instead of Coconut Custard?

Making custard is difficult because if you don’t follow the instructions correctly, you’ll end up with a big pot of liquid with little bits of scrambled egg floating around inside (like me on attempt 1). The trick here is to take about a cup of your hot liquid, pour it into your eggs, and whisk the mixture. The temperature of the water will warm the eggs up. This way, the eggs aren’t as shocked when they hit the warm water, so instead of scrambling, they are able to whisk right into the water and make a custard-like texture.

If you can get these steps right (and you will with a little bit of practice), this dish is SO worth it. A unique twist on a classic dessert, this Angolan coconut custard was the family favorite of the week for sure. As you try your experimentations, make sure to let me know how they go! As always, I want to hear your learning process!

Cocada Amarela (Angolan Coconut Custard)

Cocada Amarela is a dessert from Angola that was greatly influenced by Portuguese influence. Water, sugar, eggs, and coconut mix together to create a (VERY) sweet custard. 

Course Dessert
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 cups grated coconut unsweetened
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla butter and nut extract
  • ground cinnamon to taste

Instructions

  1. In a medium sized saucepan combine the sugar, water, and cloves and bring to a boil.

  2. Stir and boil until the liquid reaches between 220 and 230 degrees fahrenheit. If it is too low, the custard will be watery, and if it is too high, the custard will harden into a candy.


  3. Once desired temperature is reached, reduce heat to low and remove the cloves. Add the coconut into the mixture and cook for ten minutes, stirring occasionally so as to avoid burning.

  4. Take off of heat. 

  5. Put your 6 egg yolks in a medium sized bowl. Add vanilla and nutmeg. Beat with an electric mixer for about 45 seconds-1 minute, until the eggs show air bubbles when you stop beating them. 

  6. Take one cup of the mixture from the stove and mix it into the egg mixture (this warms up the eggs so that they do not scramble when added to the pot).

  7. Place the sauce pan back on the stove on very low heat. Pour the custard into the pan and cook for about 12 minutes, stirring (slowly) constantly so that the eggs do not curdle. 

  8. Pour into individual dessert dishes, sprinkle with cinnamon, refrigerate for two hours, then enjoy! 

Recipe Notes

Recipe copyright by Alexandria Drzazgowski, The Foreign Fork. For educational or personal use only. 

Funje (Cassava Flour Pudding): A Mother Daughter Cookoff

funge

Funje is a traditional Angolan side dish made of cassava flour whisked into boiling water. 

MY FRIENDS.

IT IS TIME.

FOR A ***DRUMROLL PLEASE***

*

*

*

MOTHER-DAUGHTER COOK OFF.

cassava flour and funje in bushesWait, Hold Up

The most common side dish in Angola is a recipe called funje. It is just boiled water and cassava flour whisked together until it forms a mashed potato-like consistency.

As I was researching funje, I came across two different ways that it could be made. The first was the modern way, where you mix the flour and the water and then put the pot in an oven. The funje needs to bake for 45 minutes and then it is ready to eat!

The other way is… well… Interesting to say the least. The second way to make funje is to use a huge pot to boil water on the stove. Once the water is boiling, you remove the pot from the stove and sit on the floor with the pot between your legs. You pour the cassava flour into the water and use a wooden oar to continuously beat the mixture until it forms the consistency you would like. Obviously we needed to try both.

Funje in lapThe Cook-off Begins

IN ONE CORNER STANDS ALEXANDRIA OF THE FOREIGN FORK. Oar in hand, boiling pot at the ready, she glares across the ring at her opponent with a look of determination on her face.

ACROSS THE RING MAMA FOREIGN FORK SMIRKS BACK AT HER DAUGHTER. She is calm, cool, and collected, ready to tackle this challenge with a whisk and an oven.

THE BELL DINGS. MAMA FOREIGN FORK IS UP FIRST.

The Modern Method

Mama Foreign Fork putting funje in the ovenOkay my analogy kind of falls apart here because we cooked one at a time… My mom’s method was to wet the cassava flour with a little bit of cold water and mix until a stiff dough formed. She then added this dough to the water boiling on the stove and used a metal whisk to stir the mixture until it was smooth.  By the end of my mom’s whisking session, she was complaining of a sore arm, and when we looked in the pot, we could see why. The mixture was thick and lumpy…. Pretty much the opposite of what we wanted. We put it in the oven anyways with high hopes that it would magically fix itself during the cooking process.

The Traditional Method

When it was my turn, I walked into the kitchen with my armor on. My feet sported 7 year old ugg boots to protect my toes from any splashing, boiling water. I had a beach towel on the ready, waiting to coat my lap so that the hot pot wouldn’t burn my legs. I’ll admit that I was a little nervous before my half of the challenge began….

Alexandria making funjeAs soon as the flour hit the water, I started whisking, and I didn’t stop until I was certain that my funje was ready. It only took about 5 minutes, and at the end, I had a perfectly smooth, creamy funje just waiting to be eaten… no oven time necessary!

Now, unfortunately my friends, this success in the texture department did NOT correlate to success in the taste department. In all honesty, I think that the funje tasted exactly how it was intended to taste. However, it tasted how you would imagine… just some flour mixed with water, devoid of seasoning or add-ins. We all tried a tiny forkful, and that was about all we could handle.This isn’t to say that none of you will like it! There’s an entire country out there in which funje is a principle staple in the diet. My family might not have been a fan, but that doesn’t mean that the food of this country is inherently bad! It just means that our taste buds were not used to the different flavors of another country.

AT THE END OF THE MATCH, ONLY CHEF TRIUMPS OVER THE OTHER. ALEXANDRIA “FOREIGN FORK” DRZAZGOWSKI STANDS WITH ONE ARM RAISED ABOVE HER HEAD IN VICTORY. IN THE COMPETITION OF THE FUNJE, THE TRADITIONAL METHOD REIGNED SUPREME.

Funge (Cassava flour pudding)

An Angolan specialty in which cassava flour is mixed with water to make a paste of mashed potato consistency. It is eaten as a side dish! 

Course Side Dish
Cook Time 8 minutes
Total Time 8 minutes
Servings 8 people

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cassava flour
  • 4 cups water

Instructions

The Modern Way

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

  2. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil on the stove. Be sure to do this in a pot that can also be transferred to the oven with a lid.

  3. Put 2 cups of cassava flour in a bowl and wet with cold water until it is just damp. Mix to incorporate. 

  4. When the water is boiling, add the pre-mixed flour and water into the boiling water, and whisk to combine. Continue to whisk until all of the lumps are out of the mixture. 

  5. Cover with a lid and place in oven for about 45 minutes. 

Traditional Method

  1. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil on the stove.

  2. When the water is boiling, remove the pot from the stove. Sit on the ground with the pot in your lap (pro tip: put a beach towel over your lap, wear shoes, and have oven mitts handy). I did not splatter at all, but its better to be safe than sorry!

  3. Pour the cassava flour into the water and whisk as fast and as hard as you can with a wooden oar (or a wooden spoon) until the mixture is completely smooth. A lumpy funje is considered subpar. 

  4. Enjoy right away! 

Recipe Notes

Methods extracted from https://ethnicfoodsrus.com/around-the-world-recipes/african-cuisine/angolan-cuisine/funje/

Angolan Tilapia with Lemon Butter Sauce (Mufete de Cacuso): My First Attempt at Cooking a Whole Fish

Angolan Tilapia and funje

When I was searching through menu options this week and came across mufete de cacuso (Angolan tilapia), I knew I had to try it. Mufete de cacuso is Angolan tilapia fish stuffed with lemon and onions. The fish is cooked in its entirety, and the meat is carved from the body right before eating. I had never cooked a full fish before, let alone one with eyeballs! I smelled a challenge (literally)!

To be honest with you, I was nervous just thinking about cooking this dish. I had gotten two cleaned and frozen tilapia fish from the African market in Oak Park, Detroit. But every time I made eye contact with them in in my fridge, I found myself wondering if I could even bring myself to touch them…. Let alone eat them!

Buying the fish frozen had detracted some of my initial fear; at the time of purchase, the fish had almost seemed fake. But as the fish thawed and began to resemble their old selves, I gulped a nervous breath of air and grabbed their squiggly bodies.

Steps to Cooking a Full Tilapia Fish

If you’re ever cooking a full fish, remember that, before cooking, the fish needs to be de-scaled and gutted. Most butchers or fish markets will do this for you if you ask. My fish had come de-scaled, and there was already a slice across the bottom of each belly showing me that they were gutted and ready to go.

Angolan Tilapia with lemonCombatting that “Fishy” Flavor

Unfortunately, tilapia fish sometimes maintain their fishy taste if they’re not cooked correctly. To combat this, first take care to choose fresh fish. Frozen fish that thaw automatically take on a fishier taste than fresh fish. My meal wasn’t too fishy, but I definitely could have benefitted from a fresh catch.

Secondly, acidic-based foods, when mixed with fish, will take away some of the “fishy” tase. With thick cuts, like a whole fish, soak the fish in vinegar for up to 15 minutes (any more and it will get mushy). I have also heard that soaking the fish in milk can help, but I cannot personally vouch for this method.

Time for a Challenge

I rinsed and soaked my fish, then made two “bowls” from aluminum foil. These bowls sat side by side in a glass 9×13 pan. I placed each fish in its own bowl, and then stuffed them with lemon slices and onions. I drizzled each fish with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and more vinegar. After 40 minutes in the 400 degree oven, poof, that fish was ready to rock!

By the time my mufete de cacuso (Angolan tilapia) had come out of the oven, I had grown accustomed to the eyeballs. I wasn’t cringing when I looked at them anymore. In fact, I was so excited to try my new creation that I dug right in.

I must say, this mufete de cacuso (Angolan tilapia) turned out exactly how I expect Angolans eat it. Unfortunately, I’m not sure it was one of my favorite dishes. Angolans tend not to use many spices in their meals, so as to highlight the natural flavor of the fish. Though I wish I could say that it was the perfect flavor, I think the dish could have benefitted from more spices or seasonings to brighten it up a little bit.

Regardless, I am so proud of my attempt at cooking a full fish! The entire Foreign Fork household gained some Bad-Ass Points in my book (my mom screamed a little when she saw the fish, but even she took a little bite!). If you’re brave enough to try this dish (if I am, you DEFINITELY are), I want to hear how it went! Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading friends! Talk to you soon.

Mufete de Cacuso

Roasted Angolan Tilapia with Lemon and Onions 

Course dinner
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 2 people

Ingredients

Tilapia

  • 2 full tilapia fish (fresh if possible) gutted and descaled
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/2 yellow onion sliced
  • apple cider vinegar
  • olive oil
  • sea salt
  • 1/2 tbsp dill more or less to taste

Lemon Butter Sauce

  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp dill

Instructions

  1. Pour vinegar over fish and let rest for 10 minutes (you can also try the "soaking the fish in milk" method, though I do not have personal experience with this). 

  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a 9x13 dish, use two sheets of aluminum foil to make two bowls, one for each fish. 

  3. Place each fish in its aluminum foil bowl and stuff the insides with lemon slices, onion slices, olive oil, salt, dill, and vinegar. Also coat outside of fish with olive oil and vinegar

  4. Place in oven and bake for about 45 minutes, until the fish is flaky. 

  5. When the fish has about five minutes left, begin making the lemon butter sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan on the stove. Add in the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine. Pour over fish meat when the fish comes out of the oven or serve on the side.