A good spag bol (spaghetti bolognese) was the simple fool-proof staple dish of many our younger days, and everyone has their own special variation. So what do volunteers do in a land without refrigeration or butcher’s fresh mince? At the occasional village feast, very fresh meat is on the menu, but this doesn’t happen every day. This local variation of a classic was created by volunteers Kevin and Wendy during their placement in Arawa, Bougainville, in 2009.
The Ox & Palm brand of corned beef “prepared and packed under Papua New Guinea Government inspection” is your readily available substitute for mince meat in this recipe. You’ll usually see two tins: Red and Blue. What’s the difference? As far as I can tell, only the blue tin has sugar added to the additives (water, sodium nitrate, etc) and is marginally cheaper. Since we are using two tins, buy one of each, or stick to red for a healthier option. Then there is a GOLD tin. Well! I rarely saw that stocked in the corner stores, and more rarely could afford it. Use other brands if you like, but the cheaper ones tend to be fattier. The fresh ingredients can be found at the local market or your village garden.
Ingredients (serves 2)
- 1 regular sized breadfruit
- 400g/2 tins corned beef (Ox & Palm or similar)
- 4 ripe tomatoes
- 1 small greenish tomato
- Onion/garlic, capsicum & anything you like from the garden
- 1 tbsp peanut butter
This recipe is easiest if a gas or electric stove is available, otherwise it can be done with care using the haus-kuk open fire and village bread oven.
- Chop and start browning the onion in a pan over low heat, while scalding the tomatoes in a small pot. Once scalded, remove from heat then peel and dice tomatoes. Place the diced tomato back in the pot and mash it over a medium heat to a soupy puree. Lower the heat and while this is simmering, add the chopped capsicum to the onions.
- Pre-heat the oven at this point so it will be ready for the breadfruit. Once the capsicum has softened add it with the onion to the tomato puree. At this point too you might like to add salt to the mix. DON’T! There is enough salt in the corned beef.
- Open the tins and mash the beef in a bowl if needed, then add it to the puree. Mix well and simmer, Stir occasionally while adding any desired herbs etc. Thicken the sauce with a spoon of peanut butter for a hint of satay. If you have red wine add a splash of that too.
- Meanwhile start baking your breadfruit. This will take about 40 mins in a hot oven, or with turning over an open fire. Wrap the fruit in tin foil if you have it for a less dry result.
- During baking the fruit’s skin will turn an ashy-black while the pulpy flesh inside becomes… bread. Why breadfruit? Pasta can be rare in the field; Rice is quite common so this could be a risotto dish if you prefer. But breadfruit provides adventurous and tasty local flavour, as well as great novelty value given its role in Pacific history.
- Remove bread from oven and allow to cool a little before cutting into quarters and eighths.
- Serve the sauce between 3 or 4 pieces of the bread. Another bright idea is to simply halve the fruit and make a hollow in each piece, then spoon the sauce into it.
The perfect accompaniment is whatever is left of the red wine used earlier, or anything you please.
Do you have a clever or exotic recipe from the field? Whether it’s a traditional local dish, an improvisation using simple ingredients, or maybe a memoir of that special village feast, we want to hear about it! Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interested in volunteering overseas? Find out more about becoming a volunteer.