Everything’s Better with Monkey Gland Sauce & Other ‘Best Of’ Notes

A few observations that will come with recipes (or at least general guidelines) following the “Best Of 2015” dinners and one vegetarian tasting menu:

  • Everything’s better with Monkey Gland Sauce
  • If you’re not using Monkey Gland Sauce then you should consider niter kibbeh
  • Lemon-roasted things are an excellent addition to salads
  • If you ever play with very hot sugar, it should be for cumin spice clusters
  • There’s no good explanation for why we aren’t all snacking on spiced popcorn all the time

Aren’t you glad we’ve cleared that up? Now for some recipes.

Monkey Gland Sauce: 

Monkey Gland Sauce is a South African BBQ sauce – its main distinguishing feature is the addition of chutney. I use the recipe shared by the association of South Africans living in Austin, because I figure if they’re introducing a foreign BBQ sauce into their Texas BBQ, they’ve got to be very very sure of its deliciousness. 


  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • ½ cup of water
  • 1 small can of chopped and peeled tomatoes
  • 1 cup of ketchup
  • ½ cup of Worcestershire sauce
  • ¾ cup of spicy chutney (Mrs. Ball’s)
  • 6 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
  • Oil for frying


  1. In a pot or good sized saucepan, sautee the onions and the garlic, until soft and lightly caramelized.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Stir thoroughly to combine and heat through
  4. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for half an hour
  5. Serve a generous amount on your grilled or sauteed steak or burger
  6. You can also add a little Tobasco sauce for a bit of zing!

Last week, I used this sauce on pork ribs, that were then shredded and placed in Asian style steamed buns with spicy “quick pickled” red cabbage. I am still slightly in awe of everyone’s ability to eat a full pork-filled bun as the last of the dinner courses. If you want to try this at home, the steamed buns recipe is embedded halfway through this pork buns recipe by David Chang on Food52. The quick pickled cabbage I just made up – vinegar, garlic, red thai chiles, ginger, sugar, salt – boiled and then mixed with the cabbage and left overnight. 


Niter Kibbeh

Niter Kibbeh is Ethiopian spiced butter. A recipe is linked here

If you have a long period of cooking time, here is something delicious to do with it – Carrot Dumplings.

Note that the butter takes a little over an hour to make, then another hour or so for the carrots, then the dumpling dough making and folding which will be another hour (you can overlap a little since the dough rests for 30 minutes). Plan accordingly. 

Shred fine a large number of carrots (sorry, this *is* going to be a season by taste not measurements sort of recipe). Cooking them slowly with generous amounts if the butter and some salt in a large skillet until most of the moisture is cooked away and also they’ve absorbed enough of the spiced butter to reach the flavor you want (in other words, keep tasting and adding butter as needed – you’ll add a lot of butter, but you also will only be using small pinches of the carrots). We’re talking 45 minutes to an hour. 

Next you’re going to make the carrots into little dumplings with finely chopped peanuts. Use the wrapper dough recipe and the cooking instructions in this Steamed Leek Bun recipe – but instead of dividing into 8 dumplings, divide into 12. When you roll them out, put down a little pinch of peanuts and a generous pinch of carrots in the center for the filling. 

Now you’ve got carrot dumplings and they need a nice lemon dipping sauce. Squeeze a lemon into a small saucepan, add a 2 tsp each of sugar, rice vinegar, and soy sauce, start to simmer that. Taste this to see if the flavors are balanced the way you want them to be. Now, mix 1/3 cup of water with 1 tsp of cornstarch until the starch is dissolved (I happen to have this particular yam starch that is used more often in Asian cooking so that’s what I used, but cornstarch should work). Add the water to the other mixture and cook over low heat, whisking, until it’s thickened slightly. There’s your dipping sauce.

I realize that recipe is a lot of tasting and adjusting which is hard to do if you don’t have a vision of what you want – next time I make them, I’ll try to remember to measure. 

Lemon Roasted Roots

I stole parts of this from a great Whole Foods recipe for roasting potatoes with wine.

Heat your oven to 400-degrees.

Take 2 pounds of potatoes, or beets, or other similar root and cut into 1 inch chunks. Now, toss them with about 3 Tb of oil, the juice from 1 lemon (keep the skin you’re about to need it), 1 tsp of salt (you’ll add more at the end) and 1/2 tsp of pepper. 

Spread the potatoes / whatever out on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer. Zest the lemon and sprinkle evenly over top. 

Cover tightly with tinfoil and bake for 15 minutes. Then remove the tinfoil and continue to bake, stirring occasionally, until done. This time will depend on what roots you used, but it’s around 30 minutes. 

Season to taste with more salt and pepper if needed. 

I prepared golden beets this way for the vegetarian tasting menu on Sunday. I tossed spinach with a curry vinaigrette (basically curry powder, lemon infused olive oil, rice vinegar, and pinches of salt, pepper, and sugar). Then I put on curry paneer (the recipe is in the One Hour Cheese Book), then the lemon roasted beets, then golden raisins that I had sauteed in olive oil with curry powder and a pinch of salt, then toasted almond slivers. Very popular.  

Spiced Cumin Clusters

Maybe I should just go into salad making, because here’s another salad recipe. Granted, it’s salad with candy shards in it, but still. . . 

This recipe is also proof that when I promise to eventually measure ingredients, I do eventually measure ingredients. Here is what you need:

  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup plain sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup plain pepitas

    (If you’re in Montpelier, these are all in the bulk area of Hunger Mountain Co-op, except the sugar)

Grease a rimmed baking sheet and set it aside. Mix together all the not-sugar ingredients in a small bowl.

In a medium sized, thick bottomed skillet, sprinkle out the sugar evenly. Now you’re going to make a burnt sugar syrup. “Burnt” here means a very dark mahogany with a little smoking, not a blackened charred mess that sets off the fire alarms. It’s a nerve wracking, yet exhilarating, line to walk. Cook the sugar over medium heat without stirring. DO NOT STIR. You can (and should) tilt the pan to swirl the sugar as it melts to be sure it all gets melted before it truly burns.

Once the sugar is liquid and very dark, dump in the bowlful of other stuff, stir quickly to coat everything with the sugar, and dump onto the greased sheet. Try to spread it out as thinly as you can. It won’t want to go, and this will be chopped into small pieces later so it doesn’t have to be perfect, but try to get it thin. 

I use this in what I call San Isidoro Salad, which is mixed lettuce with a light coating of Smoky Paprika Dressing (or a spicier Chile Oil Dressing depending on the menu), small pieces of the cumin clusters, and diced fresh pineapple. 

Spiced Popcorn

Out standard spiced popcorn is Old Bay – stovetop-popped popcorn tossed with good olive oil, lots of Old Bay spice, a generous pinch of sugar, and a judicious pinch of salt. 

That being said, on Sunday I tried out this Mark Bitterman recipe for Bitters Popcorn (via an interview on Splendid Table) to general pleasure. It was kind of like a stiff cocktail in popcorn form (not really for kids). It helped that I’d been given a set of specialty bitters for my wedding; I used Mole instead of the called-for Cardamom. I have to believe the recipe is somewhat forgiving bitters-wise. 

You know what might make popcorn even better? Niter Kibbeh. I’ll try that out Christmas Eve and report back*. 

*Yes, it is pretty darn good with Niter Kibbeh. For 3/4 cup kernels (don’t be like me and add more and then be surprised when popcorn goes everywhere) add to the popped corn: 1/4 cup Niter Kibbeh melted with 1 Tb aromatic bitters, then sprinkle with 2 Tb Nutritional Yeast, 1 – 2 tsp salt (depending on your taste), 1 tsp chili powder. 

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