Category Archives: Recipes

Jollof Rice

Picture28

Jollof rice is one of the most popular dishes in West Africa.  Like other popular dishes in the region, there is a lot of variation in how the dish is served in different countries or regions within West Africa.  It is worth noting the importance that rice has played a significant role in the West African diet for much of history.  African rice, which is different from rice native to Asia, has been cultivated for thousands of years in West Africa, and many believe that it is the key to food security in the region.  Generally speaking, jollof rice consists of rice tomatoes or tomato paste, palm oil, onions, salt, spices (usually cumin, nutmeg, and ginger), and chili peppers. Depending on where you are, the rice can be served with meat (usually chicken), fish, and additional vegetables.  The origins of the dish can be traced back to the Senegambia region of Africa during the time of the Jolof Empire, hence the name jollof rice.  It is believed that the dish was likely spread by tradesmen through the Mali Empire along with rice-based agriculture and Islam.

Jollof rice has become a point of pride in West Africa.  There is a longstanding debate between Nigeria and Ghana over which country has the best jollof.  Celebrities and politicians from both countries have contributed to the debate by talking about how bad the jollof rice is from the other country. You can read more about the great Nigeria–Ghana jollof debate here: https://buzzghana.com/jollof-rice-war-ghana-vs-nigeria/.

Jollof rice has played an important role in the history of food outside of Africa as well.  Jollof is widely accepted as an ancestor to many dishes that are eaten today in America, especially ones that originated from the Louisiana area such as jambalaya and gumbo.  The African diaspora brought the dish to the United States, and British colonizers even began to grow the African variety of rice in the American South.  One compared jollof in West Africa to pizza in the United States.  Everywhere you go, you will see the same basic ingredients, but everyone does it a little bit differently and everyone claims that their version is the best.  You can learn more about the significance of jollof rice’s influence on food in the United States here: Below is one recipe for jollof rice that I found on demandafrica.com.

Jollof Rice, A West African Staple

Follow this recipe to learn to make one of the most popular West African dishes, Jollof Rice, with this easy-to-follow recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium tomatoes roughly chopped (about 5 ounces each)
  • 1/2 medium Scotch bonnet pepper or use a habanero pepper, stem removed
  • 1/2 medium onion roughly chopped
  • 3 small red bell peppers roughly chopped (about 5 ounces each)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons hot ground chili pepper such as African dried chili or cayenne
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon plus
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 2 1/2 cups medium-grain rice
  • Water as needed

Instructions

  1. Combine tomatoes, scotch bonnet pepper and onions and purée in a blender.
  2. Pour half of the purée into a bowl and set aside for later.
  3. Add the bell peppers to the remaining mixture in the blender and blend until smooth.
  4. Add to the blender mixture that was set aside and blend all together.
  5. Heat vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  6. Add blended mixture along with the salt, curry powder, ground chili pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, bay leaves, ginger and thyme to oil. Bring mixture to a boil.
  7. Stir in the rice until well mixed, then reduce the heat to low.
  8. Cover pot and let cook until rice is al dente, about 45 minutes.
  9. After 25-30 minutes, check; if rice is too saucy, remove the lid to cook off the excess sauce. If too dry, add 1 to 2 cups water and stir.

Source: https://www.demandafrica.com/food/recipes/jollof-rice-a-west-african-staple/

Poulet Yassa (Chicken Yassa)

Picture27

This is a traditional chicken recipe that is believed to have originated in the Casamance region of Senegal (the part of Senegal south of The Gambia that has seen a lot of separatist movements pop up over the years).  Today, chicken yassa can be found not only in Senegal, but most of West Africa and in Senegalese restaurants around the world.  The most distinct part of the dish is the marinade that the chicken is soaked in prior to cooking.  A similar marinade can be used with fish in coastal areas, and other types of meat such as lamb have also been used in place of chicken.  Chicken though remains the most commonly used meat, as it is the cheapest and most available type of meat in Africa.  In fact, Africa is beginning to develop  Some reports say that chicken accounts for almost half of all meat consumed in Africa.  As demand rises, so too are prices, and many believe that a strong chicken industry is the key to both food security and reducing Africa’s dependence on imported goods.  In fact, Bill Gates has estimated that breeding 5 hens could generate up to $1,000 a year in revenue (this is significant in a country where the poverty line is just $700 a year).

As chicken yassa has travelled to Europe and the United States alongside the West African diaspora, the dish has been experimented with and altered.  The recipe posted below is an example of a fairly simple example of chicken yassa, something that someone is more likely to find in West Africa, but as different cultures have gotten their hands on the dish, they have added to it and given it their own variations.  The recipe is a mixture of sweet and spicy, using seasonings such as bay leaf and garlic, onions (which due to their high levels of production are used regularly in West Africa as a condiment), lemon, and Dijon mustard, all ingredients that can be found in West Africa. Below is one recipe for Poulet (chicken) yassa that I found at congocookbook.com.

Recipe for Chicken Yassa

Ingredients

  • one-half cup peanut oil (or any cooking oil)
  • one chicken, cut into serving-sized pieces
  • four (or six, or more!) onions, cut up
  • eight tablespoons lemon juice
  • eight tablespoons vinegar (cider vinegar is good)
  • one bay leaf
  • four cloves minced garlic
  • two tablespoons Dijon mustard (optional)
  • one or two tablespoons Arome Maggi® sauce (or Maggi® cubes and water), or soy sauce (optional)
  • chile pepper, cleaned and finely chopped (optional)
  • cayenne pepper or red pepper, black pepper, salt (to taste)
  • a small cabbage, cut into chunks (optional)
  • a few carrots, cut into chunks (optional)

Instructions

  • Mix all ingredients (except the optional vegetables), the more onions the better, and allow chicken to marinate in a glass dish in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. Remove chicken from the marinade, but save the marinade. Cook according to one of the following methods.
    • Cooking method 1: Grill chicken over a charcoal fire (or bake it in a hot oven) until chicken is lightly browned but not done.
    • Cooking method 2: Sauté chicken for a few minutes on each side in hot oil in a frypan.
  • While chicken is browning: Remove onions from marinade and sauté them in a large saucepan for a few minutes. Add remaining marinade and the optional vegetables and bring to a slow boil and cook at a boil for ten minutes. Cook the marinade into a sauce. Reduce heat.
  • Add chicken to the sauce, cover and simmer until chicken is done. Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness.
  • Serve with Rice, Couscous (couscous with chickpeas and raisins is very good), or Fufu.
  • Serve Ginger Beer or Green Tea with Mint with or after the meal.

Source: http://www.congocookbook.com/chicken_recipes/poulet_yassa.html

 

Sukuma Wiki

Picture13Sukuma Wiki is a traditional dish eaten within East Africa, particularly in Kenya and largely consists of Leafy greens and Tomatoes. The term comes from Swahili meaning “week-pusher” as this dish is often used bulk out other main meals to make them last the week. It is often served alongside Ugali or Chapatti and a form of meat stew. This dish although not the most important aspect of a meal can be seen in a sense as an “invisible” food, as it adds more substance to a meal cheaply and easily.

Particularly in East Africa there is greater access to African Indigenous Vegetables or AIVs, which form the main component of this dish. AIVs, are mainly vegetables that fall under the category of “leafy” or “hearty” greens thus they consist of: Kale, Collard Greens and similar vegetables according to Musotsi. AIVs have been a part of meals in East Africa for centuries and are often served with other foods especially starches at lunch. There is an evident meal culture around AIVs and consequently Sukuma Wiki. A “meal culture” refers to the idea that there is a clear event surrounding the thought, preparation, and eating of a meal. With regards to Sukuma Wiki in rural regions where AIVs make up the majority of weekly meals as revealed by Lee-Smiths study, a meal Picture14culture has developed in which the consumption of Sukuma Wiki now forms part of people’s daily lives as shown by Lee-Smiths study in Kenya.

The high levels of availability and their durability under the changing environmental conditions, has meant that AIVs have become more common amongst populations daily diets in the east Africa. This is particularly true for those who may be unable to afford meat products. This positively affects the region as AIVs have contributed significantly to food security as noted by Musotsi. This is because particularly in regions where there is rising food insecurity as the dish is used to spread out other meals it means that Sukuma Wiki can ensure that there is sufficient food for a family or community, which ultimately means they will face less issues related to malnutrition or lack of nutrition. Arguably the consumption of this dish is likely to increase in consumption over the coming years because of this fact that it provides food and nutritional security to a community in the sense that it is easy to access monetarily and physically, therefore reducing the likelihood a family or community may have to go without food when other products get too expensive due to decreased availability.

This dish is very common in Kenya, however throughout the country there are variations to the recipe depending on the ethnic group and outside influences present. An important factor as noted in Musotsi’s article is that the consumption of these leafy vegetables is based on perception. In particular, how well the greens are cooked is dependent on preference with regards to the color and texture of the dish. This clearly links back to the idea of a meal culture because the perceptions of the dish and how it is consumed is arguably dependent on the culture surround it mainly: whether it would be used in feasts as Fleischer notes or as a way to consume more vitamins. The latter due to resource scarcity is unfortunately on the rise, which has clearly affected the meal culture surrounding the dish which will arguably mean it cooking of such a dish will be quicker in order to retain the vitamins.

In addition the dish is also affected by the country it is made in as shown by Durand 2012. In South Sudan where there has been a greater Indian influence in the region this has led to a higher concentration and diverse usage of spices in the dish. Thus, what can be assumed from this is that the dish is both affected from region as mentioned above but also outside factors. But as a rule of thumb the most common additions are turmeric and coriander.

Lastly, when considering the meal culture behind this dish, it is essential to draw attention to the way in which it is prepared. From research the preparation of this dish has been gendered. From the famous poem written by Neem Ngwatilo Mawiyoo, the addition of Sukuma Wiki in the account of a woman’s daily life bares significance for our purpose of looking at this specific dish, as the discussion of the dish clearly shows that it has become part of modern life particularly for women in the working community owing to the ease of preparation as described by Mawiyoo:

“working women walking to build a nation, this morning mainly concerned with tonight’s meal of Ugali and Sukuma Wiki”

This, I argue suggests a gendered aspect to the meal culture as preparation of the dish is still dependent on women. It is their conscious decisions with regards to food consumption that affect the way that Sukuma wiki is eaten because as Browns et al.  noted it is women who are responsible for this aspect of domestic life, thus food security arguably falls under their jurisdiction.  Due to the fact that the dish is made AIVs a decision to cook a “week pusher”, clearly increases the food security of a family and therefore perhaps the remaining economic spending power to go on other food products. This dish highlights the domestic power that women hold with regards to human security because of their ability to provide food security, a crucial component of the notion of human security, however it clearly also draws attention to the lack of men in domestic household decisions, therefore showing a gendered relationship.

Picture15My discussion of the main ingredient of this dish has drawn attention specifically to Kenya because the studies that focuses on AIV have centered around Kenya, thus for the purposes of this context, the recipe I have drawn from is from coastal Kenya.  There are of course other options with additional spices as noted above. These recipes, indicate the differing effects geographically of Islamic trading influences with regards to the importing of new spices which Fleisher points out have been included in East African Culture since the 1400 AD following Islamic expansionism through the trade of goods.

Crucially the continued consumption of this dish highlights the continual importance of the Islamic influence due to the continued use of imported spices such as Turmeric and Cumin. Taking in the historic culture behind this dish as a “week pusher”, I suggest that it will become increasingly important in this region as East Africa continues to be effected by famine and reduced resource availability.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch of collard Greens or Kale, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 2-3 medium tomatoes roughly chopped
  • 1-2 teaspoons garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt (taste)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup water/stock

Method

  1. In a medium to large pan, heat the olive oil and cook the onions over a medium heat until they just begin to soften. Add the minced garlic and sautee for about 1 minute.
  2. Add the ground cumin, ground coriander, and ground turmeric, and allow to gently fry for about 20 seconds until you get the aroma of spices, then promptly add tomatoes and blend well into the mixture, making sure the spices don’t burn at the bottom of the pan. (Tip: add a tablespoon of water, if necessary, to scrape off any spices that may stick.)
  3. Once the tomatoes soften, add the ground beef or chicken and cook until all pinkness is gone from the meat. Add salt.
  4. Add the collard greens or kale a handful at a time, stirring until all the greens are well coated with the mixture.
  5. Add the water/stock, reduce the heat to medium, and cover. Cook until the greens reach desired tenderness (ideally about 10 minutes).
  6. Remove from the heat and add a bit of lemon juice to taste.

The ease and simplicity of the recipe means that it can be made multiple times throughout the week to spread out the usage of more expensive foods such as meat and also enable greater freedom for women as shown by the poem owing to the quickness with which it can be made.

Biltong

Picture12.png

Biltong is a dish that has been made in several Southern African countries for centuries.It is a dried meat product, and resembles jerky, but is much different in that there is a much higher fat content in Biltong and it is cut much thicker. While all recipes vary by family, the common ingredients include meat, salt, vinegar, spices (especially salt, pepper, and coriander). The spices can be varied depending on flavor preferences, but the salt and vinegar ratios are important, as they facilitate the curing process. A sample recipe from here.

“Ingredients

  • 5kg sirloin/rump meat (normally use silverside or topside)
  • A cup of brown sugar
  • 500 grams of coarse salt(not normal table salt)
  • 2 tablespoons of bicarbonate soda
  • 1 cup of broken up coriander seeds
  • 1 cup of red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp cracked up black pepper

Just what is the procedure in making your first batch of biltong?

Begin by cutting your meat into strips; remember to only cut on the normal grain of the meat. I definitely prefer our end product to be a little moist on the inside, so if you enjoy a bit of pink in the middle, try to keep it 5cm wide. If you like it dry, you can make them a bit thinner.

Now you need to mix up the salt, coriander, pepper, bicarbonate of soda and the sugar together to make rubbing mixture. You now need to use a large glass container; wipe and rub some of the mix into each item of meat. Place a solitary layer of the mixture in the bottom of this container. Spray some of the red vinegar over meat strips then continue the exact same procedure till all the meat is layered and there is no more vinegar left. You need to remove the access salt from the meat otherwise you may produce really salty biltong.

You now have to cover the container with some cling wrap and leave it to marinade for at-least 12 to 24 hrs depending on the thickness of the meat and the strength of the flavour you want.

At this point you should find a cool completely dry and well-aerated location to hang your meat (we normally hang it high it in the garage area and cover it up with a net to keep the bugs and flies away). If you live on the beach front or in an area where it’s not always dry, you may want to invest in a biltong-maker-ventilation-system. Not everybody likes it moist, so for those that don’t want the biltong to be moist you can leave it for longer to dry out more completely.

Get some galvanized wire hooks to hang your meat. You can hang them until the exterior is dark. Try some of the biltong after 2 days. You will then be able to do a taste test to determine if it is working for you or whether you need to leave it hanging for a while longer.”

Where did it originate?

BILTONG is formed from the Dutch words “BIL” (rump or hind quarter) and “TONG” meaning “strip” = a strip of meat. (Source.)

The actual curing process of meat was done by the indigenous people of Africa prior to the influences of European colonizers or settlers. This was done using coarse salt and a drying process in order to preserve the meats. The salt killed the bacteria that would otherwise spoil the meats, because the indigenous peoples did not have a way to chill it for long.

European settlers began to come to Southern Africa in the 17th century, and with them they brought spices and a new method for curing meats. The African people began to cure their meats using vinegar, as well as spices to add flavor to the meat. Nomadic people especially would cure as much meat as possible so that they could easily store it during their trip. Any animal and cut can be used, such as beef, chicken, fish, and ostrich.

Today, although mainly made from beef, it is still a food that is enjoyed by Southern Africans, as well as people worldwide. It is commercially made, but Southern African people say that it is nothing like making it yourself.

You can read more about the origins here.

Food Security

This one dish has most of the necessary components one needs in the diet: protein, carbohydrates, and fat. The main issue is the availability of the meat product. While it can be made with any type of meat (and sometimes fish), it still does not help with food security if there is no access to the necessary ingredients. This is especially true in more urban areas of Africa, as there is not as large of an agricultural industry that allows for some self-sufficiency. Within agricultural/rural regions, there is a greater access to farming and livestock that can be used to make dishes such as this one.

More information on food insecurity, especially regarding urban versus rural environments and their relationship to income can be found here.

Potjiekos

Picture11.pngPotjiekos is a dish that is often served at South African gatherings. While recipes vary, it consists of a meat, often lamb, vegetables, garlic, and herbs that are all slowly cooked in a cast iron pot (called a potjie pot) over hot coals without being stirred. One recipe, pasted below, can be found here.

“Ingredients

  • Oil to cover the base of your potjie
  • 1kg Lamb (on the bone)
  • 2 Onions, chopped
  • Chunks of Potatoes, Carrots, Baby marrows and Green Beans
  • 2 tsps Ginger and Garlic paste
  • Salt to taste
  • Black Pepper to taste
  • 1 400gr can of Diced Tomatoes
  • A few Bay Leaves

Instructions

  1. Place the pot on the fire and heat the oil.
  2. Add the onions and fry until soft and translucent.
  3. Add the lamb and the ginger and garlic paste and brown on all sides. If the pot is too warm and the meat is burning, add a few tots of wine or water.
  4. Add salt and black pepper.
  5. When the meat is brown, add the diced tomatoes and the bay leaves.
  6. Put the lid on and gently simmer for approx an 1 hour.
  7. Add the potatoes and the carrots first and cook for about 30-40 minutes before adding the baby marrows and the green beans.
  8. Taste and add a bit more salt and black pepper if needed.
  9. Don’t stir the pot, but gently shake to ensure that there is enough liquid in the bottom and that it’s not burning. If unsure, add a bit more wine or water.
  10. Replace the lid and simmer for another 20-30 minutes
  11. Remove the pot from the fire and serve hot with rice.”

Families have different additions and techniques that make their version unique to them. The pots are often handed down for generations, as the cast iron absorbs some of the essences of the ingredients, adding to the flavor.

Where did Potjiekos originate?

The use of cast iron pots became popular from the Dutch settlers, Arab traders, and Portuguese explorers. These pots came in all shapes and sizes. African people were initially skeptical of the pots, as they resembled witches’ caldrons. The pots became popular, replacing clay pots, as the meats were able to be slowly cooked while keeping the food tender. They also kept the heat within the pot, allowing for the buildup of heat. This made it so less coal was needed to cook the contents.

This method was used with the Voortrekkers, a nomadic, Dutch group, escaping British rule, as well as other tribes, as it was an easy way for the nomadic people to cook while on the move. They were able to store the ingredients in the pot and then put it over a heat source when they stopped.

The cast iron pots are still used today to make potjiekos, and this dish can be seen at many traditional gatherings. It also is used to bring people together, as there are different competitions in which people make their own potjiekos, as many recipes have been passed down in families.

More information on the origin can be found in the article, “The Origins of Potjiekos” and Potjie History.

Food Security

Because of the ease of creating a delicious and nutritious meal all in one pot, potjiekos aids in creating food security. There are many different ways in which this dish can be made and so whatever meats and vegetables that are available can be added. One pot also feeds everyone, and therefore the meat and vegetables can go a long way. This dish is not a full solution to food security across Africa but can be an aid in providing nutritious meals.