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The Recipes of West Africa
West Africa is a traditional African cuisine with European influences and Muslim influences. Cooking is often traditional and rice dishes are common. Indeed, Jollof Rice in one form is found throughout West Africa. These noodles are notable for the use of chilli (usually very hot chilli) in a one-pot stew (where it is called ‘soup’) which is followed by rice or a mucilaginous type called Fufu which is usually made from fermented cassava flour. , but which can also be made from plantains, peeled yams, corn flour and rice flour.
Another popular practice in West Africa is the use of nuts (such as peanut butter) and/or herbs as flavorings in local stews. These noodles are usually based on vegetables and meat, if they are added they tend to be used as flavorings rather than the ingredients. Also including fish, dried and smoked fish and meat often used.
The first recipe here is for the type of Jollof Rice common in Benin, but this dish is found in West Africa:
Beninese Jollof Rice
200 g dried black-eyed beans
2 medium aubergines (eggplants)
1.5 tbsp oil
3 tbsp ginger, freshly-grated
2 hot peppers, fried and finely chopped
10 tomatoes, chopped
2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp West African Curry Powder
hot pepper sauce, to taste
3 liters of water
1 tsp salt
2 large onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1.5 tbsp tomato puree
500 g carrots, washed and cut into circles
500 g green beans, chopped
320 g of rice
Soak the black eye beans overnight in plenty of water. Drain the next day, put in a pan and cover with 2l of water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Drain (reserve the cooking liquid). Slice the aubergines into rounds about 1.5cm thick and place in a colander. A lot of salt and let it drain for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large pan. Add the drained aubergine, 1 tsp of chopped onion, 1 tsp of ginger, 1 chilli, 1 garlic clove and bell pepper. Quickly, stir the whole time, until the aubergine is melted (about 5 minutes) then remove the aubergine from the mixture and set aside.
Meanwhile, add the remaining onion, ginger, chilli, garlic, cooking liquid, tomatoes, tomato puree, cayenne pepper and chilli powder. Mix everything to combine and add hot pepper sauce, to taste. Simmer for 10 minutes before adding the black beans, carrots and rice.
Let it sit for 5 minutes then add the green beans and cooked aubergine. Simmer for 15 minutes, uncovered. Cover the pot and simmer for 20 minutes and then serve.
The next recipe is for a classic fufu made from mashed yams, found in Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire), Benin (to name a few). This is a thick dish that is often accompanied by peanut stew.
600g Oluolu Pound’ol Iyan (dry yam flour)
1 l of boiling water
Pour 900 ml of water into a pot, bring to the boil and sprinkle the yam powder on top. Add flour to make a dough. Keep stirring to incorporate the yam powder and cook, uncovered, until you get the dough you want (this should be like a thin dough). When you reach this stage, pour 100ml of water on the dough, cover the pot, reduce the heat as much as possible and let it stand for a few minutes.
Toss the dough with a sturdy wooden spatula until you reach the desired consistency and serve with the stew. I know yam flour is not available outside of Africa, but you can substitute corn flour, millet flour or cassava. Everything will work in this recipe.
To serve with your Iyan you need a stew. Here are some vegetable starters to go with Fufu Iyam:
Greens and Green Peppers
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
4 hot peppers, cut into paste
2 green peppers, seeded and chopped
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
900g leafy greens (such as spinach, cassava greens, kale, collard greens, mustard greens etc.) drained and cooked
salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste
120 ml of vegetable oil
To make this Liberian dish, you need to mash onions, garlic, chillies and tomatoes together in a pestle and mortar to make a paste (you can leave out the chillies if you want).
Heat the oil in a large pot and add the remaining onion and saute for a few minutes before adding the tomato and chilli paste. Fry for a few minutes and add the vegetables and 60ml water. Reduce heat to simmer and cover. Add the peanuts and stir, season and reduce the heat as much as possible. Continue cooking and stirring until the sauce is smooth and serve with Iyan or FuFu.
Although you can learn a lot about the cuisine of such a large region as West Africa, I hope this article has whetted your appetite and prepared you to learn more about West African cuisine.
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