Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘West Africa’ Category

Wishing you and yours a very happy new year!

The past year has flown by.  It’s been a busy year – finishing up my Master’s thesis, travelling in Tanzania, starting medical school – and I have been very fortunate.  While I’ve had fewer new cooking adventures (to be remedied in 2013), I have certainly enjoyed many old favourites with friends and family!

Gourm(eh?) continues to exceed expectations. It’s hard to believe that a small project for me and Sitelle to share recipes has turned into a blog that has received over 30,000 hits!  We look forward to sharing many more in 2013 – including a few more Canadian specialties.

To start off 2013, I wanted to share the five most popular recipes from 2012.  Bon appetit!

– Catherine

5. Lotus Land Linguini

Creamy lotus land linguine

This pasta from rebar was initially cooked to fulfill a peanut craving.  The lotus land linguini turned out to be a fun and tasty dish enjoyed by all – the leftovers were perfect as a picnic lunch the next day on a wintertime outing to Peggy’s Cove!

4. Whitewater Cinnamon Buns

Waiting for the cinnamon buns to finish rising

Waiting for the cinnamon buns to finish rising

These cinnamon buns from Whitewater Cooks were nice and cinnamony, and perfect for a late morning brunch!

3. Spicy Steamed Fish, Gambian Style

Gambian platter

Sitelle shared many of the recipes she picked up while living in Gambia – and this one looks divine!

2. Christmas Cookies

Swedish Pastries (Thumbprint Walnut Christmas Cookie)

SAM_7309

Slice-and-Bake Icebox Cookies

Icebox Cookies

Christmas baking is a favourite family tradition, and these two cookies are my great-grandmother’s secret recipes.  They continue to be loved year after year!

1. Benachin

Bowl of benachin

Another of Sitelle’s Gambian dishes was our most viewed of 2012, and this is certainly a dish meant to be shared with company!

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Several posts ago I wrote about peanut butter-based snacks. I love peanuts and peanut butter so much. Although there is a risk of peanuts carrying aflotoxin (you know, on those really gross-tasting peanuts), the Canadian food supply keeps them at acceptable levels. Peanuts were my dietary staple in The Gambia. I’d grab a bag of roasted peanuts on the road; I’d pick them in the fields with the women and we’d carry them home in big buckets on our heads; we’d hull them on raised concrete platforms with a nut in each hand which we’d whack on the concrete and remove from the shell, with a big pile between our knees that never seemed to end. Peanuts are the way of life there. I ate them every day.

To make peanut butter, simply roast your peanuts, squeeze them in your hands to remove skins when they have cooled, and then place them in a blender or food processor or food grinder and let it spin! The longer you go, the smoother it gets. Add a teaspoon or two full of vegetable oil if it is not liquid enough – that will depend on the variety of groundnut you have! Adding a pinch of salt will bring out the flavours more if you’re interested.

Upon my return, I’ve craved peanuts big time. Thanks to my lovely host families, I had a plentiful supply, despite my distance. I quite enjoyed roasting them and turning them into peanut butter, before they were transformed into the delicious snacks and meals which I’ve already started posting including the Domoda and the Chocolate Kickers, and this childhood favourite snack of mine, these peanut butter logs.

Ingredients – three 4-inch logs (approximately)

1 cup peanut butter (I prefer the ‘just peanuts kind’, which you can buy or make yourself with a food processor or blender – simply follow the instructions under the picture)

4 Tbsp honey

5 Tbsp milk powder (or 7 Tbsp if instant), or more as needed

2-3 Tbsp desiccated coconut

Directions

Mix all ingredients together using a strong fork or whatever works for you. Place a third of the desiccated coconut on a sheet of parchment paper, and spread evenly. Form a third of the mixture into a log, and roll in the coconut. Place in parchment paper or wax paper and freeze.

Slice once frozen, and serve immediately for an energy-packed snack!

You can also add dried cranberries or mini chocolate chips for extra punch.

Hope you enjoy these!

-Sitelle

Read Full Post »

Last Saturday I took advantage of passing through Kensington Market in Toronto and picked up some fresh whole jackfish. “Do you want me to clean those fish?” the fishmonger asked me. Stunned, I took a second to reply. “Why, of course, that would be really nice” I ended up saying, while I smiled inwardly realizing how I have no problem doing so myself, but enjoyed having someone offer to help. I had sent scales flying on more than one occasion in Gambia, and I’m not squeamish. I’m not going to turn down the help though!

It’s kind of funny and ironic: some of my most common culture-shock has surrounded food (perhaps I should call it food-shock). Although I definitely felt it when I arrived in Gambia (I would have given almost anything for vegetables, fruit and sweets at first, and then it was low-oil cooking,  and finally it became meat and dairy), the real surprise has been feeling reverse food-shock as I readjust to Canadian life. I wake up craving fish, I don’t feel full unless I eat rice, and I eat as if 10 people were competing with me for my food at each meal- meaning I eat a mile a minute. Mind you I am definitely enjoying my veggies again.

This recipe is one I was delighted to discover: its spiciness I couldn’t resist on a hot, hot day, and I was forever grateful for its lack of oil.

For me on a hot steamy day there’s nothing better than a spicy but light at the same time meal.

Ingredients – 4 servings

4 jackfish or other small-ish fish, gutted, cleaned, spines removed, with slashes in their sides (jackfish have spines on the sides also)

1 red onion, finely sliced

1/2 sweet red pepper, minced into tiny pieces

1 tomato, seeds removed, pounded or crushed

2 cloves garlic, germs removed

1 jalapeno, seeds removed (medium hot), or half a scotch-bonnet, seeds removed (extremely hot)

1 cube vegetable bouillon

1 tsp whole peppercorns

salt to taste

1 1/2 cups water approximately

juice from 1/2 lemon

Fresh baguette

Directions

Clean and wash the fish. Slice the onions. Place water in a pan, add the onions, and increase heat to medium-high until it boils. Meanwhile, clean the garlic, and pound the garlic, peppercorns, hot pepper, and bouillon until they are a smooth paste.

When the water boils, dissolve the seasoning mixture into the water, and add salt to taste. Add the red pepper and tomato and stir, letting the mixture simmer, for 2-3 minutes.

Add the fish and lemon juice and poach the fish in the soup, for approximately 4-5 minutes per side.

Serve with fresh baguette in a deep plate. You can sprinkle finely chopped parsley on it if you’re feeling creative!

-Sitelle

Read Full Post »

Having another home in West Africa means I have added a whole new repertoire of recipes, West-African style, to my cooking – and I’m really excited to share them on gourm(eh).

Cooking in Gambia is a totally different story than here. Imagine cooking mostly one-pot meals over an open fire, or if you are fortunate enough, an improved cookstove. It a communal experience, and the saying ‘many hands make for lighter work’ is fitting as the work is hard, and most often done in groups.

I found it interesting that my taste buds actually adjusted while living there: a dish I did not like at first became one of my favourites by the end – and this was actually the case with a number of dishes. Domoda, however, was always at the top of my list from the beginning!

Domoda is a rich groundnut (peanut)-based stew, a favourite of mine from Gambia and Senegal.

Ingredients – Dinner for 6
2 purple (spanish) onions, diced
1.5 lb cubed stewing beef or 6 chicken pieces
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp (heaping) tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, germ removed
2 bouillon cubes (I like to use chicken)
1 tsp peppercorns
2 cups just peanut smooth peanutbutter
Juice from one lemon
1 scotch bonnet pepper (very spicy) or 1 jalapeno pepper
3 carrots, peeled and then cut into thirds or quarters
1 eggplant, washed and quartered
1 cup squash cubes (any kind – butternut or acorn for example, peeled)
salt to taste
water
1.5 cups uncooked rice, medium grain

Directions
In a heavy-bottomed pan with a lid, heat oil over medium-medium high heat. Brown the beef, reduce the heat, and add the onions until they are translucent. Then add the tomato paste and stir. Cook for another 3 minutes stirring occasionally. If you have a mortar and pestle, pound the peppercorns and then add the garlic and the bouillon cubes until you get a smooth paste. If you don have a mortar and pestle, just chop everything finely and mix by hand.

Add the seasoning mix to the meat, stir, and then add the vegetables and the whole (washed) hot pepper. Cover with water, stirring well to incorporate all the tomato onion mixture. Increase the heat and bring to a simmer. Once it simmers reduce heat to medium low and let simmer for 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove a cup of hot liquid and pour into a large bowl with the peanutbutter. Stir well with a fork until the peanutbutter is all incorporated. Stir this into the pan with everything else, and stir well so everything is evenly mixed. Add the lemon juice. Let the mixture simmer uncovered until you have a stew-like consistency. If you find the vegetables still need more time but there is little sauce left, just cover the pot.

When it is almost ready, cook rice according to package instructions.

To serve, ladle stew over rice. You can squeeze the hot pepper on your spoon a tiny bit to get spicy juices out thereby tailoring how spicy your own plate is – and then share the hot pepper with the others. Just remember scotch bonnets are VERY spicy!

Alright, bonne appétit.
-Sitelle (Alias Ya Ndey)

Pumpkin

Read Full Post »

As this post suggests, I am back! I must admit the fast pace of life throws me off a but here, as do all the choices availe in the super-market, and the orderly queues. Oh yeah, and Toronto feels so cold… apparently it is possible to acclimatize to new environments quite easily.

First of all I want to thank Catherine for all her wonderful contributions to Gourm(eh) while I was out of regular internet range. Catherine is alive and well in Kenya now (we traded continents, and spoke today!), and I am back in Canada. Now, it is my turn to share my west African adventures with you.

Actually, for the next little while I have many, many recipes I want to share: both Central America-inspired and Senegambia-inspired, and I hope you will enjoy them as much as I do. I find it exciting to try new styles of cooking, and each of these recipes has so many stories and memories attached I cannot help but be excited to post them!

Akara, or bean fritters, are very common throughout West Africa. I typically purchased them from women frying them on charcoal stoves along the streets who packaged them up in ripped brown paper from flour bags and doused them in spicy sauce. Resisting the urge to eat them right away, I would carry them home and eat them from the comfort of my mat while sharing them with my friends.

Ingredients

Akara

1.5 cups black-eyed peas, soaked in water overnight
1 large red onion
1 jalapeno or scotch bonnet hot pepper
6 black peppercorns
Salt to taste
Oil for frying
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Dipping sauce

50g tomato paste
1 red onion finely sliced
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
juice of 1-2 lemons
1 tsp black pepper corns
2 Tbsp peanut oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup water

Directions

Soak beans overnight in plenty of water. The following day, squeeze or rub the skins off the beans (if a few remain, don’t worry), remove them by dumping the water out of the beans. Keep the beans in a large bowl and pass the water through a strainer to catch the skins. Add more water and continue to remove the skins and wash the beans.

Clean the onions and half the hot peppers in a food processor or blender with the beans and pulse. Pound the pepper corns and add to the mixture, and add the parsley if you want to add a bit of a unique taste. Pulse well, until a you have a thick bean paste. Add salt to taste and the remaining hot pepper if you want the fritters to be spicy (warning: scotch bonnet peppers are very, very spicy).

Heat up about a centimeter of oil in a pan with a lid over high heat. Once heat-waves show up on the oil reduce heat to medium high. Carefully add spoonfulls of the bean mixture into the hot oil. Test it with one first, and make sure to add more only when the oil is bubbling around the bean paste. Cook for a couple minutes on each side, then remove from the hot oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Make Akara dipping sauce (spicy):

Dice the onions and garlic. Heat up the oil in a frying pan and add the onions and pounded black pepper. When the onions begin to become transparent, add the garlic and cook for another minute. Then stir in the tomato paste and cook for a couple more minutes before adding the chopped hot peppers and 1 cup water. Increase heat to medium-high until mixture boils, after which reduce the heat and simmer until at least half of the water has evaporated, and the sauce thickens. Add lemon juice and season with salt.

Pour sauce over fritters, and serve as an appetiser or main course with a salad.

Hope you enjoy them!

-Sitelle (Alias: Ya Ndey)

Read Full Post »