Posts Tagged ‘Onions’

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


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!


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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.



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


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)

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Grilled Veggies

Summer is upon us, and I love nothing more in life than a good barbecue.  Most people are fans of grilled meat, but I am a diehard grilled veggie fan.  When grilled, the flavour in peppers, mushrooms, and zucchini just seems to pop, transforming a humble vegetable chunk into a mouth-watering treat.

Below is one of my favourite mixes of veggies, but you can throw in just about any vegetable you are craving.  Eggplant is an especially tasty addition.  For the perfect summer meal (one that avoids the stove), simply grill a protein along with the veggies and serve with fresh baguette!

Grilled Veggies

(4 servings)



1 red pepper, cut into 12 chunks

1 orange pepper, cut into 12 chunks

1 zucchini, cut into thick slices

12 mushrooms, halved

Large handful of cherry tomatoes

1 bunch of asparagus, cut into 2 inch segments on the diagonal

1 purple onion,  cut into 8 chunks

Olive oil

Salt and Pepper

Crushed thyme, preferably fresh


Mix the veggies in a large bowl.  Toss with the olive oil, salt and pepper, and thyme.  Place in a barbecue tray, and grill over medium-high heat until lightly charred, about 12-15 minutes.  Delicious served warm!

–       Catherine


1 June 2011

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Ready to be grilled

When I was little, a special treat at the lake was shishkabobs.  My grandmother would marinate the meat after lunch, assembling them right after supper.  When I was really little, I always thought the threaded meat and veggies looked like a necklace with its beautiful gems of cherry tomatoes, red pepper, and mushrooms.  Just before the evening swim, my grandfather would prepare the barbecue.  Not the fancy gas monsters you see in the city, but rather a proper charcoal briquette flame.  Following his pre-dinner swim, he would let the delicious smoke infuse the shishkabobs until beautiful charred.  The meat was always flavourful and tender, and the veggies fun to devour.

My grandparents are opening the cottage for the season, and I am lake-bound to help them open it.  The thought of lazy summer days at the lake inspired me to make shishkabobs when some friends came for supper.  I made up the marinade on the spot, and while it is not quite the same as my grandmother’s, it’s pretty darn good.  Bon appétit!


(12 Shishkabobs)



3 tablespoons of canola oil

3 tablespoons of soya sauce

1 tablespoon of Worcester Sauce

1 tablespoon of honey

Salt and Pepper

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

½ teaspoon minced ginger

36 cubes of 1 to 1.5 inch cubes (about 3 cm) of beef


3 onions, cut into 8 wedges (like an orange)

12-14 mushrooms, sliced in half

2 red peppers, each cut into 12 chunks

24-28 cherry tomatoes


Combine all the marinade ingredients in a bowl and allow the meat to marinate for at least an hour.

Alternating between vegetables and meat, thread about 3 pieces of meat, 2 onion wedges, 2 mushroom halves, 2 red pepper chunks, and 2-3 tomatoes onto a skewer.

Barbecue until lightly charred: the vegetables should be soft and the beef cooked to your liking, about 10 minutes.  For a quick summer meal, serve with fresh crusty baguette and a toss salad.

–       Catherine

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