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    You are in: Home / Community Forums / African Cooking / So Interesting, Wanted To Share....
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    So Interesting, Wanted To Share....

    Thu Nov 01, 2012 6:24 pm
    Forum Host
    “Africa is not a country” goes the saying and this can be seen in the wide variety of foods that Africans prepare and eat. As well as being the second largest landmass on the planet – with climatic conditions ranging from deserts to tropical jungles to savannahs – Africa is also home to hundreds of ethnic groups and tribes. This rich diversity has resulted in regional food cultures that change markedly as you move through the continent, sometimes staying true to the foods eaten there for centuries, and sometimes heavily influenced by the ingredients and cuisines brought by traders and colonists.

    The areas of Africa that were not on maritime trade routes or close to other countries have tended to remain the most faithful to their traditional foods and recipes. Central Africa is one area that remained relatively inaccessible to outsiders, retaining a strong local food culture. Raising livestock is difficult in the equatorial jungles of the region and vegetables such as plantain and cassava make up a large part of the diet, together with spinach or greens, tomatoes, onions, peppers and peanut butter. Chicken is commonly served in stews and wild meat might be served on special occasions, including antelope, crocodile and warthog. Fufu, a starchy porridge-like paste made from yam or cassava roots, is served at most meals.

    Starchy food is definitely a recurring African theme and each region has its own favourite. The most common include jollof rice (sometimes made with local rice), fufu, couscous, garri (made from dried grated cassava), banku and kenkey (both made with maize meal). These are often served with richly flavoured stews of goat, mutton or beef flavoured with spices like sumbala or local melagueta pepper, and accompanied by native greens. Popular dishes, such as egusi soup, unusually combine meat and seafood in one dish.

    But where Africa came into contact with other cultures, it was quick to adapt and adopt their cuisines. North African cuisine, owing to its proximity to Europe, has been hugely influenced by traders, invaders and immigrants. The Carthaginians introduced wheat and its by-product, semolina, which the Berbers adapted into couscous. Spices introduced by the Arabs, like saffron, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and cloves are common in Moroccan tagines (slow-cooked meat stews, often with added dried or preserved fruits). Arab traders also left their mark in east African where steamed rice is flavoured with spices such as cinnamon and cloves. Further inland, cattle are a symbol of wealth so the milk and blood, rather than the meat, are consumed and the local starchy dish is ugali, made from maize meal. In the Horn of Africa, stews are ladled onto injera (a slightly spongy flatbread made from teff flour and a sourdough starter) and pieces of injera are torn off to use instead of utensils.

    In southern Africa, the hunter-gatherer San people’s tradition of cooking wild hunted meat over an open fire gave rise to braaivleis (barbecuing meat over an open fire), and potjiekos (stews cooked in 3-legged cast iron pots over open fires). Local tribes including the Zulu and Xhosa raised crops, including maize which is the main ingredient in the regional staple phutu (a stiff maize meal porridge, called sadza in Zimbabwe).

    Cape Malay cuisine (created by Indonesian slaves imported by Dutch colonists) is popular around Cape Town characterised by sweetly spiced dishes such as bobotie (a baked curried mince dish with sultanas). Descendants of Indian slaves brought by the British to work on sugar plantations have created a vibrant curry cuisine, including the popular local speciality bunny chow (curry served in a hollowed out bread); while in Mozambique, Portuguese colonists established a culture of seafood and piri piri spice.

    But what remains constant through the continent is the pride and willingness with which people invite strangers into their homes and offer them the best portion of whatever is being cooked.

    African food: key facts
    • West Africa produces 70% of the world’s cocoa – as well as being home to the miracle fruit (richadella dulcifica) that makes sour things taste sweet if consumed before the sour dish.
    • Both mopane worms and locusts are traditionally eaten in various parts of Africa.
    • Because the traditional African diet is so high in unrefined sugars, the continent traditionally has very low rates of diabetes (but this is changing as a Western diet becomes more popular).
    • In Nigeria, meat and eggs are not usually given to children, because parents believe it will make the children steal.
    • South Africa is the only country in Africa producing significant quantities of quality wine, and wine has been made there since 1659.

    Jeanne Horak-Druiff is a South-African writer who lives in London. She is author of the award-winning Cook Sister! blog.

    Please feel free to comment! icon_smile.gif
    Mon Nov 05, 2012 1:12 pm
    Forum Host
    Molly, I apologise for being so absent!!!

    The brief overview you posted above is so correct. We are so used to reading absolute rubbish about Africa.

    It's very kind of you to take such an interest in this forum. There was a time when it was fairly lively ... before April 2010, if my memory serves me right.

    I can not give opinions regarding Africa to the north of us. I can only say, a visit to the south of the Continent will bind you to Africa forever!

    South Africa is Westernised, with a very good infrastructure, excellent roads, and top hotels. Our fine dining restaurants are on a par with anything to be found in the civilised world. Our wines are absolutely top class, and regularly win gold and silver medals at wine shows overseas. Our game reserves are nothing short of fascinating and a balm for the soul.

    Namibia is a wonderful country. Mostly quite desert-like, but rich in game and amazing beauty. It sort of grabs you and you remember those red dunes and the fog-shrouded coast for ever, and Swakopmund with its German architecture and food, and you'd want to go back again ...

    Mozambique is colourful and vibrant, and you go there also to eat loads of the greatest prawns/shrimps in the world!! Freshly caught in the pristine Mozambique Channel -- and enjoyed with Portuguese wines, since this was a Protectorate of Portugal until the 80's.

    (Oops, there I went again ...) icon_lol.gif
    Tue Nov 27, 2012 4:30 pm
    Newbie "Fry Cook" Poster
    Africa indeed is a beautiful place. Its is kind of sad that most people think about it as a total ZOO!!!!!!!!!!. Let me tell you I LOVE African foods. I am from West Africa (Togo), I miss real fufu, banky, and atieke terribly. [/i]
    Tue Nov 27, 2012 6:17 pm
    Forum Host
    We've been seeing a lot of African ingredients in the international aisle of our local supermarket (I'm in the US), Delali. icon_smile.gif

    We have loads of folks from Africa! Click on AFRICAN TIES? to see them. I've taken the liberty of adding your name. We'd sure love to see more!

    We have several recipes for FUFU (link) in the db. I wonder if one of them might not work for you? If you give any of them a try, recipe reviews are very much appreciated.

    Attiéké Recipe from Côte d'Ivoire
    1 bag of attiéke (about 200 to 250g)
    1 tbsp vinegar
    2 Maggi (or stock cubes)
    2 tbsp olive oil
    Place the attiéké in a metal bowl then place in a steamer basket and steam until all the water has been absorbed.

    Now remove from the steamer and work the attiéké with a fork to break up any clumps. Return to the steamer and cook for about 10 minutes more. Turn the attiéké into a bowl and work with a fork to break up all the clumps (if the clumps do not break up, then it has not cooked enough. Steam for a further 10 minutes. Continue with this process until the attiéké is fluffy and cooked but not sloppy (it should look like couscous or grits).

    Once it is done, turn into a large bowl and work in the vinegar, crumbled Maggi cubes and olive oil. To serve, turn the attiéké onto a dish and garnish with a little diced tomato and thin slivers of sliced onion.
    Wed Nov 28, 2012 10:42 am
    Forum Host
    It is very interesting to us in South Africa, how new African influences have crept in since 1994.

    Although top restaurants are still "Europeanised", small Somalian, Ethiopian, West African, Mozambican, etc. eateries have quietly appeared on city streets.

    Before 1994 we were rather isolated and saw ourselves more as part of Europe than part of Africa. This has changed with the influx of immigrants from other African countries.

    It is, unfortunately, not only a good thing. The present government allowed unrestricted inflow of Africans to the north of us, and this has brought its own problems. Our local black peoples often see these "in-comers" as aliens, stealing their jobs.

    In a sense it is true. The guy from Malawi or Mozambique or Zambia may be here illegally, but he is here to work hard, make money, and provide for his family in his own country, which on average is very poor.

    If anyone wants to read a fascinating and objective travel book on Africa, it is worth reading Paul Theroux's "Black Star Safari". (It's still widely available).

    He travels from Egypt down to South Africa -- but no planes or fancy tourist buses for him. He travels with the people, and stays fully in connection with them in all the countries he travels through. A highly intelligent and insightful read. (I did not like his last bit, on South Africa. His hostess here was a woman we did not like, and he does not get to meet the ordinary citizens).
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