In all the months we have been writing the food section for the magazine, we have not covered any recipes from our own continent. Given that May 25th was Africa Day, we thought it time to put that right.
I have chosen two recipes from a new book I recently acquired called “Africana” by Lerato Uma-Shaylor. For anyone interested in exploring the incredible richness and variety of the African continent, this book is a winner. Beautifully written, presented and with an incredibly diverse range of recipes, it’s a real eye opener. It has also presented me with the major challenge of sourcing all the different ingredients, and with finding people to test the recipes on, as not everyone in my family can eat the hot chilli that features regularly in the dishes. So it’s an ongoing project.
The two recipes I selected are from very different cuisines. The first, Maafe or Spicy Groundnut Stew, is a staple of West African cuisine, very popular in Senegal, Gambia, Mali and Benin, for example. I first had Maafe many years ago when a colleague living in Senegal, and married to a local, made it for our student group in the UK. I loved it then, memorised the ingredients, and I used to make it myself from time to time. However, Lerato’s version (which she describes as ‘decadent’) is definitely a step up from what I remember. I made this for my family recently and it was an instant hit, followed up by pleas of “You have to make this again!” The method of coating the chicken in a peanut marinade then grilling it first before integrating it into the sauce gives the dish a wonderfully layered flavour and more interesting texture.
1.Lerato uses selim peppers, which I have never seen here. She recommends using smoked paprika to replicate the smoky taste.
2.If you can’t find scotch bonnet peppers, or find them too hot, you can substitute any other kind of chilli. My preference is for the small red birds-eye chillis, but you could also use chilli flakes if preferred.
3.She uses 220g of unsalted roasted peanuts which she says can be substituted by 150g peanut butter. I find this easier (I can’t always find unsalted roasted peanuts), and I use a no- added salt or sugar version, such as Oh-Mega, Woolies’ or Checkers’ Simple Truth. Then scatter a few peanuts on top as a garnish.
To make a vegetarian/vegan version of the dish, use firm tofu and/or firm vegetables such as roots – potato, sweet potato, plantain, carrot, turnip, which can first be spread with the peanut paste then grilled before integrating into the sauce; or softer veggies such as brinjals, baby marrows, mushrooms, butternut etc.
- 150g smooth or crunchy peanut butter
- 2 brown onions, peeled, 1 chopped and 1 sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1-2 scotch bonnet peppers or other chilli, stemmed and roughly chopped, or pierced and left whole
- 300-500ml chicken or vegetable stock
- 1kg bone-in chicken thighs and legs
- 2½ tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp chilli flakes
- 2-3 tbsp rapeseed, groundnut or vegetable oil
- 6 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked, or 1 tsp dried
- 5cm piece of ginger, peeled and grated
- 1 red Romano or bell pepper, stemmed, deseeded and sliced
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tbsp tomato purée
- 1 × 400g can plum tomatoes
40g fresh coriander, chopped,
1 red chilli, stemmed and finely sliced (optional)
1. Preheat the grill to high. Place the peanut butter in a food processor with the chopped onion, 2 garlic cloves, the smoked paprika and as many chillis as your heart desires, if not leaving whole. Blend to a coarse purée, adding a small splash of water to loosen. Scrape into a bowl, then pour 300ml of the stock into the processor and blend to extract any remaining purée. Set both aside for later.
2. Cut two or three diagonal slashes into the skin on each piece of chicken and spread 3 tablespoons of the peanut purée on top and all over. Sprinkle over ½ teaspoon of the paprika and ½ teaspoon of the chilli flakes. Season with freshly ground black pepper and fine sea salt. Drizzle over 1 tablespoon of the oil and brush to coat all sides. Arrange the chicken skin-side upon a grilling tray and place under the grill to char for 5–7 minutes on each side. Set aside.
3. Place a large, heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and, when hot, add the sliced onion and a pinch of fine sea salt. Cover with a lid and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Remove the lid and continue to cook for 15 minutes, until the onions become dark golden. Add a tablespoon of water to prevent burning, if necessary.
4. Crush the remaining garlic cloves and add to the pan. Stir in the thyme and ginger, add the red pepper and tomato purée and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining paprika and chilli flakes and pour in the tomatoes, breaking them up with a wooden spoon. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.
5. Finally, add the remaining peanut purée, cover with a lid slightly ajar and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour in the stock from the food processor, stir and bring to a strong simmer. Tuck the grilled chicken into the sauce, as well as the chillis, if using whole.
Season with salt and black pepper. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking, until the chicken is cooked through, and the sauce is decadent, thick and creamy. You can add a little more stock if the sauce is too thick.
6. Taste and season to perfection. Chop the remaining peanuts and scatter over the stew with the coriander and sliced chilli for a little more kick of heat. Serve with rice or a side of vegetables and greens.
The second recipe is something I tried for lunch one day when I found I had all the ingredients. It has the intriguing name of Ugandan Rolex, which Lerato explains has nothing to do with expensive watches, but “is a malapropism of ‘rolled eggs’, a melodic corruption most likely to have occurred as the street sellers would call out to the passing crowds”. It’s such a simple yet delicious thing and can be a quick snack or turned into something more elaborate. It does require a bit of preparation, so make sure you have all the ingredients to hand, and do the chopping in advance.
NB: Lerato recommends using her Smoky Date and Tomato Jam as a garnish/topping, the recipe for which you can find on Lerato’s Facebook page.
(Serves 4 as a snack or 2 for a light meal)
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 1 green finger chilli, stemmed and finely chopped (or 2 milder jalapeños)
- 5 multi-coloured cherry tomatoes (about 80g), cut into wedges, or 1 medium tomato, deseeded and roughly chopped
- 30g baby spinach leaves, chopped
- 2 spring onions, trimmed and chopped
- 4 large free-range eggs
- ¼ tsp ground turmeric
- 2 chapatis, rotis, wraps or flatbreads
- Smoky Date & Tomato Jam to taste (see link above, or substitute tomato jam, mango chutney or whatever floats your boat)
- 4 rashers dry-cured streaky smoked bacon, fried until crisp, then torn (optional)
- 40g fresh coriander or baby spinach leaves
- ¼ small red cabbage, shredded
- 1–2 carrots, scrubbed and julienned
1. Place a 24cm non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and cook for 2–3 minutes, tossing now and again. Stir in the spinach and leave to wilt for 1 minute, then take the pan off the heat. Tip everything into a bowl, add the spring onions, season with just a little pinch of fine sea salt and toss well.
2. Crack two of the eggs into a mug or bowl and whisk lightly.
Add half the turmeric, a pinch of fine sea salt and half the spinach, chilli and tomato mix.
Stir to combine.
3. Wipe the pan clean and place over a medium-high heat. Drizzle in 2 teaspoons of oil and brush or swirl to coat the base and up the sides a bit. Give the eggs one more mix, then pour into the pan, quickly and briefly swirling around as it sizzles, to make sure the entire surface is covered. Leave undisturbed for 10 seconds, then swirl the pan once more so any excess runny liquid fills the gaps. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 30 seconds, until it is mostly cooked with a little raw egg on top. Loosen the sides and bottom with a spatula, then place a chapati on top of the egg and press down for 10 seconds to ‘glue’ them together. Continue to cook for about 1 minute, or until the eggs are beautifully golden, then flip and cook the chapati for 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper. Repeat to make the second roll.
4. To assemble each roll, spread ½ tablespoon or more of Smoky Tomato & Date Jam on the egg side of the roll, top with half the bacon, if using, then half the coriander leaves or baby spinach, shredded cabbage and carrots. Roll up tightly and wrap in baking parchment pretending to be a Ugandan newspaper. Twist the ends and leave the wrap to rest and seal for a few minutes before cutting in half and devouring.
Umah-Shaylor, Lerato. Africana: Treasured recipes and stories from across the continent. HarperCollins Publishers. Kindle Edition.