SIERRA LEONE

Sierra Leonean Proverb: NA LכV MEK TεN PIPUL IT FAZIN AKARA – It’s love that makes ten people eat and share

In 2014 the West Africa Ebola epidemic greatly damaged Sierra Leone’s already limited health infrastructure and economic resources. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) before the outbreak in 2014 there were 136 doctors and just over 1000 nurses to a population of 6.1 million. Many of the people who died during the Ebola crisis did not die from the disease but from lack of medical attention from a severely understaffed and overstretched health service. Quarantines, border shut downs and travel and trade restrictions have also affected an economy already troubled by years of civil war.

Happily, as of November 2015 Sierra Leone has been declared Ebola free by WHO after going over 40 days with no new cases of the virus and the last sick person testing negative from the disease. To celebrate the end of the epidemic, Sierra Leonean rapper Block Jones created ‘Bye Bye Ebola’ which you should definitely watch below!

In 2014 Action Against Hunger helped 30,552 people to implement protective measures to stop the spread of Ebola and gain access to clean drinking water.

Donate here to support their work: https://www.justgiving.com/Sophia-Vassie

 

Binch Akara Burgers with Scotch Bonnet Mayonnaise

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Akara, a black eyed pea fritter, is dish originally from the Yoruba people of Nigeria traditionally served at 70th birthday parties . Today there are significant numbers of Yoruba people across Western Africa with a large population in Sierra Leone who brought akara with them.

Binch akara, as it’s known in Sierra Leone, is enjoyed as a snack throughout the day bought fresh and hot dipped in scotch bonnet relish, straight from street vendors all around West Africa. Just like jollof rice and other favourites, this bean fritter transcends country lines in popularity and akara has made it’s mark in West Africa as a staple street food snack.

I’ve decided to adapt this classic snack and make it into a bit more meal  – to do this I’ve turned the akara into a burger. Burgers are not something which would usually be my first choice – especially veggie ones because I find that they’re often quite dry. But as this is a fritter I thought it would be perfect made slightly bigger as a vegetarian burger because it would be much lighter than what you would normally get for a veggie option. I don’t think that just because you are choosing not to eat meat that the texture of meat has to be emulated in the substitute. So it’s basically just the same as a snack akara but larger in a bun and in my opinion a much lighter option for a veggie burger! I chose to make a scotch bonnet mayo instead of using relish for the same reason just to make it a bit lighter. This is a really good, cheap and not too heavy West African inspired alternative to a burger! I would serve with sweet potato fries for a complete meal.

Ingredients

For my previous posts I haven’t been listing measurements – this is because I don’t really cook that way. I prefer to cook instinctively and taste along the way. I’ve had some advice recently saying that it’s good to put measurements in even if you don’t actually use them, so from now on I will (where I can) put numbers in front of words!

  • 2 tins of black eyed peas
  • 1 onion
  • 5 scotch bonnets + other chillies if you have some lying around
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • Coconut oil
  • Flour
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • Fresh spinach
  • Burger buns

Method

First of all start by making a scotch bonnet sauce. You can buy chilli sauce in the shop but it’s SO easy to make your own and way way cheaper. It’s also a really good way to use up a bag of chillies that you’ve got in the fridge. I actually made mine a while ago, it keeps in the fridge for ages because of the vinegar and the coconut oil seal.

Put whole scotch bonnets and other chillies in boiling water and cook on a high heat for about ten minutes. When soft, drain and put chillies in a mini chopper with 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar and 3 tablespoons of sugar then blitz into a paste. Transfer into a clean jar leaving a centimetre of space at the top and leave to cool slightly. Fill that centimetre with coconut oil and put in the fridge to set.

Next make the mayonnaise.

Separate 3 eggs keeping the egg yolks (save a small amount of egg white for your fritter). Add a tablespoon of white wine vinegar and begin whisking very strongly. Slowly dribble, or get someone else to dribble vegetable oil while you keep whisking hard. You will get a sore arm but after a little bit the mayonnaise will get lovely and thick. Once it’s at a mayonnaise like consistency season with salt & pepper – most classic recipes call for Dijon mustard at this point but I’ve left it out because instead we add some of the scotch bonnet sauce ‘made earlier’ and mix well!

Now you can move onto the akara which is really the easiest bit!

In a mini chopper or blender add a whole tin of drained black eyed peas and a splash of water. Blend until very smooth and transfer to a mixing bowl. Put the second drained tin in the blender without water and blend until just crushed – you want a thicker paste for a bit of texture. Transfer this to the mixing bowl. Finally put one whole onion into the mini chopper and blend until very smooth then also add to the mixture and season well. Add the white from one egg and enough flour to bind. Drop the mixture into hot oil in burger sized dollops. Your fritter burgers are ready when they’re crisp and golden brown.

To serve, warm some burger buns then spread your scotch bonnet mayo on the bun add the akara and some fresh spinach – make sure you have extra mayonnaise for dipping.

This recipe will make enough for 4 burgers.

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Enjoy!

Remember to donate to Action Against Hunger by following this link:  https://www.justgiving.com/Sophia-Vassie

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NIGERIA

Nigerian Proverb: Fine words do not produce food

With over 170 million people, Nigeria is the post populated country in Africa – that’s nearly 2.5% of the world’s population. It is estimated that there are up to 500 ethnic groups in Nigeria, with the three main groups being Igbo, Hausa and Yuroba.

From the late 1960’s to 2000 Nigeria saw a number of civil wars and military coups, greatly affecting security and economy in the country. Now the economy is one of the fastest emerging in the world and GDP is ranked 30th in the world. Since 2000, Nigerians have taken part in democratic elections with the March 2015 election largely hailed as the fairest yet.

For over a decade terrorist group Boko Haram have been operating in Nigeria killing over 12,000 people, and committing large scale atrocities; including the mass kidnapping of 276 school girls  in 2014. Despite Nigeria having the second largest economy in Africa, malnutrition and poverty are strife. Action Against Hunger estimates that 1 in 4 Nigerian children suffer from acute malnutrition.

In 2014 Action Against Hunger helped 2,807,302 people through their Child Development Grant Programme.

Donate here to support their work: https://www.justgiving.com/Sophia-Vassie

Jollof Rice

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Jollof rice is probably the epitome of West African cuisine. Both Nigeria and Ghana claim it as their own and variations are found throughout the region. The name Jollof originally comes from the Wollof people of Senegal, whose version of this dish is known as Ceebu Jen (see my blog post on Senegal!), the dish spread throughout with travelling tribes and quickly secured it’s place as a favourite across the region.

Jollof rice is the ultimate party food – big, hearty sharing food. Here’s my version:

Ingredients

  • 6 chicken drumsticks
  • 4 cups of Egyptian rice (or any short grain rice)
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato puree
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 carrot
  • 3 scotch bonnets
  • 2 Maggi stockcubes
  • 4 tablespoons of palm oil

Method

  1. Blitz a whole onion, a couple of small carrots, scotch bonnets (as many as you like) and garlic in a mini chopper.
  2. Add the chicken to hot palm to brown then remove and add the onion, chilli, carrot and garlic mixture. Turn the heat right down to sweat.
  3. Once softened add tomato puree and cook slightly then add rice and cook for five minutes to ten minutes or once the grains become white.
  4. Return the chicken to the pan.
  5. Add chopped tomatoes and mix thoroughly. Crumble in 4 small cubes of maggi – seriously don’t skimp it’s traditional!
  6. Once mixed through top with boiled water to just above the rice and chicken.
  7. Simmer until chicken has cooked through and the rice has a little bite.
  8. Serve with extra hot sauce!

Enjoy!

Remember to donate to Action Against Hunger by following this link:  https://www.justgiving.com/Sophia-Vassie

COTE D’IVOIRE

Ivorian Proverb: Deux saveurs confondent le palais – Two flavours confuse the palate

Following its independence from France in 1960, Cote D’Ivoire experienced some years of relative political stability and economic prosperity under Felix Houphouët-Boigny. During his rule, as well as being a forerunner in rubber, cashew nuts and palm oil production, the country became the world leader of cocoa export which it remains today. In 1999, some years after Houphouët-Boigny’s death, a military coup took place and in 2002, then again in 2010 the country was in civil war. Now at least 40% of the population of Cote D’Ivoire live below the poverty line.

Action Against Hunger’s main focus in Cote D’Ivoire is treating malnourished children. In 2014 the charity helped 1,937 people.

Donate here to support their work: https://www.justgiving.com/Sophia-Vassie

Cocoa

At least 60% of the export revenue in Cote D’Ivoir comes from the cocoa bean industry. Alongside other West African countries including Ghana it supplies almost two thirds of the world’s cocoa beans for chocolate production. In addition to Ivorian children sent by parents to contribute to the family income, it is estimated that nearly 2 million children from neighbouring countries have been trafficked, or kidnapped, into slavery to labour on cocoa farms. These children work more than 100 hours a week and receive no wage, no schooling, are regularly beaten and are extremely malnourished.

It is so so important to check your chocolate is Fairtrade to ensure that you are not contributing to the continuation of child slavery; please follow this link to find out which chocolate manufactures commit to Fairtrade: http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/en/buying-fairtrade/chocolate

You can also engage in activism by signing this petition calling for an end to child slavery:
Campaign to End Child Slavery in Cocoa Production

Dark Chocolate Tart with Pineapple and Ginger Frozen Yoghurt

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It’s UK Chocolate Week this week and as Cote D’Ivoire is the leading producer of cocoa, I’ve decided to do a chocolate recipe instead of a national dish. Actually it’s so far removed from being a national dish that I’ve even contradicted the proverb! Still the main ingredients are all products of Cote D’Ivoire.

Despite producing the most cocoa in the world Ivorians don’t eat chocolate! Instead the cocoa beans are farmed exclusively for export to be made into chocolate and consumed by people in the West. Cote D’Ivoire used to also be a leader in pineapple export but trade decreased following the 2002 Civil War. Pineapples are still enjoyed widely in Cote D’Ivoire and are eat fresh alongside mangoes and melon in fruit salad. Ginger was introduced to West Africa by the Portuguese in the mid 1500s and is used extensively in food and drinks.

I am personally not a huge fan of chocolate – I can cope with dark chocolate on special occasions but I didn’t really know much about the production or origins. Recently at work I took a group of people to attend a fantastic chocolate tasting workshop at the Chocolate Museum in Brixton. Until then, I hadn’t been aware that Cote D’Ivoire was the primary source of cocoa, or of the extent of child labour that goes in to making something that we all know and consume. Although I rarely buy chocolate I have been inspired by what I’ve learnt to rigorously check for Fairtrade approved products.

Ingredients

Dark Chocolate Tart

  • Shortcrust pastry
  • Double cream
  • 70% Fairtrade chocolate
  • Rice

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Pineapple and Ginger Frozen Yoghurt

  • Pineapple
  • Ginger
  • Lime juice
  • Sugar
  • Greek Yoghurt
  • Teeny bit of double cream

Method

Dark Chocolate Tart

  1. Roll out the shortcrust pastry and fit into greased tart cases.
  2. Place baking paper on top of the pastry and put uncooked rice on top to blind bake.
  3. Bake in a hot oven checking after 10-15 minutes till the edges are golden. Remove from oven and dispose of the rice and paper then put back in the oven to bake the middle. When golden throughout take out and set aside to cool.
  4. Fill a saucepan with boiling water and put a glass mixing bowl on top. Make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.
  5. Break chocolate into the bowl, when it begins to melt add double cream and stir until it’s all mixed through and shiny and smooth.
  6. Immediately spoon the chocolate into the cooled tart cases and leave the chocolate to set for at least three hours.
  7. To serve garnish with grated chocolate, lime zest or shredded ginger.

Pineapple and Ginger Frozen Yoghurt

  1. Prepare a fresh pineapple by cutting off the top and bottom, cutting in quarters then removing the core and skin.
  2. Chop the fruit into rough squares and add to a saucepan with plenty of sugar, lime juice and splash of water. Cook until the pineapple becomes syrupy and delicious. Take off the heat and blitz in a blender with a generous knob of fresh ginger.
  3. Transfer to a bowl and put in the fridge to chill.
  4. Once chilled, in a separate bowl fold together a pot of Greek yoghurt with a couple of tablespoons of double cream and then add the blended pineapple.
  5. When thoroughly mixed transfer to a container and put in the freezer. After every half an hour, for an hour, take it out and mix the frozen bits with the unset mixture, then leave to set for an hour – If you have an ice cream maker use it, it’s much easier!
  6. Once set cover and leave in the freezer – take it out at least 20 minutes before eating for a creamy scoop.

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Remember to donate to Action Against Hunger by following this link:  https://www.justgiving.com/Sophia-Vassie

Enjoy!

KENYA

Kenyan Proverb: Hakuna Matata – No Worries

Despite being one of the strongest economies in East Africa there is a huge divide between rich and poor and more than half of the 45 million Kenyans live under the poverty line and are chronically malnourished. Around 80% of Kenyans live in rural areas and their livelihoods depend on subsistence and pastoral farming. Although Kenya is diverse ecologically and has good ground for farming in some regions; unpredictable weather, droughts and flooding all contribute to poverty particularly for subsistence farmers in the northern territories bordering South Sudan. Grossly unequal distribution of wealth, corruption, a fast rising population and large numbers of refugees from Somalia and South Sudan all add to high poverty in the country. In 2014 Action Against Hunger helped 300,612 people through food security and nutritional support programmes.

Donate here to support their work: https://www.justgiving.com/Sophia-Vassie

Samaki wa Kupaka – Mchuzi wa Mbaazi – Kachumbari

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As with all nations, Kenya’s cuisine is very regional with a few dishes being attributed to the country as a whole. This includes kachumbari which actually has identical ingredients with Latin America’s pico de gallo. My chosen main is from the Indian Ocean coastal region where fish is number one! Similarly the coconut milk in the bean stew is an addition by the coastal region to a countrywide dish.

Ingredients 

Samaki wa Kupaka

Grilled Fish with Tamarind

  • Fish – I used seabass because that’s what I had in the freezer. Traditionally Tilapia is used and it’s cooked as a whole fish instead of fillets.
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Chilli
  • Coconut milk
  • Lime juice
  • Tamarind paste
  • Coriander
  • Coconut oil
  • Salt

Mchuzi wa Mbaazi

Kidney Beans in Coconut Milk

  • Kidney beans
  • Coconut milk
  • Shallot
  • Garlic
  • Chilli
  • Cumin seeds
  • Stock cube
  • Coconut oil

Kachumbari

Tomato and Onion Salad

  • Tomatoes
  • Spring onion – I HATE raw onion so I substituted red onion for spring onion
  • Coriander
  • Lime juice
  • Olive oil
  • Sugar
  • Salt & Pepper

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Method

Samaki wa Kupaka

Grilled Fish with Tamarind

  1. In a pestle and mortar make a paste of chilli, garlic and ginger – Putting a little salt in will make a smoother paste
  2. Slash the skin of the fish (on both sides if using a whole fish) and rub the the paste all over the fish and inside the the incisions. Cover the fish and place in the fridge to marinade for at least 1 hour.
  3. Just before cooking heat some coconut oil in a pan. Scrape excess paste from the fish and add to the oil, then once lightly fried pour over a small amount of coconut milk then stir in tamarind paste. the result should be a thick, slightly sticky consistency kind of like BBQ sauce.
  4. Add coconut oil to a hot grill pan, paste both sides of the fish with the tamarind sauce and immediately place skin side down in the very hot grill pan.
  5. Serve with rice, fresh coriander and a dollop of the tamarind sauce.

Mchuzi wa Mbaazi

Kidney Beans in Coconut Milk

  1. In a mini chopper whiz up a couple of shallots, garlic and chilli.
  2. Toast cumin seeds in coconut oil then add the shallot, garlic and chilli. Once cooked slightly add a tin of coconut milk and simmer at an low temperature.
  3. When the sauce is reduced slightly crumble in a stock cube, add a healthy amount of fresh coriander and a tin of kidney beans.
  4. Keep cooking on a low heat until you have a fragrant stew.

Kachumbari

Tomato and Onion Salad

  1. Roughly chop tomatoes, thinly slice spring onion and mix with coriander, a pinch of sugar, salt & pepper, olive oil and lime juice.

Remember to donate to Action Against Hunger by following this link:  https://www.justgiving.com/Sophia-Vassie

Enjoy!

DJIBOUTI

Djiboutian Proverb: Un invité qui brise les plats de son hôte est pas vite oublié – A guest who breaks the dishes of his host is not soon forgotton

Over half of the 859,652 population of Djibouti live in the capital city, after which the country is named. Despite the country being home to one of the busiest and most strategic ports in the world, Djiboutians are mostly unemployed and living in extreme poverty. The land, of which only 10% is arable, is extremely unresponsive to farming and is frequently affected by drought. Therefore the majority of the country’s food supplies are imported raising the cost of food to way over what it’s population can afford. In 2006, then again in 2011, in what the UN called the Horn of Africa Food Crisis upwards of 400,000 Djiboutians, 1/3 of the population, was affected by famine and food shortages still remain.

In the 1990’s Djibouti experienced civil unrest between the two main ethnic groups, the Afars and the Somali Issas, which after a decade ended in 2000 with a shared power agreement. Recently there have been frequent tensions between the settled urban population and the ‘newcomers’ – over 20,000 refugees from neighbouring Somalia and Eritrea – whose care, shared with the UN, takes next to all of the government’s welfare budget, something which many Djiboutians are resentful for as they themselves are living below the poverty line.
In 2014 Action Against Hunger helped 19,414 people to access clean water and develop economic self sufficiency.

Donate here to support their work: https://www.justgiving.com/Sophia-Vassie.

Beignets de Banane

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I only knew about Djibouti before this because at uni we used to play the ‘countries game’ which is basically a load of people sitting round naming countries that begin with every letter of the alphabet… It was, as it’s borders are now, declared a country by the French in 1894, so the modern history of the country is very short . Before that it’s population was pastoral, and many of the people are ethnically Somali. The cuisine is very similar to the rest of the Horn of Africa – heavily influenced by it’s proximity to Yemen across the Red Sea.

Like so many other countries around the world bananas are a vital food source in Djibouti, this dish is simple and cheap to make which is very important in a country where more than half the people are living below the poverty line. While this is neither the national dish, or particularly traditional, the banana is a national favourite so there we go!

One banana/plantain has the same amount of calories as a potato, which is one reason why it is such an important staple food in developing countries and features in many cuisines across the world. It also grows all year round making it particularly important to countries like Djibouti that suffer from frequent drought. Bananas are grown in more than 100 countries. Apparently because of their high potassium content bananas are naturally a little bit radioactive. I remember when I was younger there was a thing that came out about eating too many bananas making you sick. I actually ate a whole bunch in one go once I love them so much! I’ve learnt so much about bananas while researching Djibouti. There is literally a million facts about them – there are actually banana scholars and there’s even an International Banana Agenda. Go look it up it’s crazy.

Today is Eid al Adha which is an important religious festival in Islam. Djibouti is in the region of Africa which is thought to have been the first to accept Islam more than 1000 years ago. 94% of the population of Djibouti are Muslim and this is a very special day so Eid Mubarak to everyone! 

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Ingredients

  • Bananas
  • Flour
  • Oil
  • Sugar (optional)

Method

  1. Mush bananas and add flour – If you want add sugar but I don’t think it needs it.
  2. Heat oil in a pan, when hot add banana batter just like you would scotch pancakes.
  3. While these cook add sliced banana with skin on to a griddle pan – once cooked peel the skin off.
  4. Finish with raw banana.

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Remember to donate to Action Against Hunger by following this link:  https://www.justgiving.com/Sophia-Vassie