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

GEORGIA

Georgian Proverb: მდიდარი ჭამა , როდესაც მათ სურთ , ცუდი ჭამა , როცა მათ შეუძლიათ -The rich eat when they want, the poor eat when they can

Georgia is a transcontinental country which lies directly between the most Western point of Asia and Eastern point of Europe. It has been occupied throughout history by many empires including the Roman, Ottoman and Persian due to it’s geographical importance and natural resources. In 1991 Georgia gained independence from the Soviet Union and has since seen several episodes internal conflict and hostility with Russia, most recently in 2008, around the separation of the independent regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia which resulted in the displacement of 250,000 people to date. In 2014 Action Against Hunger helped 46,474 people to gain economic self sufficiency.

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

სუფრა

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The ancient trade route the Silk Road which connected Asia and Europe ran through Phazisi in Georgia and although the influence from that is evident in many dishes, Georgia’s cuisine is as independent and distinct as it’s language and culture. Georgian culture is so diverse and each region has it’s own signature dish and I have tried to cook the favourite dishes from  several different regions. One thing that is the same throughout Georgia is the tradition of Supra – an important Georgian feast complete with an elected toastmaster who is responsible for making sure good conversation is always flowing!

Ingredients 

Badrijani Nigvzit

Aubergine and Walnut Rolls

  • Aubergine
  • Walnuts
  • Garlic
  • Coriander
  • Parsley
  • Dill
  • Olive oil
  • Fenugreek
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Water

Khinkali

Georgian Dumplings

  • Flour
  • Water
  • Beef mince
  • Red onion
  • Chilli flakes
  • Fenugreek
  • Coriander
  • Salt & Pepper

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Tabaka

Garlic Chicken

  • Chicken wings
  • Garlic
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • Salt & Pepper

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Lobio

Kidney Bean Stew

  • Kidney beans
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Onion
  • Chilli
  • Fenugreek
  • Paprika
  • Olive oil
  • Coriander
  • Parsley
  • Vegetable stock
  • Salt & Pepper

Badrijnis Khizilala

Aubergine Caviar

  • Aubergine
  • Cherry Tomato
  • Coriander
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper

Pkhali

Spinach and Walnut Spread

  • Spinach
  • Walnuts
  • Coriander
  • Garlic
  • Olives
  • Fenugreek
  • Turmeric
  • Pomegranate
  • White wine vinegar
  • Red onion
  • Sugar
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper

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Acharuli Khachapuri

Georgian Cheese and Egg Bread

  • Flour
  • Water
  • Yeast
  • Sugar
  • Olive oil
  • Feta
  • Hard mozzarella
  • Dill
  • Eggs
  • Butter
  • Salt & Pepper

Method

Badrijani Nigvzit

Aubergine and Walnut Rolls

  1. Chop the ends off and slice aubergines length ways – Don’t worry if some slices break or come out uneven, use them in the aubergine caviar dish!
  2. Put a splash of olive oil in a griddle pan and grill the aubergine slices on each side. Once cooked season and set aside to cool.
  3. In a mini chopper whiz up the garlic, coriander, parsley, dill, fenugreek, olive oil and salt & pepper. Add a little water to make into a paste.
  4. When the aubergine slices have cooled, roll some paste into each slice and dress with coriander leaves and pomegranate seeds.

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Khinkali

Georgian Dumplings

  1. First make the dumpling dough by mixing flour, salt and warm water into an elastic dough. Knead for 5 minutes then wrap in clingfilm and put in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
  2. In a bowl add red onion, mince, chilli flakes, fenugreek, coriander and salt & pepper and mix with your hands to form a coarse paste.
  3. When ready dust the worktop with flour. Take handfuls of dough and form into balls, with a rolling pin roll the circles and place a ball of the mince mixture in the middle then close the dough completely over to form dumplings. Keep going this way till all the mince is finished.
  4.  To cook add the dumplings to a pan of boiling salted water until the dumplings float and the doughs become slightly translucent – I used the water from steaming the spinach for the pkhali dish plus some extra.
  5. Meanwhile in a mini chopper add salt, coriander and olive oil to make a dressing.
  6. When cooked drain the dumplings and dress with coriander oil and chilli flakes.

Tabaka

Garlic Chicken

In Georgia this dish is traditionally made by putting a brick on top of the chicken to ensure maximum crisp and even cooking!

  1. Add salt, cayenne pepper a little olive oil and the cloves of a whole bulb of garlic to a pestle and mortar and pound into a paste – Adding salt helps to break down the garlic to give a smoother paste! 
  2. Rub the paste well into chicken wings and leave in the fridge to marinate for up to 2 hours – This dish is traditionally made with small flattened out chickens but chicken wings are so good for sharing. 
  3. Add a little olive oil to a hot pan and place the wings skin side down. Place another saucepan on top of the wings then put a pestle and mortar, or any other heavy object, on top of the second pan to way it down.
  4. After 5 minutes check the chicken is crisping up and throw in some butter. The chicken should have miraculously coloured on both sides but if it hasn’t feel free to turn it over and place the weight back on.
  5. Once cooked serve with fresh chopped parsley and a drizzle of the garlicky buttery pan juices.

Lobio

Kidney Bean Stew

  1. In mini chopper whiz up carrot, red onion and celery until very fine. – This mix is called ‘mirepoix’ and is actually the chubakabra of stews and sauces. Use this in a bolognese sauce and you’ll never, ever cook without it again. 
  2. Add the mirepoix to heated olive oil and sweat on a low heat.
  3. Once the mirepoix has sweated slightly add chopped coriander, a generous spoonful of paprika, chopped fresh chilli and fenugreek then cook keep cooking. After about five minutes add kidney beans and stock then stew on a low heat for 45 minutes adding more water if necessary. Season to taste.
  4. In a mini chopper blend walnuts and olive oil into a paste.
  5. When the stew is ready blend with a hand blender – Don’t worry about it being chunky, it’s much better that way!
  6. Stir in the walnut paste and your Lobio is ready! – This stew is delicious hot or cold, just serve with fresh chopped parsley, paprika and warm bread.

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Badrijnis Khizilala

Aubergine Caviar

  1. Place the roughly cut bits of the left over aubergine, and a whole new aubergine if you like, on a baking tray with salt & pepper and olive oil and put in a hot oven to roast.
  2. Half way through cooking add cherry tomatoes to the same tray.
  3. It will be cooked when soft, remove from oven and leave to cool.
  4. When cool squeeze the tomatoes from their skins into a bowl – They will be the sweetest, nicest things ever.
  5. Scrap the flesh of the aubergine from it’s skin and roughly chop. Mix in with the tomatoes and add chopped fresh coriander.
  6. You only need to season slightly to retain the freshness and sweetness. That’s it, no olive oil or anything!

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Pkhali

Spinach and Walnut Spread

These little spinach balls are like perfect sized individual servings. You pick up a ball, put it on your bread then spread and enjoy!

  1. To make pickled red onion just finely chop onion rings and add to white wine vinegar and sugar then set aside till ready to use.
  2. Add water to a pan and bring to the boil, steam the spinach until wilted – I just put the spinach in a colander and the colander on top of the pan to steam.
  3. In a mini chopper whiz up walnuts, garlic, coriander, white wine vinegar, fenugreek, and salt & pepper.
  4. When wilted take the colander of spinach and run under cold water – This shock  of rapid cooling will retain the green colour and stop the spinach darkening. It’s also good for all other green veg (think pea purée) – once it’s ‘shocked’ it can be heated again and will still be a really bright green!
  5. Retain the water in the saucepan to cook your dumplings in later.
  6. Once cold sqeeze out all the excess liquid from the spinach and add to the mini chopper with the paste. Coarsely chop.
  7. Once well mixed roll into little balls ready for individual spreading!
  8. Serve with pomegranate seeds and pickled red onion rings.

Acharuli Khachapuri

Georgian Cheese and Egg Bread

  1. Mix a tablespoon of yeast and a teaspoon of sugar with warm water, set aside for 20 minutes until the mixture becomes foamy.
  2. Add flour, oil and salt then with a wooden spoon mix into a dough. Transfer to a floured work top and knead for 5 minutes.
  3. Return to a slightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film and place in a warm place for at least 2 hours. The dough should be ready when it’s doubled in size.
  4. In a bowl mix together crumbled feta cheese, hard mozzarella cheese, dill and salt & pepper.
  5. When the dough is ready roll out and form into a boat shape, there should be clear edges which will form a higher crust. Cover a tray with baking paper and place the boat on top. – If you have a pizza stone, that is the thing to use!
  6. Put the cheese mix in the middle of the boat and put in a hot oven.
  7. Once the cheese has melted and the dough has mostly cooked take the bread out and paint the crust with egg yolk. Crack a whole egg on top of the cheese mix in the centre of the boat then return to oven.
  8. When the bread is golden and the egg white is cooked take the boat out of the oven. The egg yolk should still be runny! Serve with fresh dill and a sprinkle of paprika.

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Enjoy!

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

SOUTH SUDAN

South Sudanese Proverb: Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fatted ox where there is hatred 

South Sudan is one of the world’s ‘youngest’ countries having gained independence from Sudan in 2011. Since 2013 South Sudan has faced violent civil conflict within it’s newly established borders leaving over 2 million of it’s population displaced as refugees, many of them in neighbouring countries. With a total population of only 11.56 million, 66% are affected by food scarcity and chronic malnutrition – the highest percentage of any population in the world. In 2014 Action Against Hunger have helped 447,217 people, predominantly in getting access to safe water.

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

Pasipasi kpedekpede na passio

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The food in Sudan is very similar to that of it’s Nile River neighbour Egypt and is heavily influenced by Arabic culture. The food in South Sudan however, more closely reflects the food of it’s neighbours in Kenya and DR Congo. Peanuts feature heavily as do sweet potatoes, yams and sorghum (a type of grain). Here I’ve made one of the most popular South Sudanese dishes – spinach, sweet potato and peanut stew which would normally be served with rice, couscous or sorghum. Due the price of meat, beef would normally only be added on special occasions – I had some left over beef short rib so this is a special occasion Pasipasi kpedekpede na passio.

Ingredients

Pasipasi kpedekpede na passio

  • Rice
  • Vegetable oil
  • Sweet potato
  • Garlic
  • Fresh tomato
  • Spinach
  • Tomato puree
  • Stock cubes – Maggi brand is the famous stock cube used in Africa – it’s very salty so it works as seasoning too!
  • Peanut butter
  • Palm oil
  • Peanuts
  • Beef (optional)

Tomato Salad with Peanut and Lime Dressing

  • Fresh Tomatoes
  • Parsley
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Chilli
  • Pepper
  • Peanut butter
  • Lime
  • Olive oil

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Method

Pasipasi kpedekpede na passio

  1. First put on some rice – heat some vegetable oil in a pan and boil the kettle. Add uncooked rice and salt to the oil and fry until the rice toasts and becomes white, once all the rice is equally toasted add boiled water to up to  cm and half above the top of the rice, cover and low the heat completely.
  2. Peel and cut sweet potatoes into chunks and add to a pan with palm oil, fry on all sides then add chopped garlic.
  3. In a bowl add boiled water to Maggi stock cubes to dissolve – add the whole thing to the pan with some fresh chopped tomatoes, tomato puree and let the mixture cook and the sweet potato braise.
  4. At this stage I added the meat from some left over beef short ribs and added a bone to the pan for flavour – if you don’t have cooked meat, brown some beef at the beginning before adding the other ingredients then just cook as before, alternatively don’t put any meat in at all!
  5. Turn off the rice but don’t remove the lid, the steam will finish the last bit of cooking.
  6. The liquid should now have reduced a little and have good flavour! Stir in quite a bit of peanut butter so that the sauce thickens.
  7. Once the sauce is a good consistency pop a pile of spinach on top – the steam from the stew will cook it down and you’ll be able to mix it in after about 30 seconds.
  8. Crush some peanuts and serve on top of your stew with rice.

Tomato Salad with Peanut and Lime Dressing

  1. Chop fresh tomatoes roughly and finely chop fresh parsley, mix together in a bowl an sprinkle a little sugar to bring out the flavour. – This also helps to release the juice from the tomato so it literally creates it’s own dressing anyway!
  2. In a separate bowl squeeze a lime and add a tablespoon of peanut butter to the juice with olive oil, finely chopped chilli, salt and pepper.
  3. When you’re ready to serve spoon some dressing over the salad.

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Enjoy!

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