Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Recipe #97: Attiéké and Sauce Aubergine

All semester (August through December) I've been blessed by the generosity of others, especially African/Africanist friends and colleagues. This time of year it seems appropriate to share some of my gratitude.

Today, I want to publicly say "thank you" to Inza Bamba for his recent Thanksgiving gift--a treasure "more precious than gold." He made it clear that the package of tightly packed granules, direct from Côte d'Ivoire, was for me. He knew how special it would be to taste "fresh" attiéké  as opposed to "dried," boxed attiéké  (like that I picked up in Washington DC last month). Attiéké is a bit like gari, but it is steamed cassava granules, and is more like couscous than gari.

I know that he often prepares
attiéké with "sauce aubergine," (eggplant stew) and is partial to lamb, so I decided to prepare the two together a few days ago, Ghana-style. 

Recipe #96: Sauce Aubergine with Lamb and Attiéké (Ghana-style)
  • I took a medium purple eggplant (sorry, no garden eggs around here), peeled and chopped it, added water to cover and put it on the stove to boil for a few minutes, while I
  •  Added a couple pounds of lamb chunks (you can later cut the meat off  the shanks if you like), bone in, and added some seasoning (a couple of chopped onions, a few minced garlic cubes, part of a seeded habanero pepper, some sea salt, and a good tablespoon of freshly grated ginger, plus a little dried ground red pepper for good measure) to it and stirred, well and let it steam in a covered soup pot with a little water.
  • Next, I blended (in an electric blender) a couple of fresh tomatoes and several leftover canned ones I had in the refrigerator (Perhaps I strained out the seeds as I added the blended tomatoes, but that's just picky me), then I
  • removed the softened eggplant with a slotted spoon and added it to the blender, along with a little water (maybe half a cup) to help blend it up. There's no need to blend the eggplant if you like it chunky, but I got into the habit of always blending it since my children preferred the sauce creamy.
  • I added the eggplant to the soup pan with the tomatoes, lamb, etc., along with some more water (a couple of cups), and let the mixture simmer until the meat was soft (Actually, I left it simmer on the stove for around 45 minutes, then cooled it and put it in the refrigerator to finish and serve the next day).
  • The day we ate it, I reheated it and let it simmer for about half an hour, adjusted the seasonings (needed more salt, and I added a heaping tablespoon of tomato paste).
  • While it was finishing, in a separate bowl I prepared some fresh okra (cut off both ends, and sliced it into rounds), cooked it in the microwave with a little water for about 10 minutes (Be careful to use a large bowl because the okra will bubble up as it cooks). I would have cooked the okra right in the stew, but we were having a guest for dinner, and I was not sure if he liked okra.
  • While the soup was simmering, I measured out a cup of the dry attiéké and set it aside. I also measured out a cup of the "fresh" attiéké . I poured an equal amount of water into a small sauce pan (a good cup) for the dried attiéké . I made a "couscousiere" in a small saucepan by putting a strainer in it and lining it with a cheesecloth.
  • Shortly before we were ready to eat, I added a cup of water to the fresh attiéké (big mistake), then tried to drain out the obviously excess water, and put the mixture into the couscousiere to steam for 15 or 20 minutes (I think it needed no extra water, and it should have simply been steamed). It became a glutinous mass (kind of like a gooey eba), and next time I'll totally skip adding any water. The flavor was good, however. Sorry to have messed up, Inza. I'll prepare some more tomorrow night for our "African cafe" potluck with my students, and report back.
  • Shortly before I eating, I boiled the cup of water and poured the dry
    attiéké into it (the same way one normally prepares dried couscous in the U.S., letting it sit, covered, for a few minutes until all the water was absorbed, then fluffed it up with a fork. Very quick, very easy, very tasty (and no gluten, too).
  • The meal was well received, and needed no extra accompaniment, though I did serve a fruit dessert.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

On my African Cookbook shelf

It's been some time since I've commented on the latest (cook)books I'm reading/collecting, and also since I've thanked contributors  to The Africa Cookbook Project, 
launched at TED Global in Tanzania in 2007. Yes, we're still collecting cookbooks published in Africa and written by Africans.

Rachel C. J. Massaquoi, the Sierra Leonean mother of one of my daughter Abena's  friends from Harvard,  published a book  in 2011 through AuthorHouse. Titled Foods of Sierra Leone and Other West African Contries: A Cookbook and Food-Related Stories, it has been a joy to read through its 159 pages. The book is filled with helpful information, including stories, cultural wisdom, photographs, and a glossary. It is truly a gift to those of us interested in preserving and sharing West African culinary history and recipes. What's more, it's currently on sale through AuthorHouse for $23.51 instead of the $46.28 price available at (use link above). It would make a great, unique, Christmas gift.

I'm especially interested to try her cassava leaf sauce (in Ghana, people favor cocoyam leaves, aka nkontomire or kontomire), plus her recipe for Sierra Leonean "check rice" (also popular in Liberia). She has done us all a great service.
In 1993, Ten Speed Press published a cookbook by Ghanaian author and television cooking show host Dorinda Hafner that became a bestseller, A Taste of Africa. The book was published in hardcover and paperback, reprinted, and followed by a revised version in 2002. I recently picked up a copy of the revised edition, only to discover that it has quite a different feel. For one thing, the language has been toned down: "fufu" has been renamed "dumplings," "momone" has gone from "smelly" salted fish to simply "salted fish." Also, there are some additions (such as the recipe for "ham soup with basil and vegetables)," and she has reversed the names, for example, from using Ghanaian names ("shitor din" or "kontomire ne momone," "kubecake," "Tom Brown" in favor of highlighting more understandable English names as headings, with the traditional names usually in small 

type  underneath. Understandable, perhaps, but also a kind of loss. Still, the revised edition stands proudly on my shelf next to the first edition, and Dorinda's delightful 1996 memoir (also published by Ten Speed Press) I Was Never Here and This Never Happened--Tasty Bits and Spicy Tales From My Life.


Several weeks ago, on his latest return from Ethiopia, Prof. Greg Ziegler carried along a donation he correctly guessed was not already in the collection. Published in 2011 by author Teshome Berhe, it is a bilingual introduction to Ethiopian cooking and culture, in both  French and English (en français et en anglais): A table avec la Reine de Saba / Dining with the Queen of Sheba. Several of its 139 pages contain color illustrations, there are numerous historical anecdotes and cultural references, and in place of a table of contents or index it has a 5-page summary at the end. Another contribution to cherish. Thank you again, Greg. There are today many cultural and culinary spokespeople recording their heritages. It warms my heart, and we are all enriched.

I'm sorry to report that due to the political problems in Mali, a much-anticipated photocopied version of a Malian cookbook was not procured, though Penn State doctoral student Kristal Jones is currently in Bamako and attempting again to obtain it for me.

I wish . . .
I wish . . .
I wish it were possible to digitize all these books so that they could have a wider circulation . . . Of course, as an author myself, I'd also like them to be available at a fair compensation to the writers.