Let's try African cooking

African cooking styles are as rich and varied as the cultural influences found throughout the continent.

The complete illustrated food and cooking of Africa & the Middle East : ingredients, techniques, 170 recipes, 650 photographs
Josephine Bacon and Jenni Fleetwood.
London : Lorenz Books, c2009.
This book brings together the authentic cooking styles and classic foodstuffs of two vast and diverse regions, Africa and the Middle East, to create a colourful and enticing collection of recipes which share origins, ingredients and influences.
Simply more Indian : more sweet and spicy recipes from India, Pakistan and East Africa
Tahera Rawji.
Vancouver : Whitecap Books, 2008.
Includes index.
70 traditional African recipes : authentic classic dishes from all over Africa adapted for the Western kitchen, all shown step-by-step in 300 simple-to-follow photographs
Rosamund Grant.
London : Southwater, 2007.
No other land but Africa can boast such a rich and varied range of cooking styles. The food reflects the diverse cultural influences, with its exotic blend of aromatic ingredients, textures and colours. The authentic flavours of this great land are brought together in this exciting collection of recipes.
Crazy water, pickled lemons : enchanting dishes from the Middle East, the Mediterranean and North Africa
Diana Henry ; photographs by Jason Lowe.
New York : Mitchell Beazley 2006.
The taste of Africa
Rosamund Grant & Josephine Bacon.
London : Southwater, 2006.
The soul of a new cuisine : a discovery of the foods and flavors of Africa
Marcus Samuelsson with Heidi Sacko Walters ; photographs by Gediyon Kifle ; foreword by Desmond Tutu.
Hoboken, N.J. : John Wiley & Sons, c2006.
A renowned chef explores the continent of Africa from a deeply personal perspective, sharing both his travels and his interpretations of the African foods he discovered along the way.

In most African countries vegetable, bean, and lentil dishes are extremely popular. Meat may be added to add a flavor, rather than as the main ingredient.  Meats may also be flavored with smoked fish or prawns (shrimp).

Cultural uses of foods

Traditionally when a Cape Malay woman entered her new home, she put containers with three foods in her cupboards.

Rice: her cupboards would never be empty

Sugar: sweetness would always fill her house

Salt: kept evil spirits out

Each container stayed in the cupboard until the family moved again.

(from Flavors of Africa cookbook, 1998)

Essential staples, such as yams, cassava, plantains, rice, and nuts are used in African cooking. In tropical African countries mangoes, avocados, and paw paw, are eaten.

To enhance a dish, herbs and spices are used.  Spices may include:  cardamom pods, ground cumin, black pepper, coriander, garam masala, tumeric, and black mustard seeds.

A characteristic dish in the African cuisine is a rich casserole, that uses a variety of meats or fish, which may be fresh, dried, or smoked. Exotic spices liven up the taste buds. A casserole can be further enhanced by serving a sauce. A good example of a common sauce is the pepper sauce. This is made by mixing tomatoes, onions, peanut oil, chilli powder, a dash of thyme and coriander powder, and salt to taste.

Another popular African dish is sweet potato and yam fufu. The ingredients include sweet potatoes, yams, and water to cook. Peeled yams and sweet potatoes are boiled until soft. Once soft, the cook removes them from the water and pounds them with a pestle until they are satiny smooth and like a soft dough in texture. Fufu is eaten with a fish or meat stew, or a vegetable soup.

To capture the authentic flavors of African cooking, be creative. By making a delicate blend of spices with your fish, meat, or vegetables, you will learn how to enhance your flavors. There will be always room for tasting a new flavor when trying African cooking.

Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff