There is a saying in Africa that “Africa always offers something new,” which is well expressed in author Dorinda Hafner’s recipes. In this book, she captures the taste and smells of her native land. Even though Dorinda was born in Africa, she has lived on four continents and traveled around the globe. The recipes include those from 10 different countries of Africa, but also those across the Atlantic where African food also made a name such as Louisiana, Central America, and the West Indies. The similarities are fascinating to discover. Produce such as corn, cassava, plantains, beans, and okra are staple components of most African cuisines and appear in recipes that may seem quite similar, yet also display regional and cultural variation. For example, dishes like fufu in Trinidad and Tobago, funchu in Curacao, and dirty rice and gumbo in Louisiana confirms the obvious cultural connections. They also mark the distinct differences between Western dishes and cooking styles and the African style of cooking.
Maybe I have watched too many movies, but the first chapter I turned to was Morocco because I always found it intriguing and mystical. I imagine walled cities with narrow, labyrinthine streets full of whispers, and secrets waiting to be discovered; alleyways, archways, open markets of jewelry and exotic spicy foods; animals and people mingling together, and sounds and smells not easily to be forgotten. The recipes here include tangines of lamb, chicken, or vegetables, saffron rice, and couscous. I learned that there is a special device to make couscous called a “couscousiere,” a specially designed steamer. One item I am completely in love with is harissa, which I make with a mortar and pestle.
Many of you may have seen celebrity chefs like Paula Deen prepare her “turducken.” I had no idea the idea originated in Africa, where it began with a stuffed camel! The author developed her own recipe with a turkey, chicken, quail, and poussin. Other familiar African and African-inspired recipes include fried plantains, cornmeal dumplings, kebabs, falafel, chicken stew, gumbo, flatbreads, curries, sweet potato dishes, and black-eyed peas. It is amazing how many of our familiar dishes have ties to African cooking. This cookbook is so interesting and actually joyful to read because Dorinda Hafner’s passion for life and cooking come alive in her words and recipes.
In the course of reading this cookbook, I was reminded by my daughter Kara that one of her best friends, Hannah, lived and worked in Uganda with the Peace Corps for two years as a community health extension volunteer with a focus on hiv/aids. Hannah worked with women’s groups and hiv/aids survivor groups to create community sensitization programs, income generation, hiv blood-testing, and peer education. Hannah was kind enough to send some photos and tell me about Ugandan food.
Hannah says the most common food item in Uganda, and all of Sub-Sahara Africa, is “posho,” which is ground corn meal. In the mornings, it is served as a porridge with a lot of water, and for dinner it is served thicker, more like mashed potatoes that you eat with your hands along with beans. Uganda is most famous for its “matoke” which is green bananas. Uganda has over 100 species of bananas – the most in the world. To serve matoke, peel the banana, steam it in matoke leaves, then smash and eat as a side dish like the posho, along with a ground nut sauce or goat stew.