Kedjenou with kelewele and collards with green peppers in tomato-peanut sauce

God, this post is gonna be long.

I finally got a little time to post this African food I’ve been threatening to make! But let’s back up a bit – why would a little white bitch up in the Pacific NW be interested in making African food in the first place? You can blame that one on the YouTubes.

I was flipping through, looking for Naija videos (I can’t stop listening to Afrikan Boy), and this caught my eye. It is a fucking hilarious riff of Lil’ Wayne, so please just indulge me and watch it. I had no idea that Nigerians were so food-centric! I love them already. I decided that I should share this video with you all, but wanted to cook a meal to really set it off.

I have all those collard greens I’ve been talking about, and I knew that many African countries use greens. I’d also had chicken-peanut stew once, but the peanut butter had been slightly burned and the stew ended up tasting like singed ass hairs. I wanted to avoid this, so (being a scientist) I did a little research.

I found this website, The Congo Cookbook. I can’t say enough wonderful things about this website. It’s like an African Epicurious.com, mixed with a little Wikipedia. You can scroll to your desired dish (e.g, chicken, meat, seafood, stew, etc.), and you just roll over a listed dish and it tells you the main components, and where it’s from. Then if you click the link, it takes you to the recipe page, which gives the information about how it’s served, the specific country or region that perfected it, and other foods commonly eaten with it. This is ideal for my infotainment junkie needs! I will be coming back often. Also, they have no idea who I am: I have not been solicited to review their website (although I am going to tell them I did and see if they’ll send me a cookbook or sommat!).

I decided I wanted to stick to west African food to honor the Naija Boyz, and so I could give a shout-out to Courtney, my homegirl at Coco Cooks (her dad is the original Naija Boy). Nikki Miller-Ka at Nik Snacks says every day is African Day at her house, so she gets some love too.

Kedjenou is a stew from Cote d’Ivoire of chicken and vegetables (eggplant and/or okra – I chose “and”), with a tomato-based sauce. I probably spiced it more heavily than is traditional (I love tomato with ginger and hot chili), but it was so good! This is traditionally prepared in an earthware vessel called a canari (or canary), but I used a Chinese clay hotpot instead.

I’m not going to post the recipes since they’re not really mine, but for the stew I just browned a cut-up chicken (thighs, legs and wings are best) in a little oil with some chopped onions and garlic, tossed in some minced ginger and sprinkled some Berbere spice over the top. When it was browning up nicely I added the chopped eggplant and some chopped tomato, a bay leaf and some thyme, then a few dashes of Maggi. Next I added some stewed tomatoes and some chicken stock and put the lid on to simmer for about 45 minutes. Since I wasn’t cooking over coals I didn’t bother doing the shake-every-five-minutes canari method, I just gave it a shake a couple times. About 10 minutes to the end I added the okra (I prefer okra al dente) and let it finish off (falling-off-the-bone tender is done). Serve with buttered rice.

Maggi’s claim is true: it improves the taste. Maggi sauce is the wheat alternative to soy sauce, and can be found all over developing countries and in Asian grocery stores. This is actually Chinese Maggi (common theme here), not west African Maggi, but I like the sauce over the cubes and already had some in my cabinet.

Kelewele is spiced fried plantains from Ghana. I love fried plantains, so this was really a no-brainer. These are tossed with some cayenne and ginger before they get fried, and provide a wonderful, unctuous sweetness to the plate.

The greens with green pepper, ironically, were originally the whole point (I just have so many of them!), but ended up a side dish. I removed the stems from the collards and chopped them finely. I sauteed them with chopped onion and green bell pepper, added some tomato salsa and a couple spoonfuls of chunky peanut butter (stir together), then added the chopped greens. A spoonful or two of water and a lid, then 10 minutes later it’s on.

Some astute readers will notice a glaring omission: I didn’t make fufu. I totally planned to, bought the yams and everything, but I ran out of burners! I will next time, I promise (and then I won’t need to use a fork).

One last thing, my baby girl Emiline over at Visions of Sugar Plum has tagged me for a meme! She’s the only person I can forgive for this egregious disregard of my “No Memes, Plzkthx” policy, so I will play along and say thank you! But I will not tag anyone.

1. Last Movie I Saw In A Movie Theater?
Hellboy II

2. What Book Are You Reading?
Persepolis (and yes, even though it has pictures it is still a book)

3. Favorite Board Game?
Boggle

4. Favorite Magazine?
Gourmet

5. Favorite Smells?
My husband’s armpits (mixed with his deodorant), honeysuckle, tomato leaves

6. Favorite Sounds?
Four-part harmony, bacon sizzling, territorial hummingbirds

7. Worst Feeling In The World?
Failure

8. First Thing You Think of When You Wake?
I really need to pee before he even thinks about poking me with that thing

9. Favorite Fast Food Place?
Burgerville

10. Future Child’s Name?
I won’t divulge the ones I’m planning on using, but a girl’s name I really like is Astrid, and I really like Sy for a boy

11. Finish This Statement—“If I Had a Lot of Money, I’d…
Write my cookbook, have a really clean house, learn to be a DJ, become fluent in a few more languages…”

12. Do You Drive Fast?
I can’t drive 55. Unless I’m in a 40 mph zone.

13. Do You Sleep With a Stuffed Animal?
No, but I stuff a pillow between my tummy and my thighs.

14. Storms—Cool or Scary?
Erotic. You decide which of those that falls under.

15. What Was Your First Car?
A honey-colored 1978 Buick Limited. I called her The Mothership Connection.

16. Favorite Drink?
A Gayhound (vodka with pink grapefruit juice, and a sprig of fresh rosemary).

17. Finish This Statement—“If I Had the Time, I Would…
Write my cookbook, have a really clean house, learn to be a DJ, become fluent in a few more languages…”

18. Do You Eat the Stems on Broccoli?
Waste not, want not.

19. If You could Dye your Hair Any Other Color, What Would It Be?
Fuschia.

20. Name All the Different Cities In Which You Have Lived.
Portland, OR. You might think that’s boring until you find out how awesome Portland is.

21. Favorite Sport to Watch?
Men’s swimming.

22. One Nice Thing About The Person Who Sent This To You
She’s who I’d be if I were nicer and more talented (and ten years younger).

23. What’s Under Your Bed?
Carpet, errant slippers, hrblz.

24. Would You Like to Be Born As Yourself Again?
Of course! That’s not to say I wouldn’t do a few things differently if I had my druthers.

25. Morning Person or Night Owl?
Neither? I’m most coherent between 9:00 and midnight.

26. Over Easy or Sunny Side Up?
I guess Over Easy. Sunny Side Up is just so in-your-face.

27. Favorite Place to Relax?
One of those massage chairs that you sit in while you’re getting a pedicure.

28. Favorite Ice Cream Flavor?
Rocky Road.

29. Of All the People You Have Tagged, Who Is the Most Likely to Respond First?
Haha, joke’s on you – I didn’t tag anyone!

About Heather

Gilding the lily since 2006.
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