To round out the West African series, I decided to do a potluck on West African cuisine and featured some recipes from the popular book, Senegal, Modern Senegalese Recipes from the Source to the bowl. I’ve been eyeing this book for a while at the bookstore and finally decided to get it after reading a few excerpts. One thing I do love about this book is that it is heavy on imagery and it gives me a backstory on Senegalese culture, the people, as well as its multifaceted cuisine. Senegalese cuisine uses Vietnamese, Portuguese, French, and Spanish influences. There are some culture cues regarding family style eating and typical offerings during weddings, childbirth, and religious rituals. The layout of the book is broken down into street food, vegetables, grains, seafood, meats, sweet things and drinks. There’s some backstory on the usage of red palm oil and the book includes the recipe for the famed national dish, Thiebou Djienn. I came close to taking on Thiebou Djienn (pp. 204), but the recipe featured a lot of ingredients, and looked rather complicated. Instead, I chose a few that were easier and well, somewhat healthier.
Kale, Avocado and Grapefruit Salad (Salade Casamance) pp. 126
I love kale. Seriously, I love kale. I know that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but to me it’s healthy, has lots of vitamins, minerals, and is perfect for smoothies. So I saw this salad and decided to give it a try. The ingredients are very easy to get, namely avocado, grapefruit, and kale. The recipe calls for baby kale, but I went with the regular kale. The dressing is a basic vinaigrette made using the membranes and juice from the grapefruit. It calls for dijon mustard in the dressing, but I left that out simply because I forgot to get that from the store. But the dressing works on it’s own without the mustard. I also had some leftover cashews from another dish, but forgot to top the salad off. But oh well. The salad was great and was guilt free. If one doesn’t have enough grapefruit juice, I also recommend using lime juice for the dressing. I like a more acidic dressing.
Chicken Thighs with Red Palm-Coconut Rice pp. 256
So for the main course, I went with having chicken and rice and greens. It reminded me of a time when that’s all I would eat growing up and it has become a staple in my household. The recipe is made by seasoning and browning chicken thighs in a cast iron or dutch oven. (It really helps to have one of these handy. I had to use a large stainless steel skillet but it didn’t do a great job of browning my chicken) The chicken came out a golden color, but I wanted it browner. The book said it should take about 5 mins, but it seemed like much longer and I didn’t want to risk burning the chicken. Anyway, I removed the chicken and sauteed some onion and garlic until it was translucent. Meanwhile, I rinsed the jasmine rice until the water ran clear and added it to the pan. Then I added the coconut milk, palm oil, and chicken stock. I put the chicken back into the pan and let it simmer on med low for about 30 minutes, ensuring that the chicken will cook through. Once I checked it, the rice was fluffy, the chicken was done, and the rice left behind a beautiful golden crust at the bottom of the pan. I served it with some sauteed kale, a squeeze of lime juice and a drizzle of palm oil. I thought it was pretty good, but I do wish I browned the chicken more. Time to invest in a larger cast iron or even a Le Creuset.
Spicy Cafe’ Touba Red Palm Brownies pp. 274
I was extremely curious about this recipe, namely because it’s use of the selim pepper and palm oil. I never had selim pepper (Uda Hwentia) before but it’s relatively not hard to find. It smells very medicinal, almost like eucalyptus or an essential oil. I toasted the selim to bring out the oils and flavor and ground it into a powder before I added it to the batter. The palm oil was also an interesting addition. After the brownies finished baking, I was really dying to find out about it’s flavor and to my surprise, these brownies were really delicious. The flavor was spicy from the cayenne and peppery from the selim. I want to say that the flavor was close to that of Mexican chocolate with those cinnamony-spicy notes. The red palm gave the brownies a rich moistness and a subtle earthiness. It does help to let the brownies cool down a bit to let the flavors develop and settle. However, these are rich and I immediately stored them in my freezer for another day to be eaten.
I love the pictures in this book and reading some backstory on the culture, landscape, and people of Senegal. The author did a fantastic job opening the reader up to his culture and the gastronomy of a land that has a lot to offer on the food landscape. Most of the recipes are easy to follow and not too technical. If you have made dishes from this book, please share!