African cuisineSimple, simmering, generous

African cuisine

Heir to ancestral food habits, impervious to foreign influences until very recently, African cuisine is characterized by a simplicity enhanced by specific cooking techniques and the use of spices that give it flavors and scents so subtle.

The African cuisine gives a large place to local products, some of which are specific: millet, fonio, maize, cassava, various leaves, okra, tarot, yam, etc ... is a cooking that slowly cooks and requires patience and the availability.

For a long time, Africans have consumed the products of hunting. For reasons of hygiene and safety, they are nowadays replaced by poultry and farm animals. The sea, despite overexploitation of the halieutic wealth, always provides the bars, barracudas, carps, soles, rays and captains. In terms of shellfish, we can still find lobsters, prawns and other prawns and squid.

The lakes and streams, abundant in southern Benin, provide freshwater fish (carp, catfish, tilapia, etc.) and crayfish.
Nature is particularly generous in terms of tropical fruits that are never better than at their place of production: mangos, papayas, bananas, soursop, pineapple, guavas, coconut, oranges, grapefruit, carambola, etc.

African cuisine contains many condiments and spices such as garlic, wild mango kernels, basil, ginger, saffron for fish soups, turmeric, which is used as saffron, walnut Nutmeg, chilli fresh employee in dried brine or powder. The best known is pili-pili.

Soups are rich in vegetables, herbs, meat or fish.

Fish and shellfish are often prepared very simply: grilled, stuffed, baked or in foil, in banana leaves. Sea bream is one of the most common fish. Africans love fried and chili langoustines, as well as oysters, cooked in mashed tomatoes and onions.

Africans also eat a lot of poultry: chicken cooked with ginger, coconut or peanuts, or stuffed and served with rice and green bananas.
These dishes are accompanied by cereals such as millet, sorghum, corn, rice, or yams, cassava, plantains or sweet potatoes.
Sheep, beef and goat remain the most consumed meats in Africa.

African cuisine has unexpected dishes such as snakes, monkeys and hippos, but most of these animals are protected and become rare in the kitchen.

African style crepes are tasty, just mix crushed banana with classic pancake batter.
Africans drink a lot of beer, made from millet and sorghum, fruit juices, alcoholic palm wine, Turkish coffee, and infusions of kinkeliba (West African shrub) that helps digest food. hibiscus (bissap) and lemongrass.

Long kept far from any media coverage, African cuisine is beginning to conquer the palaces of other countries. For the historian Jean-Baptiste Noé, it is the history of Africa which explains this delay of recognition for his culinary art: "Black Africa is one of the continents discovered the latest in the cultural field. The slavers knew only the coast, and the settlers preferred to reproduce the European life rather than taste the products on the spot. Says the historian. This explains why the interest in traditional African cuisine, yet extraordinary, is so recent.

Depending on the region, there are also differences, sometimes very important, in the habits and preferences of drinks or food because of the many populations of the continent: Central Africa, East Africa, the Horn of Africa, South Africa. North, Southern Africa and West Africa, each with its own distinctive dishes, cooking techniques and consumption patterns.


Foufou (right) is a traditional food in Central Africa, accompanied by a peanut soup
Central Africa extends from the Tibesti massif in the north to the large rain forest at the source of the Congo River. This region of Africa remained largely free of culinary influences from the outside world until the end of the nineteenth century, with the exception of the widespread adaptation of cassava, peanuts and peppers, which arrived during of the slave trade at the beginning of the 16th century. These food products have a great influence on the local cuisine, less on the methods of preparation. The cuisine of Central Africa has remained essentially traditional. Nevertheless, as in other parts of Africa, Central African cuisine presents a variety of dishes.

The basic ingredients are plantain and cassava. The foufou, based on starchy foods, most often made from fermented cassava roots, is served with grilled meat and sauces. A variety of local ingredients are used for the preparation of other dishes such as spinach stewed with tomatoes, peppers, peppers, onions and peanut butter. Cassava leaves are also consumed as a leaf vegetable. The peanut stew (peanuts) is also prepared, with chicken, okra, ginger and other spices. Another favorite dish is demba téré, a rice porridge, peanut butter and sugar. Beef and chicken are the favorite meat dishes, but game meat preparations such as crocodile, monkey, antelope and warthog are also occasionally served.

The cuisine of Great Lakes Africa (Burundi - Democratic Republic of Congo - Uganda - Rwanda) varies from region to region. In the interior savannah, the traditional cuisine of the people raising livestock, is distinguished in that the meat is generally absent. Cattle, sheep, pigs and goats are considered a form of money and a source of wealth, so they are not generally consumed as food. In some areas, traditional peoples consume milk and blood from livestock, but rarely meat. Elsewhere, other peoples grow different vegetables and cereals. Corn is the basis of ugali, the local version of West Africa, foufou. Ugali is a dish of starch (flours) that accompanies meats and stews. In Uganda, the matooke is boiled or steamed, coated in banana leaves, providing the starch desired for many meals.

About 1,000 years ago, Omani and Yemeni merchants settled on the Swahili coast. The influence of the Middle East is particularly reflected in the cuisine of Zanzibar (in): the vegetables are steamed with rice prepared with spices, Persia, with saffron, clove, cinnamon but also other spices and pomegranate juice.

The main traditional dishes of Ethiopian cuisine and Eritrean cuisine are Wat (or tsebhi), a stew, served with injera1, a teff1, wheat or sorghum crepe and hilbet (legume paste). mainly lentils and beans The Eritrean and Ethiopian cuisines, especially in the northern half, are very similar, given the common history of these two countries.

The eating habits of Eritreans and Ethiopians vary by region. In the Ethiopian plateaus, the injera is the staple food and is consumed daily by the Tigrayans. The injera is made of teff, wheat, barley, sorghum and / or corn and looks like a spongy pancake, slightly sour. During the meal, the guests usually share the food of a large tray placed in the center of the table. Many injeras are placed on this plate and garnished with various spicy stews. Otherwise, the injera is broken to catch pieces by dipping it in the stew.

In the lowlands, the main dish is Ga'at (en), a porridge dish made from wheat flour dough. A pocket is used to hollow out the top, which is filled with berbere and butter sauce, surrounded by milk or yogurt. A small piece of dough is broken and then used to be dipped in the sauce.

The most famous part of Ethio-Eritrean cuisine consists of various vegetable or meat dishes and appetizers, usually a wat or thick stew, served on an injera, a crepe made from teff flour. The meal is not made with utensils, but using the injera to catch the starters and side dishes.

Tihlo, made with grilled barley flour, is very popular in Amhara, Agamé and Tigré. Traditional Ethiopian cuisine does not use pork or seafood because it is banned by Islam, Judaism and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. It is also very common to eat in the same dish in the center of the table with a group of people.
Somali cuisine varies by region and consists of an exotic blend of culinary influences. It is the product of Somalia, rich in tradition of exchange and commerce. Despite the variety, there is one thing that unites the various regional cuisines: all foods are Halal. There is no pork and no alcohol is served. Qaddo, or lunch, is often very elaborate.

Varieties of bariis, the most popular of which are probably basmati, are usually served as main courses. Spices such as cumin, cardamom, clove, cinnamon and sage are used to flavor these different rice dishes. Somalis serve dinner around 9 pm During Ramadan, dinner is often served after the Tarawih, sometimes until 11 pm

Xalwo (halwo) or halva is a popular confectionery served on special occasions such as Eid el-Fitr celebrations or weddings. It is made from sugar, corn starch, cardamom powder, powdered nutmeg and ghi. Peanuts are sometimes added to improve texture and flavor2. After the meal, the houses are traditionally scented with oliban (lubaan) or incense (cuunsi), prepared inside a censer called dabqaad.

South African cuisine is sometimes called rainbow cuisine, because the food in this region is a mix of many cultures: a mix of African, African and Asian tribes. To understand indigenous cuisine, it is important to understand the different indigenous peoples of southern Africa. Indigenous peoples in southern Africa are divided into two groups and several subgroups. The largest group consists of the Bantu, whose descendants today can identify themselves by various subgroup names such as Ndebele, Shonas, Vendas, Zulus, Xhosa, Swazis, Sothos, Tswanas, Pedis, Shangaans and Tsongas. They arrive in the area about 2,000 years ago, bringing their crops, livestock and iron tools with them. Thus, the Bantu cultivate intensively cereals and raise cattle, sheep and goats. They also grow pumpkins, beans and leafy vegetables.

A smaller group consists of the original inhabitants of the region, the Khoikhois, who according to some archaeologists have lived in the area for at least 10,000 years. Many of their descendants have been incorporated into the population of South Africa. The Khoikhoi were originally hunter-gatherers (known as San (Sankhoi) by the Bantu and Bushmen by the Europeans). After the arrival of the Bantu, some Khoikhois adopt cattle breeding Bantu, but not cereals. The Khoikhois are called Hottentots by the Afrikaners.

People were, in other words, defined to some extent by the type of food they consumed. The Bantu eat cereal dishes, meat, milk and vegetables, as well as fermented cereals and dairy products, while the Khoikhoi eat meat and milk and the Sans hunters wild animals and collect wild tubers. and vegetables. In many ways, the daily food of black families in South Africa can be compared to the local foods their ancestors ate. The Khoikhois eat roast meat but also dried meat for later use. The influence of their diet is reflected, in Southern Africa, by everyone's preference for barbecue (usually called Afrikaans, braai) and for biltong (meat sticks - beef, ostrich or springbok - dried). . Traditional beer is ubiquitous in Southern Africa's diet and fermentation adds extra nutrients to the diet. It is a traditional obligation for all families to be able to offer visitors large amounts of beer. The brewing of beer is done by women and the status of a housewife in pre-colonial southern Africa is a function of her ability to brew beer.

Historically, milk is one of the most important food items in southern Africa. Livestock is considered the most important possession of the man, and for him to be able to marry, he must be able to generously offer, like a dowry, the milk needed by his wife and children, but also meat when he slaughters his cattle. Because refrigeration is rare, the milk is left to ferment to obtain a kind of yoghurt. The young men of the family often take care of the cattle, far from the villages in cattle relays and regularly send home yoghurt in the name of their fathers. Today, many black South Africans like to drink fermented dairy products, sold in supermarkets, similar to American buttermilk. On weekends, like white South Africans, they organize a braai and the meal usually consists of pap and vleis, corn porridge and grilled meat.
The staple diet includes seafood, meat products (including game), poultry, cereals, fresh fruits and vegetables. Fruits include apples, grapes, mangoes, bananas and papayas, avocado, oranges, peaches and apricots. The dessert can be made simply of fruits, but also of some puddings of western style, like cocada amarela (in) Angolan, inspired by the Portuguese cooking. The meat includes lamb, venison, ostrich and impala. Seafood is crayfish, shrimp, tuna, mussels, oysters, squid, mackerel and lobster. There are also many types of alcoholic beverages, traditional and modern, but also many European-style beers.

The typical meal of West Africa is based on starchy foods, meat and spices. Commodities are widely consumed in the region, such as foufou (or foutou, another variety), banku, kenkey (in Ghana), couscous, tô and garri that are served with soups. and stews. The foufou is often made from root vegetables such as yams, taro or cassava, from cereal grains such as millet, sorghum and also plantains. The basic cereal or starch varies between regions and ethnic groups, although maize is gaining ground because it is cheap, it increases in volume and creates a beautiful white end product that is very popular. Banku and Kenkey are basic pasta with corn and gari is made from grated dry cassava. Rice is also widely consumed in the region, particularly in the Sahel. Rice dishes include for example Benachin in Gambia and Wolof rice, the dish of all West Africa, similar to Arabic kebsa.

The seeds of guinea pepper, also called seeds of paradise, a plant native to West Africa, are used as a spice and arrive in Europe during the Middle Ages. Centuries before the influence of Europeans, the peoples of West Africa negotiated with the Arab world and spices such as cinnamon, cloves and mint become part of the local flavors. Centuries later, the Portuguese, French and British influence regional cuisines, but this only partially. However, as far as we know, it is the European explorers who introduce in Africa the chilli, of American origin, shortly after Christopher Columbus sails to America: chilli and tomatoes then become an omnipresent component of kitchens. 'West Africa.

Local cuisine and recipes from West Africa remain deeply rooted in local customs and traditions, with ingredients such as local rice (Oryza glaberrima), fonio, millet, sorghum, bambara pea, lentil of corn, brown bean, root vegetables such as yam, taro, sweet potato and cassava.
Culinary techniques in West Africa are changing. In the past, people ate much less meat and used natural oils (palm oil on the coast and shea butter in the Sahel regions).

Baobab leaves and green vegetables are the daily dish during certain times of the year. Nowadays, the diet is much heavier in meats, salt and fats. Many dishes combine fish and meat, with dried and fermented fish. The fish is crumbled and dried then often fried in oil, and sometimes cooked in a sauce made with peppers, onions, tomatoes and various spices (such as soumbala) and water to prepare a very fragrant stew. In some areas, beef and mutton are preferred, and goat meat is the dominant red meat. Suya, a popular grilled, spicy and peanut-flavored kebab is sold by street vendors as a snack or evening meal. It is usually made with beef or chicken. Seafood, like fish, is also sometimes mixed with other meat dishes. In Guinea, poultry eggs and chicken are also preferred.

With regard to beverages, water has a very strong ritual significance in many West African countries (especially in dry areas); water is often the first thing an African guest will offer to his guest. Palm wine is also a common drink made from fermented sap from different types of palm trees and is usually sold sweet (with less fermentation, retaining more sugar from the sap) or sour (more fermented, which makes it stronger and less sweet). Millet beer is another common drink.

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