Exploring new cuisines can be intimidating, especially if the spices and flavorings are unknown to you. Profiles in Flavor – Africa is one of a series of classes I created to help take the mystery out of several wonderful world cuisines. We look at a ‘shopping list’ of staples you would need to cook foods from that area, and taste lots of new flavor combinations. Once you know the typical spices, condiments, protein, carbs and veggies found in an area’s cuisine, you can enjoy eating and cooking it much more often!
Here is the list of African staples that I give out in my classes:
Africa offers a wide variety of regional cuisines, from the countries in the north that take their inspiration from neighboring Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries, to the colonial influenced foods of South Africa.
These Northeastern African Millet Cakes used cooked millet, nut butter and aromatics to create delightfully crunchy savory treats.
Northeast African Millet Cakes
3 cups cooked millet*
1 cup nut butter (tahini, almond, or peanut)
1 tbs onion powder
1 tbs tamari
1 tsp celery seed
1 tbs oil
- Mix one or more nut butters together thoroughly, thinning the paste down if necessary to a thick but spreadable consistency.
- Add the spices to the millet and mix until coated.
- Spoon or pour the nut butter over the millet and stir until the millet is coated and sticks together.
- Form into patties.
- Brown on both sides in lightly oiled skillet over medium heat.
*To cook millet: boil 2½ cups water. Add 1 cup millet, cover and simmer 15 minutes. Let sit uncovered 20 minutes. Makes about 3 cups.
The combination of cooked greens, canned tomatoes, malt vinegar and peanut butter sounds anything but appetizing, but they really are delicious!
1 large bunch Collard or other fresh greens
1 cup green onions, sliced
½ cup malt vinegar
1 cup peanut butter
1 large can diced tomatoes
- Cook greens and onions until tender.
- Strain off pot liquor and add to a sauce pot.
- Mix in peanut butter and stir until the sauce thickens.
- Add a large can of diced tomatoes and their juice to the sauce and heat.
- Add the sauce back to the greens and stir, tossing the sauce among the cooked greens.
Patronize the Ethnic Markets in Your Area
One of my favorite experiences when teaching this last Profiles in Flavor – Africa cooking class was during my shopping trip. I had looked up “places to buy injera in Atlanta” online and found a place called Aster’s Injera on North Decatur outside of 285. I found a tiny little shop that didn’t sell anything other than bottles of coke and a table full of bags of flat, round injera pancakes. As I was checking out, I asked the very nice Ethiopian lady there when they had been made, and she said they had been in the store making them at 1AM that morning! Injera is made from t’eff and a sour starter, so it makes big spongy bubbles and has a tart tang to it. It is perfect for scooping ups stews and sauces! Our authentic injera made the perfect accompaniment to our African meal.