VEGETARIAN JOURNAL

Vegetarian Journal 2008 Issue 2

The Rich Flavors of African Cuisine

By Peggy Rynk

THE RICHLY FLAVORED cuisines of Africa vary from region to region and from country to country. Some dishes are inherently vegan, while others can easily be made so by substituting ingredients such as tofu or beans for meat.

Many of the seasonings used in African cooking, including curry powder, cumin, turmeric, and ginger, are ones we’re already familiar with and are likely to have on hand. It’s the combinations of seasonings that set these cuisines apart in many delicious ways. Dishes such as Kenyan Vegetable Curry make use of a wide array of seasonings, while others, such as Rwandan Pinto Beans and Potatoes, use fewer.

Whatever dishes you decide to try, you’re in for a rich experience of flavors that may make you wonder why you hadn’t thought of them before—and wish that you had. Let’s begin with a wonderfully flavorful lentil soup and work our way to dessert!


Recipe Index


African Lentil Soup

(Serves 5)

This satisfying soup is easy to put together. Leftovers - if there are any - can easily be reheated a day or two later. The soup thickens in the refrigerator; when reheating, add just enough water to bring the soup to the desired consistency.

2 Tablespoons canola oil
1/2-3/4 cup peeled, chopped carrots
3 cups chopped new potatoes, not peeled if the skins are good
11/3 cups peeled, chopped mild onions, such as Vidalias
3 large vegetarian bouillon cubes, enough to flavor 6 cups water
2-2 1/2 cups dried lentils, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt to taste
6 cups water

Heat the oil in a 2 1/2- to 3-quart saucepan. Add the carrots and cook, stirring often, for approximately 10 minutes or until the carrots begin to soften. Add the potatoes, onions, bouillon, lentils, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, and salt.

Stir in the water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring often, for 30-45 minutes until the lentils fall apart and the soup thickens. Ladle the soup into individual bowls and serve with flat bread, crackers, or lightly toasted tortillas.

Total calories per serving: 240 Fat: 9 grams
Carbohydrates: 68 grams Protein: 23 gram
Sodium: 1,232 milligrams Fiber: 27 grams

PEANUT BUTTER STEW FROM ZIMBABWE

(Serves 5)

The combination of these ingredients is amazingly delicious.

One 14-ounce package firm tofu
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 cups chopped green bell peppers
1 1/2 cups chopped green bell peppers
1 Tablespoon minced fresh garlic
One 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes, not drained
1/3 cup crunchy peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
Dash cayenne
1 teaspoon ground red chipotle
11/2 cups frozen chopped collard greens

Drain and rinse the tofu. Pat dry, and cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes.

Heat the oil in a 3-quart saucepan. Add the green peppers, onions, and garlic and sauté for approximately 3 minutes. Stir in the tofu and continue to cook, stirring gently, for approximately 10 minutes or so, keeping the cubes as whole as possible.

Stir in all remaining ingredients except the collard greens. Simmer uncovered, stirring often, for 10-15 minutes. Stir in the collards and simmer for 15 minutes longer or until the collards are tender and the flavors have blended.

Total calories per serving: 277 Fat: 18 grams
Carbohydrates: 18 grams Protein: 15 grams
Sodium: 471 milligrams Fiber: 4 grams

KENYAN VEGETABLE CURRY

(Serves 6)

This dish calls for a rich variety of seasonings.

1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground tumeric
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons canola oil
4 cups cubed russet potatoes, not peeled if the skins are good
Water as needed
4 cups cubed russet potatoes, not peeled if the skins are good
One 15.5-ounce can garbanzo beans, not drained
31/2 cups frozen chopped collards

In a small bowl, combine the cumin, turmeric, curry powder, garlic powder, mustard, ginger, chili powder, and salt. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a 10" skillet. Add the potatoes and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until potatoes are almost tender. As the potatoes cook, add water, a little at a time, as needed to keep them from sticking. Add the onions and cook 2-3 minutes longer.

Blend in the seasonings, garbanzo beans, and collards. Cook, covered and stirring often, for 10 minutes. Add more water, one Tablespoon at a time, as needed to keep mixture from sticking.

Serve hot with warm bread. Fresh melon cubes or orange sections are perfect for dessert following this dish.

Total calories per serving: 246 Fat: 6 grams
Carbohydrates: 44 grams Protein: 9 grams
Sodium: 457 milligrams Fiber: 8 grams

RWANDAN PINTO BEANS AND POTATOES

(Serves 4 as a main dish or 8 as a side dish)

A hearty, filling dish with a savory blend of flavors.

1 Tablespoon canola oil
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped yellow onions
4 cups chopped russet potatoes, not peeled if the skins are good
3 1/2 cups cooked pinto beans (Canned beans that haven’t been drained are fine.)
Water as needed
2 1/2 Tablespoons slivered garlic
Salt to taste
1-2 Tablespoons ground cumin, or to taste

Heat the oil in a 3-quart saucepan. Add the celery and onions and saute, stirring often, until celery is almost tender.

Stir in potatoes and continue to cook, again stirring often, until potatoes are almost tender. Add the beans to the potatoes. Add water, a Tablespoon or so at a time, as needed to keep ingredients from sticking to the saucepan.

Add the garlic, salt, and cumin. Cover and cook, stirring frequently and adding more water as needed, until potatoes are tender and mixture is thick.

Total calories per main dish-sized serving: 330 Fat: 4 grams
Carbohydrates: 63 grams Protein: 15 grams
Sodium: 910 milligrams Fiber: 12 grams

NAMIBIAN BLACK-EYED PEAS

(Serves 3 as a main dish or 6 as a side dish)

Dried black-eyed peas are very accommodating and do not need to be soaked before cooking. Pick over the peas, discarding any that are discolored or broken.

1 1/2 cups dried black-eyed peas
3 cups water
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground red chipotle (or cayenne if chipotle is unavailable)
1/4 teaspoon chili powder

Rinse the black-eyed peas and place in a 1 1/2-quart saucepan with the water.

Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, for approximately 20 minutes. Add the salt, chipotle or cayenne, and chili powder. Continue to cook for another 20-25 minutes until black-eyed peas are tender.

Total calories per main dish-sized serving: 282 Fat: 1 gram
Carbohydrates: 50 grams Protein: 20 gram
Sodium: 595 milligrams Fiber: 9 grams

MIXED FRUIT CURRY WITH PEANUTS

(Serves 2 as a small side dish or 6 as a condiment)

This easy-to-make dish offers a satisfying blend of flavors and textures. Excellent with tofu and rice dishes and many others as well.

2 Tablespoons canola oil
11/4 cups peeled, cored, and chopped tart apples, such as Granny Smiths
1/2 cup chopped yellow onions
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 Tablespoons water
1/2 cup dark raisins
1/3 cup chopped dried apricots
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup roasted peanuts

Heat the oil in a 10" skillet. Add the apples and onions and sauté, stirring often to keep from sticking.

Add all remaining ingredients at once and stir to blend. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring often to blend flavors. Serve warm or cold.

Total calories per side dish-sized serving: 442 Fat: 23 grams
Carbohydrates: 60 grams Protein: 7 grams
Sodium: 299 milligrams Fiber: 7 grams

CHADIAN ZUCCHINI WITH PEANUTS

(Serves 4)

This side dish is simple to prepare, with flavors and textures that complement each other well.

2 Tablespoons canola oil
4 cups zucchini, quartered lengthwise and then sliced crosswise in 1/3-inch slices
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/3 cup shelled roasted peanuts
Water as needed, a little at a time

Heat the oil in a 10" skillet. Add the zucchini and sauté, stirring often, until almost tender, approximately 10-15 minutes.

Stir in salt, cumin, peanuts, and a little water. Continue to cook, stirring often, for another 5-10 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Zucchini should be tender.

Total calories per serving: 150 Fat: 13 grams
Carbohydrates: 6 grams Protein: 4 grams
Sodium: 295 milligrams Fiber: 3 grams

LIBERIAN BANANA GINGERBREAD

(Serves 12)

This moist gingerbread is a delight for breakfast or weekend brunch. Wrap any leftovers snugly in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.

6 Tablespoons nonhydrogenated vegan margarine at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar (Use your favorite vegan variety.)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 cup mashed ripe banana
1 cup molasses
3 cups whole wheat all-purpose flour, divided
3 cups whole wheat all-purpose flour, divided
Vegetable oil spray to prepare baking pan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, cream together the margarine, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Stir in the salt and baking powder and then the extracts until well combined.

Blend in the banana and molasses. Next, blend in a quarter of the flour, followed by a third of the soymilk. Continue to alternate the flour and the soymilk, ending with the flour and stirring just enough to combine. Do not beat.

Scrape mixture into a greased 13" x 8" x 2" baking pan. Bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set pan on a wire rack to cool. Cut into squares to serve.

Total calories per serving: 310 Fat: 7 grams
Carbohydrates: 60 grams Protein: 5 grams
Sodium: 240 milligrams Fiber: 4 grams

MOROCCAN ORANGE DESSERT SALAD

(Serves 4)

*Pictured on the cover. For a special treat, serve this recipe with crisp orange- or lemon-flavored cookies.

1/3 cup slivered almonds
1/3 cup chopped dates
2 cups fresh orange sections, halved crosswise

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread almonds in a single layer in a small baking pan. Bake, stirring often, for 8-10 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from oven and set aside.

Spread almonds in a single layer in a small baking pan. Bake, stirring often, for 8-10 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from oven and set aside.

When ready to serve, divide date-orange mixture among four small dessert dishes. Sprinkle the almonds over the top and serve.

Total caloriesr per serving: 153 Fat: 6 grams
Carbohydrates: 24 grams Protein: 3 grams
Sodium: 2 milligrams Fiber: 5 grams

Peggy Rynk is a frequent contributor to Vegetarian Journal




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