Many communities rest inside the African diaspora. While we have many unique experiences and qualities from our own micro-cultures, we still share many common beliefs. Food is seen as a way to bring family, feuding parties and other groups together. Even though it may be difficult to physically come together in fellowship, these recipes will always bring us to the worldwide table. No reservation needed.
Sweet Plantains from the Caribbean Islands
This delicious dessert hails from countries closer to the Equator. Plantains, often confused with bananas, are the popular fruits’ savory cousin. This easy recipe will take you to the islands of Jamaica where this food is a popular side dish. It’s also referred to as dodo in Nigeria!
4 yellow ripe plantains
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons oil (vegetable or canola)
1 – 2 tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Cut off the ends of the plantains. Then, use a knife to slice into the skin along the length of the plantain. Don’t slice too deep in, just deep enough to slice the skin. Remove the peel in strips with your finger. Cut the plantains into 1-inch-thick slices.
- Heat oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
- When the butter is melted, place the plantains slices into the skillet. Fry until the plantains begin to turn golden brown, then turn over and continue frying, about 2 minutes per side.
- Reduce heat to low. Sprinkle plantain with sugar and cinnamon. Cover the skillet and cook, turning them over once, until the plantains are tender and they have caramelized, about 8 – 10 minutes.
- Serve immediately as a side dish to any entrée.
Jollof Rice from West Africa
Jollof rice is a staple dish widely known in West African countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Nigerians refer to this as their party rice, served at ceremonies and celebrations. Others regard it as a necessary part of a great home-cooked meal.
1/3 cup oil (vegetable/canola/coconut, not olive oil)
6 medium-sized fresh plum/Roma tomatoes, chopped, OR a 400-gram tin of tomatoes
6 fresh, red poblano peppers (or 4 large red bell peppers), seeds discarded
3 medium-sized red onions (1 sliced thinly, 2 roughly chopped), divided
1/2 to 1 hot pepper, or to taste (yellow Scotch bonnets are my favourite)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons (Caribbean/Jamaican-style) curry powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 dried bay leaves
5 to 6 cups stock (vegetable, chicken, or beef) or water, divided
2 teaspoons unsalted butter (optional), divided
4 cups uncooked converted long-grain rice or golden sella basmati, rinsed
Salt, to taste
Black and white pepper, to taste
- In a blender, combine tomatoes, red poblano (or bell) peppers, chopped onions and Scotch bonnets with 2 cups of stock, blend till smooth, about a minute or two. You should have roughly 6 cups of blended mix. Pour into a large pot/ pan and bring to the boil then turn down and let simmer, covered for 10 – 12 minutes
- In a large pan, heat oil and add the sliced onions. Season with a pinch of salt, stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes, then add the bay leaves, curry powder and dried thyme and a pinch of black pepper for 3 – 4 minutes on medium heat. Then add the tomato paste – stir for another 2 minutes. Add the reduced tomato-pepper-Scotch bonnet mixture, stir and set on medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes till reduced by half, with the lid on. This is the stew that will define the pot.
- Add 4 cups of the stock to the cooked tomato sauce and bring it to boil for 1 – 2 minutes.
- Add the rinsed rice and butter, stir, cover with a double piece of foil/baking or parchment paper and put a lid on the pan—this will seal in the steam and lock in the flavour. Turn down the heat and cook on low for 30 minutes.
- Stir rice—taste and adjust as required.
- If you like, add sliced onions, fresh tomatoes and the 2nd teaspoon of butter and stir through.
Southern Shrimp & Grits from the United States
This recipe hails from the Gulf Coast. The southeastern region of the United States holds so much history for African Americans. Stories, family lineage and history are often passed down by word of mouth. Popular recipes like shrimp & grits have traveled through generations the same way. This dish can be found in restaurants all over the world but it will always be birthed by the bayou.
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 cup quick cooking grits
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup Parmesan
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 pound smoked kielbasa sausage, sliced
2 pounds uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
Chopped chives, for garnish
- In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the chicken stock and whipping cream up to a low simmer. While simmering whisk in the grits and a pinch of salt. Stir constantly and return to a low simmer. Cook until thickened, stirring often, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the butter and Parmesan cheese. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Heat a large saute pan over medium-heat.
- Melt butter and saute onion, garlic and green bell pepper. Saute until tender and translucent and add the sausage. When the sausage has cooked, add the shrimp and saute for about 2 minutes.
- Add white wine and diced tomatoes. Bring to a boil, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Serve over the Parmesan cheese grits. Garnish with chopped chives.
Quindims from Brazil
Brazil is home to the largest group of people with African heritage outside of the continent of Africa. Their culture is rich and so is their food. Quindim is a custard dish with coconut. This sweet dish is made with simple ingredients and is a country wide favorite.
1 muffin tin
1 pan or dish for holding hot water
8 egg yolks sieved
½ cup sugar
3 tablespoons butter melted
½ cup coconut milk
1 cup grated or shredded coconut fresh or dry
For the bottom of the tin:
2 tablespoons butter soft
⅓ cup sugar
- Place the coconut in a large bowl and pour the coconut milk on top. Mix well and let stand for 5 minutes.
- In a blender, add the sugar, butter, coconut mixture and egg yolks. Mix for 2 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F / 175°C.
- Generously apply butter in each mold of the tin and cover the bottom and edges with sugar edges. Add a little more sugar at the bottom.
- Pour the mixture into the molds and let stand 10 minutes at room temperature. Pour hot water in a pan and sit the muffin tin in the water. Place in the oven for 50 minutes.
- Allow to cool before unmolding.