While browsing the web for inspiration, I came across loads of interesting recipes, calling for exotic ingredients, such as njangsang (a type of pepper used a lot in Cameroonian cuisine), yams and plantains (which I’d heard of before but never used myself) and a very peculiar spice mix, mbongo, which is used in mbongo tchobi, and produces a black sauce. Naturally, I was drawn to this black stew first! ^^
I paid a visit to an African shop in Holland, but alas… No njangsang, no mbongo. They did have lovely plantains, yams and cassava leaves! SCORE!
As soon as I got home, I went back to the Google drawing board, determined to find a dish I could try and recreate. I came across a delightful lady called Precious, and her equally delightful recipe for… *drum roll* ndole, a spinach/bitterleaf and peanut soup.
Soups in Cameroonian cuisine are often served with fufu, aka Africa’s take on mashed potatoes: mashed yams. Precious served her ndole with boiled plantains, so there you had it. I was ready to roll!
Here’s my ndole (+ boiled plantain) and fufu (below).
Mrs Pomegranate and I loved the taste of ndole. It may not look all that appealing, but it’s yummy. As for the fufu… I’m not a huge fan, but I’m not a mashed potato aficionado either, so I suppose that makes sense. The boiled plantains I loved. Their taste is obviously akin to a banana’s, but still sufficiently different so as to add an interest touch to this dish!
NDOLE RECIPE (adapted from Precious’s recipe)
- 2 cups (peeled) peanuts
- 300g spinach (the traditional recipe calls for bitterleaf; Precious uses a mixture of bitterleaf and spinach. Unfortunately, bitterleaf is impossible to find over here in Belgium, so I used spinach instead. Other recipes I found online used a mixture of kale and spinach.)
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 cup crayfish – coarsely blended
- +/- 1kg/2 pounds of boiled beef/beef feet/smoked fish/stock fish/shrimp (I used mainly shrimp, along with some boiled beef and smocked trout. The combination of beef and fish may seem somewhat peculiar at first, but trust me — or rather, the good people of Cameroon –, it works. Make sure you keep the boiling water of your meat/fish!)
- 5 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 1 inch of ginger, peeled
- 1 fish stock cube (Precious uses maggi crevette, a crayfish seasoning cube, which is unavailable here.)
- 2 regular stock cubes (I used veggie ones)
- 1 large red onion, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
- 1 habanero pepper (optional, but I’m glad I put it in)
- Add peanuts to a medium saucepan and add just enough water to cover them. Bring to the boil and boil for about 10 minutes.
- Season shrimp and set aside. Chop the spinach.
- Bring a good amount of water to the boil in a pot and add some salt and the baking soda. The baking soda is there to make sure your spinach keeps its vibrant green colour (lots of Cameroonian recipes add powdered limestone to help soften/retain colour. Soda I can handle; limestone might have gone a tad too far.) Once the water reaches a boil, add the spinach and take off the heat. Blanch for two minutes, drain and rinse with cold water. Squeeze the excess moisture from the spinach.
- Add garlic, ginger, habanero pepper and half of the onions in a blender, along with some of the boiled peanuts. Blend to a course paste. Blend the remaining peanuts with whatever liquid is left in the saucepan (shouldn’t be too much).This is the part where I’m not entirely certain as whether I achieved “Precious perfection”. You shouldn’t have a very smooth paste; rather “slightly rough, like ground egusi mixed with water”.My paste looked like this:
I think it’s a bit too chunky, but I liked the texture of the ndole in the end, so here’s me hoping I didn’t screw up too much. If I did, sorry Precious! The taste and smell of this paste was… MMMMM!
- Bring your meat/fish boiling water to the boil again, add the nut mixture and bring to the boil once more.
- Add the crayfish and give it a good stir. Add the spinach and repeat.
- Let simmer for 5 minutes and turn off the heat.
- Add stock cubes (crumbled)
- In a pan, heat up the oil and sauté the onions. Add the shrimp and cook until pink. Then add to the soup.
- Congratulations! You’ve just made ndole! Enjoy!
FUFU (aka mashed yam; recipe taken from whats4eats)
- +/- 1kg/2lb white yams
- 2 tbsp butter
- salt & pepper (to taste)
- Place the unpeeled yams in a large pot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 15 to 30 minutes, or until the yams are cooked through and tender. Drain and let cool somewhat.
- Peel the yams, chop them into large pieces and place them into a large bowl with the butter, salt and pepper. Mash with a potato masher until very smooth. Alternatively, put the yams through a potato ricer and then mix with the butter, salt and pepper. (I should add that it took a fairly decent amount of strength to pull this off with a potato ricer. A masher’s probably a better idea.)
- Place the fufu into a large serving bowl. Wet your hands with water, form into a large ball and serve.
BOILED PLANTAINS (recipe adapted from tropicalfoodies)
- 2 ripe plantains
- 8 cups water
- salt (to taste – don’t overdo it)
- Peel the plantains and cut them in half
- Fill a medium-sized pot with the water
- Add the salt and plantains
- Cook for 18 minutes (they should turn a lovely shade of yellow), drain and let sit for 2 minutes.
The state of my kitchen island after my Cameroonian adventure:
By now, though…
… I’m ready for the next country, which happens to be my favourite foodie country on the list: Indonesia! Mmmmmmmmmmmm!