Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Fufu in Brazil?

We've been in Brazil for 3 months. We're getting really tired of omo tuo (rice balls) in all our Ghanaian soups. I decided this week to attempt to make fufu with what is available when one does not have a mortar and pestle for pounding it from fresh cassava and plantains or cocoyams. At the market I picked up some polvilho (manioc, or cassava, starch). It seems to be the same thing as tapioca starch in the U.S. There're 2 kinds: doce (sweet) and azedo (acid). I also bought some farinha de mandioca, torrada or toasted, (a cassava meal that's like a really, really fine unfermented gari).

I spent a couple of hours last night trying to make Ghana-style fufu. You don't want the gory details. Suffice it to say that, with a great deal of trial and error, I produced a semblance of fufu that we managed to eat with our chicken light soup with okra. It was kind of a cross between that paste you use to stick wallpaper on the wall and fufu. Next time I need to drastically reduce the amount of starch, increase the amount of water, and figure out how to keep it from clumping up. Help! Have any West Africans lived in Brazil who can tell me what to do? We still have 2 more months here.

On a more hopeful note, I'm going to use some of the polvilho, along with a special cheese from Minas Gerais, to practice making a delightful type of puffy Brazilian cheese ball known as pão de queijo (bread of cheese), but that's another story.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Jiló in Brazil, garden egg (ntroma) in Ghana

A few weeks ago, a Brazilian friend and I went to lunch at an award-winning cafe in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais. One of the featured items on the menu had "jiló" (pronounced zhee-LO) in the name. "What's that?" I wanted to know. "Oh, it's a vegetable especially popular in Minas Gerais. It tastes wonderful" she assured me. She held her thumb and forefinger almost together to make an oval, and said "It's shaped like this, and about this size."

I decided to order a different dish for lunch, but the next time I went grocery shopping I picked up a "jiló" to try. When I cut it open, I was surprised to realize it was an unripe garden egg, the beloved little egg-shaped eggplant vegetable used in Ghana and other places in West Africa. I added it to whatever stew I was making that night, and found it more bitter than I remembered the garden eggs in Ghana. Interestingly, Brazilians find the ripe fruit bitter and the market will only accept the "young, sweet" green jil
ó. It's true that's the only kind I've seen here in the 3 months I've been in Brazil. I generally substitute eggplant in the U.S. because I don't have access to fresh garden eggs, though I have seen some Japanese eggplants in the stores that look similar. Jiló, too, can be used interchangeably with eggplant.

It turns out that there are 2 kinds of jiló
(Solanum gilo), both from the Solanaceae family: the kind popular in Belo and other parts of this region (comprido verde claro, or "long light green") and a rounder, more bitter type called morro redondo). Jiló is originally from Africa and found its way to Brazil, though not other Portuguese-speaking countries, via the slave trade.

It never ceases to amaze me how interconnected the world is!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Africa Cookbook Project Update, October 2007

The 2 latest additions to The Africa Cookbook Project include Devra Moehler's contribution of Taste of Uganda: Recipes for traditional dishes by Jolly Gonahasa (Fountain Publishers, 2002, Kampala) and Angeline Espagne-Ravo's Ma Cuisine malgache: Karibo Sakafo (Édisud, France, 1997) donated by TEDFELLOW Andriankoto Ratozamanana. Thank you to both of you. Please keep the books coming. Andirankoto marked several of the recipes in Ma Cuisine malgache: "Pâte à Sambossa," "Achards de Mangues," and the section on "Le Romazava (pot au fe) - (bouillon clair)" with the note "ramazava are our BEST." Espagne-Rovo confirms that "Le romazava est le plat national des Malgaches." There are some delicious-looking recipes there to try out. By the way, please follow Andriankoto's lead, and sign the book with your name (and anything else you'd like to say) and the date you donated it so we can give credit to the contributor. Or, if anyone would like to donate money to allow for the purchase of books to add to the collection, or make suggestions of books to include, please contact me at I'll be developing a "wish list" of books out there that need to be purchased.