Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Washington Post Celebrates West African Cuisine (and travel updates)

February 29, 2012: Happy Leap Year's Day! I was pleased to read Tim Carman's food column today (on West African cuisine) in the online version of  The Washington Post. He had interviewed me at length for background, and I was thrilled that he shared about the search for a publisher for the regional Ghanaian cookbook Barbara Baeta and I are writing. Incidentally, while the bulk of The Washington Post makes its way to our little community, it does not include the Lifestyle/Food section, so consider this a plea for any of you who are in that area to pick up a copy for me and send it to me at BETUMI, P. O. Box 222, State College, PA 16804. Thank you, I'd be very grateful.

Now that I'm back from Nigeria, I head to Oregon for a few days next week, then will attend the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) conference in New York City at the end of March and beginning of April.

Later, in June, I'll be at the IFT (Institute of Food Technologists) annual conference in Nevada,  speaking on

Beyond Peppers, Peanuts, and Palmfruit: The Multilayered Tastes and Textures of African Cuisines 

The presentation  "will introduce sub-Saharan African flavor principles, ingredients, and cooking equipment and techniques, with special emphasis on western Africa. From the special texture created by the ridged grinding bowl called “asanka” in Ghana to the signature steamed bean pudding “moinmoin” of Nigeria, from  “Grains of Paradise” and fonio and other “Lost Crops of Africa,” and on to Africa’s love affair with New World crops (e.g., cassava, maize and peanuts), this session will celebrate the abundance and diversity of good tastes from Africa."

I'm also on the books to teach a new course in the African Studies Department at Penn State for the fall semester: Food Culture in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

I'll keep you posted on these and other activities. Meanwhile, I'm still filing away a massive amount of papers from the last few months, but haven't forgotten my promise to post the recipe for the cassava biscuits/cookies I made last December. It will be coming soon.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Oatmeal fufu from Nigeria

Hello friends and colleagues.
I arrived back in the U.S. last week and have been slowly catching up on my sleep and my correspondence. Last night I attempted a dish I first tasted in Abuja a couple of weeks ago: "oatmeal." 

Not your every day breakfast cereal, though. It was interesting to see William Penn's face greeting me on boxes of Quaker Oats in the grocery shops in Abuja, but even more interesting to know that Nigerians have appropriated the oats to make a contemporary version of a starchy accompaniment to soup, similar to fufu.

I was first treated to this dish in the home of Godwin and Felicia Chukwu. When I asked for the name, I was told, simply "oatmeal." "No other Nigerian name?" I asked and was assured there is not.

Unfortunately, I had no time for Felicia to demonstrate its preparation to me, but she did show me the heavy duty grinder she uses to grind the oats to flour, and she explained the basic process: bring water to a boil, gradually stir in the oats and mix well for a couple of minutes, then spoon into a serving bowl. She assured me I could just as easily use an electric blender to make the flour, as you see I did.

I believe she also said no added salt, and I remember Godwin mentioned to keep a little boiling water on the side to add if the oatmeal gets too dry.
It's eaten with "any soup," and we had it with a delicious Nigerian soup in Abuja.

Last night I made a Ghanaian "light soup" with beef and okra and shrimp, and whipped up some "oatmeal" to go with it. I remember Felicia used "instant" oatmeal, but I had old fashioned rolled oats here in Pennsylvania. At any rate, my first effort was semi-successful: I remember the version in Abuja as being lighter and somehow fluffier, while also dense. I think I may not have ground the flour fine enough, and I may have added too much water as well. I used 2 cups of oatmeal and probably 1 cup of boiling water. Anyone out there who can fine-tune this recipe, please let us know.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day in Abuja

February 14, 2012: It's now my 6th and final intensive week teaching at the African University of Science and Technology here in Abuja, Nigeria. However, since today is Valentine's Day, it only seemed right to celebrate, so I broke out my last chocolate bar, whipped up some peanut (or groundnut) "cakes" aka, peanut brittle, some "atwemo" (twisted cakes), and popped some corn. That, along with tea and  coffee in the faculty lounge (with the room decorated with some lovely bougainvillea from the campus) made for a pleasant mini celebration as our very international staff gathered together during the morning break. 

Hmmmm, am I really ready to head back to ice and snow in central Pennsylvania?