Saturday, February 20, 2010

Equatorial Guinea

I hope I don't shock or offend anyone by saying this, but this was the first country we pulled that left me scratching my head and running for a map. I knew it was somewhere on the west coast of Africa, but I honestly could not have pointed it out on a blank map. Fortunately this meal provided the perfect opportunity for a much needed geography lesson.

It turns out that Equatorial Guinea is located just beneath the top bulge of Africa and consists of several large offshore islands and a mainland territory about the size of Rhode Island. Also it is the only Spanish-speaking country in Africa. Aside from a few areas of Morocco, Guinea was Spain's only African colony. Historically it was a Portuguese trading port that was active in the slave trade and used as a stopover point for European cargo passing to and from Asia. Spain took over control in the 18th century and retained power over the colony until the declining years of the Franco regime in the late 1960's.

The unique colonial past of this tiny country is apparent in the cuisine which is quite similar to other West African nations, but has also incorporated many elements of Spanish cooking. As I researched recipes I found many to be familiar in concept yet new in ingredients and method. The final product is something that anybody who loves Latino and African cuisines must try.

Papaya Gazpacho

Fresh fruits are often a large part of many West African meals. In this recipe I used papaya instead of tomatoes for a different take on the standard Gazpacho recipe. The slight sweetness of the papaya allowed for a lot of strong flavors to be added to the mix. Feel free to use more habanero if you want a much spicier soup. I toned it down for pleasing the crowd at my table.

1.5 lbs papaya flesh (1/2 big one) cut into 1 inch cubes
1 cup cucumber skinned and cubed
1/2 cup lime juice
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 habanero chile seeded
Salt to tasted
1 avocado thinly sliced
Cilantro chopped
Cucumber sliced

1. Combine everything but the garnish in a blender and process to a smooth consistency with a pint of water.
2. Pour the mix into a bowl and add another liter of water or just enough to give the mixture a soupy consistency. Sitr well and refrigerate for at least one hour.
3. Serve garnished with avocado, cucumber and cilantro.

Creamed Spinach

Traditionally this recipe calls for collared greens, but it snowed a lot that week and I couldn't get to a market that sold collareds for a reasonable price. So we had spinach instead. But that's fine because this recipe could work with any number of greens. I'd love to see how it would work with mustard greens in the future.

2 tbsp corn oil
1 lb spinach washed and chopped
1 large red onion thinly sliced
1 tsp dried ginger
1/2 tsp dried turmeric
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup water
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 tsp salt

1. In a large cast iron skillet heat the oil and cook the onions over medium heat and cook until tender about five minutes.
2. Add the cream, turmeric, and ginger and simmer another 3 minutes.
3. Add the spinach salt and water. Raise to a simmer and cover and continue cooking for five more minutes.
4. Reduce liquid to a thick sauce and serve.

Corn and Avocado Pap

I'd use less water with this in the future. The final product was a bit too runny for my liking. Still it was tasty and the avocado and cooked vegetables give it a more substantial taste than regular corn mush. Still I would definitely be more careful with the water in the future.

2 cups fine ground corn meal
2 liters water
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 jalapeno seeds removed
1 red onion minced
2 cups corn kernels
2 ripe tomatoes
2 avocados chopped
2 scallions chopped
Salt to taste

1. Combine corn meal and water in a saucepan and simmer 40 minutes covered stirring every five minutes. Set aside and allow 30 minutes to cool.
2. In a skillet heat the olive oil and saute the all the vegetables except the avocadoes and scallions for five minutes.
3. Stir in the avocadoes and scallions and remove from the heat.
4. Fold the vegetables into the corn mush and serve.

Peanut Bread

This is some very dense bread. I'd recommend cutting it into small portions when serving with the food so you don't overwhelm anybody.

1 cup coconut milk
3 tbsp honey
3 tsp dried yeast
1.5 tsp chili powder
1.5 cups ground peanuts
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2.5 cups white flour
2.5 cups wheat flour
2 tsp salt
1/4 cup melted butter

1. Heat coconut milk and honey in small saucepan until well mixed. Allow to cool and stir in the yeast. Let sit for ten minutes.
2. Now combine everything in a large bowl or electric mixer and stir well until everything is mixed. Kneed for ten minutes adjusting for flour and water ratios until the dough is smooth and elastic. Allow to sit covered in a warm place for 1.5 hours or until the dough has doubled in size.
3. Gently push dough down and place into a greased loaf pan. Cover again and let rise for another 40 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 and bake dough for 40 minutes. Invert the bread from the pan and allow another 30 minutes to cool. Serve alongside everything.

Chicken and White Bean Paella

This could be served as a one pot meal with maybe a salad to accompany it. We jazzed it up a little bit with the white wine, but for the most part this is a delicious and utilitarian way to feed a large crowd of people. Also it's a brilliant fusion of peasant food styles.

1 chicken cut into serving portions
4 tbsp oil
2 cups medium grain rice
4 cloves garlic minced
1 large red onion thinly sliced
2 tsp oregano
2 tbsp paprika
1/2 habanero seeded and chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp pepper
4 roma tomatoes chopped
1 red pepper thinly sliced
2 cups cooked white beans
1 cup white wine
3 cups chicken stock

1. In a large dutch oven or casserole brown the chickent pieces in the oil in batches and set aside.
2. Add the onion and gently cook over medium heat until browned.
3. Add the garlic and rice and gently cook until the rice becomes translucent
4. Add the tomatoes and saute for five minutes.
5. Add the wine, stock, spices, and pepper, and chicken. Raise to a simmer, cover, and cook over low heat for 30 minutes (add more water and stir if the liquid burns off to quickly)
6. Add the beans, stir well, check for water, cover and cook a further 15 minutes.
7. When rice is tender the paella should be ready.

In Conclusion

It's always a pleasure to cook something new, and yet feel somewhat familiar with it while cooking it. That was the feeling I had while preparing this meal. It's definitely a cuisine that deserves more research and attention because of it's unique mix of very distinct cultural influences. Also it was nice to not have too large a crowd for a change. The meal was small, simple, and fairly quick. The next post will be Germany. That took about a week to prepare and was anything but simple and quick. Until then: salud!


  1. I think I'm going to make the chicken and white bean paella this weekend. It looks awesome.

  2. Thank you so much for the peanut bread recipe!! Do you know how hard it was to find a bread for Equatorial Guinea for my own blog? Thank you so much from a fellow foodie from Indiana!