With her colourful cookbook, Saka Saka: Adventures in African Cooking, South of the Sahara, Aline Princet doesn’t only want to teach people how to make African food.
“My intention in writing this book is to use pan-African cuisine to send out a strong, powerful and positive message,” writes the photographer in the book’s intro. “For several years now, Western society has shown increasing interest in African culture, driven in particular by the rise of ‘Afro’ culture. This is seen through the rise in contemporary art exhibitions, literature, fashion and decor (think shiny wax-print fabrics), films (including Black Panther, the 2018 Marvel blockbuster) and more African musicians in the limelight – a new black power, so to speak, that transcends all boundaries.
“So why is African culture so lacking in the culinary domain, compared to the intercontinental gastronomic explosion of recent years? Food is also a key part of ‘Afro’ culture, but the continent’s rich culinary heritage is, in my opinion, under appreciated.”
The book features 80 recipes from Gabon, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Congo and Ethiopia, including info on regional specialities and the main characteristics of these cuisines, as well as pantry staples and produce. Working with Princet is Anto Cocagne, who is a Gabonese chef based in Paris, artistic director of Afro Cooking magazine, president of the We Eat Africa food festival, and star of TV series Rendez-vous Avec Le Chef Anto. She too has ambitions to popularise African cooking.
The pair recruited African musicians, writers and artists to tell stories about their favourite dishes – both their memories and what those recipes represent for them now. Franco-Cameroonian artist Fred Ebami – who the book describes as one of the only African-heritage pop artists known around the world – chose banana fritters.
This easy-to-make West and Central African street-food delicacy can be eaten as a sweet snack dusted with icing sugar, drizzled with melted chocolate or with vanilla ice-cream. “Or as a savoury snack with spicy sauce,”says Cocagne. “You can use overripe regular bananas as well as overripe plantain bananas.”
She says if you don’t have a deep-fryer, use a deep heavy-based pot instead. “It’s important to maintain the oil between 170°C and 180°C so the fritters don’t absorb too much oil.”
Makes 25–30 fritters
Preparation time: 20 minutes (plus 1 hour resting time)
Cooking time: 30 minutes
6 very ripe bananas
60g plain (all-purpose) flour
60g fine corn meal
1 pinch salt
¼ cup lukewarm milk
6g baker’s yeast
Oil for deep-frying
Icing sugar or melted chocolate (optional)
Peel and cut the bananas into pieces. Place them in a bowl and mash using a fork or rolling pin. Add the flour, corn meal and salt, and mix until combined.
Mix the warmed milk and yeast in a bowl. Mix the yeast mixture into the banana mixture. Cover the bowl and leave the dough to ferment in a warm place for 1 hour.
Knock down the dough to remove the gas formed by the yeast.
In a deep-fryer, heat the oil to 170–180°C. Using a spoon, make balls of dough and drop them into the hot oil. Cook until golden all over. Drain the fritters on paper towel.
Serve the fritters hot, dusted with icing sugar or drizzled with melted chocolate.
This is an extract from Saka Saka by Anto Cocagne and Aline Princet, photography by Aline Princet. Murdoch Books $45. Buy it here.
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