Senegal is a semitropical country; warm, sunny and colorful. Nowhere ... Africa do the women wear more exquisite fabrics-the brilliant swatches of cloth wound around them and arranged on their heads in enormous bandannas. They have the elegant bearing of women accustomed to carrying bundles or jugs of water on their heads. They like to hold in their mouths tiny twigs made from a special bark and sometimes decorated, with which they rub their teeth from time to time. The men also present an interesting picture in their long, bright, loose "boo-boos" and skullcaps.
The food markets of Senegal teem with color-the bright garb of the vendors blending with their wares of tropical fruits and vegetables. Peanuts are the main crop of Senegal and everywhere the aroma of roasted peanuts permeates the air. Seafood is the mainstay of the diet. The meats eaten less frequently are beef, lamb, and chicken. You'll find no pork, as many Senegalese are Muslims.
The influence of French food in Senegal is unmistakable, yet Senegalese food has a quality of its own, with dishes from many other parts of the world and other parts of Africa incorporated into the cuisine. Rice is the main starch, with the Couscous of northern Africa also being a great favorite.
Dakar, hot and humid but lovely, is the most important city of Senegal. Here one can have fabulous meals at Le Baobab, Tam Tam, and Les Cannibales Deux-restaurants which could compete with the finest anywhere. Gabriel, our handsome, tall (6-foot 4-inch) taxi driver, took us to the outskirts of Dakar where he and his friends have their lunch and we found delicious Thiou a la Wande, a meat stew. In the Casamance region north of Dakar, Yassa, a chicken specialty with onions and lemon, is prepared. In the village of Soumbedioune, where Senegalese crafts are displayed and where you will see fishermen bringing their catch in from the sea, you may have Thebouidienne, the freshly caught fish simmered with vegetables, including white and sweet potatoes, poured over large mounds of white rice.
When dining in one of the excellent Senegalese restaurants, you will select an appetizer from a list of twenty or twenty-five, all prepared with great care. The soups will be rich and full-bodied. There will be entrees in abundance; Yassa, Mate, and beautiful Couscous among them. Then a long list of fancy desserts, all served with great flair.
Or you might be served at one of the open-air restaurants where food is cooked on small tournieres, or broilers, which look like hibachis. They average about 15 inches in diameter and are sometimes round and sometimes square. The fourniere has a grate at the bottom and heat is regulated by adding or removing hot charcoal with tongs as required. (At one school we visited there were about fifty of them in the new home- economics department where cooking classes were about to begin.)
In a Senegalese home you would follow the custom of pouring water over your hands as you enter the dining area and then you would wipe them on a common cloth. After the guests are seated you would probably be served a stew-type dish with rice such as Thiou au Poulet, pronounced "chew," a special chicken stew; Mate aux Arachid, meat stew with groundnuts; or Thebouidienne, the delightful fish dish (all included in the recipe section). These would be served in deep enamel bowls, each seeming to be enough for three or four people. Then you would proceed to dip in with the first three fingers of your right hand. This takes getting used to but, once mastered, does seem to add to the food. Fruits would be served as the dessert, followed by coffee and tea.
A Senegalese dinner should be served with dignity and elegance. Use brightly colored tablecloths with contrasting napkins for a startling effect. Set your table with scented candles to evoke the perfume of the lush green Casamance region of Senegal where lemons and onions are combined for the Chicken Yassa. Have fresh flowers in reds and yellows to suggest the vivid colors of the flower markets. Decorate the table with African artifacts if you have them. Dishes should be plain white china or glass as a contrast to this color.
If you want to serve a cocktail, try the Senegali Sunshine, which you will find in the beverage section.
Start dinner with the Avocat aux Crevettes. Another appetizer you might consider is Assiette Cannibale of Senegal (in the recipe section). The Yassa is served individually from the kitchen and is followed by La Salade Cote Cap Verte. Salads are often eaten after the main course in Senegal.
When presenting the dessert, explain that Mamadou is the young owner of Les Cannibales Deux Restaurant in Dakar who went to Paris to learn French cooking techniques. The Banana Glace is his own creation and his most popular dessert.
Demitasse is served in the living room after dinner. You may want to serve some "Five-Cent Cookies" (see page 45) at this time or later in the evening.
Vegetables and Fruits
This appetizer is really astonishing. It may seem like a lot of work, but it is well worth the effort. The blending of mashed avocado and chick peas combined with shrimp and garnishes makes an intriguing combination of flavors that is unusual and delicious.
In a 2-quart bowl:
Mash: 2 large AVOCADOS, peeled (or 3 small) with
Shred 1 head LETTUCE and place in a 1-quart bowl.
For individual serving:
Place 1 cup SHREDDED LETTUCE on a salad plate.
Arrange 1/2 cup COOKED CHICK PEAS or BLACK-EYED PEAS, seasoned lightly with salt, in center of lettuce.
Cover peas with 3 to 4 Tbs. AVOCADO MIXTURE (above).
Arrange: 2 slices TOMATO, cut thickly and topped with
Place 2 quarters HARD-BOILED EGG, one each at opposite sides.
Spread 1 slice PIMIENTO across egg as a garnish.
Arrange 3 large COOKED SHRIMP in a row on top of avocado.
Garnish with 1 or 2 sprigs PARSLEY or WATERCRESS.
Note that chicken in the Yassa is marinated, partially broiled or barbecued to obtain required browning, and then finished in the oven, smothered in the onion- lemon sauce. For the onion lover (and we belong to the Onion Lover's League), this dish is superb.
Rub: 1 LEMON, cut in half heavily over
Spread chickens out in a 12 x 18 x 2-inch baking pan.
Cover with: 3 lbs. WHITE ONIONS, thinly sliced
Pour: 1 cup LEMON JUICE and
Allow to marinate for 30 minutes.
Remove the chickens and broil (preferably over charcoal) until chickens brown on all sides and are about half done.
Simmer the onion mixture above over direct heat stirring up from bottom to prevent onions from browning. Onions should remain white. Cook no longer than 5 minutes.
Return chickens to pan, smothering them with the onions.
Pour 1 quart CHICKEN STOCK (including giblets) over the mixture.
Bake at 375' for 20 minutes until onions turn a light golden color.
Cook 1/2 to 1 Ib. WHITE RICE as directed on package.
Place serving of COOKED RICE on a dinner plate.
Top with 1 BROILED CHICKEN HALF.
Cover with 1/2 to 1 cup YASSA ONION MIXTURE.
Garnish with WATERCRESS or PARSLEY.
La Salade is so important in French cuisine that in Senegal it may be used both as an appetizer or as a salad following the main dish. When serving the entree, present the Yassa first and then bring your Salade Cote Cap Verte. It is correct to serve French bread at this time.
In a salad bowl:
Combine 2 to 3 cups any available greens as LETTUCE, SPINACH, WATERCRESS, ROMAINE, cut in coarse chunks.
Arrange in mounds on 6- to 7-inch salad plates.
Chop 4 HARD BOILED EGGS finely (or put through sieve).
Sprinkle eggs heavily over the mound of greens.
In a jar:
Combine: 1 cup SALAD OIL (use part olive oil If possible)
Shake thoroughly. Serve dressing separately.
This double-strength banana dessert beats a banana split halfway to Dakar! Served with an excellent demitasse, it is a delicious and sophisticated dessert.
In an electric blender (or by hand):
Beat 4 BANANAS to a pulp.
Add: 1 pint HEAVY CREAM and
Beat until frothy.
Pour into freezer trays and freeze for 1 to 2 hours until partially firm.
Cut 8 BANANAS in half lengthwise and then in half across.
Place 1 BANANA (4 pieces in a row side by side) on a dessert plate.
Spread the frozen bananas uniformly over the fresh bananas when ready to serve.
Sprinkle each serving with: 1/2 tsp.-CHOPPED CANDIED FRUITS as ANGELICA or RED CHERRIES
How to make a really good demitasse:
Measure 1/4 Ib. DRIP GRIND COFFEE in a 2-quart glass or enamel saucepan.
Stir in 1 EGG, slightly beaten and enough water to mix thoroughly (about 1/2 cup).
Pour 1 quart RAPIDLY BOILING WATER over the coffee and stir up.
Bring slowly to a boil, stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat, cover, and allow to stand for 3 to 4 minutes.
Strain through fine sieve or cheese cloth into hot serving pot.
Pour in small demitasse cups. Serve black.
Senegal is the peanut capital of the world. It is therefore fitting to serve peanuts in some form at your Senegalese dinner. You might try peanut ice cream as served at Le Basbab Restaurant in Dakar.
In a 2-quart saucepan:
Immerse 1 14-oz. can EVAPORATED MILK in boiling water to cover and continue boiling for 20 minutes.
Chill the can thoroughly for several hours with a 2-quart bowl and egg beater.
Whip the chilled evaporated milk in the cold bowl with the cold egg beater.
Add: 4 Tbs. LEMON JUICE and
In a 3 quart bowl:
Combine: 1 cup PEANUT BUTTER with
Fold the whipped mixture carefully into the peanut butter mixture, until smooth.
Pour into freezer trays or into a 6-cup mold and freeze.
To carry through the Senegalese atmosphere, make a simplified version of the Cinq Centimes (the Five-Cent Cookie) you find in the market places of Dakar. Serve them later in the evening after your Senegalese dinner.
Purchase 3-inch sugar cookies at the grocery or bakery.
Spread each with peanut butter within a half inch of the edge.
Sprinkle each with coarsely chopped peanuts.
Arrange attractively on doily-lined platters and pass them to your guests. The youngsters will also adore these cookies.
There are more recipes from Senegal in the recipe section. Do try Mate aux Legumes Arachid (beef stew made with peanut butter) and The-bouidienne.
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