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Posts Tagged ‘onion’

Bissap and Bacon Pastries

December 5, 2009  |  Recipes  |  No Comments

Of all the recipes I made for Thiebouchef, this was the most haphazard. I had been busy with a big project for work, and I did not even take the time to go to Casino for ingredients until late in the afternoon. But I had been thinking of some little cranberry and goat cheese pastries I’d had once, and I thought that the bissap would work very well in the place of cranberries. On the strength of that, and some phyllo I had in the fridge, I decided to forge ahead.

It turned out to be a lucky day, and my experimentation led to something tasty. I would like to claim that all of my experiments are so successful, but sadly that is not the case. It just seems that way because I will never write down the recipes for the failures, like my tea smoked tuna that tasted exactly like an old ashtray. Actually, maybe I should. I could write a cookbook titled “What didn’t work.”


  • 250 grams of bissap, rinsed to remove the sand
  • 1 medium onion, chopped very fine
  • 250 grams goat cheese
  • 100 grams bacon, chopped small
  • 1 package of phyllo. No, I did not try to make it myself in Dakar. There are limits.
    salt and pepper to taste
  • melted butter

Crook the bacon until it is crispy, and then sweat the onion over medium low heat in the bacon fat until it is translucent.Turn off the heat and return the bacon to the pan.

In a small saucepan, add the bissap and two cups of water. Try not to worry about the random mix of metric and imperial measurements. The water will not be enough to submerge the bissap. That is okay. Bring it to a boil over high heat, then let simmer until the bissap flowers soften and compress down into the liquid.

Add the cheese and 1/4 cup of the bissap liquid to the frying pan, which should be only a little warm now. Mix well. Take a a few of the bissap flowers themselves, which should be tender now, and chop them fine and add them to the mixture. Taste, and adjust as necessary with salt, pepper, and additional bissap liquid, though take care not to make the mixture too wet.

Heat the oven to something near the middle of the dial, say 200c. Take the sheets of phyllo and cut them into thirds, making long rectangles. Brush all over with melted butter, and then add a tablespoon of the filling to the middle of one end of the strip of dough. Fold like a flag, if you have ever seen that done. Here is an example with pictures.

Brush with more butter, and bake for ten minutes, or until golden and crisp.

Aubergine and Onion Gnocchi

November 5, 2009  |  Equipment  |  1 Comment

This is definitely a Casino recipe, as opposed to most of the others I have posted so far which could be made with things from any of the local markets. But you have to go to Casino from time to time. Where else will you randomly run into every expat you know on a Saturday afternoon? You will still need to stop by your favorite vegetable stand too. No need to pay 5000fcfa for an eggplant. Plus, it is always good to stay in touch. After being away for a few weeks the woman from my usual vegetable stand chased after me in the street one day to ask why I had stopped buying tomatoes.

This became one of my default meals when cooking at home, which, when coupled daily lunches of thieboudienne, explains why I did not lose weight during my second year in Senegal like I did during my first.


  • 1 large eggplant
  • 2 or 3 medium red onions, sliced into half-rings.
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 package of bacon pieces. I guess about 8 ounces.
  • 1 pint of heavy cream
  • 1 pound of gnocchi
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil for frying
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Set a pot of salted water to boil and put a large frying pan over high heat. Slice the eggplant into 1/2 inch (1cm) thick slabs. Fry the eggplant in a liberal amount of olive oil until they are dark brown on both sides. You can tell when they are cooked, because in the first few minutes they will soak up all the oil in the pain, and when they are ready they will release back most of it.

Remove the eggplant and set aside. Into the still-hot pan, throw the onions. Move them around a lot and let them start to cook down. When they get a bit of color on them, move them to the edges of the pan and throw the bacon in. You don’t want it to steam, so make sure the onions give it room.

While the bacon is cooking, chop the cooked eggplant into 1cm strips. When the bacon is cooked and the onion is just starting to burn, add the eggplant back and pour in the cream. Also put the gnocchi in the water.

When the cream has thickened a bit, and the gnocchi has started to float, turn off all the burners. Add the cheese and the drained gnocchi to the onion and eggplant mixture. Salt to taste, then add a lot of pepper!

Chicken Satay with Pineapple Relish

October 10, 2009  |  Recipes  |  2 comments

Peanuts are one of the most important crops in Senegal, amounting to more than ten percent of export earnings. But of course they are not all exported. If you are ever a little hungry in Dakar, you are probably within 50 meters of a woman with a little wooden table selling bags of peanuts for 25 francs. I must have eaten a kilogram a week for the first few months I was there.

This is another recipe born of Thiebouchef (peanut, naturally). It’s a little complicated because it involves making everything from scratch, but for a somewhat quicker version you can use canned stock, boneless chicken thighs, and store-bought flatbread. (I think naan would be very good.)


  • 6 chicken leg quarters
  • 18 bamboo skewers

Ingredients for marinade

  • 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 3 cloves finely chopped garlic
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • Syrup from one can of diced pineapple (reserve the pineapple for later)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 tbsp peanut oil

Ingredients for satay sauce

  • 3 tbsp unsweetened peanut butter (If you are in senegal you can buy three tablespoons of p√Ęte d’arachide in a little plastic bag from your nearest market.)
  • 1 small onion diced very fine (Once again, I prefer the local senegalese red onions, but any will do.)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock (See Recipe Below)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 2 tbsp peanut oil

Ingredients for pineapple relish

  • 1/2 cup raw peanuts
  • 2 cans of pineapple chunks in light syrup
  • 2 onions, diced medium
  • 1 habanero chili
  • 1 tsp raz el hanout
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 4 tbsp peanut oil

Ingredients for peanut chapati

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened peanut butter
  • 2 tsp salt
  • water
  • Peanut oil for frying

Ingredients for simple chicken stock

  • Bones from 6 leg quarters
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 medium onion
  • A few peppercorns

The first step is to make the marinade for the chicken. Combine all the ingredients in a wide flat dish large enough to allow the skewers to lie flat with the chicken submerged.

Now it is time for the messy part: debone the chicken and slice it into strips. I’d never done this before, and it turns out to be a huge amount of work, especially with the fairly scrawny senegalese chickens. Be careful when deboning the drumsticks to remove the tough tendons. Each leg quarter should provide enough meat for three skewers. Try to use both thigh and drumstick meat in every skewer. As you finish each skewer, add it to the dish with the marinade.

Once the skewers are finished, put the dish in the fridge and place the chicken bones into a medium sized pot along with the other stock ingredients. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low for 45 minutes. Don’t let it boil! This is a very simple stock, but feel free to add some carroy and celery if you have it handy.

While the stock is simmering you have some time to make the chapati dough. Mix the flour, salt, and peanut butter together, and add just enough water to let it come together into a very stiff dough. Knead for 15 minutes and set aside to rest for 1 to 2 hours.

Meanwhile heat the oven to 240C with a metal baking pan inside. Mix the pineapple, onion, ginger, and 2 tbsp of peanut oil in a bowl, and transfer to the hot baking pan. Roast until the onion has just begun to burn, about 45 minutes. While the pineapple and onion are roasting, roast the habanero over the burner on a fork until it has completely blackened. Be careful, the steam can make your eyes hurt! Set the pepper aside to cool and combine the raw peanuts with the raz el hanout and remaining peanut oil in a small frying pan. Cook over high heat until the peanuts start to crackle and pop, then set aside in a bowl to cool.

Now it’s time for the satay sauce. Turn off the chicken stock and strain into a bowl. In the small frying pan you used a moment ago to roast the peanuts, combine the peanut oil and onion, and fry over medium heat until the onion just starts to change color. Add all the remaining satay ingredients except for the lime juice and stir over low heat until smooth. Remove from heat and add the lime juice.

Divide the chapati dough into 18 portions and place a large frying pan over high heat. Roll out the dough very thin, and fry for 1 minute a side (or until golden brown) in a small amount of peanut oil. If they do not puff up, you may need to raise the heat. Wrap the finished chapati in a clean cloth to stay warm.

Remove the onion and pineapple from the oven and combine with the roasted habanero chili. Chop the mixture until it is quite fine. Add the toasted peanuts.

Remove the skewers of chicken from the marinade and grill (preferable) or fry (also very good) until cooked through and golden brown on the outside. Place in the large frying pan over high heat and toss with the satay sauce until they are thoroughly coated.

Serve! Eat by wrapping the chicken in one of the chapatis and removing the skewer. Then add a spoonfull of the pineapple relish and enjoy!

Mango Beer Chutney

October 4, 2009  |  Recipes  |  No Comments

This recipe was part my entry for Thiebouchef: Beer. (Thiebouchef is Dakar’s premier competitive potluck.) A number of the recipes I will post here have their origins in that august competition.

I had always wanted to make a chutney, and best of all I was able to get all the ingredients (except the curry powder) at my local market in Yoff.


  • 2 pounds red onions diced to 1/2 inch
  • 4 large mangoes diced small
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 1 habanero (One should really be enough, but use two if you feel like you have to.)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 bottle beer – I used a Flag, a West African lager and it came out great, but I think that a Belgian golden ale would be great here.
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp yellow curry powder

Fry the onions in a small amount of olive oil over medium high heat for 30 minutes, or until they turn a dark red brown. This will require a lot of stirring to make sure they do not burn. While you are preventing the onions from burning, go ahead and char the bell peppers and habanero over open flame until their skins are completely black, then set them aside to cool.

When the peppers are cool, peel away the burned skins, remove stems and seeds, and dice. Be very careful not to touch your eyes after working with the habanero. Also, you might want to go ahead and wash that cutting board and knife right now.

Add the peppers to the onions and continue to fry over medium heat. Add 3 of mangoes and continue to cook until the mango disintegrates.

Add the beer, vinegar, and sugar and reduce heat to a simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. At this point, you can do a few taste tests and adjust the recipe a bit. I ended up adding a bit more beer, but Flag is pretty mild. If you are using a hoppier beer, you may need to add some more vinegar to balance the bitter.

That’s it! Remove from heat and add the remaining diced mango. Serve at room temperature with nearly anything. Pork comes to mind. Or shrimp. Or a sharp cheese and toast.

Sole with Passion Fruit

September 30, 2009  |  Recipes  |  1 Comment

I thought I should write up a full recipe for the sole I mentioned in the maad post. This is actually the very last thing I cooked in Senegal, if you don’t count chopping up an avocado for a salad. A friend and I had been planning to get together for lunches since we both worked at home, but it never seemed to work out until the day before I left the country.

We went to the supermarket together to see what looked good for cooking, and the passion fruit caught my eye. Working from there and making our way to some nice looking sole in the fish section, this recipe was born.


  • 4 sole fillets
  • 2 passion fruit
  • 2 limes
  • 1 small onion
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Butter for frying

Empty the passion fruit into a shallow dish (I left the seeds in, but you can strain the pulp if you like) and add the juice of the limes, 1 tsp salt, and a bit of pepper. Add the sole to marinate for about ten minutes.

While the sole is marinating, dice the onion fine, and start heating up a frying pan over a medium high flame. Fry the sole in 1 tablespoon of butter per fillet. Do them one or two at a time, don’t crowd the pan. It will be quick, only a couple of minutes per side. After the first flip, throw in a bit of the onion.

When all the fish is cooked, add any remaining onion and let cook for a minute, then add in the marinade. Bring it to a rapid simmer and turn off the heat. Add one more tablespoon of butter and pour the sauce over the fillets.

Serve with bread and an avocado salad.

Mango Onion Relish

September 20, 2009  |  Recipes  |  No Comments

This is a very simple recipe, but one of my favorites. For almost all of my life I was one of those people who hated cilantro. Then one day I made this relish, and now I am a convert.

While imported yellow onions are both more easilly found and often cheaper in the little boutiques in Yoff, the small red onions grown locally in Senegal have a great hot flavor. If you do not have access to them, I think a mix of red and white onion would work well.


  • 3 large mangoes. Ripe, but firm.
  • 2 medium onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1 tsp salt

Chop the onions and mango into 1/4 inch pieces and mix well. Add the lime juice. Toss in the cilantro and salt. That’s it!

An easy way to cut up the mangoes to this size is to cut them into 1/4 inch slices parallel to the seed with the skin still on. Then run the knife around the edge to remove the skin, and chop.