PSC's African Safari

Post date: 23-Apr-2017 19:00:24

13th May 2017

One of the best things about travel is throwing yourself on, and discovering, the "kindness of strangers". Yet sometimes, you do not need to leave home.

This supperclub is inspired by a recent incident that was both unexpected and touching. I did an hour-long telephone interview with a young journalist who wanted to talk about the supperclub, but also, its sister project, Bags of Taste. At the end of this hour, he politely thanked me and asked me to let him know if there was anything he could ever do for me. I didn't hesitate to ask, as years running Parkholme Supperclub has taught me - "Ibrahim", I said. "That's a muslim name. Where are you from?". "Mali" he replied. "Excellent. Please ask your mother for her best recipe, and send it to me". Well, you can but ask. We have had some great recipes come to us this way; our Uzbek Plov came from a family friend of an Uzbek I know ("neither Oxana nor mum can cook a good plov, but I know a man who can". -"Now's the time to ask him"); the alarmingly named Placinta was from the uncle of a Moldovan guest (the best cook in the family, apparently).

You don't always get a reply to such requests, so imagine my surprise when I received the following response: "My mother said she would prefer to teach you herself, rather than just give you recipes".

Thus was arranged one of the best cooking lessons I have ever had. Mrs. Maiga was charming, and funny. Her son Ibrahim also attended and whilst he led me (oft-interrupted) through the fascinating recent-ish history of Mali, which I knew little about, his mother peppered it with hysterical and personal anecdotes from her and Mali's communist past ("mum's a communist", Ibrahim offered, by way of explanation)

I'll be cooking a couple of Mrs Maiga's recipes - Malian Jollof rice - quite unlike any other jollof rice I've ever had - and also Yassa - which she helpfully informed me was also eaten in Senegal, so we will represent Senegal with that one. It's become a firm favourite already!

We'll keep all the recipes Sub Saharan, and try to spread it around as much as possible, otherwise things tend to get dominated by West Africa. At dinner, I'll tell the story of my first ever Nigerian food - invited for dinner by Chief Ojora, chief of the Yoruba tribe - but suffice to say that I was not expecting African food to be so spicy. You have been warned - but we'll tone it down a bit, and not everything is blow-your head off anyway. And, my Nigerian accent is quite good, at least when impersonating Chief Ojora!

On the menu will be (they're coloured in on the map - if anyone wants to suggest anything that can colour a few more in the upper middle, we're listening!)

Ghana - Nana's infamous peanut soup with rice balls (v)

Nigeria - Efo Riro (prawns, spinach, onions, tomatoes) - a dish I've been cooking since Chief Ojora days and I'm told I do it well!

Senegal - Yassa - one of Mrs. Maira's dishes, the main ingredients of onion and chicken belie its deliciousness

Mali - Joloff Rice, cooked with lamb

Congo - Gari Foto - cassava meal with eggs - tastes better than it sounds! (v)

South Africa - Chalaka and Pap - great names for a tasty dish of mixed vegetables & beans, and cornmeal porridge (v)

Ethiopia - Atakilt Wat - Ethiopians do many good vegetarian dishes but this one elevates simple cabbage to the sublime (v)

Liberia - another alarmingly named dish, Chuck Rice - a change from the tomato-based jolloff, this one is green with spinach & okra (v)

Kenya - Kunde, a black bean stew with peanuts; again, nicer than it sounds (v)

Eritrea - Hamli, an Italianate fried greens dish (v)

Everywhere - Fried Plantain, lovely sweet and sticky (v)


South Africa - Malva pudding, which is their answer to Sticky Toffee Pudding, but not so sweet

Zimbabwe - Sweet Potato Cookies (they're a bit like scones)

Cost will be £45 of which £35 will go to MSF, who of course work in many of these countries.

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