Saturday, 6 April 2013

Cooking Gambian Style

How to Cook Plasas

Karen and I were invited to eat lunch with a good friend called Mariama. Mariama is currently eight months pregnant much to everyone's delight, so we accepted on condition that we were allowed to help.

First buy your ingredients. Mariama phoned Karen with a list of ingredients most of which Karen knew but there some animated conversations at the market. I noted with interest that Mariama didn't give Karen amounts, quantities, or volumes. Karen had to buy 10 delasis of ….., 15 delasis of....., a delasis being the local currency. There are 50 to the pound. We eventually found what was needed although we weren't sure as it does help if you actually remember to bring the the shopping list with you.

Next take the ingredients to Mariama's house. This involved a trek out of the village and across some open ground in very hot weather (even the Gambians are complaining at the moment, so I feel justified in saying that.)

Draw all the water you need from your well. Light your fire.

Then bone the fish. I didn't get a picture of this as my hands were so disgusting and smelly as the fish had been smoked. Just let me tell you that there are stories in Gambian folk law about the amount of bones in a Caaloo – they make sardines look positively unsupported!

Whilst you get your Toobab friends to do the least favourite job, wash the rice and put on to boil. Once the rice is cooked remove to your charcoal burner to keep warm and, while they are doing the next pair of fish, boil shredded green veg in plenty of water. Throw in two bitter tomatoes and two whole chillis to cook with the green leaves. Simmer for about 20 minutes to cook the green leaves.

Once the Toobabs have finally finished filleting six fish, get them to pound dried chilli and one onion. Add this to the green veg. Mix peanut butter (unsweetened ground peanuts) with water and add this as well to the green veg. Add two cups of palm oil. Mix in your fish. Leave to reduce for 20 minutes.
Karen's pounding needed a bit of expert improvement.
Adding the fish.
Season to taste with two stock cubes, a handful of salt, and some dried Baobab leaves.
 Serve in traditional Gambian style on a large platter with the rice, making sure that each person knows where their area of the plate is. If you don't have enough spoons because an unexpected extra guest appears, eat with your right hand.

Wash up. There was no way we were going to be allowed to help with this. We didn't even ask as that would have been insulting.
Do all this over an open fire, in the African midday heat whilst eight months pregnant, and then do it all again tomorrow, and the next day, and day after.

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