#46 Date selected: 3/6/17 Date completed: 06/07/17
Country selected: The Republic of Congo
Dining Selection: Cooked Own
What was on the menu/Recipe address:
I have to confess, I never actually realised that there were multiple countries with the name Congo. I knew that The Congo was famous for gorillas and diamonds and was generally a dangerous place to visit, but my ignorance just lumped the countries altogether without realising that most of the stereotypes I had heard related to the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Today’s challenge is The Republic of the Congo which is also known as Congo-Brazzaville, the Congo Republic, West Congo or simply, the Congo. It’s a country in central Africa that borders five countries and the Atlantic Ocean. Originally inhabited by Bantu-speaking tribes, the country was colonised by the French and formally part of Equatorial Africa. It became independent in 1960 and today has some degree of prosperity thanks to oil revenue. In fact, the Republic is the fourth largest oil producer in the Gulf of Guinea.
I was surprised to hear about the relationship between the Bantus and Pygmies in the area. From birth many Pygmies belong to Bantus which many refer to as a slavery. The Pygmies, according to the Congolese Human Rights Observatory, are treated properly, the same way “pets” are. In a move which is first of its kind in Africa, parliament adopted a law for the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples in 2010 – a historic development for indigenous peoples on the continent.
A mixture of French, Asian, Arabic and African influences, Congolese cuisine, as with many others, is influenced by the availability of crops and resources. Maize, cassava, rice, sweet potatoes, yams, taro, tomatoes, pumpkin, plantain and varieties of peas and nuts are common with coffee and palm oil making up important exports for the country. Fish are plentiful along the River Congo and these, goat and chicken are also widely consumed. In addition, grasshoppers, caterpillars and other edible insects are consumed.
For this challenge a traditional stew called Moambe appealed to me. It’s traditionally cooked with palm oil but peanuts are often substituted or added to the oil. Knowing some of the environmental effects palm oil has on the environment, I decided to do the same, finding a recipe that already had the substitution made.
It’s a very easy dish to make – simply fry off the chicken and set aside. You make the sauce by sautéing some onions, adding tomato paste, tomato puree, garlic, green onions, red pepper flakes, salt and water and mixing together over the stove. The chicken is once again added to the pot and the whole thing is boiled then simmered.
To finish you mix peanut butter with a small amount of the sauce, then add the lot back into the pot and cook again until done.
The result is a thick golden red stew that almost looks more like a curry. I served mine with some plain cous cous, a boiled egg and some chopped green onion. It was delicious.
The hints of the tomato within the sauce cuts through the peanut taste and the chicken remains lovely and moist. It’s a very thick stew that coats the roof of your mouth and I found the green onion and egg were good at helping break this up a little and adding some more freshness to the dish.
It’s beautiful to look at and would make a really nice winter dish for those times that you feel like trying something a little different. I’d really like to try out a variety of accompaniments while keeping the stew as the main part of the dish – I think it would lend itself well to a wide range of textures and flavours. Definitely something I’d try again.
But for now, it’s onto the next challenge….