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Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog begun in 2012 about family travel around the world, without leaving the UK.

I love travel adventures, but to save cash and keep my family's carbon footprint lower, I dreamt up a unique stay-at-home travel experience. So far I've visited 110 countries... without leaving the UK. Join me exploring the next 86! Or have a look at the "countries" you can discover within the UK by scrolling the labels (below right). Here's to happy travel from our doorsteps.

Around 2018 I tried a new way of writing my family's and my own UK travel adventures. Britain is a brilliant place for a staycation, mini-break and day trips. It's also a fantastic place to explore so I've begun to write up reports of places that are easy to reach by public transport. And when they are not that easy to reach I'll offer some tips on how to get there.

See www.nicolabaird.com for info about the seven books I've written, a link to my other blog on thrifty, creative childcare (homemadekids.wordpress.com) or to contact me.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Tasty Congo meal

Hamburger and hot chocolate, Greek pitta, Congo veggie meal with raw salad, yellow rice and cassava leaf stew.
This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. Impossible? No. This post offers delicious tastes from Congo, Rwanda and Liberia - all served up at a London park festival in June. Words from Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my books and blogs).    

At the Green Fair in Regents Park, London (June 2012) it's obvious that people who like green stuff also seem to love international flavours - especially music and food.

Top of the food stall choices Lola, Nell and I picked out was the Congo veggie meal - a huge pot of cassava leaves cooked slowly with coconut and cauliflower then served with saffron-coloured rice and a raw salad. It was not what I expected Congalese food to be like. The raw salad was gorgeous including plantain, fruits and grated carrot with a moreish sauce. The woman serving it said you can find packets of dried cassava leaf in markets that specialise in African food, for Londoners Brixton would be a good choice. In Africa cassava leaf (fresh and dry) is also used as animal fodder and to fatten up tilapia (fish).

Here is a recipe I found on the web for a similar dish (from Liberia).

Dried Cassava Leaf Soup: This is a traditional Liberian recipe for a classic stew of meat and fish with cassava leaves that's flavoured with red palm oil. In West African markets you can buy big 500g packs of finely-chopped dried or semi-dried cassava leaves. My wife often buys these as a base for soups or as an addition to palm butter soups or palm oil soups. This is a fairly simple dish that focuses on the cassava leaves themselves and is characteristic of Liberian cuisine. 
Ingredients: 500g ground or chopped dried cassava leaf 4 bonnies (or any firm white fish, cut into steaks) 3 dried bonnies (or any dried fish or smoked and dried fish) 500g meat, cubed 4 whole hot chillies (eg Scotch bonnet) 2 onions, chopped 2 tomatoes, chopped half chicken, cut into serving pieces 2 Maggi (or bouillon) cubes 1 tbsp black pepper 1/8 tsp baking soda salt 400ml red palm oil (or groundnut oil with 1 tbsp paprika) oil for frying (groundnut oil or soy oil) 
Method: Begin with the pepper paste. Add the hot chillies to a pestle and mortar along with a handful of onion and pound to a paste then add the tomatoes and pound in. Wash the dried fish thoroughly then break into pieces, removing as many bones as you can. Add the oil to a pan and use to brown the meat and chicken then set aside. Add the fish steaks and fry until coloured then set these aside. Add the onions and fry for about 5 minutes, or until soft then add half the chilli mix and fry in. Now add the meat back to the pan along with the dried fish, the pepper and Maggi cubes and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer then cook for about 40 minutes, or until the meat is tender. Now add the cassava leaf, the remainder of the chilli paste and the baking soda and bring the mixture back to a boil. Cook, uncovered until almost all of the liquid has evaporated. Pour the palm oil into the soup, stir to combine then return to a boil, reduce to a low simmer and continue cooking for about 10 minutes. Serve hot with rice.
Read more at Celtnet: http://www.celtnet.org.uk/recipes/miscellaneous/fetch-recipe.php?rid=misc-dried-cassava-leaf-soupCopyright © celtnet

Until trying this dish I'd assumed food in the Congo was either meaty, or extremely plain like this recipe for Mikate (donuts) which are also served in Rwanda (taken from a school cookbook, downloadable).

Congo donuts (mikate)
Mix together enough self-raising flour, eggs, milk, sugar and oil to make a thick porridge. You should be able to cut it with a spoon, then fry donut-sized chunks in hot oil. Repeat until all the mixture is used.

Tip: if you want to spark this up a little a trick VSO volunteers used when on trips in rural areas (in Solomn Islands) was to use the syringe supplied by the British Council to shoot store bought jam into our homemade doughnut. It made them taste delectable!

Over to you
Have you tried dried cassava leaf? Where did you find it, and what did you cook with it?


Anonymous said...

I don't believe I have tried cassava leaf, no, but I would certainly be willing to - that veg dish looks yummy in the photograph!

Nicola Baird said...

From Facebook:
Mazula: Have had leaf from the potato plant, may have cassava leaves as well but can't remember.
Nicola Baird: could be a new Solomon Islands business?!