The Flavours of Africa

We’re enjoying a warmer Winter with African flavours. From Stews, Soups, Curries, and more; the spices and ingredients of Africa are packed with diversity to create the ultimate heart-warming meals. This Winter, take yourself on a journey through Africa by creating traditional dishes, or simply using new ingredients and trying new spices. Put an African-spin on your regular weeknight meal. Africa is a big continent, with a range of incredible cultures differing from north, to east, west and South – learn a little more about some of the spices, flavours and meals we love:

Herbs & Spices found in Africa Cuisine:

Common spices include black pepper, cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, paprika, ginger and chillies.

Nettles:
(Yes, like stinging nettles!). Nettles are popular in Kenya. They are harvested and soaked to reduce the stinging effect and then sold, either fresh, dried or ground .Have you ever had a nettle soup? Nettles and potatoes are a great combo. Don’t shy away from this forage if you see it on the menu. 

Peanuts: 

Peanuts or groundnuts flourish in Africa and make their way into Africa dishes as a great source of minerals, protein and fibre. Peanuts are often roasted, ground up as peanut butter in many dishes. 

Piri-Piri / Peri-Peri (Mozambique/SA)

THE SPICE BLENDS of Africa:

Berbere Spice

Berbere Spice (Ethiopia)

A hot peppery spice made with a combination of spices such as chili, garlic, cumin, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, nigella, fenugreek, and ajwain…

Berbere Spice is a hot peppery spice made with a combination of spices such as chili, garlic, cumin, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, nigella, fenugreek, and ajwain. It is most often used in stews, of meat, vegetables and lentils but you can add it to anything. You can substitute with Cayenne pepper, if needed, but it won’t have as much depth.

Dukkah (Egypt, Morocco, North African): A blend of sunflower seeds, hazelnuts (or walnuts), almonds, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, sesame seeds, cumin, peppercorns, sweet paprika powder, sea salt. Dukkah is really versatile – you can use it as a dry rub for fish or steak to create a flavoursome, crisp coating, or simply sprinkle it, like salt onto a tomato or fried egg. With the addition of nuts and seeds, if is not easy to find a Dukkah sub that will do quite the same job, but Za’atar (below) could work.

Dukkah

Dukkah

Zaa’tar: A spice blend of wild za’atar herb, marjoram, thyme, oregano, coriander, cumin, toasted sesame seeds, sumac, and salt…

Za'atar

Za'atar

Dukkah (Egypt, Morocco, North African): A blend of sunflower seeds, hazelnuts (or walnuts), almonds, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, sesame seeds, cumin, peppercorns, sweet paprika powder, sea salt…

Za’atar (Egypt): A spice blend of wild za’atar herb, marjoram, thyme, oregano, coriander, cumin, toasted sesame seeds, sumac, and salt. The Za’atar herb, known as Wild thyme is not found far and wide outside of Egypt, so blends of thyme, oreganum, and marjoram can create a similar flavour. It can be used to season meats or vegetables, and it a good addition to homemade hummus. 

As with dukkah, we really don’t suggest a substitution, as it is the highlight and main attraction of your dish.

Harissa (Tunisia): A North African chilli paste made with chilli peppers, sometimes red peppers, garlic, salt, lemon juice, cumin seeds, coriander and caraway. It is served as a side, alongside breads, stews or couscous, allowing the diner to decide how hot they want their meal. 

Substitutions can be found from the East, like Sambal Oelek or Sriracha.

Harissa

Harissa

Harissa (Tunisia): A North African chilli paste made with chilli peppers, sometimes red peppers, garlic, salt, lemon juice, cumin seeds, coriander and caraway.

Ras el hanout

Ras el hanout

Ras el hanout (Morocco): meaning ‘top of the shelf’; is a mixture which often includes up to 40 different spices and is the best/top spice someone can buy in a shop….

Ras el hanout (Morocco): meaning ‘top of the shelf’; is a mixture that often includes up to 40 different spices and is the best/top spice someone can buy in a shop. It is not very spicy but gives a strong warm flavour. The spice mix should be aromatic, warm, sharp, and slightly pungent, and includes spices such as dried lavender, caraway, galangal, a variety of peppers, dried rosebuds, and Japanese white ginger. It is commonly used in Moroccan tagines. 

While it won’t give the same depth, at a push you can substitute with Indian garam masala and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

The INGREDIENTS of Africa

Common grains include rice, couscous, sorghum, corn, and black-eyed peas. Other grains are amaranth, teff, and millet. You might have heard of these referred to as Ancient grains. 

Common root vegetables include potatoes, onions, garlic as well as carrots, turnips, beetroot, brinjals (and African Eggplant), marrows, squash, and tomatoes.

Green leafy vegetables are big in the Northern part of Africa, such as spinach, kale, collard greens, cabbage, and nettle. Other greens are the Spider flower leaves, okra bush, and the leaves of cassava, sweet potato, or cocoyam. 

In Southern Africa, we have sweeter fruits like pineapples, mangoes, pawpaw, bananas and avos. 

Coffee: 

One common Ethiopian coffee saying is “Buna dabo naw”. This literally translates to “Coffee is our bread”. The biggest coffee-producing countries in Africa are Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Uganda, Kenya, Congo, Tanzania, Madagascar, and Cameroon. 

If you ever visit Ethiopia, a traditional Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony is a must. (As a team of coffee lovers, we would love a trip there). In Africa, you will drink coffee like Espresso. It is thick and syrupy and sometimes mixed with spices. 

Many other countries produce coffee, like Angola, Ghana, Guinea, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Liberia, Nigeria, Rwanda, and more.

Cocoa: Ivory Coast and Ghana are producers of cocoa. 

OTHER UNIQUE INGREDIENTS

Cassava:

This is a starchy root that is often used for mash, stews bread or chips and can be used as an ingredient or ground into a flour. It is also used to make tapioca flour. 

 

 

 

Okra:

Common in West-Africa and Ethiopia, the Okra is a small green seed pod. It is also known as ‘lady fingers’ or ‘gumbo’. Okra has a mild taste and a unique texture. People can add it to salads, soups, and stews. They can eat it fresh or dried, pickled, fried, sautéed, roasted, or boiled.

 

 

 

Plantain:

A large variety of bananas, they are bigger, greener and have a thicker skin. Plantains are more starchy and lower in sugar, so when they are ripe, they are still green. These are cooked and not eaten raw. 

 

 

Matoke (Uganda):

a variety of banana, shorter banana that is harder and more starchy. Usually cooked, used as “green bananas”. 

 

Yams:

NOT a sweet potato, but is also a tuber vegetable. Yam is also known as a Madumbe in South Africa. It is less sweet and more starchy. 

 

 

 

Baobab:

Known as a superfood these days, you can get it in a powdered form. 

POPULAR MEALS of Africa:

South Africa – with diverse cultures in our country, we all love food, and we all know our traditions. From Potjies, to Pap, Walkie Talkies, or even bunny chows. Let’s take a look at some other meals:

 

  • Chakchouka (Tunisia): a.k.a Shakshouka in the middle east;  is a dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, olive oil, peppers, onion, and garlic, and commonly spiced with cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, and nutmeg.
  • Tagine (Morocco): A famous slow-cooked Moroccan stew that takes its name from the traditional clay or ceramic dish it’s traditionally cooked in.
  • Peri-Peri Chicken/Prawns (Mozambique, South Africa): Chicken or prawns in a  spicy, peri-peri sauce
  • Chermoula: North African marinade consisting of lemon juice, olive oil, coriander, parsley, garlic, cumin, paprika, chili peppers, and salt. The final result is a rough-textured paste that is traditionally used with fish or seafood dishes.
  • Injera: an ethipoian flatbread made using teff flour, but it can also be made with  Here’s how to make it
  • Fufu: an essential in West Africa. The traditional method is to boil starchy food crops like cassava, yams or plantains and cocoyams and then pound them into a dough-like consistency. Fufu is eaten with the fingers, and a small ball of it can be dipped into an accompanying soup or sauce.
  • Doro Wat: A wat is an Ethiopian onion and berbere spice based stew. In Eritrea, this dish is known as tsebhi dorho
  • Sadza: another name for Pap, also known as ugali, nshima, and phaleche
  • Pilau: A fragrant rice dish of East Africa that is inspired by Indian influence. 

Do you know a traditional African dish that you love? Or something interesting that you have tried before? Share your dish or story with us here: