Country #4 – Senegal

Sunday 21st February 2016

004 - Senegal.JPG

I’ve heard of Senegal before, but wouldn’t be able to point it out on a map if I tried!  If nothing else, this challenge is giving me a much greater awareness of countries that I probably wouldn’t have come across otherwise.

After a bit of Googling, I discover that, not only is Senegal situated in Western Africa, it’s actually really quite close to Liberia.  Despite shaking up the jar before each random pick, I seem to be somehow selecting neighbouring countries!  It’s quite strange, but there are a LOT of countries in West Africa so I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised.

Senegal seems to me to be much more Westernised than Liberia.  It’s been elected into the UN Commission on Human Rights and has strong ties with the USA and France in particular.   That said, Wiki states that 26% of women in Senegal have undergone female genital mutilation and illiteracy is high, particularly among women.

What does appeal to me in the country description is its strong tradition of storytelling through words & music.  “Griots” have been passed down the country’s history generation to generation.  It’s treated seriously and requires years of training.  I have done a little study in Japanese traditional theatre and the apprenticeship, to me, is reminiscent of that style of arts training.

Fish is apparently very important in Senegal due to the fact that it borders the Atlantic Ocean.  I am not really a fan of seafood so I probably won’t be cooking much of it in this challenge but it is something that I am willing to try and who knows, I could find a fish recipe that I actually really enjoy.  Pork is not really used in Senegal due to its largely Muslim population, but they do also use chicken, lamp, beef, peas and eggs.  The primary crop is peanuts so I’m expecting that they will show up quite a bit in traditional recipes as well.

In my search for a recipe, I’ve come across another Word Press blog called ‘Senegal Daily.’   I was actually tempted to try the fish recipe listed at the top of the page despite my aversion to seafood.  But then I came across the recipe for Poulet Yassa.  Chicken, lemon, mustard, chilli…..some of my favourite ingredients all in one!  I suspect this might be a winner.

As a side note, there’s also a description of a Senegalese tea ceremony on the site.  It sounds amazing!  I would love to try this at some stage but think I would prefer to do this with someone who knows what they’re doing.  The concept of the tea becoming sweeter representing the sweetening of a friendship over time is beautiful and, again, reminiscent of some Asian traditions.  I’m a bit of a fan of the idea.

Tuesday 23rd February 2016, 7.45pm

Challenge Log:

#4           Date selected:    21/2/16 Date completed:  23/2/16

Country selected:  Senegal

Dining Selection:

  • COOKED OWN

What was on the menu:  Poulet Yassa

Restaurant/Recipe address:  https://senegaldaily.wordpress.com/recipes-from-senegal/

A word of note here.  If it’s a 38 degree (Celsius) day and you don’t have air conditioning, then maybe try a dish that doesn’t take 7 hours or so of cooking!  I went against my own advice today and ticked Senegal off my list with Poulet Yassa.

By far the biggest process in cooking the Yassa was the slow cooking of the onions over a very low heat.  I was tempted at first to try doing the dish in my slow cooker but decided to do it as per the recipe on the stovetop instead.  Cue 6 hours of cooking with regular checks every 15-30 mins.

This seems quite difficult but in essence it was actually a relatively easy dish to make.  Apart from cooking the chicken at the very start of the process, all that’s left to do after the onions, is throw some extra ingredients into the pot and cook for another hour.

What you end up with is a very flavoursome meal.  The slow cooking really brings out the oniony taste and the lemon and mustard make it a very rich and well-rounded flavour.  You also get the heat of the chilli which gives it that extra kick.

Having never encountered this meal before I have no idea if I managed to get the balance of flavours right, but I’ve made the assumption, that, since all shone through on the palette as you ate, then I can’t have done too bad a job.

004 - Poulet Yassa
Poulet Yassa

That said, if I were to do this dish again, I think there would be a few small tweaks I would make.  The biggest would be the mustard.  The recipe said to use Dijon mustard (which I did), however I later discovered that some of the pictures on the site I got the recipe from used a wholegrain mustard, where I used the stronger, creamier type instead.  I think using the wholegrain would have balanced out the Yassa a little better.  The type I used was almost on the verge of overpowering everything else, made the gravy/sauce very thick and made the dish richer than I think it needed to be.  Was still very tasty, but think this substitution would have made all the difference.

I think perhaps I could have also used a little more lemon in mine.  The lemon I used was quite small and I probably could have gotten away with using a bit more juice.

The only thing that I deliberately omitted from the recipe which I should disclose here is the tomato.  I have never been a fan of raw tomato so instead I used a mix of green and red capsicum (peppers) for the vegetables.  I can see how the tomatoes would add to the dish though and would strongly recommend using them if you do like them.

With all the rice I’ve been eating lately, I decided to use brown rice instead of white. This made a nice change.

If you are considering trying this dish, please do.  Just make sure you do it in winter and not in the middle of an Australian Summer!

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