We finally made our way back to an African country. So far, we haven’t had good luck with this continent, so it was with great trepidation that we started on this meal…
Benin was one of the more difficult countries to find recipes for, but some common themes I found were peanuts, chili peppers, yams, smoked meat/fish, and snack foods that can be purchased at street vendors. I decided pretty quickly to make yams with peanut sauce, and I was thinking of something called Akkra Funfun, which is a fried bean-based patty. I had considered a recipe that used a whole smoked chicken, but I didn’t think I could find a whole smoked chicken and didn’t want to sign up for smoking one ourselves. And then, out of the blue, Tyler announced that he felt like smoking a whole chicken one of these days. Done. So our other dish was moyo de poulet fume, which is smoked chicken cooked in a tomato based sauce.
Beninese Peanut Sauce (recipe)
I started with preparing the pepper paste. The recipe calls for two teaspoons of mashed Scotch bonnet peppers. We had habaneros on hand from a previous country, so we used those. I started with two habaneros, which sounded like a lot of heat… and it was nowhere close to the two teaspoons. I ended up mashing five habaneros to get close to two teaspoons. That’s a lot of habanero. I gathered the rest of the ingredients… tomato puree (I used tomato paste since we keep individual tablespoons of it in the freezer), onion, peanut butter (it called for unsweeted peanut butter, so we had to do some extra searching at the grocery store), salt, and beef bouillon.
The recipe was pretty straightforward… cook all of the ingredients except the peanut butter in some oil:
Then add the peanut butter after the onions are soft.
Then it was left to simmer for fifteen minutes, during which it thickened a little bit.
Ingame–mashed sweet potatoes (recipe)
I always try to cook at least three new recipes for each country, and it definitely felt like I was cheating by counting this, since it just involved peeling some sweet potatoes, cutting them into several pieces, boiling them, and mashing them with some added water. Easy. I will note that this was a substitution–we didn’t find non-canned yams (apparently also known as ingame or eddoes) here in Iowa, so we instead used sweet potatoes. They are not the same species, but the end result should be fairly similar.
Moyo de Poulet Fume (recipe)
We started this recipe a week earlier–Tyler smoked the whole chicken on the same day as our Belizean cooking disaster. Yeah, on top of our other struggles that night, we also had a chicken in the smoker that refused to reach the fully cooked internal temperature until 9:30 PM or so. Since we went out of town over Easter weekend, it went in the freezer until we got back. Out of frustration the night we smoked it and negligence the night we cooked this meal, I never got a picture of the smoked chicken.
This was another recipe that was pretty straightforward. I put the blanched/peeled/seeded/chopped tomatoes, chili peppers (more habaneros!), chicken stock, onions, soy sauce, and oil (I think we used sunflower oil) in a pan and brought them to a boil. Then we dropped in the chicken pieces after Tyler carved the chicken. Since the chicken was already fully cooked, this just needed to simmer for 20 minutes or so.
Thoughts on the meal:
We loved having an easy meal (although it helped that our struggles the night we smoked the chicken were distant memories at this point 🙂 )! All of the recipes came together pretty quickly and easily. The biggest downside was the heat! That peanut sauce was pretty intense. We loved the flavor of it, and it was surprisingly good on sweet potatoes, but I would definitely scale back the heat next time… I think I would limit it to three or four habaneros instead of five.
The chicken was good, although it was nothing special. The smokiness of it was good, but the sauce was pretty unremarkable. Not bad, just nothing really different or exciting. However, it all ended up mixing up together on my plate and in the leftovers we took to work for lunch, so in the end the peanut sauce mixed with the chicken to kick it up a notch.
Overall, we were pretty happy with the meal, and VERY relieved to have A) a success after the last country, and B) a success after our track record with African countries.
Bhutan is next, and they are known for their love of chili peppers… which means more heat!