Until today, I have to say that I had not been impressed by West African cuisine just yet. Of course, I enjoyed the bejus from Nigeria or chicken nyembwe from Gabon but I would not say they were gastronomic orgasms.
Tonight, we finally ate a dish from West Africa that delighted our taste buds. Not only did I enjoy the meal but my wife Anne (the pickiest in the family) did too.
The dish I decided to prepare this evening is a traditional dish from Togo, one of the smallest countries in Africa, a former French colony. Gboma dessi is really a sauce. It is also called “sauce feuille” in reference to the spinach leaves (feuilles in French). Once prepared, the sauce can be served with meat, shrimp, crab or smoked fish.
For my version of gboma dessi, I chose beef, especially beef cheek. You can choose the piece of meat that you want as long as you follow the preparation method specific to the Togolese traditional dish, which also known in Benin and Ghana (under the name of shoko).
The gboma dessi can be used with various sides such as white rice. You can imagine that I was not going to settle on a simple white rice! During my research, I discovered that this dish could also be served with ablo or akoumé. Now we’re talking! Two unique words that I had never heard before. Enough to satisfy my thirst for learning.
Ablo and akoumé, which are quite similar, are kind of dumplings that serve as staples in West African cuisine. They may seem rather bland or tasteless at first, but they are used primarily to absorb the flavors of saucy dishes like this one. After going through several time-consuming recipes that required a rather tedious steaming stage, I opted for a fairly quick but still traditional recipe of akoumé (also called tô).
I was quite satisfied with the dinner I had in mind… but my satisfaction reached a whole new level when I came across a recipe for gboma dessi that spoke about a spice blend called gbotemi. Yes, another interesting word. West African cuisine often includes voodoo-like methods of bewitchment. In Togo and Benin, gbotemi means “listen to me” or “do what I say.” Legend has it that African women concoct their spice blends to bewitch their husbands so that they listen to them. So I concocted my a gbotemi of my own… it is now 3 hours after we finished dinner … and I still do not see any improvement in the behavior of my dear and loving wife… but let’s not give up, there is a enough gboma dessi for tomorrow lunch… to be continued …
Recipe for Gboma Dessi
- 1 lb spinach
2 lb beef, cut into large cubes
3 onions, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
2 chicken bouillon cubes
5 tablespoons palm oil (or vegetable oil)
2 hot peppers
1 14 oz can of tomato sauce
Gbotemi spice blend (cloves, anise, ajwain, cardamom seeds roasted and ground then mixed with ground ginger)
In a pressure cooker with a little oil, saute an onion, a clove of garlic and ginger for 2 minutes.
Add the meat, salt, pepper and 1 cube of chicken bouillon. Cover with water.
Close the pressure cooker. Cook over high heat to build up the pressure until the first whistle.
Then reduce heat and cook for 45 minutes (or more depending on the meat and the pressure cooker).
Remove the meat from the pan, drain and place in a bowl. Keep the broth in the pot. Season the meat with gbotemi.
While the meat is cooking, wash the spinach leaves. Boil in salted boiling water for 15 minutes, then cut into thin slices.
Saute 2 onions and 2 cloves garlic in a saucepan with remaining palm oil (or vegetable oil).
Add the tomato puree. Stir regularly for at least 15 minutes. Season with pepper, 1 cube of bouillon, hot peppers.
Add the broth to the pot. Boil over medium heat for 20-25 minutes.
Add drained spinach leaves, then meat. Simmer for at least 15-20 minutes.
Recipe for Akoumé
- 1/2 cup maize flour
1 cup regular all-purpose flour
1/3 cup potato starch
In a saucepan, pour 2 cups of water. Add maize flour and mix with a wooden spoon.
Bring to a boil, add the wheat flour and stir vigorously.
Dilute starch potato in 1 cup of water. Pour into pan.
Stir vigorously for 2-3 minutes. Cover the pot and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.
Once the dough ready, it’s time to shape. To do this, take a ball of dumpling and place it in an empty bowl. Rotate the bowl a few times to obtain a uniform ball.
Serve dessi gboma on top of this dumpling in the bowl or you can place the dumpling in a banana leaf and serve gboma dessi on the side.