From Japan to the United States, through Africa, the Middle East and Europe, pancakes or crepes can be found about everywhere. Americans make pancakes, Russians make blinis, Ethiopians and Eritreans make injeras, French make crepes, and Moroccans have their baghrirs, to mention only a few.
What is the origin of crepes?
Historians trace the origin of crepes back to 7000 BC in France. At that time, it was a rather thick galette, based on some sort of pasty dough obtained by crushing a variety of cereals and mixing them with water. It was cooked on a flat, hot stone, which served as a stove.
The crepe has traveled since, and today, we are headed to Benin.
The cuisine of Benin
The Republic of Benin is a West African country. It is bordered by Togo to the west, Nigeria to the east and Burkina Faso and Niger to the North. As in many other African countries with a colonial past, Benin’s traditional cuisine is a combination of Western flavors and local recipes, which incorporates a number of cultural and ethnic traditions. One of the staple dishes of the country is calalou (or calau), a vegetable soup combining meat (often goat meat), and seafood.
What is massa?
Let’s now talk a little bit about this massa pancake. Massa is basically a fermented rice galette, which can be made with millet flour, or with a mix of rice and millet flours, like the one I chose to make today. Massa crepes were brought to Africa by the Hausa people. The Hausa people come from the Sahel region, and dwell in the north of Nigeria and the south of the Niger down to Lake Chad. Large Hausa communities live in northern Benin, Ghana and Cameroon, which is the reason why massa is more popular in the north of the country.
What is millet?
Millet is a term used mainly in Africa to describe a group of coarse grains grown on this continent.
There are many types of millet, each one corresponding to a different species. As a general rule, when the word millet is used without specifying the type of grain, it is “pearl millet”, which is the most common species of millet. As a matter of fact, millet is also called “the nutritious pearl of Africa”.
Millet flour is naturally gluten free. Millet is rich in vitamin A, vitamin B, minerals and amino acids. Ladies, you may want to know that millet flour contains silicic acid, which is very good for your skin, hair, teeth and nails! Furthermore, this flour is easy to digest, diuretic and useful for fighting stomach acid. Millet is very energetic, and recommended against anemia, fatigue and low morale.
With all these benefits, you have no choice but to make those delicious massa from Benin!
- 1 lb millet flour
- 1 ripe banana , mashed
- ¼ cup rice
- 1½ cup sugar
- Vegetable Oil
Combine millet flour and water. The dough must not be liquid but firm enough to form a ball.
Cover this ball and let it sit for 8 hours or overnight.
The next day, add ¾ to 1 cup of cold water to the dough. The consistency of the dough must be a little thicker than a pancake batter. Mix well with a stand mixer or food processor so that the dough increases in volume. Let stand for 15 minutes.
Cook rice with ½ cup of water over medium heat for 15 minutes. Make a porridge by mixing the cooked rice.
Add the mixed rice to the dough and mix well in a food processor.
Add banana and sugar and continue mixing.
Add about ¾ cup of water and mix to obtain a fairly liquid mixture.
Oil a non-stick pan and cook ladles of dough 2 minutes on each side (in the same way as pancakes).