Kedjenou is a spicy stew that is traditionally prepared with chicken or guinea hen, and vegetables. It is one of the most popular dishes from Côte d’Ivoire, which is where we are headed today.
Kedjenou (also called kedjenou poulet and kedjenou de poulet) is typically slow-cooked in a canari, a traditional earthenware pot that takes the shape of a jar with a narrow opening. Côte d’Ivoire is actually known for its pottery made of high quality clay coming from the Savanes district in Boundiali and Korhogo. The slow cooking of this porous clay allows the end result to maintain its porous qualities as well as offer high heat resistant material, and therefore make a number of cooking equipments like the canari, but also vases and jars.
The canari, which is sealed with banana leaves and a string, is placed over fire or coals to allow the kedjenou to cook.
Although preparation methods for kedjenou often vary, most of them do not call for any liquid to be added, to allow the chicken to cook in its own juices, which helps tenderize the meat and concentrates the flavors. This technique is very similar to the smothering (etouffée) technique used in the tagines from North Africa, where the moisture mostly comes from the onions and the meat.
While braising the chicken, it is important to shake the pot vigorously, so that the dish does not stick to the bottom of it. Interestingly enough, kedjenou means “shake inside” in Baoulé. The dish may actually have originated from the Baoulé, an important ethnic group from the center of Côte d’Ivoire.
In Côte d’Ivoire, kedjenou is traditionally served with rice or attiéké.
Attiéké (also spelled acheke) is a side dish made from cassava (manioc) root. It is a staple of Ivorian cuisine that originated in the south of the country. It is prepared from fermented cassava pulp that has been grated or granulated. Dried attiéké is very similar in texture to couscous. I actually used attieke for a gluten-free couscous au beurre for my gluten-intolerant friend Jonathan a couple years ago.
You can find attieke in some African stores. However, if you’d like to make attieke, you’d need to peel, grate and mix cassava with a small amount of cassava that was previously fermented and which serves as a starter. The resulting paste is left to ferment for one or two days. Once the fermentation is over, the pulp is then screened, and dried, and the final cooking is done by steaming the pulp. After a few minutes of cooking, attiéké is ready for consumption.
A traditional kedjenou will always include tomatoes and aubergine in addition to the onions, and may sometimes include other vegetables such as okra or carrots. However, a good kedjenou will always be quite spicy.
Kedjenou is a very easy to make stew that only requires easy-to-find ingredients. Although you may not be able to find a canari, you can absolutely make kedjenou in a Dutch oven or a tagine. You may or may not include oil, as the smothering cooking technique allows cooking without any fat.
I prepared this kedjenou for a weekday dinner with the family. My kids loved it, although I had to hide the eggplants, as they hate them… like my partner in crime Vera. This is actually one of my favorite vegetables. Go figure!
- 1 whole chicken , cut
- 4 large tomatoes , peeled, deseeded and diced
- 3 onions , diced
- 2 cloves garlic , finely chopped
- 1 eggplant , cut into large dice
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 cubes chicken bouillon , crumbled
- 1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger , grated
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 3 hot peppers , deseeded and finely diced
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley (for garnish)
In a Dutch oven or a thick bottom pot, place the pieces of chicken.
Pour the oil over the chicken. Add the tomato, onion, garlic and eggplant. Add the salt, pepper, hot peppers, bay leaves and ginger. Sprinkle with the crumbled cubes and paprika and mix well.
Close the pot and cook the kedjenou on low heat for 45 minutes. Stir and turn the cocotte every 15 minutes during the cooking.
Garnish with chopped parsley. Serve the kedjenou with white rice or attieke.