Traveling doesn't always mean having to take a trip, sometimes, having a dish from another country is just enough to keep the wanderlust at bay. That's what I discovered as I was searching through Chef Pierre Thiam's cookbook, called Senegal: Modern Senegalese Recipes from the Source to the Bowl, it's a visual journey through Senegal to see where food is grown, and cooked there. The book is full of classic recipes, but with a modern twist—like the sweet potato and plantain latkes, and the lamb and fonio tabouleh I made. Both are excellent, by the way. I would have never thought of combining all of these flavors, but, they work so well together—and, the food is rather familiar-feeling, and comforting, even though I've never had these dishes before.
I went on a bit of a journey to find fonio, an ancient cereal grain, and one of the oldest cultivated grains in the world. It's gluten-free, and packed with protein—you can grind it into a flour and use it for breads or pasta, which makes it a pretty versatile ingredient—unfortunately, it's not yet available commercially, so I had to find a store specializing in groceries direct from Africa, and thankfully, they carried it! I'm really glad I did find it, because I was really curious to see and taste it for myself, as Chef Pierre Thiam makes it a point to incorporate this ingredient as much as possible throughout the book.
To go with the lamb and potato pancakes, we had a delicious Cabernet Sauvignon from House of Mandela Winery, which is based in South Africa. My boyfriend and I absolutely loved this pairing, and honestly, it was so nice to break away from what we typically eat, and try new things. Neither of us had ever eaten food from Senegal before, so we had no idea what to expect, and we loved it. Some friends came over after dinner, and I ended up sharing the leftover latkes with them, and they were a hit. So, here's the recipe for that, so you can all try it yourselves:
SWEET POTATO, GREEN PLANTAIN, AND SCALLION LATKES
- 1 pound green plantains, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1 sweet potato, peeled and shredded, or coarsely grated
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 2 scallion, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
- 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- Preheat the oven to 200°F. Line a baking sheet with several layers of paper towels.
- Place the Plantain in a pot and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until the plantain is very soft and easily pierced with a fork, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain well and transfer to a large bowl. Mash with a fork until almost smooth. Let cool.
- Add the shredded sweet potato, egg, scallions, and parsley. Mix well and season with salt and pepper. Shape into 3-inch patties.
- In a non-stick frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Place a few patties at a time in the pan and fry until golden brown and crisp on each side. Place the cooked patties on the prepared sheet pan and keep warm in the oven while cooking the remaining patties. Serve hot.
After all of the stress of the holidays, this dinner was a much-needed mini vacation (a culinary one)—hopefully, followed by a real vacation, first stop, perhaps Dakar.
This post was sponsored by House of Mandela—opinions stated are my own.