Senegal is a country that I, personally know well. It’s a country of many parts being almost desert in the North, tropical rainforest in the East and with an extensive Atlantic coast on the West. It also totally encompasses the tiny country of The Gambia.
Senegal was the capital of French West Africa for over a century and the country has a strong French flavour even today (French, along with native Wolof being the official languages) it is also politically stable and though poor in global terms it has a growing economy.
The cuisine of Senegal shows the influences of the French as well as having desert and rainforest influences as well. Fish is plentiful in the diet though just about any meat can be found (even pork, despite it’s being predominantly a Moslem country).
Here I present two classic, but very different Senegalese dishes for you:
Ceebu Jën((Rice and Fish)
2 green bell peppers, de-seeded and chopped(
2 leeks, chopped (
1 garlic clove, minced(
1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 hot chilli pepper, finely chopped
250ml groundnut oil(
2 onions, chopped(
1 piece salted, dried or smoked fish such as stockfish(
1.2kg white fish fillets (eg hake, sea bass, haddock, sea bream, grouper etc) cleaned and kept whole(
4 ripe tomatoes, whole
2 carrots, chopped(
2 red bell peppers, whole
1 squash or courgette, peeled and chopped(
10 okra with ends removed(
550g short-grained rice
First prepare the roof (fish stuffing) by combining together the green bell peppers, leeks, garlic, parsley, salt and chilli and grinding to a paste (add a little oil if too stiff). It’s traditional to add a Maggi cube at this stage and you can add a fish bouillon cube along with a few pinches of cumin and coriander to get the same flavour. Cut deep slits in the fish and stuff with the roof mixture.
Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onions and dried/salted/smoked fish in this for a few minutes. Now add the fresh fish and fry for a few minutes on each side. Remove the fish and set aside then add the tomato paste and 240ml water to the pan. Add the root vegetables along with the chilli. Pour in sufficient water to just cover and simmer for about 35 minutes. Now add the bell peppers, courgette and okra. place the fish on top and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the fish and all the vegetables and place in an oven to keep warm. Reserve about 400ml of the cooking liquid and adjust the volume of the remaining liquid so that it comes to just over 1l. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover and simmer on low heat until the rice is done (about 25 minutes). Don’t worry if the rice sticks a little on the bottom of the pot. This is normal.
Add the reserved cooking broth to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Allow the sauce to thicken a little then pour into a sauce boat.
When the rice is done, spoon onto a large serving plate and scrape the crust on the bottom of the pan over the rice (this is called xooñ in Wolof). Arrange the fish and vegetables over the rice and garnish with parsley and sliced limes. Serve with the sauce.
Kima((Chopped Beef and Chilli Fry)
200g onions, finely chopped(
1 tsp garlic powder(
1 tsp curry powder(
1 tsp mixed herbs(
200g shredded coconut(
4 brids eye chillies, finely chopped
120ml oil or butter(
900g chopped beef(
120ml evaporated milk(
120ml tomato juice
60ml lemon juice
Add the oil to a large saucepan before adding the onions, garlic powder, curry powder, chillies, herbs, black pepper, coconut and chopped beef. Fry gently until the meat begins to brown then add the evaporated milk, water, tomato juice and lemon juice. Simmer gently for 20 minutes then adjust the seasoning and serve on a bed of rice.
I hope that these recipes have given you a little taste of the foods of Senegal and that you are now prepared to find more.