Benin – And other things

Benin Flag

Unusual Fact: Benin used to be called Dahomey until its independence from France in 1960

Hello, today, not only will I be talking about Benin, and the food that we ate from it. But I will be talking about how I am tracking my cooking and my latest investment into my cooking.

I have three ways of which I am tracking my cooking. Firstly a list. I made this list after we made Belarus. It is more for convenience than any thing else. So that I don’t have to keep on looking up which is the next country.

List

I made this map just days after we made Afghanistan. I copied the maps out of my geography textbook. It took me a few days to copy it out then write all the names of the countries on it. It is on the wall of my bed room. Every time after I has eaten and cooked a country I colour it in on the map. The maps aren’t all the same scale and some countries are repeated on two maps. But I still love it.Hand drawn map

This is my final way of tracking my cooking. I bought it on a family holiday last week to Stanthorpe. It is a scratchy map. So every time I do a country I scratch of the outer gold layer and underneath the country is a bright colour and it has the biggest and capital cities of every country. This one is also in my room. These photos were taken while I was scratching.Scratchy Map Scratchy map

Finally, recently I purchased a book, actually five books. It is called the World Cookbook For Students. It cost me $236 (Australian dollars) but it has five or more recipes from every country in the world. It is split up into five volumes, thats why I have five books.  The first volume is Afghanistan to Cook Islands, then Costa Rica to Iran, Iraq to Myanmar, Namibia to Span and finally Sri Lanka to Zimbabwe. Todays recipes come from these books as will many to come.The World Cookbook For Students

Now back onto Benin. Benin is a small West African country. With almost half the population of Australia (9,598,787, Benin has almost 10 million while Australia has 22 million). Most of the population living on the coast in cities like Contonou, which isn’t even the capital.

Porto-Novo, Image courtesy of DS Lands
Porto-Novo, Image courtesy of DS Lands
Benin - Courtesy of the CIA World Factbook
Benin – Courtesy of the CIA World Fact Book

NOTE: The pureed peas need to be started the day prior to eating.

Some of you may remember back to when I cooked The Bahamas. We were looking for black-eyed peas but we couldn’t find any. Well last month, in a deli cafe, we found some. You will need some black-eyed peas for Benin. Since black-eyed peas originate from West Africa it seems more suitable to use them in Benin rather than the Bahamas. Although many  Caribbean slaves came from West Africa.

Black-Eyed Peas, courtesy of Wikepedia - Toby Hudson
Black-Eyed Peas, courtesy of Wikepedia – Toby Hudson

There are some harder to find ingredients in Benin such as black eyed peas, okra, dried shrimp and taro leaves. Instead of okra we used eggplant, only half an eggplant but you can use green beans as well. Instead of taro leaves I used a mixture of silver beet and spinach. Make sure you take off the white stalks on the silver beet. 1 pound of silver beet and spinach is a lot, don’t under estimate it.

Okra - Taste
Okra – Taste
Taro Leaves - Hawaiian Outpost
Taro Leaves – Hawaiian Outpost

About the dried shrimp. It stinks, a lot like off fish. We only used 1/2 a cup and the kitchen still stank. Unless you like this taste (which many do) I would suggest 1/2 a cup or less.

Dried Shrimp - Brit Mex
Dried Shrimp – Brit Mex

Peeling beans

You will need a lot of time a patience to achieve this massive task. The recipe asks for you to soak the beans over night, I knew it would take me a long time to I decided to start the peeling early. I planned to soak the beans all day then start peeling in the night so that they still would have soaked for a solid amount of hours. But as soon as I poured the water over and touched them a bit I could see that I could peel them straight away. I got them all done that day. The easiest way to peel the beans is to squeeze the black eye then it will just pop off. Some are more stubborn and you may have to use your finger nails. Once peeled they look a bit like peanuts.

Peeling peas
Peeling peas
The skins
The skins
Peeled black eyed peas
Peeled black eyed peas

The taste. I know many of you enjoy reading our ratings. But this week only mum and dad ate it. I tried it just before serving, and I found the taste too strong. The shrimp flavour was too much as was the silver beet. We didn’t even offer it to Angus as the smell was enough. We will still rate it though.

Pureed Peas

Mum: 7

Dad: 8.5

Me: 5

Angus: 1

Cooked Taro Leaves

Mum: 6

Dad: 7

Me: 2

Angus: 0

Cooked Taro Leaves

Ingredients

Palm or any other cooking oil

1 pound of meat (mea,t poultry, fish or any combination – we used chicken) cut into bite size pieces

1 pound of greens either kale, spinach, collard greens or taro leaves (traditional) stems removed, parboiled, drained

1 tomato peeled chopped

1 cup dried shrimp (we did half a cup)

1 cup okra, chopped (we used eggplant)

1 onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 hot chili pepper, cleaned and chopped

salt, pepper, red pepper or cayenne (to taste)

Method

Heat oil in a large pot

Fry meat and onions until meat is browned

Add all remaining ingredients and enough water to partially cover

Cover, reduce heat, and simmer on very low heat for two hours or more

Serve with rice or pureed peas

MOST START DAY BEFORE

Pureed peas

Ingredients

1 and 1/2 cups of dried black eyed peas

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup of butter

Method

Pour boiling water over peas , enough to cover by two inches, and soak over night.

Drain peas and slip off outer skins by squeezing between fingers.

Simmer peas in water to cover for 15 minutes in a covered pot

Season

Continue simmering until peas are tender and most of the water is absorbed (an additional 5 minutes). It any liquid remains, drain it off.

Put peas in a food processor or blender/stick mixer and puree.

Return to pot and heat thoroughly over low heat, while beating in butter with a wooden spoon.

Serve as a side dish or with a stew such as cooked taro leaves

All put together

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