Recipes and Food Stories from the African Diaspora
As a kid, I remember having to learn the meaning of things through association with other similar things. It was a fun way to learn and is actually quite an effective way to retain knowledge! This has brought about my writing this article to help readers gain a good understanding of what foufou is, how it is made and enjoyed by the wonderful people of West Africa.
In the West African regions, foufou is the common name given to any variety of staple foods made by cooking and mashing/pounding starchy root vegetables. The name itself is thought to originate from the Ghanaian Twi language and sometimes spelt as foofoo, fufu or foutou. Foufou could be made from one single starchy vegetable such as yams or from a combination such as cocoyam, plantains, cassava etc. The preparation process is long and tedious and as my grandmother often enthused during such preparation process, “You’ll see, it will all be worth it from the sense of satisfaction you derive from eating your foufou!” And I tell you that this is soooo true… you do get a sense of satisfaction after you have had a plate of foufou with a well put together stew/soup.
As is expected, foufou is nutritionally high in carbohydrates and was often required by our forefathers, to get through a very hectic, labour intensive lifestyle and this was quite appropriate for their time; foufou was the main source of nutritional fuel.
Foufou is served with a range of soups/stews of choice. As a matter of fact, foufou itself is not half as important in a meal, as the type of soup or stew with which it is served. A well put together and balanced soup is the life of any mealtime in West Africa. A Yoruba saying goes thus: “Take a look at the soup and pick your foufou.” This goes to show how very importance soups are as part of the diet.
The types of soups eaten across West African vary with the different ethnicities as well as the various available local farm produce. They are made from a combination of different leafy vegetables, seeds, pods, grains; with generous inclusion of meat, poultry and seafood’s and of course a blend of spices and herbs. Soups are also made to serve specific purposes such serving to a mother after childbirth, recuperation from an illness, as part of traditional celebrations, for special visitors and even to appease an angry husband!
Overall, these soups are rich and bold, bursting with exciting tastes and flavours, guaranteed to tingle the taste buds and leave a lingering feeling of total satisfaction and a great desire for more. Have a taste of foufou served with an authentic West African soup using my recipe detailed below.
To Make Pounded Yam FouFou:
Pounded yam foufou is undoubtedly the most popular staple served with many different vegetable soups and stews. It is known and loved by many tribes of Nigeria and across West Africa. Pounded yam foufou is traditionally prepared by boiling and pounding yam in a large mortar with pestles. Poundo yam flour has been developed to simplify this process.
To make from fresh yam, you need 1 tuber of yam (puna yam variety).
Peel and cut the yam into small chunks, wash and boil (with no added salt). Transfer the cooked yam pieces into an electric pounding machine or high voltage food processor. Turn on the setting of the machine to mash the yam. Add some hot water to adjust the consistency. Serve hot with your soup of choice.
To make from poundo yam flour, you will need 2-3 coups of flour and 1 litre of water.
Slowly add the flour to boiling hot water (a little at a time) and continue to stir into a smooth paste. Adjust amount of flour or water as desired. Allow to cook for about 3 minutes on moderate to high heat. Serve hot with any preferred vegetable stew or soup.
Mussels in Pumpkin leaves Soup served with Pounded Yam Foufou
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 25 minutes
Serves: 4 people
Traditionally called Edikang Ikang by the people of southern regions of Nigeria, this soup is made with a combination of leafy vegetables with an assortment of meat, seafood and condiments. It’s so nutritionally rich and satisfying that it is called the “husband pleaser”. The main vegetable used here is the pumpkin leaves which can be easily sourced from local Afro-Caribbean markets.
750g fresh mussels medium, wash
1 bunch pumpkin leaves, wash and pick leaves, finely slice leaves including some tender stalk
1 bunch of spinach. Pick leaves and wash, finely slice
1 bunch of waterleaves. Pick leaves and wash, finely slice. You can use lambs lettuce as a substitute
1 medium onion, finely chop
6 medium fresh tomatoes, wash & finely chop
2-3 tablespoons of ground crayfish
1 scotch bonnet chilli, remove stalk & seeds, finely chop
100ml palm oil
2 stock cubes
1. Heat oil in a pot and add chopped onions and scotch bonnet, fry for 1 minute. Stir well then add the chopped tomatoes and stock cubes. Stir well.
2. Add 2 cups of hot water and the ground crayfish, stir and allow to cook for a few minutes, taste for salt.
3. Add the pumpkin leaves, stir and allow to cook for a few minutes, then add the cleaned mussels. Cover the pot to allow mussels to cook for about 5 minutes. Fresh mussels will open when cooked. Remove those that remain closed after cooking. Add the spinach and the waterleaves last. Stir well then simmer for another 2-5 minutes. Serve with pounded yam.
You can tell that mussels are fresh and good to eat if they open when cooked. Those that remain closed must be removed and not to be eaten.
Funke Koleosho is a Gourmand World Cookbook award winning author of the first of its kind Contemporary Nigerian Cuisine cookbook which provides recipes and methods of enhanced, yet authentic, popular Nigerian dishes for the western and westernised target audience. Available in print and eBook. Funke also developed a cooking App Cook! Nigerian which features over 120 traditional and fusion Nigerian recipes, nutritional calorific information on traditional ingredients and how to source them. Available to download on the Apple Appstore. Follow Funke on Facebook and Twitter @TasteofNigeria. To learn more about Funke, email info at contemporarynigeriancuisine [dot] com