African Food Cultures

African Food Cultures
African Food Cultures

Africa is one of the largest continents with more than 30 million km 2 and a population surpassing one billion. It is the second largest populous continent, after Asia.

Africa’s history involves mostly colonisation by once powerful and rich countries like Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Portugal and the United Kingdom.

Northern African countries hugging the southern shores of the Mediterranean Sea evolved culturally and economically differently to sub-Saharan jurisdictions.

Egypt, once a rich and culturally evolved civilisation, is now impoverished and overpopulated.
Libya to its west has huge petroleum reserves, but its politics blocks prosperity and political stability.

Tunis, Algeria, and Morocco try to establish politically more viable societies. Of the three Morocco is politically most stable.

Northern African countries feature mostly Arabic-inspired, spicy dishes, whereas sub-Saharan countries rely on less powerful and potent spices.

Middle Eastern and European recipes reign supreme in Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco, but in Egypt falafel is made with fava beans, couscous is favoured on Moroccan menus; Tunisia is famous for its baklava and shakshouka.

Tajine, the earthenware two-piece cookware that is unique to Morocco and famous for its design. The flavour of vegetables and meat cooked in tajine stands out in intensity, texture, and flavour.

Dukkah in Egyt (sesame, coriander, cumin, nuts), baharat in Tunisia (cinnamon, black pepper corn), ras el hanout, in North Africa (cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, paprika, mace, turmeric and black pepper corm) are popular spice mixtures used in homes.

In most Cases these mixtures are assembled just before cooking to preserve their efficacy, and flavour.

The Dutch, later by the British, Indians, and other south Asian populations, influenced South Africa’s cooking.

The Dutch introduced their sausages (beef and pork) along with coriander, allspice and cloves,

Curries and sambals arrived with South Asian immigrants.

Indigenous peoples still cook pumpkin with beef, grill most of the time. Meat of wild animals is regularly consumed, as are beans, carrots, chillies and curries.

West African countries (Senegal, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast) rely more on root vegetables such as cassava (for fufu), peanuts, fish, meats, and okra.

Some of the ingredients of Cajun cooking originate here, but are also Acadian influenced by French-speaking people from eastern Canada who were forcibly “shipped” by the British to Louisiana.

West African dishes are relatively bland and lack vivid colours.

Central African countries (Chad, Democratic Republic Of Congo, and Zambia) use cassava, plantain, chicken and peanuts. The French heavily influenced Central African Republic.

The Horn Of Africa, Eritrea, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Djibouti were once ruled by Italy, but surprisingly nothing resembling Italian specialties survive in Ethiopia, spices such as berbere (a mixture of coriander, peppercorn, cardamom, allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon and fenugreek) are sued for chicken stews and fried beef.

Injera, a specialty of Ethiopia, is a spicy and tangy flatbread made of teff. It is served practically with every dish, and replaces bread and butter on western tables.

East African countries, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Madagascar, Mozambique, Comoros Islands, and Mauritius were influenced by Portuguese, the British and Indians who settled in these jurisdictions as merchants.

Overall, with the exception of a few Arabic and Ethiopian specialties precious few African specialties were adopted by western cooks.

Now, more and more western European tourists visit Tunisia, Egypt, and Morocco; taste their specialties, like pigeon pies in Egypt, and Morocco. Chances are more of such specialties will infiltrate western cuisines as people are now constantly seeking more, thrilling flavour and texture experiences.