From the lack of coverage on African cuisine, you could be fooled into thinking this vast continent serves similar food all over. True, there are similarities between some countries. Fufu, for instance – a porridge made from powdered yam, cassava or plantain – is a staple throughout West Africa, and gluten-free grain teff makes a spongy, fermented bread (injera) loved across Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia. But once you start delving into the delicious intricacies of each region, you’ll realise there’s plenty on offer.
North Africa is home to Berber, Moorish, Arab and Mediterranean influences. Moroccan cuisine, in particular, is a cross-cultural fusion. It’s best known for the tagine, a mouth-watering slow-cooked stew (and the name of the pot it’s cooked in); spice blends like ras el hanout and harissa; and couscous spruced with spices, dried fruits or vegetables. Moroccan pastries are also on point, whether sweet, like this almond and orange blososm number, or savoury in the vein of a rustic chicken pie.
Along the East and South Coast you’ll find Indian, Arabic, Dutch and Portuguese influences. Traders, colonisers and slaves brought spices and techniques from their homelands, resulting in Mozambican-Portuguese peri-peri or piri-piri chicken, a plethora of Indian sweets, and the South African obsession with barbecue and, to a lesser extent, bunny chow (curry in a loaf of bread).
Flying across to Mauritius, you'll find a curious combination of French, Chinese, Indian and native African influences. The islanders are partial to pickles, seafood curries, European braises and flatbreads.
Swap olive oil for palm fruit oil (it's high in beta-carotene and antioxidants) and replace wheat-based flour with gluten-free grains like teff or sorghum, or fufu powder made from ground yam, cassava or plantain. Couscous, pap (corn maize) are essentials, too. Experiment with okra, cassava leaves, pulses and smoked fish (considered 'food for the Gods' in West Africa). Oh and don’t forget the Ethiopian coffee.
1. Tuber time: Cook and eat cassava as you would potato.
2. Espresso that: In Ethiopia, coffee is often served with popcorn, dates or a sweet bread called himbasha.
3. Tagine tricks: Before use, soak your new tagine in the bathtub overnight. Next, fill it with water, salt, bay leaves and cardamom pods. Heat over a low gas flame to infuse the terracotta.
4. Save on washing up: Injera, the unleavened bread made from teff, doubles as a plate and pancake to mop up lentil, veggie and meat dishes.
5. Get low: Toast whole spice in a dry pan over a low heat to release flavours and oils. Ground spices are trickier to toast, as the flavour can be overpowered easily.
Have we got your attention and your tastebuds? The Chefs' Line is bringing African cooking to our screens this week, 6pm weeknights on SBS. Check out the program page for episode guides, cuisine lowdowns, recipes and more!
These "very Moroccan" cookies are dead-easy to make, but still special with the addition of orange flower water. They have a crisp macaroon-like character that softens and becomes chewy the longer they're kept.
Chef Hassan M'Souli, of Sydney's Out of Africa restaurant, shares a recipe for mrousia – a sweet-and-spicy Moroccan lamb tagine. You don't need a tagine to cook this - just a large saucepan, and you'll be seduced by the aromas as well as the simplicity of this dish.
A salad unlike any other, this pineapple, chilli and mint extravaganza is perfect for a summer's eve.
Coarser sanding sugar is reminiscent of the beaches of Ghana, where these doughnuts are commonly found, but you can use any sugar you like, or serve with tropical fruit jam.