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Ola and welcome to Angola. Back in December 2017 we cooked some Angolan cuisine while working our way through the alphabet of countries. Seeing as Zambia and Namibia are two of Angola's three neighbours, we thought we'd jump across the border and document our kitchen exploits there. For that occasion, we were joined by some of Aaron's family, who happened to be staying with us over the Christmas break, as well as two international visitors, Lena and Torill, from Germany and Norway, respectively!
If you're like us, Angola is one of those countries that you know little about. Maybe you've heard of it as the birthplace of dreadlocks, or the home of massive oil and diamond resources. Perhaps more likely, is its civil war ravaged past that has stifled the country's growth and delayed any foray into mainstream tourism like its Southern Africa counterparts. For those that do venture off the beaten path, you're likely to encounter inflated prices (see our fun fact section below), limited infrastructure and a notoriously difficult visa process. On a positive note, Angola boosts one of the fastest growing economies as it rebuilds after 27 years of civil war. However this also brings its share of challenges as the country continues to remain a 'war economy', or one that is used primarily to finance the military.
Angolan cuisine is full of Brazilian and Portuguese influences. Little wonder considering it was a Portuguese colony for some 400 years. In Luanda, the capital city, you'll find the traditional piranha (rump steak) with black beans, as well as Portuguese staples like cod fish and cozida a portuguesa. Naturally the caipirinha, the ample Portuguese and Spanish version, is everywhere in city bars and lounges. When it comes to traditional fare, local food habits and customs have taken a hit from the years of civil unrest and become somewhat indistinguishable. The threat of war prevented many farmers from going to their fields, and resulted in heavy urbanisation. Land mines continue to pose a threat to rural communities today.
Nonetheless the colonial influence appears to have helped create a heady mix of fares based on fish, spicy stews and cassava. The former is abundant in the diet of those living alongside the Atlantic ocean, Angola's western neighbour. Cornflour bread, dried salt cod, cheese, yoghurt, onion, garlic and eggs also feature, remnants from a former Mediterranean kingdom. Some popular dishes include moamba de galinha (chicken cooked in a red palm oil sauce called moamba de dendem) and calulu (dried meat or fish layered with fresh meat or fish, okra, sweet potato leaves, and tomatoes).
With all this in mind, we went hunting for some recipes and landed on the following. Our main was kizaka, sides were arroz de coco e papaia, funje and a baguette, followed by cocada amarela for dessert. Why the baguette? Let's just say that funje didn't quite work out as we had intended.
First up was Kizaka. This peanut based chicken stew, knocked our taste buds out of the park and unanimously scored a solid 9/10 from all seven diners. The secret ingredient was berbere, a West African spice that took no less than thirteen other spices to recreate it! Boy was it worth it though. Check out the list of spices below in the ingredients section. Next up was Arroz de coco e papai, a rice dish with grated coconut and papaya. We substituted the papaya with mango due to seasonal availability. This simple dish formed the humble counterpart for the flavoursome stew, although the strong coconut tart wasn't for everyone (...thinking of our Norwegian friend here).
To date we've yet to prepare a dish that emerged as quickly from the oven as it disappeared in the trash, until we met funje. Funje is a paste or porridge of cassava, often consumed at every meal. To say that the dish is bland and gelatinous in consistency, would be an understatement. Looks like snot and tastes like glue seemed a fairer representation at the time. Needless to say, we did not manage to get a 'nice, doughy consistency'. It quickly became apparent after cooking this in the oven that no one was going to eat it. To make things worse, it took us almost a week to scrap the 'glue' from our poor baking dish. We'd like to think it was due to our lack of cooking pedigree but we're not in a hurry to try that one again. To be fair though, we could not get our hands on cassava flour and used tapioca starch as an alternative, but the experiment was a complete flop. As you may have guessed, the baguette was a last minute call up to replace the funje! If we had more time, a cornflour bread would have been a better substitute...maybe next time.
Rounding out the meal was cocada amarela, a frightfully sweet yellow coconut pudding made with sugar, grated coconut, egg yolks and cinnamon. For the sweet tooths, it was a hit.
Casserole dish with lid
1-2 tbsp peanut oil
1 medium sized yellow onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ tbsp grated ginger root
1 jalapeño pepper, diced
2 chicken breasts, chopped into bite-sized pieces
3 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 carrot, grated
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp Berbere, West African spice powder (see below)
½ tsp ground cloves
Sea salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp white cane sugar
3-4 cups chicken broth
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
Peanuts for garnish
Dash of lemon juice
½ tsp fenugreek or fennel seed
½ cup ground dried chilies
1/4 cup paprika
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp onion powder
½ tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground all spice
1. Using a medium sized saucepan, put the oil in and bring the heat up to medium high.
2. Add in the garlic, ginger and onions, and cook until the onion becomes fragrant and translucent. Then toss in the jalapeño pepper, and cook for 2-3 more minutes
3. Place chicken in the pan with cloves, berbere and turmeric. Grind salt and pepper over the chicken and stir mixture together well. Continue cooking until the chicken is well done.
4. Add grated carrots, tomatoes, and other vegetables. Grind more salt and pepper into the mixture. Cook for anther five minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Pour broth into saucepan and bring the heat to a boil. Add in the peanut butter and reduce heat to medium-low. Stir well for 7-10 minutes, or until peanut butter is completely melted.
6. Add sugar and lemon juice and add additional salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 8-10 minutes then serve.
Arroz de Coco e Papaia ingredients:
200 g / 7 oz short grain white rice
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
500 ml / 17 oz coconut milk
1 large ripe papaya, de-seeded, peeled and dices into small cubes
Arroz de Coco e Papaia method:
1. In a large saucepan or medium sized cooking pot, put the rice, coconut milk, 60 ml / 2 oz water, salt, and cinnamon. Bring to a rolling boil.
2. Place a lid on the pot and reduce the heat until the liquid is at a steady simmer. Cook for 20 minutes or until rice is tender.
3. Once the rice is done, fluff with a fork and remove from heat. Leave covered for 10 minutes.
4. Take half of you papaya and mash into a mush. Add papaya mush as well as diced papaya to rice and stir together.
5. Place the pot back on the burner and reheat before serving.
Funje traditional method:
1. To prepare Funje the traditional Angolan way, you will need a very deep saucepan or large cooking pot, and a long-handled and stout wooden spoon – preferably with an elongated, flattened blade that resembles an oar. (Improvise if you have to) These cooking sticks are called different names in different African countries, but almost every Western African household has one or more of these. The perfect proportions for making good funje is a ratio of 2 to 1, water to cassava flour.
2. Bring the water to a rolling boil and, as soon as it’s boiling, remove from the burner and place it on the floor.
3.Wrap the pot in a towel to protect yourself and, sitting on the floor, hold the pot steady with your legs or feet.
4. Add in all the cassava flour at once, and beat the mix vigorously and continuously with your Funje Stick. It is important you do not let up even a little while stirring and beating, or you will not wind up with the smooth porridge texture that Funje needs to be—you will have “kernel”-like lumps, and that is considered not very good Funje.
Funje modern method:
1. Preheat your oven to 180 °C / 350 °F.
2. Using the 2 to 1 ratio, bring the water to a rolling boil in a casserole dish that has a lid.
3. While the water is heating up, put the cassava flour into a mixing bowl with just enough cold water to saturate the flour well and, using an electric hand mixer, beat the flour until the texture is smooth, thick and creamy.
4. Add the creamed cassava flour into the boiling water, whisking to combine.
Continue whisking until the mixture is well blended and smooth, then cover the dish with its lid and place in the oven to bake for about 45 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened enough to have a nice, doughy texture.
Cocada Amarela ingredients:
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
Meat from 1 fresh coconut or 100 g shredded coconut
2 egg yolks
1 tsp cinnamon
2 egg whites
Cocada Amarela method:
1. Preheat oven to 230 °C/ 446 °F.
2. Combine water, sugar and cloves in saucepan.
3. Boil for about 7-8 minutes to make syrup. Remove the cloves.
4. Add coconut.
5. Reduce heat to low and gradually stir in the coconut, Simmer for 10-12 minutes until coconut becomes translucent. Then remove pot from heat.
6. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks with cinnamon until they thicken slightly. Add to the coconut mixture, mix well and cook for for another 12-15 minutes, stirring constantly.
7. Beat the egg whites until stiff.
8. Divide coconut mixture into small, oven-proof bowls. Spread the egg whites on top of the pudding and bake in the oven until lightly browned.
Here are some interesting tidbits about the country:
The Angolan flag is red, black and gold - The red part of the flag represents the blood of Angolans killed in conflicts, the black represents the Angolan people, and as for the gold parts - the cogwheel represents industry, the gold machete represents peasantry, and the gold star is modeled after the star on the flag of the former Soviet Union.
Luanda, Angola's capital, is known as the "Paris of Africa". This title is apparently due to the city's sophisticated culture and atmosphere. It also happens to be one of the most expensive cities in the world for expats.
Cuba played an instrumental role in Angola’s struggle for independence by supplying freedom Cuban fighters. One of outcomes of Fidel Castro’s legacy is that he released some 36,000 men in 1970 to fight and support the People Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). This helped lead to Angola’s independence in 1975.
Here's a bunch of things we wouldn't mind doing if given the chance to step inside Angola:
Visit the Iron Palace in Luanda. Word is that the building was designed by Gustave Eiffel, creator of the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower. After use at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in the 1890s, the palace was dismantled and shipped off, destined for Madagascar. However when the boat ran into troubles off the Skeleton Coast, the Portuguese authorities in Angola took it for their own. It now stands as a symbol for the city’s rebirth!
Relax on one of Angola's many amazing beaches, especially Baia Azul in the region of Benguela
Baía Azul, literally translating to 'blue bay', looks and sounds like paradise.
Spot the ultra rare giant sable antelope. Found only in Angola, the antelope carries five-foot-long, scimitar-shaped horns, a foot longer than any other.
Next week we take a slight detour to a country that holds a special place in our hearts before jetting back to the Pacific Islands to wrap up that side of the world. Don't forget to join our subscribers list to receive an update when our post is up!
Serra da Leba Pass, an amazing engineering landmark in the Huila Region.