March 30, 2013 § 2 Comments
The latest in our Breakfasts of the World Project series.
Until the recent kidnapping of a French family in the far north of the country, football had been the only reason Cameroon hit the international headlines. The national team “Les Lions Indomptables” in their red, green and yellow strip echoing the national flag, has the best World Cup track record of any African nation. Cameroonian player Samuel Eto’o is reputedly football’s highest paid player under his contract with far-flung FC Anzhi Makhachkala (Russian Premier League).
Irregularly-shaped Cameroon is situated on Africa’s West coast between Nigeria to the North and West and Equatorial Guinea and Gabon to the South. The country’s name derives from Rio dos Camarões – river of shrimps – the name Portuguese explorers gave to the region. Cameroon first became a German colony but was divided between France and Britain post First World War. Independence and the merging of the two parts of the country occurred between 1960 and 1961 with Yaoundé as capital city.
Our chosen menu was beignets, also known as Puff-Puffs – a simple deep-fried yeasted doughnut, and also bouilli d’arachides, a peanut-butter enriched version of sweetened maize porridge.
Inspiration for the menu came from Californian aid worker and blogger Mara’s post here and also the clear and eminently readable Cameroonian and African food blog Ma Cocote. Reading through these posts you immediately gain a snapshot of this incredibly varied country. The food names – bouilli and beignets are French words, a legacy of the country’s colonial past. Mara talks about the bouilli being the evening meal breaking the Ramadan daylong fast. Although Christianity is nominally the dominant religion, a significant minority of the population (about 20%) are Muslim. Cameroon extends north to the fringes of the Sahara desert with its Extrême Nord province bordering on Lake Chad. In contrast, the south east of the country is equatorial rain forest territory, home to the Baka people (formerly referred to as pygmies).
Mara gives a sketchy recipe for bouilli so rather than following her instructions to the letter I did my own thing. I used a quick-cook polenta made up according to the packet instructions but with half milk and water instead of water alone. I then added sugar to taste and finally a big dollop of peanut butter plus an extra drizzle of milk.
The resulting mush was pronounced “OK” by the family – a bit bland perhaps but a soothing easy-to-eat breakfast that, with the addition of peanut butter, really packs in the calories.
The Puff Puff doughnuts were a different story altogether. These disappeared in seconds! I give below the recipe I adapted from the Ma Cocote blog. It’s a simple yeast-raised batter made with just milk, water, flour, salt, sugar and instant yeast which, after proving, is dropped into your deep-fat fryer. For authenticity I fried the doughnuts in peanut oil which gives a very good non-greasy and nicely flavoured result (I find sunflower oil has an unpleasant greasy taste). To achieve a perfectly spherical Puff Puff the recommended technique is to get in with your hands and extrude the batter from your partially clenched fist. I wasn’t brave enough to try this in the frying-station I’d set up in our garage but I think the spoon-shaped ones were pretty creditable for a first attempt.
Recipe for Beignets (Puff-Puffs) – Cameroonian doughnuts
Adapted from a recipe in Cameroonian food blog http://www.macocote.com
Makes about 20.
175g strong plain flour
175g ordinary plain flour
5g fast action dried yeast (the type that can be mixed straight into the flour without the need for prior activation)
75 golden caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
300ml milk and water mixed at room temperature (no need to warm)
MIx the dry ingredients together thoroughly in a large mixing bowl.Add the milk and water mixture and stir well to combine into a thick batter. Cover and leave to prove until the batter has become very bubbly and puffed-up. This is likely to take at least an hour, maybe two and will happen more quickly if the bowl is left in a warm place.
Drop tablespoons of the mixture into a deep-fat fryer ideally using peanut oil. Fry at 190 degrees C for about 7 minutes, turning the doughnuts over halfway through the cooking time. They are ready when they are a deep golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper, sprinkle with caster sugar and serve immediately.