Saturday, September 18, 2010

Day 61! Gambia (Africa) - Chicken and Beef Benachin - Up Next, Georgia (EU)

World's best Garlic
Squash of all colors
If you're taking the time to read this (many thanks), you're doing so because, like me,  you feel passionate about food, and curious about the world around you. As you follow my culinary adventure around the globe, I hope you'll have fun and learn a few cool things along the way. And, if you feel so inspired, I'd love to hear from you with ideas about how I might enhance or improve this project.

A few facts about Gambia you may not know: Located in west central Africa, Gambia is the smallest country in the continent and is bordered on three sides by Senegal.

Gambian cuisine is influenced the by native, Arabic, Portuguese and Senegalese cultures. It's main staple is Fufu - a mashed, boiled dish of starchy vegetables like cassava.

Gambia didn't gain independence from the British until 1970. Although the Mandinka tribe is the largest, many other ethnic groups live together in relative harmony, each preserving their individual customs and traditions. Muslims account for 90% of the population, but holidays that honor both Muslim and Christian traditions are equally respected and celebrated. Go figure.

Tonight made I Chicken and Beef Benachin, a traditional Gambian stew that incorporates aromatic ginger, garlic, hot chillies, fresh tomatoes, cabbage, peppers, egg plant and pumpkin.

To gather all these ingredients, I needed only walk down to the end of my street to my local Mudville Farmer's Market. Featured here are Bobby Blair's spectacular Dahlia's and a beautiful offering of end of summer/fall vegetable's and herbs from Hopestill Farm.
Note that it's PESTO time! Rock on Hopestill Farm!

Glossy red and green peppers

Tomatoes, garlic, ginger, hot chili peppers, onions and green peppers - awesomeness

The recipe called for pumpkin, but I decided to try a Bon Bon Buttercup squash
 Sweet as sugar and beautiful too

My ever expanding spice rack, and my favorite Le Creuset pot - the only pot I really need

Tahadahhhh - Chicken and Beef Benachin

The Recipe

Chicken and Beef Benachin ("Benachin" literally means "one pot")

1/2 chicken - cut up into serving pieces - I used skinless thighs
1 lb. beef, trimmed and cubed - I used skirt steak
2 onions, chopped
2 slices ginger, chopped
1 tbsp. fresh hot chillies
2 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
4 tbsp. tomato paste
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbsp. vinegar
2 bay leaves
oil for frying
1/2 small cabbage, cut into chunks
2 large green bell peppers, sliced
1 large egg plant, cubed
1 small pumpkin or squash, cubed
1 litter water
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine chicken and beef and season liberally with salt, pepper, garlic and vinegar. Cover and marinate for 30 minutes.
Add oil to large pot and fry chicken until golden on both sides, then remove and set aside. Add beef to the oil and fry until well browned. Add the onions and fry for 6 minutes, or until the onion is golden brown. Add the tomato, tomato puree and chili paste. Stir in the water then bring the mixture to a boil before reducing to a simmer and adding all the remaining vegetables.
Cook covered for 15 minutes, then add meat and bay leaves. Season to taste, then cover and cook for about 25 minutes until vegetables are tender.

Serve with white or brown rice.

Final Assessment: This was a wonderful one-pot dish. The house smelled terrific and the blend of spices, seasonings and vegetables was beautiful. My family said it was comfort food.  Loved it.


Karen said...

mmm that sounds fantastic ! Mark just picked up some pumpkins on our field trip today, we're trying to decide what to do with them...

Anonymous said...

To be honest, this is not a benachin recipe. It's close in the ingredients, and you really can use any vegetables you have on hand, but it's called "one pot" because you are also supposed to cook the rice in the same pot with the tomato paste. You do so by cooking the meat, then adding the vegetables and letting them cook, then removing all meat and vegetables and adding white rice (I find jasmine is the best) to the remaining liquid to cook until the rice becomes dry. It's the gambian version of fried rice but you really never fry it! In the meantime you can keep the vegetables and meat warm in the oven. When the rice is done you should serve it on a platter with the vegetables and meat on top. I lived in gambia for a while and my husband is gambian and everytime I made/ ate this in gambia it was prepared this way. Also, a main ingredient you missed was a whole halepeno pepper. It's used for spice when eating but be careful not to break it while cooking or it will kill the dish! :)

sadie said...

Thank you so much for the feedback! I try my very best to find authentic recipes and replicate them to the best of my (limited) knowledge, but there's nothing like learning from people who really know how to make the meal! I so appreciate when readers like you take the time to read what I write. Thanks for connecting with me, and should I make this dish again, I will do as you instruct!