Monday, September 12, 2011

Day 161! Sierra Leone - Corned Beef and Yam Cakes - Up Next, Singapore

Unlike the United States where most of our culinary traditions focus on special holidays, very specific preparation, utensils, process and form are the norm in many, many foreign countries. In Sierra Leone for example, tonight's meal of Corned Beef and Yam cakes, would likely have been prepared by women, using  a large pot, supported by three stones over a wood or charcoal fire. In fact, when I first started cooking in African countries back in 2010, I dug such a fire pit so I could try to replicated this process, which I highly recommend no matter what you like to cook - to see it, click here. Families in Sierra Leone generally congregate around a large dish of food, which almost always consists of rice, a small amount of fish or meat and sauce or gravy for dipping. After washing their hands, each person eats from the area directly in front of them or the middle of the platter, using their left hand only. Reaching across the platter is considered bad manners, as is using ones right right hand. Moreover,  a lot of conversation is considered disrespectful to the food. The oldest male gets the best piece of meat, followed by younger males. The balance is left for the women and girls.

Located in West Africa, Sierra Leone is bordered by Guinea, Liberia and the Atlantic Ocean. Orignally inhabited by the indigenous Sherbo, Temme, Limba, Mende, and Komo, the island was first discovered by Pedro da Cintra, a Portuguese explorer in 1462, during which time it became a transatlantic slave trade center. In March, 1792, Freetown was founded by the Sierra Leone Company for formerly enslaved African's. In 1808 it became a British Crown Colony and by 1896, a British protectorate. Finally in 1961, the two regions merged and gained independence. The country is made up of 4 provinces, Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western, which are comprised of 14 districts and 149 chiefdoms.There are approximately 15 ethnic groups, each with their on distinct languages and customs, however religious tolerance and intermarriage between Muslim and Christian faiths is widely accepted.

One cannot talk about Sierra Leone's history without mentioning the 1991-2002 Civil War that killed and/or mutilated more than 75, 000 people. The country's long history of diamond, bauxite and gold mining has long been a source of exploitation by those who mercilessly profit from the country's natural resources and exploit its people. This corruption, mismanagement, economic collapse and the dismantling of the educational system all contributed to one of the bloodiest and most tragic civil wars in the world's history.

Sierra Leone's tropical climate ranges from savannas to rain forests. Cassava, palaver sauce, red palm oil, onions, peppers, fish, meat stews, okra and ground nuts are all grown and consumed in this country. As mentioned above, rice is the staple starch in nearly every family, and large amounts of meat and fish are not common at the dinner table.

Peel the yam, sweet potatoes or potatoes, boil until soft and mash

Prepare the egg-milk mixture and the bread crumbs

The recipes calls for tinned corned beef, but I used fresh and minced it (my son works at a deli!)

Combine ingredients and add 2 Tbsp. of the egg mixture to bind everything
Brush cakes with egg mixture - don't attempt the dip method - I did and they fall apart

Get your oil good and hot and fry four at a time, turning once, until golden brown

Serve alongside hot sauce...I love this Peri-Peri sauce fromt he folks at Rhino

Corned Beef and Yam Cakes (recipe courtesy of

1 pound potatoes or yams
salt and pepper to taste
1 small onion, chopped
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup milk
7 ounce can corned beef (I used 1/2 lb. fresh)
2 cups bread crumbs for coating
Oil for frying
1 tsp. cayenne pepper, optional
1 tsp. finely chopped parsley

Peel potatoes or yams.
Boil in salted water until tender; drain and mash.
Add pepper or cayenne, chopped onions, parsley and corned beef.
Add milk to eggs and whisk.
Add 2 Tbsp. of the egg mixture into the yam mixture and blend well.
Scoop up about 2 Tbsp. yam mixture and form into flat cakes.
Brush with egg mixture, then coat with bread crumbs.
Fry in hot oil until golden brown, turning once as needed.
Drain on paper towels.
Serve with peri-peri or hot sauce of your choice.

Final Assessment: These were absolutely wonderful. They could easily be vegetarian by leaving out the corned beef and I honestly don't think you'd miss it all. I love the sweetness of the yams and the addition of cayenne gives them a great kick. Like any croquet, they're best fried in good hot oil so they don't float around soaking it all up. Once deeply golden brown, all they need is a little sea salt and a good sized dipping dish of peri-peri or hot pepper sauce. Served along side rice and a vegetables, they make a great meal. Except we just ate them as soon as they were cool enough to handle and called it dinner.

© 2010-2011, What's Cooking in Your World? Sarah Commerford/All Rights Reserved


witchywoman said...

What? No ground nuts? LOL! I think every country in Africa that I've prepared a meal from used ground nuts...this is a nice change. Great job, Sarah, it looks fantastic!

sadie said...

Ha! Laurrie, my family would have disowned me if I'd made groundnut stew again!! Thanks, as always for the enthusiastic support. xoxo

Laraine said...

Oh no - it just occurred to me that you are almost to Zimbabwe! I've become hooked along your journey and will be so sad when it ends....

sadie said...

Thanks, Laraine! I've got a ways to go yet, and I totally appreciate you hanging in there with me! xoxo Sarah

Fung said...

Nice blog

sadie said...

Thank you, Fung!