Is it a fusion of the cuisines of the African continent, including of course the Caribbean, or a fusion of what is generally called African cooking with other continents?
The problem is of course that Africa is a continent made up of many countries each with their own unique cuisine as well as culture. What passes for classic cooking in Zimbabwe may not be recognised as such in, say, Senegal. A land locked African country will not be using fish as much as one that has a coastline.
Nina Gaskel. A Nigerian by birth but a world traveller has taken the broad view of African cooking; that certain vegetables and other ingredients are always featuring in some way in dishes. Then she has adapted them for what she calls Western palates and fuses influences from all over, for example one dish features baked beans while another takes a Greek dish, Moussaka, and uses plantain instead of aubergine. The result is a cookbook that is certainly different to any other you may be browsing for ideas.
Resident in Kent now, and a grandmother too, Nina is a cook who understands that the average mother is on a budget, so nothing in the book is expensive. She only asks that you use good palm oil from a certified sustainable source (CPSO or CSPKO) and an all-purpose savoury seasoning.
Most of her herbs are dried, which may upset some foodie purists, but Nina knows we can’t all afford to shop in Waitrose and to be throwing out unused fresh herbs. She also uses supermarket sauces, which again won’t be to everyone’s taste but shows commendable common sense. If you can make a tasty family meal that bit quicker and that bit cheaper, why not?
And let’s not forget leftovers because Nina doesn’t. Take left over roast chicken, add sweet potato and more and create sweet potato and chicken croquettes. Another rather cool dish is coconut milk risotto with corned beef or braised oxtail in fiorentino sauce and perhaps oddest of all, tuna and baked bean parcels, which Nina herself admits sounds odd but assures us tastes great.
More classical is a Nigerian dish made from Cassava a food staple in Nigeria and popular in the West Indies. Similar to a yam or sweet potato it’s peeled and cubed and added to sausages, bacon and carrots. Also traditional is Egusi Goulash, egusi is a melon and its seeds are ground into a powder and cooked with beef and dried crayfish to make what must be a pungent stew.
And of course there are plenty of sweet desserts too, mangoes, pineapples, coconuts and bananas all combine to make very different dishes.
Nina’s book is clearly a labour of love and has a genuineness about it all too often missing from Chef cookbooks (bit of an ego trip) and the pro cookery writers (middle -class women with too much time on their hands and friends in publishing).
If you’re bored of the traditional and want something that will take you out of your culinary comfort zone and wake up your taste buds, then give Nina a try. The results may surprise you.