I recently made a tasty dish - I thought- chicken pot pie with spoon drop biscuits for the crust. Even though there were leftovers in the refrigerator, my youngest, 18 years old had questions?
"Why don't you make cassava leaf soup or jollof rice? You know all my friends are African." I knew what he meant. First, he knows that Africa is a continent, and I know that there is a different recipe for each of those dishes depending on the country or family that makes it. Making jollof rice alone is a skill passed down from generation to generation in family kitchens throughout West Africa.
Making jollof rice should be a skill you can list on a resume or CV. The idea that I could just whip up a pot of jollof rice was flattering , but underestimates the culinary techniques needed to create this one pot , legendary , center stage dish expected at celebrations and holiday dinners.
The same is true for cassava leaf soup, or cassava leaf stew. Depending on the country, even the consistency of the dish is different. The recipe for cassava soup in Liberia tastes differently from the same soup/stew made in Nigeria , Guinea, or Sierra Leone, because the ingredients are different. Some recipes use peanut butter- mine did- eggplant, crabs, crayfish powder, and okra. Most use palm oil and smoked fish.
So, I found a recipe, found a local store with frozen cassava leaf, tweaked the recipe and make cassava leaf soup at least once a month, now. The recipe calls for palm oil which has a high carotenoid content, great for conversion to Vitamin A, and high Vitamin E content, but the saturated fat content is a bit steep, 50%, and most recipes call for 1/2 to 1 cup of palm oil. One tablespoon of palm oil contains 21% of the recommended daily value of saturated fat. To keep the recipe authentic and for the color, palm oil stayed in my version. We love peanut butter, so I increase the amount in the recipe for the flavor, consistency , and to thicken the recipe.
What I love about cassava leaf soup is that it includes a protein source, carbohydrates, and fat , all combined with spices, and heat from a hot pepper of your choice that all add up to make a sauce, stew or soup rich in macronutrients and micronutrients. The base of the soup is the cassava leaf- a vegetable high in potassium, fiber ,vitamin C, B1,B2 and low in calories. The cassava leaf is higher in protein than the root, a creamy white fibrous vegetable, well known as yuca, cassava manioc, tapioca or Brazilian arrowroot.
I'll keep working on this recipe, and can't wait to taste the different variations on this dish from different home or professional chefs in the area. The DC area is filled with restaurants that celebrate so many cuisines that rely on plants for flavor, color and texture. Local African small businesses fill a needed niche and supply frozen cassava, jute leaf ( we grow ),gboma,ground crayfish ,smoked fish, and garden egg to make authentic recipes. No need to substitute spinach at home for cassava leaf. Restaurants that celebrate the African diaspora still don't get the continuous marketing, spotlight or investment seen with other cuisines, even in this area.
Yet. Soul food grew on the fertile land on the coasts and inland of Africa long before the seeds touched the ground where the three sisters, squash, corn and peas, flourished.Time to reconnect to the first plant based, not vegan, lifestyle that builds health and wellness.
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