Sunday, July 24, 2011

African Cooking

So, this week I went to the library as is custom every Friday. I always spend so much time at this lovely place, and I recently discovered the cooking section. Chock full of interesting books I picked out a few that looked try-worthy (I would have taken them all, but that was just not feasible, limited space on our shelves etc.). One of these was the African Kitchen. Designed as the journey of the authors through Africa and the various meals they had along the way this book is a fun read as well as a cookbook with phenomenal photography.

Many of the recipes looked scrumptious (green banana and lentil salad, cold apple and curry soup, and more), but I can't make them all at once, so I chose a few to try out. The first of which is Jeanette's Charkalaka. Looking up the word Charkalaka, I found it means a cabbage salad basically, sort of like a coleslaw without mayonnaise. We had all the ingredients, thus I gave it a shot.

Traditionally made for large gatherings, the ingredients are readily accessible not only in Africa, but pretty much everywhere. This recipe makes quite a bit of food and does not have too much strong flavors other than the spice and taste of the veggies themselves, so it is appealing to a wide audience perhaps.

Jeanette’s Charkalaka (Spicy Cabbage Salad)


1 Onion, sliced
2 Garlic cloves, crushed
1-2 Chili’s
some Olive Oil
1 Green Pepper, chopped
1 Red Pepper, chopped
1 Yellow Pepper, chopped
1 large Cabbage, sliced thinly
1 lb Carrots, grated
1 Tbsp Paprika
½ Tbsp Cayenne
16 oz canned or frozen Peas
Salt and Pepper to taste


Sautee the Onion, Garlic, and Chili together until the onion starts to color

Add the Peppers, Cabbage, Carrots and cook for a few minutes until they start to soften

Add the spices and the Peas and cook until vegetables are a little softer 

Serve either warm or cold. Makes quite a lot of food, a half recipe would probably feed four people quite well.

I used this recipe from the African Kitchen by Josie Stow and Jan Baldwin. The original calls for a whole Tbsp of Cayenne, but I found that to be WAAAAAY too spicy for my taste, so, my recommendation is ½ Tbsp for those with less heat tolerance, you can always add more if it is not spicy enough, but once it is spiced you can’t really take that away!

we have also found that this is actually better served cold. It gives time for the flavors to sink in and bring each other out, as well as tempering the spicyness to a certain degree (a lesser degree..harhar)

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