Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tropical Juice Fest

In most parts of Africa, we are so blessed with fruits and vegetables that juicing seems to be the most natural thing for us to do. Natural fruit juices are good healthwise because of the high concentration of nutrients, vitamins and enzymes you receive. Making my own juice allows me to avoid the colorants, added sugar, preservatives that seem to populate the supermarket shelves.

This entry will be less of a recipe and more of a general guideline. The reason is that fresh fruits are natural products with taste and sugar levels that vary depending on the time of year or even where they are cultivated. Therefore you have to follow your own taste buds in order to make your own mixtures. I often start my day with a carrot-orange cocktail with a dash of ginger. I also often make a natural hibiscus flower drink called bissap or zobo. I wrote about it a while back.

Note: I used both a juicer and a blender.

Clockwise, the juices above are:

Pineapple Juice
Color: Creamy yellow
Ingredient: Large pineapple about 1.85 kg
Water added: none
Method: Peel, cut into medium size pieces and feed to juicer
Yield: 800 ml

Papaya Juice

Color: Deep Orange
Ingredient: A medium papaya about 1.1 kg
Water added: 300 ml
Method: Peel, remove seeds in the middle, cut into medium size pieces and put in blender until smooth
Yield: 1.25 l

Orange juice

Color: Frothy yellow
Ingredient: 10 small oranges
Water added: none
Method: Peel, cut into medium size pieces and feed to juicer
Yield: 550 ml

Carrot Juice

Color: Light orange
Ingredient: 12 medium carrots, about 1 kg.
Water added: none
Method: Peel, cut into medium size pieces and feed to juicer
Yield: 400 ml

Ginger Juice (not pictured)

Color: Light yellow
Ingredient: 100 g fresh ginger roots
Water added: 1.5 l
Method: Peel, cut into medium size pieces and blend.
Pour in a bowl and let it sit for 30 mns then sieve carefully with a muslin cloth (best) or regular sieve.
Yield: 1.5 l
Note: Peeling ginger is tedious but be patient and peel it cleanly. Otherwise the skin will make your juice bitter.

Mixing fruit cocktails

After all that hard work peeling, cutting, juicing, blending, now comes the fun part where I encourage you to come up with your own concoctions.
I recommend using 2 parts of the sweeter juice to 1 part of the less sweet one. I found that the following mixtures tasted good from the juices I made today:

  • Ginger Pineapple
  • Carrot Pineapple
  • Carrot Orange Ginger
  • Pineapple Orange Papaya

The iterations are many so juice away and do share any good mixtures you happen upon in your explorations. I can't wait for mango season!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Banga Soup (Palm Kernel Soup)

Warning to the brave: Banga Soup is labor intensive. It takes time as well.
But as Nigella says: "So much is written about the need to reduce the time we must spend cooking, it's as if the kitchen were a hateful place, almost an unsafe place, and that it must be only reasonable for us to avoid it. I love food, I adore being in the kitchen and I am happy to cook"

There is no avoiding the kitchen if you wish to make banga soup from scratch. The many steps required to wash, boil and pound the palm kernels are just the beginning. One must then separate the flesh of the kernel from the oil, make stock before arriving at the final destination: the amalgamation into a delicious soup.

Palm Kernels

Banga Soup
For 4 to 6 people
  • 400 g fresh palm kernels
  • 300 g beef cubes
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large piece of dry fish
  • 2 peppers, chopped finely
  • Salt to taste



  1. Bring 1 l of water to boil
  2. Add meat, dry fish, pepper and salt
  3. Lower the fire and simmer for about 30 mns (more if the meat you are using is tough)

  1. Bring 1.5 l of water to boil
  2. Add the palm kernels and boil until soft. This will take 1 hr or more.
  3. Sieve the kernels, throw the water away
  4. Put kernels in a mortar and mash with a pestle in a circular motion to remove skin and flesh from the kernels. A large black seed will emerge as the flesh and fibers give way. This can be a bit of a workout.
  5. Remove the kernel mush from the mortar and add boiling water ( about 1 l). Use a wooden spoon to stir vigorously to make sure all flesh and oil have mixed with the water. Once it cools down a bit, you can use your hand. It is more effective.
  6. Sieve the mixture into a pot and put the liquid back on the stove. Bring to boil, lower heat to simmer for 20 mns.
  7. At this point, you can take this sauce and pour directly into the pot holding the stock. Simmer for 10 mns until the soup thickens a bit OR
  8. Alternate ending: You can reduce the fat content by removing the oil that has gathered atop your sauce. You have just made some palm oil, by the way. The remaining sauce can now be poured into the stock pot. Simmer for 10 mns until the soup thickens a bit.
  9. Ready to serve with the swallow of your choice.
Note: Palm Kernel photo from istockphoto.