Tastes of Africa – Justice Kamanga

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This is one of my favourite cook books on African cuisine. Malawian chef Justice Kamanga shares a large number of recipes that are from all over the continent. They are fairly modern easy-to-cook recipes, but drawing on African culinary traditions. You find for example traditional South African dishes like Pap and Boerwors With Tomato and Onion Sauce and Bobotie, and standard West African fare like Jollof Rice and Fufu. You also find more modern inventions like Oysters Mombasa with Lemon-Dill Sauce, and Duck Breast with Green Olives and Amarula Sauce.

It is evident that chef Justice Kamanga has been inspired by culinary cultures all over the continent, even from the northern Mediterranean Mahgrib. The foreword describes his food as ”fusion food,” and I find it is very much in line with the kind of food I like to cook myself – inspired by Africa, but not necessarily traditionally African. The foreword recognises that ”African cooking varies widely from one part to another,” and says chef Justice Kamanga ”reaches beyond the single-country approach to the broad essence of African cooking and takes you on a beguiling epicurean journey through the continent to the soul of its cuisine.”

The beginnings of Chicken Thighs and Spinach in Peanut Sauce.

There’s a short introduction to each recipe explaining where the inspiration has come from and often including short, fun notes on African food traditions.The recipe for Roast Duck says for example that ”duck is a delicacy in Africa, and in central Africa it is traditional to serve roast duck to important guests or when your son-in-law is coming to dinner.” With the recipe for Shabeen Chicken we learn that the quintessential South African shabeen, a simple, sometimes illegal, tavern in a township, has its origins in Ireland. In the meat section we are told Nigerians believe ”it is essential to mix different kinds of meat to create good flavour.”

The photography is simple and not too fancy, with straight forward presentations of most dishes. I have tried cooking the Peri-Peri Chicken Livers, the Bobotie, the Citrus-baked Haddock, the Malawian Spiced Chicken Curry, and the Dovi (Zimbabwean chicken i peanut sauce). All of the recipes have come out very well, with the Malawian Spiced Chicken Curry my favourite. The Peri-Peri Chicken Livers were much too spicy for me, the Bobotie a little bit dry (but that might be due to my ancient stove), and the Citrus-baked Haddock a little unnecessarily complicated. All in all it’s great food though and I highly recommend the book.

A trial run of Chicken Thighs and Spinach in Peanut Sauce – a Zimbabwean dish known as Dovi.

I have three criteria for a good cook book. 1) It should be beautiful and inspiring. 2) It should tell a story. 3) The recipes must work.

3 thoughts on “Tastes of Africa – Justice Kamanga

    1. Yes, another of my favourite all-African cook books is ‘Cooking from Cape to Cairo’ by Dorah Sithole (Tafelberg, 2nd ed 2009). It offers slightly more traditional fare, from all over the continent. For good South African cook books I’ll have to get back to you, though I love Anna Trapido’s ‘Hunger for Freedom’ that chronicles Nelson Mandela’s life through food (Jacana/Nelson Mandela Foundation, 2008) – more for the story than the recipes. Hope you find something – and thanks for commenting! Anna

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