African Flavors Lab

We had another special Friday afternoon lab for the Natural Epicurean students and this time it involved African recipes and flavors. I don’t think anyone realized just how much we would enjoy the food, which is saying a lot because a few of us already had a very positive view of African food. Nevertheless, it wasn’t a cuisine that I had ever attempted cooking (okay, I did once, but it was during the development of this very lab) so I was appreciative of the chance to do this. One of my classmates, Todd Heyman, with whom I also cook once a week, was the driving force behind setting up this lab in partnership with Chef Rosa, one of our main instructors. They worked together to test and perfect the recipes that we ended up cooking.

African food, based on my very limited exposure, makes heavy use of garlic, ginger, lentils, root vegetables and tubers such as sweet potatoes and cassava, and greens. The food is aromatic and delicious with bold flavors that are reminiscent of India and even Italy.

Below: A bean salad (below) and a cassava mash (top).

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Below: This book was used as the foundation for some of the recipe development, Ethiopian-Inspired Cooking by Ian Finn. It’s apparently a real treasure and available on Amazon.com. If you are interested in African food, buy this book now. 

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Below: One of the apparent keys to great East African food is a spiced oil, shown below. This oil, infused with herbs, ginger, and garlic, smelled AMAZING and everything we cooked with it became incredibly delicious.

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Below: One and a half CUPS of ginger for a lentil recipe I worked on.

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Below: Making a peanut butter and sweet potato stew.

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Below: The colorful and delicious East African dishes.

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Below: Braised greens – delicious and aromatic. You WILL enjoy greens cooked this way.

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Below: A communal dining experience after a rewarding few hours of cooking. Complete with naturally fermented injera bread made from teff and rice flour (gluten free).

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Everyone was highly impressed with the food and had a hard time stopping eating. It was filling and nutritious from all of the vegetables, legumes, and healing spices. This is cuisine that meat eaters can relate to since it’s well seasoned, well cooked, and hearty. You don’t walk away from the table wanting ice cream or another junky treat – you feel nice and satisfied. I would recommend African food to anyone who is looking to transition into a more plant-based diet.

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