A cookbook covers a neglected kitchen

Finding the offer of African cuisine lacking despite the intercontinental gastronomic explosion of recent years, Aline Princet endeavored to highlight what she considered to be an often neglected cuisine.

Princet, a food photographer, wanted to put him “squarely in the spotlight” and sought to dispel some of the “deep-rooted but unfounded misconceptions associated with him”.

The book Saka Saka is more than a cookbook as it also shares the stories of various personalities of African descent – ​​an artist, writer, choreographer and fashion designer who are champions of sub-Saharan African culture.

They describe their favorite dishes and the sensory experiences associated with those favourites.

“Cooking, like a song or a tune, can transport us to a specific time and place, to a specific emotion…and it’s a universal feeling. Taste can bring back childhood memories, especially for those far from home and their culture.”

The book is named after the cassava leaf dish that is a staple food on the African continent, appearing in a variety of different forms with different names.

She says it pays tribute to the many food-loving Africans and reveals a “little piece” of this “mixed, positive and epicurean continent”.

There are 54 sovereign states on the African continent and as it straddles the equator, these many nations have a wide variety of climates which in turn is reflected in the diversity of each nation’s produce and consequently cuisines.

“There are actually as many African cuisines as there are African countries, cultures and dialects. While the Maghreb region is the most explored, the sub-Saharan region remains to be explored.”

Traditionally, they use a combination of local produce such as fruits, grains and vegetables, as most cannot afford to eat meat or fish every day.

Despite criticism dishes can be too greasy or too spicy, co-author Anto Cocagne, a chef born in France but raised in Gabon, says a spiced dish and a spicy dish are two different things and that in Africa, they can also do chilli on the side.

“African cuisines are varied and healthy, in addition they are often gluten-free, vegetarian and sometimes even vegan.”


This is an excerpt from Saka Saka by Anto Cocagne & Aline Princet, photography by Aline Princet. Murdoch Books RRP $45.

banana fritters

Makes 25-30 donuts

Difficulty Easy

Preparation 20 minutes + 1 hour rest

Cooking 30min

6 very ripe bananas

60 g plain flour (all purpose)

60g fine cornmeal

1 pinch of salt

¼ cup (60ml) lukewarm milk

6 g of baker’s yeast

Frying oil


Peel and cut the bananas into pieces. Put them in a bowl and mash them with a fork or rolling pin.

Add flour, cornmeal and salt and mix until combined.

Combine warm milk and yeast in a bowl. Stir the yeast mixture into the banana mixture. Cover the bowl and let the dough ferment in a warm place for 1 hour.

Knead the dough to eliminate the gas formed by the yeast.

In a fryer, heat the oil to 170-180°C. Using a spoon, form balls of dough and place them in the hot oil. Cook until everything is golden. Drain the donuts on paper towel.

Serve the donuts hot, sprinkled with icing sugar or drizzled with melted chocolate.

Tip from Chef Antos

These donuts can be eaten as a sweet snack dusted with icing sugar or vanilla ice cream, or as a savory snack with a spicy sauce. You can use regular overripe bananas as well as overripe plantains. It is important to keep the oil between 170°C and 180°C so that the donuts do not absorb too much oil. If you don’t have a deep fryer, use a deep, heavy-bottomed saucepan instead.

Stir-fried beef with spinach sauce

For 4 people

Difficulty Easy

Preparation 20 minutes + 1 hour of refrigeration

Cooking 30min

500g beef tenderloin (or eye tenderloin)

2 tablespoons of red nokos

500g English spinach

Splash of vinegar, for washing

50ml red palm oil

4 tablespoons orange nokoss (see below)

100 g ground African pistachios or nugget seeds (see tip)

Salt and pepper

To serve

A few mustard leaves

Roasted African pistachios or pepitas


Cut the beef into thin strips. Put the strips in a bowl with the red nokoss and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Remove stems from spinach. Wash the spinach leaves in vinegar water then in clean water, stirring them well. Drain and reserve.

In a frying pan, heat half the red palm oil and sauté the beef in small batches for about 2 minutes or until nicely browned. Put aside. In the same pan, sweat the orange nokoss with the remaining palm oil for 5 minutes. Add the spinach and sauté briefly, then add the ground African pistachios and stir for 5 minutes. Add a little water if it starts to stick. Add the beef slices and cooking juices and heat briefly. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve the sautéed beef and spinach with white rice. Garnish with a few mustard leaves and toasted African pistachios.

Chef Anto’s advice

This dish is a variation of egusi, a very popular dish in West Africa. It is usually eaten with offal, especially tripe, but if you are not a fan, a fillet of beef will do just fine.

African pistachios are nothing like the pistachios we are used to in the West. In Africa, what we call a pistachio is the almond-shaped kernel found in the squash or pith. When these seeds are ground, they have the same properties as ground almonds.

Orange Nokoss (for vegetables)

Difficulty: Easy

Preparation: 20 minutes

Cooking: 10 minutes

1 carrot

1 brown onion

3 cloves of garlic

20g fresh ginger

2 mild/sweet peppers

1 leek, white part only

1 stalk of celery

2 sprigs of thyme

2 tablespoons of turmeric

1 tablespoon dried smoked fish


Peel the carrot, onion, garlic and ginger. Deseed the peppers.

Plunge the carrot into a pan of salted water and bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes, then remove from the water. Coarsely chop the carrot, onion, leek, celery, garlic, ginger, chillies and thyme and blend in a blender.

Mix everything into a smooth paste. Add the turmeric, smoked fish and 3 tablespoons of water, then blend again.

Store the paste in a glass jar in the refrigerator

red rice

For 6 persons

Difficulty Easy

Preparation 15min

Cooking 45min

300 g parboiled

long grain rice

¼ cup (60 ml) oil (canola, sunflower or peanut)

2 tablespoons red nokoss (see below)

3 tablespoons of tomato paste

150 g of tomato coulis

2 Selim pepper pods

1 bay leaf


Chives, to serve


Rinse the rice in cold water and drain it. Pre-cook the rice for 10 minutes, either steam or in salted boiling water. Drain again.

Heat the oil in a large pot and sweat the nokoss for 3 minutes.

Add the tomato puree and cook over low heat for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mix the rice.

Add the passata, Selim pepper pods and bay leaf and continue cooking until the mixture has reduced and thickened. Salt and add 2 ½ cups (560 ml) of water (1.5 times the volume of rice), then bring to a boil and cook for 3 minutes.

Reduce the heat to very low, then cover and cook for 10 minutes.

Stir the rice with a fork to separate the grains. Cover and cook for another 10 minutes. Repeat this step until the rice is cooked. Sprinkle with chopped chives.

Serve with grilled meats or dishes with meat and sauce.

Chef Anto’s advice

Red rice in Central Africa is much the same as jollof rice or wolog rice in West Africa, or pilaf rice in East Africa. This recipe originates from Senegal but has as many variations as there are countries that claim it as a national dish. Each part of the continent has adapted the recipe according to its history, its environment and the products that today make up its culinary identity.

To succeed in this dish, do not use round or basmati rice, or unparboiled long grain rice. You need rice that remains firm when cooked and does not fall apart by absorbing the sauce during cooking. It is best to use jasmine rice or parboiled long grain rice.

Red rice is always on the table at a party. It is an ideal accompaniment to spinach dishes, dishes in sauce and even grilled meats.

Red Nokoss (for meat)

Easy difficulty

Preparation 10min

Cooking None

1 red bell pepper (pepper)

2 mild/sweet red peppers

1 red onion

3 cloves of garlic

20g fresh ginger

1 tomato

1 stalk of celery

2 sprigs of thyme

2 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon powdered soumbala


Deseed the bell pepper and peppers. Peel and coarsely chop the onion, garlic and ginger.

Roughly chop the tomato and celery.

Using a blender, blend the bell pepper, chiles, onion, garlic, ginger, tomato, celery and herbs into a smooth paste. Add the soumbala and 3 tablespoons of water, then blend again.

Store the paste in a glass jar in the refrigerator.


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