Week 2 - Benin

So after our Bosnian feast we shook the tin and pulled out Benin...we all looked blankly at each other before pulling out trusty Google to find that Benin is on the west coast of African. With spicy dishes, using fresh ingredients, I was excited to undertake this week's cook. As well as a country we'd never heard of, I had the added challenge of creating this unknown feast in our campervan's kitchen as we were away for the weekend....let the cook commence!


First challenge was finding the recipes...quite tricky until I found a blog on Benin street food and I went from there to create this week's menu. Next challenge was finding the ingredients...capsicums (red peppers) and chillies - easy to find you would think until you realise that New Zealand's food offering does not include these key ingredients in mid-winter. Three shops later I had found the only 6 chillies in Beachlands and red capsicums courtesy of our local dairy.

It's a two girl job this week

April helping to peel the garlic

Cooking in the camper kitchen

Harrison's facinating Benin facts

Slightly more exciting than Bosnia's facts

Starter - Akara with Red Kosayi (Black-Eyed Bean Fritters with Dipping Sauce)

Kosayi Ingredients:

9 small red capsicums

3 long red chillies

7 small hot chillies (habanera)
2 tbsp vegetable oil

75g sugar

75ml of white vinegar

1 tsp salt


Method: (you need to make this at least 2 days before you want to eat it)


- Place the whole capsicums and chillies in a large saucepan of cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 25 mins or until capsicums are soft. Remove from the heat and cover with a lid until cool.

- When cool, dry the capsicums and chillies. Remove the seeds and peel off the skin.

- Place capsicums and chillies in a food processor and blend to a paste. 

- Add vegetable oil, sugar, vinegar and salt. Mix well.

- Pour mixture into a sterilised jar and pour a thin layer of oil over the top. Pop in the fridge for two days.


Cook's notes: I made this in my normal kitchen on Tuesday evening and then served on the Friday evening. I didn't have a choice of chillies, only red were available so my sausce didn't end up spicy which I think it should. My version was rather sweet with a slight tang of chilli


Akara Ingredients:

500g black eyed peas (I couldn't find them so substituted with pinto beans)

Salt and pepper

1 tsp baking powder

Oil for shallow frying



-Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, add the beans and boil for 2 mintes.

- Drain the beans on a tea towel, cover with another tea towel and roll the beans back and forward using your palms. After a few minutes the beans will have shed their skins.

- To seperate beans from skins, place back into a saucepan and cover with water. Swirl around the skins will float to the surface - simply remove the skins and leave the beans to soak for 2 hours.

- In a food processor, blend the beans into a fine paste.

- Knead the paste for 2-3 minutes until the starch is released.

- Place the bean paste into a bowl above simmering water and stir continuosly with a wooden spoon until the mixture turns into a dough (approx 1 minute) then remove from the heat and continue to stir until cooled to room temperatue.

- Season the dough and add baking powder. Shape into fritters and shallow fry until golden.

- Serve warm or cold dipped into the Kosayi sauce.


Cook's notes: So this is my first complete failed recipe. Could be a catalogue of reasons. Firstly black eyed beans where not available locally so I checked Google substituted with pinto beans. My mixture didn't appear to emit starch and did not form a dough. Then when trying to cook, they remained sloppy in texture and failed to change colour even slightly. Epic fail and the complete batch was binned! I served my sauce with potato wedges instead!


Akara...my failed fritters!

Main Course - Red Sauce with Beef Strips

So there were several 'red sauce' recipes available online so I choose an easy looking one (remember I cooked this week in a campervan kitchen with limited prep space and only a two ring burner).


This is the recipe  I used  from Genius Kitchen.


I served with coconut rice (pre-prepared packets that I just had to heat in a pan of water) and beef strips cooked in peanut oil which I read was a common flavour of Benin when doing my research. 


Cook's Notes: Again my choice of chillies were limited so my version wasn't very spicy but it tasted delicious!


Sorry for the lack of photos this week...seems we forgot to take a photo of the main!!!

Dessert - Fresh Fruit

I know...this week I managed a three course meal in a campervan kitchen!


I had found a recipe for some peanuts cooked in a sticky, sweet sauce but unfortunately I don't have an oven in my camper so I had to forego that recipe and instead opt for another Benin favourite....fresh fruit. We went with oranges and water melon as we were a little limited on choices in mid-winter!