Originally I was going to make something from the Americas, but as I have not been able to source the ingredients yet it fell to the big bookmark folder to help me find something to act as a replacement. Since I am nearly always behind on my African nations, it felt right that I tried to get ahead when given the chance.
Like Togo and São Tomé and Príncipe, Benin is West African country that whose coastline forms part of the Gulf of Guinea. The cuisine falls into a broadly similar category as neighbouring Togo in that you have African food that has been influenced by the French that colonized the area at the end of the 19th century.
As this is a long and thin nation, there are some key differences between the cuisine of the north (where yams and grazing animals are more featured) and the south (where you see a lot more fish). You also have some interesting history between the Benin and Portugal which revolved around the slave trade, which will undoubtedly have brought some Iberian influences to some of the local dishes.
By choosing Benin I’ve broken a bit of an unspoken rule of the world cooking challenge by doing neighbouring countries within a continent back-to-back (seeing how the last African country that I crossed off was Togo). However, this was a recipe that finally gave me a second and final use for the millet flour that I bought for Chad. Also, it means having a dinner made of dessert food, something that I wholeheartedly endorse as a grown man who is turning 30 when this post gets published.
Today’s recipe comes from 196 Flavors who are, as always, a font of knowledge and idea for what to cook if I am absolutely stuck. These pancakes are made using a mix of millet flour, rice porridge, bananas and sugar. I wasn’t too sure how thick they were meant to be, but I like my pancakes with a bit of bite to them, so I made them in that place between where a crepe becomes a pancake.
When frying them up, I loved watching as the massa gained a mass of air holes to the point that they almost look like grey-brown pikelets. This meant that when I eventually settled on a topping of cream and come chocolate syrup, they were able to soak everything right up. On their own, the massa were slightly sweet with the nuttiness of the millet flour mixed in with some distinct banana flavour. If it was not for the difficulty of finding millet flour I would probably make these again – maybe I can find a version that just uses rice if I want to have another go in the future.
Hopefully I can source my ingredients for next time as I really want to make a version of pepperpot in order to cross of Guyana. I just need to find a place that sells feet and bones, then I’ll be laughing. Maybe I just need to get over my awkwardness and get friendly with my local butcher – I’m sure it’ll pay off in the future.