Location: West Africa
Population: 4.5 million
Geography: Plains and low mountains with some rainforest covering
Language: Liberian English
Signature flavours: Peanut, thyme, cabbage, rice, root vegetables, chicken, shrimp
Liberian recipes were a little hard to come by, until I stumbled upon a large list of dishes on a website called Liberian Forum. By all accounts, jollof rice is a must for a traditional Liberian meal. The other two dishes in my lineup were selected as complements to the jollof.
Jollof Rice: A staple in many West African regions, this is a sort of pilaf mixed into a tomato and bell pepper stew, with sautéed meat (I used shrimp).
Prep and cooking time: 40 min
Eggplant Fritters: Crispy and savoury, these deep-fried snacks are made from pureed eggplant, egg, and flour batter.
Prep and cooking time: 60 min
Stewed Mango with Cloves: Chunks of ripe mango swimming in peach syrup, and spiced with clove.
Prep and cooking time: 20 min
The Shopping List
Eric and I are discovering that the more you cook, the more ingredients you have readily on hand. This was the case for my Liberian ingredient list. Having stocked our cupboards for a few other West African assignments, I just had to pick up a bit of produce and I was all set.
The jollof rice had a number of steps to juggle: cook the dry rice in broth; rinse and peel the shrimp; sauté the veggies; boil off the sauce’s excess liquid; and combine the lot. It took the most time of the three dishes, but was absolutely worth it. The broth-cooked rice was very savoury, and there was a nice creaminess to the dish. The flavours of the bell peppers and onions came out, along with a little kick from some hot pepper flakes. The shrimp were juicy, and the perfect meaty feature for this dish.
The eggplant fritters were a bit of a question mark for me. I have a spotty record when it comes to deep-frying. Also, the batter seemed far too runny to fritter-ize, so it was with doubt that I dropped the first spoonful of eggplant into the hot oil. Surprise — they came out lovely and brown and crispy, with a little bread-y bounce to them! They were very eggplant-forward, and could have used an accompanying dip, so we scooped up tomato-y chunks of stew with them.
“Who knew mango and clove went together so well?” said Eric, after our first bite of stewed mango. He was right — the dessert was really good. The juicy, syrupy mango, punctuated by the sweet pepperiness of clove, was a lovely end to a delicious Liberian feast.
Disclaimer: I’m not a professional chef. I’m just a passionate cook with a curiosity for flavours I’ve never tried. For great recipes from gifted local cooks, follow the links above.