Kejenou

As counter intuitive as it may seem, it was in France that I learned how to cook a large part of my West African repertoire of international cuisine. Living in Paris offered fantastic opportunity to be exposed to an motherland pot of plenty that had previously eluded me. Although I had travelled to many countries on the continent, I avoided Francophone nations because of the language barrier. Fortunately, that barrier no longer exists (I learned French) and, in the process, made wonderful friends as I cooked my way into the heart of an immigrant community that considers Paris home.

Flag - Cote d'Ivoire

One of the dishes I learned to cook is Kejenou, a rice based casserole that is standard fare in Cote d’Ivoire.  Greatly reminiscent of Louisiana jambalaya, the matoutou de crabe of Martinique and Jamaican crab rice, a steaming plate of Kejenou invokes thoughts of  the universality of African cuisine and the soulfood roots of America.  Wherever slavery deposited us in the Diaspora, we kept our food traditions alive, for which I am forever grateful.

Unlike the rest of West Africa, Cote d’Ivoire was exploited for elephant tusks (ivory) rather than human beings. That is how the country itself got its name (Ivory Coast). “Prior to its colonization by Europeans, Ivory Coast was home to several states, including Gyaaman, the Kong Empire and Baoule. There were two Anyi kingdoms = Indénié and Sanwi.”

During the height of the slave trade, Europeans were unable to establish slave trading posts because of the lack of sheltered harbors along this particular coastline. Later, colonization by the French could not be deterred in the European scramble for African resources that was codified at the 1885 treaty of Berlin. The French built forts and exploited the indigenous people in many other ways.

In Paris, one of my greatest joys was collecting ingredients for my cooking adventures at the street market in Chateau Rouge (known as “Little Africa”). Upon exiting the Metro station, the press of humanity made me feel welcome as I walked the half-block to a treasure trove of outdoor stalls and shops where I purchased halal meats, live crabs and many other delicacies to incorporate into the menu at my Pan-African soulfood restaurant in Montmartre.

All of those memories came flooding back yesterday as I made an odoriferous pot of Kejenou to enjoy with friends.The pungent aroma of nutmeg, cinammon and garlic wafted through the house as I cooked, culminating in expressions of joy as we greedily emptied our plates. In the end, all agreed: C’est bon cuisiine!

Kejenou

Kejenou

INGREDIENTS

½ cup oil (peanut)
10x chicken wings (cut into 3 segments)
24 large shrimp (keep heads & tails)
2 cups sea scallops
1 cup crab claws
1 small onion (white, chopped fine)
1 small onion (red, chopped fine)
3 stalks scallion (sliced w/greens)
4x plum tomatoes (chopped)
1 cup tomato sauce
½ cup red wine vinegar
4 cups water
2 cups rice

SEASONING

1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp pepper (crushed red)
1 tsp herbes de Provence
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp turmeric
4 tbs bouillon (chicken powder)
2 tbs garlic (minced)

DIRECTIONS

BROWN chicken in oil; SET ASIDE
SAUTE seafood in dirty oil; SET ASIDE
SAUTE onions in dirty oil
ADD tomatoes, tomato sauce and seasoning; MIX WELL
ADD water and vinegar; BRING to a boil
ADD rice, chicken and seafood that was set aside
TURN heat to low
COVER pot and COOK until rice is done

While you are cooking, enjoy this clip of Ivorian music as a perfect complement.

Advertisements

2 Comments

  1. 1 November 2013 at 8:34 pm

    If the rice was not cooked with the other ingredients, would this not be gumbo?

    • Sharon Leslie Morgan said,

      1 November 2013 at 8:50 pm

      The defining ingredient for gumbo is OKRA. No okra = no gumbo. Also, the rice soaks up the sauce so that the dish is not “juicy” like gumbo.
      I have a gumbo cookbook I can send you (free). Write me at smorgan@ourblackancestry.com


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: