Thursday, September 13, 2012

Recipes from Chad

Just before labor day weekend, my kids started coming down with these weird fevers. They would burn hot for a couple of days, and then they'd be fine. They never complained of any other symptoms--no headaches, no sore throats, no runny noses--just this weird fever.

Well, as it turns out, this little kid-friendly fever is actually an adult-hating super-virus in disguise. It used my kids to infiltrate my home and lull me into a false sense of security (a couple of days of fever, I can handle that! I have Tylenol!). Because when I came down with it, it was no day or two of fever. Oh no. I feel like someone turned my throat inside out, beat on it with a wooden hammer, stuffed it back in and then ran over me with a truck. And I've felt like that for six days.

Just to put it in perspective, I've had two c-sections and neither one of them clobbered me the way this virus did.

Now I'm sitting here wondering if I can even manage to write anything this week. So just a fair warning: I'm going to give you the rundown on Chad, but I'm not planning on being charming or anything. I may not even manage to be entertaining.

Chad. Yes, another African nation. Since this is my sixth African country in nine weeks, I'll bet it will come as no surprise to hear that I'm a little weary of African food--and that's not because it isn't good, it's because it's so hard to track down recipes from sub-Saharan Africa.

Chad is another one of those right-in-the-middle-of-Africa countries. In fact it is bordered by our last African country, The Central African Republic. Like so many other nations in this region, Chad's story is not an uplifting one. The country is plagued by violence and political upset, which includes attempted coups and outright battles between Chadian rebels and the forces of Chadian President Idriss D├ęby. The country is not only poor, it also suffers under a corrupt government. Almost everyone who lives there lives in poverty, and the primary occupation is subsistence farming or herding.

Like other poor nations, the Chadian diet is limited. Fish is abundant in Lake Chad, so people living in the northern part of the country include a lot of perch, tilapia, eel and carp in their diets. In the south, people have greater access to fruits and spices.

So one of the first recipes I chose was a simple Broiled Fish. And by simple I mean that it really doesn't have anything in it that you wouldn't see in an American cookbook. The recipe came from a website called Virtual Chad. Here it is:

  • 1 lb fish (tilapia is more authentic, but I used snapper)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 5 tbsp oil
  • 3 tomatoes, sliced
  • salt, pepper, and chilli powder to taste
For a side dish, I chose this recipe for Chad Salad, which came from The Fair Trade Cookbook:

  • 3/4 cup long grain brown rice
  • 1 small cucumber, sliced
  • 2 bananas, sliced
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 2 tbsp chopped almonds
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp honey
Note: most of the ingredients in the original recipe included the words "fair trade," (as in "fair trade bananas") which means products that are obtained fairly and respectfully from growers worldwide. I'm not actually sure how you're supposed to determine which products are "fair trade," unless you exclusively shop at stores like Whole Foods and our local Briar Patch Co-op. But I wanted to make sure I mentioned it out of respect for the recipe's source.

I also had a dessert planned, but, uh, that didn't happen.

So let's do the salad first, since that has to be chilled before serving.

First cook the brown rice. I just boiled mine on the stove for 45 minutes, then drained and rinsed it. Now mix the oil with the lemon juice, zest, spices and honey.

Mix the rice with the cucumber, bananas, raisins and almonds and pour the dressing over.

Stir gently to combine. Cover and chill for 30 minutes before serving.

Now for the fish:

Rinse the filets and pat dry. Crush the garlic and rub it into the fish, then dip in flour.

Heat the oil in a heavy pan and fry the fish on both sides until golden brown. Add the tomatoes and spices.

Cover the pan and let simmer over low heat for about 40 minutes, adding a little bit of water as necessary.

Looking back on this, how glad I am that it was an easy meal. It's almost like I knew I was going to be sitting here trying to type this post in a feverish haze.

The verdict: It was an enjoyable meal. The fish was not really anything special, like I said--I've made other fish dishes that were really similar and they were just from basic American cookbooks. But it was good--I mean, pan fried fish (I wouldn't really say "broiled," but there you go), what could go wrong?

I really liked the salad in particular; the bananas, raisins and cucumbers made for an unusual combination of flavors.The dressing was tangy and a little bit spicy and the whole dish was definitely worthy of seconds.

And with that, I'm going to sign off. I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to sleep for four or five hours to recover from having typed all that.

Health next week, I hope.

Next week: Champagne, France

For printable versions of this week's recipes:


  1. Thank you for this fish recipe – every time I make it – they ready for more – it is in our usual rotation now!

    1. I mean they beg for more- I Season the flour with some dark chili powder, seasoned salt and a little fresh ground pepper. Made the salad also, and it was delicious fresh but not as leftovers.


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