Meal 28: Burkina Faso

Our plans took us to Cambridge, MA this weekend, so for the third time, we took United Noshes on the road. This week was Burkina Faso, a landlocked West African former French colony, and I was not terribly confident that we'd find the proper ingredients in the Boston area, given that it's not very easy in New York. But lo and behold, the Tropical Foods market in Roxbury had just about everything, including sumbala seeds and fermented cornflour. Heck, they even had the unhulled millet that eluded me in Brooklyn!

While we were able to enjoy a plentiful and tasty meal from Burkina Faso, that's a privilege that many there are lacking these days, as another drought has hit the Sahel region that stretches along the southern edge of the Sahara. With failed harvests and high food prices, the work of the World Food Program to both provide immediate relief and help mitigate future disasters is so important. With this meal we raised $190; please take a look at this slideshow to see the people whom the WFP helps.

Our gracious hosts were Jesse R. and Clara, and the guests were Otto, Laura G.,  Maya, and Micah. The crowd was quite game for the adventure of eating thick mush and stew with their hands and washing it down with sweetened flower extract.

There's precious little in the way of Burkinabè recipes online in English, and most of what I found didn't strike me as terribly distinctive. Instead, these recipes come from French-language blogs and sites about Burkina Faso; if the dishes are of interest you should be able to make do with Google Translate. If you're still lost, leave a comment and I'll help from my experience making these.

Bissap | Perfumed flower drink | Recipe

This purple-red flower is very similar to hibiscus and sorrel (known as jamaica in Spanish), all of which can be made into a tasty drink. Bissap is pretty darn tart, so after boiling and draining, you add quite a bit of sugar. This recipe also had us put in orange blossom water, vanilla sugar (we substituted vanilla extract), and nutmeg. The result is a tangy, complex, refreshing drink that's begging to be mixed with rum!

Zoomkoom | Millet and tamarind drink | Recipe

In Mooré, zoom means flour and koom means water. This is a traditional drink of hospitality, and I can imagine that if you're mostly thirsty but also a little hungry after a hot day of traveling, this concoction would hit the spot. If you have a tough time imagining that a drink laden with millet flour would be appealing, think of it as African horchata and you'll do just fine.

| Millet and cornflour mush | Recipe

Out of all the mush we've stirred for United Noshes thus far, this one was hands down the best, both for flavor and texture. I used about one-third millet flour and two-thirds fermented cornflour, the latter of which made for a really nice tanginess. This recipe also has you mix some water with the flour to make a creamy paste, and then pour it into boiling water. All in all it was faster, easier, and made for a great thick texture that easily passed the stirring-stick-stating-straight test and was super easy for eating with the hands.

Sauce gombos | Okra and onion sauce | Recipe

Every time I try a new technique for pounding vegetables, I realize how much we need to get the true, big African mortar and pestle. This time, our host Jesse R. put okra and onions in plastic bags and smashed them with a rolling pin. It turned out fine but was really loud and messy. Anyway, the dish turned out ok but a little dry, I'm wondering if the recipe should have had us put in some water.

Sauce à la pâte d'arachides | Peanut butter sauce | Recipe

I made both a meat version with lamb as well as a vegetarian one with extra cabbage. This dish was quite tasty, though eating peanut sauce with rice with your hands is really messy! If you're making this recipe, be advised that since you have to boil off most of the water before serving, be judicious in how much you add unless you have a long time and don't mind thoroughly boiled meat. Also, if you like spicy foods, this could definitely have done well with some chili pepper.

Bourmassa | Sweet beignets | Recipe

It doesn't get much simpler than balls of flour and sugar, leavened with flour, and fried. It's also hard to imagine a more simply satisfying treat. Crisp and golden brown on the outside, soft and spongy on the inside. Yum.

Spotify came through yet again, with more than enough lovely tunes from Ouagadougou and beyond. You may enjoy the playlist Laura made.

And that's a wrap for the B's! These 17 meals took us across five continents, so please check out our Noshies awards for the best, worst, and most notable discoveries from the past several months.