Category: Africa

Agbayo (Life Size Mortar & Pestle)

Life size mortar and pestle, photo by JMorton

Agbayo (Life Size Mortar & Pestle)

The above photo was taken in Ferdinand Marcos’s Batac ancestral house.  It was used when he was obviously younger as the mortar shows sign of erosion or depreciation.

Having lived in a farming community when I was a young girl, this life-size mortar and pestle is a familiar sight.

It was used in many things that needed pulping like my favourite sweet rice dessert called nilupak or dehusking palay, especially when going to a rice mill is a bit of a hustle.

The term used by Ilocanos, people of Northern Luzon, is agbayo, which means to pound.

Rice comes from palay grains, and if you only wanted a chupa or a ganta of rice, most Ilocanos would probably use a pestle and mortar to pound the palay to dehusk and turn into rice which then ready to cook.

Pounding rice is sometimes more than just a chore.  It can be a way of bonding with friends and family.

I used to help my cousins when they were pounding in the mortar.  Usually there are extra pestles around and two or three people can pound together but take turn.  It is a matter of timing.  It was a lot of fun though can be hard work.  Having someone to help makes this arduous repetitive task less of a chore.

Madagascar Chicken Recipe

“Having boring chicken every day? Why not try a different way to spice up your chicken with this Madagascar recipe? “

Madagascar Chicken

Madagascar Chicken Recipe


 2 (1/2 lb) boneless skinless chicken breast half, cut in bite size chunks

 2/3 cup coconut milk

 1 1/2 cups yellow onions, chopped

 1 red pepper, chopped

 3 garlic cloves, crushed

 2 teaspoons ground ginger

 Juice and zest of 1 lemon

 1/3 teaspoon cayenne, adjust to taste

 salt and pepper, to taste


1. Grate the lemon rind, removing the yellow only and leaving the bitter pith on the fruit. Reserve rind.

2. Squeeze the juice of the lemon over the chicken pieces. Allow it to marinate for 30 minutes. Drain and season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. In a hot skillet with a little oil or cooking spray, brown chicken over medium heat leaving chicken only partially cooked.

4. Remove chicken and discard any oil, leaving just a light film or spray pan again. Add onions and cook until slightly browned. Line a foil dish 7″ x 9″ x 1.5″ with baking parchment, with extra foil around the sides.

5. Add pepper and garlic and lightly fry for 3 minutes. Reduce heat to simmer, add coconut milk, ginger, cayenne powder, and grated lemon rind.

6. Return chicken to pan, cover and simmer 30 min or until in thick stew consistency. If mixture is too thin simmer with lid removed until desired consistency is reached.

7. Serve with white rice.

NOTE: One pound shelled and deveined shrimp can be added to or substituted for the chicken.

Chicken a la Piri Piri

Chicken Peri Peri, Photo by JMorton

Chicken Peri Peri, Photo by JMorton

Chicken a la Piri Piri

This recipe is from the Hairy Bikers duo.  I followed it to the letter and it gave me a very delicious spicy chicken dish, comparable to my much loved Nando’s!

Apparently piri-piri was a variety of bird’s eye chili from Africa.  The chili was used by a Portuguese immigrant to create the now world-wide famous Nando’s Peri Peri chicken.


  • 1 large fresh chicken, about 2kg
  • fresh watercress, to garnish
  • lemon wedges, to serve

Piri Piri marinade

  • 4 plump red chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped
  • 2 red bird’s-eye chillies, stalks removed, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
  • 20g bunch of flatleaf parsley (with stalks)
  • juice of 2 lemons, about 65ml
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika, sweet or hot
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 2 tsp flaked sea salt


  1. To make the marinade, put all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz until everything is well mixed and chopped up small. Now you need to spatchcock the chicken by removing the backbone but leaving it whole. Turn the bird on to its breast and carefully cut either side of the backbone with good scissors or poultry shears. Discard the bone. Cut off the foot joints and wing tips.
  2. Strip off all the skin from the bird apart from the ends of the wings, which are easier to remove after cooking. You’ll find it simpler to do this if you snip the membrane between the skin and the chicken flesh as you go. Snip off any obvious fat with scissors – it will be a creamy white colour.
  3. Open the chicken out and place it on the board so the breast side is facing upwards. Press down heavily with the palms of your hands to break the breastbone and flatten the chicken as evenly as possible. This will help it cook more quickly. Don’t worry if you can’t press hard enough to break the breastbone – as long as the chicken looks flat, it will cook evenly. Using a sharp knife, slash through the thickest parts of the legs and breasts. Place the chicken in a shallow nonmetallic dish – a lasagne dish is ideal – and tuck in the legs and wings.
  4. Spoon over all the marinade and really massage it into both sides of the chicken, ensuring that every bit of it is well coated. Cover the dish with cling film and leave the chicken to marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours or ideally overnight.
  5. Preheat the oven to 210°C/Fan 190°C/Gas 6½. Take the chicken out of the dish and place it on a rack inside a large baking tray, breast-side up. Roast for 50–60 minutes until lightly browned and cooked through. The juices should run clear when the thickest part of a thigh is pierced with a skewer. Cover the chicken loosely with foil and leave it to rest for 10 minutes before carving. Add a garnish of watercress and some lemon wedges for squeezing.


Jollof Rice Recipe

Jollof Rice

Jollof Rice

Jollof Rice Recipe

Also called Benachin, meaning “one pot” in West Africa, Try it as tasty 🙂
2-3 table  spoons of oil Oil for frying
 One chicken (and/or a pound or two of stew meat), chopped
into bite sized pieces
 1 large onion ( finely chopped )
 Salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper (to taste)
 Flavouring add-ins (to taste): chilli pepper (chopped), garlic,
thyme, bay leaf, ginger, cinnamon, curry powder
 2 cups chicken stock or beef stock
 3 ripe tomatoes (chopped)
 Vegetables add-ins (to taste): sweet green pepper (chopped), green beans, green peas, carrots (chopped), cabbage (chopped)
 4 cups rice
 1 small can tomato paste
 Meat add-in: cooked ham, prawns (or dried prawns)
 Garnishes: fresh parsley (chopped), cilantro (chopped), lettuce (shredded), hard-boiled egg (sliced)
1. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a large skillet. Stir-fry the chicken (or beef) in the oil until it is browned on all sides. Remove the meat from the oil and set aside. Add the onions, the salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and one or two of the flavouring add-ins (if desired) to the skillet and fry the mixture until the onions begin to become tender. Remove the onion mixture from the skillet and set aside with the meat.
2. In a Dutch oven or large covered cooking pot, bring the broth and two cups of water to a simmer. Place the meat and onion mixture into the Dutch oven and cover.
3. In the same skillet used for the meat and onions, stir-fry the tomatoes and one or two of the vegetable add-ins. Continue frying the mixture until the vegetables are partly cooked, then add them to the meat, onions, and broth in the Dutch oven.
4. Again in the same skillet, combine the rice and the tomato paste. Over low heat, stir until the rice is evenly coated with the tomato paste. The rice should end up a pink-orange colour. Add the rice to the Dutch oven and stir gently.
5. Cover the Dutch oven and cook the mixture over a low heat until the rice is done and the vegetables are tender (maybe half an hour). Stir gently occasionally and check to see that the bottom of the pot does not become completely dry. Add warm water or broth (a quarter cup at a time) as necessary to help rice cook. Adjust seasoning as needed. If desired, add one of the meat add-ins while the dish is cooking. (Shrimp cook very quickly and should not be over-cooked or they will become tough; ham can be added at any time).
6. Serve with one or two of the garnishes.


The Asante and the Golden Stool

We dwell in our history to improve upon our future.
– African Asante Proverbs

I find this proverb so beautiful and inspiring.  This is what history should be to us, to improve upon our future instead of reliving all the madness and badness that went on in the past over and over again.

Anyway, Peter and I have been watching a documentary on the Asante people of Ghana in Africa. Their gold artefacts were so amazing.  There was a lake that continues to be a source of mystery.   Divers to these days are investigating it.

As to the history bit, the Asante people were colonised by the Brits, who changed their culture but not so total. The Asante were able to hide their iconic golden stool which is a symbol of their core values, customs and traditions.

The Asante and the Golden Stool



  The current Asantehene, Otumfour Osei Tutu II sitting besides the Golden stool

The current Asantehene, Otumfour Osei Tutu II sitting besides the Golden stool


The Golden stool being carried in public.