Senegal – Modern Senegalese Recipes from the Source to the Bowl, by chef and restaurateur Pierre Thiam is the National Geographic of cookbooks.
Senegal delivers that vivid jolt of excitement of travel to someplace new and unexpected. It’s a cookbook, but Thiam’s vision of the people, the landscape, the architecture and the unique spirit of Senegal – his home – are electric.
And the food is wonderful. It’s exactly the book for people who love to bring a new ingredient, recipe or cooking style home from vacation to keep the flame of a travel experience alive.
Thiam came to the United States to attend college, but was charmed by the energy New York City, got a job in a restaurant and stayed. Now, 25 years later – including three children, two successful restaurants (Yolele! and Le Grand Dakar) and his first cookbook, Yolele!, – he continues to celebrate West Africa through food culture.
The recipes in Senegal are both traditional – celebrating the women of his family, and by extension, the women of Africa – and also cultural hybrids combining African ingredients with international techniques and ingredients. Some ingredients may be new to you, like fonio, red palm oil, peanut flour, or moringa leaves. Other ingredients, techniques and recipes have the resonance of other places – the Mediterranean (a tabbouleh made of fonio), Viet Nam (fish sauce shows up often as a seasoning), and other dishes adapted to Senegalese ingredients and tastes from other African countries, Asia and Europe.
You’ll discover fonio, the African equivalent of quinoa, and red palm oil for frying. There are recipes for Lamb Fonio Tabbouleh, Eggplant and Palm Oil Risotto, Fonio Sushi, and Senegalese Summer Rolls, as well as traditional dishes like Accara (black-eyed pea fritters), Kilishi (a type of beef jerky), Jollof rice, Baguedj (a sorrel-okra sauce/condiment), and more.
But it’s more than a collection of recipes.
By the time you put the book down, you’ll have a lively sense of the people of Senegal and their lives – at ease in the cities and villages – the fantastical architecture, the deep tropical forest and the brilliant sea. You’ll put it down, and you’ll think, “Wow, let’s go.”
Or maybe, “I’m hungry.”
SLOW-COOKED LAMB FONIO TABOULEH
Reprinted with permission from Senegal – Modern Senegalese Recipes from the Source to the Bowl, by Pierre Thiam with Jennifer Sit.
North Africa meets West Africa in this recipe: the slow-cooked lamb is super-flavorful and heartbreaking tender, a rich counterpoint to the fresh mint, parsley, tomato and cucumber. The fonio stands in for couscous, bringing this dish to the heart of Senegal.
Serves 4 (generously!)
- 2 lamb shanks (about 1-1/2 pounds each)
- 1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, unpeeled, crushed with the side of a knife
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 2 quarts water
- Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 1-teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1-teaspoon salt
- 1/2 –teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
- 1 cup olive oil
- 2 cups cooked fonio (or quinoa)
- 1 bunch parsley, leaves finely chopped
- 1 bunch mint, leaves finely chopped
- 1 Kirby cucumber, peeled and diced
- 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
- 1 cup microgreens or baby arugula
- 1 cup small green olives, pitted
To prepare the lamb:
- Preheat the oven to 225°F
- In a large oven-safe pot, such as a Dutch oven, combine the lamb shanks, onion, garlic, bay leaves, thyme and water.
- Bring to a boil, cover, and transfer to the oven.
- Cook for 5 hours, or until the lamb is very tender.
- Remove from the oven and let the lamb cool in the liquid until it is easy to handle.
- Remove the lamb from the cooking liquid and set aside. Strain the cooking liquid into a small pot and discard the solids. Over high heat, reduce the liquid by half. Set aside to cool, and skim and discard the fat that rises to the top.
- While the cooking liquid is reducing, shred the lamb and discard the bones, fat and membranes.
- Season the lamb with salt and pepper to taste.
To prepare the vinaigrette:
- In a small bowl combine ½ cup of the reduced cooking liquid, the lemon juice, mustard, salt, pepper and whisk to dissolve the salt.
- Slowly pour in the oil, whisking constantly to emulsify.
To prepare the tabouleh:
- Place the fonio in a large bowl and add the shredded lamb, parsley, mint, cucumber, tomatoes, and microgreens.
- Toss well and generously fold in the vinaigrette to taste. (You may have some left over.) Top with the olives (if using).
- Serve immediately.