International Meals – Guinea-Bissau

I think I need to apologize a bit.  Last entry we referred to the “tiny” African nation of Guinea.  Guinea is the size of Michigan.  That’s not really tiny.  Guinea-Bissau, on the other hand, is the size of Connecticut.  I’m prepared to call this one “tiny.” The first part of the name, as previously discussed, comes from imperialism, and the second part is the name of the capital city. (Similarly to how the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are sometimes referred to as Congo-Brazzaville and Congo-Kinshasa, respectively.)

The colonial occupier of today’s country was Portugal, and so today’s dishes are named in Portuguese.  We’re making an appetizer and a main, so lets get started!

The appetizer is Abate Recheado com Atum, which has a bunch of flavors that you might not, at first, think would work together.  We start by slicing and mashing an avocado.


Mashed avocado

Next, we need some tuna.  The recipe calls for canned tuna, but to heck with that – it’s readily available around here in nae-so-canned form.  Still, if you want to throw this together at home, you could do it that way.  But we decided we’d rather toss a nice piece of fresh tuna into the cast iron briefly.

Tuna cooking

Cooking it through might be more authentic, but we couldn’t bring ourselves to do that, so it was just lightly seared when we were done.

Further ingredient prep: hydrating some coconut and peppers.

Hydrating coconut and peppers

We still have some piri-piri chilies left from Benin, which is long enough ago that it’s not even ON this blog.  But they’re dried, and whoo doggies, they are still pretty darn potent.  The bigger concern is that I’m not actually certain they’re native this far west in the continent.  Still, they’re tasty, so we’ll run with it.

Only one more ingredient to prep, and you’re probably not going to guess it.  Let’s whip some cream!

Cream being whipped
Yes, that is a billion-year-old Hamilton Beach hand mixer.  It still works fine, so don’t knock it.

Now we just mix ALL this stuff together. To recap, that’s tuna, avocado, heavy cream, coconut, and hot pepper, and we also add some tomato sauce, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

Avocado filling

What do we DO with this unholy mixture, you ask?  Just wait until the end for the denouement picture.

But for now, lets get started on our main dish, Cafriela de Frango.  This is a not terribly complicated chicken dish that involves first steaming, then grilling the chicken.

The steaming part involves chopping peppers, onions, garlic, and grinding some black pepper.  I used grains of paradise in addition to black pepper, since we had them, and they seem to be from approximately the right part of the world.

Vegetables for Guinea-Bissau chicken

All this just gets tossed into a pot with some stock, oil, and butter, and left to steam until the chicken is cooked.

Chicken cooking

Once the chicken is done, you grill it and…

… did I say grill?  We live in Vancouver, and it’s the monsoon season right now, so this got popped under the broiler instead.  It only took a few minutes to get some nice color on the outside, and it was time to serve our two dishes.

Guinea-Bissau meal

The chicken was served over rice with the vegetables and the steaming liquid as sauce.  The avocado-tuna-coconut mixture was stuffed back into the empty peels as a serving display.

How was it?  Well, the stuff avocados were amazing.  Seriously – I would never have predicted tuna + avocado + coconut + whipped cream + hot pepper + tomato sauce would be a combination any sane person would dream up, but together it totally worked. Salty, creamy, spicy, sweet, all together in one nice package.  And the just-seared tuna is definitely something I prefer to fully cooked.

The chicken dish was also pretty tasty, even if it wasn’t a rock star like the appetizer.  Lots of flavor cooked into the broth, and the black pepper gave everything a nice zip.

These are both recipes we would pull out again, one to wow people, and one because it’s just plain simple and tasty.

Next time, we return to South America for the first time since Ecuador to visit Guyana!

Abacate Recheado com Atum (Tuna stuffed avocado)
Cafriela de Frango

International Meals – Guinea

Back when we did Equatorial Guinea, we pointed out why there are so many “Guinea” countries, and the answer is essentially: because imperialism. We’re now on to the second of the four, the tiny west African country of Guinea. This one was formerly French Guinea, so we’ve got some French influences here.

We decided to make a drink, a desert, and a main dish, so lets start with the drink.  There’s really not much to photograph – it’s a TON of grated ginger, which you soak in boiling water with cloves, cinnamon, and sugar.  Then you strain it and mix in some orange and lime juice.  Here it is in a pitcher:

Ginger Drink

However, what it lacks in photogenicness. Photogenesis? Photogenicism? it makes up for in being SUPER DUPER TASTY.  Ginger, cinnamon, and sugar – what’s not to…

hey… is this a pumpkin spice orange juice?

Never mind, don’t care, it’s good.

Next up was the main dish.  We’re making Konkoé Turé Gbéli, or smoked catfish in sauce.  Obviously, our first ingredient needed to be smoked catfish, so I picked up a whole bag of these bad boys from the local African grocer.

Smoked catfish

They were very, very intense smelling when we opened the bag.  They are also not in any way deboned – as far as we can tell, you’re just supposed to crunch right through them.

You toss the fish into a big pot of boiling water to start softening up, and then make a sauce by blending garlic, onions, scallions, tomatoes, and a hot pepper of some sort.  We used half a Scotch bonnet, on the theory that that was vaguely authentic to the region. This all gets pureed, then added to the cooking pot:

Blended sauce

Next up, veg!  This recipe called for a mix of okra, eggplant, carrot, and potatoes.  Into the pot with them as well!


After cooking for a while until the potatoes are done, the dish is finished with a bit of red palm oil.

Red palm oil

Also shown – rice cooker making okra rice.  We did this wrong, as it turns out – the recipe called for cooking the okra separately and mixing it in at the end, but we just tossed the okra in with the rice while it was cooking.  It didn’t seem to cause any problems.

Back to the subject of the palm oil, however – this is a ubiquitous ingredient in west Africa, but we’ve had a very mixed relationship with it.  The recipe called for a “glass” of the stuff, and having no idea how much that represented, we put in maybe a tablespoon or two.

And here’s the final stew!

Guinean fish stew

So how was it?

It was not really to our taste.  Now I want to be clear – any time we make a dish that we aren’t terribly fond of on this project, we are adamant that there’s two possible explanations – we didn’t do it right, or our palates just aren’t attuned to this flavor palette. We will NEVER say – “This is a bad recipe.”  We WILL say “We probably didn’t do this right,” and “This is just not something we are accustomed to.”

In this case, I think it was a bit of both.  On the flawed execution side, the potatoes were definitely undercooked – we probably cut them a bit too big.  On the personal preference side – the catfish was really, really smoky.  Combined with the intense flavor of the red palm oil, you have a very dark, somewhat oily personality to the dish, which was further pushed in that direction by the eggplant.  I can understand how this dish could be a real treat if your preference is for those kind of flavors – it is definitely not an understated meal.

Speaking of flawed execution… For dessert, we decided to follow the French influence and make a mango and banana tarte tartin.  That’s a dessert cooked upside down – you make a layer of caramel, layer in fruits, top with a short crust pastry, bake until done, and then flip over.

Those last two words hide a multitude of ways to go wrong.

Here’s the hot caramel in the pie dish:

Fruit on top: (there’s banana under the mango)

Fruit in pie dish

Add the pie crust and bake until it is nice and bubbly around the edges:

Baked pie crust

At this point, you theoretically just wait for it to cool a bit, and then flip the whole pile over, as the caramel solidifies into a nice gooey tart.

Yeah, about that.  Our caramel never set.  The recipe was a bit short on detail, and didn’t say exactly when to add the butter to the caramel.  Turns out, you DON’T do that at the beginning, or you just get toasted buttery sugar syrup, not caramel.  It was still TASTY, of course, but we had to just leave it in the pan and scoop slices out with a spoon.

Tarte tartin (sort of)

The crust was tasty, and you definitely don’t get a soggy bottom if it just stays on top.  And really – tropical fruit soaked in sugar syrup isn’t NOT going to be delicious.

So that’s Guinea.  We’re sorry we didn’t find the main dish more appealing, but we polished off the tarte and the drink, and next time we’re staying right next door for the Portuguese colonized Guinea-Bisseau.