Côte d’Ivoire: Chicken Kedjenou

Africa in my kitchen

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Reposted from @234Pantry on Instagram

Ivorian Proverb: Taking aim for too long can ruin your eyes.

Once upon a time in the 18th century, a Kumasi princess had a major disagreement with the Ashanti confederacy. The confederacy was an Akan kingdom in present-day Ghana. This disagreement caused her to leave the confederacy, her people, and lead a breakaway group of the confederacy to a different land. The group headed west and got to the Komoe River. The story goes that, unable to cross the river, the woman consulted her priest, who told her she would have to sacrifice her son for them to make the crossing. The princess dressed her son in regal clothes and dropped him in the water. Then she called out “Ba ouli”, meaning “The child is dead” and her people were able to cross over safely to fertile land in present day Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast). To remember the sacrifice of their leader, the people called themselves the Baoulé.

The woman was Queen Abla Pokou and the Baoulé are part of the Akan ethnic group in Côte d’Ivoire today. They are also thought to be the originators of our feature dish from Côte d’Ivoire – Chicken Kedjenou.

Côte d’Ivoire – also called Ivory Coast – is a west African country with a population of about 23 million people. It is the largest exporter of cocoa beans in the world. It shares its borders with Mali, Liberia, Guinea, Burkina Faso, and Ghana (with which it shares the Akan people). It is also bordered by the Gulf of Guinea to the south. Formerly a French colony until 1960, the official language is French. However, about 70 indigenous languages are spoken in Ivory Coast including Baoulé, Dan, Anyin, and Dyula (or Dioula or Jula), a trade language.

Ivorian flag

The foodstuff in Côte d’Ivoire is not much different from what is found in other West Africa n countries.  There is plantain, yam, cassava, rice, corn, and peanuts. There is seafood and meats, and vegetables that can all be combined to create a variety of soups, stews and sauces. Here are some of them:

Attiéké – fermented grated cassava, usually eaten as a side dish

Alloco – spicy ripe plantain fried in palm oil

Poulet bicyclette – lean guinea fowl

Maafe – a peanut sauce

Riz gras – rice that is cooked in a tomato and onion sauce

Gnamakoudji – a ginger, pineapple, lemon, and vanilla drink

You have tubers and carbohydrates – plantain, yam, cassava, seafood, beef, and a variety of sauces, soups, and stews.

Attiéké, which accompanied our Kedjenou

According to multiple sources, the word “Kedjenou” means “shake inside” in Baoulé; that pretty much sums up the cooking process of Chicken Kedjenou. It is a chicken and vegetable dish that involves cooking with little to no water. Instead, the chicken and vegetables cook slowly in their own juices. You don’t need to stir or hover over the pot, stirring. You simply shake the pot periodically to prevent anything from sticking to the pot and burning. Traditionally, Kedjenou is made in a clay pot called a canari over a fire and sealed with banana leaves. However, a good non-stick pot with a fitted cover should work, and that is what we used.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, this is a dish that wants you to leave it alone and let it do its thing.  We used a recipe by Sinaba Food. Here is what you’ll need

  • Fresh chicken, washed and cut in pieces. I would recommend using dark meat so no additional water is required and so the chicken fat provides oil. The whole point is to cook the chicken in its own juices. If your chicken is lean, you might need some water
  • Tomatoes
  • Habanero peppers (whole)
  • Onions
  • Garden eggs (this is also known as African eggplant and can be found fresh or canned in an African store. If you don’t have that, your next best option might be eggplant, but you might have to use less, depending on the size. A typical garden egg is about the size of an egg (O look how that turned out! The size just occurred to me as I wrote this)
  • Fresh garlic cloves
  • Fresh ginger
  • Bay leaf
  • Seasoning / bouillon cube
  • Black pepper (the recipe uses pepper corns, but we used ground black pepper)
  • Salt

Guys, this recipe is easy-peasy. Dice the tomatoes, onions, and garden eggs. Chop the ginger and garlic. Place the chicken in the pot and top it with all the other ingredients (crush the seasoning cube).

Cover the pot and cook on low heat for about 40 minutes. Shake the pot every 10 minutes to mix the ingredients. Do not open the pot until cooking is over.

Here’s a disclaimer. I did not follow the instructions to the tee. I cooked on low heat for the first 10 minutes and felt like it had not heated up enough, so I increased it to medium. After the 40 minutes elapsed, I tasted the sauce and felt it was still a little bit “raw” and the tomatoes very slightly sour. I cooked it covered on high heat for about 4 minutes and tasted and this time, it tasted cooked, but also really peppery! I later realised that I had somehow missed that one of the two hot peppers was supposed to be cooked whole in the stew. However, it was also really tasty and the chicken was tender and succulent. We ate kedjenou with a side of attiéké.

Our names are Ijeoma and Yemi and we approve of this dish. Just remember to chop ONE pepper, not two!

Sources

Ivory Coast” – Wikipedia

“Queen Pokou- Akan princess who founded a tribe in Ivory Coast” – Ghanaian Museum

“Ivorian Cuisine” – Wikipedia

“Chicken Kedjenou” – Sinaba Food

“Ivorian proverbs from Ivory Coast” – Proverbicals

“Flag of Ivory Coast” – Wikipedia

“Kedjenou Chicken” – Immaculate Bites

Written by @234Pantry

© 2020 TunukaMedia

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