“In many African cultures, a well-bred girl is a girl who can cook,” says chef Anto Cocagne, who grew up in Gabon. “Educated to be the mistress of the house, cooking is something that girls have to master,” she says.
Being a cook in Africa is not an ambitious job, Cocagne attests. When she was 15 years-old, she admitted to her doubtful father that she could succeed in pursuing her dreams of being a chef in France. Once she returned to Gabon, it was difficult to find work in a kitchen as a female. She turned to private cheffing, specializing in Pan-African cuisines. “Our countries borders were not set by us,” Cocagne explains. “We had kingdoms and empires in Africa that were dislocated by slavery and colonization. Which is why in many border nations, we speak the same languages, share the same surnames, and cook in the same way.”
She says Sub-Saharan cuisine is not understood or as well-known as dishes in other parts of the continent because the media focuses on the war and devastation in the region.
Photographer Aline Princet and Cocagne set the stage to celebrate cuisines throughout the continent in “Saka Saka: South of the Sahara — Adventures in African Cooking.”
Cassava and Shrimp Fritters
For 6 people
Preparation: 45 minutes
- 3 large cassava tubers, about 3 lb 5 oz (1.5 kg)
- ½ bunch herbs—flat-leaf parsley, chervil, and/or cilantro
- 7 oz (200 g) cooked shrimp, peeled
- 3 eggs
- 2 tbsp red nokoss
- Salt and pepper
- 2 cups (500 ml) oil, for frying
- Lime wedges, to serve
- Peel the cassava. Remove the wooden stem in the middle, then grate with a fine grater to get thin strands of cassava.
- Place the grated cassava pulp in a clean tea towel and press firmly to remove the liquid.
- Finely chop the herbs.
- Clean the shrimp, then chop into small pieces.
- In a bowl, mix the cassava pulp, eggs, shrimp, herbs, and red nokoss.Season with salt and pepper and mix well. Form the mixture into small fritters, about ½ inch (1 cm) thick.
- Heat the oil in a large pot and fry the fritters in batches until golden. Drain on paper towels as you cook them.
- Serve the fritters hot as an appetizer or tapas, accompanied by lime weges, thinly sliced crudités, and mashed, seasoned avocado, if you like.