Thursday 26 November 2009

Food, Music, Food, Music, Food, Music... Ad Infinitum

One of my goals when I cook is to try to be as inclusive as possible in my approach to the art of sauces and stews, specifically when it comes to international cuisine. This is not always successful but sometimes the attempt is worth more than the result. My Yassa dish was a typical example.

For some time a brochure from The Tourism and Travel Association of The Gambia lay dormant in my recipes' folder. I kept paging through it but never mustered the courage to knock up one of the succulent dishes recommended by the publication. Until one day, when both my children asked me if I could cook some cod. Without wasting any more time I set out to prepare a dish that would resemble one of the Gambian recipes I had seen in the pamphlet.

There are many ethnic groups living in The Gambia with some of them originating from surrounding countries like Guinea Bissau, Senegal and Mali. So, its cuisine is the result of the influence of these tribes.

Yassa is food of the Jola people who happen to be the fourth largest community in The Gambia. This dish can be made using chicken or fish, but attention, if using the latter, bear in mind that a fish like cod falls apart when you pan-fry it as I discovered to my chagrin. Still, I pulled it off, but my children found the resulting dish a bit too hot, as in spicy hot.


1 whole chicken or 4 fish (jorto or sompat)
salt and pepper to season
1 kg onions
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp mustard (I suggest English mustard)
1 tsp chilli sauce
1 tsp black pepper
6 tbsp vegetable oil
50ml lemon or lime juice
300ml water (if using chicken)
100ml water (if using fish)
1 stock cube
Boiled white rice to serve

1- Clean and trim the chicken or fish, and cut the chicken into quarters. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside to rest.
2- Slice or chop the onions, crush the garlic, and mix both with the mustard, chle sauce and black pepper.
3- Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat and fry the chicken or fish just enough to seal in the flavour. Drain, remove from the pan and set aside.
4- In the remaining oil fry the onion mixture for a few minutes then add the lemon or lime juice, water and stock cube. Stir well, return the chicken or fish, reduce the heat to low, cover, and leave to simmer for 1½hours for chicken, or half an hour for fish, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

Of course, it goes without saying that the music to go with this spicy dish must have the same hot ingredients. I confess that when I was cooking Yassa the melodies playing in the background were very different from the ones I'm uploading now but since Prince, or the Artist Formerly Known As (insert current appellation here), decided long time ago that his music was above everything and everyone else, I was unable to find a good clip of Musicology - one of my favourite albums and songs. And as for Nuyorican Soul, forget it, 'embedding is disabled by request' is the caption that greets me everytime I try to upload a video on my blog. That's why my first offering tonight is a down-to-earth US artist born to Indian parents and educated both in India and France. Rupa Marya and her polyglot band, The April Fishes, combine Latin grooves, the traditional French chanson, Gypsy beats and Indian ragas to deliver a pungent musical banquet. Enjoy.

Rupa is a hard act to follow, but that's not a problem for Dobet Gnahoré with her explosive and outgoing stage persona. This Ivorian singer, dancer and percussionist has inherited her rich father's tradition, a musician in his own right who performs with the Compagnie Ki Yi Mbock d’Abidjan. Cracking tune, this one is.

And to wrap this post up tonight here's Manu Chao with a classic from his piquant discography. And I hope this time youtube doesn't remove this clip. They've already done it twice. Enjoy.

Copyright 2009

Photo taken from The Thrifty Gourmet.

Next Post: 'Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music', to be published on Sunday 29th November at 10am (GMT)


  1. I love everything here,the pic , the recipe,
    the music! That looks delicious!!
    Love wine and food.
    Now i'm hungry.

  2. The food sounds great and the music is, as always, awesome! Thanks for the entertaining and delicious post.

  3. great company, great food, and great music... does it get any better? p.s. did you your kids really ask you for cod?... i think if my kids asked for fish i´d fall off my chair... besos!

  4. I'm a vegetarian, so I won't be making this exactly, but I do like the sound of that sauce... garlic, mustard, chilli, lemon, those are some of my favourite flavours so I may have to have a go at a vegetable version :)

    If you do try my risotto, by the way, I have only one little tip. Risotto rice is sticky; it will always stick to the pan. But so long as you keep the heat low, it won't burn. Have fun!

  5. The dish sounds delicious and food plus music - the perfect combination... What a post!

  6. The food looks fantastic and sounds even better - I may just have to try that recipe....and thank you also for the perfect music to go with it!

  7. Many thanks for your kind comments.

    Greetings from London.

  8. Anything that includes chilis, garlic, and that much onions is right up my alley. Thanks for sharing that recipe, Cuban. I think I will give it a whirl, probably soon. I'll let you know how it goes... for now, I'm still recovering from overdosing on gobble gobble...! Whew!


  9. Cuban that looks delicious. I love green olives.

    By the way, the second picture is Snow White and the Huntsman, so he let her go.

    Love Renee xoxo

  10. It looks delicious! When I first saw the photo I thought it was a malaysian dish, but the olives were confusing me...

    I LOVE Manu Chao!

  11. I think I've made a variation of the chicken dish before..and enjoyed it. I really fell for Rupa..what a beat, so I say dance first, then eat!

  12. Brother,

    Ive missed you.

    THe food looks absolutely delicious and the music as always...captivates and transports me...

    Warm love to you and yours,


  13. A bit up the food chain from beans on toast. I shall dream of good food all day now.

  14. thank you, CIL, for this cultural post,
    food and music both enrich the soul.

  15. Excellent musical choices to go with a slowing simmering, spicy dish. I've seen Dobet a few times and she definitely sizzles. Not to rub it in, but yassa is a very popular Senegalese dish that I get to enjoy frequently at my favorite Senegalese restaurant named for the dish and at the homes of my Senegalese friends. It's one of my favorites although I have to say, I've never seen it prepared with cod!

  16. The food looks and sounds delicious! Incidentally, I'm already planning my next great adventure and I'm deciding between Tanzania (so more of those wonderful African stews) and Cuba. Any suggestions?

    The Tuesday installment of Zadie Smith's essays is fascinating. I always thought what makes us choose the books we read and I think that there are definitely trends in reading. I confess to reading the Times book reviews.

    I also must confess that I've read Lolita and enjoyed it, but the comparison to Old Europe savaging New America didn't even cross my mind...

  17. Loved, loved, loved the music. And apart from being a great blogger, you cook too, Cubano? Wow, your family is lucky.

  18. food looks tasty and love the serving of music too - Manu and Dob.. I am very familiar with but Rupa and the April Fishes - new to me and loved the fusion sound..Greetings from Mexico

  19. Many thanks for your kind comments.

    Greetings from London.

  20. Awesome all the way around! Thanks for the new music, as always. Absolutely LOVED Rupa! Oh My!!! LOL What a wonderful new favorite for me...every little cell in my body was dancing! :)

  21. You have written a beautiful post and the recipe that you have prepared is amazing, very few people are able to make such a recipe, as much as your recipe is praised, its test is very good.
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