I Told Y’all I was Gonna Do It! Black Eyed Pea Fritters (Akara)

Thank goodness it’s Friday!  I have finally found the time to post.  This week started out pretty busy with my oldest daughter’s birthday party Sunday and then my youngest started to run a fever Wednesday night.  But all is well now and things have settled down a bit.  I promised in my last post on millet porridge, that I was going to try my hand at making Akara–a bean fritter from West Africa.

Akara is usually made with black eyed peas or brown peas (African Honey beans?) that look just like black eye peas only brown.  Now if you don’t eat black eye peas for whatever reason, you may be able to substitute them with Navy beans.  You still will have to stick to all the directions, which include soaking over night in warm water and peeling the skin off the beans.  The latter is not hard but it is tedious!  You will work muscles you never thought you had.  To get the skin off the beans, while the beans are in a bowl covered with water, rub the beans in your hands and rinse off periodically.  You will have to do this repeatedly until all skins are removed.

After the skins are all off, you will blend the beans in a little bit of water until completely smooth.  Transfer to a bowl, and then blend 1 onion and 1 hot pepper (per 2 cups of beans).  Then add the onions and pepper to the bowl and stir.  For seasoning, some add Maggi.  I don’t.  I used salt and cayenne pepper to taste and some Veggie Protein Stock Powder African Seasoning (VPSP) sold here.  Just to let y’all know this is my FAVORITE seasoning for West African foods, but I use a dash in just about every thing I cook.

This is how the batter will look

 After you  taste your batter to adjust the seasonings to your taste, let it sit for a few minutes while you heat your oil.  Traditionally, Akara is cook up like a puffy round ball, but I fry everything in my iron skillet, so my batch was pretty oval.

 Fry your fritters on both sides for a total of about 4-5 minutes.  They can be served for breakfast will millet porridge, or as a snack/side with a spicy tomato sauce or ketchup.  These delicious little fritters are egg and gluten free! So get up, go buy you some black eyed peas, an onion and a pepper–Put your foot in it! 😉



Millet Porridge Anyone?

Many of us have eaten oatmeal, cream of wheat or grits for breakfast at one time or another.  So though the idea of a “porridge” may bring to mind orphan Annie, most of us have an idea of a warm grain or seed ground, cooked and sweetened to perfection.  Well, let’s add millet to our breakfast’s menu!

Millet–Not Just For Birds Anymore
 Millet is considered a grain and has it’s origins in Western Africa.  Since then, millet has made it’s way all over the continent of Africa and into Asia.  It has always been a human food, but in common times it is also seen as a main ingredient to bird feed.

Health Facts:  Millet is a good source of Magnesium and Phosphorus, the latter a major component in repairing body tissue.    Accordingly, the magnesium gives millet it’s “heart-healthy” quality.

Now let’s cook!
One thing that I do in my home, is grind the millet.  My grind is usually in between the texture of cornmeal and a flour.  This works for my family because I have young children who happen to not chew the best.  Here’s a pic of my millet grind:

Now, I have a Vitamix dry blender so I use that to grind all my dry goods but I’ve also done this in a regular blender.  I did not get a fine grind more like a grits texture.  Remember, this is just the way my family likes it, if using millet in savory dishes you may not want to grind it at all because you would want for texture in your dish.

The Tricky part–I have to tell you that millet left to it’s own devices is bitter.  The trick I’ve found is to salt the water before you cook the millet.  In a small or medium pot– depending on how much you are cooking– put about an inch or 1 1/2 inch of water in the pot.  Add 1 tsp of salt (we use sea salt) and add your millet to the pot now and stir.  TRUST me, if you don’t do it this way, millet has a bad habit of clumping up on you.  By making the mixture now, before you add the pot to the heat you’re distributing the millet all around so it won’t clump up. 

You will start cooking on medium high heat with continuous stirring.  As the millet starts to cook and thicken up, turn the heat down to low/simmer.  This is what our cooked millet looks like: 

We use local honey as a sweetener, our favorite is honey from Breaux Bridge, LA.  Remember by adding the salt you have cut the bitterness, but you will want to add a generous amount of your favorite sweetener to fit your tastes.  You can add raisins or blueberries.  My favorite way to serve the millet right now is to add honey & cinnamon, yum!

I also will add cooked millet to a smoothie of ripe plantain and veggie milk, now that right there is the bomb dot com  When my husband was in Ghana, he had a similar drink with akara on the side.  I really would like to try that one day.  So, get you some millet, and leave that other stuff for the birds 🙂

My Food and Cooking POV (Point of View)

Though I was born and raised in Chicago, my foodways are wrapped in the warmth of Mississippi and Alabama.  I grew up on Southern food and Soul food.  Most importantly, I grew up under women (including my mother) who made sure if you were coming to their house or if they were hosting a function you were going to eat.  This point needs to be emphasized because we live in a time now that if you eat differently than the masses of your family and friends, social gatherings will leave you either bringing something to the party or hungry. That’s just not the way I grew up.

If we knew someone did not eat pork, my mom would get some smoked turkey.  It was not “unheard of” for someone to not eat catfish, so you would buy buffalo fish or cook salmon.  I remember the first time my husband went to spend holiday with my parents, my mom made savory navy bean patties, okra socatash, she even hand made whole wheat cornbread.  Now mind you, I was pissed ’bout that cornbread, cuz she raised us on Jiffy and all this damn time she knew how to make cornbread from scratch ha!  My husband is vegan, but because my mother loved to cook and the motto has always been “cook so people can eat”…this did not deter her from cooking a meal he could enjoy.  My mom did not have to go to a special vegan or vegetarian cooking class.  She just used what she had– our foodways.

One of the main reasons vegan/vegetarians (especially AA) go so hard at looking down upon meat eaters and/or over defending their eating habits, is that for many of them, their experience at social functions, from holidays, weddings, family reunions, etc., has been less than satisfactory.  They have been left hungry and misunderstood.  So guess what?  That leaves them all the time in the world to critique your food.  I know, 2 wrongs don’t make a right–but it damn “sho'” feel good.  And do you know there are people who will invite others to functions and purposely not have any food for them to eat?  That is how inconsiderate and hateful we have become as a community.  I’m not talking about having Thanksgiving dinner and your cousin brings a date and you didn’t know she was gluten-intolerant.  I’m speaking on knowing you have a nephew or cousin that has not eaten pork or shellfish in years and you still NEVER ATTEMPT to have a dish for them.  That’s kind of messed up.

So my food and cooking Point of View is Soul Food inspired by the African Diaspora and cooked with real ingredients and in a way that my family and friends can enjoy, no matter their eating “category”.  For instance, this past New Year’s Eve we had a big to do.  Here was my menu:

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Pollo en Fricase
Ethiopian Cabbage
Black Eye Peas (West African Style)
Shito (West African Red “sauce”)
Ground Seed Stew (made with sunflower seed butter instead of peanut butter)
Hot Water Cornbread
Navy Bean Pie

My FIL made some Hibiscus punch and the night was a hit.  If you notice, I have one meat dish, and EVERY other dish is vegan.  Also, I have one raw dish–my home made guac contains no sour cream or dairy products–it’s completely fresh veggies.  The meat dish, Pollo en Fricase, is Puerto Rican style.  I made my own adobo, sofrito, and instead of red wine, I used apple cider and a little apple cider vinegar.

Nothing on the menu was “weird” or “tasted healthy” even though I did everything from scratch, used no pork, or dairy  fat. I also cooked within my cultural norms–not my blood type 😉  In my family and culture, folks have chosen for health or religious reasons to eat or not eat certain things.  I know this.  I love to cook and I get my joy from feeding people from the heart.  No matter if a person is a raw foodist, vegan or only eats fish, I want to make sure that if they are invited to any event I host, they will leave with a belly full.  And you know what? When everybody has something on their plates that they enjoy, tastes good, and meets their eating “category”–no one has time to comment on what the next person is eating.  It’s like a food utopia.  In my opinion, THAT tastes pretty damn good.