Chicken Burger with Spicy Kale and White Yams
I hope you are learning to love African cuisine because 7 of the 17 “C” countries are in Africa, so we’ll be here a lot over the next few months. Fortunately my family is enjoying the ride so far and the flavors and ingredients aren’t nearly as exotic as I feared.
Cameroon is our next stop on our world burger adventure. Cameroon is o the Western coast of central Africa. It’s bordered by Chad, Central Africa, Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon (notice three more “C” countries?).
Cameroon, unlike some of the African countries we’ve visited does have some oil and agriculture (mainly coffee), this has brought Cameroon up to 184 out of 286 in terms of GDP per capita – party city, right? Unfortunately, Cameroon suffers from widespread HIV AIDs ranking 15th in the world for people living with AIDs and 11thin the world for deaths related to AIDs (according to the CIA World Factbook). So, we again have a situation of life being hard and life being fragile. Again I am thankful that I didn’t start a political blog.
Let’s move on to the food. The food of Cameroon is similar to that of many other countries in the region. You see a lot of yucca, yam, plantains, corn, millet and potatoes for the starches. Again the Cameroonians frequently eat a paste made of sorghum and water. Again, I can’t find any way to make this mixture taste like anything but cornstarch and water, yuck! Exploring the cuisine of Cameroon, I discovered a new flavor/ingredient. White yams, not those orange things that we sometimes call yams, but white yams. These cooked up beautifully with a taste like a regular potato with just a hint of sweetness, not the cloyingly sweet flavor of sweet potato, more like jicama without the crunchy texture. If you can’t find it, substitute regular potato, but try to search it out (it only took me two grocery stores to find some).
The national dish of Cameroon is ndolé, a stew of nuts, fish, beef and bitter greens. Cameroonians are wild about bitter greens and eat them just about every day. There are dozens of recipes for ndolé, and I basically ignored all of them and just stuck with the core flavors rather than try to recreate this dish. I did this for two reasons – first, I thought the stew sounded like a terrible topping for a burger and second all of the recipes I found involved dried fish and shrimp and I really don’t like dried fish, it tastes way too fishy for my palate. So, I broke it down to some of the key flavors.
I started with the bitter greens. We can’t get bitter greens around here, so my reading indicates that kale is the best substitute. I like kale, so I felt that was a good start. Traditionally the greens in Cameroon are cooked for an hour or more and they turn that horrible dull green color that so many people seem to like. I prefer a little life in my veggies, so I did a more vibrant version. I put some fish sauce in the dish as a nod to the fishiness of the traditional recipe and included a healthy helping of peppers to spice the dish up. Caution – Cameroonian food is spicy! Add a little Maggi seasoning and you have a surprisingly tasty topping. The greens give a slightly bitter flavor, the Maggi and fish sauce give a strong brininess that balances the heat of the peppers. When you combine this with the slightly sweet yams, you get a wonderfully balanced and delicious dish. I chose chicken for the protein on this burger because I thought it went best with the spicy greens, it was a great choice. A little tomato finishes it off with a bit of sweetness. Beware, the greens are very salty, so if you want to salt your meat, just go lightly. I salted, but actually used a measuring spoon to make sure I didn’t get too much.
If you have to substitute potatoes for the yams, just save the water you cook them in and add a little of it to the potatoes as you mash them (about ½ cup), I also added a little bit, about ¼ of a cube, of Maggi chicken bouillon to the potatoes because they are such a bland starch.
One other note, this was the least like a burger of any (except the fish burgers) that I’ve made so far. It was tasty and everyone enjoyed it, but it won’t satisfy you if you are craving a burger. Try it instead when you are in the mood for something spicy and a little exotic.
1 pound ground chicken
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon red pepper
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons peanut oil
1 tomato sliced thin
Mix chicken, salt, red pepper and black pepper together until evenly combined. Form four patties from the mixture. In a large non-stick pan over medium high heat, heat oil until glassy. Add patties to the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes or until lightly browned. Turn and cook until done (I use a digital thermometer to ensure that the chicken is fully cooked).
Scoop some yams on each plate, then place the cooked patties on the yams, top with tomato slices and Spicy Kale. My mom suggested plating the kale between the yams and the chicken and that did balance the flavors better, but it didn’t look as pretty – so you decide how you want to plate, try one of each and see which tastes better to you and let me know!
3 white yams (approximately 2 pounds)
Peel the yams and cut into thirds. Place the yams in a pot of water and bring to a boil. Boil until the yams are fork tender. Drain. In a medium bowl, mash the yams using a potato masher. You want this rustic, so don’t go for a totally smooth texture.
1 Tablespoon peanut oil
½ cup chopped onion
1 large jalapeno diced
1 clove of garlic minced
4 cups of chopped kale
½ inch fresh ginger grated
1 Maggi chicken bouillon cube
2 Tablespoons fish sauce
½ cup water
Heat peanut oil in a medium sauté pan over medium high heat. Add onions and jalapeno and cook 2-3 minutes stirring regularly (adjust heat so that nothing burns). Add the rest of the ingredients and cook over medium heat until greens are wilted (about 15 minutes), stir regularly and serve hot.
©Copyright 2011 Linda Monach