Kwanzaa a cultural celebration of Pan African reconnection, from December 26 to January 1st, includes a FEAST on December 31st. If you’re wondering what to serve for this feast I have a few ideas about what to cook for Kwanzaa. I’m making this Crispy Black Eyed Pea and Yuca Cakes recipe by Senegalese Chef Pierre Thiam.
Thanks so much to House of Mandela Wines for sending over your delicious Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay to and Chef Pierre Thiam for sending the beautiful book that inspired this post.
Senegal: Modern Senegalese Recipes from the Source to the Bowl
When I think about celebrating Kwanzaa I think about reconnecting to a home I’ve never visited while paying respect to my African American heritage. While I was born in New York my roots are in the American South, South Carolina to be exact. My parents left South Carolina after they finished high school (they had’t met each other yet even though they lived in the same small town) looking for educational and job opportunities. My mom came straight to New York, my dad joined the Army and moved to New York after his tour. They met in the Bronx at a party thrown by a mutual friend. That migration story is similar to that of many young Black Americans trying to make their way in the world.
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Growing up in New York gave me exposure to cuisine from all over the world. My next door neighbors back in Queens were Haitian so every once in a while we’d get invited to their house parties and get the opportunity to dine on some DELICIOUS food. I was just a little kid and had no idea what I was eating but I do remember how tasty it was. On the bus ride home from high school I had my choice of afternoon snack depending on what stop on the Q4 I wanted to get off. If I hopped off on one street I’d get a Jamaican beef patty (mild please) with pillow soft and sweet coco bread. Sometimes I would ride past my stop instead of going directly home and buy my FAVORITE after school snack, chicken roti from the West Indian restaurant up the block.
I said all of that to say-growing up in New York exposed me to food from so many places and it has all influenced my cooking. I always come back to my Southern roots in the kitchen but my cooking has be twisted (in a good way, I think) by these other influences. I’ve had little exposure to cuisine from African countries (I’m, still waiting on some Liberian greens promised by a friend but it hasn’t happened yet). I was so happy when Chef Pierre Thiam sent over his book “Senegal: Modern Senegalese Recipes From the Source to the Bowl”. This gave me a look at a cuisine I had no knowledge of and ingredients I had never used.
This book is loaded with wonderful recipes, some traditional Senegalese and some not) and gorgeous images from Senegal. For me, Kwanzaa is all about Pan African connection and these recipes have really got me thinking about expressing that connection through food.
I had already decided I was going to make oxtails braised in House of Mandela Cabernet Sauvignon and Church Basement Collard Greens for my Kwanzaa feast (I’ll post that recipe ASAP), I wanted to find a recipe using ingredients with a nod to the Motherland to complement them. I flipped through the pages and found the recipe I was looking for- Ndambe Cakes (Crispy Black Eyed Pea and Yuca Cakes). I had eaten yuca but had never prepared it myself.
This is the perfect Kwanzaa feast (called Karamu Ya Imani or feast of feasts) recipe for me because of the black eyed peas in the recipe. It’s traditional in the American South to eat black eyed peas on New Year’s Day and the Kwanzaa feast is held on December 31st. Make enough for both day and keep the celebration going!
For this recipe the yuca is boiled and mixed with sauteed onions, garlic, tomato, vegetable broth and cooked black eyed peas. The natural stickiness of the boiled yuca holds all of the other ingredients together perfectly, I will definitely keep this in mind when I’m making vegan black bean or beet cakes. No eggs were necessary to hold these together.
After mixing all of these ingredients together I used an ice cream scoop to portion out the Black Eyed Pea and Yuca Cakes. I used gloved hands to form the patties making it easier to deal with the sticky yuca.
The recipe calls for chilling the cakes for an hour, mine were parked in the fridge longer as I waited for the oxtail to finish braising in the slow cooker. When it was time to cook the cakes I coated the bottom of a non stick pan with oil and pan fried the cakes in batches. After they got nice and crispy on the outside I popped them in the oven to make sure the inside got hot.
So, “How did they turn out?” you ask..FANTASTIC! They held together well during cooking and were flavorful and delicious. When you teenage son comes home looking for them the next day to eat as an afternoon snack you know you have a winning recipeHere’s the Crispy Black Eyed Pea and Yuca Cakes Kwanzaa Recipe-reprinted with permission
Crispy Black Eyed Pea and Yuca Cakes