African kitchen equipment like a mortar and pestle are important tools for the African cook (

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Basically, the African kitchen is simple and mobile, relatively speaking. There is no stand-up stove with four burners, no large home refrigerator, necessarily. The African kitchen can make do in the shade with a gas bottle and burner placed on top, one cutting board, a colander and one knife.

I came up minimal, buying new kitchen equipment each time I moved around when I was young and on my own. I always found, immediately and at any basic store, enough for my needs: a big knife, a pot, a pan, a colander and a cutting board. Everything else was luxury. I could make a three-course meal with ingredients from the kiosk in a kitchen like that, and I did, lots of times. That’s how I learned cooking — pasta alla arrabiata in a rented kitchen flat when I was on holiday, the chilies and the garlic minced and flailed into the hot oil, the al dente local pasta.

I digress. But decades of cooking in kitchens all over Africa have shown me the essentials of the African kitchen. What is truly needed is an openness to using all the technology and brilliant implements that different regions have discovered. The coconut grater from the Swahili Coast that doubles as a chair, the Ethiopian coffee grinder, and the West African mortar and pestle come immediately to mind, but there are many others.

Whenever you get the opportunity, I encourage you to outfit your African kitchen with the finest local accoutrements. Wooden spoons, batik kitchen towels, heavy metal African pots can all be had affordably and reliably on the local market. Even if salad bowls and cloth napkins fade and wear out faster than their factory counterparts (and I’m not sure they do), they are easy to replace.

It is worth seeking out local cutlery and styles whenever possible, for the flavor and warmth it adds to your kitchen and the food. As for me, I find that even when I’m not cooking African recipes, my kitchen is all the better for our mortar and pestle, which in less than a minute will pulverize pretty much anything.

Here are our recommendations for equipment you can enjoy in your African kitchen:

Mortar and Pestle

Here are some recipes that you might like that don’t need much equipment:

Cooking with African Vegetables