Cooking with meat, for us, is always a special occasion. We are grateful that an animal has sacrificed its life for us and we honor that by cooking it as well as we can and enjoying it as much as possible. Serving meat is an opportunity to gather and celebrate and to enjoy traditional African flavors and open-air cooking styles.
Nothing is more African than a barbecue. Grilling meat outside pretty much guarantees a good time, especially if there are friends and family around. Weekend barbecues are an African institution: the cousins and kids running around, the adults circled around the cooking, drinks in hand. Picnics, work retreats and celebrations of any kind all call for meat grilling.
Street food across Africa reveres the meat kebabs, spiced morsels of meat, mutton, chicken or liver grilled over charcoal and served to passengers in pulled up cars and strolling passersby. Grilled chicken gets the same treatment, charred on both sides, as does fish and seafood. In West Africa, grilled meat called suya is a form of high art best appreciated late at night anointed with ground pepper and almost raw onions. There is also dibi, where you can purchase brown paper packages of goat or mutton meat by the kilogram, the fat dripping out of the corners — if you’re lucky.
Of course, meat cooking is something that varies in style, preference and approaches depending on where you are in Africa. Where firewood is plentiful, they serve rich stews, long-simmered over carefully tended fires. Towards the Sahel, where trees are scarce, the Hausa meat is spiced and sun-dried, conserving precious cooking fuel. In most dishes, meat is used sparing, as a condiment, surrounded by vegetables and sauce, its quantities adding flavor and depth to the meal.
Preparing African meat dishes in the modern kitchen, we often find ourselves using much less oil and shorter cooking times than in the traditional African kitchen. All the same, we have tried our best to represent our recipes to the cook new to African food as well. In almost all cases, the amount of oil used for a particular dish has been reduced. Other adjustments are noted recipe by recipe.