Join twowildtides on the country challenge. Each week, we’re going to be heading to a new country (in spirit). Primarily, we’ll be cooking a meal from each country; but we’ll also be watching travel documentaries, reading travel blogs, and listening to music. During the global pandemic, travel is largely inaccessible. We want to reignite our wanderlust, satisfy our travel bug as much as we can, and learn some new things along the way. I have a feeling our bucket list will have a number of items added to it through this experience as well. We created a simple alphabetical spreadsheet with all the countries of the world, and each week we will draw a random number that corresponds with a country on the spreadsheet.
This week we are back in Africa for the first time in a few weeks– Niger, specifically. Niger is a large West African landlocked country. Niger struggles with drought, harsh desert terrain, lack of infrastructure and resources, and had been under complete military rule until 2010 when it became a multi-party democratic country. Unfortunately, Niger ranked last out of 189 countries on the UN’s Human Development Index in 2018-19. Niger has a diverse culture and heritage and due to the large geography and limited infrastructure, many of the various cultural groups are isolated from one-another. From my research, Niger has not achieved a national cultural identity; some see this as a positive thing while others strive for unity.
To support the country of Niger, I made a small donation to FriendsOfNiger.org and I encourage you to do the same if it is within your means. This weekend we were able to enjoy a delicious and authentic Nigerien meal while in the meantime, food insecurity is one of the largest issues faced in Niger. I felt obligated to offer some support in exchange for what I learned and ate this weekend.
Friends of Niger (FON) awards small grants to support projects that directly benefit the people of Niger. Grants can range between $ 500 and $ 5,000. Funding for grants comes from donations of members and supporters of the Friends of Niger organization.
FON gives priority to projects that: Address a locally identified need, Are feasible and likely to be successful, Benefit many people, Have community support and contributions, Have a plan to sustain the benefits into the future, Build local capacity and leadership, Involve or engage FON member (s) and Niger diaspora, Can be replicated and adopted by others.www.friendsofniger.org
There was very little information online about Nigerien cuisine; partly, because everything gets mixed up with Nigeria and partly because Niger is a not a rarely travelled country. The national dish of Niger is a tomato-based stew called Djerma. We followed this recipe from NationalFoods.org:
While Mack cut and fried the chicken for the stew, I got started on prepping the vegetables and making the homemade tomato puree. The recipe allows you to use canned tomato puree, but we like the idea of staying fresh and authentic. The puree was so easy to make and smelled and looked amazing– I will definitely make it again for other recipes such as pasta and stir-fry. When that was ready, we added it to our chicken.
We got everything boiling and added lots of fragrant spices and the carrots. It was really starting to put a nice aroma through the kitchen. We gave the carrots some time to cook, but other than that, this is a really quick recipe. We added the peanut butter mixture according to the recipe and let it simmer for a few more minutes while we cooked some rice.
We served up our Djerma stew piping hot. It was absolutely delicious. Mack says it’s one of his favourites so far. It is rich, hearty, and very healthy as there are no processed foods or preservatives (as has been the pattern throughout our country challenge!). The peanut butter added such a nice flavour without being too overwhelming. When we made the peanut sauce from Coté d’Ivoire, it was too rich and became sickening quickly; that is not the case whatsoever with this stew. We would certainly make this again in the future.