Saturday, 15 August 2009

Old School Comfort Food ...MALI STYLE

TIGA DIGA NA...,Most of you out there are already confused, but let me enlighten you on another joy of the peanut. It is a survival food for many folks in West Africa, that which is eaten raw, roasted, made into oil, and after having spent a couple years living in Western Mali, I at times besides yearning to be back there living... simply crave my staple food...Tiga Diga Na...which translates to Peanut butter sauce. Its what I often ate twice a day, and sometimes in the village of Manantali where I lived, during Ramadan (which is what spurred this memory food) we would even have it for a quick pre sunrise breakfast.

This is a very simple protein rich meal that can be served over rice or creamy polenta( a western version of a corn meal mash called Kaba toh), but mostly I ate it every day over millet, not the wonderfully light couscous like millet we all should be eating each and every day/week since its a grain that also gives you super amounts of protein, but whole millet, unhusked and cooked down to a thick porridge consistency. Please try this recipe and serve it with whatever whole grain you have. And unlike most people eating this in rural West Africa, try to serve it with some extra veggies!!! Because unlike the folks living there, you have access to all the vegetables you NEED, and simply most of us don't WANT to eat them.

1 T vegetable oil
1 onion, sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 inch fresh ginger, smashed
1 T Tomato paste ( puree in the UK)
1 tomato chopped
1/4 of a small cabbage, sliced
1 cup peanut butter ( all natural, no added sugar or anything...just smooth nuts friends!!!)
3 cups vegetable stock ( depending on consistency desired)( can use bouillon cube with water for ease of use and its actually what everyone does in the village!)
1 Habenero chile pepper ( whole, uncut)
1 dried fish ( I actually used a smoked herring) but you could use any fish or try 1-2 cups stewing beef, lamb or chicken
Fresh lime

In hot pan over medium heat add oil and then sweat down onion, garlic, ginger for 10 minutes till translucent ( add water if necessary to prevent burning...50 ml at a time)
Once very soft, add tomato past and cook this down for 3 more minutes.
Add tomatoes and cabbage and cook 5 minutes till softened ( again, add a bit of water as necessary)
Add dried fish to pan and coat with flavours.
Add warm vegetable stock to pan and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes.
Add peanut butter to pan and use spoon or large whisk to dissolve it into the liquid.
Bring to simmer, add Habenero and cook over low heat for 30 minutes or until oils from your peanut butter start to separate onto the top of your sauce...
Taste sauce and finish with salt, pepper, a squeeze of lime and a dash of chili powder if you like.
Serve individually or as the photo above shows, communally with cleaned fingers ready for steaming hot goodness!!!

Serve this dish over your whole grain and use the habenero like a sponge in reverse ( squeeze it into your area of food and push the heat onto the grain)

Often people serve with greens fengruk, but you could try shredded kale or chard added in before adding the peanut butter and letting it simmer till really really soft.

One could add a small portion of dried or smoked fish to the sauce and then serve sauce with a grilled/bbq fish as well.

IF you want to use unhusked millet, soak it over night, then drain, toast the kernels and simmer one part millet to 3 parts water, until cooked and softened to your liking (you can always drain it if you don't want it too creamy and desire it more like a fluffy rice texture).

If desirous of using meat, I would add the meat (seasoned with salt, pepper, paprika, and chili powder) first to the pan, get it nice and browned and then continue with the recipe. The smaller the cuts of meat, the faster it will cook, the larger, the longer it will take ( this may necessitate a bit more water in your sauce to keep from burning). The key is to allow the meats to cook till fork tender, so slow and low is the tempo!!!

Na Duminike!!!!


  1. in i bara. i can't remember the word for meal. but you and your food.



  2. I first had tiga degue na as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cote d'Ivoire. Like you, I ate it often. It has become a favorite food in my home. I was looking for a new twist on an old favorite when I found your blog. Thanks.

  3. Food=dumini? No sumbala in the recipe?